My maid and her newfound efficiency

indian-maidMy bai has stopped giving me the cold shoulder. Ever since I wrote this post called “Maid in India” describing how we (the Mister & me) are the hostages in this employment contract, she has been acting strangely. The first quarter of this year is round the corner and I still haven’t been able to figure out why.

I am scared, very scared to write this post; I have an uncanny feeling she knows about this blog therapy I follow. Perhaps through some extra sensory perception, she knows what I think about her.

In fact, she demanded a raise right after the post, leaving me feeling quite stupid for having written that. Anyways, we had to concede to her demands if we wanted peace at home and some cleanliness if you may!

But lately I’ve been noticing a peculiar work ethos in my maid. She has transformed into an efficient worker since the two weeks of March. I fear a massive uprising is on the cards soon…but no!

For starters, the utensils are squeaky clean and you can see your face in it. Seen the vessels in the VIM washing bar ad, which the brand new daughter-in-law is brandishing away at her sceptical mother-in-law? My maid is washing the vessels like that, can you beat that?

The deep bottomed kadai might not come out squeaky clean, but there is no trace of any oil on it, not even on the handles, like it used to be before. Spoons, ladles, the butter knife, every little thing is washed both sides. There was a time when the holding side had traces of what I had cooked earlier. Now, I don’t feel like cooking in these vessels anymore, why dirty them again?!

Earlier, there used to be a puddle of water on the platform where she dumped all the vessels. Now it is dry and vessels are placed intelligently so that all sides of the vessel dry up faster. She should be awarded a ‘Kaizen’ for finally bringing up a continuous improvement approach to her work!

She isn’t stopping at that. The kitchen sink is brushed hard at all the edges too. Washing the sink was never in her to-do list. All she did was merely pour tons of water on all sides and let drain it on its own. She even gave me a big surprise two days back. She washed up the cooking range squeaky clean, without me telling her to do it, which is the case usually. As a matter of fact, I remember a time until a month ago where I was begging her to do it.

To add to this, my home is immaculately clean. The floors are swept with a vengeance like never before. She mops away in a beautiful rhythmic pattern; replace the mop and water with a paintbrush and colours, this would create a masterpiece for keeps.

She was a good worker, she came with neighbour recommendation a year ago. That was the time, when a few maids had taken us on a royal ride. My next door neighbour suggested this lady, and added that she works in and around a few homes in the same wing. This lady, however, took too many leaves without informing us. One time her daughter was sick, the other time her brother was on a visit to her place, and at other times she would even get rashes!

Now she hasn’t skipped a single day except for one day, the next day she looked frail but happy to report to work.

Her soaring performance deserves a ‘best performance’ award, her efficiency is a welcome change, her full attendance is inspirational, but I’m breaking my head to know why. A few days ago, I’ve been seeing new maids at the homes she used to work at. Maybe there is a clue there. I would be more than happy to write a new post with all the masala!

Image courtesy: Times Crest

Bangalore New Year and some fishy tales

The mister and me were bored. Out performing each other with the help of Fruit Ninja and other highly competitive mobile games, was getting too mainstream. We wanted to ‘do something.’ Having arrived in Bangalore one morning for a surprise visit to my in-laws boomeranged. The surprise was on us; there was no one to welcome or hug or make us feel wanted, as both ma and pa in law were away completing chores on the last day of2013.

After the epic train journey that we had had in Udayan Express, this was just what we needed. We had the keys to the apartment, so we snuggled in and made ourselves at home. Soon we were planning on doing something, but what exactly could one do after having endured 20 hours in a train? We ended up watching ‘Captain Phillips’ starring our common favourite ‘Tom Hanks’.

Our folks arrived home in the evening and received a grand surprise. The day ended with talks, debates and ‘why did you not inform us’ with the company of some good food and loads of hugs.

The next day was 1st of January 2014. We again decided to ‘do something’.

Bangalore is the city of gardens; you’re always stepping into one garden or the other. But, Bangalore is also the city of museums, rich cultural history, temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras each with their architectural wonder and more.

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Cubbon Park, Source: Wikipedia

We decided to enhance our knowledge of flora, while in the city. So Cubbon Park it would be with a visit to the aquarium adjacent to it. Located in the heart of the city, one cannot have missed the Cubbon Park while travelling anywhere in Bangalore. Starting off with 100 acres, the park was extended to around 300 acres because everybody likes a little more greenery. 300 acres is equal to 1.2 square kilometres by the way, so that’s a lot of flora watching. Named after Sir Mark Cubbon, the longest serving commissioner of Mysore, the park has a variety of bamboos, imported ornamental trees, a toy train and many historical monuments.

It is New Year day and the whole of Bangalore had made similar plans. After having braved the traffic jams and changing two buses, we arrived at Cubbon Park to realise that sightseeing 300 acres of flora with nearly 300 thousand people is not a fun way to start off 2014.

So we started with the aquarium located at the entrance gate to the park. The Bangalore Aquarium, as it is called, is the second largest in the country. Surprisingly, it wasn’t crowded so I could have all the fun with the fishes. I was all excited like a kid who visits an aquarium for the first time.

I don’t know how to describe this but the second largest aquarium in the country had me disappointed. Some of the tanks were empty, while some of them had their labels torn. Most of the fishes have lived in these artificial environments for so many years that they do not have a motive left to explore it anymore. They don’t bother to swim across the next manmade underwater cave to meet with their friends.

But, there was one enthusiastic guy that I fell in love with. He went up and down his little tank frantically looking for something – worms perhaps. Or maybe he has a story of a lost love. Maybe she was taken to another tank, we would never know.

Sadly, his label was pulled off so I might not be able to identify his species. To the discerning fish buff, the bulging eyes are a clear giveaway though. Here’s a little video shoot of the smarty:

We then decided to skip the Cubbon Park for another day when it is less crowded.

The second day of the year, we visited the Lal Baug botanical garden spread across 240 acres in the southern part of the city. Both of these were being managed by the horticulture department of the state who are fairly good at their jobs. The floral clock works but the aquarium is defunct. For a nature enthusiast especially of flora, the garden is a treasure house.

Most of the trees are more than a hundred years old and being near them makes you feel like a child under the care of loving elders. I can’t describe the contentment we returned with. It will always remain like a beautiful memory within us.

Butterfly garden Bangalore
Butterfly garden, Bangalore

So the Google search for ‘exciting places to visit in bangalore’ served us well indeed! Hope you too visit places in your city and discover the beauty hidden in its hustle and bustle.

The last epic train journey of 2013

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India is a densely populated country. I bet you know that and have a very own personal experience to vouch for, for if you’re living in this country other than the remotest towns lying strewn across the bosom of the Himalayas, you sure have been magically transported from point A to point B through the Great Indian Railway Network at least once in your life.

I live in the Queen of the Deccan, Pune – the twin city of the country’s financial capital, Mumbai, and often travel by trains. I’m travelling on one right now – the Pune-Bangalore Udayan Express and do not have many better things to do, other than observe this cacophony called co-passengers. This is my last train journey of 2013 and it seems to be as epic as the ones before.

Trains form the lifeline of this country. With over a billion and another 270 million people travelling across the length and breadth of this country, the Indian Railways sure deserves a pat on its back, or rather it’s amazing maze of rails that work in clockwork precision. Thanks to the British rule, this is one system that works at sigma level 4 to 6, depending on the assorted group of passengers it is dealing with.

Right now my Udayan Express is dealing with an assortment of passengers from all corners of Pune. The noon sun isn’t kind either. The Express train has just overcome a massive panic attack. Passengers have invaded it from each of its doors and windows. And most of them haven’t even bothered to reserve their seats. But, that goes because in India just about anything goes.

The ticket checker is working hard to ensure this. After securing a cancelled seat for his daughter, he goes about allotting vacant seats to the hundreds of distressed souls moving helter skelter inside the express train. (It doesn’t move like one though!) And by the way, I also learnt that TCs have a special quota reserved for their sons and daughters. And, there are free meals for them too!

There’s more going on –

There are guys selling ‘thanda pani bottles’ (read empty mineral water bottles refilled at the railway drinking water tap). Remember – anything goes? This isn’t adulteration; it’s called ‘innovation’ and it is a thriving business in a tropical country like ours.

Some guys making the rounds are selling everything from safety pins to recycled tea/coffee/meals to metal chains for anchoring your luggage to your seat. They want to make the most sales in these 20 hours, by whatever means possible, even if it means scaring you enough to buy it.

Even more interesting to observe are my co-passengers. There’s a party of colourful people returning from a wedding. I know because the women’s palms are smothered with intricate mehendi designs, and the men are carrying in all the booty. For starters, there are endless boxes of fragile porcelain, just what the doctor prescribed to carry on a jam packed passenger train.

The cartons say ‘Handle with care’ and the party has been fighting tooth and nail to handle them with care. There are tea cups, saucers and a teapot in one box. There are dinner plates, bowls, and casseroles in another. I read the branded labels on the other carton boxes  – XYZ air freshener, LMN microwave, PQR cooking range, UVW cooler and EFG something something . If all this was not enough, there is a carton of possibly fifty 200 gm packets of unopened potato wafers too. Some poor soul has been fleeced at the wedding.

Plus there has been a scene at the wedding; I can tell for sure. One of the young lad has a bandage across his wrists and is also making gigantic efforts at standing on his feet. Nobody is bothered a teeny bit though.

And then there is the ‘distinctive’ ubiquitous fragrance of the Indian Railways emanating from each and every nook and cranny of the express. Food mixed with poop or is that pee, I don’t know nor do I care. The family beside with the know-it-all mom, the errand-boy dad, their darling daughter and her super irritating little toddler, are also adding their distinctive smells to it. A floral perfumed hand spray goes foosh foosh on each of their palms every one hour. The combination is lethal. My olfactory senses have been deadened by now.

And, let’s not talk about my auditory senses. The darling daughter with her high-pitched voice has successfully managed to out-perform the many wheels chugging along the rails. Her know-it-all mom has been giving her a piece of advice on ‘how you should not disturb your co-passengers’ while being completely oblivious of the noise pollution she has been spreading around. The only adult male has visibly surrendered to these female forces. Life goes on as they discuss what’s wrong with the State Railway Minister.

Evening has arrived and we are now waiting at the Gulbarga train station, the letters of the language are rounded now; we’ve crossed Maharashtra and are now at Karnataka. The telecom service providers are always happy to welcome passengers in roaming, aren’t they? All of us receive welcome SMS’s from our delighted service providers.

Talking about my co-passengers, there’s also a trio of boys who are dead bored. I guess they could do with a real Temple Run 2 kinda adventure right now. They’ve been talking all the time and wondering what the hell am I typing away on my laptop!

I am thankful to this last moment tatkal quota ticket the agent could get us in the sleeper class, because nowhere else could I have had experienced such an epic journey at the end of the year. I consider myself the chosen one. In fact the mister and me are equal in status of being the chosen ones.

Here’s to more epic train journeys in 2014. Cheers!

Image courtesy: Amit Kulkarni

Maid in India

I can’t do without her. Nor can we live in harmony. She knows the place she holds in my life. And she uses it to her benefit. So when this noble lady tells me, “Pocha kal” I obey at once with a respectful nod.

Today she reports nearly three hours later than her scheduled time, but I say nothing because being present on the job is an even bigger quality than punctuality, isn’t it? She is reporting after 50 hours, which is fine because little breaks from work helps keep her mind fresh and active. Besides, it gives me and the mister a chance to do some house chores as a break from our very humdrum life of blogging.

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Last December, right after my back injury, I knew I couldn’t avoid this anymore. To give up washing our utensils, to give up on sweeping and mopping our one-bedroom home office, to give up on my freedom to do whatever I want with my home was something very tough for me. We had shifted home just a couple of months back and hired the maid who claimed to be the most ‘in demand’ in our housing society. We had no choice but to believe her and depute her. Soon after the transfer of power, a familiar feeling began to overpower us.

Our endeavour to keep our home clean had failed again. This maid hardly turned up. And God forbid, if she ever did turn up, she also made sure to leave within ten minutes. So quick and efficient was she, that all the utensils self-washed themselves, all the dust vanished from the floors before they got magically moped with glassfuls of Lizol. It took me a week to decode her modus operandi.

She transferred dirt to nooks and crannies that are invisible to the human eye. Though, these were visible to the pests that lived with us and often laughed at our ignorance. How I got rid of the pests is an altogether different story that needs to be told as well. Living in rented homes teaches you a lot about human behaviour, I tell you!

I had questioned this lady holding in my palm a portion of evidence although it was ‘dirty’ – dust, hair, a few pulses, some shedded skin too I guess. She was deeply hurt that someone could question her integrity like this. She left at once and promised to never come again. She came the next day to collect her salary for the days she deceived us though.

So 2013 began with this new maid who came with recommendations from the neighbours. This time I got smarter to not rely on self- proclamations. She takes her time at the kitchen sink. Then she carefully sweeps away dust (hair and all) from all nooks and crannies too. Then she mops the floor with a corkful of Lizol and leaves a fragrant home for the two of us.

But, she hardly reports to work.

Sometimes, her daughter is sick or at times she takes a week-long sojourn to her native land. That way she prefers to keep away from the dim of city life and rejuvenate through all the greenery in the countryside.

She works at nearly seven homes everyday, thus earning our empathy. So when she does report to work, she finds herself with more than a day’s dirt to wash, sweep or mop. She made sure it wasn’t too hard on her. So the invariable response was ‘Pocha kal’ which meant ‘mopping tomorrow as today there is too much work load’. Also, ‘you guys don’t seem to mind not having a squeaky clean floor anyways’!

Every thing including her absenteeism was going fine up until I saw her leaving a neighbour’s home after finishing their chores, and leaving on the sly. And, she has been doing this for the whole of this year, right under our nose!

Out of the 350 days she took salary for, she must have reported for only 280 as every month sees her sickness, her daughter’s sickness, or her wish to take a breath of fresh air from her countryside.

She is a good worker who knows her value and her employers very well. This November, I gifted her a saree along with Diwali bonus, although me and the mister did all the pre-festive deep cleaning. She was apprehensive in taking it then. Unlike other maids who rejoice over getting gifts over Diwali, or blackmail into getting them, she seemed a tad bit guilty. Her uninformed absence for the next 11 days gave me the answer.

Well, this is my maid. My very own ‘Maid in India!’ I am hoping you have your very own maid stories to share too 🙂

Turning three and feeling young again!

I can’t believe our blog – that is also our source of bread and butter – turns three today! Here’s our mascot with the birthday cake:

LI-mascot-cakeAfter a false start on April fool’s day, our blog ‘Lighthouse Insights’ was formally launched on December 1, 2010. A day before I had confided to my hubby and partner-in-crime (then fiancé) that I plan to look for content related jobs to help moonlight my daytime struggle with design assignments I was struggling to find.

Why go outside when you can join me?” he said. Surprised and amused, I asked him what was he talking about!

He sent me a blog link with around 10 posts on marketing, word of mouth marketing, customer service, social media magic and more. I liked the substance in this blog but would I be paid? It was named ‘Bee Societal’ and I couldn’t imagine working for a blog named like that. Also, I was living in Mumbai and we didn’t know when to get married!

When everything is a big question mark, you surrender to the divine forces. I did that and almost magically, we worked on this blog with me in Mumbai and him in Pune. First things first – ‘Bee Societal’ was renamed to ‘Lighthouse Insights’ after a brainstorming session on the phone, minus our brains!

The initial months were full of self-training and observation – social media practices, human behaviour, blog content, SEO basics and link building, digital marketing, Seth Godin, English & grammar (actually studied through Wren and Martin which was optional in school!) and much more. This process of learning kept me engaged and excited as well.

But, the location difference was still a problem and we couldn’t be engaged forever. So we got married. One month later, we moved to a personal domain and there has been no looking back ever since. Within seven months of marriage and the blog’s first anniversary, the hubby put down his papers at the IT company that used to pay our rent and bills. January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 was a complete roller-coaster ride of a year, we didn’t know what we had gotten into and didn’t know where it was leading us. With God’s grace, we were able to pass through painful wrists, a broken back, and some ‘medical conditions’ caused from insomnia, nervous tension et al. The most exciting bit was, of course, paying our bills right on the due date!

2013 has been a ‘floating’ experience. Both of our systems have been reconfigured and we don’t remember much of when we fell in love with each other, or when we met and decided to get married. Survival has taught us focus, discipline and perseverance, something our parents tried in vain!

Three years and counting…three years young and getting to kindergarten…relearning the childish way to explore…Thank you God for everything!

Why Besharam should go to the Oscars

Besharam_movie_poster
Image courtesy: wikipedia

You ask me why? I ask you “Why not?!” Without a doubt, Besharam is 2013’s only defining film of Indian cinema. It is crassitude unlimited with a major focus on Ranbir Kapoor’s itching crotch. Why, it even highlights Rishi Kapoor’s toilet antics, complete with the many variations of constipated facial expressions, by the end of which unsuspecting viewers are enlightened about the erstwhile actor’s painful bowel movements.

By virtue of many such deeply philosophical moments that define India, and the country’s fascination with potty humour and itchy crotches, the movie certainly deserves to be India’s nomination to the Oscars. No other film even comes close to calling itself an authentic rendition of the Indian saga. Remember… we prefer mobile phones over toilets, the Chulbul Pandeys over Dabbawalas, the pelvic thrusts over cranium ones and…never mind!

Characters

If you are still not convinced, let us discuss about the key characters that make ‘Besharam’ the iconic movie that it is.

Bablee the car thief – Ranbir plays him to the ‘T’. One is almost tolerant about the poor orphan who steals cars not for a living but to give back to the orphanage so it does not create any more car thieves. What an original Robinhood inspired move by director Abhinav Singh Kashyap, one that does not make you lift an eyebrow after reading ‘original’ and ‘inspired’ in the same line.

Titu – Bablee’s friend and partner in crime, who along with Bablee has been far removed from any kind of logical reasoning.

Tara Sharma – Bablee’s love interest played by Pallavi Sharda. We last saw her in the psychological thriller ‘Table 21’ opposite Rajeev Khandelwal. They had to bring the ‘rich girl-poor boy’ angle now, didn’t they? Except that she is the daughter of a middle class widow and is striving hard to climb the Delhi wall of status. (read ‘own a fleet of the most expensive cars!’)

Chulbul & Bulbul Chautala – They could have very well been surnamed the ‘Pandeys’, for if I were the director, I too would have stolen popular names from my debut blockbuster film. The relief is that they are being played by Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, a childless cop couple who are in the trace of Bablee, Delhi’s most wanted car thief, who steals with love. They had to bring the ‘orphan boy-childless couple’ angle now, didn’t they?

Bhim Singh Chandel – The lean-mean-shooting machine with a small army who is sometimes seen using a bazooka like missile anywhere and everywhere in the city. The hawala operator played by Jaaved Jaffery gets Bablee to work for him for big money, because Bablee isn’t afraid of his bazookas.

Story

The story is an inspirational take on Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ – If you wish for something very badly, the entire universe conspires to get you that’. Logic can take a beating.

Bablee steals Tara’s new car unknowingly, right after she rejects his love proposal as he is an orphan-thief. To win her love, he steals it right back putting his life on the line. Her heart softens on the way.

Meanwhile, Bhim Singh, The Chautalas and logic are all in hot pursuit of the newly-fallen-in-love couple, each for their own reasons. It has to end in a climax at a warehouse, doesn’t it? The orphanage kids are kidnapped, a huge police force is waiting outside, Bulbul Chautala is shot, Bablee’s intentions are misconstrued, etc. etc. etc.

Everything is sorted out as the bad guy is caught. Bablee is adopted by the Chautalas in case you didn’t know that one was coming! Bablee, no more an orphan now, need not steal cars anymore, so his lady love is delighted too!

Lessons

Believe in your dreams; you can change your destiny. An orphan car thief can also find a pair of cop parents and a sophisticated girl, despite his itchy crotch. The film was declared a flop in the first week itself, but these are the movies that go on to make everlasting history at a later time. Sholay was a flop too, in its time.

Character assassination is insignificant when weighed against what the film teaches you – that a badly behaved girl who does not give a damn about insulting people lower than her in status, can actually transform into an angel with the touch of love. Love brings miracles, love one and all folks! What a message to take to the Oscars and share the love!

Now that you are convinced, dear reader, please help me decide what genre can we put this movie into – romance, comedy, action, thriller or something hitherto unknown?!

Warning: Do not watch this movie while having a meal, unless you do not mind losing your appetite over loo jokes with background sounds and thankfully no smells as movie technology is yet to master the art of bringing in olfactory senses on celluloid.

The ‘D’ factor no marriage wants to face

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Happy wedding anniversary… you guys rock!!!”, I had pinged my long time best friend, on his third wedding anniversary three months ago. Although the green icon meant that he was online, there was no response. And I thought to myself, ”He’s probably missing her.” My friend of twenty years was sitting miles away in the US of A, with his wife waiting for him in Bombay, being apart for only sixty days. The situation called for a sad romantic filmy number, but it was far from it.

Had I known what he was sledding towards that day, I would have been ready for it. The shocking truth struck like a bunch of sharp knives, when he finally broke the silence now, “B & me are going for a divorce,” he shared in quiet a matter-of-fact manner. Ironically, that evening, he had been watching a Gujarati play based on a cheating wife with a good enough reason to do so!

Being married for two years myself, the ‘D’ word sounded scary.

I was numbed for a few moments. Half-hoping that this is some kind of joke he’s pulling on as usual, I asked him whether he knew the meaning of divorce. What followed then was a long telephonic conversation of his three-year marriage ordeal, including mostly about his wife’s clandestine affairs and sly drinking habits. And the worst being her quick, sharp tongue towards his parents, the most community-oriented and genteel beings that I’ve ever known.

The ‘D’ thing has come as a rescue!“ he concluded with a sigh of relief.

It took me a week to get hold of reality; this was to happen anyways…she had started a new affair a couple of months right after the wedding! The mind games she played with him belied the girl I knew of.

She lost her mother when she was 14, and has to tag around her over-possessive father everywhere she goes. She has a degree in psychology of all things. She works as a Human Resources manager, and recently had earned a Masters in HR, hoping to step-up the corporate ladder. Every year sees a grand birthday party for her.  A very strong-headed, ambitious girl, who was always on the lookout for outdoor adventure and learning something new. She had taught me a little of acupuncture when they visited us last year.

I couldn’t digest such extreme variations in one individual. How can one be so positive on the outside, while living out such fanciful extremes on the inside?! It beats me completely.

Meanwhile the divorce is in progress. Right now, as he is battling the emotional void within, she has been harassing him with alimony demands. While this could be a long-drawn affair, as my poor friend fights for justice and freedom, at the same time, it also lays bare the fragility of marriage in this age of Whatsapp, Facebook and other easily available access tools to have quick affairs on the go.

Of course, the fault is not with these tools but the minds handling them.

But, it sure leaves you scared when you have seen quite a few infidelity-led divorces happen to the loved ones in your life. The emotional rupture tearing apart both and if god forbid, there are kids involved, the ‘D’ thing gets all messy and painful, not to mention the harrowing around  for alimony and maintenance of them. Besides, marriages everywhere in the world also involve both sides of the family. And these guys usually suffer the most, as they are mostly parents seeing their children’s lives come apart with their dreams of a happy and secure future shattered.

It is good to be adventurous in life but what good is this kind of a risky behavior, when you were not denied anything at all. I pray that my friend finds the strength to face this and a good companion to make this journey worthwhile.

Image courtesy: fitwallpapers

Movie Review: Madras Cafe is Brilliant!

Madras_Cafe_Poster
Image source: Wikipedia

No war is won on fair grounds ever. Dirty politics, power play and the mass killing of innocent people are the remnants of every war ever fought on the face of this planet. Each time a side wins, a mother loses her son, a wife her husband, and a child her father. A nation wins while mankind loses.

And before I wander onto the philosophy of war, let me pull myself back in into the realm of celluloid war – The ones that are recreated painfully after years of research and camouflaged for a wider social acceptance, the ones that win the big awards and critical acclaim, the ones that leave you lingering with the futility of it all.

Madras Cafe is one such film that makes a courageous foray into new ground in Indian cinema. Yet it stops short of using ‘real’ names!

Brilliantly directed by Shoojit Sircar of Vicky Donor fame, Madras Cafe is a thriller set against the civil war ravaging Sri Lanka in the late 80s and early 90s, and the political interference by India leading to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. John Abraham, the lead actor and one of the producers of the film, plays Major Vikram Singh, a military officer who is sent to Jaffna to head RAW’s (Research and Analysis Wing) covert operations. Nargis Fakhri plays Jaya Sahni, a British war correspondent who eventually helps him ‘see’ the even more sinister plan being hatched underneath the covert operations.

The two names might seem out of place when taken in the same sentence as Shoojit Sircar. But then, there are exceptions. John is not his usual bulky self and has managed a real portrayal of the wrath and pain of Major Vikram Singh. Moreover, his body language did some talking too in this movie. Nargis, on her part, has played a very believable Jaya. An almost right fit for her accent!

Actors in other key roles also shine through in their performances. Interestingly, most of them are journalists, and prominent people from the media. Remember Siddharth Basu, the quiz master from Mastermind? He plays Robin Dutt (RD) who leads the covert operations for RAW and the one Vikram Singh reports to in India. There is ad man Piyush Pandey playing a role as the Cabinet Secretary of India. Prakash Belawadi, a journalist and an award-winning theatre personality, has enacted a brilliant two-faced Bala, the one whom Vikram Singh reports to in Jaffna. Managing Editor of NDTV India, Dibang, plays a small but vital role as an ex-intelligence officer of RAW.

Apart from Nargis, there are two women whose screen presence is worth noting. Newcomer Rashi Khanna as John’s wife, belies the fact that this is her first movie. Malayalam actress, Leena Maria Paul as the Tamil rebel gives a memorable performance too.

Madras Cafe also excels in its ability to build suspense, even though the viewer is aware of the outcome. This can only be attributed to the writers – Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya. An interesting bit of trivia for you is that the script for the movie has been in waiting since 2006. Sircar had narrated the script of Madras Cafe to John in that year, but they could not get around to begin it then.

True to the nature of the film, there are no song and dance numbers. And to my relief, there is no item number by Nargis too! Brilliant background music by Shantanu Moitra sits well with a “political espionage thriller” movie genre and does manage to enhance the scenes as per the mood. ‘Sun le re‘ sung by Papon is a beautiful, earthy number – the kinds that go into your playlists. Besides, look at any scene from the movie and you will know that the cinematography and editing are done by perfectionists.

Despite intercepting and decoding correctly, Major Vikram Singh is unable to stop the inevitable assassination. You know it yet you wait and watch anxiously trusting the storyteller to bring in a new twist!  A must watch for lovers of intelligent cinema.

The Avian Invasion of 2013!

The Mayans were wrong. The world had not ended after all and the happy new year was peeping in all its false glory. But, my world had certainly reached a dead end and good thing was I didn’t know it then. Struck by a back injury, I could barely sit or stand, let alone shoo away that pair of pigeons whose 2013 resolution was to spend some ‘cozy’ time in our kitchen attic.

If any of you ever happen to be in my city and walk past a bus depot near Kothrud, don’t forget to ask for the smelly house. You will be led to our apartment unfailingly. That’s how bad the scene was back then.

The mister was already juggling with cleaning, cooking, laundry, and keeping a check on me all round the clock, lest I make superheroic stunts like jump on a trampoline or something. The doctor had advised for a complete bed rest, but I managed to keep my ears open. My hunch was right – we were going to be invaded soon and how!

cozy pigeonsOne day sometime on a cold February afternoon, we heard the flapping of many wings and were quite taken aback to find two dusky grey pigeons making themselves at home, in our kitchen attic. The mister tried shooing them away but his pleas fell on deaf ears. These two smart fellows had also built a nice little nest complete with dried twigs and a chocolate brown rope. At once I realised the handles of my designer paper bag were not really stolen after all. What a relief!

These guys had long been following a modus operandi of sorts. They had been sneaking in twigs one at a time, when it was ‘all-clear’ in our kitchen – the long interval between breakfast and lunch and the few hours before tea time. The braver of the two made his/her way in through the window and stayed vigilant for some time. With a bunch of little twigs in his/her beak, he/she ensured we were where they wanted us to be, and nodded to the other one waiting at the window sill.

This guy would set the twig and fly out while the other got in and set his/her twig. The twigs that fell off their beaks and onto our floor was promptly picked up and set in place. Their operations were so smooth, little did we get an inkling of what’s happening in our kitchen. In this way, perhaps a thousand tos and fros later, their nest had been built on the sly, while I was sleeping…quite literally!

But, I swear I did hear some sounds, some very low frequency squeaks like pigeon whispers or something. But then I imagined these sounds as part of my wild imagination and let it go. However, I also did smell a faint poultry-like odour in the house, and blamed it on my strong sense of imagination.

By mid-March, I was able to walk around. Despite our pleading and shooing and then pleading again, this duo did not bother to move an inch, giving rise to our deepest fears – what if they have laid eggs? How long will the eggs take to hatch? What if the eggs fall down before hatching? In case, the baby pigeons do hatch, what if they fall down and we are held responsible. And worse, the place will get even more smelly. These stupid stupid pigeons!

Then came a day when they were gone. Yes, vanished before one could say ‘Shoo!’ after having a good time in our home for nearly two months. I managed to climb on top of the kitchen platform and investigate upon the smelly mess they had left behind.

But, what I saw was a couple of tiny little pale white eggs lying cuddled beside each other. “These two would surely hatch a very close-knit sibling love,” I thought to myself with a melting heart. All disgust vanished; I named them changu-mangu and immediately called out to the mister to supply me with some maize for the new parents.

pigeon eggs

Ever since then, our home was full of smiles and happiness, all four of us waited anxiously for the new members. The eggs hatched and what came out of them was ‘not so cute’ to look at, but an amazing act of nature, nevertheless. Never before had we been so happy with an invasion on our territory.

These dark ash balls covered with pale yellow hair and really long beaks were breathing away quite rapidly, while sleeping most of the time. It was a fascinating sight; one that deserved to be captured forever. Here is a video I managed to shoot of changu-mangu, balancing myself atop the kitchen platform, with one hand holding the attic base and the other holding a nearly-SLR Olympus camera recording from a safe distance.

The babies grew up so fast and flew away, leaving us with smelly memories and this smiley video.

P.S: This is my entry for Ambipur’s ‘From smelly to smiley“. When I took these pictures and the video, little did I know they would play a vital role one day.

The sky has many moods…

We (my much nagged husband and me) stayed almost the whole of July with my in-laws at Bangalore, better known as the Silicon Valley of India. The city isn’t much different from its sister IT city Pune, where I live now, but never before had I seen the sky change colors so often in a day. Overlooking the Indian Air Force school at Jalahalli near North Bangalore, which is forever enveloped in a lush coat of greenery, our 9th floor apartment is a wonderful viewing spot. While we lived in our refined interiors, we had the privilege to the exteriors served by nature. The whole was made up of only two entities – the sky above and the earth below.

And, watching the two of them in a jugalbandi of sorts, was great fun. Here I’ve shared a few pictures from my simple Olympus camera, taken from the bedroom window. By the way, Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece!

Cloudy in Bangalore

The innocence and the purity of nature…like sky-blue candy far far away!

Rain clouds peeping in

The angry rain clouds start peeping in, to take a reality check.

Dark clouds

By dusk they seem to be really happy, emerging victorious after defeating the Sun!

a masked sky

The clouds are having a party in the sky. My Olympus can create magic!

Do keep a watch on the skies above, like I do a lot nowadays. It really has many moods…