Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Useful Christmas Presents

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 21st Dec 2010)

Christmas is the season of goodwill, and in keeping with the cheerful ho ho ho spirit I have presents for many people – including those I may have had some differences with. Unlike Santa Claus, I do not discriminate between who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

For US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: The only time my respect for Hillary wavers is when I see her in hideous egg-yolk yellow pant suits and fire-engine red pant suits – heck, why fuddy-duddy pant suits to begin with? I admire the way she skilfully masks her hypocrisy in plain speak and I’m deeply distressed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s revelations may have put paid to her favourite hobby – a vast international collection of DNA strands to help her, erm, get to know foreign diplomats better. To cheer her up, I’ve decided to give her a pretty heart-shaped plastic locket (it’s recession time, she’ll understand) with a fragrant ,freshly-shampooed lock of my hair. Okay so I’m not a VIP, but who knows some day I may well be. These days with so many whistleblowers around you can never tell who’s going up in life and who’s coming down with a resounding thud, right?

For Sarah Appalling (aka Palin), former Governor of Alaska: The race hasn’t ended for John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate – she still believes she’s got a good chance of becoming the next president of the USA, ha ha. Part of me hopes that she succeeds because she’s more entertaining than George W. Bush – he’s seems sombre, distinguished and remarkably erudite in comparison. I propose to send her a prospectus of a good school because it’s apparent that she’s in desperate need of education. While I can’t refudiate (sorry, repudiate – pardon my Palinisms) the fact that she’s an expert on Russia since she can see it from her bedroom window on a clear day, I have to reasonably point out that she can’t see every single country from all the windows in her house, can she? So suggestions on a good nursery school (for starters) will be welcome – baby steps, remember?

For WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Hugs, best wishes, lots of support, a pack of industrial-strength prophylactics and a few tips on understanding women better. Starting with, never get cosy with two women who know each other – especially within days of each other. That only works in James Bond movies!

For Pakistan: Even a beauty contest bimbo will agree that a stable Pakistan can lead to peace on earth – or in India, at any rate. Which is why I’m planning to gift wrap a team of international psychiatrists to help Pakistan’s politicians, generals and intelligence chaps get over their unhealthy obsession with India. I sincerely hope that they will stop thinking of us from the time they wake up to the time they kiss their possibly toxic Made-in-China teddy bears goodnight. This creepy stalker-like mentality has got to stop. Get over us, guys – concentrate on thinking about your own citizens instead. That way lies progress!

For the UPA Government: Sigh. What can you give people who have so much of everything that belongs to us? Nothing more, right? The scam-rich UPA is off my X’mas list this year – in fact, off it for my lifetime. My stony heart will not melt – not even if the charming Rahul Gandhi flashes his dimples at me.

For the BJP: I wish I had the power to grant them a JPC on the 2G scam. Not because I love them (oh please - perish the thought!) but because I simply cannot bear to see and hear the pompous Arun Jaitley go on and on and on about it on every single news channel practically every second of the day in the most annoying self-righteous manner. Thanks to him, I’ve stopped watching Indian news channels completely. I’m seriously considering giving them a miniature glass house instead, with a framed photograph of their corrupt Karnataka chief minister Yeddyurappa. Just to remind them that Indian citizens aren’t stupid.

For Arnab Goswami, the talking head of Times Now: A pair of lycra superhero tights, a pair of lycra underpants and a collapsible mobile telephone booth to hastily change in – Goswami is certainly working hard to earn them. He evidently believes that he can do for India what Batman did for Gotham city. Now that’s what you call the audacity of hope!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eek another leak!

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 7th Dec 2010)

This is possibly the hottest winter the US has ever suffered in my lifetime – and it’s got precious little to do with global warming or comely PETA activists bravely shedding designer wear to fight for animal rights. Once again, WikiLeaks is slowly and tortuously making the US sweat with the gradual release of about a quarter-million diplomatic cables that expose back-room bargaining by US embassies around the world, and assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats among other things. Revelations so far have proved that the whistleblowers are not just whistling Dixie. Better still, the cables are liberally sprinkled with candid and often witty impressions of the most powerful people in the world.

India’s Silk Smitha and the Beatles’ Polythene Pam can take a backseat: we now have Teflon Merkel – a mildly unflattering portrait of the allegedly unimaginative German Chancellor. French President Sarkozy is referred to as ‘the emperor without clothes’ – and if you remember that grim fairy tale you’ll agree that as character assassinations go, this is terrifically brutal. The kindest barb is the moniker for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: Alpha Dog. That sounds pretty cool because it’s sort of like a name of a heavy metal band or a thriller starring Bruce Willis. Heck, I wouldn’t take umbrage if I were him. Now if they’d called Putin Alpha Rat instead, he’d have reason to complain. My, don’t you just love it when poker-faced diplomats reveal their tactless sides?

The gossipy tidbits on Pakistan so far have been the most boring of the lot. We have always known that America regards it as a ‘headache’, a ‘nightmare’ and other synonyms under the word ‘troublesome’ in Roget’s Thesaurus. We also know that no amount of dollars will persuade Pakistan to stop funding terrorist groups. Tell us something new!

Naturally, I’m waiting longingly for more steaming hot gossip (on India in particular) as the rest of the cables are released. Shockingly, some people are outraged at America’s double standards – hey, weren’t they aware of this before? Others are worried about the repercussions these disclosures could have on their own foreign policies – a little bit of tweaking may be called for. And then you have shamelessly irresponsible people like me rolling on the floor with mirth. Honestly, this is the most I’ve laughed since Bill Clinton inadvertently made cigars sexy. I still maintain it’s a shame that the cigar industry didn’t reward him handsomely for free global advertising.

Meanwhile, India has had its own version of WikiLeaks playing out for a few weeks now: recordings and transcripts of PR goddess Niira Radia’s telephone conversations that expose somewhat unsavoury links between political parties, hot shot corporate houses and star journalists are available on the internet. As a result of which social networking sites became unbearably sanctimonious for a few days. I must say that I find this expose disturbing for several reasons too:

1. I always thought my teenage niece would win the prize for nattering incessantly on the phone. She has been beaten hollow – and by a middle-aged woman at that, tsk. I will never let her live this down!

2. It’s just as well that Ms. Radia was working for two of the wealthiest corporate chiefs, Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata. Good heavens, her phone bills must have been staggering – perhaps even more than the loss India suffered thanks to the telecom scam.

3. This expose has been a truly humbling experience and I must say I feel the most humbled of the lot. I’m hanging my head in shame as I confess that Niira Radia did not call me – not even once as a wrong number. I’m just a tragic nobody.

4. Never ever be smug because Fate can play cruel tricks. Just a few days after Ratan Tata gave a disarming speech on how staunchly ethical he was by refusing to bribe a minister to get clearance for an airline and all that goody goody moral science class blah, the Niira Radia lobbying-for-an-amenable-telecom-minister tapes surfaced – and his name came up. His shiny halo faded gently with her husky hello. He may still be regarded as Mr. Clean by the bemused Indian public, but certainly not Mr. Squeaky Clean.

5. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Do not take numerology seriously. Hands up all those who still believe that the extra ‘i’ in Niira’s name brought her good luck!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Weight-Watcher’s Diary

Written for Verve, published July 2010
Read it here for the nice illustrations:

Also pasted below:

11th June

Have discovered Mothercare! Stepped in to buy pressie for Bubbles' baby and saw fab clothes. In my size, hooray! Rushed to changing room with 13 clothes – at least. Skinny Salesgirl very annoying, though. Smiled widely and asked how many months preggers I was. Did not want to embarrass self so lied and said seven months. She gasped and said I looked ready to pop, was I going to have twins? Pretended I was deaf and sailed to billing counter with purchases. Nasty Skinny Salesgirl followed and asked if I’d like nursing bras as well. I could hit her! Was in such a hurry to get away from her, forgot to buy pressie for Bubbles' baby after all. Damn.

Nasty Skinny Salesgirl’s rude remarks rankled, so decided to go on strict fruit diet. Consumed: 4 bananas, 6 mangoes and 6 chikoos for lunch and dinner. Halo shining. Can’t wait to check my weight tomorrow morning!

12th June

Help! Weighed self and almost wept – am now 1 kg heavier than yesterday! Bloody diets don’t work, that’s what! Called Fatty and whined. She sneered and said I ate the wrong fruits – mangoes, chikoos and bananas are sugar rich. Should have eaten watermelon instead. Don’t like Fatty very much. Think she patronises me because she weighs just 85 kgs. Shan’t hang out with her anymore. She probably uses me so she can look slim in comparison.

So depressed, decided to have a diet club sandwich without bread for brekker: ham, bacon, cheese, half fried egg, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. To make it exciting, had low-fat chips with it. Boiled potatoes first, then cut them in thick slices and lightly fried them in non-stick pan. Yum! Maybe I can write diet cookbook called Tasty Way to Lose Weight, and become famous Bollywood dietician. I will be rich, rich rich! So rich that I can buy Mothercare Franchise and sack Nasty Skinny Salesgirl!

21st June
Bloody, bloody diets don’t bloody work! Been starving self on breadless club sandwich with chips and have put on even more weight. If Nasty Skinny Salesgirl sees me now bet she’ll want to know if I’m having triplets! Hate everybody, especially Fatty. She called yesterday to say she’s on new diet and has lost 2 kgs in 3 days. Show off! Know that she’s DYING for me to ask for the diet, but won’t give her the satisfaction. She laughed meanly when I told her about my low fat chips and said even monkeys know that carbs are a big no no. Will go for one hour walk in evening and lose more weight than her, so there! I’ll show her!

22nd June
Could not bring self to go for walk yesterday. Too hot. Put AC on in living room and decided to walk up and down like caged tiger through an entire episode of cooking programme, Jamie at Home, and succeeded, yay! Ran up and down for a few rounds as well but had to stop because neighbour in flat below intercommed and screamed because I ruined her afternoon nap: she sternly reminded me that we are not permitted to shift heavy furniture during 2 to 4 pm and has threatened to complain to the building society secretary. Told her to go to hell!

Felt much thinner and decided to treat self to what Jamie was cooking: chicken in rich cheese sauce. Both proteins, so should work. Fatty called and wanted to come over to show off her new thin self: she says her tummy is one inch thinner. Coldly told her I was going out. Do not wish to associate with creeps.

29th June
Have stopped taking Fatty’s calls altogether. She can’t take a hint though. Has started sending me text messages of her new weight: According to the latest one, she now weighs 79.6 kgs. Wants to know if we can go out to celebrate. Will not respond. Am in despair, though. Weight-loss pacing sessions with Jamie Oliver not working. Looking at all that lovely food inspires me to cook it too. Haven’t lost an ounce. Think perhaps I have thyroid problem. Called friendly neighbourhood doctor for details on thyroid test. Very easy, just a blood test. Will do it first thing tomorrow.

2nd July
Gloom and doom. Got thyroid test report. My thyroid is fine, damn. Friendly neighbourhood doctor is not very friendly. Says I should go on strict diet and exercise daily. Told her I already am, and she scoffed when I gave her the details. Told me to stick to watermelon for a week and walk in the park for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening – at least. Did not like the tone of her voice. Hate everybody, especially Fatty. Her latest text message says she now weighs 76 kgs. Cretin!

3rd July
Tried watermelon diet for half a day and felt dizzy and sick. Had to call Dominos for pepperoni pizza. Ordered a small and then had to order a large an hour later. Feeling slightly better now. Diets make me ill.

7th July

There’s hope yet! Page 2 of newspaper carried article of lady with 8 kg cyst in stomach. Was successfully operated on and is 8 kgs lighter in less than two days! Am certain I have cyst too. That’s why diets and exercise don’t work for me. Will fix appointment with doctor – not unfriendly neighbourhood doctor but another one. After surgery will take Fatty’s calls and invite her over to see MY new body. Will probably weigh 50 kgs then, yay!

11th July
New doctor very warm and sympathetic. She said I must certainly do ultrasound and recommended a few more tests as well at her husband’s clinic. Had to pay hefty sum of money (now Rs. 25,000 poorer) but who cares? I will be thin and sexy!

13th July
Ultrasound horrible. Was made to drink gallons of water and not allowed to pee till examination was over. Asked sourpuss technician if she could see the cyst but she refused to tell me. Said to wait for report tomorrow. Treated self to biryani and gelato. Have to be strong for cyst surgery. New text message from Fatty. Says she’s now 71 kg. Hah! Wait till my surgery is over. Then we’ll talk!

14th July
Sympathetic new doctor even more sympathetic. No cyst, but she recommended bariatric surgery at her brother-in-law’s nursing home. Almost fainted when she told me how much it costs. Told her I’d think about it. Very depressed. Had 55 pani puris to feel better. Noticed that pani puri-man has bad cold and uses the same cloth to blow nose and wipe his hands on. Don’t care. Maybe I’ll get his germs, fall ill and lose weight. Or maybe I’ll get worms from eating unsanitary roadside food and they’ll eat my weight away. Desperate now. Fatty called at least 11 times today. Ignored all calls. Sent 20 text messages too, begging me to see her. Says she’s very ill, possibly dying. Ignored text messages. Hah! This is just a ruse to get me to view and envy her new 71 kg body. People can be so slimy.

17th July

Fatty called at least 50 times today. Ignored her calls.

21st July
Am in shock! Read newspaper article today that says that people put on oodles of weight if their friends are fat! Now nobody will talk to me ever again! Not even Fatty! Will die alone and friendless! Maybe I’ll have to rob bank and have shockingly expensive bariatric surgery.

22nd July
Whew! Fatty called this morning, and this time I answered phone at first ring. Relieved to have at least one friend in the world. She cried and cried and cried. Says she is almost bald – her new diet has made her hair fall in clumps. Rushed to meet her. God, she looked awful. We both agreed that diets are silly and we are happier being fat. Ordered four large pepperoni pizzas – to help Fatty’s hair grow back faster. Told Fatty about Mothercare’s roomy XXXXXL clothes and we’re going to go there in August. Will just have to tell Nasty Skinny Salesgirl that the twins were safely delivered and am pregnant again!