April 28, 2005

Hvnly Fthr: Tx 4 Frnds

A friend who I hadn’t heard from for many days sent me this link today

and this mail

“When I was young(er), and struggling to hit back-hand top-spins on a deep-sliced table-tennis ball, my then school-teacher showed me an exact replica of a certificate that read “(My Friend’s Name), Winner, Campa Cola Delhi State Juniors Title, 1991-92”. I never felt the same way about Table Tennis ever since. It didn’t just remain a past time for me. It was ALL I thought about. In June that year, I beat Assam #1, Delhi #9 and Delhi #17. At the end of year I was seeded #7 in Delhi State. All of that with a Rs. 40 TT racquet.

Life keeps showing you many such certificates. I just thought I’d hand you one. Just fill-in your name and see how it feels.”

I am grateful every living minute for the friends I have.

April 26, 2005


Last night’s rooftop birthday party for a gang member was great fun. There was not only recorded music, but live music as well! My friends are immensely talented. I realized that it was probably the last of my nights out with this gang before I head home. They realized it too! They got me a farewell gift!

I knew what was in the packet even before I unwrapped the square present. Meghna Gulzar’s biography of her dad. While browsing through a bookshop once, I had mentioned to one of my friends that I was tired of reading the book in snatches at various stores, and was going to get a copy. She remembered.

We sang and listened to all our favorite gang songs: “Yeh hain pyar ke pal”, “Yaaron dosti bahut hi haseen hai”, “Yeh jo des hai tera”…
I will miss these guys terribly. They are great people.

Lying on my back under the stars at two in the night, I looked at the stars and two lines from Gulzar’s “Banjar hai sab banjar hai” song in Saathiya echoed in my head:
“Taaron ki chamak yeh subah talak/ Lagti hi nahin pal bhar ko palak”

This morning, I came in to work and played this song on my PC. I like to loop one song for hours, so that I am not distracted while working.

My phone shook in earnest, informing me I have an SMS:
“What heat! Banjar hai sab banjar hai hum dhoondne jab firdaus chale”

A friend from rain-drenched Bangalore is passing through Pune enroute to his office picnic near Lonavla.

Stranger things are known to happen. Or so I hear.

And now another Gulzar song is the gang’s song of the day (we love the intranet)
Jungle jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai
Arrey chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai phool khila hai

Be Spectacled!

1977 – A mother was looking for a suitable match for her daughter. Her relatives told her they could not help, unless she agreed to pay an extra ten grand in dowry, because her daughter wore spectacles. She refused.
1978 – The girl was married off to a bespectacled lad without any dowry.

The bespectacled couple passed on their myopia to their darling daughters. Yours truly was fitted with spectacles at 10, Sis decided it was too lonely being the only one at home without specs, so she was fitted with specs at 7.

Soon, a strange thing started happening around me. Nose by nose, spectacles started disappearing. None of the new people I met had spectacles. I looked like an aberration in a world of 6/6 vision.

Contact lenses had taken over my acquaintances’ lives. Everyone had them. After a few initial days of discomfort, they seemed pretty well adjusted to a life of not being able to cry whenever you want, not being able to make random overnight plans because they had to touch base with the lens case, and searching for a bottle of solution at ten in the night in a small town. They all looked beautiful, except when they were poking fingers in each other’s eyes to set right a misplaced lens. But only I saw that, and I was not their target audience. (This is getting too mean, I’d better stop)

Then I realized guys wore contact lenses too! Wow! (Warning to self: don’t start don’t start) That pair of glasses is the only thing that distinguishes most guys from monkeys and they go ahead and (stop this instant I tell you!) Ok. Never mind.

“Don’t hide behind your glasses” is a statement I get to hear often. “And why not? Why should I give up my unique perspective on the world? And why is hiding behind make-up, accents, streaked hair ok, if hiding behind glasses is not?” I demand to know.

There are two notches on my nose where my spectacles rest. Some people have a groove between their fingers where they hold their cigarette, some have a depression where they wear a ring, and I have nose notches. It’s an old relationship.

It’s getting lonelier by the day in the women-who-wear spectacles world, with only nerds and people allergic to lenses keep me company.

Note to mother: If you’re planning to marry me off, ten grand from 1977 is probably ten lakhs now, so arrange for the money because you’ll need it to get me out of jail when I’ve shot the bastard who asks for it.

April 24, 2005


I saw Waqt yesterday and don’t ask me how many times I thought about B R Chopra’s movie by the same name. I’d pay multiplex money to see it on the big screen again. Here’s a review of the Vipul Shah movie, in accordance with his tagline.

Come to Laugh: Boman Irani and Amitabh Bachchan spar well, and there are some cute little jokes. You can also laugh at the fact that your client, who loves the work your team is doing, has sponsored the movie tickets and the popcorn, so you’re not wasting anything except your time.

Come to Cry: Ok. Either I am gone hysterical and six months of living alone have warped my emotional response to human interaction, or the movie had some really moving scenes performed well by Amitabh and Akshay. You can also cry in a completely different way about having wasted your money on a Priyanka Chopra flick with useless item numbers. Or you can cry about how Rajapal Yadav is wasted. (btw, credits in the end informed me that Yadav has two secretaries!)

Come to Terms: A lot of people are going through accelerated ageing to keep Mr Bachchan company. Shefali Shetty-Chhaya-Shah for instance. She’s Akshay Kumar’s mom here!!!!! Boman Irani could sneak in a couple of performances as a middle-aged man at his age, but we don’t see that happening. It’s a mercy he’s only keeping up with Bachchan here, in Munnabhai he was keeping up with Sunil Dutt!

A word here about Akshay Kumar, who acts pretty decently and could have been Amitabh’s cinematic heir if things turned out right. A couple of years ago, I was sure AB would have loved to swap Abhishek for Akshay, but not Abhishek seems to be waking up from his walking-talking coma, and showing signs of being an actor.

Looking forward to Bunty aur Bubli. Put off by the bad music review, but need to buy the tape for Gulzar’s sake.

Totally Unnecessary Aside: When you’re riding a bike top speed on a rainy night, there’s only so much cold you can feel, and then you become numb. It’s the same with anger.


Genuinely Confused.
Back soon.

April 22, 2005


Ok. Is this happening to anyone else? Over the last few days, I’ve got winkeys on SMS, mail, messenger and all possible technologically-advanced data input forms. What is causing this winkey mania?

I’m having a perfectly serious discussion, but this lady begins all her sentences with a winkey! This guy who barely knows my name sends a winkey in each message he sends me! For God’s sake, whatever happened to “context”?

And now venerable Exile is sending me a winkey attached to a nice, sensible piece of advice. So now I’m confused whether I should take the advice seriously, ignore it as a joke, or run for my life because Exile is coming to Pune to kill me for calling him “venerable”.

Is there a nervous eye tic epidemic in this country that I’ve missed hearing about? Or is it a new way of poking fun at me?

*Bares her insecure fangs at the world*

April 21, 2005

Kicking Poor Shakespeare's Bones

To be or not to be is not for me to tell
I’m a fly by wanton boys caught
I loved neither wisely nor too well
The sound and fury signifies naught

April 20, 2005

The Prodigal Daughter

I’m going back home and I am feeling very, very scared at the prospect.

Last night when my mother called (at ten), I was with the gang at my friend’s place, and we were about to start cooking dinner. Back home, they were ready to go to sleep. You had better not tell my Mom that the dinner was eventually cooked at midnight and eaten around two in the morning. I’m going to suffer from jet lag when I get home!

The TV is gone. One of the first things to be sold off. I had no emotional attachment with it, since I never had a cable connection. However, one corner of the living room has suddenly become empty. When you pick at one corner of a well-pasted sticker, the corner comes loose and that tells you that the whole sticker will, sooner or later, come off now. That’s how it is with the TV going.

I’ve forgotten how it feels to live with other people in the same house. I wonder if I can stand the smell of the existence of another person in my territory. I leave my house spic and span or a complete mess depending on how I’m feeling that morning. I don’t pull the curtains for three days if I don’t feel like. I don’t dust my books. My tapes and CDs are arranged in an intricate pyramid that will collapse if you sneeze anywhere around it.

I eat odd things at odd times. One banana and some roasted millet in dahi will not look like dinner to my folks. My waking up at one to cook dinner will not amuse them. My sleeping for three hours one night and twelve hours the next will infuriate them. My strange vocabulary will irritate them.

I’d planned to live on my own for a year. Twists in the story force me to go back after just six months. I’ve changed a lot and become a more difficult person. I want far too much space. And far too much silence. Want, not need. How will folks back home cope with this?

This is just one side of the story. On the other side, there are three happily-settled people whose lives I am going to rudely disrupt. I don’t have the courage to put myself in their shoes for even a minute.

You know all that sentimental ado about always belonging at home, I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that it is all true.

April 19, 2005

This 'n That

I’ve been having a lot of fun, though I’ve been too lazy to document it here for posterity.

I’m running for “Sadist of the Millennium”, so I’m encouraging everyone to watch “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” which is about how pretty women in cotton saris could weep on the shoulders of men, and if their shirts were absorbent enough, marry the guys and then write to them that a divorce were best, and then proceed to cry on another absorbent shoulder. This must work best against the backdrop of Indira Gandhi’s leadership, but I am on no International Film Award Jury, so I cannot see the connection.

I did not watch a single Indo-Pak match. I know that the only matches worth watching are the ones between equally-“matched” opponents, and so I’ve been closely following such a match over the last few nights. Ladies and Gentlemen: Put your hands together for “Heat vs. Mosquitoes”

(Thunderous applause, which causes some mosquitoes to get squashed)

When I enter my sixth floor oven at night, I open the window, switch on the fan, switch on the mosquito repellant contraption, and try to sleep. Ha Ha Ha. Heat comes in to bat and lashes mercilessly. Its first innings end when I open the balcony door. Then Mosquito-XI takes the crease (my knowledge of cricket terminology sucks) and they are phenomenal players too. By the time they are “All Out”, the elusive thing called Sleep has fled my home, locality, planet, and galaxy.

I shut the windows in exasperation, drink a glass of cold water, and lie down again. I can hear the water boiling in my alimentary canal. I wonder if I should chew some tea leaves. I shift from the mattress to the floor, and it does not help. I open the door and window and invite Mosquito XI to bat again. This match is held every night.

In other news, the elevator of my building has been dysfunctional for a fortnight, and latest reports confirm that the repair guy has absconded with half the machinery and ten thousand bucks, and a police case will be filed against him. Meanwhile, I climb 118 steps at least twice a day.

I could choose not to go home, but I don’t want to miss the nail-biting match.

April 14, 2005

April 15

It’s her birthday today and I’ve deleted her phone number from my book.
She was the first friend I ever had, and we were inseparable.
They called us the Siamese twins.
Somewhere along the way, we grew apart.
I tracked down her number last year, and called.
She’s happily married and she told me that I had not changed at all.
She, however, has changed a lot.
We planned to meet, but she never called back.
It’s her birthday today and I’ve deleted her phone number from my book.

Happy Birthday Shikha.
I always remember you on April 15.

All you Bongs out there: Shubho Naubo Borsho (Quickly correct me if that is wrong.)

April 13, 2005


Koi chupke se aake
sapne sulaa ke
mujhko jagaa ke
ke main aa raha hoon

Kaun aaye
yeh main kaise jaanoon?

-Kaifi Azmi


Talcum powder did perfectly well for most people for many years. Then they did some research and came up with aerosol-waale deodorants. Then they did some more research and found out that talcum powder causes lung cancer.

They still did not get invited to cool parties, so they spent their weekends doing more research and found that deodorants cause lymph node cancer. Without research, they knew that not using either would cause considerable collateral damage. So now we’re stuck in a happy situation, aren’t we?

Why am I ranting about this subject? When I entered office this morning, the smell of Cuticura talcum powder hit me instantly.

(Change of tint to sepia and tone to nostalgia)

It brought back memories of the only person I knew who used it. Nana. Ma’s Pa.
The orange and white tin cylinder of talcum powder stood before the half mirror on a shelf. You could either stand on you toes and reach out for it (you being 5 years old), or climb the extraordinarily high bed and access it. The box was coated with an invisible layer of smooth powder, and smelled like heaven.

Nana was obsessive about tidiness, so the powder-coating was minimal, and the box would not slip out of your clumsy hand. You could sit on the bed sniffing the box and probably shake some talcum out on to your palm and apply it. No matter how hot the summer was, talcum always felt cool.

Above the mirror, there was a yellowed strip of paper that said in red letters: “There is only one religion: The religion of Love”.

Nana saved every bit of paper or string or cigarette pack he ever owned (insanity runs in the family). There was barely space to walk in his room. It was like a curio shop. And it smelled of Cuticura.

Nana passed away many years ago. I know him mostly through my mother’s stories of him. But Cuticura is a first-hand memory.

April 11, 2005

Resignation v3.0

I sense a change in the tone of my boss’ voice and the look on his face when he talks to me. This change began when I told him last week that I was leaving. It’s an inexplicable expression, and I don’t understand why I have problems dealing with it. I’ve resigned from one job every year for the last two years (prospective employers: please bang your head against the wall till you forget you read this) and the boss’s expression changes every time:

2003: Super-Boss: you are leaving when we are going through the ordeal of shifting, else we would have thrown you a farewell party!
2004: Boss: Ha ha ha ha ha. What do you want? A promotion? (Clarification: This is not you-who-read-this-blog-boss.)
2004: Super-Boss: Can’t you manage a career and your education side by side? I manage my family and my work!

This time, the change is not to bitterness or resentment. It is just different.
2005: Boss: Couldn’t you have waited for me to finish my ice-cream?
I guess this is a magical place and a magical boss! I have a million good reasons to stay.

April 10, 2005


Saw Miss Congeniality-2 this weekend. It’s very, very witty. Don’t miss it. And if you dare to not like it, you are just a big/small fat/thin bore.
Memorable quote from the movie: “People may care about people who care about themselves, but I just don't care about those people.” Go Hart!

Went to the Dastkar Bazaar. A whiff of the best part of Delhi! Finally got to see clothes and stuff that I love about my home city. Sigh. Splurged on unnecessary stuff just because it was available. Double sigh. Still not regretting it. Triple sigh.

Matrimonial Ad of the Millennium: (in the Sunday TOI)
U R the best & I’m better than the rest. If the essence of the soul is to be complemented by soulmate, I, at 37, invoke my soulmate, it is we the both have to serve the most sacred cause of the world at the hour. World is the limit where I & I alone cherish right choice baby! Make it face to face and verify I mean it! Think; can’t one live what they act? Ever traceable as Pradeep c/o Mr Safari Lal, From Kanda Malla Via Bironkhal Pauri Garhwal Uttaranchal or temporarily 9899466___, 9319034___. Teri Aankhon Ke Siwa Duniya Mein Rakha Kya Hai.

Something tells me this is a code for a message to blow up some monument in Pune. :-S

Research on Two Wheelers:
TVS Scooty: Torture for the pillion rider. One jolt upsets your alignment and you have to shift in your seat while the 40-kg driver wonders why he decided to give you a ride in the first place. On deserted roads, however, you can sit back, let your arms hang loose, spread your fingers, and feel the wind between them. Throw back your head and you can see stars.

Bajaj Pulsar: Definitely Male. And definitely not for females unless the male in the front seat is a love interest. Only willpower stops you from falling off the back. Whew!

April 09, 2005

Playing House

I’ve been playing house for five months now. It’s no different from the way I played as a kid during the summer vacations.

Once you have earmarked a space that you will call “home”, hung up a few sheets to personalize your space, got a doll or two to live with you, and put in some cushions and a complete kitchen set, you’re pretty much settled and independent. It’s hot outside. But do you care?

It is a wonderful feeling. That half-room house has been designed according to your specifications: from the pattern of the sheets you pulled out to make your tent, to the color of your kitchen set. Of course you’ve made compromises, and there’s unlimited suspension of disbelief, but it’s a small price to pay for being in control.

What you do next is to wait for someone to visit. If you’re playing with siblings or friends, they’ve probably set up house somewhere close by, with their own sheets, and cushions, and dolls, and tea sets. They’re as eager to have you over as you are to invite them.

You realize soon that being in your pretty little customized house all alone is not all that much fun. If the others stubbornly refuse to visit, you go to meet them, and check out their lodging. Something there takes your fancy: they’ve done something to make their home prettier/more comfortable. You hurry back with an apology and procure that item. It’s the unofficial rat race.

Soon, you find that getting together in one of the “houses” is a whole lot of fun. There is space enough for everyone, not just because there is lots of room under the tent, but because everything fits so well. So that’s where the tea is sipped, the chattering is done, and the misbehavior of the dolls is discussed. The place acquires “coolness”. You stop trying to match your house to that place; instead you yank some things out of your own house if they fit better where you hang out. If you are good, sometimes, you get to make the tea.

Childhood and vacations and tents are temporary. Outside the window, the shadows grow long. There are murmurs of parents wanting the householders to be back before dark. You stay on at the “cool” house for as long as you possibly can. Then you dismantle your house, put it away, and head home.

You miss the laughter and the whispered secrets under the cloth ceilings. But you also know that though play is over for today, summer vacations are long, and childhood is longer still.

This is dedicated to all my friends, with whom I’ve been playing house for five months. May we not grow up too soon!

April 06, 2005

Since the majority of me: Philip Larkin

Since the majority of me
Rejects the majority of you,
Debating ends forwith, and we
Divide. And sure of what to do

We disinfect new blocks of days
For our majorities to rent
With unshared friends and unwalked ways,
But silence too is eloquent:

A silence of minorities
That, unopposed at last, return
Each night with cancelled promises
They want renewed. They never learn.

April 05, 2005

Break-In At The Circus

They brought me sugarcane to keep me mum
I can’t have sugar, have you SEEN my bum?
They tried to coax me to nibble that stick
It tickled my nose, and they ran double quick
The tents shook, it was so loud, but Jeez!
You gotta sneeze when you gotta sneeze

My sweetheart wanted me to pick her lice
Women! Years of grooming won’t suffice!
She talked and talked and talked some more
I’m not her audience, to cry “Encore!”
Then she spotted them creeping slowly near
and eagerly shrieked to invite them to hear!

They crept upon me in the dead of the night
Sure I was too sleepy to put up a fight
An arm ventured in to open the cage door
It was pulled out, but the hand was no more
I’m quite upset they never came back
It’s a rare treat for me: a midnight snack

Many animals died in the fire at the Russian Circus yesterday. Here's wishing that animal circuses, like honesty and chivalry, are consigned to fiction forever.

April 04, 2005

A weekend of…

  • Theater (Manto Ismat Haazir Hain)
  • Motorbike rides and the wind in my hair
  • Birthdays and celebrations thereof
  • Passive smoking in the dark
  • Listening to people play the guitar
  • Two hours on a swing
  • Crying over “City of Angels” again
  • Spooky Palmistry
  • Old friends and new
  • The gravel crunching under my feet as I reached home just before dawn
  • Sleeping on my hair, which permanently smells of cigarettes now

And the decision to quit it all and move on.

April 02, 2005