Friday, December 18, 2009

The best of '09

Shop where you spent most of your money.

Shallow as it sounds, I think it'll have to be on shoes. This year I discovered the shoe stores of Bandra and Irla and went at them with a vengeance. I even blogged about them effusively here. But aren't shoes just marvelous? The look pretty, their designs can be incredibly inventive and I for one, can spend hours effusing on them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The best of '09

A word that encapsulates your year.



I did a few adventurous things this year. I got dumped in the ocean in Goa and had to be rescued. I climbed mountains and stepped on a snake. But the biggest rush I got was when I stood before an audience of poets and writers and recited my hastily cobbled verse.
It was at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, in February. The event was called Poetry Slam and we had to recite our poems. One girl acted her poem ouy, while wearing her collar mike. Another guy recited a haiku that had me clapping till my hands stung. Then it was my turn. I could see the sheet of paper I held trembling as I took the mike and butterflies were fluttering about frantically in my stomach. I took a deep breath and recited my tepid verse. Somehow, the moment I began, my voice magically firmed, my hand stilled and I felt eerily out of my body.
I didn't win that day, but it didn't matter. The poets that did were far better. For me, getting on that stage was enough.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The best of '09

The best tea

I'm not much of a tea drinker. K's dark premonitions about addictive substances made me wary of even something as innocent as tea. But it was August and it was raining like it would never stop and I had a bad case of the sniffles. So I ordered myself a glass of elaichi chai. It came in a glass tumbler with froth on the top. And boy, did it taste good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The best of '09

The best packaging.

This one I remembered immediately. It was a tiny heart shaped box that A gave me, for no reason, just like that. It was covered in red gauze with gold-wrapped chocolates inside. I still have the box, it survived even my minimalist streak.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The best of '09

Q. What's the best change you made to the place you live
I moved back into my hostel room this August, after six weeks away. I used to drive 20 kilometers everyday to work during that internship on a very old but determined scooty. It gave me a lot of time for thinking. I returned to IIT determined to de-clutter my life and that's just what I did. I threw away all the flummery, no wall decorations, no posters, no tubes of moisturizer I never use, no stacks of papers and old movie tickets preserved for sentiment's sake. It felt good. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The best of '09

I'm participating in Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. It's an opportunity to look back and appreciate the year gone by. I'm getting into the game a little late, but don't intend to miss any more of it than I can. Do join in on the action if you like. I think it's a brilliant idea and it's very cool of Gwen to host this.
Today's question: New food: You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.

I can't claim knowledge of Lebanese food yet, but the cuisine I sampled this year for the first time was Goan. N, P and I jetted in from different parts of the country to meet up with our BITS friends for three days of mad, merry fun in Goa in May. Compulsive as I am, I had cobbled together about forty pages of research about Goa, a map with all the locations I wanted to visit marked out in colour and a checklist of thinks I wanted to do before leaving. I wanted to see forts and beaches and perhaps work in a waterfall. I also wanted to visit the floating casinos, sit at a shack and try adventure sports. Pappu had other ideas. When I dug out my 40 pages, he looked stunned for a minute then said, "I thought we'd get high, Re." Turns out, it was possible to do it all, simply sacrificing a little sleep.

I had read a great deal about Goan cuisine and was eager to try it. The thing was, the food there is mostly seafood based and we vegetarians have pitifully few options. Seriously, in most menus, there were perhaps two vegetarian dishes, thrown in at the end like palpable afterthoughts. Still, I managed to sample the Xanuti: boiled vegetables in a mouth-burningly spicy coconut curry. Goa's traditional sweet, the Bebinca wasn't available in any of the restaurants we visited on those first two days.

Finally, on the day we were to leave, N and I marched out in the 11 am sun, in a quest for breakfast, brightly coloured dresses and Bebinca. The breakfast place we went to didn't stock it, though they did have thickly buttered and crackly paranthas which ate dipped in thick curd. The nice waiter there told us of a bakery about a kilometre away though, that did. So we trudged through the blistering May sunshine, pausing often in cloth covered stalls to ogle beach coverups and chunky jewelry.

Finally we reached the Imperial Bakery, a pretty little place on the main road with potted plants and marble tables. There we ordered ourselves a slice of Bebinca. It came on a pretty glass plate with two silver forks. Such ceremony seemed apt. It was delicious, at least I thought so. N, sweet as she is, isn't much of a dessert person, but I had no problems demolishing that slice, layer by sticky layer. We trudged back afterwards and though the sun had only risen higher, I was thoroughly satisfied. I could tick the last box off my checklist.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Written snapshots

In creative writing class, we discussed an essay by Margaret Atwood where she points out that one can never actually meet the writer of a book one has read and loved. By the time the book has been edited, published and distributed, the writer has moved on. He has evolved and grown older and changed into someone else.
It's a fascinating thought isn't it? That every piece you write is like a polaroid snapshot of you, as you are then and never will be again.
I've realised lately, that the written word is my favourite method of preserving memories. So, I've started a new blog, here. The whole point of the new blog is written snapshots, of everyday moments that made me happy, that I want to squirrel away. The point of Colours is different. I wondered once, why it was I blogged. I know now, that the point of Colours at least, is analysis. It's a place to capture a few of the hundreds of little epiphanies that happen to us each day, thoughts that are often felt rather than voiced. Ans while my new blog is about chronicling experiences, Colours is and will always be a place for thoughts and for watching them change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dust to Dust

They're scraping the old paint off the hostel walls today. I was here when they were painted the last time, transformed from dreary blue to shocking pink. We were outraged then, pink for a girls hostel was such an annoying stereotype. That pink faded from shocking to mildly surprising and then to inoffensively pale. The walls are now a rather depressing pinkish-white, pockmarked with holes and covered with the scrawls of students over the years- timid vandals seeking to leave their mark here in some small way.

I left my mark too: my name scrawled in pencil in painstakinly miniature cursive, next to my door. It's an obsession for me, doodling my name. I scrawl it everywhere, on the backs of notebooks, in pools of sauce on plates and this once, on a hidden corner of the wall. K used to tell me that I must have an identity crisis. He said it half-jokingly but he might just be right.

The labourers scraped my name away along with all the others. All our small rebellions. Now they are a fine layer of powdery pink dust all over the floor, flying up in clouds and marking our footsteps as we walk past. By night, it will all be swept away.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

One month late, but still...

This post should have by all rights, gone up on August 7th. But what with Convo and the flu and a whole other bunch of other circumstances, it didn't, and Ravali's birthday went uncelebrated here on Colours. We celebrated in other ways, with orange cake, pink champagne and a silver tiara with green feathers (it was certainly colourful) but I wanted to give this bestest of friends and my most avid reader, a celebration here too. So here it is, one month late.

Ravali turned twenty three today. Twenty three isn't a particularly significant year. She was old enough to vote five years ago and could have been legally drunk anytime in the past two. But birthdays are after all, a time to sit back and think about the time past, a comma, so to speak, in the sentence of time when you take a breath, take stock and change your tone.

I met her four years ago, in our tiny, pink walled room. We sat facing each other on our beds. She couldn’t stop talking, I stayed mostly silent. We were both very nervous. We were exceedingly polite to each other, those first few months, but our conversations rarely went beyond common courtesies and tepid gossip. We had our own concerns and problems and the fact that we shared a room didn’t seem reason enough to share them.

She decorated her side of the room with a pink coloured poster of a bunch of chubby babies and insisted that everyone who entered the room had to sign on their favourite. I thought her crazy but signed on one anyway. The baby I signed on made me laugh, ducking away like it did behind a pink bucket full of pink roses.

There were always people in that room, friends of hers, arguing loudly, gossiping and sharing. I used to tire of the noise and of cleaning up after they left, but I never told Ravali. It didn’t seem polite. Then slowly, I was drawn into their conversations Her friends became mine. The noise became pleasant. She does that.
A vast number of her friends are mine now, wonderful people whom I might have never known otherwise.

We grew close slowly. I don’t quite know how. We shared secrets and stories. She took me to the hospital and stayed with me when I had a high fever but was terrified of doctors. She would clear my bed and smooth down the covers for me to collapse on when I returned in the wee hours of the morning from music practice. She would scold me when I didn’t study and coax me out of my sulks. She would attend every tiny performance I ever gave and always cheer the loudest. She often shamed me out of my own miserly tendencies by her sheer generosity. She always gave her possessions, her time, and her sympathy freely, to anyone who needed it and I learnt a great deal, simply by her example.

We’ve come a long way from that tiny pink room where we had our first awkward conversation. Four years of giggles and tears, of moments of high drama and those quietly shared, of conversations on everything from movies to mathematics. Four years of life that I shared with her in a way I’ve never shared with anyone before.

Our lives are changing now, very fast. We pause on days like this and take stock. When I pause and look around, I'm comforted to see you there, right by my side.
Happy Birthday Rava.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Singin' in the Rain

I just spent two miserable weeks fighting off the flu. I don't know if it was swine flu or just a run-of-the-mill influenza. As the doctor at the IIT hospital informed me (a little too cheerfully for my liking) they were all the same.
Whichever it was, it certainly wasn't pretty. I worked my way through stages of sweats and fevers and feeling too hot and then too cold and not being able to keep any food down and losing my voice. But worst of all, the world looked depressing. I'm generally an annoyingly cheerful person, A compares me to the character Alec Baldwin played in his guest appearance on Friends and I have to admit, there are some similarities. But through watery eyes and racked by the shivers, the world looked unrecognizably bleak.

Today though, I popped my second-last antibiotic pill and sang an only partially husky version of "Singin' in the Rain" to my mirror. It's good to be back.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


The rains are finally here and sitting in office is becoming harder than ever. You see, our garden is calling to me, and it is never so insistent or alive as when it rains. Gnarled trees thrive on those grounds along with prickly lemon bushes laden with gleaming fruit. There's a fish pond with tiny black fish swimming about busily in circles and pale lilies with the most glorious perfume. There is a family of cobras that you can sometimes see disappearing into bushes and brightly orange pomegranate flowers that look like miniature traffic cones.
All of this will be singing today. The leaves will collect little pools of raindrop till they droop with the weight and spill their bounty on the earth, then they'll spring back up and collect some more. The fish will swim about even more madly in a wild game with the pattering rain.
The earth, oh, the earth will smell so lovely today, and the gravel will get all crunchy and the soil brick-red. And the trees will swing wildly in the wind and do their best to look intimidating. And the grass will gather all the rain, beaming an electric green, and squelch delightfully when walked on. That big, blowsy red rose I saw yesterday will be battered by the drops till all the weak and drying petals fall off and only its pure red heart remains.
All this will be happening, while I sit in this air conditioned office and try to listen for the rain.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Morning Song

This morning, as I washed the sleep off my face, I heard the children singing their morning prayer. Our house shares a wall with the Army School, and at around seven thirty every weekday, you can hear the children sing. Six years ago, I was one of them.

In all Army Schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas around India, we sing the same song at morning prayers. It is a bhajan whose words have been carefully scrutinized for secularism. I first learnt the prayer in Jammu, where I’d transferred to the Army School because it was the only school at any reasonable distance from out house. Prayers were scheduled at 7 am and so K and I would leave home on our cycles at 6:40. I had inherited K’s old cycle, which was a miniature boys cycle, perfect in every tiny feature. I had however refused to learn how to ride it until it was painted in baby pink and K would wince every time he saw the desecration.

Winter mornings in Jammu were bitterly cold so I'd wrap myself in layers of sweaters, a scarf, gloves and woolen socks. Still, the wind would find a way in, whipping the tails of my scarf about and stinging my face to a hectic red. I would race to the school, to get out of the wind as soon as possible, determinedly pedaling my pink cycle as the wind tore at my pigtails.

I'd park my cycle and rush to the classroom, where my friends would be waiting. We would hold hands and try to get warm. The boys tumbled each other outside, the exercise keeping them warm while we girls shared our warmth and traded gossip. No matter how icy I was after that cycle ride, there would always be someone to rub my fingers and bring back the circulation.

Then a bell would sound and we'd all troop out for the assembly and there we would sing our bhajan to irregular beats on the PT drum. We would sing lustily in an effort to distract ourselves from the cold. Then we would recite our pledge, cold red fingers stretched ahead in a salute. Then there were excruciating readings of the news and the "Thought for the Day" before we were finally commanded to stand motionless during the national anthem.

I don’t think I ever really understood what we were singing then. The song is carefully chosen because it never takes any one God's name. Instead it asks a pretty generic God for gifts of knowledge, love and patriotism. The tune was a little tiresome, each stanza sung in exactly the same way. Our voices uplifted in chorus, were hardly melodious.

That school was built from modified barracks, with asbestos roofs and no flooring. After reading about how asbestos can be carcinogenous, I used to anxiously examine my skin for lumps. I was rather hypochondriacal those days. A line of termites spread over the walls of our classroom; the boys used to poke at them with compasses in an effort to gross us out. Snakes were common and their appearance in classes made for fervid lunch hour discussion.

That was the first government school I ever went to. Till then I had been to an elite kindergarten school and a public school where the children were rich and everyone spoke English. In Army School. I made friends with many people far less privileged than I. Looking back, I was often thoughtless and vain those days, but those friends still stood by me and accepted me for what I was. It was cold, sure, but there were always smiles and pleasant voices to warm me up.

I've learnt many songs in many schools: Christmas carols, patriotic tunes, catholic hymns, complex classical pieces and even Irish drinking songs. But the song I'll always associate with my childhood is that monotonous bhajan I sang on a stony field in Jammu, as my feet turned numb with cold.

Friday, June 12, 2009

One Year

It has been over a month since I last posted here. I felt my posts were getting more strained, summoning up the same energy seemed more of an effort and so gave I it up entirely for a while. It is impossible to be dishonest while writing. I can exaggerate, indeed hyperbole is one of my pet techniques, but at the core I have to believe what I am typing, or my sentences turn convoluted and displeasing.
So, instead of lying, I chose not to write at all. I sat in my sweaty little room, staring at my computer screen, I went shopping and bought smart new shoes, I baked apple pie and joked with friends, all the time with a niggling feeling inside me that I couldn't quite explain away.
I haven't found an explanation yet, this post is just a start, a confrontation if you will. I sometimes think my teenage is catching up with me now, in my twenties. All the rebellion and confusion and lack of identity I should have felt then sometimes overpowers me now. We never really escape our demons.

I handle it like I handle everything else in my life, by pushing it and everyone away. Like Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think of it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day" is my philosophy. I don't know if that's the best method. It is the only one I know.

I remember when K and I were in kindergarten, to make us eat our favourite uncle would promise us that if today we ate out curd rice, tomorrow we needn't. Uncle wrote it on my slate and propped it up on a chair. So every day we would choke down that rice waiting for the tomorrow when we wouldn't have to eat it any more.

I'm back home now. We celebrated K's birthday and I baked a cake. We called it 'Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cake" because it contained everything he liked: raisins, walnuts, cocoa, chocolate chunks, dates, coffee, rum and bananas. We ate tiny slices with chocolate ice cream. K left the next morning. The remaining half of the cake is still lying in the fridge. None of us want to touch it.

This coming year seems a godsend. Four years aren't enough. Not to figure out what you want to do with your life. Hell, a lifetime isn't enough. But I have one year. I gamble on it like Scheherezade gambled on the dawn. My story isn't finished yet.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Travel in a city

I do love traveling around Mumbai in an auto. Autos are just the perfect height above the ground to see the dust flying when a humid breeze blows. I can look either way to catch everyday scenes of this city I've learnt to love.
From either side I see pan-stained sidewalks, but if I just hunch the littlest bit, I can see gorgeous mannequins under neon lights. Close enough to count the ribs of panting stray dogs and to see the glistening skins of mangoes stacked high on fruit sellers' carts. Close enough to see brightly coloured polythene bags clogging open gutters and the red high heeled shoes of the woman in Chanel sunglasses waiting for the valet to bring her car.
Fast enough that I feel weightless while we race down a flyover, narrowly avoiding potholes, yet slow enough for me to read all the billboards.

25 things about me

I've been tagged with this particular meme several times, and today, finally decided to respond. While I'm hardly reserved about myself on this blog, here's a list of things I might not have mentioned about myself in the past three years. By the end of the exercise I realised, it's hard to come up with 25 remotely interesting things about oneself. While I'm not tagging anyone in particular with this meme, if you're reading this, do feel free to consider yourself tagged.1. I dislike stuffed toys. I find them pointless. I'd much rather have a real pup warm and wriggling in my hands, instead of felt ones with cotton insides and plastic eyes.
2. I don't really like listening to much music. I find it distracting. I obsess over a few songs and listen to just them over and over again, driving everyone around me nuts. I add only about 15 new songs a year to my playlist.
3. I'm never bored if I have pen and paper in hand.
4. I used to read prodigiously. Since coming to IIT though, I don't anymore.
5. I've trained for several years in classical dance and I thoroughly enjoy dancing. Sometimes I tap my feet under the table, because I can't keep them still.
6. I absolutely love baking and plan to study pastry sometime in my life.
7. I get into my own head far too often for my own liking. I try to observe myself from different points of view and find myself an endlessly fascinating subject.
8. I'm rather self-obsessed.
9. I publicly declared my hatred for poetry, but I can still cry over a good poem.
10. I sometimes cry over poetry, songs and books, but only very rarely and in private.
11. I'm a closet drama queen. I love drama, but constantly suppress that side of myself, although it sometimes sneaks out.
12. I dislike children and don't intend to have any of my own.
13. I will however make a smashing aunt.
14. I'm a master procrastinator. If any job can be postponed, I will postpone it. I'm not proud of this habit of mine and intend to make a push to break it, someday soon.
15. I very rarely get into arguments with people. I'm not quite sure why.
16. I find it hard to not smile at people- even perfect strangers- when I pass them on the street.
17. As a child I wanted my hair so long that I would trip on it as I walked. Now, I only crave hair so short that I'd never have to comb it.
18. I've recently discovered that I really like shopping.
19. I love blogging, but constantly wonder if I'm crossing the line between honest and too personal.
20. I love making caramel and spinning shapes with sugar. I can play with burning, boiling sugar for hours on end.
21. I used to be a rather mean kid- always looking down her nose at people. I really hope I've changed.
22. I dislike puns. I've met very few puns that I thought funny. I think them pretentious.
23. I used to have the disagreeable habit of humming to myself under my breath all the time. I only stopped when one day on the bus, a lady asked me why I was crying.
24. I'm usually attracted to older men.
25. I have a horror of settling down.Maybe my views will change as I grow older but permanence or commitment of any sort frightens me.

image from

Sunday, May 03, 2009


I am notoriously fickle when it comes to picking my favourite fruit. My favourites change with the seasons, in winter I favour crisp apples with ruddy skins and faint green veins running through their flesh, but before they have time to wrinkle at the approach of spring, I will have shifted to green, bursting grapes. But year after year, as the grapes grow brown and slowly fade away from the bamboo basket of my favourite seller, I scarcely spare a moment to mourn the loss, because mangoes will finally be in season.

Gloriously yellow flesh with the sweetest smell imaginable, through the months of May and June mangoes hold prime position in my heart. I've eaten all kinds of mangoes in every way possible. Giant golden ones eaten while sitting on newspapers so I won't get the floor dirty in Perimma's house, with the juice trickling down my arms, tiny green ones from Atthai's garden to get at which I would gobble down my curd rice with scarcely a chew, sliced into translucent pieces and eaten with a fork at formal lunches, or sliced into giant wedges and eaten leisurely during long and heated post-dinner conversations on the best way to cut mangoes, with the family.
After hearing Appa reminesce about his favourite cafe in Pune where they would serve giant bowls of mango pulp every summer to hungry young cadets, I made my first mango pulp. It was possibly the first dessert I ever made, filled with lumpy mangoes inexpertly peeled and a giant mound of garish tuitty-fruity on top for decoration. Appa, bless his heart, praised it to the skies. Since then I've experimented more and more daringly with this versatile fruit and have always been rewarded. I bake mangoes into buttery pies topped with crystallized sugar, a scoop of ice cream and my trusty toffee sauce. I cream them into souffles, light as air. I stew them into spicy jams that will make pretty sandwich cookies. And with every dish and every day, I fall a little more in love with this glorious fruit.

(Photo courtesy

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The simple things

I've cautiously refrained from posting much this past month, because somehow my words have been spitting venom. Put me in vicinity of a keyboard and I fall easy prey to my new found cynicism. It is so easy to criticize, so hard to praise. Even now, at a time when many things are ending and new beginnings seem far away, I find myself announcing relief instead of reveling in the memories behind or grieving at the unavoidable partings ahead. Such a state of affairs can not continue, no matter how poetic and romantic it may seem. Indeed, I loathe people who sit and criticize the world around them, wrapped safely in their mantle of superior cynicism, yet I am in great peril of becoming one such myself.

So instead, let's return to the simple things. Today was lovely. After weeks of stifling heat, there's a light breeze. Not enough to dispel the humidity, but it does contain a whispery promise of things to come. I saw clouds in the sky yesterday, timid, translucent clouds. They tried vainly to shield me from the sun. I don't need them, I have my SPF 30 sunscreen. Still, where there are clouds, there will soon be rain, I hope.

I made yet another cheat sheet today. I've lost count of how many such sheets I've made. Certainly, I've developed a skill for them. My masterpiece was a sheet for Quantum Electronics in February, in which after filling both sides of an A4 sheet almost solidly with microscopic blue writing, I proceeded to write in the milimetres between the original blue lines, in black. More wonderfully, I deciphered it all in the exam. Sometimes I surprise myself. In any case, it's good to know my cheat sheet making days are numbered. I can't think of a real life application where the skill of fitting unlimited amounts of text onto limited paper could come in handy, yet it is one of the many things IIT has taught me.

Four more exams to go. Then it will be time for lab experiments, blisteringly hot days, new faces, beach trips, ice cream cones, goodbye hugs, project deadlines, torrential rains, computer screens and a lonesome room.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Preserving Illusions

Of late, all my nights have become a haze of jumbled voices, uttering every form of profanity, filled with uneasy, drunken laughter, as I watch through rising clouds of cigarette smoke.

I don't know how I could have been so naive. Till two weeks ago, I honestly believed that a valfi was a time for memories and laughter, for honesty and closure. But this year as I watched closely for the first time, all my little illusions shattered one by one. I watched as people brought out the character flaws of their friends -things they disliked about each other but never had the courage to point out- disguised them clumsily as jokes and read them out into a microphone, on a stage, for all the world to hear. I watched as they spoke disrespectfully of friends and used words I had never heard of before and wish I could never hear again. I sat through many readings trying hard not to listen, too cowardly, too unsure, to get up and leave.

I like my illusions, I don't want to lose them. I like to believe that I would never judge anyone on the basis of three pages written about them by their drunken friends, but sometimes, I can't help but wonder if there isn't a grain of truth behind some smutty tale. As I spend more time here, as I listen and observe, I'm frightened at my own growing cynicism.

Of course valfis like I always imagined exist too. I like to think my own was one such. It was 9:30 am on a weekday morning and we had all been in our chiffon sarees and heavy jewelery for over 12 hours. We had spent the night reading, reminiscing, laughing, blushing and crying. The morning was quiet, the sun shone, but the terrace hadn't yet turned uncomfortably warm. I was surrounded by people I loved and respected. I couldn't have asked for more.

So it is that I am able to fight off the romance of an overpowering cynicism and still preserve a shred of my old naivety. Some illusions must be preserved. I still need something to believe in.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


It is 3 am and I am still awake, thanks to an ill advised coffee. The heat is quite stifling. Every year I meet the Mumbai summer with fresh surprise. Every year, I can't recall it being quite this bad. I've never faced a summer quite as potent as Mumbai's before. I've seen warmer climates with higher temperatures, but what gets to me is this humidity, which makes every breath an effort and covers me in a sheen of perspiration half an hour after a bath. When you emerge from an air conditioned room, it slams you in the face like an unyielding wall.

Smells seem more intense in this dense, warm air. Yesterday A, G and I went for a walk. We saw a butta seller fanning the flames of his tiny coal stove, in the dusk. He stood in a circle of shimmering sparks as a most delicious smell spread around. Roasting corn on the cob is definitely another of my favourite smells.
A few days ago, Amma and I paused before a jasmine seller at a railway station. The buds were small and hard, but their fragrance spread around the station, almost intoxicatingly sweet.

The heat makes me languorous. Waking up in the mornings seems pointless, till the sticky warmth forces me to shift. Every movement is an effort, every thought a strain. I procrastinate and laze inexcusably and glibly blame it all on the heat. It is of course fitting that this is one of the busiest times of the year. April is here and the semester is wrapping up. Project deadlines loom, valfi profiles have to be written, exams have to be mugged for. My caffeine fix is perhaps a godsend, I can use the time to do something productive But I know I won't. Like Scarlett O'Hara I whisper to myself, "I'll think of it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day" and take myself off to bed.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I tucked away yet another dog-eared script in my cardboard box today. It is a box I've had since my first semester, in which I keep symbols of times I consider worth preserving. It holds a movie ticket from my first ever date, one earring from a pair I once wore everywhere before I lost its mate, a few scribbles, and four scripts: one of each PAF I worked on.

After eleven hours of near-oblivious sleep, I feel human again, albeit rather displaced. It's strange to not have to bolt my food and rush for practice, or to open gmail and not have to send a mail deciding meeting times. Last night after the PAF and dinner, we broke off reluctantly, our good nights trailing. After weeks of working, eating, dozing and thinking together, such a parting seemed too final, too concrete to accept. Today, ever since we woke up, we find ourselves gravitating towards each other's rooms with snippets of memories or to relate familiar jokes.

Every PAF I've done has a special place in my heart. There was Kharashein, where after weeks of sticking newspapers together and painting endless rolls of chart paper orange, I got to stand on the first floor of our chawl and at the high point of the PAF, scream. Ashaayein, where I would wait for hours and hours to sing harmonies to the theme song. U Turn where I finally learnt to what levels of perfection a PAF's background score could be taken, and then yesterday, Nazaffgarh Express, where I got to work with old friends and make some new ones. I discovered afresh how incredibly talented and modest people can be and was both shamed and inspired.

At a time when I was desperately afraid of growing cynical and misanthropic, this was just what I needed. Now it's time to carry on, faith reaffirmed.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax...

It's strange to feel old at 21. But I suppose college does that to you. Last night, after yet another 2am walk up the length of the campus, I got to thinking about how familiar things seem now, after nearly four years in IIT. I'm unused to such familiarity, it throws me off. I'm far more used to packing up and leaving, confident that I'm leaving whatever messes I've made behind and am proceeding to a new place and yet another fresh start, with brand new messes waiting to be made. It is far harder, I realise now, to stay put and work things out. I'm not very good at it.

Last night's walk had almost a sense of deja vu. The night air felt as cool as it always has, in my countless such walks in the past four years. There were the usual puttering autos that slowed down hopefully when they spotted me. The customary bunch of drunk students singing loudly as they walked back to their hostel. Flexes fluttering in the wind, advertising events from musical nights to quizzing competitions. The scraping of plastic chairs outside the Coffee Day Express as a final bunch of students scrambled to get their caffeine fixes before closing time. The lamp post casting a yellow glare on a bunch of tired freshies with a ladder, putting up yet another flex. The familiar canoodling couples outside my hostel gate. And of course, the watchman fast asleep, with his feet up on the table.

There is comfort in this familiarity. I have closer friends than I've ever had before. Perhaps as A remarked last night, if we weren't living together in the same hostel, sharing the same mess and foozeball table, we wouldn't be friends. But seeing as we are, we accept each other, faults and whimsies. I wonder if I'll ever find such complete acceptance elsewhere.

I thought such sameness would tire me or grate on my nerves. But instead, I find myself clutching at moments, intent upon making them memories before they slip away. This next year is to be just that- a time for rest and contemplation, for dreams and ambition and most of all, a time to remember. Before I'm once again flung into the world outside.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I've now been alive for twenty one years, four days, twelve hours and thirty five minutes. But I choose not to measure time in standard units. Time should be measured in moments. Moments, silly, sweet, bitter, happy... that burn themselves into your memory and make you who you are.

I remember the moment when a priest shaved my head in Tirupati. I fought so hard, he cut my scalp. Appa held me down while the priest finished. I didn't speak to Appa for a week after that. I still have photographs of myself at the time, in a frilly green frock, staring dejectedly at the camera, with a dome shaped scalp that reflected light.

Then there was my 1st Standard play- I was the sun and all my classmates were flowers basking in my light. I had gleaming yellow robes and a giant, pointy crown. It's a wonder I didn't burst with pride on that stage.

My first and last TV recording, in a sleepy studio in Delhi. I wore a green satin dance costume and my hands and feet were dyed red. The skit was based on a fable about the lives of jungle animals and the pond was a circle of blue painted on the floor. My head hurt with the tremendous weight of fake hair, jewelry and plastic flowers. I wished it would end soon.

Then there was the moment when V, my best friend in Sacred Heart High School, whom I had called to say goodbye to, told me on the phone that no one in my class regretted that I was leaving. They all thought me awfully stuck up.

The moment when Race, our German Shepherd, who was bathing in a river, got carried away by the moving water. He wasn't yet fully grown, and not strong enough to fight the current. He disappeared behind a giant rock and I ran after him desperately, only to find him perched on another jutting rock, shaking the water off his coat.

The moment when Appa brought Race's body back from the Veterinary Hospital. I didn't believe he was dead till I touched him. He was cold.

The moment when I held hands with my first ever crush, on a train back from Agra. After hours, our plams grew sweaty and slowly slipped apart. I remember thinking that it was unfair that they never mentioned things like sweat or dirt or acne in romance novels.

The moment when I waved my parents away, and stood at the door of my hostel, alone for the first time in my life.

The moment when I stood before an audience of 600 people I didn't know and sang. My hands were trembling and my heart hammering, but still, somehow, my voice was clear.

The moment when I ran in from the rain and didn't care that clothes were soaked or my shoes squelchy, because for the first time ever, I was in love. I forgave the romance novels then- they knew what they were talking about.

The moment when I first realised that I was never bored as long as I held a pen and paper in my hands.

And then today, when I proudly looked over a pile of shoes, clothes and accessories, and discovered that, despite what I've said in the past, shopping is a great deal of fun.

Life is full of so many such moments, all in turn silly, sweet, bitter, happy, embarrassing... These are but a paltry few of all those thousands of memories I have acquired in my twenty one years. It's nice to pause sometimes, to simply think about the past. Not to learn lessons from it or to air regrets, but simply, to remember.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sweet Cigarettes

We lived in Delhi for three years, from 2nd standard to the end of fourth. Appa was a Lt. Col then and accommodation was hard to come by. So, we spent the first 6 months of our stay, living with Mummy. Mummy was the mother of one of Appa's course mates and had graciously offered to take us in while we were house hunting. Everyone called her Mummy, I've never learnt her real name.
She was tiny, with a tongue like a whiplash and jet black hair that she dyed every Sunday. She taught Amma north-Indian cooking (for which we will all be eternally grateful) and she communicated her love for mushy Hindi movies to me.

On weekends, Mummy used to bribe me and K with money, to help her out with the dusting. After a morning spent carefully dusting Mummy's drawing room china, I would hurry out importantly to the general store outside, a five rupee coin clutched tightly in my palm. Five rupee coins in those days were giant and weighty. I couldn't close my palm around one. There was so much you could buy with five rupees in that general store. Poppins in violent colours, coated with crusty sugar. Giant toffee eclairs that didn't quite fit in my mouth. Heart shaped lollipops that I could never lick on patiently and would simply crunch down in a jiffy. But my favourites were the cigarettes. Long white cylinders of sugar, with a vermilion tip painted at the end.

Those cigarettes were fascinating. You could literally smoke one- the stub would get shorter and shorter as the sugar dissolved in your mouth until you finally reached the tip which you then crunched down. I don't think they ever tasted really great- they were rather chalky and bland. But that didn't matter, because they came in a proper paper pack that you could flick open and hand around to your closest friends- they were the essence of cool. Winter time was the best, because then you could blow out in the cold air after pulling at the cigarette, and the condensation would form 'smoke'.

I don't think they make those sugar cigarettes anymore. I haven't seen them around for years. But thanks to my seven-year-old, knee sock wearing, chubby, earnest self, they'll always be the first thing I look for in a general store.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When's my turn?

Appa visited me over the weekend. He gave me flash-fiction-story ideas, helped clean my room and fixed my fan. Last time he visited, he fixed my veena and bought me a toolkit.
Every time he visits, he fixes something. Often, things that I didn't even realize were broken. When my turn comes, I hope I'm half as good.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Style Icon

I was trying today to write this article about a person whose style I admire. I cast over movie stars and designers, college friends and girl crushes, for several minutes, till suddenly, I knew.

Amma has always been the epitome of chic Army wife. She slides into and out of the role with so much grace. She wears cotton sarees for coffee mornings, chiffons and light silks for evening tea parties and gleaming Kanjeevarams for dinner nights. Ever since I can remember, on the nights when she and Appa would go out for a dinner, I would watch her getting ready, fascinated. She would open her closet revealing sarees piled high, arranged according to importance and occasion. Despite the several score sarees in there (whenever we moved, we always needed two trunks just for them) she could always tell me exactly when she got which one. Sometimes she would let me select for her and I would agonize over finding the right saree, a matching blouse and perfect jewelery.

She would let me play with her makeup and jewelery as she dressed. I would carefully paint my face in rosebud shades and try on elaborate gold necklaces, but I could never manage to look like her. I would watch as she deftly formed perfect pleats and tucked them in and carefully folded the pallu and pinned it to her shoulder. Often, she would tuck a rosebud Appa had given her, in her hair. As a final touch, she would mist herself in jasmine scented perfume and then stand before us for our admiring inspection. At times like those, she was a perfectly beautiful woman with a lovely smile and rosebuds in her hair, but she always seemed so unfamiliar. We knew Amma was in there too, but she was someone else then- standing erect, all five feet of her, next to Appa's lounge-suited, towering frame. She and Appa would leave for the party after many exhortations to us to sleep in time.

When they returned, she would always come quietly to my room to check if I was asleep and kiss my forehead. She smelled of night air and jasmines, of roses and warmth, and then, she was Amma again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Teacher's Pet

A few days ago, on my way back from class, I saw the children from the local KV practicing their Republic Day march past on the street. A red-faced PT master was shouting out instructions, while the children stamped and shouted "left-right-left" energetically, but without much synchronization. One chubby little girl at the front with two oiled pigtails and big red bows however, was concentrating furiously and trying her best to catch the master's attention with her marching. She really reminded me of myself.
Through most of school, it was very important to me to be the teacher's pet. I loved being held up as an example. When teachers would say things like, "Why can't you be more like Nithya?" or "Sit next to Nithya and learn how to behave," I would flush pink with pleasure. This naturally made me rather unpopular with my classmates, but I was too busy gloating to notice.
I did change eventually, my friends began to like me (I hope), and I discovered the joys of sitting on the last bench- reading novels and passing chits. But that energetic little girl brought it all back, for a minute. I hope she grows out of it someday too. Being a back-bencher is far more fun!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Perfect Man

By the age of sixteen, I had a very clear definition of the perfect man for me. He would be tall and handsome, of course. He would also read prodigiously, dance and play an instrument. I wasn't very particular about the instrument, but I did hope it would be the violin. We would spend quiet evenings reading books in companionable silence before he brought out his violin and I sang for him. To vary the monotony, some evenings we would put on slow jazz and dance for hours on end. Did I mention that he would also be a splendid dancer?
Of course my practical side would kick in then- after all some of these talents were rather emasculating. So, I threw in sports for good measure. He would play proper, rough, manly sports like football and basketball while I cheered him on from the sidelines. Then we would return home where he'd help me cook dinner and then he'd write a gloriously romantic sonnet to my eyes and secret it under my pillow for me to find in the morning.

Then college happened and my perfect man started seeming more and more unreachable. I let go of each of his little perfections reluctantly, one by one. Maybe he didn't have to dance... Maybe he could learn the violin after we got together... Perhaps I would settle for someone not quite so formidably well read...Maybe a writing me a sonnet was rather soppy...

This went on for over three years until today in a random 2 am conversation, A asked me what qualities I looked for in my ideal man. I thought about it for a really long time and finally came up with, "I'm not quite sure..."
The starched up vision of perfection that I had doesn't seem at all right now. I always thought I was reluctantly letting go of my visions of the perfect man, and gloried in the doleful romance of the thought. But, now I get that all I was doing was growing up. Indeed such an embodiment of perfection, if he even existed, would probably be impossibly hard to live with.
Still, now that I've come face to face with reality and stripped all my visions bare, I'm feeling rather empty. I know that new ideas and dreams, far more real and precious, will come in to fill that void, one day. But right now, as the culmination of three year's wisdom, I cling to only one standard- no matter what else my perfect man does or doesn't do, he will not write poetry.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


All through my childhood, we moved from place to place. Every friendship I had, every relationship, was necessarily short. Oh, I had best friends wherever I went- there was Riya in Delhi, Kittu in Jammu, Vasudha in YOL, Parul in Jabalpur, Ruchika in Secunderabad... But now, all I remember about them are their names. I never really thought about it before- but by the time I was about 10, I knew better than to get too close to anyone other than my family. Too soon, we would have to leave and it would hurt. When the last day of school came, my best friend and I would hold hands and promise to write each other all the time. For the first few, I did write letters and they wrote back. But the letters would become fewer and further apart till they finally stopped.
Even now, I find it hard to get really close to people. Oh, I talk and joke and giggle and share secrets, but still sometimes feel essentially alone. I never fought with any of my friends. I always thought it was because I never really found anything worth fighting about. Now I wonder if it's because I didn't feel secure enough to believe that my friendships would survive the battle. I've never really fallen in love. To love someone is to give them rather frightening control over your life- something I'm simply not prepared to relinquish yet. I once came close, but he left and I find myself surprisingly dispassionate about it.
But now, after three and a half years of shared rooms, classes, clothes and secrets I have friends I truly care about. Friends in front of whom I can lose my temper and act selfish but know that I will be forgiven. Friends with whom I can really talk without worrying about being tactful or politically correct.
It's taken me three and a half years to get here. Now I have another four months with them. Then they leave- to jobs or far off universities. All these years, I was the one who left, but this time I'll be the one staying behind. They're already slipping away- they've entered this world of offer letters and university applications, renting flats and buying business suits- that I'm not a part of. I'm not ready for them to leave, I don't want them to go. I'm jealous of their new life that is taking them away from me. We will always be friends of course, we've been through too much together. But it will never be the same.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm sad to leave

Another year has gone by. I'll soon be a whole year older, but not a whit wiser. Time's passing always makes me pause and spend a few moments in thought; that's why I act all retrospective during New Year or on birthdays. But now that 2009 has already begun, I'm finding it rather hard to take a step back and look at the vast carcass of the year I leave behind. So, I'm just going to focus on this past month and hope that by writing of it here, at least some of the lessons I learnt in December will stick.

I worked in a newspaper: technically, I'm still working in the newspaper. Today's my last day and I've finished and filed my final article and I have nothing left to do. I learned that newspaper work can be a really adrenaline pumping job- you do have to get out a fresh paper every single day. There are hardly any holidays and people are always busy. Still, every single person I met, took out the time to smile and speak kindly to me- a bewildered intern. Everyone seemed rather bemused that an IITian would be interested in newspaper work, but they often went out of their way to make things easy for me.
Lesson 1: Be nice to people.

I also learnt that press people are treated pretty well out there. Every event I attended, I was plied with tea and offered free gifts. It can get to your head quite easily. I hopefully, haven't been around long enough yet.
Lesson 2: Don't let it all go to your head.

The work is always fresh; after all, you're constantly looking for a newer angle, a better edge, to make your piece stand out. Deadlines are tight and have to be met, no excuses.
Lesson3: (Most Important) Don't procrastinate. There's no time for it in the real world.

The news is always different and as a reporter, you get to meet new people everyday. There were amusing (WTF) moments and rather tiresome ones.
Lesson 4: Don't ever lose your sense of humour.

All said and done, I really don't want to return to Quantum Mechanics yet.
Can't I stay just a little bit longer?