Sunday, December 23, 2012

"So, can fairy tales come true?": My entry for the Get Published Contest

The Idea: 

They say that matches are made in heaven. But often, these matches get torn apart in the real world, by our society and its various constructs and norms: religion, caste, creed, age and what not. Love may be the most precious blessing of all but it can often turn into a curse. Fairy tales may play out, replete with magic and miracles, but happily ever afters are difficult to come across.

This is the story of A and S. 

A, who was outgoing and humorous; S who was shy and reserved. His father was a reverend and closely involved with Christian ministries; she belonged to a traditional and conservative Hindu family. But that of course didn't stop them from falling in love. Because as every story of boy-meets-girl has implored since time immemorial, love is an untamed force that is far above the self-imposed, often unreasonable rules of humanity otherwise known as religion and caste.

Their story blossomed in a most filmi style as they grew close through bus rides together to college every day. The seeds of love were always there but it took three years for the flower to bloom. And till then, college was over and it was time to move on with life. A wanted to go to Canada to study further, while S applied for the MA course at the same college. Her parents were also hinting at finding someone for her to marry, now that she’d graduated.

What did the lovebirds do? Come out and talk to the families or wait and see what fate had in store for them?

This isn't just another story of an inter-religious love affair. It is the enthralling saga of a couple who had to part immediately after they got together in the first place because life cannot be paused, not even for matters of the heart. Did their love endure the separation that came with A going away to study? Did S confess to her family? Did their fairy tale affair culminate in a happily-ever-after? You'll have to wait to read the full story to find out. 

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India

Please, please, please vote for this REAL love story at  because I've personally witnessed it unfold and assure you that it’s a story worth telling the world. 

Thank you! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The world is not getting safer. But that does not mean we stop living.

The past few days, I have been kind of hoping that the world would indeed end today. We'd all die and there would be no more problems to face, duties to fulfill, dreams to accomplish. There would be no more difficult questions to seek answers to, or situations to grapple with. We would all go poof! and be at peace at last. At long last.
Especially the women of India. There would be no more burden to shoulder, no men to hide from or struggle against, no dangers to avert, no threats to our safety and existence. Because, uh, we would all just cease to exist. How nice.
I do not want to rant. About how I am fed up of being a girl. About how the world is unfair. About the Delhi gang rape case that's got me emotionally paralyzed. About how I hate growing up and facing the future. No, I don't want to rant. So here's what I'm going to say:
The world is not getting safer, just like it's not getting any cleaner or bigger or better. We are all majorly (yes I know that's not a real word) SCREWED and are doomed to meet a terrible end, much worse than the 2012 apocalypse (because hey, what could be worse than surviving some more years in this messed up world?). However, that does not mean I stop living: that is, doing the things that make me happy or give me fulfillment.
As much as I would like to go to bed and never wake up to the future (provided that I have one), I can't do that. Because limbo is a luxury that the living cannot afford. To hang around and do nothing is for the dead. Even if the world is not safe, I can't stop going out and doing the things I need to do. I can't stop chasing my dreams, I can't just give up in fear that I may be attacked or whatever. If bad things are supposed to ensue, they will ensue regardless of what I do or don't do. Though of course, that doesn't mean I should go and engage in some completely reckless behaviour that as good as invites trouble to come and get me. All I'm saying is that in the quest to be 'safe', I can't stop living. I have to do whatever I need to do, and I have to go wherever I need to go. Because if I don't, then I might as well be dead then, right?
I end here with something my friend told me her dad said once:
"Maut to yuhin badnaam hai, takleef to zindagi deti hai." 
Death just has a bad reputation. It's life that actually hurts us.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I love love stories; Jab tak hai Jaan.

To me, Yash Raj Films have always stood for the two things that hold the whole world captive: dreams and love. I am mostly referring to the Yash Raj flicks of the late nineties and after as I haven't seen too many of their earlier productions. The films I am referring to are rarely directed by the late Yash Johar, instead employing the talent of younger filmmakers who often tell lighter, youth-oriented urban romantic comedy-style tales. Some of these films flopped, but most went on to do excellent business if not turn into mega blockbusters, often despite their silly or unreasoable plot lines. I'm talking of the likes of Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge, Mohabbatein, Hum Tum, Saathiya, Salaam Namaste, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, etc.
And of course the ones directed by Yashji himself - Darr, Dil to Pagal Hai, Veer Zara.
I loved them all, and no matter what anyone says about my sad taste in movies, I can watch a Yash Raj Film anytime, every time, and thoroughly enjoy it.
In a way, they were my first exposure to the possibility of a perfect world, where a perfect love story can unfold to culminate in a perfect happy ending. The heroines in these movies are often so much like me, yet so different. Other times, they were everything I wanted to be.
Candyfloss Yash Raj movies were the perfect complement to my teenage diet of cutesy young adult novels and Hollywood Rom-coms. I was addicted to love stories. Still am, in fact. They make me believe in that elusive possibility of romantic love despite never having experienced it myself. They make me believe in happy endings, and song and dance and the outlandish idea that somewhere out there, there IS a guy who can be my Mr. Right. All my friends make fun of my somewhat adolescent obsession with love stories and all things romantic, even more so after I acted in my own two-minute cheesy love story film which in retrospect is quite hilarious to watch. But none of that has ever changed the fact that I do love love stories, no matter how stupid, childish or cliched they may appear to other people. That is why I was super excited to watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan ever since the first promo released. Unfortunately, I had to wait almost a month to finally go and see it and to be honest, I was disappointed but still liked it.
To start with, it is terribly edited and just way too long, which makes it boring and draggy in the middle.Secondly, the central plot is sort of stupid, something I doubt most young people today can relate to. Thirdly, and most importantly, BOTH the female lead characters are just SO shallow. On one hand, we have Meera who does little apart from look pretty, and on the other, we have Akira who is oversexed and in-your-face bubbly. Neither represent the true modern woman of today and are caricature-ish, to say the least.
It was only Major Samar Anand who stole my heart and held the film together. I don't care what people say about SRK, there's a reason he is known as the King of Bollywood. At least he doesn't try too hard like Aamir Khan or overdose on the stupidity like Salman Khan. Yes, he does go overboard on the romance, but that's what he does best so...
However, SRK on his own is not enough to be a saving grace for the movie. Just like a Mills and Boon novel, a YRF film has to be a certain way and that's where Jab tak hai jaan fails, in my opinion. There are no grandiose declarations of love that mark this genre of Indian cinema; instead, everything is all very casual and 'cool' and hence unbelievable. In the quest to be appear 'modern', the story ends up being shallow. A few dialogues are nice and the songs tend to grow on you, but the background score definitely steals the show.

On the whole, boring and average, it's a movie only SRK fans will be able to tolerate. Nonetheless, I love love stories, and I love YRF. Jab tak hai Jaan. :P

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A "different" birthday.

When you don’t display your birthday on Facebook, it helps sift away all the chaff from your extensive friends’ list and determines which people in your life actually hold you valuable. Because they don’t need to depend on a reminder from FB to know that you’ve lived another year of life, and surely, that’s something special. Your wall –or timeline as it is called now – doesn’t get spammed by hundreds of highly impersonal wishes that are kind of exhausting to scroll through and worse, reply to in a nauseating similar impersonal – often superficial – manner.
That's why, tt was refreshing to have a Facebook-free birthday this year, with only 3 people wishing me there, and I think it is very symbolic of how I have changed over this past year. I’ve tried to cut out all the nonsense and unnecessary fluff from my life. I’ve grown up, moved on, become more perceptive, insightful, and learned to handle things more maturely. Or so I hope. :P
I have also become more private, especially with what I share online. I deleted my entire blog and started it afresh, not posting anything too personal anymore, As much as the internet fascinates me and makes life easy, it is kind of frightening too.
This year, I had a birthday unlike any I could have imagined. The run-up to it was kind of depressing, what with exams looming large (as they always do in November!) and me feeling like everybody is too busy to want to celebrate my day, but then it peaked into happiness so fast that it made me giddy. And what’s more is that as the day progressed and came to an end, it kind of spiraled into some form of unmatched awesomeness that I can’t even fully explain here because I am too overwhelmed. :)
It is birthdays that remind us how loved and fortunate we are, and as much as getting older feels a little bad, it is a good way of being motivated to reach for everything that we want in life with renewed faith and optimism.
This year my birthday excluded a couple of old friends whom I had expected would remember but didn’t. At the same time, however, it included, as compensation perhaps, plenty more new friends and potential friends who turned my day into one that I will never forget. For all the right reasons.
And for that, I am thankful and crazy happy and as I said earlier, so overwhelmed that I can’t really write anymore.
So yeah, I am officially a year older now. :) 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Power of You

You can do anything.
Change the world. Or change your life.
You can be a star. Or an insignificant earthworm.
You can experience anything.
The heights of depression, the throes of elation.
You can radiate light, or just unnecessary heat.
You can crib and cry. Or smile and be merry.
You can decide to be happy, Untouched by anything and anyone.
Or wallow in misery, thinking nobody cares.
You can be a mess. You can decide not to.
You can achieve nirvana. Without a drug. (Or a music band.)
Yes, you can. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why I am irritated.

Because the future looms large, and I don't have a plan.
Because all good things come to an end.
Because I'm turning older but more confused.
Because I don't know whether I will ever marry. Or love.
Because people don't reply to my text messages.
Because the world is unfair.
Because my laptop is slow.
Because I want a new one.
Because I want a smart phone.
Because I want a job and lots of money and every selfish desire in the world.
Because it is hard being a woman in India.
Because it is hard being a woman period.
Because sometimes I feel burdened.
Because more times I realise I have nothing to complain about.
Because life is complex. As are relationships.
Because I want to be in love.
Because there are so many things I want to do. And too little time.
Because sometimes I want to do nothing.
Because I think too much.
Because I don't think at all.
Because I have dreams. And fears about not fulfilling them.
Because I want to be so much.
But sometimes feel like nothing at all.
Because irritation is the most common twenty-something emotion. Or so it appears. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I love November

Not just because I was born in this month, but because it's that beautiful time of year when it's neither too hot nor too cold. The year hasn't quite ended but everyone is gearing up for the coming one. Everything seems to be in a state of renewal and there is a general air of festivity. Diwali is coming, followed by Christmas. It is a month of shopping and wrapping up unfinished business that you don't want to carry into the new year.
This year, the arrival of November has kind of proved that the world is perhaps not ending after all -for if it were, surely some signs would have appeared by now. Not that I'm trying to challenge any higher powers out there.
This is the month when I turn a year older, when I look back and reflect on life so far, when I set new goals and let go of bygones. It is when I try my best to improve as a person and look forward to things to come. It is when I feel most happy and hopeful, most ambitious and inspired. November brings out the best in me, and that is why I ♥ it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why do we get obsessed?

With songs, with quotes, with books, with favorite items of clothing, with colors, with possessions, with people.
Why is the human brain so vulnerable to addiction?
What makes us want to listen to the same song again and again and again. On repeat. Ten times a day. Everyday. And then we eventually tire of it and can't bear to hear it at all. Ever.
Does the same happen with people? If we are addicted to someone's company, does it mean we will eventually tire of them and not want to see them at all?
Is that why married couples so often grow apart even if they continue to be 'together'?
What is it about people that draws us to them anyway? Why can't any one of us ever survive in isolation? Why is solitary confinement the worst kind of punishment that a criminal can be given? Why do we need a social life?
I guess the obvious answer is that other people provide the means to fulfilling our various "needs" as defined by Abraham Maslow. From a primitive one like sex to more complex ones like achievement, self-esteem and self-actualization. Nothing can be attained in isolation. Except madness, perhaps.
But then, when we are obsessed with a certain person - isn't it a kind of madness too? And by obsession I do not mean only romantic love. It is possible to be obsessed with friends or with a child or teacher. Obsession is simply craving for someone's company, all the time, every time. If you get it, you crave for more. If you don't get it, you can't focus. You feel like something's amiss, like you're sick and haven't had your dose of medicine. Or you're a junkie and haven't had your drug. Which brings me back to addiction. Both the human body and brain are so vulnerable - even susceptible - to addiction. It's insane. We are all insane. And we all have our addictions. They may be well-kept secrets or out in the open for everyone to know about, but they are always there - those precious little doses of things and people that keep us going. That keep us happy. That keep us alive. :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Politics of Ideology

Ideology is a loaded word, often meaning different things to different people. To me, it refers to your set of ideas, opinions, arguments and principles about everything under the sun, basically your worldview and what you consider important/valuable. Naturally, ideology differs, even among the most similar of people, and wherever there are differences, there is politics – that complex game of imposing your own view as the ‘better’ view.
I have always disliked politics and considered myself ‘apolitical’ until recently when it dawned on me that nobody in this world is truly apolitical. If you have an opinion on anything at all, you have an ideology, and if you have an ideology, you almost certainly engage in politics at some level.
To me, the politics of ideology plays out most notably in the process of producing a campus newspaper. It is intriguing how when a reader sees the final print of a newspaper, he/she has no inkling about the games that have gone behind story selection and placement. There are so many complex issues that come up when trying to plan a paper – what is considered ‘news worthy’? What should be the ‘correct’ writing style – simple or complex language? Who decides what readers really want to read? Do we have to provide content that readers want or content that they need in order to be ‘better, more responsible’ citizens? What is an appropriate story? What is inappropriate?
I may personally think that a campus newspaper should be ‘fun’ and engaging – full of light, colouful stories that can make a reader happy, but others may find this incredibly frivolous, superficial or lowly non-serious tripe. In the quest to impose our own opinions, we often forget that when you find someone’s ideas trashy, they probably feel exactly the same way about yours. We all think our own ideology is the ‘best’ one, if not the ‘right’ one, and there is an endless tug of war involved in getting our way. This, with people who are otherwise our friends. Obviously, it gets frustrating and truly tests how thick-skinned and mature you can be.
Often, you edit a crappy story about an issue you don’t care about, and don’t get any credit for making it look good on the page. Often, you write a good story about a topic nobody else cares about and still get no credit for your hard work and time. Sure, it feels good to see your name in print when the final paper comes out but it’s a thankless job nonetheless because the politics of ideology start all over again as soon as you begin planning the next issue.
That is why I never want to work for a newspaper. Even the corporate grind seems more appealing, if not rewarding, than the endless game of whose story is better and more ‘worthy’. As for the pleasure of seeing my name in print, there are always other ways of achieving that, thank God! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Friendship and I

Sometimes, we hold onto certain friendships simply because of a misplaced sense of nostalgia. But the bond can't last beyond a certain point because honestly, we have nothing left to say to the person. Perhaps we have both moved on in life and occupy different physical/psychological/emotional spaces; perhaps we have both changed, or our circumstances have changed. Whatever be the case, when a friendship no longer gives you the happiness and fulfillment it once did, its best to just leave it be. Don't try to officially 'break' it and certainly don't try to mend it - that will only result in complications and uncomfortable feelings.
I strongly believe that old things only end to give way to the new. So the people that we lose to life and change should not be missed because we gain others instead of them.
Of course, one should always try preserve a good friendship, but the problem starts when you begin valuing someone more than they value you. It distorts the delicate balance of friendship, giving rise to inequalities that distort the bond you once shared. If you care more, you are easily hurt, let down, and may even feel betrayed - not very nice things to experience.
That is why I am sort of reserved - I take a long time to establish friendships because never for a moment, do I want to end up as the person who cares too much. I have been there before and it took a long time to get over it, so now I am more cautious about striking new friendships. I tread carefully, I wait for the other person to take initiative. Granted that this is not a very "positive" approach to friendship but it does provide protection from getting hurt later. Or so I like to believe.
This is also the reason why I am not as expressive as I would like to be at times. I keep my feelings of affection towards friends to myself so that I don't appear to care too much and don't end up being disappointed if I don't get an equally enthusiastic response.
However, in the recent company of the very expressive and outgoing S, I am beginning to change, to express more, to take initiative, to do/say whatever I feel like and not worry about the response so much. I suppose I am beginning to let go of my ego issues a little. :P
With this new frame of mind, I gave a birthday surprise to a friend for the very first time. Nothing has ever made me as happy as successfully pulling that off.
Secondly, I started actually sharing the emotionally-loaded poems on friendship that I occasionally write but keep private. I also started calling people whenever I feel like rather than first pondering over why they don't call me as often. :P
I guess we shouldn't think too much when it comes to friendships. Especially because things are ephemeral and there is no telling when you will shift into a different space and things will no longer be the same. While a friendship is alive, you should keep it alive. When it begins to die, you should try everything you can to save it, but if nothing works, you should let it rest in peace. And cherish it as a beautiful memory and nothing more. :)  

Monday, October 22, 2012

On Death

Death is the only incontestable truth of life. And perhaps that's why it is so difficult to deal with. Of all the things I have read, heard, and observed about death, the thing that stands out most is the short story from the last of the Harry Potter books, about the three bothers who conquered death.

Death is strange in its ways. Sometimes, it creeps up on us stealthily, suddenly; other times it takes a long painful time to manifest and finally claim the person it has come for. But either way, it leaves us feeling hollow and doubting the point of existence. Why must people we love have to leave us and vice versa? What is the point of forming relationships if - as Linkin Park have rightly pointed out - "in the end, it doesn't even matter"?

Why we live and die is an abstract question that perhaps nobody will ever have a clear answer to, but while we exist in this world, I guess the key is to make the most of it, to do the things that make us happy or give us a sense of purpose and fulfillment  And we have to do this without fearing death because it is an eventuality that will come to all of us, sooner or later. I know lots of people are scared of dying but somehow, I am not. I imagine my own death a countless times, especially when I'm crossing the road. I know that beyond this life, at the very least there is peace, which is surely not something to be afraid of. I try to imagine how my family and friends would react, and it makes me sad, because I don't want them to shed tears over me. I want them to be happy, always. Which is why I have learned to react to death of loved ones in a very calm way, because I am convinced that they would not want me to completely lose it and sob for them. People often perceive my reactions as cold or indifferent but they are not. I feel things inside and never see the need to make a big show of such private emotions. I will grieve in my own way, alone, I simply cannot lean on someone's shoulder and weep. I think grief or sorrow of any kind is best dealt with alone because only you can understand what you are going through and only you can make yourself come to terms with it and heal.

Of course, talking to people sometimes helps but I have never been the talking kind. I talk to myself more than I talk to others, which makes me sound like a psycho but is really not that bad. It is only through intrapersonal communication that you can understand yourself, and it is only after understanding yourself that you can attempt to understand others. When someone I love is bereaved, I really don't know what to do except be there if they need me for anything at all. I think death reminds us all about the fragility and temporary nature of life, and it should encourage us to do the things we feel like doing and not think too much about the consequences. Losing people has helped me realize that it is important to show your friends and family how much they mean to you. You never know when time runs out, so you might as well do the things that need doing and say the things that need saying. Because of all the negative emotions in life, regret is perhaps the worst one. As my very dear friend S says, "I'd rather regret having done something, than not having done it at all."

Do, pal ruka, khwaabon ka kaarvaan 
Aur phir, chal diye, tum kahaan, ham kahaan 
Do pal ki thi, ye dilon ki daastaan 
Aur phir, chal diye, tum kahaan, ham kahaan 

A song that reminds me of the transient nature of everything in life - from the movie Veer Zara, directed by the late Yash Chopra, founder of one of my favorite film production houses - Yash Raj Films.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Kyun mujhe rokte hai log, 
kyun mujhe tokte hai? 
Kyun mujhe daantte hai log, 
kyun mujhe baantte? 
Kyun karna chahte hai ked mujhe
rishto ke pinjar me, 
usoolon ki aag me? 
Kyun nahi lene dete mujhe sukoon ki saansein? 
Panchi hoon main, 
khule aasman me jeena chahti hoon
mehekti hawaon me udna chahti hoon.
Har wo desh jaana hai mujhe jahan
kuch alag dekh sakhu, seekh sakhu, kar sakhu.
Har wo shaks ko milna hai jo kuch alag
dekh paye, soch paye, kar paye. 
Kyun har koi jataye mujh par 
apna apna haq?
Kyun na sab chodd dete mujhe
apne haal pe bas?
Panchi hoon main, 
khule aasman me jeena chahti hoon
mehekti hawaon me udna chahti hoon.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A recycled post: "You miss miss me not..."

This is something I had written a few years back. Yes, I was adolescent. :P Don't judge!

Missing someone can be so overwhelming. I'm not talking about the momentary feeling that comes when something reminds you of them or when you suddenly think of how long it's been since you heard from them. I'm talking about that more intense, totally arresting feeling that just washes over you all of a sudden and you can't concentrate on anything at all because you just so want to talk to/see them AT ONCE. You stop what you're doing and let the feeling overcome you. You see their face in your mind, every detail sharp and clear, right from the light in their eyes to the crook of their smile. You remember the sound of their voice, or their laugh, and how it makes your heart leap. You smile, thinking of them and how happy you feel around them. You wish you could call them right then, but something holds you back. Perhaps it's an inconvenient time, perhaps they are away and out of reach, perhaps it's something else, inexplicable. Your mind wanders back to all the experiences you've had with this person - both good and bad. The memories make you smile. You think of how you had first met them, and how your relationship has evolved since then. You wish you could be with them right then - even if only for a few moments. But it is impossible. You think of how you are probably the last thing they have on their mind right now, while here you are, lost in their thoughts, missing them so desperately  You come back to the present, feeling a familiar pang of sadness that always comes with missing them. If only. . .
Your gaze wanders to your cell phone. You could text them, just a casual message, nothing much. Just to momentarily remind them of you. You smile, imagining them picking up their phone and reading the message. You pick up your own phone, open the contact list, find them and gaze at their name. You smile at it. You read their number, something you know all too well. You smile at it too. Your thumb wanders to the 'call' button. But then you stop. Sigh. Put the phone down. You were supposed to text, not call. You get up. Pace around. Contemplate. Finally, you pick up the phone again. This time, you go to the 'create message' screen. You type. Stop. Erase. Re-type. Read it through. Tweak it. Read again. And again. Smile. You open the contact list. Find their name. Smile at it. Read the number. Smile some more. Your thumb goes to the send button. You stop, thinking. Sigh. Re-read the message. Read their name again. Smile. Press the send button. Watch the screen for a few seconds as the message is sent. You put the phone down again. Sigh. Will they reply? You get up. Pace. Sigh. Sit down. Stare at the phone, as if willing it to beep. You get up again. Pace. Contemplate. The phone beeps. You dive for it. It's someone else's message, who was probably missing you when they were the last thing on your mind. You reply, feeling a slight tinge of disappointment. You put the phone down again. Sit back. Contemplate. Perhaps it's time to get back to your work. You get up. The phone beeps. You stare at it for a moment, before reaching for it. It's THEM! You see their name on the screen. Smile at it. You read the message. Smile. Re-read it. Smile. See their name again. Smile. Put the phone down. Now, you can get back to your work. Smiling. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Of 'bhav' and 'light tisko'

Bhav is a Hindi word that has no English equivalent, except perhaps 'importance given to a person'. And 'light tisko' which I have always seen spelled as 'lite tisko' in text messages is a Telugu/Hyderabadi expression which has no Hindi or other equivalent. Literally translated it means 'to take light', which for the colloquially challenged means to not fret over something, to be cool with stuff even if it somehow bothers you.
Together, the concepts of  'bhav' and 'light tisko' fascinate me.
We all know certain people who want a lot of bhav. They thrive on their sense of self importance and love to have their egos pampered all the time. They need a lot of cajoling to do almost anything and somehow get away with this annoying behaviour because everyone around them gets so used to giving them 'bhav'. These people are usually either good looking or in a position of power or - god forbid - both!
Then there are people like me who never want any bhav. Who go out of their way to do nice things for others because that's just the way we're wired. People like me sometimes appear like pushovers but we can't help being kind and considerate. It just comes naturally. And what happens when we encounter the inevitable 'bhav' eaters? Well, I for one, am terrible at both taking bhav and giving it. I will not pamper your ego in order to get you to do something for me. I will not make you feel more important than you are. I just don't know how to do such things. Which means that if for instance, you are a newly acquired friend, I will make the effort to text message you, call you, and meet you, but only to a certain extent. The maximum number of times I will take the initiative is about three. After that, if you don't reciprocate, I will 'take light' and assume that you don't want to be my friend after all. And trust me, it's no problem at all. I don't understand why I should always be the one making the effort, treating you like you've dropped onto earth from heaven itself when clearly, you haven't. I don't understand why I should give you any bhav at all when you are so clearly not giving me the most basic of reciprocation that a new friendship entails.
The same is true with established friendships. If bhav equations change for whatever reason, I simply 'take light'. If you are ignoring me for reasons that I cannot comprehend, it will hurt me, sure, but I will not tell you and I will not make a fuss. I will simply accept it as just the way you are and devote myself to other activities and other people who are better worth my time and concern.
Of course, to 'take light' is easier said than done in most cases, especially when you are attached to people in inexplicable ways, but I think it is the only way forward. Life is too complicated and busy as it is without the added burden of playing bhav games and entertaining nonsense.
So if someone you care for is not giving you bhav or demanding too much bhav, 'light tisko' and move on. It's not the freaking end of the world.
Not yet at least!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


They lurk like dark shadows,
in places no one will find.
Deep within your soul,
in the crevices of your mind.

They are marred memories
and injured thoughts
that ail your heart
like little blood clots.

A familiar face
you should never have known.
Bitter words,
a sarcastic tone.

Repressed feelings,
you couldn't express
So much stuff,
you were afraid to confess.

Misdeeds and mistakes,
they plague us all.
Remember the flight
before the fall?

Dreams and desires,
they turned to mist.
For life's not a movie,
there's no third act twist.

A trove of memories
you long left behind.
Still so sharp,
when your head hits rewinds

Who are those people,
the ones you laughed with?
Were they truly friends,
or some construed myth?

Is that you,
in the fading old picture?
Funny how it's got
its own strange allure

What's it about the past
that always draws you in?
In the battle to forget,
why don't you ever win?

Indeed they stand the test of time,
like scandalous bits of news
They are insurmountable,
these clingy little residues.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Give and take is what makes or breaks?

What constitutes the formation of a new friendship? How do we know when someone who is essentially a stranger officially becomes our "friend"? Is it just an internal feeling that we have or something more concrete like the amount of conversation we have with them and what the conversation consists of? I feel that I have always been the first to jump the gun and consider people my "friends" much before they actually grow close to me. Just one meaningful exchange is enough to plant the seeds of friendship for me, but often, this is not so for the other person. I think people take time to warm up to me, and perhaps the vice versa is true too because I am such a quiet and 'closed' person, but it still hurts when you obviously care about someone more than they care about you, especially when this happens at the beginning of a potential friendship. It is as if the other person is writing you off before even giving you a chance. How are such decisions made, I have no idea. Though, contradictory as I am, perhaps I too do this very thing and never think twice about it.
Nonetheless, I still feel bad to be the lesser preferred friend. I hate it when people I want to be close to choose others over me. It fuels the inferiority complex I've had since a young age, but perhaps also feeds off this very characteristic. Like a vicious cycle that I'll never be able to break out of: I feel inferior so i get treated that way, which only makes me feel more inferior. It's maddening. And sad. And in a bid to protect myself from this, I've become weird. i have huge ego issues over calling and texting "friends". I will only text you if you text me first sometimes. I will only call you if you reciprocate properly. And if you don't, I will be miserable but won't tell you because I know it will make me look pathetic. Phew. So much complication over an arguably simple thing called friendship. Why do I find it so hard to make friends? Why am I so reserved so many times? Why do i end up shutting people off when all I want is the exact opposite? Why do I get hurt so easily?
They are questions that I have no clear answers to, but all I can hope is that the cycle will break soon enough. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Me, the busy bee.

I do not have the time to be writing this. Which is precisely why I am writing it. I need a break from all the busyness that has taken over my days to such an extent that I can't fall asleep at night because my mind is too clouded with thoughts and ideas and voices all talking at once.
As exhausting as it is, I love being busy. I love making lists of things to do and then actually doing them. I love seeing final products which I put in a lot of effort to create, whether these products are mere assignments or something more creative. Nothing is more fulfilling than learning and getting good at things that initially seemed insurmountable.
When I first began working on a page layout software called Quark Xpress, I was afraid of how I would manage to pull it off, especially when my poor eyesight makes it a pain to do precision work on a computer screen. But with practice and patience, I've discovered different features that enhance the layout and am still learning more things everyday.
Today, I thought I was faced with an impossible task when I was asked to use a 'cutout' of a photo on the page because to start with, I didn't have a clue what a cutout is, and secondly, my image editing skills are limited to using fun-and-easy options on Picasa. I was expected to use Photoshop today, a program which I had heard a lot about but never gotten around to using. With a deadline looming large, I decided to at least give it a shot and - with the help of Google - managed to make a pretty nice cutout image which is making the page I am designing look quite fancy. :)  I can't wait to try more things in Photoshop and get good at it like I am at Quark Xpress.
In other news, I am helping to lead the organisation of a fest that the media school I study at is organising. I have never led anything before, and for most of my academic career, people have admired my scholastic ability but doubted my leadership potential. Even if I wanted to lead things, I would be too afraid of other people's opinions about me to actually take an initiative. Not anymore. I am sure organising any kind of big event is a lot of hard work but hard work is something I've never been afraid of. It also requires team work, which I have always been skeptical about, but I realize that almost any job in the media world requires team effort, so it's high time I learned to work with people.
I've never enjoyed any phase of my life as much as I'm enjoying this master's programme. It's sad to know that it will be over quite soon, but I guess that's all the more reason to make the most of it and be as busy as I can until it lasts! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"But when you smile for me, the world seems all right..."

What is it about a smile that can make the world around us seem more beautiful than it is? That can make violins play in the heart and colors explode in the mind? That can put you in a happy mood for no reason at all and make you want to sing and dance like they do it Bollywood?
It lights up your life when it is on someone else’s face and lights up your heart when it is on your own. And when someone smiles at you, you can’t help but smile back and perhaps that’s why it’s called the universal language. It is the beginning of a friendship, and the symbol of pleasantry, of humor, of amicability. It is what we all look for in other people, and what gives away a lot more about us than we would think.
It is such a simple gesture, such an automatic response to so many situations, but it can hold such power sometimes, the power to shift the axis of our personal universes and send life careering in a whole different direction altogether.
What is it about a smile that can be so magical? :P 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A wish for 'the future'

They say that we should not worry about the future. We should live in the present moment for the future is abstract, uncertain, unknown. We may or may not have a future, yet the future is always there, looming over our heads, our decisions, our lives, like a constant shadow. Whether it is dark or bright, is anybody's guess. Or perhaps a matter of point of view.
Time seems to elapse faster when you are enjoying yourself, when you are happy, when you want to cling onto certain moments, and when time elapses, the elusive 'future' hovers closer, threatening to envelop us into its mysterious depths and greedily snatch away all that we hold dear in the present moment.
We are going to be in different spaces in the future, you and I. We have different lives to live, different priorities, responsibilities, loyalties, pressures, commitments. Our paths that are running so neatly parallel at the moment will soon unravel and race into completely different winding routes as soon as "the future" is upon us.
There will be no more stories shared over coffee or tea, no weekends of movies, eating out, roaming, exploring the city. No public transport rides together, no more moments to cling onto. Life will be boring. At least it seems so every time I visualize it. Our reunions - if any at all - will be few and far in between. Will our sense of friendship dwindle? Will we not have much to say to each other anymore? I hope not. I hope we manage to keep the conversation alive. I hope we keep intact the inclination to pick up the phone and call each other, to share views and thoughts and feelings, to laugh together, to argue.
The future may be uncertain, but we are not, right? We are friends for certain, aren't we? Come hell or high water? Come career or travel? Marriage or children?
Perhaps it is unfair to have such demands of friendship. Perhaps everything in this world comes with an expiry date. Perhaps everyone is right when they say 'live in the present', perhaps the elusive future will take care of itself somehow. Perhaps our friendship will take care of itself too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of clarity and certainties

Who are you? Or ‘who am I?’ are multi-faceted questions with a range of possible answers. You can be just a name, or someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, someone’s sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife. You can be an Indian or a North Indian, South Indian, Anglo-Indian, or a Gujarati, Bengali, Assamese, Tamilian, Mumbaikar, Hyderabadi, Delhi-ite. You can be male or female or somewhere in between, you can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, you can be a leftist, a communist, a democrat or republican, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew, an atheist. You can be an immigrant, an expatriate, a desi, an American-desi, an African American, a Kenyan Indian. You can be a member of a backward caste or an upper caste, a senior citizen or a child or a person with disability. You can be a student, a writer, a doctor, a blogger, a traveler, you can be black or white or brown, an Asian, a European, an Eskimo.

Or you can be a mixture. Everyone is essentially a mixture, if you think about it, though not many will appreciate this basic fact. We tend to be biased towards purity. Or clarity. Or certainty. We are either this or that and nothing in between. And those who are in between clearly have something wrong with them, poor souls. I wonder why we compartmentalize our identity – or multiple identities – this way? Why do we like to live in imaginary boxes?

When I tell people I am from Ahmedabad, I immediately get labeled as a Gujarati, though I have never thought of myself as one. What does being Gujarati entail anyway? That I speak the language, love dhokla and khakra, and do the garba dance? I do none of these and when I tell people that I am not Gujarati they go on to ask what I am otherwise, and I really have no answer. I do not identify myself with any one state of India. I identify with the country as a whole – or as Rushdie has said – the idea or notion of India – but that is only because I was born here and currently live here. When I lived in Kenya, I didn’t really identify myself as Indian then. And what’s wrong with that? Why must I be something rather than many things combined?

The professor who taught me History of Media during the first semester of my master’s programme used to say that he didn’t want us to have clarity about the subject. It is good to be confused, to not know or understand everything, because some things are not meant to be understood clearly. They are ambiguous and should be appreciated just like that, in all their ambiguity. At the time, I didn’t really relate to what he said but I see his point now. Why must we always be so clear about everything? Why can’t we just let things be complex or uncertain?

Another professor recently mentioned that certainties with regard to notions of identity are suspicious, problematic and even scary. When you are so sure of who you are and who “others” are it lays the foundation for all kinds of problems and intolerances to erupt. Our country’s history is colored – and colored rather bloodily, at that – by the whole battle of identity and who ‘we Indians’ really are. I never quite understood what the whole Hindu-Muslim clash in India is really about until today. It is all related to the obsession of defining clearly and certainly who and what we really are. And if we are one religion and one language then we certainly can’t be another. Yet we are. We have always been many things at once and we always will be. There are no clear-cut identities and no certainties. Life is best lived uncertainly, accommodating the fact that you might not be who you think you are. You might actually be a lot more. And that is surely a good thing, isn’t it? to be a lot more? I certainly think so. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The rain, the dark, and nostalgia

The rain is not so bad when I am warm and dry indoors. I enjoy watching it pour in a noisy, endless ruckus as a chilly wind blows in from my open window. The electricity goes off, like it always does at the slightest hint of rainfall, and I seize the opportunity to shut my laptop and move to my favorite spot - my bed - to sit and contemplate in the dark.
My roommate lights a candle and I am suddenly reminded of camping trips I went on a long time ago, to national parks in Kenya. Maybe it is something to do with the fact that I'd been writing a message to an old friend in Kenya before the electricity rendered me helpless in this technology-dependent world. I recall the sights and sounds of the animals and birds, especially at night, when there would be no power and we would huddle close together beside a bonfire, telling stupid ghost stories and flashing torch lights into each others eyes. I remember my terror of the creepy crawlies that would be everywhere, and the endless chatter that would successfully distract me. There would be arguments and gossip and games and fun and memories. The memories are all I have now. No photographs since those days were just before the digital-cam-phenomenon, and hardly any contact with the people who formed my world outside the home then.
Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to her friend whom she knows from first grade of school. I realized with a pang of sadness that I don't know anyone from first grade anymore, not even on facebook. Sometimes I feel perhaps it would be better to live like Benjamin Button: perhaps it would be easier to forget the old days if one was only growing younger.
And on that note, the lights flicker back on and I am pulled back into the present, another time that I am surely going to miss someday.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thoughtful on a Saturday evening

Sitting by the window of the small hostel room meant for one person but shared by two, I enjoyed the cool evening breeze that wafted onto my face, bringing with it the smell of the trees and dust. Birds cooed and a long-tailed peacock intermittently let out a high-pitched call as it strut about on the ground below. I watched it and felt a rare sense of peace that I only ever feel on this university campus that I love.
My friend was fast asleep on a mattress on the floor and I was waiting for her to wake up so I could convince her to come out to eat with me. As much as I love the campus, I am incredibly bored of the food it has on offer. My friend stirred in her sleep, unperturbed by the fact that there was a power cut and the room was quite stuffy despite the open window. I looked at her curled up with the blanket and my thoughts turned to where they so often do these days: what will happen once my course of study here is over? What will become of the friendships I have acquired which mean so much? What will the future hold? Hyderabad and this university have captured my heart; no matter where I go, a part of me will always reside here in the place that has given me so much, shaped me so strongly in such a short time. But go I will have to, because life is a river and you have to constantly flow forwards towards new pursuits. I wonder what I will feel like on the train journey back home when it finally comes around, when I won't have the comfort of knowing that I'll soon be returning (the way I do when I go for semester breaks). I can predict that feeling all too well, having felt it all too often: the desperate overwhelming longing to cling onto a time that is clearly and irrefutably over.
Not everything I experience here is positive or enjoyable - there are often long, difficult hours of alone-ness, particularly on the weekends, when I feel trapped or confined within the very campus that I love, but I feel that these periods are helping me value myself more. They make me accept the basic fact that we are all essentially alone in this world and cannot - should not - depend on anyone to bring us happiness.
Sometimes, the dynamics of friendships change. Actually, cross that, not sometimes, all the time and always. People and priorities and circumstances change and all of that is bound to affect relationships. But it need not necessarily be negative. I suppose life is all about adjusting to changing equations, finding comfortable footholds in transforming terrains. I looked at my friend and it struck me that things will change when this university sojourn of ours ends, but that doesn't need to be as bad as it sounds. For all you (and I) know, things could change for the better. We may become closer when we are apart. It may seem an overly optimistic wish, but pessimism never got anyone anywhere.
And as if on cue, my friend's mobile rang a message and she woke with a start. The spell was broken. I snapped out of my reverie with my favorite old consolation: whatever's meant to happen, will happen. And I trust that it will be for the best.

My beautiful campus 

P.S. If at all you are interested in knowing, I didn't have to convince her to eat out; she promptly suggested we order in, and we had a delicious meal of fried chicken wings.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The never-ending debate between the head and the heart

The head speaks in plain, sensible black. 
The heart speaks in wild, passionate red.

And this is what they say:

"Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? That's what Groucho Marx said and he definitely had a point." 
"There you go again, spouting lines said by other people. Who is Groucho Marx?" 
"I speak the words of others because I value knowledge, which I accumulate through reading and being open to ideas. Groucho Marx was a famous comedian, considered to be one of he best in the modern era." 
"A comedian? What does a comedian know about the sanctity of marriage? They make fun of everything." 
"Well, funny things are usually true. Life itself is hilarious." 
"The only thing true in this world is love. And marriages based on it." 
"Um, for your information, upto 90% of marriages in India and 60% in the world are arranged. Great lot of love going on there." 
"That's why there is unhappiness. It's important to love first and then marry. People wouldn't be so unhappy if they had the patience to wait for love to happen first." 
"How can you be so delusional? Don't you know that more of so-called love marriages end in divorce than good old arranged marriages?"
"I thought you started off by saying that marriage is an institution and who wants to live in one? Then why are you advocating arranged marriage?" 
"Well, because, people need companionship. And our society only allows it through marriage. So might  as well find someone and settle down rather than grapple with loneliness for the rest of your life." 
"We don't need to FIND people. Our soul mate comes our way when the time is right." 
"What bullshit. That's just the stuff of books and lore. Soul mates don't exist. Just ordinary people do, and when you make the mistake of falling in love with them, they almost certainly break your heart." 
"What is life without a little bit of pain? Love may make you suffer but it is a good suffering. Everyone needs to suffer a bit." 
"Marriage is a kind of suffering too. Milder than love sickness though. So might as well get married and accept your share of suffering." 
"But what if you fall in love with another person AFTER you're already married to someone else?" 
"You laugh at yourself and forget it. Because life is cruel that way. Or you have an affair, because everyone is allowed their bit of philandering." 
"Ugh, you are impossible." 
"No, I am not. I'm just smart and practical. YOU'RE impossible. You're the one who causes so much trouble in people's lives by making them fall in love. The consequences of the act are implicit in the phrase itself - FALL in love. Nobody ever rises in it!" 

The debate continues between Mansi and Shivani on Sony Entertainment Television, every Monday to Thursday at 8.30p.m. (IST)

This post is written for a contest on Indiblogger. Read details here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of India, Truth, and Tears

Happy Independence Day, people.
To be honest, today was just another holiday for me, a day to sleep-in and relax and do whatever I want to. The only "patriotic" thing I did - if at all it can even be called patriotic - is put on a bright patiala-suit that made me feel very feminine and desi. At least for the few hours that I wore it (for a non-Independence Day event I had to attend.) Apart from that, I didn't even hear any songs of desh-bhakti and all that jazz. I am not one for exhibitionism on any occasion. I don't understand why I should sing the national anthem today or attend a flag-hoisting event or feel all prim and "proud" about being Indian. Such activities have nothing to do with what I feel about my country. (Besides, isn't "being Indian" an accident of birth? Each one of us could just have easily been Chinese or Nepali or God forbid, Pakistani? :P)
I think patriotism should be a private thing that you have your own definition for, not something that makes you take to the streets yelling "Bharat Mata ki Jai" like the group of student "activists" of a particular party I saw while having breakfast this morning. They went on to shout zealous slogans of "Desh ki raksha kaun karega? Hum karenge, hum karenge!" I wish I could tell them to go join the Defense forces if they were all so passionate about "desh ki raksha" and all. I suspect that they meant "raksha" of a different kind - like protecting that elusive thing called "our Indian culture" from western influences, or preventing our women from wearing short skirts and drinking alcohol because lo and behold, that is so not "Indian".
That is why I believe we have a very warped sense of truth here in India. We like to live in our ideas of what is the truth or what is "right" even when there are glaring evidences of the contrary. We are not accommodating of variations in our "truths" and often, myths and legend get mixed into them too. Even for simple things, we are not good at being honest: when someone asks if they can come over to our place, we go ahead and say yes even if we are busy, and then proceed to complain about how people are impinging on our time. When we really don't like something, we can't be straight-forward about it, we like to beat around the bush. We are obsessed with saving face in society and upholding a good reputation and "character" even if it means being outright fake.
And then, there are tears. We don't tell the truth but are highly emotional about it. Any wrong can be covered up with an outburst of tears. Any injustice can be borne with swollen eyes and private sobs. Our films rely on our emotional tendencies to become blockbusters; our politicians use them to manipulate us, and our media capitalize on them to fool us. I recently got around to watching the much-talked-about show Satyamev Jayate on YouTube. I watched the full first episode on female foeticide and then half of the second episode on child sexual abuse. Unlike most people, I am not an Aamir Khan-fan. I think he produces and acts in good films now and then, but I also think he is a sharp businessman who has calculative motives behind everything he does. That's why I didn't trust SMJ to be all that people were making it out to be and refused to even watch it since the 3 months its been broadcasting.
Yes, I am a cynic and a skeptic and strongly believe that problems can't be addressed by making t.v. shows about them. When I asked my friends what's the point of SMJ anyway, most people said: "at least the show makes us think about all that is wrong."  My question is, don't we think about all that anyway? What good is the show doing by just further driving the point home? If Aamir Khan wants to make a difference, why doesn't he go out there and monetarily, directly help the people who need it, rather than putting so much effort into a fancy show and demanding crores of rupees per episode?
My concerns were somewhat appeased after I watched the first episode because I did find that the show is good and has a point - it's not all just talk but a little bit of action too. But what I didn't like is the tears. The close-ups of audience members with tragic expressions and leaky eyes - ghastly. Mr. Aamir Khan discreetly wiping a corner of his eye with a knuckle - ridiculous. Somehow, I do not believe in tears when they appear on television shows. It's still tolerable when the victims are the ones who get emotional while recounting the horror they have endured, but why the host and why the studio audience? Such horrifying, disturbing tales should not induce tears, they should induce anger. Crying over problems seems like a way of accepting their dominance over us; being brave-faced and outraged is surely more constructive. At least in my opinion. I think I would take SMJ a lot more seriously if they did away with the studio audience completely, if Aamir Khan didn't get emotional, and if they brought in videos from the field rather than making it a largely in-studio production. I don't want to see a chart of statistics. I want to hear people telling me their views right from where they are. There's a little bit of this incoprorated into the show already but I think we need a lot more.
I know that if I have such a problem with the way Mr. Khan does his thing then I should produce my own show rather than pick faults with his, but I just felt like voicing my views about it this Independence Day. SMJ has the potential to bring about real srategic changes to crucial problems but its not going to happen by sitting around crying and merely "thinking" about it. Life is all in the doing, and since Mr. Khan has the resources to actually do something, I really wish he adopts a more practical approach and succeeds.
In the mean time, here's to an eventual better tomorrow.
Jai Hind.

The commercialization of Independence Day - our real truth?

Friday, August 10, 2012

You and I

We are strange.

I approach, you withdraw.
I withdraw, you approach.

I talk, you don't listen.
I listen, you don't talk.

I say I know you, you think I don't.
I think I don't know, you say I do.

I tell you everything; you don't seem to care.
I keep to myself, you don't let me be.

I feel close to you, you are cold and detached.
I distance myself, you are suddenly so close.

I am crazy about you, you are only indifferent.
I forget and move on, you are suddenly a friend.

I like all your pictures on Facebook, you don't like anything I do.
I stop looking at your updates, you appear all over my page.

I stall, you walk.
I walk, you stall.

I smile, you stare.
I stare, you smile.

I cry, you laugh.
I ebb, you flow.

You and I,
We are strange.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Psycho Within?

I have never thought of myself as a control freak. Until yesterday when, while having a conversation with a friend, I realized that I am a major control freak when it comes to time. I like to have plans materialize my way, and when they don’t, I go berserk and get quite pissed off.

I’m all like: “Oh you must meet me this weekend, because the next weekend, I’m going to be busy working on some stuff, and if you don’t meet me, you shall suffer my wrath.” Like, what the hell is that? Who am I to make demands on people’s time like that, even if they are my friends? And what is the point of constantly planning in advance? Things hardly ever work out exactly the way I want so why do I obsess over them so much beforehand? I am perplexed by my own behaviour, and hence here’s my attempt to analyse and decode it:

At a psychological level, I think my time-fixation may be because of my upbringing. I come from a family of disciplinarians who like to have things done in a particular way at a particular time, all the time. They are never late for anything (always too early) and hate waiting, even for five minutes. I grew up under a broad notion of “_ thing must be done at _ time or else…” This means that mentally, I am always anticipating what to do next, right from the moment I wake up in the morning. Like: “After class, I’ll eat. After eating, I’ll go to my room and rest for a bit. Then, I’ll wash clothes before 4p.m, then come out for tea, then go back and start on that assignment, etc. etc.” 

I remember when I first came to hostel, every evening I would be planning when and where to eat dinner right from 6p.m, and my friend would look at me like I was crazy. She would decide only when she felt hungry, whereas I just needed to KNOW all the time, even if it meant planning my hunger. :P

All this makes me sound like the minor character nicknamed “Timetable” in the movie Dil Chahta Hai, but thankfully, my condition is not that bad. I don’t believe in routines set in stone but I just like to know what I’m doing when. I’m the kind of person who will check what day my birthday or a festival falls on right at the start of a new year so I can begin planning possibilities of what I could do that day.

Sometimes, I completely freak out thinking that I’m behind on the “schedule of life”, as I like to think of it. Friends my age and younger are getting married or at least engaged and I’ve never even dated. Others have fancy jobs or are travelling the world and I’m still studying and not clear of when I’ll have that dream career. Everyday, the earth seems to be spinning faster and faster and the days are shorter and shorter, and everyone seems to be getting somewhere except me. It’s as if I’m left thinking: “When oh when will my LIFE truly start (read: take off)?”

At a more emotional level of analysis, I think this condition is because I am so worried about time running out. It always does in the end, doesn’t it? There are never enough hours to spend with friends and loved ones or enjoy or stay young or just do all the things one wants to. If I was in the movie In Time, in which the world comes to a situation where time is literally money, and if you run out of it, you die, I would probably have a heart attack just coping with the stress of living-day-to-day, not knowing whether I’ll have enough time to make it to tomorrow.
Yet despite all this, the funny part is that I’m still a great procrastinator. I obsess over time but still have the gall to waste it and while it away doing absolutely nothing. And when that happens, I feel worse still, knowing that time’s a ticking away…

A still from the movie In Time. If your clock runs out, you die. Obviously. Majorly freaky stuff. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mission Master of Arts - Half Completed!

It has been over a year since I came to Hyderabad. Well, if you minus vacation time, I have only "lived" here eight months but technically, it is still a year. At first thought, time seems to have flown past, but if I ponder a bit, I suppose it didn't exactly fly. I have just been enjoying myself so much that I haven't noticed the months fade into each other. 
Or have I? 
There have been certain times when I've missed home terribly, missed my family and friends and the familiarity of Ahmedabad, and often at these times, I have considered dropping everything and going back. Just to return to my comfort zone and not have to confront life in all its complexity. 
But then, I'm not a kid anymore. I can't go running away from things just because I feel overwhelmed. I have to accept and manage whatever comes my way; to learn my lessons and grow as a person. 
Hyderabad - and the University I study at here, in particular - have given me a lot over the past year: freedom, space, confidence, contact with creative, intellectual minds, a broadened window through which to see the world, and most importantly, a teeny bit of wisdom. I don't think it's any coincidence that my wisdom teeth all came out after I'd spent some time here. 
I am so much more mature now. I don't react to things as impulsively as I used to; I don't take life as seriously anymore but instead focus on taking my goals seriously. I am more open to new experiences. 
Academically, I have done things I'd never thought of before: learned to make short films and radio programs and handle heavy reading which initially made no sense. I did a lot better at all these things than I'd expected to. And my happiness knows no bounds. 
There are still days when all I want to do is eat Mummy ke haath ka khaana and sleep in my own single bedroom but I know that in order to gain somethings, you have to make a few tiny sacrifices. Coming to Hyderabad was like a challenge to me because I have difficulty with little things like crossing roads and remembering directions and using public transport alone but I am so proud that I managed everything perfectly and proved to myself that I am capable of more that I usually give myself credit for. 
I'm half done with my master's degree and not sure of what will come next, but I do know that whatever will, I am ready to embrace it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The General Compartment

It is with a leap of my heart that I get onto the general compartment of the local train. Not the good kind of leap that happens when, for instance, you see That Cute Guy You Like, but the bad, scary kind which makes you think you might have a heart attack. It is a leap of fear, of trepidation, of anxiety, and it only happens when I get onto a GENERAL compartment and never when it’s a Ladies compartment. I always prefer to travel in the latter but it’s not always possible to find one when the train stops for just a couple of seconds at the station.

Once inside, I do not sit immediately. I stand for a few seconds and look around for a seat next to some other woman. If there isn’t any, I find the most ‘decent’ looking man that I can spot and sit next to him. Or else, I just keep standing hoping that more women will eventually come in to give me company. Whether sitting or standing, I look down and avoid making eye contact with anyone. I am afraid that if I do, they will decipher the fear that lurks within me and try to take advantage of it. How, I am not sure, but I am far too frightened by all the horror stories of harassment, molestation and rape that the papers are always full of. Granted, I am not in Delhi or its nearby cities, where all the bad things seem to happen, but still, Hyderabad is big and bustling and relatively unfamiliar too and I need to be on guard all the time, especially when I am travelling alone. In the general compartment of a local train.

In my head, I know I am being far too paranoid and judgmental by viewing every man as someone who could potentially harm me, but I would rather be unreasonable than victimized. Even if nobody in the compartment pays me the slightest bit of attention, I am alert and tense throughout the journey, and of course, completely covered up. My face is hidden behind my dupatta and I prefer to wear long sleeves and of course, full-length pants. I am completely in support of all the arguments that say a woman should dress however she wants to and not live in fear of being a victim of crime, but there is no way I can do away with the dupatta. In some strange way, it makes me feel so much safer, protected.
Maybe some day I will look back at these train journeys during my Hyderabad days and laugh about the fear that I feel. Maybe some day no girl will have to hide her face behind a dupatta to feel safer. Maybe.   

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tales and Trials of my Beautiful Hair

When I was born, I had light blond hair instead of the thick dark curls that run in my family. To say my parents were shocked would be an understatement. They were shell shocked, stunned speechless, perplexed, puzzled and every other adjective you can think of to mean the same thing. I was their baby, I needed to look like them: brown skin, dark eyes, black hair. Instead I looked foreign, with my pale skin, colored eyes, and the most outstanding, astounding bright blonde hair. Something had to be done, so my grandma suggested the age-old remedy of oil. No hair problem in the world that good old Amla oil couldn’t solve. So on went the oil, and off went my hair to facilitate a fresh growth, and on went the oil again, and off went the hair and on went the oil and every time my hair grew back, blond as ever, the growth just getting thicker. So they finally gave up trying to force my golden locks into Indianness and accepted with disappointment that perhaps genetic predisposition is one thing Amla oil can’t battle with. And that was the end of my hair problems.


When I was all of five years old, my parents discovered the magical world of homeopathy that seems to offer solutions to almost every health and beauty problem out there. The greying doctor took one look at me and declared his medicine would turn my skin brown and my hair black, just the way it was supposed to be. Hence began a couple of years of sucking sickly-sweet pills three times a day that tasted good but didn’t seem to do anything except cost a lot of money. So when I was ten and my skin was still like Snow White’s (though I have none of her beauty) and my hair like Goldilocks’ (from the children’s story of the Three Bears), my parents gave up on the treatment. But lo and behold, as soon as the pills stopped, my platinum blond hair seemed suddenly darker, with shades of brown and black here and there. The parents were glad but I was heartbroken – I didn’t WANT dark hair and couldn’t stand anymore of the sweet pills, so fortunately, the homeopath was forgotten. And that was the end of my hair problems.

Well, no, not really. 

A few years down the line, when I hit teenage and turned to American young adult novels and teenybopper movies, I learned that my hair color (which had grown darker still) is known by the most unappealing name of ‘dishwasher blonde’. It was tragic and I no longer loved my golden tresses. So I wanted them chopped short and hence the teenage rebellion started. After months of tiffs and tantrums aimed primarily at my mother who had spent years caring for and grooming my tresses – I finally got my first professional haircut. Mum was both upset and angry – she had so lovingly oiled (yes, the oiling had carried on despite its previous failure to turn my hair black), washed, detangled, combed and plaited my mane to make it long, thick and beautiful, and now it was gone, styled into a short layers that flapped around most cheekily as if to antagonize her. But I loved my new look and vowed never to use hair oil again – how desi and uncool – and that was the end of my hair problems.

Or so I wish.

A few more years passed and I was eighteen and questioning everything about myself. I had recently moved country and started college and neither the new climate nor the stress of fitting into a new life was suiting my beloved hair, the all-important part of my personality. A variety of different styles and products experimented with over the years had taken their toll on my mane and suddenly, I wanted my old hair back, the thick, long plaits that I had once loathed. I missed the volume. Worse, my hair was falling. So I turned to a newly launched shampoo with a fancy international brand name and an ad that claimed my hair would grow so strong and long that it would become capable of pulling Mack trucks. And that of course, was the end of my hair problems.

Yeah, right.  

My locks did grow slowly and steadily longer but not really so much stronger. Hair fall, breakage, and dry hair continued to ail and depress me. People didn’t make it any better by pointing out how my hair had lost its lustre and thickness, and that was when I decided I’d had enough. I would turn the clock back and regain my lovely gold locks no matter what. So I turned to an age-old tradition that I’d once run away from – the weekly oiling. Much to the delight of my mother, I began using hair oil regularly and taking time to massage my scalp, and of course, I changed my shampoo. (I mean, really, why would I ever even NEED to pull a truck with my hair?).

The results are showing and my tresses have grown longer, softer, shinier, and visibly healthier. The only thing is that – true to human nature – I am extremely tempted to get a stylish cut again, one with bangs falling all over my forehead – something I’ve never tried before – but alas, I am conflicted. I love my hair and it is my one feature which makes me feel pretty, so I wonder what would be the point of having gone through all the grief of growing it long if I chop it shorter anyway? And my mum would disapprove. Mothers and their approval seem to matter so much, even when you’re all grown up and independent.

So while I contemplate the cut, I am finally caring for and tending to my mane like a gardener to her plants, and with any luck, this really is the end of my hair problems.

Amen to that. 

I my Hair!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

What Happened to Classic Indian Beauty?

Where did she go? The girl with cascading long hair and bangles at her wrists. The one who wore sarees and salwars with equal élan and never needed any make-up apart from the customary kajal that lined her dark eyes and made them come alive like no eyeliner could ever imagine doing.
Where did she go, the girl who didn’t need or want fairness creams and reveled in her natural sun-kissed beauty? Where did she go, the real desi girl?
She has become a rarity to sight anywhere at all – from the streets and colleges to the malls and weddings.
Instead we see throngs of made-up plastic dolls proudly exhibiting varying degrees of superficiality. From straightened, colored, chopped, highlighted, extended, layered, coloured and god-knows-what-else hair, to cleansed, toned, moisturized, bleached, bronzed, rouged, and whitened skin. And of course, manicured hands and pedicured feet. It's almost like everyone looks the same -  like they’ve all just stepped out of the same beauty parlour. Uh, whatever happened to natural diversity?
Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to parlours and not make the effort to look better, but do we ALL really need to? Especially teenagers and adults below the age of 30? They are supposed to look young and innocent yet they increasingly look like glamour queens. “So what’s so wrong in that?” you ask, and the answer is “nothing,” except that it just seems to go too far. I personally know women who take their primary-school-going daughters for makeovers at the beauty parlour and hair-removal therapies too. Perhaps this kind of stuff is just giving the wrong messages to young children – that everything you are naturally blessed with needs to be modified or polished somehow to make you look BETTER.  
I know this post is going to annoy –if not offend - the majority of people who bother to read it, but hey, I’m just expressing my own opinion. So you can call me chauvinistic or old-fashioned or anti-modernity or even anti-feminist, but all I’ll say is that we need to embrace a little bit of our natural selves rather than let chemicals and “fashion” – or someone else’s notion of it, rather – take over who we are. Besides, feminism is essentially about freedom, right? And that includes the freedom to be the person you are – to let your hair grow down to your waist if you want and not have it styled, to not cover up the blemish or two on your face, to wear glasses and not have to explain why the heck you don’t want contact lenses, etc, etc.