Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Country Roads Take Me Home

If I look back at 2013, despite all the personal and professional milestones, the one thing that stands out would definitely be the amount of traveling I have done this year. Eight new countries, fifteen new cities, close to a month of traveling across Europe and Asia in different modes of transport, with different kinds of people, under different circumstances and extreme weather conditions: it has indeed been a year which opened my eyes to the wider world out there. From the human atrocities in the Killing Fields and Auschwitz, the architectural wonders of Angkor Wat, the old world charm of Prague, the artistic appeal of Vienna, the historical allure of Berlin to the natural intimidation of the snow-clad Matterhorn peak in Zermatt, I have been to some of the remote corners of the world which didn’t even exist in my narrow world defined by the borders of Hirandandani.

Appropriately, a year which began with an impromptu trip to Ajanta Ellora, ended with another quick getaway to Himachal Pradesh over Christmas. For someone who is extremely accident prone, I have been blessed with friends and family members who simply love to get behind the wheels, put on some good music and drive for miles, while all I have to do is peacefully sit and criticize.

The moment I reached Delhi on Christmas Day, my kid brother (no longer a kid) took charge of the proceedings, as the two of us, along with a couple of friends, hit the road, and for the umpteenth time, I realized that it doesn’t really take much to be happy: good company, good music, good alcohol and good humour will do the job more often than not! The six-hour journey to the sleepy town of Kasauli was a breeze as we swept through three states, stopping by the occasional roadside dhaba for chai, parathas and lassi. My last roadtrip was almost two years back from Bangalore to Mysore and Coorg, and I couldn’t help noticing the great divide between the north and south of India at so many different levels: be it the food, the people, the landscapes, the weather, the way of driving or the choice of abuses.

Kasauli was pretty much like any other hill station: a heady mix of cold weather, warm people, long walks, breath taking views, lots of food, cheap alcohol, bonfire, music, “deep” conversations and the lamest of jokes. Being the prejudiced Arts graduate who looks down on engineers, it wasn’t easy being the only non-programmer amid a bunch of software geeks, but this was our very own desi version of the Big Bang Theory. (P.S. I even got a BBT tee shirt as a birthday gift)

The next day, we drove further north for a day trip to Shimla, my second visit to the place after a decade, when we had traveled across Shimla and Kulu Manali. While I was captivated by the first signs of snow, it was still not my idea of the perfect paradise on earth: somehow the crowd, the commercialism and the touristy nature wasn’t something that I cherished on a holiday. To spice things up, we lost our way while returning and as my brother navigated through dangerously sharp bends in the dark, I held on for dear life, wondering if I would safely reach Kasauli for my birthday celebration.

Once we managed to reach our resort, we went berserk, so thrilled were we to survive the highway to hell, piling on the cheap local wine and plates of junk food till it was time to unleash the cake.

Except for a quick trip to the police station for unlawful parking and some damage to the car after being hit by a truck, it was a fairly uneventful trip and we all returned back to Delhi unscathed and in our senses.

Each time I have got lost this year, the country roads have always taken me home; eventually…

Friday, December 20, 2013

Finding Neverland

It’s been ages since I blogged. It’s been quite hectic lately, what with work and elections and year-end plans and resolutions.

So what’s new?

Ishant Sharma got wickets. Plural. Really. Not on Faking News.

Central Banks are united in their efforts to provide thrills in an attempt to surpass Dhoom 3. RBI kept policy rates unchanged, but Fed started tapering.

Indian diplomat in the U.S., Devyani Khopragade, got the rough end of the stick and all hell broke loose. If there was ever a case of Maid in Manhattan, this would be it.

AAP made a “sweeping” statement. For someone who was never an advocate of the “NOTA” option, this made me slightly less cynical about politics, it restored my faith in democracy and it assured me that may be there is still some hope.

Nelson Mandela passed away. Of the few international political figures who touched a chord, Mandela would be right up there. If you haven’t yet watched Invictus, do it now.

At work, I got promoted to one of those impressive-sounding designations which mean nothing. Now I that I am in that “elite” clan of AVPs, I feel like the Rahul Gandhi equivalent of my company.

P.S. “Elite” here refers to the handful of people, like say, the number of fans Justin Bieber has.

The holiday season is upon us, but like every year, having exhausted most of my leaves, I would be the lone woman standing in office, though I would sneak out a couple of days next week for a quick Delhi trip.

For all the possible new-year resolutions, the most important will be finding myself, because Neverland looks farther than ever

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Age of Innocence

As a kid, Full House used to be one of my favourite TV shows: I mean, kids, dogs, handsome uncles, pretty aunts, school stories, lots of hugging, the sheer innocence- what’s not to like?

Now, after years, when I watch the rerun, I can’t help cringing a bit. It just seems so much of a make-believe world to me now. Granted, it’s been close to 15 years, but still, does life really change so much that you don’t even identify with the past anymore?
It’s different when you are talking about things in your childhood that you don’t even remember, but for things that you do remember, it’s just so hard to believe that you have moved on to an entirely different world, without as much as looking back or wondering exactly what has changed so drastically.

Shows which you adored (Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, Small Wonder and of course Full House) no longer enthralls you as it did. In fact, I can barely sit through an episode now!

Bollywood movies like KKHH, Dil to Pagal Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge elicit laughter rather than emotions, though some of the popular Hollywood movies of the same period (Philadelphia, American Beauty) still remain my favourites.

Even the very game of cricket which I have been following so religiously has undergone a sea change, as new heroes have emerged and retired and others have emerged and retired (Sachin Tendulkar being the only constant).

Not to mention the way we communicate, the way we express ourselves and the way we manage our relationships have also evolved, for better or for worse.

Finally, the very essence of family has shifted. I am not here to judge, but if there is a modern day remake of Full House, it would probably be renamed Empty House.

For all our achievements, our advancements, our successes, the one thing that we did lose in the process, is the age of innocence…

Friday, November 29, 2013

Food for Thought

So a few of my colleagues, including men and vegetarians, are crazy about Masterchef. Now I have never understood this fascination with a cooking show that has the power to unite men, women and children (now that they have a Masterchef for kids as well) across the world for a common cause: watch random people cook random stuff and get judged over it. That’s like getting a hangover by watching a bunch of people drink Coke!

Now I have never been much of a cook, and here I use the term “cook” loosely. For me, cooking is usually limited to frying/boiling/heating stuff with an occasional chicken curry thrown in. So when my dad visited me last week with an optimism that would put an incumbent UPA government to shame, he was duly disappointed when I served up Maggie/fruits/cornflakes/omlette as meals. Of course I made up for it by starving him for an entire Saturday morning and then treating him to an unlimited buffet a Sigri Grill. When he dared to suggest that I COOK a proper meal, I promptly called up my uncle (who stays close by and happens to be a decent cook) and outsourced the activity to him.

For someone who loves to try different kinds of food, I am staunchly lazy when it comes to cooking. I would rather survive on Maggie and bread for days rather than cook for myself. So yes, I do not understand how people can voluntarily spend time watching a cooking show. But then, what do I know? I eat Kurkure for lunch.

As many a Masterchef fanatic follower has pointed out, the show is not JUST about cooking, but about competition, suspense, drama and emotions. Dude, just go watch a Suraj Barjatya movie!

But then again, for all the brickbats garnered by reality shows, at least this one gives you some food for thought.

Food, in exchange for thought

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Alchemy of Desire

The case of sexual harassment lodged against Tarun Tejpal has created ripples across the media. Now there is nothing I can add to what’s already being stated in black and white and grey and nothing I say about the plight of women in this country can do justice to the macabre reality you observe around you. But being a girl who lives alone in the city, whose support system is essentially a bunch of friends and colleagues and who doesn't have the privilege of the cold comforts of a protected home environment, I can only shudder at the treatment meted out to a professional woman, who was just doing her job.

Having worked in male dominated organizations, I have often felt a tad out of place at times: not because I faced any harassment, not because I was treated differently, not because of the lack of sensitivity, but simply because I somehow don’t BELONG. There are subtle nuances which add up and one day, it just explodes on your face.

Mind you, organizations try their best to retain the handful of women employees they have, but it takes more than policies to make the workplace truly egalitarian: it requires a cultural revolution and we are years away from that.

However, incidents like this only set you back and the little glimmer of faith that was building up inside you gets shattered by one single blow. Now I am not a feminist who is out there to blast all the men in corporate India. If anything, I do believe sometimes, as women, we demand special status while crying ourselves hoarse for equality. But if I remove myself from the situation as a woman and objectively view it as a human being, I wonder if it’s something that the girl misconstrued or deliberately fabricated for whatever reasons. Based on the rather graphic descriptions, even the most neutral observer would vouch that it’s neither.

So, an inappropriate advance was indeed made which was vociferously rejected, leading to intimidation, threat and subsequent repetition of the act. This is what precisely irks me:

The inability to take “No” when it’s stated in no uncertain terms…
The assumption that professional authority supersedes the respect for personal choices (or the lack of it in this case)…
The audacity of imposing Tarun Tejpal, the noted journalist, on a young woman because he thought he could get away with it…

I have a lot of respect for Tarun Tejpal the writer, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for Tarun Tejpal, the person.

If the alchemy of desire reeks of monstrosity, even the most attractive people stirs contempt

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Big Fat Beach Wedding

Of all my five trips to Goa, this has to rank as the best:

not because we explored the pristine beaches of South Goa instead of the usual rounds in the commercial belt of Anjuna-Baga-Calangute…

not because of the luxurious hospitality of the Ramada Caravela…

not because of all the free food and alcohol forced down our throat…

not because of the carefree bike rides, the late night chats with people you haven’t met in the last four years or the addictive sea which keeps pulling you towards it…

not even because of the drunken cocktail party, the beautiful beach wedding or the Chinese lanterns flying in unison over the sea at midnight creating an illusion of escaping the world…

but because of the privilege of witnessing the sheer happiness of someone close to you, someone you have almost seen grow up from a teenager to a lady, someone who exhibited the maturity and resolve way beyond her years,

someone who was in love…

So, despite my reservations against weddings/dancing/crowd/all of it together, despite the last-minute broken bike, despite the long and uncomfortable bus rides, despite the forgotten pancard, despite the claustrophobia of conventional wisdom and despite the tearful farewell of Sachin Tendulkar, this weekend was very special.

This was the weekend in which the Masakali girl embarked on the journey of happily ever after

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Go Goa Gone

A long weekend in Goa…
A beach wedding of a close friend…
Meeting friends and batchmates I haven’t seen since college…

As far as last minute planning goes, things are definitely looking up for this weekend

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gravity Defies

For a seasoned movie buff inflicted with torturous Bollywood options like Krrish 3 or Satya 2 which are precisely reasons for calling for a ban on sequels, I did what I had to do: watch back-to-back Hollywood flicks, which are, well, purely Hollywood!

Now judge me all you like, but I don’t really like movies which are so, well, Hollywood, where the focus is more on technology, special effects, direction and cinematography and not so much on the story or the acting. Call me old fashioned, but I still enjoy films which are simple, powerful, well told and well executed, where the characters are identifiable and the acting is fluid. So give me an American Beauty over an Avatar. Always!

But then, when you are bombarded with crores worth of stupidity, you turn to Hollywood which brings alive the elements of nature packaged with sleek special effects, a true story and a tinge of wry humour. And Tom Hanks. And George Clooney.

I had heard people rave about Gravity and George Clooney in a spacesuit is enough reasons to watch anything really. So, when I finally watched the movie, it was everything that I expected and nothing that I did not expect. Almost entirely based in the space, it was literally a rollercoaster ride, and while 3D effects have never meant much to me, this was probably one movie in which it really made a difference. And did I mention George Clooney? In a space suit? (Clearly not a fan of Sandra Bullock) Did I like the movie? Yes. Would I have watched it under normal circumstances? Probably no.

If Gravity was entirely about space, Captain Phillips was entirely about the sea. A true story about the recurrent attack by Pirates on cargo ships (in this case Maersk) along the Somalian coast, it’s indeed an eye-opener about the life threatening voyages which are very much a part of the job for the men on board. And Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips is quite simply breath-taking as a firm, dependable and yet subtly vulnerable man away from his family, in charge of the lives of several men, while putting his own life on the line.

Both movies stood out in terms of their sheer simplicity and objectivity by being completely focused on the central theme of the movie without unnecessarily digressing or introducing parallel tracks or abusing the emotional aspects. Gravity does well to end as soon as Sandra Bullock finds ground beneath her feet without getting into an elaborate rescue mission and Captain Phillips does just enough to show a remarkable rescue but avoiding the Bollywood trappings of a melodramatic family reunion.

Krrish can fly off to the outer space thanks to his superpowers, but to be taken seriously, you need a bit of Gravity

Friday, November 8, 2013

Criminal Minds

The results of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) poll were announced earlier this week, and much to my delight, Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel while Agatha Christie herself was voted the best crime author and Sherlock Holmes the best crime series. Having read devoured ALL of Christie’s books as a kid, I do not quite subscribe to her accolade as the best writer, but I do agree that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her best works, if not the best.

Now blame it on my upbringing, but I have always had this morbid streak in me which led me into the world of crime fiction at a very early age, both Bengali and English. While I never enjoyed violence, I was simply enamoured with cold blooded murders which were well planned and well executed and which challenged me as a reader as much as they challenged the sleuths in the novels, be it Holmes, Poirot, Marple, Feluda or Byomkesh. This obsession often found me awake through the night before an exam, secretly finishing off a mystery novel rather than studying for a Chemistry paper the next morning.

The fascination with heinous crimes only deepened when I discovered shows like Law and Order, The Practice or Boston Legal while I was still in school and later with Castle, Dexter and Breaking Bad. Even now, I am guilty of blowing off social engagements on weeknights, simply because I just CAN’T miss the rerun of the season finale of The Practice after work. Exaggeration? Not really. Crazy? Probably.

But lately the lure of barbarism has taken a more serious turn as I have now turned to history to walk through some of the real-life atrocities committed by leaders across nations. While my travels to some of these places touched me deeply, what shock me are not the events themselves which are out there and well documented, but the people behind these tragedies, their thought processes, their justifications or simply their denials. May be these “leaders” don’t even deserve a chance to have their say, but nonetheless it makes for an interesting read. Which is why I first picked up Hitler’s autobiography and then Pol Pot’s biography: just to understand how someone can possibly sleep at night or look at himself in the mirror every morning, knowing the genocide he has sponsored among his own people.

History does what a crime fiction can’t: it leaves a legacy of the murderer long after the crime has been committed…

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Endangered Game of Cricket

I have been one of the most loyal followers of cricket for almost two decades now. I simply love the game: every version of it (and no, IPL is NOT cricket) and I have grown up worshipping some of the players of my generation like Laxman, Dravid and my childhood favourite, Azharuddin while nurturing ambitions of being involved in the game professionally. Not to mention some of the classic rivalries in our era, be it the Ashes or India-Pakistan had me glued to the screen for hours. I have also witnessed some of the greatest moments in cricket for an Indian fan: the World Cup win in 2011, the T20 Championship in 2007 and the Champions Trophy in 2013. Finally I have been privileged enough to watch some of the best individual performances ever in history: Sachin Tendulkar’s Sharjah storm against Australia, VVS Laxman’s gritty innings against Australia at Eden Gardens, Sehwag’s triple century against Pakistan, Shikhar Dhawan’s delightful test debut and most recently Rohit Sharma’s one-day double century.

Which brings me to the India-Australia bilateral series that ended on Saturday, with India clinching it 3-2. It’s been a strange series, with records tumbling and both teams making it a habit of chasing down scores well beyond 300. Yes, it’s great for the spectators in the ground to see the ball flying off into the stands every over; yes, it’s great for the viewers sitting in their living rooms/pubs cheering each boundary and yes, it’s great for the administrators/sponsors who can rake in the mullah.

But is it good for the game in the long term? I seriously doubt that. If there is a ten-year-old kid watching the match, would this series inspire him to become a bowler? Chances are he would have recurrent nightmares of Ishant Sharma.

As a sincere follower of the game, I can only shudder to imagine what will happen to it ten years down the line, when bowlers get replaced by bowling machines and there is no contest between the bat and the ball and when each team will play eleven batsmen just to ensure 1000-run ODIs.

I had embraced the dynamics of the game from being a five-day Test match to a 50-over game to a 20-over game. I had accepted that more money and glamour would encourage more young people to take up cricket professionally and I had even looked away when corruption and match-fixing scandals raised their ugly heads, choosing to believe that the game was still sacrosanct despite these aberrations.

But what I see now scares me. I still want to cherish the sheer intimidation of the Waqar Younis-Wasim Akram duo, the guile of Shane Warne/Muttiah Muralidharan or the persistence of Anil Kumble. I still want India to produce world class bowlers who can hold their own in international conditions and I still like to watch a good contest rather than new batting milestones.

I still want to watch cricket as I have known cricket and as I have loved cricket which seems to be endangered now…

Friday, November 1, 2013

Women are from Venus

As per Bacchi Karkaria, the noted TOI columnist and one of my favourites, “If you key in 'Women cannot' google will obligingly come up with such sexist options as 'drive', 'be bishops', 'talk in church', or even 'be trusted'. 'Women shouldn't' will produce 'vote', 'work', and even 'box', which would make our million- dollar baby, Mary Kom, kayo her computer screen.”

So these are some of the much talked about stereotypical allegations made against women. Add to it a couple of others which I have noticed which apply to me as well: “read maps” and “work on excel”. And as much as I hate to admit it and as much as I rant against stereotypes, there are some things we are, how do I put it delicately, “not the best at”. And yes, driving, reading maps and working on excel feature high on that list.

Every time I have got lost while traveling in some European city where people would not/could not speak English, I have been left helpless staring at some godforsaken map which stares back rudely at me, without telling me ANYTHING, pretty much like a French guy. And each time I have asked a kind passerby, he/she had looked at me condescendingly as if to say, “But it’s RIGHT.THERE. How can you not know?” Well, I don’t! Doesn’t make me stupid. I am just bad with maps.

Same with excel. I don’t like spreadsheets, I don’t like the way they look, I don’t like the way they automatically populate themselves and I don’t like the way they program you to become a trained monkey repeating the same task, crunching numbers and making graphs. With each day and with each worksheet, I feel like the last bit of creativity is being sucked out of me, which is when I open a blank word document and start typing: randomly, desperately and furiously, trying to hold on to whatever is left over of the girl who churned out editorials at will, completely oblivious of all the accounting jargon around her.

Again, that doesn’t make me stupid, only “differently-abled”. 'The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.' (David Ogilvy)

Women ARE from Venus; they don’t need to drive or read maps to get there…

Monday, October 28, 2013

Touch of Grey

On my recent visit to Kolkata, I met a lot of elderly people, some of whom I haven’t seen in ages. Whatever vague memories I had of them were of my childhood, when they were strong, cheerful and bustling with energy, as they force fed me with sweets or loochis. Over the years, when I was too busy growing up and growing apart, many of them have lost their spouses, had their kids married off or moved abroad. The same people who were traveling halfway across the world were now plagued with severe health issues and almost held captive in their homes.

As I visited them, many of them did not even recognize me, but when they understood, they either hugged me or had tears in their eyes (I would take a huge liberty here and assume that those were tears of happiness). No longer did they have the strength to cook a three-course meal, but still they force fed me with sweets and snacks like they used to ten years back. While I was a little bored, while I was a bit impatient answering the hundred questions they had for me (the weak memory often made them ask the same question multiple times) and while I may have looked at my watch discreetly, at the end of the day I was deeply touched and significantly moved by the very idea of how crippling age can be. When it was time to leave, tears shone in their eyes, and this time, it was not tears of happiness. It was the fear of death, the fear of time, the fear that they may not be in a position to talk to me or greet me ten years later if that’s when I visit them again. It was not about me, but about them.

And then it hit me. You can’t hedge your bets against age. It WILL get the better off you. And it will get the better off you when you most vulnerable and have no one to turn to. Your spouse may not be around, your kids may have their own compulsions and your friends may well be in the same boat as you are. If you are lucky, you would have a compassionate nurse/maid to take care of you or sympathetic relatives or a half-decent old age home, where you are treated with respect and dignity.

I came back, my head hanging in shame, and promising myself that as an only child, I cannot would not put my parents through the same ignominy as I saw on my trip…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To the Moon and Back

Yesterday was Karvachauth. How do I know this when I am a staunch opposer of any form of rituals? It’s not hard when you have close to 400 ‘friends’ on FB, many of whom are newly married and therefore enthusiastically celebrating the occasion with the gusto of James Faulkner against Ishant Sharma. Further, one look at the ladies at work, casually loitering around in their bridal finery in office, and you would not be allowed to forget the fact that the singlemost sexist festival is upon us.

Now I have never understood how it would enhance the lifespan of a man if his wife fasts for the day, dresses up and stares at the moon once a year, especially if the man in question continues to lead a sedentary lifestyle, smokes and drinks excessively while stressing about work. If all it took was an annual fast by the wife, then most women in India would be outlived by their husbands, especially since there is no reciprocal ritual where the husband fasts for the wife.

If you ask me, this is more a festival for the mom-in-law than the husband. Or an excuse to wear that insanely expensive bridal outfit you bought during the wedding and haven’t had the chance to wear since. Or like most rituals, an attempt to conform.

My mom never keeps a fast for my dad though she goes on a liquid diet every week to detoxify her own system. What she does make sure though is that she cooks healthy food at home, minimizes eating out, hides his cigarettes and screams at him every morning to go for a walk. Most importantly, she shares both financial and emotional responsibilities at home, she listens when he is having a hard time and supports him thick and thin.

It’s not an annual exercise but a daily rigour year after year after year, which if you ask me, is much harder simply because it involves being patient and understanding with another human being rather than looking at a far-off celestial object which doesn’t argue back.

Now, not for one moment am I suggesting that women who believe in Karva Chauth are not good partners, but being a good partner requires more than just an elaborate annual ceremony.

To all the women out there, look at the moon all you want, but do so with a pinch of salt. Posing against the moon in bridal wear makes for a wonderful Sanjay Bhansali set, but if you really want a long life for your husband, drag him out of bed for a run in the morning and hold back that extra piece of butter chicken. Even if it makes him angry.
The moon has its blemishes so don’t rely on it to add years to a human life.

The annual trip to moon is a feel-good exercise, but it’s time to get back to earth

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ten Days of Being a True Bong

Like a true Bengali, I went on a 10-day hiatus during Durga Puja to, surprise surprise, Kolkata!

Like a true Bengali, I refused to do ANY work during this time, which means no blog posts either!

Like a true Bengali, I shopped in the shady bylanes of Kolkata and picked up some awesome stuff at throwaway prices (suede boots and a couple of sarees)!

Like a true Bengali, I watched Mishawr Rohosyo (The Egyptian Mystery) as soon as it released, and then criticized it as it fell short of expectations. Let’s face it, Kakababu would never be able to dethrone Byomkesh or Feluda, but Prosenjit as Kakababu is sublime!

Like a true Bengali, I lounged around the house, watching TV, reading and discussing with my dad about the most evil men in history as we watched the documentaries on Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Nero and Idi Amin!

Like a true Bengali, I feasted on the home-made preparations of my favourite dishes including fish fry, fish chop and chilly fish which my mom served up every day!

Like a true Bengali, I snacked on chanachur, churmur and cha (tea) while abusing Ishant Sharma for the collective stupidity of humanity!

Like a true Bengali, I gorged on the Arsanal mutton biryani and chaap and the Bijoli Grill delicacies while stopping for puchkas and egg rolls that only Kolkata can make!

Like a true Bengali, I went to a random barir pujo just to savour the delicious Pujo lunch on nobomi!

Like a true Bengali, I walked in heels for hours, pandal hopping through the streets of South Kolkata, so that I don’t miss out on my childhood favourites: Durgabari (opposite my school), 23 Pally, 68 Pally, Ekdalia, Babubagan, Samajsebi, Bullygunge Cultural, Bosepukur Sitala Mandir, Badamtala, Suruchi Sangha and many others. It was my first Pujo in Kolkata ever since I moved out of the city and I was holding on to each day, knowing it was too fleeting, too transient and too ephemeral!

Like a true Bengali, I visited as many relatives we could cram in during the short visit, as they all asked me the same questions, as I smiled sheepishly at each one of them and as I quietly polished off the platefuls of mishti doi and sondesh, while protesting vehemently!

And like a true Bengali, I bid my parents goodbye once it ended, too soon and too incomplete, all of us wondering if I would ever be able to come back to my roots and live in the city which shaped my childhood.

Like a true Bengali, I wanted nothing more than the simple pleasures of being with my family, eating with them, talking to them and criticizing the government with them

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pardon My French

Now that I have been part of the corporate world longer than an average Hollywood marriage, here are some not-so-subtle observations which run rampant in the office environment and which I still find difficult to accept:

Every time you write about a problem to someone, the standard response is: “We have forwarded your case to the CONCERNED PERSON.” Now, not only does it not solve my problem, it also bothers me that I should be subjected to such blatant abuse of the English language, EVERY TIME. For the last time, a concerned person is a person who is worried/bothered (like my mother, for example). You have forwarded my complaint to the PERSON CONCERNED, and not the CONCERNED PERSON. And do me a favour, do away with the concern altogether, and just raise the issue with the PERSON RESPONSIBLE, who is actually responsible and not merely concerned.

Another annoying habit is if you talk to any of the younger employees, preparing for CAT/GMAT/GRE, the most oft-repeated conversation which makes me cringe is, “boss, are you GIVING CAT/GMAT/GRE this year?” Dude, seriously, if you have any chance of cracking the exam, get your basics right. You do not GIVE an exam, you TAKE/WRITE it, or you APPEAR for it.

Then there is the rampant use of “GENTLE REMINDERS”. For any event/meeting/unnecessary waste of time, there would be a long mail (with bold words and highlights), asking instructing you to attend it. This would be followed by regular “GENTLE REMINDERS” from all corners, which frankly are more threatening than gentle. Every time I suppress my urge to Reply All with a stinker, “Heard you the first time. And if I want to, I will come. No need to spam my mail and gently remind me every alternate hour.” And yes, there are events which I attend voluntarily without being bombarded and there are events which I skip simply to rebel against being bombarded. If you want me to be a matured adult, first treat me as one. And stop sending gentle reminders.

Also, I don’t much care of typical corporate phrases like, “do the needful”, “urgent attention” or “careful consideration” and the likes, simply because they are obscure and open to interpretation. So, instead of saying ‘do the needful”, I would rather define what “the needful” is and replace “urgent attention” with a realistic deadline.

Finally, while these are not that much of an eyesore, I try to avoid acronyms as much as possible. I know people are extremely busy, but call me old-fashioned, I would rather cut down on five minutes of my coffee break and write complete words/sentences than simply send mails with a plethora of “FYI”s, “COB”s, “EOB”s, “ASAP”s, just as a courtesy to the reader.

But there you go, the corporate world has its own language, and all I can do is conform and add an apologetic, “Pardon my French” as a signature

Friday, October 4, 2013


After three months of struggle, multiple visits to the Passport Office and the Police Station, numerous phone calls and emails, my tussle with the combined force of the bureaucracy and the police has finally come to an end.

I have finally earned the right to freedom without having to pay any bribes, even though the amount I spent on documentation, phone calls and traveling to aforementioned offices was considerably higher.

I have finally renewed my passport

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back with a Bang

Jim Parsons won the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy series The Big Bang Theory (BBT) for the third time in a row. For someone who is an ardent follower of the series and has watched each episode multiple times, this is a long overdue tribute to a show, which is probably the one thing that has managed to consistently make me laugh over the last three years.

Through my days in B school and Company D, Friends was one series which was my constant companion, every time I felt low, every time I felt happy, every time I was bored or every time I needed some company. I remember having weekend pizza parties at home, and as we put on weight over pizzas, pastas, garlic bread and cheese dip and coke, we barely noticed it as we grinned at Chandler’s jokes or empathized with Ross’ seemingly doomed romance.

So when the ten long seasons finally ran its course, I was depressed like never before. It was as heartbreaking as letting go of a long-term partner, it was unimaginable to imagine a life without Friends, it was almost as if life itself would come to a stand-still. And like any grieving devastated soul, I also had my share of flings: with alcohol, with Sex and the City, even with How I Met Your Mother! But as all empty experiences go, these too were short-lived and meaningless.

Until I watched the first episode of BBT. And I knew I was hooked for life. It was love at first sight. Soon I was part of the world of the five nerds and dumb (but street smart) blonde who turned my life upside down. So here is what appeals to me about each character:

Sheldon: I have never known such a person in real life, and I doubt I ever will. But as a kid I did come across the nerds-in-the-making: bespectacled front benchers, toppers, teacher’s pets, but helplessly uncouth when it came to social interactions. While we all looked up to them in primary school, by the time we moved into our teens, the same kids became the easy targets for making fun. Now that I look back, I would have probably been more kind to them if only I knew their inner struggles.

Howard: The Jewish funnyman who uses humour as a defence mechanism is a bit of a cliché, but his empty bravado, loud taste in clothes and the underlying vulnerability make him an easily identifiable character, if not the most liked.

Raj: As the Indian guy in the lot, he is like the typical Indian expat in the U.S., struggling to come to terms with the cultural differences, be it about his difficulty in finding a woman, the food he eats or the idiosyncrasies of the country which still fascinates him. Brought up in a conservative Indian household, educated in the best institutes with very few women and then moved to the U.S., i.e. practically going through life without any idea about how to interact with the opposite sex, and thus ending up tongue-tied when faced with a girl, it’s the story of an average Indian boy in the U.S. with an above-average career graph.

Leonard: My favourite character in the show, I completely identify with his slightly diffident nature, brought upon by an overachieving family and a lack of physical stature. Smart, sensitive and funny, he still manages to perpetually strike out with the women he cares the most about and his on-again-off-again romance with Penny is a testimony to the quintessential battle between the head and the heart, where his head tells him to move on, but his heart refuses to do so.

Penny: Finally the spunky and hot girl-next-door is a complete departure from the nerds: a struggling actress who makes a living by waiting tables, becomes the unlikely breath of fresh air badly needed in the estrogen-starved lives of these guys. Conventionally dumb, she is street smart and makes her way through the tough demands of the city life using her charm and a generous dose of sarcasm.

The supporting cast of Bernadette as Howard’s wife and Amy as Sheldon’s girlfriend as well as the tertiary characters like Stuart, Howard’s mother, Will Wheaton or Kripky add to the entertainment.

I have been watching comedy sitcoms for over a decade now, but BBT would definitely go up there as my favourite show of all times, ahead of Two and a Half Men, Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Modern Family, Seinfeld, Frasier or even The Simpsons.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much about math, science and history, but more about friends

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Satiating Dabba

If I thought that Bombay Talkies was a sure sign of a maturing Bollywood, I had thought too soon, because I had no clue what a mouth-watering treat The Lunchbox was going to serve up. The movie had already been places (literally), before it hit the screens here: the world at large had gulped it up hungrily, and the wait was finally over for an increasingly evolving Indian audience: an audience which laps up the sheer nonsense of a Chennai Express or a Grand Masti, but is also greedy for GOOD cinema which doesn’t necessarily classify itself as arty or commercial. GOOD cinema simply focuses on telling a story and telling it well, and this is where The Lunchbox, with all its simplicity strikes a chord with viewers: you could be a critic, you could be an intellectual, you could be an ordinary middle class man in the Churchgate-Virar local, but irrespective of who you are, you would find a reason to smile, a reason to hope, a reason to empathize with each of the characters.

For a debutant director, Ritesh Batra is refreshing in his story-telling, well backed up by the crisp writing, the accurate research and of course, the impeccable acting. For long, Bollywood was tarnished with the image that it had only stars, but not REAL actors. But the late advent of Irrfan and Nawazuddin has paved the way for aspiring talent, whose strength lies in acting and not looking good/dancing/being a star kid. Then there is Nimrat Kaur, who holds her own, despite having to share the space with two men who have rewritten Bollywood rules. But the unlikely faceless hero is the "Aunty" upstairs with her magnificent voiceover: a far cry from the usual Bollywood cliches of nosy neighbours. As reflected in both Bombay Talkies and The Lunchbox, A-list producers, who thus far preferred splurging on mindless potboilers are now throwing in the towel for unconventional movies which are not only creatively satisfying but also finds an appreciative box-office response.

The Lunchbox may have lost out to The Good Road in its race for being India’s entry for the Oscars, but that doesn’t take away the fact that it is probably one of the best Bollywood movies you would have ever seen. The open-ended climax (or the lack of it) only emphasizes the respect it has for the audience: an intelligent audience who doesn’t need to be spoon-fed, an imaginative audience who can think beyond the scenes and an open-minded audience who can entertain different points of view without agreeing with all.

If you were the chef, you would be proud to offer The Lunchbox to a starved audience, desperately trying to find something palatable in an age of fancy cuisines which fall short of satiating the appetite

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Krakow Chronicles

We are on our annual road trip in Europe, this time we drive down from Prague (Czech Republic) to Krakow (Poland). It’s almost June, but it’s unusually cold and rainy and it takes us more than five hours to reach the city. In our three days in the city, we meet three very different kinds of people, each with their own story, each of which is fascinating in its own right.

We shack up with an Indian family who has been living in Poland for the last ten years. Mr. Chatterjee is a marketing manager with a prominent manufacturing company while his wife, an ex-IT professional, is a housewife. We ask her impressions about the country which has now been her home for almost a decade. Her daughter, Tanya, is in UK doing her bachelors in Economics, while her son, Rohan, goes to school in Krakow itself. She seems quite happy with her life in the cozy, sprawling bungalow, as she indulges her passion for gardening and painting, though she does admit that it gets quite lonely at times, especially since her husband travels often on work and her daughter has moved out of home. While her son is quite comfortable with the local children and has imbibed the local tastes (like the love of tennis and skiing, as opposed to cricket), she still finds her solace in rented old Bollywood movies or new Bengali music (‘Bangla Adhunik Gaan’) which she picks up on her annual visits to India.

Every winter finds her dressed in layers of warm clothing, taking her dog, Kosturi (she couldn’t resist the temptation of naming her after a popular Bengali household name, something her kids resisted) even at sub-10 degrees temperature while every summer, she goes on trips across Europe either on her own or with her friends/family members visiting from India. “I have traveled to Austria, Germany, UK, France, Spain, but Prague is definitely my favourite, followed by Budapest”, she quips, as she points to the souvenir of the Astronomical Clock in Prague or the night shot of the Danube river in Budapest. But life, for her, is a waiting game: waiting for the day when she would finally go back to Kolkata, even though her husband nurses ambitions of leading the entire Eastern European operations for his company in the near future (a rare achievement for an Indian) and her children cannot dream of a life outside the comfortable familiarity of Europe.

The next day, as we go around Krakow through the busy streets of the old Jewish town, Kazimierz, soak in the magnificent view of the Vistula river from the Wawel Castle, try the local cuisine (including the popular Żurek soup) in the Old Town and pick up knick knacks at Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), arguably the world’s oldest shopping mall, we get to know Slawomir, a middle aged man, born and brought up in the city. He enthusiastically chatters away about how the economy has flourished with a lot of multi-nationals setting up their offshoring desks in cities like Krakow and Wroclaw (not unlike Indian cities like Mumbai, Bangalore or Gurgaon), the pride the people take in Pope John Paul II, the first Polish Pope and the many beautiful castles and salt mines in and around Krakow. But as we get a little high on the local drink, Śliwowica, his cheerful mask slips off for a moment as he talks about his well-educated wife who lost her job as an economist and his 23-year old daughter who works extra shifts in KFC to make it through college. Himself a cab driver, he is completely old school, as he expresses his disapproval about “the young people these days.” He shakes his head as he confides in us, “I fell in love with my wife as a teenager and we have been married for 27 years. But look at my daughter, she has a boyfriend she lives with, but they don’t want to get married. What can you do as a parent, but no, I don’t like it”…

On the final day, we take a bus to Auschwitz, about 60 km from Krakow, infamous for housing one of most elaborate Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. For almost four hours we relive the horror stories that so many Jews went through, we see glaring reminders of inhuman atrocities and we cringe at the thought of the monstrosity that went on for over five years: all of it narrated by the Polish guide, whose voice pierced through the gloomy silence on a gloomy day, whose words cut through the gory remnants of the camp and whose emotions dripped with frightening familiarity to the events. Finally, when the tour came to an end, we got talking to him, and he left us even more shocked as he signed off, “People wonder how I do this job every day, how I go through the experience again and again, but let me assure you that if you were a Jew who had lost a family member in this carnage, you would also feel the same personal trauma that I do, each day, every day”.

And there it was, our journey through Krakow, which ended up as more than just another tourist destination. It was also a journey into the minds of the people who, despite the vast differences, were essentially the same, with stories which resonated with each of us: of longing, of pride, of the cultural tug of war, of resentment, of memories, of being human.

First published on Newsyaps

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

If you ever had the chance to stare through the looking glass, you may notice those fine lines creeping in, those dark circles and the frown that became a little more deeply entrenched: over the years while you barely had a chance of so much as stealing a glance, a chance to reflect or a chance to objectively look deep within yourself, life has passed you by, while you were busy nursing your own random dream- a dream that would just remain that, a dream that was doomed to die a natural death, a dream that never really ended on a happy note. Yet, you continued to sleep, too afraid to wake up lest you are forced to come to terms with reality which stared hard at your face, but you chose to look away.

Then, suddenly, out of the blue, you are jolted out of your slumber. You want to scream, but there is a knot in your throat; you want to flap your arms and legs like a mad man, but there is an invisible rope tying you down; you want to throw up, but your stomach feels empty, like the rest of you.

Finally, you get up, steady yourself as you seek support in something not strong enough to carry the burden of your crumbling dreams and as you expected, the support itself crumbles down, dragging you down with itself, till you are on your knees, your naked emotions in public display and your shattered hopes lying in a million pieces all around you.

And somehow you manage to crawl your way towards the mirror and muster the courage to look straight into it.

The face that stares back at you is a different face: not so young, not so innocent, not so vivacious...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Desi Way

Say yes if you dislike weddings as much as I do…
Say yes, if you despise the Indian obsession with settling down…
Say yes, if you like to live life on your own terms at your own time and at your own pace…

Say yes, if you identified with the movie Shuddh Desi Romance (SDR)…

Here was a movie with which I could thoroughly relate to, four years after I was blown away by Wake Up Sid. Parineeti Chopra brilliantly portrays a role similar to what Konkona Sen Sharma did in Wake Up Sid, a role which many of us play in our real lives: a girl in her twenties, working, independent, away from home, in a new city, finding her way through life and love, faltering on her way, but recovering on her own as well. She is smart, she is beautiful yet she has been burnt far too often; she is matured, strong and pragmatic yet she is vulnerable too; she doesn’t care for societal acceptance or conventional wisdom yet she guards herself in a miasma of smoke around her (cigarette smoke in this case). She is the 21st century new age heroine, a refreshing change from the crying, nagging damsels in distress who ruled the Bollywood roost thus far. Then there is Vani Kapoor, who is no Sushil Bharatiya Naari (SBN) either: she may have jumped on to the wedding bandwagon too soon, but when confronted with the runaway husband, she holds her own with dignity and pride. Finally there is Raghuram, the ultimate loser who we all love to hate, but end up falling in love with, every time.

Does this movie glorify live-in relationships?
Does it validate pre-marital sex? (a Bollywood movie with 27 kisses gets past the Censor Boards with a U/A certificate is a sure sign that times are changing)
Does it endorse commitment phobia?

In my opinion, it does none of this. It’s just an entertaining movie about how life unfolds for young people today at the backdrop a beautifully portrayed Tier II city.

It just reinforces our right to live life the way we want to without moral policing, without giving in to hypocrisy and without the obligation to win our neighbour’s approval

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good Cop Bad Cop

It being a long weekend due to Ganesh Chaturthi, when the rest of the Mumbai people were either traveling out of the city or celebrating the festival, I was spending long hours languishing at the Powai Police station or making small talk with the policemen. Yes, I have their landline AND mobile numbers (plural); yes, they dropped in at my place for a casual chit-chat and yes, now I have new powerful friends.

It’s not like I have committed any serious crime (ok, I may have, but I am definitely not talking about it on my blog) and the entire exercise was part of the police verification process for the renewal of my passport, the first part of which can be read here. Now, it’s like I am new to the Mumbai Police and I have already visited the police station a few times, and the experience had been quite harrowing to say the least (like here). So I was dreading the ordeal all over again, as I waited with bated breath for the random check at my house.

But after two weeks when there was still no sign of them, I decided it was time to take things on my own hands and I visited the police station along with my 6”2, 90 Kg relative, whose mere presence ensured that the policemen at least heard me out, instead of just dismissing me. On my part, I was my politest and patient best, using phrases like “commander” and “sir” at a drop of a hat, instead of trying logical and moral arguments which had clearly worked against me in the past.

As expected there was the initial resistance when they made us wait for over an hour, pretended to have lost my papers and sent us shuttling from one policeman to another, but in the end we persisted and the damned paper was finally located. The guy promised to finally come home for the verification, but I was not satisfied with his verbal assertion and insisted on having his mobile number (a personal low considering that I have never needed to work so hard to get a guy’s number). I waited for a day and still there was no sign of him, so I started calling him like an obsessed girlfriend/wife, till he finally relented just to get me off his back.

On Friday evening, he came home while I was still at work and I missed his four calls. Eventually, he was nice enough to come again later in the evening and there he was comfortably sitting at my place, chit chatting, as he filled out the form. In his plain clothes and outside the dreary and intimidating police station, he could well have been just another friend, and I stopped short of offering him a drink (he guzzled the Fanta I did offer). He promised to process it immediately, well ahead of the four-day official deadline and told me to call him if I faced any problems when I visit the police station for the verification of my papers. I was touched by his kind offer since it was beyond his area of responsibility, especially since he took so much trouble to visit my place twice, that too on a weekend, well after his work hours. So I offered him some money more as a token of my gratitude and definitely not as bribe which he refused steadfastly, saying he was only doing his job. I was pleasantly surprised and quite embarrassed.

The next day, he called me up, informing me that he has processed my application and I could drop in at the station with the papers. This time I was confident enough to go on my own and it was evident that the kind policeman had told his colleagues about me. The guys in charge of verifying the papers were extremely co-operative and even though I did not have some of the papers, they gave me easy alternatives and after my third visit, I was laughing and joking with them like I belonged there. On a Sunday evening, when the rest of Mumbai was spending time with their families, they were still hard at work, pushing files, signing papers and listening to hapless citizens. I was waiting my turn, observing the people: the elderly Muslim lady whose house was taken over or the woman who was beaten by her husband or the young girl whose husband had suddenly gone missing- stories of everyday life which plagued the policeman irrespective of a weekend, a festival or a holiday.

Finally it was done and done without any bribes/influence and before the four-day deadline, but my biggest takeaway was my new-found respect for the police. All my life I had avoided the bureaucracy and the police like a contagious disease and this entire passport renewal saga brought the two forces together, but my experience belittled my preconceived notions.

Not that I would be any less critical about the bureaucratic red-tapism that plagues our country, but at least I would be more careful about the blanket generalization that goes with it…

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(Un)Real Mad(rid)

Over the weekend while I was busy cheering for Liverpool and Arsenal in their respective matches against Manchester United and Tottenham, history was being created around Tottenham forward, Gareth Bale.

So, Real Madrid shelled out an obscene 100 million euros (how many zeroes again?) for a six-year deal, surpassing the 94 million they paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo. The deal also makes FCB’s 57 million for Neymar a couple of months back look like Justin Bieber.

That’s all about the numbers. Over the last couple of days, I came across articles, a lot of which criticized Real Madrid for splurging on a player, “who was not worth so much”. Yes, he is good; yes, he is young, but he is nowhere close to Messi or even his RM colleague, Ronaldo. It is more of a case of extravagance of club President Florentino Perez and one-upmanship by RM over FCB (ahh, the hidden Delhiite in all of us, with RM still sulking over losing out Neymar to FCB. Some articles even went to the extent of portraying it as a callous waste of money at a time when the Spanish economy is in doldrums.

But you have got to give it to RM for investing in young talent and grooming them; you have got to give it to them for having a long-term horizon (in the six years that Bale would be with the club, he would reach his peak form even before he hits 30) rather than obsessing about immediate ‘value’; you have got to give it to them for their flamboyance, both on and off the field. It’s more to do with their inherent culture and way of life rather than this particular case of a transfer. It IS the Spanish way!

As for the argument about the bad economy, that just doesn’t hold its ground at all. It’s not government or tax-payers money at stake. The clubs are privately funded and it’s a simple business deal for them. If they have got the money, they have all the right to put it where they want to. No economics professor can make them feel guilty about it. Look at India for example. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, the BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world, and you don’t have the nation up in arms against it! Sports, at the end of the day, is big business.

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, even if at times it may seem Real(ly) Mad(rid)…

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Big Sho(r)t

Being vertically challenged, I have often been subject to ridicule, right from my nursery days, when I was saddled with not-so-flattering nick names (kids can be cruel) or sent to a lower class even though I had already graduated, to even now, when I am often overlooked for responsible positions, because
a) people don’t notice me or
b) people who do notice me don’t take me seriously

However, today, instead of cribbing about how I always get the short(changed) because I am short, let me list out some of the benefits of being so:

In the looks department, I can easily pass off for a teenager/college going student, and I am often met with shocked (and suspicious) glances, when I tell people that I am working or I manage a team…

While traveling by flight or in movie theatres, I never have to complain about the lack of leg space, which allows me to either sleep comfortably as soon as I board a flight or curl up in my seat in a late night (boring) movie (most of which would have Shahrukh Khan/Akshay Kumar/Sandra Bullock)…

If I am ever stuck in a burning apartment (god forbid) or need to be rescued from kidnappers/robbers, I would always win the favour ahead of the bigger girls and let’s face it, there are only so many knights in the shining armour…

It’s very convenient to dodge people I am deliberately trying to avoid (like dancing aunties at weddings or Math/Finance teachers)…

And, finally, and I can’t stress this enough, in a country like India, where it’s so difficult to find eligible bachelors, being short opens up the field, because, let’s face it, I don’t have to worry about being with a guy with whom I have to wear only flat shoes (and I can nurture sweet dreams of marrying Rahul Bose)…

So, while a part of me aspires for the lanky gracefulness of Maria Sharapova, I take pride in belonging to the group of elite short men who made it big…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Down (Pause) Town

This is a long overdue post about my long weekend trip to Bangalore on Independence Day. Now, it’s an unwritten rule that I spend the three important national holidays (January 26, August 15 and October 2) in Bangalore, usually arguing with anon about all our pent-up differences of opinion. This time, I was lured by the offer to go on our Roadtrip II (refer here for Roadtrip I). So what started with a four-day trip to Wayanad was reduced to a two-day trip to Chikmagalur to an overnight trip to Yercaud to a daytrip to Sivasamudram and finally resulted in a two-hour drive through the city traffic to, hold your breath, Nandi Hills. Now, I am not the one to crib about messed-up travel plans, especially when I was meeting my alleged best friend after six long months ever since our holiday to Cambodia and Manila earlier in the year.

So, instead of driving out of the humdrum of city life for a relaxing and soothing weekend in a cozy and isolated homestay in the midst of the hills, we started the weekend with a bang: by watching the first day first show of, ummm, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobara. Now if the corny dialogues, the annoying clichés and the overall mind-numbing three hours weren’t enough to drive me up the wall, I was watching the movie with anon’s colleagues, i.e. people I have never met in my life, including a two-year old who, irrespective of his cuteness, wasn’t exactly my ideal companion for spending Independence Day. What followed for the next couple of days was almost the same as all my Bangalore trips: meeting the same useless people, getting drunk, trying out new places, and jabbering like there was no tomorrow. Of course, I could have done the same things sitting in Bombay, but somehow there is something about Bangalore that keeps beckoning to me, that makes me go back every few months, that never fails to cast its charm on me.

The journey back was less than perfect as my flight got delayed due to some technical glitch and by the time I landed in Bombay, it was well past midnight. Which is why I decided to board a Tabcab back home and as luck would have it, the cab driver turned out to be a complete jerk who stopped the cab a good two kilometres before my house, took out the bill and promptly refused to drive further. On top of that he was rude enough to ask me “to get down and stop wasting his time”, as I furiously dialed the helpline number to lodge a complaint. Finally, after being unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, I took the help of a kindly auto driver who dropped me home, as I burst into tears.

The incident just reinforced my belief that Bombay was no longer friendly, Bombay was no longer safe, Bombay was no longer home.

Bombay, as the plucky young journalist who got raped a few days back discovered, was yet another city which treated its women with shameless disdain

Friday, August 23, 2013

Live Like You're Dying

I had been considering quitting my job for the last four years now. In fact way back in 2008, when I was still in B school and just been offered a PPO, I had been contemplating not taking it up, since you know, I was the “creative kinds” and hence more suited to live up to the stereotype of a directionless, temperamental artist who did things on her whim, who hated being tied down to a boring routine and who would rather sacrifice a safe, materialistic lifestyle for the experience of LIFE itself. But parental counseling, societal mores and peer pressure got in the way and I chose to become a cog in the wheel instead. Today, when I came across this article, it got me thinking: of all the people who are gainfully employed, how many are masters of their own destiny or simply a victim of circumstances?

So there are people, who despite being a “corporate” set-up, genuinely enjoy their work: They sincerely believe that they are making a difference to the company, and they derive satisfaction from the measurable impact they have on the organization: be it in terms of exceeding their sales targets, implementing IT solutions or raising billions of dollars in a volatile financial market. And my dad is probably a glaring example of this species.

And there are people who followed a career simply because of the contribution to society that it entails: So there is a primary school teacher whose life revolves around crying children who hate studying and therefore hate her. She gets paid peanuts which don’t even allow her the luxuries that she aspires for, and yet she simply loves her job because it satisfies her soul. So is the story of a nurse, a doctor, a social activist or to some extent, even a journalist. Obviously, many of them go on to mint money as well (think private tuitions/private hospitals), but in most cases, it starts off as a desire to do something meaningful rather than mint money out of it.

Then there are people who chose a profession they are truly passionate about: They may be in something as widely recognized as Sports, Music, Entertainment, Literature or as obscure as Pet Detective, Fortune Cookie Writer or Rodeo Clown. But the important point is they CHOSE their professions out of sheer love of the activity.

There are also people are motivating creating jobs rather than having one. At times, it could be someone with an Ivy-League education and a glittering corporate career taking up the challenge of starting up on his own or someone with no industry experience or training, but sheer business/common sense. The common driving force is the will and the determination to be their own master, irrespective of the risks/obstacles/uncertainties.

And finally there are people like me: a vast majority of us, who are just going through the emotions, following the herd and taking the crowded road to respectability, acceptance and matrimonial sanction, waiting for the day when we would finally be in the above four categories.

To be a master, you need the courage to let go; to be a master, you need to take the leap of faith; to be a master, you need to live like you are dying

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shackles of Independence

The spirit of this Independence Day was bitter to say the least as it reinforced once more that despite all the progress we have made over the years, freedom still eludes us:

Freedom from bureaucratic hassles…
Freedom from regional bias…
Freedom from misuse of power…

I moved to Mumbai from Kolkata ten years back: I have studied here, I have worked here and I have LIVED here. For all practical purposes, this is MY city and I take as much pride in it as a typical Mumbaikar would, I defend the city when other people criticize it, I frown at pedestrians who spit on the roads or throw garbage and I proudly wear the freedom that the city offers on my sleeve. As a single woman living alone, the city allows me to travel in the middle of the night in public transport, embrace its cosmopolitan culture without being judged and carve out an identity for myself which is not defined by where I come from but rather who I am.

Until, I had the misfortune of running into the web of bureaucratic stronghold when I had to visit the local Passport Office to get my passport renewed. I had heard good things about the new online process and decided to get it done from Mumbai instead of Kolkata, where it was originally issued. What followed can only be described as a nightmare.

I filled out the online form, paid the fees and booked an appointment after ensuring that I have all the requisite documents.

On the day of the appointment, my documents were verified as being in order but due to some system breakdown the rest of the process was not conducted. After wasting the entire day, I returned empty handed. I went back the same week, but I was asked to take a fresh appointment since they were no longer entertaining people from previous days’ slots even though they were the victims of the breakdown.

I got the next date three weeks later. My documents were verified once more and this time I was given the token to go inside. Another official verified the same and since all were in order, they took my photograph and fingerprints. The next step was to get the signatures of the two government officials.

I was called to counter C4, where the lady (first of the government officers), verified the documents, signed and stamped my old passport. I heaved a sigh of relief: finally it was going to be done, my month-long struggle would come to an end and I could now plan my vacation. But one more signature was still pending, so I had to wait.

After almost three hours, I was still waiting. Then I saw my name flashing on the screen and I rushed to the counter C3, eager to get it over with. But I had a nasty shock awaiting me when the man flipped through my passport and documents and demanded another document which was never mentioned on the website nor by anybody else in the five-step verification process that I had just been through. I had brought other documents which were mentioned on the website as valid address proofs (bank statements, rent agreement, credit card statements, company letter) which I showed, but he kept on insisting on the one document that was not even on the list. When I mentioned that his colleague in the very next counter had verified and accepted the documents, he promptly escalated my case to the senior passport official who refused to even logically consider my case, and instead resorted to threaten me. I sat there, looking straight at him, giving him reasons, trying to prove that I had indeed followed the rules they themselves made, pointing out the inconsistencies within their own staff, convincing them that I was a law-abiding, tax-paying, well-educated responsible citizen who had traveled across the world, but all I got was coldness wrapped in a mean, thinly-veiled jealous mind, which simply would not listen, would not co-operate and would not do the right thing.

After eight hours on my third trip to the same office, faced with discrimination, agony and sheer intimidation (including the threat to cancel my passport), I just ran out of there crying, my file still stuck in the bureaucratic red tape (literally).

I was tired of fighting the system, fighting for something which was my right and fighting for some semblance of sanity in a country which treats its citizens like aliens…

Especially if the citizen is not a native of that state and doesn’t speak the language…
Especially if she is a single girl alone and seemingly vulnerable…
Especially if she is independent, financially secure and widely traveled…

With power comes responsibility, but also the right to misuse the same…

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed

I am one of those people who are author loyalists more than genre loyalists. So as a kid, once I got hooked to Satyajit Ray or Enid Blyton or Alfred Hitchcock, I wouldn’t rest till I had read ALL their books, irrespective of what they wrote. So, I devoured Blyton’s Malory Towers with the equal enthusiasm that I reserved for Five Find Outers or the Famous Five, even though the last one I sincerely disliked. When it came to Ray, the scope was wider as I did not just stop with his books, but went on to his movies or even translations, as I have already talked about here.

As I grew up and moved on to other writers like Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Jane Austen or Ayn Rand, I usually ended up reading almost ALL their works, even though many of them were just rehashed versions of the earlier ones or simply just not as good. But it didn’t matter: for that one year or so, I would be like a loyal wife, tied to the writer, for better or for worse. Until I had devoured their entire collection and moved on to someone else. The same holds true even for Indian writers, be it the nuanced work of Jhumpa Lahiri, the gloomy magic of Arvind Adiga or even the irrepressible wit of Sidin Vadukut. And I have hated Chetan Bhagat with the same gusto, without missing out on any of his five best-sellers.

And then I discovered Khaled Hosseini during my college days. I finished The Kite Runner in a couple of days, bunking lectures, missing out on meals and dismissing anybody/anything that came in the way during those two days. Assignments, CGPA, social life be damned, I was too intricately involved in the lives of Amir, Hassan and Ali, swayed by a myriad of emotions. No wonder then, when his second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns released when I was in my MBA first year, I had no hesitation in treating myself to a copy, ignoring impending exams, placements and financial crisis. While I found the book distinctly more depressing that the first, the impact it made was significantly deeper, if not more satisfying. May be because it was a story of two women in a society which traditionally treated its women with disdain. May be because the memory of reading The Colour Purple was still fresh in my mind. Or may be because both stories resonated strongly against the backdrop of the trying socio-economic circumstances and my inexperienced, privileged and young mind was shocked to the core.

So this weekend when I got my hands on the recently released third book, “And the Mountains Echoed” by the same author, it didn’t take much to put me under house arrest for two days, postponing chores/outings/drinking plans as I devoured the 400+ pages like a hungry child fresh from a hunger strike. This time it was a brother-sister story underlying the multitude of sub-plots across geographies, generations and relationships.

Yes, it’s true to the Hosseini style of writing: intricate details in the backdrop of history with a tinge of longing…

Yes, it retains the simple innocence of putting family at the forefront: from the father-son tale in The Kite Runner to the mother-daughter struggle in The Thousand Splendid Suns to the brother-sister bond in this one…

Yes, all the twists come together in the end to render it a complete narrative…

And yet, it somehow falls short of the hallmark of a truly great story; it somehow falls short of my expectations; it somehow leaves me asking for more…

The mountain in the background echoes again: may be it’s time to move on

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If Governor was a Banker

Ever since Raghuram Rajan (RR) became the governor of RBI, I have been wondering about what really drives really brilliant people? Random thought I know, but it’s not like I have a fledgling economy to revive. So I can afford to sit in my not-so-comfortable chair and discuss hypothetical situations with my equally useless and jobless friends.

But think about it, if RR, with all his illustrious credentials, became an Investment Banker, how different would his life be?

Now the world knows him… then a handful of corporate fatcats and a bunch of credit card/home loan/insurance companies would know him

Now his critics would be world renowned economists/policy makers… then a handful of snobbish B school grads and HR/IT will bitch behind his back

Now his impact is far-reaching, which gets talked about across the world… then a bunch of luxury builders/car manufacturers/Clubmahindra would have an escrow account in his name

Now he writes books like “Saving Capitalism from Capitalists”… then he would write self-help bestsellers like “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”

Now he is a respected world figure… then he would be a feared manager

Now he has a life to be proud of. Then he would have a lifestyle to be vain about

Monday, August 5, 2013

From Monkeys to Men

I have always struggled with the theory of evolution. I mean, come on. One fine day when you are just going about your daily chores, fighting with your spouse, yelling at your kids and abusing your boss, some smart-ass stranger comes up to you, pats you on the back and says matter-of-factly, “dude, by the way, do you know we have a common ancestor? We all descended from monkeys!” The only response you can come up with AFTER you have made up your mind to kill this stranger and feed his remains to Bunty, the dog, is to look at yourself in the mirror, inspect your neatly combed hair, the starched shirt and perfectly ironed trousers, and wonder, “Monkeys? Really?”

But having said that, this weekend reinforced some faith in the theory and the fact that may be, just may be, we ARE indeed monkeys underneath all the veiled sophistication.

So while Thursday night meant getting drenched in the rain and then in alcohol in the nearby shady pub, Friday was about stepping out to an unknown territory (also known as Khar) to another shady place, which proudly called itself, “Three Wise Monkeys”.
But hey, Signature tastes like Signature everywhere and after a few drinks, when there is no wisdom remaining, the place could well have been reduced to “Three Monkeys”, appropriate, given that three of us from college were meeting up.

Saturday was alumni meet night, when you turn up at a Five Star Hotel, hoping for some free booze AND some influential alum who can magically fast-track your career, but just end up hanging out with the same set of loserly batchmates and turning it into one of those age-old drawing room discussions you have had at each other’s place over the last four years. But thankfully, I did manage to catch up some of the other people I had lost touch with over the years, most of who were busy getting married and getting fat, while I was just busy getting fat.

Now Sunday night being Kap’s birthday and since he was sad about turning 27 (sniff sniff), he decided to treat us at “Three Wise Men”, thus allowing our wisdom to leapfrog from the level of monkeys to that of men in just two days! Ahh, the irony of it.
But hey, Signature tastes like Signature everywhere and after a few drinks the place could well have been reduced to “Three Men”, appropriate, given that three of us from college were meeting up.

What with all the free flow of alcohol, I ended the weekend with considerably less wisdom, as depleted as it already was.

But the signature of an evolved wo(man) is that s(he) can hold her Signature with poise and dignity, something I am sure even the wisest of monkeys couldn’t have done…

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I will be watching you...

Are you one of those people who indulge in online window shopping, who order everything from books to clothes to shoes to accessories from any of the online channels mushrooming in India and who simply can’t resist sending gifts directly home delivered to some friend/relative, who is left hapless wondering how that ugly pair of heels landed at her doorstep?

In other words, are you one of those new-age yuppies who live the virtual life: from social networking to ordering food to shopping to reading?

Now, I am strictly old-fashioned when it comes to using technology to make my life easier. No thanks, I like to WORK HARD to derive some pleasure from my daily existence. While my social network presence is minimal (except this blog, the only place where I am relatively active), I am also not too fond of online shopping, partly because I am scared that I shall become addicted and mostly because I simply CANNOT buy stuff without touching it or feeling it on my body. Yes, the dress may look awesome on the model on screen, but most likely, I would end up looking like Kamal Hassan in Chachi 420 in the same outfit. So, very judiciously, I had limited my online purchases to books while continuing to bask in my aura of happiness in five-hour shopping stints during the Sale season, jostling through crowded malls, wasting precious hours waiting outside Trial Rooms and spending obscene amounts of money on transport, eating out and impulsive shopping, all of which complement the actual planned shopping expedition!

Until this week, when I decided to buy a new watch. I religiously visited all the familiar retail chains to find that perfect watch, but somehow nothing caught my watchful eye. So I reluctantly decided to check out the collection on Flipkart, and much to my surprise, I was greeted with unlimited options, across brands/colours/shapes, well within my specified budget. As I gleefully explored the options, I finally zeroed in on this watch. Now I would have never imagined in my wildest of materialistic dreams that I would get a Tommy Hilfiger watch for 3000 bucks! As expected I got totally carried away with the deal, and continued to shop online, splurging on the most unnecessary items, which included a dumbbell and a smartphone for my dad.

So as I gradually embrace the joys of virtual shopping, as I become more attuned to the vices of technology and as I give in to popular social mores, I still remember my first watch which my parents bought me when I was in the sixth standard, stepping into the ‘prestigious’ High School building.

It was a Titan watch for about 500 bucks which kept me company for all the important exams in my life

Friday, July 26, 2013


Having spent a few years in the corporate world in fairly reputed organizations, I have noticed a certain pattern in the way employees behave. To begin with, there is a spate of hiring, usually campus recruits who think the world of themselves, bubbling with excitement and views on everything from Rakhi Sawant’s cosmetic surgery to Obama’s lineage. Having started my career as one of those snobbish, know-all management trainees, I have been through the honeymoon phase myself, also known as the denial phase, when you look at your company with rose-tinted glasses, when you are gullible enough to swallow all the sugarcoated management jargon with blind faith and when you are still excited about the spoils of being part of the corporate world.

The next few years are more of a reality check, when you come to terms with the ground realities, discover the ugly faces behind the masks, have your share of office politics and if you happen to be the headstrong, rebellious, non-conforming kinds, you also brush against the unstated corporate protocols. All the more so, if you increasingly find yourself a misfit, if you have a passion and if you are nurturing a dream of your own. And with each passing day, you feel even more trapped, even more claustrophobic and even more suffocated. Yet, you carry on, as the company makes more efforts to retain you by creating exit barriers, as you are held back by people or social mores or simply by materialistic ambitions.

Until the day comes when you see people around you throwing in the towel: either to follow their dreams or to go to another organization for the promise of more money, new responsibilities or sometimes, just the promise of a new environment. It’s like an orgy where some people are reaching the heights of pleasure as they put in their papers, while the rest are just watching in anticipation, waiting for their turn, wondering what’s taking them so long.

And finally when the time does come, it’s too short, too fleeting and never as satisfying as you expected it to be…

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pastures of Plenty

It was one of those unusual weekends: when I met people! Now that SH is back from Philippines, she has self-appointed herself to revive my precariously fledgling social life. The good old days when she was in a different country in a different time zone, leaving me to peacefully play freecell and scrabble, watch TV and clean the house are now over, as I am flooded with phone calls/texts/whatsapp messages from her, minutely planning out get togethers/lunches/dinners. Time does fly, especially the good times.

So while Friday night was more about sitting at home, gossiping and planning trips with Dee, the assault started on Saturday morning, with me barely out of the bed, when SH woke me up, demanding to meet for lunch. And since she was coming close to Powai, there was no way I could get out of it. But it was good to see her back in India again, in familiar circumstances, though we met a few months back during our trip to Cambodia and Manila. S was also there, and it was like old times: sharing the sweet corn chicken soup like we did in college! And all I remember about Saturday night are the heavy rains and the bottle of Glenfiddich whisky which got depleted far too quickly in the haze of conversation, memories and new beginnings. And of course, Sunday was spent nursing a hangover, which just, well, hung over my head through the day.

But the weekend also meant quite a bit of self-reflection, leading to the thickened miasma of smoke around me.

May be it’s ok to be confused…
May be it’s ok to not know…
May be it’s ok to take things as they come…
May be it’s ok to not put too much pressure on myself…
May be it’s ok to go with the flow…

But may be it’s NOT ok to have the nagging conscience tug at you constantly

Friday, July 19, 2013


Yesterday I watched a candid interview by David Rubenstein, the founder of the private equity firm Carlyle. Now, let me state at the onset that I am NOT the kind of person who watches a candid interview by David Rubenstein, the founder of the private equity firm Carlyle. Or any famous personality on Wall Street or the overall alien world of finance. People have pleaded with me to watch Warren Buffet’s interviews, but I had held my ground: movie stars, yes, politicians may be, sportsmen, obviously, writers, definitely.

But investors/bankers/economists/analysts? No.way. That’s work, and I have a very clear demarcation between work and passion, but as per Mr. Rubenstein, that’s a mistake. For someone who started his career as a lawyer, then having royally failed, moved on to a life of a public servant, and finally after a not-so-successful stint in White House (as he admitted bluntly, it was very hard to push up inflation to around 19% in the U.S., but he managed to do that), when he had exhausted all other options, he started his private equity business at the ripe old age of 37! For someone who was as successful as he was, he came across as a remarkably humble, down-to-earth and unpretentious person, with a quirky, self-deprecatory sense of humour that kept me hooked through the 45-minute interview.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said, to be really successful, you have got to love what you do.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said that successful people didn’t begin with the objective of making money. Money will come, as long as you are passionate about your work, you work hard and you build relationships.

Yes, I agreed with him when he said that the best time to find your calling is between 28-37, when you have seen enough of the world and yourself to know what you want, but still young enough to take the plunge and make a new beginning.

And yes, I was inspired: does that mean from tomorrow I would start loving banking and religiously tracking the markets? Of course not! Does that mean from tomorrow, I would give up my job, and fulfill my parents’ dream of borrowing money from rich people, promising unrealistic returns on their investment? Not really! Does that mean that from tomorrow, I would begin watching motivational interviews by famous people? Hell, why not!

But the point is while it may not change my life drastically or immediately, while I may not suddenly develop a passion for finance and while I may continue to rot in my present meaningless existence, what it does mean is that the continuing itch in the back of my mind would only become stronger, that each day I would be closer to giving it up and putting all my savings into a six-month trip to Latin America/Africa and that every moment I spend writing a research report, I would be nearer to writing my first book.

And that’s reason enough to go on, reason enough to slog for that month-end pay-cheque and reason enough to smile in anticipation.

And oh, the link to the interview was sent by my boss: I wonder if there was a thinly-veiled message in that

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flying Colours

Remember some of the greatest sports movies that you have seen? Remember the rush of adrenaline each time you watch them? Remember the number of times you became inspired by the heroes and made unrealistic promises to yourself?

Hollywood has churned out enough of them and some of my favourites include Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, The Color of Money, Bend it Like Beckham, Ali, Million Dollar Baby and of course, Jerry Macguire.

Bollywood, on the other hand, though mostly focused on family dramas and candy floss romance, did have its share of sports movies, and good ones at that. Think Lagaan, think Paan Singh Tomar, think Iqbal or even Chak De and the first of the lot which still manages to make me root for Aamir Khan: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.

So this weekend when I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I braced myself for an emotional upheaval. This was not only a sports movie, but a true story at that. Milkha Singh might have been well before my time, I may not have known much about him growing up, but when you combine history with sports and give Farhaan Akhtar the reins to it, the result has to be quite out of this world. At almost three and half hours, it may be a tad too long, but that doesn’t take away from the sheer cinematic treat that it is. It’s a journey through time, and instead of just watching it, you feel a part of it, as you are taken on a rollercoaster ride into the life of an athlete, who, as gifted as he is, is essentially a human being, with his share of trials and tribulations, vulnerabilities, mistakes and distractions. It also provides a fair portrayal of the political turmoil of the era: something most of us haven’t experienced. Most importantly, it reminds us that there is more to a sportsman’s life than glamour, fame, money, women and endorsements. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frivolities and temptations, but dig a little deeper, and you see the hard work, discipline and willpower that goes into the making of a great athlete. Which brings me to Farhaan Akhtar and the effort that he put in for over a year, to get under the skin of the character. Literally. When you talk about the conventionally ‘hunky’ Bollywood hero, you would say Salman Khan or John Abraham or Hrithik Roshan. But not Farhaan Akhtar, who plays a nerd in a movie like Karthik Calling Karthik! If Aamir Khan surprised you in Ghajini, Akhtar simply blows your mind away in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

May be it’s not one of those movies that I can watch multiple times (like Jerry Macguire), but if I ever had a chance to make a movie myself or act in one, this would surely be on top of the list (right up there with Boys Don’t Cry or Philadelphia). Not too many works of art challenge you to this extent, both emotionally and physically, but the fact that Bollywood has matured enough to treat a true story with sensitivity while retaining the ethos of it, speaks volumes about our industry today. And yes, it’s entertaining too.

At the same time, it has enough sense to limit Sonam Kapoor’s screen presence to bare minimum.

The Flying Sikh does fly high with flying colours, and carries Bollywood with it

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Bong Collector

So I have been really sick lately: sick enough to take a sick leave which is actually for BEING.SICK! Yes, usually my sick leaves are carefully planned to avail discretionary holidays when I want to go shopping, read a book or simply avoid a meeting.

But for better part of this week, I was reduced to this coughing, pill-popping person who could well be a poster girl for the falling rupee. At a time like this you would expect supportive friends/colleagues to stand by you, bring you medicine and water and agree to whatever you say, including “you remind me of an ugly Katrina Kaif”. But no, as luck would have it, they found this an excellent opportunity to make fun of me AND my strong Bengali roots which are apparently responsible for making me fall sick at the drop of a hat.

Over the years, I have been subjected to enough stereotypical Bong ‘jokes’, and I would like to address these once and for all:

Not ALL of us love fish nor do we have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fish is not synonymous to a Bengali staple diet. We do have a lot of variety in our food, and by variety I DO NOT mean different kinds of fish! Believe it or not, there IS more to a Bengali man than his unhealthy attachment to fish. For instance, there is the Bengali man and his unhealthy attachment to sweets. Or Sourav Ganguly.

Which brings me to the next stereotype. Not ALL of us are crazy about him. Yes, he is a popular figure in Bengal, but we do not worship him with the rest of our idols. Nor do we declare a state holiday every time he comes out to bat. There are plenty of OTHER reasons why Bengal has as many holidays as it does. Blame it on the Communist culture.

But no, not ALL of us are communists, who go about holding strikes left right and centre, who avoid working and sit around discussing politics/sports/literature at Coffee House, while our kids are being brainwashed by SFI camps at prominent colleges like Presidency/JU. Our kids have better things to do: like smoke the brains out of himself. With tea. I am told it gives the best high. EVER.

However, not ALL Bongs smoke or drink tea or both. We don’t need to. We get enough high just by switching on a local news channel. The sight of Mamata Banerjee has a more potent effect especially when combined with her speech.

And finally, not ALL Bongs have terrible accents with strong local overtones. We may mix up our genders, but we do not speak Hindi like we just spat out Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express.

Now that I have set the record straight, if you will excuse me, I shall go finish my mishti doi, read my Tagore and take my afternoon siesta.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tequila Sunrise

Most of my friends/batchmates are at the threshold of 30 or already past 30. Seems like yesterday since we all passed out and entered the corporate world with rose-tinted glasses. Four years and some reality checks later, we are now a bunch of cynical, “been there, done that and have the wedding pic to prove it” sort of people. However, what has changed though is the subtle differences among us. Fresh out of campus, we were all in the same stage in life: most of us were languishing in some company where we were not happy, earning almost the same amount of money, drinking the same beer and chasing the same illusion of being with the dream guy/girl.

But over the last few years, things have changed and how. Now there are three distinct categories of people:

a)The Parenthood lot: These are the ones who mostly got married within the first year after graduation and have now embraced motherhood/fatherhood as easily and as naturally as they used to down Old Monk in college.

b)The Two for the Road lot: These are the ones who are making the most of the double income and the full-time companion. They are usually missing from the social scene and you would mostly find out about them through Facebook, when they post the most obnoxious pictures of themselves in random countries. Or in Café Coffee Day, wearing shorts and two dozen bangles. (check my Facebook notifications for proof)

c)The Bridget Jones lot: These are the ones like me, who are still lurking around, leading a bohemian life, without any clue about their personal or professional lives. So we meet others of the same species, get drunk or go on trips together and assure each other that all is well, that age is JUST a number and that it’s okay to follow your dreams even though you are not quite sure what those dreams are. But the lack of responsibilities also give us that extra flexibility, which make us a little more rebellious, a little more headstrong and a little more non-conformist. Some of us are not scared to throw it all way and jump into the ocean even they don’t know how to swim. Life for us is just another morning after hangover, where the previous night is a blur and the way forward is inconsequential!

Ten years back if you had asked me, if I had envisioned this life for myself, I would have innocently puckered my lips and said, “But I am going to be an engineer, work with TCS, get married at 24 and have two kids before 30!”

The truth, though, is something very different