Wednesday, December 22, 2010


“Watch where you’re going YOU FOOL!”
“Zipping away like he’s riding a DUCATI on an empty runway!”
We tried to move another step ahead but quickly recoiled back to the safety of that half of the single lane road that was occupied by double parked cars.
“I know an ophthalmologist. Need the number?”
It’s called a Zebra parking, see the white stripes? They didn’t paint it for your wedding. Oh! But how would you, who haven’t seen a horse, KNOW WHAT A ZEBRA IS??????”
“You’re supposed to stop when you see pedestrians at the crossing, ie people like us who have been waiting for the last 15 minutes trying to cross a measly 4 feet road. Oh yes! You stop even if there isn’t A SIGNAL! YEAH, THAT COLOURFUL CONTRAPTION YOU DON’T PAY HEED TO.”
“You know what Bev? Let’s just cross even if it means running the risk of being hit, at least that way we can put them in jail because we crossed at a pedestrian crossing.”

At that precise moment the injured muscle of my right leg from the auto accident gave a painful throb warning me otherwise and to add to that Bev gave me her ‘Shut up and wait woman’ look.

Finally we flagged down a giant SUV, the driver bemused, at seeing two college going girls who looked capable of murder. Luckily for the motorists we didn’t have to spend an eternity perched on the median but crossed the other half of the so called dual-carriageway road in two minutes. To irk us further Sonya had already crossed both the lanes and was waiting on the footpath tapping her feat and beating a tattoo on the dial of her watch indicating how long it took us to reach her. Like we didn’t know already. The Dare-Devil had dashed across the road earlier: irreverent of traffic or death. She has previously been at the receiving end of caresses from buses, autos, cars and a train too! According to her only a plane is left.

As we were dodging vendors selling kerchiefs, toys, lemonade, fake Ray-Ban glares {and wares than I can go describing in humorous detail for months} on the footpath or something that resembled it we were fuming. On a sunny winter afternoon Bev had smoke shooting out from her ears and Sonya and I were doling out endearments I can’t mention in print; she, with a ghost of a smile as always and I, the way they should be.
“It’s all a matter of rules you know!” I hollered, startling an underwear vendor from his reverie about boxers. He looked reconcilably at me, ready to believe that briefs were the best if that is what I thought. I glared at him, challenging him otherwise.
“Nobody follows rules here, everyone thinks it's their in-laws-place and they can do as they please. Inconsiderate nuts."
“ Luck? You seriously think people do as they like there?”
“Ok Sonz, their daddy’s farmhouse, fine?”
“Ooooh! Now that’s one place I’d be at ease at.” I think something about the colour of my face made Bev decide not to go ahead with the joke.
“They shove rule books in your face at banks, hospitals and government offices where they are least required. A transaction that needs a few clicks on the keyboard takes 100 perambulations around the desks of useless officials.”
“You’re telling me?” Drawled Sonya with an eyebrow raised in derisive amusement at the above said organisations.
“Yeah, I’d rather die of a cold” stated Bev in agreement to which I vehemently said “And I’d rather stash my money under the bed than maintain an account in this country.” {Don’t even bother looking for it there}
We walked in silence for sometime stomping the pot-holed footpath violently.

“Oh how I envy the ease of my cousins’ lives in Bahrain!” burst out Sonya
“I miss the orderliness of UAE!” I exploded, having held in that statement waiting for someone else to say it. I’m always sceptical about comparing my foster country and my country and running the risk of sounding like a hypocrite ex-NRI brat.
“No one gives a damn to rules here.”
“But when the same Indians go elsewhere they follow even the dumbest ones to the T.”
“They chicken out when they have to pay up fines, so they won’t spit, litter or over-speed.” Furnished Bev
“Who’ll fine them here in Mumbai? That pot-bellied corrupt policeman?” Chortled Sonya
“But we have to follow stupid dress codes and attendance policies in college. No one knows where to use rules here.” I muttered in disgust.
“You’re right Sonz. Fools make rules here and fools who can’t understand the difference between Christmas lights and traffic signals inhabit and populate this country. And then they have the audacity to complain about 2G scams??????” I fumed, climbing up the stairs to the railway station two at a time to vent out my frustration.
“Yeah Luck, how true.”
“What’s the 2G scam?”
The walk through the platform was spent explaining to Bev all about the scam that rocked the nation.

Wondering why our country can never reach that state where everyone is carefree like Bev,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

I could really use a wish right now.....

I was one of the few children in school who knew Santa was a myth, he didn’t exist. I lived in a desert where it didn’t snow and none of our houses had exclusive roofs let alone chimneys {we lived in flats}. And to top it all we don’t celebrate Christmas {my family isn't Christian}. But then again, deep down I’ve always liked to believe in things that others thought were balderdash.  I like to make a wish on a fallen eyelash, the first star I see in the sky, hope for good luck if I see two mynahs {starlings}. I waited for a letter from Hogwarts before I turned 11, dreamt that my ancestors had super powers that I inherited after it skipped a few generations or some such romantic claptrap.

I don’t know if magic, miracles or enchantments exist. I secretly like to believe they do but my rational side, measured and cut by experience and polished by dogmatic notions of reality hardly give a sliver of a chance for my esoteric side, rough-hewn as a result of doubt to take lead.
What I’ve always hoped would work is the magic of the smoke from birthday candles when you blow them out. It is almost surreally mesmerizing that something dynamic and consuming like a flame feeds from the depths of a saccharine dish, draws out the sweetness of hope and extinguishes into white-grey wisps of enchantment that twirl and twine around a breath full of wishes and transports it into magical realms. I don’t know if there will be cakes and candles today so I’d not like to allow this special request of mine to be left at the mercy of the vicissitude of birthday plans and decisions.
There is one path to miracles I’m absolutely sure of. Group prayers. You need not believe in God for this. Just the same little request escaping many lips at the same time creates a vibration of positivity so strong that not even the steely bars of cynical rationality of life can cage and thwart the fulfilment of any wish however itty-bitty it is. So this time around I’d like to ask that come 25th of December  a fantabulous, strong, optimistic and lovely lady and writer named Erika can sleep peacefully without battling her arch enemies, phlegm and mucus, ever and also that her gorgeous baby Izzy {Izabella} can enjoy every single day without seizures, vomiting and other torments that her little being is subjected to on almost a daily basis. Erika was hoping for Dear Santa {who I’m sceptical about} to hear her out.

I hope every single one of you who is reading/reads this blog and this particular post; { although I know there aren’t many} and decide to don the Santa suit for a day because those two could really use a wish {and many more} right now. After reading this if you feel an urgent need to put my request into action and can't wait for Christ's birthday which is a fortnight away then please go ahead! If you think it takes a birthday to make magic happen then you are in luck, for today is a birthday too. Well, not Jesus Christ's but a 19 year old girl's. Inspite of all this if you've never had childhood fantasies of playing Santa then maybe just be nice and grant a Birthday Girl her wish: that another’s wish comes true.
Wishing I could cast spells,

Friday, November 26, 2010


As children my brother and I used to be overjoyed at the sight of stuffed shopping bags strewn all around the house. It spelt HOLIDAY. It promised us a vacation, new clothes and possessions, and the assured company of our parents and Grand mom for more than the prescribed 6 hours we saw them in a day. While shopping, we’d bump into friends, teachers and other families and have a gala time discussing holiday plans. What to buy for whom, choosing sari’s of myriad colours, soaps cakes, powder tins, cream bottles, jewellery and stacking it all away in suitcases, deciding what to assign to which relative were tasks of priority. Most of the time these shopping excursions culminated into eating out at our then favourite restaurant ‘Super’ which was anything but that. Who cared? The waiters knew our family history and we theirs, they had literally seen us grow up in front of them, doted on us, got us that extra dish without charging and we loved the unhealthy fried rice and chilly chicken. We never ordered. The minute one of the ‘uncles’ saw us our special was ready on the table.

I haven’t seen those people in 2 years. That restaurant has been demolished and a new one is coming up. I’m rambling now, going off at completely another tangent. It’s all beside the point I’m trying to make or maybe it really isn’t. I don’t like the sight of shopping bags around my room anymore. It ultimately means I’m leaving my family or they’re leaving me. I truly abhor shopping and hardly visit the mall that’s only a 3 minute drive from my house.  My friends would kill to live there. I don’t desire new clothes, new accessories, footwear, nothing. I don’t fancy passports and tickets especially when it says Mumbai-Dubai. And I’d kill to eat that unhealthy fried rice and chilly chicken every single weekend despite the fact that I’ll be complaining about piling on the pounds and will be even more under-confident in public that I already am. Do I feel at home in UAE? Honestly there are times when I feel like a Martian, completely out of sync with the drastic transformations in the life I once led, my schoolmates, the people I knew and the places I used to haunt. So if ‘Home’ ceases to feel like home; then does Mumbai feel like home? Can’t really say, because it’s difficult to lead two diversely separate lives. I can choose to adopt one and give up the other but I can’t. My UAE life is who I am and was; and my Mumbai life is who I am and will be/can be. Moreover, like my mother very succinctly puts it I’m a hoarder by nature and can’t let go of easily. So I amble from a set of 6 months to another surviving solely on the short holidays that pop up in between like greenery in a desert, compartmentalising friends, clothes, routines, hobbies and food into two sections: Mumbai and UAE.

My perceptions over the years have changed. Bags of joy now herald the advent of bleak-looking six months, life the way I lived it for 15 years has now been broken up into parts and the mention of fried rice and chilly chicken that made me flash a 250 volt smile now creates saline pools in my house. But I’m trying, trying really hard to change that, achieve a state of equilibrium and merge two disparate aspects of me and ameliorate into a whole, complete person. I hope perseverance helps me to perceive differently.

Meanwhile, seriously contemplating burning off those shopping bags,


Monday, October 25, 2010

Ardently, Fervently, Seflessly, Selfishly

So what has Falak been up to the last two weeks? There has to be a reason to substantiate her extended silence after the pledge she undertook to write continuously.
Answering my own question, she hasn’t been doing outrageously exciting things to keep her away this long from the blog. She was busy forging a temporary alliance with a certain individual by the name of God Almighty.
She was busy discussing ardently, alternatives to completely blanking out in front of her exam paper, methods to circumvent studying a syllabus of oceanic proportions, and having the brain power to remember enough to fill in the pages of the answer sheet. She was busy fervently formulating terms and conditions of treaties to sign, pacts to adhere to. Terms and conditions involved were: if only stuff I learn comes 3 coconuts for you, if I manage to remember everything I painstakingly mugged up; 51 rupees for you.
After sleeping continuously for 4 hours every day for the last two weeks, burying her head within her books, hardly eating for the fear of suffering from an upset tummy, refusing to step out of the house except going to college to meet her arch rival the papers, the marks-talks ended successfully. It was ratified by the council of Love with Falak having all her demands met at such short notice and God still waiting for his.

He’s still waiting without creating a ruckus, without impassioned appeals of ‘why me always?’, ‘I know you hate me’. Biding his time he’s still sticking around here.

Why though?
Simply because he believes in her.
But does she trust him as implicitly?
Do we?
A very, merry, exam-free soul.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sonny side

Before you start reading just letting you know the words calignious, tenebrous, crepescular simply put mean dark..... I just wanted synonyms instead of using the same word again and again. I used a thesaurus. ;)

I haven’t written for a month and 19 days. I was planning on a little something to celebrate the 1st birthday of the blog, wish it Bon Blogaversaire maybe. This blog does warrant that kind of gratitude on my part. There aren’t ample avenues or outlets available for an 18 year old to vent out her frustration and let go of her reticent nature bit by bit. 
Yes, a year back on the 13th of August this blog was born as a cumulative effect of boredom, joblessness, the latent desire for positive recognition and a genuine, intrinsic love for words and language. But the day the blog turned 1 I got hit by an auto rickshaw. The accident in itself didn’t leave me much to remember it by, at least not the day I got hit. A random stranger from the same rickshaw helped me stand up from my horizontal position of repose on rain drenched tar, I went home in a partial stupor, got cleaned up and then was again on my way to college. The next day I couldn’t hoist myself out of bed: consequence of a sore neck, numerous bruised and aching body parts and a busted right leg that is still tender to touch. It was the closest I’d ever come to being killed. Already a multitude of events had led to a lot of mental unrest and turmoil. This ripped off the bronze lining on my characteristically Cimmerian cloud. And then there were the gratuitous interviews I gave to two departments that organised the college festival. The first rejection nipped at my heart but it didn’t hurt. The second rejection didn’t hurt. It nipped my craving to write at a very subterranean level.

My clouds of dark moods are as seasonal and expected as are the clouds of monsoon but rare have been the occasions where the hopes of a sunny day have been shattered. I don’t mind criticism or rejection when it’s straight forward and people come up to me and say “Falak, your writing sucks.” I might feel a little blue {but then who doesn’t} and recover shortly feeling grateful for the constructive criticism. But to have yourself and your writing lambasted within earshot is a crushing experience. The organiser of the second department, a classmate of mine did just that; very subtly without using names but just highlighting the gender and topic and a lot of choice expletives while describing ‘this girl’ to her friends. For weeks on an end I was recipient of filthy looks from her and every time I’d cringe within. That I guess was the last straw that broke the under-confident girl’s weak spirit. 

People with broken spirits take a vacation; it’s rejuvenating and helps you clear your head. When things became too much to handle I took a hiatus. The place I visited was stygian in its setting. It was perpetually night and the only recreation the people here {some tourists, some permanent residents} partook in was the masochistic pleasure derived from deriding self and ability. We emulated the citizens and conformed easily to their existence: denying ourselves the calorie-laden sweet meats of happiness, the sleep of the content person sure about their self-worth and salubrious dreams that provided exercise to the grey cells. I dined and wined myself to bursting point on the choicest dishes of self-doubt and tears served cold, visited museums and admired paintings of self-destruction and spent hours in theatres watching and analysing the entire diatribe meted out to me by OG extraordinaire which was replayed incessantly. The sky was forever nebulous and moonless when looked at from my tenebrous lodgings. Later I would aimlessly weave in and out of winding caliginous streets that kept going round in circles and bringing me back to the place I began from: I can’t write. I was such a law-abiding visitor that the authorities were planning to bestow an honorary citizenship on me and I was seriously perusing the possibility of accepting it.

I was handing in my letter confirming my endorsement of the same when a visitor was announced. She walked right in and I was blinded for a moment. The crepuscular evening was suddenly aglow with the luminosity of her being and the gloomy inhabitants scurried to bury themselves deep in the city’s labyrinths to avoid her resplendent smile. Everything about her had always been golden and light: gold streaked, brown hair, warm caramel eyes and that smile. She dragged me through the corridors, talking nineteen to the dozen, holding my wrists in a death-like vise. As she yanked me she illuminated the streets I used to walk in despair and suddenly I saw new paths that could lead me out of the circle. She tore up my citizenship papers which then blazed aflame in her hands. The same hands that warmed my entire being with a simple touch and eliminated the cold and numbness I had accustomed myself to. She started ranting about the evils of the vacation I had taken and threatened to wallop me black and blue the next time I gave her the slip and bolted. The idea of her hitting anyone {non-violent soul that she is} made me break into convulsions of laughter; pure gleeful laughter the sound of which I had almost forgotten. She got us both out of the hell-hole I had created within me and I assure you I haven’t stopped smiling and she hasn’t stopped talking {she never does} at all since then. If you don’t believe me, try looking for the elusive dimple that only appears when I’m really smiling. She’s still working on blotting out the memory of ‘I can’t write’ and to look straight into the eyes of Miss dirty looks and give her a cool smirk. We are making progress.

I just wanted to wish my blog a happy birthday and to thank You ‘Femme d’or’ who lit up my dark skies with a brilliant sun.
You truly are my Sonshine.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blast from the Past

Somehow my old poems just end up saving the day! I am upto my neck in work not only at college but at home too and thus end up neglecting my blog. And as icing on this messy, botched up {YET TASTY}cake called life I have decided to take up tuitions for a certain 23 year old girl from the coming week and the cherry on top is the upcoming french presentation I have which I still have to prepare for. This poem stands true for me with the same meaning and intensity that it did three years back. Hope you like it.

The End

How weird are the constraints of time
Which thus hold us back
That to make idle conversation
Of time we have lack

The breeze no longer I enjoy
In the rain I no more revel
No fault of mine it is for
On such innane pleasures I have no time to dwell

It’s ages since my feet
Has felt the grainy sand
For running I am always
Thus my feet hardly touch the land

Summer heat or autumn wind
Springtime cheer or wintry chill
Nowadays to me feel the same
I have no time to feel their thrill

In this constant hurdle race
A minute lost is a penny gone
Losers have no right to complain
Neither to look woebegone

The feel of a tree is a memory
Lost deep within the confines of my soul
In my life nowadays
Nature to play has no role

The warm bed, the waiting book
Are my companions of yore
Anything that isn't a matter of consequence
To me now is an eyesore

Healthy meals, friendly gossip
Has now in life no value
Months or years, I am not aware
Since I saw a fresh drop of morning dew

Gadgets are all around me strewn
They are my only existing associates
I think I now don’t even keep
In mind the visages of my playmates

Movies are a distant dream
My existence's ancient pleasure
Music is a bonanza
That my ears treasure

Fatigue is a climber
That around my body has coiled
Still I just don’t notice
As in my work deeply I am embroiled

A fresh cup of home made juice
Is an age since I drank
In my blood stream now caffeine
Holds the highest rank

Of beaches and of roaring waves
Of gurgling streams of whispering lakes
Nothing I know as with water I am
Related only for the showers I take

Its ages since my hair
Has wildly flown around my face
For says the common etiquette
That it better stay in its place

I earn and earn all the time
So for spending there is none left
I don’t know what life would mean
If of this money I am bereft

This override is taking its toll
Just as they told me it would
But no one understands that I would have tried
To battle it if I could

The only thought that gives me solace
Is that when my end approaches
Nature in the form of a wood pyre and the presence of loved ones
Will give me company and wipe away all my reproaches

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

History repeats itself

Hi to all
With the advent of the new academic year and playing simultaneously the roles of  "Mother " and "Sister" to my little brother {who has come to India for his studies now} and the sudden graduation from 'Young Adult' to 'Responsible Adult' has made blogging a luxury I simply can't afford for a few weeks to come until my Mummy Dearest flies down and holds the fort. Somehow my conscience keeps chiding me about neglecting my blog that has helped me meet so many wonderful people and also explore my creativity. So as atonement I decided to post something I wrote way back in 2006 when I was just a little kid { not that I feel any older now}.
Hope that disclaimer prepares you for the childish philosophy it is filled with. Maybe, you might like it and maybe not, but do leave your comments. My 14 year old self is curious to know how people would respond to the 'ME' of the past.
Happy Reading


My life is constant winter
Something I never realized
For I kept holding on to what were
Moments of my life that I prized

Those weren’t the spring days I thought them to be
Nor the summer nights with a full moon
They were just the sudden bouts of sunshine
That God bestowed on a cold and clouded winter noon

Those sunbeams that warmed my cold heart
So they did for a little time
Were just like the rain clouds that made a farmer
Hope that all things would be fine

The happiness that enveloped me
Knew no limits nor bounds
And such was the intensity of the cold wind
That was sharp, cutting and profound

The sunbeam that gave me joy then
And the chill that the sudden wind gave
Were the ones who in my life
The path to maturity pave

The spring I longed for always
If it came I never knew
But the wind that hurt me always
Never stopped and still ble

My strength lies in the cold wind
That made me forever strong
It blew forever in my ears
A meaningful long song

The sunbeams still keep coming
I simply let them be
For when I’m lone and cold all over
It’s only the wind that keeps me company

The warmth of the sunbeam I still love
But no longer do I depend on them
For now I’m the sturdy young tree
That grew a woody bark from its weather-beaten, delicate stem

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guess Who Came To Tea!

“I’ll cook”, said I and saying so, very enthusiastically made my way into the kitchen to make Tomato soup or my version of what I thought it was. I am a decent enough cook and I know that if no one else will my brother for sure will vouch for my culinary skills. He'd better, after all the pastas, sandwiches and whatnots I made for him. I was busy chopping, sautéing, pounding, washing and marvelling at the joy cooking gives me. When I am on my cooking spree I am in what some people may refer to as ‘a state’. I tend to be overtly elated, boisterously jovial and am predisposed to overlook the little things around me. For instance how I came skipping out of the kitchen in high spirits balancing a plate full of humungous just washed tomatoes without realising that my uncle who had come home a few minutes back had brought a friend from work along with him. On becoming aware of the new person I sheepishly made my way back into to kitchen mentally admonishing myself for having made an accidental display of my crazy state. Once back in the kitchen I was in the company of my mother who was busy making potato bhajias.

“Who’s that?” I asked her stirring my saucepan full of chopped garlic and onions. “He’s your uncle’s colleague, don’t you know him? He’s come here many a times before and likes your brother a lot!” replied mummy dearest. “Maaaaa” I drawled, “I don’t live here for most part of the year or have you forgotten that now?”

My mother winked and gave me a lopsided smile. We then returned to our specific cooking chores. She went back to frying potato bhajias and I went back to sautéing onions. When the bhajias were done I went to serve the guests with a plate of the same come hot off the stove. The guest smiled fondly and said to my uncle “My daughter too is only as tall as she is”. I smiled sweetly and went back to my chopping at the same time listening to the conversation that ensued between my uncle and his friend. “Ahh, she is now, is she?” How old is your daughter?” and general things like that. Suddenly our guest states forlornly “Daughters grow up too quickly”, which my mother who came out of the kitchen with a fresh batch of bhajias affirmed saying “Yes, you’re absolutely right!

Munching on bhajias my uncle filled in his friend about me, “She studies in India now, in Bombay. All of us go to India on vacation but this girl comes here to vacation!” and saying so they shared a laugh over my mixed up life.”

Listening to him speak I realised he was speaking in Urdu, so he had to be from someplace up North in India and most probably would be a Muslim. He confirmed my hunch by telling my uncle how the same bhajias are made at his house during Ramadan and how his daughter would make yummy kebabs. ‘There comes the daughter again” I thought smiling inwardly. I wondered how much the poor man must be missing home cooked food, his daughter and family who weren’t with him in the UAE ...

“These bhajias are really delicious!” said my uncle’s friend. “Please have some more, don’t hesitate”, persuaded my mother and uncle simultaneously at which our guest took a few more. He seemed to me to be a timid, gentle kind of person with his quiet and considerate countenance and soft spoken voice which had the exotic lilt indigenous to Urdu speaking persons, reminding me of my Pakistani friends from school. I offered him some juice to go with the snacks which he accepted after a lot of cajoling on our part. “Thank you Beta, God bless you” said he with a lot of feeling. He seemed like an amiable soul.
As my mother and I were seeing my uncle and his friend off, we gave them a few more of the bhajias wrapped in tissue on their way out.

“Oh please! There is no need for all this!” exclaimed our guest. “It’s okay, take some for the road.” We said.

Smiling he took it once again reiterating how delectable he found them and how wonderful our garden looked and it was such a pleasure to the eye to witness open green spaces in a country where you associate houses with cooped up flats. We thanked him and after waving them goodbye came back in.

“Where is he from?” I asked my mother. “Kashmir” she said, busy scrubbing vessels. “Yeah, it’s kind of evident from the way he speaks and all.” I replied.
“He’s from the Pakistani side of Kashmir, the one there, not the one in India”, my mom added. “Oh!” I mumbled lost in deep thought while my hands prepared the soup automatically.

I’ve known Pakistanis practically all my life. I’ve had best friends who are Pakistanis at some point of time in my school life or the other. I’ve shared food with them, sat on the same bench, gone on school picnics, cheered for our school houses, fought with them over India-Pak cricket matches, watched the same Indian movies and sang the same bollywood songs. Then at some point of time they opted for the International syllabus whereas I continued with the Indian syllabus. Then we lost touch and they became memories of my childhood. Having lived for the past 3 years in India they have become more of the arch enemies that most Indians in India who have never seen a Pakistani in flesh and blood consider them to be than the friends of my memories.

This particular visit from this man only enumerated certain facts I already was aware of but temporarily forgot.
1) People across the border have daughters they dote on and miss like hell.
2) They are reminded of Pakistani daughters when looking at an Indian girl the same age and not of daggers and knives.
3) They behave like the perfect Indian guest: refuse some, thank a ton, bless a child.
And the most important fact,
4) They too love potato bhajias.......

Yours enjoying the Tomato soup and bhajias,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It is a grey morning today. A wet, quiet, grey Sunday morning with a possibility of thunder. The sun is on vacation; lost in a tangle of thick grey-brown clouds like sheets on a hot night. The rain has been playing games: drizzling, then disappearing, then pouring when it finally appears. Like you. So very like you. I am sitting on the window seat, the same place you and I would sit together to relish the rains: for me the wet green trees with dark brown-almost black barks, water gushing down their backs with their gleaming, fat leaves and the silence for you. The ‘silence of the rain’ you called it, even when it would pound on the tin sunshade above the window just like a rude stranger who wanted to barge in and craft a chasm between you and me. We couldn’t even hear our own thoughts.

 I no more have that befuddled, exasperated look on my face reserved specially for your description of ‘The Silence’. My ‘babe in the woods’ expression that according to you said ‘give me a kiss and I’ll comprehend everything you just said’, the expression you loved. Now the rain brings with it my own brand of silence. A silence devoid of your laughter, your voice, your music, your breathing. There is a quiet now. The roaring rain has been subdued to a lazy drizzle and a lone plucky bird dares to call out, the same way I called out to you, begged you to stay back, the same way the trees endeavour to make the rains remain. But do they??? No, they don’t and then they go where they please with not a care in the world for the still thirsty trees they leave behind, alone and shivering, trembling, the howling wind echoing their agony. The rains taunt and tease them saying, ‘come along if you dare, if you care, if you love me.’ Tormented and despondent, enraged at such an affront, hurt at the occurrence of such a doubt they call to the winds and alleviate their misery forever. And so we saw many a broken tree after storms. Not this time though. So it’s okay. You’re here now, where I wanted you. Right where I can see you.
 A simple skid from a moist ladder on a rainy day when you decided to fix the sunshade before you left. You’re here now in the garden you loved so. Beneath the tree I love.
As usual you were considerate to leave me with a gift. You bequeathed a memory of your love so that I won’t be lonesome because like you say lonesome monkeys don’t chatter. But I decided to be alone in the end, like that song that says ‘I’d rather just be alone if I know that I can’t have you’.
So I gave the gift away to someone who’d treasure it much more than a solitary me would. But it’s nearby, near me like you are, like you always will be.


She walks out of her cottage into the rain kissed day: her dark tresses dancing in the wind, an envelope in her hand, wearing a long blood-red summer frock that clung to her in the the gossamery mist like a sin clings to a lie.
There is music in the air. A stirring harmony of rustling leaves, the drumming pulse of the rain and the plat-plat of droplets dripping down the eaves. The wind whispers around her and a soft spray of rain riding on it embraces her in icy bliss; like, his kiss. The fragrance of the breeze: wet earth, musk and wood. His heady scent.
Overwhelmed she sits beneath the fire tree in an icy monsoon rain. A letter in one hand and a single blue rose in the other.


After what seems like hours to the little boy looking from the window the lady in the garden from across his slowly gets up and walks back to her house. He thinks she’s pretty, with  black hair and black eyes. Black like the crow he's scared of who'll come and peck him away  if he doesn't have his mum-mum. He likes looking at her when she comes out in the rains. She only comes out when there is a thunderstorm.  He knows because he always watches. Mesmerised the little boy continues to gaze at her until the white wooden fence dividing their properties and the rain drops on the window obscures his view of her. Until he's tired and wants go sleepy in his spidey blanket.....

Until his eye's are heavy and he sees a woman in red spinning a  shimmering-shiny web... But spidey's a boy! And then the girl-spidey becomes his dreaded black cwow and then he's scared and starts crying but then his mama comes slowly into the room and grabs him and feathers him with kissies. He gurgles with joy, the little baby boy. Relieved, the toddler forgets all about spidey and bad cwows. Forgets all about one mama when secure in the arms of another.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010



A simple 7 lettered word, but very potent. A state of mind as well as a journey…..

For me the journey started almost 15 years back with simple bedtime stories.

My dad would tell us stories; my brother and me. Bedtime stories for us didn’t mean being read out classic fairytales from books in English with glossy covers. I learnt to speak English when I started school and that is when I was introduced to The Princess Brigade and made friends with Cinderella, Snow White and the rest of them dainty damsels.

My bedtime stories were about an African elephant; a brave elephant, who was the chief of his herd and lead them through a number of adventures through the dangerous and exciting jungles of Africa. Wrapped up in our blankets, snuggling close to our dad I remember begging him for a new story every night. All the poor man would have wanted to do I am sure is sleep his fatigue away but he’d never once turn away and go to sleep. He’d try and stall. Maybe tell us he’d say an interesting one tomorrow and to just sleep off the desire to hear one today but never once did he ever out rightly deny us a story telling session. Once tucked into our huge king sized bed dad would crawl in and ask “Ok, so what story do you want to hear tonight?”

The days the question never popped out of him were a sign of the extent of his exhaustion. Daddy really had to be bushed to refuse us a story.

I loved the elephant. He was so brave, so courageous, so exotic. He also had children: baby elephants who’d lead the herd when they’d grow up. Lying their in our dark bedroom with moonlight streaming in and creating eerie shadows, my father’s silhouette visible against the muted moonlight and my brother kicking me between the sheets I used to imagine in my mind’s eye the thick jungles of Africa and the enormous rivers that meant so much to these elephants. I used to imagine them migrate from dry, parched lands of their forefathers destroyed by wily, selfish human beings and go in search of greener pastures. Their brave escapades, scraps with lions {Wow!} which they obviously won and their ability to make medicines out of wild herbs for every wound possibly imaginable was riveting enough to keep me thinking late into the night, imagining. The days daddy did go to sleep I’d stay awake in bed thinking of the myriad situations possibly thinkable in a young child’s head. I’d imagine how the planet would have been before the arrival of humans and bleep: all mankind would vanish and a desert would remain in my head. Then I’d wonder what the universe looked like without earth and suddenly an image of all the planets revolving around the sun with the earth conspicuously missing would emerge. Then I’d try to imagine what everything would have looked like before the universe and then everything would just black out in my head. Then I’d screw my eyes shut tight, in concentration, trying to imagine something other than black because black is a colour and well, you only have colours in the universe not outside it. Then I’d get a terrible headache and fall asleep.
My father is an extraordinary story teller. I don’t say this just because he’s my father but because he really does have the knack to put across a story. His narratives were and still are always detailed. How the forest looked, the time of the day, the noises around, how the elephant looked with acute details regarding physical and emotional characteristics of the protagonists. It aided my effort to imagine, to recreate what he was imagining inside my head. He is also adept {as many who know him well, especially my mother would agree} at spinning yarns of a bizarre variety. You can call them fabrications, tall tales, lies excuses, whatever. The fact was that no one can come up with situations and reasons like he can, with the snap of a finger. It would seem almost natural, like a reflex action, the speed at which he would come up with stuff as if it was all there stored up in his head.

The best part about our tale-telling session was that not a single story I heard from him was in English. Not one. It was always in my mother tongue which is anything unlike English. My African elephants spoke my mother tongue.

The days my mother would come to put us off to sleep we’d be assured of a good laugh the next day. My mom was and is a working mom and works twice as hard as other moms. So that implies she’s twice as tired and that means she falls asleep twice as fast when she hits the pillow. While putting us off to sleep she’d be the first to doze off and relentless requests for a night time fable would result in disjointed sentences about
“There was a lion who was the king of the jungle…. Silence….. Mommy ? Hmph…. Yeah, he went to war and got hurt…..Mommy? {accompanied by a nudge in the ribs} Hmmmm…. And did you sweep the kitchen? The sink needed washing….you didn’t?”

Somehow the fact that household chores haunted my mothers dreams tickled me so much that I’d burst into peals of laughter with my brother which we’d later manage to smother, in an attempt to not wake up our drained mother.

My mother’s claim to fame was the letters she wrote: reams and pages of it to my grandmother who then lived away from us in India. I would always hear {and still do} my relatives exclaim in awe about her detailed descriptions and fluency of language. She is still the epitome of beautiful handwriting in our family. Funny thing is that she wrote my Gran in English who’d then have it translated by one of her nieces or nephews.
My Gran too is not far behind on the concocting- stories- front. The best part about having my Gran tell you a story, a real life incident or the episode of a show you missed is that by the time she tells you all of it there will be a lot of additions and deletions to suit her tastes. A lot more ‘masala’ would be the appropriate term. Even her emotions and reactions are always excessive to the action that triggers it in the first place. I always felt that she would have done very well as an actor. My dad thinks that if we’d sent her into movies or serials {and in Indian movies and serials emotional mothers always play an important role and capture the hearts of audiences} we’d have become millionaires by now. For my Gran everything has to have drama and be melodramatic; even emotions. Else life is never fun.
The best thing about mom was she was a book worm: an avid, voracious reader. I still remember her entire collection of books which I wasn’t meant to read since they ‘were books for big people’.

To oblige my curiosity she got me some of my own. It started with baby editions of Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, moving on to my favourite: - Enid Blyton. The first time I read her collection of short stories I felt I’d get a headache {I felt the same when I read Harry Potter for the first time, so you can imagine} but soon I was fast friends with gnomes, pixies, fairies, elves and friendly witches. I had images, of what I thought they’d look like burnt into my brain accompanied by my deductions of what the English landscape looked like. From then on there was no looking back and thus started my lifelong affair with books.

I’ve moved on since Enid Blyton and my African elephants and grown up enough to realize that not all mythical creatures actually fit my description of them and that the African elephants were a part of a series of stories my daddy learnt way back in school. Then somewhere along the lines I wrote a song, some short stories in school, and few bizarre essays about magical women in red who haunted empty woods riding a white horsed sleigh, and a rabbit who was given a secret treasure by a wood nymph {I am not sure if it was a wood nymph} and things like that and then came poetry…..

My father and mother are regular people doing regular 9-5 jobs, rearing two kids and trying to achieve the dreams most normal people have like buying a house, educating their children the best they can and being good human beings. My grandmother was one among the many young widows who raised three kids on their own and raised them well. There is nothing spectacular or exaggerated about them but for me they are raconteurs, authors and actors. They have something within them that shines through and reflects on me and the things I do or love to do. Maybe they never thought much of it and no one else did too because they were simple, unexciting behaviours. But it’s their ‘shining something’ that lighted up new avenues for me.

We all have that something we don’t think really matters but I think we should stick to doing things we love or things that come automatically and is second nature to us. Maybe it takes someone else to recognize the light that shines within us and find us special. Perhaps our little ‘shinings’ are there within us to provide light to others.

Yours, trying really hard to recollect what the African elephant’s name was.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Nothings

We were asked to write a story in our Communications skills lecture beginning with 'IF ONLY. Before I realized I had a list of if onlies that sounded maudlin and gloomy. As if having a professor hell-bent on making you write, and snooping around to check on you wasn't gloomy enough.

I decided to be positive and modified the list to the extent that now it’s completely different from the one it originally took root from. The only common factor is that it begins with ’I’. After all, its all about me.....;)

I like.......

I like it when it's still dark in the mornings when I am on my way to the college. Nothing beats the serenity and tranquility of early morning darkness when everyone and everything is lost deep in the lairs of slumber.

I like it when I can switch the AC on in the middle of winter and wrap myself up in a blanket and go to sleep like there is no tomorrow. Come to think of it I like it when I have access to the AC 365 days a year.

I like it when my hands are hennaed and we are having chicken for dinner since it invariably means my Dad or my brother will take turns feeding me since my Mom is a vegetarian.

I like it when I dread the walk to the railway station on a hot afternoon and suddenly the sun decides to hide behind a cloud.

I like it when I hope for a lecture to be cancelled and cancelled it is.

I like it when people spell and pronounce my name right. Don’t ask me why but I simply like it.

I like it when the watchman becomes beneficent and lets us have water for a few extra hours on a Sunday because it means I get to sing under the shower and not bother myself with a bucket and mug.

I like it when everyone has to go to work but I get to sleep late since I am the only one having a holiday.

I like it when everyone tries to put my baby cousin to sleep and she doesn’t but within five minutes of my trying the same she nods off. {The secret is my singing. Do I hear the Indian Idol guys at my door?}

I like it when an outing that my friends and I have been planning for months; actually materializes since most of our plans that includes me never do.

I like it when some stranger I see daily but don’t really know smiles at me and then I smile back. Before we know we are ‘smiley friends’.

I like the fact that I have come across a lot of horrible,
exacting, self centered, rude and disgusting people; and I like it even better that I get to spend a lot of time with them, since it helps me appreciate with full intensity the wonderful people who come into my life no matter for how short or long a duration.

I like it that my i-pod has songs belonging to 6 different languages and I can speak only 3 of them fluently. The rest I just sing along with.

I like the fact that nowadays exams mean not having to worry about Mathematics.

I like the fact that I completed two main public exams and only have 1 more left to go while my brother and cousins haven’t finished the first one yet.

I like my unusually large feet - makes shoe-shopping a breeze; always pick up the snazziest pair available in my size which is almost never.

I like it that I get to live in two countries simultaneously even though 300 out of 365 days it puts me in a conundrum that I find difficult to come out of.

I like it that I’ve never seen snow in real life. Just gives me another reason to visit a foreign country.

I like it when my students at my place of social work ask me why I didn’t turn up for a day or two although my initial response is to remind them who the teacher is.

I like surprises, good ones where I am the center of attraction. No wonder I hardly get any.

A cool breeze on a hot day is something I like. The same stands for a single rose that survives for days in just a glass of water.

When someone tells me that I am neither fat nor thin but am just perfect, I like it a lot.

I like playing ‘house’ with my little cousins. { I have a huge stack of cooking toys}

I like it when my brother makes a mistake in French when I  teach him since it means I get to smack him on the head.

I like it that the girl sitting next to me in the train is trying to look at this as I write it.

I like the smell of wet earth during the first monsoons before it turns into disease infested slush.

I like Josh Hartnett, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Channing Tatum, Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, The Jonas Brothers, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, George Clooney etc etc etc{ toooo many to puthere;)}........ 
But I LOVE my Father and my Brother.

I like it when people in my family get married since I get to dress up on the wedding.

When a random stranger’s angelic baby bestows a toothless, drooling, pure as love grin on me I like it a lot.

I like it when people I like address me by my nickname or as sugar, darling, sweetheart etc.

When my mom and dad are around me I like it a lot because then there is always someone to give me a hug and a kiss.

I like bikes. The ones I like look great in the showroom and not on my bank balance.

I like it that others love my hair.

I like writing and receiving letters and I like it when I am the first to call up my best friend to wish her at midnight on our birthday.

I like the sound of pen on paper, crunching of dry leaves, breathing of a sleeping baby and laughter full of mirth and glee.

I like the feeling of peace that overcomes me when I tell the truth, do the right thing, be kind to someone and when I write and when I pray.

I secretly like receiving gifts.

The fact that this is longer than I expected it to be and is proving to be inexhaustible is something I like.

I like the fact that this Valentine’s day I finally learnt to love myself.

Yours liking the fact that you’re reading this


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bangles all the way....

This happened in November last year. It was one of those days when I had to take a late train and not the empty, early morning train I am used to. A late train means rush hour. Rush hour means crowd. Crowded trains mean not getting a seat. It was exam time {shudder}. As usual the huge swarm of office going women who were scattered around the platform a few seconds back made a dash to the edge of the platform when the indicator indicated time left for arrival of train as 1 minute.

They looked like warriors: dressed in multi-coloured uniforms that ranged from jeans, t –shirts, skirts and formals to saris and salwar kameezes, armed with huge handbags, glares shading their eyes against the mid morning sun and earphones plugged right into their inner ears as though the music was the command from headquarters that’d help them survive this war. Entering local trains in Mumbai during rush hour IS mortal combat. Two rules to remember are: do or die {push the other person or jump into the running train}.
       We were waiting, crouched to spring and claw our way in when the chugging train would come: blaring its horn in announcement of its arrival. The moment of push came and I successfully squeezed my self into the train, overcoming life threatening hurdles of manicured and un-manicured nails, boulder sized bags and hands, watches and bracelets that would most likely get caught in my hair. I got stuck against the pole that has been very considerately placed right in the middle of the entry so that the aged and disabled can hang on it to it to make their way in and unsuspecting students like me can get caught with one arm around the pole.
 A huge mass of human bodies were ramming their way in and when one of them realised that I was the reason for the hold up, a mighty shove and a heartfelt expletive were hurled my way. Thanks to the same I made my way in and scampered towards the seats as if sitting atop one was the only thing I lived for. After I had successfully perched my self comfortably with my bag on my lap I realised I was sitting in the direction opposite to the motion of the train. One might think about what difference the direction my seat faces makes since after all I got a seat.
                        Matter of fact is that it does: sitting opposite to the direction in which the train moves means that when people hop in at other stations and cram themselves into the bogie up to the point where every inch of floor space is occupied by human feet and no room is left for air passage {since all space is blocked by various body parts of various human beings} results in my resembling a dish towel used to wipe the water off the cutlery used in a seven course meal during a wedding. It also means that the efforts I took in the morning to look like a human would all be in vain. 

With a sigh I decided to make the best of at least having a seat to sit on and got my text book out to do some last minute revision.
Luckily for me it was a relatively crowd-free train and my toes which were curled inwards anticipating some serious trampling relaxed and I decided I needed a break from half an hour of mugging up political theories relentlessly. I let the book rest on my lap and started idling away time staring at my co- passengers and listening to some interesting conversation that floated past me. I’d occasionally turn towards the window closest to me to take a look outside at Mother Nature but the lack of nature and more of garbage dumps urged me to look back into the compartment. I was busy looking at the hoard of people that blocked both the doorways at either side. I was secretly thanking God for only having to get down at the last stop which meant no rush at all. People getting down at places in the middle were brave and I respected them but I had no inclination whatsoever to exchange places with them, ever.
The train jolted to a halt at some station and suddenly the book on my lap slithered forward risking a fall on to the dust, leftovers and peanut shell infested train floor. A quick bend and swift hand movements saved my treasure trove of constitutional knowledge from becoming the germ hot spot of the century. After I straightened my self up and placed the book back on my lap I heard someone heave a great sigh of relief. I turned to my left only to realise it was the lady sitting next to me who had been holding her breath for the entire few seconds it took me to save my book. She looked so ecstatic at the save I had made I wouldn’t have been shocked had she stood up and done a victory jig because that’s how dirty the train floors are. A group of old ladies in front of me nodded their approval and some college going girls flashed me a smile that went ‘Go girl!’
The college going girls had their hands hennaed; right from the tip of their finger to their elbows. The intricate designs and the rich red-brown of the henna against their skin had me looking with envy at their hands for a considerable amount of time. Gradually I noticed that a number of women around me, some clutching on to the handles on top some smothered in a sea of human bodies, some chatting on their cell phones and some just sleeping off the 1 and a half hour journey had their hands hennaed. Few of them had their hennaed arms covered with red and white glass bangles with stone work on it. I smiled in realisation; it was November, the wedding season and most newly wedded brides from the North of India would sport red bangles for at least a month after their wedding and bangle free women with hennaed hands were the ones who must have attended a wedding in their family. Some were dressed in power suits and some in traditional saris and salwars. There were also the occasional jeans and t-shirt clad bride. It wasn’t atypical because you could find some of these women in little black dresses in discotheques and the bangles would still be there. That’s tradition for you.

We reached Bandra {a station} and majority of the crowd got off and a matronly lady in a purple sari entered the compartment. She had a few red glass bangles on either hand. I guessed her to be from one of the Northern states of India since it was typical for married woman from these parts to wear at least 1 red glass bangle on each wrist. During my train travels a useful bit of information I gleaned was that if you wanted to make a wild guess at which state a particular lady originated from you should check out the colour of the bangles{if she has any} on her arms. Maharashtrian ladies would wear green glass bangles. Bengali women would have a mix of maroon and white bangles and this entire theory held true only if the said ladies were of the Hindu faith.
The train jolted back into movement and a young woman in formal office attire of black trousers and a pale blue blouse standing near this lady in purple lost her balance toppled forward. The purple lady clutched the young girl’s arm and helped her regain her balance thus preventing her from falling face down on the train floor {shudder}. The young woman thanked her profusely and the lady in purple feeling satisfied wit her good deed for the day decided to lecture the young woman on train safety. ‘What a way to say welcome!’ I wondered. The woman began with how we must always clutch onto something like the handles on top or at least the walls and young people don’t understand how dangerous it is to stand on the doorway etc, etc, etc.  The poor young girl had no idea I supposed, that losing her balance and stumbling would result in receiving an earful till the very end of her journey. She had a look of forced interest and attention on her face because she didn’t want to upset the lady who saved her from being infected by a thousand pathogens.

I assumed the lady in purple to be one of those aunties you meet in the train; who’d go out of their way to make you comfortable and then lecture you on nothing in particular and my assumption was proved right. I empathised with the young woman but at the same time I was enjoying their one- sided exchange. Suddenly the old lady realised she had nothing more to talk about  after having ranted out all the safety rules the railway officials must have ever dreamed of .The lady in purple kept mum and I could almost hear the young woman mentally let out a profound sigh of relief. Her body language which was rigid until then became relaxed. After a blissful fifteen minutes of peace that she gifted the young woman, the purple lady realised that the young woman had her hands hennaed. A knowing smile came upon her lips and I clutched my book in fearful anticipation all the while thinking ‘Poor girl! She’s in for it again.’
The purple lady turned up to the young woman and said “It’s difficult to go back to work so soon, right? Almost too soon isn’t it? And what with all the dress codes you young corporate girls have to adhere too! How did your in-laws feel about you not wearing any bangles???? What can they say when office doesn’t allow, right? You need job for food to come home, na? At least you can keep the mehendi {henna}! They can’t ask you to remove that now, can they?” 
And she cackled in delight as if it was her personal victory over big firms across the nations who according to her weren’t respecting the traditions that this woman couldn’t get rid off the henna on her hands. The young lady looked stunned at the little verbal Niagara Falls that had flooded her a few seconds back.
     Once she regained composure she quietly asked “What bangles?”
 The lady in purple tutted disapproval at the young woman’s irreverence and said “Your wedding bangles Beta! How can you forget them?”
The girl looked like someone had accused her of being a kleptomaniac. 
“Married? Me! I haven’t finished my graduation yet!” she declared with indignation. It turned out that she was a management student who had a seminar that day and so she was dressed in formals.
  The purple lady was purplexed but concealed her confusion with an awkward smile and said “Your hands have henna and it’s the wedding season so….”
The girl who had had enough of the purple lady’s inquisition by now replied in a matter of fact manner “It was Eid yesterday and I hennaed my hands like most Muslim girls do on Eid.”
 I was trying to laugh quietly and it hurt. It hurt because I wanted to laugh out loud but couldn’t. Bottling up animated laughter within a human body results in bruised ribs and holding your sides tight with your arms in an attempt to stifle laughter only adds to the soreness. Only in India could you confuse yourself with a Hindu North Indian bride and a Muslim student. Talk about unity in diversity. I didn’t hear a squeak from the purple lady till the end of the journey. But I did hear a squeak from the alarm in my mobile which informed me I had exactly an hour till my political science paper and I still had half my portion to revise.

Yours, from Mumbai - the melting pot of cultures in Incredible India