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Life in Britain: 'Tis The Season To Be Jolly

When I woke up today morning and peeked out of my window, the world was covered in a milky white haze. I could not even make out the block of buildings that were adjacent to ours. This was a pea-souper alright, with none of the ickiness attached to it.

Winter's finally arrived in the South of England.

As I started on my trek to work, I couldn't help noticing the spider's cobwebs. Instead of the regulation saliva based transparent thread, the spiders had somehow got hold of white woollen thread to knit their webs for the winter season. Closer inspection made it clear that it was merely the frost attaching itself firmly to the spider's threads!

For a long time, I had been moaning at the lack of winter with the rest of the Brits. 'Where's that first breath of frost that arrives to kill the bugs?', I queried no one in particular. But this week, winter arrived with a vengeance. There's a sharp nip in the air, you can see the puffs of white forming in the air from your breath and no matter how well wrapped you are, if you stood still for more than a minute, you can feel the cold seeping into your bones.

I love this! I love autumn and I love winter - with its cold, cold mornings and a mere handful of hours of daylight. I love wearing the thick jackets, woolly hats, colourful scarves and gloves. I love drinking hot, hot coffee or chocolate and stomping my feet to keep me warm. Of course, winter means its Christmas time - the town centre bedecked in colourful lights, Christmas trees covered in tinsel, baubles and pretty figurines, big malls decorated to death with Christmas stuff, complete with a 'grotto', which has a scrawny 'Santa' too knackered to even say 'ho' to a toddler, carols emanating from the street corners and the radio and of course, the mad scurry for presents for loved ones.

This year, I've been caught up in the festivities a bit more than usual, what with my son, who studies in a Catholic school wanting us to have a Christmas tree and all that goes with it. Thus, I've found myself collecting Christmas recipes, buying mince pies and Christmas puddings, mulled wine and gingerbread and that ultimate of Christmas mainstays, Christmas crackers! I am having so much fun that I am rather looking forward to wrapping up the presents we've got for little P and hiding them under the tree for him to find on Christmas morning. Of course, we had to surmount the problem of finding a route for Santa to enter our house, as we don't have a chimney - we solved it by working out he could chuck them in via the letter box!

Lugging the (fake!) tree home, along with a highly excited and a chatterbox of a almost 5 year old in a cold, dark evening is no easy feat but it was well worth it to see his face the next morning when we finished setting it up and switched on the lights. Though I agree with people who say Christmas has become more of a greed fest than one of cheer and goodwill, I still cannot help feeling great joy at the sight of the festivities and a positive glow, as we stand on the brink of a brand new year.

So, whatever lies in store for us around the corner, enjoy the present for now and have a very, merry Christmas!

Posted by DesiGirl 4:17 pm 1 comments Links to this post  

The School Nativity Play

“Do not cry – wave at him but do not cry!”, advised my colleagues as I left work early to go to my son’s school Nativity Play.

“Cry? Now why would I do that? I will be beaming from ear to ear, clapping away like mad – but cry? Bah!” retorted I and started making my way schoolward.

Two weeks back, my son came home one day from his infant school, told me that he’s to practice his “lines” and I am to help him memorise it. I was puzzled. “Lines? What lines?” I wondered. Gentle probing brought out the whole story – little P has been chosen as one of the narrators for the Reception class’s rendition of the story of the very first Christmas. Needless to say, I was really pleased. Hell, I felt on top of the world!

My little baby, a narrator, in his very first school play! Aww! We practised his lines diligently, that day and the next and the next and soon enough, P was word perfect. He could say without a moment’s hesitation “Inside the stable the wise men gave Jesus their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Even when I felt a pleasant glow at hearing him saying it so perfectly, I couldn’t help wondering how he would do when faced with hundreds of eager parents on D-Day.

After couple of weeks of practise, the Reception class’ Nativity performance was scheduled for the Tuesday. Taking the time off from work, hubby and I reached the school early only to find a mile long queue of identically eager parents patiently waiting to be let inside. At the appointed time and not a moment too soon, the doors opened and we filed inside. On surveying the Hall, every parent could be seen trying to look for the vantage point from where they could see the apple of their eye clearly. For the first time in school history, the front row seats were gone within a trice.

S and I took the middle seats of Row 2 and counted the minutes to 2 pm, when the show would start. Soon enough, the Head Teacher took centre stage and announced the children in. My heart swelled with pride to see my little man come marching in quietly, along with the rest of his friends. Dressed in his narrator outfit, he looked just the same as the other children but of course, we spotted him straightaway, long enough before his searching eyes located us in the audience and lighted up.

One by one, the narrators said their lines, whilst the actors went about enacting one of the best-known religious stories. There were loads of sniffles audible throughout, as mums dabbed their eyes when their babies lisped their lines. One little boy stole the show by singing about 10 decibels louder than the rest of the children and never mind the cue!

Finally, it was Pratik’s turn. He stood up, said his bit, waiting every time for the wise men to give the corresponding gift and then carried on with the rest of his line. He did not even falter when the second wise men chucked the jug containing frankincense with a huge clatter and the audience split its sides. He just carried on with “… and myrrh” and sat down.

Three other children went on to say their piece and sing ‘Away in the manger’. I did not hear a word – I was too busy crying with happiness and drying my tears!

Posted by DesiGirl 4:49 pm 1 comments Links to this post  


I've decided to start a blog for my son - -- visit and enjoy!

Posted by DesiGirl 2:10 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

The Absense of Good Desi Chick Lit

We have a mini-library of sorts in my team, at work. Well, mini-library seems a rather grand way of describing what it is, a collection of books, but we take it very seriously - we even have a librarian to monitor the traffic! Most of the books in this collection are light, even frivolous read - none of the blood chilling or brain workout-y type of books I'd like to get my teeth into, so I generally
stay away from it.

But one day, a random thought struck me and I actually went through these books. Most of them were written by women and covered subjects such as shopping, clothes, dating, partying, drinking, sex... 'chick lit', as I describe it. Not that I have anything against such things, I even borrowed one such book when the library was shut. As I was reading all about three enterprising women and their ideas to nab themselves a dishy guy, I couldn't help wondering how come we have no such books in the desi market.

How come us desis girls don't muck about such light material? Lord knows we could tell the world a thing or two. How tough it is to walk past a crowd of roadside romeos without batting an eyelid; how to cross the road opposite Ethiraj College (in Chennai) without getting run over by blokes driving outsized bikes; how to go on a date without grandparents and assorted relatives spotting you around the countryside. There's also the intriguing life of upstairs-wali Mallika and her shenanigans, the old boy next-door and what he gets upto when maami goes to the market, Flat Association President mama who makes sheep eyes at Lily aunty's cleavage at the committee meetings... well, you get my drift?

Why is it that the desi literature scene so heavy? Is it because us desis cannot read chick lit or anything half so flimsy? Do we need meaty subjects all the time? Why? Why can't we kick back with the tale of Meena and Seema as they try to plot their way around their workplace, trying to get past the letch Mohan or Ammu, as she tries to solve the mystery of who-put-the-salt-in-the-soup-and-ruined-her-dinner-party?

I say the desi lit world needs some input from the likes of us Desi Chicks. The Jhumpa Lahiris, Arundhathi Roys and Kiran Desais can have their hard core, heavy works but we need some fresh, new blood from some regular Janes too.

What say my gal pals?

Posted by DesiGirl 11:51 am 4 comments Links to this post  

Driving Miz Desi

You know what I find really cool, really sexy? A bloke at the wheel of this powerful car. I know, I know, how much more cliched can one get. But seriously, put a bloke at the wheels of a regular 4X4 and I go weak at the knees.

It was a short distance to travel, from that to deciding I would like to be behind the wheel of a car myself. Be cool and all that. Tried my hand at it at 20 - my brother kindly pointed out that not possessing nerves of steel, I might be a bit of a dud at this driving thing. That put me off for about five years.

Last year, I decided to take another stab at it. I thought, 'hmm, the folks of this country seem quite civilised, they have rules and all, maybe it will be good to learn here'. And so it began, on one dark, wintry day. I had a vision of this demi-god with a driver's licence arriving in a cool set of wheels to teach me and was brought down to earth double quick by this old gent peering at me from the driving seat of a Corsa. Oh well!

That was how I came to be at the helm of this car one cold wintry afternoon. Slowly, I was initiated in the art of holding the steering wheel (at ten-to-two or quarter-to-three position), driving in a straight line (which wasn't exactly easy-peasy), bowling down narrow country lanes without mowing down innocent bystanders and driving in that death trap called dual carriageway.

Then there were the manoeuvres. Clutch control, slow car, fast as lightning movements resulted in the three-point turn, reverse around the corner and parallel parking. In the middle of all this, came the emergency stop. My grandpa-instructor turned devil that day and made me do such a stop on an icy road. Result? A skid, ladies and gentlemen, which I was told to steer into! Steer into a skid?! Why? When I want to move away from it?! My whole life flashed in front of my eyes for about 2 seconds, before the blessed car righted itself and ground to a grudging halt. Oh did I say this was on an uphill slope?!

Anyway, I survived that and eventually booked my driving test. Driving tests in UK are not like the ones back home, wherein you just 'do a figure of 11'(remember the movie 'Indian'?) - the dreaded test here lasts a colossal 45 mins, and short of jumping through hoops, one is made to do everything else. A week before my test, Grandpa decided I wasn't up to scratch and postponed it. A month later, he postponed it again. And again. After the fourth time, I got more than a little antsy and sacked him.

Ditching old males in favour of oldish females, I went with a diminutive bird this time. Oh, she was evil! When I told her, on the 1st of October, that I've to take my test by end-Nov, she laughed so much that I thought she would have a coronary. Well, that was the end of her!

These two geriatrics put me off driving and I went back to ogling at the hotties from the wayside. Six months later though, spurred by comments from aforementioned sibling, I decided I shall master this art or else! That was how, instructor #3 entered the picture. This one was middle-aged, typical British bloke and everything seemed to go off swimmingly.

As I had taken a sabbatical from driving for the better part of a year, my new instructor put me through my paces and I found my rthymn pretty quickly. But not before I scared about 10 years off him, another leaner driver in a Fiesta and her instructor by suddenly speeding off like the hounds of hell were after me and missing that poor L board and going off on the grass verge.

After this memorable first lesson, I behaved myself and drove rather docilely around Pilgrim's Hatch without giving its OAPs a heart failure and re-mastered reverse parking, turn in the road, reverse around the corner and other such tricks till I began to feel much like a performing flea in a circus. My banker soon started making noises as I clocked up hour after hour of lessons till one fine day I gave in and booked myself on a test.

I made lesson plans, hourly drives, test routes - you name it, I made a note of it. But implementation was where the whole thing fell apart. Furthermore, I managed to psych myself thoroughly by the eve of the test that jellies could have been taken to be rock solid compared to me that night. My helpful gran, as always, decided to petition umachi (baby talk for God) and burst a few coconuts as a bribe.

The day of the test finally dawned. By then, I was shaking like the proverbial leaf and walked into the test centre with huge 'R' and 'L' emblazoned onto the backs of my hands. After the third trip to the loo in under five minutes, my examiner finally emerged. He seemed so nice that I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way this kind-hearted gentleman is ever going to fail me’. He went ‘Hello I’m Joe, want to go for a drive?’ Well, not really but as I didn’t have much of a choice, I smiled weakly, made a croaking noise in my throat and went to my car.

First came the ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ questions normally this would make me dissolve into helpless guffaws but luckily that day, nerves made sure I didn’t crack any silly jokes and showed and told him, properly! And then I was off! Joe slowly started sprouting horns when he made me do an uphill start on a near-vertical hill. Praying to umachi that I wouldn’t stall the car, I did it whoopee! Then he made me do it again, again and yes, one more time, for luck! Then it was general driving for a bit. Umachi conveniently forgot the coconut bribe and I ended up going on the dreaded Brooke Street Roundabout.

It rapidly went downhill from there, whilst I drove around Brentwood rather like a headless chicken. At one point, I am sure the poor examiner’s life flashed in front of his eyes when I got my left and right mixed up and tried to go the wrong way! All in all, I wasn’t too surprised when he gently broke it to me that I had failed it. Oh well!

Next time, I better give a heftier bribe to couple of umachis - with 15 minor faults and 5 serious, I need all the divine assistance I can garner!

Posted by DesiGirl 6:06 pm 3 comments Links to this post  


Last Saturday, on my way to watching that crapola fest called Dhoom:2, I tripped and fell down the stairs. A combination of new tights, wrong shoes and well, me, meant as I was halfway down the steps, I took a short cut and rolled down the rest of the way. Banged my knee, cracked my shin, pulled a muscle in my arms as I battled with gravity - a whole plethora of woes, in fact. Of course, sod's law being what it is, I had to bump into this couple we rarely ever see and there were embarrassing looks all around. Not me - I was busy trying not to scream.

Having said that, this ain't new for me. This time, I came down rather like Ben Stiller in one of his flicks. On one previous memorable occasion, I did a Obi-wan Kenobi type of 'plop' and came down in a heap. That was on one of my very first dates with my new boyf and I was sure going out of my way to make sure he remembered me!

I guess you could call me a connoisseur of falls - a straight-forward trip, a more complicated twist, dodgem car-type maneuver, you name it, I've done it. I should stop doing it one of these days, I know. Till then, I should probably sell tickets and make some money while I was at it. Might as well make some money out of my 'chilrai varufying', if you get what I mean! ;)

Posted by DesiGirl 7:12 pm 0 comments Links to this post