name: that girl in pink
location: Somewhere, India
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

An update and a theory

Alright, so I’ve got a new job. It’s nothing exciting, just another boring old ad agency, with boring old clients and a pile of briefs that are, you guessed it, boring and old. It’s not the job I’d been dreaming of, you know, your standard columnist for the New Yorker - writing dry and wildly witty pieces about anything that caught my fancy, hobnobbing with a bunch of snooty cultural elite who throw words like “passive-aggressive” and “uber” ever so often in their conversations, watching foreign films and having endless discussions about the lighting, reviewing upcoming new writers and giving my opinion on what I thought was the sub-text of the books…you get my drift. Part of the reason I’m not living the dream might be that I never applied. Somehow, the opinions-of-a-married-woman-living-in-Bangalore pitch didn’t sound too exciting. Would my “journey to find the perfect weight loss system for a lazy person with no willpower” interest the New Yorker? How about my “acute observations of a person’s expressions as he or she drives in the opposite direction on a one-way road”? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

So I’m back to doing what I can do with my eyes closed. Write ads convincing mothers of what’s best for their little darlings, coining Hinglish phrases (for my international readers, that’s a mix of Hindi and English, a godawful new language we advertising types are forced to communicate in), behaving like what I do actually makes a difference to anyone and when awards time comes about; trying to cure breast cancer through an ad. What I do is beyond lame and the only reason I’m doing it is because it’s something to do and then there’s the money thing.

The money is just okay; sure it’s better than what I was drawing at my last job but when you’re making peanuts for a living, peanuts with sprinkling of salt can hardly be considered a killing. The office is cute enough and my boss seems nice. Now I’m just waiting for my jinx to rub off and bring this place to the unavoidable ruin it’s destined for.

Yup, I am the original l’il jinx when it comes to jobs. Every place I’ve ever worked for sees the lowest time in its financial life soon after I join. When I started work six years ago, the agency I was at was doing so well they bought us all new computers and took us to holiday at posh resorts in the hills. By the time I quit a year and a half later they had put a limit on the number of cups of coffee we could have in a day. Every other place has seen a similar fate. They lose existing clients for the most peculiar reasons, they fail to gain new ones because clients refuse to join an agency with such few existing clients. It’s all a bizarre bizarre phenomena that cannot be attributed to anything logical. After bringing numerous ad agencies to the brink of shutting down, I’ve concluded that it has to be me. I’m not being self indulgent or wallowing in self-pity; I’m just going by statistics. I happen to be the medium through which bad luck touches business enterprises.

Today I can proudly say that if I joined Microsoft it would start posting losses by the next quarter. If I joined an oil rig, it would dry up. If I became Pamela Lee’s secretary, her boobs would shrivel up and turn to squeezed lemons. Frankly, I think it’s a gift. I’d make an amazing weapon to use against a competitor. Just slip me into the system and I guarantee its doom within 2 years or less. Or your money back.

So you see, that’s why I’m not so upset about joining this crappy job that bores me to tears. I work here for a bit, make my money, shut the place down and I’m off on my Europe trip. When you’ve got a plan that solid, why despair?

Posted by that girl in pink  | 12:20 AM  |  29 comments  

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sign o' the times

“You’re not ready yet!”

She looked up from her game of Su-doku with an expression of ‘huh?’

“Payal’s party. Remember? She just sent me a message asking me to confirm that we’ll be there.”

Payal…” Man, she was good at this game! “Remind me again, who’s Payal?”

“Baby, you’ve met her so many times. Remember she went to Bombay to become an actress. She came back a couple of years ago.”

“Oh! Payal, yeah yeah yeah I remember her”, she said, her face vaguely coming to mind. “Again, why did she come back?”

“She said na, the whole casting couch thing was too much for her,” He mumbled, his body partially inside his cupboard, “and she just couldn’t take it.”

“Oh Payal!! Oh yeah, I remember her,” realisation finally dawning, “She didn’t make it cuz she’s ugly.




45 minutes later she stood preening at herself in front of the mirror. White pants, silvery blue tube top, new wedge heels, light summer make up, plenty of lip gloss and silver ear rings that complemented her top just right. Lovely. Dressing for a private party was always tricky. One couldn’t go over the top bling, one couldn’t dress too casually either. It had to be that perfect balance in between, one that screamed, “I’m just naturally stylish and could wear a sack and look gorgeous.” It just usually took an hour and a half to achieve this look. 45 minutes was a proud achievement.

She yelled out to him to for a final thumbs up. Not like I care what he thinks. Guys haven’t a clue what makes a woman attractive.

“Well?” she enquired.

“You look very cute,” he said coming toward her to give her a kiss.

“Cute?”

“Pretty…really pretty. You hair is very shiny,” he ventured. Damn, they should teach you this stuff in college.


“Ok listen,” she said, neatly offering her cheek for the kiss. All that lip-gloss wasn’t going to be used up before they even left. “Now I plan to breathe only once every 3 minutes tonight. Cuz my tummy looks a little bad if I exhale. I’ll need some help from you.”

“Sure, I’ll save the oxygen suppliers number on my speed dial.”

“Oh you’re so funny. Why don’t you send that joke to Reader’s Digest ‘Life’s Like That’?” she retorted, flashing him a scathing look, “Ok seriously, if sometime in between I forget to hold my breath in give me a sign that I need to suck my paunch back in.”

“Okaaay…”

“Alright, so the sign is, you round your lips as if you’re going to whistle. Don’t actually whistle. Just lip synch it.”

“Cool. Should we go now?”

“Yup. Baby, you’re sure I don’t look fat na? Be honest cuz I feel I look a little fat.”

“No, you don’t look fat at all.” This answer he knew well.

“Cool!” Thank God she’d taught him this answer well.

“All that’s important is that you feel comfortable.”

“What?”

Dammit! Why did he have to add his two bit? Why couldn’t he just stick to what he’d been taught?


Half an hour later they were finally in the car. The Rolling Stones were lamenting their lack of satisfaction on the music system and the irony wasn’t lost on either of them.

She looked at him and decided it was time to go over the designated signs again, “Ok, there has to be an amendment to our sign language for the night. This halter-top that I’m wearing tends to go a little deep at the back. So I need you to keep checking my back from time to time to see if my bra strap is showing. If it is, just tap your right shoulder twice and I’ll know I need to fix it.”

“Gotcha!”

“And you remember all the other signs right? What if I have a piece of food stuck in my teeth?”


“I...um tap my teeth three times?”

“No!! You have to be subtle. You run you hand over your mouth lightly.” Prices of every car in all four major cities he remembers, this he forgets in five minutes!

She tried testing him again, “What if I’m sitting and my pants are too low rise?”

“I know this! I yell Butt Crack Alert!” he burst out laughing; butt cracks always cracked him. ‘Cracked him up’! He laughed harder at his own private joke.

From her seat she saw a grown man in peals of laughter over a posterior joke. She would take the high road, she decided, and love him for the imbecile he was. Through it all, she would continue to try and polish him till a diamond of her specifications emerged. He was her mission in life, why she’d been put on this earth.

Unable to ignore the constant stare coming from his left, he sobered up and tried to pacify her, “Ok Ok ask me more sign related questions. I promise I won’t fool around.”

She started off with a difficult one, “What does it mean if I tap my glass with my fingers?”

“You’re bored with whoever you are and immediately need rescuing.”

Not bad. “What if I lift my glass up?”

“Your drink needs a refill.”

“What if I shake my head twice from side to side?”

“Your feet are hurting and we need to find a place to sit!”

“And if I nod my head twice?”

“You’re bored of the party and want to get out pronto!”

Smiling from ear to ear she leaned over and gave him a giant hug. Still no kiss, lip-gloss could never be forgotten, even in the most euphoric moments. “Great baby! We’re all set for the party, huh?”

He smiled and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

“What does that stand for?” she asked, frantically flipping through her mental sign book.

“It’s a thumbs up,” he frowned.

Huh?

“It means…yes,” he frowned harder.

“Oh! When did we come up with that one?”

“We didn’t. It’s been around for decades.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

They were now approaching the venue when she suddenly remembered something, “I forget Payal's husband's name.”

Vivek. You've met him a hundred times!”

“I remember him. Just forgot his name. I don't know why parents give their children such common names that are so easy to forget. When we have kids we're naming them Vanishikha, Zoya and Tatiana.”

“We're having three kids?”

“Uh huh. Didn't you know that?”

He takes in a deep breath, “And they're all girls?”

“Yeah, India's sex ratio is so bad I feel we owe it to the country to fix it.”

And we don't owe it to the country to reduce the population problem?”

She checked her lip-gloss in the rear view mirror one last time before it was time to get out, “Well, you gotta pick your battles.”

He looked out of the window with a resigned expression on his brow and a hand going helplessly through his hair. The man on the bike next to him saw it. And knew exactly what the sign meant.

Posted by that girl in pink  | 4:54 PM  |  28 comments  

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

...

There’s nowhere I’d rather be than here. On this wonderful place we call Earth. From sandy deserts to humid rainforests, rosy mountain folk to tan beach bums, thorny cacti to plump tulips, diamonds to platinum, it’s amazing how much just one medium size planet has to offer. And of all of nature’s abundances and phenomena the one I’m most in awe of is its weather system.

Thanks to the wonderful cycle of seasons you can experience four different worlds without having to budge from one place. Year after year you can experience new beginnings with spring, experience the glory of the sun in summer, get a live demo of gravity during fall and enjoying cuddling with a loved one when it gets cold and dark in the winter months. Ah, the wonder of seasons. Good for faith in the creator, great for fashion and its creators. Four different worlds, for your pleasure, right at your doorstep.

Although, that’s not true for India, is it?

For most of us, barring those (lucky bastards) who stay in the mountains, the Indian weather pretty much comprises of two seasons. Hot and unbelievably, mercury-soaringly, record-breakingly, energy-sappingly scorching! Depending on the moods of the rain gods, we may or not may not see a few drops of rain once or twice in a year, and even then the temperature doesn’t go down that much. Sometimes as a joke it becomes really cold for all of 48 hours in a year. News channels frenetically cover the anomaly; Lux Cozi sells thermal underwear by the kilo and then before you can say “Hot Cocoa”, the temperatures are back where they belong: way up near the ‘Groan, this is a going to be a tough summer’ mark. End of season sales start in February and we start pulling out our skimpy cotton tops even as relatives abroad are sending pictures of blizzards they’re surviving daily.

Clearly, when assigning seasons to India, Mother Earth was going through PMS.

Down south, in the we-don’t-need-no-infrastructure capital of the world, Bangalore, summer comes in even earlier than the rest of the country. The sun beats down ferociously and most of us would rather perform knee surgery on ourselves than step out during the day. Lethargy envelops all of God’s children as even the mosquitoes become decidedly slower. I killed three on my arm yesterday. They were so sluggish they didn’t even attempt to fly off and opted for a lazy death instead.

We try to beat the heat by guzzling gallons of alcohol but the strict 11:30 shutdown law cuts that down to a minimum. With no other source of entertainment Bangaloreans flock to malls and the surge of humanity becomes too much even for those giant heavy-duty air conditioners. Every place smells of heat and restlessness. How did Bangalore ever get so hot is the question on everybody’s lips. Wasn’t this known as the air conditioned city? When is it going to rain? Has the government managed to fuck the weather up too?

Suddenly office seems welcome because at least you’re assured of air conditioning uninterrupted by power cuts. For a now freelance writer like me (Anyone need any writing jobs done? Do mail!), my modus operandi involves cooping myself up in my bedroom and refusing to step out till sun down. It’s got an AC, a TV and a stylish bedside lamp to read to my heart’s content. As far as getting through the summer goes, I’m set. (That is until the electricity goes off. Then I take to my balcony and wait for superman to come and rescue me from this city on fire.)

Television is always entertaining, especially with the 5 million news channels on air. I do so love watching Rajdeep Sardesai and team yell and scream on CNN-IBN.
At this point I would like to make a pitch for an increase in Mr. Sardesai’s pay. Whatever they’re paying that man is undoubtedly not enough. He hosts every program, is on location of every breaking story and if nothing else, he should get a bonus just for being the most excitable newscaster on air. I implore him to take some time off and get in some rest and relaxation. It’ll do all of us a lot of good.

New reservation quotas, cancelled matches, badly stitched fashion wear, there’s enough to keep me glued to the TV. But then the good comes with the bad and when they start devoting hours to a controversy over cricket caps (?) and Upen Patel’s debut in Hindi movies (??!!) one is forced to switch off the idiot box and take to entertainment that is usually more consistent. Books.

I’ve been reading all sorts of stuff the last couple of months. From Shantaram to Lipstick Jungle to Love in the Time of Cholera to Beloved to good ole’ William whenever everything else gets too intellectual or too ditzy for me. Don’t worry; I’m not going to bore you with a review of every book. I would however, like to share a thought that has been forming in my mind for some time now.

Now, when it comes to a truly great romance one of the most necessary ingredients, I believe, is a hot, sweltering summer. (This theory is based purely on all the books that I’ve ever read in my life and that number is pitifully small. Besides, there are exceptions to every rule so there’s always room for a romance set during an expedition in Antarctica.)

I find that nothing depicts longing quite like the oppressive heat of a tropical land. Consider these familiar descriptions of an unspoken love: tiny sweat beads on a young girl’s forehead, indicative of so much more than just the temperature; an old ceiling fan, whirring dully in the background as the melancholy lover ponders over his sad fate; a tall glass of iced tea on a hot afternoon, held against the neck by the beautiful and delicate plantation owner’s wife; lovers meeting secretively under the stars on a warm and starry night.


The soaring mercury not only plays cupid, but also makes it easier for the author to suggest to us the extent of attraction between the two protagonists. It’s also a good excuse for the nubile young girl to be undressed and have the strapping young man inadvertently see her, only to be followed by a good old fashioned roll in the hay. (Er, here I think I might have crossed into Mills & Boon or cheap 80s Hindi movies territory...)

Pick up A Suitable Boy, or The Thorn Birds, or Love in the Time of Cholera, or Lolita or any of Maugham’s love stories set in the Far East, or countless other love stories the names of which I can’t remember now. All set in the hot months from May through August.

Now, in case anyone has started to wonder what I’m rambling about allow me to present my case.
India: Hot Country.
Summer: Breeds Lust.
India: Huge population problem.

Do you get what I’m saying here? While the rest of the world has only one fourth of a year to get frisky, we are procreating all year round. The cause of our population problem is not lack of education, no no oh no, it’s the weather. Warm and grimy all year round, perfect for all kinds of romances.

Obviously the government has quite a task at hand. Providing free birth control is so much easier than handing out Air Conditioners. Our only hope? A complete change in world weather. With ice caps melting and trees being cut down, very possibly India could soon be Canada. As it is, we have almost as many Punjabis as they do, so we’re already halfway there.

So all of you who say “save the environment”, I say go crazy with your sprays and your non-pollution checked vehicles. And then who knows, the next post I write about might just be a bitch session about the wind-chill factor!

Posted by that girl in pink  | 12:51 AM  |  34 comments