Tag Archives: personal

Constant Vigilance.

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Cobra. Bodyguard. Impower. Bullet. What are these, you wonder? Brand names of pepper spray. Why do I know, you ask? Because New Years’ Eve happened.

Unlike so many others in Bangalore, I wrapped up work at 5 PM on NYE to head home! Yes, I wanted to stay indoors while the rest of city revelled out in ten degrees of chill. If finding commute on regular days is a pain, that evening was exceptionally terrible. It took me ten minutes of futile attempts at booking an Uber and three refusals, before an auto driver agreed to drop me home, by the meter. Anyone who’s travelled in Bangalore knows ‘by the meter’ is a blessing. But was I to know what would follow? In the guise of a request for smaller notes to buy gasoline, he borrowed 2000 bucks from me, skipped the gas stations and took a wrong turn. On my insistence to return the money back, he stopped at the beginning of a flyover, turned around to scare me with stories of a fresh murder he’d committed and threatened to put a knife through me. I, obviously, didn’t want to see him brandish a knife, so a couple of futile attempts later I got off the auto, lest he drive away with me. Oh, he wasn’t crazy; he was crazy drunk. I saw him speed away with my money, but more importantly, my composure and the peace of my family and friends. At the end of three hours, I’d found my strength again, a helpful auto driver and with my friends in tow, filed a complaint with the police.

They say PTSD is diagnosed after a month of the symptoms, which generally show up around 3 months after the tragedy. But what is the diagnosis for the deviant thoughts that strike me every time I step into an auto now? What about the anxiety that rushes through me when the auto driver takes a shorter, new route? What about my friends now who keep asking me if I’ve reached home, while I am still stuck in Bangalore traffic? What would I have done if the man had taken out a knife? You’d say ‘don’t overthink’. I try not to. But when I look out of the auto to distract myself, I catch myself reading auto license plate numbers, searching for the one I’d unfortunately ridden in. When I look inside the auto, I furtively glance at the driver in the rear view mirror. When they argue about the fare now, I prefer to get down midway. When I give them a bigger note, I worry if they’ll return the change. This happened in broad daylight – would I have survived an attempt at night? I have seldom felt more vulnerable in Bangalore but that day in the usually crowded metropolis I found no person to walk up to. There were barely any cars on the roads, people were scattered around on a five-point crossing and there was no traffic police guard. Post my written complaint, I expected the police to immediately start a search to nab a drunk driver – after all, I did have his license plate details on camera. But I can’t tell them how to do their job, right? Would the driver have done this if a man sat in the back seat? Would a pepper spray have helped me? Could I have punched him in the face and gotten my money back? What if the driver hadn’t stopped the auto at my insistence? Should I have sat there and argued or cowered at his macho attempts to scare me?

I am not maligning all auto drivers. But nor do I plan to forgive and forget what happened. What I wonder is what had I done wrong? How do I ensure that I don’t get into another such situation? How do you ensure constant vigilance?

Oh, also. Happy New Year! ❤

Graciously Yours!

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Cooking up a storm!

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I am 26. I am single. I am a female. In India, that’s enough to set people rattling off about marriage and family planning. In my case, more advice follows about learning to do tasks that suit a woman in the house than one in office. To name a few – cooking, stitching, birthing, being graceful, looking pretty, being an ideal daughter-in-law, the ideal wife, the presentable new addition to the family. These were my bones of contention with a man who would have almost cut me off at the knees, stopping just in time as he rightly realised the bloodbath that would follow. Needless to say, I didn’t take it well. Oh yes, I didn’t take his abstaining well! And I console myself thinking many others wouldn’t have either. Love has mysterious ways of revealing the real you. What do I do to ward off the very things we parted ways over? Do those exact things to prove myself capable, to perfect myself, to console myself that he didn’t fight hard enough for me.

So I cooked the other evening. There were reasons, of course, which had nothing to do with proving to myself that I could cook. Or so I tell myself. I was procrastinating working on my manuscript, at some level of my subconscious. The mood to write just wasn’t right! So cooking. Also because the cook hadn’t turned up. And my flatmate couldn’t be fed take-away with a running body temperature of 102 degrees! So you ask what is the big deal about cooking? Well, there isn’t. At least in my mind. Except, people around me (read: relatives, the ones who call me twice a year – on my birthday and on their birthday to remind me that I’d forgotten about them. Well, I didn’t forget you. I chose not to remember you.) think it is a vital sign of being a good wife. And here I thought I should prepare to commit myself to a partner, whole and soul. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Maybe because most of my favourite dishes are best eaten raw! Salads, sprouts, fruits, milkshakes, sandwiches! But like everything else, I like to do it well, whenever I do cook. And lo behold! I cooked the main course for three people with stunning ease and a record time of 40 minutes. Of course, I’m only talking about rice, lentils and a curry, but hello? It was stomach filling, soul-fulfilling and lip-smacking – with a serving of ghee added to it. To all those skeptics and cynics, why do you keep cooking up a storm?

When the time comes, life teaches you everything. Or it perishes you. Why do you have to keep pushing people into a box, trying to fit them into standards, forcing them to keep up with how the world was fifty years ago when you were our age? Why is it still expected of women to be the ones running the house and holding together the fort, while encashing cheques at the month end? What is the man bringing to the table except for the money? Pray, tell me, if it was just about the money, then as a woman with financial stability and an understanding of financial management, why do I really need you men? Maybe a little consideration? Maybe join me as I flunk ‘Cooking 102’? Maybe let’s have a good laugh over how easy calculating ROI is compared to roasting the wheat flour just brown enough to not burn it for the halwa? Maybe let me sit around and watch you churn a chocolate banana milkshake for me? It’s about wanting to run the house with my partner, rather than for him. And if he isn’t ready for it? Well, then he needs to haul his ass from the couch and come stand by my side like a man.

Oh also. I can stitch a button on as good as I can your lips!

Graciously Yours!

Wanderlusting blind?

In my last blog post I asked you a question – do you prefer your travels to be meticulously planned or be a blind adventure?  I am still deciding which one suits me more – plucking out memories from earlier trips, deciding which lessons are worth being learnt and which were just flukes of the hour.

I recall a trip to Udupi, a quaint temple town, nestled by the beaches lining the Arabian Sea, in the Western Ghats – a trip I had researched, Googled about, interviewed earlier travellers and jotted down an itinerary to the extent of having even decided the breakfast to be ordered at Woody’s! Yeah, called me obsessed but I was really excited about that particular trip, not that I recall the reasons now, but it could have something to do with beaches! I am a beach baby who fears the seas, after all. Take that for irony! Guess where that led me? The moment I set foot on one of their islands, St. Mary’s, I began looking for that particular patch of lagoon where my friend said he’d played volleyball with his friends and how picturesque the location was. I set foot on the island with someone else’s idea of beauty rather than making up my own mind about what I felt about the island. I led myself to see through someone else’s eyes and thoughts. Not a moment of rest to the mind, not a pause to stand and absorb, feel and think, a constant rush to check the next sight off the list, not standing long enough to even breathe.

But. There’s a but.

Last month, I visited Hampi, known for its ruins of the Vijayangara empire, hippie style of living, a bed of rocks that transports you to an era a few hundred years ago – possibly the heat that plays with your mind. Circumstances made me procrastinate planning for a trip I had sincerely vowed to. Such desperate were the times, that despite three attempts to map out the route of our visits, technology failed to help us chart a plan. So we were left to hang dry with no map references, no lists of ‘Top 10 places to visit in Hampi’, ‘7 things you should do in Hampi’, ‘5 must-try restaurants in Hampi’ and so on! “Oh chuck it,” I thought when a man tried to sell me a ‘Tourist’s Guide to Hampi’. I’ll go in blind this time, I thought. And you know what I ended up missing?

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THIS! I MISSED THIS!

I walked away from this detailed, breathtaking, mind-blazing, still mostly intact ruin from within fifteen metres of it, after reading the sign that spelled out its presence! For freaking Heaven’s sake, this is the third image result that pops up when looking up Hampi and I did not visit it! Such a bummer. But well, we did manage to do a lot of other crazy stuff that cannot make it to the blog for want of keeping your faith in my sanity intact.

So what do you say? Guess I need to find a little balance? And pray, how do I do that?

Graciously Yours!

Muse.

For writers, in life, some people end up becoming a muse – thinking about them gets the words flowing, the ideas add up and the fingers don’t stop typing (or writing)!

I was introduced to this concept of a writer and a muse way back in 2010, when the first season of Castle was being telecast on Star World India. That night I was switching channels with the remote in one hand, the landline phone’s receiver (good ol’ landlines!) in the other, sprawled on the sofa, talking to my soul sister about if we should have really skipped the party our batchmates were at, at that moment. After thirty seconds of awkward pause, each of the two imagining how outlandish the idea was to get out of your pyjamas, put on the little makeup our mothers would allow us to and dress up for a night out with people who you’ve hung around with for 14 years of your life, almost 8 hours each day. No, thanks! We might as well have crashed at each other’s place and have more fun poking fun at life! Which is when I came across Castle – the 90’s kids that I am, Tata Sky and it’s schedule of shows was new for me and I excitedly checked out the episode summary by clicking on the ‘i’ button of the remote. I was hooked – line and sinker!

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Beckett was a smart ass, Castle was a pain in her smart ass (but ruggedly handsome!), the plot was thrilling and funny, and there were English subtitles which helped me follow the dialogues delivered in hushed undertones at the crime scene. Little did I know that 8 years down the line I’d still be a fan of the man whose name I’d made fun of! I mean whose last name should even be Castle?

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But why am I telling you all this? Oh yes, muses! Castle found his muse in Beckett and I understood the importance of one. I haven’t fathomed the psychology behind it yet. I found mine a few years ago. I only found him back again. 🙂

Welcome back. The blog missed you! ’nuff said.

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #13.

Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?

News media often carries reports of people who have failed to measure success in their acts – standards of success that the society set for us all, marks in examinations, money in jobs, marriage by a certain age, being a mother – suffer from depression and end their lives.

But once in a while you also come across relatively successful people, who have much more means, who have earned more respect than the average individual, yet they too suffer from depression. A couple of years ago, a well-known Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, opened up about reclaiming her life from the dark clutches of depression. She shared her vulnerability with the world at large, and very bravely so. She made depression a household phrase, more rightly and less commonly used from then on.

Just in came news of an IPS officer, aged merely 30, who committed suicide, apparently due to depression. The case is still under investigation so it is possible the facts of the case might change later. But becoming an IPS officer is an achievement few have been able to boast about in the country. Out of 9 lakh aspirants each year, merely 200 are able to achieve the glory. And it requires you to slog your ass off! I know it because I’ve myself given it a shot or two. He was just 30. But being an IPS officer must have meant he was immensely respected and an immensely powerful carrier of change. Despite what I think would have been an ideal place in life, he was under depression. And depression strong enough to lead him to end his life – which means sharing his plight with others hadn’t helped, hoping that he had. It saddens me to think that someone in his stature, position and with the visibility among people he had, the visibility his work demanded, the best of therapists he could afford, he still believed the death was the solution. That deprived his soul felt!

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I know there could have been circumstances at work or at home which may not have ended in a rosy life. I know there could have been sufferings in his past that had led to this step. I know there could have been therapists and medicines but they didn’t work. I know all of it. I acknowledge that I do not know the full story. But I fear the fear depression institutes in people, the helplessness it causes, the grief it brings to our beings.

And that is what leads me to think:

Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?

Graciously Yours!

Setting Sun.

I looked up from my Kindle and out the window. The air turbulence was distracting. I wanted to stretch my legs that were getting cramped in the narrow leg space provided these days by airlines. Just a few minutes ago, the view from the window had been drab – blues of the lightest kind with fluffs of white cloud in the foreground. Or was it more than a few minutes ago? I wouldn’t know. My phone was on flight mode and my mind grappling with an Agatha Christie whodunit. Keener observation of the clouds would allow the brain to identify patterns. Sometimes it would be a horse’s head, other times a trophy and then a flock of sheep. But right now? Right now provided a view that would make it to Instagram stories, photography contests and lure amateurs towards professional photography. But I sat there watching unperturbed, unhurried. I was flight bound to home. The Sun was going home for the day too – home being the horizon. My eyes went in and out of focus, the portrait mode some call it, others name it bokeh. In an expanse of white, to the far right, soft hues of orange meshed with lighter yellows which faded into whites of the clouds. The mixed streaks seemed painted, with the flourish of pulled brush strokes. The center was a deeper, brighter, concentrated shade of orange, like the Sun itself was shining out – but you knew this was an illusion – more science than mere fabrication. The Sun was closer it to its home than it let on – this was simply a delayed telecast you were viewing. Closer to my window, making way for the scene were the clouds – bigger clouds, fog-like, misty, as if dewy-eyed at the beauty out my window. And then came the window – double paned, corners curved, waiting to be flapped down; a hole at the bottom edge of the outer window, scratches on the outer pane, whether flying bird wings or key marks, no one knows. And then I return to my Kindle, back to Christie, because I know, no matter how good the camera, it wouldn’t capture the scene my bare eyes saw. But I hope my words did.

Graciously Yours!

Rains and roads (1)

Henry Miller once said,

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Every trip I go on, firms this belief for me. And here’s a new way of looking at roads and rains!

  • I recently went to Pune and surrounding areas – Google weather forecasts and the news channels had informed us well in advance of rains during my travel days. But when you say rains to a Calcuttan who’s staying in Bangalore, we think half an hour of rain. Who knew we would have to expect twenty-three and a half hours of rain and downpour?!

 

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  • Thanks to the incessant rain and wind speeds high enough to make your teeth rattle, all five of us are now proud owners of a raincoat! The last time we had one was when we were toddlers rushing to montessories and jumping into every puddle we found with our mothers or fathers or both running behind us to make sure we don’t create a splash we can’t save ourselves from! Sigh. If only they still ran after us. At least some of our mistakes could have been eliminated. If only.

 

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  • Talking about puddles, we are used to seeing them in the potholes on our roads but it’s a rare sight to wake up to a puddle in your hotel room! Our clothes and bags were so wet, despite the raincoats, that the process of drying them under the fan resulted in more of a watery mess than an evaporation exercise.

To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

Hope.

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What keeps you going on the less happy days? What keeps you from letting one night turn into yet another morning? What pushes you to breathe one more time even though it pains every time? The belief in God – whatever your religion may be, wherever your faith lies? Or is it destiny? Or karma – that you will get what you give around. Or are you one of those who believe in the power of humans and the ability to conquer the world – the rising supporters of humanism?

Me? For me, hope keeps me going – the hope that one of these days, I’ll figure myself out again. Someday the sun will be brighter, the world more colorful and the day happier. The hope that this too shall pass and l will survive it like I have all these years. Hope. It’s important not to lose hope.

Graciously yours!

Pride.

Often times, I have heard the phrase ‘heart swelled with pride’ but in a long, long time, this has been a first for me. I feel full – full of pride and a truckload of tears which if they were to fall out of my eyes would make the rainbow look dull in comparison! That is how happy I am as I see you moving closer to your dream. I saw you struggle but you never gave up – maybe you did at times, but I was lucky to be around and keep you steady. I saw you smile through the worst nightmares and yet wake up the next day with enthusiasm. I saw you believe in me when both of us didn’t believe in ourselves. Maybe the faith in life is what paid off. Karma has secrets we don’t really know about. Karma is not always a bitch. Bad things happen, but so do good things. I know you don’t ask for much but life has its’ way of giving you what you deserve, and not just what you ask for. I wish you could see the goosebumps lining my arms right now and the headiness of such happiness. Who wants to get high when life can give you such shots?

People change, lives change but times change too! Your time, it seems, is here A!

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Graciously Yours! ❤

Of trails and travails.

Every once in a while, the city closes in upon you and you choose to run after the sereneness of the outskirts, the hill stations, the backwaters, the mountains, don’t you? I almost managed to do the same. I say managed because we had failed to acknowledge how many more would also be looking for sereneness there! I visited Dehradun and Mussoorie recently, and if you think this post is about how pretty the landscape is and quiet the hills are, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Ruskin Bond’s books were my mates while growing up and the writer is famed for basing his stories around these few towns in Uttarakhand. I was obviously excited about the trip on that account too – to find myself facing those shops, houses, to walk in the trails of woods and the warmth of the people he’s written about. But I’d forgotten about the two big words – commercialisation and globalisation. With the ease of access to the towns, better roads and influx of tourists, Dehradun no longer is the regular hill station – there’s nothing hilly about it, all flat land and roads marked by McDonald’s and Bengali sweet shops, malls and Park Avenue stores. We picked up drinks from a Tibetan township thinking it’s a concoction they’d brewed at their place only to find it spread all across shops later on. So much for trying to experience something local. Well, at least, I sort of learnt to use chopsticks from one of the diner owners in the Tibetan township. Sort of.

Mussoorie has a dual face though! It’s got the ups and downs of a hill station, the roads which allow vehicles but has no space to fit two of them side by side, a mall road – typical of hill stations, which seemed commercially successful and now stretches for almost 3 km with people flocking it all times, even as late as 10:30 pm at night. The mall road boasts of eateries, brands, shops selling insignia for surrounding hill stations to be carried back as mementos of the visit and countless shops selling the same clothes! But if you take a diversion from the mall road, you’ll find the cobbled roads intact, men and women silently going about their lives, no tourists in sight and the clamour of the mall road light years away! The peace, though short-lived, I was hoping for. I also found the quaint coffee shops that take you back 50 years ago at Landour, where Bond is supposed to reside currently. On further observation, I realise the town was being redecorated to capture the old world charm by Dharma Productions for a film. Well, at least this commercialisation is pleasant to the eye!

Oh and don’t even get me started on the waterfalls! They’re no longer natural. They’ve been cemented and structured to flow the way man wants them to, with water rides, fun activities, shops, tea stalls, changing rooms set close to the rock bed of the fall. Ain’t saying it’s bad, au contraire, it’s brilliant for the people who live there. It’s just not what Ruskin Bond had written about. And no longer the spot for a getaway for me.

I came away from the hills renewed, of course, but disappointed with what we had done to places remote and almost preserved naturally till a few years ago. The human touch, we should call it.

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While trekking in Mussoorie – away from Mall Road. The irony is that the trail led us to shops at the top of the trail.
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Dharma Productions crew at work.
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Yes, that’s a waterfall. It ain’t a swimming pool.
Graciously Yours!