Thursday, December 27, 2012

Honey You Kid Yourself!

So I had ranted against the annoying habits of women in this post, but it seems I left out one very important trait, which leads to potential misunderstandings and often leaves perfectly innocent men at the receiving end.

As women, we have this compulsive instinct of being suspicious, at times to the extent of being morbidly imaginative. Yes, we all believe that we are the next Aishwariya Rai in the making, that our breath-taking beauty and keen intellect leave all the men around us spellbound, so much so, that they simply have to have us, RIGHT.THERE!

Thankfully, being neither beautiful nor intelligent, I have never had any problems with the “male gaze”. If anything, given my miniscule presence and a complete lack of personality, most of the time I go unnoticed. But, having been educated in two of India’s so-called “happening” colleges, known more for their crowd than for their academic excellence, I have seen a plethora of paranoid girls, who, and I quote, “cannot help being hit on”.

So, imagine this situation: a bunch of girls, including me, are sitting in the cafeteria, gossiping about clothes and shoes. Suddenly, one of the girls gnashes her teeth, and whispers, “I am going to slap that guy one day”. Since she clearly wants to talk, we are obliged to ask, “Who? Why?”, though we aren’t particularly interested. Apparently, there is some guy at the cash counter, who was staring at us, not to mention he almost bumped into her near the water cooler the other day. Now, as irresistible as we are, I can vouch for the fact that more often than not, it’s our imagination at work. We WANT to believe that the guy was staring and that he bumped into us, DELIBERATELY, when the truth is probably that he is just an absent-minded toad.

Or as another girl would brag, with an air of irritation, which was just trying to cover up the pride in her voice, that some guy had been calling her at midnight, EVERY night and would insist on speaking for hours. Now given the enormous propensity of girls to go on and on and on over the telephone, I would be extremely skeptical about who was actually driving the conversation! The poor guy was probably too drunk to even listen to what was being said.

And the worst of them all: I don’t know why women make such a big deal when guys (even familiar acquaintances like colleagues/batchmates) add them on Facebook. I understand that every man on this planet is dying to get hold of our pictures where we are drunk/hugging friends/dressed for a party and superimpose them on Pamela Anderson’s body and repost them, but if we are so conscious about our privacy, why put those up in the first place? Or have a FB account for that matter? Instead of letting the world know how stalker-worthy we are, isn’t it easier to tweak the privacy settings, or simply NOT add the people if it makes us so uncomfortable? But no, we would insist on telling every human being who is unfortunate enough to cross our path, that so-and-so is “harassing us online”.

So here is to ALL women, honey, you are kidding yourself! He is simply not that into you

Monday, December 24, 2012

The End of an Era

I was looking forward to this weekend with a lot of hope and expectation: may be Mayan WAS right, may be the world WILL come to an end and may be I would finally make peace with the world and the director of the movie 2012 for scarring me for life…

But no, it wasn’t to be: I woke up as good as new, as fresh as ever, with a slight hangover, but nothing earth shattering: the world was calm, the world was its usual languid self, the world was all set to screw me over in 2013, again…

Until yesterday, when Sachin Tendulkar finally announced his long-awaited retirement for One Day cricket. Now, personally I found it nothing short of a tragedy that someone as legendary as him would wait for being forced out of the team rather than bowing out gracefully when he was at his peak. For all his contribution to the game, for all the adulation that he deserves and for all the years of entertainment he has provided, it was a sad end to a glittering career.

I can’t help wondering why would anybody of his stature drag the fairy tale to an unhappy ending?

Wouldn’t it have been infinitely more memorable to have retired on the eve of India winning the world cup, playing his last match on his home ground and hoisting the trophy?

Is that what makes the difference between a great player and a great leader?

Is that why I have always been a staunch Dravid loyalist despite the fact that he almost drove me to death by boredom when I was younger and more impatient?

Is that why while I am supremely grateful to be born at an age which saw the Little Master at his peak, I would never tell my kids that he was the cricketer I idolized?

But with his retirement, an era does come to an end, if not the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crime and Punishment


The whole world, it seems, is talking about the Delhi gang rape case: the incident has managed to attract the attention of a thick-skinned, usually indifferent and often insensitive generation, caught up in their smartphones and iPads, too busy making money and spending it. Yes, it includes me too.

Now that it has made both the national and international media go hoarse, now that students and citizens have taken to the streets and now that everybody born with a keyboard have expressed themselves on twitter/blogs/facebook, our usually indolent government has also been hustled into action, albeit through some token measures and platitudes.

A few months back, I had written about violation of women in this post. Now, as we witness yet another barbaric act, I am left to wonder, rather helplessly, if at all, there is a solution. You can talk about fast-track courts, death penalty, sensitization of police force, deterrents or even awareness, but it still leaves the issue of the social and cultural norms, which cannot be dismantled so easily.

We belong to a country which treats women as second-class citizens, which is unabashedly pro-men, which worships aggression and bullies the weak and which resists anything that threatens the established hierarchy. Till we become more open-minded as a nation, till we become more tolerant to differences and till we learn to accept the changing social and economic milieu, other measures would fall inadequately short of achieving the harmony that we are waiting for, hoping for, praying for…

Meanwhile, as our society gets educated, painfully and slowly, what are women supposed to do?

Wait for a cultural revolution, as we put up with the callousness in our daily lives?
Hope for a judicial reform, as we patiently look for justice?
Pray for a safe return every day, as we leave the house?

Isn’t it just easier to forsake the nation which has so easily forsaken us, the nation which is so careless towards one half of its citizen and a nation where crime is rampant, but punishment is not?

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Fairy Land called Kolkata

One week of complete indulgence, one big fat Bengali wedding and one family reunion: that sums up my trip to Kolkata!

As always, Kolkata was home, Kolkata was warm despite the chill of winter, Kolkata was hope and Kolkata was family.

My parents showered me with affection and alcohol, literally. Don’t ask me what my mom reads, but apparently she read that beer is good for the hair, which is why she promptly gifted me a Park Avenue Beer Shampoo. My dad, appalled that his sweet little girl, no longer able to withstand the inflationary pressures, has now resorted to Signature as her poison, down from Jack Daniels, tried his best by making me drink Chivas Regal and Black Label on alternate days…

My mom, eager to cook all my favourite delicacies in the limited time, took a leave for four days, only to spend a major part of it in the kitchen as she pampered me with fish fry, chicken roll, puchka, mishit doi and chanachur…

My dad, no longer in touch with contemporary cinema, tried to prove that movies in his youth were much better, as he made me sit patiently through Cleopatra and Guns of Navarone. On the last day, we decided to call it a truce and watched Bombaiyer Bombetey, a recent Feluda movie, but written by Satyajit Ray in his heydays…

My mom, desperate to turn me into a ‘lady’, treated me pretty much like a doll, as she dressed me up in her colourful sarees and accessories for each day of the wedding, while I stood in front of the mirror, resigned to her enthusiasm…

My dad, cribbing that I am blind to the history and culture of Kolkata, accompanied me to the Light and Sound at Victoria Memorial on a journey to discover the rich history and culture of the city and the way it has evolved through time. He also took me on a tour to Budge Budge, where we spent the day by the Ganges, feasting on a delicious lunch, as we stared out to the serene river…

And then, of course, there were my childhood friends, a grand wedding, but most of all, a grander occasion…

May be, just may be, fairy tales are not for kids alone; they do happen in real life as well, especially at home, especially with people who love you no matter what and especially when you need them the most

Friday, December 14, 2012

Living Next Door to Alice

A few months back, I wrote about the engagement of my two close friends in this post. Now that I am in Kolkata to attend their wedding, I thought it’s time to bore all five and a half readers with the love story that started fifteen years back.

I had met D1 when we were all of five years old. She was this snooty girl studying in a girls’ convent and would insist on speaking in English, while I was the rustic wild child, comfortable with her equally rustic friends, and D1 was so not a part of that world. Suffice to say, we did not get along, and as far as first impressions go, it was the worst possible!

A few years later, we moved to this huge two-storey bungalow in Kolkata, and much to my horror, I found that D1 was my next door neighbour. But once the initial resistance was over, we discovered our common love for literature, and while I introduced her to the madness called cricket, she opened up a new world of languages, arts and the phase called, “it’s cool to dislike your folks” to me. And we also met D2, who came to live in the same bungalow. D1 and I took great pleasure in hating him with as much gusto as possible for two 11-year old girls, making fun of him openly. However, his cute kid sister won our hearts, and it was for her sake, that we would put up with him. The next few years were turbulent to say the least, as all of us battled against teenage, weight gain, pimples and parents, finding solace in our late night strolls in the sprawling garden, badminton games, discussions on cricket and our very own Saraswati Puja.

As we moved to different cities for higher studies, D1 and I managed to keep in touch, writing long letters, catching up during holidays and running up huge phone bills. While I stayed with D2’s family when I first moved to Mumbai, we laid the foundation for what is going to be a lifelong friendship. I remember it was D1’s birthday, when I casually cajoled D2 to call her, and there was no looking back. Eight years, a distance of 2000 km and several ups and downs later, they are finally hitched, and I can finally heave a sigh of relief, almost like a proud parent who has pulled off the impossible!

It was the grandest of weddings, it was intimate as family weddings are and despite my sheer distaste for elaborate functions and rituals, this one was close to my heart.

As we sat in the same garden fifteen years later, D1 looked every bit of the radiant bride and D2 was the calm, matured man, a far cry from the annoying, lanky teenager who got on my nerves.

I lived next door to Alice, and today, as she steps into her wonderland, I can only watch in happiness for two of my childhood friends...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Anon Comes to Town

Lately I had been bonding a lot with my OTHER women friends, and it has not gone down too well with anon, as she felt that her status as my best friend was being threatened. Hence, gripped by fear and jealousy, she decided to fly down to Mumbai over the weekend and put things straight. Or that’s the version that I would like to believe…

In reality, since yet another member of our CKB gang was getting married, this time in Mumbai, the outstation members had to come down to offer their condolences. While the wedding was a no-nonsense, one day affair and my first brush with a Maharashtrian ceremony, the rest of the weekend was about me and anon, making the most of our time together. Once more, it hit us, how different we were, once more, we wondered how we have managed to remain friends over the years and once more, we marveled how we resisted from killing each other in Room No. 213. Of course, now that we have booked non-refundable tickets to Cambodia, and would be meeting SH as well, there is much to look forward to!

Saturday night, we threw a bachelor party for the groom, but the only glitch was that the groom wasn’t there. So, the four of us celebrated on his behalf, as the LIT pitchers and the non-veg platters at Out of the Blue seemed strangely inadequate.

Sunday, we had a mini-CKB reunion, as the uncle of the group finally fooled a girl into marrying him before she could change her mind, and we all heaved a collective sigh of relief.

And Monday morning, we left: anon back to Bangalore and me for my one-week vacation to Kolkata.

She came in a breeze, she criticized me in a breeze, and she left in a breeze: mean as ever, annoying as ever and judgmental as ever

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Charge of the Light Brigade

As my love-hate relationship with the corporate world continues, it never ceases to amuse me that companies can stoop to any level to deny employees they “don’t like”. Mind you, here, “like” has NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING to do with performance, but everything to do with personal equations. Differences are NOT tolerated, despite all the rhetoric about diversity, and unless you comply to the narrow definition of “leadership”, you are left in the cold. SO, yes, you are not compliant with corporate culture, if you do not:

a)Waste a minimum of 1000 man hours in useless meetings every week
b)Mouth inane jargons and platitudes just for the sake of being heard and not listened
c)Circulate emails with links to WSJ/Bloomberg/FT/Reuters news articles in the name of ‘knowledge sharing’
d)Suck up to seniors and exploit the juniors/comparatively weaker people because they can’t stand up to you
e)Accept that men are a superior species because they are more aggressive, loud and hence naturally endowed with ‘leadership skills’

But now that I have rebelled against the system, now that I have taken it head-on and now that I have laid the cards on the diversity table, the probability is high that I am going to lose the battle, that I shall be back to the unemployment phase which strikes me every two years and I shall deal a further blow to my already volatile career.

And as I continue my eternal struggle to fit in, Tennyson’s words keep echoing in the background:

Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

The Light Brigade has no authority, but only responsibilities

Monday, December 3, 2012

Soulgoats

This weekend Soulgoat was in town, paying through her nose ONLY to meet me. We hurriedly did a detailed calculation and spread her airfare over 3.5 days and came up with a figure of Rs. 125 bucks per hour for her Bombay trip. Now that put me under a lot of pressure to entertain her and make it worth her while and money. For instance, I would not even let her sleep/relax/watch TV as these are things she could have done at home in Delhi for free. To sum up, I was at my obsessive worst, while she patiently put up with me, cooked an awesome lunch on Friday and an equally yummy breakfast on Sunday.

Now I have been friends with Soulgoat for almost five years since we spent two glorious months in Hyderabad while interning with Company D back in 2008. But ever since we both graduated, we have been in different cities, meeting once a year, though we became the best of friends over emails/IM/phone and most recently, the annoying Whatsapp. Since we are cursed with similar personalities (or the lack of it) AND we are fellow Capricornians, we call ourselves Soulgoats. And now that we were meeting after more than a year, we did everything that two women could cram in three days: eat, drink, shop, watch movies and most importantly bitch about the rest of the world!

We ate till we threw up and continued eating: A Bengali dinner at Bijoli Grill, a Parsi lunch at Britannia, a Punjabi lunch at Urban Tadka, coffee at Aromas and Starbucks, snacks at KFC and Theobroma, Pav Bhaji at Sukhsagar, sweets at Bengali Sweets and yogurt at Cocoberry…

We drank till we were dehydrated and passed out: For the first time, we ventured to buy alcohol over the counter from a Theka, squirming in the maze of men, staring us down. But once were home and settled down on the floor with alcohol and snacks, there was no looking back as we abused the entire Universe, sparing nobody…

We visited all the clichéd Bombay places: Linking Road, Waterfield Road, Bandstand, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Gateway of India, Colaba Causeway and Fort…

We shopped till we couldn’t walk anymore: We scrounged through ALL the stores in Palladium, Skyzone and R City, and I HELPED her buy a pretty and colourful dress (a rare diversion from her usual black uniforms) for her upcoming party plans while I bought the MOST expensive outfit for myself, along with shoes, belt, earrings and bracelet for, well, for, MY.NEED.FOR.COMPULSIVE.SHOPPING…

And we also watched Talaash: I know we are not getting back the 700 bucks and precious three hours of our lives back and we are contemplating suing Aamir Khan for his temporary insanity when he signed a movie which had a script as bizarre as it could insult my intelligence more than my boss…

Today morning, when we finally bid goodbye to each other, I realized once more, why we were Soulgoats:

Soul sisters and soul mates may come and go, but soulgoats are forever

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Joyride

Irrespective of whichever place I have been in Bombay, one thing that has remained constant over the years, is the joy of those auto/cab rides: right from the short hop from VT to Regal to Fort to Marine Drive to the long and painstakingly bumpy rides from Powai to Bandra.

There is a feeling of camaraderie as I squeeze myself between middle-aged men trying to get in to work as we board the shared cab from VT to Nariman Point/Fort and hand out the five bucks to the driver…

There is a feeling of anxiety as I hurriedly plant myself in the cab, brushing my unruly hair, all tangled up after the train ride, praying that I make it in time for the last show at Regal…

There is a feeling of angst as I sit in the auto, as it crawls towards Bandra navigating through the peak hour traffic, while I surreptitiously check the meter reading, trying to gauge if it’s tampered…

There is a feeling of calm as I hug the shrug closer to me as the slight chill of the November night make me conscious of my bare arms while the auto driver breezes his way through the empty streets…

There is a feeling of contentment as I indulge in idle thoughts, the music drowning the noise of the trucks on the highway…

There is a feeling of happiness as I sleepily brush the hair off my face, high enough to appreciate the moment but aware enough to know it won’t last forever, as the city disappears behind me…

There is a feeling of comfort as familiarity slowly seeps in and the auto halts in front of my house…

There is a feeling of belonging if not to Bombay but to the idea of it

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life as I DON'T know it

Work has suddenly assumed centre stage in my life, and if you know me, you would also know that this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence! Usually I avoid work like a plague and as for working weekends, it’s a rare tragedy of Titanic proportions. BUT, this weekend, I had to work through BOTH Saturday AND Sunday AND report to work at 7:30 on a Monday morning.

In what seems like the biggest conspiracy theory against me, Saturday played a cruel joke when we tried to get tickets for Life of Pi but returned empty handed, determined to drown our miseries in alcohol, only to find out that IT.WAS.A.DRY.DAY because of, wait for it, EKADOSHI!!! Seriously, that is like even more ridiculous than Dhoni insisting on a turning track for the benefit of Monti Panesar.

Sunday I had lunch with R and her fiancé along with another friend from college whom I hadn’t met in the last three years since we graduated. I just remembered our Malaysia trip barely three months back, when R and I were up till 4 am chatting about how life is screwing us big time and generally bonding over dysfunctional relationships. And here she was, beaming with happiness (though toned down by a sore throat), fresh from her engagement, and ready to start a new life. I was also glowing with happiness, though for a completely different reason: SHE.GOT.ME.A.BOX.OF.FERRERO.ROCHER.CHOCOLATES!

Also, JB1 got me this awesome souvenir of Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, from his recent trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So yes, my friends like gifting me stuff and I love accepting stuff. Win-win!

It was a busy weekend, and while we celebrate the joys of a new beginning, a part of me is also acutely aware of letting go of life the way I know, the way I like and the way I am comfortable with…

But here is wishing R lots of happiness and I leave you with a picture of us together taken in Malaysia...


Thursday, November 22, 2012

WWW: Winter, Weddings and Work

Ok, so winter is almost here, and it’s time for two of my pet peeves, when it comes to blogging, i.e. weddings and work. Year after year, you would read about the same things, rehashed and packaged differently, but year after year, you would continue reading. Yes, all five and a half of you, I am talking to you morons! I guess the political and corporate rhetoric over the years have immuned you to hollow repetitive discussions, which is why you still come back to my blog.

So, three of my friends are getting married in the next three weeks, two are getting engaged and a full cricket squad of acquaintances are planning to walk down the aisle, all of which have collectively caused my parents to assume their roles as victims of domestic violence. This week one of my cousins got married, the last one of my generation, except of course, me. My dad, no longer able to handle the social pressures, escaped to some developing country (he is right now on a Vietnam vacation), leaving my mom to bravely stand up to the barrage of questions/comments ranging from:

a)So, when do we get the invitation for Nefertiti? She is next (in the line of firing)…
b)Is she seeing anybody? Do you want US to do something? (yes, please go drown yourself in the Ganges)…
c)Why aren’t you trying harder to find a 30-year old fully grown man boy? Try XYZ matrimonial site; it’s got the biggest hit rate after the Savita Bhabi site shut down…
d)We hate to say “I told you so”, but we DID tell you so: that it’s not a good idea to let your daughter leave home so early in life…
e)You should ask her to come back to Kolkata and then we can find her very nice Bengali boys who work with TCS in Salt Lake and have bought an under-construction apartment in Rajarhat.

At the workplace, it’s the time for maximum mayhem, with the organization going through its annual round of restructuring, firing people left, right and centre to save on humongous bonuses with bosses screaming themselves hoarse with the same recorded statement used every year: “These are turbulent times in the financial sector. We are exploiting the potential for increased synergies within the bank and aligning ourselves to deal with critical challenges posed by the economic downturn, regulatory issues and slowing demand, so that we are positioned strongly enough against our competitors in order to emerge as leaders in the industry.” If the employee is awake through the entire statement, all she hears is: “Please consider yourself lucky to have a job and don’t expect hikes/bonuses.”

If you thought there was a cold vibe in the air, it’s not coming from Pakistan, but from closer at home

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank You for Smoking

Now that all the Diwali brouhaha is over and everybody is back to work, life seems normal again: no empty seats staring at you, no more crackers to distract you and no more blinding lights adorning the roads as if there was a Punjabi baraat dancing on the streets for a week! We are again back to being miserable: ALL of us, and not just me. Good, I.LIKE.EQUALITY.

If that isn’t misery enough, Bal Thackeray decided to breathe his last, very conveniently mind you, on a Saturday evening, after the regular Mumbaiite has finished his half-day at work, had his lunch and boarded the Virar local. Such is the consideration of one of the scariest most respected figures of Maharasthra politics. Of course the fact that life in Mumbai came to a halt for two days with the common man forced to mourn mourning with theatres, restaurants, coffee shops or even supermarkets closing down was a small price to pay. But the spirit of the Mumbaikar cannot be so easily dampened. You thought we would sit at home just because the Mumbai police ‘advised’ us to ‘not venture out unless it’s an emergency’? You thought we would silently watch Oh My God on Colours just because Jab Tak Hain Jaan and Sons of Sardaar were out of contention? NO, we are Mumbaikars, we can instinctively amuse ourselves under ANY circumstances, we decided to throng Shivaji Park to participate in the funeral procession of the icon who has held the state ransom for inane reasons over the years.

But hey, what do I know? I am just the cynical girl, who was stuck at home for two days, without milk or vegetables, feeding on dal and bread like a prisoner, devouring a 650-page political satire on Emergency.

I am a common man, I am allowed my share of disillusionment at the ‘system’, so pardon me, if I can’t bring myself to grieve over the death of a ‘leader’

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Fine Balance

I am one of those people who hate limelight, any kind of it: be it something as huge as performing on stage in front of a huge audience to something as insignificant as a class presentation. So ever since I was a child, I have consciously avoided being noticed, and given the pint-sized kid/woman I was/am, it hasn’t been too hard.

Strategically, I chose a school which ran like a factory: two shifts of eight hours each, over 1000 kids in a class with about 70 in each section. Hence teachers did not have time for individual attention, they came in a breeze, delivered their speech and went in a breeze for the next class. Students were more like assembly line production, and I was happy with that. I was happy being the average student, hiding somewhere in the last five rows behind tall, bespectacled studious boys, I was happy that the school did not insist on any Romney-Obama style debates or active parliamentary class participation and I was happy that it never insisted on ‘moulding kids into holistic personalities’. Its job was to strictly churn out JEE toppers who would make excellent IT professionals in TCS and Infosys.

Now, obviously since I wasn’t one of those AND I had no ‘personality’ to boast of, I was this shy fat kid with her nose in a novel, whose presence or absence wouldn’t really be noticed. To change things, I decided to test waters outside of academics. I was a pretty graceful swimmer and started training for competitive swimming when I was nine. But as luck would have it, once I DID come into limelight, I made a mess of it by finishing LAST in most events. If that wasn’t bad enough for my already bruised self-confidence, the next frontier was dancing, where, by virtue of being the smallest, I would ALWAYS be asked to perform in the front row, i.e. more vulnerable to the scrutiny of judging parents, relatives, friends’ family, acquaintances and neighbours. And trust me, for a ten-year-old dolled up kid with excessive make-up and uncomfortable outfits, I made PLENTY of goof-ups, at times, just standing helplessly with a vacuous look, gripped by sheer stage fright.

The trauma of anonymity continued in college, when I was new to Bombay, new to the cosmopolitan culture, new to hostel life and overshadowed by girls who were extrovert, popular, uninhibited and completely at ease with the freedom and independence that the city offered. So I recoiled further into my shell, preferring the comfort of the library or my tiny hostel room, interrupted by solitary walks by Marine Drive or the cobbled streets of Colaba, Fort and Metro.

The road to B school admissions was paved with devils, as I got trampled by smooth-talking loud students from Delhi University, fumbling from one GD to another, trying to get a word in, but failing miserably. Somehow, once I did manage to squeeze myself into a decent enough college, it was back to the familiar pattern. I made no effort to ingratiate myself to the professors or the admin staff, happily giving up on easy CP marks, and preferring to write backlog after backlog instead of “forging a bond with the people who matter”. By now, I was comfortable in my old skin, hanging out with a few close friends and devoting myself passionately to Corpcomm, feverishly churning out articles, editorials and news stories. At last, I had found a medium to express myself and the words suddenly flowed, easily, effortlessly, naturally.

Even in the three years of corporate life, I never felt the need to be different, sticking to my thumb rule of minimum small talk, which is very often mistaken as arrogance, rudeness and bad attitude. So yes, I still can’t bring myself to participate in meetings, I still can’t make irreverent conversation with colleagues and I still can’t ingratiate myself to ‘the people who matter’. And now, as I gradually move up the carnivorous value chain, as I assume more responsibilities and as I am required to deal with more people, I feel strangely uncomfortable, slightly inadequate and severely out-of-place.

The shy ten-year-old in me is desperately trying to hold on to the familiarity of the last bench corner, the awkward teenager in me is still hanging on to the comfort of the privacy of the tiny hostel room and the headstrong first-year analyst in me is trying to fend off the evils of sycophancy that is synonymous with corporate life.

The matured pragmatist in me is hoping to maintain the fine balance, while the naïve rebel in me curls up on bed, switched off from the world, poring over Rohington Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’, vigorously identifying with the obstinate Dina Dalal

Monday, November 12, 2012

When the Quotidian Coffee Beckons

So it was one of THOSE weekends: you get pulled down by a cold, thanks to the changing weather, but you get pulled up with a good movie, good food and stimulating conversation and then again, you get pulled down by other circumstances, like Diwali. I can never understand the nation’s enthusiasm over unaffordable air tickets, polluted air, noise and wastage of power, but then again, it’s probably just me…

So Argo was a good watch, notwithstanding its severely demented Bollywood climax. I know Hollywood churns out similar real-life-fake stories, and this one is again a chip off the old block. But somehow I can never get tired it. And realistically speaking, what were my other choices? As it is, I get this nauseating feeling every time I see a Student of the Year poster or a Jab Tak Hai Jaan trailer, and don’t even get me started on Sons of Sardar, so yes, despite the chilling cold chamber in the name of a theatre, I chose to be frozen to sickness.

The good thing is lately I have been experimenting a lot with food, especially the brunch and breakfast types, because, it has ALWAYS been the most important meal for me, and I simply love the whiff of freshly baked croissants and muffins to go with the Hazelnut cappuccino. Add to it a bit of scrambled eggs and salmon, along with the homely feel of a leisurely Saturday morning and the ambience of a chic Italian café along the bylanes of the Trevi Fountain, you get Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ, as we call it here) right here by the Gateway of India! And trust me, there is nothing quotidian about the place.

But that was just a part of a good weekend, overshadowed by the gloom of Diwali. As a child, Diwali meant traveling to Asansol in a local train at a godforsaken hour, dragging heavy suitcases with gifts for twenty minutes, Diwali meant bursting crackers with equally enthusiastic cousins, Diwali meant spending the entire afternoon in the sun, diligently building the diwali ghar, Diwali meant bhaifota, Diwali meant fun.

Diwali meant family

Today, as I type away furiously in a sparsely populated office, dreading the next couple of days, all that Diwali means is memories.

Today, Diwali means loneliness…

Today, Diwali means a novel, a cellphone and a cup of Hazelnut cappuccino

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Barbie Girl

So we have all these traditional days at work, where we are expected to deck up in fancy clothes. Now, being the GURL that I am, I LOVE these inane occasions since it gives me a chance to dress up in the Indian Barbie Doll fashion, complete with matching nail paints and hairbands. But speaking of Barbie Dolls, I think girls are conditioned to be dolls, in any circumstances, be it at home, at school or at work.

We avoid tough decisions. Despite all the brouhaha over women empowerment or independence, the truth is most of us would instinctively and happily let other people decide on our behalf: be it the father, a friend, a boyfriend, a boss or the husband. Yes, we would analyze the situation threadbare, evaluate all the pros and cons, provide our honest and balanced feedback, but when it comes to taking a call, we would gladly hand over the mantle to someone else. At least I know I do, and until the father or the boss FORCES me to CHOOSE, I remain the indecisive Barbie Girl…

We enjoy being ornamental. You have heard this before and you will hear it again: Bollywood actresses screeching out aloud that they want meatier roles, they want to act in women-oriented movies and they are not just a prop playing eye candy to middle-aged heroes. But being a girl, I can vouch for the fact that to a certain extent, we ENJOY being considered a crowd-puller: not just in movies, but in professional sports, politics or the corporate world. Let’s face it, no matter how much we deny it, we would rather be a Hina Rabbani Khar than a Mayawati. As shallow as it sounds, while we don’t mind working hard, we are also not against using a bit of glamour to make our work easier. Personally, I would rather put my smile to good use and get things done, than beat myself over a macro I can’t understand…

We are strong. As much as we like to PRETEND being the frail, helpless damsel in distress, we have more strength than we like to admit. We can take care of ourselves perfectly well, but it’s just that we don’t want to. There is an Erin Brockovich in all of us, but we would rather keep her hidden. Personally, while I enjoy my Barbie Doll existence in my own Barbie world, I am infinitely more fascinated by the on-again-off-again equation she shares with Ken.

We are secretly charmed by the Barbie Girl syndrome, as much as we profess to look down upon her

Monday, November 5, 2012

Worker's Song

Lately I have been doing things completely uncharacteristic of me: like I filled up my self-evaluation form at work for the SECOND TIME IN THE SAME COMPANY! If you know me, you would also know that this is sort of ground breaking, because, this is the longest relationship for me in ANY form (apart from this blog). Also, also, I RENEWED my contract for my house for another year. The irony is of all the five houses that I have stayed in the last three and a half years since I passed out of college, I like this one the least. It has never been HOME, but a very convenient place in a good locality and close to work, where I can just crash at night and not worry about commuting or arguing with autowalas. But I never imagined that I would actually stay on for so long, which is why I had avoided investing in the house, except for the basic furniture and white goods. But now that I do plan to stick around for some more time, I decided it was high time I fixed the basic plumbing of the house. Which meant more expense this month, adding to the personal financial crisis that my life currently is.

What with all the Durga Puja festivities, family visits and now Diwali shopping, I was already in trouble. Add to that the splurging on the smartphone and a new watch. And now that the wedding season is already here, like every year, I lose a few more friends to matrimony, which makes it worse because I have to shell out money for the wedding gifts also. But the major blow came in terms of air ticketing since I have 2-3 trips planned for the first half of next year (in anticipation of my bonus), but I needed to fund at least the tickets for now before prices become unaffordable. I ended up buying the cheapest ones, which turned out to be non-refundable and now even if the rest of the world ends in 2012, certain parts of South East Asia HAVE to survive, along with anon, SH and of course me. No matter what happens, I WILL GO TO CAMBODIA/MANILA IN FEBRUARY because I have already paid for it.

SO, given the Lehman Brothers state of affairs in my life, I spent a major part of the weekend at home, watching football, cursing Andre Santos (how can he swap shirts with RVP not to mention the sheer embarrassment on the field???) and reading Salman Rushdie. Somehow, I had never made it through the intricately detailed Midnight’s Children, but Fury, with all its depressing connotations, turned out to be a surprisingly good read. The only time I went out, I had to take a bus and squeezing myself in the back seat with a bunch of men was enough to make me stay put at home.

Stability, as I am figuring out, is the curse of the working class

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Little Miss Sunshine

Call me a spoilt only kid, but I have always been treated like a princess at home: not so much in materialistic terms, but definitely when it comes to affection, attention and appreciation…

Call me a lucky girl who always had her way, but I have always been pampered by my friends: not too many of them, but definitely when it comes to roommates, flat mates, batch mates and colleagues…

Call me a corporate slob cushioned by MNC policies, but I have always been offered things without even asking for them: money, respect, freedom and more recently, power…

Is that why I expect so much more from life because I am used to it?
Is that why I am easily disappointed when people let me down?
Is that why I am so unforgiving to people I care about?

Is that why my life is a complicated web of sheer happiness, longing and despair?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Second Chances

Don’t you simply loathe those people who simply can’t stay at home on a weekend and HAVE to throng all the popular places in Mumbai, irrespective of increasing auto fares, alcohol prices and obnoxious Bandra crowd? Of course you don’t, because you are one of them!

But I am one of those hypocritical people who claim that they are too cool to follow the crowd, that they love their own company and that for them, the weekend is all about cleaning/washing/doing laundry/paying bills, but secretly dress up and travel halfway across the city to try new places/things.

Like this weekend: we had this marvelous idea to go to Gateway of India, hire a yatch and sail for two hours. But it seemed the rest of Bombay had already beaten us to it, and after fighting off the crowd, we did manage to get onboard the Blue Whale and the next couple of hours were simply out of this world, literally. We managed to cruise across the sea, admiring the private yatchs of the Who is Who of Bombay, the light breeze playing havoc with my already messy curls, but the alcohol smuggled into the boat making sure that I no longer cared about it. The sunset itself was straight out of the Kerala Tourism brochures, and suddenly, I was miles away, lost in the memory of cruising through the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom. And while I was living in the pseudo dream, one of my closest friends was actually getting married in God’s Own Country: a traditional Mallu Christian wedding which I so badly wanted to attend, but thanks to circumstances, had to pull out of. We wound up the night with a beautiful view of the Queen’s Necklace from the Hanging Gardens and pigging out on Chinese food. Life was almost perfect, but not quite.

I also read Lance Armstrong’s autobiography, “It’s not about the bike”, and given the recent state of events, I was not quite sure what to make of it. Irrespective of where things stand, he would always remain a hero. You can strip him off his accolades/medals, but you can never take away his place in history.

Life does give you a second chance, but at times, you are too scared to take it or you simply make a mess of it

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Quintessential Probashi Bangali

The good thing about Durga Puja is that you get an excuse to meet your close family and friends you genuinely like. The bad thing about Durga Puja is that your OTHER family and friends (whom you DON’T like so much) get to meet you. Usually during the year, I avoid meeting this species by making excuses like distance, long hours at work, severe venereal diseases: basically anything to escape any awkward conversations on marriage, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.

But since it was Ashtomi, favourite uncle is in town and I really wanted to meet him, I had to bear with the OTHER species as well. Now on a normal occasion I would simply take an auto and travel halfway across the city to their place. But given the recent spurt in auto fares AND rampant cheating by auto drivers over and above, I have been taken for a VERY EXPENSIVE ride on several occasions. So this time, I decided to take a bus instead. The peculiar thing I notice is that while most of my friends are moving on to better lifestyles, bigger houses and swankier modes of transport, I am on a downward spiral. Anyway that’s a story for some other day.

Coming back to Ashtomi, I decked up in my best salwar suit, and then very casually walked for 20 minutes to the highway, boarded a crowded bus and reached my destination two hours later, as the bus decided to take the most traffic-laden, roundabout route. By the time I reached, I was a picture of disaster with messy hair, kajal streaking down my face and my pretty salwar suit sticking to me in the humid October evening. But the silver lining is that it cost me only about thirty bucks, and in bad times like this, I shall live with it. I managed to get through the rest of the evening, pandal hopping, posing for happy family pictures and finally squeezing ourselves in Out of the Blue, JUST before the last order. I am not quite sure what happened after that, as I busied myself with the food and alcohol, blocking out all the discussions on marriages, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.

The next day was Navami, i.e. the last day of Navratri and a Gujarati friend of mine took us to a Dandiya event. Now, as I have reiterated several times on this blog, I am no dancer, and especially when it comes to dancing with sticks, let’s just say I would do a better job with a baseball bat. But since I have never been to a Garba before, I decided to tag along anyway, taking pictures and helping myself to some Gujju ‘snakes’ in the food stalls, as the colourful crowd whirled and twirled effortlessly in synchronized circles.

Finally, yesterday being a holiday for Dushera (Bijoya Doshomi as we call it), we made the most of it, watching Chakravuh followed by a sumptuous Bengali lunch of fish fry, loochi and kosha mangsho at Oh Calcutta! after waiting for 40 minutes to get a table. By the time we finished at 4:30, we were the only people in the restaurant. We also went to the newly opened Starbucks at Fort, and I was simply blown away by the décor of the place. Now, I have had the Starbucks coffee and muffin at multiple places each time I have traveled abroad, and blame it on my middle class lack of refinement, I have never understood what the big deal was. I was happy with my filter coffee at the Madras Café at one-fifth the price. So when I read about the huge hype generated when the chain opened its first store in India last week, I dismissed it yet another instance of our wannabe mentality. But now that I have been there, I would unwillingly admit that it was a good experience, despite the complicated ordering/paying/service mechanism. I am sure it was devised by some nerdy, MBA graduate from Tamil Nadu who used all sorts of Queuing Theory algorithms to come up with it.

Then, just to keep up with tradition, we went to Tejpal Hall and Shivaji Park to watch the last minute paraphernalia, when hordes of Bengali women dress up in the traditional red and white sari and do all the sindoor jazz, just before the visarjan. There is something extremely nostalgic about Bijoya Doshomi which manages to break down even a hardened agnostic as me. As irreligious as I am, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad, a little depressed and a little homesick, with glimpses of my childhood days flashing in my mind.

So we did what any self-respecting Probashi Bangali would do on Doshomi: go to Hard Rock Café and get drunk.

And for a change, the music wasn’t loud, the silence wasn’t deafening and the calm wasn’t stormy

Monday, October 22, 2012

Durga Puja: The Bombay Way


Now that you have stumbled upon a Bengali blog, please bear with me as I go gaga over the ONLY thing that matters to us (apart from Sourav Ganguly): yes, I am talking about Durga Puja. The laidback, lazy people that we are, there is just ONE thing in the whole year that motivates us to get up, go out and do something productive, i.e. the five days of pandal hopping during this festive occasion.

There is NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING like Durga Puja: the lights, the glamour, the noise, the overall euphoria, the spirit of togetherness and of course the food. Now I never understood why so many people fast during festivals, be it Eid, Navratri or Good Friday, because, the way I see it, festivals are meant to be enjoyed, and I simply CANNOT enjoy myself without meat or alcohol. To me, Durga Puja has never been about religion or spirituality, but more about being with family/friends, dressing up, going out and eating to heart’s content.

Even though I hadn’t been to Kolkata for Durga Puja in quite a few years, my parents have always been around in Mumbai, and we would do the usual rounds of Shivaji Park and Tejpal Hall, just to get the flavour of Durga Puja. But this year, since I was all by myself, I decided to make the most of the occasion, instead of moping around and feeling nostalgic and jealously tracking FB posts of my friends enjoying themselves in Kolkata.

So, it all began on Friday, when even the Puja pandals weren’t ready, but we were, as we braved the Friday evening traffic and drove down to godforsaken Lokhandwala to catch a glimpse of the much touted Durga Puja organized by the famous singer, Abhijeet. While I found it pretty ordinary compared to the pomp and grandeur associated with even local mandaps in Kolkata, I gave it the benefit of doubt, since it was only Panchami after all. We made up for the disappointment by having an elaborate seafood dinner at Mahesh Lunch Home, as we feasted on fish and crabs washing it down with whiskey.

The next day, we did the typical Bengali pandal hopping, doing the rounds around Powai, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup and Mulund, desperately trying to recreate the childhood days when we would walk for miles, not missing out on any pandal, however small it may be. But it was JUST.NOT.THE.SAME.

Yesterday, we decided that desperate situations called for desperate measures, as I convinced a dear friend (note: no longer a long lost undergraduate acquaintance) to sneak us inside Rani Mukherjee’s puja in Juhu. This time, I decked up in a sari and completed the Bengali look with kohled eyes, big bindi and heels, trying to mingle with the well-turned out crowd. There was a two-hour performance by Hema Malini, and while I would not take anything away from her, I found the entire show to be mind-numbingly dull. It simply refused to get over, and as I longingly pondered over the tempting food stalls lined up just outside the stage, I was almost murderous with rage and hunger. Finally, when it did wind up, none of the stalls would serve my favourite fish fry/fish chop, and I had to be content with an egg roll, and if you know me, that’s nothing short of a sacrilege.

Anyway, here’s a pic of me in the sari, taken just before we left.




All said and done, here I am, sitting in office on an Ashtomi, but I still have a lot to look forward to

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Rachael Green Syndrome

You can take the girl out of SCMHRD, but you can’t take SCMHRD out of the girl. Now, I wasn’t exactly a role model student in my MBA, nor did I think it added much value to my education. Besides, I almost looked down on HR as a specialization, because let’s face it, no employee in any company across the world has good things to say about their HR department. And after all, HR is like, you know, so GURLY!

So, so, so I opted for finance/economics instead, even though I hated it. But unfortunately changing my aptitude is tougher than changing my specialization. Hence I continue to exhibit traits normally associated with HR personnel, and lately I have been doing a lot projects related to Diversity, Talent Management and Communication, none of which are remotely related to my original mandate. Apart from that, there is recruitment and I have been completely enamoured by the whole interviewing/evaluating process.

But now comes the tough part: decision making! Now, I am the sort of person you would describe as a ‘push over’ or as I would like to call it, ‘flexible and understanding’. I am not comfortable with taking charge, I am not comfortable with making decisions and I am definitely not comfortable with power. Even in simple day-to-day situations like going out with my friends or group projects or eating in a restaurant, I usually go along with whatever others decide. I am happy with someone else taking charge, I am happy when others decide where to go and I am happy when my friends order on my behalf, while I just sit there looking pretty, smiling and worrying about my weight, because I am too shy to say that I would rather have the plain parantha than the butter naan, because, you know, I don’t want to add to the confusion.

The only occasion when I am headstrong is when it comes to any sort of authority: my parents have never forced me to do anything, and that has made me uncomfortable with blind compliance, be it with professors, seniors or bosses. But with peers, I am the most malleable person ever!

Which is why, I simply hate making decisions, especially decisions which would impact multiple people and now that I am being forced to do so at work, it makes me extremely conscious: on one hand, I am flattered that people would put so much trust in my judgment so early in my career, but on the other, I am worried about making the wrong choices, being biased or simply messing it up.

Sigh… If only I gave it so much thought before making choices in my own life, things would be much simpler!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Small Wonder

So it’s been almost a week since I have become, you know, smart. But me with a smartphone is still as awkward as Rohit Sharma with a cricket bat, Manmohan Singh with a microphone or Arjun Rampal with a script: I have no idea what to do with it.

Until, until Friday!

Now that I am all ‘socially active’ and ‘cool’ (thanks to this 'awesome' app called What’s App which now dictates my social life), I decided to meet up with some long lost college friend (who would ping me once in a blue moon in the invisible mode and ask probing questions, much to my annoyance), but since we were close once upon a time, we thought we should catch up in, hold your breath, godforsaken Bandra!

So, in the usual course of events, I would get into an auto and argue with the autowala because he would take me through some long winding road, but not being able to do anything about it. But now, with the mind-numbingly simple Google maps, I could just navigate my way to Elbo Room MYSELF!

In the usual course of events, I would listen to my ipod with feeble headphones, the sound of which would get drowned by the din of traffic. But now, the music was simply overpowering.

In the usual course of events, I would be typing furiously, sending drunk text messages to all the people I hate. But now I could be cool and just SWIPE on Whats App, even though I don’t really have anything to say.

I also got together with a bunch of ex colleagues from Company D, and for the better part of three hours, all we did was bitch about what was the first job for most of us. It is so much fun to run down the place with which you share a love-hate relationship, where you have so many memories and which marked the beginning of this long journey to hell.

In the process, I also ran into an old undergraduate acquaintance from Xaviers, who is now working with a major telecom company (and therefore has free passes to all important events sponsored by the company). We were never exactly friends, given the age-old Xaviers-Sophias rivalry, but since now we are both grown up and I want to attend Rani Mukherjee’s Durga Puja next weekend, I was my friendliest best (which, if you know me, takes a lot of effort). The world is indeed small.

And in the middle of a busy weekend, I also managed to get started on my first William Dalrymple saga: The White Mughals. It’s a little confusing to follow the trail of history and research, but so far I am holding on to it.

And yes, I am figuring out my way through this maze of technology, even though my life continues to be as simple or as complicated as before

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Prodigal Daughter

So friends, fellow countrymen, NRIs and Sonia Gandhi: yesterday I did something earth shattering, something which will ensure that my life is never the same again, something which will change the basic framework of my communication.

Yes, I finally gave in to peer pressure and bought myself a smartphone! After two months of research, discussions with cretin colleagues, inputs by tech-savvy friends and bullying by a geeky brother and fund raising from family, I am now a proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Duos. I am yet to figure out what’s so great about it, I am still struggling with basic functionalities like receiving calls/texting/setting an alarm and I am too scared/nervous to explore too much lest I drop it/spoil it. But I am sure in the next few days I shall realize that it is god’s gift to mankind, that the whole world is, in fact, not as stupid as America and it is indeed a device which would solve all the problems in my life and make my existence a little more meaningful. After all, the power of WhatsApp is so overwhelming that it has the potential to alter my general aversion to social networking or indeed, any kind of networking.

I also bought a new watch from Citizen (simple yet classy) but I still miss the Titan Raga one which I lost in freaking Malaysia. Finally, I bought myself a very pretty churidar suit and matching accessories. So yes, I have been on a shopping spree. May be it’s the impending Durga Puja when all Bongs tend to go crazy and loosen their purse strings for a change.

Now that my credit card bill has shot through the roof, I have been having recurring nightmares of my dad chasing me with one of his dynamic excel sheets. Now you have three main regulators in India: RBI, SEBI and my dad. Not only does he manage all my investments, tax filings and demat accounts, but he also insists that I file quarterly expense reports in a complicated format where I can’t fudge information. So yes, I am dreading to send him my next one.

It’s amazing how much baggage a simple phone can carry, it’s amazing how much of your life is reflected even in a non-smart phone, it’s amazing how difficult it is to let go of a stupid ugly handset.

But now that I have a new phone and I am making a fresh start, I think I am going to be ok...

Monday, October 8, 2012

A little bit of Bombay

As the regular readers of this blog (all five and a half of you) already know, I love food. I love food so much that I don’t really care what I am eating. And of all my meals, breakfast is my favourite, by a long way. Being a morning person, I usually wake up with an enormous hunger pang, which, if not satiated, can lead to serious consequences. Even in campus, there were multiple occasions when I would bang at the mess door sharp at 7:15 am, demanding that they feed me.

So, this Saturday, I finally did what I should have done a long time back. I got up at a godforsaken hour, traveled all the way to Colaba (by auto/train/cab) to savour the much-touted breakfast at Theobroma. I had been there a few times and I could swear by its pastries and cupcakes, but breakfast, ladies and gentlemen, was a different ballgame altogether. I ate till I was full up to the neck, then I stopped, and then ate some more. Of course, the slow service helped in regaining my appetite. Given the generous sprinkling of foreign tourists and rich South Mumbai crowd, the mere mortals from the suburbs are treated as second class citizens, but for a change, I hardly noticed it.

If that wasn’t enough food, I also watched English Vinglish, which is basically a story of a middle-aged woman who makes awesome laddoos and rants about her life. Sridevi, in her comeback movie, was a natural, but the melodramatic musings made it a typical Bollywood affair. For instance, if your kids are so mean to you, you probably deserve it for bringing them up as spoilt brats. May be I don’t identify with the context, may be I am too insensitive to appreciate the insecurities of a woman with limited exposure or may be I am just too judgmental, but at the end of the day, the movie failed to move me.

And then there were the old memories rushing back as I walked through Nariman Point, stopped for cold coffee at Geoffrey’s and shopped at Crawford Market.

South Bombay continues to have a charm of its own, long after the whole of Bombay stopped making sense

Friday, October 5, 2012

When I Became a Stalker

So once upon a time, I was this ordinary citizen with an unpopular blog and he was this famous engineer-turned-MBA-turned-consultant-turned-journalist-turned writer. And of course, by a sheer stroke of luck, he got a book deal with one of the most respected publishers in India, and then became the writer of a best-selling novel. Which, in the Indian context, isn't really a great achievement, but you have got to give it to the guy, simply because he was rib-ticklingly funny. So despite being a strictly average writer, he could keep the reader hooked. And was I hooked!

That was last year. I bought his first book, found it hilarious, recommended it to everybody I knew and put a word about it on my blog in this post. Little did I know that this writer snooped around the blogosphere reading inconspicuous posts by random bloggers who were secretly jealous of him.

So obviously when he LEFT A COMMENT, I was completely floored and started acting like a besotted teenager. I stalked him for the next one week, reading the Wikipedia page on him, his articles on Rediff and Mint and of course, the archived posts of his blog. And then I did what any self-respecting modern young woman of the 21st century would do: I added him on Facebook AND Linkedin and started following him on Twitter. I even emailed him a few times regarding some personal career-oriented confusion and he actually responded! I was like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, with better hair.

In a span of a month, I was ready to write a thesis on him and like any diligent stalker, I assumed that I have found my friend, philosopher and guide in a totally random stranger. Ahh, the innocence of youth. On his part, like any self-respecting celebrity, he ignored my FB and Linkedin invitations.

Now the wrath of a wronged woman can be a dangerous thing, and I was determined to ignore him as a writer AND bring down the sales of his second book singlehandedly. So when the second of the three-part series was launched, I was strong enough to resist the temptation to pre-order it. Not only that, I started reading books written by his competitors even if they were really bad, just to get back at him.

But it seems I may have over-estimated my influence over the nation’s young readers a tad too much. Despite my master plan of not buying his second book or not promoting him on my blog, his second book ALSO became a widespread success. And finally, this weekend, I read it, BORROWED FROM A FRIEND WITHOUT BUYING IT.

As much as I hate to admit it, I really liked it and as much as I hate to admit it, I really think he is talented.

As much as I hate to admit it, I really like Sidin Vadukut...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being free

So we have three national holidays in a year: Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Now people demonstrate their patriotism in different ways: maintaining a ban on alcohol, listening to patriotic music and watching movies which unite all parts of India: like Border, Bombay and Andaz Apna Apna. For me though, it works a little differently. I spend ALL my national holidays in Bangalore, Koramangla to be specific, with anon and the guys from college.

There I was again, on an extended weekend: three of the hottest women in K/M (anon, DB and me), four of the sweetest guys on the verge of life-changing events (getting married/having kids/moving to new jobs) and Neil, the ultimate wannabe who tries to fit in but cannot, doing all the things that has made us happy over the years.

So, we lounged around the house, eating homemade paranthas and rajma chawal made by anon and DB, watching India Pakistan and playing above-mentioned patriotic music in the background, binging on cheap alcohol while we gossiped till late at night.

We discussed Indian history the way it would make our historians turn in their grave as we watched Jodha Akbar.

We went to Jimmi’s, being the only ones there on a Saturday afternoon, as we drank at a godforsaken hour and then to Egg Factory for the biggest Sunday brunch of my life.

We sat on the terrace, smoking and discussing ‘deep, philosophical aspects of life’ till we got bored of our own voices.

We saw Vir Das perform live as we doubled up in laughter, holding our stomach till we felt we would explode.

We went to the Hard Rock Café and drank till we puked, hoping the loud music would drown the deafening silence.

Then there were the non-human elements like Dhaula, the dog and Kasturi, the GPS voice, both of which formed an important element to the weekend.

And then I came back, feeling empty, not wanting to leave, not wanting to let go and hoping for the never-ending freedom that no national holiday can offer

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Karma Chameleon

I remember two years back, when I was desperately looking for a change from company D after barely a year, I would be taking interviews with random companies for random profiles. Somehow, nothing was working out and I ended up being interviewed about 25 times by different people for roles as diverse as private equity, consulting, journalism, credit research or even news reader before I finally joined my current company. At that time, I had wondered what the hell was wrong with me, but now I am reaping the benefits of being grilled by so many employers, because, wait for it, NOW I AM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE, and the repository of questions is proving to be invaluable!

So yes, while work has been hectic, now I have the mandate to hire new people for my team, and it’s quite a thrill to sift through multiple CVs, shortlist candidates and then speak to them. I get to ask all the questions to which even I don’t have the answers to: random case studies like “how many burgers does McDonalds sell in a day” or moral dilemmas like “what would you do in so and so situation?”, fully aware that even I would be confused in similar circumstances. But it’s so much fun to see people take me seriously for a change or be nervous as I try to put them at ease (generously use their first name) and generally be the corporate b*tch I have always aspired to be, with very little success.

The best thing about my job is it’s not my dream career, so I can afford to be detached about it, while giving it my best.

I think passion is over-rated, especially if your rent depends on it

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Complete Man

So now that I am all grown up, independent and mature (cough cough), I don’t go to my folks with every teeny tiny problem, which is why I did not tell them about being sick in the first place. But, but, but, my dad has this very strong antenna when it comes to me. Somehow he figured out that I wasn’t keeping well/feeling well, and decided to come to Mumbai for the weekend on the pretext of some work. But I like to believe it was because he knew there was something wrong with me, and the spoilt only kid that I am, I could do with some pampering.

Now, for someone as workaholic as my dad, it’s a wonder that he has managed to be such a caring husband/father. I have always seen him give everything to his work, start from scratch and make it big on his own terms and I am very proud of him for that. But what amazes me even more is the way he has managed his relationships with friends/colleagues/ex-colleagues/family, the way he has managed his personal interests (whole lot of them) and most of all, the way he has made time for me over the years. He wasn’t one of those overbearing parents who would sit at home and make me study for ages or get hyper during exams and see me off right till the exam hall or call me multiple times if I was away on trips with friends. Right from childhood, he trusted me to do the right thing (eventually), take responsibility and not let him down. And he made sure that he never let ME down. So whenever I needed him and told him so, he was there. And whenever I needed him, but never said so, he was STILL there.

Like this weekend. Not only was he around to cheer me up, we did all the father-daughter stuff that made us happy over the years: took a long walk by the sea-face, ate till we felt like throwing up, fought over the remote and then peacefully settled down to curse Manchester United as they got lucky against Liverpool and then quickly moved to India vs England. More importantly, he contributed generously to the Nefertiti smartphone relief fund (AND got my usually stingy mom and grandmom to contribute to it as well), so now I am all set to go up the phone ladder, if such a ladder exists. But of course the usual arguments continued, as he rebuked me over my ‘frivolous’ expenses, took away ALL my money and put it in some god-awful fund after discussing MY finances with an equally brain-dead colleague of mine and then asked me why on earth I didn’t have a boyfriend!

Because, my dear dad, you set a very high benchmark when it comes to the complete man

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Annie Hall

Being a corporate slave with no life, I am not ashamed to admit that I pay hard cash to laugh. Yes, it’s been scientifically proven that laughing is good for health, that laughing increases your well-being and that laughing makes you a better person. Altogether, laughing.is.a.medical.necessity and companies should reimburse us for any expenses incurred at The Comedy Store.

Lately I have been having my daily dose of laughter for free by just switching on a news channel. Mamata Banerjee’s antics (and speeches) can easily put a stand-up comedian to shame. But since yesterday was a holiday and Anuvab Pal was performing, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend my evening listening to a fat, short, bald and badly-dressed Bong guy (that pretty much describes most Bong guys I know) make fun of himself, our community and the sprinkling of Bengali audience present at the show.

But 'The Nation Wants to Know' turned out to be a let down: while he was a natural on stage, the script left much to be desired despite a good start. Yes, the obvious jibes at our political leaders (without Ms. Banerjee, half of country’s comedians will be out of work) were funny; yes, the Arnab Goswami impressions were begging to be made fun of and yes, the stereotyping of Bengali men (lazy/cowardly/bordering on gaydom) were easily identifiable. However, at the end of the day, we came out feeling a little disappointed: the humour was loud, the humour was crass, the humour was forced, more like what I would see in a Rohit Shetty movie.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like the touch of subtlety as opposed to on-your-face jokes, I still like wit over gags, I still like quiet sarcasm over vulgar puns and I still like the straight-faced one-liner which leaves the audience wondering whether to laugh or not.

I still like the old world charm of Mark Twain, Groucho Marx and Woody Allen. I still like Annie Hall

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kramer vs. Kramer

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, with me working on weekends also. Add to that the rains, the gym and the general messed up way of things. So on Friday night I watched Barfi and then promptly fell sick, bed-ridden for the entire weekend, having recurrent nightmares about the deliverable on Monday. If you thought being alone in Mumbai sucks, try being alone and sick in Mumbai. It’s more depressing than watching Rohit Sharma bat, but it lasts longer.

I did try to cheer myself up by reading The Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif, a satirical take on Pakistan’s political situation at the backdrop of General Zia’s mysterious death. But even that didn’t work as I kept tossing and turning, red-nosed, eyes permanently swollen, unable to fall asleep. Now I pride myself on being a very strong GIRL, who exhibits none of the GURLY characteristics (i.e. annoying girly behaviour), but in sickness and in poverty (yes, since my dad takes away more than half my salary to invest in all sorts of complicated structured products), I become one of those irritating species. So I did the things which make me feel better: random mean texting, planning my Manila trip early next year with anon and SH, planning our family trip to Pataya with my kid brother and convincing my dad to allow me to buy a smartphone since he maintains a strict control over my finances, which would otherwise disappear in more of clothes, shoes and trips.

Anyway, coming back to Barfi, I consider a movie to be good if it manages to make me laugh/cry. This one made me do both, at times together. While I found the love story between Shruti and Barfi a little unconvincing, the back-and-forth narrative a bit unnecessary and the length a tad too long, overall it was a refreshingly different movie with strong performances, which, as a certain critic put it, “despite being a love triangle, focused more on the love and less on the triangle.”

The usual sensible GIRL in me refuses to think and the emotional, vulnerable GURL in me is incapable of it

Friday, September 14, 2012

Phone(y)

So the brand new iPhone 5 has been launched and apparently it’s slimmer, sleeker and has more attractive features.

To me, it sounds more like an ad for weight loss pills than a phone, which reminds me,

I REALLY NEED TO GET MYSELF A SMARTPHONE, or the world (meaning my shallow ‘friends’) will soon disown me…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It’s like a haze, a continuous blur, a never-ending miasma of smoke…

It’s like the clouds hanging over the city in the Mumbai monsoons…

It’s like the murky shadow lurking in the corner…

It’s like the disquieted air taking over me…

It’s like a nightmare which suddenly jolts me

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Runaway Bride

So it’s an open secret that I have a lifelong membership to ALL the matrimonial sites in India, and I strategically renew it every year during the ‘sale’ season. Yes, would you believe it, even matrimonial sites have a ‘limited period offer’, and the cheap Bengali that I am, I simply can’t resist taking advantage of this ‘discounted’ opportunity to meet and marry a fellow cheap Bengali!

Earlier I would get resentful and create a fuss every time my mom would ask me to go through xyz profile or meet abc guy. But over the years, I have got used to it and now it almost has an entertainment value to it (yes, my life is THAT empty!)

So, I have this really elaborate profile haunting the matrimonial space with me in a black saree, hair in place and a perfect smile (not too wide) with completely irrelevant details like my birth date/time, caste/sub-caste, rashi/gotra etc. etc. most of which I don’t even understand. Also, my personality is described as ‘modern yet traditional with very strong values’ and apparently I am a teetotaler/occasional drinker. Obviously, my parents know none of this is true, since we have all got high together at multiple times, but my mom was strictly instructed by the ‘consultant’ (yes, matrimonial sites also have consultants) to tailor my profile in a way so that it receives the maximum number of hits, which explains the abundance of certain keywords to ensure high visibility in search results.

A typical ‘alliance’ would start with my mom calling me hesitantly and asking me ‘to check my mail’, an euphemism for ‘there is a guy waiting for you in black and white’. Excited I would immediately do so, only to be disappointed that there IS no new mail. I would call her back and crib, ‘but you promised!’ Puzzled, she would rack her brains and say, ‘check your spam’ and I would wail, ‘see, it’s a case of natural selection. Nature is against me marrying this guy.’

A few days/months later (depending upon my mom’s hectic schedule/availability of ‘eligible’ Bong bachelors on matrimonial sites), she would again call me. This time, there would indeed be a profile sitting pretty in my inbox, mostly as a PDF ATTACHMENT! Yes, it did take me some time to recover from the shock, but now I have learnt to take it in my stride. For the next half an hour I would put all important things on hold and minutely scrutinize my potential husband’s resume, watching out for phrases like ‘engineer’, ‘investment banker’, ‘social drinker’, ‘settled abroad’ all of which scream out, ‘I am adequately qualified to bore you to death’.

Once in a blue moon, I would fail to find any glitch in the profile and agree to share my phone number with a stranger, who would appropriately call me after a gap of 2-3 days and we would politely discuss the weather, our individual job descriptions and career aspirations, moving on to other neutral topics like hobbies, movies (I would NEVER admit that I have watched American Pie a million times and stick to Schindler’s List as my all-time favourite movie) and cricket. After a few calls/chats, we would figure out we are ‘not compatible’, i.e. too ugly/too boring or even worse, decide to meet.

Now this boy-meeting phase is a bit disappointing since I am not at home, which evidently means that I miss out on the filmy bit: i.e. the decking up in a saree, making chai and carrying it till the living room in towering heels, eyes fixated on the floor. Unfortunately even my parents are not so paranoid to insist on flying down every time I am supposed to meet someone and ensure that their only daughter is ‘protected’. So they happily put the ball in my court and ask me to go ahead and meet up casually ON MY OWN. With so much responsibility to live up to the claims in my illustrious profile (i.e. modern yet traditional/pleasant/pretty), I have to be extremely careful to hide MY REAL SELF.

And there it is: the life of the eternal Runaway Bride

Monday, September 3, 2012

Addicted

As a kid, I never liked playing with dolls. In fact one of my darkest secrets is that I am abnormally attached to this ONE doll (I still have it in my home in Kolkata) and despite my mom’s subtle suggestions that I am too old to hold on to it, I have steadfastly refused to give it up. But no, I am definitely not proud of it, because the rest of me is testosterone charged: I love no-nonsense, objective conversations and I love sports (and no, golf is not a sport).

In fact I love sports so much that I can lounge around the house for two days tuned to different sports channels without getting up, other than to go to the gym. Yes, I have joined a gym, and since I am paying through my nose, I ensure that I put in my one hour EVERY DAY, even if my body refuses to co-operate.

But coming to my weekend, I had the MOST awesome time, as I remained glued to the TV in my old college T shirt, munching on Kurkure: while the India-New Zealand Test match served up a mouth-watering contest, it was followed by the Premier League in the evening and the U.S. Open at night. What more can you ask for? I mean, really!

Take yesterday for instance: my day began with Virat Kohli getting his 2nd Test century. Then following a brief entertainment by Dhoni and Ashwin, New Zealand dismissed India managing to get a narrow lead in the first innings. But India hit back with Ashwin taking yet another 5-wicket haul, and today India will be chasing a challenging total in the 4th innings, while I shall get no work done!

After the cricket match, I had a narrow window, during which I hurriedly finished my cardio, had a bath and again settled in front of the TV, this time to watch Arsenal vs Liverpool, followed by Manchester United vs Southampton. I rooted for the underdogs as Southampton almost drove home with a fairy tale victory over the favourites, but for the last minute heroics of Van Persie.

As soon as the match got over, I switched over to the live action of US Open. Some of the old favourites like Kim Clijsters, Lleyton Hewitt or even Venus Williams are crashing out in the early stages which only reminds me that I am also getting older.

Have I become an addict? Or was I always an addict kept under control by reality?

May be it’s time for me to retire as well, and go back to the doll I love so much

Friday, August 31, 2012

Boys Don't Cry

I am someone who simply loves stereotypes: I love it when people assume that I love fish and sweets because I am from Kolkata, I love it when people assume that I am in HR because I am a girl from SCMHRD with decent soft skills, colourful clothes and a shiny handbag and I love it when people assume that I am dumb because I am a girl from Kolkata who studied in SCMHRD and works in HR. Ok, the last point was a cheap shot at anon, who no longer reads my blog.

But coming back to the point, stereotypes simply enthrall me and breaking them, even more so. So my favourite stereotypes are:

Regional stereotypes: I am not fond of Sardar jokes, but I strongly believe that you do carry the traits of the place you come from, no matter how cosmopolitan you become with time. So yes, I AM the quintessential cheap Bengali and I have no qualms about it. Similarly, I DO associate my Mallu friends with alcohol and Mutton Biryani; Tam friends with a strong left brain and Punjabi friends with a big heart and bigger bangles.

Bollywood stereotypes: While I am an ardent fan of offbeat arty movies, I still believe that some things in Bollywood NEVER go out of style. For instance, the heroine in a white wet sari or the item number from nowhere or the eternal love triangle where the boring, traditional bharatiya naari ALWAYS gets the guy are classics in their own way.

Corporate stereotypes: Being a minority in many ways in my three years of corporate life and someone who doesn’t tow the conventional line for ‘being successful’, I have been a victim more often than not, but at the same time I have quietly observed the familiar patterns across firms. Interestingly, “successful” people exhibit uncannily similar traits no matter which company they are in. So yes, bring on the jargon, the three-piece suit and the meeting-friendly souls, and you have managed to keep me amused through the length of the meeting.

Socialization stereotypes: Being the Paris Hilton of the technological world, I am unfashionably outdated when it comes to social networking. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying my space on Facebook as I happily browse through wedding/honeymoon albums, long status updates and minute details of the “awesome fun” my “friends” are having, so much so that they HAVE to share it IMMEDIATELY.

Relationship stereotypes: Being brought up in a gender neutral environment, I have never given much importance to social protocols. So yes, I do not subscribe to the established notions that women should never make the first move or that men are commitment phobics. But having said that, years of experience/observations/agony aunt columns later, I am tempted to believe that may be there is SOME truth in those archaic views. In some cases, old fashioned ideas never go out of style.

There is a reason why stereotypes become stereotypes

Monday, August 27, 2012

Banana Skins

I have always been clumsy: ask my friends, and they would gleefully tell you how often I have slipped or fallen or made a fool of myself.

But the funny thing is I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I like slipping and getting up and starting from scratch…
I like losing it completely and rolling downhill and then trudging up all over again…
I like being bruised and hurt and then healing slowly…

I like banana skins: they make the journey more eventful, more exciting and more memorable

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Girl

Last week was sort of a blur: even though I travel quite often, this was my first trip abroad with friends (if you leave out my Singapore stint just after graduating when I piled on at a friend’s place), which meant that this was quite special in its own way.

Of course it wasn’t anything like my usual vacations with parents when we would pick a place with a lot of history, read up as much as we can, plan even the minutest detail in advance and most importantly, I can leave all the important stuff (handling currency, making decisions or managing the travel documents) to my folks and focus on the REAL stuff like dressing up, getting the pulse of the place or making random conversation with the local people.

But Malaysia was different: it wasn’t one of my usual vacation spots, it wasn’t my usual way of exploring a new country and it wasn’t my comfort zone. We tried to pack in as much activity as we could in five days, jumping from one place to another, not quite savouring the flavour of the place. We were the typical Indian tourists with a typical Indian itinerary: three days in KL, and one each in Penang and Langkawi. Given our shoestring budget, we were constantly held back, wondering if we could afford that extra bottle of water or that extra five bucks of cab fare. Since it was the Eid holidays (Hari Raya festival) there, the usual buzz in the city was missing, with a lot of places (including the Petronas Towers) being shut. Still we didn’t give up, getting by with a couple of hours of sleep, trying to soak in every bit of our five days there. Apart from a few isolated incidents like missing out on the Petronas, me throwing up after the cable car ride in Langkawi or not having enough money to shop, it remained a memorable trip where we lost our inhibitions, learnt to take responsibility and made the most of each moment. I was a touch annoying, suffering from OCD, as I almost turned into Monica Geller, “Guys we should start having fun sharp at 7:30 p.m., so go get ready”, but my friends were sweet enough to put up with all my idiosyncrasies.

My top picks:
1.I am not too fussy about food but even I would have to admit that the dinner at Bali Hai in Penang was simply out of this world.
2.While I never pray, the view and the serenity of the Kek Lok Si temple in Penang was something spiritual which was above the narrow limitations of religion.
3.The last minute mad rush at 7 a.m. to catch the bus to Penang was quite enthralling, as I missed my dad’s meticulous planning: something I have always teased him about.
4.The long walk through Bukit Bintang with a map as we tried to explore the city of KL in the rains.
5.Last, but not the least, the final night, when we got completely hammered and danced like crazy at the Rum Jungle: something I would NEVER do when I am sober/in Mumbai.

All said and done, I may not understand why Langkawi is such a popular honeymoon destination, I may not have explored the country the way I would have liked to and I may not have had enough time/money to enjoy everything the country had to offer, but all of it pales in the context of the people I went with, the wholehearted fun I had and the new sense of freedom it gave me.

Say hello to the girl who got a bit of her life back in a new country with new people and new experiences

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lifelyk

So I have been in Bangalore for a couple of days now. Obviously anon has been her usual mean self, ignoring me, not listening to me while I rant away to glory and in general making me feel completely unwelcome. Not that it matters, because I am pretty sure I am going to turn up uninvited again in a few months. The guys seem more matured and grown up though, a far cry from the randomness in college. However, they still have the knack to discuss completely unrelated stuff at the same breath and operate under the illusion that they are making sense.

But my kid brother is the one to really watch out for! You know you are in a techie den when the number of laptops/phones is greater than the number of people in the house, when they crack lame IT jokes and burst into laughter while I maintain a straight face and when they proudly show off the 'strong' email they wrote to their boss which makes no sense to normal people. So yes, I have been playing the big sister, making coffee and breakfast for four unruly guys already sick of the corporate life after ONE year, taking them out for movies/lunch/shopping/ice-cream while they grumble about their 'hardships'. They are also working on their online start-up venture, lifelyk which promises to be big; so I am trying to be sweet even though they are really getting on my nerves as I post this.

But I leave for a random trip to Malaysia in a few hours, so nothing else matters...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Now that I live in Mumbai, have enough friends and a decent job, I can eat out as often as I want to. So dressing up, going to a restaurant and indulging myself has lost its charm.

But as a kid, things were different. Eating out was not so common and more importantly, we could barely afford it. So, going out for a fancy dinner was a rare luxury that I looked forward to. And my favourite was Chinese food; so once in a blue moon, when my dad would spring a surprise on us and ask mom not to cook for the night, I would be in seventh heaven, spending the rest of the day picking out my favourite pink outfit, getting it ironed and washing my hair, all in preparation for the BIG DINNER at Barb-e-Que.

While my folks usually chose the main course, I would be allowed to decide on the soup, and I would staunchly refuse to try anything new, insisting on the ‘safe’ sweet corn chicken soup (two into three). For a seven-year-old, it was THE MOST important decision, since I didn’t want to experiment too much, order unfamiliar stuff and then not like it, because like they say, life doesn’t give you a second chance: if you screw up the soup you have to wait for an indefinite period before you can have it again, because, unlike now, there would be no second helpings, no pouring out what we didn’t like and ordering something else.

So those fifteen minutes between placing the order and having it served at your table were the most exhilarating moments of my life: the slight pang of hunger and the anticipation along with a bit of anxiety. Once the waiter had placed the bowl in front of me, I could barely wait for him to finish his niceties, so that I could fast forward to the soup. But then, I would remind myself to slow down, to savour the taste, to soak it in, to let it linger, because I didn’t know when the next outing would be. So instead of jumping straight to it, I would gently unfold the napkin and place it on my lap, I would add the pepper, the salt and the sauces, I would smell it and then finally, take a sip: a TINY ONE. The next fifteen minutes would be out of this world, as I would forget everything, as I would stop fretting over the math homework or the dance exam the next day, and focus on my soup, trying to make it seem larger than it was, trying to relish the taste as much as I could and trying to make it last as long as it was possible.

But then it would be over, just like that, the waiter would clear the plate and I would feel a little empty inside despite the fact that I was full up to my neck. I would leave, feeling a bit sad, wondering when the next time would come.

And I would wait, getting caught up in my usual herculean struggles with math and dance and et al, but with a lingering hope that soon my dad would ask my mom to not cook at home.

Two decades later, I am still waiting, but may be not for the soup anymore

Friday, August 10, 2012

Breakaway

Once upon a time, there was a damsel in distress with a dark past. Around the same time, there was a man, worldly wise, upright and bald. They were different like Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani; they belonged to different worlds like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma; they had different aspirations like Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi… you get the drift.

But then something happened; both of them faced roadblocks in their respective crusades around the same time. While the damsel’s noble actions of providing instant gratification to millions of lonely, frustrated and unhappy men around the world were dampened by bolder, younger fresh faces, the honest, determined and simple man’s efforts to make the nation free of corruption were gradually fading into the background as his shrewd, ambitious and manipulative team members squabbled amongst themselves.

So they both decided to make sweeping changes to their lives. They both sought refuge in the ultimate paradise which doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t care about your past, doesn’t set any pre-defined entry barriers (education, qualification, experience)…

The damsel made her B-grade Bollywood debut…
The old man announced his plans of entering politics…

And there you have it, the main cast for India’s next big reality show: Sunny Leone and Anna Hazare

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Secret Garden

The verdant lush green carpet of grass stretches in front of me…

The serene calm silence of the early morning air calls out to me…

The chirping of the birds reminds me of the dulcet tune from a faraway sleepy village…

The withering flowers hold my gaze for a moment as I pass them by…

The light breeze sways the leaves while I stop to catch my breath…

The palm trees tower over me assuring me that I am safe, protected…

The light drizzle makes me spread my arms wide open as I soak in the rain…

“You've gone a million miles
How far'd you get
To that place where you can't remember
And you can't forget”

It is the Secret Garden where I hide…

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Accused

I have never been a feminist; in fact quite the opposite. And I am always judgmental about women who are playing the victim or acting like damsels in distress, screaming out to the knight in the shining armour to save them.

Given my liberal upbringing and the complete freedom that a city like Mumbai offers, I have never felt insecure about being a single woman in a big city. I have been fortunate enough to have supportive friends, understanding parents and an independent lifestyle to live my life the way I want to. The only exception has been traveling alone, but that’s more of a mental block rather than anything else.

Unlike the women in other Indian cities, I have not felt claustrophobic, I have never needed a male escort to guide me home after dark and I don’t have to live under constant fear of harassment or molestation. I can breathe easy in a local train even at 11:30 p.m. or walk home alone at night, without being paranoid that some psycho is stalking me. So in my perfect world, cases of women being violated in a public transport or in broad daylight or in a police station are newspaper articles, which shock me, but fades into the background once Virat Kohli scores yet another century.

Until I read this article. While I had read about these isolated incidents before, there is something monstrously graphic about the way it’s written. Moreover, when these different events in different cities are put together, it makes you shudder: Do we really live in a civilized society? Are these people actually around us in the guise of family, friends, neighbours, teachers, acquaintances or even friendly strangers across the road? How can they stoop to such levels when they have mothers/sisters/wives at their own homes?

Today we celebrate Rakhsa Bandhan across the country. But before you tie that rakhi, take a moment and ask yourself, “Who is the person who really requires to be protected here?”

India has been labelled as the worst place for a woman of all the G20 nations, even worse than Saudi Arabia. The reason is not far away, may be even as close as the next door…

Monday, July 30, 2012

V for Veronica

Despite having my share of male friends, there are some things about guys which doesn’t fail to surprise me… still!
For instance, the fascination with cars or expensive phones or stock markets or even the choice of movies. Now, I sit with half a dozen juvenile men at work, who exhibit some/all of these cretin characteristics, but the magnanimous, open-minded, tolerant person that I am, I usually overlook these foibles in my fellow human beings, and continue being friends with most of them.

So, I don’t mind when they discuss the volatility in the Sensex, as if their lives depended on it…

I don’t mind when they interrupt me with inane questions, especially when I am trying to focus (on timeless classics like Beedi, Pardesi and my favourite, Maa da Ladla)…

I also don’t mind when they compare the features on their ipads/android phones/blackberries when all I have is my stupid Nokia handset which doesn’t do anything…

Most of all, I ignore the lamest jokes, even though I am the victimized more often than not… Example: Nefertiti is so down-to-earth. Haha… I get it, I am short. Move on!

So they are also hardcore Batman fans. They have seen The Dark Knight umpteen number of times, and set their wallpapers with posters of The Dark Knight Rises, three months before the movie released. They have even formed their very own Batman star cast, and bestowed on me the responsibility of being the Catwoman, and then quickly changed it to Kittenwoman.

Now, call it a sacrilege, but I am no Batman (or for that matter, any man) enthusiast, I don’t care if Batman begins or Batman ends or Batman lives forever and I definitely did not track the release date of the movie, ready to pounce upon the first available tickets. But when I made this confession to my aforementioned cretin colleagues, they graciously offered me THE ROPE! Hence, I decided to watch the movie and figure out what the big deal was (yet another example of my open-minded tolerant personality). For three hours, I sat there, clutching my hair, my head hurting, as I saw Batman demonstrating all kinds of stunts in an excruciatingly long and painful movie. At one point, out of sheer desperation, I considered sneaking out of the theatre to watch Ice Age 4, being screened at the next theatre. The only saving grace were the female characters; both Catwoman and Miranda Tate had the layered personalities which could keep the audience hooked till the end.

But personally, I would rather be the one-dimensional person, who likes wearing pink, listens to crass item songs and only appreciates shallow movies.

I have done the dark brooding act; now it’s time for the Veronica in me…