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 🙂

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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 turns 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?

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:

 

I Went to Japan

I was in Japan on holiday earlier this month. And it was wonderful! The weather was perfect, the people were lovely and the country was breathtakingly beautiful. Some thoughts/observations:

  1. We flew to Tokyo via Beijing. Missed the connecting flight from Beijing to and had to catch the next flight out. I don’t think they use air conditioning at that airport; probably just circulate the outside air. I say this because our flight was delayed due to unprecedented snowfall in Beijing. And sitting at the airport Gate waiting for my next flight, I felt as if I’d turn into an ice statue myself.

  2. I visited Tokyo, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kyoto and Aichi. My favourite was Hiroshima (and Miyajima Island, which is located NW of Hiroshima Bay.)

  3. Hiroshima is so lush and beautiful; it’s hard to believe that city was reduced to rubble less than a century ago. The fall colours across the city was a spectacular sight.

  4. Miyajima Island was, personally speaking, the highlight of the trip. Fall trees spread across the seemingly endless streets, wild deer strolling everywhere, the Itsukushima shrine and its serene beauty and warm waffles served in small cafes. I didn’t want that day to end. Really.

  5. Much like India, you don’t have to look too far to spot a temple or a shrine. They are there everywhere. These are either Buddhist Temples or Shinto Shrines. Wonderfully maintained. You never really feel like the tranquillity is disturbed because of the sheer number of visitors. It’s also fascinating how everyone speaks of both religions with the same kind of respect. I hear this is one of the few places in the world where two different religions exist in such harmony.

  6. Luck decided to take an early Christmas vacation on the day we visited the 5th Station at Mt. Fuji hoping to catch a glimpse of that shy, sneaky, gorgeous mountain top. But, as they say, man proposes, God disposes. The Gods decided to shower us with ice-cold rain water, shroud us with fog and clouds so we couldn’t even see what lay 10 feet ahead of us, let alone Mt. Fuji.

  7. Being vegetarian, Japan obviously wasn’t a food paradise. Especially in the beginning when I had no clue as to what I was supposed to do with the stuff on my plate. In fact, on the second day, this was my diet – green tea, green tea ice cream, green tea cake, green tea Kit-Kat and green tea waffles. It did get better towards the end; perhaps I developed a taste for Japanese food.

    Also, twice during the 10-day trip, when it all became a bit too much to handle, I looked (more like hunted) for an Indian restaurant and ate there. One of them turned out to be a sleazy place where people were invited for a “sexy” dance after dinner. But I decided to ignore that as long as they served dal chawal.

  8. Almost every artefact, statue or souvenir that you find in Japan is a tribute to the Samurai era. Except for the Imperial palace and gardens that make for popular tourist spots, I rarely found anything else that is a conscious effort to treasure and remember the Imperial era. I don’t want to comment too much on this. Just that if my observations are in fact correct, the reasons are perhaps obvious.

  9. Almost everyone I came across was wonderfully kind and polite. Every taxi driver, people on the streets we asked for help with directions, store managers, just about everyone. On our third day, we lost our way to the hotel and my cellphone also ran out of battery. We knew the hotel was just around the corner, but didn’t know which way to go. When we asked for directions from this old man near a bus stop, he decided to walk all the way up to the hotel with us because he was unable to explain directions in English. He walked for 20 minutes with us, till we finally got into the hotel.

  10. I was in Japan. So I HAD to buy kitty cat merchandise. I bought a cat bag and a cat wallet and cat napkins and Hello Kitty diaries and pens.

  11. The only person we personally knew in Japan was one of my mother’s students (Batch of 1995!). We met up with him and his family (he is married to a Japanese and they now have a lovely little boy!) and listened to their rather filmy love story. It seems just the ceremonial formalities managed to shake up both the Ministry of External Affairs in India and Japanese officials! Their son (who is the sweetest child I have met in my life. Really) didn’t care that I didn’t know Japanese but was happy that I recognised Pikachu.

    Mom’s student couldn’t believe that I am no more a 5 year old. He said he was just used to playing with me and putting me to sleep on his lap. SO MUCH NOSTALGIA! My memories are not all vivid but I do remember him picking me up from school and playing Snakes & Ladders with him.

  12. We visited the Toyota Museum. It was like Mom’s Disneyland. She enjoyed the many rides and drove a state of art hybrid car. We also saw this super sexy and very real cross between a motorbike and a car. It is AWESOME.

  13. It takes in Indian to truly understand the importance of cleanliness in public toilets. I have travelled to quite a few places across Europe, Asia and North America, and never have I come across a place where the washrooms are this clean and well equipped. Not just that – you can warm the toilet seats (which is amazing when it’s so cold outside), adjust the temperature of the water jets and they never seem to run out of toilet rolls. There are also separate buttons for Flush and “Flushing Sound” and I am confounded with respect to the latter. Does anyone know what purpose that serves?

So basically Japan was wonderful and the fall was so pretty that I forgot all about not being able to see cherry blossoms. People are wonderful and warm. And it seems the seafood there is spectacular, if anyone is interested. Especially oysters.  Go visit Japan, people!

Here are a few pics:

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I went to Dubai

I was in Dubai last week. It was super fun and super exhausting. It was my very first trip to the Middle East  – and Dubai was absolutely fascinating. Here are my observations in a nutshell –

1. They don’t seem to do anything on a small scale. Everything is in superlatives. Biggest mall, tallest structure, biggest this, largest that, most expensive this, fastest that. It’s quite a spectacle really.

2. They also don’t seem to allow themselves to be limited by anything at all. Not even physical realities. There is money and there is science – and nothing is impossible. If there’s water – they make tunnels under it and land over it. If there is no vegetation on the sands, they seem to literally plant full fledged trees on the soil till the roots hold firm. They build massive palm shaped islands on reclaimed land and then build the most magnificent hotels in and around them. When they are bored with building structures that are simply tall, they twist them. It’s an architect’s Disneyland, I think.

3. Even the un-shopaholics tend to indulge in Dubai. I know I did. Apart from the huge shopping malls and the the fact everything you can think of is available there – as an Indian, I admit I enjoyed an additional kick knowing that you don’t get ripped off during a purchase paying half the money to the government in taxes.

4. Dubai Mall makes you exactly aware of all the things you can afford and all the things you cannot.

5. The city and its government probably have issues that need sorting out – I really don’t know. But most people I met were delighted at the way their city has transformed in a matter of a single decade. From a barren desert to a super modern global city with an enviable infrastructure. And I think thats pretty awesome.

6. I was also told that the city is relatively safe for women. It seems I can hop into a train at 3 AM and nothing untoward would happen. Whether or not thats true – the fact that people have such faith in public safety and law enforcement is a great thing. I can barely think of places in my country where I am confident about the safety of female tourists.

7. Democracy is awesome and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But Dubai just makes you wonder – is such a transformation really possible in a democracy where there is opposition politics? Or are these possibilities restricted to monarchies and single-party States or places where the head of State is virtually unopposed for many years ? Just something to think about – there are too many factors involved for one to ever get to real answer.

On a side note – we met up with our family friends and I must say – the cat in their house was a beauty. A ginger tomcat called Simba – isn’t that purrfect ?