Thursday, December 31, 2015

Give me Red

Picture of me in front of a fun grafitti, somewhere in Bombay :)
Another year draws to an end and I am back with another milestone blogpost. If there has to be a New Year resolution, it would have to be to write more often, on this blog and elsewhere. 2015 was neither a long year nor a short year, it was clearly divided into two halves. First half so different from the second. First part of the year had heartbreaks, chaos, soulful travelling and a promotion at work. Second part of the year was about cleansing my system, organizing the world around me and making some life-altering decisions. So yes, 2015 was a landmark year of my life. And 2016 is going to be another new beginning to yet another realm of life.

If I have to describe 2015 in one word it would be Clarity. As we grow older, we start becoming more skeptical. The innocence wears off and we start doubting everything around us. This year I have literally torn down my naïve self and donned the hat of a cynic. And yet I know the child in me is alive. I revel in the tiny pleasures of life but still feel so detached from the world. I hope I can take this sense of detachment with me to my old age. In a way I have become more self-centered, perhaps. I have experienced moments of truth where I have questioned my existence and why all of us exist anyway. I have mused about listening to my heart or my brain, and realized that a very different core directs my actions. It is neither my heart nor my brain. When I peek deep within me, I sense a voice – is it the gut? the subconscious? – a voice within, who is with me all the time. A witness to my life, my thoughts (brain), my feelings (heart) and all my actions (gut). Is this voice my soul? A soul preserved in a body. This year I have understood the role and place of my brain, heart, gut, soul and body in my life. These are not just concepts, these are truths that I have felt.

2015 was beyond my expectations – the highs as well as the lows. Last year I could have never imagined where I am today. Somehow, I felt more in control of things around me although they didn’t always go according to my will. Maybe because I didn’t try to take control of the things around me, but let them be. I have bawled, been depressed, felt lonely, laughed, felt ecstatic, grateful and blessed - all in one year.

The color of this year is Red. Blood red. Color of a thumping heart. Gone are the days of Yellows and Greens and Blue. For the uninitiated, every year I sum up the year gone by with a color, just like how Pantone does. Haha. But in my case, the color is about what has happened in my life in that year and how I have felt.

Hope you guys had a good year too! Wish you the best of everything you need and want.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Scent of a memory

Image courtesy:
The other day my dad mused, "If our mind had the capacity to remember everything, like a huge hard drive, our lives would be miserable and we would be dead by 50." 

Internet today has made it difficult to forget things. That song with funny lyrics you had heard when it was blaring outside your house during board exams? Go to YouTube and you might be able to find it. Remember that neighbour you had from years ago, she might be on Facebook. Oh her kids have got married. The married brother-in-law of the neighbour is present in the graduation ceremony of their third kid. Wow! They do look old. Zoom into their profile picture and you can also see their wrinkles.

Ah! Memories and Nostalgia!

Is nostalgia a bad thing? Those fading memories with a sweet aftertaste. Experiences that look sweeter because they are in the past? Memories are malleable. When you look back you only remember a figment of those moments under a veil of bittersweetness. 

Or are these reality checks of timelines memory a better deal? When you can constantly trace back your roots, and realize how foolish your hairstyle looked in your first profile picture. What about people with amnesia? Not remembering anything - good or bad - is that a better curse than remembering everything in detail?

I am glad there is no Google search for smells. The scent of that first kiss, scent of your mother's recipe of kosha mangsho, waft of tulsi chandan in that temple behind your grandparents' house in Varanasi. Or the stench of fish market on your way to the service apartment in a foreign country. Or the smell of strong musk worn by the uncle that pinched your cheeks for no reason.

Smell is the ideal route of nostalgia and memories. They snap you back into another world. Narrow lanes of your mind map, connecting different stories, holding milestones, scars and badges at every other corner.

Unlike thoughts, memories related to smells only come to you when you experience something similar again. It is difficult to define a smell and store it in a memory box. Unlike a memento that carries the map to revisit old memories, there are no tokens of scents that you can hold on to.

It is this transient feeling of a scent that makes it so irresistible and mysterious. Who knows what I may smell next and which lanes I may walk again. Like Alice in Wonderland you keep slipping into labyrinths as it fuzzily, gently keeps reminding you of a hazy past.

Monday, September 7, 2015

S turns 27 *zen*

I have not written here in so long that now I can’t find words to string together and make sense. The only ritual I have followed religiously on this blog for the last few years is Birthday posts. So here I am writing about my 27th birthday. From as long ago as I can remember, I always wanted to turn 27. I thought I would be a strong, mature, independent woman by then. I think in teenage years, 27 felt very far away. And now I am just a stone’s throw away from the big O. Life here on is going to change rapidly.

I took a short weekend trip to Pondicherry after my birthday. To feel and hold my life in this moment, before my cynical grown-up self catches up with my naïve, carefree self. It was another solo travel – my first in India – after the ones in Europe and China.
At Promenade beach in Pondicherry (technically it is not a beach, don't know why they call it a beach)
In last one year, I have traveled to 6 countries. And sometimes I can’t believe I am that person who has traveled so much, absorbed so much, all on her own. I am not a typical adventurous person. People who know me from before consider me to be a shy person who lives in her own world. To step out of that comfort zone and travel, make friends and family out of strangers, is nothing less than a miracle. I surprise myself.

And that is what the year of 27 has been about. Surprising myself. I have learnt that magic does not need tricks. Sometimes it catches you off-guard, and sometimes you can make it happen.

Growing up, people tell you about letting go and moving on. They tend to imply that you must forget everything that pulls you down and start anew. But from my experience I have come to believe that you don’t have to let go to move on. All my past experiences make me who I am. If something pulls me down, I like to sit down with it, immerse myself in that void, test my tensile strength and then spring back. I don’t want to let go. I want to frame it and hang it on the wall. It is a piece of me. I just have to accept it as a part of myself and live. Not let go. But fuse it within.

I realized that so many of my blog-friends, almost all of them, who were there with me when I had just started out, don’t write anymore. I went to the blogs of some of them last week, and the last blog entries from years ago made me sad. We started out when Social Media was not as we know it today - there was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - Blogging was more fun then. I feel old now. Haha.

Cheers to more writing, more travel and more stories.


Edited to add: I forgot to mention what I did on my birthday. I had a great time with the people I love :) Cut three wonderful cakes - one that my mom got, one that my colleagues got and one that my friends got. I also got a Kindle and my first diamond as birthday gifts (haha ;) notice how I call it the 'first' diamond hehe. Many more to be bought later). So a happy birthday was had.

For previous posts in Birthday series -
When S turned 23
When S turned 24
When S turned 25
When S turned 26

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A trip to Bhutan, a travelogue

You guys are missing all the fun I am having on my travel blog. Come! Visit me no?

A couple of months ago, I visited Bhutan and stayed there for 2 weeks. I visited Thimphu, Wangdue, Haa and Paro. It was a beautiful experience. And you don't know anything about it, coz you have not read my travel blog ~furious~

So here, I am making it easy for you (click on the links):

Part 1 of the travelogue - I talk about my first impression of Bhutan, the highlights of the trip, and the account of the first two days in Thimphu.

Part 2 of the travelogue - I take you through Wangdue and Phobjika Valley Trail and tell you all about the Divine Madman of Bhutan.

Part 3 of the travelogue - I give you a glimpse of the annual cultural festival that takes place in Paro during spring time, called Paro Tshechu.

Come, see Bhutan through me! :) And there are loads of beautiful, breath taking, interesting pictures too!

Ok, enough hard selling, I know you'll come coz you love reading my posts, right? :D Heehee!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wheels on my feet

I have been living out of a suitcase for over a month now. I can’t wait to get back home. My pillow (hate the one I have right now!), my bed, my space. The only thing I am happy about is that I don’t have to cook, but then, I hate the fact that I have been eating outside so much. My face has become chubbier. I don’t exercise anymore. I can’t wait to get back home and return to my no-nonsense schedule.

I am in Shanghai right now (for work) since the last few weeks, and will be heading back to India next week. Before coming to Shanghai, I took a nice long vacation in Bhutan. My vacation high dissolved soon with the flurry of work I had to throw myself into. I couldn’t enjoy the Bhutan afterglow. I need to slow down. I foresee some more work related travel, so I should savor every moment I get now.

I have not updated this blog for so many months. And we are almost half way into this year. I have been neck deep in work. It’s been like this since the end of last year. We are short-staffed and over worked. But I, sort of, like it this way. My empty mind can become a devil’s workshop very quickly. Work keeps me grounded. Not that last six months have been devoid of any personal ‘drama’. When a lot is happening in your professional life (and you enjoy the work!), you can push your personal life out of your mind for some time, and that is a great stress buster.

I have a lot of travel stories to tell. I stayed in Bhutan for two long weeks, and it was a bliss! I lost my phone and was totally disconnected from the world for those two weeks. I got a chance to reconnect with myself.

Last weekend I took a day trip to Hangzhou, a town close to Shanghai. I was traveling alone and it was a nightmare. That is another story I can’t wait to pen down – How I felt like an alien in a Chinese lake town, looking for a taxi on a rainy night, not knowing where I was, almost on the verge of tears.

I will be back very very soon! Here is a picture from Bhutan, till then.

From rain to sunshine to fog to mist to snow...I saw it all in Bhutan

Sunday, January 18, 2015


This weekend I attended the Crime Writers Festival in New Delhi. It was a two day festival held at Indian Habitat Center. There were a lot of guest speakers from around the world, but I didn’t get the chance to attend the entire festival. I was only interested in listening to two guests – Jerry Pinto and Dibakar Banerjee.

Jerry Pinto is the writer who wrote Em and the Big Hoom. It is one of my favourites from all the books that I read last year. He took a half an hour session on Saturday from 2:00pm to 2:30pm, reading excerpts from his soon-to-be-released book on crime. It would be an anthology of 3 short stories, one of which is already published in Mumbai noir, from the Noir series by Harper Collins (that’s the one he read in the session – it is a crime story based at Mahim area in Mumbai).

It so happened, that I got late and completely missed the half an hour session. But I was with a friend who is a journalist and she had an appointment with him for an interview after that. Yes, you guessed it right. I jumped in. I butted in quite a few times with my questions on writing and stories, and Jerry was sweet enough to entertain all our questions. I was super-excited and wanted to know all about his writing experience and how he writes and how he thinks. He also showed us his small (tattered) notebook where he pens his thoughts.
We must have chatted for a little more than an hour. He told us his childhood stories, opinions, anecdotes, lessons, struggles, tips. . .as I sat there starry-eyed and happy. No, I didn’t take his autograph. I felt too shy asking.

Dibakar Banerjee, one of the very few Indian directors I admire, conducted a workshop on script writing. This took place at the Oxford book store in Connaught Place. I had never been to that book shop, and it seemed like a nice place. I ended up buying a book too. They have a cha-bar next to the bookshop where I had a cup of Kenyan black coffee and a chicken quiche. Ok enough about food; I am deviating from the topic :P

Dibakar’s session was interesting too, though I felt it was a little basic. The moot point of his discussion was how script writing is different from writing a book. And he emphasized on the aspect of ‘show, don’t tell’ which is especially important while writing a screenplay because it needs to come alive on celluloid. According to me, it is just as important in any kind of writing, not just a screenplay.

He spoke about Indian movies, how the quality of writing degraded in the 80’s and 90’s – films that didn’t make sense and were meant to escape the reality of life – and how since last decade things are gradually getting better again. The trend is shifting towards importance of a tight, intelligent story that would make the audience think, instead of relying on a superstar’s presence, a few dance numbers and foreign locations.

I had a great weekend, but it also made me a little depressed. I felt absolutely useless and inadequate after seeing the kind of dedication and passion that is required to become a Jerry or a Dibakar.