You say Tomato…

Here’s a (running) list of Indian euphemisms/my translation of words I didn’t understand upon first arrival. I add to this list every so often, as I come across things I find amusing. Some are silly, some make no sense and others make more sense than the intended word:

Choco-block = a hectic day; back-to-back plans

Very okay

Only = for example, ‘I was in Bandra, only.’

Man Friday = someone’s bitch; person that does everything for you; man of many hats

Chums = menstrual period

The use of babe in late 20-somethings vernacular (it’s seriously abused)

Intentional grammar errors = ie: u cud cum ovr tday, pls ty.

Chuck it versus fuck it

When someone pissed you off they ‘irritated’ you

Bang opposite = directly opposite

Faffy = an ass

Off = dead

Revert to as such (people love to use this in professional emails, idk why)

Most welcome = you’re very welcome

The abbreviated use of D to replace THE, re: Whatsapp

Me is busy = I am busy

Half Half in drinking means if you’re not on their level you need to chug half of your glass

Aggro = aggressive

Graffiti Lanes

Graffiti Lanes

Since I came to Bombay 8 months ago, I always got an excited rush when I saw graffiti around town. I stumbled upon the coolest lane I’ve seen so far, Nagrana Lane, in Bandra West and followed the winding lane down till there was no more. I took a ton of photos of the graffiti displayed down the lane, here’s one which I thought was trippy.

Let’s make Paan

Let's make Paan

Commonly eaten after meals, paan is a preparation of betel leaf and areca nut with cured tobacco. Pictured here is a paan-wallah (one who makes paan) readying the leaf for ingestion. One chews on the leaf for some time, taking whatever juices they can from it and eventually spitting out the rest. Although it’s part of Indian culture and generally used to freshen breath, spitting paan has caused the spread of oral cancer, disease and filth across the country. It also stains teeth and is now seen as more of a dirty habit.

Epic Rant

And so it begins…the epic rant that I’ve been avoiding ranting on about. Forgive me for this one but it needs to happen. Ever fiber of my being has tried to convince myself that I was ‘bigger than that’; it was trivial and it didn’t matter so much, that I’d get over it. The last part may be true– I will eventually get over it. But when my chest swells with anger at the very thought of it, I can’t deny it bothers me. What I’m talking about here is a bad haircut.

Hair does something for a woman that other things can’t. I could continue on about the femininity that is attached to hair and how we can often literally get so wrapped up in the stylistic variants and pleasure we woman get from our hair. But that’s not what this post is for. I’m here to rant about the awful haircut that was Shiva’s. I mention his name because if anyone does read this and needs a haircut in Bombay, stay far, far away from his clippers.

By now, I’ve made my rounds at beauty parlors across Juhu to Bandra. There are two I bounce between depending on what services I need. I haven’t gotten a haircut since September, before the big fat Russian/Turkish wedding. My hair didn’t grow out as expected and so I made a mental note to not return there when I was next in need of a cut. My hair grew unruly and difficult to manage. The humidity of Bombay (along with the hard water I supposed and pollution perhaps?) hasn’t exactly worked in my curly girl favor. I’ve come to adjust to life in Bombay but my hair was putting up a very clear fight.

After inquiring about a good hairstylist whom knew how to deal with curly hair I made the quick decision to follow my acupuncturists recommendation of a South Indian hair stylist named Shiva. I’m not South Indian but my hair is comparable to South Indian hair in all its thick and curliness so this seemed promising. “But don’t expect much, he’s very simple. Very good but very simple.” Perfect, I thought. A no frills award winning recommended stylist. “My acupuncturist would never lead me astray!” I thought. I trust her. I decided 5 months ago to trust her and it’s worked in my favor so this seemed no different. I made an appointment for the next day. When I walked in for the cut, I felt uneasy. ‘She wasn’t kidding’. It was beyond no-frills–the salon was dingy, at best. It was located in the posh area of Juhu and I had done my research online about the stylist. Google told me he’s done up most of Bollywood but I had to see it for myself. A part of me screamed ‘get the hell out of there, stat.’ But a bigger part of me said  ‘she warned me I would react this way. Just let it happen, Sonali.

Now to the scene of the crime—I explained to Shiva what I was looking for and he lazily agreed to deliver. I mentioned my nervous nature especially when getting a haircut. I know, I know, I need a hobby or a life, probably both. But again, forget the superficiality of it all and let me rant on. He proceeded to razor cut my hair, which I didn’t know till it was happening. It was all very surreal. I felt slices of hair disappear and before I knew it he handed me a bouquet of my hair, as if it he were being gentlemanly and my hair were a bundle of beautiful roses. I wasn’t able to process that moment until later. Just let it happen, it will come out nice. As the cut continued he had his staff hand me several magazines opening them up to the pages where he was pictured with celebrities and receiving awards. I could feel the anger and confusion building inside. WTF?!?! Is this man insane? I had my hair blown out and I reached towards the back of head. It felt thin, empty and flat. He was in no way interested in understanding how my curls fell or. He was an award-winning, competitive stylist who was also a sham. I came to learn later on that when a salon becomes a chain, many times stylists purposefully cut hair uneven or incorrectly in order to make its clients keep coming back to them. It didn’t make sense to me at first but eventually I came to see it worked; they would manipulate their client into believing their hair was one way or should be a certain way, and would continue to do this until their client actually believed it. Plus people are obsessed with straightening their hair. Curly hair is therefore not appreciated as much and so its rare to find someone who can cut it properly.  Sad but true. For Shiva, he was more interested in showing me his publicity and signs of recognition via beauty magazines.

I was so angry for so long. I told my acupuncturist about it and she suggested I pay him a visit again, that he would fix it. Fix it?! Hell no. I’m never going back there. I was so upset by it all that my anger even showed up in my Acugraph (this is a graph reading acupuncturists do to check your energy levels or chi). I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that I let this fool of man cut my hair and even worse that I cared about it so damn much. Morale of the story: listen to that inner voice when it tells you run far, far away from something. Also, live with your decisions, whatever they may be.

I’m not as angry as I was before. Hair grows back. Life goes on. We must keep moving forward. When you’re in a new city and don’t know better, you’re often reliant on someone else’s recommendation for your needs. No amount of online research could have told me Shiva’s sucked. Maybe bad haircuts are just a part of life. If one were to see my hair now they would like it wasn’t a big deal at all, it’s not as bad as I describe. The perfectionist in me smiles and says, ‘It’s not always going to work out in your favor, now.” All I know is that no matter how much I mature in life, I still feel as though a bad haircut will always certainly put me in a terrible horrible mood. END OF RANT.

Sincerely, 6 Months.

February 16th?! And so I ask, where has time gone? Where oh WHERE did January go? Time is flying by—I’ve been here exactly 6 months to the date. This is the longest I’ve stayed in India since my Pune days, circa 2008.

M has returned to the bitter cold weather of the tri-state. I hear from friends and family that this winter has been particularly awful; snowstorm after snowstorm with huge bursts of chilling wind and freezing rain. Sounds like a mess. A mess I am happy to not be a part of. Although Bombay has its flaws, the weather during this season is extremely pleasant, more so than any other part of India. It’s not humid nor is it too cold. The nights are breezy and the days are still warm enough to forget its mid Feb. There are quite a few people from the States visiting Bombay this time of year, many of whom I’ve met up with for a casual evening out. It’s nice because it lessens the pangs of any lingering homesickness I may feel. Lessens but doesn’t do away with. I came down with a hell of a cold a few weeks back—runny nose, congestion, facial tenderness, the works. I was so incredibly homesick. It came out of nowhere! Perhaps it’s the need for comfort in times of sickness that I become more apt to just let all types of emotions take over me. Homesickness doesn’t happen too often because India has sincerely become a second home to me—I’ve been traveling back and fourth for 6 years—and so it’s become second nature to dive right back into the ‘Indian ways’ once I arrive at CSI airport. I indulged myself in some good old-fashioned comfort foods and chatted with friends from home. Balance, it’s all about maintaining that balance.

I remember my arrival to Bombay airport this time around on August 16th and having the distinct feeling of “So…this is the new normal. Interesting.” The foul smells and broken streets no longer assaulted my senses. It wasn’t because the conditions improved at all but because I got used to it. A voice inside screamed, “This was never supposed to happen!!!” Balu picked Dad and I up from the airport that night and we arrived at a hotel, per usual. Everything we did our first full day out felt so very normal. I hated the familiarity of it all. I wanted to cling onto the idea of India as something else: a place that was removed from home, a foreign land. India as ‘the place I went to heal’ or ‘the land of spirituality and all things eastern’. [SHORT INSERT: I went to a party at Palladium Hotels’ EXO Lounge last month with a friend and I met a woman who worked at the Canadian Consulate. She did not hold back in the least in telling me how much she despised Bombay. She’d worked for the Consulate for many years and lived all over the place, she says. Rio was b yffar her favorite. But Bombay was not a happy match for her. Her job at the consulate is to help foreigners adjust to life in Bombay. What does that entail, you ask? “You know, most people come here to find themselves, seek out spirituality, all that.” I laughed because it was funny and because it was true. I was that person, I told myself. Her man-friend who also worked as a Consulate advisor for a country far more interesting than Canada later entered and I in turn exited to find my friend. END OF INSERT].

I didn’t want the feeling of everything being easy-breezy, plain, almost boring. The India I held onto and always brought back with me to America was becoming something of the past and New India was steadily approaching. This New India (or New Bombay, rather) where I would live and work just didn’t feel as special. It felt serious and dull. It wasn’t only the environment that felt routine to me but I found myself becoming inherently ‘more Indian’. Street beggars tapping at my car window no longer fazed me. I would stare straight ahead and disengage. I treated people differently than I did before; I always on the defense. I began to question everything and everyone around me. Part of my journey in carving out a space for myself here in Bombay clearly came with a large side of paranoia. Eventually I came to recognize it as such and stopped the craziness. I allowed myself to be comfortable with being comfortable here. I guess its safe to say I really started living in Bombay once I let that happen.

New Year, New City

ATTENTION BLOGOSPHERE!

Consider this my “I’m back bitches’ post. After a summer/fall/winter-ish….oh hell let’s face it nearly a year gap, I’m resolving to revive my blog writing ways! My update comes in different forms—I’ve moved to Mumbai so expect pictures, lots of them. And this time since I’m not living in the Boondocks of Bombay aka Chembur, life will be a bit more happening what with the mix of religions in Bandra not to mention the expatty vibe.

To backtrack, I came to Bombay in August of last year. After a series of personal blows I questioned whether I made the right decision by moving to Bollywood. 6 months in and I am happy I pulled through. I had a millions reasons why moving my Jersey-bred butt back to the Garden State made sense. But I stayed here. I knew India had me, at least for now.

Being home for the summer was wonderful. Pools, sunshine, friendship, nothing makes me happier. I was struggling though—physical therapy wasn’t happening despite my best efforts. M’s been with me here for 2.5 months and slowly but surely losing her marbles. She finds ways to keep busy but when its time to go, it’s time to go. And sure enough that time is right around the corner. We had a great end to the year, with two last minute vacations to Turkey in September and Dubai this past week.  I’ve always heard about how man-made Dubai was but I was shocked by the true artificial (oxymoron much?) nature of the city! More on this in another post…Turkey was next level gorgeous, especially so Pamukkale the town where my oldest childhood friend was getting married. My sister joined for the Turkey trip so it was especially special.

Travels, tumults, and triumphs are a good way to sum up these last couple of months. Oh and therapy, lots of physical therapy. Enough alliterations for tonight.

I’ve been working on a new blog that’s not up and running just yet, so stay tuned. Till then TheGait marches forward.

Happy 2014!

 

27 and steady

Although I haven’t been as regular with posting as I would have liked (ahh, the inevitable bloggers-guilt), these past two months have flown by due to bridal duties. I’m not talking my own wedding here but rather friend’s weddings. This downtime has given me a chance to indulge my craft skills by making keepsakes for my bride-to-be friends, planning and hosting a 45-person Russian bridal shower at my house (more on this next week…) and general coordination/detail orientated tasks. Many trips have been made to Michael’s, the art supplies store; it’s really fascinating/rewarding what focused work can achieve! Because I’m asking a lot from my motor functions all of these things take time and can be tiring activities for me. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it (1 AM iPhone notes about decor ideas and keepsake boxes revealed I’m actually into this stuff). Plus it’s always a nice feeling putting a smile on your good friend’s face 🙂

And yes, I age-dropped (my post title) but I guess it’s okay to do that when you’re still in your 20’s.  After 29, it becomes more of a secret. For my birthday this year, I had a wonderful Greek dinner with old friends and their accompanying mothers. It was too adorable. To see friends whom I’ve known for decades and their mothers together with my sister and mum was incredible. Despite the torrential downpour that ensued on the drive over and the odd placement of the restaurant, we doubled over in laughter over our childhood antics and the weirdness we participated in as youths. I drove home, my belly full and mind drunk with happiness, satisfaction and love.

Home Front/Cold Front

‘I never thought I would have to readjust to an American lifestyle’.–This is what I told myself 3 years ago upon returning to NJ after living in Pune for 10 months. I had a serious case of wtf?! moments–no geysers, people obeying traffic rules, privacy, no masses on the streets….you get the picture.

After traveling back and fourth to India many times over, the adjustment becomes easier, the aftershock, less. This time around the overwhelming feeling I had when I arrived home was a peaceful one.’IT IS SO QUIET”. I slept earplug-free for the first time in months. Mind you, I’ve been a troubled sleeper for awhile now, but going from 3 months living on the towns loudest street corner to pin-drop silence will make a sleeper out of you. Trust.

Note: NONE of this is to say that America is better than India, or vice versa. I used to play this game but I’ve come to learn the plus and minuses of both; wonderful and destructive countries in their own ways.

One of the challenges I’m facing right now is the extreme cold front the northeastern US is experiencing. To go from 100 degree weather to 32 degrees is just TOO extreme, for anyone- abled or disabled. But even though I’ve done the trip to and fro India many times over now, one thing remains the same– there is an energy about where I live (NY/NJ) that leaves one feeling unsatisfied; maybe it’s a go-getter attitude or the constant desire to be better than the next person, but I hate it. With dissatisfaction comes guilt, and with guilt comes too many unnecessary emotions. I’ve decided in the time I am here I want to live guilt-free. Does this mean I will go on a murderous rampage or throw temper tantrums at any given stranger? Absolutely-friggin-not (welcome to Jersey). It simply means I will no longer allow myself to give in to the guilt that surrounds me. My battle with guilt began long before my diagnosis with Muscular Dystrophy, but time’s a changing. In the words of Michael J.  Fox (and the Twelve-Step Program):

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’

Now, I finally know the difference.

Hallmark, take note!

I went to a local Archies the other day to purchase a ‘thank you’ card. I was immediately greeted by over-sized teddy bears and balloon hearts, typical V-day leftovers.  I noticed that the store had cards for only two types of people: lovers and students!

National exams are right around the corner here in India and I think its wonderful that cards like these exist. Too often students are academically pressurized to extreme degrees. Here, we have a healthy amount of encouragement to study and do well on exams.

Well done, India!

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