Saturday, 22 April 2017

Two Good Deeds

It’s not a good week when you hit your car on a pillar in the parking lot. It gets worse when you see the total amount you need to pay to get the repairs done. Just when you’re thinking, this is it, can’t get worse than this, you stumble on the street and your sandals just fall apart. And you make a dash for the nearest shoe shop, barefoot, and drop your phone on the street.

No, that’s not my idea of good.

But it could have been worse—that’s what everyone tells me.

Two young boys, teenagers, saw me drop my phone and run (I was barefoot!). They chased me on the street and returned it. I was dumbfounded.  

I went into the Bata store, with dirty feet, and no one thought it was weird that a girl was running inside without any shoes—may be it happens often. The salesman helped me pick a few pairs, but I confessed that my feet were dirty. He smiled politely and told me it was okay; I could try them on.

I bought two pairs in less than 10 minutes.

A lot of times, I don’t remember such gestures; it is easier to focus on what’s not, than what is. If anything, I wouldn’t have been surprised had the salesman turned me away, or had my phone been lost. It’s what I honestly expect from people. That realisation came with a bit of shame. So cynical, painting everyone with the same black colour. What a waste of a brain to judge people so harshly.

As inconsequential as this may seem after a day or two, I needed these two good deeds to remind me, it’s not all that bad. 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Musings After Hours

I holidayed with a friend in NYC. I had the best time singing at an empty bar in the Maldives. And the JLo concert was a strike off my bucket list (attend a concert). In Spain, I walked the streets at 1.30 am, completely lost, with no Google maps or Internet, trying to find my way back to my hotel. In Nagpur, I was on a 77-year-old plane that served during the World War 2.
All this just in the last couple of weeks.

It’s 2.11am and I should be sleeping, or doing something more productive with my sleeplessness like finishing my stories, reading, or continuing a previously abandoned course. But here I am, thinking about my job, my luck, my travels.

You can’t take these things for granted; you just can’t. It’s a luxury to even travel, but to actually have such experiences is beyond my dreams—and I do dream a lot.

I may whine about the hectic schedules or the stress, but there is just no way I would trade this for a regular job.

Not at least till I finish my long, long bucket list. First thing on it: GO TO THE UK IF THEY GIVE ME THE FREAKING VISA!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Can’t Put A Label On Me

It’s an old habit to write something for myself around the New Year’s. And I’m a stickler for routine. (Turn off the car, take the key out, lock the wheel. Interrupt me between these steps and I’ll lose my momentum and lock the keys inside the car.)

But this isn’t a flashback of the year that was. I am just procrastinating. What better way to do it than a little scribble, a little doodle?

This is something that I have been thinking about lately—definitions. Everyone is put in a mason jar with a label. Introvert. Extrovert. Plain Jane. Miss Goody Two-Shoes. Smartypants. Rebel. So, I’m trying to find my ‘THIS IS YOU.’

I love butter chicken. On a pizza, it’s even better. I watch Bigg Boss, Roadies, and the likes, and on my bedside are Harry Potter and Vanity Fair right now. I dance to the tunes of The Chainsmokers and hum Arijit’s songs. I am loud, but I almost never swear consciously. A non-vegetarian who feels too guilty if she eats anything other than chicken and eggs. A teetotaller fascinated with different types of liquor. Always dancing in my car; always making excuses to not to go to a party.

It takes me 15 minutes to wear my lenses. I am a nervous nail biter (hence I painstakingly do nail art to keep myself from ruining my perfectly tiny nails). A little noise in my head makes me insane about hygiene and I, in turn, drive people around me nuts. (Don’t touch my food without washing your hands. Don’t leave half a cookie in the packet. If it came out of that drawer, it’s probably not clean.) But there is always a stack of clothes on my bed and very little space on the bedside table to keep the phone.

So how would I define me? Crazy is one. I’ve been called a geek, a nerd, a sociopath. Judgemental. Feminist. Uptight. Mean. Funny. Sweet. Kind. Guarded.

It’s difficult. I can’t describe anyone in my life in a phrase, let alone a word. Everyone is a whole chapter at least. Me? I can write a book on myself.

This is my takeaway from 2016: You can’t put a label on me.

Welcome 2017. Hope you bring more wisdom, more travels, more money to travel.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Counting Miles in Milestone

I’m turning 25 this year. In a very dramatic tone, a usual for me, I pointed out to mom this evening that one quarter of my life is over. She rolled her eyes, a usual for her, and told me in her mommy voice, “Teri life mein shanti nahi hai,” and I had the perfect, Bollywood answer to her quip: meri life mein shanti marne ke baad hogi.

Milestone birthdays weren’t ever my thing—I did nothing special on my 18th and absolutely nothing on my 21st. And I have just one reason to do things differently this year:

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

If there were a yearbook in my high school, beneath my photo would be these words: To make a difference. Now I am not sure if I have done that, or if I’ll ever be able to, but I do like to believe that what I do, matters. Who I am, matters. So of course, I want to celebrate the first 25 years of my life. Go away for a week and come back more sensible, more level-headed.  

I mentioned this idea to a friend who reminded me I do this every year around my birthday, and every few months in between. I do! It uplifts my mood to check flights, find out prices and decide random dates, and random places. And although it never maps out, it gives me hope. And like every time, I am dreaming of it again. A new place, a new way to celebrate a real milestone; open my arms, and I may catch another postcard memory.

This stuff is what I live for.   

Monday, 2 May 2016

I am Murphy’s Law

 They call me jinx at work. Anything that can go wrong with my travels, we are all sure it will.

Here’s the backdrop of my travel mishaps: I started working for Travel + Leisure seven months ago (officially), and a lot of travel assignments came my way. And one after the other, they kept getting cancelled for a variety of reasons that I’d rather not say. So after a string of heartbreaks, I finally flew out for my big international trip with a photographer and everyone thought that the jinx was broken. If only it were that easy.

Johannesburg is known for its crime—we were warned. I wasn’t worried though. I was travelling with a photographer who was anxious enough for both of us. This may be the reason that he didn’t let the gentleman at the airport help him with our luggage trolley. The gentleman, who we thought was a porter, showed us the way to the domestic airport and we hurried to catch our next flight. To thank him, we turned around and bam! Our nice gentleman was being handcuffed by the cops. So close.

Instance two: A day before I was supposed to leave for Switzerland, Jatts decided to protest in Rohtak. Gradually, it progressed to Gurgaon and our office declared a holiday. Amidst cheers and woohoos, my reaction didn’t go unnoticed, “Nooooo!!!” I had to take cash advance for the trip that day but I couldn't. Something had to happen, however small.  

Almost a year after the devastating earthquake, Nepal was still kneeling when I visited the country last month. To say that their domestic airport doesn’t compare to ours will be an understatement. It’s more like a house, an old one that you see in Chandani Chowk, with two counters. That’s not the point here though. We went to Chitwan National Park, and the airport there is smaller than the domestic one in Kathmandu, if that’s possible. The plane is just a wee bit bigger than what kids play with, and when it flew, it swayed. But that wasn’t the problem either. The problem was that it came four hours later and I missed my next flight, to home. Mishap number three.

I won’t explain my very recent trip to Egypt more than this: I lost my luggage; we had unfortunate encounters with cops; I got terribly sick and had to take an injection. Four, five, and six.

No, my jinx isn’t broken. It follows me everywhere and strikes when I’m not looking. But here’s the good part: I bring back home incredible stories. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Who says I can't write a poem?

Coursera makes me do crazy stuff! 

I'm doing a course on poetry. For this assignment, I'm trying to use imagery to describe my phone. A terrible try, me thinks, since it's filled with abstraction. 

When I Look At You

The mirror of your face reflects what’s around.
The blackness reminds of a starless night,
Those battle wounds on your body of a soldier at war.
Dressed in dark clothes,
Even your borders are coal.
Pea-sized compared to others, but perfect for my palms,
Like a calf, and just as robust and strong.

The light on your forehead blinks purple.
The sieved speaker sings like a siren.
With a small dot in the front and a bigger one on the spine,
Buttons on the side, slots above and beyond,
You have your own identity,
You are my scratched, injured, abused phone.

Hard to live without you,
Distraction as you may be.
A friend and also a foe,
You’re a rope that sometimes binds and sometimes chokes.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Just Like You

This is a story I wrote a long time ago. I still think it's sweet.

“Life is too short to read books you don’t like.” She muttered to herself, flipping the novel shut in frustration and thumping it on her work desk that already had a mountain of untouched books piled up on one end. The book, The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes, was a Booker Prize winner but Shweta didn’t care a hoot for it. Her palms grabbed the arms of the chair and she glided it backwards to stand up. 

Her father was in the habit of bringing books for her he thought she would benefit from and Shweta didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop. On the contrary, in her effort to impress the intellectuals at home, she rummaged through their library and picked books she knew they particularly enjoyed. Sadly, Shweta’s taste was lacking. The 23-year-old English Honours graduate wanted something thrilling, something gripping, something more appealing than The Alchemist and Wings of Fire. Men in her family, however, would be disappointed if they found her buried neck-deep in a mystery by Dan Brown or immersed in the dreamy world of Jane Austen. Not that they would ever mention it to her.

Shweta was the weakling in her warrior family. Submissive, introverted, sensitive—everything her strong-willed father, headstrong mother, and fierce brother were not. Not that she wanted to be exactly like them, least of all her brother who was known to cross swords, and hands and feet, with everyone who irked him. She had been terrified of her five year elder brother, always coming back home with bruised knees after football practice and blackened eyes after fights. Even at 28, he was frequently at loggerheads with everyone, most of all their father, so what everyone said about “getting over it” had clearly not worked on him. As restless as he was, he was all the more intellectual and analytic (a jerk in loose terms. His IIT degree didn’t help). No one could fault him for having a foul temper when he always argued the right point. His one sentence explanation always came with an offhanded shrug that displeased dad very much, “They were insulting a girl!” or “I couldn’t possibly not retaliate when they pushed and shoved me.” No, she didn’t want to be like him, especially when she didn’t like raising her voice needlessly, but it would have been nice to have that talent. How empowering it would be to tell someone the truth.

Sighing, she sauntered towards her queen-size dark wood bed, and ticked off all the reasons why she should tell her father she hated his books. If nothing else, he will stop wasting his money, she assured herself with a meek finality. She ensconced herself in the bed that her mother had helped picked for her room, much like everything else. Her room was second biggest in the house—her parents had the master bedroom just opposite hers but even she had an attached bathroom and enough space to fit a dressing table, a work desk, her bed and two side tables. She had another luxury to make her room the most delightful place on the planet—her 29-inch LCD with more HD channels than she ever desired to watch. They pampered her surely and in return, she wanted to be worthy of it.

She pressed the on button on the remote control and stared into nothingness outside the window, on the right to the TV. She sank deeper until she was hidden neck down in her blanket and eventually fell into a slumber as another reason popped into her head, “They won’t be shocked when I write my own happy novel!”

Her father was sitting at the head of the dining table, reading the newspaper like every morning. His face was hidden behind the newspaper but Shweta had every wrinkle memorised. The long, world-weary face had lost its youthful charm but his brown eyes still sparkled whenever he gave one of his lopsided smiles. Jet black and thick with hair, his Tom Selleck moustache gave him a dashing look, just like the actor, while his bushy eyebrows with no arch had the opposite effect of giving the impression of being unapproachable. For the most part of her life, Shweta had been terrified of her father; it didn’t help that he felt like a giant at six feet, when she was only five foot two inches. Since his hair started thinning out a few years ago, Shweta saw traces of consciousness and vanity in him. Every few minutes, he would run his hand over his balding head, still with a hint of surprise that he was getting old.

He always had the same expression while reading the newspaper—his smile turned upside down, his eyebrows knitted together in disconcertion. He devoured one article after another about crime and corruption, growing irate every second, and mumbling about the parasites of this nation.

Fidgeting with her fingers, Shweta mentally prepped herself up and marched towards the mahogany dining table in the middle of the spacious room. “Dad, I have to ask you something,” she spoke as she stopped two feet away from him.  

Folding the newspaper neatly, he returned her gaze as he said in a throaty voice, “Come, sit with me.” He gestured towards the chair on his right as he took a sip of his unsweetened tea. His heavy voice always had a friendly touch. Never had he unjustly raised his voice on his children or wife but his controlled manner was much more terrifying that any raised words could be. 

She crossed the distance in two steps, ran her hands on her skirt as she sat down. Let’s get this over with, she chanted in her head, still fidgeting with her fingers and avoiding looking at him.

“Dad, I hate the books you gift me.” She announced loudly before she lost her nerve.

She finally raised her eyes to look at him to gauge his reaction. He blinked and asked, “What?”

“I hate the books you gift me. They are too serious for my taste but I read them because you and Bhaiya are always talking about them and I don’t want to seem unintelligent,” she reiterated, gaining more confidence with each passing word, but still not enough to look squarely in the eye. Stop twitching in your seat, she reprimanded herself just as her mother used to. 

She may have been mistaken but she heard her father take a sigh. As she gathered to courage to raise her eyes to his face, he saw his face twitching with a smirk, “Thank God! Your brother and I were so bored of these books.”

Now was her time to be staggered, “What?”

Her father’s hand returned to his hair, or lack thereof, and he admitted, “You were always reading heavy books, Greek mythology, feminist literature, Booker Prize winning books. I felt quite embarrassed buying Jeffery Archer, Agatha Christie, and Robin Cook. Your brother has been secretly reading The Game of Thrones on his phone.” She almost laughed out loud imagining her father and brother trying to impress her. The idea was confounding.

“But I don’t even like those books. Those were all my course books and I had no option but to eat them up,” she explained unable to control her animated hand gestures, for the situation seemed so bizarre.

He stared at her strangely for a few seconds and the next moment, he erupted in laughter, the sound rumbling in the room.