A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for April, 2014

Meet our new friend

Posted by Pepper on April 27, 2014

It has been a few months since Mint has been trying to convince me to get a dog. Yes, a dog! I love the idea of having one too, but given our circumstances, I don’t think we can afford to have one. For one, apartments in Mumbai are ridiculously small. How will we manage to accommodate a dog? Secondly, who will look after it while we are both at work during the day? There is no way we can leave the dog alone at home. And how will we manage to take it out/downstairs multiple times a day?

Despite my apprehensions, the idea of having a dog warms my heart. I remember asking my parents for a dog as a child, but even the mention of the word ‘dog’ is enough to terrify my mother. She is mortally afraid of these adorable beings. So she never allowed the sister and I to harbour any thoughts of having one. She went to the extent of telling me that if I ever chose to have a dog in my own house, she would never visit me unless I locked the dog in a room.

In the time that Mint and I were debating about having a dog, something delightful happened. The sister’s friend adopted a little pup. And with that, we started getting out daily quota of play with the little fellow. He is called Milo and we absolutely love him.

We would make sure we played with Milo after we got back from work in the evening. One day, we decided to bring Milo home. My mum was out, so got him home and were having a wonderful time playing with him. Before we knew it, we heard the doorbell ring and realised mom was back. She had no idea about the surprise that awaited her. We opened the door and said nothing. She walked in and was telling us something casually when she spotted him. As expected, she shrieked and ran straight to her room. She locked the door and wouldn’t come out even when we told her we were holding Milo and he would not come close to her. “C’mon Mom! He is such a little puppy! What can he do to you?” We tried to rationalise her fears, but nothing worked.

That was the first day we got Milo home. Despite her initial reaction, we decided to continue bringing him home. After all, my dad loved him too. He is such a darling little boy. He doesn’t cause any trouble. In fact, I am the one who enjoys troubling him. When he sleeps, I pry his eyes open. When his eyes are open, I force shut them. I play with and sometimes even pull his big doggy ears. I ruffle his neck. I squeeze him. I raise his brows and trouble him in every way I can. And he does nothing. Not a whimper from him. He just lets me have my fun. Slowly, my mom started realising what an angel he is too. As of today, she willingly touches and pets him. That, for my mom, is a very big achievement.

Milo too loves being around people. He loves cuddling up to us and sleeping on our laps. He will sleep through a racket, but if you walk out of the room, he will wake up and follow you. No matter how fast asleep you think he is. Doesn’t matter if you silently walk on your toes. He will wake up the instant you try to leave. Such an adorable bundle he is..

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That is me, petting him as he sleeps while I watch some TV

 

PS – My Grammar might be all over the place. This post was typed in a big rush and I had no time to proof read. Apologies.

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Posted in Small joys, Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

Signing up

Posted by Pepper on April 20, 2014

I’ve spent the past half an hour practicing my signature. I know, such statements sound funny, given my age. But this is no joke. I’ve spent over 30 minutes painstakingly replicating each part of the scrawled writing that I call my ‘signature’. Because I had no other choice. Sigh.. I should explain.

I’ve been fascinated by the very concept of a ‘signature’ since I was little. You know how our teachers in school had to sign every answer sheet during exams? I used to be intrigued by the idea. A valid signature became synonymous with authorization. And only important people had the power to ‘authorize’.

So fascinated I was with the idea, that I ‘invented’ my signature and started scribbling it on all my notebooks from the time I was very little. Every summer vacation, I would pile on my books from the previous year and then ‘correct’ my work and mark it with my signature in the end.

Ofcourse, as a child, my signature would keep evolving with time. And then we got my passport made when I was still quite young. I signed on all the documents without really understanding or knowing the importance of it all. Once I got my passport, my parents dropped the bomb and let me know that I could not change my signature anymore. It had to match the one on my passport. What nonsense! I really wanted to make some alterations, but my new passport took away all my freedom. I have had the same signature since I was 9 years old. My handwriting matured over time, but the signature remained the same.

All was good, until recently, a cheque that I had issued got returned. The bank told me my signature on the cheque did not match with the specimen signature they had on record. Puzzled, I took a closer look and noticed a small discrepancy. Hello, don’t expect me to have such a steady hand at all times. I can’t be robotic. Such small variations should be overlooked and passed. The arrival of the scanning systems and the ‘specimen’ signature has made things more complicated than they should be.

And then I started comparing all my recent signatures, only to realise that almost all of them seemed minutely different. The horrors! I don’t know how or why this was happening. The differences are barely visible, but if you put them through a scanning software, the results will probably not be compatible. Like I said, damn these softwares!

Why can’t we just use our thumb imprints, I ask? Why are they only associated with the illiterate? Our thumb imprints can never be forged. They will never be shaky and they will always be one of the best ways to verify a person’s identity. So why do we have to look down at people who use their thumbs to sign then?

Now I have issued a cheque (related to the sale agreement of our flat). I am nervous and hoping it doesn’t get returned, because the cheque number has been mentioned on the agreement that has been stamped and sealed. I can’t make changes to this later or issue another cheque incase this one doesn’t go through, because the mismatch will complicate everything and the bank will harass me. So here I am, biting my nails as I rehearse my signature. I hope I have gotten it right now. *Rolls eyes*

ETA – I wrote this post almost 10 days ago and thankfully, the cheque did go through. Phew!

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 36 Comments »

Same pinch!

Posted by Pepper on April 17, 2014

As children, the idea of being similar to one another would bring us much joy. Sameness was celebrated by pinching the other and yelling, ‘Same pinch!’. The colour of your tee shirts match? Same pinch! You happened to get exactly the same marks? Same pinch? You share your birthday? Same pinch! One of your parents happen to have the same name? You hurt yourself at the same time? You brought the same food in your tiffin box? Same pinch! Same pinch! Same pinch! I remember my childhood being full of such joyous ‘same pinch’ moments.

I guess the ‘same pinch’ made us feel a strange connection with the other. I tried looking up the origin of this. What is the point in pinching somebody if you discover any kind of sameness? I don’t know. I couldn’t find much. All I know is that this idea has thrilled many children. And been the reason for many generous pinches.

I was driving to work today morning. The traffic was slow moving. As usual. The radio played some happy songs. I was listening to a particular song when I noticed the car behind me. I could see the driver through my rear view mirror. She seemed to  be listening to the same song on the radio. I could see her mouthing the lyrics, complete with hand movements. For some reason, this got me unbelievably excited. She continued to mouth the lyrics and I continued to jump in my seat! I know this isn’t supposed to be unusual, and a million other people were probably listening to the same song at that time, so I am not sure why I was that excited. Maybe because I happened to discover the song she was listening to? Had she not been singing aloud, I would never have known. And the realisation ofcourse – we were listening to the same song!

Watching her singing so heartily made me want to jump out and let her know that I was listening to the same song. I had this urge to go pinch her and scream ‘Same pinch!’. This silly little coincidence really brightened my day. I spent some time recollecting the ‘same pinch’ moments from my childhood. Your regular dose of happiness comes to you in unexpected ways.

Posted in Small joys | 7 Comments »

Birthdays and growing up

Posted by Pepper on April 14, 2014

Yesterday, I turned 28. I must say I had a terrific time. On the eve of my birthday, we went out for dinner to an extremely cheap place that happens to be one an old favourite. Anybody heard of Crystal in Charni Road? An average meal for 2 costs Rs. 150. Such prices are refreshing, aren’t they? Post our dinner we sauntered in to Taj at Gateway of India. Yes, we choose to dine at cheap places and then treat ourselves to coffee in a luxurious surrounding. On our way back, we even stopped at Marine Drive and sat there for a while facing the sea. Another favourite hangout.

We then prepared ourselves for the long drive back home. We were still not home when the clock struck 12. My phone started buzzing. The usual suspects. Only my close friends know and remember my birthday. And since I choose to not notify anybody of my birthday on Facebook, I don’t usually experience a barrage of calls and wishes the way most others do. But that is how I prefer it, I suppose.

I was in for a surprise the moment we entered the house. A ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. The living room done up with streamers and balloons. Candles lit on the table. A tempting chocolate cake. A bottle of wine. Another bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Little gifts surrounding the cake. My jaw dropped! The last time I had streamers and balloons on my birthday was probably 10 years ago. Or more. Walking in to our lovely home and seeing it so well decorated was such a wonderful surprise! I looked at Mint and asked him, ‘did you do this?’

I was so busy admiring the house, I had still not turned on the light. Before Mint could respond to me, I heard a little explosion that made me let out a loud scream! The explosion turned out be a big balloon that had been made to burst. It sent confetti and glitter flying all around us. And in the dark, out of nowhere a few figures sprang up, screaming, ‘Happpy Birthdayyy!’.

Whoa! So it was the friends. This had been planned! They had coordinated with Mint and the sister, entered the house while we were away, decorated the place, set out the cake and the candles. They then hid themselves under the dining table and behind the sofa. When they sprang up in the dark, I almost suffered a cardiac arrest. No, really. I have a weak heart and seeing people appearing out of nowhere in the dark scared the hell out of me.

It was ofcourse, an extremely sweet surprise. I was overjoyed. We cut the cake. Drank wine. Enjoyed the yummy as always Irish cream. Clicked pictures. Fiddled with my birthday gifts. Fooled around. And then played games till the wee hours of morning. I went to bed at 4 am, while the others continued playing Taboo and went to bed only after 5.

Cutting the cake, while a blurry Mint plays in the background..

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Feeding the BFF

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Opening the Bailey’s

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We woke up late in the morning and headed out for some brunch since we were all starving. I tried not stuffing myself too much because I was supposed to go out for lunch with my family too! I did have a lovely lunch with my parents, sister and Mint shortly after the big brunch with my friends. As a result, I felt more stuffed than I had in a long time.

I slept in the afternoon and in the evening, I decided to do some shopping and bought myself a bag of new clothes. It is summer and I wanted to buy some loose cotton dresses and bright harem pants. I can’t wait to wear them. Yay!

Post my shopping spree. We headed out for dinner. After all the indulgence and bingeing, the plan was to eat something simple, but do things really go as per our plans? Not really. So we ended up having yet another elaborate meal in a garden restaurant. Fun times, so I won’t complain.

In the midst of all the celebration, I tried to remind myself of my new age. And I tried to not gasp. Because really, I am quite done with all the gasping I do. I’ve always been vocal about how hard I find it to cope with my age. Mentally, I still feel 15 and I am quite tired of being unable to really grow up.

I have no choice but to embrace adulthood. Yet, I struggle. I can’t help leading an ‘adult’ life. I go to work, I cook, I *try* to manage my finances, I deal with banks, but every time I do these tasks, I expect somebody to applaud and say, ‘Good job!’. I feel like a child who has managed to accomplish a very ‘grown up’ feat. So I expect people to clap and appreciate. What I need to do is realise that there will be no appreciation for doing these adult acts. Because I am expected to do them. They are meant to be a part of my everyday life. I am hoping this realisation and acceptance comes to me soon.

Posted in Celebrations | 68 Comments »

What has kept us on our toes – Part 2

Posted by Pepper on April 12, 2014

Post continued from here.

Before we even started looking for homes, we made a trip to the bank to find out more about their eligibility criteria and the amount they were willing to sanction for us. We submitted all our papers and applied for an in principle sanction. The bank told us all our documents were in order. Even the amount they were willing to sanction was in line with our expectation. We discussed the interest rate, and got our EMIs calculated. They submitted these calculations to us in writing. Although the calculated EMI for amount X was making us faint, we weren’t too bothered at that time, because we really didn’t intend to take a loan for amount X. This process was carried out only for our understanding, and for us to know how much we were eligible for.

We looked at the flat next to my parents’ on the very evening that the broker called. The home was perfect for us because of the proximity to my parents. However, since it was way over our budget, we really didn’t think we could afford it. We put it on hold and moved on to see other properties.

After 2 days, we got another call from the broker. He told us that the house next to my parents had another serious buyer. But since he had shown us the property first, he wanted to know our decision before it was sold to the other ‘party’. It made us panic. We couldn’t afford to buy that flat, but we subconsciously hoped it would stay on hold for us. Since the other buyer seemed to be desperate to close the deal the same day, we made another trip to the flat.

And then, we were given a total of 1 hour to make a final call. ONE HOUR! After an hour, the other buyer would go ahead and seal the deal. We liked the house, the only problem was affordability. No matter which way we looked at it, the house was way out of our reach. The monthly EMI would take away almost all our combined earnings. Would we be able to survive on a petty sum every month? We’re used to a particular lifestyle, would we be able to switch to something so much more low key?

That one hour was extraordinarily stressful for us. Why were we expected to make such a huge decision in 60 minutes? I spoke to my dad’s brother on phone and he encouraged us to not think beyond a point. He was convinced this was a good buy. After a lot of mental struggle, we decided to go ahead with it. We met the owner and paid them a *huge* non refundable advance  as confirmation for closing the deal.

We were in for a shock when we went to the bank the next day. At first, they told us they couldn’t process our loan because we did not have Income Tax returns for the past 3 years. I corrected them and said WE DID have our US Income Tax Returns. They cribbed and asked us why we didn’t have Indian tax papers. I told them it was for the simple fact that we were not living in India. It hasn’t even been 3 years since we’ve returned to India. How on earth were we supposed to have  Indian tax papers for the past 3 years then? Why could they not consider our US tax returns? Why were they saying this to us now? Why did they tell us all our papers are in order when we first showed them? They had no response. From then on began our problems.

The bank has really harassed us beyond words. The interest rate they gave us was incorrect. All of a sudden, their rate of interest was much higher than what they initially claimed. They had no regard for the document they gave us in writing in which they calculated our EMI at the incorrect interest rate!

Some day they told us our interest rate would be even higher because we apparently owned 2 other houses! Huh? This was because the permanent address shown in Mint and my passport is that of our parents’ home. We told them we don’t own those homes! Our parents do. They wanted proof of us not owning our parents home.

Another day they had a problem because Mint’s offer letter did not mention his retirement age. Huh? We told them he wasn’t in a Government job. Which private company mentions the retirement age when they roll out the initial offer letter? Stupid people. After much cajoling they had agreed to process our loan, but now, very randomly they told us they would be sanctioning 30 lakhs lesser than what we had asked for.

We had paid a big sum as advance for this house. We couldn’t back out of this deal. It would mean incurring the biggest financial loss of our lives. All our life’s savings and hard earned money being washed down the drain. Neither could we magically conjure up the deficit 30 lakhs that the bank refused to give! That was a huge sum. Other than the huge advance, we had already put in the remaining XX lakhs as part of the 25% payment that had to be made from our side. The bank is only willing to sanction 75% of the property value if the property was above 70 lakhs. So we had basically put in A LOT of our money, and we were in a fix.

That was almost 2 months ago. And this is today. We’ve paid the processing fee in 2 banks, so that our application comes through from atleast one. Unfortunately, we need an NOC from the society office and the society issues that to only one bank. We’re still in a mess. Sometimes we think we’ve managed to sort out the mess. Sometimes we come back to square one.

And if once more a bank employee looks at me and says ‘you’ve not even paid tax for three years?’, I swear I will go ahead and punch his face so hard, he will remember it for the rest of his life. We are law abiding citizens so stop making us feel otherwise. Just because we were not living in India and just because you are stupid enough to not consider our US tax returns, it does not mean we have not paid tax! IDIOTS!

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 25 Comments »

What has kept us on our toes

Posted by Pepper on April 8, 2014

A few months ago, we started looking for a house to buy in Mumbai. The decision was made after a lot of deliberation. That would be a post by itself. After conquering all our uncertainties, fears and hesitation, we decided to consider buying a home in this city. It would be good to finally free ourselves of restrictions like ‘no nail on the wall’ in a rented apartment and be done with the ever increasing rents and recurring brokerage.

If you have any idea of the cost of real estate in Mumbai, I expect you to bow down to us for even thinking of buying a home in this city. Unless you are rolling in riches yourself. But if you belong to the regular working class category that we do, you will realise exactly what we are getting ourselves into. This has been a roller coaster for us.

Since we’re talking about Mumbai, we made ourselves forget that the city even existed beyond the suburbs. Because even the suburbs are costing us the sky, we’ve had to regretfully give up all thoughts of looking at homes beyond a far off suburban boundary. Not cool, I know.

At first, we’ve had to cope with tremendous heart ache. The past 5-7 years have seen a vast boom in real estate. Homes that were bought in 40-50 lakhs cost between 1.5 to 2 crores today. And in some areas, the difference in the cost and sale price of the house is menacingly glaring at us.

That boom has now ended. The prices will no longer jump like they did. Not for a while atleast. I am not sure we will benefit with the same kind of appreciation. People who bought homes in those times lucked out. And now, when I realise I have to pay a crore and a half for what was worth less than a quarter of that amount, I cringe. But since there is no point in crying over spilt milk, I try not to think about it. But really, when there is so much money at stake, it is hard to not feel the heartburn.

We’ve had two brokers laugh at me when I went up to them and said I was interested in buying a home. No kidding. The first time, I went with my dad. Mint wasn’t around. The broker spoke only to my dad, even though I was the one asking him questions. When my dad finally told the broker that it was me who was interested in buying a house, he let out a laugh, looked at me and said “YOU want to buy?”. Huh? What am I to make of that reaction. I suppose the world can see how little we can afford. But laughing on my face? Hmph!

The second broker too thought I was wasting his time by discussing things with him.  He told me it would be better if he had the discussion directly with the prospective buyer. He too let out a small laugh when I told him I was the prospective buyer. Mint told me I should have told him that if he thought I didn’t seem worthy enough to talk to, I could walk out. Sigh. My sister’s theory is that I look ‘too young’ to buy a house, which is why they react that way. False consolation? Perhaps.

We spent weeks looking for a suitable home to buy. We really didn’t think we could afford anything more than a 1 bhk as of now. Since it was just the two of us, we thought it was okay. We would upgrade to a bigger house in a few years. But all the homes we saw were tiny, ridiculously space starved and very congested. In a 1 bedroom apartment, the living room wasn’t even big enough to accommodate a dining table. I was beginning to get depressed.

To add to that, we had to deal with crazy expectations. People everywhere expected us to make a huge chunk of the payment in black. It took me a long time to even understand what black money really meant. If you want the house at a lower price, pay part of the sum in cash. If you want to pay fully in white, be prepared to pay much more. That is how it worked. Other than the fact that we wouldn’t be eligible for the amount we wanted for our home loan if we paid partly in black, I was just not willing to give in to the idea of doing anything underhand. Even if it meant paying 20-30 lakhs more. Honesty comes at a big price! But I insisted. I wanted a seller who would accept 100% white money. That limited our options drastically.

After sweating it out everyday and after a long, labourious search, we managed to find something that we thought was appropriate in all senses. Not perfect. Not spectacular. But the best we could find given our circumstances. Our broker called my dad one evening and asked us to see a flat which happens to be in the building right next to my parents’. Ofcourse, it seemed ideal on so many levels. Except for the fact that my parents live in a relatively expensive township. And that this was a 2 bhk. Making this house way out of our budget.

All the same, we went ahead and closed the deal. I will probably do the hows and whys in a sequel post. I was unbelievably excited, until we were hit by a massive problem – the one I have so far referred to as our ‘personal crisis’. We’re still not through. But I am trying not to be bogged down, at the same time, not allowing the excitement to sink in until we sail through completely. More in Part 2.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 34 Comments »

Life

Posted by Pepper on April 7, 2014

The past few weeks have been crazy. I have been running around like a headless chicken. Work has been stressful. The ‘personal crisis’ I keep talking about only seems to get more complicated by the day. One day we think we’re on track and then the next day things go awry again. I am so done with this nonsense. A post coming up soon.

People in my family have been taking turns to fall ill. The sister had a liver infection. Then my mother was sick and experienced severe joint pain along with high BP that gave her a heavy head and an added stomach bug to boot. My dad’s brother (somebody very precious to me) ended up having another abscess in the same area as the first one. We had surgically removed the first one because it was beginning to infect the region around his thorax. My aunt had to be hospitalised because of very high fever and we had to take shifts to manage our time in the hospital. My dad has had bleeding in his eye, the cause of which we are still trying to determine. It makes him look rather scary.

And Oregano. His creatinine has risen to a very alarming level. It has crossed 9! He now has to get the Arteriovenous fistula (AVF) surgery done ASAP because he will soon be put on dialysis. No matter how much we tried, we have been unable to stop his kidneys from deteriorating further. To make matters worse, we don’t have a donor for the transplant. My FIL has been declared medically unfit. My MIL and Mint have incompatible blood groups. We’ve reached a dead end.

Despite it all, I have hope of things working out. In all aspects. It is only a matter of time. Though we’ve been crazy busy managing work, tackling our ‘blown out of proportion for no reason’ crisis, tending to sick family members, racking our brains for a solution for Oregano, we’ve still been having fun in the midst of it all.

At one moment I feel stressed and tensed. I am harrowed and short of time. Another moment I am out partying and laughing. One moment I am worked up, the other moment I am totally calm and laid back. Some days are awesome. Some days are blah. I must admit, even the blah days turn out to be sweet when my mom makes me my favourite snack of dhoklas and pudina chutney in the evening. Or when I decide to screw it all and just go to the park to play on the swings, like I did today. Given our current situation, I find myself swinging from one sensation to the other very often. But then, such is life. Colourful chaos.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

 
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