Thursday, December 26, 2013

21 little joys of living alone

I think your real character emerges when you are alone, when nobody is watching, when the mask rests on the table and you are only you, in your pure untainted form. In the last one and a half years that I have lived alone, I have found out a lot of things about life and myself. I have never been a very social person, so living alone was not particularly a difficult decision. It was something I longed for, and was happy to finally be able to afford it.

Simple joys of living alone. . 

1. There is nothing more calming than to come back to a clean house, a clean bed with pillows and cushions wagging their tails, calling out to you.
2. ‘Relief’ is too small a word for the feeling you get when you know that there is food in the kitchen, and you have all the time in the world to stay stuck to your laptop, and get up only to heat your meal in the microwave.
3. There is something absolutely liberating about playing loud music in the house and singing along side tunelessly. No worries about music on loop to bother anyone.
4. Long showers before getting into the bed with latest season of Breaking Bad.
5. Roaming around skimpily.
6. Calling friends over and planning sleepovers. Cooking for others.
7. What do you want to be today? A butterfly or a couch potato?
8. Feeling all grown-up, paying the bills and getting plumbing done.
9. Going to sleep at 5:00 am and waking up at 1:00pm.
10. Never having to latch the bathroom door.
11. You never walk, you only swagger.
12. I don’t understand this one but- the surprised look on people’s face when they enter my house and see that I live alone, run a ‘household’ all by myself.
13. Finding and nailing the right balance of milk, sugar and coffee in my mug.
14. Perfecting the temperature of milk to go with crunchy muesli, so it is just enough crunchy and just enough soft for my liking.
15. Learning how to cook, eating burnt food, and going gaga when the food turns out to be finger-licking-good.
16. Knowing exactly what goes where and finding it there, coz nobody else is around to mess it up.
17. Having control over the speed of the fan.
18. Passing out. Nothing like dropping dead wherever, however you want.
19. All the plug points are MINE.
20. Sob your heart out while watching an embarrassingly emotional movie.
21. To sprawl across the queen size bed like a continent.

One thing I absolutely hate about having roommates is small talk. I loathe detest abhor small talk like nothing else in my life. Oh and the fact that I don’t have to ‘accompany’ people to things where they don’t want to go alone. What makes you think I want to be subjected to the nonsense that you’d rather not do alone!

P.S: After reading the post, it is easy to conclude two things- I am anti social and I am a foodie. Number three, I also have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. 

Monday, December 16, 2013


People have many kinds of phobia in life. Fear of heights, fear of water, fear of closed spaces. There are many weird phobias in the world. My biggest fear in life is the fear of loss. I am scared to lose. Not in winning and losing kind of way, but losing something that is yours. It takes a lot of effort, time, energy, good luck to acquire, find, get something. And then to lose all of it in one flickering shot, is a scary scary proposition.

I was a very sentimental kid. I remember, I must be 10 year old, in the middle of a happy shiny family moment when everyone is laughing, singing, talking I would be all teary eyed, sitting quietly and sobbing. Reason being- “All this will be gone one day, we won’t be laughing like this, we all will die one day!” and I would burst into a crying spell. I would be made fun of or hugged and reassured and distracted with happy things in life. But what could they tell me? It is life’s ultimate truth, how could anybody defend my fear.

I clearly remember the moment when I got to know that EVERYONE has to die. I must have been 6 or 7 years old or maybe younger. It was summer vacations and our grandparents had come over. One idle afternoon, I was playing with my granny- teaching her A,B,C,D. . .when she remarked- “Oh, why do I need to learn all this? I am so old, I will die very soon, what’s the point of this now?” not really meaning it. It was just one of those things that old people like to say. And very sweetly I told her that she wouldn’t die, because she was such a good human being, my grandma, how can she die! To my utter shock and disbelief she told me that EVRYBODY dies, irrespective of everything. With a broken heart and thinking that my uneducated grandma didn’t know anything, I ran to my mum who was working on the computer. I was very angry when she told me that it was true. I think ‘angry’ is the right word to explain what I felt. It just made no sense to me. Why do people have to die, even if they are good? So you are behaving yourself, being a good girl, minding your business, not fighting with anyone. . .and then one day it’s all over? Without any rhyme or reason? Shouldn’t there be an explanation to why I must be pulled away from all the good things?

People have recurring nightmares, this was one such nightmare which haunted me in living daylights. And then at the age of 13, for the very first time in my life, I came face-to-face with death when my grandfather died. That is another tragic story, for another day. Although I didn’t quite wail and get depressed, the first feeling that hit me when I saw his corpse lying on the bed was that of hopelessness. Death is such a permanent, irreversible thing I realized. What can you say to someone whose loved one has died- “everything will be alright” ? coz it won’t be alright. Nothing you say can appease the loss.

As I grew up, I stopped thinking about deaths. There were more important things that drove my attention. But the fear of loss stayed with me. Even if it is a pen or a paper or a t-shirt I never wore or an ear-ring or a document or a book or a relationship. . . I have the greatest paranoia buried in the abyss of my heart, to lose.

I recently lost two acquaintances to bad road accidents. What wrenches my heart is that both the girls had an infectious zest for life- they were the kind of people you would remember having met them once. I would call them ‘full of life’, ironically, for their mad dreams and passions. Would they have ever thought, in their craziest of imagination, in their bluest of moments that they would die so young?

Why are we afraid of dying? Why are we conditioned to think that dying is bad? Not like the life we are living is great! There are so many problems, so much injustice, cruelty, hatred- perhaps after death you do actually go to heaven and things are great there. And people who die young in life are the ones who get a shortcut to that heavenly kingdom. God says, “You don’t have to endure the pain of life any longer, come to the party up here.”

God has a lot of explaining to do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I keep saying that I don’t like more than half of the people I meet (I should stop saying that!). I am quite fussy that way and it doesn’t take me too long to know if I like someone. Within moments of meeting someone new, I know if it’s worth my time and energy to be with or around that person. That is why a lot of times you would see me being all by myself. I am not a people’s person at all. I won’t call myself a loner, coz when I am around people I adore, I am very talkative, very animated, very comfortable with my surroundings. But given a choice between bad company and no company, I would go for the latter. I enjoy my own company- I am quite entertaining like that :D That is why I never feel bored. I may get restless, about things, but never bored. Even when I am alone, I always find something to do- even if that means having a cup of coffee alone, listening to music or curling up in the blanket and going to sleep. It is better than hearing someone go on and on about things I don’t care about.

But there was a phase when I was a people’s person. Let me rephrase this- there was a time when I would always have people around me, lot of talkative people, with a lot of conversations. House parties. BYOB kind of parties. And I would observe people and their conversations, especially when they were high.

Everybody talks about their experiences- how they went somewhere and did something and almost got into trouble / adventure and how they came out of it and what a great thrilling experience it was. Before the story reaches the end, someone else would interject and try to top that experience. Like a battle of stories. A battle to find out who is cooler than the others. Showing off. Nobody is really listening; everybody is waiting for the person to finish so that he could narrate his great legendary experience. THAT is my biggest problem. Nobody listens with the intent of listening, but with the intent of plugging their own story. A conversation which feels like a relay race is a total turn off. A conversation needs to flow like two rivers, intermingling with each other, sharing experiences, co-creating meaning in doing so. That is why I don’t enjoy being a part of a conversation, unless I am really interested in what you have to say, coz am all ears y’know. And I can’t pour my thoughts out unless I know what I say matters. If you can’t improve the silence then STFU, is my mantra.

But over the years, I have learnt how to fake interest and seem like a good listener even if I don’t care. I learnt how to do that when I started working. I am a very curious person, so asking questions and wanting to know more comes very easily. Being in the Communication industry, I have to be a people’s person, I have to listen to people and I have to get heard.

So when a REAL good conversation comes along, I find it very difficult to let go. I treasure good conversations that are effortless and natural. Conversations where I don’t have to think before speaking, where I don’t have to fake interest, where there is no room for pretence. A soulful conversation, I call it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pop Culture, We *heart* Badass.

Watching and observing all the pop culture around me, I found myself being pulled from different sides by one common thread running through all the entertainment thrown my way. I have always believed that the movies, music, books, ads- any kind of literature as such- pertinent to an era, reflect the society and how it is evolving. So if you want to understand the times your parents or grandparents grew up in, all you have to do is watch some epic movies, read some books, the songs (the lyrics!) of that time.

Recently, an American colleague visited India and I was showing her around. Sitting in a café, we got talking about the music; I translated the Hindi lyrics into English for her to understand. It was a theme café, and they were playing really old numbers. One (hindi) song that caught her attention was- as I translated it for her- O my beloved, please come now. Come satiate my heart which is burning like fire balls. Embrace me such that the volcano erupting inside my body cools down. Well that’s how the first few lines went, I didn’t go on to translate the rest of it. I had never realized what that song really meant, until I translated it for her. It is from early 1970’s. I was not born then, and never quite paid so much attention to the lyrics when I grew up. But it is a really popular number; one of my favourites. My American colleague got really curious and checked up the song online, and was appalled by the sexual innuendos. And she said, “So you mean kissing and making out on screen was forbidden, but you could sing and dance like that? She literally took off all her clothes during the song.”

I youtubed it myself and was amused. The dancer in all her moves was almost convulsing, aching for her lover, waiting for him (heavy breathing being the theme and beat of the song). And when the lover does come, we see her shedding all her clothes bit by bit while he stands in a cage gawking at her. The song ends with the two of them inside the cage and the lights going dim.

But, the important point here is that the protagonist, the heroine of the movie, is not the dancer. The heroine carries the very traditional, docile, naïve, innocent imagery that people are comfortable with. So that woman who was doing pelvic thrusts, well that’s the kind of woman you are NOT supposed to be. But ofcourse, as audience when you get cheap thrills out of watching her moves…all that is fine. *rolls eyes* *feminist alert*
It is all in the semiotics, the metaphors that make everything surrounding us- revealing what we think and how we behave.

And then I looked around, observing what I am growing up with. With globalisation and all that, a lot of content is international, but that is what the urban, educated youth today is watching, and enjoying. Some TV shows that come to my mind are Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, White Collar, Game of Thrones. . .what do all these popular shows have in common? Apart from being super successful and running for umpteen seasons, all these shows have dark characters. There is no black and white anymore; the characters, the protagonists are various shades of grey (which reminds me of another figment of pop culture, Mr. Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey).

At a deep subconscious level, watching these gives us a strange, vicarious, sometimes sadistic pleasure which we cannot experience in our daily lives. You cannot be a serial killer and go about killing people who are not innocent, in the name of saving the world from dreadful crimes. We root for the middle aged chemistry teacher, a loser in all sense, to become the gangster in the business of drugs. We identify ourselves with his boring, underpaid teaching job, and feel excited when it takes a turn into something big and exciting. . .helping us transition into that state momentarily. Who doesn’t want to be (or have?) the creative, eccentric, powerful man, drinking, smoking, fucking whoever he wants, girls swooning for his attention?

That is the delusional, vicarious life that people like to live today, wanting to feel desirable, successful and powerful. And the protagonists here are not saints. They are not the ideal husband, the obedient son, the loving father (actually now that I notice, they all are shown as good fathers…tv shows don’t want to cross that line yet). All of them are good, intrinsically, but have streaks of badass spilled all over them. It is these imperfections that make them attractive, humanly so. Joker of The Dark Knight is another anti-hero that comes to my mind. Who makes villains so charming? So now we are not attracted to the caring, loving, understanding hero. We love the badass who gets what he wants and knows how to get it. He, the smart, witty, reckless hero, will not always win. He would lose, and perhaps fall flat, eventually. But by then he would have lived. And that is what all of us want to see and experience; us the lesser mortals… who are trying to survive in the daily drill of life, looking up at the stars.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Can smoke fill the void?
Can ashes fill the void?
Can tears fill the void?
But the void already feels heavy… What makes it so heavy? How can emptiness feel so heavy?
A deep breath, inhaling a lung full of air… does that fill the void?
It pushes the void up… Up till your neck, your throat. And then you exhale. And it goes right back where it was.
Can money fill the void?
Can material fill the void?
Void doesn’t float. It sinks. Taking you down with it.
And how do you fill this void? How do you empty the void to be able to fill it again?
How can an empty feeling feel so heavy? That you can’t hold it anymore.
The void is brimming….yet it is an empty space.
How will you ever fill something which feels so empty, yet full?
This void is deep. Consuming you.
Will you come out of it enriched if you immerse yourself completely in it? Or are you better off preserving a potion? Looking at it. Holding it. Feeling it. But not drinking it. . .and making it a permanent part of yourself, rushing through your veins.
This void after all is empty. Would you let it engulf you? Or would you just stare at its invisible, transparent potency?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Movie review: The Lunchbox

Can you fall in love with someone you have never met? – this is the question that pulled me into the movie theatre to watch The Lunchbox. But I soon realised how the question did not matter in the movie. The movie was not about falling in love despite the blind distance. It was about companionship, about finding someone you can talk to without thinking, about having someone you can share your deepest thoughts that come to you when you talk to them. In the middle of the movie somewhere, Irrfan Khan, aka Saajan Fernandes, says “We forget things if we have no one to tell them to”. What is happiness, if you have no one to share it with? You can be rich and successful all you want, but there would still be a void in your heart if you cannot share it with someone, someone who cares, someone you care for. Someone who gets you.

“Sometimes wrong train takes you to the right destination” another one of my favourite lines from the movie. You never know how an instance can change your life, and the lens from which you view it. In that instance, when you stepped into the wrong train, an anomaly in your ‘regular’ life, you couldn’t have imagined which station you’d be getting down at. And when you do get down, it’s a new world. All you need to do is embrace it. Fearlessly.

I really liked the light humour in the movie, the situational one-liners which were funny on the surface, but ironic if you linger on them a little longer. My favourite character in the movie was not Irrfan Khan or Nimrat Kaur, it was Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He had a separate story going on in the movie, but it gave a buoyant force to the main plot. The movie would have been bland without him. He brought an authentic flavour to the movie with his honest expression. He was real. And raw. There was nothing put-on about the characters, including Mrs. Deshpande. She was an interesting character. I saw this 'concept' on Indian screen for the first time. It is one of those characters who you never 'see' in the movie, only hear. Like the legs of the master in Tom and Jerry, you never get to see their face. Other example that comes to my mind is Howard's mother from The Big Bang Theory.

I don’t want to fill this review with spoilers, so I am not going to talk about scenes and the story. *sigh* I have so much to say about this movie- the characters, the setting, the dialogues, the metaphors. . .

I am not your usual movie buff who catches movies first day first show (I usually wait before I can download a good dvd version), but somehow the trailer of this movie had caught my attention by horns, and I was waiting for the movie to be released in India. This is the first movie I had gone to watch alone. And I had a good time. The weather also was on my side. A short walk back home in the light rain, was just what I wanted- if I choose to forget the muddy pools and the traffic.

Wrapping up, I must urge you to watch The Lunchbox. It is simple storytelling, the raw sentiments and characters that will pull you right into the movie.

P.S: After watching the movie, I realized how important the skill of cooking is for a woman. Way to a person’s heart is really through their stomach. Everyone raves about ‘ma ke haath ka khana’; sometimes I wonder if my kids will ever be able to say that. The era of ‘ma ke haath ka khana’ is slowly vanishing. And I feel bad about that. The Lunchbox re-instilled my motivation to learn cooking. At it!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

All you need is Love

A post lying in my drafts caught my attention. Here it goes.

I don’t know whether I can say I have ever fallen in love with anybody. I love a lot of people in my life. And I adore them with different variations. But have I ever fallen in love? What is falling in love, exactly? How is it different from the deep deep love you feel for your closest friends, siblings, parents, niblings?

I don’t understand the ‘falling’ part of the love. How does that happen? I have that weird feeling in my stomach when someone I adore says something, and in my stomach there is a light airy feeling, a somersault, like for a micro second I feel the gravity pulling some strings down. Is that falling? What if you love someone, but don’t like them? Or the more common, like someone but not love them. 

Why can’t all of us be in love, and not be possessive or jealous of each other? As long as you love me, and I love you, it’s good. But that doesn't mean I stop you from loving someone else, and you stop me from loving another person. They in turn are in love with others. Why does sympathy, compassion, love, care, kindness need to be so selective and limiting? If only all of us understood the true meaning of love- of giving, and finding love in giving. Love should not be forceful. If you are not in love with a particular someone, even if he / she is, you don’t have to fall. It should be a mutually respected system. I think it is the beast called 'Expectations' which kills all the love.

I think animals have sorted this out the best. Are there rapes in animal kingdom? Have we really evolved then? All the advancements, technological and evolutionary, what is the point of all this? Ultimately it boils down to how you feel, isn't it? All the drama about power and strength, what does it give you? In the end, all you want is love; all you want is to be accepted for whatever you are inside.

Edited to add: Animals can be giant jerks
I found this article while randomly browsing stuff online, and I was so shocked and horrified and heart broken :(

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

S turns 25 *yawn*

I have a ritual on this blog. Birthday posts. Not blog birthday. My birthday. I am that kid who gets excited for birthdays, looks really forward to them, hopes for fireworks, and usually ends up morose reflecting ‘on life’. The latter part of this description is a recent phenomenon. When I was younger, it was all about the excitement…about birthday clothes, birthday party, birthday gifts. And then the pressure to have a ‘happy’ birthday started mounting. Everybody wants you to be happy on this day. They wish you ‘happy’ birthday. But what are you doing to make me happy? If you are not, then your wish doesn’t count. It is like saying Happy birthday and hoping someone else, something else will make your day happy. What shit. Anyway, the philosophical me would say that I don’t need others to make me happy. Haha. Only partly true, I will say now. So what did I do to make my birthday happy? I didn’t try too hard to make my day happy, and as it turned out I was reasonably happy at the end of the day. Or I should say, I didn’t care about having a happy one anymore.

I turned 25 this year. And when I look back and try to define this year, two words come to my mind- Epiphany and Timing. Last year has been all about that. It is intriguing how everything is timed in our life. If you pay close attention, it feels scripted (umm..I guess it is!). And the last dash before I hit 25, just taught me how timing affects your life.

Chances, opportunities, narrow escapes, serendipities, being at the right place at the right time, at the wrong place at the wrong time, coincidences, butterfly effect – it is all timing. Timed by an unknown force. And so precise. I have felt the world talking to me through signs, showing me certain things that I have never noticed before. Listening to ideas/thoughts/reflections that make sense right at that very moment and resonates with what is going on in your mind. Random acts, random scenes, random words form a continuum leading to an epiphany.

So, as an ode to 25 I got myself a tattoo. To remember and etch what I am about right at this moment. I want to remember my 25 and what I was before. Turning 25 was a renaissance. I got a tattoo of a flying swan. It looks like 5 small birds flying, which actually signifies the flapping movement of one bird. It didn’t hurt at all. Maybe because it was a small tattoo. I think getting eyebrows plucked is a more painful experience (I swear!).

Also I discovered a song (out of nowhere) that felt like a toast to my 25. Here it is for you to enjoy.

Earlier birthday posts- How I turned 24, How I turned 23 :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Go play.

I am almost 25 (not there yet!) and I am nowhere close to becoming a parent, but I want to pen down my thoughts about parenting and being parents, before I get blinded by the overwhelming experience of having a child. I think having a child changes you in ways that you can never imagine- that is a clichéd line, but clichés are so true! So before I get ‘converted’ into Motherhood, I want to record all my thoughts and feelings looking at it from a distant unbiased platform. As soon as I have a child, I know, I will be allured by the antics of the little one, to even consider any of the opinions I am going to write down here. But, I want to remember what is in my mind right now, so that I can look back at it in the future. Perhaps, derive something out of this ‘gyaan’ of a naïve 24 year old.

What I am going to write now, is like an open letter to all parents, from a child’s perspective. And I write this at a juncture of my life, when I have experienced both sides of it- being a child, and being an adult (having looked at things from a parent's perspective). Having an adorable niece also contributes into this ‘holistic’ experience.

Being a parent is the toughest job description on earth. Being a good parent is even more difficult. I look at life as a game, there are so many characters, and every phase of life is a ‘level’, and difficulty level at each stage keeps on increasing. So while you do need to keep collecting ‘points’, another important part of this game is to keep going forward, without dying. Protecting yourself from the beasts that show up in the game. There are always life lines / weapons / potions (depending upon how lucky you are in life) but at the end of it all, you have to keep moving forward. If you want to collect all the points that show up on the way, you will never move forward. Ofcourse, you will move forward, but slowly. Who wins in the end? The one who has collected maximum points. Instead of collecting all of them in every level, keep going up the ladder, experience all the levels and collect points on the way. You would have more points ultimately. Aren’t the points of higher value in higher levels?

Now, when you have a baby, your life game reboots. You start all over again. You remember all the obstacles, all the beasts. You know where the potion is hidden, you know which one is a deceptive potion, you know where to collect the weapons from. You are excited coz you have done it all. And now you want to ‘guide’ your baby so that he doesn’t make mistakes. But you know what? When the game was rebooted, there were a lot of ‘app updates’ . . . it is not exactly the same game anymore. Ofcourse, the pattern is same. But it is ‘new and improved’. So while you are telling your baby how to play his game, there are a lot of points he is missing on- the points that are hidden somewhere else. Yes, there might be some beasts there, but he has weapons and potions, right? So when you guide him to the path that you had taken, grabbing all those golden, silver, platinum points, trying to score the highest score, you are making him miss the new nuggets that are added in the game.

Let him play his game!

Now, that sounds easy. But I understand it isn’t. What scares me at this moment about being a parent is having this huge responsibility of how that person who, by the way, looks like you and sometimes acts like you, turns out to become. I don’t know how I am turning out to be, and whether I am doing it right, taking responsibility of somebody else’s life . . . is way out of the league. And that is where, everything gets messed up. The need, the paranoia of doing it right. ‘The right upbringing’. That is the burden under which all parents mess up their life. They try to hold themselves accountable for everything their kid does. They want to be perfect and raise perfect kids.

But now, being a child, let me tell you one thing, very honestly. You can never be perfect parents. However you try to be ‘friendly’, ‘open minded’, ‘liberal’ . . . your kids are always going to be unhappy with you. They will have grievances and qualms, irrespective of whether you gave in to all their demands, or were strict and a disciplinarian. But in the middle of all this, there will be spurts of unexpected joys (that will melt your heart, you will be in a spell, but don’t be fooled), mostly during the early stages of their life. After that, it is downhill, believe me, until they become old enough to become parents themselves. Oh and all the sacrifices you make is part of the job description of this thankless job. The retirement plan, may be sweet (there is hope!) if you have done your job well. Wait for the fruits.

So what I want to remind myself here, before I become a parent, is that being a parent is really difficult. Don’t stop playing your game. Their game is part of your game. Like Inception. Dream within a dream. Haha. While your life revolves around them, I understand, don’t stop playing your game. That is the only advice I want to give my older self, when I become a parent. Be scared, be worried, be concerned, but play your game and let them play theirs. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It was last year that I finally got my passport made to see my baby niece for the very first time, in Muscat. That was my first ‘international’ trip. Little did I know that 2012 was going to be all about travelling. I landed a job which involved a lot of travelling within India, with additional ‘training’ tenure in Shanghai.

My first day of new job was supposed to be in Shanghai. Needless to say, my parents were paranoid. They have no idea about the industry I work in. I had, myself, not heard of this firm before. But it came through someone reliable, and they made an offer that I could not refuse. All was going great in my existing job, I was up for a promotion. But on the day of my appraisal I told my boss that I wanted to leave. He tried hard to make me stay, but I had already made up my mind by then. Shanghai was calling. I was way too excited. I have never counted my blessings more.

So I was all packed, ready for the adventure. The day I landed in Shanghai, it was raining heavily. Someone from office had come to pick me up at the airport. It was my first. To have someone stand holding a placard with my name on it.

I knew I would have ‘language barrier’, but I have lived across so many cities in India, each with its own language- how bad could it be? I was in for a treat. My driver, the only person I could talk to in the two hour long drive from airport to downtown, could not understand English. I had asked for a simcard to the HR, so that I could inform my folks when I reached. The driver gave me the simcard, but it did not work. I tried using my TATA photon+ on my laptop, but of course, it did not work either. I tried talking to him in sign language, all he managed was to laugh. That was his standard reply to whatever I said or asked. He laughed and continued to drive. It was kinda creepy, but I had no option but to sit back and take in the city vibe.

Finally we arrived somewhere, the driver parked the big SUV, got down, kept down my luggage as I crawled out of the car to help him with my huge suitcase (especially bought for Shanghai trip, ah!) only to turn around and see that he has disappeared. I laughed. There I was standing with my suitcase under the rain, and my driver had run away, without saying a goodbye? Haha, I laughed a little more. Just then another man, walked up to me and started pulling my suitcase and giving me an umbrella. He was mumbling something. . .of which I understood the word ‘apartment’. He started walking away. I followed him, hoping he was not stealing my suitcase.

Mr. Liu was a nice man. He spoke broken English, but we managed somehow. I was given this beautiful service apartment on the 18th floor. The view from the balcony was fascinating for my little heart. All the skyscrapers and Chinese looking building. And ofcourse, 18th floor. Losing patience with a thousand questions in my mind, I asked Liu to fix ‘internet’ on my laptop (I was so glad the word internet is understood universally!). What then started was an adorable hilarious conversation between me and Mr. Liu through Google Translate. I thanked the wonders of technology. I had no money, as I couldn’t get it converted. Mr. Liu gave me 50 RMB to buy dinner. I sent emails to everybody who had to know that I had reached / arrived in Shanghai safely.

And that is how I was introduced to Shanghai. Initially I was to stay in Shanghai for 3 months continuously, but due to work and other stuff, the three months were spread across 6 months. So I was alternating between Shanghai and Gurgaon every other month. And that I think was a lot more fun, than staying for 3 months at a go.

I was a lot more social in Shanghai than I have ever been in India. I was always up to something – trying all kinds of cuisines, meeting friends over drinks (that’s too much for the homely Indian myself :P), going for music concert, visiting art galleries, travelling to water towns, visiting this Chinese sex museum, shopping (!!), bargaining hard with the Chinese, getting lost on my way home, travelling in metro and helping other ‘Indian looking lost people’ with directions, sampling all the local Chinese beers, gorging on pork and beef, learning to say a few words in Mandarin, mastering chopsticks. . . I had a great time in Shanghai.

There are so many teeny tiny things / observations that I remember and miss about Shanghai now. I thought I will keep a record of all that, just so that I never forget, but it is so difficult to pen down every little thing.

I miss the ramp walk of men and women walking out of the subway every morning. Everybody there is so stylish. I felt like a troll, in front of them. And at my workplace, in the first week, I was so taken aback with the ‘politeness’ and quiet in the office. I came from a loud advertising agency which had blaring music playing all the time, people screaming at each other from one corner of the room to another, people pulling your leg, playing pranks, people arguing with each other, bitching about the clients, sulking about how life sucked, making plans for the weekend, staying late in office. . . you get the drift. And here I was, in this quiet hall where there were more than twenty five people and an eerie silence. Everybody was plugged in, listening to their individual music; the only sound audible was that of people typing on their laptops, and infrequent murmurs. (Though I must add that the office was very tastefully designed, crazy and wacko). So as a person, I am not even very loud. Back home, I am the quiet one. And if I felt like that, you can imagine. . . I had to keep my expressions in check. Initially I felt so awkward being all excited, talking about something in my typical animated way, only to notice that other voices were a hundred decibels lower. But I got used to it. Others also opened up to my candour, and I got along with everyone really well.

I have so many stories to tell about how it was living in Shanghai, but I don’t like long blog posts, so I am going to stop right here. Perhaps, I could write in small instalments. Fancy a part II ? In fact, I feel a little embarrassed sometimes talking about my stay in Shanghai. It just sounds so annoyingly corny, starting every other story with – “Oh you know when I was in Shanghai……” So even when something does remind me of Shanghai, I don’t say anything. I just smile to myself and think about it fondly.

Enough said. Let me leave you with a few pictures from my first trip to Shanghai.

Fete De La Musique in Shanghai
 The authentic Kung Pao Chicken
 Swings in my swanky office
 Shanghai skyline at the Bund
 Some Jazz bar we went to
The first view from my balcony

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How blind does love need to be? (Movie review: Chitrangada)

Never change yourself for anybody, especially after you have fallen in love with each other. I have seen and experienced that immediately after people start seeing each other (or get married), they change. They like to become more ‘loveable’, they try to be things that their partner will like, also expecting that their partner will change for them. This is what they call ‘compromise’ – o you can’t have it your way all the time! And people change in the process. Sometimes, losing themselves. Sometimes, becoming a projection of who their partner wants them to be. I had read somewhere that we never love a person, we fall in love with the image of that person in our mind. And if you keep changing yourself, compromising, doing things that you don’t want to do- you lose your truth, who you are inside; and when you lose touch with yourself, you fall out of love. Unless you love yourself, you cannot accept love from others. The amusing thing, the irony actually, is that when you do change yourself in bits and pieces, ultimately changing yourself completely- the person who had fallen in love with you would not recognize you anymore. And he will fall out of love too.

I recently watched the movie, Chitrangada by Rituparno Ghosh, which triggered a lot of these thoughts. In that movie, Rudra is homosexual (in India homosexuality is a taboo, not accepted by society, considered a loss of dignity if you go against the ‘law of nature’), who decides to get his gender changed in order to feel accepted by the society, to be with his boyfriend, Partho, and rear a child together, coz Partho is fond of kids. Being vulnerably blind-in-love, Rudra decides to go ahead with the procedure, in spite of Partho saying that he loves him just the way he is and doesn’t want him to change anything. But Rudra is blindly in love, right? And he wants to feel the femininity that is bubbling inside him. So he goes against the society, the norms, breaks his parents’ heart (being the only child, only son, parents feel devastated to see their khokhon taking such a bold irreversible step) and listens to his heart, rationalizing his decision. What is love that doesn’t sacrifice? You would do anything, if it makes your relationship stronger, right? Even if it means losing yourself? Well, so what happens after Rudra goes through the initial surgeries? To cut the long story short, Partho leaves him. Partho says that he didn’t want 'Rudie' to change for him. Why did he? Partho also goes on to say that if he wanted to be with a woman, he could go to a real woman, not a synthetic one like Rudra. He in fact, tells him that he is seeing another girl (a common friend of the two!). So after Rudra went all the way to make the relationship work, Partho didn’t just cheat on him, leave him but also changed his sexual orientation?

That my dear friends, is called being blind in love. Don’t try to make something work so much that you lose yourself in the process. You must keep in touch with yourself, instead of being so solely dependent on your ‘significant other’ for completing you. Your partner does not need to complete you, he/she should complement you.

Coming back to the movie, I was absolutely stunned by the performances. All the characters, right from Rituparno Ghosh playing Rudra to Jishu Sengupta playing Partho, to the supporting cast of the parents, the counselor. . .the surge of emotions in everybody’s performance was impeccable. And although, everyone may not relate to the plot literally, the strong emotions of love and compassion are so universal, that you will feel each of the characters and their state of mind. And everything is expressed so metaphorically, which is what makes it so subliminal and beautiful. Every step, every dialogue, every action is symbolic of expressions so much deeper than what they look at the surface.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ask . Be vulnerable .

How difficult is it to ask? To ask for what you want. To ask what you want to know. To ask for help. To ask for more. By asking, you open a window. Through this window, either a strong wind can gush in and create a storm, making you feel disheveled  or it could be a comforting breeze or a beam of warm sunshine that will make you feel at home, more than you ever were. Asking makes us vulnerable. It is an emotional risk. And you may get hurt after all. All you need to ask yourself is whether it is worth getting hurt. Would you rather not have it at all, or take the risk of being trampled over?

By being vulnerable you can understand whether it is worth the risk. You keep yourself spread open to be devoured, to be exploited. Is that foolish, being vulnerable? But isn’t vulnerability the only truth? Everybody hides. Everybody wants to be bullet proof. Deep inside, under the layers of confidence, there is always a speck of unsure uncertain being. And what happens when you let someone unlayer you? It is a common grievance- You don’t understand me. But for anybody to understand you, you need to be vulnerable. Show them who you are. With all your imperfections. You need courage to be vulnerable. You need courage to show that you are not perfect. That your life is not perfect. You need to know that you are only human. Humans make mistakes. We were born to be imperfect. And it is these tiny imperfections that make you an individual. It is that raw vulnerability that is so attractive. Being raw, and not being pasted with the glitter of the environment around. The glitter needs to come from within.

When you are a child, you have no qualms about asking coz that is how you see things. You ask for it, either you get it or you don’t. And if you still want it, you ask again. And again. You show how badly you want it. But as you grow up, you stop asking. You don’t want to look desperate. ‘I can do without it, what is the big deal’- you try to ‘grow up’. How difficult was it to ask your parents that you wanted to hear a story? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted another serving of that ice-cream? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted a bicycle for your birthday? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted to play for another hour? It was not. But as you grow up you feel that asking makes you look lesser. It is almost an obligation. It is almost like you are begging. But it is not. When you can ask for something, giving out your naked vulnerable self, you establish a connection. An emotional connection. That shows how much you want something. That you are ready to forget who you are, and ask without being scared of being trampled over. When you asked your parents that you wanted a bicycle for your birthday, you were more than certain that it won’t happen. But you go right ahead and ask. Why? Coz you are not afraid of putting yourself out there, with all your hopes, all your needs, all your desires. 

I have always been the kind who had problems asking for something I wanted. I wanted people to read my mind, to understand what I needed at that moment. So much so, and my family would nod their heads in agreement, I would have trouble asking for food if I was hungry. If somebody asked me if I wanted another slice, I would say no, coz I didn't want to seem greedy or whatever, even if I was hungry and in my own home! So yes, asking doesn't come easy to me. But I have learnt in the past couple of years, that 'asking' takes you a long way. More than anything, it clears your head. . .without wondering, what if I had asked?

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I have been called Bipolar several times, that I ‘swing around’ and surprise people. Usually it goes something like- "You are more mature than your age." or “O I never knew you were this fun!” I don’t necessarily take this as a compliment. But yea, whatever! I have two sides of me that I juggle with. The first impression people have of me is always wrong. Coz they see only one side of it. I am not a stereotype. You can’t fit me in one box and judge me with that label. Just because I work efficiently, does not mean I can’t have fun. Just because I am sarcastic, does not mean I cannot be sentimental. Just because I dress modestly, does not mean I am tamed. I feed the crazy in me, but don’t let it come out that often. I don’t want to drive people mad with my crazy. I get bored easily; the crazy mind keeps me going. What I am outside is the toned down version of what I am inside. And it is only a very few people who can break in and come inside. When you come in, you will again see two people inside. One is scared and insecure, and the other is wild and childlike. There is a child within me, who I can never let die. I thrive on the child within me. A child who is amused by the world around. This childlike curiosity keeps me alive. 

Will I ever let the ‘inside’ come outside? Or will I be a bipolar all my life? Will I always wear this comfortable garb of sanity or will I ever become comfortable to step outside naked?

My last story- Free bird- was essentially about this. About coming out. The feeling of freedom, of flying in wild abandon, knowing that sky is your place. But is there really any such thing as free? Was the bird ever free? Inside or outside.

P.S: This is a follow-on post from my previous story post (link above "Free bird"). The word 'Bipolar' here is not used in terms of medical disorder.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Story time: Free bird

Another story I wrote for training in creative writing...

Free bird

Tia fluttered her royal blue speckled yellow wings and sat in one corner pecking the seeds lying in the cage. A little 5 year old boy sat under the tree colouring a house and a road in his book. Tia’s cage was as big as the boy. She had no qualms; there was a swing and a slide inside the cage. There was also a water fountain to drink water from and a plate that was always filled with sunflower seeds and peanuts, sometimes almonds that the boy threw inside.

Swinging inside her cage, she would look at all the birds flying in the sky. But she was happy in the cage, although she had never stepped out. She got her food on time, never had to hunt, she was the entertainer and the entertained.

One day, Tia was left outside under the tree. It was getting dark, Tia was scared. She felt a soft dense mist enveloping her. She turned her head in different directions, and squeaked hoping to catch some attention. Losing all hopes, she curled quietly in one corner. Just then, she heard some sound. A titter she was not familiar with. Soon, it became loud. Tia looked up to find a sea of shining eyes; all the birds were laughing at Tia. “Are you scared now, pretty? Where is your human family? They are supposed to take care of you, right? ,” said one of them with a smirk. Tia could feel a fiery glaze outlining her wings.

In the morning when the first ray of sun hit the edge of the cage, Tia woke up and started pacing around. The family was nowhere in sight. She looked at the last few pieces of nuts left in the cup. She heard a voice from above, of a black bird sitting on the branch of the tree. It had red eyes and a velvety voice.

“Why don’t you fly out of that cage? Do you like to be limited when you can soar and see the world,” the voice said. “I don’t think I can fly. Besides, I think this cage is locked,” said Tia. “Don’t fool yourself. You define your boundaries. Have you even tried to fly out? Come fly with me and you will know what you are meant to be.” Tia thought hard. The little boy and his family could come any moment, and if they didn’t find her, they would be disappointed. Tia liked them and felt attached to the little boy. He fed her peanuts every morning. The bird coaxed her again, “What are you thinking? Come fly with me.”

Tia slowly stepped out of the cage. A strong wind caressed her light body. She fluttered her wings fast. Within seconds, she was flying. She had finally left the cage, she was free. A free bird. Just then she heard a deafening sound. The black bird sitting on top of her tree was shot, and fell down two feet away from Tia. She looked at the blood red eyes and saw it leave.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Getting attached and detached- how easy or difficult is it?

When you have lived a vagabond life, how easy or difficult is it to get attached to something? Do you always know at the back of your mind, that everything is ephemeral? That you don’t have to fall in the trap? That eventually, you are not going to be ‘here’. Or have you really become a wanderer deep within and you don’t want to be in one place anymore? What do you do with the restlessness in your heart to move, to keep moving, and not become stagnant?

But even when you think you are a wandering soul, is it easy to detach yourself? Do you ever truly get attached, or detached? Do you believe that something can really last? Do you attach yourself with a hook, which is easy to take off or do you glue yourself, wanting to stick? When it comes to detaching yourself, while the hook comes off easily, the glue peels off the surface with it. You lose some of yourself; you scrape a part from others. Whether it is a hook or glue, how easy is it to detach yourself? To step away from all the chaos and sip a moment of silence. Does it happen at the flicker of your fingers? Or is it like a big heavy rock that you try to push off the cliff?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Age- Does it matter?

Right at this moment, I wish I was 20. Not like go back to the time when I was 20, but NOW where I am, I wish I was 20 years old, and I had 10 more years to hit that milestone of 30. The second decade of life is so short. You blink and it’s gone. I will turn 25, in a few months. While I liked the idea of growing up till a few years back. Now it is just daunting. Can’t I be 25 all my life? I remember that song, 18 till I die. And I understand the whole thing about- nothing can stop you from doing what you really want, and all that shit. But only people who have reached somewhere in life, can make such nonsensical statements. After the struggle is over, everything always looks rosy.

Or I wish, I was a man. A 25 year old man. Perhaps, that would have made things easier. I could work my ass off, earn a good name for myself, save a lot of money, and take my sweet time to decide when I should settle down. Live life in my terms, however cliché it may sound.

There are two ways of looking at my situation right now. I am 25, I love my job, I earn more than I ever expected, I am in a steady relationship, I should get married in a couple of years, settle down and have kids, and perhaps, live happily ever after. Except, the question hovering in my mind. Will that really make me happy?

I feel I was sleeping my whole life, and I have just woken up. The world is revealing itself to me. And now, you just ask me to lie still in the bed? I want to see the world, I want to learn, I want to experience. But I am 25. I am expected to get married and pop babies before I turn 30- which gives me exactly 5 years, of nothing. 5 years to settle down in that monotony that waits for me? Now, exactly, at this moment, if I were a guy and not a girl, I would not need to care about any of this. Not my hormones, at the least. My parents, who were extremely supportive all my life, to be “career-oriented”, whatever that means, suddenly want me to settle down as soon as possible. What they wanted for me was to get a job so that I am not financially dependent on my ‘significant other’. I am financially independent, yes. But is that all? That’s what I worked for all my life?

Would things have been different, if I was not in India? I see a lot of my friends- Indonesians, Thai, Americans- they don’t have to think about any of this. They do what they want, without any pressure. That way, they give their 100% to what they are doing, work or play. Isn’t that independence? The real deal? Even a person earning 10,000 bucks a month, is ‘independent’ financially.

So what would be the right time to ‘settle down’, as they say? What happens when you work all the way up, do well in life, and don’t find your ‘perfect match’? Then you settle with what you get. Is that better than leaving your ambitions behind and settling down as expected?

What about those who never realized that the time was passing? They woke up one day and realized, they were 30 years old and they haven’t accomplished as much as they would have liked to. What does one do then?

I wish there was a slow motion button for this second decade of life. I wish, just for these 10 years, I could control the time.

So yes, to answer that question, age does matter.

P.S: Yayy! I am back. Haha. This post (finally!) is a culmination of a long battle of conversation, I had with a friend, a fellow blogger, that made me 'think' after a long time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When I saw mom cry

I have been out of blog circuit for quite some time now. And this is my step towards coming back. But I am lazy. Haha. So I am going to post the flash fiction that I had written for a short story writing course that I am doing. All feedback, positive-negative, appreciated. This is my first time with storytelling, so I definitely have a long way to go.

When I saw mom cry

“Did you ask dadu how he is feeling?”, my father asked me as I threw the stone on the last box of the pyramid. “Neh! He is doing naatak. I know he is fine. He likes to grab attention by acting like that. He does it all the time.”, I said as I peeped into my grandfather’s room from the windows outside, with my hands curled next to my eyes and my nose pressed against the glass. He was sleeping. The room was dark. “I will talk to him after I come back from school.”, I said trying to appease my father. Leaving for office, he drove out of the garage as I caught his glimpse in the rear-view mirror of the car. I waved. Hopping on one leg, I turned and continued playing stapoo while waiting for my school bus to arrive.

Dadu-thamma visited us once every year and stayed for a couple of months. First few weeks would be fine but soon I start counting days. How did I become so averse towards them? When I was younger, I remember going with them to Shiva temples in the mornings during holidays. Thamma would pluck white flowers and give it to me. Dadu walked with his tan coloured laathi. All the stray dogs were scared of that stick. Though my grandparents were fond of me, I could never reciprocate.

I noticed something common in all their annual trips. My parents argued and fought a lot in those two months, when my grandparents visited us. I could never follow what they said or what they fought about, but both of them would always be screaming. I also saw ma wiping her tears in the kitchen one night. Dinner, on the other hand, was eerily a quiet affair. Five of us on the table, and nobody would say a word. You could only hear the sound of the cutlery and the wall clock. Sitting there, I would observe people’s eye movement. Thamma would look at dadu and ma, dadu would look at thamma, dadu would look at ma and ma would look at baba who would have his eyes stuck to the plate avoiding all eye contacts. Nobody looked at each other at the same time.

Eight days and ten hours for them to return back, I counted. Ma was coming back home today after three days of business trip. That was the only thing I was looking forward to that day, as I stepped into the school bus. The day at school felt very long and extended. I was waiting to get back home.

I ran towards the house without turning to wave at my friends sitting in the bus. There was a swing in every step despite the sultry 2 o’ clock loo in the afternoon. As I reached near the house, I realized that the front door was open. Usually we kept the front door closed, and used the door at the back to enter. That day the front door was open, and I understood that mom would have just arrived. I sped up my steps. When I reached the main gate, I saw there were a lot of shoes and sandals lying outside the door. I saw a few people coming out of the living room.

As I entered the house, I saw my grandmother weeping, she had never looked so ugly, her eyes were swollen, her teeth seemed to be falling out. And lying there next to her was dadu, motionless. Through her loud sobs, I could not understand what she was saying, but her continuous hand motion, flickering her wrist in the air indicating ‘gaya’ made it clear. Gone indeed. A moment of lost hope dawned on me. A moment when I realised nothing can be undone, like the arrow which leaves the bow, can never be taken back. Irreversible thoughts and actions crept upon me.

I felt like I was in somebody else’s house. And this was not happening to us. I looked for my mom. She was nowhere. The house was full of people, and I couldn’t find a familiar face, until I saw my dad sitting in one corner of the bedroom with a phone on his ears. He was talking to someone. I went and sat in the other corner of the bed which seemed huge now. After a few minutes, he kept the phone down and looked at me with his sharp narrow eyes penetrating mine. He told me about dadu, as a matter of fact without batting an eyelid. I asked him, “Where is ma?”. “Her train has been delayed by 8 hours, she will reach by 4-5. I will go and pick her up in a while.”

I sat there, as my dad dialled another number. I could hear my grandma’s wails from the living room. Strangers walking past would caress my head, giving me a look of pity. I sat there in that corner for what seemed like hours. My stomach was making strange noises, like a knot which does not disentangle. I heard people talking, murmuring as if a little higher decibel will crush everything around like dried leaves lying outside in the garden. Dadu died in his sleep. That’s a peaceful death, they say.

My father left the house to pick my mom from the station. He was pale. I didn’t see any tears. Neither was I crying. But there was a weird pit in my stomach, where I felt my heart drowning, slowly slipping down in the swamp of my stomach. Dadu-thamma were not good to us; I didn’t feel obligated to cry.

Ma entered the living room and dropped on the floor, crying out loud. The two cries were clearly distinct, thamma's and ma’s. I peeped into the room from the corner of the door. I was surprised to see ma crying in spite of all that she had gone through because of them.

Somebody asked me to get a glass of water for mom. Hurrying back to the kitchen, I saw all the glasses were dirty. I felt a heavy air on my shoulders, as I cleaned one glass under the cold tap water. I walked back to that room and gave the glass of water to my mom. She leaned back on the wall and sipped on it slowly.

I got up and left the room. I went and sat in that corner of the bed where I was sitting before. Then I lay down, staring at the ceiling fan rotate, so fast that I could not see the blades. It was like a trembling circle in the centre. I had never seen ma cry like that before. I had never seen a dead body before. It didn’t look any different. It looked like dadu was sleeping, and I could wake him up any moment by making noise in the adjacent room. And ask him how he was feeling. Staring at the ceiling fan, I felt that the fan was about to fall on me and I screamed putting my hands on my eyes. My mother rushed in, my eyes were moist and my heart rate had increased. Scared to remain under the fan, I leaped into my mom’s lap and cried.