econ friendly

i have been thinking about economy. when i swim, i have forty five to fifty minutes of thinking about economy. how much energy should i put into this stroke. which way should i move my arm. how much should i turn my head. in this lifetime, will i learn how to breathe bilaterally. if there was less fat in my arms would i be able to cut through the water better. how much closer should my elbows be to my torso. if there was less fat in my tummy would turning be easier. if i controlled my kick would my stroke be more streamlined. would all this look sexier (instead of looking like me flailing about in earnest). by the end of the twenty third minute my thought process becomes more meta. i wonder why one has to think of economising in relation to one's body in the first place. how much of our lives get subsumed under these narratives. i breathe more deeply (you can't let it go waste). by the thirty first minute, i lose count. i hate it when this happens. how can i lose count when i only have to count to 15? i may end up having to do an extra lap. so much for economising. 


endless rain into a paper cup

forever spinning; bereft of anything that made her real; leaning against her broken heart fitting it into pieces that would never again be whole; a whole is greater than the sum of all its pieces, fuller, though with what, she would never again understand; she would never again truly see the same things she saw then, at that moment in which she understood everything with utter clarity. a moment that promises to never again come back to her; now she, sunken in a haze, sucks at her cigarette like a twelve year old a straw, snorting when she found nothing funny but felt like laughing anyway and thought it inappropriate at the very last moment when the laugh started to come and she had to stop it. she can mop it up, pick up the pieces and pack it into boxes and leave the boxes next to the garbage cans from where it would disappear only to find itself under the mountains (actual mountains) of garbage that go up in smoke (actual smoke) everyday. if she regretted it, she would regret nothing, because there was nothing inside. she laments nothing more than the loss of her words. the smoke took them away from her so she hides inside a bottle and pretends not to notice. if she is floating in a sea will someone find her and read her; will her words come back to her gushing if she is anonymous inside a bottle? she is worried that poetry will never hold her again at night, stories will never serenade her, songs will never evade her. nothing literal will happen to her again, and she is bereft of anything that roots her to the ground, bereft of solidity, bereft of lucidity; she will remain that way carrying her broken heart in a sea full of salt and sailors too preoccupied to notice her inside the bottle screaming her empty words; spinning forever.



is it possible america keeps going to war just so that every generation of americans have gruesome war stories to tell?


mocha glimmer

She looked at me with a sinister smile. "Don't lie," she said.

I knew that shade of lipstick intimately  (shade no. 033, Elizabeth Arden). It looked like three mild cigarettes and a double shot of espresso on a winter afternoon. She never wore anything else.

I pretended to look around and said, "Are you talking to me?" I'm really not that charming.

She put her fork down, took off her glasses and said, "I know you." She did.

"Okay," I said. "It's too dry. Can't eat it."

"Can I sell it?"

They'll buy anything you sell, darling. "May be next time," I said.

Her face fell just a little. "I'll be back tomorrow," she said.

She says that everyday. 



a year in which:

i lost two grandparents to death and watched a third rapidly slip into alzheimers dementia and turn into a child. i let one go without getting to say goodbye, i held on to one till he stopped breathing, i love one more than i was able to when i was younger.

i got a job and saw the country in ways i hadn't before. i understood poverty and deprivation more closely than i had done. i understand the indian railways better than i want to. i see more similarity than difference, and i wonder if that's a problem.

i got closer to some friends, some friends have more formally become family, got older with some others. i let go of some friends, stopped expecting things from them (even friendship). there is no catharsis in that.

i wrote less, read less, watched less television, lived on the internet much less than i would have liked to.

this was an adult year with adult considerations and adult possibilities. age can teach you all sorts of things - some things you shouldn't have to learn. in spite of everything, i think i wear mine quite happily. i hope this next year's better. 


in 29 days,
i'll tell you
if i really like the story
i wrote last night.

until then,
this poem will do. 


a piku moment

"I had been constipated for a week. It hurts like crazy! I tried everything... Drank pots and pots of aloe vera juice, tea, coffee, water, Duphulac. Just yuck."

"Problem solve hogaya?"

"Smoked a cigarette this morning."


grumpy day

celebrating marriage and all is very good. i've changed my profile picture and i've committed to going to a party. i'm truly happy. unions, and love, and beautiful families, all very good. teary-eyed fantastic, even. can we also celebrate sexuality? people who don't want to marry? and people who don't want to be in committed relationships? and people who don't care very much for monogamy? people who don't want to have children? 

and, for heaven's sake, single people? can we please, as a culture, just be okay with single people? and not have everything be about romance all the time? like, may be, books and movies and tv shows not focus on falling in love as everything? and treat being alone like i'm a half of something? because i'm not a half. if anything, i'm a buy one get one free. please get married if that's what makes you tick. but don't make me feel like i'm some outcast because i don't want to be with someone. 



A photograph of a market, a man looking slyly at a woman from the corner of his eye. She catches him out and smiles and more slyly than he. The market is colourful. It reminds me of markets in fantasy novels set in small towns. Everyone knows everyone, and I, I'm the only stranger there is. I walk down the alley and look at the graffiti. The sky is grey, and it feels like a town in Oriental Asia of the books. A man whistles at me, and I am sufficiently offended. His uncle immediately raps him on the head and makes him apologise. A woman with long, flowing hair starts talking to me at a stall selling beads I will never wear. She offers me wine, and I drink. We chat about my life, where I come from, what I do. In this life, I am a freelance journalist writing a piece about markets in temple towns. As I say this, the skyline becomes clearer. Gopurams come into focus: Stone and marble, rising into the sky. I shake my head - how is that possible? A temple town with beautiful women, drinking wine? That can't happen. I go back to talking to the woman. She offers to show me around town. She takes me down alleyways only she knows, a path to a river, a boat and a boatman. He winks at her and she blushes, but she never lets my hand go. When we get off, we come to a mangrove by the backwaters. We sit there for hours just listening to the water. I kiss her. She doesn't seem to mind. The wine fades. The boatman comes back. I start to think about caste-based professions in temple towns, and whether they're faring well in this pro-Hindu time. By the time I wake, the woman is lost in my hangover.

Can you be nostalgic for things you have only dreamed? 



they built the perfect country:

symmetry, steel, glass,
sky scrapers, twisted roads,
glittering promenades shiny malls
deep parking lots, clean blue
rivers, green parks, wooden benches
tunnels, sewers, trains the speed of light

no garbage no noise no pollution
no sex no love no passion no invention
no debate no art no literature no language

no place for
people in their

perfect imagination.


a man waits for his death

for my grandfather.


A man waits for his death.

It is monotonous. Days pass and he cannot move. He can’t tell night from day, or doesn’t want to. Hours are no matter for the mortal. His legs have given up on him. His mind is numb. He cannot say if it is life that has given up on him, or he has given up on life. It is perhaps a bit of both. His organs started to fail a year ago.

Obviously it was his kidney that started to give way. A sign of the life he lived, perhaps. A drink every evening at 7 pm. Aar. You. Em., he used to say. Two cubes of ice. Soda. For the more lavish evenings, whiskey. Call him a connoisseur. You wouldn’t be wrong. Dialysis tied him down. It stripped him of his independence – he moved out of his home, left his red typewriter, his law books, his letters. His alcohol cabinet, his photographs, his television. It tied his body to a clock. Words and numbers on pieces of paper. Fluids. Urea. Creatinine. Too many other people started to tell him what to do. What to eat. When to sleep. When to use the bathroom. His body started to rule him. No more alcohol, no more chinese food, no more travelling alone, no more driving, no more visits to the British Library spending an hour at every shelf but knowing exactly what he wanted, no more quiet evenings on his sofa with all the lights turned off, no more no more.

They say many things. Sodium levels. Pulse. Urea. Blood pressure. Sugar. These numbers don’t matter anymore. They all say the same thing. His brain is shutting down. The Hindu crossword is useless. He always preferred the Guardian. A weekly visit to the British Library. (One day, I would like to look at the list of every book he’s checked out). World War, detective novels. American writers are useless. They think they are too clever for their own good. They have no flair for language. It is too sharp, even today. So sharp it breaks your heart.

Lift me up! Make me sit up! He raves. This is Tyagaraja, he says in between screams. Semmangudi. Sukhi Evaro, he asks. Kharaharapriya, he identifies. Ramaaaaaaa, nannu brovara, he shouts. He shouts the name of his deceased brothers. He wants to go to them, but his body does not let him. He holds on to his body as much as he wants to leave it. My brother sits next to him while he is delirious. He is trying to do the crossword with him. The capital of Wales, he asks. The old man pauses. Double-U, he says. It is not always the obvious, he says. He shouts for the attendant again. Takemetothebathroom takemetothebathroom  takemetothebathroom takemetothebathroom takemetothebathroom he says. He yells, and rants and raves it. In two minutes, he is threatening to file a police case against the attendant. Take. Me. To. The. Bathroom. Nannu lechu!
I want to die. Let me die. Have you come to see me because I am dying? I am dying. I will not get better. Tell her I am dying. Turn off the music. Let me die in peace. Take her out of the room. What do you do with a mad woman for a wife?  I need to go to the bank. I need to go to HDFC. Take me to the bank. I have to do something there. Take me to the bank. No money, he used to say under his breath. He would say it all the time. When he was driving his old fiat, he thought I couldn’t hear him, perhaps. When he was working. Pauses between typing. He would stare into space and say emphatically – no. money.

A man waits for his death.

A green monitor beeps every time his pulse falls. His breath rasps. A tube at his nose for oxygen. A tube in his nose for food. Even in a coma, even when he’s leaving, he’s holding on to himself. His hands fidget constantly as if he is tying his veshti. His hands fidget – he thinks he has dropped a tablet. He puts it in his mouth and drinks a glass of water. His hands fidget with his IV fixture (I don’t know what it’s called). Eventually, they can’t find a vein anymore on his hands, so they put it in his legs. There are sores and blood clots all over his body. Put some petroleum jelly on it, they say. He fidgets with his diaper. He hates his diaper. He has been reduced to human being from man – his diaper reminds him of that.

His daughters sit around him reading Sanskrit shlokams. The Vishnu Sahasra Namam, they read. The Lalita Sahasranama Stotram, they read. It is for themselves, more than it is for him. They want him to go in peace. They want the strength to let go. He, himself, preferred reading the Sundarakandam. It is much more poetic. He was never a religious man, he preferred to pray in his own way in his own time. It is possible he can’t hear them now, anyway. His daughter-in-law has dispensed with the shlokams, and simply chants the same line over and over again om namah shivayah. He would have been amused. Even in his coma he fidgets with the heart monitor on his middle finger. Even in his coma he resists.

It cannot be said that the man waits patiently. He waits with anger and bitterness. He waits, but he doesn’t want to wait. I say Good Night, he says Good Bye. I say I’ll see you in the morning, he says allllll the best. He is afraid. He is in pain. He is suffering. He just wants it to end. Even an animal can go to the bathroom by itself. What am I? Call him! Tell him I want to go to the bathroom. He is stripped. Of his dignity, of his pride, of his independence most of all. He flinches every time someone speaks to him with the slightest hint of sympathy. Go away, he shouts. Po! Po! Po! Po! Po!

The man wants no sympathy. He just wants to be left alone. He wants to be treated for the hyper-intelligent, powerful man that he used to be. He doesn’t want to be this human being anymore. He wants to take a shower, apply powder, sit by himself in the evening, then eat some freshly fried vadams with a glass of rum. He wants to live, not hang on to life by numbers. The man is tired of waiting.

The man dies.

Death comes to him as an afterthought, but the man dies with a smile. 

He will pour himself a glass of scotch now – something fine, something aged. He will drop two cubes of ice in it. He will put a record in the gramophone. Abba, perhaps.

Can you hear the drums, Ferrrrrnannndoooo?, he will sing with an exaggerated South-Indian Accent.

I remember long ago another starry night like this
In the firelight Fernando
You were humming to yourself and softly strumming your guitar
I could hear the distant drums
And sounds of bugle calls were coming from afar
They were closer now Fernando
Every hour every minute seemed to last eternally
I was so afraid Fernando
We were young and full of life and none of us prepared to die

(There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando
Though we never thought that we could lose
There's no regret
If I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando)


flight risk

you know how they say "he probably keeps a bag packed all the time just in case"? 

it's pretty stupid. i constantly worry my clothes from one trip won't be washed and ironed in time for the next trip. how the hell do people keep their bags packed constantly?! uff. 


i need coffee

and a swimming pool.


(can i please rant to someone in private about HOW MUCH it sucks to not be a member of the secunderabad club anymore? please?)


ain't got no coffee that's perkin'

i miss not having an office.

i was more frequently broke (truth), but it was more private.

i could wake up and then think about where i would go to work that day. on days i didn't want to think, it would be the library at teen murti - sprawling, private desks, really really really really shit coffee (this is where my carry-my-own-coffee-wherever-i-go practice began)*.

some days, when i felt lavish, i would go to piano man (which is shut now, and i will forever miss that broccoli almond soup, the mint iced tea and the music). or costa coffee (when i needed a shot of espresso and a place with no wi-fi). or market cafe (when i needed to meet someone in the evening. or pasta. or other people around me, being alone, possibly working. or a waiter who will bring me black coffee without even ordering it. or student discount, bitches). in hyderabad, i had coffee cup. (it was a bit of a drive, but the chilly garlic potato fries and a shelf full of comic books made it worth it). in gaya, be happy cafe. (carrot cake! pesto pasta! at the end of too many people with poverty and deprivation! although i must say - the american woman who runs the place is pretty damn grumpy all the time, especially if she has to serve indians).

i miss being by myself in a place full of people. offices aren't like that. you have to make conversation. blech. you have to pretend to work if you don't feel like working. if you want to just read a book, you have to keep a window open full of work stuff so you can switch if someone is walking past. you can't just order a coffee** when you want one - you have to make it yourself. i have office friends. banter. jokes about the clothes i wear sometimes. (i can't just wear shorts, which downright sucks.)

the real question - one that someone at pianoman asked me - do you get any work done in these cafes?

the answer is yes, sometimes. when the deadline is now.

(but i can say the same thing about working out of my office).

*which reminds me - i have to renew my membership! shit.
** i'm allergic to coffee these days. did i tell you about it yet? my whole body breaks out into violent rashes all over. the hunger thing was a big problem when i went cold feet. but i'm swimming now, and that's helping.

(title from ella aunty's brilliant song, ain't got nothin' but the bluuuuuuuuueeeeeee-hooos.)


map me

map me:

if there are such linearities
as you might find
upon my body. 



i need an excuse to wear lipstick.

any excuse, really. i brush my lips before i do - gotta get rid of the dry skin, put on chapstick, wait three minutes, then put on lipstick. i pout at myself in the mirror, then blot it out. by the time i get to the party, the lipstick is a ghost. it only exists in my mind - and on the corner of the glass. by the end of the night, i forget i was wearing any to begin with.

eye make-up is another issue. i wear kajal everyday. i look too sleepy without. i don't know how to mascara. the few times i've used it, i've felt super pretty. (make-up is too often in the feeling, don't you think?) i have three boxes with colour for my eyes, but i don't know how to put it on. i've watched too many youtube videos, but i haven't practiced enough.

my mother used more make-up at 27 than i possibly ever will. she used to have these two huge boxes full of lipsticks, eye shadows, mascara, blush, brushes, foundation, two compacts in her handbag at all times, a concealer. she used to wear lipstick and matching bangles to office everyday. she doesn't anymore - i really don't know why.

so why is it such a big deal for me?



an old memory came back to me last night.

we are sitting in the triangle. the flooring is made of mismatched shahbad tiles - grey and gold. we play a hopping game. we hop across the room - one end to the other - making sure we only jump on the gold-tinted stones. it gets tricky around the middle of the room. the gold-tinted tile is under an elaborate stick-on muggu on the floor. it is a matter of much debate - are we allowed to land on those stones or not? 

what did we call it? noranti? warranty? 

the rest of the house is red oxide flooring. the grandfather's room has large square patterns on the floor. it's not fun to play on those floors. outside, though, that's a different matter. the flooring outside is made of unpolished shahbad stones. for a large part of my childhood, half the stones outside were broken on one side of the front yard. we played another game on it, i can't remember what it was. when it was repaired, i remember being heartbroken. i don't know why. 

each window had a different grill pattern - do you remember them? i can't. i was sure i would. the dining room had a square grill? or was it the one with the rectangles? and the faux-study room on the first floor, next to ranga chitappa's room? i can't remember the grill on that either. 



someone inside my head is screaming. i don't know what she's saying, but she's constantly screaming. i've tried everything to calm her down. i'm swimming, i'm listening to music - but she doesn't let me do anything. she doesn't let me read (she screams too loudly to concentrate), she doesn't let me work (she screams oh my so much), she screams she screams she screams i don't know what she says but she screams so much my head hurts. how do i clear my head?


swimming, day 1

i started swimming again this morning after a year and a quarter.
my shoulders feel like someone jumped up and down all over them.
and my feet hurt. i didn't think that could happen?

(on the other hand, 1 km. 27 mins. woot.)



"the real reason i don't drink is because i think i'll be stuck in a state of inebriation and won't ever escape."