2 states

With an IIT-IIM armour, Bhagat had a flying start to his writing career. "Five Point Someone" tugged all Indians whether he or she cleared IIT-JEE or not. I happened to witness a theatrical rendition by the Madras Players which brought life to the characters, it’s another bonus that most of the artistes were IITians from Madras. Raju Hirani’s screen adaptation of it,"3 Idiots" is much awaited. Being a first time book from a hallowed background saved him enough raw criticism.Justify Full
I didn’t have the guts to read "One Night…" esp after watching Sohail Khan’s screen attempt of the movie. The music was rattling, the characters a lil’ messed up. The personas too mind-bogglingly Bollywood. I have the book, will muster courage to read it before the year ends.

They say once bitten, twice shy. Since the second book’s screen adaptation was so disappointing, I thought I should not even look at "The 3 Mistakes of My Life", pun intended. I made sure I had a copy of the book and will read it in my Yarrow Visited-Unvisited days.

There is something about Chetan Bhagat, he writes with no literary theory in mind and consciously avoids the heavy duty jargon that critics love and hate to problematise. There is no PoMo or PoCo jargon, there is no valorisation, there is no sub-altern. There are simple characters, don’t know if EM Forster’s round and flat characters theory works here, all his characters are lovable, incidentally most regional picks are for comic relief. One sure thing is he writes for a certain gallery that assures him applause almost deafeningly.

His inaugural speech at Symbi last year touched a chord. He has been called on various panels by many minion MBA institutes to bless future Chetan Bhagats. Optimistic but grounded, he is a reliable opinion maker when he says that our MBA institutes might be successful in churning out execs who dream a 7-figure to 8 figure monthly package but the reality is elsewhere.

2 states, literally and metaphorically is what I have been going through for a long, long time. I had picked it up for curiosity’s sake and very bravely recommended to most people by simply reviewing the blurb. But I am glad I did it pretty safely.The latest to be recommended was a senior steward in a Jet Airways fight.

Took me a month to read the first 20 pages, another 1 week to read the next 10 days. By then, I had recommended the book to everyone I knew, I remember buying at least 7 copies as gifts and recommended gifts. And, everyone had finished reading the book many times over, the hilarious pages I mean.

Serious reading happened en route home. I finished the book in less than 36 hours with all social dos and chores in between. Not bad stuff, this time. I like Ananya’s father for his wedding toast of a speech of a united India. I like Krish’s father for reconciling that one can’t live in a time warp, personal reasons included.

The cute stuff that happen at IIT or IIM shocked some of my colleagues at work. Do girls, esp TamBrams do that? Well, what has being TamBram got to do with that? Well, if one wants to call it scandal, then it is. Otherwise, it is no big deal, it is a big generous world there, so puts an insider. I recollected my brief stint for a programme in IIT-G. Nothing noteworthy, yeah but a starved percentage of the population come there, mostly males, to assert mental superiority about pedigree and the blah. The states of ‘before’ and ‘after’ for people in such hallowed institutions is also amusing. One is supposed to encash all the rigour by commanding a premium in dollar packages with MNCs. Some do, some don’t. Some rape, some blackmail and some get arrested. So no big deal about the pedigree, most get lucky actually. Popular campus lingo, these future enggrs find their female compatriots less feminine, therefore, non-males. Very weird and wired explanation, grey matter is totally a male thing.

Times have changed, career conscious Ananyas are everywhere. Some join family business onscreen, like Prachi Desai in "Life Partner". Some quit. Some go abroad for better prospects. If these Ananyas are not family-devoted, they are career bitches, at least branded for sheer lack of a better word or are waiting for their million dollar-crorepati baits.

What part of the book moved me? The parents. Parents become so larger-than-life. There is so much of emotion and things at stake. Ananya and Krish got everything, the DDLJ way. Happies ending.

Some relationships in the book left me thinking. Krish’s and his father‘s relationship, nothing is clear in the beginning. The italised flashback guru-shishya talk brought out the angst buried for years. A tale of abuse, respect lost and gained, trust and implicit faith, most importantly unconditional love. Many things can go wrong and many did between Krish and his father. Father-son bonhomie can either be great or terribly formal and uncomfortable. Personally I know of many male friends who are always ahem-ahem with their fathers. Krish blames his father’s mighty temper for all the wrongs in their family happiness. His mother wept more than he could remember, her defiant spirit is all due to the moral support from her extended family and hopes of a Punjabi bahu with assurance of bridal finery, gifts in the form of petrol pumps and life-long seva would delivering her from her social woes of a life incomplete.

The question is that of abuse. How much of abuse is glorified as chauvinist and paternal? How much of indifference and frustration is given vent out in the form of domestic violence and abuse?

Yeah, the humour is stretched. I don’t know how long Punjabis and Tamilians will tolerate being the butt of most jokes from Khushwant Singh’s days. The melodrama is clichéd and Bollywood-ish, too much of north-south spicing up the screen kinda thing, tedious and unbearable at times.

The epilogue is almost plagiarised straight from the last minutes of a Saif Ali Khan movie, when the crowd is clearing a PVR aisle filled with empty cans of Pepsi and butter corn with the credits rolling. Very copied-scripted.

Anyway, good bubblegum read. The only saving grace again, the two fathers.

Two red roses and chocolate.

Thank you :-)

Forrest Gump said, "Life is a box of chocolates."

Never an expectation, but yes, it was a very pleasant surprise.
Trust me to not notice the surprise. The view from the magic keyhole is always not the complete picture.The lil' slice of life from there is concave and convex from both sides.

Life has more to it and, our journey has begun with/without roses and chocolates --our hands are full aand folded in prayer, hope, faith, trust,dreams, happiness, fear of the uncertain and the unknown. The blooming buds and the love and warmth of the chocolate hold us together for better tomorrows.

The sentiment wrapped around each petal of the rose and the prayer whispered in each blooming bud for a loved one is what makes the rose special for both the giver and the receiver.

Every rose has a story to tell. Chocolates, well. The same story in a breath of sweet fondness.


Buddha in the dumps

Not quite out of sight. I guess, this is a result of spring cleaning before Deepavali. Not many of us enjoy watching a municipal bin but this is what I dont necessarily have to endure but well, it falls in my vision exercise in the morning when some maids do catch up on their saab-maedom gossip. Occasionally, a young rag-picker or a slightly older one would be seen scavenging for some stray fortune or mostly, separating plastics and glass.

Today, the Laughing Buddha has found an unusual home - the top shelf of a GHMC bin, quite the cynosure of all eyes. Feng Shui believers must have found a chink in the old man's armour ( i think he is non-violent and non-aligned!) and left him to his condition.
He is still smiling and laughing.
He is still rejoicing after being dumped.
But He stands tall despite the dregs around him.
He still spreads cheer and smiles.
He is my hero for the day, he still brings good luck to many.

No prologue and epilogue

Scene 1

As i walk into the not-so-hallowed but well-grilled gates of my college after a blissful 2 week Puja vacation, an-always-manages to look hassled and important, colleague roars in her car without a honk or a hoot. I saw her from the corner of my left eye and also, had this tiny-winy gut feeling, she might just do the impossible of mowing me down despite my awareness. In 3 secs she proved me right. Despite Tony Uncle and Nirmal Bhaiyya hey-heyying her to stop her car and also, a bevy of young girls criss-crossing her path, she chose to accidentally knock me. She did. I dint fall. i walked on, her vehicle just kept nudging me without. Weird. Finally, i turned around, she dint realise I was giving her one of those to-be-stoned looks. Anyway, the matter dissolved almost quietly. I checked her car, it was the humble humara maruti 800 and what pride she had like she was vrooming in a CRV.At the office, I slowed my pace, she could not avoid me. The apology was reluctant and my pride spontaneous. A cheeky one which would leave a seasoned one at the wheel red - " Looks like you are learning.."

Scene 2

An RTC bus breaks down,axle and brake and some handful of lives on board. I was seated behind the driver.We were asked to get off. The conductor stops a running bus and fellowspeak, we were on board the new bus without any fuss and fare. Impressed.Duty, obligation and responsibility.Public servants ( not bureacrats).And we still call them public servants. Sigh.

Scene 3

Shared rick-rides, slightly more economical and minus the precariousness of hanging on one leg on the footboard or bored hanging inside an RTC bus in the evening.The knave took the wrong road, a lil display of stern straightens a sinning snake also. But the no-change/9 rupaiya hai got me on the right side of his wrong side.He thought i was mad, yes i am but his fingers would go off if he dared to wave them at me. Saved 2 rupees in the bargain. Jaago grahak jaago.

Scene 4

Another rick-ride,i complete the 3 women in the backseat quota. One prospectively coy passenger got him greedy of 4 rupees and driver fella asks me to adjust and squeeze my companion on the right.I yelled at the passenger asking why she is keen on sitting on somebody else's lap. Then the fella and i indulged in Gandhigiri talk. He got an earful and a decent mouthful of teacher-talk. He thought i was too much when i asked him to carry the passenger on his lap.Cut the crap of ladies and gents. If he forced us, i threatened to cut the fare, pro-rate you know..

Scene 5

Home. I never spoke so much with my man over phone as much as i did with Customer Care Service for update of info related to my debit/credit cards recovery and the jazz.

A Happy Finito.

Homeward bound and anchored

Mom and my mobile alarm woke me up at 5, a call from 7 seas away brought a smile. Early morning haggling with the auto guy to reach the airport shuttle point, some festival tip to the maid and in 10 mins I was there, took my ticket and was too too excited to reach the airport - home, in some hours. 40 mins of light sleep and there I was, wheeled my stuff in, got my boarding pass. Looked around, a lot of Bengalis on flight, lot of saree bags and gifts for loved ones, newly-weds returning home for their first puja and some first time parents who din’t know how to keep their baby quiet thanks to wrong carrying postures or just plain indifference to understand what the toddler wants.
Kolkata stopover was brief but cool, I boarded the flight to Ghy and realised my wallet was missing. All my cards, 2 grand in cash and my identity papers were there. Flashback dint help me either. Tense and restless, the plane also hovered mid-air trying to dodge bad weather. Ghy was relieving, ran into papa’s arms. He still looked as handsome and vibrant as ever. The journey to Shillong brought back a flood of memories. I feel I am no longer as resilient, god, I threw up a couple times. I had not eaten a thing. Reached home, chilled to the bone. Mom looked a lil aged but both of us were so happy to see each other. Mama’s hug and I wept like a child. The missing wallet story upset everyone. I was busy calling helplines and blocking misuse of my cards. All well and a quip from papa, that I had extra money and some taxes to pay…that’s why divine intervention of the missing wallet. The precious things were my family pictures and a Ganesh ji pic given by a loved one. Dinner and I was fast asleep. Mobile switched off and bags half unpacked.
The next morning was a huge surprise, I saw papa in a kitchen apron wake me up with my toothbrush in his hand and asked me to go freshen up and that breakfast was ready. Woohoo, a propah English breakfast and we were expected to finish all ablutions before 11am. I did nothing but unpack and handover gifts. I slept again some unfinished sleep. The next one week was pure bliss. Mom and papa went to see the doctor, happy tidings. Mom wanted to cook and doc was more than happy she should do some light work. We took care of the heavy cleaning and washing. The only cooking legacy I took from Hyd was how to prepare upma and yes, one morning was upma breakfast. They thought it was the quickest preparation. The only thing missing was curry leaves and almonds.
Mom prepared my favourite momos and noodles. Week long feast. They insisted I must shop for a puja dress and shoes and of course, a wallet. I must have had some 20 at one go, chutney was home-made. Tongue-tickling and whacking.
Puja was fun, I met Surajit and his folks. I caught up with Koyal and Sujoy, Digvijay and Doyel. Bro and sis wanted to treat me. Both days of eating out, I paid the bill. One at Bar-be-Q and the other, my personal favourite, City Dhaba. Met some old students. We were asked to come have khichhdi at some mandaps. We got home dabbas of them, had them for breakfast. Mom and papa wanted to have dosas. Jeez, I was so taken aback. I packed 2 masala dosas and one paneer dosa from Madras Café, Chennai Junction dint serve very good chutneys. Lot of sweets, mishti doi and kheer.
I begged my sister to get me some aloo chat from that old time bhaiya who sits near Lady Hydari Park. She informs, he no longer sits there but near the Survey gate. Whatever, she never had time to get any and I was never motivated to walk there alone. So mom and I prepared something similar at home, it lacked the street side masala-tic appeal but it was many times safer and hygienic.
So, I approached my brother to get me egg-rolls from the Keatinge road chap, and yes, he dint disappoint me. Trust me, it is the best in India, it beats the Kolkata guys on Park Street. All for 9 rupees. I remember paying 3 rupees when I was in class 2. But it still had the same charm and taste, that small place is still a furnace and people don’t stop coming there. I had loads of egg rolls.
The Glory's Plaza pani-puri man has more competitors, I went beserk having a plateful at Lite Bites. The stuffing is glorioius and the pani tangy.
Irresistible weakness for eggs, I became a lil’ conscious and I was petrified of some break-outs on my face. They did. But my puja was not ruined. I still had more of them.
On Navami, I wanted to be at the Polo Matri Mandir. My favourite Lord Shiva and Ma Durga. I did some spring cleaning at home, since my feet were sore from walking in new shoes.
My bro and sis were pretty mad with me coz I dint walk enough with them. Shillong is ageing. The road-car ratio is the second highest in India. We waited for ages to get a cab, the Maruti 800. We paid 50 bucks, more than 3 times and came in an auto. How we laughed at our grandness. In Shillong, you cut a sorry figure if you travel by auto.My sis vowed to do pandal-hopping the next year in a car. Papa does not want to buy one now coz there is no parking space.
Lunches and rendezvous with dear friends. Some frozen moments for keepsake. I felt a lil’ miserable to be not waking up to papa’s brush alarm.
There were those sibling fights and they made it lovingly ouch for me by calling my age aloud that I have not changed nevertheless. Of course.A Shillongite never does.
Shilllong, I love you.
Mom, dad, I love you a lot.
Bro and sis, muah muah.

At 62-plus, where is that Indian-ness?

When the nation turns 63 today, patriotism and Indian-ness is such a relative concern. My part of the country, Meghalaya and the NE region of the country has seen independence day observations of a certain kind - decades of ethnic violence and reconciliation - a constant struggle with identity. In colonial times, there were two princely territories and undivided Assam. The two princely states are present day Manipur and Tripura, remnants of royalty can be seen until date. Undivided Assam per the States Reorganisation Act of 1971 and later gave birth to Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and we had NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. The struggle is not over. The NE region of India is rich and diverse with tribes and smaller tribes, each with a distinct identity and ethnicity. They don’t come under the media glare so much like the Red Indians do in Uncle Sam’s, they are fierce about their preservation of their community. Indian-ness as a concept is not absolute and binding, of one voice over the other. But there is a clear unacknowledged divide of the mainland and the hinterland. Each one of us is very proud of the heritage and legacy we have inherited and are ambassadors in our lil’ capacity.

Interestingly, history is full of tales of crossroads of national and regional moments of glory, strife and sacrifice. Manipur had Bir Tikendrajit fighting the common enemy of sovereignty, the colonial British forces. Present day Meghalaya was predominantly Hindu/pagan comprising the tribes of Khasis, the Jaintias and the Garos. The Khasis fought under U Tirot Sing. Undivided Assam gave the nation many Gandhians and reformers. The Welsh missionaries and the Salesians set up churches, hospitals and schools, the popular notion of the NE being a western society began then. Naturally blessed with heavenly dales and unexplored virgin territory, the clean air and the pristine-ness. Not as flamboyant and rich as Europe, but it was no less.

The 1971 Indo-Pak war’s result was Bangladesh. Pre-partition times had people in the region going to Dhaka and Sylhet to meet friends and relatives, study and trade. Things changed overnight. The influx of communal riot victims to the Brahmaputra Valley took away scarce national resources and means. The immigrants are survivors, to snatch opportunity and set up a comfortable haven not alien to them. I still have friends who suffer humiliating comments on the basis of their religion and where they come from. The locals are also bitter, and from a fun loving hospitable race they have become insecure and need inner line permits for non-locals. Absolute dynastic non-mainstream power corrupts badly. The region suffered in the hands of some Mammon worshippers. The youth went mad, some protested, some gave up school and work, some became militants. The region wept blood. It is limping back to normalcy, the prodigal sons are making it happen after realising that someone malicious is misleading them for some other intent. Many jingoistic rebels felt, they were accidently born and proclaimed Indians. Only natural. The on-the-fence intelligentsia and the yellow-journalism driven elite play safe and want to be politically correct. How simplicity is bruised. People lived the trauma of ethnic killings, mothers wept their bosoms at factional violence. Unsuspecting victims of violence and bitterness. It took music and grit to heal the wounds, and take the bull by the horns. Terrorism became a business, the centre provided crores of funds, wonder if those funds actually made sense-- never saw much of security and para-military stuff doing their work, business thrived on protection money, the region was in the news for terrorism, tourism died many deaths and a separate ministry was created for us, endangered species that we are.

Anyway, the cosmic joke didn’t spare many who wanted to rise above the cramped life. Parents thought their kids were safer in metros, so broods left their nests. The parents worked double hard to keep the money flowing. Some kids went back, many lost in the metro madness. Things in the mainland ( err.. sorry, why mainland? Who created the mainland?) were not rosy. The Mongoloid features made them the butt of all jokes. The chinkies or the Chinese or the Japanese -- that is how they are known. They speak English well and not speaking in Hindi ( one of the national languages) is a crime, they dress well and are easily available and gullible. Nietzsche said history is recorded by the powerful about what they choose to. The NCERT and the other so-called national enough education boards have been governed by size, the big states where the big money went with every national Budget. State boards made local history available in second language studies, which sadly is optional.

They come under the scanner faster than anyone. One reason is because they are “aliens” and look different and easy enough to judge since they are not from this part of the world. All the national hoo-hoo haa-haa around being patriotic and Indian died the day enlightened and proud Aryans and Dravidians displayed national ignorance and brouhaha around where the NE is and also, the jokes. Damn it, the enigma of the NE became smaller in focus than a question around cannibalism and the like. The mainland IQ is definitely relatively poorer and also, majorly indifferent. Molestation and sexual abuse of women in the NCR and in many parts of India is not a new thing, people complain and protest, file an FIR and the road to justice and perdition is a long agonising one. A few years ago, when two NE girls were molested in Delhi and two others were attacked at Gateway of India, there was uproar and divided opinion over clothes and culture. Delhi Police did something more wretched by producing a pamphlet for potential UG people from the NE with a list of do’s and don’ts and what to wear and not. Regressive times. The experience of bias is strong. It is not a one-day paranoia. Sigh! I don’t know how and where parents involve themselves at a child’s growth, the callousness is shocking at times. The sense of alienation only grew bigger, the rifts just grew wider. Now, it is a tch-tch feeling, call it thick-skinned otherwise. And, I am affected definitely. I wish to believe a free India exists for all of us.

A Kargil, a tsunami, a national calamity and a 26/11 inadvertently brings the nation together because the battleground is the mainland. Terrorist acts and bomb blasts are mundane part and parcel of life here, it is not probably over magnified and blown for 24/7 satellite TV coverage. The stakes are low but the pain of being abandoned is bigger than the casualty.We used to watch/observe Independence day and Republic day within closed doors on DD-1, we had token celebrations where the Guvs took the salute and a few made it. When I was the Vice head girl in school, I managed to take 16 brave hearts for whom disobeying parents was regular, to the parade ground. Yes, I was scared what if we get caught in some rampant crossfire. Today, things are fine. We fought terrorism in our own way, we came out on the streets. We had to be accountable and responsible for our lives and future, didn’t want to die like cowards. If at all, in action, in protest. Music is a magical healer and, prayer too. The region is scarred but the flowers are blooming in the hills, giving a chance to their fraternity in the mainland a chance to bridge the gap.

We have to rise above the cosmetic clarion call of Jaiho or Jaihind..

July is cruelly the toughest month.

It's the 24th of July and there is no single blog entry for this month! i am alarmed at my imposed lethargy and the feeling of not-upto-it, shyt!

Ok, some quick updates... a lot of birthdays,including mine. Don't know how i feel about mine, but i am sure all July babies had and will have an awesome one! My friend's hubby was surprised with 28 gifts! Yes, he turned 28 years old. Thank god, its not his 6oth birthday and his wife informs she is definitely not going to do this again even if it is a so-called milestone birthday. She is right, every birthday is a milestone.Well, the bad idea of gifting 28 stuff was mine. I never had and failingly don't have a wishlist. My family, friends and the loving and loved one more than make it up.But, I guess it was a subconscious desire.I am also turning 28 and maybe, I wanted 28 gifts.I lived my wish by suggesting my friend to surprise her man with 28 gifts. I like the pure thrill of giving and receiving,sometimes albeit selfishly.

To all my July babies, a Happy Birthday! The gifts are coming.Sorry for the delay.

I moved house in less than 3 months and yes,I miss Balaji Residency, Flat no. 304. The cacophony and the laughter. I miss Ragini, my lil' girl and our terrace talks and late night music soirees and those thoughtful and sometimes, thoughtless ramblings.I am very happy for you, Ragini. All luck and love with you, always.

New house,new roomie and a new beginning, some hiccups...living out of duffel bags, not being myself- yes, an abnormal me.A thorough lecturer by day,parsimonous by meal times and a wanderer for 3 weeks.Found sleep but briefly, i looked for my pillow.I am in my new house,still unpacking in my refuge.I say hello to the shelves, they welcomed my books. The room looks quaint and now, throbs with life.

I have a nice roomie and a nice neighbour. 6-month old Gauri is our ( Gauri's parents, roomie's and mine) heart-throb. All my stuff are in this house, except for some of my wandering books,part of my mobile lending library and probably,a phone charger somewhere.

Yes, the house-warming will happen, give me some time. The kitchen needs to be set up. Yes, Ma'am S,i will get sweets for everyone at work, courtesy my first salary at college.Yes, Ma and Pa,I have booked tickets for my Puja homecoming.

All well but the Guy up there needs to test my patience.

A day after i book my tickets, Ma calls me saying she has a tumor in her belly.I was and am reeling from that shattered feeling even now. No one in the family has ever had this. It sounds alien to me.I have seen Ma always so strong and binding. The fear of losing her weighed over me the entire night last Tuesday.I wailed, ranted and wept.Tears gave up on me. Why Ma? Ma said,it's only time that will tell. Pa asked me not to cry.I squirmed for comfort...So many miles away,I cling to that phone call again and again.

17 years ago, we lost Ma's mom ( around Ma's age then) to a similar fate in a state-of-the-art hospital.This palpable fear got us worked up and we feared history haunting us again.

Hello,You up there.You cannot do this to us again.You love us or love us too much, you can't and won't do this again.Ma has a lot to see and enjoy. She has had a tough life, her kids are just flowering today.All those nights she stayed up during our exams,and those sleepless moments when we were fighting illness or I did not call.You can't take away Pa's strength and love. Both of them fought heaven and earth to be together, they have stood by each other in the face of humiliation, strife and a palpable end to their love.

To cut it short, answer our prayers, in all sincerity.You owe that to her.

Letter to Pa and Ma - 1

Dear Pa and Ma

It's been close to 3 months since i resigned. i thought i was pushed to being brave. Felt very lost and dejected at being the chosen one. i have more plans than i can execute. You allowed me to leave home. You allowed yourselves to trust me. You allowed me to trust myself. You have a fervent wish that the break from academics is temporary and that i will come home. You are also aware that i have outgrown that place but we also know that i always carry my home everywhere with me, the number of times you call me during a day and small notes and instructions, only if you were here physically.

It is not easy to say it was tough. i was a leper to some and a lost child to some. i was moving into a new house in days, all plans backfired on my face. Even tears deserted me. i go on with the backfired plans, life surrounded by cartons and bags. Wish you were there around, simply like you were there when i walked out of jobs over a difference or two. i felt a lil' alone. Before i could finish unpacking, my new companions announce they are leaving, not a difficult choice for them. The bogey is empty and it does not feel eerie. i am packing once again,finished some.

Many things happened besides the ones i tell you everyday. Did i tell you what happened when i landed in hyd? Yes,i did. The city dint feel strange. Did i also tell you, i moved out of the guest-house on the 1st of Jan, and believers laughed at me saying i'd be moving house so often? Yes, i live to tell the tale, i have moved house so many times. i made friends,hurted and reconciled so many times. i am still undiplomatic and call the kettle black. i never had to look for a job but found one. It's a humble beginning, i recall all my humble beginnings with you, Pa and Ma around. This time, wish you were here. No one was there to see me off till the gate,Ma. i remember Pa, you'd put a half-day CL to drop me to work and be with me. i dint get that extra pocket money to come and go by taxi. There are good samaritans in this city, some make me feel at home and some make me feel wanted. Some have been kind, some very nice and some loving. i hope and wish to believe that the samaritans and i become/are family.

It feels good to hear dining table stories from my senior colleagues at work, what their lil' ones do at home, warm moments of sharing a small meal. i also want to share such stories but i have none for now. i feel grounded but not rooted. i need some assurance that everything is ok and alright. It pinches me a lil' to have my meal from the canteen. i manage breakfast and i prepare dinner. i dont want to live like this. Pa, i recall how you'd beg and bug me to eat and stop me from working like a maniac. Ma, i remember how you'd coax me with those dishes you'd pile before me. i know what it feels when your labour of love is not acknowledged, i guess, i am paying for it. i dont have time to cook my lunch! i cook to eat and eat to breathe. it feels strange to cook just for myself. There is hardly anyone with whom i can sit and eat or discuss dining table tales. Few and far between. Restaurant matters are social dos and one-off meals are get-togethers. All my roomies were younger than me and rarely ate at home, if they did it was because their parents were here. If they dint, it was because there were social dos.

i am enjoying the bus-rides despite nearly losing my life. i am special and not special according to god's plan. In a week's time, i move into my new house with a new roomie. Dont know how long i will be in a room of one's own till a house of my own happens. This is to tell you how much you and your loving and caring ways are missed. Ma, i still bug you to wake me up. i miss Pa's pulling off the blanket in the morning. i miss shouting for breakfast while i am in the bathroom. i miss that 20 rupees on the dining table. i miss the shouting after i get back home to change and freshen up.

i wake up to my mobile alarm. My breakfast is on the move, sometimes i give it a miss. i come back to empty quarters hoping to reverbrate with some life and music. i read more and write somewhat. You always complained i dont read enough, i still dont but i have improved.

It feels good to know that in times of distress and those just-like-that moments, without a care i can call you anytime even in the middle of the night without having to say sorry. That is unconditional love to me, when my call is not cut with an SMS for some genuine reason. i dont tell you how broken i am but i pick up when i hear your voice.

Lots of love,Pa and Ma.

your Sana


Quit work, officially. No remnants or traces but for the money, the letters of recommendation and the formalities. Felt weird when the cabbie dint come to pick me up, of course i told him not to come.I needed to go somewhere to come back to a new beginning. I already had a new start. Just wanted to make sure there were tangible beginnings.
Day 1
Took the Garib Rath to Bangalore. It is interesting to see Ivy League management people warm up to each other, one is a young veteran and the other, an enthusiastic newcomer. A lil' lady in a disco outfit looks around for her frooti albeit a yawn while her mother lulls her 3 month old brother to sleep. She was a picture of dignity and quiet for a 3 year old.Sharing food and opinions about rising costs in pre-school and the rat race in school education,all of us retired to sleep. Thankfully, no babies decided to cry.
Day 2
Bangalore station,prebooked auto queues and in no time, I was drained and fatigued (no breakfast and very light dinner on the train) on the Mysore bound bus.A hurried simple meal amidst tears of fatigue and helplessness at the assumption of things.In a move of calculated huff and impulse, I cancel the Qualis tickets to Ooty and just want to hit the sack. Plans looked dangerously derailed, temper flying like swords and daggers.An evening in Mysore, not at all half-hearted but bravely with a Plan B of coming back to Bangalore.I dint have the luxury of too many days and definitely dint want to spend that time travelling to reach destinations,yeah.A tonga ride around Mysore Palace, a roasted cob of corn in the gentle rain,Mysore bhajji and the fluffy butter dosa, lots of raw mangoes and pink cotton candy.Also, had this bright idea of wanting to watch Angels and Demons in a 70mm screen.Dinner at the Residency, decent Chinese.Met two men with your on-the-face wigs.Something told me that Ooty tonight.As luck would have it,the hotel helped me get a bus at 11pm in the nite, until then it was Apocalypto on the tube.I had to sit in a half ticket space on a full one,my legs cried for some breathing space.Bobbed my head many times till Ooty.
I hated myself for not getting enough warm clothes, at 3:30 am getting an auto to reach Wellington killed all my drowsiness besides losing the way two times thanks to the smartass driver.The cold clammy sheets and blankets in the hotel were god to me.
Day 3
Missed the 7:45 am heritage toy train from Wellington to Ooty and probably, Metupulayam.I woke up at 10, had breakfast at 11 and then the rains,magical moment it was.I dint regret coming, thank you. Read all the news and watched TV till enough time to run down to the station. The quaint ticket counter had punch cards and at Cunnoor,lunch was garma garam rice and sambar,and duplicate Irani samosas with onion fillings.The camera was the most popular hero. A Maharashtrian platoon of wannabe husbands and wives and lil' children sat next to me and one of the kids took away a rust biscuit from me through proper channel.Children never show restraint. Parents do get embarrassed but some go along.At Ooty,paused for poses and met so many Tamilians, including a TT who rendered a live MS Subbu number so willingly at the bookshop,both he and I exchanged bows.I got English August there. Home-made chocs and ear covers, colorful ones and the bus to Wellington.It rained and it made for the perfect setting for tea and pakodas, all kinds.
Dinner was light and Chinese again. A quiet walk, life comes to a standstill after 7pm. Ooty looked very beautiful at night,a feeling of oneness in the wilderness amidst the modern settings.Heard some citizen from the city use the f-word very generously over phone in the room-balcony above.The feeling of winter and warmth is exhilirating.
Day 4
Bye bye Wellington.While waiting for the Ooty bound toy train at 7:45am, I meet a Tamil family who quizzed me as though I have applied for permanent citinzenship in the United republic of Tamil Nadu.Who?where from? and the blah.Happens,a chink in the armour case.Took 1st class tickets, sat in 2nd class because the cabin was deliberately left with no space as 3 Bengali families spread their generations all over.The meandering ride in the misty morning had a beauty of its own.A south indian breakfast and Mysore bound on a tata winger.A Haryanvi family with 2 children and an Oriya couple.The Haryanvi husband is abusive and impatient and his wife a picture of fortitude.The Oriya couple, matter-of-fact.Some 42 hairpin turns and landscape by the passing window including Bandipur.Tender coconut water and some slices of raw mango.Reached Mysore on time for the express train to Bangalore not before having the railway meals.It was sheer bliss on the train, economy flight-like seats and modest goodies- biscuits and a bottle of mineral water.The same routine of getting a pre-booked auto to my friend's place,and getting rebuked by the driver for lack of correctness of the address due to being the first time.Ok, extra 20 bucks and disparaging looks of horror.

Correta is a million dollar baby, the same spunky girl with loads of love,letters-mails-chats kept us connected and here,I am meeting her after 11 years.Peals of excitement and it never felt 11 years, it was just yesterday when we parted at the grove in college.Dinner at Millers Steak,a cool place where waiters are dressed as rodeos and we cut a cake for someone special and also, had loads of non-stop laughter and chatter.

MG Road for reliving old memories dint happen as desired,definitely maybe the next time, sweetheart.In the biting rain,and a backpack to cry for with my camera and non-commital autos, I hated the romantic weather for the first time.At the bus station,a callous remark makes me go jittery, is this what i asked for?do i deserve a lil' less or more?The bigger worry is will that one-legged tramp pull up his shorts?No,all shame washed away, the world can watch and not laugh but the world whipped him for being indecent.He sat in the mud and rain,to hide the remnants of his manhood just in time to remind me of another experience at Majestic -- a conductor who forgot to close his fly is found scratching his assets in public, eeks.

Bye bye Bangalore, it was good times.Laughed, fought, cried.I would not go to sleep with wet clothes on.I wrapped the Volvo blanket and did a stage change of clothes.Sleep descended.Selves reconciled.


A Post-mortem of my living obituary

Just my 3rd day to work and my gingerly feelings continue. I am at the bus stop, a fresh waft of jasmine and a promising dull sky. Looking forward to my first ever teachers' orientation programme in Hyderabad in Tarnaka at Satyodoyam. Boarded a 10H, I sensed trouble. I was in the midst of my one-on-one with the fellow up there whom believers and non-believers call God. The conductor was a middle-aged foul-mouthed resentful employee. The driver looked tortured and was not any less than an angry irresponsible piece of shit. The bus started its dance of tandava from nearly banging an auto on legal parking area to running over many grannies. On hindsight, he should have. I would have been avenged to see his balls crushed and lynched by the mob. I sat on the left, first seat reserved for the "physically disabled", the rest were occupied. After Jubilee Checkpost, at the Venkatgiri blind turn, the driver screeches and we avoid a major disaster of becoming the dear departed by inches. An Infosys office bus and the tandava bus at loggerheads, in right angles, two big monsters fuming. Life came to a standstill, my life definitely did, my heart stopped beating, it flew out of dear life. I flew from my seat and crash landed at the footboard, all expletives buried in the nether world. I was clinging to the window rails and one hand held my huge bag. Divine mission aborted. Recovered and straightened myself, tried to breathe, yelled at the fellow up there for this -- was it a trial run or a prank? Agitated fellow commuters stood stunned, asked me if I was fine. Oh yeah, I am. Resumed the journey. Looked at the watch, it was 8:23 am, lucky moment, blithe me! Nobody said anything and I dint feel that outraged, life is that cheap. Driver shrugged, I forgave him. Infosysy driver blew his top, it was more of get-out-of-my-way. Called up Father Sunder, no prayers for that fellow up there, He cheesed me off.

I am not fatalistic but still wish to go on record that the driver is not a catalyst, it was just not his day. That's between me and the fellow up there. He better cancel any plans, if any. My wishes are different -- I want all my loved ones around me when I die, I want to make sure they are smiling and promise to keep smiling after I go. I felt small and insignificant that moment. A terrible moment of vulnerability. Did not have the heart to call anyone -- did my loved ones get any sign that moment that I could have been gone? I don't want to know the answer. Doubted if people who loved me really loved me or was I undeserving of their love? That fellow up there told me love saved me. I was angrier -- love is not some premium you pay for the rainy day, why is it such a big investment? I don't want that love to be bargained for my life, I feel I am poorer today. I live a life of debt, where I am supposed to be scared and unsure because anything can happen anytime. I have to make sure I say i-love-you to all my loved ones, I am not complaining. Just that, I hate this feeling. I hate all my loved ones now for loving me.

I am not scared of death but the close encounter and the near-death experience is scary especially when I shudder to think what my loved ones would have gone thru. How many will come to bear my pall? Confirmed news from the morgue, a call from the police station. Thousands of miles away, an anxious but childlike voice (Ma) will answer "Hello, Sana.." My home receives STD calls from one number regularly. Very rare one-off cases of that number not being mine. It's not Sana, she fumbles and gets nervous. Her phone antics are still amusingly and lovably clumsy. An old frail voice will take the call, Pa. The flashback to old times and the old lanes in Shillong, where a young father takes his daughter to nursery who celebrated her birthday two times in a year. She's fades into a nobody today. All achievements in life pale into shallowness. The regular rituals will happen, from a funeral to a memorial amidst tears and more tears for some more months, years and then just a lingering memory. Pa and Ma will meet some people who touched my lives in this big city. The only regret is they might not meet some about whom I did not get any proper opportunity to talk about. Whoever is reading this now, please count yourself in and stand by my family for that big celebration of life after I am gone. You are family to me. Do get back to my loved ones and do recall and regale to them about the good times we have had.

I am alive and crying and feel like an absolutely lonely stranger in this warm city. I am still cheesed off with the fellow up there for making me the chosen one that morning. Listen God, I have my parents' grace as my shield and therefore, you have to go talk to them and take their permission even if you want to joke with me. You can't and won't -- both of us know why. I know you love me too. I am just a lil' tired and want to lie down and rest my head somewhere. I am sorry Pa-Ma for not telling you this. Forgive me. The STD calls will happen more oftener. And yes, I don't feel gingerly anymore.


I have been feeling gingerly in a long time. Don't know how to decide what is it that ails me. Can't live or do without parents but have managed it so far reasonably ok. Not that going back to Shillong is going to help anything. Loved ones can't see me in a well, i am on life's highway, full throttle.I miss meeting Aroma for nuts over that cheap egg roll for the heck of it and ranting like a chick lit heroine. My soul sister, we assure each other we are a call away.

I want to have a picture perfect happy matinee show of life. I am doing what i love most -- teach, i am looking forward to writing, i am not envious of anything right now. I do not have all that i want but Pa tells me to be contented for happiness' sake. Just that, that gingerly feeling comes back. Some questions,responses and observations which make me assume and shake my faith a lil'.My friend thought i am a philosophical types after i commented about the backspace key that we wish in life, some remote consolation of recalling things that we can script change and control in a limited fashion. Taking a step back, making some room to listen without that crass interjection of a comment and give me that space to breathe and ignore that annoying lil' habit of mine as unconditionally as that flaw on the moon's spotless visage. Being understanding and all knowing is painful if the burden is borne alone. I don't know if this is the way i want to usher things and let it be.

Loved ones are beyond comparison and relative judgement, their enthusiasm could leave one snubbed but all they want is to earnestly make every effort to stay connected and valued. One is trapped to play to the gallery and go through some angst or anguish them with brutal honesty. The worst nightmare is living out your imagination, either ways one punishes them for their simplicity and tears flow in silence. The benchmark hurts, the expectations disappoint. Tears roll and the heart hearkens for the skylark to sing. One needs to be human, assures my friend. It's only natural and there is nothing necessarily that has to go wrong to be fine. I draw strength loving the important people who have touched my life.



Eng'lease' -- whither did you go?

One life so far and i can't claim i have achieved much but i can fairly and proudly say i have enjoyed every experience. There were tough times but they only made me appreciate that i was the special-ly chosen one put to test because someone up there loves me a lot and the collective but individual loves of all the special people i love held me, took care of me and made me spring back whenever, wherever.

I was and am a lucky child, touchwood. Grew up with awe-inspiring but heart breaking tales from my folks that nothing came easy for them. My Pa did not have money to pay for his matric exams, only 50 rupees those days. His father (my late grandfather who lived an English gentleman's life) would not give him or allow other potential benefactors, the reason being studies can wait, the boy needs to apprentice with a vet. His dreams of conquering the skies piloted almost unsung. Ma had to trek 8kms up and down in dusty hawai sandals to reach that govt school, studying in a different medium other than the mother tongue (Bengali), sorry i am not talking about English. The pain of having to keep pace in English all of a sudden in college, thanks to ever changing rules and sudden change in affiliation. There was no concept of helpbooks or tuitions, no TV or lil' radio, very few newspapers and mags. I got all the guidance, went to a prep school, got my books and fees paid on time, avoided tuitions, went to tuitions (what drama and ritual, getting dressed and ready like it was matinee time), got my 1st chinese pen in class 4.

My Ma taught me my first ABC, got me double promoted in nursery. Pa taught me how to write short simple sentences but i end up writing wound up stuff. Pa fought with me not to do an Economics major but English. I love you, Pa. I am here today because of you. But it amuses me and endears me with so much of tender affection when my Ma shies away from speaking in English to/with my friends and over phone. There are times, she calls me up and gets her script ready and right when she is about to speak to new people in new places. I tell Ma, its ok nobody minds -- it was never your mother tongue, you can rightfully and willfully make a few errors. No one should get offended, it is just one form of gentle encouragement. Pa also avoids all the grandiose associated with having to communicate in English. But when he does, the man is a Gandhian... simple but hard hitting, tender and provoking. I have been bugging him to write, god only knows when he will pick up the pen.

I won't say i excelled in the subject or is it the language? But i had my own sweet way with it, loved playing around with the lil' vocab that i acquired and the parts of speech. I taught poetry and fiction to young collegians. Pa and Ma were very thrilled that their big lil' girl is a Ma'am in college, the dough was not great for starters but the satisfaction and smiles is a million bucks! Getting those roses and cards on Teachers' day was an added high but those marks and thank-you notes after exams was the ultimate reward. Research in English almost drained me out, all complicated theories why someone was inpired like that in a poem and all. It killed me that creativity was fighting for space with criticism. I also learned that criticism is not all anti and negative. It became very "yo" to be critically inclined since no one was creative any longer, ok a bad one. Struggled with my fledgling creative spirit and balancing off with the demands of research, problematising-the-issue as one of my theory friends puts it.

Thanks Pa, if not for my English background (yes, the placement of the adjective can be misleading)...i would not have ventured out and met a whole new world altogether. Yes, i was mourning that i was not selected for higher research, they told me i was still raw. Sulking did not help any cause. I decided to take a break from teaching and learning English. Google happened. Learned that i had to facilitate a new kinda English in whatever capacity -- Global English (psst..actually Amrikan English catering to Amrikan clients based there). Ok, felt like it was a very glam-sham posh call center thing (the calls happen later on Avaya deskphones when one gets promoted, they call it direct sales) with sophisticated methods and means. Pardon my analogy. The point is, i learnt a lot of English-es, regional flavours and tweaked ones too! Found it extremely amusing how one and all take the language for a ride and also, everyone is a champion in mastering the language -- the excellent emails and the awesome test-scores, the blogs and the status messages and the ultimate showcase stuff, pick up a twisted, clipped accent in a whirlwind overseas visit of 15 days -- the uhms and the not-so-Phoebe like ahans. Oh, we all lou our Eng'leash'.

My English also underwent a Hyd'badi makeover. Pa and Ma feel i speak with a South Indian accent. They are aware that a Kannada is different from a Telugu as much as a Malayalee is from a Tamil. But you get the drift...Whatever it is, my lou for English got me a research registration at my alma mater which will help build a writing environment -- yes, i want to write in English whatever and anyever (some exercise of crass liberty here) i know in other languages too. I also pray in English. Of course, distressing prayers are in my mother tongue. I know how to speak and also, slang (using it as a verb,allow me this one as well) in my native tongue (everyone does, even in other languages) but mastering the 10k lettered stick shaped script is beyond me.

These experiences of pride and prejudice about the language has taken me to a new pinstripe turn, kinda back to where i was, where my heart was, where i initiated with teaching ABC to kindergarten smarties and now, playing-blogging with the letters and the words.

Yesterday was my first day of learning at school, stripped and shorn of all virtual and superficial essence. There was the fear of treading new ground with no Pa and Ma around. Today was my first day of badging at work, in the hallowed world of teaching at college. Met no students at the gate to greet me or smile at me. The bland gate took me in, the freshly watered garden promised me lovely blooms, the wind whispered the monsoons are on their way to give me wonderful company with chaiand pakoda. The quiet corridors, windswept with light blossoms told me not to worry, the guardian angel is watching over me. It was a new world of shared lunches, protective concern to the point of baby-ing me, ma'am-ing me at my so-called glorious achievement, gentle nudging and teasing to make me feel at home as one of their own, my own, our own.

A kind prayer welcomed me.


Show the finger

Anatomically, the human hand is such an interesting blessing, a thumb and 4 fingers. Some childhood granny's tale has it that the thumb is Lord Shiva, the index belongs to Lord Yama, the middle finger is Lord Varuna, the ring finger is Lord Vishnu and the little finger is Lord Brahma. When taking or giving bibhuti/sindoor or any form of tikka, I was advised to use the thumb and the ring finger to collect and the ring finger to smear and apply. Pointing at someone with the index finger more than being impolite, it is also inauspicious.

Often, during childhood I used to wonder why that huge statue of Indira Gandhi almost like a Trojan horse in the State Library showed her hand as if stopping the onslaught of humanity. Turns out, it is symbolic of Congress (I). Yes, when I studied polity in high school and forms of government in college, I learned another, more original meaning of Congress. The dictionary,too.

Anyway, Hindi cinema encashed on the hand a lot. In the 80s, spines shivered when Gabbar menacingly demands, "yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur!" and all the other hand stories. Emotions went rife when someone was shown the hand precisely for whatever reason. The last that I remember is Dil Chahta Hai, when Aamir in the end shows his palm/hand (burning with rage) to Ayub Khan, Preity's childhood betrothed. You must have got the message, back off and don't mess with me!

Come to the fingers and the thumb. Kids love to hold someone's else'shand, index finger and the blah. They also love sucking the thumb. What pleasure, whew! Let's not get Freudian. A thumb-up (yes, I refuse to say thumbs-up) means so many things. A thumb-down means :'(  . If the thumb with a closed fist motions outward (ok, I am patchy here) means asking for a lift, hitchhiker style. 

Showing just the index finger means one, the counting style. The same goes for all, similarly. But, caution. If one were going to flash just the middle finger in whatever state of mind, yes. That's trouble. It is outrageous and at the same time has a huge fan following. Whatever it means, I know many friends who got caned in school for flashing it and also, for not knowing what it meant.One should not finger around so much, the puritans say.

Showing the little finger means one needs a pee-break. Just an excuse.

Anyway, elections are on, results are due. Yes, yes, my vote,your vote and every vote counts. I could not vote because my name was missing in the rolls but I have a voter's card. Sad. Digressing again, come back. Alright, all the fuss here is -- the Bachchans also went to vote like any Indian. Don't know why our leading dailies take great pride indulging in yellow journalism. At least 2 leading dailies featured the Big B parivaar in pristine white doing their bit for India. All is ok, except showing the inked middle finger -- Big B, small yo B and Bahu B, Jaya B just grinned ear to ear for her happy family. One could have flashed a V-sign, the middle finger would not have been so apparent. Sigh!

Check today's TOI, page 7 -- an imbecile Karunanidhi in his trademark gogs (sorry GTM, I know you won a 1st prize for fancy-dressing up like him on Halloween's two years ago) exercising his adult franchise so immaturely in full public view (I thought it was supposed to be secret ballot) using his index finger, the camera angle is interesting.

My audience with Lord Balaji from Chilkur

I remember Surekha tying a sacred red thread on my wrist and telling me not to ever remove it, it is from Chilkur. I didn’t know or research much into it. The sacred thread was there on my left wrist for many months and a day came when it wore off. I have it at the altar of my prayer table. Aunty has been asking me to come there since last year, it’s especially auspicious before exams, for visa purposes, yada yada and the Lord, I am told is a generous deity. I finally went there last Saturday. Life is not full of strife, but there is always a time to meet and do some heart-to-heart. I slept at some 11:30 pm on Friday. Woke up at 4:30 am, bathed and got ready. The drive was peaceful. We thought we lost our way, no that part of the city has changed in the last six months. Lot of high rises, expansion of roads and development in the urban sense -- forgotten farm houses, the sleepy roads, dust picking up and as we entered Chilkur, the village folk woke up to sacred chants, courtyards being cleaned, broomed and watered.

Beyond the makeshift car park on the right, one can see the pristine and calm Osmansagar. Barefeet, chappals and sandals in the car, we walk towards the temple.Ouch, there are broken coconut shell splinters everywhere. The road to the temple is lined with small stalls selling puja ka samagri, a means of livelihood for the locals. It is indeed, a small fair. The temple is overflowing with humanity. A patient bunch wait in the inner precincts of the temple. There is a labyrinthine queue outside, waiting for the darshan of the prabhu. Hundreds trying to complete their pradaksham, 108 in total with a lil’ chart and pen in hand. I almost fainted seeing that. There is a starting point, smeared in red vermillion. People are not supposed to break coconuts there or light incense. But yeh toh public hai, they just do what the rules ask them not to do.

Chilkur is different because there is no hundi or donation-box, there is no VIP treatment or special fee to meet the Lord and the Lord loves flowers. The priests are different, truly. Aunty asked me to do 3 pradaksham, 3 is auspicious and then stand in the queue. I did that like everyone else – fathers, mothers, children, students, grand-parents, young people, married and unmarried, employed and unemployed. It is a different feeling altogether. This toddler and I make faces in between chants of “Govinda, Govinda”. After my 3 revolutions, I stand in the queue, Aunty chided us for starting late. She is worried we will not get to see the Lord in the inner sanctum, until the last gopuram. Yes, even I felt a lil’ guilty. The entry is restricted after 6:30 am. The priest kept us updated. We followed him in the many prayers in between. He told us interesting facts that hundi means hawala, illegal money collection. The temple trust however accepts donation from the devout in some bank account. The priest spoke in three languages- English, Hindi (apparently for the Tamils) and in Telugu. He was fluent and very eloquent in all three languages. Being a Saturday, the temple visits and hits are double than normal times. It was also a special day per the panjika, I found out later it was Buddha Purnima. He requested the pilgrims to stop the pradaksham because there was no place to stand and assured that the Lord is very generous and will not be furious and, that one can always come and complete them another day. No, yeh toh public hai – they will do what they want. Our exasperated priest then announced that even if a devotee completed 108 pradaksham going against his request, his/her prayers would not be answered and he would make sure he/she is punished for his disobedience. All we did was laugh. There are conspicuous signboards telling us to pray to God with our eyes open. I am a social pariah for not closing my eyes in prayer, closing eyes is for people who need to concentrate and are not attentive. My turn came and yes, in total filmi style before the clock struck 6:25 am, we were in the inner recesses of the temple in time to pay our obeisance. Very relieved, we retreated with prasadam (ghee laddoo) to the Siva shrine next door.

Peepal trees with a very soothing courtyard, the Siva temple was a temporary resting place for the teeming devotees. Aunty asked me if I want to be part of the Siva abhishekham – one hour inside the small almost underground cave-like temple. That was rhetorical, she smiled and her smile asked rather triumphantly, “how will you escape this?” There were others waiting, only 9 will be allowed to take part in it – 4 women and 5 women. The priest made us stand around in a semi-circle around the giant black lingam. Yes, pleasing this Lord is elaborate – giving him a bath starting with water, then followed by milk, curd, pure honey with ghee, bibhuti, then a turmeric facial coupled with rose water, tender coconut water amidst chants of “om namah shiva”. The small fan in the background was of small relief. I began sweating profusely, at one point I was worried and panicked I won’t complete the puja. But then, until the call happens you or I can’t decide anything. The world moves because of God. I will complete the puja if the Lord wants. I did. A young boy priest came by to break coconuts and there was more laughter than somberness. The puja lasted more than an hour and I was happy at the end of it. It has been many years since I did some service to my favourite Siva.

Aunty stayed back for some service and prayer and we rested in the courtyard and saw people and monkeys in clothes and human form breaking coconuts and in the process, I nearly lost my eyes. We were mobbed by beggars and members of the third sex. We ate a lot of ripe guavas and took a short drive to Osmansagar. Thank you, Aunty for taking me to Chilkur.

A love story

An old story from the closet--

Many months ago in some neighbourhood, there was a little boy who loved to watch the stars. He met a sweet someone in a faraway land. The day his prayers were answered, he shared his happiness with everyone and all prayed to their gods too, please take care of both of them, they love each other and their beautiful love story should be protected with the all enduring love of loved ones and well-wishers. Their world changed forever. Love does that. You become more responsible. Priorities change and perspectives differ. From ‘I’ and ‘me/mine’, things level to ‘our’ and ‘us’.

Days passed, the precious princess of my young friend just grew beautiful and more beautiful in his thought and spirit, and in my imagination. I waited for the day to meet her, I met her. She is truly beautiful in heart and spirit. She will always remain so, my friend.

They say everything comes flawed. Ah...

Things fell apart out of nothingness. When things seem ok and good, the ordinary things of life should not affect the zeal of love. Each in his and her corner longed/craved for that extra something- for one, it was time, for the other –space, small things matter, they do? They don’t? I am clueless.

With space and distance, and silence come indifference -that spoken word, that hurtful tone, that unspoken but apparent indifferent casualness or whatever…

Sometimes, we get so absorbed and ‘lost’ in matter-of-fact things and doing the usual stuff. The angst and the ego fight hard, nobody wins. It’s a losing battle anyway. Sad but true, power makes you ruthless. The power that comes to you when someone loves you immensely; it does unnerve you and things get scary. Too many people give you advice that it’s too early to predict anything, take your time but not forever. Love enslaves you but for a greater but beautiful journey. Sometimes we miss the point. We indulge in trivial things and those trivial things gain importance so much to the extent of fuelling things apart.

In retrospect, I don’t know what to say, both of them are exceptional human beings, very lovable.

The love story just ended (?), so I presume, personal yet individual needs are of greater importance.

Only, if you knew that there is no room for ifs and buts…

Charlie with PMS

PMS is an excitingly spicy fodder and gossip for many males that I know. If Freud wondered what is it that women want, the new generation man thinks most of the hidden answers to most of the difficult questions are trapped and embedded in PMS! Yeah, the smart Adam of the species wishes to be understood as understanding and sensitive that the Eves have those glum days and they care, some do actually.  So much for the Martian understanding and well, ahem!

For us, it is not a big deal! We just want you to be a lil' sensitive, sometimes we act funny (the urban male dictionary has so many alternative and bizarre meanings) and are unusual. But that does not have to beat your rocket science for you to figure out. Like you just don't get it, we also don't feel up to it sometimes. You call it mood swings, we call it PMS.It is another thing that this syndrome need not necessarily strike you before, during or after the "shudho dhara" (like one of my friends nomenclatured it). What happens during this period is a lil' difficult to predict --boring pimples to taken-for-granted irritable behaviour and, unusual cravings and weight nightmares.Do I look good?Why do I dislike this food? The list is long.

Met dozens of male PMS cases and I'm sure you did too. Most, I have observed revolve around food, they get a lot of food for thought that way-- to cud-chew,to complain,to reflect, to savour, to criticise. Some have a compulsive i-hate-my-boss bout which gets intensified during those mood swings.Some have this i-am-angry-with-you-but-dont-know-why thing.Some have this i-need-to-be-alone chant.Why do I have to wake up at all, early (forget it)? And, all that jazz. 

I shrug and really fail to understand this pattern of consistent and inconsistent irrationality. You don't have those glum uncomfortable moments of having to check and change.Imagine if you had to, you would have been undoubtedly so clumsy! 

Whatever you had for dinner and went to sleep. Gosh, your tantrum was intolerable this morning.I meet this Charlie who apparently moves around with a clipped accent. Getting up early is a compulsive problem but the evil empire beckoneth you. So, I see those smoked swollen eyes.Almost breathless and an indifferent did-you have-to wait-for-long apology?No, it was not an apology, it was a F-O-R-M-A-L-I-T-Y.Whatever. 

I was away from the maddening crowd trying to be a good Bathsheba to my books and studies. Sorry, my bad. I didn't warn you I'm back in the madhouse. But then, a mad person will never admit he or she is one. They are normal [sic]. Time is frozen by chunks of minutes. The world their father's heirloom of an oyster. To be different in the madhouse is a big ambition. So, to break rules of every written order is fashionable.Ok.

Man comes and yells at me, what is wrong with me?Why do you have to reach work early?Me? I am fine,are you alright? Which side of the bed did you have to jump off? No, there is only one side, the other side is against the wall, back against the wall, did you say? If you claim you are not a lunatic and even coming late and hijacking the rest of the world is normal, then you have PMS. I can't whisper anything to you to keep you quiet. You decided to tell the world that it is one of those days.Well. Women never had to apologise for anything during one of those days.Truly speaking, they pamper themselves without hurting and offending others and also, get pampered. This Charlie had to and did say sorry.I would have skinned him and fed him to the crows if he did not. Lack of education. Charlie, you must not do things to feel sorry during one of those days. We understand. We are brethren.

So much halla gulla that Charlie has PMS.


It’s quarter to six, the sun is still warm on my legs.

A ticket for one and some samosas to revive me,

I wait for the warning signal, my FL-12 is due.


No ladies coupe for me, I need leg and breathing space.

Light blue checks in pink, two bangles in each hand

Those nimble hands looked for the familiar clap.


Father and daughter, tender moments of catch-catch.

Generous, they shared their seat with me at 2nd’bad,

“What is your name?” from a weary heart to a warm one.


This little bag of bones goes to a blind school in Malakpet.

Does not like the curd-rice and rasam they serve there,

Her laughs are feeble but full of life.


It’s summer vacation, the school called.

She is gonna be home until June 20th, err 12th (she corrects).

Father’s youngest and dearest.


Even stoned faces after a day long work smiled.

She sees what she feels and lives what she feels,

Her “abbo!” for every shy expression and delight.


Father and I talked about Hyderabad and Delhi, Maharashtra.

They speak Telugu, Hyderabadi Hindi and are Kannada,

Preeyanka wants to grow up to teach Telugu.


One brother works in Satyam, brings home 6k!

Another in the printing press,2k less!

Father has a plant, from a humble 5k to 15 lakhs.


Asked me how much rent I pay?

He imagined my salary, I laugh gently. 

The vis-a-vis of the complex and the simple, their humble thrill.


Her little hand slipped into mine, played a few games, talked.

Asked me if I can come for tea, uhmm…

Hitec came, bye and be good. I should have.





a listless dying

dying is an art, believe me.
it can be passive, it can be quiet.
it can be national news, it can be anonymous.
it can be routine and in doses,
for all you know, it may be cheerful and not morbid.

you also have everyday dying,
where a lil' part of you ceases in various forms.
a small part of you gets bored and corroded
another part of your thoughts gets used to things and patterns,
habits and likewise.

like today, something died
the fairytale reality just took a U-turn
sensibilities and attitudes change
in the name of accommodation
many become martyrs.

my belief shook a lil, my fears a lil exposed
close ones go and those living live on
you choke on your own tears
a lil worried to share what i feel
lest, i am judged

so, dying becomes easy and
frowning cowardly.
you die in a crowd or on a hill top
you die alone, and misunderstood
like i care to explain why i die.


I watched Arundhati, a Telugu supernatural thriller. This movie eluded me for a long time. Since there was a power cut on a Saturday mid-day, it was a good idea to spend the afternoon watching a movie. The plot is beautifully woven with mythology. You can see the essence and power of Shakti at its regal best. The fable of Lord Indra’s weapon, the Vajrayudha (made from the backbone of Sage Dadichi) is borrowed here. For a Telugu movie, the role of the protagonist is one of the best I have seen, author-backed and believably real, that too for a woman!

Anushka’s alternate roles as the regal Jaijamma and the modern day Arundhati is beyond description. The supernatural spin might be a lil’ too much but she handled it so well. There are a few aha moments. I especially liked young Arundhati, with her doe eyes and when they spewed anger, they sure were full of fire. She was a delight to watch when she danced, when she practised fencing, horse- riding and also, when she pronounced the death sentence (almost with that finality) to her dangerously errant cousin and brother-in-law, Pasupathi (Sonu Sood). The ritual of entering the water to wash away the temporal-ness of her present life and take up the mantle of the kingdom was a strong poignant moment. There is a confident aggression which converts into a steely determination later on.

This lady loves red, her red saris and the self-portrait.  As long as things were under control, they were. When famine and disease afflicted her kingdom thanks to the mischief of Pasuapti’s pret atma, she wore the saffron robes and gave up her life to fight the ultimate battle. That is another moment. She didn’t flinch at her painful, slow and self-inflicted death. Those kohled eyes and the patch of vermillion, they are images that stay with you.

I won’t discuss the plot with you, it is up there for everyone, pretty predictable. Sonu Sood was good, extremely menacing and maniacal. I would hate to meet his mother (in the movie), she looks very hideous and scary. The Aghori Babas added that exotic flavour. The rest of the cast are the usual uncles and aunts, children and parents. Sayaji Shinde as the ghost buster Anwar was reassuring. Not as spooky as a Goosebump read.

school shoes

I hated the buckle girlie-shoes from Bata, I loved Naughty boy shoes, but when I got kicked, I got kicked badly. Admired Liberty shoes but never got to wear them. I used to reach school early and I normally sweat my guts out playing ready-ready with a few others. Before even Assembly began, my shoes were a dusty brown. Never got penalized. I had ways to get them cleaned. Running them on your black socks by the shin was such fun and easy, and if you dint want to dirty them, then use some thermocole. You have to bear that funny annoying noise but it works. 

When Papa was away and Ma was busy attending to 2-month old Bunty, she caned me one afternoon with the clothesline bamboo for getting my shoes dirty before Assembly. It’s funny because she got the longest stick which was difficult to maneuver and I hopped from one side to the other. I never dirtied my shoes after that. I only made them worse in the rainy months. The instruction is never to step outside, your shoes will tell the truth. I used to step outside only during the 3rd period for a toilet break and it used to rain heavily and my shoes go soggy. I tell the truth, if I had played in the rain, I would have caught a cold or a fever. Papa threatened to not send me to school if the shoes don’t dry and I was never allowed rainy boots.The sun alwys unfailingly showed up. 

Once I was a big girl, that is class-5, I became super finicky about my shoes. Nobody should even step on them by mistake. After that, Papa never had to use much polish. Classmates laughed at me that I don’t polish my shoes and that I make Papa work. I fought with them many times. But hey, Papa has taught us how to polish shoes, just that he enjoys doing that for his children. Today, Papa misses doing those small lil’ things for any of his children, because we have all grown up and we have our ways and means of cleaning, polishing and maintaining them.It is another ritual when after breakfast I go and stand infront of Papa asking him to tie my shoe-laces. I always trusted him for that and also, that I will never trip on my shoe-laces if Papa did them. I learned doing them when I was a big girl :)



Not so Virgin and 'hatke'

I don’t think I like the Virgin mobile, think hatke ads on TV. They are so not tasteful. Almost, an oxymoron. Yeah, we have had outrageous ads in the past. Society and the moral police never were ready for creativity, per se to thrive. The bizarre is always unwelcome.

I am not moral-policing. But, I don’t see greater humanity and society moving anywhere close to ahead. We all want our children to be good, polite and nice to all forms of species. Our youngsters are fed on Jaagore and Jai Ho over time from a tumultuous Rang de Basanti, where sex read gender is not a qualifier to fight injustice and wrong things around us. You are human and sensitive, so you get affected, so you voice your feeling. If you don't care pretty much, then you are a wayside indifferent amoeba.

It’s seems mighty tickling for the whole nation to see a young lad on a hospital bed, his limbs plastered and his mobile ringing. Who is the caller? Not his parents. Or his ‘girl’friend. His friend in the other room. Both con-call to see the super butt of the made-to-look dumb nurse, who obliges to search his pockets, almost sincerely. Yes, our nurse is ‘hot’ by their and most TV viewers’ standards. Poetic justice when a not-so-manly compounder walks in. Reality check- our nurses are clean and professional(read nice), some are rude, some are careless, most are married (smiles) and hang me, if I am wrong- most underplay their sexuality, they are demure and ‘ordinary’ if you get what I mean. Our nurses know they are at a danger of being propositioned, I have heard weird tales from some who serve in different kinds of hospitals, especially defence hospitals. So, they are extremely careful of being caught come hither. Of course, you have exceptions. Which profession/ walk of life does not?

The newest Virgin ad is plain stupid. Some new Virgin handset needs promotion and branding. That way, I have always found Idea, Vodafone (formerly Hutch) and Airtel extremely innovative with their campaign quality. Target audience is never an issue. If Virgin thought by being cheeky, they will get the numbers…well, they need to re-think. Two friends, one fop-‘smart’ and the other fat-‘smart’. Fop’s girl is a rip-off of some wannabe P3 regular, jaunting in heels and shades, complete. The usual, I-know-what-you-are-up-to fishy thingy just that, she is really, truly gullible, or made to be one. Fat’s act is believable, DRAMEBAAZ! The flip/slide of the Virgin phone is the cue to fib. I lost the advertising sense of the product, even if it was think-aloud, played aloud SMS. Not being dumb, seriously. Granny is serious and hospital, is always a forever saviour. The ultimate is hiding the pub-entry seal (induced laughter). Need some salvation. Dumbo walks away, the two FFs waddle away like ducks. End of ad. No, this is not even sexist.

I am annoyed. The sense of cheating is rife. Someone’s simplicity even in the form of stupidity or dumbness is taken for a royal ride. The usual suspects. Make up, a hug, a pseudo kiss, maybe some feel-good sex- is that how cheating is covered?

I am still annoyed. Remove the Virgin tag. Maybe the hatke bit also.

Prologue to the almost

I've been lucky with some things in life-studies, work, friends, love too. No further questions and touchwood.

Not that we pursued, we hardly knew we existed. Again, not out of indifference but just out of sheer ignorance, you in your corner, I in mine- different worlds indeed, poles apart. We almost missed. Trust Coelho and his Alchemist magic.

I was never for love, but was always happy that people fell/rose/whatever in love. It was cute to see two people clumsy and crazy together, doing sweet somethings and nothings for each other. Often, the cynic (psst: no sour grapes) would also pass a mean one, tch tch!

I will tell you of a few close ones, really close ones. I shudder at the thought, not that they were bad…I would have been a disaster.

In school, friends bullied me royally to go for this guy because he was the one for so many, my logic- I am not. I was branded a chicken, scared of being caught by parents and all. I am one of the plainest of plain Janes around. Nothing can tick anyone or me. Period.

College in an all-girls environment, nothing romantic crossed my mind except for Jane Austen and Emily Bronte books. To have a mix of Darcy and Heathcliff is potently maddening, I thought.

University did not go without its fair share of crushes and you know, the occasional fight. My good friend broke up with his girl and for a year, was head over heels in love with me( I call it rebound). His cosmos married me off to his family- his parents doted on me, his siblings adored me, his aunts would just go ga-ga. The perplexed soul in me was wary. The poor chap had two dummy affairs before me to provoke me, sad. That also, dint work. He confessed to me that it was difficult to think sexually about me. I told him, give time. With time, both of us faded away from each other. We are still very good friends.

Another friend with 9 years of faithful love around him tells me to be faithful is tough. I was like whoa.

My friends love me and my chirpy chirpy yap-yap. Often the admiration gets diluted in some form of infatuation which is very normal. Keeping quiet is not a solution but running away from them, yeah.

A short stint at IIT got another mad boy on my trail. Thankfully, his crush lasted that summer and he is happily married teaching home science to his wifey dear.

Yes, I’ve had my share of crushes too. One- a goalkeeper at school, because he kept balls so well. He does not look great anymore.

Aamir Khan, in Dil Chahta Hai, well too filmi to believe but I had a crush on him.I also liked SRK in some movies, the middle class kinds.

While teaching at college, I was not resigned but never looked into that aspect at all. My parents once in a while asked me if something interesting is happening. I would brush it away in style.

My first 10 months in Hyderabad had me hooked to travel, shifting house 3 times and watching every new movie release. No time for love and bleh. Pretty much loved my singlehood and all the drama until love took me in style.

UTI and I

Started some months ago but i probably never realised it until i was badly hit,very badly hit. It's a horrible experience. I have heard painful stories from my female friends. Don't know how they went through what they went through.

With me,it started with an irritating backache,on the lower flank of my back, taking turns. Normally, i'd most oftenly dismiss it as a lifestyle issue, sitting before the computer or a monthly warning that those blue days will be here.Or i'll blame myself for not exercising enough, and i would get into a cleaning spree of wash-clean,clean-wash till i broke my back literally. So, what did i do those days? My best friend was my lil' red hot water bag and my can of Moov spray, some sleep and i was lucky if i got that amazing back-massage.So, this lil' dangerous menace never showed its true colours actually.

I am for water therapy all the time, do not consume non-veg food, stay off junk most times and live liberally on fruit juices and salads.Sometimes, they also fail.

I was in training for close to two weeks. AC and i are,well,not the best of friends.I have never used a fan all my life, forget AC- hazard of growing up in a cold climate with practically no pollution. The onslaught of AC- i contracted sinus, i always fear i have a backache, ACs do affect your spinal cord, trust me. So coming back to training, i would unfailingly call up maintenance and bully them to adjust the AC in the said training room.I live like an Eskimo- jacket, socks,a stole doubling up as a muffler- i would not have been outrageous if i wore mittens, the rooms are freezers. nevermind.

So the backache continues, my yoga and breathing exercises dint help me. the pain only gets more excruciating and unbearable for me. i would not contort my face but it was visibly palpable to people around me that i don't look well and slightly colourless and trust me, i never enjoyed being greeted this way.

A new symptom, brief fever everyday in the evening. I'd die to go home,swallow a paracetemol and curl up in bed under a sheet whispering mom and dad's name. i do that.Then, the usual chores.

The biggest and the most annoying symptom, frequent urination.I blamed the AC.My friends blamed my constant sipping of water, i thought that was good.With them, came the pains, a lil' below my navel,almost like someone is,very ruthlessly folding the different pouches and chambers into a small matchbox for a split second.My face did contort into a grimace.I'd hold my jaws together and let it pass.Leaving the training room every 20-30 mins was becoming very embarrassing but sorry.Thankfully,no one noticed.at one point i thought i should stop drinking water in that freezing environment then no loo visits. thankfully, i dint make that mistake and i am glad, i am alive.

Last wednesday and thursday were "the" days.I pulled on. Friday, i gave up. told myself, its viral. take rest, lots of fluids and i should be fine in the weekend.No,temperature was 104.Gowtham dragged me to his place.Aunty gave me one look,at my backpain and my posture. she shook her head and said, urinary infection dear. i dint reel but i reeled the following day. it was too late to visit any clinic/doctor for tests and all. i made gowtham promise he wont take me to any hospital.Some symptoms were similar to that of sunstroke, but it is always better to be prepared for the worst.Away from home in the lap and warmth of another home, what i adore about my extended family that i found in Gowtham's is their cheerfulness.they took me with open arms and aunty immediately asked me what i wanted to have. earlier while coming home, i very longingly looked at the roadside boy selling tender coconut water,ah.had that, a crocin, a full sponge bath amidst shivers, i went to sleep.

Next day, my fever left me.i motivated myself to move around with the anticipation of seeing a doctor finally.Visited a lab, met one of the few gentlemen not eroded by time and harship, Dr. Raghunath.very gentle spoken, kind who addressed me as "amma" throughout. asked me my life history,was very interested to be educated about literature,rather English and also, the quality and respectability of english in my part of the country.he reminded me of my family doctor when i was a kindergarten kid, Dr.JN Sinha.i begged him to give me an injection to bring the fever down or at least, a painkiller to kill the backpain. he refused both. he said let the body strengthen on its own, he would advise only a paracetemol until my blood and urine reports arrived.asked me to eat whatever i liked.asked me how does it feel when a doctor unnecessarily taxes you with unwanted investments and taxes.what he said dint cross my mind then but yes, now.he personally supervised in the blood test.i had to wait until 7:30 in the evening to confirm my worst fear. i was running from nursing home to nursing home waiting for a GP to show up. i swear, i hate doctors who hold to ransom their patients' lives by making them wait.they cannot play god.i went back to good ol' raghunath, unfortunately he does not treat for he is only a pathologist.i said that's why i came to you.i know no one. he personally called up a senior surgeon,dr harsha from the hyderabad nursing home at basheerbagh and got my medicines prescribed.for that, the bonhomie between and among doctors is an admirable quality.from cordialities to how your daughter is doing and repeated apologies for having disturbed. i am sure the surgeon humoured or old gentleman.another urine sample, called culture test.reports due on monday.

The relief of having a prescription and the impatience of starting my medication asap just ate into me. Poor Gowtham handled my cantankerous behaviour.Came home, downed some solid food,I swallowed all pills at the same time.My body was throbbing with fever,my back achingly painful and head heavy, I slept. I remember aunty and Gowtham giving me a sponge treatment.Uncle and granny amma were concerned. Forgot who called, who SMSed.apologies.

Sunday morning, woke up feeling much better and in better spirits. I remember, I was chased with food. I literally behaved like a brat.Aunty would cajole me to eat a lil, drink a lil'. Everyone would stand and stare.Ok, behave. Now eat and drink if you want to get well soon.I also had a head bath in full gutso and gusto(err..something wrong here),washed my clothes despite protests and felt myself on cloud nine. By afternoon after medicines and lots of barley soup, raagi soup,tender coconut water, good home cooked food, I take to slumber. I also run a fever again.We had plans of going out in the evening to pick up clothes for Gowtham, I had to drop out. I slept with a nagging headache the entire afternoon, carried on the same battle the entire night. regretted terribly having a head bath. Formally announced/SMSed about my condition.

Monday morning,same nagging headache. Spoke to Dr. Raghunath.Uncle collected the report,I slept like a log the whole day.Bugged Gowtham to allow me to play a lil' with his laptop. He is my lil' big brother. I was just rewinding in time, of all the haa-haa times and also, the uh-oh and hmmph times.The sense of responsibility and the enormous affection he has for me just humbled me. I admit I am impatient, even with myself.I am as good as normal now. Have to stick to another 3 days of medicines and I am good to go.

Wanted to go home but some music stopped me.I leave on holi and am mentally prepped to carry a bottle of Dettol to sanitise all WCs I use and a sanitiser at my desk,drink boiled cool water and lots of fluids. Even if this is paranoia, I could not care less. iIgot away with very lil' to lose. There are people who suffer more and longer and don't trust Wikipedia information on UTI, I was scandalized. Stay safe.