Sunday, August 31, 2008


With the Ganpati Festival round the corner, Mumbai takes on a whole new festive aura.

But I also remember the Ganesha-stories from my childhood Durga Pujas. The elephant-god would stand, benignly smiling, at one corner of Durga's family (Durga, the mother, at the centre, flanked by the beauteous Lakshmi and Saraswati, and the group guarded be the handsome, though rather dandified, Kartik and the aforesaid Ganesh). Ganesh, with his potbellied imperfections, always seemed more accessible than the other remote residents of the Himalayas.

Ganesh, the lover of good food and good books (presumably, since he scripted The Mahabharata). Ganesh, who was wedded to the humble banana-tree (kala-bou) who would be dressed in ordinary handloom sarees offered by us devotees. Ganesh, who had a ludicrously undersized vahana (pet?) - the mouse. Contrasted with Kartik's dashing posture and exotic peacock, Ganesh seemed more domesticated, more lovable, more CUTE, if you know what I mean. At least, that's what I felt as a child, surreptitiously rubbing my hand on his smooth pink potbelly when the idols were brought down from the dais on Dashami-day before immersion.

And the wise omniscient God smiled into his elephant trunk, knowing very well the future where I would be blessed (and burdened) with a pot-belly of my own, which would no longer be cute but calamitious. Anyway...I still have a special fondness for the gourmet-god, altough my opinion of potbellies have changed quite a bit.


Monday, August 25, 2008


Not for us the ubiquitous circular Polo mints (the mint with the hole).

When we were children, whenever we would get a little spare money (say, 10 paise) we would run down the lane to the nearby hole-in-the-wall shop where the thick glass jars held tiny coloured peppermint lozenges, which we simply called peppermint. They came in lovely pastel shades - lemony yellow, candy pink, mint green and moon white - and an array of shapes - crescent, star and the four shapes from card-games: hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. The old, be-spectacled shop-keeper would scoop up these treasures with a rounded spoon and, deftly wrapping and twisting the lot inside a piece of newspaper, would hand over our money's worth to us. And then the careful opening of the wrapped coolness and the first burst of ice-like sweetness on the tongue, the mint melting in the mouth in moments (not like POLO, which simply refuses to melt and has to be crunched into submission), and sliding-cooling down the throat. The pleasure was enhanced by having a glass of water immediately afterwards.

I also remember that there was another kind of mint - a regular-rectangular shaped one available in a pack of ten or so. I have forgotten its name (maybe it was called Parle mints) but its antiseptic, packaged coolness was not a patch on the wildburst, waterfall freshness of the multi-coloured, many-shaped variety sold loose in that dingy shop. That would be our commission whenever we would go on shopping-chores for my mother - that 10 paise worth of myriad-minty-refreshment.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


As school-children our Independence Days had a comforting, ritualistic sameness. We would tear out a page from a note-book (preferably white, but, at a crunch, even red-and-blue lined ones sufficed). Then we would draw the tri-banded Indian flag and colour it orange-white (no need to colour)-and-green (after much debate, I chose light green and my brother, dark green). In the middle of the white band would be the blue wheel (oblong rather than circular, and with decidedly worse-for-wear spokes).
This hand-decorated-with-much-concentration-and-tongues-out paper would be attached with gum (also often home-made, by mixing flour and hot water) to a thin stick. Even this thin stick was home-crafted, being the middle vein of a coconut leaf from one of the many such brooms made in our house from the coconut-palms in our garden.
This flag would then be hoisted, with much singing and clapping, at one corner of our chhad (roof). 100% Made in India. 100% celebrated by us. 100% satisfaction guaranteed and gained.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Durga Puja shopping was the highlight of our clothing-calendar when we were young. One new dress for birthdays, one for Poila Baisakh (Bengali New Year), but Durga Puja (the biggest religious/social/cultural event for Bengalis) meant many, many new clothes, gifted by various uncles, aunts and grandparents.

But the catch was, you often got stuck with stuff that you wore only once (in front of the said uncle/aunt/grandparent, so as to soothe his/her sensibilities). As we entered our teens, we became more style-conscious and praise from the said uncle/aunt/grandparent, “Baah, ki sundar manieyechhe tokey” (How nicely the outfit is suiting you!), was no longer enough.

Clothes had to be trendy, peer-friendly and, most importantly, self-chosen. Which is why we (my cousin-cum-close-friend J and I) decided to take matters into our own hands when we were all of fifteen and decided to ask for cash gifts from our relations for the Durga Puja shopping.
Armed with our stash of cash and loads of attitude, we intrepidly boarded the red L-20 bus which took us from suburban Barrackpore straight to New Market, the shopper’s paradise in the heart of urban Kolkata.

Tirelessly roaming the alleys and bylanes (giving the bigger shops a miss), searching for the trendiest and tiniest (it was our mini-skirt phase) export-rejects in the hole-in-the corner shops, powered by exhilaration and egg-rolls (chicken-roll for J, who is allergic to eggs), we spent a very happy afternoon snapping up clothes at clothes-pin-prices. I remember buying a denim slit-skirt for Rs. 40, rainbow peep-toes for Rs 35, and a bateau-neck, embroidered top for Rs. 10! Of course, it helped that we were both reed-thin, as teenagers are wont to be.

Laden with bags of merchandise and merriment (I had ten white plastic bags, one for each finger), we returned home, totally giddy with shopaholism.

It was a wonderful Puja, parading our new outfits to the admiration of the local guys and the envy of our gal-pals!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008


My first kiss was a stolen one in an empty room.

I was all of eight years old. The older members of the household had gone out for some family celebration. Only my younger brother was there, sleeping (his favourite pastime).

The room had a large mirror ideal for posing and preening, and a dressing-table full of rows of lipsticks and other rainbow-hued make-up stuff (all part of the armoury of my newly-wedded cousin's wife).

I was irresistably drawn to the luscious lipstick in their sleek shiny cases... Red She Said, Very Berry and Coco Loco. But it was Passionate Pink that I wanted...passionately.

The strawberry shade glided over my lips like smooth honey. Enchanted by taste and the texture, by the very grown-up appearance of my face (or so I thought, I'm almost sure I overdid the outlines), I puckered up and, leaning towards the mirror, gave a resounding kiss to myself.

Admiring the pink lipstick mark (on the mirror it looked so pouty, if you know what I mean), I spent a long and wonderfully narcissistic half-hour with myself. Wonder what Freud, Jung and co. would say about that.

So lost was I in self-passion that I came to myself at the sound of the garden-gate opening. Hurriedly rubbing off the lipstick off my lips, I forgot about the mark on the mirror.

Needless to say, I was caught (pink-lipped, if not red-handed), and became the butt of many a family joke for a long, long, time. Enough to turn my thoughts of love from myself to other worthier objects, like the boy-next-door.


P.S: I'm sending this post off with a flying kiss to Scribbit's August Write-Away contest. She's one of my must-read bloggers and I just love her write-away contests.