How much is too much?

Hello friends,

As parents, partners, friends, lovers, employers or employees, we all sometimes don’t realize how much is too much. It’s a very fine line, and it depends on the person and the situation. And you know you’ve crossed it when you begin feeling cross with yourself, or feel that you’re taken for granted, not appreciated, or just plain pi**ed without really knowing the reason why.

Perhaps it’s easiest for parents to know when they’ve done too much. At one extreme, the result is a spoilt and pampered kid, but on a lesser note it is just a child who creates tantrums when they don’t get their way.

Between friends, the friendship won’t last long if one is taken for granted. Haven’t you had a so-called friend who you always have to call? It is you who always makes a program to meet up, you who does the listening all the time. Said friend does not budge or make any move, does not bother to ask you about your day, is so busy that he or she can’t even return your phone-calls. Sounds familiar? We’ve all gone through this, thinking someone’s our friend when they are the least interested in us. Remember friendship is a two-way street. When you realize you’ve done too much, it’s time to call it quits.

Perhaps the hardest is when you’ve done too much for a partner. How did you let this happen? We all know marriage is about give and take, but when one gives too much, after some time there’s a “give.” When the giver tries to equalize the balance, there is very often resistance from the taker. Who do you blame? You can’t really blame the giver. It’s sometimes the situation that makes one give more and the other take more. And I am no relationship counsellor to say what to do or what not to do. But sometimes a good fight (without fisticuffs) where both sides let off steam helps to clear the air. So do whatever it takes to restore the equilibrium.

Well, on this note, I’ll end with these words: You should get as much as you give. And it is only you who can decide how much is too much.

Adios until next time…

Not DIET and EXERCISE again!

There seem to be two perennial topics in every newspaper and magazine the world over. Diet and exercise.

Yes, yes, I know, these twin topics ARE important, and we all need to know what is the next unpronounceable super food that is essential for our survival. My vocabulary – and my BLD (an acronym for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, but also perhaps, ironically, a short form for BLOOD)- now encompasses foods my parents have never even heard of, least of all downed. Besides, the prohibitive costs would have made their practical minds think twice before spending precious paisa on these goods. Quinoa, chia seeds, kale, keto diet, clean eating, veganism … and the list goes on.

Exercise – how, what, when – is also another favorite staple. Is it best to exercise AM or PM? What kind of exercise is good for you? How long should you exercise? Is walking the best exercise? Does weight training keep your weight down? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

GIMME A BREAK! I want to be myself- extra rolls of flesh, downing forbidden foods, keeping late hours, exercising when I feel like it, pretending a stroll with the dog is enough for the day and I’ve done my thirty minutes of brisk walking…

Every time I read another article on what kind of food I should be eating or how much I should be exercising, I reach for a bag of chips and plonk myself down on my comfy sofa, article in hand, smiling villainously to myself and saying to the article- “So there! Preach away for all I care!”

Is this constant bombardment of good health articles a nefarious agenda to give all of us folks who just want to live our life the way we want to some kind of mental health problem? Nowadays, we have so many such issues like anorexia and bulimia and body shaming and so on.

Remember, the latest catchword is DIVERSITY. And yes, round is a shape, and potato chips is a food. So just let me be.

Something sad I want to share

Folks,

I’m taking a break from my usual kind of posts, as I’ve received some devastating news. I thought I’d share it with you, not because I’m asking for sympathy or because I want to create some drama, but I think many of you can identify with this.

In the Middle East, everyone relies heavily on house-help. If you can only count the number of maid agencies, you’ll be really surprised. Every morning, I see busloads of these women being dropped at different homes. Most of them help in cleaning the house, and perhaps some of them are baby sitters.

We may all well agree that our house-help is essential to the smooth running of our lives, whether you are a high-flying career-woman or a socialite or even a stay-at-home mom.There are terrible stories of how house-help are mistreated by their employers. or even the reverse, of maids from hell who wreak havoc in a household. But sometimes, if we are lucky, our house-help is not a mere “employee” but inextricably becomes a part of our lives, as good as a family member.

Well, I had a lovely lady working for me for almost fifteen years. I don’t want to call her a maid as she was more of a companion and a family member. Bobby is her name, although she has a much more difficult-to-pronounce real name, Bechni Devi. She came to me when I was working long long hours, and she was indeed like a godsend. She blended in with our household from day 1.

Bobby in her better days

Well, I grew old, and Bobby grew old along with me. In the last two years, she found she was tiring easily, so I had to call in for some extra help.

Then this March, after returning from her annual vacation, I saw that her health had badly deteriorated. She could barely climb the stairs now and spent most of the day lying in bed. She took the decision to return just a month after her return. By this time, she was in such a poor state that I had to arrange a wheelchair at the airport.

You may ask, why didn’t I take her to a doctor? Of course, I did. To three doctors, who couldn’t really diagnose what was wrong and gave her painkillers for joint pain.

With a heavy heart, I sent her back. The family took her to the best hospital in Delhi, The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and I’ve just got the devastating news that she has stage 4 cancer of the bone!

How did this happen? Someone who was hale and hearty not six months ago now diagnosed with advanced cancer? She had her medical checkups every year whenever she went on her annual leave. The doctors had given her a clean chit even as early as February of this year. She ate whatever we ate, and lived a comfortable life here- much more healthy and comfortable than what she would have had back home, living cheek-by-jowl with other family members.

Folks, sometimes there are no answers. Life is cruel. She is one of the finest human beings I know. She was not educated (in fact illiterate) but she had wisdom and good sense in plenty. She had weathered many ups and downs in her life, and wanted to spend time with her grandchildren when she returned home for good.

I don’t know what more to say, except that I hope through some miracle she gets better and responds to the treatment. Yes, miracles do happen and I hope against hope that she comes out on top.

Move over, Jumeira Jane – make way for New Dubai Nikita

Jumeira Janes

Every city has it’s equivalent of a Jumeira Jane. In Dubai, a Jumeira Jane is the typical well-heeled (usually Western) expat who drives an SUV, drops her kids at school and heads straight to the gym, and then spends the rest of the day attending coffee mornings and leisurely brunches. Jumeira is a coastal area in Dubai favoured by affluent expats, with villas in many architectural styles and hotels along the beachfront.

Jumeira villas

Now that Dubai has expanded, Jumeira is no longer the hottest residence. The new areas make up what is now called New Dubai, comprising low-lying residential areas surrounded by lakes, meadows or golf courses, as well as high-rise properties, some overlooking the Arabian Sea. The beautiful people have now made this their home.

Enter the new version of Jumeira Jane, New Dubai Nikita. She is gorgeous, always in designer clothes, brunching with her friends at the trendiest restaurants (always organic and gluten-free if you please), and throws the smartest parties. She can be of any nationality.

Know someone like this? I’m sure you can point out a few, or perhaps YOU are one.

But before you think I am passing judgment, let me add that this is stereotyping to the nth degree.

It is a total disservice to New Dubai Nikita to label her a fluff-head. This new brand of Dubai womanhood is not a woman who plays second fiddle. She may be the owner of her own successful business, or work on an equal footing with her tycoon husband; she may be a high-flying professional working in a large corporate, or in the educational or hospitality sector.

Or Nikita may not be any of these. She may be like the erstwhile Jumeira Jane. If her husband gives her platinum-edged credit cards, and if she wants to spend her time at hair or tanning saloons or make visits to the plastic surgeon for a nip n tuck, SO WHAT? That doesn’t make her a fluff-head.

Nikita can be either of these women and exciting and interesting in her own way.

New Dubai Nikita, three cheers for you! You are the new epitome of Dubai womanhood.

Businesswoman Nikita
Fashionista Nikita

Are you a brandaholic?

Answer the following questions as honestly as you can, with just a simple YES or NO.

  • When you buy sunglasses, do you make sure the designer label is emblazoned on the side and visible to all?
  • You profess not to have heard of Marks and Spencers and Debenhams. Don’t they only sell groceries? Doesn’t everybody shop at Harvey Nichols or Galeries Lafayette?
  • You make sure the label of your designer underwear (chaddies) under your low-slung jeans is visible to all.
  • You can make out at a distance of 500 metres if someone is wearing a Rolex or a Brugeut or a Patek Philippe.

If you’ve answered YES to any two of the above, you are in danger of being labelled a brandaholic. You must have guessed by now that a brandaholic is someone crazy about brands.

Now, there is nothing really wrong in buying brands. It’s entirely your business. If you move in those charmed circles where everyone sports the latest, and you’re none the poorer for flinging a couple thousand $$$ into buying a luxury item, that’s entirely up to you. Or perhaps you’re one of those who saves for months together just to get that Louis Vuitton handbag or those Jimmy Choos. Well, that’s a perfectly normal and respectable thing to do.

However, if you only dream of brands, eat, drink and sleep brands, spend three months’ of your salary and all your savings into buying that latest luxury gizmo… well, you’re in danger of becoming a brandaloon (loony about brands) and you’d better check in to the nearest therapist’s. Friend, beware, as you’re going down the path of emotional destruction and economic ruin.

Brands! Brands! Brands! (sung to the tune of Boys! Boys! Boys!)

Worse still, if you judge people by the brands they wear (or don’t wear), if you don’t want to make friends with someone who is “cheap and cheerful”, or just sensible and wholesome, well, your value system is skewed. You’re assessing people by their externals and perhaps not seeing their inner worth. You may then come in for a rude shock.

According to ‘Psychology Today’, marketers spend thousands of dollars on advertising because they know we are wired for the joys of anticipation. A big dollop of dopamine, the pleasure-enhancing chemical, is released in our brain, merely anticipating the product. So advertisers are sometimes guilty of fuelling our brand-obsession. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/unconscious-branding/201709/how-brands-addict-us)

Now, before someone reading this in cyber-space is gritting their teeth in anger because they happen to be working in the luxury segment or in advertising, let me qualify my statement by saying there is no harm in buying or coveting luxury brands. These items have been made to the highest quality, and have been tested and retested so that they pass the test of fire, so to speak. Their high prices are there for a reason (although a great deal of it also has to do with status). Besides, don’t we all love flicking through glossies and watching those young things sway down the catwalk wearing something outrageous and unaffordable?

So do go ahead and indulge in your obsession, but keep your limits in mind.

Now, I’m ending this blog with a quiz. How many of these brand icons can you name? Until next time, happy branding!

Posh Nosh- or just a scam?

You know when you visit some fancy restaurant and see the menu and read something like this:

Fluffed white rice with a side of hand- beaten creamy yellow lentils tempered with fragrant cumin and caramelized onions

This is nothing but dal- chaval, dear folks, just refined to make it sound pricey and special. ( Dal- chaval is plain rice and lentils, equivalent to something like baked beans on toast).

It’s not just expensive restaurants but mid- range restaurants and even small eateries that seem to be playing the same game. They just either Frenchify the name or give it some kind of new twist so we think we’re ordering something exotic. It’s ordinary food parading as haute cuisine.

I’m sure we’ve all been to those fancy restaurants – and fancy parties too- where you order something from the menu that sounds really exotic, but what you get is the same ole stuff what Mum makes at home, only Mum’s stuff is better. Like this description:

Vegan whole-wheat flatbread stuffed with a mashed potato filling flavoured with spices, cooked tenderly over a griddle until crisp, accompanied by an earthen pot of rich, creamy yoghurt and a tangy slice of mango pickle.

What is this lovely food with an exorbitant price-tag? Nothing more than aloo parantha with yoghurt and pickle, what the average Punjabi eats for breakfast on an almost daily basis.

Aloo parantha with yoghurt and pickle
Aloo parantha with its accompaniments

There’s more, much more. Have you ever had a waiter approaching you with a dish from which white smoke curls out? Quite dramatic, ain’t it? That’s nothing else but liquid nitrogen, the latest serving trend in fancy restaurants. I had some golguppas – pani puri to some of you- with swirls of smoke erupting from these bombs. I was urged to pop one into my mouth- smoke n all- and after the initial icy coldness, my mouth exploded with the tangy taste of the jaljeera. it reminded me of Enid Blyton’s “pop biscuits” in her Magic Faraway Tree series. Remember those biscuits, which grew bigger and bigger in your mouth until you almost burst, and then pop! Your mouth was filled with honey. Well, all I can say is, I prefer my golguppas the normal way, thank you very much, and don’t want to get a cold burn.

Pani puri or golguppas- typical streetfood

It’s not just Indian or Asian foods that are given all kinds of fancy terminology or strange ways of “refining” them, it’s also continental food. Have you had something freshly foraged? For heavens’ sake. that lamb or venison that you’re eating has probably come from a supermarket shelf. Nobody has gone hunting for deer or whatever in the nearby forests. The same holds for the expression “freshly picked”, as if there’s a kitchen garden at the back of the restaurant or hotel. These are merely posh-sounding terms to make you part with your precious paisa.

Another of my pet peeves is “hand-cut.” Like the other day, an upmarket restaurant advertised its hand-cut zucchini salad. C’mon, most things are cut by hand! Gimme hand-cut over machine-cut any time! But that in no way warrants the jaw-dropping prices.

I end my piece with something I truly love, but served to me in the most pretentious manner possible: Mango hedgehog. Can only be eaten with a knife and fork, or scooped out with a spoon. Here it is. Care for some?

Mango hedgehog, if you please!

What kind of accent do you have?

Accents! They’re the first thing you notice about a person when they open their mouth. You can often place a person – the country they come from, the region they grew up in, perhaps even their educational or social background- from their accent. It’s like a blue-print of yourself and your entire background and history.

An accent is a way of pronouncing a language. So everyone has an accent, (even though you think you don’t.) Language experts opine that we pick up an accent right from the time we’re six-month-old babes-in-arms. We acquire our accent not just from our parents, but also from the people around us. A child in Kindergarten will imbibe the accent of his or her teachers as well as friends.

In later years, it’s hard to change your accent. So if you want to learn a foreign language, it’s best to start at an early age. Of course, there’s the Foreign Accent Syndrome, where a person, after a stroke or a head injury, begins speaking in a totally different accent, but this is a topic for another blog,

Trevor Noah, in his book “Born a Crime” talks about the impact of language and of accents on people. Noah says that language brings with it an identitiy and a culture. A shared language – and a shared accent- says “we’re the same.” A different accent quite simply says “we’re different.” He gives the example of black people on screen speaking African languages, which sounded familiar to him. However, when these same programs were dubbed in English, the accent used was the black American accent, and his perception of them changed. He felt they were foreigners.

For many Indians, speaking English with the “right” accent used to be a hallmark of not just education and status, but even of their intelligence. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. A person like the flamboyant politician Shashi Tharoor, with his inflated vocabulary and “posh” English accent, sounds plain ridiculous to us. Here’s a fun YouTube video of “Tharoorisms” u can watch.

Normal English vs Shashi Tharoor English | Akash Banerjee – YouTube

Now, coming to Dubai, with its mish-mash of cultures and communities, is there a Dubai accent? I’d very strongly say YES. Listen carefully to a young person’s accent- a TCK or Third Culture Kid -someone who’s born and brought up in Dubai, although they are not from this country. They speak their mother-tongues, but also learn to speak English at a very young age, often from a British, American, Australian, Indian, Phillipina, or South American teacher, or indeed any one of the 200 nationalities who live and work here. Their friends too come from different backgrounds amd different cultures. It’s not surprising that kids who grow up here develop a way of speaking that reflects this mosaic of cultures. Their accents may be a strange mix of British/American and Arabic, with perhaps a regional variant thrown in! Here are some TCK voices:

I’m going to end this blog with a hilarious YouTube video from a very talented guy called Mad Shadz, about the different accents of various nationalities (not TCKs) who all call Dubai their home. Enjoy!!

Mad Shadz talks English in different accents – YouTube

Acknowledgements:

  • Thank you, Jagruti Mistry Kartik for bringing to my attention Trevor Noah’s views on language and accents in his brilliant autobiography,”Born a Crime.”
  • Thanks to Dia and Kyra for lending their voices, and their lovely moms, Neeru and Cherry.
  • Mad Shadz (of course), and Akash Banerjee
  • Images: from Google images

 2:42Nov 16, 2016 – Uploaded by David L