Adieu

 

Farewell, dear friend,

You are my lover and my beloved

I take your leave, I must go

But I leave here with you, all of my soul

And take with me a piece of your heart,

the one I stole

 

On dreamless nights I stayed awake,

And in your dreams I slept in peace

Warm breath, lashes of a child

half of a smile, I was beguiled

Did fairies hide behind your lids?

 

Do you remember the beach?

Warm water and cool sand

Roasted corn, one for each

My palms pale, and your’s tanned

We watched the sun set

 

The bells of my anklets

The clink of my bangles

Wax poetry and sing the songs

Of where my heart belongs

In their tinkles, I cherish

Many memories, an impossible wish

 

Thank you, for the all the love

The friendship, the warmth

For evenings I spent,  pirouetting in joy

 

And as we part, I wish you well

Forgive me ?

In another life, we might retell

Our story,

Where the sun eclipsed,

I kissed your lips,

And then the world was bright again.

 

Note to Dad: Don’t read too much into this, please? Just a poem. And don’t cry. 

The News Detox

I have never been a dispassionate reader. Whether it is fiction, news, biographies, even fan-fiction. Initially, reading for me was all about the characters and the people involved. Over time I learned to appreciate writing and fiction in several layers and levels, but that first instinct to live vicariously through the characters is uncontrollable.

I remember reading The Clockwork Orange during my final year in college. I consider that one of the worst decisions of my life. Sure, the writing was great and the story dealt with some really interesting concepts. My first venture into dystopian fiction.

But it robbed me of sleep and peace for several weeks following the read. I was upset, scared, terrified of human nature. Worst of all – it ruined Beethoven for me. It’s like Stephen King’s It. Who said clowns were funny? They are monsters after my life.

With fiction, I can exercise choice. There is always the blurb which will tell me whether or not I am in a state of mind to read it. Once I read Revolutionary Road, I put off reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for a whole year. It was good decision.

I don’t have the luxury of choice when it comes to news. Most of the news I read is through social media feeds – Twitter, Facebook etc. I also have apps downloaded on my phone that send regular notifications. For months (maybe even years) now, my days begin and end with news about rape, terrorism, cruelty, corruption, misogyny and the sheer apathy of mankind. And if on a rare occasion there is none of that, I am forced to read about a pointless, mind-numbing account of some random TV star’s wedding or a ridiculous catfight between celebrities who can’t act their age.

The mother has been reproaching me over my perennially vexed disposition. My temper is far more volatile than it used to be. In fact, I was rather proud of my generally calm temperament. No idea how I lost that.

I realised it has a lot with what I allow my brain to ingest. How am I to have a good day when the first thing I read in the morning is about farmers dropping dead like flies under the weight of endless debts? Or a woman in my own neighbourhood being raped mercilessly?

I am unable to congratulate friends on their pregnancy because I worry that if they have a girl, the child might get raped at some point in her life. My mother sends a prayer every day for girls forced into sexual slavery in Syria. When a politician does something worth appreciation, I cannot help but wonder if he did so only for publicity or to serve an ulterior motive. I am always either cynical or pessimistic. It’s not a good feeling to live with.

Since the past week I’ve been on what I call the news-detox-regime. I’ve unfollowed all news media on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t read the newspaper. I never watch the news on TV anyway. Complete mind-fuckery. I hoped it would help me cleanse my mind and body of the heaps of negativity.

Easier said than done. If I don’t read news, a friend will send me a Whataspp message about the shooting in Texas. Someone on the elevator will discuss the rape of two women in Uttar Pradesh. Some friend on Facebook will share a Dodo post about someone who tortured a puppy. I cannot help but feel for those people, seethe and become convinced that mine is not a country for women. Or animals. Or the poor.

I know I will get there. Cleanse was never easy. Cannot cut sugar and trans fat and dairy from one’s life in a single stroke. Takes time. Maybe start with portion control

I will get back to reading news at some point but I will have to manage my habits to ensure that what I read is simply to keep abreast of important events, and read material that is truly insightful. I want knowledge, and not just information in form of flashy headlines with twisted accounts of events, sprinkled generously with thoughtless opinions in poor language.

Meanwhile, I also need to change the way I read. I will not be left with any peace if I read everything I come across with such involvement. It makes one miserable.

A dear friend of mine writes a story on her blog. The protagonist in that story recently ended up breaking her best friend’s heart – despite her best intentions. I cried myself to sleep that night. It didn’t help that my friend writes spectacularly well.

This cannot continue. Cannot afford that. I don’t want to have to restrict my reading of fiction – which I truly believe is the best and easiest way to expand one’s experiences and understanding. Reading makes you a better person. I just don’t want it to also make me an unhappy person.

Any suggestions on where to start? Has anyone else tried this news-detox? Has it worked for you?

Let me know? 🙂

 

I went to Chennai

As stereotypical as it sounds, you know you’re in Chennai when you’re welcomed by the sonorous echoes of the Nadaswaram as you step outside the airport. I couldn’t recognize the tune but I’m pretty sure it was Hamsadhwani Raagam.

 

I was in Chennai this weekend – my native town. My father was raised there, so were my grandparents. There are two seasons in Chennai – summer and summer-cum-monsoon. I was expecting the temperature to burn a hole through my skin. But the weather gods were kind to us – it was rather pleasant and very breezy.

 

My father has a tendency to turn holidays to pilgrimages. Usually, when we visit Chennai, it’s either to attend a wedding, or to visit a relative. (interspersed with visits to various temples, of course) This time, I told my Dad, “Papa, I want to see Chennai as a tourist. Visit fun places, shop, eat and spend a few hours at the beach.” Papa kindly agreed.

 

My entire childhood I associated Chennai with heat and muck. It used to be terribly dirty, especially in the monsoons. (Dirty meaning dirtier than Mumbai) The city is so much cleaner nowadays. I’m told it’s thanks to several citizen led initiatives. (I am going to keep quiet about Tamil Nadu politics – there is muck and then there is that)

 

When in Chennai one must meet relatives and visit temples – regardless of what else you have in mind. Those boxes were ticked, yes. In fact I quite loved the Agasthiar temple. Shivji and his better half were gorgeous. And saying hello to Vayu Putra on Saturday was done with much enthusiasm. (The Gods needed to be thanked profusely as they saved my father from a positively terrifying, life-threatening situation the previous week. We took our time)

 

Shop till you drop. We did that at Naidu Hall. The father was asked to sit in a corner while the mother and I decided to splurge on cheap and colorful lingerie. The father was asked to leave the corner and come back to fore to help mother choose a saree. Which as usual turned out to be sarees. This place even stocks underwear for women who’ve undergone mastectomies or liposuction. Where M&S wins in durability, Naidu Hall takes the cake for affordability. [But I am a snob so I will buy bras at both places] Victoria Secret, you silly little store that is never open to women who actually have breasts, go to hell.

 

The next day I made the parents get up at 5 in the morning so we could get to Marina Beach by 6 to catch the sunrise. They never complained and the sight was worth it. The sunrise was glorious, the breeze pleasant, the water fierce and stunning. The sand felt cool and lovely against my feet, the water warm and ticklish. It was a beautiful morning. We treated ourselves to some coconut water.

 

We also rewarded ourselves for having woken up so early on a Sunday by gorging on Pongal for breakfast. Is there a perfect-er start to a day? Methinks not.

 

We then met more relatives, I spent some time with my cousin and Dad forgot his cellphones in the cab and we struggled to get them back. We then did what was MOST important on our agenda – buying lots of coffee powder. Because that’s the best thing about Chennai – there is no such thing as bad coffee. [Unless you speak of this Vivekananda Coffee Powder – which is basically packaged dirt that gives you the worst headache]

 

Every city has a unique spirit, and once you find that you build a sense of kinship with it. Geography finds personality. It took me a long time to find that connection with Chennai, which is weird considering it’s technically my place of origin. I’ve grown up away from Chennai but with some of its quintessential elements – I woke up to the music of MS Subbulakshmi for most of my life, my day never ends without some curd rice and pickle and I need my cup of filter coffee early in the morning. And yet, I have come to feel at home in Chennai only recently. I wonder why?

 

Is it because I decided to actively take interest in the city as a living, thriving space rather than just a place of residence of my relatives? Or because I decided to look up the architectural and cultural history of the city and found it absolutely fascinating? Or because none of the hoardings in the city had any spelling errors? Is it because I came to appreciate the fact that I’ve had so many friends who’ve moved to Chennai not knowing a word of Tamil and yet fallen in love with it? Just the way my father came to Mumbai 3 decades back and fell in love with its all-consuming, undying spirit? Whatever it is, Chennai also feels like home now. It will never be Mumbai but it is still a place I think of with fondness, with the familiarity of an old friend, as a place where I know I will always be welcome.

 

Lots of love to you, Chennai 🙂

 

Here are a few pictures:

 

The rich kid in class

I was discussing this with a friend a few days back. The conversation keeps playing in my head and many passive memories (ones I’d rather forget, actually) keep coming to the fore. So I shall write. Maybe then I can close the chapter once and for all? Or at least bury a grudge.

 

I attended a Public School.  In Public School standards, I was the “rich kid” in class. We weren’t really rich, of course. But we had a car and that meant I was rich. It didn’t matter that the car was bought by dipping into years of savings because two of the three members in our family were asthmatic. That my dad still used the train to travel to the other end of the city while my mother and I used the car within a 5 mile radius because we couldn’t walk without wheezing.

 

I was almost always in this ambivalent limbo – where at home I was trained in the importance of being thrifty and in school I was somehow the brat who got dropped to school in a car and who’s mother travelled to the US on business every few months. It didn’t help that I did well in exams.

 

So I did everything I could to blend in with everyone – which meant I took every means necessary to hide any signs of “affluence”. I saved my favourite pens for homework and used the cheaper ones at school. I hid the pencil box mom bought me from the States under my desk so no one would see it and tease me about it. I even made sure my father dropped me to school much earlier than required so no one would see me get off the car. I pretended to enjoy standing in the sun even if the dust meant I’d spend the night scratching the rashes senseless. I took buses even when I had the pocket money to hire a rickshaw.

 

In short, I truly believed money was something one needed to feel guilty about. I hated money and everything to do with it. My tuition teacher, who also happened to be a classmate’s mother, often remarked that I would never see the “real world” because I was privileged. It made me sad. I wanted to see what the glory of this “real world” was all about. Money was the absolute worst. It seems every time I did badly in exams, it had to with the fact that money makes you take things easy. Surprisingly, even when I scored well, it could be attributed to wealth because I had access to everything. At the time I wondered how the hours I spent practising math had anything to do with my parents’ income.

 

By the end of school, I was convinced one didn’t need money, and one definitely shouldn’t want money. At a time when my choices should ideally have been informed by interests and priorities, I was mostly driven by guilt and the desperate need to be liked. Thankfully, I don’t regret the choices I made – because had I not made them, I would never have met the people who taught me that I did not have to be ashamed of who I was or where I came from as long as I knew how to respect others. Another reason I don’t have regrets is because it ensured I didn’t make a choice motivated solely by economic prospects. (Though it would have saved me a lot of trouble had I given it at least some consideration)

 

It was only once college ended and I actually got to the “real world” my friend’s mother had warned me about that I was forced to acknowledge the hard truth – that I actually desired money. Not in the sense that all I need in life is money or that wealth is my sole purpose in life. I just realised I wanted to earn a decent living and enjoy a comfortable life. Comfortable – I will admit – in the standards that my parents set for me.

 

Even then, for the longest time, I wondered if my career choices should be informed by these new discoveries about myself – because I couldn’t shed the feeling of overwhelming guilt every time I considered the monetary returns. Shouldn’t I be thinking of more important things first – like society, humanity, people, country?

 

It took many years, some failures and some introspection to realise something that should have been obvious right from the beginning –  Yes, I want to earn well. Yes, I want to provide for myself and my family. Yes, I want to have the luxury to spend if I want to without having to worry about affording dinner. If I ever have a child, I want to be able to provide him/her the best of everything. An education in a private school, to begin with. And no – this is not something to be ashamed of. This isn’t even shallow. I have some priorities in life and this is one of them. It isn’t a terrible thing. No it isn’t. This desire isn’t at the cost of everything else but it is a desire.

 

This doesn’t make me less of a person, less of a patriot (my country is doing everything in it’s power to shake this though), less of a woman, or less of a citizen. I follow the law, I vote, I never spit or litter on the roads, I volunteer for social efforts, I pay my taxes, and I try to be a responsible citizen the best I can. I try my best to be kind to others. For me that is enough.

 

On the one game I didn’t suck at

My description of myself in the “About Twiggy” menu reveals that my height and breadth are completely disproportionate. Breadth too big, height little.

To top that wonderful combination, I suffered from severe asthma for most of my childhood. All this ensured that I was never any good at most of the games kids my age spent time playing – tag, kho-kho, and later the likes of badminton and basketball. [Let me state here that despite the fact this situation often left me with little to no friends, I am still happy I grew up in a time when play-time wasn’t all about video games]

So, where was I? Yes, I sucked at anything that involved even a little bit of running. Table tennis I managed. Not smart enough for chess.

But the one game I was a pro at was Antakshari. For those of you unfamiliar with this, you have missed something in life. It’s basically a game where you sing – your song must start from the last letter/syllable with which the song of your opponent ends.

It’s the fun-est game ever. And it almost always results in everyone singing together and having a gala time. It’s a bit difficult to play with songs in languages that are not of Sanskrit origin though. But my childhood was all about Bollywood songs so I was unbeatable. Some of my fondest memories with my family is a whole bunch of us playing Antakshari. Even the times my relatives from Chennai decided we must not restrict ourselves to Hindi songs and allow Tamil ones as well.

 

Paadatha paatellam paada vanthaal

 

We managed long road trips without iPods because we were the iPods. Hours would go by without any of us realizing. (Except the times we were hungry, of course) You didn’t always need conversations to bond because singing together managed to do that.

I have no idea when we grew out of it. Usually I am all for technology, and don’t really spend much emotional energy in nostalgia over things that have now become easier thanks to science.

Do I miss a bar of soap because we now use shower gels? No. Do I miss a Walkman because we have iPods? Not really. Do I miss a bucket because I now shower? No. Do I miss calculators because we have Excel? Absolutely not.

But when you talk about iPods or video games or X-box replacing Bridge or my favorite, Antakshari, I cannot help but feel a sense of acute loss. Of memories that we may never make. Of songs that we will never sing together. Of not having the pleasure of listening to people sing for fun, and not just at ceremonies. People still sing together sometimes, no doubt. Especially if there is at least one person in the group with a guitar strapped to his body. But it isn’t half as common as it used to be.

I wonder why or how this happened. I like to rationalize to comfort myself. I don’t like blaming technology for everything we do to ourselves.

So here is one major reason I think Antakshari has died a slow death. (Apart from video games and the likes, of course – not them as such but because we allowed them to take over the lives of our children)

 

The songs.

 

One look at my iPod and I am sure my classmates at law school will have a good laugh at my expense. Because it is so painfully outdated.

My taste in all non-Bollywood music is shaped by what I grew up listening to. And what I grew up listening is what my father grew up listening to. So there are huge playlists full of songs by ABBA, BeeGees, Boney M, Pink Floyd, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Beatles, and some rather obscure hits from the 60s-80s. When I was trying to be a “cool” teen, I made myself like Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and NSync. I refuse to be embarrassed about the fact I still like them.

Now Bollywood, which is basically what Antakshari is all about – that is another story. I spent way too much time watching TV in my childhood. A lot of that time was spent on MTV – when M actually meant Music. Not Muck, like it means today.

I shall crown myself the Queen of the 90s County – because I know every Bollywood song they produced in the 90s – the hits and the misses, the romantic and the silly, the profound (my favourite 😀 ) and the nonsensical, the poetic and the ridiculous.

90s Bollywood songs were rather simple in structure – a couplet which forms the refrain, two more verses with perfect rhymes and then back to the refrain. They had waltz-y beats, the orchestra usually incomplete without some guitar and/or violins. Much fun.

The one common trait in almost all the songs was that they had a relatively simple tune – you could hum them without trouble. The lyrics were also mostly harmless, except such gems every once in a while where Govinda or Shakti Kapoor were involved. (Or Anil Kapoor, sometimes)

Which means that you could sing these songs with ease whenever you had the chance. Didn’t have to worry about singing prowess or the audience. Which is probably not a luxury we enjoy anymore, because if you are with family and in company of children, you have to think twice before singing the latest “hit” number.

Because Baby Doll is not about a child’s toy. And Munni is no innocent kid. The old Ooh La La and the new one are POLES apart.

Even the songs that aren’t raunchy have some trouble. I don’t want to sing “Ro Raha Hoon Main” to encourage bawling in children. Children are smart enough to use that song against me when they want to throw a tantrum.

You can’t even use these songs to flirt or flatter anymore.  Ladki Beautiful is fine. What the hell is Kar Gayi Chull?

There is trouble even when lyrics are innocuous. Remember what I said about simplicity of tunes? Yes, that is also fading. While experimentation with notes and instruments can produce some fantastic results, it often makes the aspect of performance nearly impossible without accompaniments. Like this one – the song is spectacular but one cannot just sing it for his own pleasure without feeling like he is taking away the essence of the song. This is an issue across genres.

Of course, there are always songs that you can sing and have nice lyrics and are fun. Like this one and this one, for instance. But they are the exceptions and not the norm.

If you don’t have songs to sing, how can you hope to play a singing game?

I am sure there are other reasons. Lack of time. Inadequate bonding with parents and/or extended family. No road trips because flights are more convenient. Changing tastes. And many more.

Whatever the reason, I miss my favorite “game”. It was fun and inclusive. And where there is music, there are cherished memories.

Ideally, I should be ending this post with a Bollywood song. But because this song just won’t leave my mind, I’m going to quote it. Because ABBA is wonderful. Bas.

 

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing

Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance what are we?

So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me

 

P.S – This one song, to express all that I didn’t in this post about pre-90s Bollywood songs. Not that there weren’t any bad songs earlier, but that is the musical era that my parents are most familiar with and I never did stand a chance. There is also Pyar Deewana Hota Hai, the first ever “old” song I consciously remember listening to and falling in love with. Whattey song, no ?

 



Glossary
(for Hindi words):

Munni: Usually an endearment used to address a little girl. That song I liked uses the word to address an attractive woman up for grabs.

Ro Raha Hoon Main: I am crying (in a male voice)

Ladki: Girl

 

P.P.S – I have at least two friends who follow this blog who will challenge my claim to the 90s Crown. To them I say – let’s play antakshari ?

 

Kitni Baatein

Guess who got done with exams?

Yes, can you see me sighing in sheer relief?

Couple of things:

  1. Anyone who received a notification about a new post on the blog yesterday, and clicked on it and realised it wasn’t there – I am SO sorry! It was just some formatting I was trying out and wanted to save it as a Draft. I accidentally hit “Publish” and couldn’t undo it. Apologies for any confusion it may have caused.

  2. You know when you can’t do something is when you really want to do that thing? Yes, that happened to me when I was trying to prepare for my exams. I wanted to write about so many things – all the things that should have come to my mind when I had the time to write. Anyway – I was smart this time and made a note of them. So hopefully May will be a happening month for the blog.

  3. Also, my very first post on this blog was in April 2015. Since then, I’ve moved cities, changed career paths and am (most probably) 1/3rd of a lawyer right now. And this blog is still not dead. I want to pat myself on the back. I haven’t been nearly as consistent as I’d like to be, but this is better than anything I’ve done before. I promised myself I’d make writing a priority because its something I love and gives me pleasure like nothing else and yet ends up taking a back seat. We should be kind to ourselves and make time for things we like, right? Especially when you can do it by just pickup up a laptop and typing away?

What I’m trying to say is, I am back 😀

 

Exam Time Again

To begin with, I feel 18 again as I write a post with exam related excuses but.

But exams are almost always a valid excuse, no?

They start on 21st and they’ll be over on 25th. I have a couple of things I want to write about. I do hope to be able to write at least one piece before exams but let me not make false promises. See you guys at the end of the month 🙂

Wish me luck!

Oh and maybe not blogging but I do show up on Twitter every once in a while. Follow me? I’m @eggsbeanscrumps