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Urban Junkie

Saturday, December 22, 2007

For Boogie

While there's been much to celebrate this year, what remains with me overwhelmingly as the year draws to a close is the sadness of Boogie saying goodbye to us.

We miss you, Boogie. Even after 5 months, I feel strange putting down only one bowl of food, being dragged along the street by only one leash, having only one jaw grip my wrist when I get back home and only one paw urging me to wake up in the morning. Only one tail threatening to knock my martini off the table. Only black hair and none golden on the furniture (yes, well, there are some things I shouldn't complain about. But there it is).

Gypsy misses her buddy and doesn't know where to rest her chin. Cushions are just not the same as a certain comfy back (well, there are probably some things you don't complain about). It isn't as much fun charging down the street if you aren't there to race against. And no fun at all terrorizing the squirrels all alone.

I hope you're happy wherever you are.

As we say goodbye to the year, it is time to say another goodbye to you. Thank you for 11 wonderful years. We love you, Boogie, and always will.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Territorial rights

A squirrel that has recently moved into our bathroom windowsill has become the source of much friction in the Boogie-Gypsy-Anjali household. Well, it hasn’t quite moved in yet, but it has been proclaiming its intention for several days in the form of an ever-growing nest on the windowsill. It began earlier this week when I noticed a fluffy ball of what looked like cottonwool carefully propped up between the partially-raised glass and the window grill. It was joined the next day by a couple of dried twigs, and shortly thereafter by (I think) bark from the banana tree. And so it went, with grass and leaves (and something unrecognizable that I don’t care to delve into) being added on a daily basis, until quite suddenly a densely woven nest appeared on the windowsill.

The source of the friction I mentioned above is a) my obvious enchantment with the nest building process, which has left B&G mildly irritated and b) my reluctance to dismantle the nest before things go any further – which, according to Boogie, has left them both stunned. Squirrels, as everyone knows, are unequivocally the Worst Enemies of dogs. Not all dogs, of course, but certainly of Dogs Who Are Scared of Cats, Mice and Monkeys. For such dogs (and they are a very special breed) squirrels inspire all known forms of canine aggression that may otherwise have been directed at other animals. Raised hackles, frantic barking, running furious circles around the dining table … deadly weapons, all, brought to the fore by the mere whiff of a certain loathsome bushy tailed creature.

How, then, could I even contemplate letting this squirrel into our home? Besides, says Gypsy impatiently, what is the big deal about building a nest? And how come I’ve never once admired her daily artistry with the cushions and bedcover? Far more complex to weave together, and much more comfortable than a twiggy nest.

I fail to understand this lack of empathy for a fellow creature’s efforts. How would they feel, I ask them, if they’d sweated it out night and day to build themselves a house – and they came back home one evening to find their hard work ruthlessly torn to shreds? And if it was cold and rainy and they had nowhere warm to go? (Actually the weather’s been quite bright and sunny, but nothing like some emotional appeal to win an argument, I always say. Besides, Bangalore can turn cold and rainy any time).

B&G are clearly unimpressed, though. How do you think our neighbors might feel, says Boogie with heavy sarcasm, if you suddenly decided to build yourself a home in their backyard? If you filled up a suitcase everyday and deposited it in their yard? What are the odds that they’d look at the result of your efforts with tear-glazed eyes and say “let the poor thing stay”?

Irritatingly enough, I cannot immediately think of a convincing response to that argument. The matter is far from resolved, though. The bathroom door remains firmly shut, to guard against any unexpected accidents. Perhaps I should put this into an audience vote, seeing as I’m lagging behind somewhat in the rational debate?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tarot wisdom and other trivia

A Tarot card told me this morning that I have forgotten how to have fun. That I am so busy holding it all together, making sure things run smoothly, so busy ‘living conscientiously’, that I have stopped ‘living consciously’. Life, it seems, is passing me by and I am in danger of becoming a fossil before my time.

Oh dear.

It gets worse. My self importance, says the Tarot accusingly, has exceeded all reasonable bounds. What makes me believe that I carry the universe on my shoulders? That if I don’t make it to that meeting, answer that email, write that report this weekend … that if I don’t personally polish it all to perfection, it will completely fall apart? Sigh. What, indeed?

Now, the Tarot and I have usually had an uneasy relationship. Apart from having a tendency to pontificate, it is not a great believer in straight talking. It waffles and dithers, it will not take a stand, and it urges me to “look inwards” rather than coming right out and saying what it means. AND it’s a bit of a pompous wiseguy (check out the clever juxtaposition of ‘conscious’ and ‘conscientious’ up there). The vehemence of its no-holds-barred speech this time has therefore startled me. Clearly, I have moved it to speak its mind. Time to pay heed I suppose.

A careful examination of weekends for the last 6 months reveals a remarkable absence of anything remotely worthwhile. No dawdling, no pottering, no reading, no writing, no dancing, no Sudoku, even. No blogging, of course. Have 24 weekends at a trot been spent in the pursuit of (ugh) living conscientiously? It would seem that way.

Time to pay heed, indeed. Step 1 is to write a new post. Not enough to appease the Tarot, perhaps, but a small, firm step towards redemption.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

100 things to say after you say Happy Birthday

Honestly, there should be some more authoritative information on the subject. What do you say after you wish someone a happy birthday? This is something I have struggled with for years, and the content of my birthday greetings is testimony to the fact that I still haven’t figured it out completely.

Me (with hearty, hard-hitting good cheer): Happy Birthday!!!
Birthday greet-ee: Thank you.
Pause. Now what?
Prolonged pause, in danger of becoming an awkward silence.
Me (in unnaturally loud voice): So!
Birthday greet-ee: So?
Me: So what are you doing today? BIG celebration planned?
Birthday greet-ee: Yes, I’m having dinner with a few friends.
Me (even louder): Great!!!

This, of course, is the complete dead-end. Nothing for it now but to excuse myself with impassioned pleas to have a wonderful day and a jaunty ‘catch you later’. There are only two variations I can think of to the above sequence, with respect to how the awkward silence might be filled. The first is a demand for a treat, and the second is a wisecrack about the birthday greet-ee’s age. Neither leaves much room for conversation beyond a couple of exchanges, especially if the greet-ee agrees immediately to the treat and appears unflustered about age.

The problem, I think, is that a Birthday Conversation needs to be conducted at a heightened level of exuberance. It needs to sparkle and shine, it needs to exude hearty good cheer and sunny effervescence. One cannot mix mundane everyday trivialities like “Have you finished the report” or “We’ve run out of toothpaste” or “I have an awful cold” with the liveliness of a birthday greeting. Besides which, a Birthday Conversation needs to be conducted several octaves above the pitch of normal conversation, which puts a further constraint on possible topics that can be covered. How loudly is it reasonably possible to say “Do you want some coffee”?

The difficulty is exaggerated on the phone. Face to face, at least, there is the possibility of enthusiastic thumps on the back, pumping of hands, waggling of eyebrows, and all manner of body language to fill the gaps in conversation. Besides, for reasons that I cannot quite pin down, a phone conversation that is not able to last a minute seems infinitely more pathetic than one conducted in person.

The only solution, I find, is to approach the conversation with pre-set limits on time. Arrange for someone to interrupt almost immediately after the ‘happy birthday’ leaves your lips. Then, by ignoring the interrupter for a few additional seconds, you actually manage to create the impression of wanting to prolong the conversation but (alas) being dragged away against your will. Or there is always the Meeting routine (*Breathless voice* I’m just on my way into a meeting sweetheart, but wanted to wish you first … have a GREAT DAY, catch you later, *kissing sounds* BYEEEE). Quick and painless, and delivered with appropriately forceful heartiness.

I think there is hope for me though … the problem is more widespread than I thought. Having recently been through a birthday myself, I was able to spot (with my unerring eye) several instances of acute birthday greeting discomfort amidst the boisterous greetings that were belted out to me. So someone just might write that book, don’t you think? The market seems ripe for it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rightful Reading Rights

“It has come to our notice that some members are misusing their membership and have been claiming to “lose” some of our precious books with the intention of keeping them for themselves. Such members are not just cheating us, they are depriving other honest members of their rights and reading pleasure. Let us make it clear that we shall not tolerate such behaviour, and all such thieves (yes, we do not hesitate to call them thieves, for that is what they are) shall be dispatched pronto”

Whether you are amused or alarmed by this notice, be assured that Eloor Lending Library means business. Reading this post by The One last night has left me neck-deep in Eloor nostalgia which I feel compelled to share with you.

Eloor Lending Library, as everyone knows (or should know) is the last bastion of Library Excellence. But more importantly, it is a vigilant upholder of Library Morality (for the lesser souls among us who lack an instinctive respect for library membership rules).

Signs such as the one above leap out at you from every corner. They stare at you from both ends of every aisle, lurk behind the Maughams and the Chandlers, and sit primly behind every check-out counter. I have always wanted to meet the writer of the Eloor notices. Compositions of utter brilliance, these signs, combining at once the taut grimness of best-in-class detective fiction and the unwavering sternness of Jane Eyre. No other library, in my view, manages to evoke the same awed respect with its notices. Consider, for example, this one spotted in a Gurgaon library last year:

Look, look, look
Don’t steal my book
Stealing is not a game
It is a big big shame

Just not the same, is it? Hardly the sort of stuff that terrifies truant library-book-pinchers into being on their best behaviour.

Eloor, on the other hand, has been responsible for remolding many young and misdirected lives. Mine too, I must shamefacedly confess. In my wayward, misspent youth I used to be a Late Returner of books. So late, in fact, that I had managed at one time to be classified as a Thief, having convinced Eloor that I intended never to return a certain book. I still have a copy of the letter that made me see the light. A letter that ended with

“It would be a pity to sever this beautiful relationship. Would you really want to lose forever the joy of borrowing from this library? You will, if you deny others that joy. In your best interests, we urge you to do what is Right and return the books immediately”.

I was, in other words, in danger of being dispatched pronto. Needless to say, the books were returned without further ado. Pronto, as it were.

It is a long time since I have been to Eloor. (Books are much easier to buy these days, now that I am no longer struggling at the bottom of the food chain). I am told the Eloor collection is no longer the same, although the Notices remain. The library has apparently degenerated into a swamp of Mills & Boons. What a pity, if it is true. I like to think of Eloor as the last bastion of Library Excellence, even if I am no longer a privileged member.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

9x9 misery

If I haven’t been posting of late it is because I have lost my soul to Sudoku. Also most of my time, my peace of mind and whatever little I have that can reasonably be called a brain. I know, I know – I have nothing to say in my defense. I am a Sudoku Slave and it is time to freely and frankly own up to it.

But really … you have to try it yourself before you judge me. It has something evil about it, this vile, fiendish, diabolical, infuriating 9x9 numeric configuration, that won’t let you go once it’s got its talons into you. You will only know once you have taken the plunge.

It began innocently enough one morning when I found myself on a longish flight without a book, and nothing other than The Times of India and Jetwings as literary stimulation (a condition deserving of sympathy, you will agree, and one that left me understandably vulnerable to what followed next). What followed next was my First Encounter with Sudoku. Having avoided it thus far out of (a perfectly natural and healthy) distaste for anything numerical, I was pushed into a tentative experiment with it after having finished with the crossword, the Spellathon, the Scramble, the Mindbender and other similar distractions offered by the TOI. And sure enough, my first encounter reinforced the wisdom of staying away from all things numeric. I filled in several wrong numbers in several wrong boxes, scratched them out, filled in some more wrong numbers, and 45 minutes later pronounced it a silly puzzle and stuffed the paper back into the seat pocket.

That, in all honesty, should have been that. But then the Brat next to me picked it up. A child who could not have been more than 7, who asked to borrow my paper, then asked to borrow my pen, and then, with my pen and my paper, over my crossed out wrong numbers, proceeded to fill in the right numbers in less than ten minutes. I saw him smirk as he returned the pen. Really, I would have been ok but for that smirk.

Gentle reader, it was a crushed and despondent me that walked into my house that morning. I eyed the newspaper for a long time before giving in. The smirky child needed to be Put In His Place, even if only in my mind. And so I picked up a fresh clean Sudoku, with a pencil this time.

Five and a half hours later, I emerged triumphant. Aaaah, I cannot describe the elation of that moment. The joy of a filled-in Sudoku, with each row, each column, each cluster of 3x3 boxes perfectly fitting into each other. Nine beautiful numbers, nine times over, blending into each other in 27 different patterns. Magic!

And now, of course, the TOI Sudoku no longer provides the same kick. Nor the one in The Hindu. They are gone in less than 9 minutes. Everyday, I need something stronger. I prowl Sudoku websites for more and more challenging puzzles. I am told it is possible to download one on my phone. Ah, it is a curse, this thing. A curse if you solve it too quickly. A curse if you cannot solve it quickly enough.

Unsuspecting reader who has not yet discovered this self-inflicted torture, I implore you to stay away.

But then again, what a pity that would be.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Abhishek's birthday and high romance

One fine Sunday morning, on 5th February 2006, several thousand Hutch subscribers were woken up with joyous smses announcing wallpapers and ringtones for those who wanted to celebrate Abhishek’s birthday. At least, I hope it was several thousand subscribers, and not just me who was considered a suitable target for a message that went roughly like this:

“Hot Abhishek turns 30 today. Download ringtones and wallpapers from hot Abhishek movies”

Several reminders through the day, too. Never one to let an opportunity slip by, our Hutch. And AB’s birthday does seem to have got them all aflutter at the marketing possibilities it offers. Oh well. There is undoubtedly a solid consumer insight here which I’m missing at the moment. I do want to know, as an interested consumer at the receiving end of these pleas, why I should be the one downloading the ringtones. I mean, shouldn’t his mother be doing that? Assuming that phones singing hot songs from his hot movies are indeed likely to make him happy on his birthday.

Or perhaps I’ve got this wrong. Perhaps the world is full of Abhishek fans who would gladly play his hot songs on their phones if that’s what he wants for his birthday. Fans who share the Hutch Vision of a million phones belting out ‘Dus Bahane …’ when he drives past them on this special day. Perhaps.

The thing is, AB’s birthday ringtones are part of a larger issue that has been worrying me for a while. Too many of the marketing messages I come across these days leave me wondering who they are meant for. Check this out, for example.

One of the FM stations, I forget which, is running a Valentine’s Day contest, where the avid contestants will have a chance to win (yes, really) the 10 most romantic sayings of all time. So that (it gets better) they are equipped with the tools to win the hearts of their loved ones. Oh wow. The 10 most romantic sayings? I really do want to meet the people who are dashing out to enter the contest dreaming of this reward. And then lying in wait for their beloved armed with the potent list.

Have marketers completely lost it? Or do they think consumers have? Or (most alarmingly for me, given my job) have I completely lost touch with what makes people tick these days?

On Tuesdays, it appears, we all ought to be downloading Hanuman Ringtones to make the most of the auspicious Hanuman Energy. I am not sure what a Hanuman Ringtone sounds like, but I'm intrigued enough to check it out.

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