Thursday, November 29, 2012


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?