Friday, December 30, 2011

The Girl Who Ate Maggie (a lot)

I remember the first time I met her… I was new to Mumbai, new to hostel life, first time away from home, away from family and friends, away from everything that was safe, comfortable and familiar…

I remember my first impression about her… she looked so matured, she was so different from me, she was so much of a “woman”, she couldn’t possibly be 17…

She didn’t even like cricket… how can ANYBODY NOT LIKE CRICKET? Ergo, I did NOT like her…

But it’s not like I had a lot of options. I was already late by two months, people had already formed ‘groups’ and she was the only company I had. Plus, she had a cell phone and she let me use it at times…

So we became ‘friends’ and here, I use the term ‘friends’ loosely.

We hung out, though we had very little in common. I was an Eco student, she was doing sociology; I was a hardcore non-vegetarian, she had never tasted meat; I was (still am) pint-sized, she was tall and broad; I was a miser careful about money (I still remember sulking about the one rupee she had borrowed and not returned), she was a spendthrift who made STD calls everyday to her entire khandaan; I was still a schoolgirl, she had already grown up…

Then compulsory Hindi happened. I was screwed big time and she came to my rescue. Before the exams she would take me to the study room and teach me, and once I managed to just scrape through the first year without a backlog in the subject, we had finally managed to establish a common ground…

The next two years were all about long walks on the Marine Drive, shopping sprees in Colaba, Crawford Market and Fashion Street, arguing about which movies to watch (we had the exact opposite tastes), trying out all the eating joints close by, late night chats and maggie (too much of it) and last minute cramming before exams despite our different majors…

She went off to Pune for her masters, and a year later, I followed. She became a media professional while I became a confused misfit…

I confided in her about my dysfunctional relationships and she listened…

She got married at 25 and babied at 26…

The baby was born on December 28, at 3:45 p.m… Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s called friendship, and I do not use the term loosely now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

On Tuesday, a few of us went to the MMRDA ground in Bandra to “lend support to the anti-corruption campaign by Team Anna” or as Mumbaiites call it, “winter vacation”.

There were a whole bunch of kids tagging along with their parents, making it quite apparent that this was more about a free outing for them (school is closed for a week, and they have already been to the Borivali National Park, Hanging Gardens and Gateway of India) than about a serious agitation against corruption. Otherwise, the turnout was quite disappointing which made Annaji call off the fast. Let’s face it, this is not Delhi; the common man here is indifferent to politics and for most people out here, life revolves around the 5:14 local from C’gate to Mira Road: the other passengers WON'T let us get off at Bandra to listen to the rants of an old inflexible man.

So why was I there? I would like to blame my “keen interest in democracy and heartfelt support to the cause of a clean India”, but the truth is unfortunately not so noble. See, irrespective of my cosmopolitan upbringing, I am essentially a Bong, and at times the temptation to shirk work on the pretext of ‘doing something for the country’ which doesn’t really require any ACTION on my behalf, except echoing some inane platitudes, gets the better off me. So those three hours made us feel extremely proud of ourselves, as we sat through the speeches, participated in patriotic slogans and flag-waving, interspersed with singing along to popular nationalistic songs. At the end of it, it was more like watching a sequel to Border/Lagaan/Roja or a combination of all three.

We came back purified and less guilty about working for a Swiss Bank.

Apart from that, there was a small matter of my birthday, but now that I am officially OLD, I would not like to dwell on the event too much. While my plan was to sit at home, watch India crush Australia and romp to a convincing victory and sulk about growing old, there are some people who hated me a lot in college and therefore they just can’t let go of the opportunity to make a big deal about me growing old AND make me pay for the alcohol. To make things worse, they gifted me something which can only be described as a bumper sticker to someone who has no car.

But the ghosts from the past still refused to let go for good…they are still lurking around in the dark corners of dimly lit roads at midnight…

Monday, December 26, 2011

Déjà New

It’s that time of the year again when we look back at the past and also wait for the future with shameless optimism, like things are drastically going to change as soon as we step into the new year. I am sure I am going to turn into Katrina Kaif, Anna Hazare is going to stop being annoying, Mamata Banerjee will be kidnapped by aliens and of course, Kapil Sibal will finally do what I have been hoping for a long time now: GET RID OF FACEBOOK!

But, just in case, all of these things do not happen AND the world also doesn’t come to an end, as a back-up plan (we pseudo bankers always have a Plan B, because we KNOW that our Plan A sucks), I do have a few things on my to-do list:

1.Watch more stand-up comedies. Yes, this weekend, I hit rock bottom (actually make it I had hit rock bottom long back, but this weekend it manifested itself in terms of sheer intellectual decay) and shelled out money to LAUGH. It felt so awesome. It’s like having a shrink, only better, because you also have alcohol…
2.Travel more. This year wasn’t too bad, but I wasted the first half of the year, because I was busy ‘focusing on my career’. 2012 will be about getting away more often…
3.Work on the book. I made a start this year, but got demotivated. So to keep myself consistently motivated, I am going to put up my boss’ picture as my wallpaper…
4.Run more often. Now that I live two minutes away from the park, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with convenient excuses like “I shall get run over by a drunk truck driver” or “If God wanted me to run, he wouldn’t make me live in Mumbai”…
5.Read less trash. No matter how depressed I am, my one-night stands with Indian authors HAVE to end. I am old enough, smart enough and matured enough to have more satisfying and meaningful experiences which stay with me longer than my mood swings…

And no, I DO NOT aspire to have similar satisfying and meaningful relationships, I DO NOT aspire to lose weight and I definitely DO NOT aspire to find a job with a newspaper which pays me well, because let’s face it, there are some things, which even the new year can’t change.

As for 2011, I am quite happy the way the year turned out to be:

1.I changed two houses, set up my own place completely by myself and finally, I can claim that I have indeed grown up, irrespective of what my dad says.
2.At work, I joined a new company, set up a new team and it turned out to be quite a ‘success’, as ‘success’ is conventionally defined. I got appreciated, got an excellent rating and managed to hold my own, DESPITE being headstrong, stubbornly anti-establishment and at times downright RUDE to my boss.
3.I read extensively, traveled a bit, wrote a LOT (over 100 posts and some freelancing), explored new avenues like theatre, lit fest, Kala Ghoda festival and stand-up comedy, though I can never have enough of these.
4.I spent more time with my folks, something I hadn’t done enough in the past for whatever reasons.
5.I also helped India win the cricket World Cup (this one is self-explanatory).

On the downside, 2011 also meant being single in the true sense of the term, for the longest time ever, which also meant getting used to loneliness like I have never known before. The silver lining is that it doesn’t bother me anymore…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Welcome to the Working Week

This time of the year is the best at least as far as work is concerned. In the two and a half years of corporate life, I have learnt a very important lesson: NEVER take leave during the last week of December because most people (including your boss) are on vacation which makes your life so much better. It’s like vacation without vacation and you wouldn’t want to waste your precious 21 days by taking a break around this time.

So a typical day at work for me around this time goes like this:

1.Come to work thirty minutes later than I usually do
2.Check emails, have coffee
3.Fiddle around on my blog
4.Take a breakfast break
5.Read newspaper editorials
6.Take coffee/bitching break
7.Read other people’s blogs
8.Take lunch break
9.Listen to Sada Haq at maximum volume to ignore the loud people around you and keep an excel sheet open, pretending to work
10.Take coffee/bitching break
11.Check out yatra/make my trip/cleartrip sites and plan vacations for next year
12.Make frustration noises as if you are neck deep in work
13.Check out snapdeal/timesdeal for a good bargain
14.Take coffee/bitching break
15.Read random articles online
16.Sigh and say “I am so tired” and go home

I like the work life-life balance, even though it’s shortlived…

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's a Long December...

So this friend called me up randomly. He was in his super-peppy mood, which I so dislike.
-“Heyyy!! What’s up? What plans for new year?”
- Groan!!! “Why?”
-“Because we are all going partying.”
-“Can you be more specific, when you say, ‘we’?”
-“It includes you as well.”
-“Don’t you know by now that I DO NOT PARTY?”
-“You were so much cooler in college.”
-“I wasn’t. I just didn’t have better things to do.”
-“And now you do?”
-“I have to watch the India-Australia test match highlights.”
-“But aren’t you going to watch the live match as well?”
-"What’s your point?”
-“Come on!! The world is going to come to an end in 2012. This is your last chance to live it up.”
-“If it does come to an end and I am being very optimistic here, I assure you I have better things to do than party all night.”
-“Yeah, like watching highlights of test cricket.”

So that got me thinking. What IS it about this holiday season that gets everybody excited like Anna Hazare? What are we celebrating exactly? The end of a miserable year or the beginning of another?

Especially if you are in Mumbai, it’s a nightmare with the cramped space, the overcrowded dance floors, the toxic smell of smoke and alcohol AND being charged the entire bonus pool of my company this year for one night. Definitely not my idea of a ‘celebration’.

If I did have a chance, I would spend it differently, so so differently…

Monday, December 19, 2011


This weekend we tried to be ‘cool’ and watch Mission Impossible 4… but secretly we were happy when we didn’t get the tickets and gleefully settled for Ladies vs Ricky Behl. I don’t know if the movie was really entertaining, or it’s just the fact that I am suffering from the trauma of watching a lot of bad films lately, but the truth is I quite enjoyed it.
Conclusion: I am NOT cool.

This weekend I tried to be ‘intellectual’ and read The Argumentative Indian. Instead, I spent the whole of Sunday curled up with Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, laughing like I haven’t laughed in a long time.
Conclusion: I am NOT intellectual.

This weekend I argued with my dad because he refused to be supportive, logical and understanding. Instead, he proved that I am a sulking 3-year old with an attitude problem.
Conclusion: I am adopted.

This weekend I went back to my college photographs, trying to convince myself that I have grown up. Instead, I cried.
Conclusion: I have NOT grown up.

This weekend I decided NOT to get depressed over Christmas and New Year. Instead, I kept wishing that I could get away.
Conclusion: India-Australia Boxing Day match better be something special.

This weekend was empty… like most others

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hell Frezes Over

This last week has been crazy at work, and by ‘crazy’, I don’t mean busy or hectic, I mean, ‘crazy’; literally!

So I have a new boss, who was visiting the India office and being the only pretty girl in the team, and no technical skills or expertise, I was the easy target for all the administrative duties: i.e. taking care of IT and access card issues, booking cabs, making restaurant reservations, dressing up and receiving him from the hotel. Sometimes you really wonder about the use of HR anyway. Now since I am perpetually in my ‘corporate world sucks’ mode, I do not invest in formal wear on principle and I also don’t have a car. So on such occasions, I find it rather embarrassing to dress up in my shabby clothes and enter a 5 star hotel in an auto (cabs don’t ply short distance in suburban Mumbai), sandwiched between luxury vehicles. The embarrassment reaches its peak when I am stopped at the main entrance by the security and a dog just walks inside the auto.

We also had long-winded meetings and they all lived up to the expectations of a successful meeting, i.e. wastage of man hours with no concrete results but a feeling of satisfaction. Now, one way to measure the success of a meeting is by counting the amount of meaningless jargon thrown at your face, while the other person is rambling on, operating under the illusion that he is making sense…

Jargon 1: This year we should sharpen our offerings to focus on more strategy/high-level projects.
What it means: This year, we don’t expect to have too many projects in the pipeline.

Jargon 2: We should evaluate our current subscriptions to the various databases and make the necessary adjustments.
What it means: We should start copying from new sources, as people have now figured out that our forecasts are really those of XYZ and ABC.

Jargon 3: We should avoid re-inventing the wheel and leverage the best practices already existing in the marketplace.
What it means: We don’t have budgets or expertise to introduce new innovations and therefore we should follow the herd.

Jargon 4: We should enhance our interactions with stakeholders and encourage them to take ownership of projects.
What it means: We can’t solve their problems; we can only PRETEND to care.

Jargon 5: India is a country rich in diversity and natural resources with an extremely young and dynamic workforce.
What it means: I don’t know the answer to your question, but please, please transfer me to the front end.

Hell has a new synonym; it’s called Knowledge Process Outsourcing…

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Now Time...

There are times when you just want to be angry…
There are times when you just want the other person to shut up…
There are times when you just want to stare at the menu card and ignore everybody…
There are times when you just want to feel wronged though noone agrees with you…
There are times when you just want to get up and leave…
There are times when you just want to point and laugh…
There are times when you just want to sulk and be left alone…
There are times when you just want to rant on the phone and expect the other person to LISTEN…
There are times when you just want to press the ‘send’ button on the long, strong mail sitting ugly in your draft folder…
There are times when you just want your dad to be more supportive and IMPROVE that long, strong mail and not the logical, rational PARENT that he is…

These are the times known as the year ends…

Monday, December 12, 2011

Who Let the Dogs Out?

So the much awaited dreaded company annual party happened on Friday night at (the garage of) The Intercontinental. The food was awful, but obviously noone cared, because of the OPEN BAR and the home drop facility. The idea was to officially get all employees smashed. Now I have this peculiar drawback in my otherwise flawless character: I CAN NEVER GET DRUNK AT OFFICE PARTIES. I guess the sight of your boss in a red T shirt (don’t blame him, the dress code was red and black) takes all the fun out of the red wine. So there I was, holding my glass of orange juice and holding my breath simultaneously to tuck in the stomach flab, wishing I had listened to my mom, when she suggested I buy the dress in one size bigger. But no, I take pride in squeezing myself in the smallest size available, though I can barely breathe in it.

Anyhow, as the three of us took a stroll in the quiet, breezy lane outside the hotel, NOT NETWORKING, I was so glad that my happiness was not defined by the empty chitchat of senior people, the smoky dancefloor or the pungent smell of alcohol…

I was so glad that I was still untouched by this aspect of the corporate world…

I was so glad that I was still not completely consumed by Mumbai…

I was still me…

Friday, December 9, 2011

You Gotta Be (kidding me)

I have always been a true blue GIRL, in every sense of the term. I don’t get a perverse pleasure running down women or their “annoying” habits like shopping, matching clothes/shoes/accessories, reading chicklit or watching demented movies/serials, because I DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS. And no, I don’t consider it “superior” to be a tomboy or being ‘one of the boys”. I am happy being slightly stuck-up, moderately shy, terribly moody and I don’t need to swear/smoke/drink/backslap/all of them together ‘to be different’.

Having said that, there are some things about women (no, let’s make it, most of the women I HAVE SEEN) which I don’t understand:

The washroom bonding: Why is it that in any public place, women tend to go to the washroom TOGETHER? Is there a scientific reason that automatically co-ordinates the physiological aspects when more than two women get together?

The changing room discussions: Why is it that women ALWAYS need a second opinion while shopping? If you look fat in that dress, you probably are. No friend waiting patiently outside the trial room can change the fact.

Elaborating minute details of personal lives: I totally subscribe to the ‘best friends forever’ and ‘sharing’ and ‘emotional support’ and all that jazz. But once you make me a part of your bedroom antiques on a daily basis, it makes me feel like I am in a threesome. Thanks but no thanks!

Spending ages on getting ready: I know we have long hair, lots of clothes which make it confusing to pick JUST ONE, make-up which we HAVE TO USE and shoes which DON’T GO WITH ANYTHING, but seriously, how long does it take to make up your mind? It’s NOT cute to be fashionably late when you are just trying to be fashionable.

The Wedding Fixation: How, I repeat how, can you think spending so much money, wasting so much time, taking so much trouble, going through painstaking planning for ONE SINGLE DAY is “all worth it because it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE?” I mean HOW?

So men, don’t fret if you don’t understand women completely. I don’t either…

Thursday, December 8, 2011

God of Small Things

I thought there is no God...
I was wrong.
There IS a god, and his name is Virender Sehwag.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


This post is for all you “independent, successful, intelligent” power women who are secretly vulnerable, lonely and scared…

This post is for all you “vivacious, cheerful, witty” girls who howl away to glory for no apparent reason in the middle of the night when nobody is watching …

This post is for all you “strong, practical, no-nonsense” re-incarnations of Jane Austen who resort to the high-calorie chocolate ice-cream hidden in the deep dark corner of the refrigerator, nursing past memories…

This post is for all you “pretty, well-dressed, carelessly stylish” young ladies who lounge around in tattered polka dot pink pajamas weekend after weekend after weekend…

This post is for all of you who spend your weeknights watching re-runs of Sex and the City, guiltily binging on greasy takeaway food, simultaneously worrying about fitting into the body-hugging red dress for the Friday night party…

This post is for all the single women out there, especially those away from home, alone in a big city...

And no, this post is definitely NOT for me, because I would NEVER publicly own up to watching Sex and the City…

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maximum City

Just when you are sick of this city, just when you think it has nothing more to give to you, just when you are pining for another vacation (it’s been almost a month since I got away, so yea, I am itching for a break), it opens up a new horizon just like that. I am talking about the first Times of India Literary Carnival held in the Mehboob Studio in Bandra.

I spent the whole of Sunday shuttling between Venue A and Venue B, the calendar in my pocket, excited like a schoolgirl. Now, thanks to my dad’s poor taste in friends, I have met a few of these CXO-type people, the who’s-who of the corporate world, and honestly, instead of being awed and inspired, I have always wondered what the big deal was. But yesterday, when I was faced with some of the eminent personalities in the field of journalism and literature, I felt a shiver down my back. True, I did stick out like a sore thumb despite my desperate attempt to blend in with my whole jeans-kurta-jhola-junk jewelry-generous dose of kohl get-up. This was an entirely new world and I was a wonderstruck kid trying to break into it, as I hung on to every word uttered on the podium by the likes of Bachi Karkaria, Vinod Mehta, Vikram Chandra, M J Akbar, Swapan Dasgupta, Jerry Rao, William Dalrymple to name a few. The only person I could identify with to some extent was Anuja Chauhan, the writer of the best-selling book, Zoya Factor (though I have no intentions to read it). After a long and successful career in advertising, she was also an outsider to this hallowed intellectual arena, as she sat perched up on the sofa, petite and confused, rarely opening her mouth (pretty much like me in most team meetings). It was only a sneak peek into my Garden of Eden, as I kept struggling to find the keys to it.

I also watched The Dirty Picture, the way it was meant to be watched: in a shady theatre on a Friday late night show, as we sat in the fourth row, right in front of the screen, amid rowdy men whistling each time Vidya Balan set the screen on fire (which was pretty much all the time). For a movie where the main cast was cleavage, Vidya Balan did manage to hold her own, albeit in the supporting role. Hats off to her for getting under the skin of the character, though the film was repetitive and tedious at most places.

And oh, I have a brand new 32” Sony LCD which has all these features that I have no intentions of using, but I got a good deal from a guy in Lamington Road, who knocked 20% off the MRP, and therefore I HAD TO HAVE IT, though I didn’t need it. Finally, to treat myself after all the hard work, I bought the most expensive pair of shoes EVER.
To think I spent so much on sports shoes… impulse purchases are so not worth it.

Anyway, now that I have a park close by, loads of eating joints right across the street, a TV AND a library membership, I just don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to do regularly: jog, read, write, eat out, watch back-to-back episodes of deranged serials. So I am seriously considering doing away with some of the excesses like WORK. Spending 10 hours everyday in that demented environment with people I don’t like doing things which doesn’t excite me is a sheer waste of time.

Time to set my priorities right...

Friday, December 2, 2011


After three weeks of uncertainty, chaos and a LOT of phone calls, bargaining, arguing and new experiences, I have finally settled down at my new place. Well, almost. I am still pondering over which television to buy, but hopefully by this weekend, I shall make up my mind. Last night when I finally reached home, I felt a quiet sense of peace and achievement, when I looked around. I know, the house is old, the flooring is ugly and the elevator refuses to stop at the second floor (anyway I take the stairs, so doesn’t really make a difference). Still, this is the first home that I set up ALL BY MYSELF: right from sweet-talking the security guard, deciding which bed to buy, hanging up the curtains to choosing which pictures to put up in the hall. In the process, I did fall off the chair a couple of times (still got bruises on my left arm), I did visit the police station and I did miss out on my beauty sleep for quite some time. But, finally, it seems all worth it. I go to a park twice a day and my office/ bank/ dmart/ KFC/ Dominos/ Aromas/ a mall are all five minutes away…

In the process, I also saw gut-wrenching poverty, like REAL POVERTY: the pint-sized old woman who helped me clean the apartment or the emaciated labourers who moved my stuff. The advantage of growing up in a middle class family is you have the highest respect for dignity of labour and I don’t just mean lip service. So I didn’t have to think twice before I doubled up as the third labourer when the two fragile men struggled to carry the refrigerator up the stairs or cleaned up the bathroom, previously used by other people.

Obviously, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with my adventures and found it very difficult to accept that their ONLY CHILD (note: now I am a CHILD, but when it comes to the marriage discussion, I am an old maid… talk about double standards) was “struggling so much”. They even felt guilty and helpless because they “couldn’t do anything to make it easier for me.”

But I assured them they had given me the greatest gift that any parent could possibly give their kids: EMPOWERMENT. As a kid, I was sometimes resentful that my folks ALWAYS made life difficult for me: no private tuitions, no maid to clean up after me, no car to drive me to school, no cell phones till I was in my 2nd year in college, limited pocket money and definitely no spoon-feeding. The most annoying part was they NEVER told me what to do: like ONE SINGLE COURSE OF ACTION. They would just give me options (clothes to buy, holiday destinations or even college major), explain the possible constraints and the consequences, but leave my young, inexperienced head to obsess over the final decision. More often than not, I would make the wrong choices (relationships included), and it was at those unexpected moments, that they would spoil me rotten when I least expected it.

Anyway, long story short, when I look at myself or my quaint little home, I feel like Barbie in her dollhouse, but a responsible one, who can take care of herself, irrespective of the circumstances.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cop Killa

There are three sets of people in Mumbai that I am still scared of despite so many years in the city: short-distance auto drivers, real estate brokers and most of all, the Mumbai Police. They are powerful and they are dangerous; almost dangerously powerful, because they know how important they are to the common man, and they are not shy of abusing their power for that extra buck or that extra bit of sadistic pleasure in harassing helpless people.

One of the main reasons I moved to my new place was because it allowed me to do away with two of these three sets of people, viz. the broker and the auto driver. But still, the local policeman had to be dealt with, and I was postponing the inevitable, because every time I thought of walking inside the Powai Police Station by myself and cajoling a slimy policeman to do HIS JOB, I chickened out. Usually administrative hassles like police verification for moving into a new house are handled by the broker, thus creating this broker-policeman nexus which is more complicated than calculus. However, since this time I had taken it upon myself to NOT avail of a broker’s services, the dirty work had to be done by me. To make things worse, our lease agreement wasn’t registered, which would give the policeman enough reasons to harass me. But, yesterday, when the society in-charge told me to get my police verification done immediately, I knew I had to get it over with.

After a night of worrying and tossing and turning, I got up in the morning as if I was about to appear for an interview in my dream company, armed myself with all the documents, practised the excuse for not having a registered agreement for the 100th time, dressed conservatively in a salwar suit and off I went for my first tryst with the Mumbai police. So far, my criminal activities have been limited to a legal suit by a certain telecom company and underage drinking.

I saw a couple of familiar brokers who went in before me, exchanged pleasantries with the police officer on duty and got his valuable signature under 30 seconds. But before I could break into my Aishwariya Rai-like giggle, it was my turn. I sat down nervously, and though I was trembling inside, I tried to maintain my composure. He addressed me in Marathi, I listened hard, nodded and smiled brightly, though I had no idea what he said. I handed him the papers, hoping he wouldn’t notice the unregistered agreement. But of course, he could smell a chance to make money like an I-banker can smell an opportunity of an unethical way to increase his bonus. I argued, I made a few calls to my landlord and most importantly, I persisted. After an hour and a half, he gave in, and finally I got what I was waiting for: the precious signature!

Now you know why women take so long to climax… the men just refuse to do the right things upfront.