Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moving up the tree and other stories

Story 1:

I was lounging at the bottom of my tree when I heard about the promotion. Now I watch my nephew's cherubic fists fight imaginary spectres and his sleepy, grey eyes, I feel proud.Maybe hanging on the branches is kinda better than sitting at the bottom of the trunk.

Story 2:

I feel angry and helpless with myself and the world. My arm is in an sling and I cannot get up without help. I am dependent on others and I feel frustrated.

Story 3:

Everything is an uproar. The well-oiled machine has been thrown off by the cog that has stopped working. The machine creaks and compains and bursts out in sporadic fits of anger.

Story 4:

The world is a headless chicken. I don't agree with those in charge and they ask me if I know English. Huh.

Story 5:

The world is old and cold and pretty. Leaves fall off the tall lime trees that line the road. There is nothing more tranquil, more beautiful. I'm at peace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tender is the night

I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald after The Great Gatsby. The book is an expression of torrid emotions that takes you to sublime heights and drags you down to the depths of despair, like all good books should.

(I do not own the picture. I have sponged off the blog 'Books to the ceiling')

It is said that Tender is the Night, one of Scott's last books reflects his life. And indeed it does.

Tender is the Night is the story of Dick, his wife Nicole and an American actress, Rosemary. The plot is set on the French Riviera, but it moves through Switzerland and US as the story progresses.

Fitzgerald's prose is fluid, evocative and graceful. It is succinct but highly expressive. He is nostalgic but cynical and there ar cracks in his rosy spectacles.

As for the book, the characters are highly complex. The novel is divided into three books. The first completely baffled me. I could not understand the motives behind the actions of the characters. They surprised me, I criticized them for being immature and impetuous. They behaved in a manner that was plastic and their emotions were largely superficial. The second book revealed the story of Dick and Nicole. They are a glamorous couple who seem to be made out of gold and they attract a variety of people towards them. But underneath the sheen, there is a deep fragmentation and tension that pervades their relationship. They look unassailable as a couple, but as individuals, both are quite vulnearable. Book three is conciliatory in nature and try as you might, you being to understand their characters and their motivations.

(Again, I don't own the image.)

I did not treat the book with the same enthusiasm as I did Tess. Though both moved me, I felt sympathetic to Tess' plight more than I did to Dick, Rosemary or Nicole. Long intervals between successive readings left me more indifferent to the book than I could have imagined. But I did find one truth that may be universal in nature. It will apply to every single person - it's the realisation when you read beyond the ordinary signs and start to interpret the symbols in your life -

"I thought I lived on Sesame Street.
But I turned out to be a character from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Obituary

Entry for
The Taj Conspiracy Flash Fiction Contest

I could never forget the whisper of the scarlet silk when it fell from her shoulders. It would slide down in a graceful arc, loathe to part with the elegant line of her back. I would follow the curve of her spine with my finger. A tattoo of a lotus in bloom marred the turn of her shoulder and I was glad for it, because it meant she wasn’t perfect, ethereal but importantly, she was here, she was mine. Our days would be filled with art and poetry. She wrote impassioned, if not mediocre verses on the injustice of the world and I painted landscapes that would be hung up as impersonal sentinels of hotel hallways. She would recite from the Les Fleurs du Mal and talk in a rhetoric that inflamed and instigated. I was certain that I could change the world with her. Three years after we first met, we went to Taj Mahal. She breathed in the tangy odour of the summer air, chafed and burned and complained about the world. I talked about the history and the polity of India, but nothing worked. At the bottom of the world’s most majestic monument to love, she left me with eyes full of sorrow and tears trickling down the curve of her cheek. The tall, marble domes looked down with indifferent regard as I broke down and cried. I was haunted by a sense of inability to attain the artistic merits she aspired to.The world became a bleak place and the fumes of opium funded dreams of apocalypse in the nights. She had bound me to her in ways more mysterious than love and I would wake up, sweating, dreaming of arched necks and flashing eyes. She wasn’t mine, but she was there in the world and I lived because of it. And I would visit Taj years after she left me on those steps. It consumed my desires. I burned the oil night after night, searching what went wrong only to end up in the same place, looking in vain for the tears she shed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living with History

I love trekking. This Sunday's excursion took me to 'Ghanagad'. It is about an hour  from Lonavla. It was rarely used for actual war, but it has strategic importance. Shivaji Maharaj lost it to the Mughals in the Treaty of Purandar, but it was later reclaimed.

The excursion entails an hour-long hike to the base and then it takes another hour (or more) to reach the top. The trek to the base of the bale-killa is beautiful. The pathway winds through a forest of sorts. The tall trees with leafy canopies, abundant ferns, wind rushing through the leaves and the sound of little beings scuttling away as you move forward makes for a wonderful trek.I would advise seeking local help if you want to go to the top, because the last bit is a little arduous. It involves a ladder and grasping at the cable nailed to the stone facade. There is little of note on the top, but you can see Sarasgad and Sudhagad.

Two decrepit buruj make up for what once must have been a bale-killa. At the bottom of the bale-killa are two caves.

Near the caves, it appears as that a part of the cliff has broken, but it has remained on the mountain, instead of rolling down.

We lunched behind this rock, sheltered from the wind and feeling mysterious and wonderful.

I love trekking because it syncs me with history. I feel wonderful, imagining the rock I steeped on once must have been trod on by the horse of a great warrior or even a simple soldier. I brought back withered flowers (tucked by the rest of the girls in my hair when I hadn't been paying attention), a beautiful leaf which has withered so that only the veins remain (a lucky find) and many memories.

Pune is alive

A city is a living being, of either sex with the peculiar characteristics accredited by years of breathing and expanding. Delhi is a socialite with a 'Government husband'. She hides herself behind the veneer of sophistication. But often at unguarded moments, the face falls to reveal that underneath the magnanimity and laughter, there is savagery. Kolkata is a coquettish woman wearing the traditional red and white sari, but she has dark flashing eyes that are full of passion.

What can I say about Pune? He is a man with the puneri pagadi perched on his head, caustic in speech and acerbic in tone. He likes new things but clings firmly to the old, and moves seamlessly within all walks of life.

Pune breathes. It lives. When I am in the 'gav' area, I look at the buildings - some run down and derelict, some well-kept, but most bearing the ties to an era long gone. The carved balconies and the wide wooden windows are still beautiful. On a quiet morning, one can imagine the Peshwas to have strolled through the same streets. Moving away, it is difficult to know that you are in the same city. The same is true of every city, of course. Nearly twenty five years ago, 'Kothrud' consisted of lush green farms. On the edge of one of the farms was a small temple. Today, Kothrud is one of the fastest developing areas and the temple has morphed into a huge complex on top of a hill in Kothrud.

I have always felt that the epicentre of a city is relative. For me, it is undoubtedly the gav. I do not claim thorough knowledge of the intricacies of the area. In fact, I often depend on well meaning passers-by for direction when the small lanes befuddle me. On bad days, just a single typical puneri obscenity ,issued by an innocuous-looking 'grandfather' when a rickshaw-wala crosses him, is enough to put a smile on my face.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tess of D'Urbervilles

It has been a long while since a book has tortured me.
Pride and Prejudice evokes the same warmth in me as the sight of an old friend and the well-read first line of the book,

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife"

 makes me smile. I have empathised with Lizzy Bennet and I often identify myself with her.

But I have never felt tortured by the ebb and fall of her emotions. I like to think that I share her scintillating wit (:D) and become Elizabeth at times, and never do I feel that I am outsider in her world. I live in Meryton, I take tea at Pemberly and I'm a fly on the wall - or a bee in the bonnet as the case maybe - in Pride and Prejudice.

I began reading Tess of D'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy) precisely two days ago. Between the compulsory breaks for sleep, lunch, dinner (my mother abhors the sight of a book on my lap as I try to shovel food down so I may read unhindered) and my Spanish class, I have had my nose stuck in the book.

The whole thing is a tragedy, really. It is a test to see how far Tess Dubreyfield will go before she is broken forever. Seduction by one man, rejection by another, unwanted beauty and unwanted child, hopeless love and longing, unexplained separations, poverty, heartbreak, stolen moments of happiness and death constitutes the brief summary of Tess' life. People let her down often and she is a wronged, persecuted woman influenced by the religious and moral constraints of the society.

Though an ocean and several decades separate them, Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne) and Tess have remarkable similarity. More on that later.

Alec D'Urberville and Angel Clare are not men of weak mind or constitution, but I find them weak all the same. One cannot resist the temptation of an innocent and the other cannot forgive a transgression. Alec's changing nature is visible throughout the book. He is first a predator who destroys Tess' life by seducing her. She has too much pride to continue being his mistress, a diversion and though she hates him, she comes to accept the situation. Her family is of no help at all. Her father is a drunkard who prefers to bask in glory of his ancestors instead of working and her mother has the temperament of an overgrown child but hides astonishing depths. As she moves on with her life, Angel Clare appears.

 I can see her fascination with him. He is of the rationalist bend of mind. He is an intellectual who does not shy from hard work (And isn't that the dream, really?)

He possess both brain and brawn, but far more importantly, he falls in love with Tess.

He wears down her reluctance and they get married. After Angel admits to his own faults, she confesses her sin - though I doubt it can be classified as 'her' sin, considering that Alec was the one who seduced her. But due to the patriarchal, dogmatic society, she is bound by guilt and shame of 'her' sin.  

Angel abandons her. This double standard vexed me to no end and for that, I hated Angel Clare. At least Alec is honest in his own way - he 'wants' her and makes no promises of legitimacy of the union. Angel desires Tess too and he allows her to dream, but snatches away all her hopes by running off. Living in a religious household it is understandable that Angel has ideas of morality that are unchanged despite his exposure to modern philosophers.

When I decided to delve in the world of classics, I was unprepared to face the extent of subjugation of women by men. In both Tess and The Scarlet Letter, I was disturbed by the misfortunes of these two women who were born before their time. Tess considers herself below Angel, despite his sins being the same as hers. Even Hester is of the opinion that the Reverend is all that is pure and worthy, but he redeems himself in my eyes due to his tormented conscience. 

In Tess of D'Urbervilles, Angel Clare comes back, seeking Tess, but it's far too late and she has now accepted the position of Alec's mistress.

Alec is not a steady character. It came as a shock to me that he becomes a preacher. His religious zeal is almost equivalent to his previous enthusiasm for debauchery. And in both the situations, he is on the right side of the society while Tess is first a fallen woman and then a deserted wife. His rabid love for her is no surprise. He is disturbed by her sight and her misfortunes. The same misfortunes alleviate Tess' beauty. Once a plaything of his, she is now untouchable, but hardly untainted and it infuriates him. In a way, he blames her for his love - because of her beauty, because of her fortitude, manner and personality, he desires her. 

He loves her and his grudging respect for her is apparent in the undercurrents of their conversations, but he is unaware of it himself. She 'cures' him of his religious mania and he pursues her determinedly.

Try as they might, neither Angel nor Alec can take away the purity of her character. They both wrong her in all the ways a woman can be wronged, but her unwavering love for Angel, disgust for Alec are constant. Her quiet dignity and strength remain with her throughout the book.

In Tess of D'Urbervilles, I was an outsider, looking into Tess' life. There was pity for her, but no empathy. Her constant love for Angel confounds me. How can a man treat the woman he loves so abominably? And how can she go on loving him?

"Men are too often harsh with the women they love or have loved; women with men."

The end of the novel is not entirely unexpected. One can hardly expect a tumultuous life such as Tess' to end in a picket fenced, white-washed cottage with 'The End' in cursive at the bottom of the picture. She dies.

Oh yes, she dies.

She wishes for death throughout the novel and she attains it in the end. Not by her own hand, as I expected, but at the hands of the Law.

 The dramatic arches of Tess are unparalleled. Of all the books I have read in the 19 years of my life, Tess of D'Urbervilles falls and rises with every page and drives one to the depths of despair as Tess faces one misfortune of the other. The works of creativity that can challenge the drama of Tess are daytime soap operas, but they hardly have Hardy's finesse.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The New Kid on the Block

Oh no, he's not yet gained entry to the South Block, or the North for that matter, but he has made a start.

Arvind Kejriwal. 

I'm utterly fascinated by the man. The Times Crest recently profiled him and the different articles made him more puzzling to the common man. He looks ordinary, yet has the temerity to challenge the biggest leaders and the erstwhile son-in-law of the nation.

God be with him. What more can one say?

(Image courtesy of TOI)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pune and all its idiosyncrasies/Birthday

So I turned 19 today. No big deal, right?

Yesterday, I was feeling extremely melanchony, moping around, and a sense of disquiet pervaded my world. I was bored, in short. I had not done the regular birthday things, you know - tons of shopping, jabbering away with friends and daydreaming about the hot guy that I'd seen in the canteen.

So anyway, I was bored. This morning, my friends publicly embarrassed me by singing Happy Birthday at the top of their voices in the canteen, that too in front of the hot guy! But it was fun. They know my obsession about bags and their gifts sent me into tizzies of pleasure.

But when I was going home, I saw an old man on a bicycle and there was something pinned to his back that made me hoot with laughter. It literally made my day and I fell in love with Pune all over again. Yeah, I know the people seem mean, sarcastic and rude. But they're also witty and funny and have an unparalled creative flair for signposts.

Oh yeah.

So what was written on that man's back? 'ऐकायला कमी येतं लक्ष द्या !'

(Can't hear well, pay attention.)

God, I love Pune!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I have an almost violent love for FC. Now never forget that I am utterly loyal and committed to JPP, but FC has managed to win me over as well.
There are moments when I hate FC with the same passion, but the good things outweigh all its vices.
First off, the buildings and the campus. In a word, FC is BEAUTIFUL. There are no words for those feelings that swell up in your heart when you're sitting on the stone steps, or in Kimaya and the sky is overcast, the wind rushes through the trees and some lonely leaves drop down on your book. You look up, and the world is old, verdant and beautiful and you feel peace and contentment.

One of the best things about FC? It's filmy. It's so so so so filmy that even Bollywood may pale in in the comparison. All right, I exaggerate, but FC comes closest to those colleges that you see in the movies.

There is the same easy banter on basketball court and geeks loitering around the campus, the cliques and the rivalries. The stares from the librarian when you talk much too loudly in the reading hall. The spectacular affairs and break ups that are the talk of the campus. And most importantly, those long haired musicians strumming a guitar with a crowd swaying- get this, swaying - to the music. What more do you want?

Friday, August 3, 2012

5: Korean Dramas

And I'm not lying. I have watched so many Korean drams in tenth grade and after that it's hard to count.

But here are my favourite five:

1. Boys over Flowers

Four gorgeous, rich guys, one girl whose family can barely make ends meet.  The stubbornest, most arrogant guy Junpyo and the soft spoken, kind Jihu - whom will Jandi choose?

2. Matchmaker's lover

What happens when a matchmaker dates a divorce lawyer?
And what if...he happens to be the one handling her parent's divorce?

3. Worlds Within

Two strong, individualistic directors with a history clash in a battle of wills and face insurmountable odds. Will love conquer all?

4. The Iron Empress

Based on the life of the Empress Cheon Chu, the drama deals with the Empress and battles - both personal and those on the fields.

5. Cooking up romance

Set in a restuarant selling beef soup, the drama revolves around the lives of the characters who work and struggle through life to find love and happiness.

5: English series

I'm not going to classify them as dramas or anything, but 5 of the most exciting things I've watched on television:

1. The River

I know you were expecting something else, but try watching The River at the 11:00 pm slot and you'll know what I mean.

2. How I met Your Mother

I'm more of a HIMYM kinda gal than a Friends one.

3. Castle

Do I need to say anything?

4.  Supernatural

I'm a Dean-girl than Sam, mind you!

Yeah, and I'm crazy about Castiel!

5. The Mentalist

Oh, Jane!

Honourable mentions:

Melissa and Joey, Bones, Lie to Me, Cougar Town

What Team Anna Did

Form a political Party.
Oh yeah.

Responses that were expressed in my vicinity or on the tv:
1.  **#%$^$%
2. (Congress/BJP) आता कसा सापडला गडी ! (Gotcha!)
3. me: Yay!

So I think it merits of one of my rare bursts of unhindered joy that is expressed though the abandon of a 'yay'.

The question is why.

1. We need cleaner politics. As the Prinipal of my school used to say, "Vote for a better goonda than not voting at all." Not that Team Anna is a goonda. (What sacrilege!)

2. Alternatives to the traditional candidates. (Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena, MaNaSe, Rashtrawadi Congress...Yawn!)

3. Lokpal Bill (in theory)

I made maggi a few hours ago. It was overcooked and underspiced. But looking at Mr. Kejriwal's face today, it took every once of will power not to send him some. Thank god he broke the fast...India cannot do without him, not now.

(This picture was taken days ago. He looks much, much worse.)

Okay, so I can quit worrying about him wasting away on a fast. So that's that.

And yeah, I'm supporting this new political party. Because it will want to know what I have to say, more than any other political alternative did. And being of the loquacious turn, it's an opportunity that I'm going to seize.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5: New Marathi Movies

This is the first of my '5' posts, which will list 5 'top' objects in the topic of the post. 

 In this case, they are the new Marathi movies. 

Marathi cinema has come of age from the turn of the century, and it is all too apparent in these 5 movies that movies that present the slice of the decade:

1. Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai

Is it any wonder that my favorite Marathi movie tops the list?

Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai, starring Mukta Barve and Swapnil Joshi, is a series of twists and turns on a single day in Pune.

Love the two songs : Kadhi tu and Ka Kalena.

Best song:

Kadhi tu

2. Natrang

Atul Kulkarni is one of the most prolific actors that I have ever seen. In this movie, he takes on two diametrically opposite roles, playing the lead character in two very different stages in life and his mad passion for 'tamasha'. If not for anything else, it is a must watch for Atul Kulkarni.

Best song:

Apsara ali

3. Harishchandrachi Factory

How did cinema come to India?

This movie is the answer.

At some point, you expect the angst, but when it doesn't come, it makes you feel so satisfied and happy. A bright take on the life of Dadasaheb Phalke and the origin of the film industry in India.

Background score is truly beautiful!

 4. Deool

Director: Umesh Kulkarni

I've met him only once in my life and it was an experience in treasure. (For his reference, I was the girl in the hospitality team with her mouth open the entire time she was by his side when he came to a program in her college)

I haven't watched Vihir, but after watching this movie and Valu, I'm convinced of his prowess and genius. And he's pretty cute. Those curls and all. So, yeah.

How does a village change? What happens when devotion is lost in the clamour of commercialization? Village politics, religion and devotion mix in this rural drama.

Best song:

Deva tula shodhu kutha

 5. Pak Pak Pakaak

A village boy, Chiklu, whose presence is the synonym for trouble, his spinster friend (more of a harridan than a spinster), a mysterious presence in the nearby jungle.

Pak Pak Pakaak brings out the elements of village life and its humour. It is simply a delight.

Nana Patekar as awesome as always, the beautiful, dusky Narayani Shasti (wherever did she go?) and the child actor Saksham Mone make a superb trio in this comedy.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hang in there, Mr. Kejriwal!

There is something about Arvind Kejriwal that makes you sit up and take notice.

It isn't the way he looks. Pleasant and just somewhere in between. Not the way he dresses, because his clothes resemble that of half the adult, middle class working population.

I feel it's all in the manner he behaves. It's decisive.

He isn't like Arjun to dither on the battle field. He's rather like Krishna, to charioteer the hero and provide him with the necessary support - moral and divine. And that is precisely the thing that he's doing in the JanLokpal Bill movement.

A few days ago, the news reports were inundated with the status of his falling blood sugar and his diabetes. On the fifth day of the fast, he's still holding on, making speeches and looking stern.

Hang in there, Mr. Kejriwal!

We'll get the Lokpal Bill yet. 

Why the 'movement' isn't picking up pace in 2012

The months of July and August 2011 were a good time to be alive in India. For a generation which had grown up listening to the tales of the struggle for Independence, and the movement in the 1970s, the Jan-Lokpal Bill movement was like a dream come true.

Lokpal is 'ombudsman', and the Bill to appoint such a body has been pending in the Parliament for more than fourty years. In December 2010 the issue came to forefront when a group of activists criticized the Government's draft, and made demand for a stronger, more responsible Lokpal body. They drafted an alternative version of the bill, and called it 'Jan-Lokpal' Bill. And what happened in the months of July, August and those following it was nothing short of a political drama. There were allegations and counter allegations, and fasts unto death, and meetings between the activists (christened as Team Anna by the media after the leader of the movement, Anna Hazare). But the most striking thing about the movement was the presence of people in the streets. People, belonging to virtually every part of the demographic descended on the streets across the country.

But despite the government's assurance, the Bill fell through, and the draft prepared by the government was still not to the liking of Team Anna. They renewed their fast-onto—death stance on 25th July 2012. But the momentum is simply not there and the entire movement seems to lack the public favour.

According to me, here are the top five reasons why:

1. Too many issues, too little time

Instead of narrowing down on 'Corruption', Team Anna tackled a variety of issues – first the anti-Congress stance, followed by the demand for resignation of corrupt ministers. Instead of being a movement that demanded a Lokpal Bill, it turned into a movement that demanded general reform. While a movement like that is admirable, it will be slow to progress and lack public appeal.

2. The 'wow' factor

While many celebrities endorsed the movement and there was considerable mudslinging in the political arena last year, this year's movement seems to be lacking that factor. Congress (which had turned into a headless chicken during the course of the movement the previous year) has maintained an almost dignified stance, refusing to comment with the flippancy apparent in the past.

3. Team Anna

The year has done much to show the crack (whether fabricated, or true) in Team Anna. The group consists of activists who have diverse ideologies and methods of functioning. To expect them to behave in a coherent manner is rather presumptuous, but one could at least expect some kind of consistency. The media has been steadily chipping away at the images of the individuals, leading to further disillusionment.

4. Scams that came out

The movement kick-started in the wake of scams of epic proportions. While making a considerable dent to the exchequer, they served as a wake up call for both, the public and the government. The top bosses were involved in all the scams and it signaled that there was something seriously wrong somewhere. 2012 did not provide any staggering scams or scandals, contributing to the lack of the general interest.

5. Media that stood by

If anyone upheld the movement last year, it was the media. However, as the year progressed, the media became severely critical – and unjustly so. If the movement is to succeed this year, we need a fiercely involved media. And after doing the rounds of the news channels right now, I some how doubt it. But being eternally optimistic, I hope the media and the people come out in the favour of Team Anna. 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Late mornings on the campus

Today was a good day to be alive.

After the lecture was over, we sat on the stone steps of one of the buildings in college. The sky was leaden, and there was just a little nip in the air - not enough to make you reach for a sweater, but that kind, which is quite pleasurable when paired with a cup of tea.

And so we sat for hours (it seemed so, at least) talking and laughing, till all my friends disappeared one by one. I was the only one left - under the overcast sky and the slight wind - and I read a book.

It was beautiful. Not the book, the feeling.

The book was for the English class (which I bunked, but that isn't the point here, is it?) but I don't remember much of what I read. What I remember is the people passing by, the small drops of rain on my skin and the scent of the soil in the air.

It indeed was a good day to be alive.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


You have to know that Sinhagad is to Pune, what pani is to pani puri.

Earlier known as 'Kondhana', the fort was renamed as 'Sinhagad' after Shivaji Maharaj's troops captured it. One of his trusted men - Tanaji Malusare, was killed in the battle, prompting the words, 'We got the fort, but lost the Lion', and hence it was renamed as Sinhagad (Lion-fort) to commemorate Tanaji.


A friend called me up on Friday, wondering if I was interested in a trek to Sinhagad on Monday. I was reclining on the couch, reading 'The Scarlet Letter', as Graham Norton embarrassed the hell out of his guests on the television. I cleared my throat, looked at my calendar and said, "Okay, I guess" (What she didn't need to know was that I was doing the macarena and cartwheels inside...)

We decided to meet up at the Swargate bus station at 5 a.m. and I kissed my DIo goodbye and asked her to be safe as I parked her in the Swargate parking lot. We finally boarded a bus to Sinhagad after a long wait at the stop. I felt like one of those crazy bouncing balls I used to play with when I was a child, as the bus braved on through potholes and irregular speed-brakers

Now, if it had been a normal day, we'd have reached the foothills of Sinhagad without any further ado. But nah, it was torture-Pooja-day, so the bus had to hit a tum-tum and of course, we had to wait till the next bus came. That meant we had to trek in the sun, something we'd tried to avoid (hence the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.)

Two people from our group decided to get a trax that would deposit them to the fort, while the rest of us trekked. And so we started the slow journey upwards with the early morning sun threatening to burn our skins off. Despite the frequent stops for water, I still managed to feel dehydrated. And as soon as we reached mid-way, my phone network bid me goodbye.

We made a halt for a glass of limbu-serbat and chatted up the woman who owned the stall. Just then, Shruti made a statement which confirmed that this was not my day - the trax were not running the route today, so the two ex-trekkers were now stranded at the base of the fort.

Just our luck, I tell you.

Despite that, we plodded on. It was close to 8:30 now, and the sun seemed a bit too harsh than on most days. Rivulets of sweat were streaming down my neck and I closed my eyes and dreamt of a tub full of ice, and cold serbat, and ice cream. Dejected and worried about our friends, we walked the last arduous steps and plonked on the protective wall that lines the road.

Just then, a trax came barelling up the road, with the two girls waving out of the window and laughing at us.

And finally, we reached the fort and threw ourselves under the lush shade of a tree. The rest of the morning was spent in laughter (I heard the most hilarious tales that are making me laugh as I write this) and napping.

We walked over to Kalyan darwaza

and without even realising it, I was singing 'Kadhi tu' (that's the effect movies have on us!)

(as you may have guessed, I'm crazy about this movie...but then again, who isn't?)

Sinhagad = dahi, tak, kanda bhaji, pithla bhakri

So we stuffed ourselves full of kanda bhaji

pithla-bhakri and dahi

And finally, it was time to undertake the downhill journey. The weather was oddly stifling, and the sun beat down upon us.

But my troubles were far from over. I kept slipping. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I slipped over the rocks and the dry soil(awww fuuuu-dhad-dhad-dhad-dhad-dhad-aggga aaai gaaa....)

We were halfway down when it started to rain. The first rain of the year! The smell of wet soil rose in the air and I drooled over it, greedily stuffing it in my lungs and saying 'brain, you better remember this beautiful smell, because ain't never gonna smell anything like it!'

The rest of the trek was quite okay. We reached the bus stop to find that there were twenty minutes to the next bus, and dark clouds gathered overhead, rumbling and thundering like the belly of an instantiated beast.

We boarded the bus, and the clouds kept gathering and when we got down at Swargate the sky had darkened and it looked like it was late in the evening, even though my watch showed ten past five.

Just as we bounded to the parking lot, big drops of rain began to splatter on the road, and within a minute, we were dripping wet. The rain raged and continued and there was hail (oh, yeah) and my journey home was torturous. The hail hit my arms and face with a force that left my skin stinging, and despite taking shade twice, the rains showed no signs of abating. I rode home nevertheless.

 My sister opened the door and stifled a smile. I looked like a drowned rat. Maybe worse.

She made me some coffee. We sat on the terrace, watching the rain fall, and the smell of the soil and coffee intermingled, and then the day was perfect than I had ever hoped it to be.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Green vinyl sofas and antiseptic smell

The light was blinding me, and involuntarily, I closed my eyes. She held a long shiny instrument in her hand, behind her plain sterile mask, I could have sworn that she was grinning.

In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if she had two long incisors too that glinted in the dark.

Or maybe not.

Her assistant shoved a long tube in my mouth that robbed me of the ability to speak, and by that time, I was truly terrified. In order to gain some sort of moral support, I looked over at my father (I'm still a child even though I may be eighteen!) but he was flicking through a gardening magazine.

Fathers, I tell you.

The assistant loomed over me and the single squeak of dissent that I emitted did not seem to register with either of them. With a satisfied smirk, he moved away.

I shut my eyes, and as the whirring contraption drew near, my hands grabbed my own jeans in an effort to brave it out and not run away screaming bloody murder.
The ordeal lasted for half an hour and by the end of it, I was too tired to protest anymore.

Her assistant shut the light, and pushed away the evil arm of the chair. I jumped out, a bit unsteady on my feet.

She looked over at me and said, "You need to take better care of your teeth." (It was bound to happen. I am irrevocably in love with choclates, ice cream and pani puri.)

I smiled, showing off the newly-filled cavity and said 'Thank you!' and before she could ask me to confirm my next appointment at the desk, I hightailed it out of there.

It would have worked, had I been alone.

But my Father went over to the desk and got me an appointment for Monday. He read magazine the entire time, took another appointment(I mean, come on!)and sat behind me as I rode the bike because his arms were aching. He did offer me ice cream, I guess, a tradition from when I was ten, but I was still too miffed so I refused.

So on Monday, I'll be sitting on those green vinyl sofas, amidst howling children and greying geriatrics who have come for their dentures, waiting for my turn and hoping to get over the worst as soon as possible.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Every Day You Play

Pablo Neruda has to be one of the most prolific poets of the century. The last line of this particular poem makes me want to turn into a cloud and float away in sheer delight.
Hope you enjoy this poem.

Every Day You Play
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.
The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda

Only a week

My exams came to an end on last Monday and I let out a big whoop of joy.

There is untainted joy in eating icecream and pani puri, waching your best friend fall on her bum, and the best of all, when exams end. It's sheer relief and you can shout all you  want and nobody will utter a single word against you.

I discovered early on, that to intensify this joy, you have to study hard. There's not any other option. Because you know, you'll look up from a particularly hard chapter and see your brother in front of the TV and say to yourself in a voice worthy of all Bond villains, 'Someday, it'll be my turn.'

I console myself with thoughts of long, languid days spent lying on the floor reading one book after another, with a secret delight that my mom won't be able to shout at me for that because my exams are over! I'll stay up until three watching television and when my sister will stumble out for a glass of water, she'll only glare at me and not say a word as my exams are over!

 It's exactly been a week. I have read 3 books (The Christmas Thief, Don't Look Down, Collected works of O.Henry ) and many episodes of the usual fare (Supernatural, How I met your mother, Friends, Cougar Town, The River) and today, I'm bored.

I think I'll take a mid-morning nap (just because I can!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

March madness

March is a really unfortunate month for me.
The exams are steadily drawing near and all I want to do is not study. Happens to the best of us, I guess.

I blame the weather, really! January and February are too frigid and cold, April and May are hot and sweaty...but March - it's perfect.

It's not too hot, nor too cold, and the sky is a perfect never-ending blue. The birds are chirping, and there is laughter, and long, languid evenings spent out on the terrace with the family. The madness of March hits me out of the blue, and makes crave ice cream, and long drives, pani puri and the company of friends, and makes me want to fall in love with a person, a serial, a book, or a song.

It makes me want to paint (though I haven't lifted a brush for the last 3 years), and sing (my music teacher from school liked me better with my mouth shut) and write (even though the exams are drawing near) and do all sorts of wonderful crazy things.

But I can't. I have to pull out my text books and read.

March is wasted on fools like me.

This year's colours

Rangapanchmi just passed me by.

This year, I was one of those sad, desolate faces hanging around by the window, spying on the people playing colours in the street below. I got up as usual, and dragged my economics text book on the table, and spent ten solid minutes looking up at the sky. And then there were shouts and giggles, and of course I had to investigate the source (rather than accept the inevitable and read about Planning in India). There was a small group of people in varying shades of maroon, blue, green and yellow on the street and were shrieking with laughter as they drenched each other and threw colours.

I will not deny it. I felt a twinge of jealousy. Was it really so bad, that I was cooped up in the house on a glorious March morning, while all my friends from school and my sister were off gallivanting with their friends from college. It is understandable, really, and I do want to be all mature and grown up about it, but sometimes, I feel like an outsider.

They go on and on about something from engineering mechanics or graphics, and I sit beside them silently, counting the minutes till they exhaust the topic. And move on the physics.  The worst part is they don't seem to understand at all.

I know what I should have done on rangapanchmi. I should have filled up balloons with water and pelted them at the people on the street - there is no fun like that, is it? Afterall, everyone enjoys water balloons, especially if one doesn't have to fill them up!

But I didn't and Rangpanchmi (Dhooliwad) was spent over the economics textbook.

May this Rangpanchmi bring joy and drama to your life (not the heartbreaking, 3-times-close-up-wala, but the drama of real life like surprises and delights)!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day

It's such a cliche.

Year in and year out, it's the same old routine. The same red roses (at bloody high prices), cute teddy bears and all sorts of useless, fluffy items that won't see the light of the day in normal circumstances. The red pillows, perfumes, diamond necklaces and the strings of pearls aren't that important in retrospect - it's the stories.

The stories of how people meet and fall in love, tide over their differences and sometimes succumb, fail to bridge the gap, and part with only the memories and the occasional gift that was left behind after the break up. But sometimes, there is harmony and understanding, maybe the circumstances are favourable and it becomes the prologue to the 'real story', the point where all our Bollywood movies like to end and leave the details of the conjugal life to our imagination.

This year, I was home for Valentine's Day (kokam sherbet at the canteen had it's revenge, I guess) and I flicked my economics notes, and watched chick-flicks all day.

They have a formula that's not that secret, and are just too predictable - harried career guy/girl, the other person teaches them how to live, throw in some evil friends/sisters/mothers/mother-in-laws/exes and a lie, and you're set.

But we do watch them, don't we?

It's the promise of a happy ending which draws me to fluff. Like all good Indians, the part of the story I am most interested in is the ending. I read somewhere that cultures with a long history (which unavoidably have a lot of suffering) are more interested in 'how it ends' rather than 'how it happens'. Just observe. How many Bollywood flicks you know have a sad ending? The hero and the heroine have to fall in love, have to vanquish evil, get married (that's fairly compulsory) , and live happily ever after. It's changing though(and that makes me unaccountably sad), many Bollywood movies have the death of a significant character nowadays - take Agneepath, for instance - everyone dies! Bah.

Back to the point, the happy ending is a full stop to a good story. It may be the marriage of the two, or the birth of a child, but it is a joyous occasion that puts a smile on your face, long after you exit the theater or switch the television off, or put the book down with a sigh.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Book

The Book


It was already written and he didn't like that fact. He turned the pages - he was fond of beautiful, white pages from the snow of Himalayas and the foam of the Arabian sea. And the ink of the soil that was turned and overturned, year after year.

He didn't decide it. Brought into the world by a pair of lovers like any other, he didn't have any say in it. He was here, breathing and blinking, alive. And there was nothing he could do about it.


His was a triangle in the jungle of circles and pale green leaves on the staid, old pool. He sang of stone butterflies and waxen bees who drank from the honey of thoughts. He walked in squares and on the lines his ancestors had painted. He often stood on those, bucket and mop in hand. They weren't erased and the drops from his mop went running ahead of time.


He stood with infinite patience that the centuries had ingrained into his collective imagination. He wavered on the edge of light and dark, and found a small earthen lamp near his feet. But his time was near and he watched the wind blow it away as he stepped across.


This time, he didn't listen.

He brought his own ink and brush and overwrote his book.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Okay, so.

Okay, so Romance.

It's such a quintessential topic, isn't it? I mean, every time you turn your back and - whoa! there is a guy and a girl (or a homosexual pairing, doesn't matter) falling in love, or in the honeymoon stage, maybe breaking up and moping around - only to fall in love again.

It isn't only about 'romance' though. I'll rephrase it as 'love'.

Popular culture revolves around love - off the top of your head, mention a book or a movie that is famous and does not have a romantic element. Sure, there are such films and books, but the majority has a romantic tinge to it. A friend of mine said, 'Popular culture is about blindly aping the stereotypes without validating the truth'. He's not entirely wrong. But pray, tell me, what are stereotypes but characteristic commonalities that have been emphasized? Hence popular culture, though stereotypical strikes a chord within each of us - because it has a basis in reality.

So when I decided to sit down and think of how many times I think of 'love' (maternal, fraternal and as such, and the hardcore 'love') I was stumped to find that the subject was more frequent in my thoughts! I think of love in movies that I have seen or want to see, in books that I have read, or are on my reading list, and the my friends, and not-really-friends, and the people that I know. And lastly, the guys that I crush on. (Ah well, it's not 'love' per say, just attraction but...well.)

People say that love can conquer the world.

I don't agree.

But I think that it definitely helps.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's a relapse

I am like an alcoholic or a druggie who relapses, time and again.

It was something of a mystery to me that I make so many resolutions, but fail to follow any of them through. That is when I discovered my true nature.

It was rather like waiting patiently on a machan and hoping for that elusive tiger to appear, but I tried to observe my behaviour with the same disaffection.

I like cleanliness - as long as it's not me who has to clean. My room resembles a field that a tornado may have passed through and from then on, it's a downhill journey - literally.
Mountains of books and clothes pile up in the room, and a treacherous path between them is my normal route in the room for months. Then one day, it's like wiping the glass clean and I am noticing the filth for the first time.

I run the cycles on the washing machine, get out the iron and within the day, my clothes are washed, ironed and folded in the closet. Gathering the books and stowing them according to the authors and subjects, I tidy up the room. Then I rave and rant at my sister, because her half of the room looks like a tornado has passed through it (choosing to conveniently forget that my half looked just the same). After that mini-explosion, I grumble and mumble under my breath and then clean it up for her.

This behaviour occurs in cycles. I can see a small hill of clothes perched precariously on the beanbag, and it looks like it may fall - oh, wait a minute - it just did. Just my luck.

And after all this tedious observation, I decided to take it one day at a time. Planning for the future may be one of my most favourite hobbies, and try as I might, I can't take a break from it.

So here's to those people out there, why plan a lot, but execute hardly 50% of it. May we achieve success by overplanning - there seems to be no other options for sods like us.