E is for Exercise

It has taken me a while to accept this – I can be a sloth if the situation permits me.

My slothful tendencies were exacerbated by easy accessibility to public utilities and amenities in Pune. The advent of online food takeaway services – aka Swiggy and Zomato – led to my nearly ruinous entanglement with fast food. Running errands were a no-biggie. Out of tomatoes? Saunter to the sabzi mandi down the road and haggle with the vendor. Out of painkillers to treat a migraine? Run to the chemist next-door. Got a craving for Lays Magic Masala chips? Walk to the grocery store behind my apartment complex. But here’s the thing – I barely walked or ran. Good heavens no, I picked up my phone and ordered everything home. You see, unlike a white country, labour is hella inexpensive in India and hence the concept of delivery charges doesn’t exist unless you order takeaways. The charges for the latter are minimal and would hardly pinch your pocket.

So when I moved to Auckland, I wistfully realized that I had to abandon my Swiggy (substituted by Uber-Eats here) tendencies and rely on my culinary skills – that the pandemic (unsurprisingly) helped me hone – to assuage my food cravings. These days ordering takeaways is reserved for PMS bouts, period cramps, once-in-a-while forgetfulness to pack lunch, and an occasional craving that does nonetheless arise.

Not only takeaways but possibly most errands, especially grocery-shopping necessitate walking. Public transport in Auckland, unlike home, is neither convenient nor economical. Back home I would religiously choose Uber and Ola cabs over my own vehicle to commute to work, win several discounts and coupons in return which further fueled my indolence. Notwithstanding the lack of a specific exercise routine, physical activity is inescapable in a country like New Zealand. Run out of milk? Walk to the nearest convenience store. Run out of medicines? Walk to the nearest chemist shop. Run out of vegetables? Walk to Countdown, right up to the vegetable aisle. Craving a burger? Walk to your nearest Macca for a takeaway. In fact, I walk to the university as well. The undulating roads and streets of Auckland closely compete with inclined treadmills and stair-climbers in a fancy gym. Besides, walking makes me rely less on my inconsistent but impulsive ascetic tendency to jump onto workout challenges.

Believe it or not, this city has instilled the joy of walking in me. Headphones check. Playlist check. And I walk, and walk and walk.

A is for Auckland

Auckland. Five years ago, if you had told me that I’d be pursuing my doctoral studies in an island country that is conveniently neglected in world maps owing to its negligible land size, I would have scoffed at you. Laughed in disbelief if anything. But disbelief is what I felt when I first walked the streets of this city alone, after having wallowed in homesickness and the anxiety of having being left to fend for myself in a new city. The pandemic has been a cherry on the cake. That I have managed to live alone in this city – that seems more like home to me than home back in India – for over a year with a novel virus on a rampage seems surreal. These were dreams, wishful thoughts – not the virus of course – circa 2016. But the Universe is a wondrous entity. And you may laugh, but I seriously believe in it.

Since over a year, I have been gradually discovering and savoring the bittersweet joys of adulthood, something that has come to me quite late in life (as I’d like to think) as many things have in the past. I have taken my time to arrive here, and I don’t regret it. The transition from a comfortable home life to one that involves self-discipline and independence wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. During my last in-person session with my therapist, I recall voicing the fact that my mind was a blank slate with regards to moving to New Zealand. It had been too overwhelming to imagine and account for worst-case scenarios in a place where I couldn’t visualize my life yet. But it worked out for me eventually, bit by bit, like the pieces of a puzzle that fall into place, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

What I love about Auckland is its laid-back, cheery vibe. While it is harder – in general – to find friends here, I have been blessed with a sweet circle that has been a constant source of solace to me during these rough times. I had visited New Zealand back in 2018, during a family vacation, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how the place kept calling out to me. I remember visiting the University of Auckland – it is where I study I now – and being in awe of the place. Undulating roads, a chill breeze, a beautiful green park with blooms in season, students in chic winter-wear, and the smell of fresh caffeine pervading the air – these are my memories of that evening.

There is a park we visited back then, when my parents, sister and I clicked selfies under a beautiful tree next to a fountain. The April sun was kind to us whilst a chill breeze fanned our faces. Fast forward to last year, my lovely friend and now flatmate helped me find that park with the very same tree, courtesy Google Maps. We clicked pictures again and contrasted them with those clicked two years prior. I felt an absurd joy in recreating those moments.

One of my favourite haunts in the city is the waterfront near the Ferry Building. It was and continues to be my refuge on days I feel low, and my happy place on good days. I have always had a soft corner for the sea. As fortune would have it, as of December 2020, I have been living in an apartment rental that faces the peaceful waterfront. To sip on hot coffee while gazing out at the still waters dotted occasionally with yachts is a quiet joy in itself.

I could probably write endlessly about the joy and satisfaction I have experienced while exploring this city so far. The strongest emotion I have felt after having adjusted to my new home is that of contentment despite the chaos around me. The government works painstakingly to ensure normalcy in the country while a pandemic rages across the rest of the globe. Mentally, it has been years since I have felt as grounded in the present as I do when I walk the streets of Auckland city. I take time to observe the architecture, the lights, the sounds and the smells that make this city. I wake up each morning to be greeted by the majestic Sky Tower which is visible from my balcony.


I’ve come to realize that home is a feeling. New homes can be created again in new countries amidst new found company and friends who care. After having moved here, the constant feeling of incompetency has gradually vanished. I am confident. I like myself a lot. And to say that I’m proud of myself is an understatement.

Nothing

Dear Diary,

Life can be a sadist. Two months ago, I was confident about securing a good job in my field in spite of having been rejected by a bunch of recruiters. I heeded all advice given to me about life as a fresh graduate, about how employers can be assholes and how things take their own course in the ‘real world’. Now, I don’t give a shit. There’s no motivation. Nothing seems to be working. I lost a great position at the university to a batch mate, a good pay and all that jazz. Moreover, the professor at NCL seems to have withdrawn the position for a project fellow; another opportunity I was counting on. Wait, there’s more. Today, Amma’s friend urged me to apply as a freelance science writer in a  well-known company. After having entered my details in an online form, I was directed to a test that lasted for forty mins. I received the results immediately. I opened it eagerly only to be greeted by disappointment, once again.

Though I am surrounded by positive people, I am having a hard time believing them. There’s the motherly pep talk from Amma’s end, which usually ends with “something good is awaiting me in the near future.”  Amma, I appreciate your concern but sometimes the uncertainty can be overwhelming. My boyfriend is great, really, but his idea of consoling involves being blunt. “There’s a right time for everything. Maybe, your friend had the luck.” True. He did. “You gotta stop helping people out. Get your shit sorted. Stop sharing career-related information among your friends. No one cares about your interests. Just stop being so nice all the time and focus on yourself.” Okay, being selfish would do more good than harm in this case, except I find it hard to say no or refuse favors.

I haven’t been wasting time. I balance my time between my so-called extended-dissertation and my close-knit social circle. I have enrolled for online classes that will coach me for the National Eligibility Exam (NET). I meditate. I get drunk occasionally. I give makeovers to my friends. I play the guitar. I read (sometimes). But, I also write mails to recruiters, hoping they’d reply but knowing that’s a long shot. There are times I crib to a friend who sails the same boat. Misery does love company.

“I’m feeling like shit dude. My friend got the job I wanted.”

“Fuck.”

“I don’t have the motivation to do stuff. No one cares in this real world. You need references. You need placements. You’re stuck as a fresher.”

“This all like a test you know for adulthood..it’s full of these waiting periods and anticipation. You’re going to be fine. I know saying it isn’t helping you right now. But you still need to know.”

I miss college. I miss not worrying about stuff like this. I miss being carefree. Adulthood is a mess.

I can’t wait for this phase to end. I hope it’s a damn phase. I hope I’m worth it.

You.

Sometimes, I do think about you.

I know I should be doing so everyday, but routine beckons and sometimes it’s not so mundane as I assumed it would be. I was warned by everyone, including my so-called conscience, that I would eventually get used to your absence. Heck, I recall you told me the same. But would you be happy that it’s final happening? That I mostly don’t spend the nights thinking and worrying about you? That I have somehow learnt to accept the fact the sea would treat you properly, despite its roughness? That I have accepted that our longest conversations would last for 20 minutes? That life goes on, perfectly, might I add, when you’re not around? That I do wish to get out of this city for a while and figure my career out?That emotions don’t begin and terminate at one’s will?

If you were to read this, I’m sure you would hastily conclude that I’m falling out of love with you. And I can’t really blame you for that because what I’ve written above DOES seem so blatant. And although I choose to be honest about my anger and irritation regarding certain things, this is one of those that have been holding back. However, I want to sincerely assure you, that it’s not what you’re thinking.

There was a time when I preferred going with the conventional definition of the phrase, to be in love. That constituted a big chunk of my teenage. I was convinced that it was supposed to be all about texting day in and out, talking twice-a-day, holding hands, meeting thrice every week and going out on romantic dates. The boyfriend automatically grabbed the first position in one’s priority list, even during exams and vice verse. The list of expectations was mandatory. The boyfriend was supposed to handle my PMS and bouts of low. He was expected to reply immediately to a message. We were expected to be there for each other at a pinch.

But all bubbles burst. And this one did, when I stepped into my twenties,and then right into a long distance relationship which was never meant to be.

My perspective regarding love did change in a way, but somewhere deep down I held onto my expectations. I expected him to tick all the right boxes in my head. And when he didn’t, I resented it. I tried my best to change his ways, which was wrong because character flaws are meant to be.

I bumped into you, as fate would have it, at a party I hadn’t intended to attend in the first place. How romantically cliched! However, don’t get me wrong…I loved every bit of and I love to reminisce those ‘rosy’ days, as you like to call them. Up till that point, I had never understood the concept of chemistry. It was amazing, to say the least. I assumed it was temporary, but you were relentless. I could only pretend to avoid your attention, yet crave for it in its absence. Those messages via social media could have been easily brushed off, and “not another long distance relationship” could have easily been cited as a reason to end it, right there. You would have gradually faded from the picture, and life would have gone on. But I lingered, and I don’t regret it till date.

I don’t regret anything but I’m afraid I’m trying to make you tick all the right boxes in my head. A year and a half has been partially easy and partially difficult to figure you out. I have always steered towards them introverts, and this time it’s not different – you reveal bits of yourself after long intervals. I would like to believe that you completely trust me but I know that’s a lie and I don’t blame you, because I do have a few shenanigans to my credit. I am sorry. Moreover, you and I are poles apart. You say opposites attract but sometimes I feel we are too far apart to be pulled towards each other at various levels. A simple thing as your taste in music irks me, what about the rest? You say everything has a way of working itself out. You have accepted me in spite of me being a volatile, emotional and an occasional nag of a girlfriend whilst I’m having a hard time reciprocating that acceptance. You like Nescafe and I like filter coffee. You love staying home while I’d love to get out for hours together. Friends are not your thing, whilst I enjoy their company and love making new ones. The list is endless. Why do these differences bother me so much? Why can’t I just be satisfied instead of always wanting more?


I wrote this two months ago and let it rot in the Drafts folder.

I’m always thinking about you. Even though I think I don’t. If you were to read this, you would be confused. And how can I blame you for that?

It bothers you that I’ll bask in the attention showered upon me by other members of your sex.  I can’t stop those compliments. It feels nice to have my hair and smile noticed, but it makes a big difference when you say I’m beautiful. Why can’t you say that often?

Your visit this time was a whirlwind. Why, we were just laughing uncontrollably over the silliest of things on Thursday. I couldn’t stop giggling because your stubble tickled my face. We quarreled like children, and you’d blame for being a drama queen. My tantrums lasted until I saw your face. You were aggravating at times, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a different person when you’re around. The nights are peaceful, when I know that, for a change, you’re only a few miles away from me instead of a thousand.

I love gifting you stuff. I enjoy flaunting my creativity when it comes to making them. But I’m worried that I’m overwhelming you with too many memories. I don’t know if you are used to having them turn into nightmares when life takes a nasty course. What if this post along with you is all just another phase? That’s frightening. I’m tired of phases. I want something that lasts, and I know you’d agree with me on this one.

It’s been 14 hours since you left and I’m miserable. I’ll miss hearing your voice everyday. I’ll miss being that person I am, when I’m with you.

See you soon.

A New Beginning. Not exactly.

The thing is I don’t have the heart to delete my first blog. It has helped me grow, or rather, helped me observe myself grow out of a emotional wreck of a teenager to someone who is level-headed (maybe)?

I did my homework on importing my old blog to WordPress. In my previous rant, I did mention something about starting afresh. So here are my attempts;  this, to me, does feel like a change.

I will try my best to be more positive henceforth and be less of a bitchy, dissatisfied, confused young adult, as they call my peers.

Cheers.

Coming to terms

It’s been a long time.

It’s been a long time for various reasons.

Today I have decided to complete this post after having contemplated on finishing it two months ago.

Today I have decided to forget that I’m a student pursuing a gruelling post-graduate course that usually eats up my Sundays.

Today I am not free.

I wrote my previous post sometime in December. I  know that unlike the past two years, I did not bother to come up with my usual year-end ramble about how much 2014 meant to me, my experiences that year, etcetera,  etcetera .

The reason for this exception isn’t anything very special –  I’m still trying to hold onto the past year and the much-deserved warmth it infused in me. I refuse to accept that 2015 is another new start as every year has always been, or rather, has claimed to be.

The one thing I miss the most is the summer of 2014, especially our whirlwind trip to Paris and Switzerland. Out of the two destinations, Switzerland felt more like home to me; a second home that I had previously been unaware of, a home that had existed all this while, quietly, amidst snow-capped peaks and lush green meadows. This time we decided to deviate from the usual hotel accommodation, and chose to spend three days in a chalet owned by an old Swiss couple. Why did I fall in love with a locale and setting as humble as this? There are answers to this question, of course. I could owe it to the balcony overlooking the Alps, or to the contentment of letting words run in my diary whilst the mountains gave me company, to the wisps of smoke arising  from my coffee one particularly cold morning, to the wooden flooring, to the joy of wearing winter clothes and boots after a winterless year, to the winding streets of Grindelwald that led to an old station which could transport you back in time, to the snowman we built, to being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the rugged yet kind nature that greeted us everyday, to being a part of the quaint surroundings – oh the list is indeed endless.

Every minute spent in the country that wasn’t my own, counted, and more so because I knew what awaited me back home. I wanted to push away my anxiety and worry regarding academia, temporarily.

Though the holiday blues took a long time to fade, the year turned out to be a great one. What I have been left with ever since, is a dull craving to somehow experience it all once again, though dejavu will never be the same.

I have been asked to, or rather, been telling myself to stop myself from clamming my head with too many questions and expectations. I find myself wondering if I would have indeed done better, had I left this city to pursue my academics elsewhere. Would I be still loathing myself for being so dependant on my parents for everything? Would I still be that person to whom everything comes easily? A good university within the city, a fabulous vacation, good grades, a steady relationship with a good boy,  good food, and good friends. I’m probably jinxing everything good in my life by flaunting it on social media but the fact is everything good doesn’t guarantee one hundred percent satisfaction.

I have gone on severals rants bout my dissatisfaction, and I have noticed that it’s one of those things that lasts temporarily, fades away, only to sneak into your routine sometime later. And folks like me express it through words whilst there are some who find other mediums of venting it out. Also, I can’t help but notice how stoic I sound.

As much as I would like to deny the fact that it was change that made the whole international experience so memorable and that it’s the lack of change I have been sensing all this while, I have to come to terms with it. On one hand, it scares the s*** out of me on the other hand I guess it’s the only thing that can guarantee some peace. My close friend told me that living on my own is a lot harder than I think. It will be really hard but I guess that’s what I need. Change comes with a price.

It’s turning out to be a long post, but who cares, I’m amazed at my train of thoughts. 2014 was a great year, because at some point it seemed like a year different than the rest.

It’s time I acknowledge this year and appreciate it for its worth.

I have two examinations due this week and I’m not free. Coming to terms with that isn’t so hard. 

New-food love

Disclaimer : I do not apologise for the usage of tongue twisting Tamil vocabulary in the following post. Pronouncing “zha” may be seem a bit daunting, but I promise you will get there. Yes, you shall. My dear non-south indian buddies/foodies, I hope this post enriches your knowledge pertaining to Tamil cuisine.

I am not sure if everyone will relate to this but of late, my taste buds have re-discovered comfort in food I used to detest as a kid and a teenager.

As a kid, I was not too compliant with food. I was a notch higher than a picky-eater and there were instances when my Thatha would threaten to shove food down my throat if I continued to make a fuss. This spelt hullabaloo, followed by tears and my Paati valiantly trying to defend me from her intimidating husband. “Aapudi bezhamuduthandengo! Paavum kozhandai.” –  “Don’t scare her! Poor child.” And of course most of my relatives correlate this to my weight, even now. “Sappudata epuudi weight poduva!” – “How will she put on weight if she doesn’t eat!”.

As I grew up, this practice began to fade gradually. I learnt to appreciate the characteristic tanginess of rasam and sambaar.  As a six-year old, there were times when I would slurp rasam sadam (rice) from a mini-plate with gusto, just to see a smile of intense satisfaction spread across my grandpa’s face. Honestly, I loved exaggerating the slurps at times. Not only was his grin satiating, but also the whole slurping experience was fun. The adulation I received  for merely finishing a meal was undoubtedly encouraging. “Kuuthu! Innu Kuuthhu! Mmmmmmm!”  which translates to “Pour some more! More!” Soon, I could proudly tell everyone that potatoes were my among my favourite vegetables. Garam masala and onion-garlic paste were mandatory in most of the sabzis. I developed a taste for omelettes and scrambled eggs. Restaurants began to hold meaning for their gastronomic appeal rather than for their air-conditioned ambience. Though meat was taboo in our household, Thatha unscrupulously introduced me to the world of seafood and tandoori chicken (and I haven’t looked back ever since). Moreover, watching my baby sister happily guzzle mango pulp made me all the more curious about this fruit that had initially seemed revolting. By the time I was nine, Mum had introduced me to paani-puri and chaat, albeit with extra meetha chutney. All said and done, food definitely began to seem more appealing. However, apart from the enthusiastic slurping of rasam, the Tamilian in me hadn’t been stirred completely.

In our meals, rice, rasam, sambaar, kootu (vegetable stew), curd, urrugai (pickle), upma and yes, idli and dosai have always been regulars. Moreover, greens were, have and will always be omnipresent in every South-Indian preparation. Keerai (spinach), Pushanikai (Ash gourd), all types of beans, dudhi (bottle gourd), vendekai (okra), vazhakai (raw bananas), you name it, and it’s bound to be there in our cuisine. I had never been too fond of kootu and greens prepared in this style always eluded me. To put it in simple terms, kootu is a dish with minimal spice, predominated by a single vegetable. The taste of kootu is such that if you were to be subjected to it frequently, garam masala cravings would take over your taste buds. I could hardly understand the relish with which my mother ate keerai kootu, and I’m pretty sure her sensitivity towards my disdain was mutual.

In addition to this, I used to consider ravaa upma to be the most lacklustre breakfast dish ever (to know that it was THE winning dish in the Masterchef UK finals was disappointing). Idlis weren’t exciting, and after a point I lost interest in the good old dosai as well. Pongal was reserved for blocked noses and dormant taste buds. I didn’t understand the point of eating food from a banana leaf, whilst managing those rivulets of rasam and sambaar that formed along the veins of the leaf. Whatever happened to the good old steel plates?! Plus, eating a combination of cucumber raita mixed with rasam with traces of paaysam (kheer) had never been a palatable experience. Consequently, I never looked forward to Tamil weddings. My elitist food habits probably earned me the reputation of being the posh Tamilian in my family. Much to my friends’ shock, I felt South-Indian dishes were far from exotic. I was subject to questions such as “Dude how can you get bored of Dhosas?” *cringe* I had even gone to the extent of eating chana-masala from a fast-food joint  in Chennai.

All this lasted till I was nineteen. This I say, owing to a change in my food habits afterwards. The change wasn’t overnight, definitely. It was gradual, and the earliest I realised this was when I ended up eating lunch at five in the evening. Little did I know that lemon rasam could actually quieten my stomach’s guttural tones. I couldn’t believe that I had actually enjoyed a  humble home-made meal without onions and truckloads of masala. But then again, hunger is blind. I presumed this to be an once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, only to be proved wrong again a week later, when a whiff of bhindi-do-pyaaza (one of my favourites) put me off instead of having me salivate. I was feeling ravenous after a day’s worth of hard work, but the only thing I could visualize was a crispy cheese dosa, sitting regally on a steel plate, surrounded by a bowl of sambaar traced with jaggery, and coconut chutney so smooth that even the world’s best bhindi-do-pyaaza wouldn’t do justice to it. I was probably being unfair to bhindi, but at the point I couldn’t care much about it.

There were, of course, many such episodes of sambaar/dosa/vada cravings that followed, some of them being fueled by chance encounters with South-Indian cooking shows on the TV.  I partly owe it to them chefs for their minimalist choice of words to describe the process, in their Tamil-tinged accents. “Ippo namba molgai podi podlaam, slight-a, summa konjum colour kahai” – “Now we shall add some chilli powder, slightly, just to obtain some colour.”

However, I achieved a milestone when I helped myself with 3 servings of beans kootu and avial at my aunt’s place. The impeccable taste and texture of these dishes will be forever etched in my taste-buds. So technically speaking, I owe it to my aunt’s magical cooking for helping me discover the delights of our cuisine. Soon after, I began to look forward to Sunday meals, much to my mother’s relief. I learnt the art of eating out of a banana leaf, much to everyone’s amazement. Curd rice and pickle were reliable on lazy evenings and on bloated stomach days. In a nutshell, the graph of my food tastes began to show a significant rise with time.

I guess I have changed as a person over the past few years..and this is by no means a prelude to a long rant. What I want to say is that, my food tastes have evolved as well, simultaneously.  I do not, by any means, consider myself to be an ardent lover of my regional cuisine. But I need it after a weekend of experimenting with other cuisines, or on days when the pungent odour of bhuna masala ambushes my nose. Yes, THAT.

A quote from a favourite short-story comes to my mind –

“The asparagus appeared. They were enormous, succulent, and appetizing. The smell of the melted butter tickled my nostrils as the nostrils of Jehovah were tickled by the burned offerings of the virtuous Semites”

(The Luncheon by Somerset Maughum)

Five years ago, the idea of asparagus had seemed totally revolting but now the aforementioned analogy serves as the ideal salivary stimulant. Mmm. Quick, serve me some asparagus.

Of opinions and Bollywood.

Here’s the thing. It has probably been ingrained in every upper -middle-class Indian’s head that Bollywood is the epitome of mainstream, and that it’s meant to be detested. The invariable conversation starter, and the final resort to save a lifeless not to mention an awkward confabulation – Bollywood. And I’m referring to the new age plethora of forgettable Hindi films.

“Oh she just can’t act!”

“Can’t stand him. Kaise ban gaya actor?”

“I think that film was a total rip-off.”

“The movie had some potential but the story fell flat. Pch.”

Though these are a few snatches from a typical house party banter , I think the most pathetic one till date is the last one. It saddens me to hear to constantly hear the word potential tagged to Bollywood movies. On one hand, a banal plot line (or the lack of one, usually) can hardly qualify as potential. On the other, there are those films that just seem to have it all – a good plot, a good cast, good dialogues – technically speaking the film is right there, waiting eagerly to be appreciated, but that annoying yet extremely significant X factor seems to be amiss. That’s when ‘it is’ turns into an ‘it-could-have-been’. It is tragic, considering all that potential slowly fades into oblivion, only to be known as crap.

You seldom find a  Bollywood film, that makes you want to sit and ponder long after the film is over. Or one which makes you sigh in the end with the thought that three worthwhile hours of reel have finally come to an end and that it’s time to greet the real and cacophony instead of background music. Even if one does come long, it usually gets lost in a sea of mind numbing mediocrity that includes many  Munnis, Sheilas, Dabaangs, Gundaays and the like.

Ah well, I’m done with my preamble. I finally managed to watch a movie that sort of defies the above said things. “Highway” was a breath of fresh air, with the perfect blend of simple yet excellent cinematography, a minimal yet great cast, soulful music and above all moments that were poignant enough to replay constantly in my head long after the film was over. I’m not here, however, to delve into details and provide an in-depth movie review. I think there are way too many of those on the internet. But of course, if you were to sit and analyse the script, there would be flaws, as it seems from the lack of a staunch plot. However, the film itself is along the lines of an introspective journey, which isn’t about reaching the final destination. I suppose the whole point was to just enjoy various delightful aspects of the film, rather than being a Freytag stickler for a good story-line.

My sister and I barely spoke on the way back home. It took a while for me to come back to the ennui of a hot February afternoon. Right then, I got a call from a friend, and I’m still figuring as to what exactly got me all choked up on the phone instead of sticking to my customary “What’s up?”. I guess it was a classic case of post-movie feel. In that case, hats off to Imitiaz Ali, the director of the film.

I’m glad that there are such Bollywood films to look forward to, bordering along parallel cinema. There is going to be an eternal bunch of ravenous critics of course, waiting eagerly to pounce on every blip and glitch in a film, and probably write it off entirely with the paradigmatic use of “the plot falls flat” phrase. Well, each to his own.

If you happen to be one of them, do take this one lightly. “Highway” has made use of all that potential, collecting dust under the red carpet.

Cheers.

 

She will be loved.

A quote from Dhobi Ghaat,

To my muse, to my whore, to my beloved.

Bombay.

I distanced myself from the city when I was well into my fifth year in Pune.

Pune is smaller. It’s easier to commute within the city. Pleasant weather. Great locality. A neat friend network. School. High School. College. Everything has been sorted out. Everything continues to unfold in a perfect sequence.

Rewind to the bit when we moved to Pune.  You could call it The Milestone, because before that my life had been hunky dory, pretty much (Well, what would you expect from a scrawny, nine-year old kid?). I hated Pune with a vengeance. It was all about Bombay. And how I would miss my house. My grandparents. My friends. What about the stack of memories that had built up over the years?

Say hello to irony.

Anyway, I’m not here to ramble about how I learnt to adjust to my new surroundings. It’s just about this sudden, random realisation that hit me today, on my way to IITB.

I know it’s stupid of me to judge this city (this maddening city with local trains running all over it, carrying people who jostle, shove and stumble upon each other and hang onto a dear life, whilst waiting impatiently to reach their  respective destinations,) based on meeting a bunch of enterprising folks at the campus of IITB, but, it just felt as though Bombay was welcoming me, and was eager to usher me in.

I have had a terrific weekend. Met a friend, with whom I got recently acquainted, and jeez, it seemed as though we had known each other for a lifetime. Made new friends at the campus. Watched one of my favourite punk bands perform live on stage. Managed to watch Life of Pi (exactly a month after its release!), finally. Visited my childhood home, and felt a rush of nostalgia. Spent a good time with my family, and relatives alike, after what seems like ages. And right now, I’m hastily typing everything down, lest it all slips away.

There were no delays. No frustrating last minute cancellations. No evil conspiracy to stop me from having a good time. It’s almost like Bombay made sure that everything went according to plan.

I don’t visit this city as often as I used to. There was a time when we would drive down every weekend to meet our folks at home. But, that faded away as we gradually settled in.

Bombay must I have sensed I don’t miss her anymore. This time she vouched to give me a splendid time with all my close ones. She wanted me to realise that she is an integral part of my life.

I don’t know her as well as I know Pune. After all, I was quite young when we moved out. I am clueless when it comes to navigating within this city. The roads, the traffic, the trains, the buses, the concrete jungle, the crowd, the hustle and the bustle, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the weather can not only stagger a new comer, but also an ex-Bombayite, who hardly visits her home city that changes slightly with each visit.

But, somewhere down the line, familiarity lingers.

There’s this one small thing that was a highlight of my stay as well, and though it might seem very inconsequential to the reader, I’m going to put that down.

The ten minute rickshaw ride to IITB from my cousin’s place.

It was hardly anything. Over the flyover and along Powai lake. And tada! There comes IITB on my left. However, it was my first ever rickshaw ride in Bombay without a guide. As a child, I always had an uncle or a grandparent to tag along with me everywhere. Today, I got my ten minutes of free rein, which was indeed very special.

To feel the same breeze that blows daily, all year round, as a child is different from sensing it as a teenager on the brink of adulthood. Earlier, I had been carefree, and hadn’t a damned clue about commuting, the pains of high school, managing boyfriends, or the sweet liberty of using debit cards and consuming alcohol, tolerating emotional hassles, and all those complicated aspects of growing up. To me, Bombay has always meant walks with my grandfather, ice-creams, stationery shops, crayons, story-books, lollipops, slides, swings and see-saws, Esselworld, elementary school, beaches, etc. Bombay’s streets have always been unknown to me, but, this time it was almost as if she was assuring me that learning her ways wouldn’t be exacting.

I think I will eventually spend a good part of my ripe years in this city. Bombay will call me soon, I know.

I just want her to know that she will always be loved no matter what. We share a great rapport, you see.

Nh7 time. Hello, Weekender!

India’s happiest music festival is back!

Last year, it had been pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, I  managed to attend only a day out of this awesome three-day wingding, thanks to my semester-end examinations.

This time, it’s different. And I’m extremely grateful to my University for chalking out a peachy schedule, that ended a week prior to the Weekender.

It begins today, and boy, can I wait?!

Eighty artistes, spanning three days can be quite overwhelming. But, that’s the whole point. It’s a treat to the ears and the eyes.

Energy overload. A lot of jumping and romping. Headbanging. Moshing. Pigging out on food. Screaming oneself hoarse. Photographs. A keen look-out for one’s favourite artiste. Backstage sneak-peek? Yeah, probably.

OMG. I haven’t been this excited in a very long time.