Category: Journalism

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.


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.

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. : )

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*




Happy birthday Fatty!

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!


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

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.

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.


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.


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.





An iron box, a job and a holiday craving

So I was ironing my dad’s uniform the other day and suddenly it struck me that he has been wearing the same clothes every single day for 34 years! I thought twelve years of having to wear uniform to school was too much. And here we have my dad, who, save Sundays, has been wearing a grey shirt with grey trousers and maybe five different pairs of shoes over those 34 years. The only change he has had is being shifted from inspecting the quality of porcelain to the quality of panel boards, and of course, a whole bunch of promotions. (After reading this, he is going to email me about his exact position at work, with a bunch of corrections of the technicalities.)

Appa uniform
Random picture alert

Now come to think of it, my mum has also been in service for the past 34 years, at AG’s office, sitting at a desk, signing here and there, cross checking pensioner’s names and addresses, having lunch with her friends and coffee in the canteen at 3 o’ clock. She has a few more years to go until she retires.

My sister just joined work a couple of months ago. She has worked at three different companies. Right now, I mean, as I’m writing this blogpost, she is sitting in Kerala, at a beach house, playing Scrabble with her husband. Last weekend, she was at Kodachadri, trekking to a peak with an insanely beautiful view.

And here I am, with six months of job experience, planning my next career-move, despite having a kickass job. I write about what I want, I’m given crazy freedom. I write about music, travel, fashion, food, art, dance, culture and lifestyle. It’s an 11 to 5 job. Could I want anything else? Yupp, I can! I think it’s a law of life to never be satisfied with what you have, to always want more. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m a restless person, who can’t stick to a particular thing for long. Or maybe I just want a break. It’s no mean feat to go to work six months, with no weekends and take just four days off over the period of time. Right now, I’m craving for a  holiday. A beach, a hammock, a book, a beer, some pleasant music, just a simple break. Like this.

I want to relive this trip so bad that I have even chopped my hair off, ready to go!

But of course, everyone I know is busy. A friend of mine, Sudarshan, is travelling around every weekend, to anywhere he likes. Just deciding the previous day and backpacking. One of my editors just returned from Goa. Another one is leaving to Istanbul as I type. Ugh. I’m not happy for any of these people. I’m plain jealous. I wanna go on a holiday!

Keeping such cravings in mind, I have an ideal plan for my next career-move, my next job. I’m going to start an online travel show. (Don’t steal my idea you!) A lot of people will know that my dream was to be at Travel and Living/Animal Planet/ESPN. (The last one is headed in the opposite direction, I know, but if that’s a possibility, then why not? I love football, I love writing, I love being on camera. A Mayanti Langer-like job would be ideal. Might seem to far fetched, but what the hell! It’s nice to have a dream.) Anyway, like I said, I’d like to start an online travel show, discovering unseen places. Right now, it’s just a dot of a thought. Like an amoeba. It hardly exists but it does. Over 2014, I’ll build on this thought and come up with something legit, hopefully.

Although I do feel so vain sometimes, writing only about fashion, travel and such luxuries when I live in a third world country, where millions live without a concrete roof over their heads, there’s only so much I can do for them. When I’m equipped enough to help them, I will. Until then, I’ll continue to work on the features desk. Like my friend Aadi says, there is only negativity in the media today. Bad news everywhere. So let the main desk handle all the bad news, I’ll write features and spread happiness and optimism all over the place!

But I still want that holiday. And of course, my parents deserve a break, from their jobs. Maybe they don’t want it though. My dad has to retire in eight months and I’m sure he doesn’t want to. BHEL has been his life. That grey uniform has been his skin. But all good things come to an end and new good things rise out of the ashes.

So here’s to a LONG but seemingly short and eventful 2013!

(I’m not done for the year yet, in terms of this blog.)

Kan’t get enough

No, I’m not trying to sound ‘kool.’ I think it’s the most senseless thing to do, replacing ‘c’ with ‘k.’ It’s so wrong. Anyway that’s my pun on Kan, the folk band from UK. A month ago, I had never heard of them, but the awesome job that I have, introduced me to the band, let me interview them and go for their performance, and trust me, it was the HAPPIEST concert of my life.

Click on the play icon to listen to them while you read this post.

I’m sure most of you have never heard of Kan. They play Scottish folk music, and a few of their pieces sound surprisingly similar to Indian folk music. I wasn’t too thrilled about interviewing them in the beginning, until I found time and opened a youtube video of them. I have never fallen in love with something so easily before. This is the video I saw.

The band mainly concentrates on flute and fiddle sounds, played by Brian Finnegan and Adrian O’Rourke. They are so energetic and tireless. My jaw dropped and I could never fix it back all through the show. It’s as easy as breathing for them. (Not breathing in Bangalore, of course. It’s as easy as breathing fresh  air in, say, Iceland). Jim plays the drums and I have never seen any drummer remain so subtle and in the background. It’s difficult to control your energy and strength while playing such a loud instrument I’m sure. Ian plays the acoustic guitar. I can’t believe I have the same instrument he does and he can produce that kind of sound. Everytime I pick my guitar, I say “Oh it doesn’t have a cut, I can’t reach the high notes. I need another guitar. Can’t play this ever,” and put it away. But you must see the stuff he can do with the guitar. It’s uncanny, really. These guys are just too good. Ian did most of the interacting with the crowd, perhaps because his accent was most easy to understand. Brian is Irish, and another member Scottish and two from Manchester and elsewhere. I forget.

Coming to their music. I don’t know where to start. They begin all their songs with a slow, deep intro and somewhere in between, they suddenly pause. That pause! It’s the most magical pause. And suddenly with unbelievable coordination they pick up speed and go crazy with their instruments. They push themselves to the limit and give you goosebumps until you shudder. It’s insane. Nuvena, who initially didn’t want to come to the show with me had her eyes were brimming with tears at the end of every song! (So were mine, but I’d rather speak of someone else’s tears). She loved them so much, she bought a Kan CD and we played it all the way home in the car. The next morning I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to listen to the CD again. They’re that addictive! They’re the best ensemble ever.

You must listen to this song called (I think) 90 mile drive. It was one of the first few times they were performing it. Adrian even said they never get it right. But that intro. Oh my god! You won’t believe they’re making those beautiful sounds from their instruments. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel good about life. Their song One, Two, Three, their only romantic track, sounds like a lover trying to convince the woman of his life that everything is going to be alright and there is nothing to worry about. It’s like the music speaks to you. It’s the kind of music that will make you say “To hell with rock music!”

Brian Finnegan, especially, was like Lord Krishna come to life. (I don’t mean to say Krishna is dead you religious people. Relax.) He even crossed his legs and held the flute just like Krishna for one song. Before every song, he’d fish out a different flute and stand modestly in front of the mike. They were so sweet, they even said “thank you for listening.” I mean, which international band would say that. They said they were scared before performing 90 Mile Drive and I think Brian said “Go baldies!” to themselves. It was such a cheerful night!

I recorded some of their music on my phone, so I can relive it. I don’t think I’ll share it here because I’m ordering appletini and you can hear all that. I can’t believe I was so mesmerised by the band that I blindly ate a pasta full of yucky mushrooms without realising. It’s going to be very difficult for the next live performance I attend to live up to this one. I just loved every second of it.

A big thanks to Nuvena who be’d a sweetheart and took me all the way to Whitefield on the murkiest roads that I took her in, following Google maps that showed me bicycle routes for a Volkswagon Polo. Hehe.

Here are a few questions from the interview I had with them, if you want to read. They came to India as part of the Bristish Council’s Folk Nations programme and taught underprivileged kids nuances of Scottish music in Mumbai and Kolkata. They had some sort of a master class in Bangalore. I’m so glad they came here.

  • Have you ever been to Bangalore before? What are you looking forward to in the city?

[Brian]: I’ve never been to Bangalore. Someone said it’s a great city for music, good vibes and a good atmosphere. Everyone tells us it’s very different from Kolkata and Mumbai.


  • It’s lovely on your part to teach underprivileged children. What exactly do you expect to teach children in India? Will you actually be teaching them how to play the instruments or will there be a bit of theory as well?

[Brian]: We’ll go to the workshop with a piece that we’ve written and performed. Then we’ll talk about the instruments – about whether they’re traditional or modern, where they come from and different styles. We’ll talk about our arrangements and basically just be interacting with the kids. If they want to play an instrument, we’ll encourage them to come and play the flute or whistle or guitar or drums. So it’ll be pretty organic.


  •  You have collaborated with Indian musicians such as AR Rahman and Shankar Mahadevan. Can you tell us a bit about that? What was the experience like?

[Aidan]: I’ve worked with some Indian musicians in the past; Trilok Gurtu and Shankar Mahadevan at Celtic Connections festival in 2010. And I’ve also collaborated in the past with the master violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava. They were all wonderful experiences.

[Brian]: Jim has done a lot of work as an orchestral percussionist, and has performed film scores live by Nitin Sawhney and, recently, A R Rahman. I toured in India in 1998 and played with Rajendra Prasanna and Sunil Kant Gupta, and it was a hugely inspiring experience for me, and influenced quite a lot of my music.


  •  Do you think folk music, on a global scale, is being pushed away to remain in the background? What is the global scenario like?

[Aidan]: Folk music in Scotland, Ireland and England is at an all time high. You hear a lot of folk music on mainstream radio now. I know a lot of purists would like the music to remain as a museum piece, but I think it has and always will evolve. And I don’t hear it becoming homogenised. If anything, more people are digging deeper and listening to the raw folk music that’s become more available through online archives, etc. This is an exciting time for the type of music we play and we’re embracing it.


  •  You have performed all over the world. Which country, in particular, do you think embraces folk music most easily?

[Brian]: I think these days music travels much faster than it used to when I first started playing music 20 years ago. We just came back from Japan, where we did two sold out concerts in Tokyo. It was our first time in Japan. People are understanding folk music and world music a lot more now and it’s travelling. So places like Australia, America and Canada are very exciting places to go and play. And for me, coming home to Ireland is always extra special. No matter where I go and play, coming home to Ireland is always a different vibration.


  •  It has been a while since you released Sleeper. Do you have any other albums coming up?

[Aidan]: We’ve got some new tracks which we’ll be playing in India. We plan to record our new record next year, so I think there should be something new out next year.



A call to wake up the writer in you

(Starting abruptly because I can’t think of a better way to start)

In Deccan Chronicle, we have a column where we get bloggers to write something Bangalore-related. Unfortunately, they’ve given me the job of scouring the internet and finding a good blog to publish. You will not believe how difficult that job is. You probably think, Oh! There are so many blogs. Hell no! Do the job once and you’ll know how hard it is. I’m just upset about people not writing. Not because it makes my job difficult, although that’s one of the issues, even otherwise, why don’t any of you write? 

I’m sure half the people on my friends list on Facebook are journalists or journalism students. I don’t see any blog posts being written! My teacher at ACJ made me make this WordPress page and it’s the best thing I’ve gotten out of the New Media classes. It’s such a blessing, this blog. All students were asked to make this page. But not one has maintained it. It’s so important to write! It helps you improve your grammar, your command over the language improves and you begin to have a way of putting your thoughts down. Most of you are really intelligent people, and have deep meaningful thoughts I’m sure. Why waste those thoughts? Put them down. 


Tyrion Lannister once said, ‘A mind needs a book like a sword needs a whetstone.’ I can’t agree more. Imagine if all those authors had decided not to write their books and just keep their thoughts to themselves. Well, I’m not asking you to write something deep, reflective and informative. I mean look at the load of crap I write and get away with! Look at the mindless stuff Varun Agarwal and Chetan Bhagat wrote and became best sellers! Take a look at the Twilight series! (Just kidding. Don’t even look at those). But trust me, it feels so good when random people text you or ping you out of the blue saying, “Nice write-up, can’t wait to read the next.”

It’s not so difficult at all! I’m sure some of you have blog pages that lay long-forgotten, asleep somewhere on the internet. You needn’t even write on a blog. My creative writing teacher had advised us to write just one page of something everyday; best advice ever. You can write about anything! You can build five paragraphs around something as tiny as a tweet you saw, or a little incident on the road, or an animal, a news article you read, a movie, a play, a match, a concert, chewing, taking a leak, anything. You could even challenge yourself to choose a different word each day and write about it. If you’re a journalist, it’ll help you immensely. Even otherwise, writing helps you remember better. I told my sister to write about her year-long stay in Amsterdam. She wrote for two days and forgot all about it. :-/ But I’ve written a little about my Euro trip, so I made tiny notes at all places I went to, and I remember all the places so well! When I read what I’ve written, I feel like I revisited the place.

Well, I’m not forcing you. But it’s a good habit to cultivate is all I’m saying. You don’t need to be able to write well either. I read this somewhere. It is one of the most important lines (for me) I’ve ever read. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. 
Just write as you would speak to someone. Learn a new word everyday. Click a picture to go along with it. Buy a new exciting pen or notebook (This always works for me. Recently found a Hero pen, the kind I used during my school days. Can’t stop scribbling writing neatly now). Make it a fun thing for yourself to do when you have free time.

Good luck with it.

PS: Here’s a blog I really like. She writes about anything and she makes it interesting. You could take inspiration from here.

More than meets the eye

How do you sum up a person in 500 words? I’m not sure, but I’m going to give it a shot nevertheless. My father is perhaps the youngest looking 57-year-old I know. He sports long curly hair and a mustache. He has had people tell him he looks like a hippy. But he is far from that. Wearing his factory uniform and a pair of Ray-ban sun glasses, he goes to my mother’s office on his 1985 model Royal Enfield, to pick her up, every single day.

My father is a simple man. He has followed the same routine for over thirty years. He works until five, comes back with my mother at six and stays in his garage until nine, after which we have dinner at the table. He is a workaholic. There is nothing he enjoys more than fixing bikes and cars. It baffles me to think of how long and testing his journey has been. Once a part time auto driver, he is now the Senior Manager of his department at BHEL.

There are days when he has a faraway look in his eyes and tells us about his childhood; about how he failed few subjects some times and how he got a double promotion sometimes; about his love for gasagase paaysa and how he had once poured some into his pocket hoping to drink it later. Silly appa! My sister and I never tire of listening to his stories, but the opportunity to do so is rare.

It’s strange how my father never ceases to amaze me. For a long time I thought my father was not a family man. Of course he loves his family and my parents are a very happy couple. But he rarely displays any emotion. It might seem silly, but a few weeks ago I was wondering if my parents had, at least once, said “I love you” to each other. During the same week came an instance when my mother was out of station and my dad was very ill, in a hospital, with just my sister and me to nurse him. Just listening to his shaky voice when he spoke to her over the phone and seeing the expression on his face when my mother came back was enough for me to tell how much he missed her. Relationship, I thought, was the last thing my dad would advise me about. But somehow, without saying a word, he passed on a valuable lesson to me. Flowery words and dramatic gestures don’t make a relationship strong. All you need is strong mutual understanding, and along with that, comes unconditional love.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My father has taught me to strive for what I want and make sure I get it. It’s very difficult to be like him. He extracts the best out of life. I’d like to think that I’m a lot like him. I like being told that I look like my father or that I behave like him. I like to think I get my love for animals, my short temper, my tomboyishness and my lust for life from him. My mom, sister and I adore my dad. He brings the most boring places to life. His very presence instills a sense of security and completion in us. I hope my dad stays exactly like this forever, young at heart, energetic and immensely passionate about everything he does.


I wrote this a whole ago as part of an assignment in my journalism school.