Fairy tales

The royal wedding seems to have been the buzzword for most of April. Me, I wasn’t bothered. Because while I am happy for Kate… oops… HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and HRH William, Duke of Cambridge, I am not over-excited. I did not watch the event.

I did wonder for a second how it would have been had Princess Diana been alive, but that was that. Kate, a simple girl from a common family met her Prince (charming or not, you decide) and dated him. She then broke up for a bit and they rekindled their romance. They then got engaged last year. Sounds like a modern day fairytale doesn’t it? Sure!

So apparently girls from across the globe watched teary eyed as Kate walked down the aisle. Why? Because every girl dreams of a wedding like that, I was told. Ummm, not me. Forget wedding, I never dreamt of a prince charming. And I know a ton of girls who don’t either.

‘Why? Don’t you believe in fairy tales?’ I was asked.

Of course I do, but it’s a little different. I grew up reading fairy tales, yes, but they were stories and nothing else to me. I never believed them. But when I read Personal History by Katherine Graham, I found myself drawn into her tale. Not much experience, thrown into the picture by the tragic death of her husband, she ends up heading a prestigious paper and then takes it a notch higher by bajaoing the President of United States. Now THAT is a fairy tale to believe in!

Or take Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s story. A poor boy, from a scheduled caste struggles hard to get an education and ends up writing the constitution of his country! Or even Oprah Winfrey who is born in utter poverty, has everything going against her, but manages to find a window of opportunity and goes out there and becomes a record breaking TV show host and sets up her own empire, runs charities and is one of the most powerful women in world media today.

So my point here is that while we watch Kate and Will and admire their fairytale, I find it very difficult to believe its reality. To me Oprah, Ambedkar, Katherine Graham, Mrs Gandhi (Sr of course!) or even Angeline Jolie (not because of Brad Pitt but because of the work she has done) are far bigger fairy tales.

Because some people spend a lifetime looking for a fairy tale & some people write fairy tales with their lives as they go. Which one do you want to be? Which one am I going to be?

I still believe in my fairy tale. In my fairy tale, I am beautiful, I own pretty dresses and loads of shoes. I drive a Beemer and have a couple of bestselling novels to my name. Oh yes, and I also have a fabulous job with a media company. I also own a massive kitchen with a massive oven and fancy kitchen tools. Anyway what’s the point of a fairytale if you’re not the princess in it? Prince ka kya? Me, my work and my choices make my fairytale and not the prince. And the prince is there to stand by me while I conquer the world. He is there to offer me a shoulder to rest my head on after a tiring day at work. He is there. But my fairytale doesn’t heavily rely on his charm.


Happy Birthday Dr Ambedkar

6th December & 14th April were always viewed with contempt in my friends circle. Not because we had anything against Dr Ambedkar as such but because for a week around these dates, our favourite Shivaji Park was a mass public urinal, traffic was bad and there were far too many hooligans for us to even think of venturing out. So we cursed the day that the man who created the rule book by which our country is supposed to function instead of celebrating him.

As a 14 year old, a small excerpt from a Marathi biography enticed me into reading the entire book. This biography of Dr Ambedkar changed my life.

We seldom realise how valueable education is. I grew up in a home filled with books. I never had to fight, save or struggle to own a book. Children like me often take this for granted. Reading about the early life of Dr Ambedkar, his family’s struggle to get him into a school, his struggle to keep studying despite the insults and discrimination at the hands of his teachers, I realised that I deserved a slap across my face for crying about going to school each day. This man went to the end of the world to keep studying, read

extensively and developed his intellect with the solid backing of knowledge and education.

Even though he came back to India a learned lawyer, he still continued to face discrimination in all walks of life. An acquaintance who once dined at the residence of a prominent writer and a contemporary of Dr Ambedkar’s told me that the said writer’s maid was a Brahmin and she refused to clear Dr Ambedkar’s plate. This was a stand alone incident. It might infuriate me, a child of the 1980s but apparently back in the 1940s it didn’t raise an alarm at all. What changed in those 50 years? Our attitude. This attitude change didn’t come by automatically. Dr Ambedkar designed the system to bring scheduled castes up to date with the larger society. He realised that unless his people got a solid education, they would forever remain down trodden.

In these 50 years, Dalit children went to schools and enjoyed a reservation in colleges.
But an education might prepare you for the world, but it is knowledge that one needs to grow above average. And while education can be acquired at a school or a college,

the pursuit of knowledge is voluntary and it occurs in everyday life. Since it went hand in hand for him, probably he assumed that this would happen to the young of his community too. To an extent it did. Dalit literature (I still hate calling it that) blossomed and poets and writers came to the fore. In fact in the last ten years, there have been a sizeable amount of entrepreneurs that have come out of the community. That said, I cannot help but wonder why the throngs at Shivaji Park still continue to live regressive lives.

No, I don’t have a problem with the traffic jams. I have a problem with their hooliganism. I have a problem with the fact that this hooliganism leads to a mass outrage amongst citizens and this hooliganism gets associated with Dr Ambedkar. True, they pour in from

all corners of the state or perhaps the country, to pay your respect and express gratitude towards the man who attempted to bring social equality. But is this the right way? Some political powers want to use these occasions to demonstrate their political might. And in doing so the tamam janata of Mumbai dreads Ambedkar Jayanti or Ambedkar Punyatithi.

However, they are not to be blamed. In the villages they come from, they are still discriminated against. They still live in isolation. Their children might go to the local school, but the other kids stay away from them. In the year 2010, reservations for scheduled castes still remain. But it has slowly changed over the years. We see cases of an office being purified after a Dalit collector is transferred but then lets not ignore the fact that we have come a long way in shunning the caste system over the last six decades. It is a conditioning of thousands of years and it will take time, but the wheels are in motion. And it is Ambedkar who gave the first push.

I want to take a moment and thank this man for creating this nation. I want to thank him for being an inspiration. At the convocation where I received my MA, Sir Richard Attenborough (the then Chancellor of Sussex University) spoke of how we, in the modern world, do not understand and appreciate the value of education. I thank Dr Ambedkar for engraving the value of an education deep into my soul. Thank you.

Indi’Go’ deli

Indigo (the restaurant) was my favourite place to dine at as I became a teenager. They served exotic Italian food (in an age when Little Italy and Trattoria were the only Italian restaurants), Hrithik Roshan (the then love of my life) ate there and it was ‘different’. My idea of success in life was the day I could eat at Indigo just like that (don’t curse me for low ambition, currently Nobu, London is the aim)

A Deli, is a place which sells cured meats, exotic cheeses and more by weight. On the side, it offers a dine-in experience mostly made up of sandwiches and salads (thanks Wikipedia). In all honesty, its an informal yet delicious dining experience. The Indigo Deli isn’t cheap but isn’t as hoitytoity as the Colaba restaurant and proves wonderful for Indigo fangirls like me. I get to see or buy my favorite cheeses, I get to feel the bustle while enjoying good food and well, its a nice ‘New Yorkish’ experience. Or was.

Monday evening, however, was a dampener. We walked in early, to get a table in their dining section. We  managed to get a table in the deli area because it was quite empty, but I asked for a table in the dining section. I was told the section was closed. That’s it . No reason. The Bawa guessed it could open at a later time and he asked why it was closed.
‘It only opens at 7.’

My watch said it was 6.56 pm, but before I could say anything, I was told, the section was only by reservation only.

‘Can I reserve a table now?’

‘Its booked up ‘

Wow. What a way! The staff is so well versed with the seating chart that she doesn’t even want to check before telling me that the seating was full. Now, if this was a Saturday or a Friday, I’d believe her, but it was a Monday. The Bawa pulls a lawyer and waits a while before saying that he just called their landline and was told that there was a table.

The lady, in all her earnestness says that that was because the section opened at 7.30. Wow! The time changed and she knew it without anyone telling her. Talk about telepathy.

Was there a need to lie? By the time the manager came (upon our calling of course), I decided I did not want to  eat there anymore. The manager was sweet, well behaved and extremely apologetic. She did try to cover up for the goof up and I give her points for that, but the damage was done. Probably, with my fatku jeans and crumpled shirt the waitress had thought I wasn’t worth a table. If I was sporting a Louis vuitton bag, I would get better treatment, I am sure.

Because in truth eating at Indigo (the restaurant), is often like being in Goa during the X’mas season. Unless you’re well dressed and look like you deserve a table, no bhao. I don’t mind that because well, Indigo is quite formal. But the reason I thought the Akerkars started a Deli was to cater to a crowd less formal and hence there would be no snootiness. But today, I was mildly shocked and massively annoyed.

If you lie to me blatantly and point fingers and loudly bitch about me, I’m taking my business elsewhere. You deserve my money if you can be nice to me.

Serving great food alone isn’t enough. Being kind while doing so is what brings a customer back. With their lies and more lies, Indigo Deli lost itself a customer. But more importantly my evening was almost ruined. Thank God we walked out!

PS: Sherine, I know you wanted to eat there… I apologise on their behalf.

World Cup 2011: A story I’m going to tell my grandchildren!

After experiencing the jubilant crowds on the streets of Mumbai following India’s victory over Pakistan, the non-cricket lover me, transformed into an enthu Team India cheerer. Of course, I couldn’t stop kicking myself for being uninterested in the game. In all honesty, I suddenly wanted to be in the stadium for the finals. Somehow the universe heard me and and sent me those tickets. In all my excitement, I woke up early, got out and bought a jersey and set out. Armed with my phone, I got all geared up to live report from the stadium for DNA. We expected empty trains, but they were all packed with all shades of blue (still less crowded than a Virar local at peak hours).
After speaking to a few cricket fanatics for my article (read it here), we managed to get off at Churchgate and be one with the river of people flowing towards the stadium.

“Madame, face-painting?” a young boy asked, holding the Tiranga of poster colours, three brushes neatly dipped in each colour to my face.

“Kitne ka?”
“25 rupees for one side of face,” he said.
I put my cheek forward and got the Indian colours painted on my face. Once my cosuins, Sai and Viraj were done with getting their faces painted, we started looking for the queue to get into our Pavilion. Meanwhile, we had people selling whistles, Indian flags of all sizes, funky afro wigs and more.

Once in the queue, we evaluated our situation and made friends with those around us.
“The going rate for these tickets was close to a lakh and a half you know?” one chap tells me.
“Sri Lanka is winning,” a man in a green jersey shouted to my cousin. My cousin, Sairaj, has a jinx. Whichever team’s jersey he sports, manages to lose. So he wore a Sri Lankan jersey and had an Indian flag for a cape. We got so many angry glares from people around, a smile from a few Lankan fans was a welcome change!
“Any team jersey I wear, loses, so Sri Lanka is losing!” Sai told the Lankan fan. He was baffled for a moment before realising why my brother said what he said. Today was no day to be mistaken for a Sri Lankan and therefore the cousin went on repeating his explanation to everyone we came across.

As the line moved forward, we heard a loud cheer inside the stadium. And we felt the impatience surge in our tummy! Finally we got closer to the security. The police officers were clued, in, extremely sweet, courteous and not a hint of irritation. Even though the ticket said clearly that no liquids were allowed, women slowed down the security queue arguing and yelling as the police asked them to leave behind their suncreens, perfumes, lotions and what not. An NRI, dressed in designer clothes, really tried my patience. I was dying to go into the stadium and be one of the voices cheering. This waiting outside wondering why yaays and ooohs were all about wasn’t working for me.

“Yeh kyun fake rahe ho?” (please read this in a very fake anglicized accent)
“Allowed nahi hai, madam! Ticket pe bhi toh likkha hai na. Aap kyun laaye yeh sab,” the lady officer was calm.
“Arre itni dhoop mein hum kaala ho jayenga!”

“Sorry madam,” *throws away some more fancy bottles*
“Aisa kyun kartay tum. Arre who bhi? Hum London se ayaa hai, tum nahi phek sakta,”
“Toh kya hua madam. Rule hai, security ke liye.” At this point the officer lost her cool and other female fans started getting annoyed at being held up in a queue by this woman.

“Dekho humareko London se aake maaroge kiya? Yeh garmi mein mera fan mai nahi fek sakta hai. Hum mar jayega,”
“Toh maro. Security hai, nahi chalega, jaldi phekna hai toh pheko nahi toh wapis London jao,” to which the others giggled softly.

“How rude! Acha suno. Yeh sab phenko mat, use karna. Its very expensive, you know.”
Police officer: ‘:-|’

Anyhoo, we inched closer to the barcode scanners, got our tickets scanned and got inside the stadium. After picking up a few refreshments (man the sun was killing us) we walked into our box. The lush green field and the whole atmosphere hit me! I WAS ABOUT TO WATCH A WORLD CUP FINAL MATCH.

After finding our seats, we did a customary posing for pics stunt and sat down. And then, goosebumps happened. Dressed in a red t-shirt, swinging his bat casually, Sachin Tendulkar was about 20 feet away from me. I saw Tendulkar! *faints*

Now, I may not be a cricket fanatic who knows stats, shots, drives, teams and all that, I may occasionally frown at the importance that cricket gets, but that’s because people tend to forget everything for cricke, but I think Sachin Tendulkar is one of the most iconic personalities of India and his integrity and dedication makes him my favourite sportsman. When he turned down a multi-crore alcoholic beverage deal on grounds of principle, he became my favourite Indian.

The toss was a let-down for most Indian fans as a loud sigh came out in unison as Sangakkara won the toss and elected to bat. As the flags for both the countries were brought on the field, the speakers boomed with Vangelis’s score for 1492: Conquest of Paradise. The powerful music score, the thrill of the match and the fact that our flag stood next to the Sri Lankan flag, just made us all misty eyed. ‘The cup is ours,’ everyone told themselves as the trophy was displayed. And then, the teams walked out of the Pavilion, lead by children and a cheer rose in the stadium.

The feeling evoked as Jana Gana Mana was sung by 40,000 odd people (Sri Lankans were few so discounting them, we’d have been 37k odd people, but whatever) was incomparable to anything, anything I have ever felt before. And when the big screens showed Sachin singing earnestly, my heart took flight. I just cannot find the words to describe the feeling. Don’t ask me to!

The match started. I won’t go into the details of the match because I am sure we all watched it. The sun was right above our heads now and focusing on the ground was getting tougher. The cousin was sent out to get us cold drinks and he came back an hour later, after the fall of a wicket. All refreshment stalls but one in our part of the stadium were closed. There was a mile long queue to acquire drinks, they had run out of mineral water and ‘cold’ drinks were all warm! By the time the drinks came to us, they were flat and warm. We made do with the warm cola and hoped that the sugar would charge us up for the wickets that were about to fall. We weren’t let down!

While I struggled to get a single bar of network, the cousin’s phone rang.
Apparently a friend of his had called to announce that SL was going to score around 270 runs but the Indians would walk away with the cup. And then our neighbours in the stadium started sharing BBM updates about how the score will be 84-3 etc etc. Among speculations, it was amazing to watch Team India do their best to hold the runs down.

By the time Sri Lankan innings got over, we had fetched a second round of drinks. Cold 7Up and a boxful of food provided by Croissants etc. were opened to fuel us up for the Indian innings. The box contained food enough to keep people going for 12 hours. Kebabs, chocolates, brownies, kheema rolls, Puffs, a main course with a bread role and a box of juice were demolished by the cousins in a go, while I just pecked at the puff and the chicken and got ready to jump and cheer.

As Tendulkar and Sehwag walked towards the pitch, a huge roar filled the stadium. That excitement was short-lived as Sehwag went out for a duck. Before we knew it, Tendulkar was out too. I was hoping to see Sachin make his 100th 100 and to see the dejected look on his face broke my heart. I cried a little. The energy in the stadium dropped. Some fans did start chanting ‘jeetega bhai jeetega’ but their voices seemed unconvincing. The rest of the match was spent saying our prayers, gasping as the batsmen took risks with the runs. As we edged closer to the 50th over, uncertainty loomed. And then we needed hardly needed four runs to win… I held my breath as the Dhoni swung the bat and the ball flew across the field and as soon as it flew over the boundary, euphoria hit. There were tears, there were hugs and there was a loud cheer! INDIA WON THE WORLD CUP AFTER 28 YEARS!

And as the team paraded around the stadium my heart went out to the few Sri Lankan fans in the stadium. Every one in the stadium, including the emcee, had cheered for India. They were a minority. And their players had been booed. They had come all the way to see their team lose, but they clapped for their captain. After all, they had played good cricket, winners or not. But when some Indian fans booed at them again, I realised that the match may have made Indians world champions, but the way Lanka supporters took loss in their stride, made them winners of sport. Had we lost the match, I fear to think of the violence and abuses that would ensue. But we won! And the city went crazy celebrating the victory.

I am just glad that I got to be one of those voices screaming in delight as the winning six was hit. And I will tell my grandchildren the story of India’s win…


And Mr. Dhoni, R E S P E C T 🙂