Let's Catch Up!

Monday, April 24, 2017


As we stumble out of bed
These mundane mornings
We look into the mirror
To see all the brightness drowning

The shadows of youth
That no longer come to light
The remains of lust & lore
Of the nights that burnt bright
The shattered hopes
And painful dreams
Of everything we could be.

So much has gone wrong
And what has life become
Dream big, they said
Behind the shallow smirk
Not warning us that one day
We won't dream at all.

So we look into the mirror
And see the spotty face
Dark shadows and baggage
Of dreams long past a fade
We see all we never became
And the life we have to accept
If only the heart would stop
Beating I am I am I am….

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Let's Pretend

Let’s Pretend
To be who we’re not
More Successful
Adulting like a boss

Let’s Create
With updates of life
Check-ins and likes
Pouts and kisses
A mirage of life

Let’s be hypocrites
And throw around advice
On relationships & life
On jobs & success
On how to adult
Without pretense

Let’s hide everything we are
The misery, the plight
All the difficulties in sight
Singing in the spotlight
About our beautiful life

Let’s put on a happy face
Because at the end of the day
That’s really all we are
Exhausted unpaid Actors
In this never-ending rat race.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It’s a man’s world, but I really don’t think I’d want to be a man

I’m pretty sure there’s this recurring thought that passes through every girl’s mind every now and then, even if not very seriously… life would be so much easier if I was a guy!

This could happen when you’re stuck in office late night, and are fretting over how you’ll make it home. Or when you think twice before getting onto a sparsely crowded bus with only men. It happens when you get left out of a dirty men’s joke in office, or when your parents refuse to give you permission to go clubbing in Delhi. It happens every time you hear about learning to make a round chapatti, and it definitely happens when you’re on a road trip with a painfully full bladder and no clean restroom in sight for miles.

But then, there are times that I imagine life as a guy in this world, and I feel so much insane pressure that I feel very happy to be exactly who I am.

All the way from when we were kids, I always felt that a guy could be the best in studies, or a talented singer, but the one thing on which he was judged by peers always somehow came down to how he was at cricket. Because that’s what all the boys in school did during all their breaks. Every boy wanted to bat, and the ones who weren’t athletic enough were banished to field endlessly. But not playing was not an option. It’s what boys do.

And this display of physical masculinity doesn’t change through life. Sure, you can move onto tennis or snooker or some sport that suits you more. But I don’t think it’s still very acceptable for a man to claim he doesn’t like to play any sport at all. He’s judged. Way more than I am judged when I make the same statement. Because it’s easy to assume that I’m a delicate girly girl who wouldn’t want to break a nail. (That isn’t the real reason, though. I actually just suck at anything that needs hand eye coordination. So I’d rather just spend my time reading… Why spend time being bad at something when I can spend that time enjoying something instead?). But if a guy my age makes the same statement, I’ve seen the judgemental looks he gets.

Looks that are almost as bad as the derogatory jokes about men who can’t grow beards (yeah, like that’s a bloody talent!), men who have some effeminate characteristics (“woh jo gay hai?!” Let’s not even get started with everything wrong with the words and tone of that sentence), the rare guy who chooses to stay at home and take care of the household and kids while the wife earns instead. Like what’s with the pressure of being the man of the house?! In today’s world, why must the guy earn more, and be the decision maker of the house? What if he doesn’t want to be? What does 'Be a man!' even mean?!

When I chose to move to Mumbai before my marriage, A took a transfer to join me. I thought it was super sweet of him to change for me. But I didn’t think it was out of the world to expect him to. But the world did. The concept of a guy moving for a girl instead of vice-versa was very amusing to a lot of people, who let their thoughts be known rather openly by their smirks and jokes. A took it rather well, I’d say, and for that I’ll always be thankful to him. But what a load of crap to have to deal with to begin with!

And then I think, the worst of the lot. Boys don’t cry. Like, why the hell not? Why are little boys told to not behave like a girl? One small sentence to insult both boys and girls in one go. Just as bad as it is to say that you have to be careful with what you say to women or they’ll start crying, it’s horrible to expect men to not cry. It’s a bloody natural reaction. Stop gender-ising it!

Wow this ended up a very long post.
But like I said, it pretty much sucks to be a guy in this world.
Not that being a girl is a hoot.
But about time people realized feminism isn’t just about women, no?
Like really, about time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Year That Was... Again!

It’s that time of the year again… time for the annual round up of all moments happy and crappy! And some bullet points, because if you know me even one tiny bit, you know I love bullet points!!
  • This year started full of promises (like every year now and then, smirking and deceiving)… with a major annual vacation on the cards, awesomeness at work with another promotion and a generally happy 2015. As it turns out, it had quite a few surprises in store for me.
  • My health took a massive toll, complete with chronic tiredness, a back spasm and imported chicken pox.
  • My sweet lil ‘cozy’ house decided to enter its teenage years, and became a rebellious brat. Over the year we’ve dealt with leaking roofs, fungus on every surface with a special repeated love for my clothes, remotes that creepily decided to malfunction together, the magical cupboard where watches slowed down by an hour, light switches that commited suicide, and a very moody tube light that decided to function when you least expected it to.
  • Work, well, I’ll continue to follow the policy of not talking about work here. Let’s just say that despite a great start, satisfaction levels were rather low, and plummeted quite a bit as the year wore on.
  • I feel like I spent half the year literally sitting in an Uber on my way to or from office. But let me just say, that’s better than driving, or standing squished in the train. I think.
  • The last two months have been spent crazily house hunting, trying to reduce my dedicated love affair with Uber… but at the moment there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for that one. Oh well.
  • On the bright side, I started my tete-a-tete with Europe finally this year, and spent a beautiful two weeks exploring the ruins of Italy, the beautiful coast, and DDLJ sceneries of Switzerland. Until I managed to catch chicken pox, but that’s another story.
  • I’ve changed jobs, and, well, that’s that.
  • I had my first article published on a site I’d been devouring for years, and if nothing else, it felt timely.
  • I’ve experienced more joy than ever before with fostering more and more kittens. There have been ups and downs, some helped much more, and some with pure bad luck which resulted in complete helplessness from our side. And more than enough days you come home after a tiring day and find stuff overturned and on the floor and feel irritated at how the house smells. But then the kitten looks up at you innocently, and cuddles onto your lap and goes to sleep. And at that moment, everything, the whole year, is completely worth it.

Overall, this year has been a mixed bag, where I found it easier to remember the crappy stuff than the nice ones. But as per my theory (yes, another one!!), I alternate in my awesome and bawl-some years, so 2017, you’re eagerly and positively awaited!

I mean, no pressure.

But just be awesome, ok?

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Cho-Cha Returns!

Sometimes, I truly believe that when I have kids, specially a daughter, I won’t bother reading fairy tales to them. Not that I have anything against the Grimm brothers. On the contrary, their non-edited gory versions of the stories aren’t that different from my own writing (glass shoe full of blood because toes were cut off to fit the foot in…man!). But I do believe a large part of the dream of Prince Charming and happily ever after starts off at a very young age thanks to books like these. Growing up, Rom-Coms don’t help, and Bella Swan swooning over vampires and werewolves definitely takes feminism back quite a few years.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against romantic stories or happy endings, I DID read the entire Twilight series rather eagerly after all. But I do believe a lot of important things in life should not revolve around finding your Prince Charming. I hope you find your love, if that’s what you want, and live happily ever after. But I also hope that your own happiness doesn’t only depend on the ever after.

Take my love for American Chopsuey, for example.

American Chopsuey (which is frankly more Indian by now than American or Chinese) is one of the least liked dishes on a Chinese menu in India. The biggest reason being the fact that it’s sweet, and that’s rarely liked by spicy Indians.

On the other hand, it’s one of my favourite dishes.

But the biggest issue with the dish is the size of the serving, which is almost always too massive for one measly human being to devour. And thanks to that, I was always on the look-out for someone to share the dish with. While at home, my sister and I became best friends at the time of this meal and happily shared what no one else really liked. But once out of Delhi, I suddenly found myself Chopsuey-less.

And so it came to be… the random crazy belief that the one way I’ll know that a guy really is perfect for me, is if he also likes American Chopsuey.

Ya, go figure.

Years and multiple relationships (both Chopsuey-full and Chopsuey-deprived) later, of course this sounds beyond stupid.

And yesterday, having heard my sister recite similar Chopsuey-longing troubles (sans the silly Perfect guy theory, duh) it suddenly hit me.

I didn’t need a guy’s true love to be able to hog on American Chopsuey.
I just needed my own.

Sure I might not be able to finish it, but that’s what doggy bags are meant for!
Sure I’m about to gain weight.
And maybe give my sweet tooth an ache.
But I think it’s time to bring the Chopsuey Challenge back, no?

So whether alone, or with A (who will definitely be ordering something else!), or maybe with you, I’m gonna hog on a whole lot of American Chopsuey!

Know a place in Mumbai worth trying? Let me know!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Disclaimer: This is a rant. Not necessarily a logical one. Definitely a cribby frustrated one. Feel free to skip this. And yes, I know happiness is not about materialistic stuff. So go, be happy, who's stopping you?!

Let's talk about Housing.

It’s the one thing that is by far the biggest headache I’ve faced in this cramped up litter box of a city. The one thing that Bollywood conveniently skips over in all their dreamy-starry-eyed-in-Mumbai stories. Yes, I’m in a bad mood. No, I’m not over-reacting.

It’s been six and a half years since I first stepped into this city, where I started with staying in a dilapidated PG, sharing a room with two other girls, paying a rent of 6k. Because that’s all I could afford. And that’s all I thought I needed. And life was good, for quite some time, until of course the ceiling collapsed in one room, and the ceiling fan in another. Then someone tried to break in through the window at another point of time, but that’s another story.

Salaries go up and so do basic needs. And then the wants. I have by now stayed in 6 different houses in Mumbai, for different durations of time, and been house-hunting for around half of those times.

And house-hunting in Mumbai is a surreal experience. Actually, yeah, that’s exactly the word, surreal.

From creepy brokers who spend more time checking you out than your requirement, to houses that are so horrifying that you wonder how people actually live there… from kitchens that would ensure that I don’t even enter them once (from the 3-4 times a year I might right now)… to washrooms where you literally bathe on top of the pot… from owners who think it’s perfectly normal to demand your life’s savings as deposit, and a pound of flesh as rent…. To brokers who you’re not completely sure might just have underworld linkages.

To the dream house, that seems just beyond your reach, that you start considering selling your soul for that comfortable bed and clean living.

And then everyone has an opinion.
People who have never searched for houses.
People living comfortably with their parents.
People so far from reality.

And first you laugh.
Then it starts creeping up on you.
The horrendous truth of it all.
Of how this might be the city of dreams.
But dreams remain just that.
Because while you chase your dream, you sell away parts of your life that would be basic requirements for sanity anywhere else.

And you wonder.
How you got yourself into this vicious cycle of un-pleasantry.
Where wholehearted happiness is always
Just a bit too far.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Of Growing Up and Ageing

I stood in the loud darkness outside my office, willing A to reach a little faster, all the while feeling the dull choke of cigarette smoke from all the meandering chimneys standing nearby. As luck would have it, all traffic jams of the world seem to occur outside my office compound, which always results in a spiralling boring wait on the road.

And just like that, yesterday, a guy asked me for directions.
Which I gave.
And then he introduced himself.
And then he made more small talk.
Small talk that seemed to be heading towards not-so-small directions.
It gets difficult to keep giving monosyllabic answers beyond a point.
So instead I picked up my phone and called A instead, and proceeded to talk to him for the next 5 minutes till he arrived.
Not that there was anything even mildly threatening about the guy.
Or weird.
Or shady.
Maybe he was just bored.
But I think more than anything else, he took me by surprise.
I can’t remember the last time a guy randomly tried to talk to me.

I think somewhere along the years flying by, time went from crazy evenings at pubs, meeting new people, flirting and enjoying yourself, to a tame life revolving around excel sheets, Uber rides home, and worrying about the maid’s tantrums.

Time went from being one of the few girls in an all guy’s team, to being yet another married girl hiding behind her cubicle.
Time went from a lot of attention, to startling randomly scattered experiences.
Time went from perfect skin to spots and the first signs of wrinkles.

But as narcissistic as this whole post has sounded, I don’t miss it one tiny bit.

Because after the excel sheet, and the Uber ride, I finally reach home, cranky as hell…but knowing there’s a cushiony diwan, a puffed up comforter, a laptop set up to watch the latest season of Black Mirror, and A to snuggle up to.

And life is, as it should be, when it should be.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Of Mumbai Rickshaws and a Few Good Men

My rather rocky relationship with Mumbai rickshaws goes back six years, ever since I stepped into Andheri West and realized that while Mumbai ricks are so much more economical than their Delhi counterparts, they are also that much harder to catch.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the disgusted looks they give when you mention your destination (Like…eewww…who goes to Oshiwara?!), the way they don’t even bother stopping while you try to flag them down, or how they’re suddenly more precious and rarer than diamonds when it rains. And it rains a lot in this city!

In fact, I’ve faced more rejection by Mumbai rickshaw-wallas than men and employers put together in my life.

And they taught me how to abuse in Hindi. Like, not actually taught me, but that’s what comes out when they refuse to take you where you want to go after an hour of being stuck on the road looking for them.

So last night, I was standing on the highway at a spot where usually it’s not that difficult to spot an empty rick, but thanks to the torrential rain they were nowhere to be seen. And slowly more and more people started crowding up looking for that knight in yellow-and-green armour, who when he would slowly roll by without stopping, would get his pick of destinations to go to.

And then, miraculously, I managed to flag one down, but the idiot in Schumacher mode, only managed to stop in front of another guy standing much further down the road. And the guy was about to get in, but then probably saw a desperate me huffing puffing down the wet road towards him, and offered the rick to me instead.

Now this might be the way it should have been, and this might be the city with amazing people, but I’ve barely ever witnessed either in my years here.

And so, I was shocked, not even just pleasantly surprised.

And so I decided to shock myself, and share the rick with him.

This might not sound like a big deal, but for any girl born and brought up in Delhi, offering to share your cab / rick with an unknown stranger at night is like going against the first rule of how to stay safe in this world.

But for once, I decided to repay his niceness with gratitude.

I did however barely talk to him throughout, or share my name or any details about me. Old habits die hard.

But I did turn the rick and take it into a galli out of my way to drop him at his friend’s house.

I did smile when he parted with an apple for a little beggar girl (the same one who loves fleecing people at Juhu circle every day) from the packet of apples he got from Kashmir for his friend.

And I did feel better after the ride, even if it meant I reached home a little late.

It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to think twice before doing something that should come as basic human nature to us. It’s sad that we’re all so hardened and cynical that any niceness offered is met with skepticism.

And it’s sad, that all that cynicism, is necessary.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Of Vacations and the Revenge of the Chicken

After months of what seemed like the biggest planning project I had ever taken on in my life, August finally happened, and with it our much anticipated Europe trip. Well our two-countries-in-Europe trip, but neither of us had been that direction before, so we were super excited.

Firstly, if you know nothing about Europe, it takes a LOT of time to get your itinerary and bookings right. Specially if you’re not doing the usual Thomas Cook type tours with the typical cities and touristy places to see. We did do those as well, because as Indians apparently a vacation isn’t really justified till you’ve taken a pic in front of a monument, but managed to throw in a lot of unconventional stuff, which we obviously ended up loving way more!

I don’t intend to bore anyone with the details, but if I think back about the trip now, some points do pop up in my head:

  • The best of the airlines can have the worst of service when you’re in a foreign country. One of our suitcases was misplaced en-route to Rome, and we went through all sorts of translation and unhelpful hell to manage to get it back before we moved onto the next city. I think both A and I almost cried with joy at the first view of our boring grey Samsonite. Never underestimate the happiness of seeing your own shampoo!
  • Rome is amazingly grand with its history. The Colosseum itself is enough to make you go Whoaaa when you first enter it. That said, it’s so much like India in terms of the people (both the warm and the crook types), the disregard for how difficult it is to get from one place to the next, and somewhere the resistance to a foreign language, it was uncannily comfortable.
  • I finally wore a bikini and swam in the clear blue sea, spending a day at the beach doing absolutely nothing at all. And that, I think, is my most cherished memory from this trip. Not the bikini bit, but just the fact that it’s okay to just stare at the sea and do nothing else. Not have places to be at, photos to take.
  • I think India is more prone to body shaming than a lot of the western world. Sure, there’s New York and California (and I’m sure a lot of other places which I have never been to) where everyone’s expected to look like a model or feel horrible about themselves… But it was so refreshing to see people of all ages and body shapes roaming around Europe wearing whatever they wanted, and no one cared! It was liberating, and inspiring, to say the least.
  • Switzerland is beyond beautiful. But more than that, it’s also full of extremely happy and helpful people. And they seem to have thought of every trouble a human being might face reaching their tourist sites, and have come up with a solution to that. Their trains, buses, as well as their highest peaks are disabled friendly. I can’t even think of getting onto a local train with a leg injury in Mumbai!
  • Indians are everywhere. And more often than not, their touristy behaviour is rude and embarrassing.
  • We met more than our share of extremely helpful people, especially in Switzerland. People who randomly stopped on the road simply because we were looking lost and gave us directions without being asked. People who spent half an hour helping us plan our day. And I will never ever get used to people stopping their cars in peak traffic hours just to let you cross the road. And in which other country could you forget your jacket in a train, have an attendant call up every station that train must’ve stopped at until it was identified, and have a ticket collector load it onto the next train back towards you?

The trip was amazing. Travel may be the in-thing and privilege of the newly stuck up bourgeoisie, but there is a reason travel is beautiful. It makes you realize how tiny your world really is. And makes you never want to go back.

Oh wait. That kind of means travel sucks.

Because I absolutely hate my life now.

Oh, and I somehow managed to catch chicken pox at the end of the trip, which I only realized two days later in Mumbai.

I’m that case study of the 29 year old who catches European chicken pox. I can almost hear the evil laugh of all the chicken ghosts haunting me.

Yup, now I sound more like me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sexism and the Workplace

No, this has nothing to do with the Happiness Project, but everything to do with an article I had read quite some time back. An article that created a thousand thoughts and retorts in my head, but me being the lazy person that I am, I never really got down to actually putting them on paper (or to be more precise, MS Word).

And perhaps that’s for the best. It’s a sensitive topic, and writing about work is something I usually prefer steering clear of on my blog, if for no other reason, to at least not get fired for my words.

But this is something that really should be written about.

So when the article went viral recently, it saw a lot of friends and acquaintances jumping in and talking about how much they agreed with it. It’s the story of a girl in the advertising industry, and the insane amount of sexual discrimination she faced in her career. Let me at the outset be clear, I have not worked in the advertising industry, and if this is industry specific, I would not be aware of it. But at the same time, what she faced seemed so extreme, my first reaction was, what if she really is a horrible person to work with, and hence lost all those jobs and opportunities?

But then I wondered, what IF she was right? What IF she really did face that level of discrimination? What a horrible experience to have at work, over and over and over again. What if others are going through that as well?

At this moment, I have to say I’ve been lucky to have worked in organizations and teams where at least knowingly I have never faced discrimination of the kind mentioned by the writer. I haven’t been skipped for promotions because there was a guy in my team who got it instead. Nor have I been told that I am difficult to work with (yet). In fact, some of my bosses I’m pretty sure didn’t even realize I was a girl so to say, and for that I absolutely love them.

But that doesn’t mean the workplaces have been completely free of sexism.

Nobody knowingly has ever discriminated against me, I think.

And that’s the biggest issue. Everything is done without knowledge, without a thought… Things that are so harmless that they shouldn’t matter, and yet, added up over the years, they do.

As my luck would have it, I have always worked in roles where my team has majorly been made up of men, with women as a far minority, because somehow you just don’t have as many women who deal with numbers and excel. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how it seems to be. And it’s made no difference in my head. But over the years I’ve heard a lot of things.

I was jokingly told by a colleague that I shouldn’t expect a promotion in the team that I joined, since only girls with moustaches do well there.

I was jokingly told by a senior, how a pretty girl in the team manages to get all her work done quickly by our client, and I should try her methods as well.

A client, a senior head of department would watsapp me good morning every day on the pretext of getting an update on the project. Weirdly, my male colleague was asked for no such good morning updates.

Another client inferred that his colleagues were asking him to extend the project I was working on, so I stick around longer.

I’ve been reprimanded by a female colleague for wearing a dress (one which fell below my knee, mind you) in an organization where there were only seven women, as against a hundred men. Because, well, how can you dress like that in a place with dominated by men (Like, whaaaa???)?

And then there are the super subtle harmless ones. Harmless, but annoying. Ones that you can avoid so easily.

Don’t hire me because I’m a girl, and you need a better gender ratio in your team. Hire me because I was the best suited for the job.

Don’t assume I’ll order food for the team lunch, or decide where to dine just because I’m a girl. Ask me to do that because you like my choice in food.

If your values forbid you from abusing in front of women, then don’t. Don’t abuse and then apologize because I’m in the room. Whether or not I have an issue with expletives becomes irrelevant at that point. It just makes things awkward.

Don’t ask me leave office early because I’m a girl and it’s getting dark. How about you don’t work that late? Don’t make me miss out on important meetings that the men can attend, and women aren’t able to.

If I am not asking for special concessions because I have a meal to prepare / clothes to wash / housework to do / kids to get home to, then, don’t ask me to do anything at the workplace specifically because you think girls can do it better. Like, why should a girl present a bouquet to a guest speaker at the office? Like, really?

Work place behaviour is so complex, I find myself contradicting my own thoughts very often. I consider myself a feminist, and yet so many practicalities get in the way. Some people call it wanting the best of both the worlds, but this world isn’t perfect, and as much as I want to be equal to the men, I find I want some considerations. I don’t want to travel back home alone post 11pm. I do want my preferences and comfort levels to be taken into account when planning team outings. And if tomorrow, in the middle of a lot of work pressure, I was asked to choose between hiring a girl about to start a family (with promises of a maternity leave and a lot of shorter office days ahead), and a guy with the same experience, but maybe marginally weaker, I can’t honestly say who I’ll give the job to. And for that, I hate myself, and the current work environment, and pray that I never have to make that choice.

But people do make that choice, every day. And I don’t see that choice changing, unless we see a major overhaul of the entire work culture in this country. And maybe some things can’t be helped.

But these silly unknowing tiny sexist choices can.

Because really, what’s our excuse for that?

P.S. One of my biggest fears in life is that one day, when I’m leading a team, I’ll be labelled as a stereotypical bitchy female boss. Isn’t it weird that that should be my fear at the workplace? Not if I’ll be able to manage the job, but whether my juniors will dislike working with me because I’m a female boss, and most female bosses are absolute bitches? If they’ll comment on how it’s that time of the month for me, always? It’s funny how we never make that comment about cranky male bosses, no?

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