Tag Archives: Happiness

Condensed Greed

8 Mar

A random rummage in the refrigerator can be very rewarding.

Stumbling upon an unfinished can of Nestlé Milkmaid, for instance, means you can beat your children to it and be reminded of your childhood at the same time. And that’s what happened, the other day…

My brother and I grew up in Calcutta, often on Milkmaid, the can that was always there always there in case the milk supply failed or the milk itself turned sour (not an uncommon thing in those days). For our mother, it was the quick-fix substitute to making tea. Expensive, but efficient, provided you could get through the sealed can.

I have vivid memories of holding the can with my frail fingers while either parent would pull out a rusty can-opener and try to pierce the first tiny hole so that the hook of the opener could get a grip and start cutting the lid open. Sometimes, a hammer or the mortar (of the pestle jodi) would be called in as reinforcement and the tiresome process of opening the equally rusty can would begin. The opener would slip, a finger would be cut, Dettol would be applied quickly and we would resume the operation: what lay within was way too delicious to be abandoned because the worst part of the product was its packaging.

Nestlé MilkmaidOnce opened, the brother and I would stand aside and salivate. A teaspoon would go into the tea being boiled after which it was our turn to dig into the sticky, sweet condensed manna-like milk. Those were days when we didn’t have a refrigerator and the can was too expensive to be finished in one go; so, it would be stored away in the hope that red ants wouldn’t discover it and that it wouldn’t spoil. On many occasions, both have happened but usually a plate with water on which the can would be perched, sufficed.

Puritans will swear that the best way to enjoy Milkmaid is to let a tablespoon glide down your gullet with nothing else accompanying it. However, I had some other concoctions that made it even more irresistible:

  • A slice of fresh bread with Milkmaid smeared on every millimetre. Or, on Thin Arrowroot biscuits.
  • And then with Bournvita sprinkled on it to give it a chocolaty-crunchy topping.
  • Pieces of Cadbury Dairy Milk (the only chocolate available then) dipped into the can and slurped while a trickle of condensed milk threatened to slip away down your shirt.
  • Grapes or almonds dipped into it.

And once these were done, licking the can empty with the fingers being applied to good use made for the most satisfying spells on an otherwise boring day watching the pelting rain from our verandah.

All of this is still very doable. And thanks to Nestlé making the can easier to open with a tab, accessing the condensed milk is so much easier. Storing it still requires an improvised cover but if you’re as greedy as the kids and I can be, you won’t have much left to store.

Now, to try it with a dash of coffee and bitter chocolate…slurrp!


Spread the Warmth

3 Jan

January 2nd, 2013, was the coldest day in Delhi in 44 years. Maximum temperatures have dropped to sub 10°C and the minimum is below 4°C. Image

And while many of us complain about getting ready and coming to work in the mornings, there are thousands who are homeless and surviving the bitter cold in makeshift shelters including public toilets. Already, some news channels and NGOs have launched a drive to collect blankets for these Delhiites who have neither a roof nor a heater.

But, if you really want to help someone, and don’t have the time to donate blankets, here’s something we practise at home and you can do today:

  1. Go home and empty the wardrobe of clothes that are lying unused.
  2. Pull out everything you can spare: shirts, t-shirts, trousers, socks, shoes, saris, petticoats, salwar-kameezes, shorts, jeans, skirts and, of course, woolens of any kind (including caps, gloves and mufflers). Do this with every cupboard and every family member’s clothes. (Chances are you have plenty and can spare some without really missing them. Chances also are that you will discard them anyway to replace them with new, more fashionable stuff at the next sale. So, why not give them away today?)
  3. Once you’ve pulled everything out, sort them into bundles with at least one top (a shirt for example) and a bottom (trousers) in each. Then add the smaller items – caps/socks/mufflers etc. – to these bundles. Your goal is to create a bundle for an individual so sort out the clothes separately for adult males and females and for children.
  4. Now, scout around for pillow covers, towels, bedsheets, shawls…the larger items. If you find some, add these too. Also footwear, if that’s available.
  5. Chances are, you will have at least half a dozen such piles by now. Or more. Take these and stuff them into individual bags (not plastic but the disposable cloth ones) or simply knot the clothes around each other and keep the bundles segregated.
  6. Then, carry them in your car when you leave home. Keep them handy next to you, not in the boot.
  7. Look out for people on the road, at construction sites, bus stops etc. Pull over and call them over: grab a bundle and hand it over to the person. He/she may be surprised at first, but will smile and be grateful to you.
  8. Drive off and look for the next recipient of your generosity.

Go ahead, spread the warmth: it’s easier than you think.






Of Times Past

1 May

Every morning, I have a date at eight.

(And, no, this isn’t one of those rhyming couplet thingies.)

I wait at a traffic light near my house in Gurgaon like a roadside Romeo, with a Mac on my back and lunch in the bag, shooing away auto drivers, stray dogs and flies. I wait for Pooja to turn up in her Accent and pick me up en route work…eight is early for me but better than nine, which is when another colleague, Rohit, sets off.

This has been my routine for the last two months ever since my mouse-like driver – paradoxically named Ganesh – disappeared to get his sister married off in Nepal and hasn’t turned up since. After the marriage of his sibling, his father died, tragically. And then his mobile phone died, happily. And with it, died any hope I had of recovering the eight thousand rupees he owes me. So, I became dependent once again on kith, kin and colleagues to drive me around. Why I don’t drive is matter for another mindless post but, for now, let’s come back to where I started…

Pooja is punctual. She’s also a lady. And, for reasons that cannot be shared socially, she’s usually hyper (unlike Rohit who is the most relaxed human being I have seen). All of which means that I cannot keep her waiting. So I have to reach the pick-up point at least two minutes before she does. It takes me four minutes to walk from the gate of the building to the signal. But the wait for the elevator in the building can take 30 seconds or three minutes – and, if there’s a power cut halfway down the four floors, add another two minutes. So I need to set out by 7:52 to make it in time. What’s life without a little precision, I say?

And no matter how fast one shaves and showers, breakfast must be gobbled, vitamin swallowed, watch, wallet and pen grabbed, wife waved goodbye…all of which will take precious minutes. Something in this routine will be forgotten occasionally.

That’s how I forgot the watch yesterday. For, perhaps only the second time in 34 years since I was gifted an Anglo-Swiss by my father. I’ve been a keeper of Time ever since though, sometimes, I think Time kept me. I’ve slept with a watch around my frail wrist; even perched it on a narrow ledge next to me so that I could see the time whenever I awoke at night (not that I kept any record of the wakeful moments all those years). Somehow, one felt naked minus a watch.

And so, over time, the watch became more than a teller of time, it was something to be worn – not as an accessory which is what it is for most people but as a teller of tales. Every watch I own (and there are seven) has a story behind it. Be it the Titan Moonphase that Shovon and I won during an Ad Club Quiz in Calcutta despite Derek trying very hard to ensure we wouldn’t win it for the second consecutive year. Those days, Derek was at his prime, non-political quizzing days whereas today he’s the one being quizzed by news channels. Or the HMT (yes, good old HMT) that was created during Contract’s 10th anniversary in 1996…it still tocks, sorry ticks! Or the commemorative Tintin Swatch I gifted myself in Paris on a lonely birthday in 2008 2006…its strap may be frayed but the character remains.

I don’t look at a watch to see the present; I see the past.

Most people, however, wear a watch as a pure fashion accessory and glance at the mobile phone to see the time: did Nokia kill HMT? And that’s a pity because no matter how smart your phone may be, it’s unlikely to have any deep, meaningful associations of people, places and events from another life.  It’s cold, plasticky and detached; quite unlike the blend of soft, worn, warm leather and cold metal around the wrist. Somehow, a changing digit on a phone doesn’t quite mark the passage of time like the revolving hands on a watch.

But then, I’m probably in a dying breed of watch-watchers caught in a time warp while a very mobile world flits back and forth into a fickle future.

Time to go, I think.

And then there were words…

31 Jul

When Swapan sms’d me to ask if I would review his book, I readily agreed. And then, I procrastinated for reasons too complicated to explain.

Swapan is now a neighbour but has been a friend, colleague and competitor for almost two and a half decades; so, I have known him in more ways than one. And yet, I was surprised to learn that he had failed once in school.

Now, several weeks after carrying the little book around (it’s size, and much more besides, reminds me of The Little Prince that I was gifted in college) I sat myself down to review it. Actually, you can’t read This is all I have to say…you race through it and, before you realise it, you’ve reached the end. Which, I guess, is how it’s meant to be. So, you return to it to nibble on its maxims and, if they seem familiar, it’s only because they’re all (well, almost all) so very apt.


Swapan Seth's Book Debut

Swapan Seth’s style has always been pithy. And this book is very Twitterish: it’s alliterative from the start (“An assortment of angsts. A cauldron of concerns.”) aphoristic, crisp and often clichéd. But, as we’ve always been told in advertising, clichés invariably work. Advertising runs not just in Swapan’s veins but also through his pen (or iPad or whatever digital device he used while writing this 95-pager) and its impact shows in everything about the book. It’s been written to a brief; with a sharply defined core target audience (his two sons) and a larger – yet niche – set of folks in mind; its positioning is unique (which may also be a bit of an issue because conventional booksellers won’t know which shelf to stock it in) and it’s exquisitely designed by Bonita Vaz-Shimray whose use of a wonderfully-named font, MrsEaves, adds to the crunchiness of the words…. like almonds in muesli. I do feel, however, that towards the second half of the book, the designer got carried away and readability does become an issue. But packaging is essential for any creative person who secretly worries that his ideas may not otherwise be expressed as well as they were originally envisaged.

There are gems tucked away in this book: “Parenting is a relay race.” And almost the entire chapter on love: “One day you will find love. Or rather love will find you” are among my favourite lines. If, in any book or film, you can find even one line that you relate to instantly, consider yourself as having received more than what you paid for the book (Rs 195 in this case). I found some sections reminding me of others that I had read (the chapter on Friends brought back memories of Desiderata, for instance) but even if Swapan has been inspired by all that he has read (and his appetite for words is XXL) there is nothing wrong. James Webb Young, an early 20th century practitioner of advertising said that ideas are nothing but an original combination of old elements. And Ms Rowling is known to have written that words allow us to create magic like nothing else can… this book comes close to it.

There are, however, some things I would have done differently.

The title, for instance, seems to eliminate the possibility of another book – and that would be a shame. If this is really all Swapan has to say, I’d be surprised. I find the front and back covers trying too hard to impress the reader that some well-known folks have endorsed the book: not really required, my friend. I have a knack for finding typos and would like to meet the editor in Roli Books who let several slip through her pencil. Most of all, I would have liked to see the names of people who played a role in Swapan’s life instead of their being relegated to pronouns: a teacher and his first client as an entrepreneur are the only ones named.

The book is dedicated to his sons with a line “May love be the ampersand between the two of you” and perhaps that’s why I love the book: the ampersand is a delightful but undervalued character that connects almost everything epigrammatically. And I tend to overuse the word “and”… often violating the most fundamental tenet of Wren & Martin.

But, for now, this is all I have to say and you should go find the book. You don’t have to be a lover, a husband, a copywriter or even a parent to enjoy snacking on Swapan’s words… bon appetit!


23 Feb

There are times when you need someone to do nothing with.

Someone to just be there. Not to speak with or listen to. Not to touch or be caressed by. No whiff, no whisper, no kiss, no comforting… Just nothing.

Nothing more, nothing less.

But it isn’t easy to do nothing. Programmed as we are to continuously engage in social activity, we look for films to watch, books to read, links to share, friends to hang out with, calories to burn, beer to guzzle, tweets to type and statuses to update…try nothing for a change.

Nothing is a noun, not a verb – so inaction is inbuilt. ‘Do nothing’ is a paradox.

That’s it for now. Nothing else.

Law of Shoaib Malik

7 Apr

Mohitoz’ Law #254
(Contributed by Ranajit Mukherjee)

Sania, yet so far.

Sania-Shoiab: no-balled?

The Sania-Shoiab saga (image courtesy: The Guardian)

Law of Busts

19 Jan

Mohitoz’ Law #215

For women whose cups runneth over, it’s happy hours in Singapore.

Because Bar is an Anagram of Bra

The OverEasy Nightclub in Singapore offers women discounts on their drinks depending on the size of their cups (Photo courtesy: The Electric New Paper)