Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Recycled Series - I

Recycling or reusing is in our blood. Firstly an Indian and then a Bong, we recycle almost everything. Take a look around home and you see reused stuff here, there, everywhere. In a Bong household, you see Horlicks and Bourvita bottles made into containers of ‘shorsher tel’ (mustard oil), Kwality Walls Sundae boxes made into tiffin boxes (yes, you read it right; there’s nothing called lunch-boxes in a Bong household), old vests (read genji) used as rags for dusting. We use ‘mishtir hari’ (earthen pots from sweet shops) to grow plants, we use Vodafone sim-card holders as key rings, visiting cards as book-marks and CDs as coasters. Our mothers teach us to open gift wraps slowly and neatly and hoard them under mattresses with a view to use them on subsequent birthdays and wedding invitations. Old toothbrushes are reused for cleaning combs and washbasins, old saris given to ‘bartan-walis’ in exchange of stainless-steel utensils. I do not know of a single Bong family who would buy rubber bands; they are meant for recycling and reusing on a give-and-take basis. While eating in restaurants (which Bongs excitedly refer to as ‘Hotel’), we secretly pick up extra toothpicks and sauf, get them neatly wrapped in a tissue paper and bring them home for future use.
A generation ahead we think a little differently. Yet, we can’t get over the recycling factor (minus the ‘bartanwali’ and ‘genji’ part, of course). When I travel in Indigo, I get happy at the thought that food wouldn’t be provided. I buy those 50-rupees-oatmeal cookie boxes and bring them home to hoard my earrings, rings and safety pins. They are also excellent for storing biscuits, sugar, milk powder etc. (completely air-tight; tried and tested). While travelling, the same cookie-tin can be a ‘god of small things’….nail-cutter, band-aids, keys, gem clips, shampoo sachets, lip balm and so many other tiny things fit in perfectly.
From restaurants, instead of those extra toothpicks, I have picked up stirrers once in a while (try Smirnoff ones, they are good). Stirrers are excellent jura-pins. Roll your hair, make a bun and put a stirrer. It holds your hair perfectly and often more effective than pencils. (you are free to unfriend/ block/ report abuse me after reading this).
And then those white plastic boxes that come from take-aways and restaurants. We don’t throw a single of them. On birthdays and anniversaries we send extra food to relatives in those plastic boxes once the party is over. On a day when we have tried a new form of aloo-posto or dhokar dalna, we send it to our next door neighbour in the same dabba. So, you see, parting away with your priceless stainless steel Tiffin-carriers (with the anticipation that it would never come back) has vanished phenomenally with the advent of these containers. Oh, we often use them to store fish and chicken in deep freezers, as well.
One thing that deserves very special mention here is recycling gifts. There are certain bed covers, cups and saucers, pearl sets and sarees which are gifted during your weddings for the noble cause of recycling and hence you do the honours without feeling guilty (just like your mom, grand mom, aunts, distant aunts did).
In my household, I have noticed that the thing that’s recycled MOST is a bottle. I am not exactly talking about the Coke pet bottle used to store kerosene oil in a Bong kitchen. I mean the aesthetic value which bottles add to our daily lives by virtue of reuse. Here are some of them made into use either by me or people I know. Most of them are alcohol bottles for their sturdy glass-build, different shapes, sizes and memories they are associated with.

1. Tailor-mate: Yes, being the very friendly person that I am, I have befriended many people from many walks of life. My tailor is one of them. One day, I chanced to see this huge packet full of bits and pieces of clothes being thrown away. These are left over fabrics which he was cleaning out of his shop. I asked for it. He readily handed it over to me.

My brother-in-law’s friends had come over for the Pune-Kolkata match. Empty Beer-bottles collected thereafter, cleaned and a handful of stuff used from that ‘huge packet’ my tailor gave me.

Snippets from a stranger’s kurta and left-overs from a fantastic Kolkata-win now adorn my window pane..

2.   Old monk in a new bottle: I had this eternal debate within my mind as to which alcohol bottle is the most beautiful..Antiquity Blue Bottle is stunning, Glen bottles have their own old-world charm, but the Old Monk emerges as a clear winner for me. Its stained glass exterior is a perfect surface for glass painting. But, I tried something else on it giving it an almost-retro look. For daaru-parties to come, I am going to use it for storing water.

I found the cap an eyesore. I covered it with jute threads. Those who thought that the bottle was the only thing recycled, here’s a small piece of information. Calcuttans who live on floors above the ground floor receive their newspapers every morning on their balconies, rolled neatly and tied up with jute strings. A bong mum-in-law never throws those strings away, so that her daughter-in-law could use it later, for her creative ventures ;)

Cheers to our eternal favourite OM2/ OMTU (a.k.a Old Monk with Thums Up!!)

3.  Let there be light: This Glen bottle was a gift from a very dear friend. I am too fond of the friend and his gift to throw it away or sell in along with beer cans and Breezer bottles in the local market at 40 rupees a kilo. So I took it to an electrician, got a cork and bulb fixed, put marbles inside and made it into this. And, gifted it to another very dear friend on his birthday.

Alcohol does make you light, what say?

4.  Message in a bottle: Are January rains special?? I didn’t think so, unless it started raining and I realized it was the first drizzle of the year. Yes, one year back, on a chilly mid-Jan evening, it started pouring. Like the rains, ideas keep on flowing too..on happy days.
We were eating out; not exactly in a position to collect the rainwater. I quickly rang up my best friend, asked her to keep a bisleri bottle on her roof top, get it filled with rain. She followed.
On the hottest day of summer, I bottled the rain water and penned down OUR favourite Mohiner Ghoraguli song on it. It was a no-occasion gift for Mr. Mostly-Right.
You tell me, is love only about getting drenched in the downpour or being each other’s raincoats??..Is it not the promise that “I assure you a cloudburst even on the most scorching day of the year”…?

5.  Shishey se shisha takray: Glass bangles, like promises are made to be broken. We break them during unmindful moments… by dropping them, by trying smaller sizes or while making love. The bottomline is they BREAK often and instead of throwing them into dustbins, you can put them into use by combining them with a Breezer bottle like I did. Let light fall over it and see the result. The multihued ‘shishe-se-shishe-takaray’ effect is vibrant!    

FYI: I know, none can have so many broken bangle pieces in ‘put-to-use’ mode. When I was running short of them, I took a few from my bangle stand, broke them suo moto and used them for this noble activity (not waiting for other “nobler activities” which can break bangles too ;)…)

6.  Glass painted: This is one of the gifts I received on my last birthday. A very talented aunt had painted a whisky bottle with glass colours and made it into a flower vase. I use it to grow money plants. (The last sentence sounds so f***ing awesome!! I wish it was literal).

7. 'Absolutely' light: A very close friend one day showed me this photograph of his sister’s bedside lamp and I was awed. The aesthetically enriched girl has used the Diwali rice-lights and an Absolute bottle to make this absolutely beautiful light. What a wonderful idea of putting to use the rice-lights which just after Diwali finds its place in the store room and remains untouched for a whole year. The translucent surface of the bottle does the rest of the magic!!

8.  Papercup: Last but not the least. In the span of these 28 springs that I have crossed, I have come across a number of super-talented people who have impressed and inspired. One of them is a little sister-cum-friend who runs a label called “Papercup” along with her friends. In their last exhibition, they showcased a wonderful collection of flower vases made out of alcohol bottles, wrapped in colourful threads. A flower or two tucked inside to jazz up a corner of your drawing room or coffee table. You get to see their vivid collection (which includes more of these stuffs) on their Facebook page.  Please visit.  

Photo: Owner's own


I can blabber unstoppably on how things can be reused or recycled. And I will in days to come. Watch out this space for more.


Saturday, 12 May 2012


Mothers are the rarest of species God formed for mankind in lieu of His failure to be present everywhere, to look after the countless problems you are faced with which God was too busy to solve….or in other words, moms are proxies for GOD in your lives, I have realised.
And then, I have another observation as well. When I was almost convinced that my husband was THE most disobedient being on planet, I found that he has stiff competition. God can be even worse at times..more defiant, more disobedient than my man. You ask for something from Him, He either ignores it completely or does something diametrically opposite. In my case, He is subservient most of the times, but yes, at times, He fails too.. sad enough but true. And, if God has his shortcomings, so has man and woman..
More precisely, if Almighty isn’t perfect, how can His proxies be? The almost-God of your life, too, comes with her baggages and hiccups.
And here are some of them (P.S: this article is based on extensive survey. Like charity, it started at home and extended..well, almost everywhere…and yes, the emphasis is mainly on mothers of daughters):-
1.  Dress-Code:

“How can you wear such a shabby dress to office? I see women of your age going for work, so well dressed….Now, look at your hair; your ‘just-got-out-of-bed’ look for work pisses me off….Wear these earrings, puff some face-powder..atleast put some lipstick” (‘face-powder’ is her favorite makeup..and life without Lipstick is no life at all)

“You want to wear a WHITE saree to a wedding?? Why? Are you a South-Indian OR are you Aparna Sen (read antel)? Only South Indians wear white saris to weddings (shock!!!). There are so many colourful sarees in your wardrobe…why don’t you make them into curtains, cushion covers or doormats when you have decided to wear white sarees to weddings!!..Atleast wear the ‘so and so’ gold necklace we gave you for your wedding. Oh, you don’t have it at home?? You have all the time to watch movies, eat out, chat on Facebook, but you don't the time to go to the bank and get it from the Locker?? When your younger sister gets married, I won’t give her a single piece of gold jewelry…for people like you, New Market and Gariahat footpath is sufficient.”

In general:
“I saw your photo on Facebook. You were wearing a dress with invisible sleeves, embarrassing neckline and of the length of your class-5 school uniform. There are so many people from your “sosur-bari” (in-laws) who are on Facebook. What will they think of you?? It seems, we never sent you to school, didn't give you proper education..” (Of course you sent me to school; otherwise how would you know what my class 5 uniform looked like?!?)

2.  Pyar ke side effects:

It is said that the worst side effect of love is marriage…but before landing upon the worst, you have to go through the pretty bad ones. The side effects start the moment you present your case before your mom.

a)  “Ma, I like this guy, he is tall, dark and …...” (don’t unnecessarily use the word ‘handsome’, because even if your boyfriend looks like George Clooney or Amir Khan, your mom would find him ugly).

Reply: He is too tall…if you two ever click bust-size photos standing, it’ll be only him and no you..(we’ll click full-length photos then, if you insist!!)
He is toooo dark for you..I don’t want Dalmatians or Zebras as grandchildren!! (you are dumb-folded. Hence no comments....)

b)   “Ma, I like this guy..he is not very tall but he is very fair and good looking..”

Reply: “Not very tall maane? I think he is shorter than you. Have you watched Mein Hoon Na or Mein meri patni aur woh recently and drawn inspirations?? And, my god, you’ll have short children. At least one of you should have good height”..(In any case, once in your lifetime, your mom compared a five feet you with Susmita Sen!!!)
“Issh, he is toooo fair for comfort!” (And, all throughout her life your mom claimed herself to be a Rishi Kapoor fan!!)

c)    “Ma, he is a doctor”…

Reply: ”It’ll take him a lifetime to get settled..and when he is settled, he will have no life and no time at all. The first few years he will struggle; the rest of the years, you will struggle to get a glimpse of him. Doctors are too busy.”(And, you thought only apples keep doctors away!!)

d)     “Ma, he is an Engineer…”

Reply: “Oh, engineers are onsite-hungry. Every now and then, he would want to fly to the US to earn dollars. What will you do then?? Leave your job, go there and cook for him?? You can never have your own career.” (The same guy would have been chosen if only his profile came out in some matrimonial and not through you)

e)    “Ma, he is doing his Ph.D….he wants to teach”..

Reply: ”He is STILL studying and doing research?? When will he be settled?? And teacher?? Didn’t you know,’ those you know, work…those who don’t,  teach’” (Really????? I didn't know)

f)    “Ma, he is a lawyer”..

Reply (assuming it is my mother): ”Same profession??? The moment you’ll earn more more than him, he’ll be jealous..Abhimaan dekho ni? (haven’t you seen Abhimaan)?” (If life was all about learning from movies, then I have also watched ‘the Dirty Picture’ several times)

g)     “Ma, he is an MBA”..

Reply: ”From where?? Lovely Professional University??....where you pay a few lakhs as capitation fees and get enrolled?? Nowadays toh, every Tom, Dick, Harry, Bhojpuri is an MBA..” (No comments can’t laugh and talk at the same time)

h) “Ma, he is not from our community. He is a Punjabi/ Malliyali/Bihari/Nepali/Gujrati (as your case may be)”

Replies (as the case may be):

Punjabi? So how did your love for them develop? From reading the innumerable jokes that are written on them?? (Am sure those jokes are no match to your funniness, Ma)

Maliyali? How can you survive on food cooked in Parachute coconut oil? I wonder if they use the same bottle of oil for bathrooms and kitchens! (Was coconut oil not enough? Adding ‘Parachute’ to it makes it obscenely hilarious).

Bihari? They never go to schools. They are gundas (Even when the maximum number of IAS officers are from Bihar)

Nepali?  Oh they can make husbands as well? I thought they can only make good drivers, night-guards and say “shaab-ji” all the time. (And you thought your mom finds small-eyed-looks cute)

Gujrati?  They are vegetarians!!  (making it sound as if they have AIDS!)

i)       “Ma, he is a Bengali”

Reply: “Bangal (Bengalis from erstwhile Bangladesh) or Ghoti (Bengalis from West Bengal)?”

Once answered to her satisfaction, comes her next set of observations and warnings:  “the lives of Bengali men centers round their mothers, they are lazy, unmotivated, unsmart, speak Benglish, spend 2/3rd of their lives eating and shopping for what they will eat, become potbellied moment they turn 40 (and remain Salman Khans for 39 years 364 days of their lives, as if), they love newspapers more than their wives (hmm, so mothers-in-law are not the only threat) ” and the list is infinite like P.C. Sarkar’s “water of India”..(a few hours back, according to your mom, Bengalis were God’s gift to mankind!)

            To sum up, and to put unsaid stuff into words “in this whole wide world, THIS was the only guy you could find?? I want to give him ‘the-worst-man-a-girl-can-get’ trophy. He can never keep you happy, he can never get a good job or his job is not good enough. He is Charles Shobraj in the guise of Prince Charles”.

3.      Facebook:

Facebook is like chicken pox. If you have it, the other family members will slowly fall into its trap. And like the disease itself, your mom would be the first to get affected since she sticks to you the most.

And here are her most frequent and favourite observations:

“Take a nice picture..I want to put it as my Facebook profile picture” or “hmm, this picture has turned out to be nice, eta amar profile picture kore de to” (she’ll give you her id and password and ask you to do it. The favourite word in her FB dictionary is “profile picture”, everytime someone clicks her photograph she would anticipate if it is nice enough for her Facebook identity, but…. she doesn't know how to change it).

“Teach me how to chat on Facebook” (at a speed of 1 word per minute).

“I sent your younger sister/brother a friend request. He didn't accept it” (of course, younger siblings are more intelligent)
“Ishh, how could such a pretty friend of yours get married to such an ugly man? (making it sound as if the man is Dhannonjoy Chatterjee). I mean it’s okay to get married to anyone you choose, but atleast don’t put captions like ‘my Superhero’, ‘Mr. Handsome’ etc. etc.”  (and instantly you know whom to blame for your mean genes)

“I think X is Y’s girlfriend” (how are you so sure?) “whenever she puts a picture on Facebook he likes it” (So???)

“I didn’t like this picture of yours” (But, Ma when it was clicked you said it was really nice)..”uff, I mean I did not LIKE it on Facebook” (she takes up “Liking”, “Sharing” and “Tagging” with the seriousness of board exams and punctuality of finishing it )

“Why did your husband like or comment on your photo? He could tell you all that at home.” (For the same reason, you like my photos, even though you could tell me in person, call me or sms me to tell me the same!!)

4.        Life in general:-

“Why do you maintain a bank account? Better, you open an account with restaurants and movie halls. Every other day you have to eat out or watch a movie?? When will you understand the value of money??” (Never)

“Oil your hair” (used almost every alternate day, 5 times a day)
“Just because it’s Sunday, you have to wake up at 11 o’ clock?” (Yes)

“Ghum theke uthe bathroom gechili? Poty hoeche?” (Did you go to the loo? Did you poop?) (even if you are 30 years old)

“I say nothing when you don’t wear gold chains or bangles which you are supposed to wear once you are married, but atleast wear Sindur!! I don’t know how your in-laws tolerate you” (just like you did for so long)

And the first thing she says if you wish her Shubho Nababarsho or Subho Bijoya over the phone “Sosur sashuri, barir boroder pronam korecho?” (have you touched the feet of elders at home?)  (Yes, Ma, I do it every now and then, even without occasions, toe-touching gives you a flat stomach like Bipasha Basu).

"Bor to tor theke boro..takey 'tui' bole dakish keno? E ki oshobhyota!" (Thank God, she doesn't say "Rabindranath boyeshe etota boro, onake naam dhore dakish keno?")..translation in English would rob this statement of its charm, so be it.

“Ei thhanday gorom jama poroni?? Sorir ta agey na fashion kora agey?” (you haven’t worn warm clothes in this freezing cold? What’s more important?.. health or style? ) (At your age, my age, style)

If she is in Pantaloons, her observation would be: “Westside clothes are so much brighter, better and cheaper” (If you interchange the two names in the sentence above, it would equally apply to her).

“Let me know once you have reached..even a missed call or text would do” (be it Office/ Station/ Airport/ Delhi/ America/ friend’s house, “pouchhe janio” is a must. She sometimes secretly wishes if mobile operators could start a mapping service where she could track each and every place you are going to and when you are reaching there).

“Taratari bari firish” (Come home early). Period.

“You are so lazy, so impunctual. Had to be. After all, you also have your father’s genes” (If you are good, she is the reason. If you are bad, blame your dad).

“Have you eaten?” (This is her THE most favourite dialogue and she uses it like verbs in 60% sentences she says in a day).


A lot being said and done. What remains unspoken is, no matter how much she gets onto your nerves, no matter how much she embarrasses you or how much the two of you disagree on things, she is still the most cherished possession of your life… the first word you spoke, your first best friend, your utmost critic yet your most ardent fan, your greatest stress buster, your “pashbalish” (bolster) for so many years, the most beautiful sight after a hard day’s work, the human alarm clock, the handkerchief that soaks all your tears, the most effective medicine for headaches and heartburn, your greatest encouragement and greatest believer, the hoarder of your secrets, your confidant, the one who can read your eyes and know EXACTLY what it means even when ‘you say nothing at all’, the one who can transform every “tum-itna-jo-muskura-rahe-ho” moments into happiness, the one who can proudly claim “my daughter is good, but my son-in-law is better” and make you sad and proud at the same time, the one whose "Dugga Dugga" is always the best adieu, the one you inherited your madness and goodness from,  the smell that beats all Elizabeth Ardens and Davidoffs taken together, the only woman you can readily kiss even if she is sweating gallons…

So you see, just because Chocolate Eclairs stick to your teeth and irritates you, will you stop eating it or will your love for it grow any less?

It’s painful when the right ear plug of your i-pad gets entwined with the left one EVERYDAY, and detangling them annoys you to the hilt…but will you stop listening to music or discard the i-pad for a couple of those difficult minutes?

We never realize the value of that one boiled potato in a big plate of Biryani unless the plate comes without one…

Happy Mother’s Day!!

Photo courtesy: "Pather pachali"