Wednesday, 28 January 2009


I rushed about chopping veggies on the sofa and generally doing mad things in order to catch this show on TV. It was about trying to find the world's smartest child.

The usual suspects figured. Over ambitious parents. Celebrity status in the city. Some shrewd marketing.

One 10 year old was a literary genius but she was also quite the corporate savvy saleswoman. In a presentation to senior Microsoft executives, she effortlessly deivered an aggressive sales pitch (I wrote my first book on Microsoft Word, etcetera etcetera) and walked away with a contract, innocent smile intact.

Across the globe, a 9 year old Malaysian mathematics genius has a whole brand thing going. Bright yellow cans of brain food sell in dozens, all bearing his grinning mugshot. They are apparently quite popular amongst schoolchildren, a Malaysian Brainolia if you will.

I was impressed. Although given my aversion to kids in general and precocious kids in particular, I strongly suspect I would want to smack the living daylights out of any 7 year old going on 47.

Fortunately, the host was a remarkably easy going and good natured guy who seemed to genuinely empathise with his subjects. Even as grim faced parents tried to convince him that it was all for the children and never for the fame, money or fulfillment of their own unachieved dreams, the last shot left an undeniably strong impression.

An American 8 year old Mathematics wizard (Again! Why are there no more artistically inclined prodigies around?) who has a pushy ex-prodigy father and a saner mother, was playing with his two other older (and normal IQ-ed) brothers on the beach. However, he soon lost interest. And before long, the camera was panning on his beaming face. He had settled down nicely in a corner with a twig and was busy calculating complex square roots in the sand. I think that effectively settles the nature versus nurture issue in this particular case at least.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Living it up

A quick inventory check of my one bedroom apartment has revealed several items of personal use which I seem to have bought under the delusion of leading a lifestyle that is far from what my day to day existence is really like. Three jars of bubble bath. Frozen fish. Four bottles of red wine, a Smirnoff vodka, Captain Morgan rum, a bottle of bubbly. Magazines and journals I meant to make notes from and then recycle. A huge set of painting tools. And I mean watercolours, but even then!
So the only sensible thing to do really, is to take bubble baths twice daily, sipping wine (which I incidentally detest) and power reading through old issues of The Economist, while the haddock marinates in my fridge.

Monday, 5 January 2009

An ode to superficiality (or why Cosmo can be a lifesaver)

Forgive me for I shall now rant and sound a tad self-congratulatory. This is based on snatches of conversations, some amount of brooding and an incident that happened fourteen years ago.

If it cared, a chameleon could really shoot up on the popularity scale. At an age when people start exhibiting behaviour and preferences that go on to define their personalities, I did not fit into any easily identifiable mould. A love for serious literature jostled with a penchant for Bollywood. I longed to be able to play the piano (a cousin who played Fur Elise at 5 made me green with envy) even as I fretted over how to dance in a "disc" should I ever get asked out. I did not have too many close friends back then, but the ones I did had the following things in common - they valued loyalty, were kind, generous, and slightly nutty in their own way. And that suited me fine.

Then one day, someone asked me, rather exasperated, what was I really like? She could not figure me out, she said. At some level, I appeared to be extremely unlike the average teenager besotted with boys - career focused, image conscious, ambitious. And yet, I was known to avoid the quiet, serious people in class and hang out with great pleasure with friends who would consider reading if only someone recommended the activity as a cure for insomnia. She had her own rather unkind explanation for this behavior of course - I was eager to please and desperate to be popular.

I was quite surprised to discover then, that I did not exactly fit in. I know now, I will never quite fit in.

Over time, I have met diverse people and stayed in touch with all the ones I have liked. While one is a journalist who owns less cosmetics than my (extremely un-metrosexual) boyfriend, the other is a banker who knows enough about fashion and styling on a budget to give Gok Wan a run for his money.

It makes life all the more interesting for me. When I feel like going shopping, I know who to ask. And when I want to discuss politics, I know who to call. Of course, it is not always perfectly compartmentalised. In moments of excitement, everyone gets an earful. But they are usually tolerant enough to sidestep such incidents and then we go back to discussing something of common interest.

My takeaway from my chameleonness has been an open mind and an interesting adulthood. Not flaming popularity, as anyone who knows me shall attest. So, more a decade after I first asked myself the question, I still remain clueless about my real self. When asked, what are you like, I mentally tick off things about my nature I could reveal with a degree of confidence. They seem hopelessly inadequate and rather random a list. So I stay quiet. And go buy the FT. And a Cosmo while I am at it.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The mother of all fresh clean starts

The first day of a new year always fills me with joy and hope. It's a bit like the feeling I get when I sit down to write in a new notebook, only magnified and more solemn. Back in Calcutta, I would stay up alone till midnight, watching the countdown on DD. Just before the clock struck 12, I'd wake my mother, so that we could scream Happy New Year!! together. Then my grandmom would groggily and invariably ask "Toper aoaj shuntey peyechish?" Somehow, she refused to believe that the canons fired up somewhere near Kidderpore could not possibly be heard in Southern Avenue, no matter how quiet the night (which in any case, it wasn't).

Compare that to last night! My 28 years have seen a lot of change, indeed. I am still recovering from all the excitement. S got high, and the club we went to saw him take on a group of guys roughly twice his size (each). He managed to display his usual cunning when it comes to being street smart, and emerged unscathed, even managing to flush one of their cell phones down the toilet. All the while, I - being undrunk and increasingly hyper - kept fearing a massive bloodbath. Ah well, everyone seems to have recovered now - in body and spirit. I am almost there myself...

I should probably round up my thoughts for the year gone by at some stage. And pen down some of my hopes for the year ahead, to make them more official if you will!

2008 was a bad year for me and my loved ones at many levels. Yet, I have reason to gloat. For one, my housekeeping, sense of direction, and the ability to be rude when necessary have improved drastically. Small joys, but if you have ever tortured yourself with how best to say no, you would rejoice too. I seem to have rid myself of what held me back. A job that did not quite make sense, constantly doing what I should as opposed to what I wanted to, was perhaps more draining than I realised. I would recommend this temporary state of affairs to many who are where I was a mere few months back.

Family and friends are all basically okay, and as nutty as ever. I have hopes for S's career to really take off this year. I also have a pet project - to get the ancestral flat (house would have sounded so much more grandiose!) back to its former glory after several years of neglect.

There are bound to be some rough bumps ahead. But this, now, is good too.