Sunday, October 16, 2011


The Victorians were particular about the unmentionable remaining unmentioned. Like their beloved queen, they were ‘not amused’ by explicit descriptions of body functions, sex or the printed uttering of cuss words. Authors used euphemism and innuendo and skirted with ‘bold’ description to titillate the imagination. And they succeeded!

Today’s authors prefer to be more explicit. They let it all hang out, leaving nothing whatsoever to the imagination and relying more on the gut reaction. For me, the journey in literature has been from the classic coy to the current crass. For crass I find it to be. I hear people tell me not to be a prude, that there is honesty and openness in such writing, that I should understand the need to scratch the itch. Surely, most of what I read has been a part of personal experience? Yes, it is. But I do not need such experiences to be highlighted in fluorescent technicolour. There is nothing cathartic in knowing about another’s similar embarrassments or urges. It seems derisively voyeuristic.

This brings us to the age old debate about creative liberty and integrity. What seemed outrĂ© a hundred years ago, is today pathetically innocuous. My prohibited ‘damn’ (go wash your mouth with soap!) has been replaced with the ubiquitous F word (get with it man, everyone uses it). Art should feel no boundaries. I agree. Let every artist, writer, composer do what he loves best: what moves him and what inspires him will also inspire others with like vision and taste. My criterion for inclusion or exclusion of explicit content is simply this: Is it necessary? If not, then why?

As for my personal taste, I prefer the finely tuned description, the well crafted plot, the lilt of the language, the glorious use of tint and hue, light and shade and, most of all, the opportunity to let my imagination do its own thing and go wild.

P.S. To make a point, 'hornswoggle' is so much more evocative than 'load of c--p'. Thanks, Capt. Craddock (or is it Haddock?)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Falling in love again…

At first glance he seemed large and lugubrious. Even a bit ungainly. But there was something about him that captivated me and I asked for an introduction. He was very polite and stepped forward to take my hand, but his response was disinterested, almost dismissive. I was piqued. I am usually well received and most are happy to make my acquaintance. I may not be outgoing but neither am I unfriendly. And, in this case, I put on my best smile and offered an enthusiastic ‘hello, so pleased to meet you.’

I volunteered some small talk, but there was none forthcoming in return – just a glance to concede his awareness of my presence and my voice. He is young; not yet old enough for the taciturnity he projects. So how could I make him notice me, pay me more attention?

I began to look out for him so as to make it seem as if I had bumped into him just by chance. At every opportunity, I offered a warm smile and an even warmer ‘hello’. All I received was a perfunctory glance in return. Sometimes, there seemed to be a glimmer of something more. Perhaps an attempt to take the conversation beyond the initial overtures, but that was all it was. He would shuffle a little closer, rearrange his features, give the impression that he was clearing his throat and then, nothing. He would relapse into a personal reverie.

What were his interests? How did he pass his time? Perhaps if I could get a handle on these, I would be able to excite his attention. He was definitely not shy. One time I touched him, letting my hand linger just a fraction longer than necessary and he did not withdraw. But neither did he react. Indifference? To me? Surely not!

It has been a very long time since I lost my heart so thoroughly and I am not one to give up easily. A visit to his home might constitute an invasion of privacy, so I dropped in at the workplace instead. Once again, he was very polite and rose to receive me, but it was his colleagues who were happy to converse with me while he returned to his seat and an inner world. Contemplation seems to be his forte.

His colleagues love him too. They do not find him as remote as I do, and prefer to term him placid and easy-going. They are made happy just by his presence. I am not so easily satisfied. I find out what he likes best and take my leave. On my next visit, I bring him a gift. He accepts it willingly, takes it to his place where he examines it more thoroughly, giving it all his attention. He follows this up by a thoughtful glance in my direction. Hopefully, I have found a chink in his armour and the next time he will be a little more welcoming, a little more interactive. With time, I will be able to make him like me at least a little. I will have to be satisfied with only 'a little', for I know that he belongs to another and I could never make him completely mine.

A two-year old Golden Labrador should not be all that difficult to woo!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Snip, snip, snip!

The Greeks have been advised to give their debt a haircut. It’s all over the news! When talks began about austerity measures, trimming the debt and cutting back, it was inevitable, given the flexibility and adaptability of the English language, that ‘one word covers all’ would be used – so, haircut it is.

My own overgrown tresses occasioned some sharp reminders that mop-head suited me better than matronly and ‘When are you getting that haircut?’ became a frequent interjection in conversations. When the news, too, was peppered with the ‘H’ word, I took it to heart and decided it was now or never. With both trepidation and misgiving, I did a quick tic-tac-toe and opted for a local salon, a stone’s throw from my home.

There is a history behind my hair cuts and a reason for the reluctance. My earliest memories are of a pudding bowl. The ayah would place a large pudding bowl over my head – large enough to just cover the ears – and then trim around the edge, cutting off any hair that was visible. The final touch would be the fringe which was trimmed to just above the eyebrows. Simple, effective and neat if somewhat unimaginative.

An army lifestyle usually meant far flung outposts and no hairdressing salons worth the mention. We were serviced by the travelling barber who knew the date and the time without benefit of cell-phone, I-pod or electronic reminder. On the appointed day and time, he would turn up on our doorstep, kit in hand, and we would take our turns in the ‘chair’. Father first, I next and Mother last. Those were the days of the ‘bob’ and he managed to make us look quite presentable! Occasional visits to Bombay included a trip to Madame Jacques at the Hotel Taj Mahal. Coiffeuse to the elite, she always greeted all customers with a smile and exquisite courtesy. My turn in the chair required ‘just a trim’ (trims were cheaper than a full hair cut), but Madame J was a true professional and she would put in that little bit extra with scissors and comb to give me the perfect ‘look’.

When her eponymous salon closed down, we shifted loyalties to Rocco. He was a short, dapper, voluble, jovial Italian who flirted outrageously with his clients, age notwithstanding, and a visit to his salon was a treat. Here, too, was perfection. You could shut your eyes, enjoy the teasing banter and walk out with your crowning glory exactly that. He eventually shut shop and returned to his native Italy.

Marriage took me away from the locality and I made friends, in turn, with Sarah, Lolly and Eula who worked from home and kept my tresses in trim. Then, we returned to Colaba. The years in-between had seen many changes. Now, there was a plethora of boutique salons with intimidating protocol and even more intimidating prices. I opted for the easy way out. Hubby and I would visit his barber, in tandem, and sit beside each other for a ‘his and hers’. Safely escorted, it was always a happy experience.

This time, I needed to pluck up courage and venture out on my own. So, a ladies' salon it had to be. The girl assigned to me looked at my rueful expression and asked the reason. I told her that a ‘first time’ hair cut and a visit to the dentist were on par. She smiled, judged the height from the top of my head and pumped the chair so that it rose some four inches – more memories of the dentist! Well, I am happy to say that I have survived the experience; my head and my purse are considerably lighter and it will, hopefully, be at least six months before I have to work up my courage again.

There are many things that are better for being short and sweet and that goes for my hairstyle too!