Sunday, December 16, 2012

Don't you hate parrots?

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

I know what you're thinking. Parrots look adorable, smart, perfect gentlemen, but don't be fooled by their nice appearance. They tend to be quite irritating and often, noisy.

If you don't already know, parrots are known to continuously spew out "facts" with a superior air about them, "facts" they have only heard the other day from someone else. They don't offer explanations or justifications for any of their opinions and the mere shrug that follows every proclamation of knowledge is supposed to suffice as an answer to every polite request for authentication. These parrots are known to say the strangest, most far-fetched things as if they were reciting the multiplication tables. 

They may get and up and announce one day that "Marathi people hate to mix with others." based not in the least on their interaction (or lack thereof) with Marathi people but on someone else's arbitrary assumption. If I wasn't myself Marathi, I would have sincerely ended up believing, after that conversation, that Pune is comprised entirely of narrow-minded servants, maids, children who have quit their education right after school, who only talk to each other and that the city has no cultural scene whatsoever. Just why my feathered friends ardently believed that, I will never know.

You come across parrots in every field. Some are literature fanatics who know, for certain, just how much research went into every book ever published and whether the facts were falsified or the events too fictionalized. You'd think, for a second, that they were walking Encyclopedias, but let me tell you, they are little more than parrots who spend their nights glued to Wikipedia. Others are expert engineers. If you know someone who has dismantled every gadget in your house, much to your dislike, claiming that they could be improved or fixed, keep your binoculars handy - for you've found yourself an excellent specimen of a parrot.

In my observation, parrots seem to surface the most when someone is ill. You see, they somehow have this inbuilt knowledge of medicine that the rest of us don't quite possess. Their diagnosis is spot-on, even when they've only heard a few of the symptoms, they could tell you the causes and the most effective treatments of any disease within a heartbeat. And the curious thing is, they never seem to know just where they found this enlightenment.

They're fascinating creatures, these parrots. And yet, I hate them. Then again, I might just be jealous.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Image courtesy of domdeen at

Back in Amboli, I realized something funny. It happened late one evening, when we had just come back from a pre-dinner trail. With the air around us so cold and eerie, the topic naturally turned to ghost stories; mostly scary Bollywood movies, so I was not as much a part of the conversation as an outside observer (I hadn't seen any Bollywood horror lately.) One girl, though quite eager to listen to the stories, started getting insanely afraid and her worrying mother announced that it was time to change the topic. She mentioned, for whatever reason, that she did believe in ghosts but that now was not the time to discuss them. At that, a guy just ran up to her and exclaimed, "There is no such thing as ghosts. There is no such thing as ghosts." He did say it twice. He went on to add, "Bring me one. Just bring me a ghost. I'm telling you, there are no ghosts." And right then... I had my epiphany!

What I thought was, how on earth could he know that? Wasn't it crazy to have so much faith in our senses, when they could be so deceiving? Only minutes ago, we had been walking through a dense forest, entirely sure we were seeing the silhouettes of a spotted owl here and a falcon there, only to realize as we got closer, that they were some weirdly shaped leaves. We had vehemently argued that the twigs visible in the distance were not, in fact, twigs, but little snakes and run up to them to discover that we were, after all, wrong. And after spending hours not watching spotted owls and falcons and snakes, how could we come home and trust those senses enough to say that because we haven't seen something, it couldn't exist.

I realized, for the first time, that it is just as ridiculous to adamantly not believe in the supernatural as it is to be convinced that it exists. How could we possibly know that? There is so much in the world around us that we are yet to fully understand. That's probably why I am so fascinated by horror or fantasy fiction: realizing and accepting the fact that we have little control over what goes on around us but that we can live and function despite that sense of helplessness; that the unknown doesn't necessarily mean the bad and, that, in a very Stephen King-like way, every known evil begins and ends in the human mind. I am going to stop myself from plunging into a passionate talk about fiction, because I have sworn not to write about books on this blog. 

Instead, let me just ask you what you believe in. Do you really think it is justified for us to decide with certainty what is, based on our limited knowledge and capacities? Maybe there are ghosts and lost souls in limbo and freaky otherworldly creatures that mythology talks about. My only belief is that no amount of being scared of or worshipping what may be out there is going to get us anywhere. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Food For Thought

Image courtesy of -Marcus- at

Most social norms make me uncomfortable, always have, but there are some that I simply loathe. Take for example, the occasional visits to an acquaintance's place for lunch or dinner.

I sit at the table awkwardly listening to my mom and our hostess gossiping. Finally, the food arrives, relieving me of some of my discomfort; it gives me something to do. The rice is delicious and I make it a point to say that, mostly to avoid any more "Priya, you never talk"s! Of course, I realize my mistake a moment too late as she beams at me, runs off and arrives seconds later carrying in her hands an entire pot full of rice. 
"Take some more." She suggests, advancing towards my plate, a big ladle in hand. "Do you want daal? Curry? Pickle?" 
"Oh no, I'm good." I mutter, "Thanks!"
"Don't be shy," she says, scooping out a huge spoonful of rice, which hovers in mid-air for a few seconds, right before my widened eyes. 
"No, please, no more." I almost beg. 
"Maybe you want curd." She suggests, oblivious to my pain, empties the rice into my plate and proceeds to douse it with dollop after dollop of curd. I stay frozen, as it dawns on me that I am going to have to eat that. Every nerve in my body pops. As if that were not enough, she adds teasingly, "Are you on a diet?" and chuckles. I want to pick up the plate and throw it at her. I can only imagine how satisfying it would look, her hair matted with rice and curd making its way down her face, while she giggles at her own "joke"... 
I shake the mean thoughts out of my head and smile weakly. "Of course I'm not." I whisper and begin to stuff my mouth, slowly, with the rice that was once actually delicious. 

I have been racking my brain all morning thinking of a word in English that fits the Marathi word "agraha", which basically means politely making people want to vomit and (often) deriving pleasure from it. I can't think of any, though, probably because they just don't have such an absurd custom. Wow. I would love to live in a society where I am allowed to eat just as much as I want, wouldn't you?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A different kind of Fun!

(a special thanks to my best friend, Shreyasi, for being readily available with a camera!!)

It wasn't really about the roses. But at that particular moment they seemed awfully important, as we ran around the house, my friend and I, looking for a vase. We failed miserably and that led to some bickering. Finally we settled for this little steel pot, which seemed fairly okay. (Boy, were we wrong.) Our lack of good choice led to a little debate, which was mostly about the sticker that was still on the pot, until we somehow convinced my aunt that it wasn't really about the roses, adding that no one would notice them in all the bustle. That brought on a little argument about me being young and hence unfamiliar with good etiquette. Normally, I would have muttered that it was pretty much not her concern how my the house looked. But, my mother had made sure that one thing was perfectly clear to my short tempered self: a wedding is everyone's concern.

Ever since I was a little girl, who could spend days with just a pair of scissors and some paper, I dreamt of wrapping all the gifts at my sister's wedding. (I know, it's funny, but I did do it and do it well, mind you.) As a family, we've never been very keen on huge ceremonies and all the band-baaja, not to mention, being decked up and appearing prim and proper. So I never pictured myself going all the way to Chennai and buying over a hundred and fifty sarees in two days or actually enjoying it. Right from choosing the invitation card (which was purple and pretty) to accompanying my sister to the beauty parlour (which I don't enter unless I absolutely have to) I was all in. 

And so, on that day, as I sat in the front yard (then beautifully decorated in red) I decided to overlook the fact that a kid was kicking my pet cat. I didn't raise a word about the shoes scattered around the empty little shoe rack that my mum had placed there, all neat and tidy, as part of the decoration, apparently. And even though it wasn't really about the roses, there they were; almost perfectly arranged in the pot, while I sat there, dressed in salwar kameez and wearing a bindi, not really happy about the condition I was in and yet totally excited: a loner and a judgmental skeptic, though I am, I did look forward to my sister's wedding!

As you've probably guessed, this isn't really about the roses, either. It's about how something can be enjoyed even when everything is going wrong or crazy or is just a mess. It's me reminding myself that different can be fun, too. The wedding wasn't exactly like we'd planned, it probably never is, but it was awesome, nonetheless. The marriage, I'm sure, is better. And my sister, of course, is perfect!

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

(This came as a surprise.) 

Monday, November 19, 2012

At night, in a forest...

We walked through the darkness, slowly, huddled together. Packed in warm clothes, with hoods pulled tight over our heads, we resembled a miniature parade of wobbly penguins. All ten torches were pointed towards the forest and small circles of light faintly illuminated the gaps between the trees. And we walked silently, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; an ambitious, adventurous pack. We spotted some geckos and lizards, whose names I fail to remember and also a blue capped rock thrush, all puffed up to roost, perched on the tip of a tree branch - after a few seconds of inevitable ooh-ing, aah-ing and pointing in its direction, we decided not to disturb the little sleepyhead. It was snakes, after all, that we were looking for. After spending two days looking at vine snakes, lush green and fantastically glossy, though they were, what we really wanted to see was a viper.

I don't talk much. So when it was dark and we were in the forest and the only sound was that of the insects and nocturnal birds and other mysterious nightly creatures, when it was not required to engage in small-talk with the person next to me, when it was almost impossible to even see the person next to me, I found, I was the most comfortable. I have never been much of a star gazer and I like to think of the stars as mysteries, rather than a bunch of rocks with names either too hard to pronounce or too long to remember. As I looked up that day, I knew what people mean when they say: the heavens smile down upon you. The sky was clear, open and welcoming and the tiniest of stars stood out on its bluish blackness. I became one with the darkness around me, as if being invisible were my second nature and for a few moments, I couldn't care less about the snakes, for the stillness that the night brought along was amazing.

Of course, when I did finally see the viper that everyone was so desperate to spot, I had to admit, the penguin-ing around was entirely worth it. The ten faint spotlights focused on the beautiful mustard yellow snake, which lay calmly, not moving an inch, the brownish patterns on its body wonderfully on display. It took a few moments before the eager paparazzi found its way to the snake, and it was then that I noticed how graceful the viper was. Its slender body was coiled to perfection around a low hanging branch and for those couple of moments, I couldn't help but marvel at how something so small could be so ferocious and awe-inspiring. And then began an incessant clicking of cameras and snapping of shutters and the Malabar pit viper just lay there, nonchalant, in all its glory, the patterns on its body now interspersed with little red dots of light. I could almost picture the snake roll its eyes at me and smirk, slightly bored of the attention but clearly used to it. (Remind you of someone?)

And so, though we didn't see any deer or bison and the pairs of bright red eyes, which we repeatedly noticed in the dark woods, belonged to civets and mongooses and not leopards, we returned to our campsite, happy. Our last night-trail at Amboli was one of the many things that made the long journey in that stuffy old bus worthwhile.