Total Pageviews

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Settling Down

Sitting in 8 degrees celsius, with unwashed hair and tucked under the quilt on Christmas Day, I’m thinking a zillion things and have my brain running around in different directions right now. 

I am wondering what exactly do we adults mean when we use the phrase ‘settling down’. In India, it usually indicates towards marriage, but of course it has several connotations. 

Being on the move is cool, trendy and probably in some minds it reserves the image of Ranbir Kapoor movies. When you’re the one with skates on your feet, you feel the pinch on your toes and the bruise on your knees. When you’re in the middle of being young and heading towards seniority in adulthood, you land up asking yourself several questions about stability, settling down and peace and quiet. 

Cut to: You’re on one of those short-lived phases of being stationed at one place in life and then you feel the youth pumping in your veins urging you to get out there and see even more places. That is what happens when your hormones go through waves and curves which could beat even the Atlantic Ocean because you’re not sure yourself what you want and what makes you happy. 

Adults (of the senior wing) often tell you that time will do the needful and let time takes its own course et all. And then, when time has come around and you’re settled in life you will miss those nightly walks on cobbled paths, the solitary times by the beach, the camping trips and the scuba dives. And then, the adult you will crave for the cells of youth.

Such is life: always a cycle between what you have and what you crave. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

People Watching: He

He makes his way to work every morning, knowing fully well that today will be no different from yesterday and tomorrow, none the brighter. 

He hopes the rude man in his office would be on leave, or at least away on client calls. He wishes that the sweet group of new joinees will over-estimate their appetite, order more than they can eat and pass on the leftovers to him. He would usually avoid the leftovers and considered it disrespectful but these newbies have a polite way of passing on food that seems less demeaning. He likes that about them. 

His days are never his own, always based on the temperament of the people in his office. They wake up from the wrong side of their bed and he stands on the receiving end of growls. Their diets sustain because of him, their binges and cravings are his to handle, their spills and drops are his to clean and their impromptu demands are his to fulfill. 

He never understands them, and has now stopped reading much into it. He finds no sense in their hypocrisy and narrates these tales to his mother sometimes. They share a hearty laugh at the plight of the man with the paunch: how he struggles with his food and sustains Mondays on fruits, carrots and cucumber. The week rolls by and when Friday arrives, he is back to his oily roll and the cheese layered cake. Then there is the woman who always seems to drop her drink on the table leading to screeches by people who share the space. She drops her water, ice tea and juice and has ruined many a documents in the aftermath. There was a girl who’s now quit, but she came in every morning with her muddy shoes and stained the marble that he had painfully sparkled. He wondered where she went to make a mess of her expensive shoes and urged to clean it for her. He didn’t care much about the girl herself but wanted to do her the favor to save his floor from her wrath. 

People have come and gone, joined and left and some have even moved on to other cities, they say. But the bunch at hand right now keeps him well and therefore when he takes a quick nap in the noon he wishes them well, too.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Memories on Sale: And they're pricey!

With the world and its relative getting married, my social media feed is overflowing with the news. There are notifications for every part of the process; A to Z. 

The notifications bubble and the virtual PDA is something I have accustomed myself to. But the new one in the kitty is the unending albums that people upload before they get married. 

It is a ‘to each their own’ world but, in my opinion the photo shoots that to-be couples setup are just too unreal and artificial. The hug and the kiss, the warmth and the wink, the concern and cajole: none of it is true. Its not like someone is watching your life pass by and snapping up those moments that you can call memories. When you look back at those pictures, its not like you will remember that day you spent with your loved one by the waterfall; all you’re going to recall is how the day was spent with the photographer on your tow. 

Out of curiosity, I had once checked one of the photographer’s profiles and stumbled on the price card. They charge per set per attire for the couple in question. So, memories are sold depending on the backdrop and the settings of the scenic beauty around you: you can set up even memories now! Sigh! 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Uber Cool

I wake up everyday and tell myself: “God is biased towards me”. Whether or not She is partial in my favour, is a question I cannot answer and maybe in times to come I will be proven wrong. But, in the present moment; this bit of optimism makes my days happier, my choices simpler and I have my own joyful moments everyday. 

Following the tradition, karma handed down a wonderful taxi offer to me last week when Uber decided to launch its #FreeUberWeek campaign for the exact days which made up my casual leave. Now you might agree with the idea of biased behavior but well, there is no court of law to fight this one out. 

I enjoyed the offer end to end, exhausting my quota of free rides and then riding some of my credits too. I took cabs back and forth from my outings, and because I hate to drive (Friends and father have given up the coaxing and convincing to show me the face of the driving school) this removed a lot of my dependency, when it came to moving myself from point A to point B. 

When I took these rides and enjoyed the gifts of technology, I worked my mind around how this company would function, read up on stuff about the operations I was delighted to notice the coordination that was demanded and thus, being done. Its no easy task to tie the loose ends on the backend of this cool thing.

Click a few buttons and have someone show up on your doorstep in under 20 minutes, to take you where you want to go, sounds like the apt description for what Uber does. But that’s what this is: only a gist of what really goes into the making of it. 

Working in a startup myself, (which by the way is awarded the startup of this year) and understanding the true spirit behind the numbers that reflect in a company’s valuation at this stage of expansion and growth; I can imagine the kind of effort put behind the scenes at Uber, as well. 

Give it off to them for running the show so brilliantly because here, it is also about changing the consumer’s habit of stepping out and hailing the yellow one. Fingers tapping on the mobile screen are gaining more and more power as the days are ticking.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Chivalry is a big word

This post is not intended to be inspired by arrogance. In case it may seem so, I offer my deep apologies for the same.

When I returned after living ‘outside’ for over a year, I felt myself feel a paradox around the idea of chivalrous men. 

Men, in general, hold the door for you: and this, whether or not they know you, whether or not you are the center of their date night, whether or not they want to impress you. It just seems like the right thing to do and they do it. Their gesture makes you feel warm inside, and you smile with a twinkle in your eye. 
A similar thing happened to me this evening, when I went I was leaving a local eatery and the man who was entering at the same time, decided to hold the door for me and my mother. I smiled at him with the same twinkle-in-my-eye expression and was about to say ‘thank you’ until he exclaimed he was not the security guard! Oh well! I thought I was just returning the courtesy! 

When I was ‘there’, I often noticed men taking the passenger seat in a car to let the women drive. Whether the woman was his wife, girlfriend, mother, friend or colleague is an analysis for another day. But there didn’t seem to be much attention to the sex of the person behind the wheel. ‘Here’, even some of my male friends pass a derogatory remark when they see a girl driving the vehicle. At the end of the day, its an operating machine which needs to be ‘manned’.

When I was ‘there’, it was most polite, decent and commonplace for the men of the house to trash the day’s garbage in the unit’s garbage room , at the end of everyday. Here, if my mother was to tell my father this (I don’t think she would!) my grandparents’ generation might throw a major fit. Well, if you ask me, its a bag of waste which was gathered from collective use and who throws it is not relevant because its not like the germs differ their contaminating powers based on race and gender. 

Today, I’ve touched the one month mark of being back in my city of birth, and I still notice points of differences everyday. These are questions that I didn't raise in the first 20 years of my life because I didn't think there was another side to this coin. It was only when I dropped the coin and it landed on the other side, did I realize that there is more to this than meets the eye! 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The brain is striving to keep pace

I clicked on the link I had carefully saved in the Drafts of my mailbox. Google popped up a message which requested me to request access for the map I was trying to log on to. This was a map I had created myself, just a couple of hours ago and I didn't expect Google to let me down on this one! I had authored the map, carefully drafted the .csv file and plotted the geo coordinates with utmost care. I had even ensured that I wouldn’t lose the link in the historical data of my browser because I knew it was well past half day and my browsing history would seem longer than the longest suspense thriller story. 

Well then, was Google erring somewhere? 

Even writing out the above question seems like a crime to me, let alone believing that the know-it-all engine could be wrong. What had happened was: the map was created on my personal Gmail ID and I was now using the link while being logged on to my official Gmail. As simple as it sounds, it took over twenty minutes for me to realize the difference in the profile icon - a photo of myself, which smiled back at me from the top right corner of my screen. 

This is how I spend my days: staring at the laptop screen, typing and clicking various things, opening and shutting tabs, shutting and opening windows, restoring and refreshing files, reinstalling and downloading Apps. That is my typical day. After having been at this for a while now, it seems as if my mind works faster than the internet: no matter where I am connected. I feel as if I am living in a constant dejavu: my thoughts always few steps ahead of my actions, ideas evolving faster than my fingers clicking at the soft keys of my laptop. It feels as if I could do that while this would load, and this while that is restored. Such is the cycle of activity which goes one for any person who decides to spend the rest of their life with the laptop. 

We all multi-task. We might be good, bad, ugly at it. Nonetheless, we all do it. The brain, I think, is not equipped to do one thing at a time. If it was meant to be so,technology has changed it. The way I look at it: people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg (and other lesser popular ones of the same league) gave more and more power to technology and the brain, in a bid to outdo the competition has also evolved with time. After all, we are taught in junior school that the brain is faster than the fastest machine and better than the best tools. 

Therefore, its not directly a Google v/s Brain generation but the brain is still striving to keep pace and retain its lead. Let’s hope it succeeds. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Missy to Mbak

When I first came to this big city in a large archipelago, people called me ‘Missy’ . Now, its been over a year, and they use ‘Mbak when they address me. In translation: Missy and Mbak are about as different as ‘a young girl’ and ‘a lady’. 

That’s what this place has done to me. 

When I packed my bags and made my way here over a year ago, I hadn’t expected my stay to be a year long. What I had not expected even more, is for this place to affect me the way it has. I have learnt a whole lot of life lessons: some grave and some petty ones. My learnings have ranged from knowing when to raise my voice to assert myself to developing the trick of chasing lizards away. 

In due course of time, I realized various aspects about myself which I would have otherwise never known. I am OCD about keeping things in place, and keeping my house clean. I like to cook for myself, by myself and I experiment with recipes. I love Mexican food and sometimes even more than Indian dishes. I like typical Bollywood music, and my favorite song(s) play on repeat for days at length. Even my taste in books can pronounce me as a hopeless romantic. I like traveling, but I panic if you put me on a last minute schedule. When my head hits the pillow, the following day’s to-do’s jog around in my mind but the next morning I snooze the alarm at least five times until I finally get started. I use an old oregano container for holding my tooth-brush, and I sometimes forget to store peanuts and chips in air-tight containers. I leave my clothes in the balcony for just the right amount of time, lest they get dirty again due to the pollution.I change and wash my bed linen every weekend. I like to eat and drink alone. I don’t think its a sign of depression: its just quality time you spend with yourself. I have found my favorites in lotions and creams, herbs and spices; figured that my favorite pieces of garments are scarves and socks and even realized that I cry easily when I am alone. 

I have learnt, figured out and realized all these aspects about myself when I stepped out from ‘Joy’ into Jakarta, and created memories which are dearly tagged #jakartajoys on my social media. The hashtag, I realize now: is the perfect amalgamation between where I came from- the City of Joy, and where I came to. It makes much more sense now, on retrospect. 

As I pack to leave this place and go back to where I belong, I feel a slight pull in my heart for what I have shared with this not-so-foreign city. They say you pick up survival strategies when you live outside home. I think mine were more than just survival. I enjoy keeping lists  and if I were to list out the odd habits I have picked up here, I think collecting tissues and coasters would top it all. I am not sure when the habit started, or from which restaurant specifically but I think I did it because that is my favorite pastime: eating out. I will easily be the most unhealthy person you have seen around, and when I eat I don’t give a dime about the effect caused by all the cheese, chillies and chips, dressings, drinks and dips. I have tissues from most diners that I have visited. Trust me, the pile of tissues I am carrying back home does not fit into one, single envelope. If I am searched at Customs, I’m not sure they will believe me when I give them my reasons. In fact I am not even sure what I will do with all these tissues that I take back! 

I have made friends who have seen me grow tremendously. If God uses technology and fancy diagrams to record each person’s life, the graph of my growth will be most steep over the last one year. Most of my friends are from my workplace. They are the coolest set of people you will meet in this city. Each of them is different from another. Yet, how we manage to spend several hours together in one peaceful room, is a mystery to us all. During my time away, I explored the option of meeting strangers and took the safe way out when I used  It helped, and worked partially towards adding to my local network. I found myself at nearby islands on three weekends in the last one year and I think this specific piece of statistical information says a lot about who I am. Nonetheless, they were fun trips that can plot nice memories on my graph of life. 

As I bid adieu to this city, I look back at the past year well-spent and I can literally scroll through the moments in my mind. I can remember the times I have strived for vegetarian food in this all-eating place. I recall the various instances when I picked up the local language to make my point and I also reminisce the times when I got the translation completely wrong! As I head back, I hope I don't continue to use the Bahasa word for Thank You. (If I do say "Terima Kasih" in thanking someone, I hope I say both the words in unison!)

This is an ode to this city that will always be the city of my youth: to the times well spent, the hard lessons learnt, the well-served food at fancy bistros and the polite conversations struck in every BlueBird! To all the friends, I met here: I will see you, when I see you! :D 

Friday, 15 August 2014


If you could get inside my head and see my thoughts, you’d easily nominate me for the crazy person of the year award. I am OCD as far as cleanliness goes, and planning is a hobby. I plan everything. If you would snoop around on my phone, you would find an App dedicated to making lists. I make lists for things I want to carry to and from India. There are lists for things I plan to cook over the weekend, lists for e-mails that are due to be written, a check-list of to-dos and reminders and of course, then there are grocery lists too. Above all this, my favourite: is my list of dreams. That is the one which brings a big, broad smile on my face and the one which provides the sparkle in my eyes.
Much of the items on this list are inspired/ stolen/ copied/ adapted from Pinterest. Pinterest is a favourite past-time of mine. If you’re not familiar with what it is you’re denying your brains some beautiful visual sense of serenity, peace, appeal and pleasure.
When I spend my hours on Pinterest, I find myself thinking I could be a far more interesting person than I am. I promise to buy myself certain specific outfits and accessories to look as pretty as those pictures. I copy paste recipes from here onto Springboard (my lists’ special agent) and I try out those fancy dishes over the weekend. I have tried my hand at a specific smoothie involving ingredients such as green apples and dates. I make myself fancy sandwiches because the regular butter and greens is too main-stream for my Pinterest-oriented mind. Sometimes, when I go shopping I don’t try out an outfit because it will not give me good pictures. That’s how my brain functions.

I am a 21st century Pinterest kid! (er, adult!) 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Rape of a 6 year old

It is 1 AM in my part of the world, and I can't sleep. I have had a very long day owing to major changes at my workplace, and from my track record I can drop dead at the earliest possible instant after days like the one I had today.

However, what's kept my sleep away for the last two hours is actually the thought of the Bangalore rape case that I read about, this afternoon.

I just cannot get over it. I read it on Twitter amidst the hustle and bustle of various tabs open on my Google Chrome. But when I read the tweet by Times Now, my heart sank more than just a little. 

What is it that can 'attract' the sports teachers to a 6 year old! She would probably bend down to tie her shoe laces, and her frock would flicker around a little. How can a man be attracted to a girl that small, in as pervert a manner as this? How is it that when they're at it, conscience or guilt doesn't prick them? What happens to that idea of: having to pay penance, on which our religion resides?  How can one even get to the point of unzipping his fly before the little baby: who has seen so little of the world and even lesser creeps? 

Sitting in a further Eastern part of the world, in another country; I am dazed to this minute. Bangalore is a city, I have never visited and have no personal connections with the place. Even then; to know that such people exist somewhere, doing some crap or the other is a feeling that I cannot bear. 

When I shut my eyes and try to sleep, I am forced to think about just HOW that girl will grow up. I am not sure what goes behind this. It could possibly not be karma. If its destiny, then clearly we have crossed wires here. What this really IS about: is the failure of the race of a bunch of retards. A perverted bunch of sexed out creeps and one-tracked creatures who need to head back 'up there' to face the music now.

Today, for the first time I heard myself say that, I don't want to go back to this ravenous state of affairs. i don't want to go back home. Home is where the feeling of safe is.

We, who take pride in our Indian culture, heritage, history and past are reacting to this crass and cruel act with a mild protest outside the school. This is what happens in the land of Kamasutra: Men are born with their heads between their balls, and women are taught to deal with it from the minute they're conceived ! 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Foodie's Eyes

You come to a new city and you look out for touristy places. And then, you spend 10-12 hours a day looking at the city's 'restaurant oriented' data. You spend half your time dissecting the city into parts that would classify it in this way or that. You look at it like a lush green park, and wonder where to begin your morning run. Your efforts go into making restaurants' data collection do-able, possible, approachable and all the other adjectives that fit within this bracket! 

Gradually, you look at the city only through those eyes. People tell you "Oh! There is a pretty museum in XX area." And you reply saying, "Yeah we can go there some day and eat at the Spanish restaurant around that corner."

When you're charting maps and directions in your head to figure out the best route, your brains map is not the usual Google image. Your image of the map has tortillas and tacos at the crossings, pizzas and pastas at the turns and you missed the burgers and fries just 'cuz your destination led you to the left! 

That's what makes you a true blue foodie: The analysis of a city based on its restaurant density. You only think of fancy restaurants when people ask you what are the tourist places to visit in your city. People may expect to hear exotic locations when they ask, "Where are you going during this long weekend?" You come up with a long list of restaurants covering all your favourite cuisines, cutting across the length and breadth of the city; and all of those seem to make a better plan than a white sand, virgin beach somewhere afar. 

What do you see at your next turn? Is it puffs or rolls or the place that serves the yummiest Chinese food, you've ever had! 

Put on your food-lens and explore! 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

An everyday ride in Jakarta

Every morning, I walk across the street from my building to take the mini-van that brings me to my work place. This mini-van, called an Angkot in the local language in Jakarta, is one among the few modes of public transport that this city offers. I hail one of these light blue coloured vans, and try to get on to it. There are days when it is empty, and then there are days when it is so full that one man is hanging off the door-less entrance. I think such transport systems are very typical to this part of the world. There is no dearth of similar sights back home, in India.

The sometimes-empty-sometimes-full nature of the Angkot seldom has a fixed pattern. It is not like I can step out of my house and assume that it is 8:15 and therefore it will be full. Nor can I tell myself that since it’s raining, it will be empty. There is no predictable pattern, whatsoever! And that makes the choice between a cab and an angkot even harder, everyday.

Nonetheless, I prefer the angkot over taxis. I choose to forego the air-conditioned comfort of the taxis, the smooth leather seats of the Blue Bird cars to enjoy my morning moments of people watching. (If you have ever been to Indonesia, you will know that people swear by Blue Bird as the safest company running the maximum number of taxis here)

The angkot, bigger than an Ambassador taxi in Kolkata, and smaller than a mini-bus: can ferry exactly 13 people at a time. They huddle on, to go in the same direction as their fellow travellers and soon find their spots to get off and along. It’s no fancy ride- no luxurious leg room, not enough room for your bags if you don’t want to rest it on your lap and if you’re sitting on the far end, the sun will shine down brightly on you. You may or may not like that but you will surely be happy to see how peacefully the group traverses the distance. People seldom know each other, though sometimes you notice acquaintances exchange niceties. Smiles come easily, and so do frowns. You will see groggy eyes, scarred faces concealing a story, dishevelled hair and then you will see people smiling into their phones, lost in thought or even catching a quick nap in the evening traffic. That’s the nature of any crowd, after all: diverse yet united, lost and unknown, oblivious yet careful in their own ways.

I enjoy people watching. On this ride, I do not get lost in conversation with my friends and colleagues. I look around; catch a glimpse of the young girl struggling to sit uptight in her skirt, the man who decides to give his eyes some rest, with his spectacles resting lightly on his long nose. I don’t peek into people’s phones but while they’re at it, I can’t help but notice their updates on Instagram, Path and Twitter. Every small detail goes up on News Feeds these days. Sometimes people are putting up pictures of the traffic.

I’ve had my own set of memorable experiences on these journeys. There were times when a girl in a bright yellow dress, was not comfortable and chose to sit close to the entrance. The driver wanted her to shift further in because she was giving his potential passengers the impression that the van was full. She couldn’t shift in, and therefore she simply got off, to avoid causing trouble for the driver.  There was a time when I thought I could read in the van on my way back and the dim light from the single lamp in the far end did not allow me to indulge in the murder mystery. When I shut the book sighing from my failed attempt, I raised my head to smiling faces. I realized they noticed how naive I was, in this simple act of ignorance. Then, there have been days when I have skipped the ride to evade traffic and walked the 2 kilometre distance back home instead. While on the vehicle, I’ve had my own share of feet being stamped by pointed heels, boxes of non-vegetarian food emulating a fishy smell and then there was one specific instance of translations gone utterly wrong:
My stop to get off the angkot, on my way home is actually at the start of a bridge. In Bahasa, the word for bridge is “Jimbatan” So, by way of urging the driver to stop at the spot, I need to call out to him saying “Jimbatan, Mus” and he will stop. However, for the longest time since I was here, I kept calling out to him saying, “Jambutan, Mus” There were times when he would smile back at me and nod his head disapprovingly. Sometimes fellow passengers would repeat the phrase for me in case the driver didn’t hear. At that time, I didn’t pay much heed to the difference caused by the few letters in a syllable or two. I was an expat and people were looking at me like that, smiling at me and even exchanging funny glances. I passed off all of that, assuming that it was probably because I was not a local. Until one day; a local colleague of mine accompanied me on the ride back home and laughed until her stomach hurt when she heard me use the word: Jambutan.

Jambutan means vaginal hair.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Step-brothers: TV and Torrent

When I was young and my mother would cook us a Chinese fare, Vegetable Manchurian was my favourite. It was spicy and luscious, and a particular memory I have is: running to the kitchen and grabbing the deep fried Manchurian balls even before my mother would cook it in the sauce. It wasn't raw, it wasn’t uncooked. It was just another way of having the delicacy. My mother would always let us take bowls full of the Chinese pakoras but if we returned for more, she would wonder if the gravy would be left underpopulated after all!
My brother and I couldn't wait for the dish to be fully prepared: drowned in the spicy sauce it would taste all the better, we knew! But who liked waiting? Patience has never been a virtue with the human race.

With all the TV shows that are becoming popular, I hate how more and more people choose the Torrent way of life. The crew behind TV shows puts in an effort to build suspense around the murder story, they develop mystery by freezing the last scene of an episode at the corner of a street, and they time their commercials pauses in a way that the virtual knock on the door lurks on your mind. All this effort and more, goes down the drain as we control the suspense with the click of our mouse. The week-long gap between episodes is cut short to a pee-break. Watch an intense episode of how the lobbyists are manipulating the President’s actions; take a leak and come back immediately to see how the President handles the media and the controversies they plot. A long drawn effort, an effectively mysterious story-line boils down the fast forward option on your laptop screen.

Instant fits in well with the context of popcorn and noodles only!

There is a joy in waiting for your 9 PM show to be aired at 9 PM. You finish your meals and mails by 8:55 and sit with the TV remote in your hand, volume turned up. You wait eagerly for the much awaited signature drum roll of the production house that brought this show to your living room. You sing along as the cast rolls by and you wait for that first shot of the blood stains, the disheveled kitchen counter or the kidnapped baby’s empty pram. That’s when you feel a gush of blood in your head and you feel the emotions flowing. After all, that build-up to the week, the day-long wait was well worth it.

On the contrary: You download your favourite show one evening, and you watch multiple episodes over the weekend. You sit and watch it back to back, revealing the plot of half the season to yourself in a span of 48 hours! You have zilch entertainment through the week; you see six murders one after the other and then you complain of a headache. The lead actor is shedding blood, going into coma and reviving very fast for your senses to absorb and understand the flow of events.

Give your brain a break, and save yourself something to look forward to even on the weekdays. Don’t pile up the minutes of the mystery like they were piles of pending paper work
After all, if I would wait for the Manchurian to be soaked in the sauce, I wouldn't have to chew my noodles bland!  

Monday, 24 March 2014

An Evening at a Cafe

I had walked into that cafe and carefully spotted my seat. It was a self-service place, so I had to walk to the counter first. I placed my order and collected it, too. When I turned to my favorite high stool chair, I noticed it was taken.  With a sad face, I walked past the men who had snatched my fate and tried to settle into one of the regular chairs. I was very uncomfortable and uneasy, there. It was in a dark corner and the adjacent group was quite noisy. No it wasn't a bunch of college kids. In fact, a group of senior citizens were having a re-union of some sort. Cute, I thought. But nonetheless, their constant chatter would not let me write that evening. And writing was as if a mission for me that day. 5 PM to 7 PM, I had decided. I had told myself that I had to write during these two hours. I was willing my brain cells to function and juice out the creativity. The pen couldn't just scribble on the pad now. My writing, ought to have more meaning to it.
Since morning I had prepared myself for it. Read a little during lunch, as if to familiarize myself with the string of alphabets that made reading a pleasure. But now: I was stuck in this cafe, in an uncomfortable chair because some creepy men had taken that table with the high stool chair. Not fair! He hadn’t even bought a coffee. He was sitting there just to use the WiFi. This is what happens in most self-service places, I thought.
Just then, my fate seemed to take a turn. A couch got vacant and this creepy duo decided to take to that reclining comfort. Hurrah! I thought. No, I am not exaggerating. Writing that day was extremely important. It was one self assuring act to make myself believe in Me again. The past week had been bad and writing was my only reclamation of fate. Yes, in my world this was important.
The men shifted to the couch, and unthinkingly I took the empty chairs. I placed my bag carefully on one chair, as if it were my date. However, my real date was with the paper and pen. Little did I know that those men were going to butt into this date.
Since they were creepy men and I had taken the seat they had occupied, I had attracted their attention like a magnet. They were staring at all women who walked in. My presence had come to their notice specifically and therefore I was the center of their attraction, especially since I was in clear, diagonal line of vision. They were strangely attracted to the XY chromosome race. When a female walked in, their eyes would almost impulsively turn to the direction and you could tell they were scanning from head to toe, and ogling at everything in between. They say, a woman knows a nasty man by his looks. I identified this blue shirt clad man, as one. He was not right.
However, the irony was that the women who walked in didn't care about his presence. I am sure; most of them didn't notice his existence at all. There were several girls, women, ladies and lassies that walked in. It was a popular cafe and this was a busy, Sunday evening. Women walked in, and they walked past. He was at his creepy act, and kept staring at me in spurts. I was judging him and the women, too. Some of them were slightly scantily clad, some were covered, some were beautiful and some even rough by my judgment. I was scared for them, me and us. Unknowingly, I was weighing their sense of dressing in my head and classifying the right and wrong. I hate to say this, but yes I was scared.
He was summing up every woman’s private parts in his head and then murmuring something to his friend, who took quick notes on a tissue paper. I am not sure what they were up to. I don’t know if it was some crass, cheap, perverted game they were at. But the whole situation, made me very uncomfortable. I was not okay with being the judgmental one here. I was not okay with the fact that I found myself vulnerable, uneasy, scared and most of all, I was not okay with being the subject of his sleazy leisure.
I was very conscious of how I was sitting: no crossed legs, not too much gap in between my lower limbs, hands in place. I was careful to ensure that I wasn't bending forward to let the neckline of my top, drop, ensuring that the ends of my scarf covered me necessarily. I felt blessed to be wearing a scarf, but I was also questioning myself on the need to dress up for this evening out. I was careful about my movement and cautious even when I shut my eyes to sneeze and yawn! It was not a nice feeling. I knew I was being watched. And no, this was not a random CCTV at a super market. Vulnerable was the best adjective here, but the magnanimity was far worse. 
After several permutations and combinations of the possibilities of events, I made my way out of the cafe after a while. I carefully chose the exit which would let me mix in the crowd, though my house was closer from the other side. As I took the longer route home, I kept looking around to make sure I was not being followed.
I reached home, clicked the lights and first checked how I would raise an alarm, if hell broke loose. Two eyes, those two eyes and that stare had pierced me so hard, I realized.
When I went to bed that night, I wondered why I was so scared. My roots connected me to a country which is popular in the global news for all its hideous crimes against women. I knew all that and I had read about it, seen clips and videos of some accidents, too. I used to watch a TV show that featured these real stories to warn and educate people. These shows and those reports were intended to provide caution. However, there is a thin line that separates caution from paranoia. I, had unthinkingly, crossed that line.
That evening it was not just a pair of eyes that had left me trembling, but several cruel and reckless souls far, far away from where I was; had managed to shake my ground of positive thinking.

That evening, I reflected but never wrote. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

100 Happy Words

A popular fad, a famous practice today is the 100 Happy Days practice. Most people live to be happy. Ask anyone what their ambitions are, and the words 'nice' and 'happy' will surely make way into their mini-speech. But they need practices such as these to find happiness in daily things, and in between all the running around and getting into the regular grind of life, people make time for their Social Media handles (if not their relations) and to my great pleasure, at least half the feeds are now flooded with moments of happiness. They click these moments to prove a point to the person behind this yellow colored website.

Drawing the essence out of this practice, I decided to add an aspect to it. I decided to merge this with my love for writing. And from now on, I will pen down at least one awesome line everyday. It could be the usual, random sentences stated in a fun way or it could be heart-warming quotes off my Pinterest hour. I don't know where the words will come from, but I know they will flow. The day I don't hear or read anything creative, I will write something nice. Even if it is just a single line.

Years later, when I read this diary, I will look back and probably remember some of the moments where these quotes came from. The reference to context game will be fun: who had said these words to whom, where and why. Even if I don't remember the sources of some, I will take that in my stride because not all days of your life can stand out as memorable.

For now, this practice will bring me to read everyday, listen more attentively and look out for words worth noting. And when I read, hear or seek; I will not judge the words because I will be busy weighing the good versus the better, and the better against best!

Write Now! 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Little more than words

My school offered multiple opportunities for co-curricular activities. I would be too lazy to carry my swimming bag most of the times, which is why I can barely wade in water. I will not drown (unless thrown into a sea) but I cannot swim any of those fancy strokes. However, I would wait for the Library classes. Even if I had fever, I wouldn’t mind making my way to school to browse through the fictional world of printed matter.

Later, I enrolled in a British Council library and would walk the 30 minute distance from my house to get my 3 books for the following fortnight. I love reading books.

Due to various distractions, my speed of reading has reduced. If the number of pages per book is divided by my speed of reading, the time taken to finish each book has increased phenomenally!  

When I first came to Jakarta, I did not bring a story book from India (This was mainly because: like most other people who fly from the same point of origin as me, I didn’t find the 23 kg weight allowance; enough) 
Nonetheless, soon after I came I found my way to buy a Nora Roberts publication in this now-not-so foreign land.
I read slower now. However, I still register the words for long.

The other day I read: “She would remember this. William and her walking home in their soiled aprons.” Later, when I was washing dishes in my kitchen and realized the dire need of an apron, my mind went back to the world created by Nora Roberts.

“The incense stick was lit” is a rather bland statement (If sentences offer some reaction on the tongue, at all!) I once read somewhere: “The smoke from the incense stick made the overhead shelf grey, and the soot left its mark just as strongly as the sandalwood smell.” Now that’s what registers forever! And this line left such a mark, that I don’t know where I read it; which book or author. But I always remember it when I sit to pray. And when practicality dawns, I even pull the incense stand away so that the shelves retain their original colour!

When I write a book, it will have the following lines:

  • ·          “The fragrance of the jasmine wafted into the kitchen and fused with the smell of grilled cheese and freshly baked bread, as Marita was on her cooking spree again this weekend.”
  • ·          “Her pencil heels made an uncanny sound against the hard, black coal of the road. In the middle of the night, it was the only sound in the vicinity. Then suddenly, a car took a sharp 60 degree turn around the corner. It came towards her in full speed and the screeching tyre over-powered the sound of her heels.”
  • ·          “She dug into her wallet to find her key. She wanted to use the rest-room, prepare a luxurious bath for herself, set the frozen pizza on the grill and even hear the missed voice-mails. She had always been this way. Always, living a few steps ahead of her present activity, in her mind. Planning her next steps, making and ticking of to-dos in her head.Then suddenly, her mind came back to the present. Where was the darn key, she asked herself. Why didn't she learn to keep it in the designated pocket in her bag. Digging through the coins, chewing gums, flash drives and papers and the ugly, little comb she finally got her hands on her house keys!”
  • ·          “He knew it was Sunday and it was time to take his children to the park. But it seemed like he had just gotten into the quilt for his afternoon nap. He tried to tell himself that their loud laughter and cheerful screams would please his heart, once he got to the park. He even told himself that, he could buy an ice-cream too after their play-time was over. After many such conversations with himself, he finally sat up on bed and smiled wide when he saw his little babies getting dressed, excitedly, to go out with Daddy!”

I hope that, one day I can tailor a beautiful story with sentences which offer intricate detail and paragraphs which people retain, remember and most importantly, relate with! :D 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Being Vegetarian

Having spent a little over 3 months in a city where people eat almost everything possible, I feel proud to have held my ground on being a vegetarian. There have been times when I have had Oreo Shake and Red Velvet Cupcake in a restaurant: sat there for over an hour with a group of seven other people, and eaten just that! This was, in a Japanese restaurant. A Korean eatery was the most uninviting place for me. As a result of my culinary habits I am compelled to have biased affection towards Italian and Mexican food. Indian food is obviously the Santa Claus, providing me the joys of a full stomach from time to time.

In the hotel where I was staying, I would most often eat Mango Salad with Garlic Bread, or Pesto Pasta without chicken. After about a month of living in the hotel, I once noticed a new menu on offer. It was as if some of the items on the menu had been crafted especially for me. I thought to myself: finally! The staff and chefs felt a slight mercy towards my rumbling stomach and perpetually semi-satisfied appetite. There were “two” new vegetarian items they could serve! I ordered the first: I forget what it was called, but “Japanese Vegetarian Noodles” was the description of the chef’s recommended item. There came the “udon-something” noodles, and to my disappointment, the thin glass noodles were laced with fish oil! Fortunately, the choco lava cake with vanilla ice-cream came to my rescue again. The next veggie thing on the new menu was Spaghetti Aglio Olio Classic. It promised to be spaghetti with garlic, chilies and herbs only. For lack of enough options, I took a chance and enjoyed the seemingly spicy meal to my heart’s content.

In a pub, you would see me sitting with a glass of Caprioska and Cheese Nachos, while my friends feasted on fish and chips, chicken lollipops, beef-somethings and what not! I was happy with my Nachos with a tang of jalapeno in it.

In the food court which occupies a considerable area of the mall adjacent to my office, I was delighted to find Burger King when I first came to the city. A week later, Burger King decided to leave me alone. Even though they offered me a bean burger which was quite different from my favorite typically Indian alu tikki, I missed it. Looking for options again, I went up to the staff at the Pepper Lunch counter in the food court. “Ada vegetarian?” I asked in my half English-half Bahasa tone. “Gada”, he replied; meaning a stern no! With a grim, sad, hungry face; I walked a full circle around the food court. Coming back to Pepper Lunch, I watched as several people came and ordered their delicacies of rice with fancy parts of ‘edible’ animals. After eyeing other people’s food like a greedy child, I stood there for a while. Salivating and staring, I stood there trying to find a fix to my “being vegetarian” problem. After about half a score dishes had been swiftly served by the staff, I walked up to the counter and placed my order with faked confidence. One steam rice, one portion corn, cheese and butter. Yes, that was my order. Surprisingly, my little experiment ended pleasantly. Pepper Lunch serves their meals on iron plates, the kind of plates we use for sizzlers. So, my sizzling concoction of rice, cheese, butter, corn and pepper was not so bad after all. (Though, quite fattening!)

Among my other memories of being a vegetarian in Jakarta, are the days when I have shoved the beef shavings off Nacho chips and gulped it down, made myself Maggi to keep the vicious cycle of digestion in process and of course, there have been times when I have let myself down miserably and gone to bed in disgusted hunger!