Monday, March 13, 2017


I have been a fan of Coke Studio Pakistan since... forever. I don't remember what my initiation song to CSP was, but I remember my first thoughts: "WHAT SORCERY IS THIS? WHY IS THIS SOOOO GOOOOOD?"

Strangely, over the last few years, I've not kept myself updated on CSP. However, last week, this link popped up on my FB feed, and I couldn't help but click on it and then go on to listen to every single song listed there. Memories came rushing back, and I went straight to Youtube and listened to every song from Season 9. I went completely bonkers over Shamaan Pai Gaiyaan (soooo refreshing to see Rachel Viccaji get out of her backing vocalist seat and own the song like a boss!) and Uddi Ja (Uddi Ja initially took up a 3D2N residence in my head but now it's refusing to vacate!), playing them on loop all day long, until Xena protested, "Mama, I need to fill my head with other songs. Your songs have gone inside!"

(I know, right?)

Eventually, I stumbled upon 'Khaki banda' and after about two listens, I got the exact feeling that I'd got when I'd heard my first CSP song. "WHAT SORCERY IS THIS? WHY IS THIS SOOOO GOOOOOD?"

No, seriously. The lyrics, the music, the emotions, the singing (especially Ahmed Jahanzeb's voice -- HOW CAN ANYONE SING SOOOO WELL??? HOWWW???) -- it's the kind of stuff that can leave you goosebumpy and teary-eyed at the same time.

Viv didn't get why I loved the song so much, so I tried to explain to him how meaningful and humbling the lyrics are and how the song is about our ego and how we simply have no right to think of ourselves as highly as we do yada yada yada. He nodded along apprehensively, and I said, "I mean, the song title itself -- khaaki banda... is so deep and meaningful. Wait, you know what 'khaaki banda' means, right?"

"Of course," He said. "Policeman."

Okay, where's a pillar when you need it badly to thunk your head on?

Anyway, good things must be shared, so here you go -- be mesmerised by this mind-blowing piece of sheer musical genius. (Make sure the CC option is on, so you can get the lyrics AND the translation.)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Her word against mine

"Mama, is this cell farting?" Xena asked me.

I jumped. "Who? What? Where?"

"Here." She pointed to a page in the book she was reading. It was a cartoon showing the process of fermentation in pizza dough. A yeast cell was shown to be, yes, farting.

I was surprised that she knew the word. Contrary to what every parenting book and website suggests, I have not made any conscious effort to teach her the proper names of body parts and body functions. In fact, I almost fell down laughing when I overheard a lady in a mall toilet ask her 2-year-old if he wanted to "pass urine".

I know I know. It's high time. It's the right, safe thing to do. I should probably stop asking Xena if she wants to "pee" and "poop" and ask her if she wants to, you know, "pass urine" or "pass motion". (I think both of us will fall down laughing.) On some levels, it might just be the mommy in me hanging on to Xena's fast-disappearing 'baby-ness'. She still uses words like 'bum-bum' and I don't even have the heart to 'correct' her.

Yeah, so back to the 'farting' thing. It was not a term I thought she knew, even though it falls midway between the formal 'passing gas' and the informal whatever-she-called-it (I was about to find out soon).

"This..." she pointed to the 'cloud' near the yeast cell's bum-bum. "Is this a fart?"

"Yes, it is a fart indeed." I answered. "But tell me, what does 'fart' mean? Do you know?"

"Oh Mama," she said in a chiding voice, "'Fart' is just the English word for 'bum-bum burp'!"

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Tooth and mail

My child looked different when I went to pick her up from school yesterday. She was also doing some kind of crazy, tribal dance, in the audience of an amused teacher, another parent and a couple of kids.

"I PULLED IT OUT!" She exclaimed the moment she saw me.

So, after more than a month of shaking, Xena's first baby tooth finally fell. Or like she says, "It didn't fall, Mama! I PULLED it out! In the middle of the Chinese lesson. Lao shi (teacher) said 'congratulations!' and helped to pack it for me in a paper towel. My friends hugged me."

Last night, she put the wrapped tooth and this letter under her pillow.

Thankfully, the "tooth fairy" had set aside a super shiny coin for the occasion. Phew!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Beauty queen

Amidst all the fun and frolic at the wedding I recently attended in India, there were some not-so-great moments as well. The 328764379642 relatives, for example, who demanded to know why I had lost SOOO MUCH weight (Ummm... I've been at 57 kg for the last 16 years so I don't know what they were talking about), or those who asked me if I didn't feed Xena at all (Yeah, I just love starving my child) and why she's SOOO underweight (Yeah, I enjoy the fact that my almost 6-year-old weighs as much as a 2-year-old).

There was even someone who told me that I looked "fine" when she last saw me but now I was "too thin". Well, when she last saw me, I was in Std VII and weighed about 40 kg, so I didn't know what she was talking about.

Actually, I didn't take it as body-shaming. I took it as a gross violation of the truth, and that's what annoyed me. (Anyway, I don't like the term 'body-shaming' at all, because I feel that a lot of people hide behind it, instead of getting off their asses and working towards achieving their own fitness goals and dream bodies.)

I ranted about all this to my sister who gave me a simple strategy to deal with it. "It's just something these relatives say when they see someone after a while. It's not coming from a bad place. It's just words that mean nothing." And suddenly I felt better. It was simple. I just needed to see them the way I see the counter staff at a fast food restaurant. They say "How are you?" the moment they see you, but do they really have any interest at all in knowing how you are? Not a chance. It's just that you're there in front of them and they have made eye contact and now they HAVE to say something.

So I learnt to smile and ignore.

But it did bother me when the comments were directed at Xena. "Why are you so thin?" or "You don't eat?" Much as I worry about her feeding issues and weight, and try to talk to her about it, I don't confront her so directly. I just tell her that she needs to eat a little more than she does now, so she can get stronger. The key word is always 'stronger'.

And of course, there are the other issues about 'beauty' -- skin colour and sharpness of features, etc., which unlike fitness, are out of one's control. As a kid, I had heard more than enough about my not-so-sharp nose and I'm glad I never let that get in the way of my confidence. It was laughable actually, how they were all so pleased to discover that the guy I had chosen to marry had a sharp nose. There's hope for the progeny then, they must have thought.

Well, guess what? Xena doesn't have a sharp nose by their standards. Actually I don't know and don't care what kind of a nose she has. So my ears pricked up when I heard this conversation between her and a relative. Luckily, Xena made my day with her response.

Relative - You must pull your nose a little every day. Like this. (demo) Then it will become sharp and you will become beautiful.
Xena - I don't need to. My mummy says I'm already beautiful because I'm happy. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sweet nothings

In early January, I had posted about the fact that out of curiosity, Viv and I had embarked on a 40-day no-sugar-no-alcohol challenge proposed by Ranveer Allahbadia (you might know him as the guy who helped Tanmay Bhat lose 110 kg). He recommended doing the challenge by going not only off added sugars, but also other things that taste sweet, such as juices, fruits, honey and jaggery for 40 days.

We started on 2nd January (after all the new year celebrations, of course!), but we completed it a little later than scheduled, and not with 100% honesty, I have to admit.

I had scribbled some rough notes to serve as a daily log, which I thought I'd share here.

Day 0
1 Jan 
Invited friends over for a new year's lunch. Had margaritas. Emptied the fridge of all sweet items by the end of the day in preparation for the challenge. Whether all of it went into the trash or some into my tummy is a truth that shall never be revealed.

Day 1
Monday 2 Jan

Challenge begins! Easy-peasy so far. Just don't drink any alcohol and don't consume anything sweet, that's all.

Day 2
3 Jan 
Huh? This is it? Doesn't feel like I am on any kind of life-changing journey. The day has gone by without incident. This is too easy. I'm getting suspicious.

Day 3
4 Jan 
Accidentally and absent-mindedly popped a grape in my mouth and then back out, straight into the trash.

Day 4
Thursday 5 Jan 
Finished work a little early; had a sudden craving for my teh halia but resisted.

Day 5
Friday 6 Jan 
Had a family dinner at Cafe Iguana, one of our favourite restaurants, but didn't order their world-famous-in-Singapore margaritas; strangely, didn't feel like we were missing out.

Day 6
Saturday 7 Jan

The kung pao chicken I had for lunch in the Parkway Parade food court felt too sweet, definitely a lot, A LOT of added sugar in there; Xena's friend's birthday party in the evening, skipped the birthday cake, no big deal.

Day 7
Sunday 8 Jan
University batchmates' reunion lunch at Myra's at the beach; didn't order any drinks, though Viv terribly missed the Mexican beer that he invariably orders whenever we go there.

Day 8
Monday 9 Jan 
Found out that Haldiram's aloo bhujia contains added sugar! Whyyy?

Day 9
Tuesday 10 Jan 

Xena's friends had come over for a dinner play date; made pasta upon their request; had a chance to read some more food labels, it turns out that pasta sauce has added sugar of course, but guess what? Whole corn kernels in brine also contain added sugar! Again, whyyy??

Day 10
Wednesday 11 Jan 

Skipped the wine (considered mandatory) at my book club meeting. Didn't want to draw attention so sipped water from my wine glass, till a friend in the know happened to mention it, leading to a barrage of "But why??" questions. Got annoyed when someone else decided to answer on my behalf with something like "To lose weight, of course." I turned around and asked the person if she thought I thought I needed to lose weight. Uncomfortable silence and nervous laughter followed. Grrr.

Day 11
Thursday 12 Jan 
Accompanied Xena on her school excursion to the botanical gardens, had a Maggi mee goreng lunch near her school before picking her up, but scraped off the ketchup from the cucumber slices (ketchup has a crazy amount of added sugar). Skipped my usual teh halia to disapproving looks from Purshottam's colleague again. Had a play date in the evening at an indoor playground, followed by dinner at Mango Tree. The raw mango sabzi was heavenly, but it definitely had quite a bit of added sugar. Went home to check if other sauces at home had added sugar. Green chilli sauce did (oh noooooo!), but tabasco didn't. Ok so there is some sauce we can still have.

Day 12
Friday 13 Jan 

Had a slight headache, craved chai but didn't have it.

Day 13
Saturday 14 Jan 

A junior from my uni days was passing through Singapore, met her and her family for dinner at Myra's (the other outlet by the waterfront); Viv missed his Mexican beer again. I suggested that he could break his fast on day 41 with a Mexican beer.

Day 14
Sunday 15 Jan 
Had dinner at Ganesh Vilas; overjoyed to rediscover neer more, and the fact that that there was still a cool refreshing drink other than water we could have that didn't come loaded with added sugar!

Day 15
Monday 16 Jan 

Had a meeting at the office so made the trek there (I work from home on most days); had lunch near Xena's school before picking her up; decided to try teh halia kosong (ginger tea without sugar). Guess my review: (a) Not bad at all; (b) Hey, I actually prefer this! (c) Yuck. (d) REVOLTING. The answer was (d), of course.

Day 16
Tuesday 17 Jan 

Had a horribly sore throat, teh halia would have been awesome, but resisted from making it and sipped on warm water instead.

Day 17
Wednesday 18 Jan 

Had lunch at Purshottam's restaurant. My throat was still hurting so decided to try teh (tea) o (without milk) halia (ginger) kosong (no sugar) thingie this time after a sympathetic friend pointed out that it's the presence of milk in tea that begs sugar. Quite a mouthful for me to say teh o halia kosong in the right order, so I took my time saying it, but the guy repeated it so fast and so casually I figured people do order it then. But who?? And why?? As you can guess, it was just as revolting as the one on day 15.

Day 18
Thursday 19 Jan 
Woke up to a very sore throat and cough; went to the doctor who prescribed a VERY SWEET cough medicine, which I had once and then stopped because it felt so much like cheating; was literally dying for my homemade ginger tea; hadn't thought that the ease of doing this would be challenged so much just by sickness.

Day 19
Friday 20 Jan 

Someone had kept a huge bar of dark chocolate in Viv's office for sharing; he thought it was a great idea to send me a pic of it. Can I log this under mental torture by spouse?

Day 20
Saturday 21 Jan 

Half-way point done, yay! The chocolates just won't leave me though! Sis-in-law moved to our place today before relocating to India; she brought some chocolates from her fridge over; will save and eat at some point, I guess? Not that I love chocolate in general, but I can be partial to dark chocolate.

Day 21
Sunday 22 Jan

Hmmm... is it my imagination or can I feel my taste buds changing? Ordered my favourite massaman curry at Thai Express and could hardly eat it; the sweet taste was almost sickening; surprised how the sugar content had never bothered me in the past; today, it was overpowering; not sure if I'll ever be able to order the dish again; Viv remarked that even his clear Tom yum soup felt unusually sweet; didn't even know they put sugar in clear tom yum soup!

Day 22
Monday 23 Jan 


Day 23
Tuesday 24 Jan 

Was on a flight to Mauritius (we were flying the family there to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary), wanted to get a Coke (because I only drink Coke when I'm not the one buying it, i.e. in flights and occasionally at parties) but resisted. Felt a little sad that we were doing this challenge in the middle of a special vacation.

Day 24
Wednesday 25 Jan 
Our Airbnb host brought us a welcome gift - chocobars! With a heavy heart, I put them in the freezer. That evening, Viv suddenly said we should just take a break from the challenge and enjoy our vacation. 10th wedding anniversary is not an everyday event anyway, so I jumped at his offer. We had also booked a sunset cruise that came with wine, beer and all kinds of juices, which we were going to skip. Now we didn't have to, yay! But I did promise myself that we wouldn't overdo the cheat days.

[25-31 Jan: BREAK]

Day 25
Tuesday 31 Jan 

Landed back in Singapore; Fridge was empty so sis-in-law and I ordered lunch through Food Panda. The butter chicken felt sickeningly sweet. Again, not something I'd willingly order in the future.

Day 26
Wednesday 1 Feb 
Xena had declared that she also wanted to do the challenge with us. But of course, she kept forgetting. And then remembering again. It was hilarious!

Day 27
Thursday 2 Feb 

Viv declared that he felt that his tummy had become a lot flatter than before. I found no such difference in mine. Maybe because when he binges on sugar, he REALLY binges, but I take mine in moderation so the difference on the body wasn't that obvious.

Day 28
Friday 3 Feb 

Xena was actually turning down sweet stuff, not just at home but outside as well. I also stopped insisting when she turned down so-called 'harmless' kiddie food such as juice.

Day 29
Saturday 4 Feb 

Had a pot luck dinner with neighbours; usually we grab a glass of wine each and cook together; but this time I refused and told them why (lest they started congratulating me!); they were very surprised but seemed quite supportive.

Sunday 5 Feb
My Chinese neighbour had invited us over for a Chinese New Year (CNY) tea party. She had a whole platter of CNY goodies and every single thing was sweet. There were six or seven items and she had baked them all from scratch! I didn't have the heart to say no and offend her, so I sampled a couple of them by splitting them with Xena. Decided to exclude this day from the challenge.

Day 30
Monday 6 Feb 

Looked through the food labels of stuff in the fridge; predictably, tom yum paste and balsamic vinegar dressing had added sugar, but to my surprise, the cheese spread that Xena likes didn't.

Day 31
Tuesday 7 Feb

Opened the fridge and Viv's Redbull can was staring me in the face. Burst out laughing and closed the fridge. Wonder who will drink it and when.

Day 32
Wednesday 8 Feb 


Day 33
Thursday 9 Feb 

I'm gaining a new appreciation for green tea and peppermint tea. I remember the time I ordered a peppermint tea at a restaurant and when I asked for sugar with it, the waitress looked extremely puzzled and said, "But it's peppermint tea." and I said, "I know. But I want sugar with it." (I do drain off the first brew when I make green tea though, to get rid of some of the caffeine.)

Day 34
Friday 10 Feb 


Day 35
Saturday 11 Feb 

I was on a flight to India! A cousin was getting married and I decided at the very last minute that direct flight or no direct flight, I was gonna grab Xena and go. It looked like I was all set to break the fast with some shaadi ki mithaai.

Day 36
Sunday 12 Feb

Was at my in-laws' place, and they are both chai-lovers. Mom-in-law asked if I wanted to have some, but she knows about the challenge so she didn't insist. I, of course, had to sit and watch them have chai. WITHOUT ME! :'(

Day 37
Monday 13 Feb 

Reached my parents' place

Day 38
Tuesday 14 Feb

We had a pre-wedding cousins' get-together, but it got late and my driver was ready to take me back home way before the drinking started. Felt like a teenager on curfew. It was sad in a way, but also worked out well because knowing my cousins, challenge or no challenge, they wouldn't have let me off without a drink or two.

Day 39
Wednesday 15 Feb 

It's the day of the sangeet! I'm running around between the bar and my mom and her sisters, bringing them non-alcoholic drinks. An aunt has placed a glass of mojito at my table for me, but it stays there all evening, ignored by me. The bartender does have jaljeera, but I take one sip and it's sweet and I let it go. 1 day to go! I can do this!

Day 40
Thursday 16 Feb 

It's the last day! Mom is making her tea with Stevia and I'm reminded of the need to be more vigilant about sugar as both parents have diabetes. I'm also reminded that I can have tea with sugar tomorrow!

Day 41
Friday 17 Feb 

What a day to have finished the challenge! It's the day of the shaadi! Yay! The first thing I did in the morning was make chai. Hadn't made it for so long that it felt weird; I felt like I had forgotten everything, that I was going to screw up. But I made it and it was goooood (even though I added less than my usual quantity of sugar) and even mom had a sip and said it was goooood.

Even though it wasn't a strict, continuous 40-day challenge, and at times I questioned why I was doing it, here are some of my self-discoveries and takeaways:

  • There is an INSANE amount of added sugar in everything around us, especially drinks and restaurant food. I only realised the height of the sugar levels after I gave my taste buds a break from sugar. 
  • Giving up alcohol is really easy. 
  • It's not that I crave chai for the sake of chai. It's loneliness (or sickness) that makes me crave chai. 
  • If you cut down on sugar, you automatically cut down on a lot of refined food items (maida, for example). 
  • I need to find ways to keep up my love for baking by finding sugar-free baked recipes, or those with very little sugar. For example, I made wholewheat zucchini bread today (cut down the sugar in the recipe from 1/2 cup to 2 tbsp) and it was still really tasty. 
  • I won't do this challenge again, but my awareness about added sugars is much, much more. 
  • And lastly, the lesson learnt is this -- added sugar is DA ENEMY. Always know its whereabouts, and don't fraternise too much with it. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

A strange fairy tale

In what is probably the most exciting development in the life of an almost 6-year-old, one of Xena's teeth is shaking.

And so came up the topic of the tooth fairy again. She seems very sceptical about Santa now ("Mama, are you sure it was Santa who gave this to me, and not you? How does Santa know I like dinosaurs?"), but she still believes in the tooth fairy, from what she has read in books and heard from her 'seniors' who have already had 'visits'.

"Will the tooth fairy come when this falls?" She said, tugging at her tooth.

"Yes, she might. If you're good."

"XYZ in my class said that the tooth fairy will take the tooth and leave me a gift."

"Well, she will give you whatever she wants to give."

(Seriously? A gift for each fallen tooth? This 'tooth fairy' sure found it excessive.)

"Like what?"

"Erm, she might leave you a dollar coin for each tooth."

(I have no idea what the current 'going rate' is, but my plan is to leave a dollar for each tooth, so Xena can learn a thing or two about patience and savings.)

"What will I do with the coins?"

"You will collect them all and at the end you will have twenty dollars! You can use it to buy something you want."

She agreed readily. We have 'Konmari'ed' her enough to make her uninterested in too many material items. In fact, she's constantly worried that her room will get too messy if there are too many things, and keeps donating her toys away when they start to pile up too much.

"Mama... can the tooth fairy not take my teeth? I want to keep them. It's ok if she doesn't give me the coins."

"Err... possible. Maybe you can write her a note requesting her not to take your teeth? She might still leave you the coin though."

"She will read my note?"

"Yeah, just keep it right next to the tooth under your pillow."

"But how will she reply? I will be sleeping."

"She will write you a reply on your note itself."

"What will she write?"

["Noted with thanks" was what came to my mind.]

"She will tell you if she's ok with your request."

"But does she have a pen?"


"Fairies have wands. Can she write with her wand?"

"I don't know. Can she?"

"Maybe not..."

"Well, she can borrow a pen from your desk." I suggested.

"That's a great idea, Mama!"

"Okay, all set then."

"But Mama..." she started, her brow furrowed, and I knew immediately that she was about to express her most important concern about this whole tooth fairy business.

"Will she put the pen back in its place after using it?"

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dressed to kill

"Have you decided on your costume?"


Two days later...

"Have you decided on your costume?"

"Thinking still..."

Three days later...

"Have you decided on your costume?"

"Not yet."

"Seriously, Viv?? Here I'm threatening my friends that if they don't turn up in costume, I'm gonna disown them / turn them away at the door / make them sing/dance at the party, and you're just sitting on your ass with no ideas at all? If you need any help to buy/sew/fashion some props, I can do it for you now. If you ask me on the last day, I won't be able to help you. Okay?"

"Okay." That's all he said to my very long lecture.

It was infuriating. Here I was, running around, looking for a really short dress and a dirty brown wig so I could be Preeti (Saira Banu) from Poorab Pachhim at our New Year's Eve Hollywood/Bollywood costume party, and he was just sitting there, coolly, not doing anything.

Of course I knew the real reason why I was so furious. I was secretly scared that he'd do something spectacular at the last possible moment and steal my thunder.

And of course, he did.

First, he started rummaging for Xena's skipping rope. What on earth was he going to do with that?

Then he asked me if I had cardboard. I handed him some cardboard from a craft project that Xena and I had been doing (we were building a house for all her dinosaurs).

"Will you tell me already what you're dressing up as?"

He opened up the computer and showed me this picture on Google images.

Holy crap. He literally had all the props. Blue shirt, check. Brown pants, check. Rope, check.

He has even fashioned his billa number 786 using cardboard and a marker.

Viv was going to be Vijay from Deewar. 

"Can you make me a beedi?"


"Can you make me a beedi? As my prop?"

Of course I could make him a beedi. But did I want to make him a beedi, after my threat to him that I would render no help to him whatsoever if he approached me at the last minute?

It turns out I'm not as hard-hearted as I think I am. 

"Fine, I'll make you a beedi."

And make him a beedi, I did. From the finest brown paper found in our art and craft drawer. 

He even googled AB's iconic dialogue in that get-up, "Tum log mujhe dhoondh rahe ho, aur main yahan tumhara intzaar kar raha hoon." I really wonder why this dialogue is so iconic. I mean, he's just stating a fact, not making some dramatic statement. A dialogue cannot get any more factual than this! I guess it's AB's charisma. Some people can say anything and get away with it. I'm sure if Salman Khan casually says, "Arre, meri shirt kahan gayi?" in a movie, it will become an iconic dialogue. 

Anyway, back to Viv. He practised posing like AB in the picture above and I actually took a picture of him like that with the computer in the background showing the original picture. Finally, he was all set. 

I was all set too, but I had only managed to find a blonde wig instead of the matte brown one I was seeking, and in spite of my very Preeti-esque dress, I wasn't quite sure people could tell who I was supposed to be.

I had dressed Xena up as Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I had shown her a picture on the computer and she had agreed to dress up like that. The outfit was simple enough -- just a cutesy top and a skirt, and a fabric hairband. But it was the hair I had a tough time with. Xena has long hair, which I was trying to fold and form into the signature Anjali fringe. After about 347897 tries and 238947823975 hair clips, we managed to nail the look.  

The door bell rang. It was the sister-in-law. 

A few days ago, she had come to raid my wardrobe and Viv's too. She asked me if I had a dull, frumpy, long dress. I gave her a look. Did she not know me at all? I loathe dull-coloured clothes of any kind. I did have a long dress, but it was full of the brightest colours on the planet. She sighed and took it for lack of anything better. She also took a white shirt from Viv's wardrobe. I had no idea what she had in mind and knowing her, I assumed it was some Hollywood character she'd choose. 

So when the doorbell rang and I opened the door, she was dressed in that colourful long dress with Viv's white shirt over it. I had no clue what was going on until she went into my room and came out with an emoji pillow stuck under the dress. She also had a backpack on her shoulders and a pair of sunglasses perched on her head. Goodness! She was Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) from Kahaani! It was perfection. I was very touched because I knew she'd chosen a Bollywood character only for me when she's actually more of a Hollywood person. 

The next person to arrive was Pizzadude, winner of our last costume party, the Govinda-themed one. He was dressed as a character from... Dostana! No no, take your dirty minds off John Abraham's yellow trunks. He was Abhishek Bachchan from Dostana, in a pink shirt, sunglasses, and a scarf around his neck. 

The next group to arrive was Maya and R. I had been quite apprehensive about R, as he's the kind who'd preferr to cut off all ties with me rather than dress up as a movie character. So I was relieved and overjoyed to see him dressed up as... Arjun Rampal from Rock On! This was his look, and to my surprise and delight, there was an actual guitar. These guys, who had travelled all the way from the west with their toddler, had lugged a guitar just for his character to be authentic. 

Maya, who had disappeared into the guest room to put on her finishing touches, emerged and I couldn't hold my excitement. I literally squealed with delight. She was Bobby (Dimple Kapadia) from Bobby. Come on, you all know that signature look

The last two people to arrive were my friends S and P. S was dressed as Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction (unfortunately, she had to tell me who she was, I didn't know as I haven't watched Pulp Fiction), while her hubby S was dressed as Indiana Jones, complete with the hat, shoes and whip (another dad borrows his hapless daughter's skipping rope; I couldn't stop laughing at the sight of him and Viv brandishing their skipping ropes!). 

In case you're curious if anyone guessed who I was supposed to be, well, everyone thought I was Helen, so after a while I just decided to go with it. So there I was, in my short black and white dress and long blonde hair, Helen from... every Helen movie, I suppose. 

Though it was a very small dinner party with the closest of my friends, it was a total riot. We played 'Never have I ever' and found out very fun/interesting/scandalous things about one another. Initially it took a while for people to think up of things that would keep them in the clear while forcing others to drink, but soon we all got the hang of it. After a while, even Xena knew how the game went. She raised her hand, saying, "I have one, I have one! Never have I ever... had beer!" 

We were supposed to pick a winner based on whoever had the most sips or whoever played the cleverest game or whoever had the most interesting stories, but it got so fun that we didn't even remember that the game was supposed to have an objective. In comparison to the others', my statements turned out to be quite mellow, though I scored big when I said "Never have I ever... lived in Bangalore!" (Seriously, what is up with Bangalore folks and me?? All my closest friends hail from Bangalore, and now the sis-in-law, also a close friend, is moving to Bangalore!)

Along the way, someone suggested that we switch the game from 'Never have I ever' to 'I have' where each person talks about something they have done that others are unlikely to have done. Once again, the stories I heard in that round were quite mind-boggling, while my only claim to fame in that round was 'I have been to Pakistan! Ha!'

Considering the 'sharaafat ki moorat' that all of us are, the party came to a modest close shortly after midnight, and people dispersed soon after wishing one another a very happy new year. After they had left, I turned to Viv and told him how proud of him and his costume I was. Later, a friend of mine saw his photos and remarked on what a great sport he was and how most men wouldn't even bother to dress up for a costume party. So I told her that he wasn't always like this. 

He'd just happened to marry the right girl. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Eye on the Boll(ywood)

So I have one year to get Xena's Hindi school-ready. This is her last year of preschool and because her school only offers Mandarin as a language, I'm homeschooling her in Hindi. At the moment, she's learning to write the letters. She understands me 100% when I speak in Hindi, but to my frustration, her responses are always in English. To that, I simply say that I can't understand her if she answers a Hindi question in English, and she immediately switches. Phew.

But I think we are far away from the prerequisite for taking up Hindi in Primary One next year, which is that the kid must be able to read and write in Hindi. I'd been racking my brain to think of other ways in which I can increase her exposure to Hindi (I really don't want to put her in tuition at this age) when suddenly the proverbial light bulb lit up right above my head. How had I done it?

My dad got posted to Bihar when I was about six and I was flung headfirst into a totally alien, Hindi-speaking world, of which I understood nothing. And even though it was an "English medium school", it was also Bihar, which meant that not only was the Hindi teacher teaching stuff in Hindi, EVERY single teacher was teaching in Hindi, including the English teacher!

I wonder how I survived the first six months, because after that, there was no mai ka lal who could beat me at Hindi. If I could do it, so can Xena. But wait a minute, it was different for me. Hindi was being blasted at me from every direction. My friends at school and in the neighbourhood all spoke Hindi to me, so I had no choice but to bite the bullet. Xena, on the other hand, has only Viv and me as the source of Hindi, and we speak a mix of English, Hindi and Singlish.

So I wondered if it was time for me to introduce Hindi movies to her. She's still not allowed any screen time, and we know that we need to relax the rule at some point to avoid turning it into the highly desirable forbidden fruit. However, we definitely don't want her to watch some nonsensical "kids' channel" for no good reason, so I figured I could maybe watch some good children's Hindi movies with her. After editing out the inappropriate stuff, of course.

And for some reason, the first movie that flashed across my mind was Mr. India. As a kid, I had watched the movie about a bazillion times and loved it each time. Those were the days when we rented the VCR and the video cassette from the shop in order to watch the movies we wanted to watch. I did wonder about the 'Kaate nahin kat-tey' song but the rest of the movie was too entertaining for me to worry about Sridevi gyrating in her blue saree.

But I knew I had to remove the song for Xena. I could totally picture her bewildered look and I even knew exactly what she would say, "Mama, what is this Aunty doing? Is she not feeling well?"

So Xena and I watched the movie together in 15-minute slots over several weekends (and I sneakily fast-forwarded the song without her even realising it). It was heartening to see her enjoy it so much. Once in a while, I'd pause and repeat the dialogues and ask her if she understood them and she did. Every scene that I had laughed my guts out as a kid (the kids waking up to jets of water installed in their bunk beds, Sridevi's Charlie Chaplin act, Bob Christo worshipping the flying Hanuman statue) was making her laugh. It was very touching. Bollywood mommy's Bollywood baby.

Today, her post-school stories included something very interesting.

"Mama, I told Zac about Mr. India!"

Zac is 'da man' of her class. He's the leader, the boss man, the cool dude. Stuff endorsed by Zac is stuff indeed. A few weeks ago, he came up with his own league of superheroes (Xena is Oreo woman; apparently she shoots Oreos out of her wrists at the bad guys. Don't ask.)

So yeah, Zac's approval was important to her.

"You did?"

"Yes, I told him THE WHOLE STORY!"

"Wow. What did he say?"

"He listened to THE WHOLE STORY."

"Did he like it?"

"Yes, he said he liked it very much. But he said he's very confused now."

"Why is he confused? About what?"

"He says he's confused between Magneto and Mogambo. He doesn't know who is who anymore."

That made me laugh out so loud, I think I scared Xena a bit. My successor for my 'Bollywood takes over the world' agenda is on the right path.

Mogambo Mommy khush hui. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Cutting chai

"No teh halia???" He asked.

"No teh halia." I answered calmly.

He looked too stunned to continue entering my order into his machine.

Okay, let me start at the beginning. So there is this tiny Indian restaurant near Xena's school where I grab a quick lunch once a week or so, before picking her up. And no matter what food I order, I always always order a teh halia with it. Teh halia is Singapore-speak for ginger tea. (The other important teh here is teh tarik, which always reminds me of Sunny Deol and I imagine him as a tea addict, going, "Teh tarik pe tarik pe tarik!")

So last week, when I placed my order without a 'and a teh halia' suffix, it caused quite a stir. The guy at the counter Purshottam (actually I don't know his name but I refer to him as Purshottam -- if you've watched TVF's 'Permanent Roommates', you'll know why. Basically, he's a devar-figure in my life.) shook his head in disbelief as he entered my order.

I walked over to my table and sat down. Barely had my bum descended on the chair when a hand appeared out of thin air and deposited a cup of teh halia on my table! I looked up and it was the other guy (I really should think of a name for him too). Apparently, as soon as he'd seen me enter the restaurant, he'd started making the teh halia! Erm. So I told him (rather nervously, for I knew what was coming) that I hadn't ordered it.

"It's teh halia," he said, blankly.

"I know. But I didn't order it."

"You didn't order teh halia??" He asked, still kinda looking blank.

"Yep, that's right."

Trying not to give away the hurt+shock on his face, he picked up the cup and went back.

I could hear him say to Purshottam, "She didn't order teh halia."

"Yes." said Purshottam.

Their collective disappointment in me was palpable.

I was feeling really bad, and under normal circumstances, I'd have accepted the tea since he'd made it already. But this time I couldn't. I simply couldn't.

Viv and I are doing a 40-day no-sugar-no-alcohol challenge.

Here's the thing... I'm not very sure exactly why I am doing it though. It's not like we are overweight/unhealthy, or big sugar or alcohol consumers, expecting some kind of miraculous body transformation by undergoing this challenge. But before we embarked on it, I did sit back and try to go over our sugar/alcohol consumption. Neither of us drinks tea/coffee on a daily basis, we don't buy juice, we generally don't order sweet drinks at restaurants, and we don't go and party over drinks every weekend. I don't like ice-cream, Indian desserts, or cake icing, so I rarely have them. I never step foot into a Starbucks.

Once in a week or so, when I have company or if I'm at Purshottam's restaurant, I have tea. And since I don't have it every day, when I do have it, I don't hold back on the sugar. I'm quite unapologetic about liking my tea sweet.

I also bake a lot, but most of it is meals and not really cakes. The exception would probably be brownies, which I used to make almost 2-3 times a month because both Viv and Xena love them. The other source of sugar would be the occasional moscato that accompanies our Netflix sessions, or when we have a party. We eat out at least twice a week, and there's bound to be a lot of sugar in outside food, even in food that is not typically considered sweet, such as a bowl of tom yum soup. And then there's all the added sugar in stuff like salad dressings, ketchup, pasta sauces, etc.

Doesn't seem like very little, and doesn't seem like a lot. So what I really want to see is what the 40-day challenge would ukhado. I also need to take into account the fact that I have changed two variables at once (upped my gym time to 45 min this year), so any fitness-related 'results' would not be purely because of the challenge. I'm just curious about what it would do. And whether at the end of the 40 days, my body would reset its sugar-meter to the point that I can't even look at a slice of cheesecake. (Sounds very unlikely, if you ask me.)

Here's the thing -- even if nothing happens, I don't think this will be a futile exercise. I'll at least be armed with all the knowledge I've been gathering about stuff that has added sugars. Did you know, for instance, that Maggi noodles' seasoning has sugar? Holy cow. Sometimes, I just want to go for something without reading the food label, but the next moment, I chide myself, read it and then put the item back.

The other day, I almost 'cheated' without realising it. Xena couldn't finish her bowl of grapes, and out of habit I just grabbed the last one and popped it into my mouth. Before I could bite into it, I remembered that the no-sugar challenge extends to fruits too, and the next second, I was PTOOSHING it out of my mouth straight into the bin. Good girl.

Viv has an unopened can of Redbull in the fridge (leftover from our new year's eve party) and he says, "The true test will be to see how long that can remains in the fridge." He used to drink Redbull many many years ago, but after we found out more about its effects on the body, we completely shunned it. Now we buy it like once a year or so, e.g. if there is a big party and we need multiple drink options. So the fact that the can, joblessly sitting in the fridge just like that, has not tempted him, is quite amazing. Good boy.

Realistically, I think this is what will happen after the 40 days -- I won't give up sugar forever but I will become very sugar-conscious (e.g. no need to have birthday cake at every party that Xena gets us invited to, no need to smother that samosa/pakoda with ketchup, no need to reach for a big helping of sweet fruits because "fruits are so healthy"), and I will hardly have alcohol.

So that's that. Let's see how this goes and what this does. So far, so good. The giving up alcohol has been super easy, mainly because we never drink that much anyway. In fact, last night, we had dinner at Cafe Iguana and we didn't order their margaritas. True fans of Cafe Iguana will tell you what kind of blasphemy it is to step inside Cafe Iguana and not order their margaritas. We had never done that before. Ever.

I've also managed to cut out the sugar pretty easily. But the one thing I miss is my beloved teh halia. A few friends have been telling me to simply have it without sugar, but that is a grave insult to teh halia. To me, that's unthinkable. I might as well not drink any teh halia, than drink such a heavily compromised version.

But once the 40 days are over, no matter what I decide to do about sugar for the rest of the year, one thing is for sure -- I will break my fast with teh halia.

And I will shock Purshottam and co. all over again. 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Dancing queen

Last week, Viv and I went to Bombay Cafe after ages. Bombay Cafe used to be one of our favourite hangouts many years ago, with its novel so-pink-that-it-can't-get-pinker-than-this walls, the posters of old classics and a TV that played songs from the 90s. It also was probably the ONLY place in Singapore where you could order an old-style glass bottle of Thums Up, and I just loved it.

I also have a soft corner for Bombay Cafe because some 11 years ago, I had ranted in a blog post about how they were out of Thums Up when I had gone there, and they had immediately shipped a complimentary carton full of 24 bottles of Thums Up and Mangola to me! Whoa. Thumbs up, for sure.

So Viv and I had placed our orders and were chit-chatting as we waited, when suddenly our collective ears perked up. Was that... were they playing... it WAS, wasn't it? We looked up. The TV was playing 'Akhiyan milaaun kabhi akhiyan churaaun' from Raja! Yes, that movie which really should have been called Rani instead, considering it had powerhouse Madhuri Dixit paired opposite a tame Sanjay Kapoor. (I've never been able to take Sanjay Kapoor seriously, not after his hilarious 'Aati nahin' song, not after all the constipation-related jokes that got associated with it.)

I couldn't get myself to watch Prem, or Raja, but the 'akhiyan milaaun' song was something else. Madhuri OWNED that song, and his presence didn't even matter. It was 1995. Countdown shows were the 'in' thing those days and for us 'brought up on Doordarshan and not even DD2' kids, they were 'da bomb'. I remember how obsessed everyone became with this song as soon as it came out. We knew every beat, every step, every eye movement and we LUUURVED her outfit, though now when I watch it again and realise that her top, jacket, earrings, belt and rings match one another EXACTLY, I wanna do a Phoebe-esque 'MY EYES! MY EYES!' and run away.

But look good she did, and how.

Recently, I read an interview of choreographer Terence Lewis, who said,
Madhuri is the best. She's not mechanical. I've realised why she's so good -- when you give her something, she can dance on the spot. She understands it, takes it in and when she is doing it, it makes her happy. 
Most dancers like Aishwarya, Deepika, Priyanka and Kareena are fabulous but I don't see them enjoying it the way they should. Their focus is on, 'Am I looking beautiful?' 
When you see Madhuri, she doesn't even realise that a earring may have fallen off. She is lost because she's so happy. 
I also see that in Govinda. But not in Hrithik or Shahid.

I was nodding at every word. Even the bit about Govinda. Hrithik and Shahid are fabulous dancers indeed, and even though I'm not a big Govinda fan, I have to admit that when he dances, you can clearly see that he's IN the music and the music is IN him. And the joy on his face when he's dancing is simply irresistible, not to mention infectious. And yes, Madhuri has the same thing. She lets the song get under her skin and simply carry her away.

Sharing the song that brought back some amazing childhood memories of the one and only dancing queen of Bollywood.

Good times, man. Good times.