Thursday, May 27, 2010

"This is going on my Blog."

"Did you see her pink laptop? And the perfumed CV?"
"Don't talk like that about her, okay? And it wasn't pink. It was orange."
"Big difference."
"That shouldn't be on your mind right now. I'm leaving and you don't seem bothered at all."
"I do believe I sent you a muah."
"I didn't get it."
"Oh. Oh!!! Oh NO who did I send it to, then?"
"Not me."
"As long as I haven't sent it to that jerk..."
"Because my inbox has lots of space and I haven't got any messages from you so.."
"I definitely sent it to you. Definitely sent it to somebody. Yes. I did."
"I haven't got it."
"Yeah you know what just keep saying it because that's really helping."
"It's okay. Get some sleep."
"I can't! I have to leave at 3:30!!"
"Yeah so get some sleep na!"
"No. I have to pack. I have to finish the project for this NGO. And you know what?"
"I now have a 2 years' visa for Singapore and 5 years' visa for UK and 3 years' visa for US and Dubai ka to itna hai ki I can stay there.... man this is like collecting stamps!!!"
"And yet, you're going to Cambodia. Are you really into temples?"
"You mean that Uncle thingy?"
"Angkor Wat. Gawd! It's on their flag!!"
"Whatever. Achchha I had a question."
"When these guys talk into the microphone for testing, why do they always go 'Hello Hello Mic testing.. 1,2,3..?' "
"I mean why is there no variety?"
"Hmm. Why do the models always wear that stoic look when they come out on the ramp in those dresses?"
"Oh like that!"


I can bet you anything it was Kenny G. I grew up listening to his saxophone sigh. Besides, they didn’t have more than about 5 or 6 tracks and were playing those over and over again. Never thought I could memorise melody like that. Music without lyrics is like tea without sugar and sex without love.

I met her right there, that day, at the reception. We had both been called for the same interview. She seemed distracted, somewhere far away, like she’s memorising something as well. What they might ask her. And what she shouldn’t talk about.

She said I could go through the school magazine if I wanted to. She could wait. She was so neat and blue. Her clothes, I mean.

“So were you also at that other school? So was I!”
“Oh okay. Yeah I thought it’s a walk-in so might as well go ahead and try.”
“You know they were quite strange. They asked me if I can hypnotise.”
“Can you?”
“Yeah. But of course I didn’t have the tools there so I told them that.”

I was about to laugh. She continued.

“You know I saw something when I went in just now for the first round of interviews. A list of some kind. I saw her name. That girl in pink. And there was one other name. I couldn’t make out. And there was another list with more names. I don’t know which list is for what, though.”

The receptionist came out just then and called out her name. It was a bit like identifying a target. Walking around with a label that one is trying to avoid. “We’ll call you back. Thank you.”

I tried not to look at her eyes. She snatched up her handbag and walked to the door in a few hurried strides and was gone, turning her back to us.

How do you say it? How do you let go? I used to laugh at jokes about firing people on SMS. And then tell myself that I made up for it by listening to them as they let go. And winning accolades for designing brochures which standardised the process of rejection.

Is it really like when you pull off a band-aid? One sharp, piercing shriek and then everything falls silent. You don’t hear the shatter because it chokes you. You age within a nanosecond.

How do you get that surgical precision in your relationships? Firing an employee. Shortlisting candidates. Breaking up with a long time partner. Some call it closure. Some just call it different place, different time. How do you tell someone, “I won’t need you. Ever.”?

And is it really worse to end it all with a “Take Care”?

What happens when you mean it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Grief looks different on everyone"

Izzie: [laughing] George is dead! He's dead! They're about to put him in the ground and the priest is doing classic rock lyrics! And that girl, that redhead, is crying harder than his mother and she never even met him!

They say there are 5 stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
When George O’ Malley died on Grey’s Anatomy at the beginning of season 6, I didn’t know if I could believe in any of the things that the doctors or the interns were saying or doing. Dear, sweet, doe-eyed George who had been named “the intern with the most promise” and wouldn’t hurt a fly. The trauma surgeon with nerves of steel who signed up to join the Army, couldn’t make it home to wish his Mom a final goodbye because he got run over by a bus, trying to save a girl he’d just met. It didn’t hit me. It didn’t even strike me when they all got dressed to mourn. Not until Izzie laughed in the middle of the funeral. That’s Dr. Isobel Stevens, played by Katherine Heigl. She laughed in disbelief, counting off the reasons one by one. George was dead. Izzie had Cancer. Doctors Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey had finally made time in the middle of their hectic schedules and gotten married by writing down their wedding vows on a post-it, wearing blue scrubs and no make-up. Reasons to seize if you want to live, like you would seize a raft in the middle of the ocean. They all laughed with her. Hysterically. They laughed because the next day there would be patients and surgeries and George would have to begin the long and arduous process of being just a memory. And I laughed with them.
And as I laughed, a memory from a long time ago suddenly splashed on my mind in technicolour. My grandmother’s passing, 13 years ago. A prolonged illness following a stroke. All my aunts, uncles and cousins were there. The rites and rituals. People I know and those who I don’t, all dressed in white. Baskets full of fruits. The fire. The priest. Squabbles over whether people should shave their heads, because baldness doesn’t go with the suited look that must ensue once the rituals have burnt at the pyre and the last tears shed and it’s back to work. A poem that I wrote for her because my emotions needed decorative pegs to hang from that I could put neatly on display for people to come and hang their coats of grief from.
Even a graveyard needs a butterfly sometimes. And then, in the middle of all that, I suddenly heard peals of laughter coming from the inner chambers. My aunts were in splits. I don’t know who started it. But they had all joined in, pretty soon. My uncles were shocked but you could tell they were tempted. You could tell that the kids were the audience here and everyone was busy trying to define the boundaries of propriety for them. It’s difficult, being the example for children to follow. Hushed whispers went around. “Keep it down”. “There are guests outside”. For some reason it reminds me now of actors backstage, stealing a look at the assembled audience from in between the curtains. They remembered the last time they had met. They remembered the good times. Pranks. Jokes. Legends. Family stories. I remember seeing an inhaler lying around. Someone had escaped with the help of asthma. Someone had started reciting poetry. I remember a cousin asking if it was too soon for him to wear a red shirt. I remember a guy stealing a look at me while I tied my hair in a ponytail, standing in front of a mirror. An aunt asked my Mom if I had shed tears at all. I avoided her throughout her stay. You see, I had been humming a song. I never knew a behavioural assessment was due. Most of us did, though. This other guy was staring straight out the window. This girl I knew was wearing make-up and people didn’t like it. I took comfort in a yellow ochre printed T shirt and an olive green long skirt. Someone wanted to read what my T shirt said. I was happy knowing they can’t make out what it says. They couldn’t criticize it that way. The food was good. The caterers had got it right. And a small time celebrity had stepped in. Some of us wondered while some of us swore. Surely there’s no mistaking those red, puffy eyes? Of course he was a raging alcoholic?
As twilight fell, though, suddenly everyone was holding a cup of tea. It was almost as if someone would propose a tea “toast”. Everyone was eating beguni (brinjal in fried batter) and muri (puffed rice). Someone mumbled an apology about the choice of snacks. It wasn’t sober enough, nor respectful to the deceased, she said. We were a lot of people, sharing a couple of apartments across town. It was a re-union of sorts. We didn’t seem to care about the logistics much. People who had flown in and people who had taken the train. People who knew once they reached and people who had the news broken to them, toothbrush in hand, by insensitive next door neighbours. But we were in it together. And that’s what I remember now.
Yes, I don’t normally recall funerals. But maybe I need to. True, of all the people who came over that week, two left our side. But the rest of us are hanging in there. You see, that week, some lost their mother. Some lost a sister. Some lost a grandmother. But not a single person lost time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Half Light, Full Throttle

Zee Studio keeps airing Half Light nowadays. But the point is, why do I keep watching it? Let’s see…

  1. Demi Moore: The long haired, wide eyed indigenous Greek with lips parted seductively and in eternal creepiness as you get a déjà vu of her just having seen a ghost. (Remember “Ghost” in which she didn’t actually see Patrick Swayze’s ghost till right at the end but looked spooked out all along nevertheless?)
  2. Rachel: That’s what Moore’s character is called in the movie. Thanks to Jennifer Aniston’s spoilt, rich, fashion loving “Rachel Green” from the sitcom “Friends”, the gossipy neighbour Mrs. Rachel Lynde from “Anne of Green Gables” and of course, the milky white, satin and fur feline, my university classmate’s pet cat, Rachel. The cat had a daughter too. But she wasn’t named Emma like I thought she would be. (I should probably digress even more and tell her what she was named. “Toffee”.)
  3. Scotland: The backdrop of the movie. Conversations are full of Gaelic mutterings I can neither comprehend nor pronounce and bagpipes and misty moors and eerie lighthouses and haunting background scores. The fascination with the kilted clan continues! I guess it’s the kind of sensuality that sneaks up on you and sits on your chest till you wheeze and choke, think forcibly of some long lost kith and kin, blame it on nostalgia and shed nebulous tears.
  4. Angus: The name of the dead guy in the movie that Demi Moore gets to make out with. He’s the hero and the villain and everything in between. Deserves special mention because of his name. There was an Angus in the Scottish fantasy movie “The Water Horse”, definitely one in “Whisky Galore!” and I can safely bet that one of the guys in “Braveheart” was called Angus as well. Note: Angus might therefore be to Scotland what Carlos is to Italy. Or what Ganguly is to a Bengalee or “Raj” or “Rahul” to Bollywood.

You know what’s incredible, though? All this time that I’ve been writing this, I’ve been trying really hard to focus on Demi and not think of Ashton Kutcher. Couldn’t do it!

The Monk who drank Lemon Tea

“So? What does Lebu Mama have to say today?”

That was my Dad, reaching new levels of paternal competency. No. My name isn’t Lebu Mama. It couldn’t be, because Lebu Mama, when translated from Bengali, means Lemon Uncle (the kind of Uncle that’s your mother’s brother). And no. My mother doesn’t have any brothers of her own, either.

Don’t try Googling. It won’t help. You’ll get a reference to Lebu Mama in the memoirs of Satyajit Ray. Some uncle of his, mentioned in the book “Jokhon Chhoto Chhilam” (“When I was Young”). And an MP from Congress, Mausam, who’s 28 and a management graduate might be found using the words to address her uncle, Abu Something, who was not so lucky politically.

Lebu Mama, is the name that I choose to use while talking about Swami Vivekananda. My father, having completed part of his education at Ramakrishna Mission, found it extremely objectionable at first. He asked me if the name has anything to do with the yellow monkwear. I couldn’t be sure. I told him someone must have started it. My father was quite sure it was me.

But somehow, when he gave in, a strange burden lifted off my shoulders. You see, he ceased to be the sibling I need to be jealous of. I share my birthday with him and have kind of grown up in his shadow. He’s been to Chicago and meditated and won people over with his speeches and lived in a box and progressed along the path of spirituality whereas I have been an only child wheezing with asthma and then working in a beer company and occasionally imagining I am a popstar with loads of cash and my own hit single “Saaalo re saaalo o o, jhinchikichikchik jhinchikichikchik jhinchikichikchik” (to be sung in the tune of Nazia Hassan’s “Disco Deewane”, the last three words in Gibberish refer to the percussion).

Anyway, the point is, suddenly my father is okay with his daughter calling this guy “Lebu Mama”, because he has made a decision. It might be Mama whose photograph adorns the calendar in my room, but it’s my room. I didn’t flip the desk calendar yesterday to see what Lebu Mama had to say on the 19th.

I guess he has finally become a part of tea-time conversation. Actually it has a nice ring to it.

“So how do you like your tea? Black? Milk? Sugar? Honey? Lebu Mama?” :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

All About The Cloud

Give. Me. A. Break.
Okay so what's the temperature today? 47? 48?
New Kurtas in my favourite colours from "Sabhyata" in Lajpat Nagar. Felt nothing. Lunch with my Mom's colleagues. Zilch. 5 articles in the hope of posting at least ONE of them on my blog tonight. Nothing. Found out that J.D. Salinger passed away in January, this year. Friggin' jackpot. Zee Studio aired Uptown Girls, starring Dakota Fanning and the recently deceased Brittany Murphy. Huh! Don't get me started on the avalanche of depressing thoughts that followed.
And finally, a walk to IHC.
Oh boy. I am gonna dwell on this last one.
  • Is the Habitat Centre not supposed to keep the Visual Arts Gallery open so that I can sneak in and amuse myself and photograph paintings and installations on exhibition? Sure it is. So did they have anything on display today? No!
  • Is the Amphitheatre not supposed be reverberating the sound of some college play or some Indo-Austrian band like Amridaan or some folksy sounds like those by the band Dr. Chef? Well, were they doing that? No!
  • Am I not supposed to be carrying at least 10 bucks so that I can go and get myself a delicious, slurpy Vanilla/Strawberry softie at Eatopia? So did I carry it? No!
  • Am I not supposed to carry at least my debit card so that I can drop in at the All American Diner for a beer or a hot dog? Well? Was it there with me? No!
  • The lawns. The blessed lawns that boast of Shubha Mudgal concerts and conferences and Career fests. Ploughed. Are we on the sets of Lagaan? No!
  • Is the Stein Auditorium not supposed to screen movies based on a theme I like? Was there any movie being screened at all? No!
  • Is the Convention Foyer not supposed to have a proper exhibition of paintings and not some wooden frames lying around hither thither with a bald guy mumbling instructions in Hinglish? Well? Could I enjoy what I saw? No!
  • Are the Summer workshops supposed to be for kids and not people of my age? No!
  • On a day that I spent writing about Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze and their chemistry in "Ghost", should they be having a Pottery workshop that I shouldn't be aware of? No! No! No!!!!!
  • I sent out a couple of urgent messages to my parents. Did they even read those? No!
Oh but let's rewind. There I was, sitting in between two flowerpots, near the Plaza Steps. Hoping the gardener would come by and water me absentmindedly. Don't judge me. Not a leaf was out of place. No wind. No breeze. Not even a whiff of air. A stunted tree with a bushy haircut isn't my idea of elegance. And a lazy couple ambling by with a persistently glowing butt of cigarette doesn't really help. Nor does a printed yellow kurta on a woman who suddenly stops walking and turns around, facing me like a zombie. Woman, you're too old to be playing Statue. I wish I was one of those winged creatures today. What were they, actually? Bats? Birds? Paper planes? Overgrown moths? Supermen? A flight to Bhopal?

Who cares?

Cribbing, am I? There were a couple of small mercies, I guess. That musical totem pole by Naresh Kapuria is still there in front of Gate no. 2. I swayed it from side to side and said a prayer. Hope that works. And the Open Palm Court Gallery is currently showcasing the works of Shukla Chowdhury. She calls it "The Phoenix Sings A Song". The pictures you see above are from there. Which is pretty much what I feel right now. God bless her, though, for the orange juice and the chips.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Death of a Joke

A sad, sad day. Never knew why I shouldn’t Google too much and think things through till I fry my brains. Well I do, now.

There’s this guy I met a couple of years back. He liked to think of me as plump. I liked to think he exaggerates. Until that day when he suddenly turned to me and said…

Guy: Seriously, join a gym.
Me: Convince me.
Guy: Well once you work out, you’ll not just lose weight, but it will make you happy.
Me: Who says I’m not happy? And you mean because of my body image? I don’t care if some guy falls for my figure. It has to be about…
Guy: Brains and personality, yeah yeah yeah I know all that crap.
Me: Excuse me?
Guy: Hear.
Me. Out. Once you work out, you will rise.
Me: I’m sorry?
Guy: Arre you will rise yaar.. above!
Me: You mean.. in his eyes?
Guy: You will rise so high that you won’t need a boyfriend. You will be that happy. Nothing will matter anymore.
Me: Oh wait I get it. You mean endorphins, right? Endorphins are going to get released in the body? Yeah I heard..
Guy: Dolphins?

There. That did it. I mean how could a guy in his twenties imagine dolphins jumping around inside the body? The evidence was too strong and quickly laid the foundation of overwhelming sympathy. An overpowering surge of something close to pity for what I saw as “an addled brain”. “An immature individual”. “A baby”. And of course, a legendary “simpleton”. A whole bunch of labels came flying out of nowhere. I stand convicted of having judged him that day. And every day since then. Like a friend, of course.

Today, I googled, looking for a possible connection between dolphins and gyms. On a hunch. You know what? Turns out the Dolphin Fitness Clubs are a chain in the United States of America. His mind had simply sprinted ahead into technicalities whereas I had taken him literally. The logo is right there for you to see in the photograph above.

I feel terrible. No, not because my friend had the last laugh. But because he took away a perfectly good joke away from me. And countless memories. Dammit! How am I supposed to laugh at him now?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Project Gorilla

A recent episode from "The Big Bang Theory", which airs on Zee Cafe, took me back to when I was 14 and fumbling with the concept of electrolytic cells in Standard 8 Physics. I had approached my Father for enlightenment. And the journey was strangely similar to the one in the episode..

Scene: The apartment.

Sheldon: (Scribbling) Research journal, entry one. I’m about to embark on one of the great challenges of my scientific career, teaching Penny physics. I’m calling it Project Gorilla.
Penny: Hey, Sheldon.
Sheldon: Come in. Take a seat. (Scribbles - Subject has arrived. I’ve extended a friendly casual greeting.)
Penny: Ready to get started?
Sheldon: One moment. (Scribbles - Subject appears well-rested and enthusiastic. Apparently, ignorance is bliss.) All right, let us begin. Where’s your notebook?
Penny: Um, I don’t have one.
Sheldon: How are you going to take notes without a notebook?
Penny: I have to take notes?
Sheldon: How else are you gonna study for the tests?
Penny: There’s gonna be a test?
Sheldon: Tests. Here. It’s college-ruled. I hope that’s not too intimidating.
Penny: Thank you.
Sheldon: You’re welcome. Now, Introduction to Physics. What is physics? Physics comes from the ancient Greek word physika. It’s at this point that you’ll want to start taking notes. Physika means the science of natural things. And it is there, in ancient Greece, that our story begins.
Penny: Ancient Greece?
Sheldon: Hush. If you have questions, raise your hand. It’s a warm summer evening, circa 600 BC, you’ve finished your shopping at the local market, or agora, and you look up at the night sky. There you notice some of the stars seem to move, so you name them planetes, or wanderer. Yes, Penny?
Penny: Um, does this have anything to do with Leonard’s work?
Sheldon: This is the beginning of a twenty six hundred year journey we’re going to take together from the ancient Greeks through Isaac Newton to Niels Bohr to Erwin Schrodinger to the Dutch researchers that Leonard is currently ripping off.
Penny: Twenty six hundred years?
Sheldon: Yeah, give or take. As I was saying, it’s a warm summer evening in ancient Greece… Yes, Penny?
Penny: I have to go to the bathroom.
Sheldon: Can’t you hold it?
Penny: Not for twenty six hundred years.
Sheldon: (Scribbles) Project Gorilla, entry two. I am exhausted.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ladies' Night

Zombie 1: I want to quit my job.

Zombie 2: What’s wrong? Did you
just reach home? Had dinner?

Zombie 1: I had a slab of Ice cream. Kwality Walls. Family pack.

Zombie 2: That’s unhealthy. Didn’t you have a cheese burst pizza last night?

Zombie 1: Yeah well it was too late. And I just felt like. They don’t give us food here in the paying guest accommodation.

Zombie 2: You sound like you’re in jail.

Zombie 1: Huh! Ha ha!

Zombie 2: Okay
chill man.. I get it.

Zombie 1: Listen I can’t take it anymore yaar. I just want to run away.

Zombie 2:
You can run, you can hide, but.. oh God I miss him.

Zombie 1: Enrique?

Zombie 2: Very funny. You know who I’m talking about.

Zombie 1: Of course. It’s just that I thought this was about me. For a change.

Zombie 2: Yeah it was. But then I got carried away with the song.

Zombie 1: Hmm. You know what, let’s play a game. Let’s find something that doesn’t remind you of him, okay?

Zombie 2: Okay. I doubt whether it’s going to work. But, whatever.. go ahead.

Zombie 1: Tomatoes.

Zombie 2: Oh no we diced those together. Erm no actually I just watched. He diced.

Zombie 1: Potatoes.

Zombie 2: We ate.

Zombie 1: Cobwebs?

Zombie 2: Cobwebs remind me of walls. And I can totally picture him sitting next to a wall.

Zombie 1: Apples.

Zombie 2: Food is a bad idea I guess. Try something else. We passed an apple cart once.

Zombie 1: Water heater?

Zombie 2: Umm.. well he must have used one. Oh no wait he had a geyser. So then..

Zombie 1: Water heater 1.. water heater 2.. water heater 3..

Zombie 2: Shush.. wait man.. by water heater do you mean that electric immersion rod because technically a geyser is also a..

Zombie 1: Nope. I did it. Yes! Water heater it is!

Zombie 2: Cool. So that calls for celebration you know. Don’t quit.

Zombie 1: That doesn’t help. You don’t know how it is..

Zombie 2: Look. Just go take a bath ok? And not with a bucket and a mug and all that crap. Go take a shower. Let it drench you. Just be lazy.

Zombie 1: I can’t believe you said that. You’re such a sweetheart.

Zombie 2: Yes, I know. And next weekend we are gonna watch porn. American Pie. The whole series.

Zombie 1: Is that your idea of porn?

Zombie 2: Fine. Let’s just get married instead.

Zombie 1: I..
what? That’s not even kind of funny.

Zombie 2: Next weekend. We either watch my kind of porn or we get married.

Zombie 1:
Or I run away to my hometown.

Zombie 2: Ha!

Zombie 1: Forget it. Who am I kidding? I’ll be working next Saturday. Monday we have a presentation. So I’ll be working on Sunday as well! You think I should just kill myself or go missing?

Zombie 2: Oh no don’t go absconding. Remember he tried that once and then...

Zombie 1: No no no
water heater water heater WATER HEATER!!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Season of My Fever

Bong cuisine has this wonderful concoction called “Labra”. It’s the quintessential mixture. You cannot really make out what has gone into it. Because apparently almost every available vegetable in the house on that day may find its way into it. I guess it permeated my consciousness in all its gooey dollops as a part of half-remembered, little understood bits of my childhood. Summer afternoons in Delhi bring back memories of the Labra in all its torpor and viscous laziness. But would I rather be lapping up hot sambhar from my office canteen like I did last year? That was summertime in Bangalore. And I’m bobbing on the waves of my Bangalore memories a year later because I recently met a Piscean who conjured a cocoon which you could only appreciate when you had fever.

The kind of fever that’s homemade. Mother’s recipe.

For me, Fever is a womb. On a quiet Mothers’ Day with my mother on a Sunday afternoon; she falls asleep, and I leave her side and creep into the time machine. Back to my childhood.

99 degrees. The tasteless thermometer that never left my mouth. Cold glass on flesh. The temptation to bite into the luscious silvery tip always falling short of the fear of mercury stealthily trickling into my blood. The pale yellow sunlight that melted on my tepid warm skin and made me fidget with the starched cotton sheets. The ceiling fan that swayed and churned hypnotically. And then the beads of perspiration on my forehead. Ma would come in with the familiar chart and record every rise and fall.

And then followed the three musketeers – Ferrum Phos, Mag Phos and Kali Mur. Amber bottles with blue caps. Pills that came with luke warm water and cries of “Don’t bite!” – in vain, of course.

I was the patient. Sometimes, my grandmother and I would both fall sick at the same time. She had asthma. That meant four pillows against which to prop up and more medicines in glass phials, inserted into an old wooden medicine box with round holes. She sure got a lot of attention because of the asthma. Wheezing. Coughing. I envied her. The power she had. The demands that got fulfilled. I thought she was lucky.

And then one day I got asthma too. Asthma meant. Not speaking. Not much, at least. In one breath.

My fevers had a humming household conversation as the soundtrack, making up for my silences. The food for my fevers was boiled apple pulp. And a Dangerous Michael Jackson urging me to Remember The Time and Keep The Faith. Achievement was defined as rewinding the audio cassettes to the exact point at which I intended them to stop. My fevers were spent reading Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and The Famous Five. Always the tomboy. And yet, not allowed to play outside.

My fevers were about that inner world of emotions and smiles and sensations that tempted me like that bucket of warm water and that perfect pillow that my head sank into. I didn’t have to worry about the location of Delhi or Uttar Pradesh on the map. I didn’t have to worry about the chief exports and imports of Switzerland and not get confused between the Tundra and the Taiga. And in the middle of all that when my house got whitewashed that would mean an excuse for not doing my homework. Linda Goodman might attribute this departure from being a good Capricorn to my flamboyant moon sign, Aries.

I was a teacher, a bus conductor, a pop singer, an astronaut, a queen, a vigilante. I was the expert. I was sought out for interviews. But in reality no one really questioned me. About anything. Because that would mean my talking. And I had a castle. And a password. And walls. Because I wanted to know who cared enough to break them down.

To my mind, it was just escaping the physical boundaries. Taking flight. With Pankaj Udhas as he sings “Chitthi Aayi Hai”. With Nazia Hassan as she croons “Disco Deewaane”. Nursing a humongous crush on Aamir Khan after watching his star-crossed love story, QSQT. Feeling like a rocket after a silly General Knowledge class test where I scored 20 out of 20 and therefore celebrated in my own little way “in Paris”.

You can knock. If I don’t answer, look for a scribble on that wall by the bed. If it looks like an autograph, you’ll know I’ll be away for a while.

Can I Come With You?

Anniversaries are always annoying. They make you think. They make you want to justify your actions and beliefs and worst of all, they question your pace. Now on any given midnight, you never quite find the fortitude to tell yourself that you know how the following 24 hours are going to turn out. You sit back and let endless possibilities flood your mind. But on a midnight that marks an anniversary, you are a nervous wreck. Trying to count your blessings and caught up in defining “blessings” and all that vocabulary.

I got depressed when I did the math for my coordinates. Last year, on this day, I was in Delhi. And this year, this is where I am. Again.

Of late, I have been turning to a Desk Calendar from Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Belgaum, with daily quotes from Swami Vivekananda, for advice. It’s like a Magic 8 ball. An offline Facebook Horoscope. As I flipped it to 14th, the verdict seemed to be: “So long as even a single dog in my country is without food, my whole religion will be to feed it.”

I had absolutely no idea how to put it into practice. But the hollow chuckle helped to ease the pressure a bit.

I don’t know about dogs but I made myself some Maggi and an omelette. That was my favourite dish, back in Bangalore. Kind of grew on me since that’s all I could cook at that time. I was missing too many things all at once. Independence. My job. My flatmates. The bean bags. The IPL matches. The Bacardi breezers. Cranberry for me. Jamaican Passion for her. And he was pretty okay with everything.

One whole year.

Earlier that night, “Castle” on Star World had opened with a feather in the breeze, landing on a pool of blood. Unsettling? Yes. The feather in the breeze is about Forrest Gump and going with the flow. You don’t want to mix crime with fairytales. I had skipped the episode at the slightest opportunity. I had been concentrating on Psychology. And drifted soon, when I realised that the author’s initials are R.A.B.. For every fan of Harry Potter, this is a pivotal point in the plot. The sixth book in the series (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) leaves you with a locket carrying a note signed R.A.B.

There are these times when the Universe leads you on. I believe that’s what happened last night because soon, I was sitting with a book on Scottish Ghosts by Lily Seafield. A few months back, I had applied to Scotland’s Glamis Castle for the role of a storyteller conducting tours about its heritage. So when I spotted it in the list of contents, it got the better of my curiosity. Turns out, Glamis Castle actually has an apparition called “The Grey Lady” and some say there is “a secret chamber with a monster inside”!! Does that ring a bell? I mean isn’t that like Potter’s school, Hogwarts? The ghost from Ravenclaw house was called The Grey lady (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and the hidden monster of course is the Basilisk (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

So I was excited. But it was 2:00am. So, I went off to sleep.

And then I woke up, still feeling off-colour. Imagine waking up to a ringing mobile that you just can’t locate and then when you do and turn it off, someone plays with ice cubes in the ice tray and they clatter annoyingly everytime you want to get a wink.

Anyway, pretty soon you are home alone. You realise there’s a missed call. You call back to find it’s the job you applied for and there’s an interview on Monday, 9am.

You hang up. Moment of silence. When was the last time you reached some place at 9am? When was the last time you woke up at 9am?

You don’t let yourself gloat. Instead, you find yourself back on the conveyor belt, questioning the pace of your life. You call up a few contacts, brush up fundamentals, meet a few experts and then walk into Khan Market’s Barista outlet.

Pace. Waiting for the Spanish trio behind you to make sense or at least, pipe down, as you wait for the Brrrista Choco thrill. See now this is tangible. This cream with bits of chocolate on it. you wish it was cold. You wish the coffee would smoothly slide over your tongue and not get stuck in the straw. You wish the ice cream would melt and not drip on the table. You wish the waiter wouldn’t wear that cap inside the outlet in this heat and that he would just stop staring at you and asking whether you’re enjoying yourself. You close your eyes because you just had a glimpse of the chocolate caramel lacing the walls of the glass, the dripping chocolate reminds you of freshly brewed Knock Out beer in a brewery in Aurangabad, dripping chemicals lacing the inner wall of a test tube, potions that Severus Snape must have lovingly prepared, blood that you donate in the day only to be sucked by a vampire at night. This calls for a rainy day. A break from this relentless heat.

The guy in front looks at you, realising you are enthralled by it. This is indulgence at its best.

Pace. Conveyor belts clash again. It’s time for the bill.

Me: 156?

Waiter: Yes Ma’am

Me: I thought it’s 130.

Waiter: That’s without taxes.

Me: Okay this is really embarrassing but I just have 150.

Waiter: Ma’am that’s okay. Do you have any conveyance?

Me: No I’ll walk. Why?

Waiter: Because then you could take some cash back from what you just gave me.

Pace. An unbelievably slow realisation that this is what cheekiness is all about. You feel like being angry. You feel like asking his name. Instead..

Me: Is there an ATM nearby?

Waiter: You want to pay 6 bucks? Why?

Me: I’ll just talk to the guy at the Counter.

You explain yourself. Not caring why the waiter is smiling. Not caring about his tip. Not even caring about how far you let him affect you just because of 6 bucks. All for the sake of pride. The only thing you were glad about? You’ve learned how to smile through it all.

I thought about pace all the way back home. It distorted my perception. I realised that I was seeing a mouse run over with its entrails hanging out in what was actually a dried up hibiscus that fell on the pavement from the branch overhead.

I reached home. And a boy in a school uniform opened the door. He had come over with my Mother and was waiting for his.

“Sorry. I’m not your Mom.”


I saw it after a while. A schoolbag from Jansport. His schoolbag. I once had one. After the one from Duckback. Must have had others. But these two stood out.

“So you’re reading Huckleberry Finn. He and Tom Sawyer were friends, right?”


“Hey which was the one with the character of Injun Joe?”

“Who? I know there’s a Jim that Huck goes sailing with.”

“No this was Joe. I’m quite sure. See there was a cave they got lost in while playing.”

“Was there a girl?”

Of course. This is a guy talking.

“Yes. Becky”.

“Yeah then that’s Tom Sawyer’s adventures. Joe was a very bad robber.”

“Oh okay.”

“And in Huckleberry Finn’s story, he puts pig blood over an axe and fools his father and escapes.”

“Oh. Okay. Umm… you could get some sleep, you know.”

“I slept.”

“So which class are you in?”


“You thirsty?”

“I have a waterbottle.”

“What classes did you have today?”

He mumbles something.

“Food? Oh wow I wish..”

“No not food. Flute.”

“Oh do you have it with you right now?”


“Hey you know your school is really beautiful.”

“Oh. I wish I could show you the primary school garden. I would have, had I gone with you.”

Men will be men. Whether in school or college or at work. Like Nelly Furtado said, Chivalry is dead but it’s still kinda cute. He takes over the lead now.

“Are you going out?”

“I just came back.”


“From your school.”

“No but are you going out again?”

“No. Why? Did you want me to come along with me, rafting on the Mississippi, like Huck and Jim?”

You smile.

He smiles.

“My friend and I have a pet dove.”

“Oh. Okay. You mean you guys feed it and all?”

“Yeah. My friend stays in the school.”

“Okay. So the summer holidays are taken care of then. I was wondering who would look after the bird now that the holidays are here. ”

“Yeah. You know it can’t fly. I mean.. she.”

“Oh it’s a she?”

“I think so.”

“And we can touch it. And puts our fingers and hands in its mouth and then when we take it out there are scratches. It doesn’t go near others.”

“So have you given her a name?”


We started watching Animal Planet. I think they were showing Madagascar. Ring tailed lemurs. He said he was going to Vaishnodevi in the holidays. And that he’s already been to Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kulu Manali.

“I think it’s a bit like this.”

“What is like what?”

“The dove. It’s a bit like this picture I drew of it. You know it’s so small and brown.”

His eyes light up. I’m suddenly happy with my pace. I can appreciate this guy. We connect.

We start watching the lemurs again.

“Hey that looks like a soft toy.”

“It is. They are using that to draw out the actual lemur.”

“Hey look at their tails. And the eyes are so green and sleepy.”

The tails sway in a hypnotic rhythm. Corinne Bailey Rae sings “Put your Records On” in the background. He speaks again.

“Do you know about Saturn V?”

“No. What is it?”

“It’s a very tall rocket. Like a 30 storey building.”

“Wow. And no lift inside?”

There’s a pause. Darn. He’s a kid. What were you thinking?


“So where did you study about it?”

“I didn’t study.”

“Oh watched it on TV, did you?”

“Yeah. Discovery. And you know there is a robot which takes milk out of a cow by attaching to the udder. It doesn’t have to pull. And then you can program and push some buttons and go to sleep and it will work even at night.”

For a while you are confused and a little cautious. Why is he talking about milk and udders? And then you remind yourself that he’s just 10.

“So! Which one do you prefer? Discovery or Discovery Travel and Living?”


Definitely 10.

We watch lions eating bisons for a while. He taps his library book with his fingers and plays with the cover.

And then his Mom calls. She’s here. The doorbell rings. It’s his brother. A customary pat on the shoulder and two little feet scurry about and hoist the schoolbag onto the two little shoulders.

It’s not about pace alone, is it? It’s about who’s with you on your journey. The anniversary sucks, oh yes. Only because it isn’t yours.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Don't Know WHY I Talk To You

Goat: Guess what! The teachers at Mom’s school were making creative symbols of their zodiac signs and Mom made this really cool Archer.
Archer: Oh yeah we share that!
Goat: Yeah.
Archer: You know what... the world doesn’t understand Sagittarians.
Goat: Hmm. You guys are like that guy in the Sprite ad... Sprite. Clear hai. Bujhaaye Only Pyaas. Baaki Sab Bakwaas. Is that what you were gonna say?
Archer: Yeah and also, we are the only ones with a weapon. We had to be. In this cruel, slimy, twisted world that...
Goat: Uh..
Archer: What? You don’t believe me?
Goat: Well an Aries is a ram. That’s horns. A Taurean is a bull. Horns again. A Gemini is split into the twins. Can be deceptive and is intelligent. The famous imagination. Cancer is a crab with claws. Leo is the lion. Fangs and claws. The roar suffices for the weak at heart. Virgo has a sharp wit. A keen, analytical mind. Libra, well, intelligence and diplomacy. The Scorpio can sting. Capricorns are mountain goats or sea goats or sometimes just scapegoats but generally have horns and hooves. Aquarians are either mad or genius or both. Pisces.. the fish.. can bite and in any case is charming and hence, disarming. So how are you the only one?
Archer: Go... and check the dictionary for what a weapon means.
Goat: Oh. Okay. An external source of protection. Not part of the package. That’s what you meant?
Archer: Of course. Why else would I say it?

You Think She's The One?

Charlie: So, Myra... what do you do?
Myra: I teach high school economics.
Charlie: Huh.
Myra: It may sound like a boring life, but at night, I dress up like a giant spider and fight crime.
Charlie: Interesting. Now, did you decide spider and have the costume made or did you find the costume and say, "Okay, spider"?
Myra: Are you mocking the Scarlet Arachnid?
Charlie: Sorry, sorry.

(courtesy: Two and a Half Men, Star World.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

There was Mint in my Broth today

Jofin Jose from Kolkata has left me some clues. He’s the guy who requested back-to-back classics on VH1 – “Let it be” by the Beatles and “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams. Now what could possibly be the connection between the two?

Times gone by? “Jofin Jose from Kolkata” should have sufficed in that case.

I’m sorry. I’m in a foul, foul mood tonight. I love Kolkata. Would have loved it more if it was right next to Delhi. I wish I could sleep in Delhi and wake up in Kolkata and not vice versa. Actually it’s not vice versa. I sleep and wake up in Delhi. I just really wanted to use vice versa in my sentences. The point is I really want to go but I don’t think I would be able to. Hence the destination sucks.

You know I think I am going to turn into Charlie Sheen’s cynic of a character from Two and a half Men. You know why? Because I have been trying really, really hard not to turn into the dork who plays his brother on the show. The twice divorced chiropractor who shares custody of a slob of a son with his first ex-wife. Alan. He’s neat and clean and his internal organs are in excellent condition, thanks to stuff like acidophilus milk. As if that isn’t scary enough, he talked like me today. I swear to God. His brother accused him of something and in his defence he shrugs and stutters and says “That’s not the point.” I messaged that to a friend yesterday! So there you are: I shared dialogues with a dufus. Tomorrow it’s going to be too late and I’ll discover that we share personalities.

And you know this isn’t the first time I struck a chord with the dead or the dying. Remember Brittany Murphy? Look up. She’s in the photograph. Actually if you kept looking up, you might see her in heaven. Getting sloshed. But cheering up the winged bozos. I miss her. It isn’t everyday that a girl that you’ve only seen on TV dies. So it was this movie, The Ramen Girl and suddenly she says “I’d rather be here with you”. Okay I know mine was a lot more emotional and elaborate but dude that’s MY LINE!!!

No, it’s a nice movie actually. Her movies generally are. Were.

Dad just came back home. It’s 1:00am. Oh to be in your fifties and stay up late in office. There’s a nightmare only Santa Claus has had I guess. Recurring, too. Poor thing. Only Dad didn’t use the chimney. Good. I’m the one on fire tonight. Oh and Lalit Modi, the IPL guy, got fired.

Dad was out, plucking flowers. He brought one home. Oh, among other things. Duh!

I don’t quite know why I went for the “ogre-licious” McDonald’s soft serve today. They have a huge green poster of Shrek outside the Kamlanagar outlet and the docile, demure McMen and McWomen inside were wearing it on their heads. Well, if they were going so far. It’s a small white swirl in a cup with a green translucent gel layered around the edges. Mint. And then on my way back, mint again. This time in the Metro compartment. The one in the morning wasn’t mint, maybe. That was just toothpaste.

You know what other songs Jofin Jose requested today? “Numb” by Jay Z and Linkin Park. “Rockstar” by Nickelback. “Brighter than Sunshine” by Aqualung, original soundtrack from “A Lot Like Love”.

The lead pair in Castle are Richard Castle (Crime fiction novelist) and Detective Kate Beckett (New York Police Department). Didn’t Satyajit Ray find the formula decades ago, in Lalmohan Ganguly (alias Jatayu) and Pradosh C. Mitter (alias Feluda)? Of course, Feluda didn’t wear high heels and Jatayu wasn’t so hot.

“They don’t take you to the Vet. You’re obviously not their favourite pet. Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat... it’s not your fault.” Nothing. I’ve just been humming that song. Let’s just call it the spirit of the Ramen. The broth would be bland without it.