Saturday, November 28, 2009


Time flies when you're having fun, so the old saying goes. But time also flies when you're having a miserable time, when you're not doing anything great, or if life is so-so, or if you're just doing everyday things and achieving nothing in particular. That's one thing about time that will never change: it flies.

It's hard to believe that it's already the end of November. Another month and this year will be over, and before you know it the new year will be upon us, hurtling us towards middle age and then old age and wrinkles and senility and gray hair and eventually death. Scary, isn't it?

A few days ago I played a game on Facebook called Social Interview where FB asked me 21 random questions. One of the questions was "Have you learned anything this year?" I didn't have any answer to it. I didn't learn anything new, I didn't learn how to play the guitar (which I've tried but I'm hopeless at), didn't learn how to dance, or paint, or play chess better. I didn't learn how to be a better person, how to communicate better with others, how to improve my social skills, or how to be more forgiving and not hold any grudges. I didn't learn anything new about the world around me, I didn't read about Greek mythology which I find quite fascinating but about which I know very little. I started reading Ramayana but other books interfered and I am still somewhere on the first one hundred pages. I didn't finish reading The Bible, didn't even finish reading my Daily Bread. To cut a long story short: I was lazy.

If there's anything I hate, it's laziness. I hate people who are inefficient and unproductive and incompetent. More than that, I hate people who don't try. And here I am being everything I hated, being everything I detested. What is the world coming to? Am I spiralling down towards complete inefficiency and slowly turning into a lazy lout? Is my life without purpose, without any goals, am I just drifting along?

This new year I wrote that I wouldn't be making any New Year resolutions. Because I never keep them. And so I didn't, and here I am now at the tail end of the year, doing exactly the same thing I did eleven months ago, my daily routine the same as ever. Would I be better off if I had made some resolutions when the year began? Would I have made some changes in my life if I had promised to do so? Maybe yes. Resolutions are like goals, like reminders, you need to work towards achieving them. They fill your life with purpose, with objectives, and give you a sense of fulfillment when you keep them. And in some way keep you from being lazy.

Have you ever noticed how one day goes so slowly but the months and the years just fly by? Everyday we go to work hoping the month would end so we can get paid, and one fine morning we wake up and realise that a whole year had gone by waiting for the month-end. Every new year I'd always write how I wished it would be a better year, a more productive and more fruitful year, but somehow somewhere along the way I guess I must have lost track because I always end up in the same spot when the last day of the year rolled around.

So will I be making resolutions next year? I don't know, maybe I will, only time will tell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


To be precise: comic books, as Thompson would have said (that’s Thompson with a P, as in pneumonia). We have always referred to comic books as comics, hence the title.  Not to be confused with those funny men who make people laugh, although in the true sense they are the real comics, but we didn’t know that when we were kids, did we?
I have always enjoyed reading comics. And I guess you do too. Comics are easy to read, funny, easy on the eyes, entertaining and sometimes educating. Which child doesn’t love reading them? I bet most of you would have grown up reading the occasional comic book. Even in this day and age I still read them; they bring out the child in me along with wonderful memories. Before I fell in love with books, I discovered comics and the love story continues unto this day.

My cousins were as mad about comics as I was, and we would spend hours raiding each other’s collections. One cousin in particular had a huge collection and I think his collection was always the worst hit. My mother would tell us about the day when we were very young when he came to our house. It seemed he sat in the sitting room all by himself and would laugh out occasionally. So when my mother went to investigate what was making him laugh so much it turned out he was reading Sudden Muanga. 

Phantom is always the first character that comes to mind when discussing comics. The Ghost Who Walks, The Man Who Cannot Die, living in the skull cave and tirelessly fighting crime and making the word a peaceful place to live in. And that famous opening line “For those who came in late….”  And of course any Phantom fan would be familiar with the old jungle sayings – “Phantom moves faster than lightning” “You never find the Phantom, he finds you.” “Call the Phantom anywhere, and he will hear.” Find more Old Jungle Sayings here. And how can we forget Hero and Devil, his faithful companions, and his two rings, and the Bandar, Old Man Mozz, Rex, Diana, Guran, the deep woods, the skull throne, the list could go on and on.

I looked up Phantom and was amazed to learn that the first Phantom comic strip was published in 1936. Its creator, Lee Falk, also created Mandrake the magician, another favourite.  Mandrake was first published in 1934. We were amazed by the many magic “tricks” performed by Mandrake, although many times it was explained that it was hypnotism. Lothar, his companion, his girlfriend Narda who lived in Xanadu,  his many enemies, most famous of all the group 8, whose leader the mysterious Octon who was never seen and always addressed the members from behind a curtain, or was it through a speaker? I’m not so sure anymore.  One story I can never forget is that of the Invisible Man, who it turned out had worn a special kind of fabric that deflected light or something like that making him invisible. Mandrake sprayed paint on him and he was revealed.

Thanks to Indrajal Comics these wonderful comic books found their ways into our homes and our hearts.  Other comics which I can remember were Flash Gordon and his many adventures in space, his partners Dale and Dr Zarkov, and good old Bahadur - the man with the muscle, Rip Kirby the detective, and Timpa. Do you remember Timpa and his grandfather? Although he never had a comic book dedicated to him, the adventures of Timpa were often seen on the last few pages of the regular comic books.  And then there were Garth and Dara, but I didn’t read them much.

Next stop –Archie. Ah now I can see the smiles on your faces. Who doesn’t read Archie comics? My favourite character is Jughead, followed by Mr. Lodge. Then there were other comics like Katy Keene, Richie Rich, Disney comics, and Famous Five. There was a time when I was mad about MAD, that was the time before the Indian edition came out, and I would buy secondhands.  I bound all my MAD magazines in one fat book, and a nephew borrowed it and that was the last time I ever saw it.  So if you ever come across something like that, with my name written on it, please keep it safe for me.

Do you remember those girls comics? Black and white, always about a young girl, and the name of the comics would always be girls’ names, like Bunty, Mandy etc.  They were also very popular, and you also have the romantic comics of the same type.  Oh and also Blue Jeans, the ones with the photographs in it, somewhat like Photoromance.  Ahh Photoromance, Kiss… I think every girl growing up in the 70s-90s must be aware of them. Before we started reading the M&Bs they were our staple diet, our only source of romantic stories.  A  google search tells me that they were published from Lancio in Rome, Italy from around 1975 to 1991. No wonder all the actors were Italian.

Westerns and Commando.  Small, black and white, but very interesting and very informative.  Cowboys and their lives fascinated us. The Commando books were almost always about World War II, and of course the Germans and the Japanese were always the villains. But those comics taught us a lot about history.  I wish I could read them again. If I’d known they would be so precious and valuable I would have kept them safe and never lent them to anyone. But that’s the thing with comics. They are continuously circulated. We would have a trunk full of comics, but none of them would be ours. And if you go and check out other people’s collection you would probably find the same thing, and many of the times your own comic books.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a few Tintin comic books. Tintin is easily one of my most favourite comic books. There is mystery, adventure, international conspiracies, and Captain Haddock is there for the fun element. And also the Thomson twins.  But my favourite character is not Tintin or the  Captain, it is Jolyon Wagg, the annoyingly cheerful salesman who always turns up at the most unlikely places and could never get a hint.

If Tintin comes, can Asterix be far behind?  The small Gaul hero with his faithful partner Obelix. I love Asterix as much as I love Tintin. The best thing about the Asterix series is the names, my favourite being Unhygienix the fishmonger. Vitalstatistix, Getafix, Cacofonix, Impedimenta, Fulliautomatix, Geriatrix etc – all the names are suited to their occupation and personality.  And the Roman soldiers are extremely funny, one common dialogue among them being “Join the army they said, it’s a man’s life they said” (usually just before or after they are beaten up by the Gauls). Asterix turned 50 recently , on 22 October 2009.  For this occasion Albert Uderzo has created an album of Asterix short stories -  Asterix and Obelix's Birthday - The Golden Book.

Calvin and Hobbes is a recent favourite. The imaginative six year old boy and his stuffed tiger that comes alive only when no one is around.  Do you know that the last Calvin and Hobbes comic book was published in 1996? I’ve tried collecting them but they are too expensive, but I’m still hoping to have all the books in the series.

Oh boy this is turning into one long rambling post. But I’m not yet finished. I mentioned Sudden Muanga earlier, another character that never failed to entertain us. Of course I’m talking about the old Sudden Muanga, when he was still a skinny cowboy without a care in the world, before he turned political and religious and became boring. His horse Daii, his sidekick Hleizuama, his lady love Tumsangi, and his love of Saum.

 I still read comics. The first thing I read in a newspaper is the comics section. I have recently taken up collecting comics again, but this time I will not lend them to anyone, no matter how much they plead or beg or grovel.       

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Passing the Purple Hat

A friend sent me an email, one of those chain mails, titled "Passing the purple hat." I don't know how to describe it, so let me just paste it here:

"In honor of women's history month and in memory of Erma Bombeck who lost her fight with polycystic kidney disease after undergoing a kidney transplant at the age of 69. Here is an angel sent to watch over you."

I was shocked. Erma Bombeck is one of my favourite authors. I never knew she was dead; I just assumed she would be still alive somewhere and would be a funny old lady. She'd died in 1996, much before I'd ever heard of her. I obviously didn't do my homework and looked her up.

"Erma Louise Bombeck (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996), was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers." - Wikipedia.

I was introduced to Erma when I read an article of hers in Reader's Digest; I think it was around 2002-03. The article was short, but funny, and could be about any family anywhere in the world. As was most of her books. She wrote about family life, mostly her family. She had two sons and a daughter, and like any family they had their arguments, fights, eccentricities and funny moments. It was written from a housewife's point of view, but besides being funny her books always have a good message at the end, like how much she loved her family no matter what happened, how lucky she was to be blessed with three beautiful children etc etc.

Any mother reading Erma Bombeck’s books would instantly identify with her, in fact all of us could in some way or the other identify with some character or the other in her books. After all, we were all teenagers once, and most of us would have grown up with a couple of siblings and would know a thing or two about sibling rivalry and the usual petty fights. Socks that don't match, children fighting at the dinner table, children fighting to see who would get the window seat in the car while travelling, the joys and travails of having a dog / any other pet, children doing homework at the very last minute, children avoiding household chores, couples fighting, exercising, varicose veins, advice from mothers, and other thousand everyday situations could be found in her books. I simply love the way she writes, for example –

Ever since I can remember, our home has harbored a fourth child - I.Dunno. Everyone sees him but me. All I know is, he’s rotten.
“Who left the front door open”?
“Who let the soap melt down the drain?”
“Who ate the banana I was saving for the cake?”
Frankly, I.Dunno is driving me nuts.

See? How can you not love her? How can you not identify with her or with the situation? So go to your nearest bookstore and pick up all the Erma Bombeck books you can lay your hands on. Satisfaction guaranteed. She also has a lot of funny quotes, look them up, I assure you they will leave a smile on your lips.

Coming back to the email I received – it went on like this –


I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's." More "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it, live it and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff.

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.

Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Let's think about what God HAS blessed us with. And what we are doing each day to promote ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally. I hope you all have a blessed day.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Long and Short of it

Of hair. A hairstyle goes a long way in defining how you look; it can make you or break you.  No wonder all of us our obsessed with it. Well, obsessed may be a tad strong, maybe concerned, or worried. I think I swing between obsessed and concerned, that’s how worried I am about my hair and how it makes me look. Lord knows I am no beauty queen and I need all the help I can get from my hair to make me a little more presentable and look-able.  And so I am constantly chopping off my hair in search of the perfect hairstyle so that I can hopefully come close to being a sight for sore eyes, not that I harbour any illusions that I will end up looking like a movie star.

As kids my sister and I longed for long flowing hair, but my mother would have none of it. And my sister was quite unfortunate in that she went to PC Girls School, the prescribed haircut there being hair should be so short the tip of your ears should be visible, and no hair falling on the eyes - the eyebrows should be clearly visible. In short, the helmet hair.  She endured nine years of that.  Even though I went to a different school I sported the same style. We would take a bedsheet or shawl or long piece of cloth and tie it around our heads so that it falls down on our backs and we’d pretend it was our hair. And during the corn season we would take the golden coloured corn hair and put it on our heads and for a while feel very good about ourselves.

I sported the helmet look until I was sixteen, when my mother finally allowed me to grow it long. It was supposed to feel good, to feel grown up, having long hair, but I discovered it really was no big deal. It was the same hair which I’d had for years – thin, brown, fine, albeit a little longer. I duly wore it long for about four years, until I yearned for hassle free hair that doesn’t need combing and doesn’t stick to your neck on hot summer days, so I cut it short. Very short. Big mistake. I looked like a schoolboy. A boy friend said I looked like a madman. It took a couple of years for my hair to get back to normal. By normal I mean shoulder length. I then patiently let it grow, trimming the edges now and then. But the grass is always greener on the other side and quite a few times I had gone over and tried something new, but never anything as drastic as the schoolboy look. Currently I am somewhere between the schoolboy and the shoulder length, you know one of those short-at-the-top-but-a-bit-long-in-the-back kind of thing.

All said and done, I still like short hair. Sure, long hair is beautiful, it makes one feminine and graceful and your crowning glory, men are crazy about it etc etc, and I love long hair, but not on me.  When I see girls with long smooth hair I’d go “Wow it’d be nice having hair like that” but the moment my hair goes past my shoulders I strain my neck looking for the nearest place where I can chop them off.

Short hair is confident, it is sexy, and it is self-assured. But long hair is embedded in our minds as the symbol of beauty, fertility and whatnot, even in our stories the beautiful maiden always has long flowing silky hair. You’d never hear of the heroine in a helmet haircut waiting to be rescued from the dragon, or the bald beauty locked up in a tower waiting for her prince, or the strand of shoulder length hair that impressed a king so much he sent his men looking for the maiden to whom it belonged.

Men are hairier than women. They have hair in places we don’t.  So I think it is only natural that they should be the ones with long hair and we women should all go tonsured. Then they can talk with their men friends about shampoos and conditioners and colours and styles and hairbands and hairclips. And women can talk about head polish and head cream and head lotions and head perfume and head makeup. It’d be fun.

But that is just a theory. A figment of my imagination. I hate men with long hair. Men with long hair should be punishable by law. Men don’t look good with long hair unless they are sportspersons or rock stars. The average guy on the street who thinks he looks real cool with his slick ponytail or gelled shoulder length hair makes me want to go on a hunger strike. Not to mention it makes him look like the guy in a porn movie. And adds years to his face.  So if you want to look like an aging  B grade actor, go ahead, avoid that barbershop. And if I see you the streets I would pretend not to know you. It'd be fun.