Tag Archives: personal

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!
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Antsy about ants!

A few weeks ago, I noticed it for the first time. Cleaning up after seemed the most natural thing to do. But then it happened again. And again. And again. Now I’ve lost count. And stopped cleaning up. Someone else does it, I am sure. I am talking about black ants in our refrigerator! A thin trail of black, next to the door, not near any item of food, barely visible until you crouch down to retrieve an item. Sounds gross, right? I was more intrigued. I wondered where they were coming from and where they were going to! Think I’ve found an explanation? No, not yet. Think I’ve tried researching it? Of course.

Ants are cold blooded – which means they cannot alter or adjust their body’s temperature as per the chill on the outside. They’d rather go sunning outside to warm themselves up than enter a refrigerator. And Bangalore has been cold for a while now. Not snowy cold, but I think a blanket would be cozy, cold.

So we’re dealing with three questions here :

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  1. Why were the ants attracted to the refrigerator?
  2. How did the ants enter the refrigerator?
  3. Why did other ants follow?

Here comes my dissection! Feel free to tell me where I am wrong.

  1. Why were the ants attracted to the refrigerator?

This one’s simple! Food. It’s always about a hungry stomach making you do irrational stuff – well that and greed, jealousy, fear and passion too. But let’s stick to a hungry stomach right now. The refrigerator didn’t contain anything sweet. Well, at least not sugar containing sweets. I don’t suppose natural sugar in raw fruits count, do they? Maybe they do.

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2. How did the ants enter the refrigerator?

Mother says there could be a crack in the stand. Internet says the seal could be broken. Maybe this also explains why the refrigerator has not been working well – it doesn’t seem to be containing the chill inside or sometimes becomes too chilled. I should probably tell the repair guy the next time he’s around – that it’s not a complicated random machine name issue, but a sealant issue.

3. Why did other ants follow?

The ants obviously did not survive the chill because they’re not warm blooded. Well I am assuming because I didn’t check their pulse before cleaning them away! But it doesn’t add up somewhere. Maybe some survived.

I’ll explain why I think some survived the refrigerator and went back home, with food. Ants don’t communicate with words, nor do they have milestones or directions for home laid out on Google Maps. So how do they not get lost? Ants secrete pheromones into the air, which are like hormones but just outside the body and affects others who recognize it. So ants leave a trail of home-finding pheromone when they go out looking for food, which is their Google map when they have to return home. Just involves a lot of sniffing, I guess. Now if theirs is a triumphant return home, they leave a food trail pheromone, which other ants at home can now follow to get to the source of food. So there had to be cases of survival which would lead the other ants to the refrigerator, albeit a source of food, laced with cold and a hint of death. So much for me storing my food there!

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And that’s my fun fact of the day! A long one, indeed.

Signing off,

Graciously Yours!

A Blocked 2018. (As Yet)

It happened! It was inevitable. Some day or the other I was bound to be in its clutches. Now I know when my friend says she’s zoned out or that she can’t put pen to paper.

I have the the writer’s block! I can’t seem to get to writing. But I wanted to take a break from taking a break at the blog now! So here I am blabbering about a blocked me. At least, you’d know I am still alive and well, which I am.

Anyone knows how to get rid of the writer’s block?

All help is appreciated!

Graciously Yours!

A rant on pockets.

Fundamental question coming up!

Be pre-warned that this has nothing to do with feminism or being a snob.

How many of you men have been shopping with women – your friends, sister, girlfriend, mother or to purchase gifts for your friend’s female friends? Whether you have or haven’t, not many of you must have noticed the stark contrast between the number of pockets a woman’s attire lacks versus the deluge of pockets in a man’s attire.

While shopping, we women have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s say I want to buy a pair of bottoms. My options begin from jeans, jeggings, shorts, trousers, capris, plazzos, harem pants, jogger pants, mini skirts, midis, maxis and these are just the western wear section, without going to the different fit styles available.

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But most of the time the options haven’t really met my expectations in terms of one simple thing – pockets.

Why don’t my clothes have pockets?!

I have had to purchase trousers without pockets because apart from that one lacunae they fit really well. I have erroneously purchased plazzos which only had a pocket seam but no actual pocket! My jeans are such snug fits but with pockets large enough to only accommodate half the size of an average 5 inch screen smartphone.

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Our kurtas don’t have pockets, neither do the dresses we wear. Skirts are out of the question when it comes to pockets and even the wallets we have are crammed with things because who’s heard of compartments? It is so inconvenient to be carrying your cash, cards, phone and other essentials in a separate pouch, when men can simply fill it all in their pockets and roam handsfree. On one hand, we women have so many options but barely practical while men seem to be comfortably carrying on with tradition. The most common men’s wallet designs have barely evolved since the 1950’s, it seems.

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I don’t say all brands are an issue. But most brands are!

It’s peculiar. Men’s fashion lacks creativity. Women’s lack comfort.

Graciously Yours!

From home to away.

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A week off from work means going home and then away from home again. Home always is special but the day, when thanks to tech advancement, you are in both cities on the same day, when you leave home in the morning and are away by evening in another city, is the day the stark contrast between both hits you hard.

Back at home, I stayed 100 metres away from the kitchen and Mother was more than happy to feed me! Our domestic help whipped up my favourites, bringing food to the table for me every couple of hours. Her sole motto was to not let me feel even the slightest pang of hunger. Even on insistence to cook, Mother refused to let me enter the kitchen. Away though was a different scene altogether! Within two hours of stepping into our rented flat, I was cleaning the refrigerator with soap water and then stocking freshly bought vegetables in them. Our cook wasn’t turning up for the night and my flatmate, S and I were too tired to bother about even cooking Maggi!

Back home, well fed and humidity affected, we were ready to sleep by 9:30 PM itself, though I never did, because when else do you get to have late night chats snuggled beside the younger sister? On two occasions though, she’d slept off while I was recounting my stories! Wake up time was 7 AM, thanks to the Sun, Father, and my favourite radio jockey, RJ Praveen’s morning show. Away though, by 9:30 PM, dinner isn’t even ready, let alone thinking of sleep! Oh, but wake up time still is at 7 AM because someone’s gotta let the cook into the house.

Back at home, Dad knows I love fruits. So fruits are myriad and spread across the table to be eaten at different times of the day – sometimes even freshly cut. Fruits, here, however mean apples and bananas, which are few and far between, that too if we buy them on a one-off day. Oh and avocado on some days!

And considering I went home for Diwali, the spring cleaning time for the whole of India, there was a lot of cleaning, fixing and repairing to do, obviously! My mother made me a handyman, or a handywoman to be politically correct, where I sandpapered, primered and painted to complete pending repair on walls. Whereas here, even dusting once in a fortnight seems so tedious that we learn to live with the dust!

Back home, there’s family and friends too. Here, away from home, there’re friends who became family. Home or away – there’s none which is better or worse.

Graciously Yours!

Idea Courtesy : Ishita.

Calcutta Feels.

I was brought up in Calcutta. I lived for more than two decades in that city and I came to love it for its views, its vices, its pace, its charm, its tea stalls and the addas, its humidity and its rabindra sangeet. There were days I couldn’t stand the lethargy in the air. Then there were days I would choose that as the city I wanted to spend my life in forever.

But life happened and I moved to Bangalore. I still don’t belong to Bangalore though. Over time, I probably stopped thinking about belonging somewhere. It was just the work, the book, the blog, the friends, the outings. But what about the feeling that a city is yours, that you can see it even with your eyes closed, hear it even when you’re miles away from it? Well, I felt that again, after long!

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Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the city of joy calls for Calcuttans, Bengalis and non Bengalis to come together in all parts of the world. After office, we travelled across almost half the city to one of the famous puja pandals set up here. Bangalore traffic is omnipresent and it is always a sore sight. But traffic around the pandal was different. It was made up of people decked in glittering jewellery and shiny garb set aside specially for the Puja is Calcutta feels! The red big bindis come out of the vanity boxes, the backless cholis are back, the umbrellas open up even when it is just barely drizzling, the starched kurtas see the night after long and the Jadavpur University jholas which can carry anything from bananas, water bottles, wallets and even a pair of spare shoes, maybe! I was staring at a mini Calcutta in Bangalore. My Calcutta.

Calcutta has makeshift pandals which boast of our creativity, culture, imagination and these days the latest social causes and trends. This one was none of that, with the idol being placed inside the permanent structure of a convention centre and the grounds turned into an exhibition venue with stalls of books, food and clothes lined up. I even caught a stall of German schools you can send your kids to. So Bangalore-ish!

But this was also all of that. The grounds were filled with advertisement banners – Calcutta brands like our beloved Presidency University, P.C. Chandra Jewelers, Aaj Kal and none other than Sourav Ganguly staring out of the posters at you, wishing you a happy Puja! The Daadus were carrying their grandchildren in their arms, showing them the fanfare of the Durga, the siblings twinning, the mothers dressed as festively as their daughters, live band performances to Kishore Da tunes and the Durga herself.

In that moment when I laid my eyes on the idol of the Durga, I could not ask for anything more. My heart was so full of love and happiness, it rushed out rolling down as tears from my eyes. I guess that’s what they call the power of the Divine. It brings out what you didn’t know you had in you, the best of you, the real you.

I am happy here but I also miss my city. And I know I still belong there. No matter where I live, even if I start loving another city, I will always belong to Calcutta. Calcutta feels abound!

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Thank you A. For dragging me along. You saw in me what I couldn’t.

Why ‘Outspoken’?

The word that is doing the rounds in most of my social media accounts and now here too – ‘Outspoken’! The name of our team’s in-house public speaking forum at work.

Three weeks of effort, bonding with friends over brain wrecking sessions, hours of script editing, listening to audio recordings of speech practices at the oddest hours, reaching work early, leaving for home late – it became a habit.

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Oh shoot. Why did we begin this? Breathe, breathe.

The fright of the stage, fear of performing sub par, worrying about being a nerve wreck – not for myself, but for others. All of it so that the other people I know also feel the rush of confidence on the stage I’d once felt.

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Who’s backing out now? Will anyone even come?

Last week, I wrote about the event (a meeting for an audience of more than 80 people – we wanted bigger, better, grander) coming up. This week we are done with it. Not only did we manage to create joyous ripples of success but even five days after the event, mention of it creeps up in conversations.

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We didn’t know either we’d be so good, but thanks!

I’ve been thinking for a while now about why the event mattered so much to me. It took a lot of space on my already full plate. My manuscript editing got hampered, my work hours stretched into my sleep hours, I forgot to eat on time, I was hardly being able to compartmentalize and prioritize and these are all things that really matter to me! Then why? I thought about it – a lot. I tried explaining myself to people in a lot of fancy ways. But it is time to come clean. I have always been afraid of public speaking. I still am. I still fear I will fall short of content, or blabber too much, mostly about Elon Musk, or if I will have cold hands. Thankfully, shaking knees got chucked out of the window over the months. So yes, this is me. But I took my chances. I got pushed by a couple of people, they know well who they are, and I realized I could be less nervous and more confident. It dawned on me that with time, I could be the one addressing an audience. And I wanted the others to see, know, feel and acknowledge exactly what they and I had been missing out on for most part of our lives – the chance to let go of the fear.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the lives of people around me. This lets me make a difference in mine through theirs. With you, I too get better. With you, I laugh. With you, I cry. With you, I walk the talk.

And that is exactly why I did it.

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Can’t stop dancing the happy dance!

Graciously Yours!

In the city.

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Looking into the past through time…

Yesterday, while travelling in the city, I came across a cabbie who’d creatively put his watch on his rear view mirror. No hassle to keep checking the time, right? Well, I see it differently. Maybe it was his way to look back through time. Ain’t it?

The sight set my thoughts rolling. I started thinking of the past year I’d spent in the city I still haven’t been able to call my own. What would I have done differently? One thing for sure. Explore more of the city for what it is, than for what I think it is. I’ve always associated Bangalore with malls, restaurants, pubs and a lack of street lights! Well, I’m not entirely wrong because yes, that’s what you find at every corner, every cross in each damn area! But there’s more.

I saw a different side of the city yesterday. Urban theater –  a terrace of an office building transformed into a place the aesthetics of which exuded a calmness and freedom that transported me into a world far away from reality, in a good way. The trees in the surroundings looked prettier, the skies felt closer, the Sun softer. The walls were painted over, quotes written in the choicest of corners, paintings and crayoned papers hung around. Tango, salsa and yoga class posters were hung around. Yoga mats were piled up in a corner. A month’s schedule written in hand pinned up beside a Harry Potter quiz sample questions. My, my! The sample questions were so difficult, I wondered what the D-day paper would be like!

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And the stage is set!

We settled in bean bags, on beer crates, in plastic chairs, floor mats, basically whatever you could lay your butts on, while the play went on. An interactive audience, giggled smiles, a spunky 44 year old female volunteer and a charming cast and producer! There was something artistic about the people too – the coloured hair on the women, the long hair on the men, the casual and carefree dripping from the skirted women and kurta-ed men. This felt like an out-of-Bangalore experience.

I’d want more of this. And less of the no electricity, no water, no street lights, malls, restaurants, pubs Bangalore.

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A personal storytelling session in progress — Picked from Google.

Graciously Yours!

Valparai Tales! Part 2.

Contd from…

As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.

In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.

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Oh the twists and turns! More than a Jodi Picoult book.

I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.

Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.

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If there was audio, you could have heard us singing too!

The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting  to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.

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Bouquet of flowers, a friend calls it. Anyone knows what these are called?

Graciously Yours!

Nostalgia.

evszefhAs I stood by the the window of the balcony, my nose was pressed to it, my breath frosting the glass around my lips, I saw the winds outside swirling, droplets of water being bullied into submission, lights from the night lamps streaming through the air, making the paths of water borne air above the road, visible.

I yearned to step outside of my house and go play basketball in the rains, with the people below, kids I presumed. Their shrieks of delight floated uptil a dozen or so floors above. Instead I did something better.

I slid open the windows of the balcony, that kept the water borne winds out and was welcomed to winds so cold, no air conditioner could compete, the freshness of ice and spring combined! The hair at the nape of my neck stood in attention, out of excitement.

Back home, whenever it rained, torrentially as it was looking to today, my sister and I would sit at the window sill, legs hanging out into the dark, lightning flashing us time and again, shrieking in delight at every wave of wind that whipped through us.

As the water hit me, wave after wave, I shivered in excitement, and cold, but nonetheless not agreeing to go back inside! After all, the heat of so many days needed more time with the rains to sod off!

Staring up at the skies, blinking at every lightning flash, I felt the water seeping to the roots of my hair, the sides of my neck. I stood with my arms by my side, shaking but not willing to go into the house again. I looked down at my feet after a while. I was soaking wet from the top to bottom! Giggling, rubbing my arms, I slid the balcony windows shut, greeted with warmth in the hall. I’d missed the rains. I missed my sister more now.

Graciously Yours!