Friday, September 14, 2012

Relativity anyone

Warning:- This post is a ramble and is not necessarily logical. So you have been forewarned……

When you are driving alone on Mumbai roads, especially if you’re unlucky enough to get stuck in one of the numerous traffic snarls that plague us (and 8 times out of 10, this will happen), you get a lot of time to think idle thoughts. Like the time last week, I was fortunate enough to spend 35-40 minutes stuck in traffic on the road linking the arterial SV Road and the W. E. Highway at Malad and was able to appreciate the beauty of the concrete jungle on either side of the road.

As an aside to the topic of this post, it looks like such grid locks bring out the worst in all drivers. In spite of knowing that all their efforts will not yield to them a metre of forward movement, they will still try! Autorickshaw drivers will covertly start nosing into the ultra thin gap between a bus and a car as if they want the world to know that the word “flexibility” is derived from them. Bike and scooter riders will have their pillion riders raise their feet up to protect themselves as they edge into a gap only they can see. And the wonder is that they actually manage to find one! Hats off to the pillion riders who manage to escape unscathed. With most of the new models in cars having side-mirrors which can be operated from inside, you find many Schumachers retracting their mirrors and revving their car engines as if they want to blast the opposition aside and zoom through. A small nick from a bike or bicycle squeezing through is largely ignored.

But I’m digressing – on this particularly “lovely” day, a gentleman in a Maruti Alto suddenly decided he has had enough and that he is adroit enough to make his way out of this mess. He is on my left side and all of a sudden I hear him gun his accelerator and he takes a hard right in front of me taking both me and the auto in front of me by surprise. Not only did his right side back fender graze against my front bumper but he also managed to butt into the back of the auto. Sitting in the midst of such traffic for over 30 mins transforms even the most sedate person into a snarling monster and it was this very monster that stuck a head out of my car’s window and shouted, “Hey, kya karte ho? Jara bhi akkal nahi hai kya?”. The rickshaw driver too was out of his vehicle and walking behind to inspect the damage. That was the time when the driver of the Alto gets out and I realize it’s a middle aged gentleman who is obviously not having a good day.

Stop. Back track. Check. Middle aged??

Harking back to good old college days, we used to play a lot of cricket. Not anything professional, mind you. These were the variants of gully cricket that most Mumbai boys and some girls too grew up playing. Our building society was such that each Sunday morning around 10 am, all the usual suspects used to gather and play cricket. This group comprised of all us youngsters and the “uncles” of the building. It used be a fun time with us forming 2 teams and lot of good natured hollering. Sometimes, for convenience sake, we just used to form 2 groups – one of us youngsters and the other with the middle aged men. Stop again. Back track. Check. Middle aged??

I remember that this “middle aged” group of men were of the age group ranging from 30 onwards till maybe 45 or 50. For us then, anyone who was married or working or both and not above the age of 50 was middle aged and accordingly given the suffix or prefix of “uncle”. Middle aged for us meant being more older than younger, more serious than fun, more responsible than carefree and all the other qualifiers that go with being old.

Years have passed since, this youngster group that I mention above finished their education (graduate and post graduate level for some us), got married and even had kids. Most of us are now in the 32 to 38 age group. Most of us still think in the same way that we used too. Somehow, mentally we still retain the attitudes we did all those years back. We still can play a good game of cricket and enjoy it as well. We still frequent the same haunts and laugh at the same jokes (of the same level too). I just realized that just one thing has changed though. Our definition of “middle-aged” – as we now populate our earlier definition, we now define middle aged as someone above 40 years of age and below 55. We still flinch when a child calls us “uncle” and it isn’t because we don’t accept our age, it is more because we still feel “youthful”. We still think of events of our teens and tweens as something that has only passed us a few days back and is still fresh in our memories.

Funny how our minds play tricks on us as this one. Goes to prove how right Einstein was. Everything is relative – state of mind, age, relationships and even definitions of seemingly simple concepts like “middle aged”. Just for the record, the middle aged Schumacher in the Alto must have been close to retirement age (or 58).

Friday, September 07, 2012

Book review - "Tea for two and a piece of cake"

To start off with, I’d like to narrate what made me buy Preeti Shenoy’s second book “Life is what you make it”. My book-crazed self was wandering around a Crossword outlet in a mall (I think I was waiting for my wife and this is usually the best ever past time for me) and browsing through various categories of books. That was when I spotted this book titled “Life is what you make it” by Preeti Shenoy. It was in the “Newly Arrived” section at that point in time and I was taken aback more because my mom’s first cousin (my mama) is a Shenoy and his wife is named Preeti. So I picked the book up and read the summary at the back and it did seem interesting. But that was not all and I was in for a further shock. I opened the book and in the “Acknowledgements” section, Preeti’s husband’s name leapt out at me from the page, Satish! And you guessed it right, that was my mama’s name. So Satish and Preeti Shenoy both could definitely not be a co-incidence and I was pleasantly surprised to know we had a writer in the family. But as I read more about Preeti I realized it was indeed a mighty co-incidence and this Preeti was a completely different person altogether. I went on to buy this book and it was a enjoyable and thought provoking read.

So when Preeti’s third offering came out in the form of “Tea for two and a piece of cake”, I didn’t think too much and bought it from where else but Crossword. It was a very quick read and I finished it in a matter of 2 days (these 2 days being Saturday and Sunday). Yet again, Preeti had managed to write a book that cover an entire gamut of emotions and feelings some of which would ring true with each one of us. They range from angst, rage, tenderness, affection, love, friendship, maternal instinct, neighbourly concern and a whole lot more.

Very easy to read and light on the eyes, the story traces a story of a girl who is grounded but at the same time dreams of an ideal future, one in which she has found the love she has yearned for all her growing years. This girl could be one amongst the scores of girls you see in any city like Mumbai every day, rushing to get to office, working hard to try and get to where she wants to and at the same time being rosy eyed enough to keep an eye out for Mr. Right whenever he comes along.

Another aspect of the story line that appeals to me is its simplicity. We have all read works of fiction which are classics and fantastical in their imagination. These authors create a new magical world for us on the canvas of their books and the reader is lost in the panorama. Any serious book lover would be a fan of such fantasies. No such thing in this book; every event in Preeti’s offering is from the real world. Everything you read is something that could have easily happened to you or me. Even with the vortex of emotions described, the plot is not complicated enough to challenge reality. Every page, including the fairy tale ending is believable and therein lies the charm of the book.

I have also been reading Preeti’s blog and I believe her to be someone who writes from her heart. The same feeling reflects in her books as well and “Tea of two and a piece of cake” is no exception. It is said that anything said or written with the right emotions would always be good to hear and good to read. That is proven right yet again here. I would be letting too much of the plot of the book out if I delved into the story line so I shall just end by saying – if you have a afternoon or two free and you are the kind who likes to curl up with a quick read high on emotional quotient, then don’t miss this one.