Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm sitting on the steps outside the Metro station at Central Secretariat, waiting for a friend. It's a mild day, almost warm - the bright winter sunshine falls upon me and warms my face and arms.

The road is blocked up for construction of some sort. A police jeep stands in the distance, the khaki-clad men watching everyone suspiciously. People scurry in and out of the Metro station. Buses, both Blueline and DTC, come screeching into the bus stop lane. The conductors recite place names in the poetry of long practice. Sweater- and muffler- and jacket-clad people get on and off.

They look curiously at me, this girl sitting nonchalantly on the steps in the sunshine. Huge shades, blue jeans, black Fab India kurta and black kashmiri shawl. A typical DU girl, yet not. Clothes a little out of fashion, surely? And a bit too much self-assurance, perhaps?

I still recognize the bus numbers, I find. After all, haven't I stood at this same bus stop hundreds of times, waiting for that magic numbered bus - the 610? Two years ago, I was one of this crowd, hurrying out of the Metro station to catch the connecting bus. Floaters and jeans and backpack - everything as comfy as possible for the three hour commute each day. Impatient to get home, not looking anybody in the face, perpetually hunting the distance for any sign of 'my' bus.

I look at them, these current DU kids, and they all look so young. Yes, that's me, all of twenty-one, barely a year out of college, saying that. They do, they really do. Especially the guys, trying to look cool in their low-slung jeans and their plugged-in i-pods and their gelled hair. Surely, we never looked like that? Or is it the fact that I'm out of all of it that makes me see the reality that always was?

My friend arrives. We hug, and enter the station. Now I'm part of the crowd again.
• • •

Saturday, November 08, 2008


The door clicked open, and yellow light from the hallway flooded in. With a start, she realized that she had been sitting in the dark for the past couple of hours, staring at the hypnotic starlight outside. The moon's rays slanted in through the French windows. Had she moved from the sofa all day? She couldn't remember.

His dark shape blocked out the light. She saw his arm reaching for the switch, and instantly put up her arms to block out the harsh light. She heard a click. And then another, a moment later. Cautiously peering past her arm, she saw that he had switched off the light again. The door clicked shut behind him. The renewed darkness felt cool and welcome on her eyes.

His footsteps sounded in the dark emptiness of the huge room - cautious steps, navigating the furniture. Soon, he was visible by the moonlight. Light coloured trousers and a blue-grey shirt. He went to the window and stared outside silently for a while. She kept her eyes on him, dispassionately taking in his slim form.

He turned and came back to her. Sat beside her on the sofa. Put his arm around her. Caressed her hair. She turned to him, and crushed her face against the crisp blue cotton of his shirt. Breathing in, she smelled the coolness of expensive airconditioning. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I forgot again." Once again, she had left the food untouched. Once again, she had forgotten to switch on the lights at dusk. Once again, she had not stepped outside.

"It's alright," he said. "It'll take time." She sighed, and snuggled closer to him. He hugged her tighter, as if he wanted her to melt into him. And so they sat there in the darkness, the woman who had forgotten how to live, and the man who was waiting for her to remember again.
• • •

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rain in XL

How I shall miss Jamshedpur weather. I must have said this many times on this blog before, but I just can't get over it, so I'll just say it again - it rains in Jamshedpur all the freakin' time! It's amazing. And it makes for excellent moods, despite quizzes and submissions.

Yesterday, for example. I came out of the hostel in the morning, on my way to class. The wind riffled through my salwar-kameez and tried to steal my dupatta. I had to shield my face and my hair against the leaves flying about. But soon enough, I gave up and just raised my face to the wind, enjoying the way it tickled my face.

Then, in the afternoon, the sky was overcast again. The mess was giving out samosas with tea, and Anu and I brought our plates out and sat on the hostel steps. The trees were waving, and there was a wind ruffling our hair. We discussed our Kerala plans for September, and talked about everything we wanted to do. It was brilliant.

And then it started raining. We moved off the steps and onto the veranda, and sat there and watched the rain. It was more of a downpour than a drizzle - something that you rarely see in Jamshedpur. People were running to and fro, shielding themselves with books. The sports guys coming back from the field were the only exceptions. It was nice sitting there in the protection of the veranda, hugging our knees, eating our hot samosas and being sprinkled with cool water droplets.

And then, today. I spent a couple of hours in the library in the afternoon, studying. And then came out at 4:55 exactly, because I had a meeting at five. And oh, the weather - it was gorgeous. The thing about the XL campus, you see, is its trees. Other campuses may have more trees and more greenery, but there is this.. quality about the very trees in XL. They are simply gorgeous. You walk through the campus, and you'll be dazzled by their beauty.

There is a path leading from the acad building to Bodhi Tree. It borders JLT and the admin building, and is lined by trees on both sides. And whenever I walk this path in the daylight, on my way to the library or the sports field or outside campus, I get amazed by the sheer beauty of the trees - every single time. There is this sparkly green-ness to them that is so breathtaking. They wave in the wind, and the colours change, a thousand shades of green, all around me.

At around dusk, I was sitting with V on JLT. Again, under an overcast sky, with a bit of a drizzle. The drizzle suddenly became stronger for a while, and then dwindled down again. It left the whole of the lawn full of water drops, which caught the fluorescent light from the big lamp on top of the hostel, and sparkled like a carpet made of a million diamonds.

And I looked at the sight, and wished I could take mental pictures, and sighed, and got frustrated, and burst out with, "V! Do you realize that we won't be here this time next year?" V got shocked by my sudden outburst, I think, and he said, "Arre.. That's a long time away, baba.." "No, you don't get it!" I said, even more frustrated. I didn't bother to explain more, but I had suddenly realized that I would see no more June's or July's here. It made me profoundly sad in a way I can't explain.

"You know," V said after a while, "We think that we'll never have as much fun during the rest of our lives as we had here, and that way, the rest of our lives actually does get ruined." Or, well, words to that effect.

So yes, the profoundest statement of the evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is all about the self-fulfilling prophecy. I shall now look forward to years of being bound to the desk, and of office politics, and loving Fridays and hating Mondays. Yay.

I can feel the time slipping through my fingers. Less than seven months now.
• • •

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My Room

Red curtains. A red lamp casting yellow light. A red chair. Bedsheets with red design on them. A laptop that has forgotten the last time it was shut down. A teddy bear that is slowly asphyxiating inside its cover because its owner thinks it would be too girly to take it out. A white piece of thermocol with some twenty pairs of earrings hung on it. A cupboard containing way too many clothes. A basketball in the corner. Clothes chucked here and there. Course books that have clearly never been opened. A folded up rajai and two red cushions pretending that they form a cool floor-seating-type thing.

The view outside is of the ugly, lichen-laden back of the cafeteria - which is why she never opens her curtains. But sometimes, when it's just about to rain, she opens the curtains and sits at the corner of the bed. She loves the sight of the buildings framed in black clouds. She wishes she could burn that picture onto her mind - try as she might, she can't take a photo that quite captures the magic of that moment.

There's music perpetually on - music that none of her neighbours appreciate. English music - Coldplay, Blue October, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac - Hindi music, Malayalam music, Tamil music. Eclectic? Nope - 'wannabe' is more like it.

I like this room - it's my sanctuary.
• • •

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Staring at the Sun

A rooftop party in the early morning. I land up slightly late, but earlier than the crowd. I sit a little bit apart, because I don't feel like participating in the conversation. I stare at the horizon, and it is beautiful. There is the Tata complex in the distance. It is ugly by day - all metal and towers and soot-black and burnt-brown. But now it is beautiful. Orange. The entire sky is orange. There are flickering lights, dancing cheerfully in the distance. The fumes coming out of the towers are lit up by the orange lights.

That orange complex has been responsible for so much in India. Right now, it looks ghostly and far away and superior - like something from another world or another time, perhaps. I feel like I'm peering through a hole into another Universe. Surely, there must be great and mysterious things going on in there, things beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals.

Sometimes, there is a blaze of orange from one of the towers. It lights up the entire sky, like sunrise. The hostels get framed in orange for a while. And all of us, sitting in front of the night canteen or out on a walk just for the heck of it, we all gasp at it, at the beauty of it, the sheer power of it. And then it dies down, and we get on with our ordinary lives, which seem a little bit dimmer somehow.
• • •

Monday, April 28, 2008


I really must dedicate a post to Gurgaon. Specifically, to ranting about Gurgaon.

I live in Delhi - South Delhi, to be precise. Every day, I travel one hour or so to reach my office in Gurgaon. I go with a friend of mine. Every morning, we have two ways of getting to office - the National Highway 8, or the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road. Pretty much every day, we take the swanky new NH-8, even though it is longer and has a toll booth. You see, the Delhi Metro is being extended to Gurgaon along the Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road. As a consequence of which, the traffic has been cut down to two lanes in each direction. And given the density of traffic at rush hour each morning, two lanes are definitely not enough.

My first week in Gurgaon, I couldn't stop bitching about the place. It is the only city I have been to so far in my life that has no public transportation system!! Getting to Gurgaon is easy enough even if you don't have your own car - you can either take one of the DTC buses that ply regularly between Delhi and Gurgaon, or you can take a cab. But once you get there, what do you do? The entire city has about 60-70 autos - none of which are ever to be found, of course. If you want to go anywhere, you take either a riksha or a tempo. If the journey is too long and you don't have your own transportation, then you better hire a cab. The roads of the city seem completely haphazard. They are dangerous, too. They lack signboards, they lack pavements. They are just rolls of solid tar laid out between buildings.

Everywhere you look, there is construction happening; big ugly buildings coming up on all sides. Every day, my friend takes the right turn from NH-8 at the boat building (anybody who has been to Gurgaon will know which building I am talking about) and my heart sinks instantly. After the mostly smooth travel on the highway (navigating between, admittedly, murderous taxi drivers in Sumo's and Innova's and Qualises) we enter a road with no pavement, unfenced parking lots on either side and (worst of all) monstrous high-rises lining the road. These buildings are covered in glass; they reflect everything around them and show nothing of their insides. Little signboards on their vast exteriors announce mysterious company names. They look down upon us as we get stuck in the usual morning mess of honking vehicles.

I love Delhi. I love its greenery, I love the roundabouts, I love the personality of the city.

And Gurgaon is the exact opposite of everything Delhi is. It is hard to describe what is so hateful about it. Dust swirls around in the tremendous heat of the afternoon sun. The road-side trees, when they are to be found, are lonely and yellow; they give no shade. Everywhere you look, you find man-made things - pollution-spewing vehicles, anonymous buildings, the half-done Metro. Nobody loves this city enough to take care of it.

Gurgaon has no middle class. Either you have the rich people living in tall shaky buildings, with their long cars and their arrogance; or you have the poor people struggling to cling on in the rich people's wake - as their housemaids or riksha-wallahs or neighbourhood vegetable-vendors.

When you travel around, you get the sense of a city without a heart. A city that grew up without going through childhood or adolescence. A city that didn't get the chance to explore itself and decide what it wanted to be. A city that sold itself to glass-fronted office buildings and multiplex malls and twenty-story flats. A city without a culture, a city without an identity.
• • •

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Book Tag

Saw this book tag over at DC's.

A book that made you laugh: Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Strauss. I remember people in Calcutta airport looking at me rather strangely as I laughed out aloud at periodic intervals.

A book that made you cry: The ending of Gone With The Wind.

A book that scared you: Not a book, but a story - Stephen King's 1408. And I'm too scared to watch the movie.

A book that disgusted you: Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. I haven't finished it, and don't plan to.

A book you loved in elementary school: There was this Malayalam book called Katha Parayunna Nighandu - a huuuuuge book full of illustrated stories from Hindu mythology. It was a highly age-inappropriate book for me to read - the things these supposed Gods got up to, I tell you.

A book you loved in middle school or junior high school: To Kill a Mockingbird. Not least because the copy I read was the gift my mother gave my father for their first wedding anniversary. Also, The Diary of Anne Frank.

A book you loved in high school: Stephen King's On Writing.

A book you loved in college: American Gods.

A book that challenged your identity: On Writing. King made me actually wonder what I was doing when I should be reading and writing like there was no tomorrow. Alas, that phase, too, passed.

A series that you love: The Five Find-outers - I was head over heels in love with Fatty during my pre-teens. I can still read any of the fifteen Find-outers books. Anyone else who has read the Mystery series? With Snubby and Loony and Barney and Miranda?

Your favorite horror book: Stephen King is the only horror writer I've read, so one of his, I suppose.

Your favorite science fiction book: Not really into sci-fi.

Your favorite fantasy: American Gods. Neil Gaiman totally redefined the way I thought of fantasy.

Your favorite mystery: I used to be really into mystery books - Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter. Particularly loved the latter's wit.

Your favorite biography: I have a mental block against biographies, so - none.

Your favorite "coming of age" book: Vernon God Little. Also The Diary of Anne Frank, again.

Your favorite classic: Hehe - Pride and Prejudice! :)

Your favorite romance book: See above. And since DC mentions M&B's, there was this really old one of my mother's that I used to fish out and read whenever I went to my grandmother's house. It was called Logan's Lake/Island. Yummm. (By the way, M& B's make such nice reads. Except that you get depressed after you read them.)

Whoever sees this tag and likes it may do it.
• • •

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rant Against Airtel

Unlike a lot of bloggers, it's not every day that I rant on this blog about the products and services I consume. But this time, I really must. For the past couple of months, every time someone calls me and I pick up the phone, there is silence on the other line for a couple of moments before the caller tentatively asks for me.

The reason? Airtel had decided to honour me with 'caller tune' priviliges for free for some time. For those who have been living under a very prehistoric rock for a very long time, caller tunes are the songs that callers hear instead of the usual 'tring tring' when they call up someone. And what is my caller tune? Honestly reader, I have no idea. Since coming to this place, I haven't really been keeping myself up-to-date with the latest in the most horrible and un-original of Hindi music. So I have no idea what the song is, just that if I ever meet the person who decided to give me this song as the default song, we wouldn't exactly see eye-to-eye on musical preferences. And I believe that sentence just won me the Under-statement of the Year Award. My friends who call me are so hugely taken aback by the song they hear as my caller tune that they actually believe they have the wrong number.

I could have made use of the free caller tune priviliges and put on an actual good song, of course. But that would have meant calling up Airtel at six rupees per minute, and I was damned if I was going to do that. I should have called up Customer Care and made them cancel it, but I was too lazy to. And look what they've done now! Just when I had Rs. 36. 09 left as balance on my phone, they've cut thirty rupees for caller tune priviliges!! The thieving so-and-so's. Sunil Mittal may be urbane and all, but if he needs to steal money from his customers' pockets like this, he's not very high up in my list of entrepreneurs to emulate. Now if only I had the energy to find the Customer Care number and yell at those thiefs.
• • •

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Have you ever driven on a road lined with hills on both sides and thought, "Hmm, I want to climb that hill." There have been many times that I've thought this. The first time was years ago, in Rajasthan - near Amber, I think it was. I saw the rocky hills on my right and remembered studying about them in a far-off classroom in Trivandrum and thought - wow, I bet I could actually climb those. And then didn't do it, of course. It happened again recently on my Kerala trip, this urge to test myself - once while travelling to the Idukki dam, and then several times on the bus ride from Trivandrum to Bangalore.

So when the adventure-related committee on campus announced a trek to a nearby hill recently, I signed up eagerly, thinking - ha, finally, I'll get to see if I can climb after all. And now, three days after the trek, I'm still not free of the aches and pains.

It began well enough. For once, I was dressed properly- trackpants, a long t-shirt and a jacket over it; my hair was tied back and my backpack had everything I needed. A long bumpy bus-ride deposited us at a dusty yellow junction, from which a yellow road snaked up to a promising-looking hill.

We set off in two's and three's, chatting leisurely as if we were on an afternoon stroll. And then the road got to a bridge over a depression. The hill was now on our left and this was where we had to go off the road. We could have climbed down into the depression and used it to cross to the hill, but no - adventurous (read - lazy) people that we were, we chose to cross on the narrow wall fencing the depression. Had any of us fallen, it would have been a ten foot drop on one side, and a dunking in a stream on the other - not much, I suppose.

I set off bravely, because the wall seemed broad enough to walk comfortably on. Unfortunately, it was only when it was too late to turn back that I realized that it got narrower in the middle. The drop didn't seem so little any more. Fortunately, Bugz in front of me was rock-steady, so I just focused on his feet and walked. Crossed to the other side somehow.

On we walked. Bugz and I had somehow gone far ahead of the loose gang we had set out with. I was enjoying myself at this point - picking my way over the stones, stretching my legs properly, looking about at the grass and the trees and the boulders. The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and I had not a care in the world.

Unfortunately, we soon started to realize that we were climbing up a hill after all. The path became steeper, so that the stones I had so enjoyed before became more like steps cut into the hillside, and each step upwards was a test on the thighs. Our breaks started becoming more and more frequent. We would keep asking the adventure-committee guy climbing beside us (who had come here once before to scout out the place) - how much further, how much further? And he would say, most irritatingly, "Oh, a long way. We're only about one-third up." Aargh.

There were a lot of things that we should have enjoyed on the way - strangely-shaped trees, a swing made of tree branches, the cool breeze, the very silence of the place, but no - we were too busy not letting one small hill defeat us. Or rather - I was. Left to himself, Bugz would have climbed up leisurely, taking frequent breaks and turning back to enjoy the view once in a while. But I was too obsessed.

Anyway, somehow or the other, we finally got to the summit, and what do we see there - a bike, an auto and a Tata Sumo! A bike, for God's sake. It would have been so much more worth it had we climbed up a hill unreachable by vehicle!

There were three temples there on the summit, populated by weed-smoking sadhus and tonnes of monkeys. Climbing up the steep stone steps to the highest temple took out the last of my strength, but it was so worth it, because I finally got to see a view worthy of its name. And the silence - oh, the silence; I've read of 'silence crowding in on your ears', but I experienced it for the first time there, sitting by the side of the stone steps, staring out at the mist-covered horizon. That's what temples should be like - simple, made of stone, peaceful; not marble monstrosities filled with self-righteous people.

On the way back down, Bugz and I rested in a large clearing surrounded by trees with lots of monkeys in (on?) them. There were large flat stones there, made warm by the January sun. I tried to fall asleep on one of them, but no - Bugz would not let me. At first, he said he wouldn't sleep because he wanted to keep an eye on "our simian friends", but then he kept waking me up with, "Oh my God! We're being surrounded. Look - there are two on that tree, and one on the tree behind us! They're going to attack us!" It was then that we noticed that some of our highly intelligent fellow-hikers had left their food packets open near the stone we were on. We decided to vacate the place asap - after closing the food packets, of course. But seriously - how dumb can people get?

The climb down passed by in a jiffy - it was so easy compared to the way up. We did it in less than two hours, with only a couple of short breaks. And it didn't feel like very long either, because we were so engrossed in conversation. We spoke of our respective relationships. He's going through a break-up, after a relationship of seven years, and since he is what he is, I don't think he would have spoken of it much with anyone. But I guess there was something about the setting - so far away from everyone and everything - that he opened up. And I felt so sad for the poor guy, even though he would have hated that. I mean - seven years! (And having heard of it in that much detail from him, I felt rather strange hearing my roomie telling her boyfriend about his predicament much too casually last night.)

So we climbed back down, we watched the sun setting behind a hill, we crossed the narrow wall, we sat on the bridge and waited for the rest of the people, we survived the bumpy bus ride back home; I slept ten hours that night. And the trip was so worth it because I didn't give up even when my whole body was crying out for me to, and because now I can finally look at a roadside hill and not want to climb it.

Now if only my body would stop aching.
• • •