Maggi, Shahrukh Khan and Mt Bromo

Bromo Sunrise-2

From Ijen crater(read-jaws of hell) to Mt. Bromo

We headed from Ijen crater to Mt Bromo by car. By this time we had accepted some realities of life which had presented themselves during the trip. One was that our driver said ‘yes’ to everything we asked him and then went into a long pause during which his eyebrows became furrowed, perhaps trying to understand what he had said yes to. Second was that sleep was a luxury which we could not afford except for the few minutes we nodded off in the vehicle during our drive. Of course, the sleep was interspersed with heated conversations about Indian culture, politics, few random topics during which everyone got heated up without any concrete conclusions on the topic of the debate(gender wars being one of them) and the interpretation of the driver’s expressions and nods.

We had a fair idea about our journey ahead. We were to reach our hotel which was quite near the sunrise vantage point from which Mt Bromo could be seen. In the month before the trip, I had seen two dreams of volcanoes erupting. I just hoped during the trip that it had something to do with the volcanoes which we often saw in Chacha Chowdhury comics, related to Sabu’s anger outbursts and not prophetic dreams about real volcanoes erupting. I informed the gang about the dreams I had been having and they brushed it off. I needed a clear conscience. If something were to happen, at least I could say ‘See, I told you so,’ to the gang, before we ran for our lives. Obviously you must have figured out that since I am posting this, the dreams had something to do with the aforementioned Chacha Chowdhury comics and not Nostradamussy dreams.

But I wish the dreams I had few years back of beating Milind Soman in a race could come true. Sadly, that kind of dream coming true requires more effort than flopping into bed and letting the subconscious mind go crazy with its whims and fancies.

The hotel we checked into was a decent stripped down hotel, with bare necessities well provided for. The hotels around the place were of a similar kind, adding to the rustic beauty of the place. After taking a shower, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. We carried some Maggi packets with us, just in case we didn’t get vegetarian food. I sat in a corner, waiting for the rest of the gang to figure out what was on the menu. When they came back to our table, they looked excited.

“So, do they have vegetarian food?” I asked

“No,” my husband said, beaming with joy.

“Ok,” I said.

“They have french fries on the menu,” he said.

“That’s vegetarian food,” I said, beaming a little with joy.

It is always good to not beam too much at the mention of french fries, because it is politically appropriate to show some concern for the calories contained in the little devils.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, disappointed.

“They have vegetarian sandwiches on the menu,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, my face lighting up completely. There is nothing politically incorrect with your face lighting up at the mention of sandwiches.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Why are you so happy then?” I said, not wanting to spark a discussion at that time about how happiness should spring up from inside as I often preach.

“Maggi,” he said, his eyes sparkling.

“Maggeeee?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“They agreed to let us use the kitchen?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Aha!” I said, this time my voice heavy with anticipation.

One of my friends entered the kitchen and the staff mesmerised by her beauty called her ‘Kareena Kapoor’. As she told me this, I could remember multiple Bollywood movies where the heroine walks into a room, her hair flying in a remarkably organised way and the guys in the room look like hypnotised goldfish. Back to reality, we started cooking the Maggi. Now, I would not like to comment on the state of the kitchen, because I am not Gordon Ramsay, but he would have passed out a few times on seeing the kitchen, each springing up back again to scream at the people handling the kitchen.

As we cooked the Maggi, we could smell the jealousy of the people back in India where Maggi has been banned. P.S – Singapore gave a clean chit to Maggi almost as soon as the verdict of the ban came out in India. We endured the rather watery Maggi with a grateful heart owing to the choice of having something other than peanut butter bread along with chips of various flavours. Having swallowed down one bowl of Maggi each, we scurried to our rooms after being told by my husband that we had about 2 hours to sleep.

We were woken up at 11:30 pm by my husband, who seemed extremely excited(and willing) to turn into a frozen popsicle by venturing to Mt. Bromo. I brr-ed my way out of the cozy warm bed. We headed to the Mt. Bromo sunrise point. I can hear you informing me that sunrise doesn’t happen before 5:00 am anywhere in the world. In my defence, we went early to the sunrise vantage point to click pictures of the Milky Way around which the trip had been planned. As we got down from the army type vehicle which had carried us up the slopes, with us chattering our teeth like skeletons which had TMJ(a painful jaw condition which I suspect I have), we realised that the gift of sweltering heat had to be cherished once we got back to Singapore. Ah, I can feel the humidity all around me right now and it is golden. One of our friends had carried a blanket from the hotel, to brave the cold well-armed. I saluted her presence of mind. We reached the sunrise vantage point and sat down there shivering like jelly which had malaria. My husband looked around for the Milky Way, but it was nowhere to be found. Small tufts of cloud coupled with stars tricked us into believing that it was the Milky Way, but alas and woe.

We headed back to our vehicle at the parking lot and huddled there. Slowly people started trickling in to the sunrise vantage point. I had realised the value of warm air in my life and was in the process of taking an oath of never going to any place cold ever! My husband who still seemed to be impervious to the cold weather, convinced us into moving our lazy and frozen bums down from the vehicle into the coffee shop which was 2 metres away. I decided to listen to him before completing the aforementioned oath.

The coffee tasted like drops of magic from heaven, each drop invoking a fighter spirit in me. Finally as I took the last sip, I declared that it was time to see the sunrise and that shivering in the cold was for sissies. We walked up the stairs again, this time with hordes of crowd already jammed into the tiny space, with cameras and phones already in place for the sun’s grand entry.

And there it was! The sunrise was like a gold chariot rising high in the sky, illuminating everyone around with its beauty, announcing its presence with valour and dignity, leaving us ordinary subjects spellbound, overawed, to the point of making us feel servile. Clicks went around everywhere. After a dizzying hour with all kinds of cameras, trying to capture the magical spell that the sunrise had cast, with clouds blanketing the land, owing to the sheer height that the photographs were being clicked from, it was time to leave. It almost seemed like the sun had reserved its most special sunrise performance for Mt. Bromo, her lover, seducing the volcano every morning with her enchanting beauty, making it and the thousands of subjects take notice.

We went back to the hotel drenched with happiness, after a few pit-stops for photos. We had to leave in a few hours for Surabaya. As we were leaving the hotel, a driver in the parking lot asked us – “Are you from India?”

“Yes,” we said.

“Chal chaiyya chaiyya chaiyaa,” he started singing.

We left the place with a smile, having seen one of the most beautiful performances of nature followed by a reminder of the fan following of King Khan. I remembered the song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ as we boarded a train that afternoon, hoping we would not be expected the clamber onto the roof of the train and dance like King Khan.

Thankfully, we just snoozed throughout the train ride, waiting for our next destination- Yogyakarta.

Image Credits- Lenspaint-Swyl Saksena Studio

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The walk to the jaws of hell.

We went to Indonesia a few days back for an adventure filled trip. I am generally not a person who finds pleasure in doing random acts of adventure especially during holidays where the contrasting option is always a lazy morning with a widespread buffet breakfast made complete with items which I never miss while I am at home – orange juice, potato wedges, baked beans and so on. But during holidays, these items are the elixir in my life, seducing me every morning to wake up and grab a nice seat by the water body which is always around the breakfast area. My husband being painfully aware of these fascinations of mine probably shuddered before he booked this trip. He would probably have imagined my breakfast buffet devoid face while going through a trip where the only thing that spelt luxury was the woollen jacket that I got to choose few days back and also Kopi Luwak, one of the most expensive coffees made in the world, made through a careful series of steps, one of them being passing through the intestines and in the poop of an animal called the Asian palm civet.

 

Note- I did not have Kopi Luwak ultimately.

 

A bit of background-My husband had started planning for the trip a few months back. We were 4 of us going for the great adventure. He sent us multiple emails on the itinerary asking us to confirm whether we were okay with the plan. We agreed to the plan, without going through the email. There is something about avoiding blatant and harsh truths which gives a sense of comfort, of knowing that you are in control. Reading that email would have led to months of discussions on how difficult it was going to be without food, sleep and clean air, in some cases. Avoiding reality gave us a nice bubble to hang out in, in a world where all of the above were freely granted.

 

Reality didn’t strike us even when we landed at the Surabaya airport, from where we had to drive for 9 hours to a resort near Ijen crater. The drive was peaceful and we reached the resort(?). The walls of the resort were paper-thin, which reminded me of the Friends episode where Ross cheats on his girlfriend with Rachel. Of course, nothing of that sort happened here, but I was incredibly tuned into the hope that there were no snorers in any of the adjoining rooms. Thankfully, I slept like a log for two hours, before it was time for us to see the Ijen crater.

 

Note: I didn’t know till I came back from the holiday that BBC had a documentary on this place titled – ‘Kawah Ijen Volcano- In the jaws of hell’.

 

Knowing myself, I would not have hopped out of the hotel like a happy bunny wanting to go to a place with a description ‘Jaws of hell’ . Come to think of it, I would not even watch a movie titled ‘Jaws of hell’. I get teary eyed when I think of my blind innocence. We reached the foothills of the mountain on which the crater was located.

 

Note- One reality you need to be aware of when you go to Ijen, is that the concept of time and distance is lost on the tour guides. They will say anything to make you keep walking. If they say it is a 5 min walk to the crater, glare at them till they come out with the truth. Sometimes even that doesn’t work. You might just need to ask your lungs on how long it can keep you alive and that is the distance to the top(can be the top of the mountain or the place you go to after your lungs give up).

 

Anyhow, we started walking. We were of the impression that it was an uphill walk of 2 km. I was overconfident about my abilities to scale such a tiny distance. There were N95 masks passed around, but I folded mine and kept it in the pocket. My lungs had survived the haze in Singapore and a little bit of volcano dust would not do me or my lungs much harm. And I had done pranayam(breathing exercise) a week back, so my lungs were probably covered in some sort of impermeable golden halo which no volcano dust, smoke or farts could penetrate.

 

Note: I did not know that the crater boasted of vast amounts of sulphur and the beautiful lake that you see in the picture below is an the largest acidic lake on the planet Earth.

 

We started moving forward. We had carried an innocent looking torch for the trip. The tour guide and my husband were the ones who got to carry the torches. The rest of us were clueless people just walking ahead step by step, counting metres till we saw what was to be seen.

 

I did a bit of small talk with the tour guide.

 

“So how much time from here?” I asked, not seeing the point since we had to reach the top anyway.

 

“2 km.” he said.

 

“Ah!” I said.

 

Silence followed by some panting and puffing by the people around. It was cold and the wind was hitting against my face. I used my muffler to cover my face as much as possible.

 

“How many times do you go to the top?” I asked.

 

“Once a day.” he said.

 

“Lazy fellow. Had I been him, I would have gone at least 3 times. It is just 2 km.” my brain said.

 

I decided not to let the rudeness of my brain escape in the form of words through my lips. I smiled and walked on.

 

The air started becoming more and more impure. It was getting difficult to breathe. The voices in my head were getting muddled. The only saving grace was the misery of the people around. Had they been hopping on the way up, it would have raised serious questions on my fitness levels. We gave each other the look that prisoners probably give each other – one of desperation coupled with anger . For us, the anger was based on the decision to leave the cozy confines of the thin-walled hotel in order to smell sulphur(willingly).

 

My husband was relatively unperturbed by all of this. He reminded me of Jillian Michaels where she gets all brutal and smiles occasionally to encourage the gasping beauties on her show. We took breaks, walked on, trudging in darkness most of the times, because the tour guide was flashing the torchlight everywhere except on the ground and we were too out of breath to complain. Some prayers may have escaped my lips, not that I remember now.

 

I stopped asking the tour guide on how much longer we would take to reach the top, because of his blatant lies and his lack of knowledge of time and distance. Amidst all the helplessness, a wave of sulphur air hit us, almost as if a bunch of dinosaurs had decided to fart at the same time, although the smell was a bit more pungent than dinosaur fart would be.

 

The tall women walking in front of us announced to their tour guide that they were heading back because someone in their group couldn’t breathe properly. I was tempted to join them.

 

We were then given masks by our tour guide. These masks, my husband informed later, are used to avoid poisonous gases in war zones, etc. Although the masks looked ugly, they looked like the sweetest present sent from heaven as if to give us one last chance at life. Can anyone else hear a symphony of angels?

 

There we were(gasp) finally at the top. The tour guide told us that we could either wait to see the sunrise from that point or we could walk down(ugh) a few metres to see the blue fire, which is essentially ignited sulphuric acid. The couple who had come with us decided to stop at the sunrise point. My husband wanted to see the blue fire. I was game until I saw the narrow path down the crater with few rocks being used to balance oneself and walk downwards.

 

“I am not going down that road. What if I fall into the blue fire? What if I skid, surpass the thousands of people who are walking in front of me and end up right in the middle of the blue fire?” my brain protested.

 

I decided to go ahead anyway. We started walking downward, with me using curse words ever so often, to warm myself up from inside. There was a railing which we had to hold(read grab onto for dear life) as we walked down the slippery path. The smell of the sulphur fumes grew stronger. The blue fire would take at least 45 minutes to reach given the slippery path and the heavy crowd. My husband (thankfully) decided to click the pictures from a comfortable spot, at a fair distance from the blue fire. I gasped in and gasped out, trying to get back to normal after the walk we just had. During this time, the tour guide informed me that there were workers who carried 80 kg of sulphur from the crater to the foothills every day. My lungs shuddered when they heard this fact.

 

We walked back up to the sunrise point after 15 mins of picture clicking. After reaching the sunrise point, we clicked selfies and smiled at each other as if all of the above never happened. Some people, however were undeterred by the entire walk or probably had done a lot more pranayam(breathing exercise) than me. One of the guys who was standing next to our group asked me as to what language I was speaking and told me that it sounded cute. At that point in time, I couldn’t have cared even if a bird had come and spoken in Hindi, which happened to be the cute language I was speaking.

 

But it was not over yet. In our minds, we knew that there was a long walk back, down the slippery road. But, the thought of hot Indonesian coffee and clean air kept us going.

 

Image Credits- https://www.facebook.com/lenspaint.
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Mom, the cake is salty!

It was a bright morning. My friends were about to come home for a giggly girl gossip session. Going by my choice of words, I am sure you would have figured out that this incident dates back to my teenage years, back to a time when having giggly girl gossip sessions were considered ok. Of course, now we call them venting sessions for lack of better words, or plain old anger. I had gotten up early on that day and was feeling particularly open to hard work. It was a new feeling, especially during the summer holidays where the days used to be laced in a blur of endless eating, drinking and sleeping.

I had decided to make chocolate cake that day. My friends were(and still are) special and I was in a mood to soak in some compliments from them on my baking début.

One swift move and the apron was on. I opened a cook book which had pages that looked so delectable that I wanted to start licking the pages.Thanks to the concept of 2D and 3D , no such calamity befell the recipe book, which lay glistening with all the glory of the beautiful dishes which people often got tempted to lick off from.

As all recipes go, this one also had a (rather long) list of ingredients. I started collecting all of them, scurrying into the storage room next to the kitchen ever so often.

Do you recall the last baking show that you watched? Does it resemble anything that you do in the kitchen in real life?

The answer for me is no.

Baking shows make it look effortless and beautiful, with transparent bowls and everything neatly arranged before the camera starts. They don’t show a teenager darting off to different corners of the kitchen and store room using curse words that she has recently learned if she is unable to find the ingredients. No, those women are the power ladies(or teens).

After gathering all the ingredients and instructing everyone to stay out of the kitchen, I started preparing the dough and mixing the ingredients. Portions were carefully measured and the flour was washed off from the hands ever so often. Everything was perfect. My friends would be home in around an hour and the cake would be ready by then, shining in all its glory. After using all my muscular power to mix the dough properly, I carefully emptied out the contents into a baking tray brushed with butter so that the cake would not stick to the tray.

Note: I did not taste the batter.

As I often do, as soon as the batter was popped inside the oven, I started staring at the dough, almost pressurising it to rise. It did ultimately rise, flaunting its spongy golden brown fluffy texture. I was mighty pleased and was mentally preparing for an acceptance speech. My heart started beating faster as the time to take out the cake from the oven approached. I was gleeful, to say the least.

After what seemed like an eternity, the oven went ‘ting’. ‘Ting’ is always a sign of completion, a sound of achievement. But it is often accompanied by goofititis( coined by me- fear of goofing up). I picked up a fork and smoothened out the cake, leaving behind some crumbs for me to taste.

The cake crumbs went into the mouth. Even today, I recall everything from picking up the crumbs to putting it into my mouth in slow motion. That was where the illusion of having baked a perfect cake was shattered, and that tiny moment determined whether I was a good teenage baker or not.

“Aargh.” I shouted, blinking my eyes quickly as if to make sure that I had tasted the cake properly.

My mom who was just outside the kitchen came rushing in, realising that the earlier rule of no one inhibiting the kitchen but me could be broken.

“What happened?” she said.

“The cake.” I said.

“What about it?” she said.

“It is salty.” I said.

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Yes.” I said, now snorting like a pig.

She could not taste the cake because there were eggs in it and she is a vegetarian. But this was an acute baker goof up. How did the tv shows get it so right, I thought, my face turning a little green due to jealousy and due to the contents of the cake.

My logical brain ( which I think I possessed back then) came into action, trying to make sense of the situation. I looked at the recipe again. Did they intend us to make salty cake? You never know what trends pick up and suddenly you are the uncool one not knowing that salty cakes are being eaten all over the world. The ingredients however did not reflect anything of that manner. It was meant to be a boring old sweet cake.

What in there could I have goofed up?

Of course, I had put in salt. But what had I not put in? The only two contents that were white were flour, rice flour and sugar. I knew what sugar looked like – grainy. I was specifically given the jar for the all purpose flour from the storage room by our cook. The only thing that I hadn’t seen before was rice flour. I remember having opened the cabinet in front and picking out the first white thing I saw thinking it to be rice flour.

“Mom. Where is the rice flour?” I asked.

She went to another cabinet and showed me a jar. My worst fears that had culminated in that 10 minutes had come true. Instead of a cup of rice flour, I had used a cup of salt. My friends were to arrive in half an hour. I tearfully threw this cake into the dustbin, with a sense of valour rising up in me.

At least I know what rice flour looks like, I thought, my head held up high.  (If you wish, you can imagine some motivational song playing in the background to blend in with the sense of valour that had risen in me.)

I took in a deep breath and some tea and started again. My friends thankfully(and predictably) arrived late. I had a cake ready for them by the time they came. Needless to say, the cake’s name was fancier than the actual cake. But at least it was not salty.

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1 large popcorn and some cherophobia please.

Happy day, peeps. Who likes to watch movies? Yay! I do. That’s why I decided to write a bite-sized fiction story on movies and their impact on our lives. Please note that there may be some gasping followed by some eureka moments. For the interest of the public, please do remember to wear your towel before you start shouting ‘Eureka’ while running on the streets. Ready? Here goes!

It was 6 pm. Sesha was going out for a movie with her best friend Tammy. Tammy arrived on time and lined up in the snack line before the movie started. She was fiddling around with a box of tissues in the line.

“Hi.” Sesha said.

“Hi.” Tammy said, pulling out tissues from her bag and folding them neatly inside her wallet.

“What are you doing?” Sesha asked.

“The movie. I heard it is a real tear jerker. The scene where the teddy falls from the roof and dies.” Tammy said.

“Get a grip.” Sesha said.

The snack line was moving fast.

“1 large popcorn, 2 coffees- one without additional cream, 2 samosas(Indian snack).” Tammy said, memorising the order.

“We have dinner plans after this. And I have had too much caffeine. I will start whinnying like a horse now.” Sesha said.

“You know what? My 5th floor aunt saw a horror movie yesterday- ‘Fangs and Bangs’. She is in hospital now.” Tammy said.

“What? Is she ok?” Sesha said.

“She claims that she started seeing with differently as soon as she got out of the theatre- her vision changed. All these years, she had never seen fangs anywhere, and suddenly there they were. Floating near her ceiling. Just like in the movie. She felt a pain in her chest and she was rushed.” Tammy said.

“Oh my God! Was it a heart attack?” Sesha said.

“No. It was gas.” Tammy said.

“What the….?” Sesha said.

“But the point is. She saw the fangs which didn’t exist.” Tammy said.

“So?” Sesha said.

“Movies…They do weird things to us. They control us in weird ways.” Tammy said.

“I think you have taken this a bit too far. Earlier you said aliens controlled us. And now movies.” Sesha said.

“There might be a link there.” Tammy said.

“What will you have?” the guy at the snack counter said, tapping his fingers on the counter.

“Umm. Let’s see. I large popcorn and some cherophobia, please.” Tammy said.

“Ohkay. 1 large popcorn and some……..?”  the counter guy said.

“Cherophobia.” Tammy said, not blinking an eyelid.

“What’s that?” Sesha whispered.

“Ma’am. We don’t serve cherry phobee here.” the counter guy said.

“Cherophobia. Forget about it. Don’t be stingy with the cheese, please.” Tammy said, putting the money on the counter for the popcorn.

“What was that? And what is cherophobia? The names of food these days.” Sesha said.

“I was just picking a bone with him. Cherophobia is not a snack, sadly.” Tammy said.

“Then what is it?” Sesha said , grabbing two handfuls of popcorn.

“It is a phobia. A mental disorder.” Tammy said.

“Why would they serve that here?” Sesha said.

“They don’t.” Tammy said.

“Tammy. Are you drunk?”Sesha said.

“Drunk, hypnotised, affected.” Tammy said.

“Why? Who did that to you?” Sesha said.

“The movies.” Tammy said.

“What?” Sesha said.

“Cherophobia is a deadly thing. You know the scene where something bad happens when you are extremely happy?” Tammy said.

“In which movie?” Sesha said.

“All.” Tammy said.

“Ok.” Sesha said.

“It has an impact on us so deep that we can never fathom. Like it had on my aunt. That was not cherophobia, though” Tammy said.

“I don’t see where this is going.” Sesha said.

“I don’t know what ‘it’ is. But I know where we are going. To the place where we will be hypnotised to believe that bad things always follow the good and that the world is a place to be scared in.” Tammy said, her eyes now glassy.

“You are crazy.” Sesha said.

“Ssh. The movie is about to start. Have some cherophobia, will you?” Tammy said.

***End of story***

Thanks for reading this post. I was not attacked by aliens, if that is what you believe caused me to write this post. I read an article on how movies impact us and it might do us good to be aware on what beliefs we pick up and whether they are true or simply absorbed from movies. Movies are after all a figment of someone’s imagination.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-you-dont-realize-movies-are-controlling-your-brain/

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Bus marathon and grocery bags

There is a new type of marathon I am considering inventing- ‘Bus Marathon’. The word marathon was inspired by the run of a soldier from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece to Athens in 490 B.C. I am trying to guess what I would have been doing back then. If I was a human being in that lifetime, I would probably be sleeping in late, trying to avoid any stresses from watching that soldier run the marathon. If I was an insect, I would probably be hiding far away from the street on which that soldier would be running on. No trampling please.

Anyhow, back to the bus marathon. Over the past decade based on no data samples collected, but based on pure observation, I have come to realise the mechanics of buses and their correlation to your reaching the bus stop. Following are the only combinations I have come across in my life. You may have come across more combinations like reaching the bus stop just comfortably on time as the bus arrives. I will gladly label you as ‘lucky’ and frown a little.

The bus stop- bus boarding correlation scenarios:

1. It is sweltering hot, so much so that you feel like a walking talking sauna bath. You make your way to the bus stop. You wait patiently hoping the sun won’t melt you down by the time the bus arrives. You turn on Facebook to avoid eye contact with any person or reality. You are happily wrapped up in the bubble of stories flying around from the world, and you realise that it still hasn’t arrived. You look at the clock on your phone, totally ignoring the brand new yellow coloured watch you bought the previous day. It has been 2 min 37 seconds since you got here.

“Pich” you say, with an air of superiority, as if it has never happened to you before. The others also mimic your facial expression. Some even mimic your irritation. People are now one shade redder/darker than before. 6 inch heels have now melted to become 4 inch heels. Life is bad and global warming is sweeping the heels away. The makeup has melted from everyone’s face, making the faces look like botched water colour projects that their teenage children would have done on them.

After all hope in the world is lost, you see the big vehicle come gingerly. As if nothing happened. 19 minutes 57 seconds have passed by. In Twitter world, that is a century. The driver is unfazed, cut off from reality, even as you walk into the bus. You make your peace with everything, as soon as wind hits your face. Of course, the bus was supposed to arrive in 20 minutes.

2. You buy 10 kgs of grocery. Of course one needs to. What if there is an emergency? What if you feel like having salted chips and there is none? Planning is everything. You pick up the 10 bags from the counter, and still manage to hold on to your phone in your hands with the bag slung on your shoulder. Midway you realise that you can’t even get keep the phone inside the bag, because it would require unloading all the packets, opening the bag, finding a spot which is clutter free(so that the phone surface doesn’t get scratched) and then closing the zip and picking up the bags again. So you decide to hold the phone in your hands or between your jaws like a dog(haven’t tried this one yet). As you are about to reach the bus stop, barely registering the weight you have been carrying and thinking of rewarding yourself with a chocolate ice cream, you shriek in your head. The bus is already there and the passengers are already filing in. The lucky passengers who didn’t have to run the bus marathon.

Bus Marathon

Your body gears up in seconds and you start looking like the bull whose only intention is to bore its horns through the elusive red cloth.  You start running. But then you realise that your shoes might not be as skid proof as you would want to imagine them to be. Plus, with shoes as delicate as rose petals, one needs to be careful even breathing near the shoes lest they magically tear, like Salman Khan’s shirt in Dabbang. You decide to run the bus marathon, while keeping all the above factors in mind. You look like a pestered chicken by the time you complete the bus marathon, knowing that you would have to run the next day again. Consistency is key. Over time, one is able to look ladylike(if that person is a lady, of course), sophisticated, careful and extremely fast.

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The tarot lady with big rings and cricket.

I have to confess. I never thought I would be the ‘tarot lady’. I coined this name for myself after I ordered my second set of angel tarot cards from Doreen Virtue.

I remember the hot summer days in India, when holidays were on. We would sip on lemonade, eat kaccha(unripe) mangoes with chilli powder and salt and watch cricket matches. There was an interesting phenomenon those days- to couple cricket matches(at least the important ones like the World Cup), with predictions on who will win. Tarot card experts were called on television along with celebrated astrologers analysing every detail of the player’s kundali (horoscope) coupled with what positions the planets would be at during the time the match would be played.

At that time, whenever I observed the tarot ladies, some attributes were common amongst all of them- long hair, big bindi(a coloured mark or jewel worn by women between the eyebrows) and rings the size of laddoos(ball shaped sweets). They were the more colourfully dressed cousins of the crystal ball ladies who mostly locked themselves in dark dingy rooms and had a cloud of anger in their eyes, possibly due to what they saw in the crystal balls. Also, the crystal ball ladies mostly had long bindis almost like the pitch of the cricket field, with the rest of the face being the stadium.

It used to surprise me that something as simple as drawing out cards from a deck could predict the future. Could the future be so simple to predict? Could the output of cricket matches be so simple to predict, a game which required the players and the audience to participate equally in a dance of togetherness and complexity which even the best mathematicians would fail to explain the equation of?

Complex, you think? What is so complex about a guy hitting a ball with a rectangular shaped bat and 11 guys running after the ball trying to make sure that it doesn’t hit the rope circling the stadium?

It runs far deeper my friend, just like the iceberg which hit Titanic. You see, superstitions ran rife during the cricket season. People would gather in their living rooms and watch the match. If you(as a television viewer sitting at your house which you paid the rent for) stood up and the wicket of the opposing team fell, a comment would always be made – ” Couldn’t you have stood up earlier? Now keep standing.” Of course, you would have to do it, because the entire country’s fate and happiness lay on the feet which bore your weight. If you think this is simple, think again. India has a population of 1,256 million. This superstition was not just related to people standing and sitting, but people farting, eating, lying down, laughing and so on. So if you farted when the wicket fell, it would be considered in the best interest of the country for you to keep farting. This whole ordeal made the viewers as important as the cricket players. The combination of people farting, eating, lying down, laughing, standing, sneezing, coughing and so on made it a complex science rather than a simple sport which determined a winning and losing side.

And there was no question of replacements either. If you sneezed when the wicket fell, you were the chosen one and no one else sneezing would help. In fact, it was believed(and still is) that it might spoil the fate of the game, and the sneezer would help the opposing team score a boundary. Gasp!

The science and combinations of winning the match was achieved by hit and trial and pure observation. But the tarot cards made it sound simple, as though nothing we, as the television viewers, did was of importance, because if it was written in the cards, it was true. Where did all the sneezing, laughing, farting etc that the junta did come into picture if it was so simple? I was in denial for many years, refusing to believe tarot cards and even astrology to some extent.

Things started changing when I started watching some people doing angel card readings and the readings came out to be true. I watched the videos each week and bingo! They were right on target.

My conflict about cricket matches and tarot cards resolved greatly because I almost stopped watching cricket, ever since Rahul Dravid made his exit(and got married).

I then bought one of the angel tarot cards, with all my insecurities about the simplicity with which future was predicted. It turned out to be more of a general guideline rather than a cast-in-stone predictions. I ordered my second set yesterday, because one deck predicting the general guidelines to follow in life was too difficult to comprehend for me. Now I have labelled myself the tarot lady, but I don’t wear large rings, large bindis(I think my forehead is too small for those) and my hair is cropped short. So much for stereotypes!

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Invisible hair colour and my novel dilemma.

I sat in the salon, staring at the decor. It is what I do when I am made to sit anywhere without further instructions. I looked at the mirror a couple of times but then decided that too much of staring at oneself in the mirror presents itself with the label of being narcissist. I didn’t want to be like the guy who stared at himself in the water all day. If I did that, who would stare at Facebook feeds all day? Anyhow, I felt good that I was well stocked. I had a couple of books not so neatly kept in my bag. I had eaten well. I had a bottle of water waiting to be drunk.

I get a little paranoid about how to spend time during salon trips, travels and so on. Being a person whose mind wanders without permission, there needs to be a backup plan all the time. Having something to do always makes me feel comfortable. At least my mind would wander only to the contents of the book, which I think is fairly acceptable in the psychological, philosophical and spiritual world.

Before we delve into what happened at the salon, let us talk about my latest book choices. You see, ever since I have decided to keep away from my know-it-all-titis, at least till I grow into that tone more in real life, I have started reading stuff for pure entertainment without a deeper meaning. That has been puzzling to me on many levels, having spent a good part of the last 2 years looking for meaning behind everything including correlating the colour of the birds I saw to a particular spiritual meaning. Yep!

So, when I went to the library to explore the fiction side of the world, I was lost. I was sure I didn’t want to pick up heavy or gory stuff or anything which would keep me up at night. That left me with humour. Even within that, there was humour that I understood and that which I didn’t understand, purely because of the regional parlance and not because I was reading it upside down. That left me with a few guy-lit(?) novels. Two of them made their way into the aforementioned bag.

As I sat in the salon, after having discussed my preferred hairstyle with the hairstylist, who then proceeded to make some snide remarks about how I had not maintained my hair properly and how some of the (coincidentally)overpriced products would do magic to my hair, I pulled out one of the novels. It was about a guy who was having a quarter(+5 years) life crisis. I assumed from his healthy habits that he could expect to live to be a 100, if he quit the binge drinking which his quarter(+5 years) life crisis burdened him with. The novel was light and breezy. After my haircut, the salon guy started applying colour. I wanted to try out global hair colour and not streaks. I remember that I was feeling particularly bold that day. The salon guy, who himself was quite bold, going by his choice of hair colours(there were atleast 3 different shades on his head), assured me that I had made the right choice, and then said something which sounded like techspeak on hair colour and texture which I could not understand and didn’t care to question him more on. Our time is limited on Earth, eh.

Shampoos followed by hair colour application happened, along with small talk which usually and painfully accompanies these situations. Silence is probably so unbearable to us that we are forced to talk to people whom we spend even five minutes with. With me, silence is not much of an issue because my head keeps babbling. Oh did I tell you that I started meditating and ever since the salon trip, my head is reasonably devoid of thoughts? Maybe it has something to do with the hair colour entering my brain as well. Hmm.

After 45 minutes of the colour application, the salon guy checked my hair and confirmed that I was now officially coloured. I hopped onto the big chair and let my hair be shampooed intermittently asking him if the hair colour looked good. I hate information asymmetry. For those few seconds, it felt that the entire decision of whether the hair looked good or not lay in his hands.

He replied in a rather raspy tone.

“Yes it looks good.”

After the shampoo, I was led to my seat. I stared at the mirror, forgetting the whole narcissist theory. My phone was switched off anyway and there was no Facebook feed to stare at. He started drying the hair. I blinked a couple of times. He blinked too. I know we all blink, but these blinks were in quick succession and my life history reminds me that is never a good thing to blink in quick succession.

“Err. Is the colour the same as the catalog?” I said.

“I don’t know.” he said, now peeking into the depths of my hair, as if he was going to pick up one strand and say ‘Eureka. I found the coloured strand of hair’, whilst trotting around the salon wearing the 3 shades of colour in his hair.

“You know I am not going to pay for my hair colour to change from black to black.” I say, holding onto the novel, as if that was the only thing in my life I could control right now.

“I swear this has never happened.” he said.

A lioness inside me dharo-ed roop(came into form). I normally don’t like to say unpleasant things, but I had to.

“Well, what do you suggest?” I said.

“We can try another colour.” he said.

“What if that doesn’t catch colour? You know my hair is now full of chemicals and still the same colour.” I said, remembering his previously detailed out thoughts about my split ends, et al.

“I promise it will.” he said, his voice even raspier than before.

“Ok. But I won’t pay any money if the colour doesn’t come on.” I said.

“Yes.” he said, as if it was my fault.

“Has this ever happened to you before?” he said.

“No.” I said, returning to the novel.

Reading about the confusion in the guy facing the quarter(+ 5 years) life crisis made me feel slightly ok. In my head, I was doing some math on how much I would pay him if the hair colour didn’t catch on this time also. I should pay something, I thought. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t hear the stuff he said about him having used 4 tubes of colour on my hair and only 1 tube on others.

I tried looking for a deeper meaning within this too. Maybe hair colour was not meant to be for me, because it would make me look like a scarecrow like it did the previous time. But, my doubts were wiped off when the hair colour came out good and the quarter(+5 years) life crisis guy decided that his life did not have much of a crisis anyway.

Now, my husband swears that my hair colour grows bolder every time I sit in the sunlight, which is something that I do every day. He says it with an air of helplessness. I take it as a compliment.

Fun Fact: While writing this post, I spelt ‘dilemma’ as ‘dilemna’ as I have for centuries(counting all my past lives). I swear that I remember ‘dilemna’ being the right spelling. I found this post which might be an interesting read on the dilemm(n?)a of dillemma.

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