A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for May, 2012

Do you get laughing fits?

Posted by Pepper on May 31, 2012

I do. At the most inappropriate times. For the weirdest of reasons.

A few days ago, my dad had to travel out of town for work. The three of us, which includes the mother, the sister and I, sulked, whined and did some amount of brooding. We didn’t want him to go. I know. We’re a clingy bunch. Anyway, after some bit of cajoling from him and promises to be back real soon, we agreed to behave like adults and let him get on with his business.

Since it was going to be just the three of us, we decided to have a girls’ day out. The plan was to indulge and shop for things we otherwise wouldn’t, gorge on street side food, walk around the place till we pleased and head back home at night.

The evening was going on well. We seemed to be having a lot of fun. A few interesting things were purchased. And then it happened. As we were entering one of the stores, I caught sight of something that tickled every cell in my body. Well, nobody else seemed to find it funny. The laughter started. And it went on. And on. And on. Until people started staring at me. The sister asked me to get a grip. I could no longer stand. I leaned on one of the walls because it was so hard to hold myself and the unrestrained laughter. Embarrassed, the mother asked me to behave myself or she would walk away. I tried. God knows, I tried. Who knew it would be so hard to put an end to the laughter that was gushing out, making me seem like a maniac in the middle of the road.

After a lot labour and persisitent effort, I managed to pause the laughter and take a deep breath. I shut my eyes, lest I start laughing again. We entered the store. The mother started talking to the men behind the counters. I don’t know what exactly made my control break all over again, but there I was, laughing out aloud in the middle of the store, for no apparent reason. I think I almost toppled over. I remember my mom telling the store owner, “She has gone mad”. I could see the rest of the folks eyeing me, trying to hold back their laughter. Since I couldn’t stand there, letting people believe I was a lunatic on the prowl, I walked out of the store, amidst choking laughter and giggles.

It took me a long time to regain all the lost control. Alas, my dignity is not something I could regain. The damage was already done. I had managed to establish myself as a delirious and unbalanced individual. The sad part is that this isn’t the first time it has happened. The sadder part is that I know it isn’t the last either. I tried to walk out of that place as fast as I could. But not before taking a pic of the source of my amusement, or rather, embarrassment. And yes, you are not permitted to ask me why I found it that funny. But seriously, why on earth would anybody want their mannequin to look like this?

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Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 64 Comments »

Driving myself crazy.

Posted by Pepper on May 28, 2012

That’s exactly what I have been doing. Just that I mean it quite literally. In other words, I have, to an extent, over come one of my greatest fears. The fear of getting back to driving a car in India. When we decided to move back, driving is one of the things I dreaded most. I kept avoiding the thought, I kept trying to evade the matter till I could. The disciplined, ridiculously easy driving in the US actually made me unlearn the Indian way of driving.

Each time my dad asked me to drive here, I tried to muster up the courage. But the township we live in is hopelessly dug up. One side of the road has been closed. Which means you have two way traffic going from one narrow side of the road. To even get out of this place, you have to skillfully dodge BEST buses, autos, cement mixers, cars, pedestrians and hawkers. Just the sight of it would break my resolve and I would back out, saying I will drive another time. This seemed to go on forever.

There were a lot of barriers I had to cross. I was no longer used to a gear and a clutch. My biggest hurdle was being able to drive on the left side of the road. It would mean reversing the map of my brain. I feared accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road, considering how used to I was to driving on the right side. For all these reasons, the prospects of driving here scared me.

There were some people who got on my nerves. They couldn’t understand why I was hesitant to start driving here. The common argument would be, “But you know to drive. You’ve driven in India before.” It would leave me baffled. Did they even understand what it would take to resume driving here? Even if I had never left the country, even if I had just quit driving and I was asked to restart after a couple of years, I would fear getting back to the wheel. And here I was, not only out of touch with the Indian way of driving, but also used to the American way, which is worlds apart.

When we were in Chennai, my mom in law asked me if I would be able to drive to the restaurant we were planning to go to. I refused, and told her it was unreasonable to expect us to be able to drive in India all of a sudden. We had just moved back a week ago. We needed more time. The next instant I saw Mint asking her for the car keys, telling her we’d take the car. When she asked him if he was sure he could drive, he said “Obviously I can. As if I have never driven here before”. I wanted to strangle him then. Really.

Mint’s ability to drive in India with ease resulted in more pressure being put on me. I don’t know how he does it, but I really dislike that guy. After several arguments with my dad, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I realised my fears were valid. The first time I drove, I drove on the wrong side and saw a BEST bus heading towards me. All along, I could hear my dad’s voice in the background, asking me to watch out, telling me I had come on to the wrong side! I glared at him with a “I told you this would not be easy” look. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to move to the other side with relative ease. Phew.

From that day to now, I think I have come a long way. I can now drive, without my brain feeling muddled, without alarmingly questioning my senses about which side of the road I am supposed to go on. I think that is quite a milestone in the chapter that reads ‘Getting back to life in India.’

Posted in Life in India | 28 Comments »

Of drama and dreams..

Posted by Pepper on May 23, 2012

I love people waiting for me at airports and stations. Probably because I love feeling important. I love knowing that a pair of expectant eyes are searching for me in the crowd that emerges out of the exit, I love knowing that somebody out there is eagerly waiting for my arrival, counting minutes.

I also love drama. And Bollywood. I saw the movie ‘Kabhi haan kabhi naa’ when I was 7 years old. I didn’t think of it much then. But by the time I was 15, the movie escalated to my list of favourites. One particular song that I was smitten by is the one in which a visibly excited SRK is shown waiting for his beloved on a railway platform. I would keep picturing my guy waiting for me to arrive with similar desperation, holding a bouquet, being transported to dreamland the moment he lays his eyes on me. I had it all planned in my head. If only I would find a guy who was so besotted by me..

I decided to live my dream with Mint. After our annual holiday in India, I was returning home to San Francisco early last year. Mint was supposed to pick me up from the airport. I was unbelievably excited. I got through the monstrous flight thinking of the time I would walk out of the airport, and find Mint waiting for me with a broad smile. I thought of our eyes meeting and how the world around me would begin to fade.

Our romantic reunion was not to be. In reality, when I walked out of the terminal, there was no Mint waiting for me with a broad smile. There was no meeting of the eyes. Nothing. Sorely disappointed, I called him up, only to find out he had just left the house. The airport was no where close to where we lived. So I sat on one of the benches, with my luggage piled up around me. This was not part of my plan. Wasn’t he the one who was supposed to wait for me with bated breath? Instead, here I was, waiting for him to arrive at the airport. I spent almost an hour there, deflated and angry. Watching my co passengers being greeted and embraced by their folks only added to my sullenness.

This weekend, I was to visit Mint and spend a few days with him on campus. He was to come to pick me up at the station. My train was reaching at 5 am. I thought the opportunity was perfect. I sent him an email, part of which said:

Bring with you: A bouquet of flowers, or else, a single flower will do.

When you see me, you are supposed to stare, seem dazed and smitten. I will look at you and wave with a smile. Only then you can react and wave back. Be delighted to see me.

For more information, please watch this video. The last 40 seconds especially.  It will give you an idea of how I expect you to behave. “
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I know I am dramatic, and before I find people rolling their eyes, let me tell you, I did not for a moment expect him to really follow what I said. I am used to not being taken seriously, and so I was sure he would not even respond to my mail. And I was right. There was no reply from him.

When I stepped out of the train at 5 am, I had long forgotten about the mail I had sent him. I did look for him at the platform though. Unable to spot him, I started walking up the stairs, feeling annoyed all over again. Just as I was thinking of calling him up to ask him where he was, I felt my phone vibrate. “Where are you?”, he asked me. Surprised, I asked him where he was. Turned out he was waiting for me at the platform. I had been too impatient and assumed he wasn’t around. Impressed, I asked him to come up the stairs

Our eyes met, I remember us smiling like idiots as we walked towards each other. When we were in the cab, he told me he couldn’t get me the bouquet because he couldn’t get out of the campus due to an auto strike going on there. And he would have enacted the scene I had envisioned, but I spoilt it all by hurrying up the stairs on my own. I couldn’t believe he had actually considered doing all that. The sincerity with which he said it all left me smiling for a long time.

For some reason, I felt like my old dramatic dream had come true, even without the bouquets and the roleplay of a besotted lover. The enactment would have been nothing but pretense and drama. But the desire to please me was for real. Or perhaps it was the fear of disappointing me and dealing with a grumpy me. Either way, I appreciate the willingness to do such outrageous things. Now I wonder what I can do to please him the same way..

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 74 Comments »

Stories behind faces

Posted by Pepper on May 15, 2012

I have always been fascinated by stories, especially real life ones. As a child, I would spend my afternoons listening to my grandma narrate incidents of her childhood. She would share with me little details of her school, of how she feigned a stomach ache when she wanted to skip class, how her dad caught her once and other interesting snippets from her past. Oh the joy!

My love for real life stories grew as I grew in age. I would see people on the road and wonder, where are they coming from? Where are they going? Are they happy? Sad? What will they do after they get home? What will they eat for dinner today? Do they have a family they will share their meal with? Or will they eat in solitude? The questions run through my mind at the speed of light.

I’ve moved around quite a lot, and each time I move into a new rented house, I spend a few minutes looking at the walls and other remnants of the family that occupied the home before us. Sometimes I see a lone nail, sometimes I see tape marks. It makes me stand and stare. Did that nail carry a framed picture of a happy family? Had some kids put up posters of their favourite cartoons where the marks now stand? Did the walls witness their joys, their tears, their laughter? Who were the people who lived here? Where are they now?

One of the perks of living in India is that it gives me endless opportunity to observe people living different lives. I see couples going on a bike, with a child in their arms. I see people sweeping the streets. I see delivery guys, chatting on their cell phones as they hand you your stuff. I see people wearing ties, going to work in their air conditioned cars.  I see people in local trains, merrily chopping vegetables. I wonder, what style will they be cooked in? Will that be their dinner today? Are they leading such busy lives that they need to chop vegetables in a local train? I stand at the door of the train and I see houses passing by. I see clothes hung on the line in their balconies. Sometimes I can actually glance into their homes. I see women cooking in their kitchens. I see people chatting in their living rooms. And I wonder what their lives are about, what their stories are. What are their names? Who are they?

Many weeks ago, I was walking on the street by myself in the afternoon sun. There was a lot of construction work going on in the area. I saw two street kids swimming in the drainage, splashing around, laughing and having a jolly time. A closer look at the filthy water made me cringe. Clearly, the kids were having a good time and did not care about concepts like hygiene and sanitation. I pulled out my cell phone to take a picture. One of the kids waved out to me with a smile. I smiled and waved back. The moment they were done, they ran out, wanting to see the picture I had clicked.

“Aye, hamara photo liya didi ne, aa ke dekho”, he called out to the other kids, who ran towards us to see the picture. Their excitement passed on to me. Before I knew it, a group of kids were flocking around me. One of them held out his hand towards me, asking me to place my cell phone in his palm so that he could take a clearer look. I observed the mud in his nails, the sweat and dirt that caked his hands and I hesitated for a second, before feeling guilty the next. How could I deny a child the pleasure of holding my phone, just cos I was worried about the stains on my touch screen?  I was overcome by guilt because of the thought that crossed my mind.

The kids admired the picture for a while. Some of them asked me to click them. They stood posing in the middle of the debris. I asked each of them their name, where they lived, what they did all day, who their parents were, thus satisfying my urge of knowing their life stories.  Turns out most of the kids belonged to the construction workers that worked in the area. Other than loitering around on the street, the kids didn’t do much else. After spending a while with them, I turned towards them to say bye. That’s when one of them came up to me and asked me, “didi, yeh camera kitne mega pixel ka hai?” After which, he went on to ask me a couple of more questions that blew me over. When I asked him how he knew all this, he smiled and said “Mujhe sab pata hai”. I couldn’t help but return the smile.

He waves out with a smile

Posted in Slices of life | 82 Comments »