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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.

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Pause.

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As he laid back in his chair, heat exuding from his ears, he looked up at the fan. It wasn’t moving. The surface of the fan gleamed due to the light. He was having trouble breathing. He could feel his ears turning red. He rubbed his chest. The silence in his cabin was pounding at him. There was no one outside on the office floor. They’d all left for home. He could have gone home too. But to whom? And when had he last gone home for someone? Wasn’t it always because he needed food and sleep?

His wife had left him yesterday. The woman he’d been married to for 20 long years, who’d brought up two of his children, who’d never asked for a single holiday in all of those years, who’d been an idol of docile and submissive, left him. And he’d seen no change in her. Just like that, she left. How long had she been packing? How had he missed the change in her? When did his work take over his life? His kids had called him so many times since morning. He didn’t know what to say to them. He still hadn’t managed to call her even once. He felt too ashamed to. Instead, here he sat, staring at the fan, wondering if the sacrifice was worth it.

Graciously Yours!

#NationWantsToKnow?

There are some days when life does not make sense.

Then there are more days when your manager does not make sense.

Then come a lot of days when the news does not make sense. Picking up a few of those gems!

What say you? Are you prepared to ruin your good day? Well, or maybe brighten up a bad day? ūüėõ

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Despacito = slowly!

Like the article mentions “Despacito is a song in Spanish about slow love making.” Translated lyrics here. For so many of us Indians and also non Indians out there who think sex is and should remain a taboo, here goes. The song you so love to jive and hum, blabber words you don’t even know the meaning of and think that Spanish is only spoken in Spain, wake up! Life just dealt you a joker. Now what will you do with it?

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Mr. VP – I would wonder about the why rather than the what.

Okay, call me demeaning, if you want. But if this would have happened at a Railway Station washroom, I’d go all, ‘Maybe there have been worrisome incidents in there and there’s a context that isn’t being reported.” But if you tell me that a Church had to take such a step for women’s safety, then well, I’ll return in a while with my argument after laughing my guts out. The Church also needs to be worried about women’s safety in their premises now? Or is this an excuse for men to now make us more worried than we already are about our safety so that they can have a good, authorised peep show. Wonder if the CCTV footage reviewers also have to take the vow of celibacy.

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So I understand we’re going all digital and laptop usage is at an all time high. Yeah, well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that bit out. But what I am left wondering is why is Cambridge scrapping exams due to bad handwriting? We could have done this with the thought of saving paper, contributing towards cutting lesser trees, maybe slow down global warming or at least be happy about having done something to slow it down, even though it seems inevitable now. But no, we’re scrapping it because the handwriting is illegible? How thick brained are we really?

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Yes, that is an iPhone screenshot. Not owned by Yours Truly. Duh.

Oh, yes! News of the week. The iPhone 8 got launched. The iPhone 8S too. And the iPhoneX too. Poor iPhone 8 and 8S. They became obsolete within two minutes of their launch! Need I say more?

Then this happened. Bewakoof.com which when translated in English means foolish, lived up to their name for the first time. They launched a tShirtX. You shouldn’t think so out of the box also. Too much of anything is bad!

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Living up to thy name!

And with that I’ll end my tirade and only ask one thing – does the nation really want to know these news? #NationWantsToKnow.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : What have you come across of recent that you want to rant against? Tell me. Maybe we think alike!

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!

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!

Blowing Off The Candle.

Birthdays – most love it, some dread it! Some feel wiser, others feel older. Some ignore it, some party harder than other days. If nothing else, a birthday¬†heralds the announcement of completing yet another year on this wonderful planet! If I was on Mars, I’d currently be just 13! Be a Mercurian and I’d be 156 days old but only 104 years old! Go figure that out! Or you could just ask me in the comments. Plutonians say my first birthday would be in 2240 Earth year. Yeah, yeah I know Pluto isn’t a planet but hello, it still does exist even if as a dwarf planet or whatever it is that scientists want to call it these days, okay?

So coming to the point, I just clocked a good number of years on the Earth and I don’t know if I am wiser or old, or both or none, but I sure did enjoy it! Less than some days but more than most days! It isn’t easy spending your special days away from the family but when you have the loveliest set of people in your life, distances vanish before you even know it! Oh and guess what! I can finally say I celebrated my birthday Harry Potter style! Replete with a wand, broomstick and even the Marauder’s Map.¬†

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Love poured in from all quarters, cents and pences but the most creative is right here! 

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is Justin Trudeau! And that is obviously not sent by¬†Trudeau,¬†but I wish that’d happen! Instead, a friend came up with this to compensate for my constant ranting about Trudeau! Well, the man deserves love for spreading goodness and hope. Also, Elon Musk. Much respect.¬†

Oh but it’s not done yet! The week may be coming to an end, but the love hasn’t. Wishes still keep pouring in and sometimes I wish I could just switch off my cell, because saying so many thank you’s can be a pain after a while. But to think of it, when else do we really get time to connect with so many of our family and friends in a day?

They say what goes around, comes around. ‚̧

Graciously (older and wiser) Yours!

Oh wait. That’s not the end!

P.S. :

Here’s a checklist for your birthday –

  • DO NOT go and surprise your friends the night before your birthday! You don’t want to ruin the surprise they might be planning for you.¬†
  • DO NOT¬†rush to open the door either! It might be the cake delivery guy!
  • DO keep your power bank handy. Phones don’t get an iota of rest.
  • DO make sure you have your face wash at arm’s distance, lest some one puts cake on your face yet another time.
  • DO NOT keep food items that can be applied on the face lying around. They’re harmful for you.
  • DO NOT wear white to work, unless you can convince your colleagues to keep the cake away. Or unless your colleagues don’t order cakes.
  • DO remember to wish anyone who might share your birth date!
  • DO smile each time someone wishes you! You’re making their day. And mine too. Well, ‘cuz you just followed my checklist, right? ūüėČ

A Smile Here. A Smile There.

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He looked visibly frustrated. And he had reasons to be so. He’d been on his feet for almost half the day and the ordeal was not over yet. He kept shuffling his feet across the floor, trying to visit each table more than once. He knew his boss was keeping a tab. He had to sell the offer they had just rolled out. He collected the offer pamphlets from the doorman’s podium.

He walked to the nearest table. The occupants were conversing. “It is bad manners to intrude,” his teacher had taught him in school. He didn’t want to intrude but his job demanded otherwise. ¬†He went up to the table, excused himself and started explaining the offer to the customers in the middle of their meal and conversation. Halfway through, they took the pamphlet and resumed their conversation. Not a smile, not an acknowledgement, not even¬†the plain old nod. He called it the ‘wallpaper theory’ – he was like the wallpaper, essential but not cast a look at, never smiled at and walked past. Well, at least they were better than those customers who turned around to shout at him, or be rude, or asked him to go away! Oh yes, there were such too. They’d look up and say, “Could you go away?” If only they knew how to even say please.

Every trip to the bathroom involved¬†washing his face¬†more than peeing. Waiting on tables wasn’t his dream job, this was no one’s dream job but if he wanted to get a monthly cash deposit in his bank, this would have to do. He had to remind himself every couple of hours that this job was more important than rude and impolite customers, than being treated like wallpaper, than having to carry people’s soiled plates, sleeping with a pain in the feet which seemed like it would never go away again, and a bruise to your self respect each damned day. But it would have to do. They say no job is small, yet the way they behave each day belittles him.


I met Bhanu, who works at a fast food outlet here in Bangalore. I don’t know what his story is, why he does what he does, how he motivates himself to wait on tables all day long, how he lets out all the frustration that is more than visible on his face, but I am sorry I couldn’t get a smile on his face! Probably one smile from me wasn’t enough to make up for his tough day!

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Let’s try harder next time and be more polite to the ones who have jobs that could not be further away from the term ‘job satisfaction’. Can we do that?

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #12.

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As I took the microphone¬†in my hand this time, I knew this wasn’t a¬†rehearsal¬†any longer. The day had arrived, the clock had struck. I expected butterflies but there weren’t any. Not even caterpillars! I spoke into the mike. My voice faltered. I looked at my co-host for the event. He assured me to go on. Closing my eyes for a second, I went on talking into the mike, addressing a couple hundred¬†people, and without giving myself anymore time to think, I went out on the stage. The emcees had been introduced. I was on the stage. The crowd roared! The lights blinded. But I was ready! I was alert, ready and excited! There was a calmness in the adrenaline rush too!

My mind was rushing by at the same speed as earlier but time had slowed down! I had more time time to think and speak now. “Speak slowly,” my father’s command rang in my ears. I could see a couple of faces in the crowd. I knew these people. I wanted to wave at them! I am sure they would have waved back!

Improvising where required, remembering not to make a face if I forgot a line, smiling every now and then, I focused on keeping the audience engaged!

Oh yes, us anchors, we did goof up. We made mistakes. We cut across each other’s lines. We even forgot lines! Our puns brought in roars of laughter. Sometimes they fell flat. But I could feel the pulse of the crowd! I could see them getting pumped up! I got the kids screaming! I even had to shut them up once! But not once did I not love the stage!

By the end of it all, when I came back to the green room and laid my tired back on the sofa, I knew I had pulled off what has been unthought of by me. I thought my part was done and dusted and I could just go back home and sleep after a week’s deprivation! But as I type this out, I am still sleep deprived not because of work and stress but because of the¬†excitement¬†the responses from¬†people¬†has infused in me!

A friend asked if I am writing this week’s post. I told him I couldn’t come up with one yet with all the left over energy from hosting yesterday night’s event still bubbling in me! Now I’ve poured it all out here! ūüôā

Note to self : There are days when you surprise yourself. Once in a while they do come along, like the sunny days in London! Don’t undermine yourself on those days, as they come by rarely. Look around yourself, see all the appreciation that falls upon you, close your eyes and soak it all in, store it in the deep and safe corners of your memory to be¬†unlocked¬†on other days when you feel down and out, days when you need a pep talk, days when nothing seems to be going right!¬†

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Sometimes, even the smallest of your criticisms can go a long way! Thanks, Dad! ‚̧