Saturday, December 26, 2009

Over numerous cups of coffee

Well have had the following revelations about relationships over numerous cups of bad office coffee, some good barista coffee and well just coffee, because I am not the lets talk stuff over drinks person :-) Thought it might be interesting to share this debunking of myths with people out here :-) Its probably just a continuation to being in twenties post earlier but exclusively with respect to relationships.

The space myth : Oh we have all heard that we should give our partner space. Girls are told more often than boys that they should give their guys space. Yes it is necessary to give space. But what I have seen many people I know do is take getting space to mean being able to whatever they like without any consideration of what their partner wants or feels like. So if the partner says that such and such habit of theirs is not to their liking people accuse their partners of not giving them space. Space does not mean that you encroach on the self respects and rights of you partner. You do what you like within the limits of your partner's personal space too. You give some you take some.

The commitment myth : 'But I didn't think of another guy/girl while I was with them, doesn't that show I am committed?' No it doesn't. Did you discuss the future of your relationship with them and if yes did you ensure that you included them in your vision of your future? Are you still jittery about introducing them to all your friends or keep crying for time to introduce them to family? Does your family atleast know that such aperson exists in your life even if they think its a friend? Commitment is not just marriage or being monogamous. It means that you commit to share your lives and in that case you include your partner in all aspects of your life. You can't say you are committed if a part of your life doesn't even know about the existence of your partner. Then you are devaluing your partner's importance in your life and it would also seem to them that you are not sure of the relationship and that is why you have an escape route ready by not acknowledging their existence. Don't be surprised if they out of the blue dump you. They probably tried to talk but you might have given them the I need space and time talk everytime they asked. And one can ask only so many times. Also a person I spoke to told me that they could of course not be there for the other person always coz guys have other things too apart from their love life. So what is your love life, a time pass diversion to you? And if other things are so important why don't you live with with just them other things? Why get into a relationship?

The relationships shouldn't be hard work myth : Well here is the truth. Life is difficult, so nothing in it can be easy. It seems that people take it literally when they read all those relationship self help books. If you believe them nothing in life should be hard. It should all be blissful and perfect. Well kiddo doesn't work so. You have to actively work at maintaining a relationship. If at the first conflict you abandon it saying it has to be easy then maybe you have commitment issues. Also people have the absurd expectation (probably comes from the media of which I am a guilty party) that partners have to absolutely understand them almost to the point of telepathy. And not just that partners should think exactly like them in everything. Again completely wrong. You are two different individuals and so you will think differently. You will not agree on everything, sometimes you may have to give up something, sometimes they might. Never expect the other person to do it always. Don't give them the you should love me as I am speech. Relationships mean that there will be some changes you have to make. It should not change who you are but you can't say that you won't budge an inch. If you were so happy doing only what you want without considering anyone else then you better remain single.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Water thicker than blood?

Mumbai has been reeling under 15% water cuts that were imposed at the end of monsoons. For a long time residents had been complaining about how they couldnt get water at the top floors of their apartments or how the pressure was low. Its an open secret that there exists a powerful water mafia that has links to most political parties in the city. But ironically it is these same guys who come up with protests to show their 'concern' for the common man's problems.

First the BMC's ruling Shiv Sena took up the issue, trying to distance itself from the bureaucracy and claiming that they did not support the administration's idea of increasing the water cut to 30% and the resolution was rejected. (The lake levels at the end of monsoons showed a deficiency of 25% which the administration cited as the reason for imposing further cuts). Then in classic Sena style activists went and ransacked the office of the hydraulic engineer. The BMC was renovated just a couple of years back at an enormous cost but public property is everyone's property anyway. The Sena just fresh from an assembly defeat had to do something radical to assert their existence in their only remaining bastion in Mumbai.

But if there is a ruling party action there has to be an opposite and probably more spectacular action from the opposition. So Congress leader Nitesh Rane organised a massive protest march at the BMC under the umbrella of his NGO Swabhiman. Around 1000 people gathered outside the BMC premises carrying buckets and shouting slogans. The police had already somewhat anticipated the extent of the protest and had put up barricades near the BMC. But the unruly crowd broke through some 2-3 barricades in the city. The crowd was very agitated about the fact that while they got less water the high rises and commercial establishments got more water. There were people who told us that they received water only once in two days and that too only for half an hour. There were allegations of tampering, pilferage and unattended leakages.

While the issue was genuine, if you were at the location covering the protest, you would only see a bunch of drunk men who were shouting at the top of their voices and very few with a genuine concern for the issue. Many of us female journalists had to keep away because we were getting molested by the crowd. The crowd kept pushing against the final barricade and gave the 50-60 odd policemen standing there a hard time. After about two hours of the ruckus, the police finally resorted to lathi charge. The scene changed completely. Suddenly people were seen running for their lives.

Later we were told that one person died after the lathi charge. The minute the news spilled out, I saw many channels condemning the police action. Is there no value for a life? Demand for water gets blood and many other headlines. Yes, there is a value for every life. But what do you expect the police to do after trying to control a mad mob for around 2 hours peacefully? Had the police not lathicharged these people they would have got into the BMC office and then we would have seen the headlines crying is there no law and order in this country. While no death is justified, there is no method in a mob and sometimes striking back is the only option the police have.

And its not just protest marches, the mob mentality is visible every time there is a festival. You see the same crowd of drunk men shouting recklessly and trying to molest women be it Ganpati or Shab-e-barat. And if its a festival there is an even better justification for breaking the law - religion.

So what is an ill equipped police force supposed to do when a crowd that believes itself invincible threatens the peace of the city? Just sit and worry about political retaliation and villification by certain section of the media or protecting public property? The devil or the deep sea?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The storm after the lull

Piece originally published on our company website

November 2008 was a dull month as far as news was concerned. The week starting 24th seemed especially so. I was down with a bleeding infection in my leg, so finally on the 26th I decided to take the day off. It was such a lean day that another colleague also took an off and it didn't seem to matter.

I was sleeping under the influence of medicines when a source alerted about some firing in Colaba. Oh another mafia thing this must be, I thought as I forwarded the information to office and went back to sleep.

A few minutes later another source frantically called about some blast near Mazgaon. His voice was cracking with fear. As I scrambled to get more details, I felt a fear that this was going to be something ominous. Being from a small city, till now blasts and other mishaps were things I had only seen on TV. But suddenly it seemed that I was going to be out in the middle of something like that.

I feared that this could be more ominous. I called up office, though I didn't know what assistance I could provide as I was barely able to walk. I was asked to report the next day at the crack of dawn. A feeling of desperation that I couldn't get to work because of an ailment and also some fear as to what exactly was going on, kept me awake most of the night.

There had been firing all over. Two blasts. But it wasn't until the hotels were under attack that it was clear that this was something really big.

It was the storm after the lull.

The first thing I remember about the morning of the 27th was waking up to the news of Hemant Karkare's death. It was 4 in the morning and it seemed unreal. Just a few days ago while following another story I had joked about how Karkare seemed to be cagey now and didn't answer phone calls. And he was at that time the most talked-about officer. I rushed to office and my first assignment was to gauge the mood on the streets. Were people scared or were they going about their daily business?

Mumbai seemed virtually deserted that day. Never were the major roads so empty. And I remember being the only person from Churchgate to Mahalaxmi in the ladies compartment. It was eerily empty.

For the first time, the famed resilience seemed to have crumbled. People were not just scared but completely confused about what was happening. TV sets were blaring everywhere and people glued to them like they are glued when there is an Indo-Pak match.

The same night I was sent to Nariman House. South Mumbai residential areas are generally deserted on normal nights, but this day it was scary. As I tried to locate Nariman House several locals asked me to take detours through various lanes as the bullets were flying about. The area where Nariman House is, is a maze of narrow lanes and only someone who knows the area well could have found that place out. Even residents nearby didn't know that it was an Israeli centre. Finally I took position right across the house, near a bank whose windows had been shattered in the firing. We were very close and every time I turned to the camera, I would get this irrational fear 'What if a bullet finds its way close to us?' after all we had our camera lights on. But people of the area seemed to be unmindful of such fears.

At any point in the night there were around 100-200 people who were standing close to the spot, curious onlookers that the police had to fight off. There were atleast 50 of us media professionals too, from various countries scrambling for details, ducking bullets and ricochets and dodging off overly curious people. But there were also the locals who were coming at frequent intervals with tea and biscuits for the forces and media professionals.

Suddenly in the morning the police seemed to be acting strictly against anyone coming close to Nariman House. Barricades were being put up and drunk onlookers were being lathi-charged to clear them off the way. We wondered if some senior official or politician was coming to visit.

And then there was a whirring sound. After a night of scattered firing, the forces had decided on a final assault. A chopper started hovering over the building and there was deafening cross fire. We were going live with most of it though we were cautious about keeping the camera frame tight and moving constantly so that the exact location of the cops on ground would not be revealed. We tried not to give out numbers or directions. The onlookers cheered.

Standing there and witnessing the assault, one couldn't help but feel proud of our men in uniform. It was the most dramatic visual of the entire tragedy.

Yes the media was criticised a lot for airing it too. But I still don't have the answer to whether it should have been shown or not. TV is mostly about the here and now so one could say it could be shown, but there were other decisions, too, that could not be made in the 20-odd minutes while the helicopter air-dropped commandos. Those 20 minutes will stay with me forever, they were the first signs of hope that Mumbai though scarred, will overcome this too.

It took another day for all the operations to end and the hostages to be liberated. And it has taken us forever to try and forget the horror of what we saw then. But life moves on in Mumbai even as court trials and diplomacy take their own time to come to conclusions. A fragile fast-paced life, with no guarantees of what awaits you in the next moment - a lesson 26/11 taught me.

Monday, October 26, 2009


In my online life of around 4 years, I have had many friendship and even more frandship requests. Here is a list of some of the names of the frands whom I thought I would do without. Enjoy and add your own :

1. lover_4_u
2. sexyloverwaitingforu
3. cool_(name or surname of person)
4. nightking
5. ruler of hearts
6. princeofdreams
7. handsome_boy
8. Love is life
9. raju reporter (guess he saw guide too many times)
10. loveme
11. Loveguru (yeah yeah)
12. dreams of u
13. awesome_abhi
14. hotvicky4_u
15. coolsameer_luv

And many more that more or less talk about how 'love'ly it would be to have them as your friends. Most of these are also accompanied by lines like 'I love your eyes', 'u hv prety smile' (spell check doesnt work for them), 'beutiful girl' and also once 'I want to be media man' (didnt know till then that networking meant this). So Sandy Balan and me got discussing about these names and we came up with some names for fellow Writer's Lounge members and friends if they ever went over the top and wanted to show off their awesomeness. Hope no one takes offence, this is just for fun. The first target of course is you all know who :-P

1. sensational_ste
2. hotste_rulerofhearts
3. MBA_romeo
4. freelance_boyfriend
5. dashingleo
6. P.S._Iluvu
7. lippy_cilla (personally I prefer the other suggestion sundar_cilla :-D)
8. Rapchik_Jawaani_RJ
9. giveme_more
10. dontstep(man)onmyheart
11. Tanman_4u
12. solitaryluvboy

Any other suggestions and additions please please add in comments section...also add in the weird ones you have got till now :-D

Thursday, October 15, 2009


कतरा कतरा तिनका तिनका जोड़ के एक सपना सा बुना था
तेरी आंखों में कहीं उसको छुपाया था
सोचा था पलकें तुम मूंदे ही रहोगे
ख्वाबों को कभी बिखरने दोगे
पर भूले थे हम कि रात तो बीत जाती है
और पलकें भी खुल ही जाती हैं
पर ख्वाबों की रातें अभी और भी
और सही तो
हकीकत को ही हम
ख्वाबों सा बना लेंगे

Friday, October 9, 2009

Man ka radio

After a long time yesterday I switched on Vividh Bharati and was pleasantly surprised to hear that they were playing only requests received on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. A far cry from the snail mail system that I remember. A few minutes later I heard another message asking defence personnel to send in their song requests by SMS for the popular Jaymala programme and I thought wow they sure have caught up with the times.

The mention of Jaymala brought a lot of memories. 90's was when I started listening to the radio religiously and back then Vividh Bharati was the most popular service in my city. FM channels hadnt yet launched. As I had an afternoon shift in school, my typical day used to start with Chitralok at 8:15 in the morning. It was a programme completely dedicated to latest songs and film promos. Satellite television was just catching up, so most of the film promotions were still done on Radio. The programme used to go on till 10 am and that was the time I used to get ready and prepare myself for the day after some last minute homework, done listening to some of the loser songs mentioned here. On holidays I used to even listen to Manchahe Geet in the afternoons. Evenings after school at around 6:30 there would be regional presentations and then come 7:10 pm and it would be time for Jaymala, the special programme for requests of defence personnel. The programme also had a weekly celebrity episode where many singers, actors and other Bollywood personalities would come to present their favourite songs and some message for the Fauji bhai. The signature tune of this programme, something like a tune from a military band, is something I will never forget. 8 o'clock was the time for Hawamahal, the daily programme that had radio adaptations of plays and short stories. Though I wouldn't listen to it regularly, I remember liking most of what I had heard. 8:30 was new songs again and then by around 10 there would be Chaayageet. This had some of the most melodious numbers. On weekends programmes like Pitaara would have nuggets of repeats of popular programmes. There were many more programmes that I used to follow then, but do not remember the names of anymore. My parents used to reminisce about Binaca Geet mala which I have never heard unfortunately. They even recall listening to the audio of hit Hindi films that used to be broadcast on weekends, entire movies would be broadcast.

Song requests programmes like Hello Farmaish were the most popular shows as they were very interactive. There were also shows where you could mail in your requests and who can forget the ever present listeners from 'Jhumri talaiya' who would always request some song or the other. I remember my father doubting the existence of 'Jhumri talaiya'; he used to say that AIR probably cooked up this place to show more listener demands hehehe.

I attribute all my knowledge of hindi film music to the Vividh Bharati service. My knowledge of songs from those of Hemant Kumar to Sonu Nigam and Geeta Dutt to Alka Yagnik all come from listening to AIR regularly. And if I manage to sing reasonably well today, that is also because I used to sing along loudly while the radio was playing. Some of the most repeated songs on radio those days were from the films Abhimaan, Aashiqui, Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi, Aandhi, Naaraaz, Naajayaz, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Saajan, Vijaypath, Shree 420 and Baazigar. My antakshari skills those days were just great and it helped that we were a generation of antakshari freaks. Like Doordarshan had its Rukawat ke liye Khed hai, AIR had this particular whooshing sound that would interrupt broadcast clarity. It was probably because of some astral object interrupting with the radio signals. At times, the broadcast would be interrupted by electricity cuts in the studios. Even these sounds are ingrained in my memory.

I also remember the transition in radio. My uncle used to have one of those huge radio sets the kind that you see in that song in Abhimaan. We had a sleeker and slightly smaller Philips radio initially. And later on we bought one of those newer sets but Philips again. Murphy was gone by the time we had started buying radios. Later on briefly we had a Chinese two in one system and more recently listening to radio was just on phone. And now I listen to it on my Dish TV service.

I have also seen the deterioration in the popularity and revenues of AIR. When I initially used to listen to Chitralok, which was a sponsored programme, it used to play new songs for around 2 hours. Gradually the number of new songs reduced and the time reduced to 1 hour and at last count (which was around 5 years ago) it was reduced to a paltry 15 minutes. Around the time the duration of new songs decreased, AIR was also getting mails constantly from people that new songs were against the culture. It was also the time when cable TV and FM channels (only allowed in the metros then) had started eating into AIR's pie. But AIR still managed to survive because of its immense reach. Today only those who love to listen to old songs without some shrill RJ ranting out PJs, switch on to AIR. But FM channels have also realised the potential of this loyal customer base and have started sober programmes featuring old songs.

The newer generations don't know much about AIR and if the organisation continues to go on with whatever policies it has, there would be a day maybe when people will no longer listen to it at all. AIR will probably exist only because the government hasnt pulled it off the bandwidth. Not the way a radio channel that entertained so many generations should end up. AIR still scores high on reach which is why it is still doing well in the mostly inaccessible regions of the country, at those places, AIR still is one of the major sources of entertainment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Being twenty something

A friend recently sent me a forward on maturing in life…Sharing part of it…

As I mature…

I’ve learnt that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in.

I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.

I’ve learned that it takes years to build up trust and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, they are more screwed up than you think.

I’ve learned that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities.

It was a forward that touched a chord (unlike the hundreds that irritate you). If you thought only teenage is a difficult time, then wait till you get into your twenties. That is the time when all your notions of right and wrong, all your beliefs of happily ever afters and picture perfect bonds get shaken up. Suddenly you wake up to a world of new realities, which are far different from the idealistic picture education gives you of the world.

I have spent most of my twenties away from home studying and working. And having to juggle changes within and around you all on your own is something all my friends would agree has been the greatest challenge. You want to succeed at everything you do and nothing seems to happen as fast as you want it to. Some of your dreams get fulfilled, some become nightmares and some are broken irreversibly. You want to be serious and you also want to have fun with your new found freedom. You want lasting relationships and you want material success. It’s a decade when you are left wanting and trying and you look at people who have crossed that age and wonder if you will ever get to be as self assured as they seem to be right now (but like the forward says, they could be screwed up too).

It’s a time when you could start to make your own decisions and not believe that parents always know better (and sometimes they don’t). And when you do make your own decisions for the first time, chances are you might make many mistakes and as you are no longer a child there comes the responsibility that all of us non-celebrities have to take. Its probably the first time in your own life that you really, truly get out of the crowd and get to know yourself and your mettle. And you could either like yourself or hate yourself.

Well you might ask what is the point of all this. Just that as I sat back and looked at the last five years, I realised, I am no longer the dreaming school girl from Rajkot. My friends have changed, my likes and dislikes are different, my bond with my parents is different, my take on love and commitment is different (read no more Mills and Boon anymore :-P) I have done things I never thought I would do both good and bad and at the end of it all, I know I have learnt a lot. I still am not the kind of self assured that some of the people I know are, but I know I am on the way to it. And I just wanted to tell all my friends in their twenties that some day we shall all sit back and laugh at these crazy times and look at them fondly like our parents right now look at the era of 60’s and 70’s. We shall all get together someday and toast to these days that showed us how much shit we could take and yet give back our best. Happy 20’s all you guys out there. We, the freaks, shall inherit the earth J (SIMC 07 tagline).

Saturday, October 3, 2009


She was looking out the window of the local unseeingly.

Now at the footboard she wondered if she belonged anywhere? Going back to a room, not home.

A call. “Hello Priya, its Shikha yaar come over and stay for Diwali, its been long.” She smiled. There would always be some home for her.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Trying my hand at 55 fiction. A daunting task for someone who is known to be wordy :-) Here are my first two attempts.

Power Play

Little one always had the remote. Elder one wanted to watch news but it was always MTV. Mom also lets little one be.
Now eldest is working out of town and comes home only on holidays. “News please.” “Give her the remote she hardly gets time to watch TV”, a voice from the kitchen :-)

The following is an extremely cynical view born out of a random conversation I had with a guy friend. No offense to any gender please, this is just a look at the various excuses made by commitment phobes and yes I do concede women could be commitment phobic too.

Commitment phobia?

“I love you, but…”

A’s mother won’t agree, B’s sister had to be married first, C wasn’t sure, D felt he didn’t deserve her, E wanted just fun. Finally F decoded the golden rule for her. BOYS need women only in the interim when they aren’t playing, working or wasting away. Any MEN around?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Loser songs of the 90's

Anyone who knows me would tell you that songs especially Bollywood numbers play a huge part in my life. In fact every time I make a new friend, within the first two three meetings I ask them what songs do they listen to and more often than not, the future course of the friendship gets decided by that discussion. I can't interact with people who don't have an interest in music nor can I get along with the 'I love only firang songs coz they are supposed to be cool' crowd. I could spend days discussing old hindi film songs and my ideal vacation activity would be a campfire singing old songs.

But there is a category of songs that I am particularly fond of discussing. I call them the loser songs of the 90's (umm actually could include some 80's songs too). Now the 90's were the era when I had my first crushes and had all those growing up pangs and all. And the songs of that era particularly were about some sort of impossibly undying, pining away sort of love. As an infatuated teenager I used to really believe in 'Dil jigar nazar kya hai main to tere liye jaan bhi de du..' but now that I look back I cant help laughing at the songs and their loser in love kinda lyrics.

Many a stimulating discussion I have had about these songs and how the hits of that era now just remind you of the silliness of your own life then. I remember a discussion with Smiling Serpent which I am unlikely to forget anytime in my life because I have never laughed so much ever (much to his consternation, because unfortunately the joke was on him :-). This post has been inspired by insomniacal chats during night shifts with Phoenix in the last few days.

The 90's were a 'dramatic love' era. I remember Filmfare and Stardust publishing stories about fans who used to write fan mail in blood. There were people who had committed suicide after Divya Bharati died. So it was all about hyperbole. Naturally the songs of the era also followed this trend of being high on an aching, nauseating kind of unrealistic love which was supposed to true love. So you had Kumar Sanu crooning away 'Tu meri zindagi hai' (I do like this one still) as if he were a dying man looking for the oxygen of love (ooh even reminiscing about the era is making me use hyperbole). That is why I call them the 'loser' songs, all about aching love nothing about love's uplifting qualities. That reminds me of the ultimate loser song, ever heard Achha sila diya tune mere pyaar ka?

The songs of the era were the kind that the roadside tapori would sing in his mistaken view of love which actually would be some funny form of eve teasing. 'Premi pagal aawara, aashiq majnu deewana...' or 'Main hoon aashiq, aashiq aawara'. The songs of the era also seemed to propagate the myth that if you chase a girl hard enough (like a needy psychopathic stalker) she is bound to fall in love with you. 'Is tarah aashiqui ka asar chod jaunga, tere chehre pe apni nazar chod jaunga' scary man. Or 'First time dekha tumhein ham kho gaya second time mein love ho gaya yeh akkha India jaanta hai ham tumpe marta hai...' Perfect songs for the guy who is waiting at the corner of the road for his favourite girl to walk past.

Lots of metaphors and lots of promises of undying love. 'Tu shayar hai main teri shayari (I remember everyone of us girls in the school had tried to move their index fingers the way Madhuri does in that song). 'Saanson ki zarurat hai jaise' 'Tumhein apna banane ki kasam khaayi hai khaayi hai' 'Dil hai ki maanta nahin' 'Saanwali saloni teri jheel si aankhein' (cute still) 'Juliet ki tarah honthon pe hai surkhiyan dekh le khud ko tu nazar se meri jaaneja'.

Unrequited love, betrayal or some form of separation was a common theme. 'Chupana bhi nahin aata', 'Accha sila' mentioned above, 'Ae kaash kahin aisa hota ke do dil hote seene mein' 'Jaao tum chahe jahan yaad karoge wahaan ki ik ladka duniya mein hai jo de sakta hai tumpe jaan' 'Woh meri neend mera chain mujhe lauta do' 'Ab tere bin jee lenge ham zehar zindagi ka pee lenge ham'. How many lovers of that era must have gone through breakups listening to these depressing numbers.

There were also the quirky ones with weird lyrics. 'Tu tu tu tu tara...' 'Ole ole' 'Oye oye' 'Ruk ruk ruk' 'Sexy sexy' 'Choli ke peechey' 'Bambai se gayi puna' 'Jaipur se nikali gaadi dilli chali halle halle' 'Barana de' 'Shehar ki ladki' 'Madhuri Dixit mili raste mein' 'Meri marzi'. I could go on and on.

Each of these songs brings back some memory of some Antakshari won while travelling jam packed in a school rickshaw, some train journey listening to these songs on the walkman (do they exist still?), some wedding band favourites, some that I sang to my then crush in the privacy of my own bedroom believing every word to be coming truly from my heart, some poem I wrote taking off from the lyrics of some loser song, lots and lots of memories of growing up. I dearly loved these songs then, I laugh at my own adolescent image of love now. What was I thinking when I used to sing 'Teri ummeed tera intezar karte hain' or sometimes shyly to myself 'Raah mein unse mulakat ho gayi..'? Well I guess I was just behaving my age.

Some of these songs are gems and I still love them. But 'loserness' being the characteristic of the songs of that era, I cant but help call them all loser songs of the 90's. Anyone remembers any more of these songs, please add your list in the comments section :-) Lets remember the days when we were all bitten by the bug called infatuation :-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Death of a mayfly

It was Simon and Garfunkel again. It had been ages since the strains had scented the air. But the pain was the same. It was almost evening. The lights were going out and the mayfly was lying in a corner huffing. Its life of one day was coming to an end. It remembered how people had told it that it should not have come out. It should have stayed in the protected cocoon. But it knew it had wings and had wanted to try them out. They had said that it was not a butterfly. Why hadn’t it listened? It had wanted to atleast know what flying meant. So it flew the moment it came out of the cocoon. It flew all afternoon, glowing in the heat of the warm sun. It made love to the wind. It felt glorious. It felt that it was probably worth it despite all the pain. For a while it forgot that it had only one day. That was its mistake. Now it was lying there gulping in some last breaths of air.

She saw the dying mayfly. The last bit of the song was playing.

I am a rock

I am an island

For a rock feels no pain

And an island never cries.

She wondered why the mayfly couldn’t have been a rock or an island. Why did it have to be this little vulnerable thing with dreams of flying? The rock and the island are tied to their places, yes, but then they don’t know what it is to move so they will never miss it. But the poor mayfly, now lying there dying. Why have wings if you were to die fallen on the ground like that?

She had always been a zoology enthusiast and had an unusual liking to breeding insects to study them. In its short life the mayfly had surely laid an egg somewhere in the water tank. But looking at the dying mayfly, she wondered if she would ever let its child out of the cocoon. Maybe she should just kill it before it started to want to fly, yes she should just throw away all the water from the tank tomorrow. Maybe…. She didn’t know what to do. The song, which was on loop, started again.

A winter's night

In a deep and dark December

I am alone....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Enjoying the kill

As a child I had never owned a toy gun or even one of those tanker trucks. The closest I must have come to so called boys’ toys was probably a car. I had my dolls, my mini kitchen sets, my building blocks and some gender neutral games like carroms and scrabble. But a few days ago, a friend suggested trying out some text based mafia games on Facebook. At first I laughed it off, what could I possibly get by shooting and robbing imaginary targets? But my friend insisted and I joined in thinking lets see whats the big deal about?

I belong to a generation where video games were considered a luxury in most cities in India and being the studious student I was, I was taught to look down upon these useless addictions J So when I started playing combat games on Facebook, I had no idea what fan following these games had. But man, was I hooked. Suddenly I completely understood why exactly were people all around me so excited to grow one new virtual crop, make virtual billions, ice some cold-blooded killer or earn the tag of a knife thrower.

I also discovered that out of my virtual mafia team members, majority were girls. Another friend told me about this growing trend that around 30% of the hardcore gaming market in India now comprised of women. So I thought why not check this out. When I set out to do the story I discovered that all over the world, online gaming companies were coming up with new websites specially targetting women. Most of these were casual online games (70% of the market for these hand-eye co-ordination and easy click games is women). But there was a growing number of combat and strategy games that were being added to these sites constantly. In the US, women in the age group of 30-40 were slowly capturing almost half of the total market for all sorts of hardcore (violence included) games.

The women gamers I met were a bigger surprise. One would expect that someone interested in such games would probably be a rebellious character, maybe a young college goer with a piercing or black coloured nail polish. But Dhiranjana Pais was a homemaker who looked like your typical bahu in full salwar kameez and a huge bindi. She was hooked to Halo, Hitman and Counter strike and had been initiated into gaming by her brother in childhood. So addicted is she to the game that she uses an old N-Gage phone just because it is designed better for gaming. Another woman I met was an office goer and for her lunch break was the time to play racing games and beat her colleagues at strategy.

But during all this time what I kept wondering was that a male player would get exciting assignments like rescuing a damsel in distress and then having her as a virtual girlfriend. A female player would have to pretend being straight because the game would only give her a girlfriend! But then I discovered that the women oriented sites had games like Rescue your boyfriend. But it’s a long way off to equality when it comes to game world female characters. Only once in a while do you have a Lara Croft, otherwise the combatants are generally taken for granted to be men. But if gaming companies are to be believed, this too is soon changing. Maybe soon in the future you could choose whether you want to be a male operative or a female one. Till then I shall just be sugar and spice but nowhere close to nice while I shoot my targets away.

P.S. check out the story at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Before breaking news

On our channel yesterday we paid a tribute to Doordarshan turning 50 years old. We had the most recognisable and the first news anchor of India Salma Sultana on the show. I don't know how many of you remember the lady with a severe face who always sported a flower behind one ear and read the news on DD. When Rajdeep Sardesai asked her that you were in an era where there was no breaking news, the lady wittily replied, "Hamare zamaane mein breaking news nahin, rukawat ke liye khed hai hota tha." That brought so many memories of watching movies where right at the time of the climax when the killer was going to be revealed or the villian was going to be shot, suddenly there would be a black out and after a few seconds it would state 'Rukawat ke liye khed hai.' Man I grew up with all of that.

I was born the year Indian TV saw its first cricket world cup broadcast and what fortune we won that cup. Now looking back I sometimes feel I am very old. Many people today dont know what a great achievement it was for a family to buy a TV and then to switch from black and white portables to 14 inch colour. Today we are in the hometheater age. Maybe it was this feeling of achievement that Onida TV exploited when it came up with the tagline 'Neighbours envy, owners pride.'

The thrill of waiting for Sunday mornings that started early with Rangoli, went on to mythologicals and then to the favourite cartoons and special children's shows. The Jetix generation would probably never know how excited we used to be by He-Man and Spiderman cartoons and how eagerly we would wait for weekends for the latest episodes. We also waited for the Sunday evening movies and the only show my friends and I were allowed to watch during our exams was Chitrahaar.

Serials were about families and the troubles of the aam aadmi and aam family. Clean fun, no extra marital relations, no vamps, no generation leaps, only realistic, normal people like you and me. Social messages on Nukkad and Rajni, emotional sagas on Buniyaad and Humlog, short story wonders on Malgudi days, Mitti ke rang and Potli Baba ki. Comedies did not mean mindless aping of regional accents or tomfoolery, but clean fun with situations and liberal use of puns. Idhar Udhar, Ye jo hai zindagi, Mr. Yogi, Flop show and Dekh bhai dekh come to mind, shows that can be watched even today with equal pleasure. If it was science you had turning point. DD had something for every genre. If it was thrillers and detective shows that you liked then you had the amazing Byomkesh Bakshi, Tehkikat and Reporter. If it was travel and culture you wanted then you had the unbeatable Surabhi. I remember getting the first rush of watching a romantic story when they telecast Kashish. You had regular quiz programmes. Afternoons were about educational and women oriented shows. India's first daily soap Shanti was quite a revolution in women oriented programming. And DD had some really cool year ender and summer vacation programming.

And your serials didn't have to have only Gujaratis, Punjabis or Bengalis as central characters. You had even Kashmiris play central characters in Gul gulshan gulfam. You had UPites in Neem ka ped and Talash. You had a Maharashtrian in Wagle ki Duniya. Malgudi days had essentially south Indian characters. Truly unity in diversity.

I remember seeing how news evolved from lines just being read out by an anchor to showing some pre edited visuals, to news magazines like World this week and Newstrack, discussion shows and then to the current style of news stories and live telecasts. DD had tied up with CNN to get the live telecast of the Gulf war and thats when for the first time they had started bulletins in the afternoons also. There are countless stories of how politicians used to sabotage news telecasts because DD was after all the government mouthpiece.

But somewhere along the way after Cable tv was allowed in India, the bureaucracy started dictating more and more terms to the government channel. Viewers moved on to fresher looking programming (though I must swear that even shows on Zee and Sony were much better then) and as the viewership declined, producers also stopped giving fresh shows to DD. DD bosses also being slaves of bureaucracy were not really bothered because their salaries were probably not based on the channel's TRP's. The channel declined fast after that and today hardly anyone watches it.

But give me a Byomkesh Bakshi, a Surabhi or a Malgudi days anyday over a screeching, dramatic woman trying to choose a husband or a foolish whacko trying to outsmart other people in some random house or jungle. Give me atleast one show that I would write about 20 years after it got over.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Virginity and ambition

There is a new movie in town called Kaho na Kaho. Of course you may never hear of it leave alone go for it, but what you must know about is the wonderful tagline they have come up with for their poster. It reads, hold your breath darlings, "Ambitious woman always loses her virginity." (You don't believe me, please check out the poster at the Dadar station.) What I would really like to do is find out if the actresses of the movie consider themselves ambitious or not :-P And the million dollar question who was at the helm of the marketing and copywriting for this film?

A friend of mine on seeing it commented so does that mean unambitious women don't lose their virginity? Most of us do at some point of time or the other isn't it? So I fail to understand what is the connection between ambition and virginity? Let me refresh their knowledge of history a bit. Long ago there was an ambitious Tudor princess in England called Elizabeth and you know what she went on to be called the 'Virgin Queen' of England. Any Brit worth his salt would say that she was very very ambitious. Whether she lost her virginity later on is still a matter of debate.

Case in point 2. Can you then explain to me the fact that in the US there are a lot of teenagers who lose their virginity and also drop out of school/college? Some of them end up as housewives too. So unambitious (the conventional definition, not mine) isn't it? And yet they have lost their virginity. So will they now be called ambitious? Actually why go to the US, there are many women in our country who are married off early and remain housewives and marriage does mean a loss of virginity (unless your husband is gay), so are they ambitious or unambitious? I am really confused here.

As I was researching on this topic I found out that some great literary geniuses like Jane Austen, Shaw, Lewis Carrol and W.B.Yeats were celibate. They were all ambitious. Oh heck there are two men here, how could I forget. Men are supposed to be ambitious, natural instinct and all that so it doesn't matter if they are virgins does it? In fact there are people in the West wondering if celibacy means more productivity? (For the simple reason that celibacy means no severely close relationships, no surrender of control of your life to another human being and therefore you could do what you want and not because virginity is sanctity).

But is virginity about ambition or is it about preparedness for a sexual life? Why the drama over virginity? If you look at history closely one of the most obvious reasons to ensure virginity of a bride was so that the successor born to that particular woman is surely that of her husband, a ploy to ensure that property goes to a genuine member of the bloodline. (However the devil in me wonders what if a woman loses her virginity to one man and bears the child of another, who was to tell in the era of no DNA tests?) And why is only a woman's ambition or virginity an issue? If a woman has to necessarily be a virgin, who is to guarantee that the man she marries is a virgin? A man can be ambitious or not ambitious, but it never affects any of his choices in life. But an ambitious woman is always a BITCH (Babe In Total Control Of Herself btw).

So is this tagline talking about the casting couch? If so, is it only the ambition of the victim to be blamed for the existence of such an institution? So what will they say about ambitious men who sleep with men for jobs? (Yes it happens you know). But well, we have a tendency to always blame the victim. If a girl gets raped, she has invited it and if a guy/young boy is raped by another man or woman, he didn't have the guts to fight back. It is always the victim's problem. And hey what ambition do rape victims have I would like to know because even they lose their virginity.

There will be many who will denounce me as trying to corrupt the value system of the society. All I want to tell them is that I am not advocating mindless sex, all I am saying is that virginity is not the measure of character or lack of it. Nor is ambition the measure of when you will lose it. Ambition at best is just the measure of where you see yourself in the future not even how the world sees you, because everyone has their own definition of ambition isn't it?

P.S sorry for any loss of coherence in the post, the ridiculousness of the whole thing just made me a bit angry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drinking buddies

It was a usual night at Shabnam bar tucked away in a lane behind a local train station in Central Mumbai. Some were nursing drinks, some gulping them down, some brooding over every sip and some laughing hysterically at not so funny jokes. Kishore and Rafi were alternately crooning about the greatest disappointments of their lives on the bar's music system.

And as it was a usual night, Rajesh was there. Everything was familiar here and that soothed his senses. It was a refuge from daily struggles, a place to reflect, appreciate the songs born out of life's ironies and generally numb oneself at the end of the day. Most of the clientile was the same. Hardly anyone new came there, but Shabnam had many loyalists. Rajesh knew everyone's story. He liked to hear them and marvel at how much better his life was. And at times when he felt the other person needed it, he told his story too.

Suddenly the door opened and a gust of the pouring rain from outside breezed in and along with it came a man who had the most disturbed face Rajesh had seen in quite sometime. He didn't look like someone who drank, but then who can say that anymore. The man sat down and ordered 2 pegs, neat. Rajesh raised an appreciative brow and went back to his drink. After a while when Rajesh started to leave, the man was still there, ordering 2 more. It seemed that he had had quite a few of them already and didn't want to stop until he lost himself completely.

The other man started coming in regularly. Another Shabnam loyalist, Rajesh smiled. His name was Abhishek; Rajesh had seen him swipe a card once. They had both started acknowledging each other's existence by now. Abhishek would get pissed drunk every night. Rajesh enjoyed his drinks but he had a self imposed limit, one that he stuck to, just enough to get some relief at the end of the day. But this man seemed to be on a mission to drink his body down.

One night however, Abhishek seemed to be even more melancholy but he was gulping down drinks with the same fervour. Rajesh got worried. What if the man was on some suicidal mood today? He certainly looked so. Rajesh went up to Abhishek's table and tried to start a conversation.
"Hi, have been seeing you here regularly now, I am Rajesh. You on some drink till I die mission today dude?"
" won't understand."
"Try me..."
Abhishek smiled with melancholy dismissal.
"They say majority of men drinking in dimly lit bars are of two types. Ones who are thinking of the girl who got away and the others who are trying to forget the pain of having one. So what is it with you?" Rajesh persisted.
Abhishek laughed out harshly, "Maybe they are right. But let's hear whats it with you?"
"Mind if I take a seat," Rajesh pulled a chair next to Abhishek. "The one who got away. She was my college mate. She came into my life when I had almost lost hope. I can still feel her hands cupping my face. There never was anyone who could love so unselfishly, so truly. We would have done anything for each other."
"That would have been a fairytale, " Abhishek pointed out.
"Yes, if we could have stayed together that is what it would have been."
"So what was it? She turned out be a fickle woman? Triya charitra was it?"
"Just shut up ok, I won't hear a word against her. She was never like that. She was everything one could ever dream for in a companion. She was mine for as long as she could and somehow I know she is still mine, though she is far away, married to someone her parents wanted her to. She hasn't cheated on him physically though, that much I can tell you. She is his for all worldly purposes, but I know her heart will always be mine."
"Aah but if your love was that true, you had to lose her buddy. That's the way of the world. Its a law of nature I think, that if you love truly, you won't ever get it back, or be fortunate enough to live out this dream love. I love her too completely, honestly, but somehow it never penetrates her heart. Its like she will never understand it. You are lucky. Your love was atleast reciprocated. I had no such luck."
"No dude, you are lucky. You have no idea how bad it is to lose what you once had. You have never had it, so your pain will ease away. Don't lose heart. You have no memory of how glorious it felt to have her close and then to be reminded everytime that its gone forever. You are lucky Abhishek. For people like me, love is now just a picture inside a wallet." Rajesh pulled out his wallet, took out a picture, "This is all that I have of her now. Look at how sweet a thing I have lost," he smiled ruefully.
Abhishek was completely silent for a while and then he rose from the table, "I should go. You are right I am the kind who don't have the right to even die," he said somewhat heavily and left. Rajesh sat there looking at the picture.
Out on the street, Abhishek thought, "You have no idea that its more painful to never really have what you have." The girl in the picture was his wife.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What is a successful marriage?

Long ago, in a school debate, I had spoken out for arranged marriages. That was before I had ever seriously thought about what marriage would entail, at a time when I was just out of my teens and believed that some prince was waiting somewhere to whisk me off, with my parents blessings of course. But its been almost a decade since then and I have seen quite a few make ups and break ups in my friends' lives to understand what a relationship constitutes in today's world. It is simply not the same age old era where people put up with each other because they feel that is their destiny. In fact, destiny is an out dated word. Choice is the reality of today. No one needs to stay on in a marriage now and that is what has challenged all our known notions of marriage.

In our society we are still big on tradition, which is why the child maybe outgoing and outspoken in every other way, but when it comes to marriage, she/he is still expected to toe the family line. She/he is expected to settle with someone who the family selects. If you do that, you will forever be called the grateful child. A colleague had once put this into sharp focus when she talked about her and her brother. Her brother was always the obedient types while she had been the rebel. But while the brother married someone of his choice, she after having her fill of testing waters, settled for an arranged marriage. She jokes about how that one decision washed off all her past flaws in her parents' eyes.

We are told parents know best and when both sets of parents are in agreement, there will always be someone to salvage your marriage if there are some problems. That is a debatable thing. But the argument that I hear the most is that arranged marriages last, whereas love marriages generally end up in divorce. There are statistics to prove this too, I agree. But is longevity the only measure of a successful marriage?

I know of many couples who are married to each other just because they feel they have no other option. Life is a cycle of forced responsibilities and civilities and oh yes, the most important word of all - compromise. They say that is the most important thing in a marriage. Excuse me, have we confused adjustment and acceptance with compromise here? For according to me marriage is supposed to be a union of equal, mature individuals who share a life, without losing their individuality. But that is not the case I am told. Compromise is the word that ensures that marriages don't break up. But after a long day at work in a competitive world, does anyone have the time and energy for a compromise?

I know of couples who have been married for ages, but rarely talk with each other now. But for the society's purpose, theirs is a successful marriage. They haven't broken up and divided their children's life. A friend's grandparents chose to separate after all their children were settled. No they didn't divorce, they just started staying with different children. No divorce, so successful isn't it? There are some who don't talk to each other and their children act as go-betweens. There are others who lose their own identity (both female and male) to keep the marriage going. After all, if it lasts, its successful. Also families do bind these relationships, there is pressure to listen to them and stay together, so what if its killing you? Its gotta last.

I am not building a case here for love marriages or for divorce at the slightest provocation. What I am trying to say is that our idea of a marriage itself is skewed. Marriages are not made in heaven, you need to work them out here on this earth, no doubt about that. But what is a marriage really? Is it just something you get into because you are expected to? Is it something bound by the correct background, kundli alignment and surname? Is it a way to get sex with societal approval? Or is it something you get into because you want to share your life with someone? Because you found someone with whom you can relate to on an intellectual and emotional level? Is it about understanding and accepting a person unconditionally so as to be able to be a soul mate? Because if marriage is about meeting the match of your soul, it could happen anytime, in any way, with anyone. You don't need to go through countless profiles of ready for marriage 'fun loving, caring, blend of traditional and modern values' type of people on marriage websites to find the one. They just might happen to you.

But if they happen to you, families will probably tell you that it is an emotional/hormonal reaction. Umr ka takaaza hai. These things don't last and if they don't last they can't be successful can they? Well they might last if the couples don't always have it in the back of their mind that they have done something they shouldn't have and that they would have been better off had they listened to their relatives (sometimes this emotional blackmail continues even after the so called acceptance).

Longevity is a virtue in any relationship. But it can't be the sole factor to determine its success is what I feel. What is needed whether the match be arranged or love, is a mental connect. If you can relate to the person, if you feel that you can talk to that person any time of the day, if you think that you can handle waking up to this same face everyday, then I guess you have a shot at a successful relationship even if your mom thinks that he/she is not the dream catch. Call me a romantic if you will. But no point in getting married to please someone else, because those people will be long gone or far away, while you might have to remain 'stuck' with either a 'dutiful' bond or a failed relationship. The choice is always ours and a decision once made needs to be followed through, whatever be the ramifications, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sheltering and the effect it has

Siddharth Gautam Buddha’s story is very well known, but let me retell it for you. An astrologer told his parents that he would either grow up to become a Chakravarti or will renounce the world to become a saint. Scared at the prospect of losing his heir to ‘sanyaas’, the king decided to never show him any of the sadness in the world. The king thought that once cosseted in the comforts of the palace, the prince will become used to the good life and would never want to quit it. A normal experience of life was so to say banned for him. Siddharth grew up in perfect luxury and to ensure that he was totally shackled by the bonds of the ‘saansarik sukh’, he was even married off to a beautiful princess. But one day a charioteer made a mistake and took the prince slightly out of the palace bounds. The sights of misery that Siddharth saw put him off the life of luxury forever and finally he renounced the world and became Gautam Buddha.

I always have wondered had the king let Siddharth grow normally, maybe those sights of misery wouldn’t have affected him so much. As much as Gautam Buddha’s life is a lesson in enlightenment, it is also a lesson to society I believe of what fearful control mechanisms do to people. Take sex education for example. If we go by the theory that exposure to sex education makes children more experimental and pushes them to indulge more in amorous activities, then by that standard India’s more repressed states should have less of sexual crimes. But is that the truth?

I cannot say much about other states, but two examples come to my mind. Tamil Nadu and Delhi. These are two states where in most cases men and women don’t interact normally with each other. Boys and girls are taught at an early age to intensely dislike and distrust the other sex. So there is no communication and most of the children grow up looking at the other sex like they are some aliens, part fascination, part hatred. High school classrooms are full of sexist jokes and weird stereotypes about male and female behaviour. But the curiosity is always there and it takes the form of eveteasing, groping and rape.

My friend who studied in a pretty good school in TN used to say that they would make fun of any guy who was just friends with girls. Afterall, the guy had to be a sissy if he could only talk and not get any action out of her. And any girl who even deigned to talk to a guy had to be of a loose character. (I would not say this is completely true about every school in TN). My best friend and her boyfriend in Delhi have been dating for 8 years now. They are school sweethearts and no they haven’t yet done it. Jeeju’s friends tell him that she is definitely going to ditch him after all she hasn’t surrendered herself yet and not just that, they advice that the only way to keep her from breaking his heart is by making her physically his. Jeeju says, “main jaanta hoon un logon ne kabhi ladki nahin dekhi, kabhi jaana nahin ki sahi maynon mein relationship kya hota hai, kabhi mauka hi nahin mila na, isiliye aisa sochte hain.” How true.

But it is not just sex education, there are many choices in people’s lives that are forced upon them because of a fear psychosis. Parents of girls restrict them from doing lots of things thinking that if given freedom the girl will develop a mind of her own and might disgrace them. In this fear, they push her to such an extent, that in the end, more often than not, she unknowingly does the very thing they were afraid of. Some guys are brought up in a strict atmosphere because the parents believe otherwise the boy will take to vices. Mostly these are the very guys who tend to take up vices at the first taste of freedom in a college hostel or out of town job. People from smaller towns talk all the time about that boy or girl who went to ‘shehar’ and changed so much, mostly for the worse(according to them, may not be true actually). Why do they change? Because they were constrained for so long, that at the first chance they will defy everything their past life stood for. Rebels and for that matter even psychopaths are never born. They generally are the ones who were pushed into some sort of a corner, a corner that was either suffocatingly comfortable or scorchingly uncomfortable. The result is always the opposite of what is desired.

If only we learnt how to be more open and accepting!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mayfly or butterfly?

Ive built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate...

She went about her daily work, crossing her arms at her abdomen, closing herself off. The phone rang and it was him. He was sweet and fun. But why was he calling everyday. She had to tell him off. She couldn't afford all this. The last burn was bad enough so she told him that daily calls made her uncomfortable. Can I call you once in two days then he quipped. Smiling reluctantly she let it go at that.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.

Work was her salvation. She buried herself in pursuit of excellence. After all no one could ever ever take that away from her. That would remain with her. It was tangible. It wasn't like people and emotions. But these days she found herself wondering about him. She wondered if she could take a chance once and see where it takes her. What if she did enjoy the ride? Then again what if she got hurt? No, no, let her stay the way she was.

Dont talk of love,
But Ive heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.

She was humming Simon and Garfunkel again. Story of her life. She had forced herself in a confinement, feeling nothing. It was all closed up yes, but it was safe. And some of the people who led her to this shell did it because they want to protect her isn't it? She owed it to them, so she should respect their wishes and stay on in the cocoon. But his voice kept calling her. And despite everything she was going to meet him today. She told herself it was just curiosity.

The meeting went well. She didn't remember the last time she had laughed and teased so much. She felt young again, really her age, not like the wisened self she usually maintained. She met him again and again. Don't talk of love....

But she couldn't help it. He was slowly easing her out of the cocoon. She had managed to crawl out of it like a caterpillar. It didn't hurt. But what if it hurt later? What about those protectors of hers? Was she betraying them? She didn't know. But somehow getting out didn't feel wrong. Fly my baby, he said. Don't cross your arms against the world. Open up and let me in. I want to be within that circle of your arms too. Yes, she wanted that too.

She didn't know how her protectors would feel. She tried telling them she wanted to try flying. But they didn't seem to understand. What if you end up as a May fly and not a butterfly they said. She feared that too. What if she hurt him with her frenzied flight or by retreating? She didn't know the answer to that too. All she knew was that she wanted to try flying. Maybe she would be a May fly but atleast she would know what it is to fly. She wouldn't die wondering how it would be. Even if for a brief bit, she would feel the wind beneath her wings and he would help her find whatever piece of sky was meant for her. Together they would find love and hope, even if it wasn't meant forever. They would atleast have had it truly for once. For that one moment of true love, she will take the chance. Never mind how it ends. All that matters is the beauty of the journey isn't it?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Umbrella wars

The messy monsoons are here in Mumbai (yeah I know we need rains, but it would be nice if they didn't mess the city). Fred Astaire made singing in the rain with an umbrella famous, but you surely can't try that in Mumbai. Walking with your umbrella held aloft would take the skill required by the Crazy Taxi in dodging other cars.

Your feet are sinking in muddy, messy water, you are trying to avoid puddles and there comes the competitive auntie with the huge umbrella. The competitive umbrella aunties are ones who think only they are in a hurry. They try to overtake you with as much vengeance as a motorbike rider who snakes his way through bumper to bumper traffic, unmindful of what happens to the rest of the world. This auntie will hit you with her elbow, her umbrella will get into your hair, she will jump into the puddle in her haste splashing water all over you.

The complete opposite of the competitive auntie is of course the I-am-out-for-a-stroll-in-the-rain aunty. This auntie will be walking to a tune of her own and most of these aunties are so bulky that they make it almost impossible to overtake them without stepping into some open gutter or some messy puddle. And while you try to do that, again your umbrella gets hit.

Then there is the corporate guy who has made getting his way a habit. So hitting your umbrella to retard your progress is something he enjoys. Pulling people down gives him a high. And one fails to understand why poking umbrellas in another's hair is such a fun pastime!

Then there are the kids who jump around and splash water everywhere. Even if you are wearing three fourth pants, they will get wet thanks to these I-so-love-the-muddy-water kids. And their partners in crime are motorists with expensive cars who love to speed over puddles and make your white office wear brown. Aargh!

I know you will all tell me that I should stop using umbrellas and try wind cheaters or raincoats. But what the hell, my head is so small that none of the hoods stay on it. I hate rains.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Total recall

There was a problem with the HTML in the previous posting it again...

[tRIAd] recently referred to an article a cartoon who I know very indirectly wrote.(You could read [tRIAd]’s piece here) Managed to get hold of the original article and found that it really had no new information. It set me thinking about what my boss, whenever he descends on us from his ivory tower, says about our lack of story ideas. ‘News is all about rehashing’ he says. Find a different angle, find a different quote, a different perspective that’s all there is, because apart from crime, fickle politics and current events, everything has already been done before.

I totally agree with him because this is the third year in a row when I am doing stories on the Mumbai monsoons. I have done countless stories on vegetable price rises, the ‘urbane’ issue of Mumbai’s stray dogs and how could I forget the ever visible and ‘attractive’ potholes. These are the issues our target audience wants to know about, I am told whenever a flicker of doubt creases my journalist’s brow. This is what the SEC A and B want to watch. And since I know there is only one rule in this world, I agree and have so far been successful in getting something new everytime to a perfectly same story. (But then I have been around for only a short while now I guess).

Rehashing is a diktat every media organisation follows. But there are some media persons who do take the term quite literally. I happened to pick up one of those women’s magazines after almost half a decade. And surprise, surprise, there was still the same advice about haldi-chandan ubtan, how to fool/snare a man with your non-existent original beauty and other random advice that wouldn’t make any sense to the male readers of this blog. I was shocked and actually picked up some more back issues to check if things ever changed. Well they never did.

Another breed that believes in complete rehashing is the Talk show crew and those that write the so-called socio-psychologically relevant articles (I have written those too at one point of time, but more on that later). A typical talk show has the typical faces. One starched sari figure, one flamboyancy incarnate personality, one moderate type and an arm flailing, screeching moderator. And the topics? (Think SEC A and B please) Should girls wear jeans? How much pocket money should children be given? Are the rich really criminals or are they being wrongly targetted? Are our values (huh?) crumbling? The current news trigger might be different each time, but the topics, the debate, the opinions they never change (and to think we used to be advised in school to watch this crap to broaden our thinking). According to me talk shows are quite a waste of air time, what has ever been achieved by them anyway?

The socio-psychological articles are also the same. Throw in some management jargon, some self help jargon and connect everything however obtusely to Freudian theories and voila, an ‘insightful’ article is at your service. Something similar to what [tRIAD]’s cartoon wrote. And the best part about these rehashed things is that they are damn easy to do. There are always the ‘Dial-a-bite/quote’ social commentators, psychiatrists and socialites. You can dream of a story idea during your so called ‘power nap’, call up these people and get your story ready for the next day. How simple is that! Of course, some journos just love these philanthropic bite/quote machines. The man in the ivory tower parties with them so he has to keep them included in what his media house does. Of course, he tells the staff at times that he is tired of the same faces (after losing a game of poker to them, I guess). So the staff does try for fresh faces at times only to be then told that the fresh face did not match the expectations of SEC A and B. So its back to the we-scratch-each-other’s-back brigade. Aah the ease of redoing a done to death story!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Total Recall

[tRIAd] recently referred to an article a cartoon who I know very indirectly wrote.(You could read [tRIAd]’s piece here) Managed to get hold of the original article and found that it really had no new information. It set me thinking about what my boss, whenever he descends on us from his ivory tower, says about our lack of story ideas. ‘News is all about rehashing’ he says. Find a different angle, find a different quote, a different perspective that’s all there is, because apart from crime, fickle politics and current events, everything has already been done before.

I totally agree with him because this is the third year in a row when I am doing stories on the Mumbai monsoons. I have done countless stories on vegetable price rises, the ‘urbane’ issue of Mumbai’s stray dogs and how could I forget the ever visible and ‘attractive’ potholes. These are the issues our target audience wants to know about, I am told whenever a flicker of doubt creases my journalist’s brow. This is what the SEC A and B want to watch. And since I know there is only one rule in this world, I agree and have so far been successful in getting something new everytime to a perfectly same story. (But then I have been around for only a short while now I guess).

Rehashing is a diktat every media organisation follows. But there are some media persons who do take the term quite literally. I happened to pick up one of those women’s magazines after almost half a decade. And surprise, surprise, there was still the same advice about haldi-chandan ubtan, how to fool/snare a man with your non-existent original beauty and other random advice that wouldn’t make any sense to the male readers of this blog. I was shocked and actually picked up some more back issues to check if things ever changed. Well they never did.

Another breed that believes in complete rehashing is the Talk show crew and those that write the so-called socio-psychologically relevant articles (I have written those too at one point of time, but more on that later). A typical talk show has the typical faces. One starched sari figure, one flamboyancy incarnate personality, one moderate type and an arm flailing, screeching moderator. And the topics? (Think SEC A and B please) Should girls wear jeans? How much pocket money should children be given? Are the rich really criminals or are they being wrongly targetted? Are our values (huh?) crumbling? The current news trigger might be different each time, but the topics, the debate, the opinions they never change (and to think we used to be advised in school to watch this crap to broaden our thinking). According to me talk shows are quite a waste of air time, what has ever been achieved by them anyway?

The socio-psychological articles are also the same. Throw in some management jargon, some self help jargon and connect everything however obtusely to Freudian theories and voila, an ‘insightful’ article is at your service. Something similar to what [tRIAD]’s cartoon wrote. And the best part about these rehashed things is that they are damn easy to do. There are always the ‘Dial-a-bite/quote’ social commentators, psychiatrists and socialites. You can dream of a story idea during your so called ‘power nap’, call up these people and get your story ready for the next day. How simple is that! Of course, some journos just love these philanthropic bite/quote machines. The man in the ivory tower parties with them so he has to keep them included in what his media house does. Of course, he tells the staff at times that he is tired of the same faces (after losing a game of poker to them, I guess). So the staff does try for fresh faces at times only to be then told that the fresh face did not match the expectations of SEC A and B. So its back to the we-scratch-each-other’s-back brigade. Aah the ease of redoing a done to death story!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Of families and marriages

IHM has written recently about domestic violence and how there is widespread acceptance of it even among the educated class. A lot of interesting comments have appeared on that. I remember this particular comment which talked about the widespread belief that men do lose control at times. A few years ago, I had thought that about a friend's father, because I knew the mother to be a highly unrealistic person, someone who had married early and thought that life would only be a romantic dream. Things had soured when she couldn't accept the fact that her husband, whom she had herself chosen, wasn't the romantic type. And both husband and wife wouldn't budge from their list of expectations and duties. Things kept piling up, the relationship deteriorated further after my friend was born. And in the belief that the wife was like an errant child, in the next 20 odd years the husband beat her around half a dozen times (maybe sounds little compared to what some women go through). She too had her own emotional blackmail tantrums. It was just a doomed relationship I guess. And though I didn't justify the beating, the very fact that I tried to rationalise it shows how deep rooted this philosophy is in us. Auntie has now finally moved out, something she should have done long ago, to spare the herself and my friend all that mental agony. My friend still hopes that the parents would reunite. Yes, divorce is traumatic but living in an abusive or incompatible relationship is even worse.

But while domestic violence is something more tangible, most women in India suffer from something more subtle. Mental abuse. The judgemental attitude that is based on the whole she is an 'outsider' theory. Most families want a custom made bahu who is modern and yet not too modern, educated but not too educated and so on. And she has to be a super woman who should never complain or get angry. The Tulsis of the world can cry in private and moan their fate, but they shouldn't air an opinion. Just voicing an opinion amounts to disobedience. There is very little scope for honesty in Indian relationships. Pretenses have to be maintained at all costs. And most women are taught that right from childhood, however educated the parents might be.

So even if your MIL constantly harps on how lowly your family is, you are supposed to put up with it. If you answer back you are the bitchy DIL, the potential home breaker. Your husband might have a tendency to treat you like a dimwit and make fun of you in public, but hey atleast he provides for you and doesn't beat you. He might be a complete loser, never managing to hold on to a job and yet you are supposed to hold on to the hope that with time he will get better. In no circumstances are you to lose the hope that things will work out in the end, because of the doli-arthi theory. And hey aren't women supposed to be more tolerant by nature, more patient, more everything that tends towards doormat.

How many times do we hear things like the women in the family didn't get along and that is why the family split? Is binding a family together just a woman's duty? If the men wanted, couldn't they have stayed together and tried to build a consensus? Are men really kids that they can be 'seduced' and 'swayed' by what is called pillow talk? Don't they have a mind of their own? Well apparently, though women are supposed to be chastised because they are not mature enough, when it comes to such things men are the impressionable ones.

In India, we are supposed to marry families and not individuals. And when I see all these things happening, I feel disturbed and somewhat scared by the prospect of marriage. Is there anything like a balanced family or is it a myth? Will I be able to hold on to my identity once I get married? Is marriage really worth it? There are 'good' families out there I guess, but they are extremely rare.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The longer line

He had already stumbled across to another faceless woman by the time Rhea straightened up. But she wasn’t disappointed. In fact, she was very satisfied. She had been standing in the smoke filled corner, when he walked up to her, a slow smile on his lips. He smelled of grass and whiskey. Glazed, bloodshot eyes sized her up. She gave him an inviting nod. It had been a quick thing, so quick, that it had hurt. Precisely what she had wanted. She took a long drag, smoothed her dress, picked up her satchel and walked out.

Long ago, Rhea had heard a story. A teacher once drew a line on the black board and asked the students to shorten it, albeit, without erasing it. A boy drew a longer line below it, effectively making it shorter. She had taken the story literally. At home, her brother was like the first line. The apple of everyone’s eyes. The star performer at school. She paled in comparison. So she worked harder at pleasing her family. She completed all errands before time, she studied till she drooped over her books, she learnt salsa while her brother played quarter back and she joined university while he dropped out of high school. She had drawn the longer line.

College was in the nearby metro. For the first time Rhea realized how different she was from the people around her. She had strived for excellence all her life, because uptil now, excellence had guaranteed acceptance. Not anymore. She tried to fit in, but found she couldn’t. Whenever she was with the other students, she felt like that dot which was on the circumference and therefore, on the circle, but still not a part of the circle. At first she started living in denial. There was nothing wrong with her, so she needn’t change. She just needed to maintain her hard work and only partially shroud her conscience. It seemed to work. They all seemed to be in awe of her unique personality. She managed to get the highest paying job too. Again she was able to draw the longer line or so she thought.

The look of awe always gave Rhea a high. But, it actually threw her out of the circle and placed her on a different plane. She was an alien to her family. Men either adored her or loathed her. All that excelling had made her incapable of leading or even envisioning a normal life. Now it felt like standing on the pinnacle. If you want the pinnacle, you stand there alone, but if you value company; you need to step down. She could do neither. Her lonely nights seemed to be getting longer. Her throat ached with the lump in there. She was reminded of the longer line. That was when she started visiting Night Lights; defeating all those years of abstinence. If you want the aching lump to feel small, it should be shrunk. The drinks did that for her. She always gulped them down quick, so that they could burn her throat and shrink the lump. When the ache settled in her chest, she sought to punish those hopes of a normal life filled with love. And just like tonight; there was always some bloke available at Night Lights. The physical pain eased her heart. If fate dealt her a blow, she punished herself twice as hard. She had to draw the longer line, after all. Only she never felt she had succeeded in drawing it. As she walked along the deserted lane, Rhea resolved to beat fate at its little game. Dawn seemed to be descending on the eastern sky. Soon it would be another day, another rival, another bottle, another bloke, another black board and another line to shorten.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Relatives Uff!

Mom says relatives are important. They will help you whenever you are in need. Now really! But going by these common instances where relatives come into the picture, I would rather say, thanks but no thanks for the help.

The ‘my kid is my pride’ syndrome:

This starts in school. You are set up to compete with some relative who was born before or the same year as you. They get As and if you don’t, concerned uncle is sure to express concern to some third party about how bhaiya No. 2’s beta is so hoshiyaar or the beti is so ‘susheel’ because she can balance her studies and a tea tray equally well. All the conversations take place in such a manner that they reach your parents in a round about manner for sure. So the next you know is that they are worried about saving face. And you get enrolled into tuitions and courses you never wanted in the first place. All so that next time you beat bhaiya No. 2’s bachha. And so, you either study hard/excel at extra curriculars and try to please all, or you become an out and out rebel.

The girl/boy hunt:

Before you or your parents realise you are eligible, the matchmaking auntie realises. So before you can convince your parents about what are your preferences are in marriage, whether you want a Mr./Ms. Right or want to go it alone or even whether you believe in caste or compatibility, your parents are forced to toe the society’s line. So your parents start fretting even before the word dating crosses your mind. The girl’s mom is worried about her 'virtue' and maintaining a 'spotless reputation' and the guy’s mom is worried that he might be ‘seduced’ by some unworthy girl. And what about the boy and girl? Well….that’s everyone’s personal love/sob story I guess.

The marriage comparison meter:

Ok, so finally, you have beaten the pests during the hunt and have found your soul mate. Now its time for D-day. So how will the marriage be planned? Well, the jewellery has to be from the same place as that of the phoophi’s daughter only grander and heavier. The dowry has to be higher what mama’s ladka got. Everything has to be on a grander scale than previously scaled by any relative. Whatever for? After all, at the end of every marriage, every relative says stuff like ‘dal mein namak kam tha’, ‘sajawat ke phool murjhaye hue the’, ‘jodi mujhe toh pasand nahin aayi par khair apni apni kismat’, don’t they?

So I reason with Mom, that friends are better than relatives. They are the ones who will stand by me and not these relatives. After all, neither they nor I had a choice in being each other’s relatives, so I will be civil but don’t expect more. To which her standard reply sounds something like out of a Bollywood family drama ending with the blood is thicker than water theory. Relatives uff!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Raghav was very happy today. His wife, Shaina, had gone to visit her parents. He was all by himself tonight. He couldn't contain his excitement. Today when he went home; it would not be Shaina's nagging face that greeted him. Falak would be there for him. Oh, how he had missed Falak, missed those comforting arms around him. But today, he would get a taste of heaven.

Raghav was from a prominent business family of the city. He was the eldest son and was expected to marry into a family that matched his social status. He was supposed to marry a beautiful, rich girl; whether he liked it or not. And being an obedient son, he did so. He married Shaina. She was everything a business man's wife could be. She was smart, she was a great hostess – she was just perfect. But like all socialites; she was the perfect bitch too. Life was hell with her. And what was more; try as hard as he might, he could not bring himself to love her. She wouldn't let him divorce her too; not that he had the courage to file a suit. And so, he did all that was expected of him, playing the perfect provider. The only bright spot in their marriage was their 4 year old daughter, Sara. Luckily, she had taken after him.

He finished his work and rushed back home. Falak was there – just as he had expected. Falak's face lit up on seeing him. Raghav took in the sight in front of him. Neat white T-shirt and a smart pair of shorts. He shuddered with pleasure. Falak smiled sensuously, "Welcome home, darling. Sara's fast asleep. What took you so long?" They hugged each other tight. Raghav felt that this was a true home-coming. How he wished he could be with Falak forever! But, he didn't have the guts. Anger welled up in him – why couldn't he have his share of happiness?

Falak sensed his tension and eased away. He smiled ruefully. "Come sweetheart, I have made some chicken fried rice for you." "I can't wait to have it, Falak." They ate savouring each other's company. God! How badly he wanted the night to last forever. But that was not to be; so they had to live each moment of the night. After dinner, they sat down to watch a rerun of Will and Grace. This was pure bliss – Falak's head nestled against his shoulder. The night was running out. No, he couldn't let it go like that. He hugged Falak closer. Falak looked into his eyes. "I love you, Raghav." Feeling gushed forth as he tightened his grip; almost smothering Falak, "I love you, love you." And they made love – slowly, passionately. Every move unleashed the love that had been suppressed for so long. The inevitability of their separation when Shaina returned, just fuelled the passion.

The next morning; they continued the pretense of a happy home. Raghav lazed on the sofa with the newspaper; while Falak made coffee. They smiled at each other contentedly. Just then Sara walked in with her teddy bear, rubbing her sleepy eyes. As soon as she saw Falak she squealed and ran upto him, "Falak uncle, you lied to me. I slept soon; but the Pumpkin Fairy did not hide any present under my pillow. Now buy me a chocolate." "Ok sweetie, now be a good girl and go brush your teeth," Falak hugged Sara. Raghav watched on wistfully – if only they could be a family!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Being 'Firang' and easy

When the Slumdog debate was at its peak, Tarun Tejpal wrote a scathing piece in Tehelka on the stereotypes associated with Indians. It was a brilliantly written piece like most of Tarun Tejpal’s work and had received a lot of positive comments. But there was one strong voice of dissent. It was a letter by a foreigner, a lady, who questioned the righteous anger of Indians by asking uncomfortable questions about our own portrayal of ‘firangs’ in Bollywood. She wondered if showing all foreign women as only sex symbols and easy wasn’t a stereotype. Foreigners in Hindi movies were addicts, sex-o-maniacs or home-breakers, so wasn’t that unfair to them she asked. I was reminded of this statement when I was covering the gang rape of the American student at TISS. The headlines in the newspapers next day screamed that the boys hadn’t anticipated that she would cry rape. Why? Did the boys think that being American she would just shrug it all off as a time pass orgy? I cant remember the last time I heard someone talk nice things about a ‘firang’ girl. Mostly they are a subject of sexual curiosity and lewd jokes. Her skirts, her white skin, her smile, everything is considered as an ‘invitation’, even if the poor girl is just being herself. Yes, you may say that it is the great cultural difference amongst us, which makes it difficult for the average Indian male to understand that a woman could just be friendly with you, hang around with you, drink with you, without having once thought of ‘seduction’. And that is perhaps the only ‘mistake’ this girl made – that of thinking that these people thought of her as a friend and not as an easy catch. If thought this way, yes, it was all her fault, wasn’t it?