Thursday, June 09, 2016

That advanced decay

I just finished shaking all over, thought it will never end. My mother says I should never have tried to confront anyone on the road. But, hell, this is Mumbai, the safest city in the world. Ok, let me go back a few hours in time to bring you up to speed. 
At 7 pm today, I was waiting at a busy signal on the worli sea face, with a sea of vehicles ahead of me, when a Qualis bumped into me from behind. A deep bumper dent. I was livid. And, somehow, I couldn't let it be. I got down to confront the driver of the car, MH 04 ES 5067. He is a big burly guy, this Daljit Singh, and he started yelling at me as I walked towards him, saying I was driving slowly and wrongly. I pointed out to him that I had in fact halted the vehicle awaiting a green signal. He didn't wait to listen, and that's when I noticed the Uber tag. So, I took a photo of the tag to keep a record of his name and number, telling him I would complain against him. 
And then, I got into my car, to get the signal, because the good people of Mumbai were in a hurry behind me and I didn't want to hold them up. 
No, it did not end there. As soon as I crossed the signal and the traffic police manning it, Daljit Singh came at me hard and strong. I was on the right most lane close to the divider and he came in from the left and tried to smash me into the divider. I was stunned, but not enough to get into shock. I couldn't halt because an Audi was coming down fast behind me. I tried keeping up the fight honking madly, and thankfully the next signal halt happened. I had very nearly died, but I couldn't give this up. I got down again and confronted him. He tried to hit me and I appealed to the passengers in the car. They grinned at me, they grinned at me as he tried to slap me. And this was in the middle of Worli Sea Face, that beautiful, wide, large, busy road. I gave up, and shaking, got back into the car, pulled up at the side to place a complaint with the Mumbai traffic police. As luck would have it, there was no traffic policeman at this one. 
So after dropping an email complaint to Uber and a Facebook complaint to Mumbai police, I came home and wondered about the decay of our civilization - not about that driver who would have killed me today, not about the cars behind me that ignored this drama, but about those two passengers who thought this was great entertainment on a Thursday evening. Someone who thinks it is entertainment to see someone else die doesn't really deserve a place in this world. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

A polish, quadrilateral

I was not a "make-up" person as a child. Or as an adolescent. Or as a young adult. I am not sure whether I found it terribly boring, or I considered myself too cool (the cool word for nerdy) to devote time to make-up. Also, it did not help that my parents were strongly against the very idea of make-up, and I never did want to disappoint them on any plane (my grades stand testimony to that). However, over the years, my views on make-up have changed. I have learnt to respect people who love themselves enough to spend time on and with themselves. And, looking good always makes one feel oodles better. Now, the years are all lost, and I have nothing to blame but my own laziness for not having loved myself enough. Though realization has hit me late rather than never, it hasn't really changed anything on the make-up side. I still don't own any make-upy products, though it ain't for lack of trying. 

Oh yes, I have attempted to walk into fancy shops in high end malls selling the latest in make-up, but always paused at the entrance, my feet growing colder by the millisecond. What will I ask for? Wouldn't I look dumb if I didn't know a foundation cream from a foundation lotion? Wouldn't I seem stupid if I didn't know what tone of face powder suited my skin? Would that good looking beautician over there look down upon me if I told her I don't know how to apply mascara? And, so, I would drop the idea, and quickly walk out of the mall, congratulating myself on saving money than spending it on make-up I don't understand.

While make-up has been, is, and will continue to be an elusive dream, I do have one vice (or virtue) that makes up for the lack of make-up. I love nail polish, always have. And, mind you, no disapproving glances from the parents have turned me off the allure of the polish. The only problem is, I don't get the damn thing. I mean, not get as in find or buy. I just don't have a very healthy relationship with it. The polish doesn't turn into an elegant show of beauty on my hands and feet. Ne'er has, and looks like ne'er will. 

Countless are the times when I, as a 12 year old put it on, smudged the whole thing on all my nails because I wanted to walk immediately to the bathroom and wash my hands and feet, and then removed it impatiently with the nail polish remover. Typically, by the third such cycle, I would be done for the day, only to resume a few weeks later. Strangely, it has never bothered me that after all that investment of time and polish, my nails would be colorless. 

Now, as a grown up, it is no better, though I have learnt the art of approximately fitting some color into the almost-quadrilateral surfaces my nails are, blowing hard and strong at each nail for a good 2 minutes after the application, and then resume my walk to the bathroom. Also, I have learnt why I apply nail polish, without bothering about the inelegance of the outcome. I like the idea of coloring my nails, and the time I am doing it keeps me happy. It doesn't seem to matter that the end result wouldn't be beautiful in the socially acceptable sense. 

How liberating to know that I have always loved myself in my own little way, applying quadrilateral polishes to my hands and feet, if not skin-tone foundation and sky-blue mascara to my face!

Friday, May 27, 2016

An evening by the sea

Which is your favourite sun? The early morning one easing you out of dreams, the mid afternoon one sending you off to sleep, or the rainbow maker, sprinkling its surprise rays amidst a soothing drizzle?

My favourite sun is the 7 pm one, an orangish round ball playing peekaboo behind that screen of clouds, swaying in harmony to the beats of the waves, an approving smile on his face at my date with twilight, with a mild and calm wink reminding me that night is 'round the corner. 

As he slowly sinks into the horizon, retiring for the night, the sea blanket tucking him to bed, she rises, the queen of the night, casting a warm yet cool glow on her subjects - those lovers holding hands whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears, those boisterous children running around with rubber balls and plastic bats, a walker here, a gymnast there - and on it goes, another moonlit evening by the sea. 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Body shamers

I have always been what one would, if they wanted to be polite, call "healthy" - a chubby child, an awkwardly big adolescent and now, a rotund adult. Neither I nor the people around me have forgotten that, and when I am not taking digs at my own size, my family and friends would run jokes on my behalf. In fact, my cousin's childhood nickname for me was "Moti", and he most definitely was not referring to pearl. I have never considered digs about my weight or size "body shaming", till almost a decade back at B-school.

At the end of a morning class session in the first term, a classmate came up to me and told me, very gleefully, how a bunch of guys in the last bench were just discussing about how large my arms were and the apparent sex appeal in them. My friend, who was sitting next to me, shooed him off saying he was talking 'bakwaas' and he should shut up. But, I was mum, a tad too numb, because I was too shocked that someone said that to me, about a specific body part. I didn't turn up in class the rest of the day as I spent the day wondering about what body parts of me people would be looking at or thinking of instead of talking to me, if and when I turned up. Of course, I went to class the next day, because I couldn't miss the course for the sake of a few bozos. However, my only regret for so many years now has been that I did not give it back to that guy, and had it buried inside me for so long. 

That situation has now been taken care of. The person contacted me for something, and while I was still mum during the initial conversation, something in me snapped when he said, "Looks like you are loving fitness routines. Your photos seem to suggest you have lost weight." I just told him that I am still the same person, only that no one body shames me any more unlike a bunch of bullies back in B-school. It felt good, though it was many thousand hours late.

Body shaming, as the urban dictionary informs me, is about shaming a person for their body. And, it isn't always about a fat person. It is about that girl who has a stick thin body and is insecure about it, because someone once told her that her clothes hang on her like on a pole. It is about the dark skinned boy who is compared to the night of the new moon or a 'karuvadu' (sun-dried fish in Tamil) day in and day out. It is about that short boy being told he will not find a girl his size and a tall girl being informed she is too much of an ostrich for marriage. For years, marketing companies have used our insecurities and these body shamers' words to coerce us into buying and using things we may perhaps be better off without than with. 

No, I am not going to spend time giving links to those advertisements and the outrage in media over them. Many a good samaritan has already taken care of that. I am just going to remind you, the body shamed (no one has the picture perfect body after all), to give it back when someone tries to shame you. You may yell, you may talk nicely, you may smile, you may not smile. Just drive the point across. The more you call out the shamers on their shaming, the lesser they will shame everyone, and the better this world will be, for us and our future generations too.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Looking back

I was tempted to write Z for Zummary, win-win at one attempt, a summary of the A-Z blogging challenge while also taking the easier way out on Z. But, that seemed like cheating, grossly mis-spelling the word and also denying this blog the chance of one more post for this month. More importantly, the only letter I was sure about when I started the challenge was Z, Ze Salon all over my mind and my Facebook feed these days. So, you, my reader, have to live with one more post from me, a takeaway of sorts, from this one month of blogging.
  • When I started this challenge, I was quite sure C would be the last my blog would see this month, 3 posts in 30 days. And, in fear of my anticipated failure, I didn’t tell anyone (including V) about the challenge, for a couple of days. But, discipline can work wonders. Every morning, I was out to prove myself wrong, that I could write a post a day, and it has worked well, quite surprisingly.
  • Being part of a global challenge is a good thing, perhaps the best of things. I registered on the A-Z challenge website on March 31st, a day before the challenge began. My number then was 1789. The rule is that, if my blog looks like a marketing tool / is inactive / doesn’t have a post for 5 days in a row during the challenge, it would be removed from the list. Naturally, my ever active competitive spirit kicked in, instinct not letting me rest for fear of being removed from the list. I have finished at 1166 today, which means my perseverance won over ~600 others.
  • Oh well, now that the challenge is over, I am missing it already and feeling a little empty. Can I wake up this Monday morning and start with a again? I could do my own A-Z challenge for May, but I have a fleeting feeling that without the ranking and competition, I will be a very lazy and undisciplined kid. If only I could cover some of these myriad topics across the next few months just as blog posts, that will be a win in itself.
  • I am a grammar freak, as you would know, if you know me well. I spend inordinate amounts of time editing my posts and not just because I know there are well meaning friends out there waiting for the first opportunity to catch me in the act of committing grammar crimes. But, this month, I removed that part of me and put it inside the far end of the “discard” closet as I wrote. There are many posts here that I did not read a second time before posting. My G for Grammar Nazi post had (still has) some glaring, pathetic language errors. It’s alright sometimes, I have learnt. Moving ahead becomes difficult when the mind is shackled by too many structures and constraints.
  • The challenge suggests that it will be nice to have a theme across the 26 posts. Being the generalist I am, I did not think of or commit to one particular theme. I did not want to be shackled to it! But, I have ended up writing a fair number of posts that have a flavor of travel across the month, about Prague, Paris, Ljubljana, Amsterdam and Dubrovnik. I had taken a travel diary with me last year while on one of my trips, and the things I jotted down then greatly helped in shaping some of these posts. The idea is more so reaffirmed in my mind now, that I should always carry a travel diary with me, even if it is old-fashioned in this era of smart phones and tablets.
  • This is my first year of the A-Z challenge, though I have been following Sayesha, who takes up the challenge every year and writes some very interesting posts. My only focus this year, as a newbie, has been to write every day. The challenge is much more than that. The challenge is also to read as much as we can, of the others who take the plunge along with us. I have failed miserably in the reading part. Reading requires discipline, just like writing, and it cannot be ignored because a ranking system is not tracking how many posts I read every day or how many comments I post every day. That’s definitely a big failure, and I hope I can work on it next time around.
  • All of us have a “want to be appreciated” motive in mind when we do things – performing well at work, doing a concert on stage, displaying our artistic creations in a gallery, writing a book and publishing it. I am no different, no evolved human who creates just for the sake of creation and inner happiness. I write my blog posts and advertise them in all free media – Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus (even that!). And I like being read and told they are nice posts. It is new energy being pumped into me every time someone says that they read the post and it was nice. This time has not been very different. Many of you have appreciated me for taking up the challenge, and more importantly, have read these posts I have been writing. It truly means a lot to me. So long, and thank you for all the support J

Z for Ze Salon

Salon has its origins in 17th century France, a social gathering of writers and artistes. This short video gives a good summary of the idea, and what role women played as hostesses of the salons, in that century.

S, inspired by this idea, conceptualized Ze Salon in November last year, a recreation of 17th century French magic in 21st century modern India. It took me mere weeks to join her on this journey, for nothing sounded more exciting than providing a platform for people from diverse backgrounds to come together and share their perspectives on different topics.

Ze Salon is a community where everyone can share their views and thoughts on a plethora of topics, ranging from politics to religion to human behavior to feminism. It is a platform that speaks and listens, listens especially in earnest of the other end of the spectrum, the other perspective. 

In the five months of our existence, we have discussed nationalism, atheism, reservation in education and society's judgmental attitude, amongst other things. More importantly, we as hosts, and also our guests (per their own testimonials) have realised it is possible to broaden our perspectives, even if not always agreeing with opposing ideas.

As a part of this journey, our aim is really not monetary or business linked. In fact, as S and I joke often, we have the unique value proposition of a completely loss making business if we were to call it that. Ze Salon is a tryst with change. If we can have conversations with the aim of listening rather than reacting, our goal of increasing tolerance levels and empathy in the community would be accomplished, in our own small way. That would be such a beautiful world to live in, wouldn't it?

P. S. This post is the twenty sixth and last in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y for Yoga

I was 5 years old when I was enrolled into the “best” yoga program in the city, because my child specialist had suggested yoga would help increase my immunity level. 

I kind of liked the location. It had a huge idol of Patanjali, a sage who compiled Yoga sutras in the ancient past. The idol was right next to a tree towering over it which showered fragrant flowers right on top of the idol, and the whole scene was nothing short of serene. And the place inside had multiple yoga rooms with individual sessions. Well, they weren’t really rooms, to be fair to the beauty of the place, and the lack of vocabulary creativity within me. They were small hutments with thatched roofs, off shoots littered across the property, and each one had a dedicated Yoga teacher imparting the knowledge of Yoga to young and old, man and woman. The place was largely silent, true to the spirit of the Yoga taught there, and it might have given any meditation center of today a run for the money.

I was assigned to this menacing lady who was (and hopefully still is) extremely committed to the cause of Yoga. She wouldn’t wear a smile on her face, but her asanas were perfection. And, I would work hard just to please her, because what better joy can there be than pleasing the best in the trade. It didn’t matter that she was all of 16 and 5 feet tall. The confidence with which she carried herself taught me very early on that neither age nor size matter. Looking back, I can imagine what a scary class monitor, peer, student, and mother she must have turned out to be. But, my health did take a turn for the better, thanks to the rigor and science behind the exercises.

As with all new things learnt and lack of discipline, I lost touch with Yoga and future attempts to regain the mastery never worked, I suspect because I never got my first teacher back. I wonder sometimes, what she is up to now. If things worked well and her students reciprocated with the same commitment that she showed towards the art, I am sure many lives would have been touched and changed for the better.

P. S. This post is the twenty fifth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

X for Xerox

“Excuse me, ma’am,” said he as he walked in at 9 a.m., a good half hour after class had begun. The Professor beamed at him as if he had just got her a bouquet of fresh flowers. I seethed mildly as I sat on the first bench taking down notes, as he promptly walked to the last bench and settled down, ready to start the CP (Class Participation).

He was known for this – coming in late unfailingly every day, and yet the teacher’s pet – because he would ask some complicated questions on data structures and Boolean logic and then answer those himself. There was something attractive about him, his intelligence, his non-understandable questions, everything except the walking in late, I thought, as I got on with the notes.

In a few weeks, mid-terms arrived and I was swamped with requests from all and sundry in class for my notes. Word had gotten out that I had taken some mighty notes, and the boys who had got through the course with proxy attendance needed something, anything, to clear the exams. I didn’t know how many copies were made of my notes though grapevine had it that bulk copies were made in the neighborhood Xerox shop.

After the exam, he came over and said, “Hey. Thanks for the notes. They were quite detailed.” I started. “Huh?” I asked, in what he would in later years call my tremendously rude tone, as if he had stolen something from me. “Oh! I got your notes from P. I used them to study last night,” he said with a sheepish grin. The grin was slightly killing, so I let him be, only with a modest, “The notes are nothing. You need to teach me data structures and probability sometime.” He seemed to have taken my words quite seriously, for there he was, diligently following up the next day asking when I wanted to be taught data structures and probability.

The rest, as they say, is history.

When I was racking my brains for X, and had finally landed on X-Ray, V was vehement that at least one post had to be about him. So, here it is, about my notes stealer and algorithm teacher, in fact the best algorithm teacher I have ever known in my life!

P. S. This post is the twenty fourth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

W for Wanderlust

I was not an aspiring wanderlust growing up. No, I have not covered as many countries or traveled as exotically as many of my friends have. But, of late, I have picked up joy from traveling and have even toyed with the idea of doing a solo trip, this girl here being my latest inspiration. How would it be like, to walk the paved streets of a city alone, traversing the maps, struggling with the local language, figuring out their tram / metro transport, bumping into people I don't know and having a laugh with them.

I have taken a step ahead in the solo thingy, twice in my life, though there are miles to go before I can call myself a solo traveler. 

The first time was at Amsterdam, when I had to take a tram alone in an unknown city for the time, to get to Rijksmuseum. It was my first European museum visit, and by far my best (yeah, even better than the Louvre). The autumn flowers were withering away, winter was setting in, the sky was a dull grey, and all around me was a sparsely populated city walking in dark winter coats and boots. On I went directly to Rijksmuseum, and identified a cafe opposite the museum to settle down for breakfast and hot chocolate. It was as if time had stopped still. There was no one but me, and my kindle, there, in the semi-open door setting, looking out at the museum and the "I Love Amsterdam" structure ahead. I wanted to sit there forever and read my book in peace, but then reminded myself that in order to get full value for the money of my trip to Amsterdam, I needed to get out and explore the place. Collecting an audio guide and a map of the museum, off I went in and in to the museum, eventually spending a good two hours marveling at the creations. Other than some of the most famous paintings housed in there (the Night's Watch is quite breathtaking), the category that caught my eye was the miniature. Miniature doll houses with furnishings and furniture mirroring the real ones (made from the same materials too - teak for teak, silk for silk) were the most beautiful. So were the miniature apothecaries filled with medicine bottles, measurement tubes and some such. After I had exhausted the museum and bought trinkets at the museum shop like a true tourist, I went to another cafe to relive my solitary happiness. After a few minutes there, I was bored of being alone having spent over half a day without talking to anyone. Thankfully, V joined by then, after finishing some urgent work, cooped up in the hotel room (on holiday!).

The second time was more of a real solo day, at Dubrovnik last year. We had estimated more time for Dubrovnik than necessary, and I ended up being alone on the last day, with nothing to do, having explored all sides of the wall, and clicking pictures from down to up to down. After having lunch alone, I decided to do something daring, something I have never done before - take a ferry alone to an island. As I waited for the ferry by the pier, I put my Indian mentality to good use and tried to be as far ahead as possible in the crowd, to get into the ferry early and capture one of the choicest seats. When the ferry arrived, I was the first one to board, and then realised I was the last one to board as well. Everyone else seemed to be waiting for something else, and I had my first truly alone ferry ride, all of 600 metres to Lokrum island. I imagined the island will also be empty, gearing up for the adventure, taking a few ferry selfies, enjoying the breeze of the Adriatic sea. As I alighted, I understood all those enthusiastic tourists had already reached Lokrum to have picnic lunches. Lokrum is a nice small cosy island with a botanical garden and some endangered species for company. I couldn't find any other endangered species but peacocks and peahens, as I went around the island, clicking pictures and trying to capture as much detail as I could in my mind (which wasn't much - it was only a brownish green patch stretching around me on all sides). In the middle of the island was a dilapidated structure, something between a mansion and a castle, though most of the walls and roofs were missing. Imagining all sorts of haunted stories, I walked closer, rubbing my palms in anticipation of the adventure, only to be greeted by a cafe within the structure, and tourists taking picture.s No, there is no escaping selfie sticks anymore. Within half hour, my tour was completed, and I came back to take the last ferry back to Dubrovnik. This time it was massively crowded and I didn't put any fight for the choicest seats, as I knew now from experience that the ride was all of 3 minutes.

Some day, some day, I am hoping to do a solo trip, where I would actually interact with other humans (and not just click pictures with animals and inanimates), and perhaps make a few friends on the way. And who knows, I might take the plunge and do something truly adventurous like parasailing when alone. That would be a 'wanderlustic' trip in the real sense. 

P. S. This post is the twenty third in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V for Villains

How many opportunities will I get to do an antonym challenge within the A-Z challenge? One? Since I wrote H for Heroes, V has to be for Villains.

Who was your biggest villain as a kid? Parents? Siblings? Teachers? The friendly neighborhood aunty who was nosing into your marksheets all the time? I don’t really remember any particular villainous person, because, anyone I think of is being discarded by my now rationalizing mind saying that, “No no. They did not mean it that way.”

The only category of people I still can think of as villains despite all the rationalization my mind does (yeah, my cheeks burn with anger now as I think of them) has everything to do with my being a chubby kid. I would have been the brand ambassador of that “Chubby cheeks” rhyme if anyone had bothered to market or videograph it. Hell, chubby could have been a secondary synonym for my name, if anyone had bothered to include my name as word of the year in the Oxford dictionary. And, this led to a lot of unpleasant contact with the outside world.

My mother says that when I was younger (a mere 5 year old), I handled the situation pretty well. I would start screaming my head off, invoking the inner demon in me, when I saw any human other than my parents, ensuring no one came within a 10m radius of me. But, as I grew older, I turned quieter, and all I could do when these villains got their hands near me was to scrunch my face and flatten those unflattenable cheeks, hoping they would go away. But, no, no. They never went away, as they placed their big, fat hands on my cheeks, pulling at both ends. I had to start telling people off at one point of time to ensure my cheeks didn’t elope for fear of their lives. That made me a rather unpleasant kid, but hey, a girl can only take so much nonsense!


Today, all that learning comes back to me hard and strong as I pick up my friends’ kids. I cuddle with them, talk to them, give them objects to play with, while carefully navigating my hands away from those pretty little cheeks. And, all these kids remember me (I hope?) and one even sent an “I miss you” whatsapp voice message to me once. See the power of keeping your hands in the right place and ensuring your name is off a child's villains’ list!

P. S. This post is the twenty second in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

U for Umbrellas

I was born and brought up in Chennai, a city that, in the '90s, did not know the concept of monsoon rains. Also, the weather was only hot, hotter and hottest, and no one around me either used or goaded me into using an umbrella. The closest I have come to encountering the word is in books from centuries back that quaintly refer to parasols carried by ladies’ maids to protect their beloved ladies from the glare of the nonexistent English summer.

My tryst with the umbrellas started in 2008, when I was thrown into the quagmire of the Mumbai monsoons – quagmire, literally and figuratively, though the literal one couldn’t be managed with an umbrella over the head, and rain boots were (are) not really popular. If you have experienced the Mumbai monsoon, you would know that a nice, cute umbrella will be blown away in the first instance, while a large, sturdy, grandfather umbrella would not fit into the already cramped trains, shared taxis and umbrella stands outside office areas.

Anyway, this story isn’t about Bombay’s monsoons and cramped space. I love the city too much to write a 'cribby' post on it!

Despite all the experience we now have with monsoons and umbrellas, and despite packing umbrellas into our outside-India-suitcases every time, we invariably leave those 'brellas behind in hotel rooms. For, our backpacks never have space for them after accommodating the more important travel diaries, maps, iPads and mobile chargers. Thanks to this prioritization, we now have an umbrella each from every country we have been to while sadly, none of these are either fancy looking or cheap, or for that matter functional (too friendly with the wind to do their work like good old umbrellas).

The last international umbrella shop visit we made is the most memorable. We were in Ljubljana, Slovenia, walking through the shopping area on our last day there when it started drizzling. Promptly, we walked into the nearest umbrella shop. Only, it turned out to be not so much an umbrella shop as a “quaint shop” housing literary memorabilia. For instance, they had this handbag (rather, a hand box, that would stand like a box when you hang it on your shoulder), which had “Gone with the Wind” on it; an umbrella with Pride and Prejudice; storage cabinets with a myriad of book covers printed on them. I would have loved to buy and transport the entire shop back home. Then, I halted and checked the price on the first handbag with the GWTW on it. It was priced at 200 Euros, Made in Italy.

Since I could not swish my imaginary magic wand to disapparate myself and the shop from there without paying a penny, I left empty handed, but not before wondering how life does come full circles many times – from books that referenced umbrellas and parasols, to umbrellas with book covers printed on them. 

P. S. This post is the twenty first in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T for Tall Tales

She is crying. Again. It is, in fact, a barely audible whimper that would escape the notice of a less discerning ear, like that of a random co-passenger in a crowded bus. But, she is not in a bus. And, I am not a random co-passenger. Nothing she does escapes my eyes. And her slightest jitters unnerve my very being. For, I love her much more than I can ever express, to her even.

The day I was born was an emotional one; for her, more than for me, as she caressed and kissed me and jumped around with joy. I didn’t mind the love being showered on me. I, in fact, was slowly warming up to all the attention. But the moment she tried to crush me mindlessly, not knowing how to handle me, I got angry. Whoever treats a poor little baby like me so roughly, I seethed. But, in my heart, I knew she was new to this, and was trying to do her best, for me more than for her. As days went by, I would notice her going for hours without food and drink if I were so much as barely touched, let alone scratched.

She has always been emotional like that. I remember the first time she got into a fight over phone, in my presence. She yelled, then cried, and then laughed, only to end up yelling again. I never understood what really the issue was or who she was speaking with, then. But, that agitated self of hers, biting her nails and looking like the world had crumbled upon her, is etched clearly in my memory.

She can be happy too, like when she listens to her favorite music and shakes her hands and feet in joy. It is fun watching her at such times, drinking her in, drinking her joy in, wishing she would remain so, wishing she wouldn’t pick up her phone and get lost in that silly, sad world of hers again.

The last time we went off on a weekend getaway was magical, just she and I, like eloping lovers, without a care in the world; I, because she was there with me, my best friend, confidante, guide; she, because I was there for her, sticking by her, through thick and thin, never giving up, never tiring of her. It was a lovely morning, the road was wide and empty, and early mists were breaking away. As we went, on either side, wild flowers blossomed and bloomed, in pink, yellow and blue, heralding the arrival of spring, and perhaps us, too.

But those memories are all from the past now. I am not sure when we will go like that on a getaway again.

She received a phone call yesterday. I could hear a guy speaking to her, firmly and officiously at first, mellowing down towards the middle, and almost kindly consoling her at the end. She, uncharacteristically, did not respond, except for the occasional ‘Umm’, and hung up with a curt ‘Thanks’. She was very silent after that, as if she were at someone’s funeral. I feared the worst, but I was at a loss as to how to console her. She picked up her phone again, after what seemed to be eons, to call a number listed on her Favorites.

“My boss called me just now, firing me for underperformance. And, during the conversation, he added in a slight undertone – Manage your personal relationship better. I think they know about us and that was the reason I was fired. What did you do? How did they find out?” As she spoke, her voice was dangerously calm, unlike her usual agitated conversations when under emotional duress.

I know who is on the other end of the line. I try avoiding thoughts of her other love, but it comes back to haunt me, at times like this. They have been together for some time now, I learnt much after I myself fell irrevocably in love with her. I am not jealous of their relationship (well, a little, perhaps), but I personally think their association is taking a toll on her emotional well-being. However, she is neither the listening kind, nor the thinking kind. 

They talked for some time; she seemed dissatisfied with the assurance from the other side, but made fake claims that she was and would be fine, and disconnected the call. I wondered how, if this was true love, such a feeble and halfhearted “Love you” from her might have put her girlfriend at ease.

As she went home that night, I had a gut feel it wouldn’t be the same again. In fact, I was worried I would never see her again.

But, now, I don’t know which is worse – not seeing her, or seeing her cry like this. As she wipes away the last of her silent tears, she hugs herself, and then hugs me for much longer than usual. She then puts the seat back, pops a couple of pills in her mouth and closes her eyes. I wait for 5 minutes, hoping she would get up. And then, I start getting agitated. 

Something is wrong here.

‘No, don’t do it. Wake up now.’ I yell at her. But, I know she can’t hear me. Her breathing slowly turns ragged.

For the first time in life, I realize my incapability to do things that living beings can do, for I do have a mind and feelings just like living beings. As I try to pray and hope a miracle would bring her back to life, the carbon monoxide in me slowly consumes what little oxygen is left in her.

I, her beloved hatchback, kill the love of my life, if not through action, only by inaction, and keep watch a mute spectator, as her soul disappears from this Earth, forever. Perhaps, she will find peace finally, whereas I will go to my grave a tormented car, the touch of her last hug lingering in my steering wheel, for long after I am dismantled.

P. S. This post is the twentieth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

S for Small World

It was another Uber day today, and I was rushing for a meeting to the far north of the city. Bad time estimations, delay in connectivity, overall Murphy was flapping his ugly wings all over me. Mentally preparing for a difficult conversation with the cabbie, I called him once the booking went through. He, surprisingly, seemed to have his wits about himself – the first in a week filled with a string of clueless drivers who didn’t turn up at the doorstep – and reached in exactly 4 minutes as he predicted. I got in and launched into a long list of instructions to get us out of this area, because the average Uber driver has just landed from Mars and doesn’t really understand all this complexity of roads and U-turns and speed lanes and slow lanes. Surprise again. This guy seemed to have everything under control. I just named the area I wanted to get to, mentioning on a side note how delayed I was for a 10 am meeting, and got onto a long telephonic conversation.

In 20 minutes, we were nearing our destination and I was done with my phone call. Now, I told him the office complex I wanted to go to, and he nodded vigorously, also asking me whether I was going to Company XYZ. I laughed and said, “Oh! Not XYZ this time.” He was curious to know whether I work for XYZ, and I said, “I used to, you know. But, in their other office, not this one.” He got all excited and started talking about how he used to drive for the CEO of XYZ, and for some other big shots in the financial world.

Whoa! This is déjà vu, my mind alerted me. I know this guy, I know this guy. Then, I told him, “Hey! Weren’t you driving a rented black and yellow cab a few months back? I was your passenger back from my XYZ office and you dropped me home. And we were discussing how you can make more money by becoming an Uber / Ola driver.” “Yes, yes, yes. I got this car 8 days back and enrolled on Uber. It is going well so far.”
And then, we engaged in some small talk on how small a world it is, wished each other a nice day, and parted ways happy.

This morning, I had spent some confused minutes wondering what I would write on S. Stink? Smell? Stupidity? And now, I am putting my feet up, taking it easy, having a break, and only wondering whether I should name this post “Serendipity” or “Small World”.
Small world sounds better, for isn’t that the most powerful form of the world!

P. S. This post is the nineteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

R for Redial

I dialed her number and waited. There was the long screeching "engaged" tone that had been bothering me for the past half hour. Cursing all and sundry, I slammed down the blood red phone and waited. Exactly 9 nanoseconds later, I dialed again.

Are you a millennium child? As in, not a millennial, which google informs me is "the cohort spanning children born between the 1980s and the early 2000s". Are you a millennium child, one that was born when I was at my adolescent best, or worst? For you, this will be a nice, new post that oldies reminiscence about, stuff that you can safely include in your ancient history curriculum. For the rest, well, let's revel in some nostalgia.

As a school kid, I was an extensive user of the dial-telephone. We had a red one at home similar to the one in this pic. 
Image result for red dial telephone
And, I used it under the ruse of homework discussions, a fair bit. Hey, really! I was a diligent kid, having lots to discuss about my math and science homework, and the ghost house next door to school (our own little fairy tale-ish gossip) with my best friend. And my friend used the phone even more extensively than I did, so much so that I was faced with the situation referenced at the beginning of this point quite frequently. My fingers would feel wobbly and sore after the many redials, and I would be ready to throw something at someone, at which precise moment, she would call me back, as if on cue, the red telephone shrilly announcing her re-entry into my life. Was it telepathy, I wonder now.

For, we did not have basics like punch keypads and redial buttons, let alone advanced tech like call waits. And, I am not missing the lack of them. No, that's a lie. I miss the lack of call waits and call logs. Now, there is so much evidence of a call received that I cannot really say, "Oh! You called? I never received it." Sometimes, to hell with technology. 

I don't think we have the telephone with us anymore, what with my mother's obsession with throwing out anything old and useless (which gene she has promptly passed on to me). I keep telling her how we have lost that one chance to make millions (or billions, basis inflation) in the decades to come, passing it off as "precious antique furnishing". While that ship has sailed, I have implored her to keep the typewriter and the ammi-kal well and happy, because those might just make up for the loss of revenue from this one!

P. S. This post is the eighteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

Q for Quesadillas

Are you a foodie? A gastronomist? A chef? An awesome mommy cook? Yes, you are most probably my friend (I have at least one of each kind), and you know how not into food I am (except desserts, of course). But, I am an experimenter. Of food, clothes, jobs, entertainment. So, I don't always end up going to the same restaurant every single time. And then, there is the travel, when I have to experiment with a lot of things, primarily food (strict vegetarian at that).

Every single time I walk into a Mexican restaurant, be it in Aamchi Mumbai or far away Croatia, I am STUMPED. Does a quesadilla look queasy? Does a chimichanga look like a chimpanzee? What about tortilla? How is it pronounced (tortiya, turtila, tortila, totiya), let alone how does it look? So many times have I ended up ordering the chimichanga, only to realise that's the queasy little thing I wanted to avoid, while my favorite stuffed paratha look-alike is actually a quesadilla. 

Thanks to smart phones, free wi-fi across the world, and the ever ubiquituous internet, the nomenclature no longer poses a big challenge when I travel outside India. As soon as I walk into any restaurant / cafe, I ask, rather demand, my free wi-fi details (generally ignoring their "we are full now, you have no place to sit" apologies), check that it's working fine, then get the menu, check for vegetarian items while googling them up to confirm the WYSIWYG point, then find a table to seat myself at, and then place the order. In parallel, I also do some mental calculations of quick foreign currency->INR conversions to ensure I don't have to sell my kidney to ingest some kidney beans. As for India, it is pretty simple. I just ask the server / waiter / maitre d'hotel (at the Udipi / mid-market restaurant / five-star cafe) to describe the dish and then place the order. Only that their description is quite off the actual dish that arrives on the table. For instance, I have had paella being described as an exotic yet balanced dish of carbs, green veggies, and original Spanish sauces, only to receive tomato rice as an outcome. But, then, no one in India gives free wi-fi, so Google doesn't get my august presence in its midst, and I prefer the free human interference to the never-working-3G-powered automated support. 

Yes, today's post was written with some extensive assistance from Google baba. I still get confused between those Mexican dishes, but I have it programmed in my mind never to walk into an Italian place and order anything other than pasta / pizza. Because, I have no intention of buying expensive tomato rice or upma, when I won't taste it even if offered free!

P. S. This post is the seventeenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.