Sunday, May 23, 2021

All that Jazz

I've always been enamoured by Jazz music. 

To start from home, I've loved  A R Rahman's lovely jazz numbers.
And it's a blessing when he chooses to sing them himself with his accordion or piano.  (Side note: I'm making a list of songs where he's played the accordion.)  

Coming back to Jazz, I've heard this genre as the BG score in so many films. Recently, Marvellous Mrs. Maisel and La La Land. I always listen to Jazz on the site, AccuRadio when I'm working. I'm familiar with Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra (his music is also a kind of jazz, I understand). I've loved Madonna do her Jazz in the album Dick Tracy. If I remember right, Indian fusion artistes have also touched upon Jazz (L Shankar, Zakir Hussain with John McLaughlin?). I want to learn more about it.

I've always wondered why I'm so attracted to Jazz music. It evokes a sense of freedom, leisure (not just of hotel lounges), happiness, a sense of living the moment and pleasure (not just of bedrooms, though Jazz cringingly features as a BG for so many seduction scenes [eyeoll] in films.)

So while working today, as always I was listening to music and this playlist popped up. It has some lovely jazzy numbers. Interesting, it's called Wandering around the Parisian Streets! This playlist evokes so many thoughts, dreams and memories...thoughts of lengthy meaningful conversations, dreams of sitting in a nightclub and listening to live jazz, memories of my trip to Paris - one of the best memories of my life. I still can't put my finger down on one thing that made me fall in love with the city. Sometimes, you just fall in love without knowing why - Paris and Jazz are just a few examples. 

And this is the playlist that popped up on YouTube, unasked.
While I'm still halfway through, I like Music Of The Sea - Fishing Secrets Jeremy Moyer and Je Ne T'aime Plus.

Tell me about your love story with jazz or a genre you are inexplicably attracted to. 

Friday, April 02, 2021

A little time off

Just stole a glance, though I wished to linger.
The lake and the moon need their time together too.




We are always warned about "thin lines" between this and that.

But some people always like balancing on those lines. Adventurers.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Suitable Boy TV Series - Almost there

A Suitable Boy - a book that I loved immensely. And so was looking forward to catching the series. Two episodes down and I had mixed feelings about it before Meera Nair's hand appeared to save the series.

The first thing that struck me was that the setting, language and body-language didn't quite look like the 1950s. A lot of it felt more contemporary, at least in the initial episodes. Well, there might have been a set of highly educated, affluent families trying to fill the vacuum of the British snobbery. I need to do my research, though.

Coming back to language, you find certain characters easily shifting between Urdu/Hindi and English, which sounded a little unnatural. Maybe they should have stuck to English all through. A very difficult decision I'd say. Also, the diction in the initial episodes felt like a college-play and it did get smoothed out later.

The series takes off somewhere around episode 3. That is when we feel Mira Nair's presence perhaps for the first time. The visualisation of Lata's dilemma and agony was beautiful.

I guess that is where one has to appreciate the writers of the series. It is extremely difficult to encapsulate a novel of these proportions into 6 episodes of about an hour each. You need to pick and choose very carefully between what is absolutely essential and what is not, how to throw in a reference, how to weave in sub-texts and so on. What intrigues me every time I watch the adaptation of a book is how the director visualises the unspoken. I guess there lies their strength. However, I felt certain subtleties that Vikram Seth used in the book should have just been left as such. For having skipped the character of Veena Kapoor entirely, I felt Meenakshi's character was unnecessarily detailed only to be dropped off suddenly.

One thing that helped in piecing together all of this is the brilliant casting. I think this was one reason that kept me hooked on to the series. Right through, I kept sitting up and exclaiming "Hey him...'s her!" Even the actors I haven't seen before are quite nicely cast and are have done a great job. The lady who played Mrs Kapoor is a natural. Okay, I had imagined Adil Hussain for Mahesh Kapoor's character but I love Ram Kapoor. So, I'm happy either way. Oh! Danesh Razvi as Kabir Durrani is so charming! Would love to see him more often in films. And Namit Das as Haresh! Maybe I like the character better now. He played the character to perfection (You are caught with mixed feelings between the actor that you like and the character that you, well...!)

I really can't say if I'd like to recommend this series to those who have not yet read the book because the series undoubtedly lacks the depth and the entire intent of the book. It has captured Lata Mehra's story to the fullest. It has tried its best to get the mood of the political strife, sadly there isn't much time. Like I have said in my review of the book, the phrase "Suitable Boy" is much more than just a marriage match. Here's my review of the book.


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Surgical Strike

"Just imagine", they said, "how free you are going to be." Everybody pep-talked me. "You are not sick. You are only going to get better. You are not a patient," they said. So I went and got an expensive mani-pedi, finished it off with red nail polish.

The first thing as soon as I check-in: (note: my usage of the term check-in shows my state of mind at that time) "Madam, please cut nails and remove nail polish." The earth shattered around me. There were thunder and lightning. I turned around three times in slow-mo "Aakhir kyon?"

The angel in white boomed amidst the thunder, "Patient-ku, no nail polish allowed meydem." Disillusionment #374 of my life. I tried to make a joke out of it, "Patient-aa? Naana? Chey" etc. "You only meydem patient"

I begged. I tried reasoning. Nothing worked. Finally, making impatient clucking noises, I obeyed the nurse's orders. And she sweetly patted me and said "Thank you for being patient with us" (Don't you pun on me, woman!)

The surgery: I was lying there, watching the (literally) cold operation theatre being prepared for the surgery. I don't know if they were preparing to fell a tree or work on a human body. Such was the size of the tools they were laying out.

I meekly asked them, "Do you have to really do this in front of me?" Here I was, going through the most unattractive and unattracted day and there was this anaesthetist trying to make flirtatious small talk, comparing the nightlife of Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore. The conversation did put me to ease but I was too proud to accept that Chennai has a boring nightlife. Hmpfff...

Soon they bundled up my spine like an old, unstarched Bengal cotton saree and punctured several times. The nurses were so excited as if they were pinning sequins on the old Bengal cotton saree.

I could hear exclamations of "Ah! Now it's good. Ah! Super." In a few moments, I was in a daze. The anaesthetist came close and asked me, "How do you feel?" I could hear myself drawl, "As if I have downed six pegs of whiskey neat" Hangover of all that nightlife banter I guess.

I was wheeled out of the OT, grinning like a Cheshire cat, waving like a gallant Olympic medallist, all thanks to the whiskey..err.. the anaesthesia. Unsavoury display of discarded body parts almost made visiting relatives faint in fright. Thank God, nothing untoward happened, else I would have ended up paying the room rent x 2.

Post-Op: Anyway, I managed to sneak home within a few days and then started the trouble. Sat up all night because of heartburn (arrey, I mean the real physical heartburn yaar), sprained my neck because of that. So for the next few days, I was a robotic Frankenstein who had to do a complete turn around when the peripheral vision gave up. Then there was this no-bending rule. Being a rebel, I always like to bend the rules. But when they ask the rebel herself not to bend, that's when you realise life has its way of taking its revenge. That's when your brat will toss her jeans on the floor; your cook will leave onion peels on the floor. And you must refrain yourself from bending down, just like Bhagyashree in the final act of the Dil Deewana song. Label me a control freak if you want to. Fine, but what will you do when the bar of soap slips off your hand in the middle of a bath? You get creative and resourceful. You learn to use your toes to pick up anything ranging from clothes to hair to bottle caps, you name it (remind me to enlist myself for the next season of India's Got Talent). If the toes fail you, you learn to use shampoo instead of soap.

While I was recovering, people pampered me with cinnamon rolls and baadhushaas. The goodies have now neatly arranged themselves like a kid's stacking rings around my waist. I don't know how many more months I will have to walk around with this jiggly-jelly-belly. (Why the hell do good things have to be so fattening?)

When I rapidly lost a lot of weight soon after the surgery, I was thrilled. The lady at the hospital knowingly nodded her head and gave out the dark prophecy "You will gain as quickly as you have lost" Oh Oracle, how I ignored your warning!

Now after two months, the stacking rings follow with me to the office desk, threatening to get larger, but that's okay. I am happy that it's all behind me now or on my behind.

Reference material for the uninitiated
* Stacking rings: Illustrated above
* Bhagyashree's urges:

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Longest Month of my Life

This is a long read, more like a note to myself for remembering the learning and filtering out the pain. If you are in a hurry, I would ask you to skip right to end of this post where I have shared some of my learning.

 15 October: It all started as what we thought was husband’s annual bout of fever. The doctors began trying antibiotics and paracetamol. I was hopeful because the cough wasn’t dry.  He, however, began isolating himself. Our concern was his aged parents and our daughter. With increasing temperature and a loss of smell, the inevitable test was done. In the meanwhile, I was trying to get his parents to move back to their flat. The result came out by the afternoon. It was the dreaded COVID positive result, with a medium viral load. After a few phone calls, he decided to drive up to the hospital and get himself admitted. It pained me to send him off that way, all alone with a few essentials packed. But given the circumstances, it seemed the best thing to do.

My story in the meanwhile:  My head was filled with questions and confusion and starting from Sunday night... “Could it be the C-word?”. “But we’ve been so careful!” and so on. Additionally, I started developing chills and tiresomeness from the morning of 13 October. I thought it was stress. I had no choice but to take charge of the house and the family. I got in touch with my ever-dependable Homeopathy practitioner who gave my husband some medicines and preventive medication for all of us too; I stocked the kitchen with supplies, began making suitable food for my husband, hoping the fever would be okay in a couple of days. I felt like doing the test for myself too because of feverishness and body pain. But we decided to wait for his result to come out. By the afternoon of 15th, I got a strange cramp in my belly, much like a period cramp. After my husband got admitted at the hospital and my in-laws back at their flat, there was a strange eerie silence at home. I was getting sick too but had to put up a brave face for the sake of our little one. Wonderful friends were on video call that night, trying to cheer us up. The moment I broke the news about my husband to my apartment Whatsapp Group, a neighbour with whom I had hardly interacted in two years, sprung into action. She was there on phone and Whatsapp all the time, checking on us. More about the angel later.

The husband at the hospital: Blood tests and CT scans were done. 5% lung infection seen, with the CRP (infection levels) showing 28. He was taken good care of with medication and a good diet. He was cheerful and looked fine.

16 October:  I arranged to have home-testing done for myself and our daughter. By evening, the inevitable happened. I turned out positive with a low viral load and by the grace of the Universe, our little one was spared. Now, this is where the real stress started. I broke down into shameless tears. Clueless. What do I do? How do I isolate myself? Some people suggested I isolate myself and let her take charge of the house. We could always get food from outside. She just needs to place the food outside my room. Doctors at my husband’s hospital suggested she be sent off to my parents’ house as a 12-year old cannot be a transmitter. A few more medical opinions sought, we decided that it was best to keep her at home and not to expose my parents or in-laws to her. In the meantime, I walked up to a lab to get a CT scan and other tests done. The kindly neighbour I mentioned earlier asked us to place bowls outside the door and filled it with fresh, hot food. Something she did on almost every day of our quarantine—a miracle I will never forget.

Miracle number two was the amazing calmness and composure shown by our little one, who had never slept alone ever, forget managing the house by herself. With her elder cousin’s supervision on a video call, she sanitised her room which was shared by the two of us for the past 4 days, threw out all bedding, lugged in fresh mattresses and sheets from another room. Before that, she placed food outside my room. We then connected on Google Hangouts video call, she wept a little but soon collected herself. Catching up on day’s events, storytime and prayers on video call would become a bedtime routine for the rest of the 14 days.

However, since running the household would be too much for her, we decided to “reverse quarantine” her. She would stay in her room for the next two weeks and I would have access to the kitchen.

17 October: Thankfully, my husband got discharged from the hospital in the evening. That morning, Corporation staff disinfected the house and surprisingly reassured us that everything will be alright soon.

18 October onwards: With the approval of doctors, I began cooking, whatever little I could. There were a zillion precautions to be taken—wash hands, wear mask, wash hands again, use gloves when needed; use one set of utensils for us, one set for the daughter, one set for serving ourselves, one set for cooking. I would wash my daughter's utensils, put them outside her room and at mealtimes, she would wash them again. The rest of my quarantine was spent in washing hands, washing utensils, disinfecting the kitchen, washing clothes, disinfecting the washing get the drift. There were a lot of medicines and steaming to be taken. I focussed on cooking salads and soups and shamelessly accepted any food anyone offered to give. For the first five days or so, apart from extreme fatigue, we felt unusually hungry, though we’d lost all sense of taste and smell. Since it was Navaratri, the angel neighbour kept sending us delicious and healthy prasadam as well. Every time I thanked her all she said was that she was blessed to be able to cook for us at this time and I just needed to pass on the kindness to someone else in need.

Our daughter was busy with her online classes. We tried to keep in touch with her as much as possible. Sometimes, she at her doorstep and we at ours; sometimes, on video calls. It pained me to have a little child touch-deprived for two weeks but I couldn’t afford to shed a tear even in solitudeit was from my spirit that she had to gain her confidence. How she handled her situation is still a wonder. Mornings, we resorted to a long stick to knock at her door and wake her up—couldn’t cross the line you see? ☺

21 October: The husband’s temperature began shooting up again, so did the cough. He would curl up and sleep almost all day. Things got a little worrisome. As against our fear of repeat hospitalisation, he was asked to come and get injections every day, which was also a lot of effort for him to drive up to an under-staffed hospital (an easy 3 to 4-hour process every day). The lung infection which was only around 5% initially, increased to 30% by the 7th day. Apparently, a 7-day spike is something to be expected, with a marked increase in temperature, cough or other symptoms. The hospital visits somehow kept his mind busy, which had begun playing around existential questions. He again got some fantastic support from our Homeopathy doctor, whose medication felt holistic. He managed to read up The Secret during those long hospital waiting hours.

26 October: The husband’s injections were completed and he felt a lot better. Rid of the sleepiness, we began looking forward to the end of the quarantine and so did our little one. All our moods began improving considerably. We arranged to have the house disinfected and deep-cleaned and asked doctors about how the quarantine should be ended.

30 October: The day of the big freedom. We woke up early and disinfected everything we could before the disinfecting could be done professionally. Our baby stepped out of her room, we all had our masks on and we only held her hands. The hugs had to wait. People from the Corporation visited to check on us. We ripped off the horrendous sticker and said a big prayer for having sailed safely through this most frightening experience.

Twist in the tale: So the Quarantine ended, we had the house deep-cleaned on 31 October and I realised that I was still a little tired, the back hurt and I couldn’t manage full-fledged cooking for another 10 days.  Though the husband felt better, he needed rest too. So I decided to order side dishes from outside and cook rice at home. Whether it was food poisoning or something else, I will never know. But on November 1, I fell extremely sick. Never been this sick in ages. I threw-up, don’t know how many times, had the most unbearable backache and when I passed out in the bathroom, my husband drove me straight up to the ER at the hospital. I spent almost the whole day there. A series of blood tests, brain and lung scans were done. Everything was clean but I was just unable to sit up straight. Saline and IV medication was given and I was sent home. That night and the next morning were hell.  My head was spinning, had terrible headaches, the vision was blurred (something that happened to both of us at different stages), I couldn’t walk straight without support. The doctors advised us to take the assistance of my parents as we could not transmit the virus anymore. So we landed at my parents’ place. My parents took care of me for almost two weeks. My mom, being a yoga practitioner, a Reiki and acupressure healer and more than anything, an effervescent personality, gave me a lot of strength apart from feeding me with nutritious meals several times a day. Additionally,  my Homeopathy doctor couriered me some great medicines. It was she who pointed out that the virus has probably affected my nerves with the effects manifesting a little late. I went on and off patches of fear, panic and sadness but tried to replace most negative thoughts with happy ones. My head still spins, I rejoice when I walk a straight line, my sense of taste and smell are a wee better, but I know for sure that I am on the right track. I couldn’t read but kept listening to music or watching feel-good shows on OTT. Don’t want to question my abilities but want to remind myself of the person that I used to be, of the things I was capable of. I have rejoined work this week and have been cooking with my husband's help. Feels good!         

Friends, like I said at the beginning, this has been a long post but I definitely do want to share these thoughts:

  • COVID 19 is real. It is a virus. Not a fabrication of any healthcare company or organisation.
  • You never know who, when and how it affects us. All one can do is to identify potentially unsafe situations and avoid them. We still don’t know how exactly we caught it. Our only guess is my husband’s workplace.
  • If you must step out, use masks of good quality. Cotton bandanas or gamchas might not work the best at all times. Be very careful while meeting with people you don’t interact with every day. Outdoors or well-ventilated places are the safest bet. Be careful while dealing with paperwork and cash. Apart from the dangers, COVID 19 is an extremely inconvenient illness to have, the inconveniences of maintaining safety is nothing comparatively.
  • If you don’t want to get admitted at a government hospital, this can cost quite a bit. Keep your insurance papers handy.
  • Having said this, I would reiterate NOT to panic. Anxiety, in any illness, is bound to magnify the symptoms.
  • Keep taking steaming, vitamins and zinc supplements without fail. Try native concoctions/kadhaas/kashaayams. They might taste bitter, cause heat in the body but see which kind works best for you. Keep eating fruits and fresh, hot food.
  • While still on the above point, when we hear about someone being in trouble, it is only natural for us to be thankful about how safe we are. But please, let that be a silent prayer. There is no need to tell a sufferer how smartly you have been protecting yourself. If in doubt, go back to the second point. Please.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to people, ask for help. I don’t know what we would have done without the help of our doctor-friends who kept untiringly offering guidance, friends who dropped off food and medicines at our doorstep, neighbours who offered us food and did not shun us and our families who more than made up their lack of presence by offering constant cheer and moral support.
  • Fill every inch of your life with gratitude, without which it would have been impossible for us to get through this difficult time.


Surgical Strike

"Just imagine", they said, "how free you are going to be." Everybody pep-talked me. "You are not sick. You are only...