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."



first world problems

back in a world with working phones and broadband internet and facebook and twitter and toilets and tv and skype and gchat and email (frikkin email!) and uninterrupted whatsapp after 4 days and i missed everything but nobody misses ME.


(also, i'm in a city for exactly 1 day in 2 weeks, and it's a city with no alcohol. can we all please ban ahmedabad from being a city?)



I’ve never received a letter
(hand-written, on aerogramme paper
with a stamp, quirky handwriting
a chat with the postman
delayed news from last week
or the month before. paper flying
across states or countries or continents
smelling of oregano or jeera or sambar
of home or a yearning for home.
ink blots made by leaking pens where
you stop to think.)

I have no nostalgia of my
own; only borrowed from my grandmother
or her siblings sent fifty years go
in a sack full of letters
(apprehensions about marriages to someone
i only know as my cousins’ grandfather;
or the weight of gold in a bangle
i know was stolen twenty years ago
by someone who took it to “polish it.”
references to polishing copper pots i
have never seen used; and excitement about
televisions they bought in foreign countries)
we found when we were
clearing out the attic of our
70 year old home.


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.