Life Lessons From A Cocker Spaniel

IMG_20170814_222221_046

Three days ago, I came home in a pool of tears, terrified I was going to lose my right hand.

I could see a vein pulsating in my wrist. My thumb, index and middle finger were on the verge of numbness. At the slightest twitch of my wrist, a dreadful electric shock ran through my arm.

In a wave of panic, I imagined doctors shaking their heads. They would have to amputate my right hand. I wouldn’t be able to write, type, play keyboard, draw. Literally everything I was half decent at would slip through my fingers.

The more I thought about it, the more I wept. I had never quite wept that openly before. My mom panicked along with me. My dad meekly suggested an ointment for want of something to say.

Today, nothing about my hand has changed.

The numbness isn’t gone. My right hand lies limp on my thigh as I type with my left, backspacing and retyping to get the spellings right. The self-diagnosed carpal tunnel still taunts me.

But I’m not crying anymore.

Because I spent a day with this dog.

This is Chap.

He is a Cocker Spaniel. His mane is handsome as a lion’s. His fur soft as a baby’s blanket. His demeanour, adorable as a puppy! But he doesn’t have the gorgeous big puppy eyes that people fawn over. Instead he has his eyelids stitched together so they don’t get infected.

Chap is a blind dog. He was born blind.

When my friend adopted him as a few weeks-old puppy, he thought his eyes were infected. Eventually, the vets had to clean out the cavities completely and stitch them up so they wouldn’t get infected again.

I’m not writing this so you sympathize with Chap.

I’m writing this because I’m in awe of how Chap goes about his life.

Chap walks around his home with a striking sense of familiarity. The confidence in his gait, the sureness in his paws when he leaps onto the gate and the menacing growl he has in store for strangers will hardly make you sympathise with him.

When he smelled me, he trusted me at once. He propped his shaggy head on my knee as I sat down. I gingerly placed my right hand on his head. He licked my arm, the warmth of his tongue comforting my brittle arm.

To me, it felt like he was pitying me.

Pitying me for the little discomfort in my hand.

And suddenly, everything seemed so ludicrous. My tears, my panicked state, my overstated emotions that trapped all those around me. I was put off by my own desire for attention.

A hand pain. Seriously.

I went to the doctor today; he gave me pills and sent me off. Said it’ll be alright.

It’s going to be a while, though, before I can wave it off as a setback, like Chap has done with his sight.

Isn’t it amusing how life throws so many lessons at us and we almost always turn a blind eye to them?

Make Sandige While The Sun Shines

Make Sandige While The Sun Shines

Isn’t that an awesome headline?

It struck me while I was making sandige while the sun shone. :P Ok pardon my lameness, I’m very happy because we just made sandige. It’s something that always fills me with glee!


When I was a school-going child, summer holidays meant it was time to wake up early and put sandige. (I say “put” sandige and not “make” sandige because in Kannada, it is sandige “haakodu.” Not sandige “maadodu.”)

My paati would do the initial setting up (which is actually “making” the sandige with all the ingredients), and then my mom, sister, my friends and I would go to the sunniest terrace and put sandige. It happened just once a year and the novelty of it excited all of us.

First of all, let me tell you what sandige is.

Sandige
(san-di-gay   |   sʌn – dɪ – geɪ) 

noun
plural: sandige

  1. a condiment usually made from rice or puffed rice (aralu puri) or tapioca pearls/sabo (sabakki/sabudana). To be fried and consumed, usually as an accompaniment with rice, rasam and sambar. Tastes heavenly with curd rice too.

And here is how you pronounce it.

I’m going to give you a tutorial to make aralu sandige. It is just one of the few forms of sandige, perhaps the tastiest, only if made right. Many people make it, but it usually becomes too hard / too spicy / too horrible. So here’s the right way of going about it. My mom’s recipe can’t go wrong, unless you really have no clue able what you’re doing!

How to make Aralu Sandige

Step 1: Buy aralu puri

This is aralu puri. Around 10 litres of aralu puri is good to make your sandige last a few months (depending on how often you eat it). Don’t eat it too often because you have to fry it in oil to consume it.

IMG_20160410_072420.jpg

Step 2: Separate the batta from the aralu puri

Aralu puri usually has a lot of batta in it. Batta is basically unpuffed rice. It is brown, sharp and inedible. It takes around 4-5 hours for three people to separate batta from puri (10 litres), one by one. Try to buy aralu puri that has already been cleaned to save you some back-breaking labour.

Batta.png

Step 3: Gather all ingredients

I’ve listed the ingredients you require for 10 litres.

  • 10 litres cleaned aralu puri
  • 100 g green chilly
  • 1 handful of kothamri (coriander)
  • 100 g overnight soaked and cooked sabakki (sabudana / sago) (This is used mainly to bind the loose ingredients together)
  • Salt to taste
  • One big lemon (Optional)

You’ll need two big tubs/vessels. One to soak the aralu puri in water and one to mix all ingredients.

IMG_20160410_080424

Step 4: Dip aralu puri in water

In this step, you are cleaning the puri and also soaking it. You have to take it out of the water immediately (within five seconds) so that it doesn’t get too wet. So don’t put an entire 10 litre pile into a big vessel of water. The puri will get shrink and get ruined. Do it bit by bit.

Step 5: To the wet aralu puri, add all other ingredients

  • Chop chillies and coriander finely. You could even grind them.
  • The sabakki has to be soaked the previous night and boiled in the morning, so that it is soft and slightly sticky. It is an ingredient that holds the otherwise loose aralu puri together.
  • One option is to squeeze a lemon into the mix so that it doesn’t get too sticky.
  • Taste the mix and see if it suits your taste buds. It usually tastes E.P.I.C.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step 6: Gather everything you need to put sandige on the terrace

You’ll need

  • The sandige mix
  • A circular mould to put the sandige with. The lid of a pickle jar will do. Has to be around the size of your palm and flattish
  • A bowl of buttermilk, to dip your hand and the mould in
  • Plastic sheets to put the sandige on. Even a fresh panchey / veshti / dhoti will work.
  • Some rocks to use as paperweight to hold the sheets down.
  • A sunny terrace
IMG_20160410_081724
You’ll never find non-sleepy faces while putting sandige. It’s an early Sunday morning!

Step 7: Start putting the sandige

This is the most fun part of putting sandige. Pick up some aralu puri that you mixed, put it in the mould so that it is flat and tap it on the sheet. When it falls down in that exact same shape and stays together, it is just so gratifying! Check this.

Step 8: Remember to eat some as you’re making it

I think sandige tastes best best when you’re putting it. It’s better than when you fry it and eat it. It is also healthier! I love it like this.

Step 9: Leave it on the terrace to dry

Once you’re done putting sandige in neat lines, leave it out for the rest of the day to dry. The top layer will dry first, while the underside will be wet. Once the top portion is sufficiently dry (might take a whole day), turn it upside down and let the other side dry.

Put it out on the terrace everyday for around a week to dry it thoroughly. Bring it back inside every evening. You don’t want to leave it out all night and let all sorts of insects eat it.

It must dry completely before you “store it in a cool dry place.” If it is wet, it might catch fungus and rot. So check it properly after a week before you store it.

IMG_20160410_085700

Step 10: Fry it, eat it and enjoy it

Next time you’re eating rasam rice, sambar rice, curd rice or bisibelebath, bring out the sandige, fry it and eat it.

To fry it you have to dip it in boiling oil for hardly ten seconds. the hard dried up sandige fluffs up when you fry it. It becomes gorgeously crunchy! It goes amazingly well with sambar rice or bisibelebath.

Oh I’m craving for some right now.

Let me go make me some sandige.

Meanwhile, you go make some sandige while the sun shines!

IMG_20160410_085612

Why I’m not too thrilled about Bakrid

I’ll pick up where I left off in my last post.

In it, I was basically trying to disconnect religion and celebration of festivals. I would request you to read this article with that mindset, because otherwise, 1.57 billion people are likely to be offended, which is definitely not my intention.

As you may all know, today is Bakrid.

If you know me, I think you already know what’s coming.

Goats. Slaughter. Cruelty.

My boss, Arjun, brought up an interesting point today. He pointed out how Nepal completely banned the Gadhimai cow slaughtering festival, where 200,000 cows are slaughtered meaninglessly and right in front of each other, once in five years. Even I remember signing an online petition against the festival, although I don’t know if that made a difference. But he said how nobody even bothers to raise a voice against slaughtering of millions of goats during Bakrid. Even if someone does, their voice is drowned, because newspapers like to pick up stories like this one instead. (Seriously, just read that headline.)

This afternoon, when we were discussing it, I said it’s completely horrible to slaughter animals, especially in people’s homes, where there are children watching. When we’re supposed to be teaching children to love animals, they watch their family axe one in the neck instead. Seriously, there’s no love lost in this country as it is. Why add to the unpleasantries?

My colleague was (a bit too) quick to point out to me that Hindus are no less. That Brahmins slaughtered and ate meat before too. I was a bit irked because my argument had/has nothing to do with religion. Whether it’s a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim slaughtering a cow or a goat, I’ll hold it against him. In fact, the whole cow-slaughtering festival in Nepal was a Hindu affair and I am dead against it. My whole argument is about the lack of rationale. Any person with the ability to rationalise his actions, should not be slaughtering anything. That’s about it.

Even if you want to eat mutton, or as the festival calls for it, distribute it to the needy, then go buy mutton and give it to the needy. There’s a certain procedure to slaughter animals and believe it or not, the kind way of slaughtering them is officially called the Humane Method. There’s a reason it’s called “humane.” Ideally, you’re supposed to render the animal unconscious and then slaughter it, if you have to do it at all. Not hold it by its hands, legs, pin it down and then struggle to slit its throat with a regular house knife and let the poor animal bleed to death. (The fact that the Humane Method is not practiced in most meat shops is a completely different story by itself. But that’s no justification for this.)

My point is, it does not make sense to carry on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years simply “because it’s there!” Heck! I don’t think most people even realise the significance of Bakrid! In fact, the story goes that Allah, to test the faith of Abraham and his son, Ismail, asked Abraham to sacrifice his son through a recurring dream. When Abraham agreed and was in the process of slitting Ismail’s throat, he was shocked to see that there was a lamb instead of his son. Basically, Allah saw that Abraham was so faithful that he was ready to sacrifice someone as dear to him as his son, and replaced his son with a lamb.

The whole idea of Bakrid stems from this story. You’re supposed to sacrifice something dear to you. Not a goat that you buy off the internet the previous day. There’s nothing near or dear about that.

So, please rethink your values and principles, not as a religious person, but simply as a person. Think about it from a non-violent angle and please put an end to this mindless practice.

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

As you may all know, today is Gokulashtami / Krishna Jayanti. It’s the grandest festival in my house and we all love it; “we” being my neighbours, my friends, cousins, colleagues, random strangers who visit the house during the festival, etc. I doubt the excitement is because Krishna was born. I mean, it is, to an extent. But a lot more excitement is because of all the thindi. My mom makes chakkli, kodbale, muchchoray, tengol, kadlekai mithai, kobri mithai, kadlekai unde, puri unde, rave unde, besan laadu, chigli and so many other thindi items with weird names. She makes this every year without fail and in HUGE quantities.

IMG_4310
Krishna overdose

We give all our neighbours, friends and colleagues the thindies on the day of Gokulashtami. And it’s not just anyone making the thindi. It’s my mom and her best friend, Prema aunty. They’re out-and-out pros! Anyone who smells the chakkli-making immediately pops into my house for a bite. Uttara, who hadn’t come home for some six months (although she lives next door) came home yesterday, secretly broke her fast and ate a piece of chakkli. Such is the effect of the chakkli frying smell.

IMG_20150905_232253
Crunchy chakklies

This year, I thought I’ll help my mom out a bit. I decided to make chakkli. And I decided to write the recipe, just for fun. The mess around the house, the atta flying all over the kitchen, boxes of thindi on the dining table, the aroma of elakki, sugar, ginger, and the spicy warmth of kodbaley and tengol really added to my festive spirit.

So here’s how you go about making chakkli.

1. Ask your mom if you can help. She might usually turn you away because you’re no good. But this year, Prema aunty can’t make it because she has baby-sitting duties. So my mom gladly obliged.

2. Watch and learn. My mom works fast and she’s not the most patient person in the world. If you don’t get it right ten times, she’s gonna ask you to go away. So learn quick.

IMG_20150905_151334
The mould and shaping plates you need to make chakkli and other confectionaries

3. You need akki (rice), uddin bele (black gram) in a 4:1 proportion. Wash them, dry them, roast them and take them to the guy who makes it aa powder. Flour mill guy. “Bees kondu banni,” says my mom.

IMG_20150620_174850
The beesing guy

4. After that, add salt to taste, heat some oil and add that too.

IMG_20150905_150933
Before kneading

5. Add water, some hing, and knead it.

IMG_20150905_151002
While kneading

6. You need to smack it hard before you put it in the mould and squeeze it. You gotta smack it like you mean it. Don’t do it half-heartedly because otherwise, the chakkli will break while you’re squeezing it.

7. After that, slowly squeeze it into the chakkli shape. Make the hole in the centre big so that your chakkli looks big. (Tip: Avoid making the circular shape while squeezing. Squeeze out a straight line first and then make the shape with your fingers. The dough is delicate, so be careful.)

8. Slowly put the uncooked chakkli into pre-heated oil and let it fry until you get the desired colour.

9. Don’t eat it until you give it to Krishna for pooja. (You can skip this step if you believe that God resides in you.) I had a conversation with my mom regarding this and it went like this.

Me: Why do we make thindi for Gokulashtami?

Mom: Because Krishna was a thindi potha. Haven’t you heard all songs go, “I’ll give you that, come here. I’ll give you this, come here.”

Me: So he accepted a lot of bribes? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that. Krishna was a manipulative person and he accepted bribes. He was corrupt. Blah blah blah.

Mom: Before you say anything else, know that Krishna resides in you. So, everything you’re calling him, you are those things too.

Later…

Mom catches me eating all the thindies, bit by bit.

Mom: Swathi! You’re not supposed to eat it you mental girl!

Me: But the Krishna in me was hungry and needed the food. He is tempted easily and he couldn’t control himself.

Mom: Sighhhh

#Sorry

IMG_20150905_152358
Epic chakklies in the making

11. Anyway, after the pooja, you’re done! Eat it. Devour it. Try and share it.

IMG_9705
All the thindies

I love how yesterday went. My mum said, apparently when Krishna was born, it rained heavily with no prior warning. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. It poured in the afternoon on a REALLY hot day.

And I also went and gave some cows a few bananas.

Also, Nuvena surprised me today by turning up outside my house after a visit to Iskon.

It was such a happy, productive, festive and Krishna-ish day! :)

I hope many more youngsters like me don’t dis festivals just because religion has a role to play in it, and it’s “cool” to be agnostic or atheist or whatever. Just go with the flow, take what comes at you with an open mind, celebrate the festival without causing anyone harm and be happy!

Happy Gokulashtami! :)

About being a harried 24-year-old tax payer

Life has suddenly gotten too overwhelming, hasn’t it? People my age will probably understand. I’m 24 right now. Will soon turn 25. As each day passes, I expect things in my head to get sorted out, but it turns out there are just more and more complications!

This evening, I found myself debating taxes and insurances with my parents. I’ve to shell out Rs.40,000 a year from now on for insurances, just to be exempted from paying taxes, but unfortunately that amount happens to be more than I’ll ever pay for my taxes! What’s the point? My parents say they’ll pay the amount; but apparently, I have to pay my own insurance money to not pay taxes. And if I mention anything further to my parents, they lose temper within minutes and I’d just rather say OK and get on with it. Aaaa it’s irritating to even think about it.

Tweens

Why can’t we just earn, keep the money in our house, spend it and be happy? Who the hell invented banking and insurances and taxes and shit. I truly hate that person. (I might not be saying that many years later when I get my money back, I’m guessing. I’ll be richer than ever! I had better be.)

Well, money is perhaps 10 per cent of what’s eating me up. All over Facebook, people are getting married and having babies. People my age!! Some girls I went to school with and sat next to, on the same bench, wearing pinafores and drawing margin lines in notebooks, have two babies already!! And here I am, thinking about whether I like pizza or pasta better. Sigh.

I’m not saying I want to have two babies. I’m not going to have any. I’m going to keep puppies instead. But the point is, I don’t know how they’re all confident enough to have babies!

But then again, babies aren’t even the problem right now. I suppose marriage is. There’s so much pressure from all sides to get married. It’s not just me. Even people around me are being pressurised everyday. It’s so ridiculous. My parents don’t bother me much, but my grandparents won’t let me hear the end of it. If I relent and say “Fine, I’ll get married,” they start attaching dates to it.

“How about next April? Like your sister?”

“No, tatha. I don’t want to get married in summer. I prefer winter. Maybe December.”

“Really? This December? Wow that’s great! Now we’ll just have to figure out whom you can marry.”

The concept of prioritising just went flying out the window.

Fine, let’s say I’m alright with getting married, which I kind of am, I guess, since I’ve found someone and everything, but the next ten questions pop out at me like boxing gloves. Kapow! Where, how much to spend, what kind of wedding, on what scale should it be, whom to invite, should I do it how I want to or should I relent and let others organise a traditional wedding. My god! Really, it’s mental!

I told my grandpa last week that I will have a simple wedding with 50 people, if I do. He lost it. He said, “Look, the wedding is not about you or how you want it. (Wait, what?) It’s about us being happy about the occasion and sharing the happiness with others.” At most of our family weddings, everyone gets to invite everyone they want. So there’s usually about 2,000 people.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t exactly want to have my grandpa’s walking friends or some tenants who lived twenty years ago in some house we built. It’s so pointless. I just want to have people who mean a lot to me and no one else. Why can’t I have things my way! Why can’t life be easier, god?

Even on the work front, there’s so much going on! Working at a start-up really is a rollercoaster ride. I’m literally playing some ten roles at work and I wish I could add two more hours to my everyday.

Home (my room, specifically) is the only place where I’m at peace, in my mosquito net, with a book in my hand. And it kills me to know that I’m gonna have to give my room up and go away if I ever get married. Which is so ridiculous. Why does the girl have to move into the boy’s house and why not the opposite? Life is just so worrying man.

Turning old sucks. Wish I could go back to college and deal with mindless assignments and chemistry practicals again. That was so much simpler.

Now, I have to deal with too many complications and I’m not ready for it.

How am I gonna tell my grandpa that his walking friends aren’t invited?

Sigh.

PS: I just needed a place to rant. :P

About being alone, but not lonely

You know, there was a time in my life when I was really depressed. Well, not clinically depressed. Just mentally. I was 16 or 17, living my teens – awkward looking (a bad hair cut, undone eyebrows, baggy clothes), not-so-confident and from a state syllabus school when the rest of my mates were from CBSE or ICSE. I had very low self-esteem. I would come back home from college everyday and crib to my diary about how everyone in my life had boyfriends/girlfriends and other best friends.

I would list down names of my favourite people and next to their names, write down the names of their favourite people and it burned me to know I wasn’t on anyone’s list. Not on my best friends’, not on my sister’s – they all had boyfriends (and wonderfully, they’re all still with the same people). I would indulge in self-pity, listen to music with depressing lyrics, mostly Evanescence and Avril Lavigne’s pissed off songs and once in a while, just cry it all out.

That feeling of having no one sucks, doesn’t it?

All of a sudden, I feel this looks like an ad for Whisper. Thu!

My parents have been out of town for 45 days, leaving me home alone. Now “home-alone” would prick many ears and make them imagine parties, alcohol all over the place, boxes of pizza lying around and loud music playing. At least that’s what I think of when most people my age tell me they’re home alone. But I had zero parties. My friends came to stay over maybe five times and that’s it. I was with myself most of the other days, cooking cleaning, washing, mopping, sweeping, the usual household chores.

I even fell sick, went to the doc, got medicines, nursed myself back to health, and took care of myself. Usually, I have my mom fussing over me when I’m sick, making kashaya, getting me Homeopathy medicine from Hattangadi, giving me hot rasam rice. But I made my own rasam, drank milk with turmeric, gargled and drank hot water for four days. Perhaps only when I was sick, I indulged in a bit of self-pity, but nothing more than the permissible amount. Permissible as set by me, I mean.

I’ve realised it’s difficult to live alone if you’re the self-pity kinds. I, for one, am not that kind, not any more. Perhaps I was, when I was 16, 17 but after that, I grew to look quite decent, speak well, learnt a bit about everything in life (you know, sports, politics, people, behaviour, etc) and promised myself to never feel bad for myself. I learnt to respect myself for who I am, and enjoy my own company. I talk to myself, sing to myself, dance to myself, cook for myself and life alone over the past 45 days has been breezy! I didn’t expect that, really.

I realise I’m ready to run a house on my own, including paying all the bills, cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes, removing dead cockroaches and sometimes pigeons from the terrace and balcony, COOKING good food, serving tea/coffee to guests and hosting other people at home.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to work hard and go to sleep feeling real good about yourself, thinking about how many things you did in the day.

I’m writing this mostly because, over the past 45 days, I have realised I don’t need anybody else in my life. Haha! I just realised how that might have come across to my readers. :P I don’t mean to offend any of you, all you people in my life. (Except you, Nuvena. I don’t want maamis around me. :P)

What I’m saying is, if, at some point in life, I have to lead my life alone, I’ll be able to manage it. It’s like a life-skill that I can use, if need be. But I must add that given a choice between living with people and living alone, I’d any day pick living with people.

I think living alone for some time in life is something everyone must do. You realise what others mean to you and how much others do for you! You learn to be independent and self-efficient, something I notice that a lot of people my age aren’t. Even I wasn’t until 45 days ago. I did not know I could cook for myself for 45 days, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and survive it. I did not know that the electricity man just cuts off the electricity if you forget to pay the bill (and I learnt the hack to get electricity back without yet paying the bill. In your face electricity man!). I did not know that I could change a tube light, as simple as it may sound; I’ve never had to do it in my life! I did not know that I could keep 30 fish alive and nurse my dog back to good health when she had a stiff neck.

I did not know what perfect parenting was like until I saw myself imitating my parents everyday when they weren’t here, trying to repeat their daily actions – be it squeezing a tomato to put it in the rasam exactly like my mum does or fixing a light bulb and half-immersing it in the water like my dad does.

As much as I missed my parents, I’m glad they left me to fend for myself. I learnt of my own capabilities, which is why my self-esteem has shot through the roof. Hehe.

So, if you’re living alone, make the best of it. Don’t feel bad for yourself that you’re alone. In fact, you’re lucky that you’re alone and can be your own person. If you’re not living alone, throw the other person out of the house for a while and make sure you live alone. :P

Tips to live alone:

1. Learn to cook. It will take up most of your time.

IMG-20150626-WA0008
Cold pasta salad

2. Invite some crazy people over. Even if they are donkeys.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. You go over to meet people

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4. Listen to music. Morning, afternoon, evening, night, 3 am. Doesn’t matter. Listen when you want to.

IMG_20150630_160749

5. Have a sleepover in a tent on the terrace.

IMG_20150802_085040

6. Pay attention to nature. It’s the fastest way to put a smile on your face.

7. Find a hobby. Something like making bookmarks. I made them for charity.

8. Visit your grandparents. Nobody loves you like they do.tatha

9. Go on a mani-pedi date with your best friend and party with her.

10. Go for a wedding. In this case, your best friend’s wedding. :)

11. Read as much as you can!

IMG_20150426_155811
I’ve read a bit toooo much over the past month and a half.

12. Build an  army of doggies to protect you

IMG_20150521_174851
Kuntea and Puppy. Piccolo was somewhere around the corner

13. Finally, keep in touch with your parents and do something nice to welcome them back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s all now! Good day! :)

PS: I logged onto WordPress today and it said, “Happy anniversary!” It’s my second year anniversary with WordPress! Thanks for reading! :)

Must stop making Disney movies out of everything in my head

A few years ago, I saw a meme that said, “When you see something that disgusts you, say, a worm or a lizard, and you want to kill it, just pause and make a Disney movie in your head from its point of view.” Or something on those lines. And for some godforsaken reason, that meme has remained etched in my head from that day.

Sheepie :)
Sheepie :)

Initially, I didn’t think of it much. But it was one of those thoughts that become louder and louder as years pass by. Now, it’s just messed my mind up badly. I think from every animal’s point of view, and since it’s a Disney movie in my head, everything is hopelessly cute, even a snake, even a worm. Every animal has a family, a child with an adorable baby voice and big eyes, waiting for Daddy Worm to come home. To give you a perspective, I make a Finding Nemo movie out of every animal’s life.

Looking at it from this point of view has made me think a hundred times before doing anything. Before I sit on the ground, I look for ants to make sure there are none. Before I pour water into a plant, I make sure there aren’t any catterpillars on it. If there’s a spider web in my room, I let it be. If a rat scuttles by me, I don’t mind. If a mosquito bites me, I le- ok no, mosquitoes gotta die. Every single one of them.

Anyway, it’s all right with me that I don’t want to cause harm to these beings. But what’s getting to me is that if I harm some living thing by mistake, I won’t hear the end of it from my brain. My mind tortures me about it for hours. The other day, I was doing the dishes, and just as a poured water into the sink, I noticed a small insect in the sink and before I could do anything, it got washed away and went right through the drain. I got into its head for ten seconds, I got flushed down a dirty black pipe. I grew depressed and shed a tear for it. Another time, I injured a big black ant by mistake and broke one of its legs. Immediately, I went into the ant’s head and saw a huge, monstrous me, out to finish the world, raising its hand and breaking its leg.

Clearly, I don’t know where to draw the line.

For instance, when the beef ban was announced in Maharashtra, I was celebrating like never before. But then, I read this article yesterday about how the economy of the country will be affected and how many people will be left unemployed. On the other hand, I read this article about how eating less meat is the best way to tackle climate change and saw this effective campaign by models in China fighting for animal rights. After reading these, I didn’t know what to think.

9
Sheep in the mountains

There are many other things that add to this mind-boggled state of mine. My colleague, Vivian, was once telling me about sheep and cattle in the Himalayas, and how the shepherds there make a living from their products. When they’re alive, they provide milk, and subsequent milk products, they help control the landscape by grazing excessive vegetation. When they’re dead, their meat is eaten, their wool is used to make warm clothes, their skin is used to make leather, their horns are used for something else. Every body part of the dead animal helps the shepherd make a living. And they’re all well taken care of, as I saw for myself.

I’ve even read a lot of James Herriot, who was a countryside vet. He wrote in one of his books about how a few farmers would weep to send their ageing cattle to slaughterhouses because they were too attached to the animals. This made me realise that a lot of these people don’t want to kill and use these animals just for the heck of it, but they have to make a living out of it.

So I’m left in a very confused state. Is it OK and ethical to breed them, take good care of them and then kill them after they’ve had a good life? Or should I get into the animal’s head and be shocked at wtf is going on when I’m being taken to the slaughterhouse? I’d be enraged if I was the animal and not having my Right to Life. But I’d be equally upset if I was a broke farmer, who couldn’t put bread (or meat) on the table.

One thought that came to my mind when I read the above mentioned article about the beef ban was that it’s ok to have beef. But it’s NOT ok to slaughter them unethically, illegally and heartlessly.

IMG_6176
#LifeSucksAndThenYouDie

My friend, Sanjana, once did a documentary of illegal cow slaughter in Chennai. Slaughterhouses are supposed to follow a process that involves sedating the animals and then killing them. But none of that happens in most of these butcher shops. They just take the animal to the backyard and chop it’s head off with a blunt knife and most times, the head doesn’t even get chopped off fully. I do not want to be inside that cow’s head, or outside it. Unfortunately, Sanjana witnessed this first hand and was really upset for weeks together.

As you can see, this topic has really put me in a fix and I sure am glad that I’m neither an animal farmer nor someone who makes the rules. Even as a mere onlooker, I’m muddled up.

I’m not arguing for vegetarianism or against meat-eating. That’s a completely different topic. But I just had to put these confused thoughts down.

I wish my mind would stop wandering and entering other being’s heads. Sigh.

Maggi can take a hike

You know, I’m so glad about the way I’ve been brought up. This post might seem like a tribute to myself, but it’s every bit a tribute to my parents for having brought me up so perfectly. I’m not saying I’m perfect (although I might be), but that my upbringing has been perfect.

Feeling suicidal
Feeling suicidal?

In fact, this post is stemming from all the ruckus that Maggi has created. And then Cerelac, and then Haldirams and whatever else. Honestly, I’ve lost track because it doesn’t make a bit of a difference to me.

A few weeks ago, I went and bought myself a box of Kellogg’s Chocos. As I ate it, I giggled and revelled in the luxury I felt. It was probably the third box of Chocos I’d bought in 24 years of my life. I’d always thought it too expensive to ask my parents to buy it. Not like we’re poor people, but I’ve been taught to spend only where necessary. So, I’d always thought of Chocos as a spoilt child’s snack. In fact, when I was around 12, I did ask my mother for it once. She bought it. But I forgot all about it, until a year later, when I found a jar of soggy Chocos and threw it away. Maybe it was out of guilt, but I waited literally 12 years to buy the next box, with my own money.

The thing is, ever since I was a baby, my parents have thought a thousand times about buying packaged food. I was never given Cerelac as a baby. I was instead fed vegetables and fruits or just thuppa anna (plain rice with ghee and salt). I think the only packaged food I was spoilt with was Bournvita.

So, thanks to being brought up with such food habits, I grew up loving rice, rasam, ghee, salt, milk, curd and other home-made things. You might think it strange, but I wasn’t even introduced to cheese until I was old enough to go out and dine at a restaurant with my friends.

That’s when pizzas, burgers and sandwiches entered my life. I was perhaps 13 or 14. At first, I didn’t really like the taste of white sauce pasta, or cheese omlettes. It was all so bland. But then the taste grew on me and I began to appreciate it. Thankfully, though, my taste buds were already accustomed to homely tastes and I let fast food remain an occasional thing.

20121008_135458
Epicness

Last week, my sister and I ordered pizza, and both of us laughed at the fact that it was probably the third time in life we were ordering pizza. We never order anything home. Nothing tastes better than my mom’s rasam rice with kothambri soppu at the end of the day. And no meal is ever complete without curd rice.

So with a lifestyle like this, I was shocked to see so many of my friends worried about the Maggi ban. Maggi has been a rarity in my house, compared to most households that I know. I liked the taste, but seldom ate it. Same with fried food like chips, fries and other things. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily bought a packet of Lays or Kurkure. Ew!

With such good habits, it’s not difficult at all to stay thin and healthy. I feel bad when I see so many friends just gorging on unhealthy food, ordering in pizza every other night, drinking bottles and bottles of alcohol and bloating up. Fat is not nice, not because it’s socially unacceptable or something. It’s just unhealthy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m not saying I’m the epitome of good habits. I have bad habits like biting my nails incessantly, scratching my skin too much to leave marks behind. (Sigh.) I also have my share of alcohol, but I don’t overdo things, as my parents have taught me.

My dad drinks, but rarely. We have unopened bottles of scotch at home, and they’ve been lying around for years. My mom might be the epitome of good habits though. I can’t imagine anything she does wrong. She even does yoga thrice a week. It’s too hard to be like her.

So thank you amma and appa, for helping me stay thin, inculcating good habits in me in the right way, without ever having punished me. Thank you for making me like healthy things, rather than keeping me away from unhealthy things. You guys are awesome parents and hope the next probable parents, Su and Anand, become parents like you someday. (Muhahaha!)

Thank you! :)

I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic

I took my sister on a ride yesterday on my Scooty Pep+. It was the usual ride from my house to hers – one kilometre long. We’d done this ride a thousand times.

This time, however, she suddenly exclaimed at my riding. “Why you riding like a lunatic? I’m in no hurry and I don’t want to die. Ride slowly. I hate people who ride like this,” she said.

In another 30 seconds, while still in motion, I took off my helmet and kept it at my feet. Again, she showered me with some cuss words. “This is how people have accidents. Continue doing all these antics while riding and go crash into a tree!”

That’s when I realised I had started riding like a boy.

I’ve been riding in Bangalore for the past 10 years. Malleswaram, Vasanth Nagar, MG Road, Koramangala, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Kanakapura Road, Bannerghatta Road, Bellandur, Hebbal, name it, I’ve been there on my 85 cc bike. I’ve mastered the art of weaving in and out of traffic. All this with zero accidents. (Yes, touch wood.)

IMG_20150609_155105322
On my Scooty Pep +. Picture courtesy: Komalaaa :)

I’ve been jeered at, that women can’t ride, I’ve been angered by that comment, then gotten over the anger and have eventually seen a few girls behind the wheel and thought, “Ok I guess women really can’t drive.”

Now, I’ve reached a been-there-done-that phase, where I couldn’t care less about what people think of my riding skills.

The thing is, even though I know that I’m awesome at riding, people on the road look at me, a girl, and think, “Oh there’s a girl riding. Surely, she’ll do something ridiculous on the road.” No matter what I do, they’re going to think it’s ridiculous simply because I’m a girl. So I take that as a license to ride however I want – whether I want to ride really slow on the right lane or whether I want to zip past vehicles by cutting across them rudely – because hey, I’m a girl and I ride like a lunatic!

Well, I could do all that, but I don’t have a general disregard for rules. So, right now, all I do is overtake vehicles, be it in slow moving traffic or fast traffic. I glide smoothly from the right side to the left and overtake trucks, cars and buses alike. I ride like most of those boys that sit on the back seat of a Dio or Activa and stretch their legs in front of them.

It’s actually very liberating to do that and to get told that I ride like a boy. To stand out of the stereotype that girls can’t ride. In fact, I’ve been told that before too. When I used to play football in college, my coach once told me, “You play football like a boy!” I beamed at him. In fact, I was so happy that I came back home that very day, opened my diary and made a note of his compliment.

Now, I’m not saying that girls suck at riding or at playing football. I’ve seen girl footballers that can run circles around defenders or execute neat freestyle moves. I’ve also seen girls who can pull off some wicked stunts while driving (only in videos). But these girls are rare to find. Anyway, I’m sure all girls who have been riding for years in India will relate to this.

The thing is, I’ve always battled with myself about whether I should feel happy about being told I’m like a guy or whether I should be all feminist and get pissed about it. But no matter how much I try to get pissed at the statement, I don’t. Well, it depends on what the compliment is for. If someone tells a guy that he multi-tasks like a girl, then he should be very proud. On the other hand, if someone told me that I carry myself like a guy, I’d be very sad. So, that’s kind of what I’m talking about.

IMG_20150607_215600
Being classy on an RX-100

I like being told I ride like a guy. Since I apparently have the skill, I have now started riding an RX-100, my dad’s newest buy. Well, it isn’t a new bike, obviously. I’m sure it has been owned by at least six people before. My dad is the master of buying second, third, fourth, fifth-hand things. After buying them, he repairs them, paints them, modifies them and makes them as good as new.

And guess what! It took me just 90 seconds to learn how to ride the motorbike. It’s so simple! Even my friend, Nisha, took 30 seconds to learn to ride a Bullet!

So, once I figured out the bike, my first question to my dad was why girls don’t ride motorbikes. Just why?

It’s so liberating! That krranng sound when you kick-start the bike, the smoothness you experience when you shift to third gear, the idea of laughing at lameass guys who ride dabba motorbikes, it’s amazing!

I really think girls should start riding like guys, and start riding motorcycles too. I want them to be revolutionary, so much so that a few generations later, men should be complimented that they ride like women. (Actually, if someone told a guy, “Dude you ride like Swathi,” then it’s already a compliment. Haha!) I wish there are more girls who’ll take that extra step and be awesome at this seemingly male-dominated skill.

Nothing can make you feel more independent and awesome. Trust me.

So, come on girls! Time to be badass!

The puppy that never lived

It’s quite a strange evening in my life. Nothing funny. Nothing amusing.

I’m sorry little puppy, but I need to write this down.

Just half an hour ago, my dad and I walked to a dark, dingy railway track with a shovel, a metal rod and a heavy sack. The sack grew heavier by the minute. Strange, because the content of the sack wasn’t as heavy just ten minutes before. It was light. It was also hungry and scared.

I had taken it home, given it biscuits and some warmth.

Now, it lies under two feet of mud, a mere bundle of fur and body.

It’s strange how life changes with the blink of an eye, isn’t it?

My evening started as usual. I got home at 7. It had just stopped raining.

Before I could even take my helmet off, my dad said, “Did you see the new puppy? It was outside the house just half an hour ago. You won’t believe it! It looks just like your dog!”

“What!” I exclaimed, a wide grin forming on my face. I threw my bag down right on the door mat, took my helmet off and ran to the next road. My mum, who was probably thinking, Oh God here she goes again! shouted after me saying, “Swathi! Don’t bring the puppy home! Play with it wherever it is and come!”

This was the usual drill when someone told me about a puppy in the vicinity. I always ran after it, my mother always shouted after me. I ran although I knew I couldn’t keep it. No one is at home to take care of it. We all work. Even my current dog half lives inside and outside the house. I can’t manage another one.

IMG_20150519_191949
The little puppy girl

But I ran anyway. I found the puppy. She was adorable. She had big black eyes. I went up to her cautiously, trying not to scare her. It took about ten minutes to gain her trust. She finally let me scratch her ear. But she kept running away, on the road, after people who she thought had food with them. That’s when I realised she was really hungry.

I picked her up to bring her home. She was shivering. As I carried her, a young man came up to me. He had a DSLR in one hand and a veg roll in another. He introduced himself as Sameer, said he has a blog and asked if he could click a picture of me and the puppy. Instinct told me that he was a nice enough guy and I let him click a bunch of pictures.

He asked me what I was going to do with the puppy. I said I’d call a few people, try and get it adopted. He was visibly impressed. He said, “You do this with all puppies you find?” I said this was the first one I was trying to get adopted. “The previous puppy I found stayed with me, and still does,” I smiled.

As I had said, I came home, put the puppy down and called Let’s Live Together hoping to leave the puppy there for the night. While the phone rang, I saw the puppy walk all over the house leaving tiny paw prints behind. I called six times and no one answered. So I clicked a picture of the puppy, posted it on Bombat Dawgz, asking if someone wanted to adopt it. After that, I gave the puppy five Parle G biscuits. She ate hungrily.

After this, the puppy started scratching the door and whining. She wanted to go out. I let her go out thinking she wanted to pee or poop. I didn’t go with her. After all, she had been on the streets ever since she was born. I would go back out after changing my clothes and bring her back in.

Meanwhile, Supriya called me up. I spoke to her and told her about the puppy. Told her how I ran after it, told her how my mom shouted when I brought it home. We both laughed. “How typical of you and your mom!” she laughed.

Then my dad called out to me from outside. “Swathi! Your puppy is here roaming around! Come and take her,” he shouted to me.

I gleefully hung up, and was getting down the stairs to the main door, when I heard a blood-curdling scream from the road. Another louder scream followed. My mom looked at me with terror in her eyes. “I think someone’s chain got snatched!” she said to me.

I ran out.

But before I even went out, somehow, I knew what had happened – exactly what I had dreaded.

Five people stood on the other side of the road, crowded around a small bundle on the floor. I crossed the road, still without my slippers. Just like my first meeting with the puppy, I took cautious steps. This time, not because the puppy was scared, but because I was scared. I saw a man take a water bottle and pour it into the small heap that lay there.

I went to take a closer look. I don’t know what exactly the man said. Maybe it was “She’s gone.” “It’s dead.” I don’t know. All I remember was running across the road, back towards my house, wailing and unable to control myself. I ran straight up to my room, wailed and wailed into my pillow, shouted at myself for letting the puppy go out.

But then, I had to get my act together. Still wailing, I went out, back to the road. By now, all my neighbours had come out listening to the screams and my wailing. I ran towards the puppy. Sat next to her. I stroked her belly. It was still warm.

There was no blood. The bike probably ran over its neck and snapped it clean. It had died in a second. No one heard a whine or whimper.

I looked around me. The girl sitting next to me was a friend from yoga class, Veena. She has adopted a dog herself and dotes over dogs. Another girl I saw weeping across the road was Saraswathi, a girl known all over Malleswaram for her love for dogs. It was strange that the three of us had to be there at that spot, consoling each other.

My dog, Piccolo and Veena’s dog circled the dead puppy, sniffing at it and fussing about. My dad said my dog had been playing with the puppy earlier in the evening. It depressed me.

We sat by the dog for some more time. Another lady came by, with her daughter, and asked if she could help by taking the puppy to the vet. She didn’t know the puppy was already dead.

Then my dad came. I suggested we bury the dog. My dad said we could bury it near the railway track. The shopkeeper nearby gave us a big gunny bag. I didn’t want to touch the dog anymore. My dad took the bag and put the puppy into the bag. He handed the sack to me. I lifted it. I was shocked at the weight. I told Veena that I’d make sure the puppy was buried properly and that she could go home without worrying. She went home weeping.

It’s strange to think that all this happened within ten minutes. The photographs clicked by the blogger, the biscuits, the phone call, the scream.

I carried the sack home, then saw my mom. She was bursting with guilt for shouting at me when I brought the puppy. She wept. “I should’ve never shouted at you and asked you to take the puppy out. I’m so sorry.” My heart really went out to her and I just gave her a long hug. It wasn’t her fault. Once guilt gets to you, it becomes the dripping faucet at the back of your mind. I wasn’t going to let anyone blame themselves. Even my dad was already blaming himself.

But he’s a brave man. He took me to the railway track. Both of us dug a three-feet-deep hole. “Should we bury it with the gunny bag?” he asked.

I said no.

“I can’t bear to look if we take it out of the sack,” he said. My heart went out to him this time.

I said I’d do it. I emptied the gunny bag. It was dark, so I couldn’t really see the puppy. She was just a tiny, black and white bundle. My dad was turning away. I told the puppy I’m sorry.

We covered her with mud. My dad mentioned “Hanuman” something. I didn’t quite catch him. I was about to burst into tears, but I fought them back. I had to stay brave for his sake. I just said “Rest in peace puppy,” under my breath and left.

We rode back. When I reached home and opened the door, I saw the puppy’s tiny paw prints on my floor.

I took a cold shower. I deleted the “Up for adoption” post from Bombat Dawgz.

I was and still am too shocked to do or say anything more. I don’t know how to react, whether I should cry some more or just assume a matter-of-fact tone. My voice is coming out straight, but my hands won’t stop shivering.

I’m on the borderline between blaming myself for the loss of a life and blaming it on fate. But the more I brood over it, the more depressed I’m going to get.

All I can say to console myself is that the puppy is in a better place now.

And hopefully, resting in peace.

I’m glad whoever is reading this is with me to share my joys and sorrows equally. Thank you for sticking to the end. Don’t let this ruin your day. Hundreds of puppies die everyday like this. You can’t change the past. You can’t undo what happened even what happened ten seconds ago. Just tell yourself they’re all in a better place now. But the next time you see a stray puppy, make sure you take it into your house, come what may, and keep it in your house till you find a foster home or a permanent home for it.

Don’t make the same mistake I made.

Braving a hailstorm in the Himalayas

IMG_3753
My little kutthu

It was April 28, 2015. I rose to the sound of cuckoos cooing. Not a cuckoo clock. Real cuckoos. Slowly, my mind registered more sounds. The cric cric of mynas, the cawing of ravens, the pecking of woodpeckers, the occasional moo of a cow, the barking of mountain dogs and the rattling of bells from around mules’ necks. What a perfect morning it was!

My tent mates, Suma and Ashwini, were already up and immersed in hushed chit-chatting. Hushed because every sound in the mountains sounds ten times louder. (And the neighbouring tents can hear all your gossip.) I asked them what the time was. I had no watch and my phone had been turned off for two days. Keeping track of time on this trip was the last thing on my agenda. But we had a schedule to follow.

They said it was around 5 am.

I was up on time.

We were to go from our campsite in Rohini Bugyal to Brujgali today.

I walked out of the tent and was greeted to a fantastic view, something I could never take for granted despite seeing it everyday. From below my feet, acres and acres of bright green meadows unfolded in all directions, until they disappeared into deep, untamed forests. These forests were no ordinary forests. They were replete with rhododendron trees that were full with pink and red flowers – a rare sight that occurs during March and April in the Himalayas.

Rohini Bugyal
The toilets with the best views

Beyond the forests, rose the much-coveted ranges of the Himalayas themselves. Oh how we had waited the previous evening to see these guys! It had become a sort of ordeal to reach the campsite every evening, huddle up on a carpet and stare in the general direction of the mountains, waiting for the peaks to show themselves. They were almost always hidden by a thick layer of clouds. How many abilities we all wished for – to simply blow the clouds away with an “uff,” or wipe the screen clean of clouds or maybe suck the clouds into a vacuum cleaner. If only life was that easy! On most evenings, we went to sleep disappointed, hoping for a good view in the morning.

2015-04-26 15.31.53
Pretend meditation. (Praying for a mountain view) Picture courtesy: Deepak Suri

And that hope was never shot down. Surely enough, everyday, the mountains rose from their lazy slumber along with the sun, showing off the fresh snow atop their peaks. They gleamed in golden rays at dawn, throwing gigantic shadows over villages and forests below. This was the view I woke up to this morning too. As usual, I was dumbfounded by the view. I remember thinking, “Why do I bother writing? Or clicking pictures? Like any of that can actually portray the grandeur of these guys.” I had heard so much about how insignificant they make people feel. And that happened to me everyday.

As I grudgingly brushed my teeth in the biting cold water, I saw one of the shepherd dogs about a hundred feet away. “Doggyyyy!,”  I called to it. When it turned towards me, I noticed with a chill down my spine that it was no mountain dog. It was a sleek little fox. It stared at me for a while, until I gestured to everyone to look at the fox. It stared for a few more seconds and ran away into the forest.

Such was the start to my day. It was just the beginning of the day’s adventure.

We started our trek at 7 am through the densest forests ever. Oaks, maples, rhodos, the “tree of souls” from Avatar, they were all competing for prettiness. For me, the maple trees won it. The shapely leaves against the sunlight and their many shades as they lay drying on the floor left me in awe. I picked up a few to press in a book.

Waterfall as seen from far far away
Waterfall as seen from far far away

We rambled on through the forest till we hit a waterfall. We could hear it from far away, swiftly cascading down the hillside. The water was freezing. After I saw two trekkers dive into the water, I couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in it myself. Unable to strip down like the men, I just went and stuck my head in the water, letting my hair down. As expected, I had a temporary brain freeze. But it was bright and sunny and the water was so refreshing! (The swollen tonsils later would pay the price.)

There was more adventure yet to be faced. The final two hours were a challenging steep ascent through lush meadows where woolly sheep grazed. But as we ambled on, a thick layer of dark grey shrouded the pretty blue sky and left us apprehensive about rain. Sure enough, it began to drizzle and then pour. Since we were all equipped with raincoats, bag covers and ponchos, we were all safe and ready to carry on.

An hour away from our destination, the camp site at Brujgali, water droplets turned into tiny marbles of ice. We were all fascinated! We collected hailstones in our hands and played with them. We stood with our mouths open to the sky and ate hailstones. We were thrilled!

IMG_3781
Last picture I shot before putting my camera inside to protect it from the rain

But not everything was sunshine and rainbows clouds and hailstones. Within ten minutes, the hailstones grew to the size of baby potatoes and began pelting us with enormous force. It had turned into a full blown Himalayan hailstorm. Solid stones fell in abundance from the grey nothingness above. And with great force. It was painful. I remember exclaiming “Ouuuuch!” and shouting at every stone that hit me. We ran to our campsites with the little energy we had left in us. We made it just on time, before the thundering clouds lost control and burst open in a celestial flash of light.

Hailstorm at Brujgali
Hailstorm as seen from the dining tent

Had we been outside for even ten more minutes, it would have turned into a life threatening situation. If not life threatening, a few of us might have lost a few toes and fingers to frost bites. (And I’m not exaggerating.)

But we were safe for now. Fifteen of us huddled together like cows in the dining tent, threw our bags, ponchos and shoes in a corner and rubbed our hands together for warmth. Some people sat back-to-back trying to generate some warmth. It was bitterly cold. Our teeth clattered and our knees trembled. It was past lunch time and we opened the lunch boxes we had packed in the morning. Our rotis had turned cold and hard and our sabzis had dried up. But we ate hungrily. By now, there was a foot of ice all around our tent.

Ashish, bringing us tea
Ashish, bringing us chai

Struggling to speak, breathing out frosty and misty air, we kept ourselves cheerful with gay banter. But the real cheer came when we heard Ashish’s (our local guide) voice outside, shouting out that one word we longed to hear. “Chai!” My face lit up with excitement. Hot chai in the middle of a hailstorm in the Himalayas! No matter how cliched that might sound, it is worth every bit of the hype. Nothing could make me feel warmer than chai. We were all so lazy to look for our mugs, we just took chai in our lunch boxes and drank like savages. It was wonderful.

Like chai was the answer to everything, the hail storm subsided around then and we could finally step out of the dining tents into our own 3-man tents. We ran in and settled for the evening, unpacking, repacking and setting up the place with sleeping bags and inners. I remember thinking, “Did we do something to piss the mountains off? Why did they pelt us from above and give us such bad weather?” I’m not a particularly religious person, but that evening, I prayed to Shiva and Rama (whose temples were our final destination), saying sorry and to give us good weather.

My prayers were soon answered. At around 5 pm, when I stepped out of the tent, I was greeted by the most gorgeous view I’d seen so far on the trek. The jagged incisors of the Himalayas stood tall and proud on the horizon. The white of their teeth stood out against the forget-me-not blue sky. Tiny wisps of cloud floated high over the mountains. Closer to me, trees swayed, trying to shake the ice off themselves. I could sit and watch for hours despite the cold wind.

Brujgali camp site
Our campsite at Brujgali

The scenery was worth a thousand hailstorms.

I drank soup, clicked a bunch of pictures for the little time my camera battery lasted and went to my tent. The view from my tent of the setting sun is something I’ll never forget. It’s the best view I’ve ever had from any place I’ve lived in. For a while, I wished I could live permanently in that tent at that very spot.

View from my tent
View from my tent

It’s funny how a few people say good things are short-lived and how a few others say good things last forever. This Himalayan trek was a mixture of both. It lasted only a week, but it’s effect will last on my for years to come. Well, at least until I go on another trek and refresh my memory.

I feel much more mature, calm and accommodating than ever before. Despite the exhausting trek, I feel re-energised. I feel like I can deal with any demanding situation by simply saying to myself, “Pfff I’ve braved a hailstorm in the Himalayas. This is nothing.

Most of all, I feel at peace.

Vote of thanks

Thanks to all my trek mates, especially my tent mates, who turned out to be like family members to me. I’m sure every time I think of this trek, the sound of our laughter and elation upon reaching the peak will echo in my head. Also I want to say a huge thank you to the mules for transporting our luggage to every camp site, and to all the animals (dogs, cattle and sheep) who made my day everyday! Also, to the little kids in Sari, our base camp, who were such a hearty bunch. They actually came and fell at my feet and made me stupidly say, “Chill,” every time they did that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_3164
Baba :)

Also, special thanks to Baba, who literally paved our way to the peak with an ice axe. He is a champ. I don’t think any of us would have gotten anywhere without him, especially not in that knee-deep snow. Also, thanks to Indiahikes, who treated us like royalty with bed tea to wake us up and a hot mug of Bournvita before sleeping and the cosiest tents and sleeping bags. I don’t think I felt deprived of anything even for a minute in the mountains. And I have to thank Sandhya and Arjun, my bosses, for encouraging me to go on this trek. I really have the best job in the world.

Thank you Mahesh and Deepak for contributing pictures to this blogpost. :)

It was just my first Himalayan adventure and it taught me a lot. And I’m already planning my next one. :)

Here’s to many more trekking adventures.

PS: Sorry to all you guys whom I left worried after the earthquake in Nepal and India. I didn’t have network and I couldn’t have possibly updated you all. Thank you for the concern.

Keep calm and carry on_
Cheers!

 

Two days before my first high-altitude trek

It’s April 22, 2015. I have approximately 36 hours until my flight to New Delhi, the Capital City. I’ve been there once before, but that visit almost doesn’t count. I don’t know if this one does either, but I am spending around 24 hours there and meeting Sanjana and Priyam there. So maybe I’ll count this as my first visit to Delhi.

IMG_20150330_165123
Just a poseur for now.

I’m quite apprehensive. I sat in front of my cupboard this morning hoping to pack my bags. Instead, I sat for a whole hour and bit my nails. After I had no more nails to bite, I left to work.

I’m going on my first high-altitude trek to Deoria Tal on April 25. It’s an easy trek, I’ve been told, just like a stroll in the Nilgiris or in the Western Ghats. But I’m still nervous and of course, excited. I’m going to be travelling alone all the way to Haridwar. I’m venturing into unknown territory. And I’m going to be trekking in snow for the first time in my life.

There’s one thing that’s been eating me up though. I haven’t been exercising. Sure, I do walk 2-3 km casually every day, either to buy ice cream or to shop for groceries, but I don’t exercise with an intention to exercise. I hope it isn’t going to come back and bite me on my bum.

What makes everything such a big deal is that I’m going on this trek from work. You see, I’m going to be assisting the trek leader, because I’m an employee at the company organising the trek. So, if someone falls down and the trek leader isn’t around, I’ll have to pick him up and help him snap out of it. It’s actually quite a big responsibility. I remember I had to do that at my previous trek. Some girl couldn’t walk any more, so I had to carry her bag the rest of the way, make Electral for her, hydrate her and assist her all the way to the destination. All this, when I had no prior trek experience.

IMG_20150308_111259
This is how it’s going to be, hopefully.

It’s actually sort of gratifying. I guess the idea of me being responsible for others makes me automatically and instinctively responsible for myself. When I’m egging others on, I don’t even have to think about whether I’m alright or not. I’ll be naturally alright. It’s only when I pay excess attention to myself that the littlest problems in my body and mind seem to blow out of proportion.

Maybe this is just too much foresight. As always, it’s my mind that’s doing all the over-thinking. I will wait for the trek to start and then see how it goes.

I’ll go home and pack today.
I’ll unleash my excitement and throw my apprehension away.
I’ll sing like a lark and set my legs free on the wondrous mountain way.

Yayyy! Look at me belting out poetry n all! Haha! That’s a first.
Hopefully, I don’t come back with a load of nonsensical poetry and highly romanticised prose from the mountains.
Can’t tell you how that annoys me, mostly because I don’t understand poetry or highly romanticised prose.

Anyway, until next time! :)

Traaa laa laaaaa laa la la laa…

Beauty and the Bandh

So, as most of you in the city may know, Bangalore had a bandh today.

Although it didn’t make much of a difference to me (I had to go to office), it made a world of a difference to the city itself. The daily pollution was probably reduced by 90 per cent today. Hurrah for lungs full of oxygen!

Anyway, I just felt happy about every street being less populated. It felt nice to NOT be reminded that there are around 420 people every square kilometre in this country. So, I decided to click a bunch of pictures. :)

DSC01531
A rose and my new trekking shoes!

As usual, my day started with a jog. (I say “as usual” to sound cool. I started jogging two days ago.) I found a rose on the road. I clicked a picture. Then I found that people are more conversational and comely in the mornings, especially during bandhs. An old man was poking fun at a fruit seller that he had to work despite the bandh. It was actually quite sweet, because the fruit seller asked the old man if he wanted to take over and do it for a day. It was all in good spirit. I smiled at them and jogged on.

When I got home, I noticed that the fruit seller wasn’t the only one at work. My milkman was also doing his usual rounds. He’s the most laid-back milkman you’ll ever see. There are days when he comes as late as 10 am to deliver milk. But he’s been our milkman for around 13 years and I don’t think we’d like to settle for anyone else. My mum gives him coffee every morning.

DSC01542
“Don’t click a picture of me. I can’t pose!” Then he poses.

Speaking of my mum, she was just chilling this morning. Bandh or no bandh, Saturday is her day off. She was cleaning the balcony and tending to the plants. And posing for pictures in her night clothes with a sleepy face.

DSC01534
“Hi there, you minion!”

I was standing on the road and clicking pictures because, well, I could stand on the road. I live on the main road and I hardly ever get to stand on the road. Vehicles are always rushing by and if I get onto the road, I’ll be shoved right back onto the pavement by violent honks and Oi-get-out-of-my-way’s.

Today, I took the liberty of standing bang in the middle of the road and clicking pictures. Ha!

DSC01527
Middle of the road. Like a boss.

After this lack-of-people happiness, I spent some time with Pupsicle and Piccolo. As always, they annoyed me by not posing properly for pictures.

Get a room you idiots.
Get a room you idiots.

After all this, I left to office on a high note. I sang all the way to office, reached in around seven minutes and worked. It was a pleasant day at office as well. We did some gardening there today. Izzat got lots of soil and compost and seeds. We got our hands dirty.

While coming back from office, I was so happy that I wanted to stop my bike, get off and dance a bit. My office is on the Mekhri circle road. It’s disgustingly crowded and trafficy everyday. It takes me 15 minutes to negotiate just about a hundred metres. But today, I entered the road and my God! I could actually see the road, pay attention to the trees around it and the sky! It’s a once in a lifetime thing.

I also found boys playing cricket in the middle of the road. Well, this happens even normally, but more so during a bandh.

IMG_20150418_165251
The cricket team of MD Block

After this, I decided to do something interesting. I got bored of just clicking pictures. So I flipped my phone out and decided to do a video. It was quite a stupid idea because I don’t have a Go Pro camera. I have two hands, a bike, a Nexus 5 and a helmet.

But I had to make the video because I loved Bangalore today. I felt like I was back in the 90’s.

So watch this video, because I literally risked my life making it. I rode with my phone in my left hand and my right hand on the handle bar. It was awesome! I took the video on my NExus 5, but after processing, the quality has reduced. Now, I’m no video maker, but I did this for fun. It’s 30 seconds long. So watch it and tell me it’s awesome. :P

That’s all! Hope you had a happy bandh! :)

I don’t need your civil war

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been afraid of war. I know that sounds like the kind of statement that would come from a war-experienced person. But no, my life has always been pink and happy. The idea of a war, however, has always scared me.

I remember, back in sixth grade, in 2001, when the World Trade Centre was struck, there was speculation of a Third World War. I didn’t know much about war, but I was scared. The next day, when I went to school, the topic of the WTC came up in the first period. Miss Juliet was our class teacher and she was generally talking to everyone about it. No one seemed perturbed except for one girl, who began to sniff and cry. Yeah, it was me.

I don’t know why I was upset. For the rest of the week, I had nightmares of everyone I know being dead. My house was a rubble of cement and bricks. I woke up one night and threw up because my dream was that bad. I don’t know if it was the same fear of war or if it was something else. This hazy memory brings to my mind a quote I read in The Sense of An Ending, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.

Anyway, I prayed that no one would start a Third World War. I had no sense of international relationships back then. I didn’t know who was pissed off with whom. I didn’t know which country was deemed bad and which one, good. I knew Osama Bin Laden was a bad guy. And I was scared of him. I once dreamt that he was in my balcony.

IMG_20150409_083559
A Star of David bookmark for Exodus. Most of you may know it as the branding that was stitched onto Jews’ clothes during WWII

But that’s history. Fast forward err… 14 years (Ok I’m getting OLD). Yesterday, I finished reading this book, Exodus, by Leon Uris. The book had sat in my cupboard in the Will-never-read-these, don’t-know-where-they-came-from section forever. Just out of curiosity, I opened the book, read a few lines and I was hooked. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a classic novel that documents the history of Zionism (influx of Jews into Israel from all over the world) and the creation of Israel. It’s part fiction and part truth. It’s a powerful book with deep characters. While reading it, I felt like I was part of everything. I felt like I took part in the creation of Israel, a region that is portrayed as overwhelmingly powerful.

The book documents the numerous wars that happened between Arabs and Jews over Israel (especially the Civil War), about the British pretending to help the Jews, but never really helping, about WWII concentration camps, about unrest, about terror, massacres, air raids, genocides, murders and destruction of any means of livelihood. And yet, it’s a story of victory, faith and courage.

Through out the book, I kept thinking, “Oh this was all so long ago. These people are such barbarians. Nobody hates the Jews any more. Thank God it’s all over.” The book was published in 1958 and it documents history right from the 1800’s until 1949 I think. I don’t know why I thought that was long ago. It was some 60+ years ago and the world hasn’t changed much since then. I was but a fool to think it’s all over.

I feel so naive to have convinced myself that during those wars, people were uneducated and they just wanted to be dumb and fight for land. I look around me now and I see mindless violence everywhere. It’s so frustrating! One day, I see that 147 students have been massacred in Garissa University, Kenya, and the next day, I read that India is evacuating people from Yemen, because some two sects of the same religion are fighting each other for power. Actually, the intensity of the situation hit me only today when I read this personal account of what it’s like to be in Yemen right now. It sounded strikingly like a girl in Exodus narrating a war scene. Added to that, today, I saw my own country, amidst all the heroic evacuations, has turned into the first country to use weaponised drones for crowd control.

I just don’t get it and I don’t think I ever will. I wrote this post to simply rant about how ridiculous everything is. I recently saw a picture of a bunch of men standing over a writhing cow, whose throat was slit off. Why? Beef ban. Because the cow signed some papers and made the ban? Why are people so bloody irrational all the time? Why do they let their minds be directed by anger and violence? Why can’t they pause, think and talk it out? What ever happened to the idea of a compromise? Or forgiveness?

Where is the love?Transparent box

Home alone diaries – When I learnt that my mom is superhuman

Today is International Happiness Day and International Story-Telling Day.

And I’m very happy, so I’m going to tell you a story.

I’m happy because my parents are coming back home tonight after 15 long days, relieving me of my home-alone stint. The story I’m going to tell you, is… well, about my home-alone stint.

My mum and dad went on a North-East trip two weeks ago, leaving me home alone for the first time in my life. “Big deal,” I thought, about managing the house by myself. And that’s exactly what it was – a big deal.

Three bedrooms, two living rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, two balconies, a terrace. It’s not easy to manage such a big house all alone, especially if you’re into cleanliness.

Within 24 hours, I learnt of all the chores my parents do everyday, and I learnt it the hard way. Nevertheless, I enjoyed everything I did – be it waking up at 6 am to fill up the filter with drinking water, or dashing about the house to sweep, mop, heat milk, make rice, make rasam, make breakfast, pack lunch, do snaana, drink milk and rush to office in the morning.

It was actually exhilarating! I felt responsible. I felt like without me, the world couldn’t go on. That’s always a great feeling.

I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I automatically knocked out at 11 pm and woke up at 7 am. Of course, there was that ten minute power nap in office too.

Through the course of this home-alone stint, I learnt a lot about myself and my parents.

For instance, I learnt that I’m a slightly traditional person. There was a festival day when they were away. We have always celebrated that festival at home, wherein you tie a yellow thread around your neck to ask God or thank God for a good husband. I found the yellow thread, said my prayers and was about to put on the thread when I remembered my mom telling me years ago that someone older has to tie it. Immediately, I ran to the neighbour’s house and asked Prerana’s mom to tie it. I lit the lamp every evening and lit an agarbatti. I’m not pious or anything. Just doing all this made me feel complete, like my parents were still at home and doing the things they’d do everyday.

Not only that, I watered the doorway and decorated the entrance with rangoli every day. I googled new rangoli designs and squatted outside my house, looked into my phone. I drew with intense concentration. If I missed one dot, the whole design would be messed up. While drawing with chalk is simple, not so much drawing with rangoli powder. I don’t know how and when I learnt it, but my mother has somehow silently passed on her talent to me.

That’s kind of what this post is about – how my mother has been a silent hero in my life. Without her presence, I don’t think I’d survive even a day. I’ve always been openly awed by my dad and have written blog posts about him and posted pictures of him being a cool dude. Mostly because he likes all that. But all along, my mom has been there by his side and by mine, teaching us both a good way to live, instilling in us a good lifestyle – when it comes to food, clothing, daily life, manners, everything. And she has been completely subtle about it. She is the real Wonder Woman.

IMG-20150316-WA0010
Sending a picture to my sister. “Is this toor dal?”

Without her guidance over the past 24 years, I don’t know how I’d have survived these 15 days. I’m proud to say that I didn’t order food even once when my parents were away. I made it a point to make breakfast and lunch and dinner. I learnt how to cook a few basic things. I made rice and rasam (something no one in the family can live without). I think a little credit goes to my boss, who over a random conversation, advised me not to go to my neighbour’s house everyday to eat. “Deny their offer. Cook at home. See how much you learn and how good you feel,” he had said. I did just that.

I learnt from scratch how to make rice, rasam, aalu-jeera sabzi, pudina chutney for sandwich and salad, pasta salad, etc. I was in such a bad state before this that I didn’t know which dal was supposed to go into the rasam. I still don’t know which dal is called what and when people told me to put toor dal in rasam, all I did was blink stupidly.

Now, I’m happy that I can make yummy rasam. I even got a compliment saying, “It tastes exactly like your mom’s rasam!” That was the best feeling ever. Everyone knows that my mom makes the best rasam!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_20150308_184611
Sinful Brownie Points at Ice and Spice

But I wasn’t such a goody goody kid also. I did have some rebellious fun. I couldn’t let 15 home-alone days ago to waste! There was a 1522 evening and an Ice and Spice evening when I wasn’t bogged down with too much work. At Ice and Spice, I really indulged in some crazy food. Ah the thought of that Brownie Points dessert is still sending me to heaven!

Anyway, apart from the food, there was still a lot to be done. I had to sweep, mop, etc. In between, a coconut tree branch fell into my balcony. That required a lot of cleaning. And I hadn’t realised just how many plants we have in our house. On the terrace, in amma’s balcony, in paati’s balcony, beside the house, outside the house, behind the house. My my! I had expected some rainfall so I wouldn’t have to water all these plants but the rain god wasn’t on my side. (What’d I do to you Indra?) It was scathing hot everyday and I couldn’t forgo the plant-watering. However, I realised that there were 81 flowers on my terrace one evening! They’re all so beautiful. So I felt happy that I was making them grow.

After plants come animals. Puppy and the fishies. I had to feed them both everyday, give fishies oxygen, buy eggs for Puppy, clean her bowl. My God! Going back in time and thinking about it is making me widen my eyes at how much I did. I even made sure that the house was spotless by keeping it clean. And I had to wash clothes. Phew! Bravo Swat! You’re awesome.

But it was really really fun doing everything. I loved being on my toes and still making time to read and write a bit. I even got a JustBooks account on one of those 15 days. I brought my friends over on a couple of days and we chatted away till 3 am. Komal and Nisha were awesome enough to make aalu paratha for me for dinner. I literally let my guests take over the kitchen and cook for me. Haha!

Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
Nisha and Komal getting ingredients ready for aalu paratha
IMG_20150117_171845
“What is this girl doing? Why is she doing that to her face?”

I like how I never really felt alone. My friends constantly popped in and out. Pupsicle and Piccolo were always around. Every time I needed to talk, I called them and they’d listen and even respond emotively. They’re two very intelligent doggies, who know that they should agree with everything I say.  I love my doggies. : )

But at the end of the day, my favourite part of it was going to Uttara’s house and eating her ajji‘s God-level varan bath (parapu mammu, or, Sudarshan, if you’re reading this, purp mammu). Varan bath with goad loncha (sweet lemon pickle) is the best food ever (only if it’s made in Uttara’s house). It made me do my happy dance with every bite.

Anyway, I’m glad I had these 15 days to live alone and figure out life. I am now resolved to help my mom and dad in daily chores. I definitely can’t be the super woman that my mom is, but hopefully, someday, I’ll be at least half like her.

Thank you amma, for making me who I am today. I like to believe I’m a little piece of you – judging by my likes – love for literature, trees and nature, curd rice, maavinkai and generally a tasteful, dignified approach to everything – and dislikes – garlic, meat, animal haters, smelly people. Haha! (We don’t really dislike many things.) I love you for giving me this happy outlook in life, for making me enjoy every little thing I do – be it doing potty or watering plants or riding my bike with my hair down or drinking water from streams when we’re on a tour somewhere.

And one final thank you for helping me manage the house for 15 days, without being there but somehow being there.

You’re a champ, mummy! : )

 

When you stop being in a relationship

IMG_20150222_175917
Us

I was listening to music on my phone the other day, when an obscure song by Creed began playing. Stand Here With Me. The intro struck a wave of nostalgia through me and took me back in time by five years. Or perhaps four. I can’t remember clearly. It was the first song Rahul dedicated to me. He is a big fan of Creed and their subsequent band, Alter Bridge.

I’d never listened to the song before. I remember how comical he seemed that day when he dedicated the song to me.

I was at the mobile phone store, Sangeetha, if I’m not wrong, with my dad. I bought an E63. Back then Rahul and I were heavy texters. We texted each other all day – right from Good morning until Good night, and sometimes that Good Night would come only in the morning after an all-night bout of texting. So when I bought the new phone, I wanted his first text on my phone to be something special. He never usually thinks of these “special” things. I always have to coax him into doing them. So I texted him from my brand new phone saying, “Hey! I just bought a new phone. Send me a nice first message on this phone. : )”

The genius that he is, he replied with, “Like what ya?”

Sigh. So that’s what I got for a first text message. I think I responded with, “Never mind, you’re dumb,” or something on those lines. Actually, wait. I don’t think I had the cheek to call him dumb back then. I was still in mode where I was intimidated by his intelligence in other fields like Sports, Math and Geography. I just thought aiyo and asked him to send a special second message.

He responded with the lyrics of the song “You always reached out to me, and helped me believe. All those memories we share, I will cherish every one of them. The truth of it is there’s a right way to live and you showed me. So now, you live on, in the words of a song. You’re a melody. You stand here with me. :-P”

I read the lyrics and thought Err… What? This is so cheesy, but cute I guess! But I’d be lying if I said I could relate to it. And I’m sure he couldn’t either. We had known each other for only around five months and singing about “cherishable memories,” I thought, was a bit far-fetched.

I went back home and listened to the song. The classic Mark Tremonti intro put a smile on my face. I loved the tune. But the lyrics? The second paragraph started with, “Just when fear blinded me, you taught me to dream.” Oooookkaayyyy riiight. I burst out laughing. I knew Rahul would be laughing at the idea too! He just needed to dedicate a song and he did. I just needed a special message on my new phone and I got it. But to think either of us could relate to the lyrics is absurd! We were just kids, intoxicated by the idea of a relationship. It was all about excitement for us. We hadn’t experienced anything that was remotely testing/emotional. All we did was go out to bowl at amoeba, have lunch, perhaps go for a movie and live a carefree life. That was about it. There was no fear blinding us, no dreaming to be taught.

At least back then, that was it. Now, five years later, when I listen to the song, I realize I can relate to every single line. “I’ve learnt the world is bigger than me. You’re my daily dose of reality.” Haha I sure am his daily dose of reality and I don’t know if that’s a good thing. : P “I’ll give you everything I am, and still fall short of what you’ve done for me.”

I know that when you’re in love, the lyrics of every love song will seem perfect. But this song is more than just the lyrics. This song itself is a cherishable memory.

We have gone from acquaintances to friends to being in a relationship. But I don’t think we’re in a relationship anymore. A relationship requires two people and I think we stopped being two different people a long time ago.

Happy five years, mister.

PS: It’s high time you wrote a song for me. Thanks. : P

Here’s what my work is all about. There’s something in it for everyone

Today, someone asked me what I do at Indiahikes. I said, “I write about trekking.” I stressed further, “Only trekking and nothing else at all.”

And then, as an afterthought, I added another line. “There’s a lot to learn.”

Every day, I learn little by little that trekking isn’t just about walking on hills and mountains. There is just so much involved.

This unbelievably brilliant picture was shot by Ethan Dsouza at Kedarkanta
This unbelievably brilliant picture was shot by Ethan Dsouza at Kedarkanta. There are quite a few animals on the trail – dogs, horses, sheep, mules, cattle. I personally want to go on a trek simply to be at close proximity with all these animals for a whole week.

For instance, the basic connection while trekking is with nature. Nature itself is so vast. So if you’re on a trek, you can learn about trees, birds and animals around you. You can learn about which flower is called what and why it’s called so. You can learn about Himalayan griffins (and I thought those birds were mythical creatures, only to learn yesterday that they actually exist), about red pandas, about colourful rhododendrons and about deodar and cyprus trees. Another thing I learnt yesterday, for instance, is of Bhojpatra. A tree on whose leaves the Mahabharatha and Ramayana were written. I find that fascinating! I can almost picture Vyasa narrating the Mahabharatha to Ganesha, who sits, scribbling away on a paper with a quill.

In fact, for a person who drinks up mythology, there is a LOT of treasure buried on mountain trails. Every peak or lake has a story behind it. Every river and stream has a myth attached to it. I don’t think it matters whether these stories are true or not. They’re just so fascinating. For instance, there is a peak called Swargarohini, and apparently, it was here that Yudishtira (and his dog) found a stairway to heaven. Hence, the name Swargarohini. There is also a Black Lake that never freezes throughout the year despite being bang in the middle of the Himalayas.
Just the other day, I asked my colleague about the story of a fort on some trek. He absolutely sold to me a story about how a king built the fort because he was sad that his daughter ran away with a boy. Of course, sometimes, it is fun to make up “folklore” to troll your colleagues.

20130605_093014
Beautiful ladies at Roopkund helping out in the Greentrails project. This photo was shot by Izzat Ansari, who heads the Greentrails project.

And the people. There are so many people involved when it comes to trekking. It’s not just about the trekkers. In fact, they make for just 10 per cent of the people. There are trek leaders, porters, guides, ground co-ordinators, photographers, writers, cooks, medical help, localites, and each of these people has his own story to tell.

On a daily basis, I find that a lot has to do with the locals in all these towns and villages on the trail. It’s a two-way street, where they make ends meet with the income they get from trekkers and in turn, trekkers take a truck load of information back home. For instance, my friend learnt only last week that “Gurkha” doesn’t mean watchman. She was shocked to know that they’re a sect of people in the mountains, in fact, few of the strongest men in India, along with Sherpas. Now now, don’t scoff. I’ll bet most of you are ignorant about many such things, except you don’t know of it because, well, you’re ignorant.

There are a few things, however, that you can’t afford to be ignorant about while trekking – your own health. You have to be fit, so you’ll learn about how to get fit. And you have to start two months in advance because you have no go otherwise. Also, when you’re on the slope, you’ll have to know about which medication to take when, if you get sick. You can’t be taking wrong medicines in the middle of nowhere and getting worse. You just can’t risk that.

So trekking, after all, isn’t just about trekking. It’s a life-lesson package. Of course, at Indiahikes, I learn more about my country than anyone probably does. I learn about mountain ranges in every state, every district. I learn about different tribes and sects, different languages, different job options (things I never knew existed!) and about simple living. The best part about it is that all this learning is not theoretical. It’s all practical. If you open a Geography text book to learn about which river runs where, I go to the river to find out where it’s running. That’s kind of how life here works.

I know I haven’t yet gone on a high-altitude trek, but writing about these things on a daily basis, and speaking to my bosses and trek leaders for just ten minutes every day, teaches me more than I’d learn in a year without these people around me.

So, yeah, that’s what I do. I write about trekking.

And I get to travel to the most remote and beautiful parts of India. For free. #Win

Trekking vs. holidaying

It’s not easy. Staring at pictures of extraordinarily beautiful snow-capped peaks, lakes, hills and other such landscapes, while sitting in this mind-numbing urban setting in Bangalore, is not easy.

KK 2
Most pictures I stare at everyday look like this.

But staring at these pictures is part of my job. For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently working at Indiahikes. Indiahikes organises treks (national and international) and documents obscure trails all over the country. I’m working as the editor here, and my job is to edit articles and write a few myself. I also get to travel and go trekking for free. Just saying.

So, over the weekend, I thought, “I’ve had enough of just staring at pictures. It’s high time I jump into one.” So I set off on a local trek to Ballalarayana Durga, which is near Kudremukh in Chickamagalur.

You must understand the implications of going as part of the organisation and not just as a participant. It was my first trek after close to six years, and yet, I was handed a lot of responsibility on the trek. We went with 45 college students and I was told to take care of them and encourage them to trek. If they were tired, I was told to ask them to not give up.

I was quite apprehensive about it. What will I do if I can’t go any further? What if I want to give up? 

The last time I trekked before this was to Kumaraparvatha. I was a wreck during that trek. I threw up at the start. I almost passed out on the trail. All of us completed just half the trek. Although it was fun being with friends, from a trekking point of view, it was a failure.

Yet, I made up my mind and went, determined to make the fit and unfit students trek to the destination. Along with me came Nisha, a colleague, who, I suppose, had the same thought running in her mind.

Nisha
Nisha

I was surprised at my own capability. Knowing that my boss had told me to be the encourager and not the encouragee, I egged students on and didn’t sit down to rest at all. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t feel tired although I walked 16 km in a day, without prior daily-exercise. And 16 km in the mountains is a lot!

That’s when I realised that it’s all in the mind.

My colleague, Parth, who is a trek leader, said that our body is a machine – one of the most beautiful and efficient machines. It can go on forever, provided the main switch is on – the main switch being your mind. So while you’re trekking, if you think, “Oh God! What am I doing here when I can sit at home and chill watching TV,” you’re switching off your mind. No matter how much physical strength you have, you are not going to have the capacity to go on. (In my opinion, you’re being daft.) On the other hand, if you take time to open your eyes, look around you and appreciate nature, your body will automatically want to move on and see what is beyond the next hill.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And when you’re walking, exhausted, trust me, every minuscule thing is a thing of beauty. Every shady tree, every blade of grass, every gust of wind is a thing of beauty. You will never thank God more for creating food and water and shelter. And don’t even get me started on the beauty of a good nap after a trek!

In fact, when we reached a waterfall and rested there, I dipped my feet in the water, lay down on my back facing the bright blue sky and closed my eyes. That half hour’s nap was the best nap I’ve experienced in my life. I didn’t have a care in the world. Not about people watching. Not about the hard rocks that made my bed. Not about the blazing sun in my face. It was the best nap I’ve ever had.

That power nap was all I needed to get back on my feet and trek 8 km again. Ushering the college students, Nisha and I trudged along the trail, through the meadows, the silent forests at night and back to the base.

Once we reached the end, we stretched and lay on our backs on the road. We stared at the stars and the waxing moon. We ate pulao to our heart’s content.

It was a blissful experience. I slept like a log on the bus back to Bangalore.

Doggies that lead the trail
Doggies that lead the trail

The aftermath: You’d think that after walking 16 km uphill and downhill in a day, you wouldn’t ever want to walk again in life. But after I got back, I’ve only been more enthused about walking around and exercising. I probably seems silly, but for everything I do, be it climbing four flights of stairs to the terrace or carrying a 10-kilo puppy around the house, I think, “Gah! I climbed 20 km. There is nothing I can’t do. I’m invincible!”

I am, of course, aching all over, but this is a good kind of pain. It’s the pain that tells me that my muscles are becoming strong. They’re going to take good care of my bones if they get strong. Fitness is something that comes automatically with trekking. After you go once, you’re hooked to trekking and you want to get fitter everyday.

The best part of a trek is that you feel like you’ve earned everything you get- be it the scenery, a sip of water, the food, the fresh air… You earn every single bit of it. All you have to do is spend some calories.

On a holiday, though, you’re earning nothing. In fact, you’re burning a hole through your pocket to repeat something you do at home – sit in a hotel room, watch TV, use WiFi, order a regular/fancy breakfast.

Of course, I love holidaying too. Nobody can really have anything against holidaying, But somehow, after going on my first trek, I feel trekking adds so much more value to your trip, in terms of self-gratification. It’s something that adds more meaning to your life. It makes you stronger, harder and quicker. It removes the word lazy from your vocabulary. It teaches you how to live minimally. Luxury is something that is wiped off your desires, whether you’re on the trek or at home. It’s all about going back to the basics and you’ll be surprised how well your body and mind deal with that.

It’s hardly been four days since my trek and I can’t wait to go back to the mountains again.

Every time I go out, I want to do better.

I want to reach greater heights, literally.

 

When abortion is a painfully good choice

Today was one of the toughest days of my life. It was mentally exhausting.

A lady said to me, “These dogs are giving us a chance to undo our sins by helping them out.”

By “helping them out,” she meant neutering or spaying them so that they can’t have babies.

I stood there wondering, “Am I really wiping off a sin or committing another one?”

Things got much harder when the veterinary doctor came to me and said that Puppy was pregnant. It wasn’t just spaying now. It was abortion.

Puppy and me
Puppy and me

This is how it all happened. Around a month ago, a female Puppy that lived outside my house got into her heat cycle. When female dogs are in their heat cycle, they attract males from miles away. It was a terrible sight to watch the male dogs mount themselves on her, whether she liked it or not. She couldn’t sleep at all because male dogs just lined up to mate with her.

I don’t know whether I was doing the right thing, but I brought Puppy inside two days after her heat cycle began. I kept her in my house, taking her for walks four times a day so that she could still play with her friend, Piccolo. Piccolo is another male dog in the area, who dotes on Puppy. Even now, he comes like a bodyguard with Puppy and me when we go for our walks.

For a few days, she didn’t like being inside. She wanted to be outside with her friends. But I made her sleep in my room, bought her a few toys to chew on, played with her every evening after work and promised to let her out after we operate her.

I could get her operated only after her heat cycle, which lasts around 45 days. I waited and waited, and thinking it was over by now, I took her to the vet today.

The doctor called me in after the operation and showed me the six half-grown foetuses he had just removed from her. They were strung together with the placenta. They looked like tiny balloons. In 15 days, he said, Puppy would have littered.

Who would take care of them if they were born? I don’t have the capacity to take care of seven dogs. I can’t even keep one.
I wouldn’t have the heart to separate Puppy from her babies and give them up for adoption.
There are more than 10 rogue dogs around the area that I wouldn’t trust to let the puppies live on the streets.
If they did, who would feed them all after they’ve grown?
Moreover, Puppy is still only around 9 months old. Would she survive childbirth? 

My mind was teeming with all these questions. In fact, these questions were what helped me justify my decision to get her spayed.

It wasn’t a decision I made easily. I’d been reading about it every single day for over a month. Most articles I read online told me to spay her. Not trusting the internet, I asked my friends. My two most favourite people, Rahul and Nuvena, were dead against it. And I almost always take their opinions seriously.

You do not have a right over Puppy’s life and her puppies’ lives. You cannot take away her right to be a mother!

Conversation with didi
Conversation with didi

These were the lines thrown at me by them, and by my own mind. Just to make sure I spoke to the person most concerned about animals, I contacted my cousin, Kavitha didi. She has dedicated her whole life to animals, fighting for their rights. She has been a vegan for over 20 years now and is a role model to me. Her opinion was what would convince me, if anything.

So i took her advice and went to the vet. When the doctor told me she was pregnant, I was doubly torn. Will Puppy know what I’ve done to her? Will she ever forgive me? Will she go into depression? How can I do such a terrible thing to her? She would have been a loving mom. If I put myself in her place, I’d be furious.

I asked the doctor all these questions. He tried to convince me saying I was doing a good deed by sterilising six more dogs. He said birth control is the need of the hour.

Well, thinking practically, it makes sense to get street dogs spayed. It’s not easy to take care of them in this hostile urban world. Not many people like street dogs. Besides, I’ve always been pro-choice. Nip it in the bud before it grows up without love and care is what I believe. But when you aren’t making the decision for yourself, it isn’t that easy.

My mind asked me, “Why are you thinking practically when it comes to Puppy? You yourself aren’t always practical. If you were that practical in life, you’d have gone with the tide, done engineering and MBA and gotten a mainstream job and earned well. You wouldn’t have decided to be a writer. So why be practical in Puppy’s case?”

I still haven’t answered that question.

Puppy
Puppy

All I know is that it was the toughest day. Watching everything, right from Puppy getting anesthetised, to her dropping out of consciousness, my dad carrying her to the operation table, peeking into the window of the operation room to see how it was going, everything was a huge struggle. During the 10 minute operation, my dad and I were constantly pacing up and down, exactly like they show in movies. I couldn’t keep my voice stable. There was a point when  I broke down because I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad and I were equally concerned about Puppy and trying in vain to convince each other that she’ll be fine.

The most heart-wrenching moment for me was when she was still lying unconscious at home. She couldn’t move, not her eyes, not her ears, not anything. She lay there, limp, with her tongue sticking out. I sat next to her and said, “Puppy, I’m sorry.” And I was shocked to see her tail wag just hearing my voice.

Sigh.

Someone said that Puppy has the deepest trust in me because she knows I won’t let anything bad happen to her.

I hope that still holds good.

To all those of you planning to get your dogs neutered/spayed, I wish you good luck.

IMG_1332
Dad and Puppy

Special thanks to my dad, who has been with me throughout my time with Puppy, advising me what to do and taking care of her all day himself. I’d never be able to handle Puppy without him. Heck I wouldn’t even love dogs this much if not for him. So thank you appa! And to my mom, who takes care of Puppy and ensures she feeds her, even if she has to sacrifice her own curd rice. A hug from her after the operation was all I needed to calm me down a bit.

Also, a lovely and selfless lady called Geeta Mishra helped me incredibly in getting Puppy spayed. If you guys know stray dogs around your house that need to be neutered, do feel free to contact me. I’ll put you through to her.

Thank you for sticking around till the end of this post.

 

8 reasons why girls must follow football

Since listicles, as they are called, are so popular these days, I thought I’ll write one of them. Trust me, I didn’t know they are called listicles either. Sounds creepy. Anyway, that’s besides the point. I know none of you are probably reading this, and are most likely to just skim through the headline of all the points, which is what I usually do with listicles.

Arsenal. : )
Arsenal : )

Getting to the point, I have been watching football for around five years now. I support Arsenal. Strangely enough, I never knew about Arsenal (or EPL or football) during The Invincibles’ era. I began following football in around 2008/2009, and I don’t even remember why. But over the years, following Arsenal’s games has moulded me into an ardent follower of the team and its ethics, and now I’m a fan of the game itself. I’m not forcing girls to follow football. Just merely putting down the plus points. They’re just my thoughts, so don’t start an argument at the end of it. Peace. : )

Here are 8 reasons why girls must follow football. (I’m writing from personal experience)

1. You stand out among your girlfriends: From what I have seen, girls seldom follow football. In India, I mean. (If you’re Dutch or something, this listicle isn’t for you). But in India, there are movies like Bend It Like Beckham, where a girl playing football has been glorified so much! That’s how rare it is. You’ll stand out among all your girlfriends for that reason alone. When you’re low, feeling like you’re a nobody, this will probably make you realise how different you are from the rest and it’ll make you feel important.

2. You can chill with guys easily, if you have to: A couple of days ago, one of my friends, Bird, certified me as a “bro.” It was during a casual conversation we were having with two other friends, Rahul and Guntoo. He said, “Dude she plays football. She’s a bro.” Well, I liked being called a bro. It’s like being in the inner circle. Not saying I want to be a guy. I like being a girl and I love my girlfriends. But sometimes, it’s nice to be in the loop when guys are discussing football and Fantasy Premier League all the time and you can contribute instead of staying mute, or instead of being made to hang out with some other guy’s girlfriend simply because apparently “girls can’t talk football.”

3. Your weekends are made (and for cheap): I think most people like to hangout at pubs or cafes on weekends, and that can be an expensive affair! If you’re a football follower, however, it’s the opposite. You tend to ensure that there are no meetings when you have to watch your team’s game. If my friends call me out for a drink on a Saturday evening, or if my parents call me to visit someone, the first thing I do is check Arsenal’s schedule. If it’s to someone’s house, I ask them if they have subscribed to Star Sports. If we’re going out to a cafe, I call and find out if they’ll keep the match on. (Most of the times, cafes and pubs in India prefer playing cricket (even old matches) over live football). Anyway, there’s nothing I look forward to as much as a good match! You can call your friends over, make popcorn, watch the match and have a really fun weekend at zero cost. International breaks and those two no-football months after EPL is over are almost torturous! I’m telling you, the sport is addictive!

Netherlands national team
Netherlands national team

4. Football increases your general knowledge: I’m not even kidding. Once you begin to follow football, you learn of new names, new countries, new languages. You learn to connect names to countries. You know how they say that men are better at geography? It’s probably so because they follow sports. After I started following football, I learnt about so many countries, like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc. I learnt to distinguish players country-by-country just by learning their names. Of course that’s possible only to an extent, with names like Nistelrooij, Vrij, Sneijder, or Neuer, Gotze, Muller. I’ll never know where Papa Bouba Diop is from by reading his name.

5. It will be one of the few constants in your life: You know, I don’t even know how football happened to me. One day, I said “I sort of like Arsenal.” And being one of the most pampered cousins, I was suddenly showered with Arsenal merchandise from all directions. Calendars, jerseys, mugs, flags, books, (used) tickets to Emirates, banners, scarves, posters, piggy banks, my God! Name it, I have it! Before even I knew it, everyone around me had made me a fan. Automatically, I had some direction to follow in my life. I began following all of Arsenal’s games, read up books and articles and made it a vital part of my life. My yoga sir says, “Nothing in a human is permanent. Your body changes and deteriorates. Your thoughts change, thereby making your mind fickle. But your soul is the only permanent thing.” I think when you support a football team, you put not your body or mind, but your soul in it. Your support for a team becomes the only permanent thing, the only constant in your life, when everything around you and inside you changes.

6. It increases the success rate in your career: Ok, I’m not entirely sure how it will work in something like an IT profession. Maybe you can build good rapport with your boss, provided he’s a football follower and impress him enough to give you a promotion. But if you’re in the field of journalism, like I am, knowing football or any sport for that matter, can put you on TV. Since women sports journalists are always in demand, if you know the sport, you’ll be sure to get hired. I think this works mostly in TV media though.

7. It makes you feel like part of a community: When the player of your favourite team scores, you get off your sofa at home and jump, hop and dance all around your house. All this for something that has no direct impact on your life whatsoever. When a player from your team gets injured, you cover your mouth watching the replay of the Stoke player (most likely) ramming into your player. You swear at the guy who made the foul, along with a million others who are swearing in their houses at the same guy. I don’t think such massive numbers ever come into consensus over anything else! So if your team loses and you’re sad, you have a million people to share your sorrow and no one will ridicule your sadness, except maybe your mom. You are a part of a huge football family, and you can be proud of it.

8. You’ll be that awesome person destroying gender stereotypes: I can actually count the number of girlfriends who follow football on one hand. Actually, on three fingers. Really! I’m not being sexist or feminist fail or whatever else you might name me. It’s the truth. In fact, the only other football fan, who is also a friend, Sanjana, suggested to me this point. Seriously girls, sometimes, guys just like making fun of girls by asking them easy questions when they know that girls don’t know the answer. It makes the whole gender look dumb. Take a look at this video. It’s of a guy asking Mumbai girls questions like “Which country does Messi play for” and girls are responding with answers like “Chelsea.” “Who will win in a match between Netherlands and Holland?” is a question, and the girls pick one of the two. :-/ It’s not the girls’ fault that they aren’t interested in football! But these kind of videos are trying to make the whole gender look dumb, just by asking a handful of girls something they aren’t interested in. So it would be nice to defy the guys their dumb laughs once in a while. Shaving your head or walking around with armpit hair (ew) like the Fastrack ad encourages you to, is not an entirely pleasant way of destroying gender stereotypes. You can be a little more moderate and follow football instead.

That’s all! A good way to start is by following the English Premier League, which airs on weekends in the evening on Star Sports. Or contact me and I’ll guide you. I’m not forcing you to watch football, but you’ll never know how awesome it is, until you give it a shot.

Disclaimer: I sent this to my friends to review before publishing it. They all warned me about getting into gender-bias arguments n stuff. I don’t mean to demean anyone or any gender through this post. Just saying that to follow football is a healthy habit. Sigh. I hate having to put disclaimers. I don’t like to people who pick on everything that’s written. I’m a peaceful person and mean no harm. Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading it. If you did, thank you! : ) If you didn’t, well, go read something else. : ) The internet has lots to read.

Here is another listicle I had written before listicles became mainstream.

All the fuss about a cup of tea (totally worth it)

It’s my mom’s birthday and I thought I’ll do all the work in the kitchen today. I did the dishes, we went out for lunch and I decided to make evening tea. I make tea for my dad and myself everyday at 3pm after an afternoon nap, as we have both retired from work and are chilling at home. I make substantially good tea. But today, it tasted horrifyingly bad. I have never made tea for three people before. Besides, it was the first time I made tea after going to a tea tasting event at Infinitea, and I don’t think I can make nice tea anymore because what I had at Infinitea raised the benchmark to something I can’t reach.

This awesome picture was shot by a talented Shaam Somanna
This awesome picture was shot by a talented young man named Shaam Somanna

You must be thinking, oh what’s all the fuss about? It’s just tea. Well, whether you’re thinking so or not, I think making beautifully blended tea is an art that requires a good deal of practice. You boil it too much, it gets acidic; you add too much milk, it loses its flavour; you make it too watery and it sucks. A Geisha goes through years of practice before making the perfect tea, imagine! (I’ve been reading Memoirs of a Geisha a bit too much.)

Anyway, I have always had tea at places where they first slam a steel tumbler onto the granite slab, pour some tea decoction into it, then take a huge ladle, scoop out a good amount of milk from a barrel and lift the ladle as high as their hands can go, while tilting the ladle and pouring milk into the tumbler simultaneously. This tea usually costs around Rs.10.

At Infinitea, I had a completely different experience. Not like I’ve never been to a tea parlour before, but I’ve never really been told what and how exactly to go about drinking tea. For instance, I never knew that green tea goes best with lemon and lime mousse. Forget the flavours. I never even knew that the textures of mousse and tea go well together! So here’s what the menu for the Winter Tasting evening looked like.

Nov 2014 A5  Tea tasting menu for web
Winter Tasting. Sounds too fancy no?

 

Since it sounded so fancy, I decided to dress up like a fashionable socialite and go. By my standards, what with the bottle green pants, a belt, a MK bag and everything, I was as fashionable as possible. But by normal-ish Mount Carmel College standards, I was dressed in daily college wear. Hehe. I felt good about myself anyway, and that’s what counts.

Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!
Salted caramel butter macarons and lemon macarons. Sanjana, I ate one for you!

The evening went really well. Nuvena and I spoke to the founder of Infinitea, Gaurav Saria, for over an hour. He is an ambitious, happy, married chap who loves his tea, and doesn’t take the easy way out as a chef. If it’s going to give him better results, he doesn’t mind having to go a notch farther to reach his goal. He gave us one of the first few batches of his fresh macarons. They were incredibly tasty! Finger licking good, if I may steal KFC’s tagline. “Most people in Bangalore make macaroons. That’s the easy way out. I have been working on these fellas for years and still haven’t perfected them,” he said about the macarons. That’s how much he knows he stuff. Who knew macarons and macaroons are different things! For many minutes there, I thought he was just pronouncing it wrong. Haha! (Macarons are delicate, meringue sandwich cookies made with egg white, sugar and almond flour. Macaroons, are made with egg whites and coconut. No almond here! Macarons are 2,000 times more difficult to make!)

This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.
This is the picture I shot when this picture was being shot.

The five teas served to us were top-notch, perfectly concocted and started from light teas and ended with the quintessential masala chai. Every tea tasted surprisingly different, and was made from fresh tea leaves, as opposed to packaged tea powder or tea bags. Did you know that the stuff in tea bags is just the dhool (dust) that remains after the actual tea leaves are packaged? Sigh… We were taught that good quality tea leaves are harvested, sun dried, ground in slow moving grinders, that just touch the tea leaves a bit, just enough to shred them a bit, then sent into rollers to be shaped and come out as ready to use tea leaves. We tasted tea made from oolong tea leaves. (And here I was, thinking Oolong is just a pervert character in Dragon Ball Z!) Oolong is one of the finest qualities of tea apparently, originating from China. The British actually brought it from China and planted it here in Darjeeling when they ruled. Now, India is the largest grower and consumer of tea, and the second largest industry, worth around Rs.10,000 crore! Man! There’s SO much to learn about everything in the world.

Anyway, I must say, the delicacy that accompanied every tea was every bit as delicious and rich as it sounds on the menu. I could feel the lentils of orange and lemon in the respective mousses burst in my mouth with a juicy flavour. The Belgian Chocolate Pot de Creme was out of the world! It was a little creamy bit of heaven. Every sip of tea helped wash out the flavour of the accompaniment, so every bite tasted refreshing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gryffindor socks
Gryffindor socks

I find such evenings very entertaining mostly because I love to observe people. There was a little girl sitting opposite us. She held a Harry Potter book in her hand, wore a Half Blood Prince t-shirt and Gryffindor socks. I would have absolutely envied her when I was her age. I struck a conversation with her and she said her favourite house was Slytherin. Haha! She was adorable.

It’s on days like this that I learn to appreciate the knowledge other people have, of things I’ll probably never learn. Did you know that it’s good to not wash your tea cup with soap because tiny particles of the soap remain even after you wash the cup off? It’s good to let the tea stain stay, because it’ll season your cup and make your tea taste better! Every minute topic has so much to learn about. So on this day, I learnt that tea is not just tea. Of course, it tastes awesome when your mum blends it with all the love in the world, but there’s an infinite(a) amount to learn about it. : )

That’s that. It’s what a real tea party looks like!

Thanks for dropping by! And thanks Nuvena, for making the evening happen! : )
Thank you Gaurav for hosting such a fun evening. And thank you Shaam for these awesome pictures!

Until next time.

The social, subconscious monster

I was just going through Goodreads a while ago, to see when I last updated it. I chanced upon some of my friends’ profiles and noticed that they have read so many more books than I have. I have around 42 books on my ‘Read’ list and they have more than 100!

I thought, “That’s it. Time for me to read my ass off and update my Goodreads profile so I have more books to show off than them.”

That’s when my inner voice asked me, Are you even listening to yourself? 

That moment, right there, was a small moment of enlightenment. There was no drama. Nothing. It was just one thought responding to another thought and yet, it made so much sense. Even as I uploaded the name of the book I was Currently Reading, an Ernest Hemingway that lay in front of me, untouched for hours, I realised I was being an idiot. People have passions – reading, writing, drawing, cooking, eating, making music, dancing, whatever. But I think, thanks to social media, people are forgetting that they are doing things because they like to do them.

social-monster
Boo!

I’m not pin-pointing at others and saying this. This “sharing” on social media is happening naturally, almost instinctively, and somehow, that irks me. I mean, you make a painting, hit share. You click a picture, hit share. Sometimes, it’s OK to take selfies just for memory’s sake. It doesn’t always have to go on Facebook. That’s not the part where you’re making a memory! You’re making a memory by clicking a picture. In fact, you don’t need the picture at all. You’re making a memory by living that moment.

See, it’s alright to share things online, but somewhere down the line, I think people are missing out the point of doing things for the love of it. There’s a difference between doing things and sharing them, and doing things to share them. Sometimes I see something cute and think, “Oh this will look nice on Instagram.” I’m forgetting that it’ll look nice simply in a picture. Why bring in Instagram into the scene? It has become more about uploading things online, waiting for people to respond, waiting for likes, comments, etc. Perhaps I have also gotten sucked into this whole thing simply because it’s so nice to feel like someone cares and appreciates what you do.

This morning, my sister wrote a blogpost. I told her to share it. She said, no. Her “no” made me think, “What? Then why write?” Again my inner voice went Dude get a hold of yourself! What are you even thinking? But, somehow, I coaxed her into sharing it anyway. (Haha!) Similarly, my friend, Rahul, is completely against social networking. Every time I click a picture and say I’m going to put this up on Facebook, he says why? What’s the point?

Exactly. What’s the point. Social networking is such a fleeting phenomenon. One minute your post is there and the next minute, it’s gone. I don’t think anything anyone uploads has long-term effects on anyone.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Rubbish! I don’t do that!”
But think again. It’s the most subconscious act, which makes it worse. So try and nip it in the bud, lest you lose track of your real life! : )

Goodbye, Deccan Chronicle. You were fairly good to me.

I have two days left at Deccan Chronicle. I thought now is the time to retrospect a bit.

DSC_5842
I’ll miss this “smoking zone” where we did the awesomest photoshoots for our stories

 

I’ve been here since June 17, 2013. That’s 17 months. I loved my job for a year. I interviewed people every day and learnt of so many professions that I did not know existed. I learnt of things like fruit-mixing parties and grape-stomping parties. I shuddered to think that those grapes and those fruits went in my mouth for Christmas. The number of contacts on my phone increased exponentially. Actors, PR people, artists, authors, dancers, models, entrepreneurs, other journalists, so many people entered my life in the littlest way. I have an entire list of “socialites” on my contacts and till date, I don’t know what exactly the “socialite” profession is. Anyway, this was the kind of exposure I got from a typical lifestyle journalism job.

But I had one problem – although all these people had entered my life, to most of them, I didn’t seem to make a difference. The celebrity-kind people. Or the socialites. No, I don’t want them to make note of my existence. I’m saying that my articles made no difference them. The articles I especially enjoyed writing were about young people who needed publicity but don’t have enough money or fame to have articles published in a reputed newspaper. I like to write about good people, those who have interesting stories to tell, be it an 18-year-old entrepreneur, a sweeper on the road, or a sandwich maker. I didn’t care who it was. I wish I could write about the good man who fixed my Scooty’s tyre this morning when it was punctured. But not in my paper, I couldn’t.

Predictably enough, the principles of my boss and mine began to clash. Of course, I didn’t tell her this. I was always a good employee (I think), who didn’t get in her hair. I didn’t like many rules here, which I can’t really put down for the public to read. (If you ping me personally, I’ll tell you all about it! : P) So yeah, I put in my papers. And I resigned. Of course, a lot of people said, “Why did you resign? You were doing so well and meeting such famous people!” That’s exactly my point. I don’t want to make famous people more famous. It’s senseless to me.

Anyway, if there’s one thing my stint at Deccan Chronicle has taught me, it is to accept people for who they are. I have a terrible tendency to compare people I newly meet to people I already know. I would’ve probably told Nuvena, “Oh dude! You are so much like my friend, ABCDE.” But when she doesn’t turn out to be like ABCDE, I take offense and don’t like Nuvena that much anymore. So that definitely had to change, because it’s a dumb quality of mine, and it did change. Well, I don’t think I suffered from too much of that problem anyway. (Nuvena, I don’t think you’re like ABCDE now. You’re you.)

The thing is, I had never been so closely exposed to such tremendously different personalities. At ACJ there were so many people of course, but my room-mates were swalpa-too-perfect to have a problem with them. At work, it was like each person came from a different planet! But I learned to overcome their negative qualities and concentrate on the good, which I think is the most important thing in a workplace. I suppose it’s my mom’s way of going about things. She has always taught me to never hate people and deal with them well, no matter how evil they are. (She doesn’t even hate those dirty, axe-brandishing, bad guys in serials on TV! She doesn’t even hate Manchester United and probably won’t hate Joffery Baratheon!) So, I learnt to deal with Sneha’s temper, Zoya’s a-little-too-carefree attitude, Nuvena’s obsessiveness (with me), Arka’s spaced-out-ness, my bosses’ wild mood swings, everything. When you’re on a team with seven women, I think you have no choice but to learn to learn and adapt.

Which is what I would suggest to you, Nuvena, Zoya and Sneha, and to all of you who are still working wherever you’re working. The place around you or the people around you aren’t good or bad. It’s what you make of them.

I’m not being preachy because of my awesome yoga classes. If you actually put some thought into that, about accepting people and adjusting to their ways, then your life will be a much better one to live.

I had a good time and DC and it’s only because of all you guys at work. Each one of you have contributed to be becoming a better person everyday. Thanks for being there and loving me as much as you did. (Don’t get mushy after reading this and come to give me a hug. Eeks.)

PS: Don’t ask me where I’m headed to next. I don’t know!

That’s all. : )

Here’s why you should adopt Indian dogs

You all know, by now, that I love dogs. If you don’t know that yet, read this.

The day before yesterday, my Puppy got bitten by a bully. You see, Puppy is a 4-month-old Indian dog, who lives on the streets and sleeps outside my house when she feels like it. I keep a bowl of milk and a bowl of water for her. She drinks when she feels like it. Basically, she is free to do what she wants, go where she wants and live how she wants. No leash, no collar – freedom.

IMG_20141014_144809
See how symmetrical the design on her face is? She can’t be more perfect.

 

But like I said, she got bitten by a bully. So for two days, she hasn’t been her usual self – jumping, running about and going berserk when she sees me, or mom or dad. She has been lying low, not walking, not talking, not eating, not even wagging her tail. The bully bit her on her inner thigh. So she is finding it hard to sit and stand easily. She sways while walking too. But she’s a strong little puppy. She’s holding up, without complaining. Not one sound from her. No whining, no growling.

We took her to the vet this morning, to CUPA. My dad and I. My dad is helplessly in love with her, although he won’t admit it. So he drove us down. Puppy sat with her front paws and head in my lap, her eyes wide open, gaping at everything she could see through the window. You know dogs like Marley? How they stick their heads out of car windows, stand in the seat, wag their big tails and make a mess? Puppy did none of that. She sat quietly, ready to accept whatever came to her.

When we reached CUPA, we parked the car. We lifted her and put her down, because she isn’t currently strong/brave enough to jump about with the wound and everything. She walked towards the lawn and peed there. My dad and I began to walk into the building. All we had to say was “Puppy, come,” and she followed, although a bit hesitantly. At the entrance sat a scared Golden Retriever with its two masters. A Rottweiler soon followed, drooling all over the place. Puppy, naturally, was a bit scared of other dogs, because she’d just been bitten by one. So she sort of hesitated and went off-path. so my dad carried her to the waiting area. There, we set her down, just near our feet. There was a Labrador, a Pomeranian, a German Shepherd, two Golden retrievers and a Dachshund. All these dogs were snarling, growling, a few excitedly whimpering and straining at the leashes of their masters. One of them peed right there, just at his master’s leg. Puppy sat there, at our feet, without a leash or a collar that we could hold her by, just looking around at things with amusement. She was curious no doubt; she didn’t show a sign. I’m blessed that God put such a well-behaved puppy on my street.

Inside, all went well. The doc gave her two shots. Before we got into the car, puppy, who was following us, took another detour to the lawn, to pee again. I have no clue where she learnt that she mustn’t pee where humans walk. She sat in the car as she was told to and slept outside after we reached home.

You might think that she is this subdued because she’s wounded. But that’s not true at all. The first time I took her to the doc for a general vaccination, it was the same scene. She was very good. And although playful and enthusiastic all the time, even with other dogs on the street, she has never caused problems.

Now, I don’t see a reason for her to listen to me or my dad. We are not her masters. Yet, she does. She doesn’t do anything to piss us off. When she is thirsty or hungry, she holds her bowl in her mouth and stares at my mum. Even my mum, who isn’t as into dogs as my dad and I are, has fallen in love with her. Even if the amount of dinner is just about enough for the three of us, mum keeps a bit aside for puppy every night. That’s the only time we feed her. She fends for herself otherwise. She hasn’t been trained, hasn’t been made to stay with us. But she does.

IMG_20141007_174539
Puppy, hugging my feet and sleeping

 

I’m not bragging about Puppy here. In fact, I’m telling you, she isn’t mine. She loves me, I love her and that’s about it. She is an Indian dog, and I help her when she needs it. It’s all you need to do, because Indian dogs are bloody intelligent and street-smart. If you’re wondering why I don’t keep Puppy inside my house, I have had bad experiences in the past, and I feel it’ll reduce their immunity. Besides, last night, I tried bringing Puppy inside. She came inside. When I shut the main door, she panicked and wanted to be let out. It was 1 am and I couldn’t leave the main door open.

But a lot of puppies aren’t lucky like this girl. Many puppies are left in other dog’s territories and when that happens, they are bitten and sometimes, killed by other dogs, because like humans, dogs are extremely territorial. So when you see abandoned and helpless puppies, do what you can to help them – be it adopting them, or rescuing them for adoption through online forums – because no one can love you and stay equally detached like Indian dogs can. It is the most ideal relationship in the world.

You know that cliched line, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t it never was”? I think whoever wrote that had an Indian dog.

So if you’d like to adopt puppies or help adopt abandoned ones that you come across, you can check out this Facebook page, Let’s Live Together. They do really good work. Or hand them over to CUPA. The number is 080-22947317. Or post pictures of the puppies on Put Me In Touch or Bombat Dawgz, both of which are groups on Facebook. That’s also helpful.

PS: I have nothing against foreign breeds. I go gaga over them too. But Indian dogs need help where they can get it. So do try and help.

Cheers.

 

To new beginnings!

I’ve been putting off this post for a while, maybe simply because I don’t want to have to deal with the thought yet. But WordPress persuaded me today, saying, “Write a post about something that should’ve been left untouched, but wasn’t. Why was the original better?”

Well, my entire life is about to change this month. For the past year, I’ve had a daily schedule; I’ve been able to tick things off a list that I made at the beginning of the year. It’s been mostly filled with work at Deccan Chronicle. The year actually flew by, but it has perhaps been the most fruitful year in my life, in terms of work and personal life. Su and Anand lived one kilometre away from my house. My Friday nights were almost always spent with them. I interviewed a few awesome people and grew close as ever to Nuvena, Sneha and Zoya. And I have to now bid goodbye to all of these people.

If you don’t already know, I have quit my job at Deccan Chronicle and have 11 days left there. So that means I won’t be seeing these silly girls, Nuvena, Sneha and Zoya, everyday. Sunayana is going to be in Orissa for a year, starting tomorrow, and Anand is going to Chicago for maybe two years. The thing is, I’m used to living away from my sister. For six years, she was away, studying, and for a year, she was in Amsterdam. But now, I’ve grown surprisingly close to Anand and having them both away, might be an extra pain to deal with and I don’t want to come to terms with it. They are my gang! No matter what my problem is, I go to them. “Should I quit?” “Should I buy these pants?” “Should I change the poster in my room?” “Should I put pickle in my curd rice?” You get the gist.

I don’t think the change of circumstances ever makes a difference in one’s life. It’s the people. It’s always the people. And I had gotten too comfortable with these people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I suppose getting too comfortable with a phase in one’s life callsfor a change. We are all excited about change. By ‘we,’ I mean Su, Anand and I. Su is in Orissa to help in rural development. Anand is off to USA from work, which means alone time in a new country, which is always a good thing. And I’m looking to write and travel as much as I can before I settle into another job. Maybe that’s what has gotten me all jittery. I’ve always been like Jenny from Marley & Me. The organised-kind with life plans and a bucket list to follow. Right now, I have absolutely nothing to organise because I don’t know where my life is headed! I’m so confused. On the one hand, I have people asking me “What next?” every time they see me. And on the other, I have my own mind asking me to take things easy, and take up whatever comes at me. I’ve always been told to listen to my mind, by my mind.

This looks like a silly diary entry, with nothing for my reader to take away. I know. But I have to set these thoughts free, and make some space in my mind, you know. Because every little thing is changing.

The left side shift key on this keyboard isn’t working. It has always worked and now it isn’t.

I hope that’s the only bad change out of everything I have mentioned in this post.

All in all, I’m looking forward to 2015. Supriya is coming back in January (hopefully). Sunayana is going to visit in January. I may go to Orissa to visit her. I may go to Shillong to visit Priyam. I may travel to Chennai, Pondi, Kerala and who knows where else!

But I’m going to miss the perfect past year. The nights at 1522, the gossip lunch time in the pantry at office, making tea with Nuvena, riding back with Sneha, drinking chai at the adda, staying over at Su’s where we always fell asleep trying to do something constructive, making plans to go for runs regularly and failing, going for movies, watching the matches together, watching Su and Anand argue about BJP (and watching Su shed a tear when he insulted Modi), attending parties where pretentious people came and waved their hands about at each other… Wait, I really don’t think I’m going to miss that last bit.

Su and Anand, just for the record, I love the team that the three of us are. (If I say anything more cheesy, I think Anand might remove me from the MVM Rowdies Whatsapp group.)

 

Anyway, cheers to new beginnings!

*Deep breath*

 

 

 

Don’t waste time. Make bookmarks instead!

Hi you,

Hope this blog post finds you well bored.
My intention is for post to inspire you, to create something extraordinary sufficiently imaginative.

Usually when I’m bored, or on my day off from work, I like to read. One day, I decided to make a bookmark for the book I was reading. And then it turned into a wonderful habit! So now, I make bookmarks for every book I read, corresponding to the content of the book. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

A crown for Game of Thrones: It all started off with this book. I already knew what would happen in the book because I’d seen the TV show, so I had to do something interesting to motivate myself to pick up the book and read it. So I made this bookmark. It’s a bit childish and too colourful, but it worked and I finished the book.

 

 

A lipstick for The Bell Jar: This idea seemed so ironic that it made me extra excited to make it. I love how it’s so glossy, in contrast to the content of the book. But then again, Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, is working as an intern at a fashion magazine. So this one kind of made sense. (PS: I didn’t find this book as depressing as people made it to be. It’s an interesting read.)

 

 

A football field for sports books: I made this one while reading My Story, by Gazza (Paul Gascoigne). By this time, it had already become a habit – a sort of gift to honour the book. I quite like this one and it suits all my sports books, and football is the only sport I really read about. I read It’s Not About The Bike by Lance Armstrong, and then felt horribly let down after the drug scandal. I don’t trust any other sport other than football, although Arsenal have so far only let me down. Let’s not get there.

 

 

 

20121109_225132
Do not read the text in the book.

A shirt with a tie for Trainspotting: I don’t remember why I chose to make a formal clothing bookmark for Trainspotting of all books. I must have probably drawn a syringe or something. But again, I think I fancied the irony of it. Besides, the book probably starts off with an interview that Spud goes to.

 

 

 

Hearts for romantic books (Like du’uh): I usually don’t like hearts but I LOVE these. They’re so easy to make and look really pretty! I tried making these as a gift for Nuvena’s birthday. I made a few for myself. It’s just origami and doesn’t even require glue. It takes two minutes to make it. It’s a pity that I can never get myself to start romance novels.

 

 

 

 

This one is for fun fantasy fiction books, like 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Blue BearThis book by Walter Moers is one of my favourites because it’s just so ludicrous! I can’t get enough of the book. This bookmark seemed fitting, because it’s equally absurd and the book has so many funny monster-ish characters. I felt it perfect.

 

 

 

Vegeta’s space pod for Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: I think this one is my favourite one so far, maybe simply for the last picture. I’m currently reading this book and also currently obsessed with Dragon Ball Z. And the two of them seem to have so many similarities. In both the series, people are set out to destroy the Earth and have extra terrestrial creatures, from Magrathea, Namek, Planet Vegeta, Earth, etc. It is a fairly simple bookmark, but I loved editing it on Pixlr Express.

 

 

 

This flip bookmark for Memoirs of a Geisha. It looks like a geisha on the surface. When flipped opened, she’s a normal girl, with the exact same eyes.

 

 

 

IMG_20150215_184404

A kite for Kite Runner: What a book! I just couldn’t put it down. I read it even as a PDF during work hours. Sshhh… Obviously, it’s a kite, with a little thread (not made of powdered glass) hanging from it. :)

 

 

 

IMG_20150223_222111
Let’s PAWS here

My puppy’s paw for animal books: The next one I made required some thought. It was a book about animals. All kinds of animals. It was Beasts in my Belfry by Gerald Durrell. Before this, I even read The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot. I couldn’t figure out what kind of an epic bookmark will do justice to animals. So, after a lot of thought, I went to my doggie, painted her feet read, and got her pug-mark for my bookmark. I asked my friend, Aditya, to come up with a cool line to put on the bookmark. So this is what came out of it.

 

 

IMG_20150409_083559
The Star of David, sacred to Jews

The Star of David for Exodus: The next bookmark I made was for Exodus. I’ve written my thoughts about the book here.

 

 

 

A mountain for Into Thin Air: I borrowed Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer from Justbooks (with my brand new membership card)! It’s a very interesting book and has a lot to do with the work I do – about trekking. So I decided to draw a mountain. I almost made it very childish, by throwing some glitter into the picture.

 

 

 

IMG_20150728_230412

A bookmark as a gift for a friend. I really loved making this bookmark because I’m a tea-lover myself. And thanks to this, I got another idea for another friend.

 

 

 

IMG_20151224_085318

This was a coffee bookmark that smelled like coffee. Well, at least for a week. I painted it with coffee decoction and let it dry and then wrote on it. It was a big hit at office. I had to make one for everyone.

 

 

 

IMG_20160111_212550

A cartoon-ish rocket for Surely You’re Joking, Mr.Feynman. This was such a pleasurable read! It was funny and sciency at the same time. So I felt this bookmark with formulae I don’t understand scribbled on it apt. That little blue arrow-like thing acts as a clip on. Cool no?

 

 

 

IMG_20160113_194115

A dagger for Aarushi. This might seem quite morally inappropriate, but I couldn’t think of anything else. It seemed apt for that “khukuri” that kept popping up in the book.

 

 

 

IMG_20160210_222717

A quick sketch of River Siene in Paris for All The Light You Cannot See. This might be one of my favourite bookmarks. I loved the book, it had a lot of little life lessons. I can still hear snails sighing and crabs scuttling about when I think of this book. And this pretty bookmark did justice to the book.

 

 

 

IMG_20160307_215621

A sketch of Mars for The Martian. Well, du’uh. And that’s mitochondria or anything of that sort. It’s how Mars looks, ok?

 

 

 

IMG-20151012-WA0011

Annoying Orange for Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. This bookmark is no not the book, but having “orange” in the title was the perfect excuse to make an Annoying Orange bookmark.

 

 

 

IMG-20151214-WA0020

A leaf from Dehradun for Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. When I went on a trek to Kedarkantha, I picked up a leaf and brought it back home. I made a bookmark with it. It says “Protect the forests just as they protect you.”

 

 

 

IMG-20151121-WA0007

A playing card for I Am The MessengerFor a guy who finds messages hidden in playing cards, this one couldn’t have been easier.

 

 

 

IMG_20151206_210116

This pathetic philosopher’s stone for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was a re-read of one of the most epic series. And I thought I’ll make a grand bookmark with a 3D effect. Finally the bookmark sucked.

 

 

 

IMG_20151105_221052.jpg

A Swastika for Alone in Berlin. I hope my blog doesn’t get reported for this bookmark.

 

 

 

IMG_20150807_212000.jpg

A pretty cool flag of China for Wild Swans. This book by Jung Chang is one epic read! This bookmark was also pretty nice because I made it with cloth. If you look closely, the stick has Cantonese inscription on it.

 

 

 

IMG_20160505_192715.jpg

A seahorse for Love in the Time of Cholera. Well, this book has nothing to do with sea horses, but my colleague Seersha drew this beautiful seahorse and I had to make a bookmark out of it! Also, I tried to draw a relationship with how sea horses are asexual animals and how Florentina Ariza has to go on living like an asexual creature for 51 years despite his mad love for Fermina Daza. His love remains unrequited, so I guess a sea horse is a good bookmark. :P

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Towards the end of 2015, I made around 40-50 bookmarks for charity. They were sold at a corporate company for some small amount and the amount was given for charity. I drew warli art on all these bookmarks. Soon, I began improvising and drew footballing warli people. It was so much fun and also fulfilling!

 

 

That’s all I’ve made so far. The best part is, I’ve recycled random cardboards for all the bookmarks. See? They’re random boxes in which I get clothes, chocolates, etc. I save them for future use. Try not to buy new materials for these purposes. : )

Also, my friend had once done something very brainy. To invite us to a dance, Supriya had made invites, except they could be used as bookmarks. It’s a very thoughtful thing to do if you don’t want to waste paper.

IMG_20141022_175622
It makes for a lovely bookmark for an Indian novel

Also, I’ve been gifted these bookmarks by Supriya and Anand, and I think they’re the cutest ever!

So I hope I’ve inspired you to do something creative in your free time.

Because every good book deserves a good book mark. : )

If you’re all fascinated by my creativity and want to see some more, check this out.

Bangalore, I hate you. Not-Yours Sincerely, a commuter

This incident occurred on St Marks road today, where half the road has been dug up and not been restored. Every evening, this road, which connected to the Cubbon Park Road gets impossibly blocked.

When I was coming back from work, there was a wailing ambulance caught in the mess. No, this is not a story of how the traffic magically created a path for the ambulance.

Vehicles swarmed in front of, behind, and beside the ambulance, using it as a bait to get through traffic quickly. Vehicles honked, the ambulance continued to scream and people yelled. It was chaos. The overlooking signal turned from green to yellow to red as usual, as if it didn’t care about a thing in the world.

All of a sudden, the wailing siren stopped. The red and blue lights of the ambulance went off. The honking stopped. People stopped shouting. There was an eerie one-minute silence.

The patient was dead.

Isn’t it sad?

Isn’t it sad that you’d completely believe it if such an event actually occurred? I highly doubt that a Bangalorean is going to read that and say, “No way! That’s impossible!” because, let’s face it, it’s not impossible.

You see, I’m a positive person most of the times. I try to see the bright side of things and would probably walk around whistling the tune of Don’t Worry, Be Happy. But traffic absolutely breaks me down. It’s not just traffic; it’s city life in general.

People skip signals, honk their arses off, ride on pavements, text while riding, throw garbage on the streets, spit out of buses/autos, speed and weave their way recklessly through traffic, don’t care about lane discipline, smoke in public giving innocent people cancer, illtreat stray animals and have a major disregard for others. The worst part is, it’s not some illiterate people who do all this. It’s well-educated people, much like you and me, who think they are too cool for rules. They have the “Everyone is spitting here. What difference does it make if I also spit here?” attitude, which I can’t stand. There are a million people in this city, who think they’re better than the rules, and if every one of those million people learns to co-operate, then this city would be a much better place to live in.

A few years ago, I couldn’t even have imagined myself saying this, but I hate Bangalore. There, I said it. The weather might be nice and everything, but there are other places with similar weather, maybe on the outskirts of Bangalore. But the main city part, I hate it. Every evening, when I ride, I wish I could borrow Shiva’s third eye and turn everyone into ash. I wish I could be evil and put all honkers in a gas chamber. Oh how I’d love to watch them burn! That’s how much the city infuriates me. I have to dodge spit, cigarette smoke, pee and poop from trains on railway bridges, and dark black smoke that comes from vehicles of those who have no concern for the environment or other peoples’ lungs. Even on cool days, one ride in traffic is enough to burn you with the chloro fluoro carbons coming out of AC cars. I was just thinking, some people thought Bangalore was hot, so they used AC. Now everyone uses AC, so Bangalore is hot. When I ride to work on Sundays, the temperature all around is at least five degrees cooler because there is no traffic.

Everything just sucks. People are not friendly. All they have to offer you is an annoyed frown. But maybe it isn’t just Bangalore. Maybe it’s all cities. I lived in Chennai for a year, but it wasn’t this bad. Maybe I lived on a highway and didn’t experience much city drama.

I have decided that I’m going to move out of the city soon. I want to live in the country side where there is peace, greenery, friendliness and silence. Precious silence. Until now, I’ve never had a bad experience with farmers or anyone on the country side. Every time we go on road trips, we stop where people are harvesting, or where sugar is being made, and the farmers there always invite us with broad smiles. I remember I went and helped some ladies harvest potatoes and they were so thrilled. They even gave me a bag of potatoes, despite their lack of resources. It’s so heart-warming. “There is no act of faith more beautiful than the generosity of the very poor,” says Gregory David Roberts in Shantaram, which I find to be so true!

Even James Herriot has made me want to move to the country side. This is the line about him arriving in Darrowby – “There was a clarity in the air, a sense of space and airiness that made me feel I had shed something on the plain, twenty miles behind.  The confinement of the city, the grime, the smoke – already they seemed to be falling away from me.” 

Sigh…

I can’t wait to find my Darrowby.

Sorry about this negative post. Just had to vent it out.

God, are you listening?

Dear God, I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite some time. In fact, I thought about it during the second week of September, when I came to meet you at the Malur temple. At that time the #IceBucketChallenge was at its peak and I saw you participate too, except it wasn’t voluntary. You were not only doused with ice cold water, but also ghee, milk, curd, honey, sugar, banana pulp, turmeric and so much more. You were in the form of Lord Narasimha that day, the lion-headed form of Vishnu, mythically known for ripping out Hirankashapu’s intestines. I was wondering why people were feeding you, a carnivore, with things that I eat as a pure vegetarian. It struck me as bizarre. But Su offered me another explanation that those were not for you to eat, but they were used to give you a nice snaana so that you can have glowing skin – like royalty, is what she said. But for all I cared, it was just a waste of a packet of Nandini milk and curd, because you were just a rock, sitting there with a poker face, not responding to the beautifying treatment one bit. Instead of wasting it, I could have eaten it, or given it to one of those poor people outside the temple, who would have relished a rare meal delightfully.

Nevertheless, I had a pleasant time at Malur anyway amidst nature, the farmlands, the gigantic shady trees and the stray animals there. Also, at office yesterday, we also did a pooja for you. This time, you were in the form of Saraswathi, the flawless, calm Goddess who plays the veena. Or at least I’m guessing that’s who you were, because I couldn’t see the idol the poojari was dressing up. You were hidden beneath all those flowers and clothes. I was standing way at the back. You might not have seen me either. That pooja was like a test of patience for all of us in office. It went on for half an hour, and 30 people stood before you, shifting restlessly from one leg to the other, sending text messages to postpone meetings and waiting for the final aarti so they could get back to their chairs.

Now, you may wonder why I’m telling you all this. It’s just that every time these kind of mass prayers happen, I never get to talk to you enough. Besides, I’m more comfortable writing to you than talking to you. And I don’t get the point of mass prayers anyway, because at the end of the day, it’s just that one faithful person really praying to you. Everyone else is in their own world, mentally distracted. I don’t mean to offend you by saying you have just one guy praying to you, and I know you know what I mean because you can see right through me, through everybody. That’s what I’ve been told ever since I was born anyway. I don’t see a point in trying to make a conversation with you, because I need to have my eyes closed to concentrate, and a few people find it amusing when I keep my eyes closed. I have been through that phase of course, where I giggled when people tried to concentrate. It just doesn’t make sense. There’s too much distraction. The point of praying to you is to be able to talk to solely you, to thank you for everything you’ve given us and ask you for everything else that we want, right?

I wish you’d let people know that one doesn’t have to travel a thousand kilometres to see you and pray to you. Chumma you let these people do what they think will please you and you laugh at them inwardly. Don’t think I don’t know. It’s not cool, God.

Please somehow let people know that you don’t care about that hundred rupee note that they put in the aarti, or the silk saris they adorn you with or the thousand shlokas they chant without knowing what it means. (I myself can chant the entire vishnusahasranama and I have no clue what a single word means! This blogpost is way more meaningful to me.) Tell them that they don’t have to waste precious resources on idols, when there are a million poor people in this country who don’t have a single rupee. Tell them that all they have to do to please you is be good people. Tell them they don’t have to go out of their way to be good. Even a simple act such as picking something someone dropped and returning it to them is good, right? I sure hope so. It was nice talking to you, God. Thanks for listening.

Happy birthday Fatty!

IMG_5998
She’s a big poseur, btw

First, this silly woman made me invent the word frolleague (friend + colleague), because she refused to accept that she’s my colleague and nothing else. Now, I have another word for what we’ve got, because she hates ‘frolleague’ also. The word is fromance. Like bromance. Because she pretty much thinks of me as her boyfriend, gets annoyed with me at the drop of a hat, and sends me hate mails and messages, or, when she’s extremely pleased with me, a few kissing smileys.

Her name is Nuvena Rajendran. But you can call her Nuvs. She hates that too.

It’s her birthday today, and as always, this is my budget way of giving her a birthday gift. (I buy you too many things,  Nuvena. I don’t think I have any money left to buy you a fancy gift now.)

I remember the first time I saw her at work. She had come to office to take the copy test and finish her interview. She sat at a desk, brightly grinning at everyone who walked past her. I had joined office just a month before her, in June. I was just walking to the pantry for lunch, and she looked at me, made eye contact and gave me a harassed smile. I didn’t know she had already worked with TOI for two years. I smiled a kind, elderly smile back at her, thinking like a smartass, “Oh this newbie is taking the test now. Been there, done that. Don’t you worry, child. You’ll get through.”

Now, this idiot is my biggest motivation to go to work. When she wasn’t there for 15 days, when she went to the Himalayas, it felt like she’d been gone for six months. I sent her a message on every single one of those days on Whatsapp. It didn’t bother me that the message didn’t reach her or that she didn’t reply. I just had to tell her that day’s quota of news. All those 15 days, the office seemed so empty and dull. Even Zoya would just go stand by Nuvena’s chair, and say, “I miss this clown.” And then Nuvena came back, with that ridiculous tan, looking like a “burnt cutlet,” thus spreading bursts of laughter and happiness all over again.

You see, Nuvena is the go-to person at work for everyone, and there isn’t one person who isn’t good friends with her. I always wonder how she gets all the inside stories from all corners. Somehow, when you look at her, you’ll want to talk and tell her the whole truth. Even if you don’t, she’ll get it out of you anyway. That’s how compelling a force she is. It’s been the HARDEST thing for me to not tell her about the birthday gift Iv’e been working on for her. We actually speak to each other over the phone on the days we have our offs, all through the day and once in the night. See why I said I’m pretty much like her boyfriend?

But she also gets restless when I don’t talk to her. See?

nuvena chat
This is Nuvena trying to get me to talk to her

At office, all our things are mixed up. I’ll find my nail file or comb at her desk and she’ll find me wearing her clothes every other day. We love to make our desks pretty (well, she makes it pretty with silly pink stuff and I make it awesome with Arsenal posters). We both have tiny potted plants on our desks. They were both hers; I stole one. We both drink green tea out of the same mug every morning. We both use Hero ink pens. We both- ok you get the point! There are so many things that we have mixed up, that it’s hard to tell which one is whose. She’s like the similar-aged sister that I never had. Besides, like my sister, she is one of the few people who gets ALL my jokes and remarks and laughs her heart out at them. (Most other people get the jokes but don’t laugh at them. :-/ )

The strange thing is, I’ve never gotten so close to someone in the span of just a few months, by just working with them. (It’s a different case with the ACJ girls because I lived with them.) You know, Nuvena sent me this meme a few months ago, and I hate to admit it, because she’ll go all around town rattling about it, but I feel the same way about her.

Best friend meme

She has so many best friends, it kind of annoys me that she might be as close or closer to someone else. She obviously is closer to Karthik and Alwar and others, but that irritates me. : P I don’t know where that possessive bit comes from and it’s weird. It’s not like Nuvena is my only best friend. (No, Nuvena, you’re not! : P) This has always been a problem with me. Uttara was always my best friend, and then Supriya entered my life and I had no clue how to pick best friends. For a long time, I was torn apart and constantly playing Life Jacket with myself. (Life Jacket is where you are stranded in the ocean and can save only one person with your spare life jacket. Basically, it’s a who-do-you-like-better game.) Obviously I could never pick, and when I became intelligent enough, I realised I can have more than one best friend. And now, Nuvena falls into that category. You’re really lucky to get that status Nuvena.  And you didn’t even have to go through any friendship tests! (In fact, you kinda failed it by ratting out to others about me resigning.)

Ok, I’m straying from the topic. So last year, on her birthday, she brought us all mousse from Coffee Day and distributed it. None of us knew it was her birthday, because she had just joined. This year, however, the demanding person that she is, she has reminded us every single day of this month about her birthday, with a countdown. My mum and dad are shocked because I’ve never done so much for anyone’s birthday. Well, I suppose it works for her to be demanding.

So if you want to meet a person who finds happiness is the smallest of things, Nuvena is your girl! She is one of the most selfless people I know, who won’t give a rat’s ass about herself and will do things just to see you smile. I can’t imagine how many times she has said, “Leave it dude. I’ll do it,” no matter what it is! She’s someone whom you can always rely upon to help you out, cover up for you or simply make your day when you’re angry. Oh and she’ll also irritate the hell out of you and piss you off if you’re a little too happy (or maybe she just does that to me, because this morning I learnt that she is mean to people she likes. It’s not very nice to be liked by her.)

So through this happy birthday post, I just want to say, thank you for existing, Nuvena. Whether you’re in my my life, or in someone else’s life, I know you’re busy making those around you happy. The world needs more people like you (mostly because people like you read my blog without fail and love it).

Life at Deccan Chronicle would never be the same without you! So here’s to you, and many more years for us to work or just chill together. Don’t worry, I’ll employ you in my future company. : D

Happy birthday ya, fatty!

I’m still not going to say “love you” n all. Be happy with this much. Bah!

Cheers,
Swathi

PS: You’re 26. It’s high time you started liking animals.

A tribute to all dogs I’ve ever known. Adopt, don’t buy.

Kuntea is angry with me. : (

FYI, Kuntea is my doggy, and she visits me every evening. When I come back from work everyday, she is waiting on the road in front of my house and greets me with mad wagging of her tail and excited whining. She can’t jump, however, because she’s limp. (Kuntea in Kannada means limp.) That doesn’t make much difference to her though. This road, this matriarchal road, is her Prideland.

But today, she’s bloody annoyed with me. Every time I go stand in front of her, she turns away. She’s enjoying my caressing no doubt, but she’s being very indifferent. She has caught the scent of another dog at my doorstep.

IMG_20140819_132529
Rambo, being a lazy bum

A couple of weeks ago, my dad and mom showed me a new puppy in the area. A tiny and hyper white puppy with big black spots. I’ve named her Puppy. She’s a bomb of energy when she sees people, jumping as high as he can, sometimes lifting all her paws off the ground. But when there are no people around, she’s a sloth. Sleeping all the time. I invited her last Tuesday to sleep on my doorstep. So she comes and goes as she likes, sleeping on the gunny bag or the door mat that has been kept for dogs that like to rest or those that like some shelter from the rain.

So Kuntea has caught her scent, because Puppy has been increasingly resting at my door. I don’t know how to handle the situation. I love them both equally. And they’re the only dogs that I love so much, I mean it. I don’t know how to make Kuntea believe that. Puppy, I’m sure, doesn’t care. She’s an excited little puppy and if she sees Kuntea at my door, she’ll go and bounce happily around her, smelling her and ready to play with her. That’s what she does with my other dog, Piccolo.

Meanie
Piccolo

So Piccolo is a dog that sleeps ten steps away from my house. Puppy is a big fan of him. She’s always following him around and copying his style. Piccolo is her role model. Piccolo is a handsome, muscular, well-poised two-year-old. He’s completely black, with a large white patch on his chest. He doesn’t care much about anybody. He sleeps around all day, eats the leftovers from the Momo and Omlette stalls around the corner, and perhaps some from the chaat shop close by. He’s a calm and composed guy, who’ll perhaps flick his tail lazily if you speak to him. I love him also, despite his indifference towards me. Anyway, he isn’t the only black dog around. There’s Chinnu, Munnu and Blacky of course.

These three dogs, two Newfoundlands (Freddie Ljungberg has one of these btw) and a Great Dane, Blacky, live just 20 steps from my house. They are big, handsome dogs. Blacky is still a few months old. Before him, there was Danny, a grand old Great Dane, whom they have donated to someone else because he didn’t get along with Chinnu and Munnu. All these live in the same fancy house, where the owners couldn’t care less about their pets. (I do NOT like such people.) The watchman takes care of them however, although I don’t really like how short their leashes are, which would be around one metre. But the dogs are the most “awwwwww” inducing dogs. They get so excited when they see me, they pee all over themselves. They jump on me and they’re huge, so I fall down. I stop my bike to greet them everyday, before coming home after work. This isn’t the only threesome around though.

On the other side of my house, there are three new labradors – Dhrona, Rani and something else. Didn’t quite catch the third name when the owner told me it, because I was still digesting the name Dhrona. These three curious fellows jump and peep from their compound wall every time I go past their house. It’s the most adorable thing. Then I put my hand through the gate, pass their trust test and pet them for a while.

That’s around 10 dogs eh? No wonder Kuntea won’t talk to me. Damn!

I used to have two other dogs, that lived inside my house, unlike all the others. One of them died and the other was stolen. Both were adopted. Simba was the one who got stolen. He was a beautiful golden dog with a pink nose and charged up eyes. Gunda, the cutie who died, was a docile fellow, caring and loving. He also had a pink nose. It’s a pity we had to lose him. : (

But that’s all I got in Malleswaram. This is a form of therapy for me when I’m pissed about something. Nothing can match the selfless, honest and blatant love that doggies have for you. I fall to pieces every time I look at them all, but I love Kuntea and Puppy the most. Then, of course, I have dogs in different areas. In JP Nagar, on Brigade road, in Koramangala, in Chennai, everywhere. Hehe… In Guttahalli, there is this furry dog that I’m a huge fan of. He doesn’t even know I exist. He’s a stray, but he’s beautiful, with flowy and surprisingly clean brown fur. I give him my positive vibes everytime I ride on that road.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of him. But I have pictures of so many other dogs and I have a thing or two to say about each one of them. Here are their pictures, along with captions.

DSC_0555
The brown fellow here is Mr.Johnson, our dog at ACJ. He was a stupid dog, all over the place, getting chased away constantly by the hostel warden. We loved him. The girl he’s sparring with is probably his girlfriend.
This handsome German Shepherd is Mamba, my atthei's doggie in Koramangala. He might look ferocious but he's like a little puppy. He's harmless!
This handsome German Shepherd is Mamba, my atthei‘s doggie in Koramangala. He might look ferocious but he’s like a little puppy. He’s harmless! That thing around his neck is a rakhi that his sister sent for him from California.
This is Drago, a Golden Retriever from the next road. I was devastated to learn that someone stole him. I used to go and meet him everytime I was sad. He'd just rest his head on his paws and listen to my woes.
This is Drago, a Golden Retriever from the next road. I was devastated to learn that someone stole him. I used to go and meet him everytime I was sad. He’d just rest his head on his paws and listen to my woes.
DSC00175
I don’t have a name for this guy, but he stuck around my area for a few weeks. He was sooo loyal, that one day, when I went to the beauty parlour, he followed me all the way and entered the parlour also, until the ladies inside started screeching! When they shooed him out, he waited at the entrance, until I got done. I think he sleeps near Malleswaram railway station now.
IMG_5129
This little puppy here, who looks much like my Rambo, is Paco. She is a resident stray at Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, in Chennai. I made quick friends with her. I loved her for her tireless nature, despite the unforgiving sun
This, as all Mount Carmel Girls will know, is Gloria. She rules the roost at MCC. She would normally sit around the cafeteria, hoping someone wastes a chicken leg or something. She was a lazy, fat one, but a loving one.
This, as all Mount Carmel Girls will know, is Gloria. She rules the roost at MCC. She would normally sit around the cafeteria, hoping someone wastes a chicken leg or something. She was a lazy, fat one, but a loving one.
This beautifully furry doggy made friends with me outside Egg Factory on St. Marks Road. He was sitting by my bike at the parking lot and was too cute to ignore. He had a rich, golden mane
This beautifully furry doggy made friends with me outside Egg Factory on St. Marks Road. He was sitting by my bike at the parking lot and was too cute to ignore. He had a rich, golden mane
Doesn't he look like he has all the worries in the world? We found this puppy near Muttukadu beach house in Chennai. He was tied up outside a restaurant, and his friend, another puppy, was also tied close to him, but just out of his reach. He strained and pulled at his leash, but was still a foot away from his friend. He was so sad. : (
Doesn’t he look like he has all the worries in the world? We found this puppy near Muttukadu beach house in Chennai. He was tied up outside a restaurant, and his friend, another puppy, was also tied close to him, but just out of his reach. He strained and pulled at his leash, but was still a foot away from his friend. He was so sad. : (
This was the friend of the puppy I just wrote about. He was really handsome, in a very English way. I don't know why! He looked very smart.
This was the friend of the puppy I just wrote about. He was really handsome, in a very English way.
Photo1515
This guy was so hyper that I couldn’t get a non-shaky picture of him. This is the third house from mine, and he almost jumped over and out of the compound wall. I don’t think he lives there anymore. He grew out of the place.
252771_176046655784842_3265049_n
This puppy was a shy one that I found at NITK, Suratkal. He was hungry and haggard, and scared of everyone. Look at those sad, watchful eyes
DSC08537
My dad found this puppy lost on the streets and told me about it. I immediately brought it home. This picture was taken before leaving to CUPA that same evening. I left him there. I hope someone adopted him. He was dazed, confused and disoriented all the time. Strange fellow!
This dog made a one-day cameo and disappeared to God knows where! He was the most humble dog, who came up to my door step, ate Parle G and went away. Look at how those ears have gone back with humility. So heartening!
This dog made a one-day cameo and disappeared to God knows where! He was the most humble dog, who came up to my door step, ate Parle G and went away. Look at how those ears have gone back. So heartening!
DSC_0047
I don’t know this dog, but I was fascinated with him. He sat calm and majestic, feeling the wind in his hair as his masters rode on the road to Auroville, Pondicherry. Seriously, it happens only in India.

 

That’s that. These are just doggies, whose pictures I have. There are more of course, like the one at SN on JP Nagar, and others, whose pictures I haven’t been able to click. The entire species itself has had a huge role to play in my life and affected my general outlook behaviour, and the way I think. I take inspiration from these dogs.

I just want to thank God for making these four-legged creatures that are way way WAY better than human beings. I hope that someday, I can be as loyal, selfless, caring, protective and loving as a dog.

Puppy
Puppy

Of course, I’d also give anything to just laze around all day like them, wake up to a beautiful sunny day on the road, and sleep under any sort of shelter, anywhere.

If only…

Here’s to the end of a grand, memorable era

So my dad retired yesterday, after working for 36 years at BHEL. That’s 60 per cent of his life.  

Just retired
Just married retired!

There was a grand function at his factory yesterday, a send off party. Four other people retired along with him. There were 200 people in the hall to send them off. People went up on stage to say nice things about the retirees. I think more than 20 people spoke, with words of praise for all the 60-year-old retirees there. 

 

IMG_9486
My handsome appa 

Yes, 60. The retirement age. I still can’t believe my dad is 60. He can easily pass off as a 35-year-old, with his lean mean physique and jet black hair. Save for the greying moustache, nothing can give away his age. I don’t think he believes he’s 60 either. Recently in April, he had an angioplasty. Everyone was mighty surprised about it, because my dad has always been the healthiest guy around. He tirelessly works from 6 in the morning to 9 in the evening, and by work, I don’t mean sit lazily in front of a computer. I mean physical work. He worked at a factory that manufactures porcelain. He worked in the Quality department there, so he had to test everything, life heavy things and move about a lot. His colleagues said he can’t be replaced. “Ramesh is Quality. Quality is Ramesh,” one of them said, while speaking about him on stage.

The audience at the function was offered the chance to go up on stage and talk about my dad. Despite ten people already having spoken about my dad, a girl a couple of years older than me went up to the dais. Her name was Jaya. She was an apprentice under my dad and worked at BHEL for a year. During that year, my dad encouraged her mentally and financially to go ahead and study whatever she wanted, and now, she’s working at Indian Space Research Organisation. My dad’s eyes were wet by the time she finished her speech.

I thought, shouldn’t I go up and say a few words? But just one thought was chewing my head off that time.
How on earth does anyone stay with one company for 36 years? 
Even my mother, for that matter, has been with Accountant General’s office for around 30 years.

It’s just hard for me to digest. I’ve been at my institution for just one year and three months and I’m already thinking of quitting. Well, if not seriously, it’s just there somewhere at the back of my head that soon I’ll get bored of this and must find something more intriguing to do. My dad was also up on stage yesterday. “Don’t bother whether you’re given promotion or not,” he said to the younger employees. “What matters most is job satisfaction and I thank BHEL for having given me that all these years,” he concluded, and the audience applauded with rapture.

I think I have the most dedicated and loyal parents. And it’s not just when it comes to work. They are loyal to their friends (they’ve had the same best friends since school and beginning of work), committed to each other with all their lives and love their children to bits, and all this in a very non-intrusive, held-back way. I find it so hard to find that balance between being dedicated to something with all your heart and being unhealthily obsessed with it. And my parents have effortlessly achieved that balance. Clearly, I have a lot to learn from them.

I’m guessing the not-overly-obsessed bit is what’s going to help my dad, now that he has no more factory work. I’ve known him to leave home at 8, come in between at 12, go back and come again at 4:30, pick up my mom and come back at 6, and go to the garage and come home at 9, ever since I was born, literally! His entire life for the past 36 years has revolved around factory work. It’s going to be hard for me, him and everyone around us to get used to the fact that the BHEL phase is over. At least for a month, I’m sure I’m going to wake up at 9 thinking appa has already left to work. Funnily, it seems like it’s not just my father who has retired, but all of us, who have bid goodbye to a habitual lifestyle that had an impact on all daily lives until now. 

A picture from his retirement day
A picture from his retirement day

I can’t tell you how proud Sunayana, amma and I are of you appa. We love showing off to everyone that YOU are the first man in our lives. We are lucky to have you with us, when everyone wishes they can have you in their lives forever. I don’t know what we did to deserve you, but we did something right! 

Hope you don’t ever change appa. 

Love you to bits. 

Happy retired life. 

What does rain make man do?

Imagine the first ever human being experiencing the first ever rain on Earth.

  • Would he be shocked?water 3
  • Would he run, fearing the rain?
  • Would he seek shelter?
  • Would he stare into the sky, looking for the source? 
  • Would he consider it magical? A Godsend, perhaps? 
  • Would he stick his tongue out to taste it? “Is it water? What is it?”
  • Would he consider it sorcery? An act of pure evil, felling trees and destroying shelter?
  • Would he send an animal outside of his shelter first, to test the strange downpour?
  • Would he dance with joy and jump around in the puddles? 
  • Would he cry tears of joy mixed with rain drops, thanking the sky for relieving him of summer heat? “A blessing this is! Whatever it is!” 
  • Or would he freeze to death? 

What does man do now, at the sight of rain, anyway? 

  • He pauses with shock. “Omg! Rain!” water2
  • He runs, fearing the rain. 
  • He seeks shelter.
  • He stares into the sky. Think about it. It’s your instinctive reaction. 
  • He thinks its a Godsend. 
  • He sticks his tongue out to taste it. “Ah! Fresh, cool water!” 
  • He curses the rain, for felling trees, making him wet and for putting his evening out of control.
  • He sends a stray, shelter-seeking animal out of his house, because “ew!” 
  • He dances with joy and jumps in puddles. 
  • He cries with joy, thanking the Gods of rain, for relieving him of summer heat.
  • Or he freezes to death. 

 

Has man evolved at all? 

My interview with Freddie Ljungberg

Usually, when I interview someone, I like to keep it professional, ethical and maintain my integrity. It’s mostly just an animated-ish conversation (because that’s how I speak – in a sing-song voice) and I get straight to the point. Even if I admire the person, it’s just a few subtle words of adulation and it’s back to business.

But ALL my principles went tumbling down the drain when I met this guy. Freddie Ljungberg. (For those of you who don’t know him, he played at Arsenal for ten years, during the era of The Invincibles, the team went 49 games unbeaten.) Honestly speaking, I hadn’t seen him play much, because I didn’t follow football until five years ago. When he played in the early 2000s, I was still supporting the Italian national team simply because Italy made pizza.

DSC_8886
Yes, I’m touching one of the Invincibles.

Anyway, let’s not discuss that. When I heard of this AFC Tunnel of Time event that Puma was organising to launch Arsenal’s new kit at UB City, and that it was exclusive to invitees only, I knew I could pull a few strings and get to the event. Little did I expect to get an exclusive interview with Freddie!

I hyperventilated all the way to the room where the interview was going to happen. Initially, I had made pages of questions, and after the press conference, I realised that most of my questions were already covered. So, hurriedly, with the help of my friends, I made new questions and went to him with seven pages of notes and questions.

I was ushered into the room along with two other journalists. I had expected a one-on-one, but I didn’t care. I wouldn’t argue with the organisers, lest I jeopardise my opportunity to meet Freddie. So I walked in, made myself comfortable and waited for him.

Five minutes passed.

Enter Freddie.

The first glimpse I caught of him, was in the form of his reflection. The dark glass walls of the room showed me a tall-ish figure walking towards us in calm strides. Then his real form appeared in front of us, modestly apologising for making us wait. “I’m so sorry I had to make you wait. Hi, I’m Freddie Ljungberg,” he said and shook hands. I couldn’t stop grinning. Throughout those 10 minutes I was with him, I felt like everything was happening of its own accord, but somehow going my way.

I kind of dominated the interview, because the other two journalists were not Arsenal fans. I started the conversation with, “It’s awesome awesome AWESOME to have you in Bangalore. I’m a BIG fan of Arsenal.” That’s kind of where my “journalistic principles” just disappeared and never came back for the rest of the night. I’m not saying I was a nervous wreck or something. Like I said, everything went my way, mostly because Freddie was a darling. With easy smiles, he answered all my questions and put much thought into them. That’s always a good sign, at least for me. I like them to think and answer rather than have ready-made answers because of having answered the same questions again and again.  So this is how the rather haphazard interview with the blue-eyed footballer went:

Me: Did you expect the crazy crowd out there?

Freddie: No, you never expect anything. It’s always nice to see support. I’ve been working as an ambassador for Arsenal for a while and have been travelling around Asia. It gets crazy sometimes with 5,000 people waiting at the airport. So you never know what’s going to happen. I hope they had the good time I had; I’m really happy.

Journalist 2 and 3: Why exactly did you decide to promote the Indian Super League?

Freddie: I’m trying to give the sport some publicity in the country. Ever since I retired, I’ve been asked to do a lot of training and promoting work in many countries, but in India, I felt there was a real passion behind it. I see proper interest in the country and lot of young talent. Back when I was in Arsenal, there were 14 different nationalities in one team and I felt there is so much to learn from each country as a human being. It’s great for me to be here, because I get to learn as much.

Me: How would you compare club football and national football? What do you enjoy more?

Freddie: When you play for a club, you play everyday and the team is much better. When you’re missing a left back, you can just look around, find a left-back and buy him. (Laughs, and I giggle). When you play for a national team, however, if you don’t have a great left-back in your country, you have no choice. Besides, you meet just five days and you leave. But the honour while representing your country is unmatched. When you’re 15 years old, and you play for the national team, you have goose bumps when the national anthem is played, it’s an amazing feeling.

Journalist 2: So how is the current Arsenal squad when compared to The Invincibles?

Freddie: I don’t like to compare them. The current team will have a lot of pressure because we won so many titles in the past. They have started with the FA Cup again and I’d like for them to keep that going. Besides, there was the construction of the Emirates stadium in between, which put a financial constraints on the club. That’s when we supported them, we were all together. Last season, we spent a lot of money, we bought Ozil, I can only see the club getting better now.

Me: Alright, I’m going to rewind a bit. What made you take up football? When did you first kick the ball?

Freddie: Oh! (Laughs and looks reminiscent) My father played football and my mother also worked back then. So my dad used to take me with him and park next to the football field. The kit-man looked after me; he changed my nappies while I sat watching my dad play football. I think… My parents always told me that from a very young age, I always loved balls. Even when I couldn’t walk, I was always calling after the balls from my dad and stuff like that. It came naturally to me. It’s a funny story actually. When I was five years old, my parents wanted to move to a bigger city, because my dad got a job. They asked me about it, (of course it wasn’t up to me, but they were just being polite (laughs)). They asked me if I’d be okay with it, and I said, “Only if you take me to a proper football club.” So they took me, and I was in a club when I was five, when other kids usually start at 6 or 7. So that’s how it started.

Me: So you were a demanding kid, huh!

Freddie: Unfortunately, yeah! (Laughs)

Freddie with red hair
Freddie with red hair

Journalist 2: So whom did you consider your inspiration?

Freddie: A lot of people have inspired me. My mom and dad of course. My dad played football, so we spoke about football a lot at home. I managed to have a great coach when I was young, which is why I was talking about how important it is to learn good fundamentals at a young age. Then of course, I’ve had managers like Arsene. He has had the biggest influence because he’s been my main coach and I have been under him for 10 years. He taught me a lot. Sometimes, back home, a lot of players got arrogant as they grew popular, but Arsene always taught us to be humble. It’s one of the things I love at Arsenal. He taught me to treat everyone equally. It’s something he left behind.

Me: If you hadn’t joined Arsenal when you did, which team would you have rather joined?

Freddie: It’s hard to say, really. When I was 16, I said no to Bayern Munich. When I was 18, I said no to Barcelona. I didn’t think I was ready. Arsenal came up, and so did Juventus and another team. Finally, my agent decided that I was ready to leave the country and play in Europe. But that was a hard decision. In Sweden, you don’t earn any money at all, and in Europe there’s a lot more money. But with my parents’ advice, I moved to Europe. I joined Arsenal and stayed there ten years because I didn’t want to go anywhere else!

Me: Weren’t you tempted to join any other team in between?

Freddie: Well, many teams tempted me a lot. But I loved the way we played football. I thought we were one of the best teams in Europe and didn’t see a point in moving to another club. So I stayed. : )

Journalist 3: What about now? What are you planning to do in the future?

Freddie: In my life? (Laughs) I’ve been asked quite a lot to do managing and stuff. But I’ve got a young family so I don’t want to take that up yet. Right now, I’m Arsenal’s ambassador, so I have to travel the world, meeting mayors and politicians. So I do that, and I work with Puma, so all these things keep me busy.

Journalist 2: Do you plan to remain in the field of football or do you ever see yourself out of it?

Freddie: My father worked with buildings, and it’s a passion for my family. So I build buildings now and I really enjoy it.

DSC_8885
Floored!

Me: Well, speaking of off-the-field, are you still modelling?

Freddie: I never do modelling. (Hearty laughter). But yeah, I work with a few brands, and it works well for both parties. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life as it came with my football abilities. They thought I was a good match for their brand, and yes I do some modelling!

Me: Does it come easily to you? Especially the Calvin Klein shoot?

Freddie: No. (Laughs again.) It took them three months to convince me to do it. I was like “Pose in my underwear? No chance!” But they convinced me and made me comfortable and I did it for four years. It worked well and the pictures turned out well. But it was something I was really nervous about.

Me: And how have you managed to stay fit, considering you retired a couple of years ago?

Freddie: I do martial arts four times a week. I enjoy it; the reason behind that being, as a player you miss that buzz you get when you walk out to a full stadium and feel the adrenaline kicking in. In my opinion, when you do martial arts, sparring against someone who wants to hurt you gives you that adrenaline rush. That’s why I started it and it keeps me fit as well.

Journalist 2: How do you manage to travel so much and maintain your personal life at the same time? (He got married just nine weeks ago and has already travelled to Dubai, China and other places)

Freddie: It does get hectic, but when I played, I travelled a lot more, almost three times a week. But as a footballer, that’s how you live. Now I’m home much more than I used to be. I go ten days on Arsenal trips and stuff, but in general, I’m home a lot more.

Me: This is a highly hypothetical question. If Henry manages the team someday in future, do you think you might coach along with him?

Freddie: We’ll see. I’ve been adviced by other managers not to be an assistant and be a coach who gets to make his own decisions. So it depends on the circumstances I suppose.

Me: Alright, right now, who do you think is the player that plays most like you?

Freddie: Ooo! It’s hard to say. I got a lot of messages on Twitter after the Community Shield saying Sanchez played a bit like me. I would say, a mix of Sanchez, Walcott and Rosicky would constitute a game like mine.

Me: What would you say was your strongest quality as a footballer?

Freddie: Oh! You have to get better at everything, but when I played, I would say my vision – reading the game. I had quick feet and my technique was probably my strength, which is very important.

Me: So what would your advice to young footballers be?

Freddie: I don’t know if it’s a big debate in India – if you should work on physical or technical skills as a kid. Personally, I think it’s important to work on the technical skills. There are a lot of kids, myself included, who are really small when they’re kids. When I was playing for the national team at 15, I was rather small and not built. I worked only on my technical skills. By the time we all turned 19, the players who had worked on the physical bit were not selected at all, because they were strong and powerful but had no technical abilities. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re built. That will come naturally later on. But it’s difficult to start training for technical abilities when you’re 18.

So, that’s that. For me, it was more about meeting him and getting the many jerseys and scarves my friends had given me signed. The interview was a bonus. I haven’t put down the mainstream questions from the press conference here. For that, you can read this article, which has articulated the whole event well. This was my first BIG interview and all this had to be done in under ten minutes with other people in the room. But I’d say I was quite confident throughout the interview, contrary to my beliefs before I started speaking. Maybe Freddie just had a calming aura around him. Or maybe I was buzzing because I had just met an Invincible. I’m still reeling with excitement thinking about it. I was beside myself yesterday, squealing in delight at everything!

I’m really thankful to Puma for bringing Arsenal to all us Gunners. We waited for the drought to end, and suddenly it’s all coming crashing on us, the FA Cup, the Community Shield, this. Well, it’s all a part of being a football family, I suppose. You win some, you lose some.

Thanks again, Freddie, for making my career, my profession, my blog, and my life more meaningful.

Cheers!

Make peace, not war

I read news about four little boys being killed at a beach in Gaza City a couple of days ago.

Call me slow, but that was when the intensity of the situation in Gaza hit me. I was trying to discuss with Su and Anand about whom to support, Israel or Palestine, and was quite confused. As I have said before, I am easily influenced and if an intelligent person argues and convinces me sufficiently about something, I might just agree. But in this case, I wasn’t. I’m a peace lover (who isn’t eh?) and I don’t want war. I don’t want innocent people dying while going about their daily lives. So I can’t possibly pick sides because people are simply dying at the end of the day.

That’s when a beautiful write-up my friend wrote put things into perspective for me. His name is Varun Ram Iyer and he writes really well. Here’s what he wrote.

Gaza
Picture credit: this website

Will you come home tonight Papa ?!

There are big rockets in the sky,

Mother says I must hide quick under the cot.

 

And that I cannot go out onto the street,

And play with my friends,

Although its pleasant, if smoke filled, but she says its too hot.

 

I haven’t been to school all week,

Teacher will be angry.

I  want to go, sit beside Salma, and laugh.

 

I want to do my homework, I’m hungy,

But ammi, has not cooked ghosht since you have gone.

All we have is bread now, Yasser and myself,

We sit under the table and split each slice into half.

 

There’s no electricity, no cartoons, no songs,

And the lights don’t come on in the night.

Wahad says they’re not firecrackers, but balls of fire that kill people,

He says that we must pick up a gun and fight.

 

But who are we fighting, papa, why are they killing us ?

I’ve been a good boy like you’ve told me to.

All I do is my math, and sleep at ten, and wake early,

And prepare for school – wear my uniform, comb my hair wet, and polish my shoe.

 

I don’t even kick soda cans at Arif the mongrel,

Because you told me that man must be nice to the animal kind.

Perhaps that doesn’t apply to humans after all,

They’re intelligent creatures with a far more evolved mind.

 

Papa, what is this promised land that they talk about,

And say that there is eternal peace for them to take.

But how will they celebrate over the corpses of hundreds.

After we’re all dead, will they say a prayer for their sake.

 

They say we started it, papa, I promise I didn’t,

I didn’t launch a Scud, I didn’t even peep out to have a look.

I’ve been sitting in my corner, all night, hungry and naked,

Witth ammi crying by my side, and reading a book.

 

Come home papa, we miss you, they told me,

You’ve gone to Allah, when they wrapped you in white, and took you yesterday.

There’s no water to wash the sheet, but I have a feeling,

That it wouldn’t make a difference, I don’t think those red stains will go away.

 

I miss you, but its alright, I’ll be a good boy,

If you’re up there with Allah, ask him a question for me if you could.

Whether this is a jihad, and whether we’re being attacked,

And is there something we must do, retailate if we should ?

 

Because I don’t know if I want to,

Kill other people, whoever they are,

I don’t want children on the other side, to see their fathers in a blood pool.

 

I’m sure they’re just as afraid,

just as hungry, just as lonely,

I’m sure they too want this to end,

So they can just wake up and go to school.

 

One day we will record these events in history,

And teach them to children in classrooms,

As our stories past.

 

But there maybe none.

No history. No classrooms .No children.

If we continue to butter our bread with bombs at breakfast.

 

#PrayForPalestine

 

I’ll leave you with that.

Macau – Where I found peace of mind

My friend Aditya (Ok fine, best friend) has gone to Saudi Arabia from work. He’s talking to me from there now. You know what it’s like to be in a different city/country on work. You have a fancy hotel room, an hour of work in 24 hours, you have free weekends in an unknown city, and the best part – you’re all alone.

Yeah. I said best part. It was only after talking to him that I realised I miss Macau. I miss the luxuriously spacey room, the massive double bed on which I could roll around and not fall off, the carpeted floors, the lamp shades at the bed post, the TV i could watch as I lay down on the bed, the breath-taking view of hills and port-side from my grill-less window, the well thought-out colours of the walls and the furniture, the massive-yet-inconspicuous painting hanging above the bed, the table and chair with a pen stand holding a bunch of pens and pencils for my work, and an open suitcase lying in the corner of the room.

Macau 1
My pretty room

Don’t even get me started on the bathroom and the bath tub in it.

I had one hell of a time in Macau, despite arriving in Bangalore ceaselessly complaining about the luxury and the waste of precious resources there. I was just trying to be a smart ass. I realised it’s alright for them to have luxury because the island city doesn’t have 99% of the population suffering in poverty. They all have enough to live a comfortable life, unlike in India, and they have every right to that luxury.

I lived at Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central, which belongs to a luxury chain of hotels called Sands Macao. And when I say luxury, I mean it. It’s the kind of place a really wealthy person would go for a honeymoon at, with outrageous room tariffs ($2,000 HK). Or like something you’d see in a depiction of a fancy room in Vegas in a Hollywood movie.

 

My hotel had everything I needed could dream of – a lovely room on the 20th floor just for me, a magnificent foyer with a few too many chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, a courtyard where Dreamworks characters danced around, a choice of around 20 restaurants to eat from, a gym, three pools, a jacuzzi and even a casino to pass you time! I had time to explore all of this, and all by myself, when I wasn’t with the other Indians I went with.

IMG-20140515-WA0021
View from my window

You see, it was a media junket (google it if you’re not familiar with it). I went to the two-time IIFA-host city with 15 others from India, and we all got rooms to ourselves. I had never travelled alone before, with just strangers. I have always had my family or friends with me and this was a refreshing experience! I had the freedom to not compromise on what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be, and how I wanted to spend time. When I’m with others, I usually let them decide what to do because I don’t like to be guilty if they don’t really enjoy the thing I decide to do. I don’t like that liability. So I usually compromise and it was awesome to not have to do so here.

I realised only after speaking to Aadi that it is such a pleasure to travel alone. When you’ve lived with your family all your life, this gives you a sense of freedom like none other. Note that I’m not complaining about being with my family. It’s just a nice change. I’m sure my dad feels it too when he travels to Delhi every now and then and lives on his own terms without my mum and me nagging him. But I’m sure he’s equally happy to be back to us. It was the same case with me.

Every morning I’d wake up (I was there for only four days) from the deepest slumber, get out of the warm, clean, blanket, waddle out of the five pillows on the bed (believe it or not, the pillows were labelled ‘soft’ and ‘sturdy’), admire myself in the huge mirror in the bathroom, sit at the window sill, watch the clouds move and make space for a clear view of the sea as I brushed my teeth, pour water into a kettle to make black tea for myself and get dressed and go down for breakfast. On days that I came back to the room early, I’d put on my swimming costume, go to the fourth floor, sit in the jacuzzi for a while, swim in one of the three pools, come back to my room and get ready for a nice dip in the bath tub.

I carried my portable JBL speakers with me. So one day, I played piano music, took a Wodehouse book, sat in the tub and read for an hour. As I type, I feel it sounds like I’m just typing a ideal moment in my life, something that cannot be achieved. But this is how it actually was. It was so quiet and peaceful.

But I’m not saying you can have nice alone-travel only if you have luxury. I could be in the most local hotel room in some hill station and still enjoy it, because of its simplicity. Even in my house, I find peace in the middle of chaos. All I have to do is put on my noise cancellation ear plugs.

Even while walking around in the local market in Macau, I disintegrated from the group and roamed around by myself, staring at the strange things people ate. It gave me time to think and form my thoughts about everything I was seeing. Most of the times, when we travel with others, we’re always fed preconceived thoughts and opinions and have to think hard to form our own opinions. It might not be like that with you, but it is with me. I’m easily influenced. So this time, I had the freedom of thinking whatever I want.

It’s seriously amazing to travel alone and you don’t have to be a loner to do it. You could be the most social person, and you may still love travelling alone. You’ll never know until you give it a shot. My cousin Hrishi, travelled all around the world (literally – he went from UK, to Japan, to New Zealand, to US, and other places I can’t even remember) and he did it alone. My sister asked him why he was going, and he said, “To think.” Haha! My sister responded saying, “Oh! I just do my thinking in the bathroom.” Who knew thinking could come at a hole-in-the-pocket cost eh?

Anyway, Macau, as I see it today, was an eye-opener. Although it didn’t open my eyes back in May when I went, it did today. And I’m glad I went and enjoyed however I wanted to. I found peace even in the noisy, half-constructed, casino-infested city.

You should try it too.

Just remember, don’t let strangers into your room. Stay safe.

Until next time.

Cheerios!

 

 

In loving memory of my paati

I thought I was over my grandmother’s passing away. Turns out I am not.

I always thought I get over people easily. When my gramma went away, I cried on the first day, shed a few tears the days that followed, but never really mourned more after that. Maybe I believed that she had left her ever-smiling, kindhearted spirit with us. Maybe I don’t miss people much when they’re not in my daily life anymore.

I cried for two days when my dog passed away. But I didn’t after that. I probably cried more when I watched Marley and Me a few months after he died.

My puppy, Gunner
My puppy, Gunner

 

Why I’m talking about this right now is because today, when my mother was cleaning out an old closet in my grandmother’s room (yes, after four years after she went away), she found a few sweaters. Before she put them in the machine, she just wanted to check the pockets to make sure there was nothing in there. But she found something in them. I thought it might have been money. But it was something I did not see coming. It was a Marie biscuit.

My gramma was diabetic and Marie biscuit was the only biscuit she’d eat. Every evening, she’d make tea, dip Marie biscuit in it, finish the tea and sit outside in the balcony, breaking the biscuit into pieces in her hand and then putting the pieces in her mouth, taking her time to eat it. That was one of her habits. She never bit into the whole biscuit. She never bit into apples, or carrots either… Not because she couldn’t. She had strong teeth and she never wore dentures. She just didn’t think it decent to bite into it I guess. My dad has the same habit now. Pardon the cliche, but old habits die hard indeed.

It was strange how instinctively I turned vulnerable and melancholic when my mum found the biscuit. The stable, quiet ocean in my head was suddenly unruly, like on a full moon night; the waves were roaring and ready to splash. I didn’t cry in front of my mom of course. I drank tea, sat on the porch steps enjoying the evening; Perhaps  my gramma enjoyed a similar evening, sitting in her green balcony the day she forgot her biscuit in her pocket.

Then again, I guess it’s times like these that make you really mourn for someone, rather than on the day they go away. I missed my gramma the most when I used to come back from college to find a locked door, and not one that opened to her peaceful face, engrossed in some awful Kannada serial. Supriya and I, who came home from school and sat around at home, had learnt the theme song of that 4 o’ clock serial by-heart. Haha! It was the worst!

Today, I don’t know if my grandma will be proud of me. I have really short hair. She always wore a disappointed look when I cut my hair too short. She used to be so happy when it was long. I’m wearing a fitting t-shirt today. I don’t think she’ll like that either. She was the more traditional kinds, who exclaimed with joy every time she saw me wear a salwar kameez. But she never, ever, ever, told me not to do the things I did. She wouldn’t complain about how I wore my hair or my attire. She was never intrusive. She let me live my life how I wanted to. I loved that about her. And she was the person I spent most of my childhood with, more than with my mum, dad or sister. I’m glad I could share it with her.

I miss her sometimes.
I miss sleeping next to her, (something I did for around eight years).
I miss the pleasantly disturbed sleep I had in the early mornings when the signature 6 am tune on AIR played on her portable transistor, which she kept above her pillow all the time.
I miss her gruff voice, it was unique and something that I always found friendship in.
I miss the strong smell of Sensor balm, which I still associate with her.
I miss taking a bite off her crisp chapatis, dipped in sambar, when she ate two whole hours before the rest of us.

Most of all, I miss her presence in her room, crafting the perfect little birds she made tirelessly, with so much dedication, or decorating photos of Gods with chamkis and beads, and adding a touch of grandeur and royalty to them.

The last thing I said to her was “Good night,” the night before she slept forever.

Well, I hope she’s happy with my tatha, wherever she is, because I know they’re together and happy now!

I’ll see you when I see you again paati.

Sorry if this post was a bit too emo. I just had to get it out.

It’s all about loving yourself

Someone told me the other day that if you wear a t-shirt all the time, it means you don’t care about yourself. It was one of those mindless “assess your personality through your clothes” things like this. (Because that’s the best way to go about judging a person’s personality apparently.)

Does this seriously look like someone who doesn't care about herself? I look incredibly awesome. Like an anime, I've been told. B-) (Thank you Sneha.)
Does this seriously look like someone who doesn’t care about herself? I look incredibly awesome. Like an anime, I’ve been told. B-) (Thank you Sneha.)

Anyway, just because I wear tshirts and jeans and sneakers all the time, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about myself. In fact, a few people would laugh if you said “Swathi doesn’t care about herself.” I can imagine Nuvena laughing already. She is the one who gifted me a Mephobia print out to pin up on my desk. I might have mentioned it before. Mephobia is the fear of becoming so awesome that the world can’t handle it and it explodes. Or something to that effect.

Apparently, if you wear tight fitting tops and jeggings, you are narcissistic. (Or you just think you’re thin, whether you are or aren’t.)

Ok I’m not talking about clothes in this blog post. I don’t care about clothes. I care about myself. Err… I mean, I’m going to tackle the subject of loving oneself. (Adjusts glasses and clears throat.)

A lot of my friends rant to me about how disappointed with life, that they are not talented enough, that work isn’t rewarding, that people are leaving them all the time, that they are single and haven’t found boyfriends/girlfriends, that their spouses don’t give them any attention, or that they’re just lonely and sad. Actually, nobody rants directly to me because I don’t give anyone bhaav when they do all this. I usually ask them to put a sock in it, in the politest manner. So yeah, they don’t come back to me. But you know, issues like this get thrown about in friend circles, about who is depressed and who is happy and whose boyfriend is cheating on whom and whose marriage broke up. (Because we all live in Gossip Girl-like lives.)

Anyway, I think the problem with all these people is that they don’t love themselves…enough. If you love yourself, nothing can really put you down because you do everything in your own interest. Also, if you love yourself, you won’t expect anything from others, so you can keep yourself happy all the time! So there’s no scene of being sad about anything – not anything to do with other people at least. {I’m a selective misanthrope. (Coined the term myself, thank you). So I have to find my way to go about being happy when I’m surrounded by humans all the time.}

But loving yourself comes with a few clauses.

There’s a very thin line between loving yourself and being selfish. When you love yourself, you have to make sure you give others, your friends, family, etc as much love. It’s not all about you. That’s where most people go wrong and end up caring only about themselves. Don’t isolate the love. Spread it all around. Can you imagine having jam only in one corner of your bread sandwich? Ew no! Spread it evenly. That’s the right way to go about it. (Whattey metaphor I say!)

Also, you can tell from how a person expresses love for himself, whether he’s a selfish jerk, or whether he genuinely loves himself and everyone around him. At least from my experience, I understand that if a person is always speaking ill of others, dismissing others opinions and feelings, and thinks his way is the right way, then he’s taking the wrong route. He probably doesn’t love himself at all. He is probably convincing himself that at least someone loves him, because nobody really does.

The best way to go about it, is be straightforward about it. In office, when I hand over an edited copy to my editor, who reads it again and finds zero errors, I’ll say “Wow! No errors? So cool!” (There are usually at least ten errors on an edited page.) I give myself that much liberty to praise myself, simply because I know I’m good. It’s going to cause no harm, save perhaps an amused look on my editor’s face. Everyone in my office thinks I’m narcissistic. However, that isn’t the right word to use. I just love myself.

My dad is another example about how to go about it. The world knows he loves himself. He loves having pictures of himself clicked. He’ll even tell you that he’s awesome and tell us stories about him being awesome in his childhood. That’s a healthy amount of love for oneself. At the same time, he’s also the most selfless person, helping other people at the drop of a hat, sympathising with everyone. Pretty much like my mum. She doesn’t expect anything from anyone. She’s such a peaceful, fun loving person, and I’m so much like her. She has just taught me the art of happiness in the most subtle manner.

That’s the thing. You have got to learn to be self sufficient. You have got to find a way to be subtle and loud about your love for yourself. You have got to find that balance. Then you’re set.

Because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect others to love you?

PS: If you have noticed that I used too many brackets in this blog post, it’s because I learnt this today.

Just a rant because we live in a material world

I’m typing simply because I’m using a Mac, just for the experience. It’s quite fancy, but I don’t think this keyboard has ever been used to type a document of any sort. Or someone spilt something on it.

There’s so much talk of technology happening around me. I’m buying a new phone, a Google Nexus 5 I think. These phones are so expensive. Sometimes I think it’s pointless to spend so much on non living things. (Silly statement because you can’t really spend on living things, unless you buy things for those living things. Ok this is a complicated topic.)

I remember meeting a lady for an interview – the founder of Daily Dump, and her position in office was ‘Compostwali.’ She is the most environment friendly person I’ve ever met, save perhaps for my vegan cousins. She had the oldest Nokia phone, one with a monochrome screen. She simply shrugged and said, “It serves the purpose.” I wish I could be like her, an immaterial person.

A few days ago, I read this, an article about a great big elephant in Kenya poached for its tusks. It was one of the most depressing articles. I’ve read about crocodiles being killed for bags and deer being hunted for their antlers. I’ve also read about elephants being poached for their tusks, but this article was especially sad, because it was a rare species of elephant. Here’s an excerpt from there.

Satao (the elephant) lived in Tsavo East National park in southeast Kenya and was celebrated as one of the last surviving great tuskers, bearers of genes that produce bull elephants with huge tusks reaching down to the ground. It’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of the poachers on the day that they approached this mountain of an elephant and shot at him with crude bows and poisoned arrows. It must have been terrifying and yet the sight of his massive gleaming tusks probably left them salivating with greed.

I don’t understand why materialism creeps into EVERY aspect of human life. Well, I know this doesn’t quite fit the “materialism” bill if you go by the definition of it – a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. But I’m using the word in a broad sense. Don’t go all editor on me. I wish whoever decides what is precious and what is not, just makes a worldwide statement that ivory, leather and silk and other animal-killing materials have absolutely no value anymore. How can any man have the heart to kill all these animals that ask for nothing, except to be left alone? It’s ridiculous.

Courtesy: The Funk Hunter (Some page on FB)
Courtesy: The Funk Hunter (Some page on FB)

I’m not bragging, but I don’t feel the need to own anything that’ll make me feel rich. I don’t like jewellery, I live in a modest, cosy house that doesn’t boast of anything luxurious, I don’t understand why people go gaga over expensive branded shoes, clothes, Swarovski stuff, and bags. Heck! Someone in my office owns one of these!

Coach bag

Who pays Rs.20,ooo for BAGS? My frolleague argued that Coach bags are an investment, and once they’re vintage bags, you can sell them and makes tonnes of money. Pfft! Whatever.

Buy me that, buy me this... Gahh...
Buy me that, buy me this… Gahh…

Bags are meant to store things. How does it matter what word is written on them in a fancy font? Similarly, I wear clothes to cover myself up. No matter how inexpensive the clothes are, they can still serve the purpose. My theory (I cooked this one up last night) is that people need brands to compromise for their image, or the lack of it. I believe I can pull off even a roadside tshirt that I paid Rs.50 for and don’t need a brand name to make me look good. I’m not saying I don’t indulge in Adidas and Nike sometimes; it’s just that life is not all about that. As I write, I can imagine shopoholics thinking, Hey, we’re not asking you to join us. What the hell is your problem? Well, I rant about it because it bothers me. What annoys me the most is when these same shopoholics hesitate to spend some 200 rupees for a better cause, like donating it to the poor or for their own meal, or for a gift or something. You get what I’m saying, right? They spend enormous amounts on diamonds, shoes and dresses, but think twice before spending it for a good cause. Ok, maybe shopping is what I have a problem with. Who knows!

You know what has made me more and more furious these days is the outrageous amount of money people spend on weddings. What is the point? You want to show off how much money you have? Isn’t marriage supposed to be the coming together of two souls? I’ll bet 50% of the people invited to weddings in India are meeting the couple for the first time on that day.

I’m not even sure what I want to say. I’m just sad that the basic purpose behind all aspects of life are lost in this pitiful material, money-loving, greedy and pretentious world.

 

 

Oh the pain of keeping in touch with people!

It’s been a year since I passed out of ACJ. Three years since I passed out of MCC. Five years since I passed out of Jain. Seven years since I passed out of school (Carefully omitting the name).

I’m in touch with six people people from ACJ. Three people from MCC. Five people from Jain. Three people from school.

I’m not trying to do some graphical analysis of this.

Ok wait. Let’s do it. Let’s use some of the gyaan we got at ACJ, while studying New Media, shall we?

Keep in touch graph

Clearly, it’s a highly inconclusive chart, made just to remind me that I still have all these multimedia and infographic skills. (Admit it, it’s pretty awesome!)

So my friends were texting me the other day, a few complaining about how I don’t keep in touch, a few complaining that they’re keeping in touch with people they don’t want to keep in touch with and a few keeping in touch with me in the process of texting me.

How hard can it be to keep in touch, really?

Well, REALLY hard.

I think unless you’re in a relationship and think of it as imperative to speak to your boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s going to be really difficult to get yourself to pick up that phone and text your friends or cousins.
I remember the first time I had an uncomfortable experience regarding this. It was back in school. I had a solid gang of friends, and we called ourselves the Spiral Squares (Yeah, we were 14). Varsha was one of them. She was pretty much a best friend, and we played computer games together, did “combined studies” together, listened to music-that-I-can’t-put-down-here together and sat together in class. It was in class 10 that I really got close to her.

school
Sneha, Pooja, Me, Sohini and Varsha (This was the first and last time we all met together after school. That’s ONCE in between 2006 and 2014)

On the last day of school, we were all just talking standing outside class, when Varsha actually said a formal goodbye, which I brushed off with a careless wave of my hand. She persisted, “No I mean it. Things aren’t going to be the same again.” Back then, I had felt awkward having to make such emo conversation. I was in denial and the talk drifted away into some other topic.

I realise only now how true that was. We have both grown into completely different individuals and rarely speak to each other, although we’d like to speak more often.

Even when I finished my course at ACJ, I was so confident that I’d keep in touch with Sanjana, my immediate roommate. Vishwadha and Disha were on the other side of the room, and hence not immediate. They were cousin-roommates. :P Anyway, I was always so surprised about how Sanjana ended up as my roommate, because we were SO similar and NO one else understood me in college as well as she did. She was the perfect room mate with whom I’d watch Game of Thrones, eat Maggi, heat water for bath, shop for fruits, share my secrets and talk all night. I was so confident that there was no way I’d be able to go even one day without talking to her and that I’d keep in touch. But after we parted ways, we have hardly spoken. Well, we do talk now, after reading something like this. Even if we’re busy with our own lives and even if both of us especially suck at keeping in touch, we push ourselves and talk to each other, share pictures and discuss our lives. Today also happens to be her birthday! (Wish her in your mind.)

DSC06924
Sanjana, this is the ONLY picture of just us together. Just saying.
DSC_0069
Thank you Cynthia for this picture of Disha, Sana, Fishy and Me. It’s our second best picture. : P

This whole issue of keeping in touch has become so horrible, that I have forgotten I have friends living next door. I returned early from work this evening and wasn’t going out on any assignment or to meet any friends. I just sat at home, thinking “Oh God! What to do. I’m so bored.” I sat restlessly, watching my fish, did the dishes for a bit, and suddenly I remembered that my best friend, Uttara, lives next door. It was a shameful realisation. Years ago, we were rarely in our houses by ourselves. I was always in her house, or she, in mine. I remember when we were 3 and 5 years old, we’d step out of our houses and shout, “Ajji! Me Uttara cha ghari la zaaoo ka?” (Ajji! May I please go to Uttara’s house?) No, my grandma didn’t know Marathi, I’d ask her in Marathi anyway. In fact, I learnt Marathi only to speak to Uttara when she was a baby, because she couldn’t speak English yet. It was just a thing we did. We weren’t really asking for permission. Now, it’s like our parents have to push us into each other’s houses. Occasionally, I go to my balcony and she comes out, (we can shake hands from across our buildings on the first floor. That’s how close we live) and we chat away into the night until we go inside and sleep, go to work the next day and remember to greet each other a month later.

People I grew up with. It's just horrible that I don't have a picture with Uttara! This is Adit, Uttara, Pranju, Prerana, Me. None of us really look like that anymore.
People I grew up with. It’s just horrible that I don’t have a picture with Uttara! This is Adit, Uttara, Pranju, Prerana, Me. None of us really look like that anymore.

Even Supriya for that matter! The whole world knows we’re best friends. Anytime I meet someone from school, they have to ask me “How’s Supriya doing?” Be it a teacher, or a classmate. But we rarely speak. When she called me up on her birthday from UK on June 6, it was the second time we were hearing each other’s voices in a year! You know, we’re the kind of friends whose voices grew to sound exactly like each other’s. No one can differentiate our voices over the phone.

DSC08337
Supriya and me. One of the few pictures of just us together.


We’re all stuck in our own tiny worlds, our own minds, always thinking about the moment. I’m not calling anyone selfish. It’s the most normal thing to not keep in touch, because you know, that when that friend is with you, everything will be as normal as ever. That’s the liberty you have with such close friends I suppose. You know that nothing will ever change.

I know that if I meet Sanjana, we’ll talk like we knew each other all our lives again, although we really have known each other for just two years. I know that if I meet Osama, I’m going to speak to her exactly like I did when we were ten and eight years old. I know if I meet Supriya, we’ll watch Princess Diaries, eat some pasta and go out for an orange candy walk, like nothing has every changed, although our lives our changing every minute.

On Tuesday, Priyam is coming to Bangalore, which means the rekindling of the MCC friendship. I’m really looking forward to it, because with every set of friends you have a different discussion, which you need to have from time to time.

DSC04833
Friends from MCC. Nishi, Priyam, Me and Avi

Oh, I need to thank WhatsApp for seriously bringing all my friends back into my life.

And thank you, DC people for staying in touch with me everyday, whether you like it or not. :P

DC people
Me, Sneha, Zoya, Nuvena and Namita

Ok, this is sounding like some vote of thanks speech.

Bye people. 

Stay in touch!

Tatas!

(Wow! There are NO boys in this post except Adit. Just noticing.)

 

 

Helping fellow Ugly Indians

This morning, I helped fix a road in Malleshwaram.

I volunteered with The Ugly Indian and picked up a paint brush and went to one of the dirtiest, stinkiest streets on 8th main road – the road that connects the main road to Renaissance Park and Brigade Gateway. It’s a small road, which is always shady because of the trees towering over it. It’s a beautiful road. It ends at a railway crossing, and trains pass frequently, maybe twice an hour. The sad part is, people get bored waiting for the train. So they get off and go take a leak, spit around just for fun and stick disgusting Kannada movie posters on the walls. One of those movies’ names was Pungidaasa. I don’t want to speak of that further. Ick!

ugly indian
That road didn’t look that clean before. It was strewn with garbage. My sister in the blue kurta. And the father-in-law in the green t-shirt.

All credit for the now pretty road goes to my sister. She has been planning this for more than two months, inspired by seeing pictures of The Ugly Indian’s work on Facebook. She is the social work types and just the HR work in office won’t suffice for her. So she actually got in touch with The Ugly Indian, clicked pictures of the road and sent it to them and got them to agree to help out. She took print outs and put them on all notice boards a work and mailed those who’d be interested. In a way, this must have made her feel a sense of achievement. Even if she doesn’t feel it, I’ll feel it for her. Every time I ride on that road and see the beautifully painted walls and the clean road, I will know that it is only because of Su that people can walk on that road and breathe clean air at the same time.

IMG-20140601-WA0004
I didn’t know this street could look this pretty!

Just for this, I woke up in Jayanagar at 6 in the morning and rushed to Malleswaram to be there, to participate. By the time I reached, they had already done some cleaning and were just getting started with the paint work. There were around 25 people, right from 6-year-olds to 60-year-olds, all sweating it out to have a clean neighbourhood. While some scraped posters off the wall, some walked around with small paint buckets and paint-blotched brushes in their hands, and some sat in what was garbage until half an hour ago, dusting the ground and cleaning off the grime.

???????????????????????????????
This is probably the most over exposed picture in the world. A bunch of us volunteers who wanted to pose

I’ll admit I’m the kind that wouldn’t like to get my hands too dirty. I even cringe if I have to clean the table after dinner. Yes, I’m horrible like that. But I overcame that a little today. As I painted the wall, standing close to it, thinking how many people had peed there, how many people had gotten rid of their wet, rotten and stinky garbage there, I was disgusted in the beginning, but overcame it eventually. What matters is, it’s clean now and we won’t let it get dirty ever again.

What I liked about it was that it was so much fun, to stand next to a stranger and paint a wall. It builds a sense of community. Also,  I always fancied graffiti but I’ve never had the kind of talent. So this is what I settled for. I left a heart-shaped gap in the blue Pungidaasa poster and fascinated little children until they grouped around me and gaped in awe of “Sunayana aunty’s sister’s masterpiece.” I was their artistic hero that morning.

IMG-20140601-WA0002
Wearing my heart on my err… wall. A fascinated little girl clicked this picture

This was only until The Ugly Indian squad came and stood behind me and said to not leave any patches and “paint it completely.” Oh well.

It was interesting to also see the reactions of passers by. While one guy commented, “People these days do anything to be on TV.” Another kinder-hearted person, said “You guys are doing a great job!” Other people wanted to know just what on earth is going on.

Nice people or not, I had a fun time anyway, and it was totally worth it waking up that early and riding 18 km to do it, despite having to go to work in Koramangala after. I want to ask all of you to help around in your area, not for your road’s sake or anyone else’s sake. Do it for you. Do it to feel good about yourself. Do it to leave your mark in the city.

Waking up to find four adorable kittens at home (Cute kitten pictures inside)

I’ve heard cats are quite popular on the internet. Let’s see how this works out.

A while ago, in January, this is what I had tweeted.

Think then, what my reaction was, when I heard my mum wake me up with, “Swathi, there are four kittens on the terrace.”
I’m the kind of person that likes to laze around in her bed for an hour after she wakes up, just reading a book, or WhatsApping people or going through my Twitter timeline. But when I heard her say ‘kittens,’ my ears pricked up. No wait, my entire body shot straight up! I yelped and ran to the terrace to find these.

Kitttiieessssss!!!
It’s my dream come true!

Have you gone ‘awwww’ yet? Aren’t they the cutest things in the world?

I just wanted to go pick them up and hug them. But I didn’t, of course. They were scared. They are still in that infant phase when they take time to focus on things. They detect big movements, but small movements go unnoticed. Slowly, they got used to us (two little girls from the neighbourhood had found out about the kittens and come up to see them), and after a while, I picked up one of them. Unfortunately, it liked me too much and caught hold of my dress with it’s really sharp claws. It refused to let go. Normally, I’d have been extremely pleased with the scenario, but today, I was getting late to work. Imagine going and telling my editor, “I’m late because I was playing with kittens on my terrace.” If I was the editor, I’d have probably empathised, but i doubt I’ll be at the other end of that empathy with anyone.

Kitties 1_-7
Little explorers, these are.

After five minutes of the most delicate wrestling, I got the kitty off my back, quite literally. I left them all there but they began walking hastily after us, tumbling awkwardly and getting up to keep up. We climbed down the stairs and one of the kitties just fumbled down one step and landed with this legs splayed there. Assuming it would go back to it’s hiding spot, I came downstairs and got ready for work.

After getting ready, I went up to check on them. That kitten lay on that step sleeping, because it couldn’t go back up. It was such an adorable sight; the cat having succumbed to helplessness with not a word of complaint. Such cute, innocent creatures! Even yesterday, I was at my aunt’s place in Jayanagar and a dog has had puppies outside that house. I told my aunt that in order to wake me up, she just had to say the magic word, “puppies!” Unfortunately, she forgot. I woke up at ten, when I had to be at work by 11. Sigh.

This post is also a celebratory one because India has finally passed the law to stop testing of cosmetic products on animals in India. They’re probably going to use lab-developed human skin-like thing itseems. Animals are any day better than humans and they ought to be given more priority than they are given now. Hopefully, some day, non-animal lovers will realise how harmless they are, unless you cause them harm.

Oh also, my sister hates cats. A lot people seem to think cats are evil. Well, there’s a difference. See this cat, it’s evil.

ACJ wild 10
He’s Hubert Cumberdale from Asian College of Journalism. 

See this one? He’s just like chocolate pie. You want to eat him. No you non-vegetarians. Not literally.

Kitties 1_-9
Just HOW can anyone not melt looking at those blue eyes and that pink nose? This is my favourite picture from the day btw

Anyway, I had read this line somewhere. “Accidents don’t happen. They are caused.”
The same line can be applied here as well. “Animals don’t bite, unless they are provoked.”

In the case of these kittens, I could have taken them away from there and kept them inside my house. (The little girls did do that in my absence, for which I taught them that they should never separate siblings or babies from mommies. “You want your mummy no? I want my mummy no? Even the kittens want their mummy.”) So all of you who dislike animals, it’s alright if you don’t like them, but please ensure you don’t cause them harm.

Kitties_
Now be nice and say bye to my kitties

I have to think of names for them. Oh! And I can make personalised bowls for them after I’ve named them! I must figure out how many are girls and how many are boys before that.

Let’s hope they’re still there when I wake up.

Good day/night people!

Thanks for stopping by. Go give an animal some love today! : )

 

Lifestyle journalism – A war inside my head

I’m currently high. Don’t get the wrong idea. I got high from working too much.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh a Page 3 journalist. What work can she have?” Well, it isn’t that much work, but it is a lot packed into six frighteningly short hours everyday. I wrote an article about people from India going for FIFA World Cup 2014 to Brazil, so I spoke to six people for that. Speaking to so many strangers can get quite tiring. Plus I be’d a bad girl on Monday and didn’t finish that day’s story, so I wrote that today. AND I designed a page.

Lifestyle journalism
I googled ‘Lifestyle Journalism’ and this is what the search results threw at me.

I’m tired, it’s true. But my fingers are flying. I feel a sense of responsibility toward my blog. I feel like if I don’t write in it from time to time, it will cry and die. Sounds morbid, no? Anyway…

I read this on someone’s Twitter profile.

When you write something someone doesn’t want published, it’s journalism. Everything else is Pubic Relations.

I realised that NOTHING I write is against someone’s will. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people think my job in lifestyle journalism and features writing is a joke. But it’s not. I write about people who are doing inspirational things. I write about young entrepreneurs, dancers, artists, musicians, actors, and they’re all doing some wonderful things, and it doesn’t matter on how large a scale they’re doing it.

The only downside when it comes to the actual “gossip” bit, is that while hardcore journalism may point out your own miseries to you, Page 3 journalism as it is infamously called, points out others’ (read: celebrities) miseries to you, and that’s at a very basic level. No one wants to get too nosy and write about indecent, false stuff. At least, in our office we don’t. Of course, I do sometimes feel vain about everything I write. I begin to think Oh what am I doing with my life. There are twenty million people starving out there and I’m here dining with millionaires and writing about luxury bathrooms.

It’s all about chilling

But what can I do? Even if I do investigate and “cover deprivation,” I’m only a journalist after all and not an activist. I’ll write it in the paper and then what? It’ll be forgotten the next day when the same slot in the page is filled up with another article. So on and so forth.

I might sound like I’m defending my profession. Maybe that’s what I’m doing. I’m not sure. I just feel like typing.

The best part of my job is that we write about positive stuff. I write about young girls taking dance classes and giving away the proceeds to orphanages, about amazingly talented artistes, about dance recitals, about initiatives taken by people to save the Earth, it’s all very positive. If I was at the main desk, I’d have to edit copies about dirty politics, murders, robbery, rape, and maybe a few happy stories thrown into a sea of sad stories.

You see, we need positivity in this world, and I’m here to explore the city and bring that positivity to you. If you’d like to read a few of my articles, google Swathi Chatrapathy. It will automatically prompt ‘Swathi Chatrapathy Deccan Chronicle’ or ‘Swathi Chatrapathy WordPress’ suggestion. Or click HERE and choose from the thumbnails whatever you want to read about.

Here are a few articles. Click on them.

Also, a lot of my friends get to be in the paper, if their quotes are interesting. My brother-in-law calls it “nepotism,” but that’s too strong a word I believe. I prefer thinking of it as a mutual favour.

Since I’m saying nice things about my job, let me end it with the icing on the cake or whatever that cherry on top is called.
Yesterday, I was speaking to a friend, and I told him I’m going to Macau. He said, “Oh wow! Holiday or work?” All I could do was laugh at that question. I’m going on a holiday from work. I’ll let you gape at that until I type my next blog.

Yes, I know I’m being an ass! I think I’ve got some mephobia going on.

FYI

Mephobia
Si

 

Tata!

All for a few sMILES

I just returned from the most perfect bike ride.

Wait. Before I type anything else, I want to let out a great “Haaaaaaaa!” (That’s a loud, dramatic, exuberant sigh of relief).
Boy does it feel good to write on my blog again!

Yes, so as I was saying, the most perfect ride.

Scooty Pep+ – Check
Evening time – Check
Homely streets of Malleswaram (No traffic signals) – Check
50 kmph – Check
Clouds and tiny, scattered drops of rain after a hot noon – Check
(The most cliched) Smell of rain – Check
Wearing shorts – Check
Sleeveless top and no jacket – Check
No helmet – Check
Let my hair out – Check
Happy because my hair is really short and I don’t have to tie it so it doesn’t get knotted – Check
Singing out loud, not caring about fellow riders – Check

Every single one of those aspects was equally important to make my ride perfect.

That ride ended within a kilometre. Just saying.
The happiest moments are indeed short lived.

It’s not like I’m unhappy when I generally ride. But I have to resort to doing things like this.

20140203_103739_20140203214110383
This was the beginning of my week-long social experiment

I’m not sure whether I’m blogging about it because I did it, or whether I did it so I could blog about it. I’m confused about that these days. This social experiment started simply because I went to a stationery store for something, and happened to see a slate. I had almost forgotten that slates existed. Usually, little children would remind me of them, but now my niblings doodle on tablets, so they’ll never experience the magic of a slate – of being able to carve something so solid onto a black board and make it disappear with nothing but the swish of a wet sponge.

So I bought a slate and some calcium sticks and for a few days, just drew something and kept it at home.

One fine day, I mustered the courage to write something on it and put on my bike. So I said, “Don’t honk, ok? Please?”

I actually wrote that message after a lot of thought. Should it be “Don’t honk you a**hole!” or “Don’t honk. I’m not blind. I can see you coming.”? Finally, I decided to go about it nicely. It kind of worked. People didn’t honk. But i’m not sure if it was because they were so distracted by the fluorescent slate and forgot to honk, or if they actually paid heed to my words. Either way, it worked.

Throughout that week, a series of messages followed. I figured it was the most organic way to reach out to people and drive some sense into them (pun intended) .Well, I didn’t go about preaching things. I was just trying to keep the air around me positive. And it magically was! Messages like these don’t fail to make people smile. Be it the Oh what an attention seeker kind of mean smile or the What a silly girl  kind of skeptical smile or the genuine Awwwww so sweet kind of happy smile. In this case there is also local baays getting their cheap thrills going, “Machaa nodo! Eno bardiddare!” (Hey mate look! She’s got something written there!)

Here’s what the messages looked like.

Bike-4
After the Earth cooled down

So when I had smileys like this, with such cheesy messages on them, it was really important that I keep my cool as well and not lose my temper on the streets and smile back at anyone who smiled at me. This was easy on the day it rained, because it was a pleasant ride. But when I put a message like the one below, it wasn’t so easy to be cheery.

Bike-6
It was most people’s weekend, but not mine

I work on weekends. So I was mostly making other people happy reminding them that it was their weekend. Two bike riders caught up with my Scooty (ok fine, slowed down to stay alongside my Scooty), and asked me what special I had planned for the weekend.

Actually, people came up to me and spoke on every day that I had a message, not just this one. And they’d all come and speak right in the middle of a ride! They wouldn’t even wait for a signal. So I’d have to concentrate on riding and fail to give them a witty answer like, “Isn’t every weekend special?” or something. I just smiled, shrugged and said, “Nothing really.” That’s the mother of all boring replies.

But there was a large sector, that didn’t understand my English messages. They’d come up to me and ask me what’s written on the slate – Auto rickshaw drivers. This message below was for them.

IMG-20140416-WA0003
To cater to the kannada speaking folk. It says, “Ride carefully : )”

Well, people smiled at that. But it was a bad idea to put that message. People thought I’d written that because I didn’t know how to ride properly and I was advising them to be careful around me. Some man said, “Medam, you can put an L board instead.” So that was a face palm moment.

And then came the toughest challenge. To be happy on a Sunday. While on my way to work.