Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday

I made a life decision the other day. I decided to confront one of my big fears. As you may recall, I feel somewhat uncomfortable around the 8-legged creatures that roam the streets and inhabit my bathroom, so I decided to pick myself up by my cheek-bones and just deal with it. It was all very Dr. Phil. The other day I forced myself to just stand there while the beast eyed me up and down and yesterday I had a breakthrough. Everyone at the office knows of my little spider issue and so Sharad called me into his office to see the giant spider lurking under the desk. I may have exaggerated about the size of the spiders in my bathroom, and while this was nowhere near as big as the one I came across in Lucknow, it was large enough to take off a finger if it was so inclined. It had the spindly little legs and looked about as harmless as a spider can. I decided to touch it, and touch it I did. It was only then that Sharad told me that the spider I touched has a chemical or something on it’s body that will cause the skin to blister. Go figure. I ran into the washroom and washed my hands while singing “Happy Birthday”.

Why that particular song? Well, a couple of years ago I was watching Oprah and she did a show about the bacteria and fungus among us and it turns out that for effective disinfecting, one must needs wash one's hands for at least 15 seconds, approximately the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”. Ever since then, I have been having celebrations for one whenever I visit the washroom. So not only did I touch a spider, but I have a near death experience to go with it. Ok, so maybe not near death, but a near near death one.

I live in a flat not of my choosing with furniture that has nothing to do with taste and am now sitting in my living room which is ruled over my a piece of, er, art. It is a framed peacock made entirely of seashells which I assume were collected at the seashore by Suzy. No, not THAT Suzy, a different one, with a “Zee Y”. So in this temple of bad taste and I was surprised by my latest finding this morning. There I was in the bathroom, having one of my celebrations while my dust coughed and wheezed, sniveled and sneezed when suddenly something about the shower curtain caught my attention.

Now, I can honestly say that I have the ugliest shower curtain in the history of showers. And not just one, but 2 of them, side my side. Whenever I have had to look at them, I have developed temporary blindness and just ignored them. I have always been one of those people that need to find the pattern in things and I realized that my shower curtain had no discernable pattern and today my idiosyncrasies got the best of me and I took a better look. The whole design, which I have concluded is supposed to be tulips had the appearance of being handpainted. Handpainted kind-of-tulips on a sort of flimsy rubberlike plastic. And they appeared not to have ben painted by just anyone, but by a 4 year old.

I couldn't resist the temtation to investigate further. I gave them both a thorough going over and indeed, they are both completely hand painted. I was stunned. Not only were these the ugliest shower curtains ever to walk this earth, but they had been created in love. Someone had thought this through, had chosen colors, brushes and made unsuccessful attempts at shading. Yes indeed, they were nothing less than a work of love. And like many works of love, say a lopsided cake, burnt cookies or any piece of macaroni or bean art, it was like an ugly baby, a face that only a mother could find beautiful.

Merry Christmas

For some reason, and I assume it must be the early onset of temporary insanity brought on by the heat and endless mosquitoes, I have had the same song swimming through my head for the past week. When I wake up in the morning, my first thoughts are:

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
It doesn't show signs of stopping
And I've bought some corn for popping
The lights are turned way down low
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

And the oddest thing is, I hate that song. I don’t even like it when it is in season, much less when it is 40 plus degrees outside. Could it be some weird strain of malaria after all? Could I have been bitten by the mosquito of Christmas past? Have I been bah humbugging a bit too much throughout my sub-continental adventure? It’s all very Charles Dickens meets “The Jungle Book” if you ask me. Am I unknowingly delirious and why is it that I am always to last to know when I am having a mental meltdown? Perhaps it is sunstroke. Perhaps I need more liquids. Given all the hot flashes I have been having, I would almost assume I was menopausal, but I highly doubt it. Although if my fading memory serves me correctly, I did read something somewhere that there is such a thing as male menopause. And why not? Why should women have all the fun?

Perhaps I am in need of a holiday. And if I took a holiday, some time to celebrate, just one day out of life, I am sure it would be alright and so next Thursday will find me sitting on the KLM flight to Amsterdam. In fact right about this time, I will be having one of those meals that should be classified as crimes against humanity. I am flying economy class. I make it my personal policy never to travel behind the blue curtain but my work has left me no choice. I will have to ask my friend Mark to try and get me upgraded, or to at least reserve me a great seat so I can at least pretend I am somebody, even if that somebody is a somebody who used to be somebody. I wouldn’t at all mind that question “Hey, didn’t you used to be someone?” to which I would reply “I’m not sure.” Who invented economy class anyway? Who decided that just anybody should be allowed to fly? I remember when I was very young and flying was a most glamorous affair. Stewardesses (and they were called that then) were the original supermodels. They were the Kate’s, Linda’s, Cindy’s and Naomi’s of the sky. People wore their best clothes and as a young boy I would be taken into the cockpit to meet the pilots, sit in the jump-seat and I would get my very own wings. It was grand.

One of my earliest memories is sitting upstairs in a Pan-Am 747 with my little Disney coloring books having absolutely no clue just how special it was to be on a plane. I practically grew up on airplanes, being shuttled back and forth between coasts, between parents and later, between glamorous shopping destinations. But why couldn’t mass travel remain an elitist thing? I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but really, does one truly feel comfortable during heavy turbulence while sitting next to someone in sandals and socks? I should think not. I most certainly don’t.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Queen's Day

I had a party to attend Saturday night and needed to look fabulous. Well, as fabulous as anyone can look in orange. I napped, I did some industrial strength moisturizing and went shopping for an orange shirt. I know, I know, the metrosexual’s closet is no place for orange, but I had no choice. I was going to a party to celebrate the Dutch Queen’s Birthday. Obligatory orange dress code aside, I am not a fan at all of Queen’s Day. Amsterdam becomes a nightmare as the entire country pours into the streets. People drinking at 6am and they just keep going until the end of the day. The crowds are unbelievable and what would normally be a 5 – 10 minute walk suddenly takes 45 minutes or more. Last Queen’s Day I soent with Nik on a houseboat, then on a tiny little boat that was always looking like it was ready to sink. Yes indeed, the very same boat whose engine conked out on us leaving us stranded in the middle of a canal during one of the hottest days of the year. – you can read all about that little adventure here

Anyway, I was on my way to celebrate the Queen’s birthday Delhi style. In a country where one can find fabrics and shirts in colors that I don’t even think exist outside it’s borders, we seemed to be in the middle of an orange famine. Of course, I realized why when I got Stephen’s SMS that he was boycotting orange for the party. Something about making him look jaundiced, which is just not a good look for anyone, regardless of how fantastic their bone structure is. I walked up Kotla, my favorite crowded and chaotic street here in the hood and found nothing. Fortunately there is a Docker’s store and for some unkown reason, they seemed to have the entire country’s stock of orange polos. I grabbed one and ran home as quickly as I could as I had just about 40 minutes to dress up like a piece of fruit before Danielle came to fetch me and whisk me away to Stephen and Pierre’s for some pre-party bubbles. I have to say, Pierre achieved god-like status in my eyes last night when he was pouring the Moet into my glass. I felt shaky, giddy, like a virgin all over again. These were real bubbles and I felt like Pinocchio had come home at last.

It was over bubbles that I met the rest of the gang I would be spending the evening with. There was John, whose name is actually Peter, but he seems to have binned his real name for an until now unexplained reason, there was Magda from Poland and Evangeliso (I hope I spelled it correctly, but my Greek is a bit rusty) who is one of those people who was impossibly handsome in his youth and has spent his post-youth wondering where it fled to. I feel for the guy, But can also relate. Sometimes I mourn the passing of my cuteness. Then SHE entered. Suzy. Or shall I call her Suzety? See, I asked her if she was Suzy with “Zee Y” or an “S-I-E” and she looked at me, locking her eyes on mine and without blinking said, “yes, it is with a Zet Y.” It was subtle, she complimented me on the correct spelling while at the same time pointing out the errors of my ways. I said tomato and she said tomahto and I was just about to call the whole thing off when she redeemed herself by playing to my insatiable ego. It was very transparent, but worked wonders. I can never resist a good ego petting. She told me how much she enjoyed my blog and I immediately melted to her, placing her name at the top of my list of cool and fabulous people.

Soon the bubbles were gone we were soon caravanning across the great subcontinent to a fabulous farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Actually, maybe not in the middle of nowhere, more like on the outskirts of nowhere. We arrived that what can only be called a modest estate that had white lights thrown on anything that wasn’t moving and joined the already hopping festivities. There was a wine bar, a spirits bar, beer bar, buffet table, dance floor complete with laser, stage with piano where the Swedish jazz pianist would us with his boogie woogie, as he called it. We staked out our territory next to the free shaped pool, under the palm trees decorated with orange lanterns. Pierre immediately tuned into his French genes and started shoving cocktails on everyone.

Nibbly things were handed around and suddenly, the calm silence was shattered as the DJ starting spinning Shakira’s greatest hits. I felt like I was back in Driver’s car and started reaching for my seatbelt. What amazed us all was just how bad the DJ was. It wasn’t only the choice of music which had 1985 stamped all over it, but the fact that it just clumsily went from one track to another. It was all very confusing and I felt like Stella when she lost her groove. At some point in the evening, the DJ played Laura Brannigan’s “Self Control” and said very casually that she had died a few years back in her sleep from an aneurism. I immediately pack up and moved all my belongings to Denial. I simply couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. How could I have missed such an event. How am I supposed to live without her? Of course it wasn’t until later that I realized I was on holiday when it happened, but CNN most definitely dropped the ball.

Just as we were about to say goodbye, the DJ discovered ABBA and once Dancing Queen was spinning, Suzy made a bee-line for the dance floor. It was only the next day that I was informed of Suzy’s love for cheesy disco music, but that is just between you and me, I would never make something like that public information. All too soon the night came to an end and soon we were all piling into our cars for the long journey back into civilization, to rest up for yet another party on Sunday…

Porsche Anyone?

It all started with an sms. I asked Stephen if he and Pierre would like to meet for cocktails Friday evening. I had a long week at the office and my whole body was screaming “two drink minimum”. They accepted and we decided to check out the Ivy. A couple of hours later, they cancelled out on me and suddenly it was teardrops on the dance floor all over again. But all was not lost and I was soon on my way to see Patti and Laurent, who live on my street, and who are also in possession of a flat that I personally feel should be given to me.

So there we sat on their terrace having cocktails and pasta with salmon while the little kittens played on played hide and seek and the mosquitoes feasted on gora flesh from the countries. They were going to someone else’s house for drinks and while I was really planning on going to bed early and getting some beauty sleep, I ended up tagging along to an oversized house on Prithviraj Road. Those are the homes that you never get to see, just the walls and gates that shield them from the rest of the world. While there were only 5 of us for drinks, there was at least double that in staff. There’s a man who opens the gate, the one who opens the carved glass doors, the one to point us into the large and empty living room where there was yet another to point us into the drawing room. Once there, there were 3 more, 1 to make drinks, one to serve them and one to serve hors d’ouvres – or as an old friend of mine used to call them Horsey Doors and I am sure there was a whole lot more where they came from.

After a quick round of drinks in the mansionette, it was off to a party in CP where we were immediately shoved onto the red carpet, flash bulbs going and people bussing one another. It was only when I almost smashed into the immaculately shiny Porsche on the carpet that I realized what was going on. Porsche was throwing a party for the who’s who of Delhi at a bar named Veda. Of course the coin only fully dropped when someone asked me which Porsche I was thinking of buying. I merely replied that I hadn’t made up my mind yet and ordered another perfectly mixed mojito and ogled the beautiful people with that look of "why am I here?" so that nobody would see I was somewhat impressed.

I learned an extremely valuable lesson on Saturday. Hangovers in Delhi should be avoided at all costs. The roads, the traffic, the heat, the honking. It takes a simple hangover and turns it into a torturous version of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Having left the party at about 4, I was offered one of the guest rooms at the appropriately staffed house where we had sucked down our cocktails just a few hours earlier. Suddenly at 10, there was a knock at the door. I had to get up as the host had to catch a plane to Bombay. Yes, I know it’s called Mumbai these days, but I like prefer the name Bombay. Imagine Samantha Stevens calling for Doctor Mumbai. It just doesn’t have the same ring. Anyway, there I was, my head spinning right round like a record, in someone else’s car and someone else’s driver going through my breathing tricks to keep last night’s nibbly things tucked safely in my tummy. Delhi roads are not unlike a rollercoaster, lots of roundabouts and flyovers and my stomach was just not having it. I kept breathing and chanting "just let me get home." I felt like Dorothy. I will spare everyone the details, but I arrived home with about 9 seconds to spare.

Lucknow - Part 2

Previously on Eternal Ramblings of a Confused Mind...

Sharad and I grabbed a train to Lucknow, saw some pooping peeps, bought some stuff, learned the difference between chicken and Chikan, made friends with an elephant, ate kebab, got chased by a rabid, man-eating monkey and still managed to find time to attend a wedding with the rest of India.

The next morning was spent with Sharad’s brother Harsh, his wife Aruna and their two children, Angel and Darsh. They are incredibly cute children, and extremely naughty in the way that children tend to be when they are cute and they know it. Darsh will flash his sweet smile and puppy eyes as he breaks his sister’s necklace and she smiles very coy and ladylike while she kicks him.

It brought back memories of terrorizing my own sister, ripping the heads of her Barbie’s or kidnapping them and leaving a ransom note which would read something like:

“If you ever want to see Quick Tan Malibu Barbie alive again, leave 2 snickers bars behind the Fichus tree in the living room by 2pm.

P.S. If you tell mom I will flush her down the toilet and she will drown and you will never see her again.”

Or that old trick that older siblings have played on younger ones ever since siblings were invented so many years ago. If my sister managed to come across a dollar bill, I would make her the irresistible trade of 10 whole pennies for her one little piece of paper or perhaps convince her to exchange her real one for Monopoly money. If that didn’t work, I would remove Barbie’s head and then sell it back to her. Some people call it mean, I call it tough love. Ya gotta hit ‘em where it hurts and I used to hit my sister right smack in her Barbies. It worked every time.

When Darsh is older I’ll give him my top 10 tips for making his sister’s life absolutely miserable. But for now, he seems to be doing a darn good job and I have to say, it made me a bit misty eyed, longing for the good old days of innocent childhood terrorism.

In between the kicks and the taunts and teases and giggles, Aruna busied herself making, what I consider to be the best paranthas I have had to date and the next time I go visit them, I want her to teach me how to make them. I guess I was looking a bit too thin for her liking as they kept coming by the buckets and even when I thought I would burst, I still forced down a couple more. I have only been to a few people’s homes in India but each time I was not made to feel like a guest as much as I was made to feel like a member of the family. From Amit’s family in Gwalior where I intruded on his wedding at the last minute to Sharad’s family, I have never felt anything but completely welcome. I can imagine it must be somewhat odd to have a westerner in the home. We are known for our over indulgences, large homes, latest and greatest of absolutely everything, basic luxury and unfortunately also known as being a being snobbish and elitist. I heard from Sharad that his family was a bit concerned if I would feel comfortable in their home. It can’t be an easy thing inviting someone in they have never met, not having a clue if I was going to be relaxed or looking around making all sorts of judgments on things. But for the record, I felt more than comfortable and am looking forward to another visit with his brother and family.

The morning was cut short and soon we were feeling the pressure of time and we wanted to do just a bit of sightseeing. Sharad wanted to show me the Bara Imambara, a breathtaking structure in the center of the city. It is one of those places that one could easily spend a day just taking in all the amazing details. We had 30 minutes, and were carrying our luggage with us. I have never been able to pack light, and even for one night, I had enough supplies to start my own little emporium should the urge have struck. The part I found most beautiful in the little time we were there, was the Asfi mosque that dominates the whole complex. It is a very important place to Shiite Muslims, who gather there to commemorate Muharram.

I do intend to go back and give the place the attention it deserves as well as spending some time getting lost in the labyrinth. The labyrinth has 489 identical doorways, some leading in circles, some going to dead ends and supposedly, but I have not been in so I can’t say for sure, some leading to sheer drops. I was told that enemies were led into the labyrinth and then they would kill them. The labyrinth itself was an unintentional development, created to make give the building strength and support the structure as it was built on marshy lands.

So we ran around the complex, looking here and there and snapping pictures of anything and everything, then it was off to find a rickshaw to get us to the train station and 5 ½ hours later, we were back in Delhi, pushing and shoving our way through the tourists and eunuchs to get out of the station and into the rickshaw home.

So Sorry

OK, this is really on my nerves. I was flipping through the pages of CNN, looking for any news worth looking at and suddenly I find that Richard Gere is apologizing for kissing some B-list Bollywood actress whose only claim to fame is being insulted during a celebrity Big Brother in the UK… But it doesn’t stop there, Alec Baldwin is apologizing for calling his 11 year old daughter a pig and the state of Virginia has apologized for using slaves to construct a few buildings. This was after an apology for having slaves in the first place. I am not at all an advocate of slavery, unless it is done in the bedroom, involving handcuffs and whipping cream, but we will not be travelling down that pot-holed road at this time.

What I don’t understand is why are people that had nothing what-so-ever to do with certain events apologizing for what happened in the past? And where will it end? Should the Spanish apologize to the America Indians for invading their land in the first place? Should the US apologize to Mexico for stealing California from them? Should women apologize for Eve letting that slippery serpent talk her into eating that apple so long ago, thereby robbing us of our birthright of sitting around naked in a tropical paradise drinking cocktails? Should the 70s apologize for bell bottoms?

All this focus on apologies made it inevitable that I would look at my own life… I hovered the oriental carpets of conscience and let me tell you, my inner maid keeps the place spic and span. Not so much a crumb or remorse… But then again, I have often apologized to myself for not purchasing that Thierry Mugler jacket in Paris about 7 years ago. It still makes me sad when I think about it. I let myself down and have yet to find the path to forgiveness and recovery.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lucknow - Part 1

Weekend before last, my friend Sharad and I took a train to Lucknow to see the city where he once lived and to see a Muslim wedding as they are very different from Hindu ones. They may be different in the actual ceremonies and customs, but one tradition holds true; If the wedding is in India, the country is invited along for the festivities. We grabbed the 6:15am train from New Delhi train station, which compared to 10 years ago when “train come in maybe one hour” or “maybe train come tonight” or even “train no come today”, was a completely different experience. The Shatabdi Express left perfectly on time, perfectly cushioned and fantastically air-conditioned.

Leaving Delhi station in the morning is unlike anything I have ever experienced. As we started our journey, the sun was peeking over the rooftops, saying hello and giving us the first signs that it was going to be another hot and sunny day. Those early morning shades of pink and orange provide just the right mood lighting for the next scene which comes into focus as the train slowly snakes through the still sleepy city and across the River Yamuna. See, not everyone in India has indoor facilities and so early morning often finds people in the fields and near the railroad tracks taking care of Mother Nature’s morning call. So there I was, taking in every detail of a part of Delhi I had not yet seen and suddenly my view was littered by the pooping masses. It is sometimes done discreet, sometimes not so discreet and for some reason, they all seem to be facing the train and very often give the very same look a cat gives when it is in the litter box that says “I’m not really here”, you know that one that looks like a combination of terror and denial. Others are far less concerned and just go about their business, smile and wave to the train like a squatting village greeter.

Fast forward a few hours and we arrive in Lucknow. Being a gora in Delhi, I am e pluribus unum or one of many. Lucknow was a completely different story. I did not see another non-Indian person in the 2 days I was there. I was it, the poster child for sun-block and bad bargaining skills. I take the approach of negotiating, knowing my BATNA or (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, - in other words, if you can’t get what you want for what you want, what do you settle for? A little something I learned working with Shell) and begging and pleading and flashing puppy eyes. Sharad’s way of bargaining is to just shove whatever amount of money he thinks is right into the hand of the seller. The tactic works wonders. I should have picked this up from one of my many excursions to Palika Bazaar, but had not connected those dots. It seems that once money is in the hand of the merchant, they would rather give you their nearest relative than to hand back any form of currency. So, in spite of all the protests, as soon as Sharad stuffed the money in their hand, it was a done deal. I will try that some day but not without an intimidating bodyguard, just in case.

But the day was to hold more surprises than merely effective bargaining tips. A lifelong dream came true that day. I have always wanted to see an elephant up close and personal. I have seen them in the zoo, I have seen them at the circus and more recently, I have seen them in traffic. As we were walking though one of the markets, there it was, this decorated elephant standing in the street. I could not let the moment pass by. Sharad was concerned for my safety as there have been recent events of elephants going wild and killing people, but I never once felt scared or intimidated. Maybe due to ignorance, maybe something else, but all I knew was that nothing was going to get in my way of getting up close. I handed Sharad the bags and camera and went over to the elephant. It was amazing. It (I am not sure if it is a he or a she – and no, I didn’t look for any dangling machinery - and I don’t want to be accused of incorrect labeling) started grabbing my hand with its trunk, which felt very different than I ever imagined. I got to pet it for a few moments. Sharad was not at all comfortable and while he snapped a few pics, he wanted me away from the elephant as soon as possible. I wanted to stay the whole day with my new friend. Even now when thinking about it, I get such a great feeling from the whole experience.

We worked up such an appetite during all the hullabaloo and when in Lucknow, there is only one place to go… Tundays Kebabs. I have to say they were absolutely amazing and melt-in-your mouth and I stuffed myself so full of them I thought I would burst. From there, we piled into a shared taxi and were soon singing along to Bollywood greats while bouncing our way to Sharad’s brother’s home, where we would be staying the night.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the cutest little monkey in a small tree right outside the gate. I took some pics while Sharad told me to get inside and not stand around as monkeys can be unpredictable. I scoffed. I laughed. I teased him for his cowardice and went to the roof terrace where I could get a better shot of the little guy. Suddenly, cute little monkey turned and showed me all of his sharp teeth and hissed at me, all the while looking ready to pounce. It is a good thing I had gone to the loo in town, otherwise I wuld have peed my pants right then and there. I practically tripped over myself trying to get down the stairs as quickly and unharmed as possible without looking behind me to see how close monkey was. It was all very Jurassic Park. It turned out that monkey didn’t follow me, I spotted him still in the tree and gave him a few hisses of my own. Give a monkey a tree and they think they own the whole world. Typical.

When word got around the office, as word tends to do, that I was going to Lucknow, everyone kept telling me to get a kurta with chicken work as it comes from Lucknow. Everyone was so excited about chicken work, but frankly, it didn’t really sound all that appetizing for me and I just could not imagine what on earth it would be and why they would call it chicken work.

Well, imagine my embarrassed surprise when I learned it was not “chicken” but rather “chikan”. As alphabetical conservation is a topic now near and dear to my heart, I was delighted to see such conservational spelling. In this time of depleting resources, we all must do our part. Anyway, chikan work is a kind of embroidery and I was immediately sold. I’ll tell ya, if there is one country in the world that lets a gay man cater to his every stereotypical whim, India is the place. Where else can a man go around in beaded and embroidered clothing and shoes in colors ranging from vibrant to pastel and nobody so much as bats an eyelash. In fact, grooms wear at an Indian wedding is a Liberace wet dream. I myself am just back from ordering a kurti that has more beads than Princess Diana’s dress. It will be ready in 2 weeks so now need to search for the perfect place to show it all off… But let’s get back to Lucknow…

I threw on my new chikan kurta and was off to my first Muslim wedding. My second wedding in India and the second one I attended without knowing the bride or the groom. At least for the first one, I had met the groom long enough for him to say “come to my wedding” but this time, I met the groom in the full swing of the festivities. I was introduced to a man without a face. Well, he had a face, but it was obscured by a veil of flowers. We arrived at the venue with the veil clad groom and there was not a bride to be seen. The bride, I found out later, is not seen until the wedding is a done deal. Signed and sealed, she gets delivered. She’s his.

We arrived and I was immediately shoved to the front of the line, to walk in with the groom and just as I was about to sit down with the guests, I was led to the platform, took off my shoes and was given the seat to the groom’s right. I sat between a groom I had never seen and his brother I had just met. I thought it was for a photo op, but it was for the whole ceremony. I felt lost and extremely out of place. I have no idea what the traditions are and suddenly I am in front of everyone, everything I do on immediate display. I wasn’t even sure how to sit. Cross legged? On my knees? Lounging in that Buddha Bar kind way? Once again I felt extremely self-conscious and praying to any god that would listen that I would not make some sort of mistake and ruin the wedding for everyone, disgracing the groom’s family and alienating his up-to-that-point invisible bride. Even though I had never met the bride, it was no big deal. It turns out that the groom only knew the bride for about 5 minutes before the marriage.

After the signing of a few papers and a small speech (it was in Hindi so I have no clue if it was a speech, a quote from the Koran or something else) the bride was brought in, a bundle of red and gold, looking neither happy or sad, just going through the motions. That is the traditional look for a bride. I was thinking about what it must be like for her, knowing she was now joined with a man she doesn’t know. Even the looks or personality seem not to have any bearing for the bride and groom themselves. Whether they find each other sexy, funny, grotesque or coma-inducingly boring makes absolutely no difference. After the ceremony, she will leave her home, her family to live with someone she has never even had an extended conversation with. I am still trying to wrap my head around an arranged marriage and what it must be like to commit for life to someone you have not even had a serious conversation with. Unless a couple can make it through a visit to IKEA, how do they know they are compatible?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Driving Mr. Robb

One should always be careful what questions one sends out into the universe, simply because the universe may just decide to answer at the most inconvenient moment. Imagine if you will, little me coming home from work, with Driver driving as Driver does, Hindi hop on the sound system and traffic all around as traffic in Delhi tends to be. See, Driver has driving issues.

First off, he knows nothing about Delhi and I find myself often pointing this way or that to direct him to where I need to go. A simple trip to say, A block in Vasant Vihar becomes a sight seeing expedition that almost requires shots and extended leave from the office. I was merely looking for early evening cocktails and ended up asking directions at the Embassy of Rwanda. Of course they had no idea where to go and so we went round and round until I was suffering from the early signs of whiplash. A trip to Dilli Haat, just down the street and around the corner of my house sometimes includes a quick pass of the Taj Mahal and spectacular views from the lower Himalayas.

Driver’s nice, many times grumpy, and always directionally challenged. He knows certain places and only one way to get to each place. As in most cities, there are always multiple ways to get from A to B, but that whole concept seems to be lost on Driver. I know more ways into the office than he does. He also seems to believe that in Delhi, there is only one place to do certain activities. If I am coming from Gurgaon into South Delhi and I ask where to buy a digital camera, for example, driver knows one place which is on the exact opposite end of the city. Buying a Carram board meant sitting 1 hour each way in traffic when there are several places to buy them within walking distance of the house. If there is only one traffic jam anywhere in Delhi, you can bet your bottom dollar that we will be sitting in it. And his knack for finding potholes is worth all my respect and admiration. I often get out of the car without any clue as to where my internal organs have been relocated.

So during a moment of backseat frustration, stuck in the middle of traffic with almost no air-conditioning in 40-plus degree weather, itching up a storm, I made the fatal mistake of asking “can this get any worse?” No sooner had the words left my mind than I saw smoke coming from the hood of the car. Yes, Driver’s car overheated. And not just that, we were marooned in the center of traffic. Cars honking, people looking at the goras, pointing and laughing. Cows swerving. Well, they would have swerved if there had been any in the streets. There were at last 5 lanes on either side of us. Motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, cars, busses, trucks all giving us the third eye as they drove past. We had to choice but to abandon out Titanic before we were sucked down under the flood of traffic. Using my Delhi hand, I safely navigated us across the street where we did our best to grab a rickshaw. Not that easy at 6:20 on a Monday evening. They were full and a few even refused to take us. Normally they see gora and think “ka-ching” but not dice. Finally, Driver came to the rescue, flagged down a rick and shoved us inside. Soon we were on our way home, the warm fumes of exhaust from the passing busses softly smacking us in the face.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Betty Crocker

After a night of tossing and turning in a room that has me baking like a muffin in an adult version of a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven, there is nothing I look forward to more than a cold shower and good, full body exfoliation. But this being Delhi and temperatures being what they are, cold showers are not as easy to come by as one would think. With the exception of my temporary moments of weakness when I actually shave myself, I have not turned on my water heater. No need. The metal water tanks sit on the roof and have what I assume is a minimum of insulation and they spend their days lazily basking in the over 40 degree weather, not a drop of shade in sight. I have considered filling my tub with bags of tea and just stewing as that is supposed to be good for the skin, but I am afraid it may make me a bit wheatish and rob me of some of my gora-ness.

Yes, the heat is on and it is working its way all over my body. I am not quite recovered from my near malarial experience when suddenly I am confronted with the itchy reality that is prickly heat. So now, several times a day, I have to take a shower and then powder myself until I look like a doughnut. Thank the gods for movies like Memoires of a Geisha that have brought the overly powdered look back into vogue. And I don’t just use any powder, I use a special one that contains some sort of menthol like ingredient (I would know what it was if I bothered to read the label) and let me just say, a few sprinkles on my team and suddenly I was wide awake. For anyone looking for cheap thrills, at 59 rupees a bottle, that’s about as cheap as they come.

Something has been brought to my attention and I am embarrassed and disappointed in myself that I did not notice it first, but it has become my new unsolved mystery and I fully intend to dedicate my life searching for the answer. There I was, reading my friend Stephen’s blog. Oh, by the way, it is Stephen with a “v” sound. Why don’t they just write it Steven then? Why all the drama with the “ph”? Doesn’t his mother know we are on the verge of an alphabetical famine and there she goes, throwing around extra consonants like they grow on trees. Anyway Stephen with a “v” sound also keeps a blog and suddenly I find myself standing on the platform, ready to dive into the online journalistic pool where we will freestyle toward the gold medal of adoration. But that is not what I am here to write about. He made an observation on his blog that the streets that were once so crowded with the cows who lunch are suddenly deserted and easily navigated. Today on my way into the office, I was struck by the absence of the girls hanging out on the divider, giving each other hooficures and perms, exchanging the latest is farm animal gossip.

Where did they go? This is the Mayan Indians all over again. Not one cow between my home and office. Although last night while walking back from the market, I did get sniffed up by a cow I hardly know. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended, but as there was no actual contact or kissing of cheeks, I decided that no picture burning needed to take place. I would write some humorous story about what might have happened to them, but Stephen with a “v” sound has already done that here.

Oh, and while you are on his blog, take a look at the pictures and check out my new flat. Well, it will be mine as soon as I find some sort of evil way to snatch it out from under Stephen and Pierre when they aren’t looking. Hmmm… Suddenly Snow White just popped into my head – I can be the like the evil queen, lock myself in a dungeon and make some sort of yummy concoction. Perhaps a bunch of cocktails that will knock them out long enough for me to get the locks changed.

And speaking of cocktails, the news every alcoholic and cocktail aficionado has been waiting for has finally arrived. It seems that fruity cocktails are to be considered health foods as the alcohol increases the antioxidants in the fruits. So actually, I might be stealing an apartment, but I would do it in the healthiest way possible.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


When it comes to cocktails, there are certain rules which must never be violated. Cosmopolitans must always have a bit of fog to them, making them tastefully translucent. Martinis should always be extra dry, extremely cold and come with no more or less than 3 olives. Campari should never be mixed with anything but good conversation or heavy flirting. Champagne glasses must never be allowed to empty and margaritas should always be served in huge quantities.

Tonight I went out for drinks and dinner with Pierre and Stephen. Now, my memory being what it is, I am not sure if it is Stephen with a “V” sound or Stephen with an “F” sound, but I will opt for the “F” sound as that is my personal preference – If I am wrong, I really don’t care, I will just pull a Madonna and do whatever I like, as anything else would be compromising my artistic integrity. It’s all very Liza with a “Z” and am considering making it a personal policy to use jazz hands whenever I say his name.

The night started innocently enough, cocktails in their fabulous flat in Vasant Vihar. I spent the entire gin and tonic (mixed with just enough tonic to flavor, yet not too much so as to soil the gin) plotting and planning ways to get them to move or perhaps evicted and leave the flat to me. Of course, I seasoned my conversation with the obligatory “uh-huh’s”, so they would not suspect my evil intentions, but deep down I was making seating arrangements for my first rooftop, starlight supper on my soon to be purchased Royal Doulton with the handpainted periwinkels. I have felt for some time that 2007 will see the re-emergence of the periwinkle as the must have flower in discriminating circles. When it happens, remember that you heard it here first.

Just as I was trying to figure out the best place for the Christmas tree, Pierre suggested we go out to eat. I have a feeling he was on to me and one glance with my third eye told me he will not give up the flat so easy. I will have to be more cunning and conniving. So what if they just finished decorating, that’s what our people do! We put on mix tapes of our favorite boy bands, mix some fruity vodka based drinks and replicate pictures in Wallpaper magazine. Who are we if we are not matching fabrics and textures over a well shaken concoction?

Anyway, off we went to TGI Friday’s. Normally I try never to be seen in the vicinity of so many red and white stripes, but the promise of margaritas by the bucket was just too much. I threw my values to the wind, ordered up a margarita and a chicken chimichanga. It’s a darn good thing I have been working out. Those margaritas were massive and absolutely yummy. At least I know now where to go when praying to the gods of tequila and lime. I wanted to get wasted away again in Margaritaville. I wanted to search for my lost shaker of salt. I wanted to scream to the waiter to “bring ‘em on and keep ‘em coming”, but being my first time out with S and P (or should it be P and S? Will have to give that a think as I like awake in my overheated room. ) I did not want them to see me as a mere lush. I was keeping up appearances and will save the more dodgy side of myself until the 28th when we go to a cocktail party for Queen’s Day. It was a great way to end an otherwise windy and dusty day.

Dust in the Wind

A windy day
In Delhi town
Dust is blowing
All is brown
I viewed my day
With such alarm
Even the monkeys
Have lost their charm
How hot I wonder
Will this day get
Step out of the car
My back is wet
Even driver
Is really blue
But then again
What else is new?

Nothing like a slap of dust in the face to bring out my inner poet... I had been told about these winds that bring dust and sand across the city. Most people complain about them, but always being one to look on the bright side and find that silver lining that comes attached to every grey cloud (and Thierry Mugler coat), I welcome these gifts from nature. To me, it is like micro-dermabrasion for the whole body. This is probably the same experience Wilma Flintstone had when she and Betty went to the Bedrock Spa… Some sand blasting and a fossil pack. And as an added bonus, one can get one’s teeth sanded as well. Just run outside and flash your biggest red carpet smile and I guarantee you an experience you will not soon forget. If only it would blast those mosquitoes away, that would be even better.

Actually, Delhi doesn’t have mosquitoes. Not at all. Delhi has flying, blood-sucking piranha. They buzz around very innocently in the air, taking in the view, checking things out, stalking their prey and then suddenly they nose dive, slam into the body and they are gone again. You blink and you miss it, yet in that time, they have managed to leave behind a nasty red bump that swells and swells for days to come.

Being in India ha definitely affected my way of thinking and I didn’t realize how much until a few days ago when I was not feeling well. I had a bit of a sinus thing and a tiny little cough, most likely brought on by the ceiling fans and air conditioning. My frail, pampered little body just isn’t used to these little gadgets. Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, namely me, my initial suspicions were not that logical. I was convinced I was experiencing the early symptoms of malaria. In my mind I had my shivery little body all wrapped up in layer after layer of cashmere (illness is no reason to skimp on luxury).

I am a a worst-case-scenario person. If someone is a few minutes late, I assume they are lying helpless and alone by the side of the road, so the leap to malaria was not really a huge one. Yes, I am a leaper. I leap. And with pointed toes. After all, presentation is everything. I am like a figure skater and the world is my ice rink. It’s all about the jumps, turns and triple axels of everyday life that keep me going and give me the aura I carry around. Actually, this being India, perhaps I should hire someone to carry my aura for me. A sort of aura-walla. Does such a thing exist? It must. You can’t imagine how exhausting it is carting around an aura as heavy as mine. But back to malaria (I seem to have a problem staying on track today... I can only imagine it is due to extreme cocktail deprivation, but no worries, I will re-tox tonight and all will be well)

I have joined the masses of ordinary citizens, like you, who take pleasure in playing doctors at home and self diagnose. Oh, the obscure diseases I often give myself just for a laugh, but that is another story for another time. So, where was I? Oh yes, I went to the internet to see how much longer I had left on this planet only to discover that I don’t have malaria. It was a bit of a shock. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that my situation was not as bleak as all that. My dreams of cashmere were dashed on the sharp and jagged rocks of reality.

Monday, April 16, 2007

King of the World

I spent a portion of the weekend before last reading about Shah Jehan, a Mughal whose very name means “King of the world”. Move over Leonardo. What a sorted tale it is, making my favorite housewives seem a lot less desperate and perhaps even amateuristic. The history of Shah Jehan goes something like this.

Little Khurram was 15 when he impressed his father, Emperor Jehangir with his fabulous redesigns of the Imperial apartments in Kabul. He married Arjumand Banu Begum and they multiplied like rabbits. After the death of his father, both Khurram and one of his brothers wanted the throne, and with the help of his father-in-law, Khurram got the cool chair, became Mughal, changed his name to Shah Jehan and his wife’s to Mumtaz Mahal which means “Chosen one of the palace”. He then celebrated by killing off his brothers, brothers in law and other unnecessary relatives as they were most likely on his nerves and, of course, didn’t want to risk any ugly holiday squabbles about the chair. His wife died giving birth to child number 14 and in his grief decided to decorate Agra with a little white building called the Taj Mahal. He moved the court to Delhi, built a bunch of things like the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, creating an area of Delhi known as Shahjahanabad.

Like all parents, he had children who loved him and children who hated him. One of his daughters, Princess Jahanara, who managed to squeeze enough time out of her busy harem schedule to have the Chandni Chowk constructed, loved her father a bit too much. This caused her most likely less attractive sister Princess Roshana to become very jealous. The son who hated him, Prince Aurangzeb, aided by his sister Roshana who was driven by envy and a lack of sex, managed to overthrow Shah Jehan and lock him away in a fort, but not before he caught his favorite daughter who had a fondness for orgies with a forbidden lover whom she had hidden in a cauldron. He had one of his servants light the cauldron and stayed until it was certain the poor guy was dead. Aurangzeb then tricked a couple of his brothers by getting them drunk and then when they passed out, had them shackled and thrown into dungeons. Talk about a hangover. The others he had murdered. Shah Jehan’s favorite son, Dura was beheaded by some men attempting to win favor with the new emperor and presented Aurangzeb the head on a gold platter. On the advice of his sister evil Roshana, the new emperor sent the head to his father as a gift. The former ruler was not amused. Aurangzeb’s sister Roshana then decided to have some orgies herself which didn’t really bother her brother until he got sick and talk around the water cooler was that he would most likely die. She stole his ring, making Aurangzeb’s 9 year old son the new ruler, thereby securing her power. Her brother got better and when he heard the gossip, was a bit pissed off and went to have a word with her, but caught her in an orgy with 9 men. Instead he had her poisoned and she died a most horrible death.

Yes, I was reading about all of my favorite subjects… Royalty, betrayal, blackmail, indiscriminate sex, elephant parades, greed, lust, closeted homosexual rulers (that redecorating job of the Kabul pad is a dead giveaway), discreet poisonings, flayings, architecture and above all, true love. It was all so touching and heartwarming that I could not resist the temptation to place myself right in the middle of all the action. I grabbed the nearest rickshaw and made a beeline for Chandni Chowk.

Chaos. Mayhem. Pandemonium. While I have heard all of those words describing the famous street that cuts through Old Delhi from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort to the Fatehpuri Masjid. It is a most amazing street that immediately assaults the senses and transports one to another world. I walked a few hundred meters into Chandni Chowk just to swim in the sounds and the smells. There is an electricity in the air that I have not felt anywhere in Delhi and I can imagine for people who spend their lives there, anywhere else must just be downright boring and anti-climactic. The place is absolutely littered with bicycle rickshaws, which seem to be the best way to navigate the street which, when I arrived was bursting at the seams. Traffic seemed to be at a standstill yet moving all at the same moment. The sides of the street where occupied by the flat wooden carts selling slices of fresh pineapple or piled high with citrus fruits for some fresh made juice. In every available space left were people. People standing, sitting and sleeping. And then the site I really love, are the people transporting goods balanced on top of their heads. From baskets of toys to sacks of laundry, I always love the sight. After seeing the massive crowds in Chandni Chowk, I can imagine that the practice was invented out of practicality, carrying lots of things yet for navigation purposes, remaining as small as possible.

As I stood there snapping my pictures and taking in the sights and sounds, loud bangs suddenly rang out and smoke filled the air. My first thought (and the thought of a friend who I discovered later during dinner was just a few meters away from me at the time) was that a bomb had gone off. It wasn’t a bomb, but a march around the elections and soon I was able to see the roman candles that had been set off in the middle of the road, causing traffic to move slower still. I decided to go to Red Fort, but instead of walking down Chandni Chowk itself, I decided to snake my way through the slivers of alleys and maze-like pathways that lie behind the storefronts on the main road. Crowded walkways would open up into small courtyards where the focus on that hot day was at the water fountain that always seemed to be present in the middle. Each of the markets seem to have their focus and this one was definitely all about time. Oceans of watches in every imaginable shape and size all spread out, some sitting in the bottom of a water filled bucket to show prove their water resistance. I ended up in a few dead ends and finally came out at the Jain Temple and Bird Hospital right across from the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort.

I needed to cross the busy road to get to the main gate of the fort and being the obvious tourist, I had several new friends, all eager to point me to a hotel, a camera store, a coca-cola stand or help me cross the street. Crossing the street in Delhi is not like crossing in Europe or the US. First, there are almost no crosswalks, and if there are, most likely they are occupied with a swarm of autos, each wanting to be the first to go when the light turns green. Assuming, of course they wait for the light to turn green. Traffic light adherence, like headlights and night, seem to be left to the discretion of the driver. As far as I can make out, when it comes to the rules of the road, there is only one: “Size Matters”. Trucks and busses overpower cars, which in turn intimidate the motorcycles, who drive bicycles off the road who in turn terrorize pedestrians. There is a definite food chain and we mere humans are at the bottom.

In my 3 months in Delhi, I have fallen victim to two diseases that seem to run rampant and untreated here. The first one is Wobbly Head. I wobble my head like I was born in a Haveli during a monsoon. I wobble at any chance I get, and even as I type, my disease being top of mind at the moment, I can feel my head wobbling in pure agreement with myself. The other illness I have is what I call Delhi Hand. Delhi hand is the automatic reflex that occurs when one steps into traffic to cross the street. The hand goes out, palm down toward the oncoming car. The car is never to be looked at or acknowledged. Miraculously the cars stop. If street crossings are attempted without proper use of the Delhi Hand, one will never get to meet the chicken on the other side.

So there I was, standing on the curb at Chandni Chowk, waiting for something resembling a break in the traffic so that I could play the native, wobble my head and pop out my hand. Suddenly, and out of nowhere I hear “Hello…. Hello sir… where you from?” I say “Holland” he holds out his hand and points across the street to the Red Fort and says “Red Fort”. He then grabs my hand and practically starts dragging me across the street. I decline the offer but he tells me it is “no problem, I help you”. This, of course, is all done for money and after telling him 7 or 8 times I don’t need or want the help, we both make it across the street, he smiling like a hero until I walked on without giving any money.

Construction on the Red Fort began in 1638 under the rule of Shah Jehan. From the outside, the Red Fort is an impressive presence, ruling over Old Delhi much like Shah Jehan himself. Once inside, however, it is a different and sad story. After entering via the Lahore Gate, so named as it opens toward Chandni Chowk, which led to the road to Lahore, the first sight to greet visitors is the Chhatta Chowk, the main public market which used to sell things that might have been of interest to the royal house or their endless visitors. Today, it houses the usual trinkets one finds pretty much anywhere else, bangles, wallets, elephants carved in marble and fluorescent painting of Ganesh on black velvet that reminded me of the bazaars in Tijuana, Mexico.

Only a few of the buildings and pavilions from that period have been left standing and those that remain are but a shadow of their former selves. Many of the stones that had been inlaid in the elaborate carvings in the marble columns and walls have long ago been pried out and the majority of the carved screens are broken. The gardens no longer exist and are just lawns of semi-green grass and the ornamented pools and fountains are dry and cracked. It takes quite a lot of imagination to reconstruct the former majesty of the place which was once compared to heaven itself.

And as if the decay, neglect and demolition weren’t enough, shortly after 1857, the British were kind enough to build the ugliest buildings imaginable to be used as barracks within the fort complete with a concrete water tower. An architectural beauty and the beast.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I am in the car at the moment, Hindi hop blaring out of the low-end speakers, speeding away from the scene of the crime. Like Anakin Skywalker, I have given into the power of the dark side. I have eaten the forbidden Jelabi and it was sweet and sticky and left me with a hunger for more. But do not think I chose this life of questionable behavior, it actually found me, sought me out as I was minding my own business, trying to get from A to B. Suddenly due to a work commitment, I needed a digital camera. I had been thinking of buying one, but didn’t want to be unfaithful to my 35mm who has travelled around the world with me twice. A more faithful companion I could not ask for and yet suddenly I was forced to commit photographic polygamy. Not only that, but now I have to swing both ways. Sometimes film, sometimes pixels. I feel confused and no longer sure of my identity.

I asked driver where I could get a digital camera and he muttered something unintelligible and I said “that sounds fantastic, let us go at once!” You know me and my sense of adventure. Before I knew it we had sped past India Gate (where I am now, coincidentally enough) and were soon squeezing the car into a tiny little space at CP where we caught the metro to Chandni Chowk. The scene got dodgier and dodgier with every passing meter. I followed driver through the crowded and chaotic streets and soon e were at our destination. My very own Garden of Eden and before long, temptation set in. More megapixels than I could possibly count found there way under my nose and for prices that rivaled McDonalds. I was shopping the grey market. Not illegal, not legal. That grey area were our internal Jiminy Crickets cry out to us “Stop! You’ll never be a real boy if you choose that path!”

But like happens to a lot of crickets, I crushed him with one stomp of my cerebral Prada loafers. I tried out model after model, becoming more and more obsessed as the screens got larger. Size matters, baby and I was looking for some “Oh my God, that’s HUGE!” Finally, I saw it. Sitting there looking all meek and pretty, shy in a sexy and glamorous sort of way. It whispered my name. I held it in my hands, stroking the smoothness, feeling the hardness. It was the perfect size. I slipped the guy some money and he handed me my camera and all the accessories and manuals all wrapped in plastic and scotch tape, stuffed in a discreet plastic black sack. No receipt, just his mobile number on the back of a business card.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Every day I rush home from work, wondering what wonderful surprises my maid has left for me in my bathroom and I am rarely disappointed. In fact, if it weren’t for her little gifts, I would think she was unaware I even had a bathroom. While I am at work, she lets herself in, cleans the kitchen, washes the dishes, sweeps the floors, cleans the little terrace areas, makes the bed, hangs up any clothes she sees laying around no matter how in need of a wash they may seem, puts my books neatly in a drawer so I can’t find them, and closes my windows so that by the end of the day my room is hot and stuffy. Let me tell you, nothing says “Welcome home” like a lung full of heated stale air crammed to capacity with mosquitoes.

Given all her efforts around the house to keep me confusedly organized something happens when she enters my bathroom. She doesn’t touch the tub. She doesn’t clean the sink. I can barely see myself in the mirror these days and the dust on the window sill has dust of its own. But what she does do everyday in my bathroom is express her creativity with my toiletries. Everyday when I arrive home, I find them arranged in new and exciting ways. She makes the most magnificent structures using nothing more than overpriced moisturizers, cotton swabs, exfoliating facial scrubs, whitening toothpaste, soap and vitamins, all accentuated with the individual pieces from my manicure set, which would otherwise go unused. She has taken simple cosmetic origami and turned it into a full contact sport. I am tempted to leave a gold medal on the counter one of these days just to express my appreciation for her inventiveness. Now if only she would introduce her sponge to my bathtub we could all live happily-ever-after, but who am I to interfere with the creative process?


I am ready to be in love, but not love in the way I used to think of love. I used to think of love as butterflies in the stomach, cards, flowers, miniature Swarovski animals, lingering looks over candlelit dinners and watching the same music videos or made for TV movies during long phone conversations that end with that never-ending exchange lovers often engage in while putting on their baby-talk voices.

“You hang up first”
“No you”
“I love you”
“But I love you more, Monkey Lips”
“Yooouuuu first”
“Ok, we hang up together on a count of three. One, two, three”
“You cheated, you didn’t hang up”
“You hang up first”

They would giggle and ping pong back and forth until someone would finally break the cycle and hang up, only to phone back in 2 minutes to say how much they missed each other in the interim. It’s enough to make one reach for the economy sized bottle of Pepto Bismal.

And then of course there is being in love like Cary Grant and Debra Kerr in “An Affair to Remember.” Two people in black and white meet on an ocean liner to New York where their separate destinies await. He is a rich playboy and she’s a wealthy socialite. Upon arriving in New York, they promise to meet atop the Empire State Building on a certain day and time if for some reason their current emotional obligations go sour. He is waiting and she never shows. He thinks she has stood him up. The clock ticks, the days turn into weeks and time marches on. He can’t stop thinking of her and paints her image, which stays in a gallery. Then suddenly and quite unexpectedly, he sees her seated in a theatre. She doesn’t even get up to greet or embrace him and all he says is “hello”, which then sets up his famous line “All I could say was hello”. He is bitter. One day a woman in a wheelchair buys the painting he made of his lost beloved. He finally goes to the penthouse of the woman who stood him up to apologize for not being there, so she will think she was the one stood up, not him. He tells her he painted her picture but that a crippled woman bought it. She begs him to leave. The light bulb flashes. He storms into her bedroom to see the painting on the wall and he realizes she is the woman in the wheelchair. He suddenly feels guilty for blaming and hating her, realizing she didn’t show because she was ruthlessly run over by a New York taxi driver. He embraces her. They cry and they live happily ever after.

But neither of those is real love.

I will tell you what love is, yet another sub-continental lesson I feel compelled to share with all of you. Love is standing on a rock at the bottom of a waterfall, preferably in white linen, the shirt falling off in a sexy yet tasteful way the whole family can enjoy. Suddenly the unseen sitar starts playing, causing the would be lovers to break into song before switching to more colorful attire in which they perform dance sequences against a backdrop of a mountain meadow complete with some romantic ruin they can chase each other around. As the butterflies flirt with the wildflowers, the lovers, seductively lit by the setting sun, make shy eyes at each other, giggle, blush, sing and dance in unison, never once touching the object of their affection and burning desire. She shows how flexible her hips are, he flexes his bronze biceps. They flash their spotlight smiles and their eyes twinkle. Suddenly they are on an overly decorated barge in the middle of a river. You know they are destined for each other as their outfits match. But there is always an evil villain with bad intentions and even worse hair that tries to keep them apart. Try as they might, they are no match for the dancing lovers with their back-up entourage and by the time the credits roll we all have warm fuzzies and a must-have soundtrack.

That, my friends is love.