punjabi song on the radio

i want a cryptic way to
tell you that i
miss you today. i want a way for you
to know that a sentence
i read triggered
emotions that taste like whiskey,
cigarettes, the smell of raat ki rani
in October (an foreboding of winter,
cocoa, blankets and naphthalene balls).

i want to ask you if that isn’t
poetry in general?
anecdotes hidden between words,
jokes only i laugh at. 
breaks and poetic
time that only make sense
if you’re listening to the song
you asked me to listen to



late valentine's day post 2015

"You're like a witness. You're the one who goes to the museum and looks at the paintings. I mean the paintings are there and you're in the museum too, near and far away at the same time. I'm a painting. Rocamadour is a painting. Etienne is a painting, this room is a painting. You think that you're in this room, but you're not. You're looking at the room, you're not in the room." 

From Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar. 

In the same book, he also says - (keeping track of time was difficult for Oliveira, happy, ergo futureless.) 

This valentine's day (like every other one on this blog) I wonder if this encapsulates my (non) love life. 

"happy, ergo futureless." 


Older V Day posts - 2014201320122011 and my favorite, 2007. :) 


guest post: brotherly love

My crazy irreverent brother just hacked into my blogger account and wrote an unsolicited post for my blog. I decided to let it be because it's hilarious even though I hate him. Remind me never to give him my laptop again.

i gave my laptop
to my brother
for his laptop was in the laptop-shop.

my brother in his wisdom
only proceeded to write
for my blog.

from what i know of my brother,
he is a brother like no other.
not that i've experienced other such buggers,
but i've known  cousin-brothers
and they're much worse than this sucker.

what you do need to know about my brother
isn't that he is younger and more useful
than his blog-writing, scandal-watching sister
but that he doesn't stop eating when he's full.

he may be right about a few things
but he's wrong about the dieting fling.
the world hates fat beer-drinks
and i can't stand the hate.


My sister thinks I'm the best. But how does it matter what my sister thinks if she is dieting all the time, right? However, I think her dieting won't help her beer belly if she continues drinking. Perhaps, she should shed the beer for something like white rum. (though i'm sure she has explored more healthy options like whiskey) Maybe my sister should write a story about a fat dietician battling a McDonald's burger problem which stems from the dieticians love for the ambience at McDonald's. Or maybe, she should write a story about that fat guy in the metro who refuses to wake up from his fake slumber.

Most definitely, my sister should write a story about a size zero girl who's in love with a woman whose eyes are red, as if she always has conjunctivitis, whose legs are fat, which makes people think her mother cross-bred with an elephant but whose nose is as pretty as Deepika Padukone's before she started snotting. This story about them should involve constant dates at Andhra Bhavan, Saravana Bhavan, (midnight buffet at) Pickles and lots of cheese. They should eat the same things, drink the same water, live in the same house but feel different about their bodies. One day, the not-so-thin-woman should disappear to make the size zero feel like she's a tourist in Goa without alcohol. She should descend into a deep, dark depression which makes her lose her 'shape'. This size zero woman should meet the fat woman who is now a really thin kashmiri separatist. That meeting drives her to suicide.

That's what my sister should do about her size. write about it. not change it. it isn't really that unhealthy to be fat anymore. I don't see why you shouldn't be fat, then. 



writing is 90% staring.


of course bukowski offers these words of wisdom:

"if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
don't do it."



i'm watching you

in other (fairly personal) news, i've put on a lot of weight in the past 4 months. i'm guessing this is because - 

i haven't been working out (or even pretending to), 
i've been eating like a crazy person (i travel 3 weeks a month - i only get cheap hotel food and samosas where i go), 
i stress-eat. a lot. and i stress-sleep. a lot.
i drink 6 - 8 espressos a day (1 batch of filter coffee at the very least), 
and i eat out a lot even when i'm not travelling. 

please notice how this list does not say i've been drinking. it's because i haven't been. and if i have, it's been negligible. 

so i've taken the plunge, (un)fortunately, and i'm now on a diet and exercise regime starting now. now while the exercise thing is do-able (it is!), the diet thing is really scary. i'm only putting this on my blog, because apparently (a wise friend told me this afternoon) - food is an addiction. you can't go cold turkey, but you have to try. and to beat any addiction, you need support. and i, my dear readers, have to beat two addictions - caffeine and food. (well, a third - if you count sleep.) at some point today, i googled it - and caffeine withdrawal makes you hungry. so i'm going to be hungry and have a headache and not be able to eat more food than normal human beings. (that vlcc tummy trim package is looking so attractive to me at the moment). 

anyway, since only about 2 1/2 people read this blog, i'm going to spam you guys with ohmygodineedcoffee or ohmygodiwantdessert posts now and again. 

cool. ok.

rain rain go away

our house was on a hill, near a valley.

when it rained, we could see the clouds climb up the hill. we would play a game with them: we would  run up the valley, trying to race the clouds.

of course, we would always lose - and end up wet.


(i've been meaning to blog this for a while. when i heard it, i was in a forested area with no internet/phone. it was raining - we were cold, wet and clutching to our tea cups for as much warmth as they could give us.)


love ka matter hai

didi, us gaon me hum nahi ja sakte hai. Pura bandh hai Saraiyya. Pura force aaya hua hai DSP ke saath.

Acha, kyun?

Love ka matter hai didi. Ek muslim aur hindu vo kargaye. Love.

Ladki hindu ki ladka?

Ladka hindu tha didi. Muslim log unko gaad diye. Kaat ke. Phir hindu log unke ghar jaladiye. Paanch chhe ghar.

(ajitpur village. saraiyya block. muzaffarpur district. bihar.)


carrot cake and cigarettes

i'm in gaya, bihar. 

on the way to the village i had to visit today, our car got stopped by some men who wanted us to give them a donation (chanda) for some pooja. 

except, he stopped our car, pulled out the keys and said "haramzaada chanda do." my colleague in the back was smoking a cigarette. they grabbed at her and tried to make her give them all her cigarettes. i said i didn't understand why they had to be so rude - they said "tum nahi samjhoge." 

we were a car full of women who looked like we were from the city (except for the driver). they didn't let us go till we had paid them 500 rupees for their "pooja". they very nearly punctured our tyres. 

this exchange was 3 minutes long, at the very best. 

i am troubled. i know why, except i don't know if it's fair to attribute something like this to something like that so very flippantly. 

tomorrow, i've told to driver to take the more populated route. that's the way we survive in this country, right? we take solace in crowds. we maintain two feet distance from them (lest we get molested), but we stay in them anyway. 

anyway, my driver's response. "aise mere saath kabhi nahi hua hai. aap teen saal pehle aate na, to aise naxal log milte. tab to paise kya, zindagi ka sawaal hota. aaj kal vo sab nahi hota hai." (this hasn't happened to me before, but if you had come three years ago we would have been attacked by naxalites. you would have feared for your life then, not money.)

ps. at the end of the day, i ate very good carrot cake. 


it is not i

angulimala, my cousin says,

i squint my eyes at him - i can't recall the story but i remember the image from amar chitra katha quite vividly. a bare-chested man with a necklace made of thumbs. dark, like all the asuras in the series.

my cousin continues - it's a story about a dacoit in the hills. angulimala is an orphan forced into dacoitry by circumstance. so infamous, even the sound of his name makes one shiver. he would take everything you had - and then cut off your finger to keep count. 

one day, he sees a man in the forest. he shouts out at him - stop! i am angulimala. he chases the man but never catches up to him. he runs and runs and after a while, he tires. he stops running and calls out - do you not fear me? why don't you stop?

the man turns around. angulimala immediately sees that this man fears nothing. not even death. "it is not i who is moving," he says. (this man, of course, turns out to be the buddha).

what a thing to say. none of us understand what that means. not when we were nine. not today.

but it clearly works on angulimala - this cryptic statement from a man he couldn't catch up to. he gives up dacoitry, takes up beggary and lives in the city. until one day a woman recognizes him as the man who killed her husband. she shouts - a crowd gathers and throws stones at him. angulimala remains smiling and silent through this.

when buddha finally shows up, he collapses in his arms. "i seek refuge in you," he says, and dies.

after a quiet moment, my cousin tells me - it's an intense story when you're 9. i say - it's an intense story even now.


(i stayed in bed all day today. it was cold and raining and anywhere outside a blanket was hostile. but i've a story nevertheless. thank you sharan. :) )



he's a hard-nosed, street-wise, brilliant motherfucker.

you know it's true.

a minister calls him this morning. "i'm contesting for elections from your area," she says. that's a bloody problem, he tells me. a dharm sankat. i'm campaigning for the other guys.

"send me some kids to do it then," she tells him.

it's not like i can give birth to them he tells me. where will i send them from.

he makes some calls in front of me. then he calls her. "i'll send you about a hundred tomorrow" he says.

he packs up and makes to leave. "come eat gol gappe with me," he says.

how can i refuse.  


a story a day project

HELLO new blog project.

i'm going to write one real story i hear everyday. something someone tells me within a 24 hour bracket, preferably. but if i'm really not in a conversation mood - may be something i read. i'm a horrible listener - but the point of the project is really to think about how we make conversation and what i take away from them.

and to hoard stories. always that.


they went to japan in 2002. this was back when everything digital was new. they stayed in the fanciest hotel there - there was a 42 inch flat screen tv in the bathroom. the toilet seats were heated, and the faucets had pressure controls. but the star of that trip was really the 50 year old chivas regal whiskey they were giving out as awards. which they couldn't accept - because they were winning the award, among other things, for their work against alcoholism. ha.


"we have all kinds of meat on fridays, she said. it's not for you if you are scared. wild boar, deer, porcupine, we cook interesting things with my grandmother's recipe - and no shortcuts. we even grind our masalas by hand."

"porcupine?! really? i've never heard of porcupine being eaten. what does it taste like?"

"pork, without the fat. they run around in the wild no? so there's only meat. no fat. and i cook it well."

:| rosang, green park extension market. not for the fainthearted. 




2014 was a year of difficult choices and personal losses, but a year i found my footing in again. it was a year in which i stopped working out, stopped reading, stopped writing fiction, but got a job, saw the country in ways i hadn't done before, established myself professionally (somewhat), made new friends, reconciled with older friends. i know the next year isn't going to be easy for me - but i have love and happiness, and isn't that all that matters?


work rant

I would write a whole paper about how tiring writing is, if only it wasn't so damn counterproductive. 


the real question

about the modi government, one that i have no answer to, is this:

where is their faith in technocratic solutions coming from?





making monsters

Cross-posted from the wonderful Scribbler.co


"I know people who belong to the RSS tradition," someone commented on a Facebook discussion I was reading recently, "and they are all good people with tremendous discipline" (emphasis mine). 

I think of this today again in the context of the recent Kiss of Love in Delhi, where the protest was pitched against 'sanghi gunday'. The image that appears before you is instantly of a saffron-clad man with a bright red tilak on his forehead aggressively protecting an abstract "Indian culture" that nobody can quite define, but everybody knows. 

And it is in this context that I wonder: Is it a mistake to make monsters of those on the extreme right of things? 

Because I don't think it is truly the Sanghi Gunday that one is up against. 

It is the regular middle-class Mama who wants his daughter to have a PhD from a foreign university and a stunning career, but also wants his to know how to make the perfect keeray molagutal and is afraid of her daughter marrying a Muslim. It is the Aunty who thinks it is perfectly fine to have a drink with her daughter on Saturday evenings, but will bring down the skies if her skirt is a single inch above her knee. Write a thesis on sexuality, sure, as long as it is part of your academics, but the choice of marriage will be made by horoscopes and stars. You have to be financially independent, but you cannot have a say in when you want to come home at night. Have as many friends as you want, but don't eat in the Muslims' houses - their food smells. Those gays, you know, it's okay whatever they do on their own time. You don't have any gay friends no? 

There is nothing more political than falling in love. Identity (caste, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation…), ways in which you define your relationships (not defining it, intimacy, love, live-in, open, closed, committed, married, engaged, the list goes on), spaces, institutions you engage with in the context of the relationships - all of these have to be negotiated. So much has been said on love jihad/'jihad against love'; about personal laws regulating marriages, laws against homosexuality. It is naive to argue that any decision is made by the two (or, indeed, more) people in the relationship. People are acid attacked, hacked to pieces, thrown under trains, shot, beaten up brutally, raped, kidnapped, I mean - you've all watched the films and read the news - all for love. But you have also heard of people who give up, compromise, "be pragmatic". It doesn't have to be extreme - even little things like keeping quiet when your partner's mother calls. Love isn't ever only pretty

But at the heart of this is control over sexuality. 

Let's for a moment think about why the media felt entitled to put up footage of a couple kissing at a cafe; and about why (I use the term loosely) 'sanghi gunday' felt entitled enough to beat them up. It didn't happen out of the blue. 

I don't know if this is true specifically of Kochi, but I know it is true of any college in Hyderabad, many colleges in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, really any city in the South -  but for over a decade now, educational institutions have been violently curbing any expression of women's sexuality. Dress codes, separating men and women in classrooms, having rules about girls and boys talking to each other in class, not allowing any physical contact whatsoever, strictly regulating time between classes, also regulating after-college hours - these are all "normal" in most colleges. It is apparently okay to suspend students for laughing loudly

I read this week that Bangalore College Principals published guidelines on how girls should behave in colleges, and this is endorsed by most people who send their children to these colleges. I wouldn't be surprised if these guidelines regulate women's access to spaces, their friends, how they speak on the phone, which staircase they take, where they sit, how they sit, who they eat with, what they eat; there is nothing about the way a woman conducts herself that the principals couldn't have set a guideline about. 

These principals are regular, educated, middle-class men and women of all shapes and sizes; but really, how are they any different from 'sanghi gunday' who protest against men and women sitting together in a cafe? The only difference I can see scares me - The fact that they are organised, have direct power over women's lives and careers, have support (whether explicit or complicit) from the families of the women they seek to control and the fact that they use it intelligently. 'Sanghi gunday' are reactionary, angry and violent; but men and women like these who are 'well-intentioned' and are 'only doing it to protect our girls' are the real threat. 

They're good, well-intentioned people. Their only visible fault, of course, is their warped sense of entitlement on women's bodies. Women (because make no mistake, they are adult women) who have no way to own their bodies with some integrity. At the heart of it is the fact that it is a power relationship.  I've been in the women's position. I've done it - I wore salwar kameez for five years in a girls' college, where I was sent back home a few times because my kurta was higher than my knees by a few inches, I wore a stole instead of a dupatta, I wore jeans instead of a salwar, my sleeves were too short, even thinking of the list is tiring me. I've justified not fighting it, too - there are bigger battles to fight. I can't win this.  

So I wonder. Are we making monsters of the wrong people? 


glass of wine, chocolate ice cream, yellow lights. 

i miss my home. :(



Close to the top of the list of things that piss me off:

People who romanticise poverty. 

I understand it's difficult to find poetry in things; I understand the need to find expression in what you believe is most indigenous. It might speak to you in multiple ways; you might see it as beautiful imagery. You might write it as beautiful imagery. But there is no romance in poverty. There are only people struggling for their dignity while they make their ends meet. Write about them, please. But don't project your romance onto their lives. 



You are the latest addition to my private collection of people. 

There are all sorts in there. An old woman I saw the day after I got my tenth standard board exam results. I was in a bus on the streets of Delhi. She was in a rickshaw with a bag of vegetables. A man whose butt crack was peeking from the back of his pants on a train. He was snoring on the upper berth of a train from Bhopal to Godhra. When we reached, he jumped off the upper berth, dragged his suitcase out, pushed me out of the way and got off the train. I can't remember his face, but I know his butt crack intimately. 

A woman with short hair I saw five years ago. She was in the library, going through books in the women's studies section. I practiced talking to her everyday for a whole week in the shower. I haven't seen her since, but I still have conversations with her sometimes. She has longer hair now, the kind that falls along her shoulders in waves. She sings like a dream. She sings in my dreams. 

You're different. You have a name and a place in my world. You like potatoes and spend a large part of our time together convincing me about them. You have a way of saying my name. You emphasise the first half, lilting on the second half. There is warmth in it, but there is ownership in it. I have never had a private person who could own my name. It says something of you, I am not sure what.

Your hands are a beautiful shade of dark. Which is strange, because nothing else about you is. But your fingers and long and warm. I’ve never kissed anyone with long fingers. Only stubby and fat. Or short and pretty. (With their nails either bitten or cut. Usually bitten off.) I'll very quickly skip everything else and arrive at your hair. It is almost straight, only slightly wavy where it is ponytailed, which is also a novelty. I’ve done the whole range of super crazy fizz to stick straight, but I haven’t done yours.

Faces are difficult. Yours, especially. I can think of everything in its own way. I know your ears. I know your teeth: There is something blackish stuck in them but your grin is overpowering. I know your lips, but not the way I would like to. Your nose hooks a bit like mine. Your eyes. But I can’t put them all together coherently in one face. It’s as if I have bits of a puzzle to put together, but just don’t know how. I always wonder if I will recognize you if I see you out of context. Suddenly in an airport. Or eating pani puri on the road. 

Do you like chaat? It’s an important parameter.