March 29, 2009

Who took the fun out of travelling?

A week or two, max. And then it's vacation time in Mumbai.

The burdensome Board exams wind up and so do the other less-dreaded end-of-year ones in each school and college. Time for kids to throw their books away. My son is planning a bonfire.
"Wait," I screech," let's see your results first! "
Who cares! that's another month or two away. In the meantime, it's time to wipe off the worry lines and ... holiday!

"Why don't you go to foreign?" suggests the travel agent. "Best time. Recession, hai na ? Everything's going empty. Very cheap!"
Hmmm... that is very tempting. The kids are grown up enough not to need their hands held every minute. And we're not so old that we need to pack walking sticks too. Yeah, maybe it is the perfect time.

So the process starts. Where do we go?
"Europe," booms hubby. "Let the kids see another culture." Er... that's what they do see every other day in the movies they watch and the Archie comics they devour. Not to mention the fast-food they reach for every time we go out.
"Can we go somewhere cold," pleads my daughter, wilting in the summer heat.
"Ha!" smirks my son, "who nearly passed out on Rohtang Pass? " snigger, snigger, snigger
But I'm fine with Europe too. We developed a soft corner for the European countryside ever since we holidayed there on our honeymoon eons ago (no, we didnt sing on the slopes of Switzerland) . Heck, I'm fine with anything, just so long as we're going somewhere !

Okay, visa time and back to the travel guy.
"Hmmm... problem hai, sir. Do you have relatives in the countries you're going to? Or friends?"
Say what???
"See, you have to give letters from someone living there. Or you have to have a confirmed hotel booking. If you want, I can book. We have peoples in all countries. No problem."

Yes, problem. Yes, very big problem! Britain is the only place where we have relatives who can vouch for us just passing through with no intentions of hanging on.
What about Bavaria or that beautiful little b&b cottage in the Swiss Alps where I had set my heart on staying?
And the Romantic Road! I've been dying to travel down that road ever since I heard its name.
And Salzburg and Munich and Paris !

"Mey-dom, see, I told you. No problem, just book hotel now. I will do it for you. Or go on group tour ..."
Noooo ! I don't want to stick to any schedules and routes and dates. I'm on holiday!
I want to travel as the fancy takes me. Pick up my bags and set off when my traveller's legs start to itch. Put them down and vegetate when my mood says so...
If I book rooms and tickets, then where is the fun of travelling?
I want to travel down intriguing roads, stop when I see a beautiful landscape, wait to talk to the locals... not rush to the next dot on the map just because I've a confirmed booking there.

So, it looks like Europe is out. And my worry lines are back in.
As an afterthought, though, I just realised that at least the cancelled plans have saved us another worry ... how we're going to pay for this grand holiday!

But ... does this mean there's no place "foreign" which is okay with our kind of travel? Where you don't need to know where you're going to be the next day?
How sad! I wonder what Marco Polo would've thought of that !

(The image of the poster is from the collection of David Levine . He's got a fantastic collection of travel posters. Go check it out! )

The Carrot Eyewash

How does it feel when one of the great near-gospel truths of your childhood is ripped apart?
'Devastated' doesn't even begin to cover it, right? Imagine how I felt when the papers published the secret behind one of the most strongly held beliefs of our childhood ... carrots are great for the eyes. Well, you can stop feeding Junior the orange stuff.

Apparently it was all a big eye-wash carefully crafted during the World War. The British had set up a chain of radar stations along the coast and didn't want the Germans to find out how they were detecting so many of the enemy planes. So they concocted this great myth of how they were feeding their men carrots to improve their sight! All the better to see you with ...

Now how much of this is truth and how much is just the stuff of urban legend, I don't even want to begin to guess. But it led to generations of mothers forcing the kiddies to "eat up! it's good for your eyes ".
In short, carrots are only good for dangling before a donkey, according to this new version of an old story. If true, we really have been the donkeys, haven't we?

I just hope that at least the part about spinach and iron is true. I'd hate to think I shovelled in tons of the green gunk for nothing !

March 22, 2009

Fuel conservation, Indian-style

I was driving by Inorbit mall the other day when I saw this very funny sight. What on earth are they up to? Did the guy in front run out of fuel and his friend was giving him a helping hand... er, foot?

Then I looked around and saw more autorickshaw guys driving like this. I think they're actually trying to save fuel. They didnt look in any particular hurry to reach anywhere, so one of them possibly switches off the engine and gets his friend to push him around ! I wonder whether they switch places after sometime.

Friendship really can take you places... sometimes with a kick in the rear!

March 19, 2009

Natural protection

From Hollywood to Malibu, the Cote d'Azur to Juhu, the glam-dolls and A-listers will soon be wearing ... hippo sweat!
Throw away your outdated tubes of sunscreen loaded with chemicals and get natural. Hippo is the way to screen, it seems.

Remember all those Discovery and National Geo programs which zoomed in close on 'bleeding' hippos only to tell you,"ha! ha! that's not blood, folks, but sweat. Isn't that amazing!" .
Now this amazing sweat is proving to be more incredible than anyone ever thought, going by the efficiency with which it scatters light and protects from sunburn.

But hey, don't we put up with enough sweat as it is, especially in India? In trains and buses, classrooms and queues... now we're going to slather hippo sweat on us too?

Can you imagine that classic come-on line substituted with, "will you rub some hippo sweat on me, please? "

March 16, 2009

Damn ! I'm old !

Here's the very cheerful discovery I made thanks to the papers today. I'm old ! Over the hill ! Ancient!
In fact I was old at 27!

Excuse me! I was busy having babies at 27 ! That isn't old. No way !
But there is the little matter of forgetting names (too frequent to be comfortable) , the struggle to remember why I entered a certain room so purposefully, and that slight twinge in the knee when I try to run up the stairs (okay, so I walk; 'run' just sounded better ) ... aah well! I guess I am old .

At least that's what a new study says... you are old at 27 ! (why is it echoing in here?) And 22 is the age when you're most likely to have your big brainwave of an idea. Why ? 'Coz that's when your brain peaks, apparently. And from there it's all downhill. How depressing.

So... will they start giving out pensions at this ripe old age ?

March 13, 2009

Union memsaab?

Apparently there is a move in Kerala to organise a trade union for housewives. I read about it in an opinion poll in Mumbai Mirror and was totally intrigued by the idea. So many ideas and possibilities, what-ifs and why-nots kept boomeranging around in my thoughts. Some thoroughly flippant, some deserving of deeper thought.

If implemented, housewives would earn a minimum salary for doing everyday chores in their own homes. I wonder who would decide what that basic salary should be. And I wonder what they will base that decision on.

Will a housewife with a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, dish-washer, etc. command a lower salary than her harder-worked sisters who are deprived of these electronic assistants ?

Will those with cooks and maids to help them, have to undergo a salary cut?

What if she isn't efficient at her work ... will she get a pink slip?

And what about the working women who rush back home after work and act the role of homemaker too?

Next, will the bread-winner of the family organise another trade union to take care of his own interests? I wonder what his demands will be !

Questions, questions... open Pandora's box and see what happens! What do you think?

March 12, 2009

Come, sit ... have some tea

This has to be the refrain heard most often all over India. Welcome the guests, make them comfortable, offer hospitality i.e., a cup of tea ( or twenty ). And then ... chat, gossip, or rant to your heart's content. We do love to talk, dont we?

First things first, the warm welcome accompanied by a hot cup of tea. As light and close to coloured water as you like, or as murky and cut-with-a knife thick as the roadside tea-stalls brew. Then, there's the masala chai ... fragrant, spicy, ginger-cardamom infused tea, as Indian as it can get.

Take your pick. Get comfortable. And let's chat!