December 29, 2004

New Year Resolutions

- Think (high time)
- Feel (a lot more)
- Live (if possible)

Laasht and Final PJ of 2004: If some readers get started on their mission in life, Happy New Iyer to them.

File > New

The cursor throbs
Against the white screen
The tease beckons me
To tell all to Microsoft Word

As if by blackening the screen I will become white again.

December 28, 2004

Mammageddon Befriends The Bongs (In Bangla), Wonders Why I Crib So Much...

Then Realizes Why When The Unwashed Bong Ladies Demand To Be Cooked For And Order That We Supervise The Electrician Working In Their Flat While They Go Out For A Movie.

That just about sums it up. Just imagine all this happening at 2 billion decibels with the background aroma of unwashed feet.

Urgently Required: A knight/knightie to vanquish these formidable foes. No Bars.

Have you always been like this?

This question pops up every couple of months. This time, it was a colleague and before he (or I) knew it, I was strangling him and asking, “What on earth is the “This” supposed to mean?” He coughed to indicate that he was dying, popped his eyeballs back into their sockets, and looked at me with unadulterated horror. “What happened?”

Mostly, this vague question is asked by seniors/superiors and I have to just say “yes”. The last time it was asked, the unworthy crush was standing close by and launched into laughter that vaguely resembled an aria by an asthmatic hyena. One angry stare reduced him to a pile of ashes on the carpet.

Now I am not at all averse to answering questions. Ask me anything and you can be sure you’ll get an honest reply. You can also be assured that you will see me with my foot in my mouth and my arms lashing my back (complicated yoga posture: regretaasan) five minutes later. But I have to know what you are talking about to be able to answer your question, right?

Have I always been like this? Yes, I’ve been increasing in size irreversibly (sigh) and changing pattern unlike a leopard, but I have always been like this. No wait, like what? This time, I was bent on finding out.

“Like what?”
“Like a character.”
“As in…a character??”
“As in a strange person who is living inside you and sharing your body.”
I looked like I was dividing 3248548272032 by 596587543 in my head.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I meant it as a compliment.”
I tried to calculate up to ten decimal places.

All the people in the world cannot need to have their head examined. It has to be me.

Note: The Mammageddon series has been abandoned because of lack of inspiration. This space being the only spot in the world completely subservient to my whims and fancies, I can do this and nobody can stop me. Any readers who got their hopes up have only themselves to blame.

December 26, 2004


You can prepare all you want for the attack, but it will all be in vain. Today, I remember my dusting and Maggi-detoxification efforts with cynical laughter that brings tears to my eyes.

Ma left this morning. My junk is organized in a way I never thought possible. The kitchen utensils magically fit in the limited space awarded to them. The maid has actually started burning calories in the process of cleaning. It’s a whole new world…

In a move that proved the complete lack of logic among Dilliwalahs, the mater caught a cold and contracted tummy trouble two minutes after landing in the warm and clean city of Pune. We spent three days eating boiled potatoes and stew, which was very ennobling spiritually I am sure, since it was third degree torture for the body and mind.

A heart-to-heart chat one midnight revealed that the aforementioned organ is wrongly situated in the cranium of the parent and is completely absent from the earthly existence of the offspring. Ma said she often heard me choking on tears while on the phone with her, and my mind flashed back to her evening calls that I answered while chopping onions for dinner.

Shock of the millennium: Mothers are not nice angelic people. They are devilishly devious. Yours truly has been paraded before numerous prospective in-laws without knowing that this despicable activity was in progress! Interestingly, she has been rejected by all of them.

“Would you consider giving up your job after marriage?” my mother asked. Am unsure if she knows me AT ALL after all the years I have spent being a parasite on her! Have refused to answer any questions on the topic, hoping that experience has taught her already that she is blessed with an un-marry-off-able daughter. Spent some minutes in shock over having been rejected at first sight ten times in a row. Then gave up because I have a good reason to be really happy on another front.

More from the maternal visit as the week progresses. Look out for Mammageddon and the Bai, Mammagedon tackles the Bong Neighbors, and Mammageddon and the Fine Art of Shopping.

December 24, 2004


Go see Raincoat.
I cannot believe I've lived to see Aishwariya Rai act.

December 23, 2004

Watching "Dev"

If you think about it, we actually live in a world where vegetarians cook men and women in a bakery.

December 22, 2004

Mehrauli ki Almaari

When my grandfather came to India after the Partition, he brought along my grandma, my five aunts, a sewing machine, and the all documents of the insurance company he worked for. Helped by their Muslim friends, they traveled to India from a village beyond Lahore. My grandma and aunts were wearing burqas and grandpa was reciting lines from Ghalib on the bus.

The family settled in a one-room house in Mehrauli, where my dad was born some years later. My grandma and eldest aunt sewed clothes all night for neighbors. Grandpa helped the insurance company establish itself in Delhi.

They bought bits of furniture left behind by Muslim families. One such piece was a wooden cupboard in black wood. It was about four feet wide, and would reach my elbow if I stood beside it today. It was called the Mehrauli-ki-almaari.

I remember the peculiar sound the cupboard used to make when opened. The wood was excellent: strong and durable. When its doors were pulled apart, they did not docilely part like wooden doors do, but they went their separate ways with a confident ringing sound that belongs to the world of metal. It had to be this way: it lived in times where people survived by turning the wood within to steel.

It was many years before I grew tall enough to see that the top was formica-covered. My earliest memories of the cupboard are from when it stocked cloth nappies and sheets for my baby sister, and I ran to fetch a new set each time she made it apparent she wanted a new one. The cupboard sat in my grandpa’s room, under the portrait of Tagore.

When we moved again, the cupboard came along. From a duplex three-bedroom house to a barsaati atop a taxi-driver’s flat. It sat quite comfortably in the only accommodation the family of a Punjabi self-employed professional could find in Delhi. It stocked a lot of stuff and made itself indispensable in the tiny house.

It soon moved along with us to the new three-bedroom flat, where it found no space. In a move that seemed natural, it was given to a neighbor who needed a cupboard. She paid a small sum for it, as she did not want to take it for free. The durable cupboard now sits in her dirty house and works as hard as it always did.

Why did we part with it so easily? Not getting attached to things is an unwritten rule in my family. There are supposed to be no emotions involved with anything perishable, and people are often put into this category. Be ready to get up and move without anything is the mantra: it seems to flow naturally from the journey across the border.

I had forgotten about the cupboard completely, till last night. I was reading Manto’s Black Margins, and all the snippets from his tale of the Partition suddenly coalesced into a black wooden cupboard for me. An impulse tells me to go home and buy it back from my neighbor today. Another impulse, coming from the same source, tells me to never think about it again. I stayed up most all of last night, hearing the opening and shutting of wooden doors with souls of steel.

December 21, 2004

Subah Ho Gayi Mamu

I fell asleep reading in the living room last night. My head, facing the window, was propped on a folded pillow. My feet were perched on a rolled rug.

At some point in the night, my hair released itself from its rubberband sty, and went on a rampage.

I was woken up at six this morning by my aching neck. When I flung the keratin curtain off my face, I saw a red sun rising from between my toes.

December 19, 2004

The Ten Commandments: Version 3.9

  1. Thou shalt not agree with your colleague if she wants to invite your manager to see a movie.
  2. During the movie, thou shalt not make jokes that your manager understands but your colleague does not.
  3. During intermission, thou shalt not change you seats at some random person’s request.
  4. Thou shalt not think up evil plan of playing joke on colleague who has gone out for popcorn.
  5. Thou shalt not connive with a manager who is as evil and insensitive as you are.
  6. After the prank, thou shalt not continue cracking jokes and making manager hysterical and colleague pissed off.
  7. If the colleague gets really offended and disappears after the movie, thou shalt not accept the manager’s lunch invitation.
  8. Thou shalt not take the seventh commandment lightly.
  9. Thou shalt not be seen by three nosy female colleagues having lunch with cute-but-engaged manager.
  10. If thou hast broken all the above commandments, thou shalt not go to work Monday, to avoid interrogation by totally unconcerned persons.

No matter what thou dost, thou shalt be branded a harlot.

In related developments, Swades is a good movie. Inkspill is a bad child.

December 16, 2004

The Five-Minute Downside

“Do you live alone?” they ask.
“No. I live on my own. There is a difference,” I say.

The noble reason for living on your own is that you are very independent within. The base motive is that you cannot deal with people switching on the fan when you don’t want it, or spilling food on the dining table. I am hoping there is a third reason, because I cannot delude myself into believing that mine is the noble reason, nor can I accept that it is (only) the base one.

Whatever the reason, the outcome is pretty good. On the whole, it’s a great way to live this part of my life.

But no deal comes without a flipside. And the independent life deal comes with a five-minute flipside for me.

Whenever I get home - whether it is from work or from meeting friends, whether it is at four in the evening or at ten, my heart sinks as I unlock the door and enter my empty house. In one smooth mechanical motion, I put the lock in its right pace, switch on the light, fling my bag to the chair, kick off my sandals, and switch on the music system. And since I have been listening to Raincoat for a month now, the music system greets me in Shubha Mudgal’s voice:

Shaam dhale sakhiyan sab laut gayin saari
Akele hum nadiya kinare

Of course I could switch to the Pink Pussycat (it’ll take me my whole life to get over this album name) mix on radio, but I prefer not to.

Maajhi tora naam to bata
Phir kaise pukarein tujhe kaise pukarein
Akele hum nadiya kinare

For these five minutes I am lonely, not solitary.

December 15, 2004


“Till you leave this place, I will take care of you. I’ll make sure you don’t miss your mother.” When a Bai introduces herself like this, she has more than a foot in the door, doesn’t she?

Sushila Bai is now my self-appointed guardian angel. She has a bad knee, because her drunken husband gave her an extra special beating once. She cannot kneel or squat to mop the floor, but somehow manages to do a decent job standing up. If I dissuade her from cleaning the house daily, since it is locked all the time, she insists I must not neglect the cleaning. Goddess Lakshmi does not come to a dirty house, she explains. Expenses.xls on my desktop tells me that I need divine help, so I succumb.

“I’ll cook Punjabi dal and chicken for you,” she said enthusiastically after running a background check on me. I informed her that I was a vegetarian, had never eaten Punjabi dal in my life, and preferred to cook for myself. She ran another background check, wondering what kind of a blot-on-Punjabihood I was.

“Are you married?” she asked me. She’d been working at my place for twenty days. No, I said, wondering if there were ghosts in my house that she saw and I did not. “Then why do you live alone?” Am yet to figure out the logic behind THAT one.

“After I finish working at your place, I go to work at Suresh Kalmadi’s house,” she once informed me. My egg-and-toast screeched to a halt on its journey down my throat. Turns out she works for his brother. Am honored, nonetheless.

“My son is a friend of the cable wallah. You will not need to pay 3000 for the connection. He will manage it in 600,” she offers. I am tempted.

Last morning she was late for work. Her drunken son met with an accident at 3 in the morning. It turned out that her breadwinning daughter-in-law had turned the unemployed wife-beater out of her house, and he was riding his bicycle “under a lot of tension.” Her “Sahib” (read drunken unemployed abusive husband) was in the hospital while she came to work. She was cheerful as usual. My horrified protests and comments fell on deaf ears.

She’s invited me for her niece’s wedding. I got a printed invitation card with my name on the envelope this morning. The diwali kandils that I finally pulled down last evening were promptly put into a plastic bag and taken to decorate her house. I can yell all I want about child marriage. She’s happy that the niece’s 17-year-old groom has a job.

There is so much this woman takes in her broken-kneed stride. Her grandma expired. Her son is in the hospital. Wedding preparations are on in her house. And she’s standing at the door with the newspaper in her hand at 7:30 every morning.

December 14, 2004

Does Not Merit A Title

Pre-School: I learnt the alphabet and dozens of nursery rhymes before I was three. I spent the year being horrified at the prospect of being beaten up like the other kids in school were.
Nursery: I never asked what the “guardian” in guardian angel stood for. I won a prize for Prayer.
Kindergarten: I never questioned the logic behind addition. I got all my sums right.
First Grade: I knew the names of all the Indian states and capitals in alphabetical order. I could not place any on a blank map.
Second Grade: I topped my class. I got beaten up by my Hindi teacher for pretending to write with a broken pencil. I was doing so because I was scared she would beat me up if I asked my neighbor for a sharpener.
Third Grade: I learnt an 80-word answer for geography by heart, without understanding a word. I topped my class.
Fifth Grade: I wrote a long speech but never had the courage to go up on stage and deliver it. I gave it to my friend to speak out. Both of us topped the class.
Eighth Grade: My English teacher dictated answers in class, confident that we could not write a sentence on our own. She broke down and wept on the last day of school, because nobody in class could describe what a verb was. I topped English that year.
Tenth Grade: Nine teachers told us on the first day of class that our scores this year would determine the course of the rest of our lives. I believed all nine of them. I had a nervous breakdown during the Social Sciences pre-board exam. I hated the subject, and spent most of my study hours on it. I got great grades that year.
Twelfth Grade: I wrote a long poem that contained all the correct numerical answers for all Physics experiments. I learnt this poem by heart. I never slept Wednesday night or ate on Thursdays, because I dissected rats that day. My rat dissection got so good that it was put up for the whole class to see. I got full marks in all Science practical exams.
BA First Year: I scored 45% on my first assignment: an essay on what tragedy was. I was mortified, till I was told it was the highest in class. I never did any research on any text. I topped the university.
BA Final Year: I studied the bare minimum number of texts required to answer the papers. I graduated with honors. And with 95% attendance.
MA First Year: I worked afternoons and did not even apply for library membership. I did not read any books that were not on the syllabus. I wrote my papers in 90 minutes while the class struggled to complete them in 180. I had nothing to say. I topped my class. Half the English department of Delhi University applauded as I received a prize.
MA Final Year: I dropped all the texts I could do without studying. I never read of a prescribed author’s other work. Writing papers took just 60 minutes now. I still managed to complete the MA second in my class.

If any of these “achievements” make you think I’m showing off, you are wrong.

Consistently doing well at exams is the symptom of a disease. The disease is conformity.

I am a monster of the education system. It promotes weasels like me.

I am the reason students should no longer be taught. They should be left to learn.

December 13, 2004


For the last one week, I have been taking “cigarette breaks” at work, which mean that I quit my desk, go stand alone in a corner outside, and do absolutely nothing. I am afraid I will start smoking soon.

Over the last couple of days, I have developed a strong allergy to female voices. I wish all the women of the world would shut up and not utter another word. I cannot bear the simpering and the screeching. I almost killed a colleague of mine who called me up to ask me something. Whoever said that women should be seen and not heard was right.

I sat in a car for the second time in fifty days yesterday. I ventured out of my village after dark for the first time in fifty days. I had forgotten how comfortable cars are.

I have decided to jump from the seventh floor of my office and land in the wedding hall next door. A tragic death will make the site unsuitable for hosting weddings (which are themselves tragedies in my opinion). My colleagues will be able to work in peace. It’s called sacrifice.

December 10, 2004

Ze Inspection

The countdown begins today. Ten days from now, my mother will land in Pune. Her spy has already been to inspect and report my clumsy housekeeping and pathetic cooking skills. The Boss is arriving now to see for herself.

I have been informed in advance that I need to take no special pains to clean the house or beautify it for the visit. Ha! I am supposed to believe that only 25 years of having unconditionally loved me will make Ma approve of my housekeeping?

Naah, this is just a ploy to catch me off guard!

So I am kicking off the preparations today.

Step one: Throw out the cigarettes, the ash trays, the beer bottles and the porn. Oho! I’ll need to procure all this first to be able to throw it out! To much trouble.

Step one (modified): Throw out the Maggi and the Pizza Hut menu card. And after the inspection, get a life.

Step two: Use a rag cloth to eliminate all dust from all surfaces, including the dial of my wristwatch. Do this daily so that it looks like a habit when performed before Ma.

Step three: Bribe someone to set the cupboard in order. Or, for the first time in life, do it myself.

Step four: Train the Bai to pretend that I am very carefully following her wherever she goes around the house, and not reading in the sunlight while she assumes total control over my house.

Step five: Stock my fridge with salad and fruit. Make them look comfortable, like they visit me often.

Step six: Make some mischief. No mother, however wonderful, deserves to be greeted with only thrown-out Maggi packets. Perhaps I should implement Plan B.

Plan B: Convince a friend to put on boyfriend act. Check if Ma really means it when she says “As long as you find someone….” Outcome one would be that she sees the guy and has a heart attack. Outcome two would be that she is very happy, and this makes the guy have a heart attack.

Ok. Abort Plan B.

I’ll just throw the Maggi out and wipe my wristwatch dial and meet her at the airport.


There is a wedding hall right behind office. This hall is a paragon of effective resource utilization, hosting two weddings a day at the very least. Music starts playing at atrocious decibel levels from about 10:00 am in the morning, and continues till about 6:00pm on especially auspicious days.

Last morning a highly respected and even more highly uninteresting professor of finance was educating yours truly on the nuances of pricing credit derivatives. I am subjected to this privilege once a week. “Literature… and Finance?” he says each time he sees me, as if the pain of this transition were his, not mine.

He handed me a printout of some scholarly thesis on credit derivatives (I am hoping that using the term repeatedly will help me understand what it means.) The document began with a quote by Omar Khayyam, and I was happy that at least two lines of text were speaking to me in a language that I could understand.

The wedding hall staff began testing the microphone “Hello Martians! Can you hear us? Is there a weather out there?” I decided to digress from Finance into regional weddings, only to be informed that South Indian weddings happen early in the morning and are a painful event, and will I start studying now? I stopped imaging the professor’s painful early morning wedding some hundred years ago, and buried my nose in the papers.

For an hour, he persisted in explaining to me how perfectly normal individuals (with families, friends, and cable TV) actually spend their whole work-life entering into fifteen financial contracts to avoid losing 0.01% of the money they had invested in one risky deal ten years ago. He turned the page each time I asked “But why would someone do that?” Apparently, like war and disappearing socks, credit derivatives are a reality of life one has to learn to live with.

Just as the professor and I gave up the struggle and silently lamented each other’s stupidity, the wedding hall DJ inaugurated his day with:

“Tumse milna, baatein karna, bada achha lagta hai
Kya hai yeh? Kyun hai yeh? Haan magar jo bhi hai…”
I sped out of the room to call up my manager and inform him that my eddication for the day was over!

Note: After a month of being surrounded by them, I finally got invited to a Maharashtrain wedding. My Bai’s 14-year-old neice is getting married next weekend. Dunno what to say.

December 09, 2004

Mujhe Door Koi Kheenche...

Whoever decided that women’s clothes did not need pockets was either:
- Completely Dumb
- A Man
(Research is yet to prove that the latter is not a subset of the former)

A pocket is not for storing Y-chromosomes and suchlike. It is for storing your wallet, keys, handkerchief, cellphone, movie tickets, and random bits of paper whose business is to get lost at important moments. I need a place to store these things as much as men do!

So I shop in the men’s section of Fabindia, or force tailors to stitch pockets into my kurtas. Then my pockets are used - and abused. The poor things are bursting with my worldly belongings on most days.

But this is just the beginning on the story. When I walk through a doorway, I am usually concentrating on where I am going, and am totally oblivious to the fact that the doorknob has made its way into my gaping pocket, has been unable to decide whether it wants to stay on with the door or go with me, and has solved the problem by ripping my pocket and part of my kurta apart.

A krrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr tells me that another precious dress will now need to be darned/cellotaped/donated. A hole in my pocket makes another hole in my pocket as I set off to buy new clothes.

How to deal with doors pulling at my pockets is beyond me. Advice is welcome.

Note: Yesterday was my Naani’s birthday. A snapshot of the personality she used to be:
65-year-old Naani takes off to Connaught Place for a weekend lunch on her own. She has difficulties crossing the iron chain that encircles the Inner Circle. She asks a cool dude standing nearby to help her. Dude says: “If you can’t walk, why do you step out of your home?” Nonplussed Naani says: “I step out because I know you have stepped out and are going to be standing here doing nothing. Now give me a hand.”

This one-fourth of my gene pool is sadly recessive.

December 08, 2004

Hoodi Sides?

Happiness iz:
Octagonal aaloo paranthas
Adrak chai
An illegal nap in the sunlight
Warm water through your hair
Well-written mails
Pirated music files
Coca cola on the balcony
Someone seeing your point of view
You not seeing someone’s point of view

Misery iz:
Unevenly cooked breakfast
Powdered milk in tea
Hair falling in the shower
Inbox full of documents to read
Limited disk space
Pesticide consumption for sanity-retention
Having an idiot understand you
Not understanding a genius

News iz:
Blog has a feed now. Tx Robot!

December 07, 2004




Full of emptiness.

December 06, 2004

Weak End

Since a lot of people are busy wiping the cowdung off me, I can write about my weekend.
Saturday was spent at Nature Trails, essentially an activity camp for children. It opens its faraway doors to the supposedly-grown-up on the weekends.

We were to go on bikes, which means that I had to choose between sitting on a bike or not going, which means I had to sit on a bike, which means that I was very scared.
After the first couple of manholes (personholes?) my friend chose to jump over, I got fairly confident of her driving skills and sat comfortably and enjoyed the whooshing wind plucking all my eyelashes off my face.

The camp was in the middle of nowhere, which is a great pace to spend a holiday. I went exploring, climbing tree houses in three-inch heels because the sponsor of the picnic ensured I never got home on time to go buy shoes. I wanted to re-teach myself how to bicycle, but ze boss popped in to see what I was up to and I did not fancy breaking my bones in his presence. I found a hammock in a secluded corner and fell asleep, only to be awakened by a secret smoker looking for a place to hide. A short chat later, he was reciting Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and I was praying to the cigarette to combust faster and throw the serpent out of my Eden!

The place served organic food grown on the premises, and cooked without oil. It was tasty! Strawberry yogurt should have been immortalized in poetry instead of Kubla Khan.

Got home and cooked for the neighbor (kill me) because madame wanted to learn a recipe.

Met Toro on Sunday. I am sure everyone knows what it feels like to meet someone who knows everything there is to know and a little bit more, I am not saying anything except that I suddenly feel very very stupid and all my years feel very very wasted (as in ill-spent, not opium-influenced). I had the satisfaction of making him spend a fortune on books (which I am going to borrow, thanks in advance) and of dragging the recently-left-poor soul to Vanity Fair.

If you have read the book thrice, there are some scenes that you want performed in a certain way, and that does not happen. Toro had never read Thackeray or suchlike but knew more than me. Since it is not polite to kick people for that, I behaved myself, and kicked myself, and watched the movie.

Witherspoon is legally blonde and illegally Becky Sharp. Mira Nair takes liberties with the plot, but packs in some good lines to make the film worth a watch. The lady in the seat next to mine informed her guy that “…this chap wrote all those novels: ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Women in Love’”… I dunno who she’s talking about, I think it’s Mr. Occidental-Author-of-All-Literature-Centuries-Eighteenth-Through-Twentieth. She also let out an "Awww" from deep within her hormonal system at the sight of a baby, and I am sure her guy is now a very scared man.

Got home to meet ex-colleagues who’ve moved to Pune. Yakked, ate pizza, and watched Tom and Jerry: the only kind of entertainment available in my non-cable-TV abode.

Woke up at six today to see the sun rising. Then came to work, where a smelly bucket sat tilted, awaiting a blissful soul.

December 05, 2004

Happy Monday, Peeps!

There was supposed to be a long entry about my lovely weekend, but as soon as I walked in to work this morning, someone emptied a bucket of cowdung on my head.

Bbye bliss.
Hello work-week.

Quote of the week (courtesy the bull who has nothing to do with the bullshit)

“It’s so scary when you cannot, but people think you can.”

December 02, 2004


After the maid had left, I opened all the doors and windows of my house and let the sunlight pour in, hand in hand with the nippy breeze. I dragged my spare bed and dining table to the rectangular patch of sunlight in the drawing room, lit an agarbatti on the table and lay down. For half an hour, all I did was observe the chiffon smoke emanating from the incense stick.

It twirled languorously, waltzed with itself, and dispersed into nothingness. The breeze played with it, sometimes nudging it towards my face, so that I could imagine it brushing past my cheeks before converging to enter my nostrils. When the smoke had moved lazily for a minute, the breeze came in a gush that sent a single, sharp stream of smoke on an emergency mission in whichever direction it fancied.

The agarbatti steadfastly held on to its ashes till they got to be a big burden, at which point they were dropped unceremoniously. The tip of the agarbatti glowed a fiery red for an instant when the ashes fell, and then returned to a resigned orange veiled in brownish-grey.

The sun and the breeze felt really good against my nose and my toes. The performance of the agarbatti reminded me that I must drift in whatever direction the breeze takes me, and must be prepared to drop all my baggage in one painful but liberating instance.

November 30, 2004

Trash Lit.

There is a big trash can across the road from my office. I suspect most domestic garbage finds its way there daily. I have a phenomenal view of the trash can’s insides from my seventh floor office terrace, where, like a self-respecting employee, I spend a lot of time.

Close to the trash can lives a family of dogs. Mamma and her four precious (and precocious) darlings. They live on the edge of a busy road, and I count the pups every evening when I head home to reassure myself that they have survived their foolhardy trips across the road. The scrawny things chase me till I turn and glare at them, at which point they run equally fast in the opposite direction, their floppy ears dancing to the tune of their frightened yelps. I am determined not to get emotionally involved with them, but I stand and watch this scene nonetheless.

Every afternoon, a snowy white mule appears from nowhere and makes his way to the trash can. The mule has a bushy tail, which some aspiring hairdresser has trimmed to resemble a series of tiny hair pyramids, one above the other. So PunkTail comes by for lunch, stays for high tea, and lingers on for dinner at his favourite junk food joint.

My lunch break is not complete till I see PunkTail beginning to dine. Every evening, I walk past that Ceaseless Feeder and marvel at some people’s ability to stay so slim after eating so much! I envy PunkTail his hairstyle and metabolism!

I had smiled and said nothing when a friend of mine had told me that when one lives alone, one creates an artificial family for oneself. Now my comfort depends on seeing a mule, a bitch, and four pups everyday!

November 26, 2004


Granny. Prude. Call me whatever.
I have major problems with the line in the song from “Murder” that says
“Kabhi mere saath, koi raat guzaar”
It’s a lovely song. Very good lyrics set to great music and rendered by a phenomenal voice. But this line rankles me to the very core of my narrow-minded being.
“Aur ji, kabhi chai shai peena aa jao,” is how many Punjabi conversations end. I sense the same casualness in Monsieur Hashmi’s proposal to Madame Sherawat.
Mutual consent is not good enough a reason for me to tolerate this line, which strips a relationship of all its emotional baggage and leaves behind a skeleton that I cannot deal with.
I have a problem with the bachcha log who sing this song, because they subscribe to the ideology without analyzing it.
Whether it is because of my warped notions of decency, or my priggish upbringing (I hate both those words), I wish this line had not passed the Censors.
I also realize that I am the only one who thinks this way about the song.

And Happy Birthday Papun dada.
I’m not calling you up because I am really ashamed of the fact that I forgot.
To think I was talking to you last midnight.
I can either dig a grave and bury myself alive, or make you dinner sometime.
Your call.

November 25, 2004

My Playlist Today

Koi sab jeete sab koi haar de
Apni to haar hai, yaar mere
Meri zindagi mein aaye ho aur aise aaye ho tum
Jo ghul gaya hai saanson mein who geet laaye ho tum
Dostaana naya naya…naya
Raahein wahi puraani
Nazron mein ho guzarta hua
Khwabon ka koi silsila
Nazron ke teer mein basaa hai pyaar
Jab bhi chala hai yeh dil ke paar
Kaisi hai yeh rut ke jisme
Phool ban ke dil khile
Ek baar tujhko jab baraste paaniyon ke paar dekha tha
Yun laga tha gungunaata ek aab-o-shaar dekha tha
Kabhi kahin lag jaye dil to
Kahin phir dil na lage
Khushiyan aur gham sehti hai
Phir bhi yeh chup rehti hai
Koyi fariyaad tere dil mein dabi ho jaise
Tune aankhon se koi baat kahi jo jaise
Banjar hai sab banjar hai
Hum dhoondne jab firdaus chale
Tu hai aasmaan mein
Teri yeh zameen hai

November 23, 2004


When I remember what I have done
I block my thoughts
And shut my eyes tight
And cover my eyelids with my palms
And my palms with my knees
And the whole with a blanket

But the blanket is covered
With a sticky sense of guilt
Which oozes through the layers
Reminding me it is useless
To try and shut out
Something that is within


This weekend, I was at a cyber café with a webcam, and my mom was online at home. The result: Me tying away furiously and mom not responding. She was busy gazing fondly at her daughter who’s been away for a month. Karan Johar music playing in the background completed the family reunion.

I was reminded of a scene I had witnessed at a neighborhood cyber café last year. It was Holi, which meant it was also exam time. Exams for me meant running away from home to catch up with my old friends online every afternoon. Sharing the tiny café was a family - parents and two daughters – crowded around a PC where they were chatting with their son/brother in the US. Sonny boy had a webcam.

“Dekh raha hai! Hans raha hai!” Daddy was gushing in running commentary fashion.

“Hai mera Munna! Kitni door chala gaya!” Mom was chanting, all the while dabbing her eyes with her pallu.

“Mom is crying”, the daughter typed. “Kyun bata rahi hai use?” Daddy chided. “Dad is scolding”, the faithful scribe reported.

“Kitna dubla ho gaya hai Munna”, mom remarked. Scribe informed her brother about his weight loss.

Munna refused to admit he had lost weight. He stood up and twirled in front of the webcam to prove his tubby point (Ok. By this time I was slightly craning my neck above the partition. Do you blame me?)

“Hai ram baith jaa! Nazar lag jayegi” Mom exclaimed.

“Yeh kaun si shirt pehni hai bhaiya ne?” the other sis demanded to know. Color Plus, Munna responded.

Mayhem ensued. “Holi pe Color Plus! Nayi shirt! Kya karta hai munna?”

Scribe was torn between typing out the message and reminding Mom that there was no Holi in the US in the middle of the night.

“Aadhi raat ko office mein kya kar raha hai Munna?” the weight of time-conciousness unloaded itself upon Mom. “Khaana khaaya?”

“Pizza khaaya” Munna said.
Brainless Munna. Whoever tells one’s parents that one had pizza for dinner?

“Hai Ram!” Mom’s heart cursed Italy. “Hum yahan paratha khaa rahe the aur tu pizza kha raha tha?”
High five Munna, man! You’ve done it!

“Kitna kaam kar raha hai Munna. Ghar jaa ab,” Mom advised. Badmaash Munna is not working, just chatting Aunty ji, I felt like reminding her.

“Chalo ab hum bhi ghar jaate hain.” Dad had had enough. “Gas waala cylinder lekar aata hoga.” If there is anything mothers worry more about than their children, it is LPG supply. Mom promptly got up, scribe logged off and the family departed, Mom still wiping the corner of her eye.
“Kitna dubla ho gaya hai Munna.”

November 22, 2004


Beginning in my trademark pessimistic style, and invoking my personal God of all emotion for the purpose:

Chhod aaye hum, woh galiyan
Jahan tere pairon ke kanval gira karte the
Hanse to do gaalon mein bhanwar pada karte the
Teri kamar ke bal se nadi muda karti thi
Hansi teri sun sun ke, fasal paka karti thi
Chhod aaye hum, woh galiyan

This place will get much happier soon. I promise!

November 18, 2004

The Most Evil Invention of Man

No, it’s not the nuclear bomb. It’s not the differential calculus. It’s not even remix albums. This is the evil-est-most-estmost thing that man has invented. It’s the Spartek tile. I say man instead of humankind on purpose: no woman can have invented it.

Anyone who knows what I am talking about will instantly know why. All those who don’t will not understand till Spartek flooring invades their lives.

It invaded mine the day I opened the door to my rented apartment. The bright pearl-coloured floor cheerfully reflected the sunlight and welcomed me to my room (pronounced doom). I was sold. I agreed to pay exorbitant rent for the magic hat house with the Spartek flooring.

Some rub-a-dub-a-scrubbing later, all traces of cement, dust, and other closed-house deposits were eliminated. I smiled at the floor and it smiled back at me. (I am not clinically insane. I smiled at the floor because I was happy and the floor is the only available thing to smile at in an empty house.)

Then my cupboard arrived. As two very exhausted (six floors up by the staircase) guys dragged it in, the floor registered indelible records of the cupboard’s progress down the hall into the bedroom. Black streaks across the pearly tiles. The bed arrived. The fridge arrived. The table arrived. Scratch scratch scratch. The pearly tiles did not miss a single detail. They furiously took notes.

It was not too bad, though. At the end of the day, they were still mostly pearly despite the scratches, like wounded soldiers returning to happy homes.

The next morning, the floor turned tyrant with a vengeance.

Scene One: A strand of hair falls off your head. The pearly floor takes note. Calls in reporters for a press conference. The next morning, a picture of the strand of hair appears in all leading dailies (English and Marathi).

Scene Two: One fleck of chilli powder decides not to be cooked and escapes from the spoon. The CBI knocks at your door. Satellites have picked up pictures of a red speck on the pearly tiles and beamed them to Interpol.

Scene Three: You step out of the bath onto a footmat. You proceed to place your bare, squeaky-clean foot on the floor. Suddenly sirens are blaring in all directions. The floor is screaming above the siren sounds. You look horrified. The footmat has not been washed for a whole day. So it is dirty. So you have left a brown footprint. So the floor will kill you now.

So you tie up your hair forever and stop cooking and throw out the footmat. And you lie crouched in bed all day, youre guts churning in fear as you look at the agarbatti on the table, which threatens to catch the breeze and deposit its ash on the edge of the table…

Nuclear bombs, differential calculus, and remix albums I can understand. Why anyone would unleash Spartek tiles on the world baffles me.

November 08, 2004

Ups and Downs

I’ve used elevators at an average of twelve times a day in the last couple of weeks: which makes more elevator rides in fifteen days than in the rest of my life. Back home, the only time I took an elevator was at a mall or a fancy hotel. The staircase is just fine for daily purposes. But here I work and live on the sixth floor, and twelve trips up and down the staircase would spark off an internal race between weight loss and respiratory failure.

So I use the lift. The lifts have iron doors that keep on yelling and screaming like something out of Harry Potter until you close them. And the time difference between the door closing and the lift jolting into action most rudely is about 2 nanoseconds. You have to take a deep breath and close your eyes and be prepared to die as you close the door.

Elevator activity begins at 5:30 in the morning and ends at 12 in the night. All this while, the creaking and groaning of the poor elevator echoes in my unfurnished living room. The office elevator sings out its woes loudly, so that no meeting, phone conversation or any kind of work distracts staff from listening to its complaints.

In my head, I need to put up a warning sign: “Do not open the door to the elevator shaft if the elevator is not on your floor. “ When I am preoccupied, I get out of my house and try to open that door, and would probably plummet down the shaft if the door opened easily. I rarely check to see if the elevator is at my floor. I’m living dangerously.

Anita and her Harsh Tourists have to abdicate in favour of this one. The sign outside my building’s elevator says: “Sterling Elevators. Mr. Hate”. Inside the elevator is a warning message: “Do not stick your hand. You could loose it.” Someone call up Mr Hate to find out where I should not stick my hand. I do not want to loooooose it.

November 02, 2004

In Hot Water

My love for hot showers is well documented on the blog. I am a bucket-hater and cannot conceive of dipping my soapy fingers and a suspect mug into a suspect bucket for a bath. I want a shower. And a hot shower. Even if it is summertime. I like coming out of a bath transformed into a boiled egg.

Showers are your personal rain, and better because they are hot, and even better because they are at your beck and call. They are good for crying in, because to your tears, they look like company. The catch is the plumbing.

There are two kinds of plumbing. Simple plumbing is when you clap your hands in glee if water comes out of a tap. That is enough to make this world an earthly paradise for you. Complex plumbing is when you can adjust exactly how hot your hot shower is. Tingling, Tepid, Lukewarm, Warm, Hot, Milind Soman, Scalding, Furnace.

It is as different as vada pav and caviar.

Whenever I leave home, I am afraid of losing my hot shower privelege. When I got my new flat, one thing was clear. Running water was to be available only for four hours a day. There were no taps, let alone showers, in the bathrooms.

Taps were installed. Instant geyser and fancy water mixer was installed, while I inwardly wept hot showers of tears at the stupidity of complex plumbing in a waterless house. The plumber said that if I opened the tap a teeny weeny bit, I could get a trickle of tepid water. I wanted to throw the plumber out of the sixth floor balcony.

It was raining when I got up this morning. I shivered at the thought of a cold shower. I recoiled at the thought of the bucket and mug. I decided to play with the instant geyser.

Ok. I can’t control it anymore. It worked after some manipulation and I got my hot shower. I am so happy that I don’t care that the bathroom is flooded and I need to find the plumber to repair it tonight. I got my hot shower. I’m missing home a lot less today!

November 01, 2004

Buying Curtains

Me: Cotton ka curtain material hai?

Curtain Guy: Hai na madam.(I look at the variety the shop is offering. Big, small, and medium checks ONLY)

Me: Stripes mein nahin hai?

Curtain Guy: Stripes?? (I live in a village)

Me: Lambi dhaari hoti hai na, yeh to sab chaukor dabbe hain…

Curtain Guy: Cotton mein to sex hi milta hai madam.

Me: Kya?

Curtain Guy: Cotton mein sab sex pasand karte hain.

Me: (Choking on laughter) Achcha.Curtain guy: Kitne saare type ke sex hain…aapko kaisa mangta hai?

Me: (To meself: Mujhe oxygen cylinder mangta hai)

Somehow, I manage to choose the material.

Me: Ab yeh seedhe line mein sil ke dena… dono curtain ke checks line mein hone chahiye.

Curtain Guy: Sex se Sex milaa ke denge madam.

My living room and bedroom are quite “sexy” now. Sadly, curtain guy did not match sex to sex.

October 26, 2004


There’s this thing. I need to know if it happens to everyone, or if I am a freakshow.
The thing is that sometimes, quite often actually, something makes me start crying. Silent tears fall against my cheeks like the rupee against the dollar. There is no perceptible sound, but the tip tap top of the teardrop as it leaps off the tip of my chin into the rest of the world. Slowly my eyes turn red. And my eyelids become swollen. My nose feels uncomfortable and hot, and wonders whether it should join in mourning the unknown corpse.
This is not the strange bit (if even this is strange, please don’t tell me, I have a weak heart). The strange bit is that people around me do a fantabulous job of pretending not to notice. They ask me questions and I turn my face towards them to answer. I can hear the tremble in my voice, and they can see the dampness of my chubby cheeks. But they keep talking like everything is ok. I don’t know if I could do that…
When I am done crying, salt deposit on my cheeks acts like starch. I can hear cracking sounds if I try to stretch my mouth into a smile. I hate to think Ma will misunderstand why I was crying today. I hate even more to think she’ll understand exactly why.

October 24, 2004


They sent me back loaded with gifts, and did not let me pay. AGAIN. Anita, Rash, Bips and Exile are nice people in their own way, but the truth is that they do not have EARS. You can protest but they don’t LISTEN. You can threaten them, but they don’t CARE. They probably thought I would be too scared of carrying out my threat, but I am NOT. Here are all their real identities EXPOSED.
Anita: Someone called “Rodricks” never mentions a church? Hold you breath while I tell you that “she” is actually Harsh Tokas! A Haryanvi Jat who’s spent his whole life in Rewari. He’s a senior reported for “the paper”: Punjab Kesari. “Anita” has never been to Mumbai or Calcutta! Some fragile female called Priya Shah and portly babu moshai called Anup Chatterjee do the ghostwriting for the Mumbai and Calcutta entries respectively. Anita/Harsh has five traffic inspectors in the family, so do not buy the stories about getting lost in Delhi. He never lets the rest of the gang meet alone, or we’d have figured out why we still hang out with him. Most noticeable because of his bright nylon shirts and love of Dal Makhani, Harsh can be contacted at 9810576435.
Rash: After successfully managing a vada pav chain with husband P (Short for Prajapati)in Mumbai, this lady now runs the worst restaurant in CP: Rush Hour (If these words ring a bell, refer to her old blog). The magazine is a cover-up for serving the worst food in human history. Five criminal cases are pending against her and P (short for Padmanabhan) for food poisoining. Three puja pandals in Gurgaon reported goonda activities by her and P (short for Parmeshwar). With their multiple identities and underhand dealings, this couple can be contacted at 100 (unless Harsh bails them out).
Bips: Her real name is Ekta Kapoor. Need I say more? Yes. Ektaaaa Kapooooor had lunch with us today. Except she called it kunch. She’s too busy to meet us, but apparently it’s good for her image to hang out with our type. Call her for a role at 98110KKKKK.
Exile: Fifth and last Jew of Delhi. Reported to stalk women and ask them if they are Jewish and would they marry him to propagate the race? Tourist guide specializing in the Himalayas. Arranges for booze and hash and suchlike at a minute’s notice. Listed under “useful but dangerous” in police records. Call 98112AS_IFSo there you have it! These vengeful people will now splash my beer and cigar pics all over the Internet. But I had to do this. It’s for the general good. And oh, thank you all and I’ll miss you.

October 21, 2004


Once a year, people pay taxes. Once a year, birds take up holiday packages and migrate. Once a year, I get my hair cut.
Today is that day of the year. I oiled my hair with industrial lubricant (oiling also happens once a year), and marched off to one of the “beauty parlours” near my place. One wash and cut, please.
There was some coconut-breaking and flower-sprinkling as my divine footprints graced the place I rarely deign to visit.
First up, the wash. Conducted in a chair that I will call the spondilytis-inducing torture-contraption. Three shampoo and rinse routines later, I was pretty sure I had little hair and no spinal cord left.
Then the cut. The owner of the parlour cut my hair herself. Four of her assistants stood in a silently reverential semicircle around us. Two minutes into the cutting, I felt like a patient on the operating table with a master surgeon taking a lesson in all vital organs-removalectomy. I begged for the radio to be switched on.
“You or We”, she asked. I wondered if I had dozed off and she had asked me to edit a sentence in the meantime. “Eh?” was my lucid reply. “U-cut or V-cut????” she asked. “You cut”, I said. Why should “we” cut? I am the one paying!
My hair has not been pulled, twisted, and pinned with such sadistic force in a year. My eyes popped out when the parlour lady asked why my hair was falling. “Because you are determined to yank it all out with your vice-grip and don’t tell me you were NOT grinding your teeth when you pulled the last time, you horrid freak”, my heart said. “Because of the weather”, my tongue mumbled.
In the history of haircutting, it is a noteworthy fact that the electricity goes off five minutes before my hair is due for blow-drying. I then walk out with wet hair, and a promise from the parlour that they owe me a drying. Last year’s is still due. I’ll have to grow another head to encash them both this time.The electricity is back. I am off to get my hair curled bimbo-style. If you hear someone singing “I’m a Barbie girl” maliciously, you know it’s me.


Today people are celebrating ashtami and navami (thanks to the warped lunar calendar, some people are celebrating Holi also). For years, ashtami and navami have stood for the sacred ritual that raises the festival from its temporal confines to cosmic heights: the kanjak.
If there is anyone who is not drooling already, kanjak involved aunties and uncles inviting nine little ladies to their home, washing their eighteen feet, serving pooris, chana, and halwa, tying a sacred thread around nine wrists, and giving the nine eager beavers a coin each. So as long as you are a little girl (exceptions are made for boys if they are godawfully cute) and people around you are the festival-observing types, it is heaven on earth.
I remember when Sis and I used to dress in our pretty clothes and join our friends to visit the aunties who had invited us over. We would take out plates along, so that we could carry back the goodies that would not fit into our tummy. (Mummies of little girls love kanjak too. It means there is no need to cook breakfast for anyone!) We would get our feet washed, giggling at the sight of portly uncles bending to perform this weird ritual. The number of sacred threads around the wrist was a status symbol. We would merely nibble at the food they lovingly served, making sure we have space in our tummy for the next house visit. Shiny coins were handed out, and we would mentally calculate how much more loot was needed for a bottle of Campa Cola and an icecream. We would thank our hosts profusely for furthering our noble cause of hedonism.
Six or seven such visits would exhaust us, not to mention the portly bending uncles and poori-frying aunties.
My folks were too radical for hosting a conventional kanjak. All the gang knew that when all the poori-chana-halwa hogging was over, it was time to go to Hek’s house, where auntie would hand out chocolates. No thread, foot washing, or coin-bribing. Straight-to-the-point chocolates.
Today, bunches of raggedy children are roaming around my locality. Daughters, and sons, of maidservants, labourers, watchmen etc are ringing doorbells very persistently and demanding to be fed. After getting the goodies, they vanish without a thank you. They are throwing plates and wrappers all over the staircase, despite being asked not to. Food served as prasad is lying half eaten on the floor. It’s a regular Halloween, but with a lot of litter. I am missing my kanjak.

October 07, 2004


Raat gyarah baje
Amma ke saath sair pe nikli

“Koi jo tumhein samjhega
Wahi tumse shaadi karega
Bachpana chhod do ab”

Haarsingaar ka phoo
lHaath mein kuchalte hue
Maine kuchh nahin kaha

Ghar aake dekha
Haath peeley ho gaye hain