So-called observations

Gulab Jamun

A few months ago I got married to a wonderful woman. Our wedding was a beautiful affair. While there were a number of incidents of note – some funny and some otherwise – there is one incident I would like to share with you all, especially to would-be grooms so that you might avoid the pitfalls I couldn’t avoid.

To properly set up the anecdote, I have to narrate from the start of the Nikah. It began with the sherwani. I am someone who is more comfortable in a pair of t-shirt and jeans than kurta-pyjama. Whether it’s the lack of a hulking physique or my awkward gait, I have never been able to carry any traditional wear with panache. However, this was my wedding. Sherwani was essential. After much drama, I bought a sherwani that fitted me to some degree.

Just before the nikah, my friends helped me put on the sherwani. That was an ordeal in itself. But that’s a story for another time. For the time being, let me tell you that keeping a track of the dupatta while balancing the safaa on the head was taxing. Don’t even get me started on those weird pointy shoes, or the socks that curiously look like the pouches used to store apples in fruit markets. Despite my struggles, a glance at the mirror suggested I appeared decent enough. The thought of maintaining that appearance for the rest of the evening made me nervous though. Fortunately, by the grace of the almighty, the actual nikah part went quite smoothly. Once the “qubool hais” were over, I started to relax, and the knot that was in my stomach for so long went away.

However, with the going away of the knot came the coming of the hunger. All right, that was a terrible sentence. But not as terrible as the hunger pangs I had when everyone was congratulating me. I could not help but fantasise had I been a guest at my wedding, I would have been helping myself to second or third helpings by now. After all, what are weddings for if not food? Well, they are also about two people getting married and starting a new life together, but food is what brings people together, right? Thankfully, I was brought out of my dreadful musings by my brother-in-law who announced food was ready. I could have hugged him, but that would have crumpled my sherwani, which in turn, would have needed readjustment leading to a repeat of the whole sherwani hoopla. As it was, I avoided doing all that and simply followed him to the dining area.

Aah, my senses were greeted with the smell of kebab and nihari, biryani and pulao, and the sight of people having their fill and smelling their satisfied burps. I immediately dived in and didn’t object even when the waiters were serving dishes I didn’t recognise. After several rounds of seekh kebab, it was time for dessert. And there they were — the top prizes among desserts — gulab jamuns. I intentionally did not count the number of gulab jamuns I had.  By the time I had finished, my stomach had expanded so much that my sherwani fitted perfectly.

I got up from the dining table and walked back to the reception area to meet my friends. Before I reached them though, my brother-in-law told me that I was being sought upstairs. I was to meet my new bride and have a photo session. I followed him again and saw my wife for the first time. The joy of the precious moment was short-lived. As soon as I entered the enclosure where the bride was sitting, a mob of women surrounded me clicking photos and temporarily blinding me with the flashes. As it turned out, all these women were my wife’s aunts, cousins, and a whole bunch of other relatives.

As curious as it is, almost every wedding has its own sets of customs and rituals. Who comes up with these variations, I wouldn’t presume to know. As the tradition goes in my in-laws’ place, the womenfolk of the household offer their salaam to the new groom and present him with gifts. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? That’s because I didn’t tell you the full story. The catch is that every woman who comes up to the groom for the salaami, offers the groom a gulab jamun before handing over the gift. While normally this would have been a deliciously attractive prospect, I was alerted to the contrary by my stomach with a slight wail saying, “Dude, you just ate like fifteen of them. Even a pig dressed in a sherwani would have looked more decent than you.” I was like, “I bet they will just feed me a couple as part of the tradition. It’s cool. I will be fine.”

How wrong was I? Woman after woman came to greet me and fed me a sweet till I lost count. Of course, I can’t blame them. They must have thought like any other respectable groom, I might have shied away from the dining area without eating much. They didn’t know I tend to put away all my self respect in my back pocket when it’s time to eat. So the gulab jamuns kept arriving. Have you ever experienced a level of sweetness that is borderline bitter? The smile on my face that was a genuine expression of happiness till now turned into a creepy grimace as I kept trying to imagine the different sections of the human tongue that deal with tastes other than sweetness. Looking back, I seriously question that particular science lesson.

The ordeal was not over with that ritual. Before long, I got the opportunity to sit next to my wife without anyone else around. I cannot stress the importance of that occasion. I was now a married man, and I was about to have my first conversation with my wife. These are things you remember for years to come. My wife was too shy to say anything. After a few excruciatingly awkward moments of silence, I thought of a topic to initiate the conversation. Before I could properly articulate the words, both of us got shocked by a loud rumbling sound. There was no denying it. My stomach had rumbled. If it wasn’t my wife sitting next to me, I would have exclaimed, “What in the world woman? Can’t you control what you eat? Holy moly!” However, it was my wife, and I couldn’t bear myself to shift the blame. After all, she also knew the amount of ghee and oil floating inside me was going to concoct an evil plan sooner or later. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It turned out that my stomach had taken that adage too much to its heart.

As I conclude my anecdote, I would like to offer one simple piece of advice to would-be grooms. Fellas, don’t stuff yourself on your wedding day. Thank me later.

So-called observations

Weird things that keep you awake

Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing great. I know I have been out of touch for a while. I just had a few things going on that kept me distracted. Thanks a lot to those of you who visited, commented and emailed me in my absence. You all are too polite. For some reason I was expecting a “good riddance” email. So as a return for all your good thoughts, here is a post that I had written a couple of months back while collaborating with that hijabi from down under. Oh in case you don’t know her, please click on the link and check her blog. Aaliyah writes about all sorts of humorous situations (and some serious ones too) she gets into while living as an NRI in Australia. Trust me you won’t regret visiting her blog.

(P.S. Her blog also has the other part of this post)

(P.P.S. It was another cool blogger Mahaah who had asked the two of us to collaborate.  So, with credit where it’s due, many thanks to her too.)

 

It has been a long day. You’ve busted your hind working on that lame project no one cares about. Three days have passed since you last slept properly. The only thought occupying your mind is to just go home and lie on your bed. Gathering your things, you start walking back. You ignore the guy who spat at your feet at the bus stop. There is not even an iota of strength left in you for arguments. Reaching home, you just drop your things on the floor; absent-mindedly shower without bothering to think anything philosophical; and just drop dead on your bed.

However, things do not go according to the plan. That’s because sometimes nature conspires against you to not let you taste the sweet release of sleep. Here is a list of things that can keep you awake.

The Lone Ranger

You are almost asleep and about to revisit your favourite dream of spending that vacation on the beach in Maldives while Katrina Kaif feeds you cherries. However, something starts to bother you. For some reason, Katrina has started singing. But her voice is weird. It sounds as if she is not singing, but making a buzzing sound. Suddenly, she pricks your cheek with a needle. Ouch! And you wake up.

Surprise! Surprise! No Katrina, no Maldives, and no vacation. It’s that foul mutant mosquito that wakes up every night as soon as you turn off the lights and starts buzzing somewhere around your ear. You try to kill it in the dark by swatting, but only end up slapping yourself in the process. As soon as you turn on the lights, it disappears.

It doesn’t bite you a lot, but keeps buzzing around one of your ears. If you cover yourself with a blanket and keep some space around your nose for breathing, the vile thing enters your nostril or worse your mouth.

The Prickly Demon

However, you manage to kill the bastard, after much effort (which included throwing off your blanket, upending your mattress, and shining torchlight in your shoes to find the Satan). You sigh in relief, and bask in the glory of revenge before turning off the lights again.
What you don’t realise immediately is that before dying the princess of darkness managed to land one bite on your back at the precise blind spot that you cannot reach however hard you try? Soon the itching starts. So you try really hard to scratch and end up twisting or dislocating your arm. Realising the futility of your actions, you get up and start rubbing your back against the bedside post like a cow. Still it doesn’t work. In desperation, you begin to wonder if that insanely stereotypical (and offensive) joke about the Sardars is true. You know the one where if they had an itch on their scalp, they would just scratch their palm and place the hand on their turban. In spite of yourself, you scratch the bedspread and lie down hoping against hope.

The Gas Tank

Watching your continuous struggles, Allah ta’ala takes pity on you and the itching stops. You start to relax, but after all that commotion, your mind doesn’t want to go back to hibernation so easily. It starts conjuring random images in your mind. You discard most of them as your conscious brain knows how much you want to sleep. Nevertheless, there are some images you cannot avoid, especially those that are really vivid. And before you know, your senses start reliving some of the terrible moments of your life.

One of the prime ones includes that time when you got a call from your boss telling you, “Ershad, there is a VIP coming over for a visit. Show him the control room and give him an overview of the various units.”

You reply, “Okay, cool,” and prepare yourself mentally for the speech. You check your unruly hair in the bathroom mirror and attempt to flatten those angry strands that seem to defy gravity on all occasions with some water.

The VIP and the entourage arrive in front of the control room. You greet them, and request them to kindly take off their shoes due to the dust protection required for sensitive instrumentation and computer servers, before inviting them inside. In an effort to impress the guests you start slipping in sophisticated technical words that even you don’t understand, secretly hoping none of them is an engineer who can question you back and make you look like an idiot. Everything starts going according to the plan when suddenly you inhale something that can only be compared to death. You realise one of the guests has not washed his socks in his lifetime. What’s worse, you don’t know which one it is who is the culprit (Is it the VIP himself?). The stench is so intense that you simply want to retch and throw up. But of course, you can’t. You keep smiling that creepy smile you had pasted ever since you met them, and keep thinking, “OMG! OMG! OMG! Kill me! Kill me now!”

Soon the nice people leave, but the stench never leaves you. It haunts you in your dreams like it is doing right now. It never lets you sleep in peace.

The Impropriety Danger

If you think that is the worse vision your mind can develop, you couldn’t be far from the truth. After much effort, you finally manage to fall asleep. That’s when your brain starts conjuring up nightmares. Nightmares that are worse than being chased, worse than falling off cliffs, and worse than death itself.

In your dream, you think back of that time when you were travelling on a city bus, and you saw that girl standing at the bus stop. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans, and her back was facing towards you. From that view, she seemed incredibly hot. As you join the other passengers in ogling her, she reaches to her…ahem…derriere, and adjusts her wedgie. And all of you go, “Eww.”

But that’s not the end of it. Your dream transports you to the future. This is the future where you are married to that girl. Both of you are at a family reunion kind of thing where she is talking to the older folks of your family.

“Yes, uncle, I am very well. Ershad takes good care of me.” ….*adjusts her wedgie*

“Abba, do you need milk in your tea?” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*

“Amma, I think I added too much salt in the curry.” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*

Oh the ignominy! The shame! Kaise muh dikhaunga?

You pick up the spade and start digging your own grave when the spade slips out of your hand and hits you on the head. That’s when you realise it was all a dream and you only hit the headboard while thrashing around in your bed. Nevertheless, you are awake, again, and the whole process starts again.

 

 

So-called observations

Economically Efficient

The sun is still hiding behind the concrete structures. Its rays sneak past the straight corners and filter through the faded curtains. The gentle brightening of the room is enough to rouse him out of his stupor. He opens his eyes, and for some reason, he can’t see anything. The foul smell of unwashed clothes also fills his nostrils. He cannot feel the bump under his head, which is his pillow, either. A couple of moments of intense rumination brings home the revelation that his dirty, sweaty vest had somehow escaped from the bottom of his pillow, where he had placed it strategically to dry it from isothermal compression, so as to reduce his expenditure of detergent.

As soon as the word detergent comes into his mind, he sits up straight. The thought of using more than one spoon of detergent in one month always gave him cold sweats. It had been only twenty days since he last washed his undergarments, and for them to start smelling so foul so soon was infuriating. During these moments, life seemed unfair to him. Why did bad things happen to good people?

To distract himself, he goes up to the sink to brush. He opens the cap of the toothpaste tube and licks the bit sticking to the underside of the cap. That should be enough to keep him fresh and minty for the whole day. After brushing, he thinks about something to pick him up. One thought immediately brightens up his day: eating out.

He changes into his best clothes and rushes down the stairs. Unlocking his bicycle, he adjusts the rear brake pedal to a more accessible position. Bicycles actually do not have brake pedals. However, a couple of years ago his brake lever broke off from its position due to excessive rusting. Subsequently, he tied it up to the frame near the front wheel and used it as a pedal. He was proud of this little bit of innovation.

Pedalling hard, he reaches his destination within a few minutes. It’s a local eatery. He loves visiting this place. They always make him feel special. At Rs 25, he could order a meal which included rice, sambhar, dal, and a couple of sabzis. The proportions were large. However, that was not the best thing. The best thing was that it was an as much as you can eat restaurant. He only had to pay once. After satiating his hunger with three more helpings, he slowly rides back to his apartment.

As the evening arrives, he breaks the loaf of bread he had bought a couple of days back. He pours himself a glass of water, and wonders why people drink tea or coffee. Water does everything that the other beverages do. It refreshes the body, hydrates it, and helps wash the food down the oesophagus. Reclining back in his chair, he considers why people laugh at him, ridicule him, and call him a miser. He never thought of himself as a miser. He was just ahead of the curve. He was economically efficient.

P.S. No misers were hurt while writing this.

So-called poetry

Asymptotes

Two streets run in parallel
Criss-crossing streets
Almost touching 
Yet staying apart

Two creations extend forever
Heavens reaching down
Earth up
Yet remain distant

Two lives breathe in unison
Souls mingling deep
Hopeless love
Yet never unite

Do parallel streets ever cross?
Does the horizon ever materialise?
Do star-crossed lovers ever unite?

They do not and they cannot
For they are asymptotes
Curves that never meet
Till infinity and beyond

But has anyone seen infinity?

Uncategorized

Three Quotes Challenge

So recently I was nominated for this challenge by two exceptionally good bloggers.

The first nomination came from Inky, who has a multitude of talents including writing in both English and Urdu, and photography.  Her observational skills always leave me in awe. Do check her blog.

The second nomination was from Beparvah, who has such variety in writing that he can write on social problems as effortlessly as he writes on emotional issues. Don’t forget to click on the link provided above.

As for the rules of the challenge, I am going to bend them quite a lot. For starters, I am not going to post consecutively for three days. This will be the single post with nine quotes. And no nominations from my end either. If you want, you may do it on your blog, or you can post your favourite quote(s) down at the comments section.

So without further ado, let’s crack on.

1.Aai aai Maharani Victoria! Eku Porha xuna nai. Khali lipstick, plastic, elastic!” — My high school mathematics teacher

This is one of the defining quotes of my life. It deals with the ills of vanity and materialistic lifestyles. To break it down for you, aai aai means aai aai, because those are just sounds you make when you are angry at someone. I suppose it’s not as cool as Oi or Oye or Hey or Youstupidmoron, but it does what it intends to do — which is to alert someone that a barrage of abuses are coming.

Maharani of course means Maharani (or Queen), and Victoria is that Queen Victoria of the Victorian Age who is so famous over here due to her historically significant actions.

Porha xuna nai is in Assamese which literally translates to “reading listening not” if we consider it word by word. I guess that doesn’t make sense. So a better translation is “no studying.”

Khali doesn’t allude to the wrestler Great Khali. Khali in Assamese means only. I suppose the other words are as clear as day. Although I don’t know why he used to add the words plastic and elastic.

All in all, the quote means: “Hey you, Queen Victoria! Will you stop with your vanity issues and at least focus on your studies for a while?”

Er…or something along those lines. Whatever.

To the boys he would say, “Aai aai Jambuvantha. Kya kar raha?” This also has a lot of depth, but I am too tired to delve into the Ramayana right now and explain the context behind its usage. And if you noticed the lack of hai after raha, it’s because it was intentional. His vocabulary lacked the Hindi word hai.

“Kya kar raha?”
“Kya khaata?”
“Class mein sota?”
I think you get the point.

2. You cannot always expect change. Sometimes you have to bring the change yourself.” — Local channawaala

Well you know, he does have a point. I have to accept his rationale, otherwise he will say, “Chhutten kya paed pe lagte hain?”

3. “Meowth, that’s right.” — Meowth (Team Rocket waala or if you still don’t get it, it’s a Pokemon reference. Go ahead, drown in chullu bhar paani)

He is right. I used to think he would say Meow, but it turned out he just repeated his name. I don’t know why I am explaining this quote.

4. “If you ssssmmeeelll what the Rock is cookin.” — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Well I never understood what the Rock meant with those words. I mean I used to smell whatever was around me at that time, ranging from food and books to my uncle’s smelly socks. But it represents childhood (and if I might admit, adulthood too).

Okay enough of silliness. Let’s check some proper quotes. I won’t attempt to explain them because I want you all to interpret them according to your thoughts and beliefs.

5.There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” — Thomas Jefferson

6. The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” — Plato

7. Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognises genius.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

8. Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.” — Harper Lee

9. An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.” — Mahatma Gandhi
So-called poetry

Soulmate

Heartless, they called me
Soulless being my fame
Humour was my friend
When grief became shame

Masks adorned my face
Seemed like a machine
No life and no death
Buried in between

Prayed for an escape
From the hurt and guilt
Wished someone came, and
Had my heart rebuilt

Then you came along
Like that star up north
Guiding my lost faith
Pulling it henceforth

And just like that star
Drives darkness away
You gave me the light
To search the right way

Through the thickets of
The forest of fate
Through the mazes of
Prejudice and hate

And emerge at the
Precipice at which
Pain ends and bliss starts
And life appears rich

For when these eyes close
One image haunts most
Anklet, rose, and a
Smile brighter than those

Because you are my
Soulmate; my one love;
‘Tis you that I see
When stars fade above

So-called observations

Clueless Guys Dining

The guys are at a high-end restaurant. They have ordered some of the exotic dishes, and are waiting for the service.

ARUN: This thing always confuses me. Which one goes in the right hand? The fork or the knife?

MANJIT: The knife. Fork goes in the left hand.

ARUN: Then why does the spoon go in the right during dessert and stuff?

MANJIT: Because it’s dining etiquette.

IMRAN: I think it’s bullshit.

ARUN: Yeah, me too. I mean, I can understand the Western folks don’t do anything unclean with their left hands; so it doesn’t matter which hand they use. But we do. The unclean stuff I mean. Therefore, it makes sense that we reverse the etiquette and use the fork with the right hand.

MANJIT: Yes, but then, you won’t be able to apply enough force with your left hand for cutting the food.

IMRAN: Wait a minute. The western folks don’t use any hands for the unclean stuff?

ARUN: Well, yeah. They use toilet papers, don’t they?

IMRAN: I know that. But they still have to use their hands for the toilet paper, right? They don’t just go up to a toilet paper roll, turn around, and start rubbing their you-know-whats against it.

ARUN: I see your point. In that case, I suppose, their hands are equally dirty. So, again it doesn’t matter which one they use.

MANJIT: I think it’s hygienic. Hands are too dirty most of the times.

IMRAN: Oh please! Don’t give me that hygiene bullshit. We are Indians. We pride ourselves at being unhygienic. We are born unhygienic, and we stay that way. Hell, just a few minutes back I saw you were counting notes and licking your fingers to moisten them just after having picked your nose.

ARUN: Hahaha, in your face!

MANJIT: All right, all right. Maybe, we are not hygienic, but you cannot deny that there is a certain level of sophistication and class on display when you use cutlery.

IMRAN: Look around dude. Desis are the most classless people in this world. For instance, do you see that dude over there with the strange bun over his head?

(They look around to where Imran is pointing, and spot an Indian male with long hair tied in a bun, wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt that said “Chicago!”)

What is his problem? Why is he wearing shorts to a high-end restaurant? It’s not hot here. This is not Kailash ka Dhaba. There is air conditioning here. It’s like, “Dude, stop being an American wannabe. You are miles from being cool. Get some pants for god’s sake.”

MANJIT: It’s called fashion.

IMRAN: All right, we’ve already agreed upon this. You don’t talk about fashion.

ARUN: I know what you mean though, Imran. I have similar thoughts when I attend my office parties. They will serve the meals in the classic buffet style, which is okay, but there won’t be any seats around. I mean after a long day, I just want to sit down comfortably and eat my meal. This whole suave dining system feels like another official exercise. Sophistication is nothing but pretence.

IMRAN: That’s not the worst part though. The worst part is that they serve you fish curry and tandoori chicken and expect you to not use your hands. I mean, how the hell do you eat something with bones with a spoon or a fork?

ARUN: That bugs me even when I have a place to sit down. For instance, they will serve you rice with chicken, and then you start eating with a spoon because you know eating rice with a fork is like holding chullu bhar paani. Of course, then you realise that you need a knife to cut the chicken, which is fine. But lo, you then realise that a spoon is ineffective for holding the chicken pieces while cutting. Therefore, you also need the fork. Now the problem is I have got only two hands. Where do I find the third one?

MANJIT: The one thing that bothers me about dining knives is that they are so blunt. I have to keep slicing and slicing to cut something as soft as a liver piece.

IMRAN: Oh, we know Manjit. When you use cutlery, you make such a racket that people are forced to stare at your ugly face in spite of themselves.

ARUN: Shush guys! Here comes our order.

(The waiter serves the food they had ordered and leaves.)

MANJIT: Oh, this looks delicious. I can’t even pronounce these names. They are Italian, right?

IMRAN: Or something with fake Italian names to make them sound cooler.

(Arun tastes an appetizer)

ARUN: I can see where you are coming from. Yuck! Oh my god, this is just raw cabbage dipped in some tomato sauce.

MANJIT: That’s cabbage? I thought it was some kind of pasta or something!

(Imran starts choking on something)

IMRAN: I’m done with this crap. What the hell is this? This is just a dollop of cream on raw onions. I’m going to order some biryani.

MANJIT: Shut up, Imran! Order some risotto. This is called fine dining.

IMRAN: Fine dining, my ass. Fancy names cannot obscure the fact that I am being served raw veggies. I don’t even eat the cooked veggies. It’s like they have recorded my worst nightmare, and then made me watch the whole thing in a multiplex after paying for deluxe seats and awful popcorn.

ARUN: You know I have similar thoughts when I go to a coffee shop. First they serve you this god awful cappuccino which is so bitter that it can kill all the worms in your gut. Adding extra sugar doesn’t help either, because then the flavour of the coffee gets lost. So basically, I’m paying some 60-70 bucks for a draught of the dead, pretending to enjoy it because it’s supposed to be cool, while in reality I’m only gulping it down because it’s so damn expensive.

MANJIT: Want to go to Shankar’s dhaba and order some tandoori?

BOTH IN UNISON: Hell, yeah!