Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Feel the lurrve



An avalanche hit me on my birthday this year. Over 200 emails from friends, cousins, acquaintances, old classmates, ex-boyfriends, people I haven’t spoken to in years, even people I’ve been avoiding.

Of course, anyone who has his or her birth date listed on Facebook will know what I’m talking about. The wishes just keep pouring in. Each time you empty out a batch of Facebook notifications, there’s another deluge within a few minutes.

Let’s get this straight, I enjoy attention as much as any other megalomaniac. And this torrent of wishes can be quite heady. As a kid, I always wanted the whole world to know it was my birthday and fawn over me. I loved it when people remembered the day without prompting and gave me cards and gifts, but equally thrilling was someone finding out and then making a big deal of it.

“Ohhh!! it’s your birthday!!! Hey everyone, it’s her birthday!!!! Haaaapppyyyy biiiiirthhhhdayyyy tooooo youuuuuuu……”

Over the years, the thrill of celebrating birthdays never diminished. But somehow people’s enthusiasm hasn’t quite kept up. Does anyone even send greeting cards with hand written messages anymore? I loved receiving them.  They used to be the harbinger of birthdays, arriving in the post with exotic stamps and with the scent of faraway places. I still have a collection of those cards, some of them over 30 years old.  

E-cards tried to replicate the same emotion, but they never caught on thankfully. With their annoying pop ups and tinny music, they just seemed like a soulless version of the real thing.

Then, of course, came sms wishes. HB 2 U. Throw in a smiley or two and you could even inject some emotion into an impersonal message. It always struck me as odd to receive sms wishes from friends in the same city. But this year, it turned out that most of the text messages I received were from banks and malls – faceless establishments that needed to prove their ‘human’ side.

It used to be that the older you grew, the fewer the people who remembered your birthday, and made the effort to wish you. But Facebook’s changed all that. Wishes start trickling in at the stroke of midnight, or earlier, depending on your time zone. The friends who usually needed prompts and warnings in the past, now have no problem remembering.  The ‘Wall’ is painted with enthusiastic outpourings, cheerful declarations and fervent wishes. Even people you’ve had minimal interaction with in years seem to feel for you somehow.

I’m not saying that there’s anything insincere about these wishes. It’s just that they seem a little too ‘easy’. The challenge used to be in making the effort to remember birthdays. Earlier, you had to make a note of it in a diary or embed it in memory. And you only reserved this privilege for the important few.
Now, people know it’s your birthday because Facebook tells them. You can write a wish without having to look at the date. Coz, hey, Facebook will prompt you next year as well. With minimal effort, you can hammer out a few words and then get on with checking someone’s vacation photos, or comment on someone’s status.

Some people find it ‘overwhelming’ and are ‘touched’ with this outpouring of love on their birthdays. Some others go to the extent of replying and thanking every single person who’s left a wish on their wall. I’m often embarrassed when someone thanks me. It feels like they’ve put in more effort than I have.

Maybe I’m just growing old and crotchety, and prone to ranting. Maybe it really is nice to be thought of, even if briefly, by over 200 people on your birthday. But there’s nothing to beat the few calls from family and close friends, who didn’t need to refer to Facebook to know it’s my birthday. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reviews on the go

A quick round up of movies watched this weekend, reviewed in one line. 




Diarrhea happens.

Verdict: Excellent!!





The End, or is it?

Verdict: Snorrrrre




Spoiled rich kids meet their end.

Verdict: Unmissable!



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Postcard from Eritrea


Mr. T was in Eritrea last week on a work-related trip. When people asked about his whereabouts, I would say, Ethiopia. Not that I was geographically challenged, but for some reason most people looked blank when I said, Eritrea.

Truth be told, I hadn’t given Eritrea a second thought until this trip came up. I only knew it was somewhere near Ethiopia. I did some cursory reading, mostly to figure out how safe it was, and discovered that it was a deemed a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and was under ‘UN sanctions’. Of course, I found this out this while Mr. T was in Eritrea, and could do nothing more than ask him to ‘lock the doors and windows at night’.

What’s it like, I asked, the moment he got back. Cold, he said. Eritrea is about 7000 ft. above sea level and temperatures reached a maximum of 24 degrees even in summer.

What’s the place like, I wanted to know. It’s quite like Goa, he replied. That was a huge compliment as far as Eritrea was concerned. Mr. T, an eternal Goaphile, ranked most places he visited based on their semblance to Goa.

It had an easy charm, apparently. An Italian colony until the last century, it still featured graceful, Art Deco buildings, especially in the capital, Asmara. Like any place unused to tourists or travelers, credit cards were rarely accepted, and currency exchanges frequently ‘ran out of dollars’. The ritziest hotel in town was no more than a well-maintained lodge. And that’s where Mr. T and his colleague happened to be staying.

The rooms were squeaky clean but tiny. One could enter the room and fall into bed in the same motion, apparently. Mr. T also ended up sharing the room with scores of mosquitoes. And in the bathroom, apart from a single bar of soap, there were no other toiletries.

One morning, Mr. T and his colleague stopped at the Reception to check if they could get some moisturizer. Because of the cold weather, their skin had turned dry and cracked. The receptionist replied that the hotel had run out toiletries. However, before they could turn around, she opened a drawer and pulled out her handbag. She rummaged through it and came up with a tube of scented body butter. Before they could object, she squeezed out a big dollop on both their palms.

“Have a good day, sir,” she said, waving them off when they tried to thank her.

What Eritrea lacked as a country, it more than made up by its people.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Writing Desk


The Resident Chef (also known as the Husband, or Mr. T, for short) couldn’t understand my insistence on a writing desk.

“Can’t you use the new work desk we’ve just bought?” he asked, referring to the functional black table with grey legs. Just a few days old and yet every inch of it was covered with an assortment of papers, visiting cards, post-its, laptop wires, extension cords and more. If that was a work desk, there wasn’t space to get any work done.

But it wasn’t just the clutter that was the issue. I’d set my heart on owning a writing desk for a long time. And not just any old table, but a nice solid wood, antique desk, with little shelves and cubbyholes, and maybe an inkwell or two. The kind that would be at home in an English study, replete with a fireplace, a cozy armchair and tall shelves filled with leather bound books.

In anticipation of the desk, I’d christened the smaller bedroom in our new home, the Study. I’d even picked the spot where the desk would be placed – at a corner in the room with a window on the left, a window in front, and an almost uninterrupted view of the gorgeous sky. If you lived in a city teeming with high-rises, you’d know how priceless a view that can be.

It took a lot of cajoling on the part of Mr. T to convince me that a solid wood desk wouldn’t quite fit into our modern minimalist d├ęcor. Also he pointed that the ‘study’ would be doubling up as the guest bedroom, and so the ‘chintz armchair with footstool’ would have to make way for a more practical sofa-cum-bed.

Many sulks later, I found myself staring at a somewhat workable solution to our marital conflict. It was an unbelievably compact, tidy white desk from IKEA. It had one shelf under the desk, presumably to tuck away the laptop when one wanted to indulge in good, old-fashioned, long-hand writing. It also featured a tiny little drawer to squirrel away pens, bookmarks and other essential stationery. But its best feature was further below. A thoughtfully provided broad footrest, something that’s absolutely vital when you’re blessed with a petite frame and your lower limbs can’t find the floor. At work, I would thrust my feet over the CPU, and in some cases, the dustbin even, in an attempt to be comfortable.

Mr. T, the indulgent husband that he is, sighed deeply and wrestled the flat packed desk onto the trolley. He even assembled it when I wasn’t home, no mean feat when you see the impossible illustrations in the IKEA assembly manual.

“I hope you’re going to write after all this,” he mumbled, as I gushed about his handiwork.

“Of course, I will,” I declared. “It’s just the inspiration I’ve needed.”