Saturday, 24 December 2011


Leeds, United Kingdom, 2007

Three years ago, the night before Christmas, I remember the air being cold and languorous. The city was a ghost town; people had retired home early, last minute shoppers scrambled in and out of the supermarket, the streets were empty and wet. So much for festivity and gaiety, the only thing that seemed to sparkle were the fairy lights strung across the main square. It wasn’t the coldest winter, so to say, but there was something fug about the atmosphere. You know, you could feel that silence penetrate right through your coat and slice into your heart – well, yeah, the sodding scene was such – melodramatic to the hilt.

‘T,’ I said to my flatmate, who was with me at the time, ‘This is bloody depressing.’

She nodded, pulling together her coat and tucking her arm into mine, hoping it would feel warmer. ‘This is sad. It’s not even snowing. We’re supposed to be having a white-freakin’-Christmas.’

Then, we turned around the corner and saw this guy. Everyone had gone home, and there was this guy, wearing a hat, an open guitar case in front of him, singing Dylan's 'Tambourine Man' to an empty street. We stood near him listening to him sing, his voice soft and soulful, filling the intersection near Next with a kind of warmth that I can't quite describe.

T turned to me, and said, 'You just struck me that it's the last Christmas we're spending together.'

We introduced ourselves, dropped a quid and paused when he looked at us. 'Please,' he said, ' would you like to buy a CD?'. T and I looked down, and in his guitar case, he had cut CDs and put them in self-made covers. The Black and White print read 'Jonathan Walker -The Ashville Sessions 2007'. He looked at us smiling, adding softly 'It'll be a real one some day'.

As I stood, trying to make up my mind, T took her wallet and asked him for a CD. It is for you, she said when were home, everytime you listen to it, I know you'll think of this Christmas.

Later that evening, I searched for Jonathan's Myspace profile and sent him a message thanking him for making him for making our Christmas so special. He replied, thanking us for our kind words and wishing us for the year ahead.

It's been three years since I graduated. Three years since I saw T, as she now lives in Italy. Yet, every year, around Christmas time, we still talk about that walk to the city square, and turn on Jonathan's CD to listen to his voice. This year, I learned that Jonathan has gone places with his singing. He sings on the streets of Leeds and Liverpool, and has recorded a live CD. On Youtube, youngsters who've had the chance to say hello have recorded videos of him. To those people who walk that corner by Debenhams or Next, he is now a known face. These days, I figured, they stop to listen.

I wrote on T's wall this morning, asking her if she remembered our last Christmas. Hours later, I got a reply that said, 'How could I forget?'.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A chance encounter with misery

Weird people have a way of finding me.

This time around, I took a share auto in Madras. It was one of those days; I desperately needed inspiration to get a spot of writing done, and the weather was remarkably kind: a pleasant wind, and rustling leaves and all that. I looked around for a spare seat and sat near a non-chatty kind of girl with no friends (as I always do) just to make sure that I could steer clear of anything eventful. She seemed a good deal like those movie extras who go unnoticed although they've been lurking around somewhere in the background for the whole two hours.

I settled in, called out to the driver to drop me off at Blue Star and took out my phone to text a friend. Suddenly, the girl tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up, wondering if she wanted to shift a bit, and was just about to move when she said ‘I need your phone.’

Erm. Ok, so I couldn’t decide if it was new-age daylight robbery lingo or if she merely wanted to use my phone.


‘I need your phone. Please, I need to make only one phone call. I’m from Pondicherry. I'm new here and it’s very urgent’.

You see, there are moments that you are immediately put to this formidable universal test of ethics. Was it alright to refuse someone who looked so earnest? Anyway, as doubtful as I was, I gave in to the pleading after she began to plod my shoulder every now and then in an exceedingly annoying fashion. And there were no means of escape.

I dialled the number she wanted me to, then handed it over to her.

I don't know who she called but I couldn't help overhearing her breathless conversation to the person on the other end. Parts of the conversation sounded off-key; there was mention of a motorcycle, a payment and the police.

I interrupted and asked for my phone. Blue Star was just two stops away. She mumbled a hurried goodbye and gave it back to me, gushing about how thankful she was.

'Sure,' I said, 'Do you have family here?'

'Actually not, but my brother's here'.

'Oh, he works here?'

'No, he's in jail.'

'JAIL? You used my phone to call someone in JAIL?'. I swear, the skies were already looking grey, and my heart was going to pop right out of my chest. Perfectly marvellous, this was. Now all I could think of was one of those crime dramas where my call would be tracked by an office full of spectacled full-suits who spoke in a dull whispers about how I was a possible accomplice in an attack on some famous person I don't care about.

I was perspiring, and it wasn't even hot. 'Well, what's he in jail for?' I dragged on, hoping it wasn't something horrendous.

'Oh, he just stole a bike. I mean, it was a new bike I think that's why he's taking such a hard hit. But it's alright, I just have to pay about seven thousand and he's out'.

'So wait, let me get this straight, your brother steals bikes?'

'Yes. I don't understand why they had to put him in jail though, I mean it was only a bike.'

What do you want them to do? I felt like asking, award him a bronze medal for robbery? I couldn't wait for my stop. Now she was getting terribly chatty, and I wanted to shove her through the window. Finally, we were close to Blue Star. I told her I was getting off, to cut short her conversation.

'Alright,' she went on, 'Thanks for the help'.

Just before I got off, another woman got in, and wedged her way between the both of us. 'So are you a college girl?'. She seemed happy, and was probably getting home from the temple.

'No,' she smiled and nodded politely, 'I'm in the Motorcycle business'. A moment later, they got talking.

Jesus Christ. I got off, and looked at my phone. No, no unknown callers yet.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The sinister logic of combo steal deals

I tell you, watching a movie in a theatre these days requires an incredible amount of patience. It's not like there aren't spectacular ways to waste time in Bangalore, but you see, when your clock is ticking on a city curfew of 11 PM, you pretty much just settle for whatever crap can entertain you for 2 hours.

After elbowing my way through this insanely long line of visibly excited teenagers and bored families with bawling infants, I found myself staring at the guy at the till.

'Yes, Ma'am'?'

I looked at a bunch of burgers displayed on the side and told him I want one.

'Only a burger?'

I nodded.

'We don't have a burger Ma'am.'

Ok, so like I was blind or something. I pointed to the burgers at the side and asked him what those were. Clearly, slapping him hard wasn't an option. Neither was giving him a pair of bifocals.

'Well, you only get the burger if you order a combo with coke'.

Erm. 'I don't get the logic. Fine, what about all those veggie rolls? Can I have one of those?'

He shook his head. 'No, you can't have one unless you order a combo?'.

So by this time, I had already lost my appetite, save one for an argument. 'Oh so wait. Let me get this straight, I can't order anything on your display unless I opt for a combo with coke'.

'Yes Ma'am'.

After a long debate about marketing math and suppressing the desire to add a few emphatic expletives now and then, I caved in and told him to go ahead with a combo deal. Impatiently, the guy in question took a burger and a roll, shoved both in the microwave (with the plastic), threw over a napkin and pushed it over the counter.

I waited.

Then he looked at me sheepishly and added, 'Erm. We only have large cokes, no regular size'.

Oh, how F****** generous.

Monday, 24 October 2011

If you want Biryani home-delivered, don't dial the municipal trash collector


Because the last time, we had a get-together and ordered 12 plates of Biryani - and had this delivered to our doorstep.

Lesson learned - Make sure the guy at Home delivery has never worked for a Municipal Corporation before.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Conversation with a random man at the internet centre:

Random Man - Excuse me, do you work for a software firm?
Me - No, I work for a content syndication firm.
Random Man - So do you work in software?
Me - No, I work with content.
Random Man - So you work in a software firm.
Me - No, I work in a content syndication firm.
Random Man - What kind of software firm is that?

Oh. Sweet. Jesus.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

You don’t suppose you have success… and all that excess.

So I’ve come to learn something about ‘success’ the past week. I’m seriously beginning to doubt that success is but a painful societal obligation. I mean, here we are, spending all of our youth, trying and trying and trying endlessly to simply be good enough. When did good enough become so hard to be? That’s exactly what I found myself thinking when I was sitting near this guy in a bus who had applied to patent some secret software he was developing for a nameless company in the USA.

‘It beats me to think that you’re just 26,’ I told him, a tad let-down that my life seemed like a record chronology of bad choices in comparison, ‘I cannot believe that you are going to patent something. Like Wow.’

‘Well,’ He said, ‘I can’t help it. I guess it’s just that I know I have to make lots of money before I get old’.

‘So how much money do you want to make?’

He looked at me, a confused expression on his face then paused a moment before replying. ‘I don’t know… I mean, just lots I guess’.

‘It’s a simple question. Just how much money do you want to make till you’re satisfied?’

‘I don’t know, I mean, just till I feel really successful I guess’.

It struck me then that he didn’t really feel successful at all. And here I was, thinking about how much he had achieved so young. Upon reflection, I must admit, I wouldn’t know the answer to the question either. How much would I try till I sit back and think that I have enough? Hours after I got home, I couldn't stop dwelling on it. So I found a quiet moment to curl up on the couch near my dad when he was watching late night telly.

'Pa. I'm so sad. I feel like I'm just working and working and working and I’m just not getting anywhere.’

And he said, ‘You’re doing just fine’.

I paused, and thought about what he said for a moment. Actually, I wasn't doing so bad. Heck, I'm only 25. Maybe, that’s the assurance we need from time to time, that we’re all good enough even without the throwing ourselves out there to achieve what other people call success…and all the excess.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The reason why we need stars on the ceiling

You know, those days when you lie back and stare at the ceiling fan? Well, of course, everyone does. It's in that moment of nothingness, I realized, that each of us really connect with the universe. I mean, it is for that one instant, when we let go, watching the blades whirr in that crazy, ultra-maniacal speed and have our mind completely free of certainty, that we truly live.

Without a care in the world.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Charity and other forms of divine insurance

As a general open rule, I suppose, it is right to be charitable to those who choose to beg. Typically, it's how the public sees it. No matter how sneaky, or poor, or annoying or sorry they seem, the way you behave with them kind of determines your supposed nature towards humankind. No one ever talks about the guy who handed ten bucks to a roadside con, they all talk about the guy who shoo-ed him away. As was my plight on an eventful Saturday morning trying to find a copy of a Wodehouse omnibus on MG Road.

I had no more than fifty bucks in my wallet. It was one of those days when I was comfort shopping i.e. swiping my card so that I would feel less guilty about destroying my bank balance. I walked down to Mamma Mia on Church Street, bought myself an ice-cream and strolled out. Then, out of nowhere, a gypsy pounced on me (quite literally) and took away the ice-cream. Now, it's not like I wouldn't have given it if she just, you know, asked me for it. But I was surprised to see that everyone around me were looking at me. For a moment, I thought this was because they were as stunned as I was. But no, turns out everyone was hoping that I don't tell her off.

Anyway, as if that didn't annoy me enough, I had to walk an extraordinarily long way to the ATM with absolutely no money in my wallet. As expected, I was destined for worse. There was an old man sitting by corner of the road. All the people before me seemed to drop a coin or two as they walked past, so dutifully I took out my wallet hoping to find out a coin when I got near him. Just that, I stood in front of him for an entire minute searching inside my wallet stuffed with bills and couldn't find anything. I don't know what you'd possibly do, but it was that awkward moment where I had to tell him that I hadn't any money on me.

You see, here's the odd thing about a situation like this. I felt guilty for no fault of mine. I I mean, of course I’m aware of the misfortunes that befall humankind, and have since given thought to doing much towards the greater common good – but this whole universal test isn’t fair.

‘I don’t have any money,’ I told him, apologetically, ‘I thought I had change. I don’t’. It was the truth, and I hoped he would believe me.

I think it was ten seconds of expressionless staring before he stood up, dusted his rags, collected the change in his bowl, walked to the nearby stall and bought himself a cigarette.

I tell you, the next time someone gives me a sermon about the potential karmic returns of charity, I'm going to tell them to sell their soul for a bar of chocolate. Really, it's a shorter ticket to heaven.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Damsel in Denial - The wrong men are right for most women

Well, I confess my heart has been considerably heavy for the past month. First, I’ve listened to an overload of friends crying over guys-who-have-absolutely-no-shame. Second, I’ve been waking up to wedding invites. The thing about both problems is that it involves forcing a certain amount of spirit and cheer, of which I obviously hadn’t any. In fact, even my sisterly-sermon skills have taken a hit. And I don't mean that in a good way, mind you.

Take this incident last week, for instance. I was right there, sitting at home, minding my own business and all that when an old friend calls for some comfort. It didn't quite occur to me that the the word comfort here actually meant that I would have to employ the 'Listening ear' (popularly known as the 'nod to everything and shut the hell up') tactic instead of 'Sound advice' (otherwise known as 'what you are saying doesn't make sense'). After listening to a fast-paced plot of how the guy in question had destroyed their relationship, had absolutely no sense of respect for her, and was surely dating someone else behind her back, I said, 'Well, this guy is not worth your time.'

My suggestion, it seems, fell on deaf ears. 'The thing is,' she tried to rationalise, 'we've been together to so many years, and it's just unfair. I don't know why I put up with this. I really need to get over this. I bet he's just out there having fun.'

I tried rephrasing the second time. 'This guy isn't worth your time. You know that'. But, I don't think she heard me quite yet.

'I was just thinking about the last time we talked and how he sounded like he wanted to work things out. And now, he just brushed the whole thing off like it doesn't even matter to him. I'm like so so sick of this,' she went on,'I'm never going to talk to him again'.

This time, I switched to 'Listening Ear'. Because I was going to lose my mind if this went on for the next ten minutes. 'You know what, just give him time and he'll come around'.

I might as well have prophesied a miracle. She agreed immediately and hung up. Lesson learned today - never try to give 'Sound advice' when a woman is whining. Especially when she's convinced she's right about the wrong guy.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

All that looks the same size..actually isn’t.

At first, I received this note as change after I paid a bill at a restaurant. Oh well, nothing seemed wrong then.

Later, when I hopped into an auto to go home, I realized that there really was something wrong with the note.. Erm. Oh-my-bloody-God.

I half expected creepy Ashton Kutcher to jump out of a bush right now and scream ‘YOU JUST GOT PUNK’D!’.

The guy who handed this to me, I figured, was quite a crafty one. Muse.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

So much for wishing hard that something alien happens...

My flat got burgled.

Turns out after all that swearing and complaining about my mundane life, the universe decided to intervene. And not in the nice, quasi-peaceful kind of way it is supposed to. The story goes thus: The new guesthouse I had moved into a month ago temporarily didn't really have any problems. It looked straight out of those housing adverts; a little too good to be true. And my room was deservedly the one with the best view and the nicest balcony. Well, obviously, I didn't think twice about grabbing the offer. It felt like the safest place of real estate in the world.

Only when I came home after work to a building of bawling girls, did I have second thoughts. Jewellery, watches, and cash had disappeared into thin air. The strange part? My room was the only one that the thief found uninteresting. Apparently, the poor guy didn’t have a taste for red wine and good books.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

My ovaries are feeling rather suicidal and other such problems

Ok, I've had enough of the Biological clock jokes. I know I turn 25 this year. On a positive note, women in Britain are freezing their eggs, just in case Mr. Right walks in on them really late. Erm. I haven't considered the option but I don't think frozen eggs are going to help my case. First, they freak me out. Second, OK, its just weird.

A friend very sympathetically suggested adoption if I cannot garner the courage to reproduce. But adoption is so another ball-game. I mean, it's like shopping. Part of it is just cruel. It's more like searching for the perfect brand for some people. A lot of people won't admit it, but seriously that's what it is. Look at Angelina Jolie's multicultural baby collection. It's almost as if she wants to establish her own civilization soon. And Madonna. Seriously? Yeah, yeah. Africa is good press. I'm not anti-adoption but of late, I mean, it just sounds a little out-there. I'd love to adopt a cute little baby and not know where it came from or how it did. Now, that's difficult isn't it?

Coming back to the subject of my hyper-sensitive, clinically depressed ovaries. They seem pretty happy being out of work at the moment. They would prefer if no one asked about their well-being. So in case you are one of those who wants to point out that they'd be wheezing by the time I hit 30, trust me, you needn't worry. They are prepared to work overtime. But, really, enough with the questions.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The strangest people inspire me

It's weird how you can feel like an absolute wipe-out one minute, and like sunny skies soon after. Here's what happened - It was a presumably bad start to another Monday morning; I didn't hear the alarm, for the fourth time that I reset it, and had to run hair un-brushed, buttons undone, all the way uphill to wave down an auto. And if you live in Bangalore, and are accustomed to how autodrivers behave here, you can imagine how long it was before someone actually felt like offering me a ride. Sheesh, seriously. After a twenty minute wait, I got into a rickety old yellow wheezer and looked down at the guy's license plate because it looked so goddamn ancient, and was a bit worried to see that his photograph didn't resemble him one bit.

And near it, I found an old laminated newspaper clipping that read 'Driving in Twilight of Life' - Oh. My. God. This was some famous celebrity auto guy. Amused, I picked it up to read it.

Turns out, Krishna Kamath, the guy whose auto I had got into was one of the oldest auto-drivers in Bangalore. I leaned forward and asked him. 'Bhaiya, yeh aapka interview hai kya? (Is this your interview?'. He nodded and answered shyly, 'Yes. I've been driving for nearly fifty years. I love waking up early everyday and driving my auto.' I asked him if I could shoot a photograph before I paid him off and he agreed.

Some people make late Monday mornings worth the wait.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

And at the stroke of twelve on Dec 31st, I was....

on a bus.

Sounds pathetic doesn't it? But really, that seemed the only way to usher in a year that I know is going to emotionally and physically drain me because I've got to mentally prepare myself to move..again.

And for some reason, as I looked out of that window at empty roads and flickering street lamps, I couldn't help thinking of how much of this year is going to pass by me through windows.

I feel like a sodding lump of lead. Oh well.