Sunday, December 31, 2017

In 2017, Bollywood wrote its biggest obituary, sending Sexy Back to Heaven!

When Bollywood sits down to write its obituaries for 2017 and do the year-end scroll of ‘In Memoriam’ it will have to write the biggest one for “sexiness.” For, two of its sexiest stars of all time bid adieu to this world in 2017!

Vinod Khanna and Shashi Kapoor were the very definition of sexiness from the time they lit up the silver screen. For generations of women, ranging from grandmothers to granddaughters, Khanna and Kapoor kept the mush alive in the rapidly-beating hearts.

My introduction to the concept of ‘Sexy’ was in fact via Vinod Khanna. At home, a sense of gender equality prevailed. Boys were simply compatriots who talked, walked and behaved differently but were not necessarily objects to covet.

I studied in a co-educational convent and engaged in healthy competition in studies and games with the boys. Beating the boys at the game of Kho-kho during interval gave us a special sense of high but it still was not viewed through separate-sex tinted glasses.

This went on till Juju; the daughter of Colonel Sud arrived on campus. She had studied in Darjeeling, seen as more hip a place than Doon, and somewhere abroad as she had us believe. So Juju, with her overt, open attitude towards all things, mostly boys, was our passport through puberty into the vast Neverland of hormones and its temptations.

We began ignoring requests by the boys for Table Tennis or Kho-kho and instead poured over Juju’s notepad, as she drew the low-belted ‘X’ to describe the virile physique of Vinod Khanna. She explained how the ‘X’ showed Khanna’s strong, broad shoulders and pectorals, a robust, fat-free torso, the narrow waist from which slung the taut pelvic zone. The ‘X’ and the chin cleft completed the visage of a super sexy hero who would begin to star even in our dreams.

Standing on the No.1 pedestal with Khanna and Kapoor have been only a few more men who have exuded raw, manly attraction. Jayant, father to Amjad Khan and Imtiaaz, with his fair, sharp features and towering Pathan personality was, without doubt, a very handsome and good-looking man.

Shashi Kapoor’s father was definitely the erstwhile torchbearer or so I discovered in the pre-Board years close on the heels of getting formally introduced to Vinod Khanna’s X-factor.

With the awareness of the new desires and yearnings that men could stir in us, I watched Prithviraj Kapoor, my breath held close to my chest, as he essayed the role of Alexander in the eponymous film shown by Doordarshan on Sunday nights. I didn’t quite care about his shenanigans with Porus, but with his square-jawed, light eyed, Greek God face, tall frame, sinewed, muscled hamstrings in those short Athenian skirts and a smooth baritone, Prithiviraj Kapoor as a larger than life persona, was conquering to rule my little heart.   

For my 11th, I had to shift, to my dismay and horror, to the all-girls Convent of Jesus and Mary. Since distance makes the heart grow fonder, the all-girls environment made the girls more aware of the boys, in a pining sort of way; that and the fact that we all were in our hormone-enriched teens. Leading the brigade here was the beauteous, peaches &cream complexioned and sophisticated Seema, Brigadier Gulati’s daughter who lived in Gun House, the most prestigious address in the Cantonment.

The ride to and from School in our giant Three-ton School truck was made entertaining and aspirational by Seema’s stories and feats, and even at that age, she was one hell of a raconteur. One Monday, she got on the bus with her left hand covered in a dainty, chiffon kerchief. She began to regale us with her Sunday escapade in the Queen of Hills and her chance meeting with Sanjay Dutt at the Mussoorie Skating Rink. She talked about how he had looked dreamily into her eyes, teased her a bit, kissed her hand and signed his name on the back of it. She pulled off the fabric dramatically to show the imprint that Dutt had presumably left on her hand.

In the days that rolled by, we discovered that it was a story fed on an over-appetite of Mills & Boons that Seema had dished out to us. We found out that there had been no such meeting but we also realized that Sanjay Dutt had become an MB hero for urban, convent girls in their late teens with levels of oestrogen fired up.

I finally got to meet Sanjay Dutt, about two years down the line from Seema’s fictional story. He had come to Prabhat, one of the more popular cinema halls in Doon, for a Premier of his second film. Dressed in a blue suede blazer and stonewashed blue Jeans the latest boy-man sensation was truly sexy. Radiant complexion with pink undertones, a green, 5 o’clock shadow and those dreamy, deep-set eyes made him even more luscious. I don’t know how I got to be the only girl in the Theatre Owner’s Chamber amongst a swelling group of local boys, but I caught Dutt’s attention. He signed my autograph book with “Love you too much,” he made me sit between him and Gulshan Grover, his co-star in the film, for the length of the evening and in between exchanged small talk with me.

I am sure he must have had big laughs at my expense, but when I refused to take his address he was slightly startled. I told him I preferred giving him mine so that I would know for sure that he would actually wish to correspond with me. He let the most genial smile escape; he held my hand in promise and said he understood me well. That day, I found first hand why he was indeed the Deadly Dutt. It has been of personal sadness to me, then, to see him devolve to a dopey, drooping Dutt.

The earlier famous Khans – Feroze and Sanjay too were among the sexiest men of Bollywood. Feroze Khan, of course, was such a snazzy, seductive looker and his picture-perfect good looks overshadowed most of his contemporaries, from his earliest films through the Qurbani days of fame up until Welcome, one of the last he shot.

I had never found Sanjay Khan to be quite in the league of his international-appeal brother. But when I met him in 2005 at The Imperial Hotel, in spite of age having advanced and a freak accident having left its mark, Sanjay Khan was an extremely charming man with that irresistible and distinctive Khan charisma.

I was beckoned sharply by the General Manager because a big film group was creating a ruckus in 1911 Lawns. Being the Head of PR & Communications it fell under my purview to see who was disrupting the decorum and disturbing other guests. The entourage pointed me in the direction of Sanjay Khan, who was here to do a reconnoiter.

For one, I noted that he was far better looking than he ever looked on screen. His suaveness, the savoir-faire, the perfectly clipped accent and the immaculate gentlemanliness added to his flamboyance. He shook my hand, he told me that he would be mindful of the hotel’s rules and thanked me profusely for my involvement. It was all done with such smooth silkiness that I came back to the GM having turned a Khan camper and found myself giving a wide berth to Sanjay Khan’s use of our hotel, though within limits.

Jackie Shroff was the epitome of manhood and sexiness from his modeling days and he scorched the screen for most women in Parinda. Dressed simply in a black wife-beater and faded blue Jeans, he turned our collective hearts to pulp as he menacingly strode the steps up to meet Nana Patekar’s character. The well-formed behind enveloped perfectly in Denim, the muscular arms and the fit body with lip-smacking glamorous looks sent most women into a tantalizing tizzy and the men into a deep womb of envy.

I missed meeting Jaggu Dada by one day during my Hyatt Regency days. He came for a Film Party on a Sunday and being part of non-Operations Management I was off. But the next day the hotel was abuzz with the deliciously divine Jackie stories, how he had women swooning and how all men were his Bro, well actually his homegrown precursor ‘Bhidu,’ – his equalizing term of endearment for all, right from the officious Director of Food & Beverage to the youngest Busboy.

Shashi Kapoor’s death in the end of 2017 has really plucked away the kings of sexiness who have ruled our hearts for generations. I had the good fortune of meeting Shashi ji – the only Kapoor who was truly sexy in the otherwise very suave and stylish family of Kapoor men – in 2005. The fact that he had a chronic ailment and was on a wheelchair did not take away in the least his intrinsic magnetism and sex appeal. He held one of my hands in his left, gave me a semi-hug with his right arm, looked into my eyes and in the most entrancing, uniquely Shashi accent said to me, “How are you, Darling?” And I just melted away having been completely shot to smithereens by Shashi Kapoor’s magical spell. I think he guessed it or at least his twinkling hazel eyes and the one-sided, million dollar smile had me so believe. I realized, sexiness can never be about age, wealth or put on and practiced attitude. Either you have it or you simply don’t!

Like any other attribute, sexiness too is subjective. Therefore, what may be sexy for you may not be so for me and vice versa. But there have been these men who have set the definition of sexiness in stone, separating the ordinarily earthy from the celestially divine.

2017 saw the sexiest two icons from Bollywood take a hike to heaven. But not before handing over the flame to the reigning Prince. Hrithik Roshan, the Adonis of Bollywood, with his chiselled looks and top-notch abs, his Green eyes that actually smile and speak, his locks of hair that are entrapments for a zillion hearts, his nimble footedness, his intelligence, his boyish charm and lusting-after manliness, his half grin that could light up a stadium and his genuine warmth make him the rightful contender.

The only time I met Hrithik was at The Spice Route, the award-winning restaurant at The Imperial. On my customary walk around the Hotel’s public places as the then Director of PR, I met Hrithik and Sussanne just as they were warming up for lunch. A couple of hours later, as I dined with the Editor of a leading City Supplement, Hrithik came to my table to exchange few more pleasantries and thank me for my hospitality. I don’t think I had signed off his check but the dashingly gracious gentleman wanted to come by and express gratitude because he had enjoyed a fine lunch. Such was the sense of familiarity and bonhomie that the Editor felt I had known Hrithik for a long time.

Sexiness, it so appears, is far beyond looks and personality, wealth and acquired style. It rests lightly on the shoulders of those who have it and tempts from afar those who don’t. Sexiness is innate, it is a gifted quality, it is a way of life and thinking, it is how you let others shine even as your own reflection sparkles.

Kapoor and Khanna, undoubtedly owned it; and Roshan thankfully has picked up the baton from where the legends left off!



Friday, December 29, 2017


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The inherent beauty of India!

India is truly superfluous with beauty in the unlikeliest of places, and beauty that is really omnipresent.

These could be the bedecked feet of the most ordinary of women in everyday India, going about her daily chores.

She could be your Laundry woman, your Garbage collector, a daily wage earner living in a shanty, your house maid.

Beauty, then, is classless and can sit comfortably on any person!

Picture courtesy - Sandeep Mathur

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

‘Tis the Yuletide Season of Retail and Restricted Festivities!

On Christmas Eve our Colony held the Christmas Carnival that went on until half-past Ten in the night. A cacophonic public address system and an overexcited and over accessorized Madame of Ceremonies with her loud, jarring presentation robbed us of peace and pleasure.

The Carnival was just like any other Fete, with the usual suspects put up as attractions – rides and raffles, food and fun games and stall after stall of people selling their wares – from crafts to clothes and jewellery to sundry junk. The hullabaloo took the sheen off the nearby Church with its gentle carol-singing and the classy depiction of the Nativity Scene.

As a countdown to Christmas Day and New Year, we will continue to come across an overdose of glitz and glitter in our markets and malls. Running up to the 31st, the traffic light peddlers will don the mandatory red cap with their white plumes. The hotels and the restaurants, in their game of one-upmanship, will put out their own themes ranging from white to red to gold to green, the last with its eco-friendly accent.

But what is sadly missing is the spirit and soul of the Season. With everyone and everything trying hard to be different, yet staying just the same, I wonder what are the lasting memories we are creating for our children, who will grow up to propagate the same level of crassness that they see us glorify.

Growing up in Dehradun, one of the earliest memories I have of Christmas and New Year is the Big Children’s Party organized by the Cultural Committee at the Golden Keys Institute, the Army Club that was usually the hub for all commonly observed festivals. There were the typical trappings of balloons and festoons, a huge table of themed party food and drinks, music, games and dance and the star attraction – the rotund Santa with his customary Ho, Ho, Ho and the sack of goodies.

There were bedtime stories being told at home, plays around the central plot of Jesus and his supreme sacrifice for mankind being enacted at the Annual Day and interesting lessons from the Bible being shared in the Moral Science classes at School.

As far as I remember, no one was trying to convert anyone, no one was pushing his or her culture and religious practices on to the other, there was just the overriding sense of joy and oneness, of collective fun and unity under the large umbrella of peace and harmony. This was the major take away from the jubilant culmination of the end of one year and the beginning of another. That and those lovely toys that Santa gifted us, chiefly among them the exquisite grey van that lit up while cruising and the blue-eyed speaking doll.

Then there was the ritual of hanging stockings by the bedside that we observed and still do. We slept with so much excitement and anticipation that our little hearts could hold. We knew that chimney or no chimney, the Santa had tip-toed into our rooms while we roamed about in dreamland to leave those splendorous gifts. Moreover, the Santa was also a clairvoyant, for he always knew just what we’d wished for. The doe-eyed belief carried on well into our teens and dropped only when it came to be mocked at. The revelation by Ma that Dad paid in advance for all those goodies that the generous, astral Santa doled out and the chance meeting with the Santa, who turned out to be a retired Major, took off our blinkers permanently.

Somewhere between the Missionary nuns at school and overly philanthropic parents at home, we learned about the good Karma from giving and sharing. We were engaged in charity initiatives helmed by the Sisters of our school, giving away toiletries and other essentials to earmarked village folk on the sidelines of the Cantonment we resided in through the Christmas-New Year week. At home, we were making little tuck packs of sandwiches, cakes and fruit, wrapping up sweaters and blankets to be given to not only the home staff but also a large group of needy people living in clusters nearby.

This brought in a special feeling of happiness to us, of having done something special. Today, in the clutter and crowd of promotions and offers, we seem to be tantalized only to serve our own greed and insatiable wants. We ourselves and those who tempt us with their wares, sorely miss the bus named “Joy of life and giving.” And that is such an abysmal example to set before our wards that pick up the penchant for unabashed self-feeding from us and learn to ignore those around.

The finest thing about being brought up by open-minded, open-hearted, cosmopolitan parents was that we learned to be inclusive early in life; even if it was through things that spelled pleasure and fun. There was as much excitement about observing Eid, as there was about Christmas or Holi and Diwali. What was there not to like and love about them, when they all meant rejoicing with friends, feasting on such divine goodies as Seviyaan, Gujiya, Biryani, Kachoris, Sweets, Cakes and Mince Pies! And yes, there was always that new dress, worked upon the night before by Ma and Sis, to be donned on the D-day.

Celebrations were ingrained in our very way of life. They were less laboured, far less commercial and completely non-competitive. We just could not be bothered about such inanities as who threw the biggest pre-Diwali bash or the largest Holi party or boasted the tallest Christmas Tree. These were superlatives that just did not exist. There only existed a string of celebrations to be reveled in, starting with our kiddie jamborees, onto the ones planned by parents at home and finally scaled to the giant get-togethers hosted commonly by the Army Cantonment Body.

And nobody asked us what colour we stood for – white, green or saffron, whom we worshipped, what we stored in our refrigerator or ate. Bans, protests, lynchings, self-styled executions, online trolling, offline bullying, ostracization, heated arguments and polarizing Television debates were not part of the way we lived and let others live.

Having returned to our Doon Farmhouse after my father’s demise, I saw a new routine added to my weekends. The Pastor from the Protestant Church across our house visited Ma one day and requested her to let me attend the Sunday School. She didn’t even bat an eyelid before giving her consent. So, for one hour or two every Sunday, I would hop across and join the melee of kids – children of civilian Christians in our Hood, those from the neighbouring barracks of Army officers and a group of hijab-wearing young Muslim girls from villages that dot the periphery of the Cantonment. Undoubtedly, the year-end, week-long schedule of fun activities planned by the Church to ring in the Yuletide and welcome the New Year was the best part of attending Sunday School.

The other was finding a common ground for fun, laughter and mirth, and the occasions were plenty. Each time the resident Pastor raised his arms up in the air and boomed out to sing Halleluiah and Praise the Lord, we unrelenting kids – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, even Buddhist Tibetans – found it to be so funny that we laughed the laughter that originates in the gut and doubles up the intestines, falling just short of ‘rolling on the floor’ with the chord that connected us.

So, next time a political group or a religious sect or an ungainly group of people with vested interest, tell you what you can celebrate and what you cannot, do just that – laugh in their face with uncontrollable joviality and continue believing in your beliefs of humanity, oneness and inclusiveness.

Yes, have a Happy New Year and make it Merry for everybody around!

 Pictures courtesy - Google Images


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

The Blooming Christmas Cheer at Ibaadat!

Merry Xmas folks! 

Go on and add your magic to your unique worlds!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Jungle Babblers and the squirrels advocate World Peace at Ibaadat!

I wish, we humans could learn to live in peace and cohabitate with compassion, dignity and respect, as these diving beings from the animal kingdom do!

Huge lessons to learn!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Babblers party it out at Ibaadat!

I am ecstatic to spot Jungle Babblers frequent our gardens at Ibaadat! They come to sun themselves, perch on the Neem Tree and feed to their heart's content on the grains we lay out for them.

Here's what Wikipedia tells us about the Babbler bird - 

"They are gregarious birds that forage in small groups of six to ten birds, a habit that has given them the popular name of "Seven Sisters" in urban Northern India,

It is a noisy bird, and the presence of a flock may generally be known at some distance by the harsh mewing calls, continual chattering, squeaking and chirping produced by its members.

Frank Finn notes an incident during the Colonial period in India:

Some years back, a new Viceroy was being shown the wonders of his temporary kingdom, and among these, the Taj at Agra held, of course, an important place. Arrived before the glorious monument of Eastern love and pride, the artless Aide-de-Camp was mute; the gilded staff was still as Kipling says, in anxious expectation of the comment of His Excellency. But this, alas when it came was merely the remark: "What are those funny little birds?" The shock must have been the greater for the fact that the mean fowls thus honoured were it seems, of that singularly disreputable species which is commonly known in India as the "Seven Sisters" or "Seven Brothers," or by the Hindustani equivalent of sat-bhai."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My secret formula for a long, happy marriage!

Who is Sulabh? An ode to a near perfect conjugal alliance!

Who is Sulabh? Well, it would be more appropriate to ask What is Sulabh?

The current flavor of the season, indeed, is Virushka, with matching stakes in looks, fame and fortune. They are followed very closely by Harkle or Harghan or Megharr, depending on what the cheesy media nomenclaturists will choose to call the blue bloodied bond of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Everybody and their brother, in every corner of the globe, it seems, loves a good romance and a fairy tale wedding. That is, until, the bells for divorce begin to chime. Statisticians tell us that divorce rates are increasing in India, Australia, UK, all across Europe and the US. In States, the divorce rates have fallen marginally in the last couple of years but are still at the 50% mark with subsequent marriages facing an even higher rate.

The six main reasons for divorce cited by divorce coaches and marriage educators are – strong urge for independence, couples don’t know how to fight fair, ‘My way or the Highway’ mentality, declining morals and skewed beliefs, marriages are viewed as disposable in today’s society and our marital expectations are childish.

Yet, there are some of us who believe in eternal love, until death do us apart and the “saat janams.” We see many elders in India celebrating their 50th year of togetherness, a cousin recently celebrated her silver, another contemporary is inching towards 20 years. 

We – Sulabh and I – personally celebrated 23 years of our Friendiversary (yes, there is such a word in our lexicon now) and 17 years of having been married happily. 

So, it set me thinking just what we may be doing right. I realized that I have a partner who is far removed from the patriarchal pressures of identity and does not define himself by the stale, old notions of ‘lord and master.’ Here’s how Sulabh, having stepped away from every regressive diktat, has been the anchor for our blissful conjugality.  

Sulabh to me is faith, fate, feelings and fortitude much more than the mere presence of another human being by my side.

Sulabh could have been a cookie-cutter spouse with all the thrust-upon roles and expectations that make such a liaison unbearable, irksome and laboured. But Sulabh has been a gust of fresh air, supporting logic and reason, while non-conforming with the staid and stagnant beliefs that have infested our society and psyche. He has always been open to the idea of paving one’s own road to the final destination of our journey together.

Sulabh has never been just about looks. In fact, I was shocked when in the second year of our togetherness; my Australian Boss saw him waiting for me on his Scooter outside her Anand Niketan residence and remarked, “Gosh, he is one hell of a sexy man.” To me, Sulabh has never been sexy in the theoretical definition of the word. To me, he has been the comfort and coziness of a teddy bear that I have snuggled into each time I have been bitten harshly by the world.

Sulabh is not the royal blood that ran in his mother’s father. He is not any of the arrogance that may have sat on the head of his much landed, Brahmin ancestors to whose family, as a matter of huge pride and privilege, belonged the town temple and the resident deity (the Kuldevi).

Sulabh is the love that fills the void left behind by my father and mother who passed on early. He is the testimony to one of life’s wonderful truths – that a spouse can also fill the shoes of parents lost in the race of life.

Sulabh is not his gold-medalist, Leeds graduated, Violin-playing, much recognized and published Mining Engineer father who made several wrong decisions by going into business and having lost it all, landed penniless at our doorstep.

Sulabh is the promise, that no matter what and how many downs we face, tomorrow will always be better, shinier and hopeful.  

Sulabh is not his maternal Uncle with the aristocratic title and possessions. Sulabh is the supporting pillar of the home we have built for ourselves, with our own sweat and toil.

Sulabh is not even the non-resident American Cardiologist Uncle, who allegedly had George Harrison amongst some of his famous patients. To Sulabh, I am the celebrity who is meant to conquer the world and come out on top of anything I choose to do.

Sulabh has never been about the shams and societal pressures that families can impose. He is not about rituals and practices either. Yet, he has kept each and every Karva Chauth along with me, without any persuasion and ensuing drama.

Sulabh is never about He and She. It is always the We that matter. And this is just not about gender. It is taken to all other roles and responsibilities. It spreads to being just and showing respect to all around, including the lowest common denominator who work for us. 

Sulabh is the least about idolizing and conforming. Or coercing me to follow in the footsteps of his family where religion or matters of culture go. Instead, he too sees the God in things and people I hold supreme, recognizing the divinity in my dog children, the peacocks and squirrels I feed, the greenery I nurture, the inclusiveness I bring in for those people who need the most care and attention.

Sulabh is a mirror to me, accepting me just the way I am. There is nary a need to spruce oneself up or polish and paint to present a pretty visage. I am who I am, in whatever shell I am encased in at that particular point in time and that is all there is to it.

Sulabh is my conscience. He is constantly telling me when my own standards fall, where I weaken and waver, the moment when I lose touch with my soul.

Sulabh is the very fairy tale where there are no mental demons to slay or villains of ego to kill; where there are only happy endings.

Sulabh is as real as they come with failings and flaws, and habits that annoy or mannerisms that irritate. Yet, with so much of niceness hanging out naturally from his every pore, he is stuff that dreams are made of.

Sulabh falls, Sulabh fails, Sulabh falters. But Sulabh is the reassurance that we must have the courage to nurture the vision for a fine tomorrow built on today’s endeavors and convictions.

Sulabh is the pair of arms I run into, every time the lies of this world and lightning from the sky scare me. He is the rock solid shoulder I can lean on when parts of me disintegrate internally and all I wish to do is crumble and cry. 

Sulabh is an affirmation of the beauty of life and the significance of living even when death tears me apart and ravages me somewhere inside.

Sulabh is the very breath I inhale and exhale. If it were not for him, then I would have long been dead, having stared loss squarely in the coldness of its eyes and faced the passing of some of my dearest.

And that is the secret formula for a long, happy marriage – respect, trust, understanding, sacrifice, compromise, honesty, you before I, logic and reasoning as against ego, open-mindedness as against blinkers of age-old practices, and most of all unadulterated, simple, uncomplicated love.