The Karva Chauth Eve

Bangles. Check. Vermillion. Check. Chunni. Check. Toe ring. Check. Husband. Oh ya, him too…Check.

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10:00 a.m : The customary WhatsApp group has been formed. Plans for the next day. Useful information on how to manage hunger. Pictures of pretty, devout women standing gazing at the women. You don’t look anything like those women, you note with dismay.

11:00 a.m.: An alarming update. The mehendi-waali has backed out. Which she does every year. But we still don’t learn. We live in perpetual hope that at least, one year there will be a Karva Chauth eve when she’d show up without a fuss. We are women, after all. We don’t give up. Not even on the object of worship for the coming day.

11:15 a.m. : The object of worship has called from office, informing he has a dinner party that has come up today. That’s it. He has again picked the wrong time. You are already so stressed and in no mood to cope with another issue. You yell and scream telling him where exactly you will shove that dinner party if he does not come home in time tomorrow.

12:05 p.m. : You are driving down the road scanning the pavements anxiously. The mehendi-waala is needed since the mehendi-waali ditched. He is the object of desire of a lot of women on this day. Scores of women are seen on the roads with poorly-disguised craving for men with mehendi-stained fingers. They are usually found perched on low plastic stools along the roadside.

12:30 p.m. : You find one who has a short queue. You yell ‘stop, stop’ and the driver slams the brakes right there, sending the cyclist behind you flying in the air. He escapes with a few bruises. No broken bones. Now he fears they will be broken by the wife later today, ‘You had to get band-aids right on your face to ruin our karva chauth day photos, haaen?!’

12:45: p.m. : You are negotiating with the mehendi-waala. You want to pay only Rs 200/- per palm. He says the rate is Rs 250/-. Unless, of course you want an Arabic design, which is Rs 200/-.

‘Bhaiyya, Arabic design kya hai?’

‘Aisi hi hai’

‘To kam kyon hai?’

‘Kyonki kam hai.’

‘Haaaeenn?’

After some more annoying back and forth, the conclusion is that Arabic design is the same as the Indian design. Except, less of the palm is covered. Well, we could go into war with Arabia with his misrepresentation.

1:15 a.m.: Your turn has still not come. The woman ahead of you, in a sudden gush of marital obligation has decided to get mehendi put till her elbows. Others who are not affected by her decision, unlike you fawn over her,

‘Pehla Karva Chauth hai?’

She blushes and nods.

1:45 p.m.: She is still perched on the stool while you shift your weight from one leg to the other. Her husband saunters up to her. Shiny, blue shirt with buttons open to reveal a hairy chest. Rippling muscles popping out a trishul tattoo. A Virat Kohli beard. Except on a Chris Gayle face.

‘She wants him to live forever?’, you smirk.

She pouts and informs him deploying her cute, baby-voice,

‘It will take time.’

He wanders away and buys himself fruit chat.

2:00 p.m.: Finally, it’s your turn. Aaah! the sweet passed-forward revenge of having someone else wait in the queue behind you and squirm. The woman seated nearby is insisting that the mehendi-waala insert her husband’s initials in the design.

‘K.L.’, she whispers shyly.

‘Kishan Lal? Kripa Lakhani? Kedarnath Lodha?’, your mind attempts possible full-forms.

2:30 p.m. : You scramble back into the car using your elbows for support. You are already dreaming about food. The WhatsApp group has sprung to life again. They are planning a potluck. You are itching to respond. But your palms are mehendi-restrained. Possibly, your object of worship, few miles away is wondering if there is any mehendi available that could do the same to your mouth.

 

Band, Baaja, Boys! An excerpt

Every morning she would drive to the University, which was about two kilometres away after suitably draping her face as if she were willingly mummyfying herself. It was needed in Allahabad. The ozone was depleting and the Romeos were increasing. They would hang around at the tea shop near her house to review her attire.

‘Hallo, Rosy,’ on a day she wore a rose-printed shirt.

‘Hi dear, Heera Moti,’ when her kurta was embellished with glittering stones.

‘Qaidi number chaar sau bees,’ when she emerged in a black-and-white striped shirt.

On days when they could not come up with any observation related to her dress, they would summon a part of their own attire to assist in formulating a worthy salutation.

‘Good morning meri jaan, meri Lux Cozy baniyan.’

Binny, like any other girl in Manphodgunj, had learnt to walk past all this. ‘Ignore the dogs,’ was the precious advice parents raised their daughters with. But no parent told their son, ‘Don’t be a dog.’

 

Reviews on Amazon

“Laughed till I cried! This is such a fantastic book! I would recommend this to everyone who loves a good story and a good laugh.”

“Rachna’s brilliance in writing is emphasised by the fact that I started reading the book at 4:30 pm and put it down only at 8:30 pm once I read every word of the 207 pages bright from preface. A rare feat considering I don’t spend that much time at a stretch even on my Ipad.”

“OMG , what a funny punny book. I had to keep wiping off tears from my eyes as my laughters could not be restricted only to my lips/teeth /jaws/ cheekbones.”

“Rachna has the uncanny knack of making the mundane seem rib-tickling PHUNNY… even a cow doing its business in the middle of the road or eating paani-puri becomes exciting!”

“Hilarious!!!
Laughed and laughed and laughed till I cried….It was so refreshing and lively as if I am back to the streets of Allahabad!”

“Phod diya Mumforgunj ki Binny bitiya ne!! I have been in splits, repeating the funny hinglish lines in my head. You do justice to the local colours, flavours and essence of my hometown, Allahabad. You are truly the original Ms. Funnybones with so much of earthiness!”

 

The Scolding Hierarchy

Despite having sufficient resources to mete out a good scolding by themselves, mothers usually summon the father to do it. We are not sure when this practice gained eminence, but it is firmly entrenched in today’s home affairs.

And, it is killing the dads.

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The situation at home today is – the errant kid has forgotten his revision handouts in the school locker. He has no way to prepare for the test. Mother has borrowed handout from diligent-neighbourhood-classmate.

The objective – The father has to scold the kid on two counts (1) Having forgotten the handout (2) For pretending that there is no test / no revision material, despite several inquiries.

The scolding has to be delivered in the presence of the mother who will be a fly on the wall. At least, till she can afford to.

Take 1

F : “Why have you not studied for the test?

K :  **confused**

F (holding up the borrowed handout): ‘Go revise. This is not acceptable.’

Time out has been called.

Father has been explained the problem at hand. Once again.

Take 2

F : “Why did you not tell us there is a test?’

K : **does customary head-hanging**

F : ‘I want you to revise this stuff before lunch. Do YOU UNDERSTAND? Go to your room now.’

Time out has been called again.

Father is coached again, this time in a low, menacing tone.

Take 3

F : ‘What is this?’ (holding up the handout)

K : Theme handout.

F : ‘So, what is your problem? Can’t you revise it?’

Mother has to intervene now (yelling at father) : ‘Are you doped or something? I have explained four times that this is a borrowed handout and he did not even tell me about the test.’

F : ***deer-in-headlight-look***

K : ***relieved-that-father-has-taken-his-place***

Both guys have been yelled at and thrown out of the room.

 

 

The Case of the Disappearing Bookstores

Another bookstore has shut down. I am standing where it was, gaping at the spanking new toy store that has opened in its place.

I am devastated.

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But, I don’t want to lament about the loss of the reading habit or resort to emotional appeals here. I think bookstores also need to think their strategy afresh.

Bookstores have not changed much over the last few decades – same old shelves stacked with books, same old stationery section, and same old discounted shelves. I don’t see any innovation out there.

Look at vegetables for instance. From mud-encrusted raggedy heaps sold on carts to sorted, shiny stacks to cut veggies in boxes: lots has been happening there.  Why not in the book world?

We can crib that the reading habit is declining. No one likes to read books. But, then, no one likes to eat spinach either. We don’t give up on that front, right? We stuff it in ravioli, we sneak it in in raitas, and layer it in parathas. Because we know it’s good for us! The same holds true for books.

Bookstores need to innovate to sell better. Here are my ideas:-

  1. Have a store-in-store in toy shops. Have offers which bundle toys with them.
  2. Have florists add books in bouquets. Bouquets are themed around flowers. How about theming them around books? Like a ‘humour’ bouquet or a ‘love’ bouquet.
  3. Encourage weddings to include them as return gifts.
  4. Create hampers, like the ones we see with jams and bakes. Books and bakes! Position them for special events like baby showers and bridal parties.
  5. First book, then burger – Have roaming sales-people asking parents to buy the kids a book, then a burger.
  6. Have store-in-store in beauty parlours telling ladies to make their minds also beautiful.Package books with creams and lotions.
  7. Have roaming sales-people in tech-parks. Maybe, where they congregate to smoke. Tell them to fire their imagination before snuffing out their lungs.
  8. Have book-themed birthday parties. This way. bookstores can add a new revenue stream. Imagine how lovely would it be for kids to have a Harry Potter-themed party with the books as return gifts?
  9. Tie up with outbound specialists for book-themed treks/water sports/walks. How about a trek in the Himalayas built around Ruskin Bond’s books?
  10. Beer and Books: Get breweries to have drinking games based on books. The last man standing gets a beer and books hamper!

Bookstores need to move out of bookstores. If they don’t come to you, you go to them. Don’t give up please. It’s a war out there. If you cannot re-strategize to win it, who can?

 

Band, Baaja, Boys…and lots of laughs

BBB-front coverBA-pass Brajesh sold bras in Manphodgunj. Perhaps his destiny was sealed the day Babuji named him Bra-jesh. Under normal circumstances, Brahmins were not supposed to be businessmen. But Kumud Bajpai had brought along a hosiery shop as dowry and there was no looking back. Only front.

One glance and Brajesh could estimate, ‘Madam, 38D will be perfect.’

Together, they had produced and raised Binny, their twenty-year-old daughter who they lovingly called a ‘happy-go-lucky’ girl: happy to spend her father’s money while different fellows got lucky.

Now, Binny was in love with Rahul, or, to be more precise, his situation. You see, Rahul was a rich man’s son and stayed in a palatial bungalow with an army of alert minions. When they yelled, ‘Ramu, Tiwari, Jagdamba’,  servants would jump out of the pores of the house in an instant to serve them.

But, unknown to her, Raja was in love with her and had won over Brajesh’s heart by eliminating goon Ramlal from the encroachment next to Kumud Hosiery and Bedding.

To complicate things further, her parents were looking for a suitor. She had asked best friend, Manjul with feigned exasperation,

Marriz… marriz… why human beens need to do a marriz? Why?

Manjul was a pious girl, easily outraged into calling out to God.

Let’s help Chumki elope with Azhar. Hey Bhagwaan.

Let’s eat two-two ice-creams. Hey Bhagwaan.

Let’s adopt a puppy-dog. Hey Bhagwaan.

Binny’s latest plan was so alarming that Manjul was compelled to summon all possible gods, some even borrowed from other religions, to express her utter and complete shock.

Will Binny choose from between ‘gorment’-job-holder-Tarun and Sanskari-N.R.I Harsh?

How long will Brajesh be able to keep the suitors on hold with excuses like,

My mother’s death-birthday is coming.

Kumud’s chacha has became a widow.

Our family pandit himself is in Planet Saturn.

Will Binny execute her dangerous plan?

Band, Bajaa, Boys! is here to take you on the laugh-o-coaster of your life!

 

The book is now available on Amazon and Flipkart.

https://www.flipkart.com/band-baaja-boys-english/p/itmehgfggdq2hdzu?pid=9789381506837&srno=s_1_2&otracker=search&lid=LSTBOK9789381506837FFE3VM&qH=35217d5aa88357c2

http://www.amazon.in/Band-Baja-Boys-Rachna-Singh/dp/9381506833/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471851985&sr=8-1&keywords=rachna+singh

So, just be nice and order a copy please. Don’t keep asking me ‘Where is it available?’ unless you want a free lobotomy.

p.s. : I use bare hands for all surgical procedures.

‘Friend-Power’ for my new book!

My new book which I reckon as my best work so far is ready for release. Now, the familiar question – how do I market it? I see some of these things happening on social media. And I have decided not to pick any from this list

1.Posting the celebrity-holding-my-book photo: I don’t know any celebrity, even any out-of-work movie star currently featuring on Dance India Dance. The only one I might have access to is Choodsandra’s local don, Chaaku Seena. But, he won’t know the front cover from the back cover and that could be a challenge.

2. Becoming my own ‘liker’ and ‘reviewer’ : Some reviews on book-sites make me suspicious. Seems the author himself has posted a glowing review under an assumed name. I don’t want to do it. Unless one of my multiple personalities takes over and does it for me.

3. Asking other authors to promote my work – It’s like a dentist asking a peer-dentists to market her. Won’t they just prefer plucking out all their teeth without anaesthesia instead? Besides, most authors have their own ‘Author Stack’ they create in their heads. They consider the ones above them in the stack as  ‘bad writers who got lucky’ and the ones below them as ‘bad writers trying to get lucky’. I don’t even figure in anyone’s stack. I am in the soil below it.

So, what should I do? I have learnt one thing during these five years as a writer – the book will market itself if it’s good. I know it from experience now.

Hence all I will do is hope that my friends don’t make excuses and just pick a copy the moment it is out. From a bookstore or Amazon/Flipkart. And, write an honest review when they are done.

I really hope they do.

If they like it, maybe recommend to their friends or pick multiple copies as birthday/baby shower/anniversary gifts.

Frankly, I am tired of friends saying –

Hey, I did not find it in <some> bookstore.

I am meaning to pick a copy. Will do soon.

Is it available on Amazon?

Give me a free copy.

What’s the name of the book, again?

I have hope: maybe the book will do well just because it’s good and my ‘friend-power’ will carry it on its wings!

BBB-front cover

The Salim-Khan Syndrome

Would Salman Khan turned out different if Salim Khan did not make it his parental duty to always defend him? Would the black buck be still alive? Would the ‘unmanned’ car that killed pedestrians not done that? And, would ‘Being Human’ not be just a label on his tee?

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I encounter parents like Salim Saab all the time – dogged ostriches who have pulled three bagfuls of wool over their eyes and rely only on their young one’s yarn. I also spot (much fewer) parents who are quick to blame their ward for any offence committed in a 100-yard perimeter of the hapless youngster!

First, let’s tackle the former. A mother tells me how her daughter has always been singled out, teased and made fun of in school. I immediately feel sad for the teen. Then, I hear a different, rather surprising version from her school-friends.

‘She’s always bragging, looking down upon us, and is mean to us.’

More versions are offered from either side. I am flummoxed. I don’t know which one to trust! But, what is clear is that there are clearly two distinct, very different personas this child possesses.

‘My boy never hits first.’

or

‘My daughter would never hurt anyone.’

are some statements that parents often use as a comfortable duvet to hide under. Maybe, their insecure conscious has taken a hammer and pummelled any dreg of conflicting thoughts into the safety of the unconscious. Creating a world-view that absolves their children is, perhaps, a self-protecting mechanism.

What kind of children are they bringing up? Would these children grow up to have a balanced view on the social equations they create? Would they, instead, have a warped self-image and a sense of entitlement?

On the other hand, I have met parents who are quick to pull their kids by the collar even at the slightest hint of accusation. Maybe, they are acutely sensitive individuals, perhaps bullied as kids or have an acute need to be perceived as likeable and fair.

‘How did she fall down from the swing? Did you push her?’

‘How come you scored so well? Did you cheat?’

Is it possible that these parents are denting the confidence of their children? Like they are always wearing invisible boxing gloves on hands that are forever aimed just below the kid’s ear?

I am no parenting expert. All I know is that I notice these two diverse parenting styles acutely. Back in our days, this problem did not exist. As long as parents knew how many kids they had and on which tree they were perched on for most part of the day, life went on fine. Today, we are more discerning and hands-on, for a number of reasons. But, does that mean we hold a mirror to review our styles? Not that often, I feel.