Category Archives: Flash back

>Li’l things you do for me and nobody else…

>Are you enjoying the latest Vodafone commercials as much as I am? The one with the school girls?

It takes me back instantly to my school days – those years spent in powder blue skirts and blouses (and bloomers too, on days you followed the rules), plaited hair with matching ribbons to tie on the ends. Or hairbands and knee-length socks, shiny black shoes. Or white canvas keds for PT days, whitened using the school chalk generously. The years spent with girl friends.

Yes, I studied all my life in an all-girls school, and however uncool it may sound, they were so much fun. So there’s always this comparison about how all-girls or all-boys schools are so boring, so stereotyped. And that the kids studying there come out all wide-eyed about being in the company of the opposite sex. Not true, I say.

I spent 14 years in all-girls schools and three more in an all-girls college and I never missed the boys! It wasn’t a conscious decision, you know, to maintain a distance from the boys, but that’s how things panned out for me. And out of the school and college campuses, it wasn’t as if I didn’t not know how to handle male attention when it came my way. And I did not end up doing things to attract it. I have friends who’ve studied in co-educations schools, and I don’t think they’re any different than me. We’re only as different as two individuals can be. So I don’t understand this differentiation between co-ed and all-girls schools. I understand the differentiation between a good and bad school.

For the record, I am not againt co-education. I think it’s very healthy, etc. But I also don’t think that studying with girls decapacitated me in any way. On the contrary, I think being in a gender neutral environment helped, at least me, to look at myself for the person I was, and not the girl that a boy would see in me. And there are so many things I remember fondly about being in the environment that I was. There’s such comfort in not dying in embarrassment if you have a stain on your skirt in school, or you haven’t waxed your legs to roll down your socks, or having a cat fight without any gender stereotyping! And then there’s no shame in being a bright student, of being labelled a ‘padakhu’, of being a straight-As student. Those rather ‘uncool’ things are considered aspirational in an all-girls school.

No, I’m not oblivious to the joys of studying with boys. The Guy studied in a co-education school and I can rattle off all his school memories as well as him, because I’ve heard ’em discussed a zillion times between friends. And I know, they had a ball! They were fun and flirty years. And I’d be lying if I said I feel just a tad jealous. But in all fairness, my school years may not have been high on those same parameters, but they still had a sweetness. Like the sweetness of pine trees in the woods – subtle but unforgettable.

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>The Year That Was

>It’s that time of the year again when a re-cap of all things that have been is expected and accepted. And who am I to break conventions, especially ones that I enjoy? Ever since I started blogging, I’ve had an year-ender post up on my blog every year end. And I do it not so much for others as for myself – to remember things that are worth remembering and to remember that even the worst things are forgotten when you think back.

2009 has been a year of so many things for me – of growing up, most importantly. (Yeah, finally, that too must be done) But there are so many more interesting labels I can give this year.

For one, it’s been the Year of the Traveller in Me. I travelled a fair bit last year. From a week in Goa in Feb, a blink-and-you-miss-it but thoroughly enjoyable trip in March to Mumbai where I was invited to be part of a wedding with Amitabh Bachchan among other celebs! A weekend in Banaras where I blew up more money shopping for irresistible hand-woven cottons and silks than I spend on Goa and Mumbai holidays combined! In June, Nainital beckoned us – six crazy couples out for a crazy holiday in the hills. In July I took a road trip to Agra and Vrindavan with my parents – a half religious, half luxury trip! The Independence Day weekend in August was spent in a palace hotel in Jaipur. And in December, I was off to Delhi for my annual shopping holiday! But I’m not tired yet. Give me more, I say!

It’s also been the Year of Photography for me. I got my first SLR camera in April and since then I’ve clicked thousands of pics. In a place like Nainital, where Lucknow folks travel to almost every year, I clicked some 500 photos! I became the official photographer at friends’ parties! So much so that people expect to see me with my camera almost always. In the last year, I’ve come to be associated with my camera. And I love it.

It’s been the Year of Odd Writing Jobs. I miss writing. And I miss being in the media industry full time. 2009 has been a year of moving beyond that realisation and doing something about it. I refused two very tempting offers at the beginning of the year, one of them of editorship of a very well-known paper outside the city. But I went on to do writing assignments I had never done before. From freelancing for a newspaper to writing customised matter for invitation cards, working for an NGO and dabbling in academic writing for websites – I’ve been where I never thought I would be. And let me admit, I did some things just for the money.

2009 has been the Year of Vanity in small measures. It started with our trip to our ancestral home in Behraich in January with close friends which, being as much fun as it was in such an unconventional place and in such unconventional ways, piqued everyone’s interest in us. My birthday celebration, also being so out of the box, put me on the social map of the city without my trying to be there. And what else would I credit a year with that has brought me the tag of being always well-dressed? Oh yeah, please let me bask in some effortless glory but let me also add that I’m not going to ever chase it.

But if anything at all, this year has been a Year of the Highest Highs and the Lowest Lows. I started the year with a big bang: I was raring to go, ready to soak in all the experiences life would throw at me. I had resolved to test new waters this year – do the new in small, irrelevant ways. And I succeeded at that. I was riding high on this wave of sensory and spiritual experimentation when I undertook all my journeys. I was constantly trying to come up with new ways to make life more fun. And then I hit rock bottom: the lowest of the lows I’ve experienced in all of my life. Professionally, financially, emotionally, I had never felt so hopeless before. But the year end feels like life has a come a full circle: I’m back to where I started – my spirits buoyant, my hopes high and I’m ready to take whatever comes my way in the new year.

And on that note, let me wish all of you a very Happy 2010! Here’s to many more years of blogging – Cheers! See you next year.

>Memories make a place special

>The childhood home
That favourite corner where I crouched in every game of hide and seek.
The cement and alabaster roof that burnt under our feet as we played hop scotch.
That tiny space under the staircase from where I dug out precious treasures flung away by the family.
The aangan where I squatted to suck a juicy mango as a three-year-old.
Nani’s room with Nana’s perfume and talcum powder on the dressing table.
The store room with the chest of drawers with Nani’s toiletries.
The warm sun of a winter afternoon on the garden where we sullied our hands with wet clay.
The balustrade along the staircase which doubled up as my slide.
The window sill in Baba’s room where I sat pretending to read a book before I could read the English alphabet.
The dining room of discussions.

The school where I spend 12 formative years of my life
That tree in the school with its gnarled roots where we sat in to share lunch with friends.
The cool corridors where we lined up, giggled and fell out of line.
The amla tree whose fruit was forbidden by the school mali.
The teak wood benched – polished smooth – on which we bent and prayed in the chapel.
The pink parlour for four-year-olds with a pink tea set that we fought over.
The rotten smell of fish in the Biology lab, the caustic smell of chemicals in the Chemistry Lab.
The comfortable infirmary bed to rest on, on days of stomach cramps.
The water cooler conversations, back-stage bickering.
The dust on the black school shoes as we shuffled out the school gate.
The classroom opposite the canteen where the smell of fresh aloo tikkis wafted in before break time.

Pachpan khambey, lal deewarein of the college years.
The college café and the penny pinching.
Idling away warm winter afternoons in the lush green front lawns.
The warm smiles shared with the spastic boy at the college PCO.
The photocopier boy – expressionless, indispensable – outside the library.
The auditorium packed for a talk by Rajdeep Sardesai.
The gazebo in which the teacher’s voice drifted away into nothingness.
The TV room in the hostel in which we ooh-ed and aah-ed over Hrithik Roshan.
The bathroom that was used always with the door unbolted!
The balcony in which we spend long evening and longer nights when the power snapped.
The room in which we learnt to sleep with lights on because the roomies wanted to study.

The places where we wrote our love story
The walls that I tempted him to cross to come meet me and which he never did.
The roads on which we went for long drives.
The dinner at Hyatt to which I wore the skirt borrowed from a friend.
The pizza place for heart-shaped pizzas and an instant photograph on Valentine’s Day.
The PCO across the college where I could ask him to call me back.
The cyber café that charged thirty rupees for half an hour as I wrote love letters on Hotmail.
The friend’s place where he would drop me off after each date.
The coffee places which smelt of cocoa beans and love.
The Swatch kiosk at the mall from where he bought me a watch
The topmost closet in my room where I hid his cards and gifts.

What places are special for the memories they bring back to you?

PIMPING THIS: If you have time, hop over to my other blog where I’m going to be featuring my photos every Wednesday as part of the ABC Wednesdays. Go, show me some love!

>And words are all I have…

>For somebody on the precipice of 30, I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what my calling in life is. Or perhaps I do.

I started my career when I was 22 as a lifestyle journalist. My name became a staple in the most widely-read English newspaper daily of the city. I wrote happily about social trends, celebrity interviews, off-beat events. I took dakka after dakka (the gifts that journos get at press conferences) with embarrassment and stuck a ‘Press’ sticker on my car. I spent hour after hour calling up elusive celebrities trying to get a quote for my stories and hated it. I battled writer’s blocks to meet my weekly stories-filed target. I racked my brain during ideation meetings. I clocked extra hours into work uncomplainingly.

I edited – threw out the words and phrases that offended English grammar and replaced them with my own that fit the eccentric rules of the language. I gave “catchy” headlines, played on puns, twisted and turned the words in my head to come up with headlines that met the demand of the “young” product that I was working for.

I made pages – the ones that you see ultimately see in the morning papers. Added colour here, pictures there. Visuals here, word play there. I discussed, often debated, with my editor what stories would be carried on the top fold, what would go under. What story needed to be scrapped because it couldn’t hold its own. What reporter needed to be rapped for copy-pasting from the internet. I met deadlines. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking if I had let the overflow of words from that article in the right column of the page go to print as it is. I stressed over having misspelt a word in the introduction, of putting a wrong picture caption, of not giving photo credit where it was due.

That was my job.
I earned peanuts. I got promoted. I got new enemies. I got passionate about what I was doing.

And then I left it all. Because they came in the way of me and my work. Because I wasn’t there for money and the satisfaction of a four-year old job was being snatched away by an idiot, politicking boss. Because I couldn’t wait to be 40 to be where I should have been!

I left it all to become an entrepreneur with my husband.

It’s good to be the boss, but what of my words? Where do I take them now?

I bring them here, on my blog. But without the byline that shone atop every newspaper article I wrote. I bring them here without the promise of having them read by thousands of pairs of eyes that pick up the newspaper everyday. I bring them here, but I leave behind the ones that do not find a place here.

I cringe each time a friend or family member tells me I made the wrong choice, that I belonged there. That that was where they expected me to rise. That what I am doing now may be great but it does not match up to what I was doing then. That the place I vacated is still unoccupied.

And it breaks my heart to know they may be right.

>And other reasons why I think I must be growing old.

>Or just older. I’m still not on the other side of 30 yet but once you’ve crossed 25 and you’re inching towards that figure, you can sense the subtle changes in and around you. The worldview begins to alter, at first subtly so that you can take it in calmly, and then it comes like a sock in the face, throwing you totally off-balance.

Right now, I think I’m in the middle of those two stages. I still feel young, but so much older than last year: there seem to be more than 12 months that have passed in this last year.

This time last year, we – The Guy and I – were so busy socialising with friends and friends of friends and their friends. But in the last 12 months or so, we’ve unconsciously sorted and sifted from our long list of acquaintances people whom we really care to be with, people whom we can look forward to meeting without thinking of what we should wear. The others have gradually disappeared from our lives without so much as our realising it. Now, it’s more about hanging out with our bunch of friends, having effortless conversations, enjoying the comfortable silence between us or even being reprimanded for getting too drunk! We’re this really social couple, but we don’t care any longer about making new friends. There’s just no time or energy for it now – this long-drawn process of initiating conversations, finding common ground and finally bonding. After a hard day’s work, you want to be with people who know you like white wine better than red or Carlsberg better than Kingfisher.

And the conversations are slowly veering towards investments and children. And diapers, schools, ayahs and child-rearing in general. I don’t even remember what my friends with children used to talk about before they became mums and dads! The Guy and I have no notes to share with them, but we’re still part of those conversations that make us feel like we’re old enough to be parents. When did we stop being young and just-married, footloose and fancy free? When did we start thinking about insurance policies, mutual funds and PPF accounts?

Must have happened around the same time that we started referring to college students as “kids”! In the last week, I’ve attended two parties where the average age of guests was about 20 years. At one of the parties, there was a really cute boy totally checking me out. And I could only look at him and think what a kid he is! It felt horrible to not feel my nerves tingle just a little bit under his glare. It felt horrible that I just didn’t care that he was staring at me so unabashedly and all I could give him back was a patronising look of ‘you-don’t-know-how-much-older-I-am-than-I-look’. Their music is different, their moves are different. And there is a freshness on their face, a sparkle in their eyes that makes me feel old. My exuberance for life seems lacklustre before theirs probably because I’ve seen enough of life to stop dreaming with my eyes open! Remember what I said about growing old, because I no longer can believe in my dreams? It’s true, I think, even when I’m not feeling low.

There are so many other things that no longer seem the same: the clothes I pick up, the shoes I wear, the junk jewellery I can no longer get myself to wear, the funky stuff I still love but relate only to college days… The mellowing down, dispensing advice, speaking from experience – it all reeks of a slow process of aging. It’s the same process that forces you to opt for facials more often, to check your calorie count more carefully and wear the kohl in your eyes a little thinner. It’s more than just in the mind, I say. And you?

>A brother-less post for Raksha Bandhan

>Does it matter that I do not have a brother? I’m forced to think after watching the deluge of Raksha Bandhan ads on TV, after seeing the markets flooded with rakhis of different shapes and sizes – pretty, ugly, attractive – all kinds, after hearing friends tell me of their endless plans for today. But I can’t miss what I’ve never known – this excitement, this euphoria of having a brother whom you fight with all through your life and still bond with. I have a sibling, albeit a girl, whom I can do all that with. Does that not suffice?

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’ll expound on how my early life was spent in the company of women of all ages. There was my grandmother, ma, badi ma, badi ma’s two daughters, my sister and I. The men, except for the ones who were my father’s age, were conspicuous by their absence in my family: there was dad and bade papa, and a cousin from another uncle who lived with us. You get the girl-boy ratio in the family? Even among the cousins, the boys were few and far between and existed, for me, only on the fringes of my existence. On my maternal side too, the genes were tipped in favour of pretty girls. The boys were royally ignored in girlie games and talks during the growing-up years, accommodated with great effort in whatever little way possible.

Thanks to our (our = me and my siblings) education in all-girls schools, there was a distinct dearth of friends-turned-rakhi brothers too in our family. And even when we did have friends who were boys, there continued to be a dearth of friends-turned-rakhi brothers. There simply wasn’t any room for them.

And life was still fun.

Except for on those occasions when we needed a boy/man – whatever to chaperone on us to late-night parties and because there was none, we had to forego those parties for a long time. I was so desperate at one time in my teens for a brother who would quell the fears of two girls’ parents, that I ended up making some unreasonable demands on my mother: I wanted a brother, an elder brother. My mother wasn’t interested in listening to more reasonable demands either that I could have made but never did – simply of a brother.

Those were rare moments when I wished for a brother. Most of the other time we spent defying this boy-obsessed society, revelling in the fact that we didn’t need a brother/son. When my sister and I would accompany mum to those stores she’d been shopping at since she was a child, the lalaji behind the counters would look at the three of us sympathetically and ask for the umpteenth time about “no baba?” I hated those lalajis, my mom matured enough to know they were best ignored.

But every Raksha Bandhan, I look on half-dazedly at the scores of brothers and sisters celebrate this festival. And I look around too to find myself a boy who’d be worthy enough to be my rakhi brother. But I haven’t managed to convince myself yet that I need a brother. Can you?

>My Girls

>

Just read this post by MM. And got thinking about my own girlfriends – girls I love to hang out with, girls whom I can fall back on, girls with whom I can be me.

I’m not “best friends” with too many people. And I’ve always thought there’s something about me that stops people I consider good friends from reciprocating the same emotion for me. I haven’t exactly been the confidante of many people, the girl who friends turn to for help. I really would like to be, have always wanted to be. It hurts to love a friend, seek her company and not have that emotion reciprocated. But that’s not going to stop me from counting the many friends I’ve shared good times with: girls whom I haven’t met in years and yet we can pick up the phone and talk to each other like we were together just yesterday. Shilpika‘s one of them. She’s a tough girl, seen tough times and come out a winner. In school, she was totally missable. But as a friend, she could read your mind like the pensieve. Even before I knew I was in love with The Guy, she did! It was amazing how she predicted even whileI was in denial mode, that we two would end up together. She can see my follies and will ignore them when she can, but will be honest when she gets a chance, scold me, even badger me when the time’s right.

And there’s Vintee: so lovable, so adorable, I could live with her forever. I know that because we stayed in the same PG when in college and it was great fun. She’d take care of me when I was ill like my mother wouldn’t. And let me be weird and wacko without a guilt! We’ve spent countless nights playing silly games when we should have been studying, shared umpteen packets of Maggie and known days when we’d walk from LSR to GK M-Block to save ten rupees on the auto! We’ve come a long way from there and love splurging on each other now.

There’ve been friends at work – we were a whole team of girls, except for the editor – and after sparring and bitching, we bonded like best friends should. Times change, people move on, but with some people you never want things to change. And that’s how I feel for Smita and Anjali – two very different people, very precious to me, girls I love to hang out with, girls I respect for who they are. They will laugh at my shoe fetish and read my blog when they can but never leave a comment! We share little in common, except that something that you can’t put your finger on. Or maybe we can – just how blindly we’ve been in love with one person around us 😉

And then there are my sisters – Nidhi didi, Ruchi, Shachi: my pillars of strength, people I love so, so, so, so, much I can overlook any wrong they do. The fact though is, that they’re overlooking all wrong I do, all the time. I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life just talking to them and I could spent a huge chunk of my future doing that, except that they’re now too busy bringing up their kids. I know I can count on them any time, anywhere. We’re sisters, friends and more. And what I am is so much because of what they are. They’re my girls!

There are girls with whom I’m still forging relationships. They’re special but our friendship still has to face the test of time. And I know we’ll pass.