I went to Bangalore

A friend texted me this Monday asking if I was doing okay. This text was followed by another explanatory text – it seems she was worried because I had made no appearance on Whatapp or any other social media for a little over four days. Which is unusual.

I wouldn’t say I am addicted to social media but I do pay a visit at least once a day.

In my response I mentioned that she needn’t have worried – this prolonged (?) absence over the long weekend was because I was having way too much fun to bother with my phone.

And I did have fun. I spent four days last week(end) meeting up with friends in Bangalore and had the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. Here’s all that I did in those 4 days:

  1. Chat/gossip/giggle/ with friends
  2. Watched a movie – Raees may have been a disappointing film but that was mostly made up for by the smouldering hotness of Shahrukh Khan. He is the Badshah alright. The King in Pathani suit FTW. Ovaries somersaulted in excitement. And those kohled eyes – Lord have mercy.
  3. Eat (Some Margarita may also have been involved. Also the best waffles ever. And a supremely cute attendant)
  4. Book shopping
  5. Cooking
  6. Trump bashing (while watching CNN on mute)

Oh and some time was also spent in the company of a fabulously cool and adorable kid.

I had nothing on my agenda – which is the best kind of agenda. So there was time – time to laugh and share and make memories. And memories we did make. Enough to make me want to sulk when it was time to head back home.

Ooh – and how many of you have been treated to the luxury of having someone to receive you at Bangalore airport, huh? MY FRIEND WAS THERE TO RECEIVE ME. Can you beat that?

Here’s the best part. The friends with whom I had so much fun are:

  1. People with whom I have shared a virtual, “online” friendship with for over 4 years now
  2. Older to me by a decade.

What better proof to affirm the already established truth that I am in fact an old soul? Or maybe my friends are all young at heart. It doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, everything was almost shockingly effortless.

It has little to do with me and almost everything to do with them. They are wise, kind, generous people who opened their hearts (and homes!) and let me in to have a most wonderful time.

I returned home a kilo heavier and several kilos happier.  And happy times must be documented.

I hope you all had a fabulous January 🙂

*Insert cliched New Years’ caption*

I make new years’ resolution(s) because it gives me an excuse to make the first page my yearly planner look really important and motivating.

I use a planner rather obsessively, at least until about October. That’s when I start to feel like I’ve been wasting time all this while and the year just needs to end ASAP. By the end of November I am already looking for a planner for the next year.

It’s not entirely bad — there are some achievements to be proud of every year. But it’s always the likes “exercise regularly” and “stay positive” that have remained unrealised for many years now.

Staying positive is hardest — because I am that neurotic idiot who worries about not having to worry. Anxiety is a reflex and trying to curb that very tiring.

In honour of my pretty planners, I shall list my resolutions for 2017 here. That way I can at least pretend to be less cynical and more hopeful about actually following them through. I have also decided to have more “Don’t’s” on the list – because abstinence is sometimes just as important as action.

  1. Drink more than 2 litres of water a day
  2. Do not buy any perfumes in 2017 (Dad, ignore this one. I will accept perfumes as presents, okay?)
  3. Build enough stamina to run 20 minutes without reaching for an inhaler.
  4. Read at least 5 non-fiction books
  5. Perfect the art of painting the nails on your right hand without making a mess. (Cannot afford to paint my nails like a 5 year old any more)

 

5 is a good number so I will stop there.

#1 requires constant awareness and tracking
#2 is about self control. Doable.
#3 is most ambitious. But needs to be done – this demands self motivation and perseverance. Easier said than done but maybe if I take this up and a challenge more than a resolution, it will help me push harder ?
#4 requires commitment. This one is the easier to achieve.
#5 Good lord. Herculean task, this one. Bless me, Gods.

You may all be forced to put up with progress reports on these “goals” on this blog throughout the year. Bear with me? Oh you could also share your goals. Then we could mutually bully each other into working on them.

Happy New Year, guys! I hope you all have a fabulous year ahead J

On Tinder-ing #2

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about my attempt at online dating via Tinder. Which  never really went much beyond downloading the app and trashing several drafts of limericks for “description” on my profile page.

Last week, I was reinitiated and re-encouraged by my friend (let’s call her N) to rethink that decision. It worked because she struck while the iron was hot – we were at a mutual friend’s wedding and N herself can see matrimony in her near future. I am the only vertex in that triangle without a Y chromosome-d partner.

So, I did rethink.

Apparently, when you’re sitting in a corner while your friends are busy smoking pot, creative inspiration comes without effort. I did manage to scribble a few decent lines to be put up on that dreaded “description” box. I nearly included something that would constitute an unsubtle innuendo with scope for a great deal of desi sex jokes, but decided to ditch that. Still too wary of online dating to get into those comfy PJs.

Men will have to wait a bit to witness my tendency to make crass jokes and say inappropriate things.

A little over a week into Tinder, I’ve learned a thing or two. And not just about online dating.

  1. Tinder is fantastic for my fat-girl-ego. Nearly everyone I swipe right turns out to be a match. It assuages the hesitation of the girl in me who asked N – “Why would any man want to date someone who is fat?”N was uncharacteristically patient with me and said, “Because not all men are so shallow that their prime concern is how a woman looks. There are men out there who are good people looking for companionship.”

    I must admit, I was ashamed at my own cynicism regarding men. So much for my ideas on body positivity and my efforts not to generalise. Sigh.

    Anyway, now that I am on Tinder and all these men are “matches”, they act like power boosters for the ego. Which is something I could really use once in a while.

  2. Men might not be shallow, but tuns out I am. I find myself itching to swipe left for anyone who is:

    – Unemployed (I am even tempted to read “self-employed” as “unemployed”)Who uses bad grammar in their description

    – Who has attended a college/institution I have little to no respect forOh and that is not all.

    A man posing with his Mercedes is a snob. But anyone with a job I know doesn’t pay squat also doesn’t seem attractive. Techies are boring and “freelancers” are jobless.

    In retrospect, I am a terrible person. Not to mention shallow. And a snob.

    Sigh. Either I change how I think about things or I stop expecting men to show more depth of character than I am capable of. I like the former option better. 

  3. Having admitted my own failings, I can now go on to laugh at the many ridiculous things one sees on Tinder

    – Men with spouses or partners in their profile pics. Dude – what the hell are you doing? Either you’re an ass looking to cheat or you think having multiple partners somehow makes you a stud. Or you have no idea what Tinder is about. Either way, you’re getting swiped left without a second thought.

    – So much patriarchy – I once got a request from a guy whose description said “Hope there are some sanskaari girls here; most girls these days either smoke or drink.” I experienced the ultimate pleasure of cheap thrills when I asked the guy to fuck off.

    – There are also ones with memorable quotes like, “Men will be men; what do you want them to be – donuts?” or “I am who I am because you are you.” or men who’s current employment is as an “Individual.”

  4. 9/10 profiles have something to say about the love of travelling or some *insert wanderlust quote*. Is this the new fad? I’d like to see a man honestly admit that he’d rather just sit at home and binge watch movies.

Anywhooo – I never did expect Tinder to send me down the introspection route but it did and maybe I can learn to unlearn some things. We’re conditioned to prize academics and career prospects over all other “unimportant” things during the formative years of our life. Love-life and matrimony are things that belong to the “future”. Now that the “future” is here, how do I reorganise and reshuffle my priorities?

I feel guilty every time the presence of IIT/IIM on the description bar makes me instinctively give the profile a closer look. It’s something I always dissed others for. Clearly, I am not immune to it.

But I need to be. When did I begin to look at degrees before people? Or is that just how you filter profiles in a country where being one in a million counts for nothing because that only means you have 1000000 others in the same spot?

I’ve now started to be less flippant about my Tinder “swipes”. I actually read the entire profile before taking a call.

But the bad grammar is a total turn off and that’s an immediate no. That’s shallow alright but I refuse to apologise. We’re all allowed one vice, right?

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? 🙂

 

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 😀