So Old

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I think of my Grandpa’s 94 years and wonder what it must be like to be so, so old - born in one century, living and lying in wait in another. 

It must be moles and watching the spittle fly as you chew your food. It’s counting wrinkles on the hand and the teeth left in the mouth before the grandchildren come home. How many more Cadbury bars before I die? 

Whiskey for apple juice, apple juice for whiskey. Something to keep the blood flowing while the soul slowly winters. The toenails are curling into the skin and the skin at the ankle is now an itch. The veins are splotches of red and blue and purple where your hands can’t reach. 

It’s pillow talk till the eyes dim when the lights are still ablaze. It’s cobwebs in the hair and musty sandwiches and little kittens gnawing. Now at the bread crumbs and now your toes. 

Ma

 aratikumarrao writes about a lady she met in Rajasthan:

I met a lady that day. 
She seemed glad to see me. We got chatting. I asked her what she liked most to cook. She couldn’t understand the question. I asked again, of all the things she knows to make, what does she enjoy most. What would she make for herself? She fell silent and smiled. Clearly unsure.

A Brahmin standing nearby translated my question into marwari, and repeated in hindi. Then she said, “i dont know. Anything you ask me to make.”

That day they asked her to make a over a hundred rotis for a puja. 
#traildiaries

With that one nugget, Arati explained my mother to me.

If I ask my mother what is the one thing she’d want, she’s sure to say “I want my daughter to get married” or “My daughter should settle down” or something along those lines. Her happiness, her wants are not her own. 

Where there was a deep dislike for this pathological habit of appropriation, now there’s only understanding. Her dreams were not hers - they’re my father’s, her mother’s, mine. I see her now as a woman whose ambitions and hobbies all rolled into one and she couldn’t tell one from the other. 

I don’t know the woman who’s also my mother. I only know Mom, the “brown/yellow woman, fingers smelling always of onions.” 

Culture & Greetings

On Kaif Haalak:

In many Middle Eastern cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik/haal-ak? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh?

How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”

When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know. 

Kittens for Adoption in Bangalore

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We have four kittens Chorizo, Yoga, Lily and Sherpa who are looking for loving homes here in Bangalore. Born on July 31st, the kittens are now 3 months old, potty-trained and completely weaned off their mommy, KitKat.

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Chorizo also known as Zooey. Chorizo loves eating, sleeping and being carried and cuddled. He spends all his waking time grooming his BFF, Yoga.

Yoga Bear or Yoga is a sweet calm babygirl who loves stretching, meditating and striking poses on the treadmill. If you’re a lady who wears red nail paint, Yoga will love you instantly. 

Sherpa - this feisty li'l boy is a ball of energy. He loves belly rubs, a good meal and chasing Lily’s tail.

Lily is so named because she was the runt of the litter. She was the underdog, this spirited little bow-wow. But she’s a cat and she’s tiny so she’s Lilliput. Lily, for short. Lily and her forever companion Sherpa love the outdoors, chasing flies and tugging tails.

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You can’t buy happiness but you can adopt it.

The Surprisingly Delightful Indian Passport Renewal Process

Of 3 months of procrastination, 30 minutes at the PSK and 3 days of waiting for the passport

I recently applied for my passport's renewal on the MEA site. As recently as 3 months ago. 

I filled out a PDF form on Acrobat Reader (this is important), converted it to XML, uploaded it to the MEA site. Scheduled a 'Normal’ appointment for June 22nd, paid Rs 1500 but applied for a Tatkal passport, then God-promised that I’d arrive at the PSK with Rs 2000 in cash. 

Then I procrastinated. 

On the appointed day, I woke up at brunch o'clock and figured there’s no way I’d make it to Mangalore by 12 pm. I logged into the MEA site and rescheduled it to July 22nd.

Then I had a realization.

I had to fly out of the country on July 27th but hey, Tatkal passport takes 3 days, right? No sweat. Till Chapman at office reminded me of my Calamity Joy status whilst pointing me to an article that said the Passport Seva Kendra in Bangalore only had 17,000 booklets. Because: The supply of booklets dried up as the India Security Press in Nashik, Maharashtra, was closed between end of December 2013 and January 2014.

Then I was empty-threatened by the MEA site.

The MEA site told me this was my last shot at rescheduling after which I’d have to start the process all over again. If you’ve met the MEA site and uploaded the Passport Application form even once, you’ll know what an empty threat that is. 

So I rescheduled it to August 22nd, requested Mom to bait me with beef sukka and booked my tickets to Mangalore on Cleartrip. 

I made it to the Passport Seva Kendra in Mangalore on the ordained Thursday thirty minutes ahead of my scheduled 12.15 PM appointment.

For the renewal, since I had a change of permanent address (how is it permanent if it changed? Ha!), the site said that I only needed to take:

  • Self-attested copies of the front and back pages of my passport
  • Address proof for the new permanent address - I carried my Voter ID and the family’s Ration Card

Even the list of acceptable address proofs were helpfully listed out in a PDF.

I waited my turn while Mom upped her anxiety by asking everyone about their imaginary PSK doomsday moments. One lady said she’d been waiting since 9 AM for her husband, another claimed the average appointment length was 4 hours.

Surely it couldn’t be so bad? My friend Suku had had a wonderful experience at the PSK just a couple of months before:

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The security guard announced in the waiting room that it was time for the 12.15 pm appointment folks to queue up. Off I went with my 3 documents (photocopies of the previous passport, Ration Card, Voter ID card) while Mom shouted into the office, “I’ll be back at 3.30 pm!" 

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The TCS staff at the first counter checked my documents, filed them in a brown envelope and sent me into the actual waiting area. This hall had people with coupon numbers and people without, an LCD screen with token numbers appearing on them and no instructions whatsoever about what to do next.

Asking around, I figured I’d only get a token number AFTER my name was announced. It could have been simpler and faster had the guy at the first counter given me a token number. But I’ll over look that.

Ten minutes after receiving the token number, my token number flashed asking me to head to Counter A. After checking my documents and clicking my "passport photo,” the lady dropped a bomb:

But where is your marriage certificate, madam?

But I’m not married, madam!

She apologized and went about with her work. So much pleasantness at a government office? Wha!

Did I want SMS updates on the progress of my renewed passport? Only thirty rupees, ma'am. I handed over a hundred rupee note and apologized that I wasn’t carrying change. Counter A Lady said that wouldn’t be a problem and handed me seventy rupees with a smile. 

At Counter B another official rechecked and verified my details. What do I have to do for a Tatkal passport, I asked. This is for a normal passport, he smiled. That was one too many smiles for a government office. Not wanting to ruin my luck, I shut up and moved on to Counter C.

The lady at Counter C checked my details for accuracy and asked me to collect my receipt at the counter near the exit. 

No awkward moments, no fiddling around with the documents, no veiled asks? This can’t be true. 

At the exit, I was handed a receipt that said I didn’t have to subject myself to a Police Verification and a feedback form. Excellent all the way lest they change something because of one Good hidden away somewhere.

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I stepped out completely flummoxed and checked my watch. 12.45 PM. From the time I entered the office to the time I left, it had taken me all of 30 minutes. 

Two hours later, I received an SMS that my passport had been processed. Thirty minutes later, “Your passport has been printed.” And it wasn’t even dinner time!

By Friday evening, the passport had been quality checked. On Saturday morning, the passport shipped.

Monday morning, the phone beeped an SMS from Mom. “Your passport is here.”

I had my appointment on Thursday, the passport was printed on Friday, shipped on Saturday, received on Monday. 

Origin Myths

Christopher Hitchens detailing out the Virgin birth myths in various world religions and mythologies (what's the difference again?):

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danae as a shower of gold and got her with child.

The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother's flank.

Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli was thus conceived.

The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis.

The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan.

Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka.

Horus was born of the virgin Isis.

Mercury was born of the virgin Maia.

Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia.

For some reason, many religions forced themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street, and even the Koran treats the Virgin Mary with reverence.

- Chris Hitchens, God is Not Great