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Socialization stereotypes: Being the Paris Hilton of the technological world, I am unfashionably outdated when it comes to social networking.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


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


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…