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Once upon a time in 1003, Hatat House

This is 1003, Hatat House, which was home to the family Ghosh, between 2003 and 2008, in a quaint little desert city, in the Middle East. I have lived five wonderful years of my life here and have loved this house for its high ceilings, large French windows, the sunrise every morning, the eastern sun streaming in through the windows and the fact that the Bee and I had painted this empty canvas in the colours we loved the most. Here is a tour of our home in the desert city with PreeOccupied , one of my favourite blogs by a wonderful friend called Pree.

Pree believes in sharing all that she sees as beautiful. An amazing photographer , a believer in anything and everything that is beautiful and colourful, she loves creating, be it  creating  a warm home or rustling up a storm at the dining table with her culinary skills.

Here are some more snapshots from 1003, Hatat House, for more go and visit Pree.


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Of masks, lies and social networking

Read it on my TOI blog : Freeze Frame :

I was at my listening post at one of social networking sites a few weeks back and listened in on a conversation between two editors, a firebrand veteran and a feisty firebrand-in-the-making, bantering on how people lie on the social networking sites more than they do in real life. What had started their banter was a survey that had been published in a leading Indian newspaper the same day, saying much the same. The insights were interesting and I listened on till the conversation took its usual turn towards politics and I tuned out. But the thought still lingered on in the mind.

Somewhere I was not ready to agree that we all lie freely  on the social media. Not all of us are liars here. Some of us are, perhaps. Not all of us. Oh yes, but most of us love to exaggerate. And some do take exaggeration a little too seriously and take it to an extreme. But I was sure that majority didn’t lie on Facebook or Twitter. What most of us try to do here is try and create the image of a person who we want or ever wanted to be, not who we really are. Does that amount to lying? I’m not justifying the need for exaggerating or for that matter lying here. All I am saying is that the social media gives us a second chance, to become or try to become who we want to be.

I know for a fact that I don’t want to sound like myself from seven years ago, when I was setting up home in a desert city in the Middle East. I was stuck in a house with a book case full of books (which I am now revisiting again), a state of the art cooking range where I was learning, unlearning and relearning culinary skills, a television with  four ‘Arabic’ speaking channels, a DVD player but no DVDs and where I spent my leisure hours learning Arabic and baking all kinds of upside-down cakes. I know for sure that I wouldn’t want to put up pictures of mine from my salad days either, with flowing unruly tresses, not out of choice, but because I was not sure whether the woman at the neighbourhood’s ‘apology’ of a parlour could even hold a pair of scissors! Anyway, since this post is not about my days in the desert city, I promise to share more in another post, now on to the social media.

Once the social media reached out to me with open arms, albeit a few years later and I started to take baby steps, balance in my life was restored. I do have a few Facebook albums chronicling the ‘good times’ we have had there, but I’m sure that is not the ‘complete’ picture of my life in reality. I have chosen 30 odd pictures from among 300 pictures, those that look perfect, those that have the best profiles of me in beautiful locales and of course those that tell the world how ‘happy’ I am. But that is not the complete picture in real life. Why? Because my life is much more than those picture perfect albums. Because I do not carry all the ‘Me’s with me into my social networking sites I frequent. I leave them hanging around by my table, by the book case, with my paint brushes, planning home work for my daughter while I tweet, update my status, post smart looking comments, put up picture perfect Facebook albums to the envy of others.

I am sure I wouldn’t want to open up the ‘not-so-picture-perfect’ past of mine as an open book on Facebook. Neither would I like to upload pictures of my bored or tired self for others to needlessly scrutinize and comment on. I am quite certain that had I gotten on to Facebook at such a point in time in the past, probably I would have hidden my face behind a mask, too … a profile picture which is not mine. Instead of my face you would have found an apple, a post-it, a painting, a door frame, a cartoon character, super hero,  a popular superstar or even a rocker (oh yes, people do get creative when it comes to choosing the right mask). Many people do that, trust me and I am sure that each one of them would have a  perfectly viable reason in their minds for this kind of behaviour, best known only to them. Hiding their real face from the world so that they can carry on tweeting, updating or whatever else they do, they do boldly – one step removed from the public eye. (Here I’ll let myself presume more than I usually do). Some, I suppose, hide their faces behind masks on the social media because in real life they are wonderfully ordinary people, perhaps slightly overweight, definitely beyond their first flush of youth and hell-bent on trying to add glamour and a touch of excitement to their otherwise nondescript lives. Or perhaps they need a mask to put their bold foot forward and talk in a language that scandalizes the living day lights out of others around them, which they believe buys them the everlasting acceptance of their peer group. Significant others hide their faces so that they remain conspicuous to the world or so they think. And last but not the lest category comprises of those like the Fake IPL player who keep themselves ‘famously’ conspicuous to grab eye-balls and play on the old vice called Curiosity.

Sad faces http://bit.ly/c1LkYw

I was happy in my social networks. I was ready to live happily ever after with my faulty logic. I was sure it was not such a scary place, not everybody out there had an axe to grind and most of them were not vicious people, till I met another kind. Masked ‘impersonators’ who go about shamelessly stealing and using other people’s identities in an attempt to grow their own fan following. Those who are curious can read about my encounter with a masked liar on my other blog,  a first person account of what happened to me in cyberspace and what could very easily happen to you. Willy nilly, I have learnt my lesson. The only place where I can truly afford to wear my rose-tinted glasses and maintain ‘life is good’, is in person. For the rest of the social media, this ‘social animal’ has chosen to take a walk down Narcissus lane and get an account with the handle @TheRealSoma_G.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Just a random rambling on rain

I had started writing this post right in the middle of a miserable Mumbai monsoon morning, with a silent prayer on my lips for a ray of sunlight. And, as if in answer to my prayer, the sky looked less gray and more blue with moody white clouds floating carelessly in from the horizon in no rush to rain and I promptly abandoned the post. But, as it is with the misleading Mumbai monsoon, by evening the sky was back to being completely gray and clouds pregnant with their carriage waited patiently for a cue to begin their downpour.

After my camera had captured this view outside my window,  I thought I should pen this late monsoon post; about the torrid love-hate relationship between the rain and me. Three monsoons ago, an early monsoon day in Maximum City saw us alight from a flight that had flown us in from an arid, desert city. My Facebook status for the occasion had read, “Finally in the city that is rainy and green”. Why did I go so ‘over the top’ with my Facebook update? Well, read on…

My earliest impressions of the monsoon date back to the city of Job Charnock, where rubber boats are often deployed to rescue people stranded on rooftops in the lower lying parts of the city; and where I spent many a rainy afternoon setting sail paper boats in the alley outside our house that remained perpetually water-logged during the monsoons. I remember in carefree days there was no greater joy than dancing in the first monsoon showers or wading through the abundant rivulets and streams to and from my way to school – which returned to being roads only after the monsoons were over. Being such a creature of habit, I had accepted rain as an integral part of life, that there would be the occasional thunder-showers that would clean up the grime and the dust and set the earth aglow; that a random maze of pot-holes would soon dot the face of the streets soon after the showers came leading to incessant traffic jams; that houses and walls would soon take on a fresh greenish hue with the onset of the rains; and that our clothes and books would start to smell musty; and that children would snivel, sneeze and complain and yet not give up the slightest chance of playing or getting wet in the rain.

I had spent the decade prior to this in a somewhat rainless exile between the arid city at the foothills of the Aravalli and a desert city in the outer fringes of the Rub al Khali ( The Empty Quarter ). In the Rajdhani, at the foothills of the Aravalli, the monsoon or the Varsha rhitu is not a prominent season on the seasonal calendar and a whimsical rain fall soon gives way to autumn. The desert city, where we nested for the later half of the decade, has only one prominent season on the calendar, Al Sa’if (summer).

In my exile in the Rajdhani, I suddenly found that a lot of the known and the ordinary had gone missing from my life, rain being one of them. Like all fellow creatures of habit, the loss became a misery over time. Thus in rememberance of the rain that had left my life, I fondly named my daughter Rimjhim, the music of the rains, while I waited for the scorching Dilli summer months to peter into rain. In the desert city, things were extreme, it barely rained a few days in the year. Thus any form of rain was celebrated by going ‘Wadi bashing’ – driving through rivulets that trickled along dry river beds. I secretly wished for some divine intervention to lift this ban from my life and return me to some place where it rained.

So it was natural that when I did arrive at Maximum city, the craving for rain had been at an extreme. That year’s monsoon went unnoticed as I had other inconsequential things like finding a house, getting school admission for the 8-going-on-9, settling in etc. to keep me distracted. I did admire the gray Arabian Sea and the stormy sky gushing and pouring in a gusto from the Worli Seaface house that we spent that monsoon in. And the following year, in spite of the meteorological department going berserk and issuing warning after warning of a repeat of a deluge similar to 2006, rain played truant.  Soon I had joined the rest in tweeting about the missing Mumbai monsoon.

Which brings me to the year that is. And that is where lies the misery of a different kind. For the rain-starved me the decade long rationing of rain had brought in a craving for the rain, true, but it had altered something in me as well. I had, somewhere down the line, grown less benevolent and the romantic was hard hit by reality. This year’s monsoon has been surplus. The rains have filled up the lakes, the incessant streams have eroded the hills, the drumming droplets have eaten into the asphalt and have left behind, to quote a friend, ‘moon-craters’ on the Mumbai streets, the damp air has left a trail of musty smell in clothes and an abundant growth of fungus on all things cane, wood, fabric, and paper.The joy ride into town or anywhere else within or without the city boundaries reminds one of the joys of riding the metaphorical ‘bail gaadi‘.

Does that mean that I don’t love the rains any more? Of course, I do. From my perch, my lofty window on the 32nd floor, or through the high glass windows of the cafe down the road with a book in hand sipping a cup of espresso, or even from the car window as it whooshes through puddles while dodging ‘moon-craters’ of all shapes and sizes – nestled in dry comfort.

Read it on my TOI blog : Freeze Frame

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Confessions of a wired mind…

The strolley standing in the dim foyer was packed and ready for the next 4 days. The Nokia sat on the centre table with its new Matrix sim-card, the sticky ‘post it’ with a note of the flight details and the hotel numbers hung on the refrigerator door. The Bee’s Blackberry came alive with the chauffeur details of his cab. And soon after a peck on the cheek and a bear hug later the Bee disappeared into the mi-conic lift, on his way down to the waiting car.

I made the usual big mug of coffee and made my way to the lounge chair. The little red book awaited me on the corner table,  a book where I scribbled down chores that needed my attention in my leisure. It held a list of books to catch up on, a list of  ‘must watch DVDs’ and all that. I ran through the list absent mindedly, while my mind was busy putting together another list. There were some significant others that had started to distract me of late, somethings that I thought kept me in touch with the time, in touch with myself.

There in my camera’s memory chip were pictures from several social dos and images of our weekend frolics that needed to be uploaded, tagged and posted on Facebook and Flickr.  The mobile camera went where the camera didn’t and captured on the spur of the moment slices of life  – they made for great candid camera moments to be shared on Facebook. Sassy snippets waited in my Twitter ‘favourites’ inbox to be ‘tweeted’ and to become status updates on Facebook. My Linked-in contact list required a spring cleaning, as did those on Facebook and Twitter. That reminded me of the interesting links I needed to link on my Facebook and Twitter profiles.  And then there were those who shied away from social networks, and I liked to keep in touch with them on the mail. So a number of birthday greetings, travel plans and general keep in touch ‘feel good’ forwards waited for my attention in my mailbox. Of course, I almost forgot about the post that waited to be published on my blog’s dashboard. Silly me! And my R had handed me a list of tracks to be downloaded on to the iPod. I was getting forgetful, I chuckled to myself.

Of late, I  had secretly come to love the ‘social networking Diva’ tag a friend of mine generously bestowed on me and I wanted to make good use of the following days to retain the position, I told myself! My reflection on the mirror didn’t interest me anymore as much as my profile picture.

Thus elated by my current disposition, I made my way to the  den, where my sojourn awaited me. The room, being at the back of the house had a tranquil air. The palm by the window swayed in the gentle breeze. The armchair sat merrily with the floor cushion at its feet. The books lined the bookshelf in neat rows. Everything was in order, just the way I liked it. The table – wait! Was I dreaming? There was something amiss!

There was a void, a numbness was gripping me, my vision was blurring. But even in that disoriented state, through the blur all I saw was a gaping, empty spot. The space between the printer and the scanner, where the laptop usually sat snug as a bug on a rug, was empty! Everything else was in order – upto the umbilical chord of the broadband modem, lying listlessly, detached from the computer.

A quick rewind to yesterday,  to a brief conversation over dinner between the Bee and me.  I painfully recollected a mention of a presentation the Bee was to make to an august company at an international seminar on the necessity of listening posts in the current recession hit corporate world. It brought me back to real time and I remembered blowing a kiss at the Toshiba, cushy in it’s leather bag, slung over the Bee’s shoulder as he disappeared into the mi-conic lift.

 

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