Tuesday, August 27, 2013

JOSHI'S CHOICE



She trotted into our lives 13 years ago in the most adorable way possible. I heard someone yell out my name from the ground floor;


“Listen, the lift is coming up to our floor, just open the door when it reaches ok?”
“Cool mamma.”

As I opened the iron doors, I obviously looked ahead at eye level. There was no one. As I looked to the ground, there it was – a huge cane picnic basket with a pink bow strung loosely around its edges. Completely confused, I opened it expecting to find something to eat for some reason. But there she was, staring back at me with those emerald green eyes and pink lips. She was the most beautiful thing known to life. I lifted her up and held her close while she nibbled vehemently at my hair, my cheeks, even my nose. I inhaled her, that puppy smell that only a true blue dog lover could be in love with.

That was my first encounter with a gift of a lifetime- Sasha Nair Joshi.

The days, months and years that followed were a mixed bag of happiness, joy, sadness and grief, like they are in all families and she shared them all with us, being the perfect lady, always with her held high and reserved emotional expression. A complete  anomaly to the other women in the family for sure. Right from sitting upright in the co-driver’s seat and balancing her bottom with surprising precision to always seeing the last guest out no matter what time it was, Sasha was always there, perfect and poised as ever.
13 years later, as I write this at 1AM unable to sleep, I realize we only have 10 hours left with her.

Tomorrow at 11, we’ll have resorted to euthanasia.

It’s been the toughest decision we as a family have ever made. Letting go of her, her touch, her blue blanket, her mattress, her sweatshirts, her jewellery. And all this, voluntarily. Every time she sits up or moves or even looks at any of us, it feels like maybe in some alternate universe this might mean there’s still some hope. But there isn’t.

There never is.

Those green eyes are just the same. When she looks up for a taste of sunshine through our windows when she’s lying down, not that she can do much else now. The puppy smell has crept back into her body mysteriously as if to tell me she’s still my baby no matter where she is. Watching her all day today knowing that it’ll be her last was excruciating. It probably hasn’t even sunk in.

I’m trying to expend all my latent emotional energy in rationalizing whether or not we’re taking everything away from her far too quickly. So what if her kidneys have failed? So what if her heart is enlarged? So what if she can barely walk and has stopped eating completely? So what? It was just about the time when these thoughts made a marked entry into my brain that my heart truly broke this morning. Maa tried to feed her Tandoori Chicken. Baby girl is part Sardarni, so its imaginable how much she loves anything that hails from the Pind. She looked at it longingly, kept smacking her lips like she normally does, but just couldn’t eat. She had no energy, her body had no will.

That’s when my heart she just fell into the number of pieces as the spots on her body. That’s when I realized she had to go to a place where she can eat all the Tandoori Chicken she ever wanted. Painlessly, joyfully, with loud burps and everything. That place was no longer here. Home was no longer her favourite couch.

“Beta, we’re lucky dogs have the option of euthanasia. We will all feel her loss. So will I. Afterall I’ll be losing my favourite, most efficient caddie.” In my father’s  warm words, I realized I was not alone. We would get through this and we were doing what was best for her. It no longer feels like an execution, but a release for her into a better, happier and healthier place.

Sasha, we love you like you don’t even know. Our baby girl, my partner in crime, you’ve seen me jump with joy at my successes, you’ve seen me cry during my failures, you’ve been a part of every girly gossip session and you’ve seen a boy kiss me. Each one of which was a well guarded secret. 
I can’t think of anyone else who’s done all of the above and still stuck around.

But in all this,  true to form, in all ladylike propriety, you still leave us with the two things that make you the little wonder that you are:

Those green eyes and  that puppy smell.

Friday, May 24, 2013

THE BALLERINA FLIP


That's what they call it I'm guessing. That whole heady rush business, where that deep dark corner of your heart leaps out of your mouth and back into your chest. Oh yes, that feeling. Irrational, impulsive, sometimes potentially fatal.

I’m 26, closer to 27 than I ever was. It’s an age when you’re faced with the ‘So when is your turn?’ question at every wedding you ever attend. Friends and cousins walking down the aisle at the drop of a hat isn’t helping either. I come from an extremely progressive family so The Maa and  The Father don’t really bother. I’m quite lucky like that. And I’m not even venturing toward the whole anti-arranged marriage road because let’s face it, you can never say. If it was all about just finding the one person who makes you want to jump off a rooftop, then how come they aren’t there right below to catch you when you fall? Why is it that relationships that have gone on for years, with love and tenderness face a dead end just because a piece of paper is signed? Are we living in a world where commitment has now become quantifiable?

I thought of all the above and realized that there are no set answers. There may never be. But this whole arranged and love marriage divide is ridiculous. I’ve met couples who say things like “No one can believe we had an arranged marriage.” Umm why? Because you guys can have a decent conversation? Or is it because you’ve fallen in love, which apparently ‘arranged marriage’ couples aren’t supposed to? Or is it because you want to be cool? Let me tell you smartypants, there is everything cool about falling in love but falling out of it sucks like you don’t even know. Easily  the worst feeling ever. And it can happen anytime. In times of the internet and smartphones connecting people, couples haven’t felt more disconnected. Arranged marriages cannot be taken the way they used to. It has to start from scratch, like how it would be if you met your partner by chance in a coffee shop, a party or a bookstore (my secret wish).  Wouldn’t you give it time? Go through the entire process of the initial butterflies to the adapting to annoying habits to settling in on a comfort spot to being able to live with their faults? I certainly would. So how is it different in an arranged scene? What the hell is up with parents wanting you to take the plunge as soon as you can? This one is a common gem I’ve come across in the last few years:

“Beta, if you don’t decide jaldi se about this guy, the family might think you’ve lost interest.”

So wait, you’re telling me that if he/his family can’t wait for you to be sure and take an informed well thought out decision, you’re the one at fault? So the success of the marriage is directly proportional to how fast it takes for the wedding to happen. Wow.

I’m not saying that things cannot go wrong even after tons of deliberation. But then atleast you can look back and say you gave it all you had. After meeting through family and dating for a couple of months, have you really tried hard enough? Just because it’s an arranged scene, does not mean it guarantees the right partner because if you’re a self reliant ,independent woman who has her head up high, the only person who knows you the best is you. No matter how unrealistically fantastic your parents are. This is without a doubt your life’s biggest decision and you need to make it yourself. Take all the time you need. I for one,  would want a man for whom my dreams are his and not just for the sake of lip service but down to everyday life.

Marriage is marriage, no matter how it started, no matter how banal the proposal or how exciting the romance. Ultimately it boils down to one thing- can I wake up to that mug every single day for the rest of my days? If you can answer this, you’re good. If not, you still have a long way to go. Taking time is the most primary of all. I’ve known a couple who went the arranged marriage route and were engaged for 2 years just because that’s the way they would have done it had they met otherwise. I thought that was fantastic. And no one ran away, lost interest or committed suicide. Everyone is happy and so is their 3-year-old daughter and 4 dogs.

It’s easy for Beyonce to urge you to put a ring on it. She knows nothing about arranged marriages in India. There’s always that one moment that you realize you’re in love. It could be something as stupid as a bad haircut or breadcrumbs on the side of an upper lip or even really out of tune singing. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. But till you come to the point when your heart skips a beat for something completely random and innocuous, that’s when you know. Till then, hold on, the ride has just begun.


There’s a reason he travelled the world to find the right foot for that shoe
And there’s a reason she said ‘I do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

RAPE ME, RAPE ME, SAY THAT YOU'LL RAPE ME?



I was hounded with calls, inundated with emails and chased down with Facebook messages after the 16th of December. The incident called for an uprising, voices of the youth to enter the seemingly deaf ears of lawmakers. What did you want me to say? That it is sad what happened to that young girl who died trying to fight for her life after being brutally raped by men who have still not been put to immediate death? For ranting against a nation that claims to now have fast track courts but whose jails are still home to the most cruel sexual perpetrators whose fate still lies in the hands of the indecisive, election dominated law? The scales have tilted my love. And not in our favour.

Then why did I think of writing now? The reason was staring at me in the face when I saw a someone on Facebook write stuff like “Will sacking Shiela Dixit and coming on the streets solve anything? Will sacking the commissioner really help? We need to change from within.” Or some such utter elitist nonsense.  This was followed by the news, a few debates and that was it. I had to write it down.  A 5-year old little girl gets kidnapped and brutally raped and you ask why people are protesting? Her childhood has been snatched away from her, she’ll never be the same again, her parents are dying of guilt, anger and probably need a lifetime of counseling. That’s why. To top it all a cop gives her parents 2000 bucks to shut up and not involve the public.

Elite India, wake the hell up. These are real people. This was a chilling incident and unfortunately this baby has lived to recount this story and replay it in her head a billion times over. When she goes to school, college, when she starts dating, when a boy first touches, kisses or holds her close. She’s going to never feel the way we did the first time all those things happened to us. And no amount of counseling is going to change that. I think that’s enough reason to protest. Enough reason to demand an explanation and action. Why should the Commissioner resign? Because no inspector will ever offer money like that if orders don’t come from a higher authority. That is how bureaucratic the system is.  He shouldn’t be suspended. He needs to be jailed for abetment.

But all these are just opinions. What really got my goat is the Indian celebrity community. Shabana Azmi was on air on a debate that was being watched by millions across the nation. And here’s what she says, “Death sentence? Absolutely not. How can we fight barbarianism with barbarianism?” This is when I lost it. Hello Mrs. I-wear-a 20,000 buck silk saree- to –a-Gareebi-hataao-andolan, this is not Cuffe Parade.
 I used to be friends with close family friends of hers. 2 girls who lived in the diplomatic area in Delhi and I know for a fact that they used to be chauffeur driven to St.Stephen’s College every single day because the parents did not ‘trust Delhi’s public transport’. Good Morning Azmi, every other normal Delhi kid takes the ‘University Special bus.’ Every single day.  

This attitude is not new to our society. Here’s the thing. It may not be blatant rape but think of the number of times a man walks all over you and you don’t even know it. I wrote an article once about how a man should take the check at a restaurant especially when taking a girl out. It was misconstrued as being backward. You stupid women, it’s not like I can’t afford it. But what I’m trying to get at is that you don’t want a man in your life. You want a gentleman. A concept that should not just be restricted to the boundaries of men in uniform or some such. Women took offence because they felt I was undermining them. Honey, take offence where it matters. When your boyfriend says he’s at work when he’s actually cheating on you. Or when he insults you. Or abuses you. Or puts you down, lowers your confidence levels or even expects you to cut back on your career and dreams to accommodate his. You won’t believe the number of men I’ve met who are totally pro the last bit. What is rape at the end of it all? It’s a man’s way of asserting domination over a woman in a way that will take a while to leave her memory. Irreparable damage. And here we are, a country with lawmakers who are debating over what level of rape should be given what degree of punishment.  Now THAT is offensive. What are you trying to say? That forcefully pinning me down, stripping my clothes off and forcing yourself onto me is not worthy of capital punishment? Oh I’m sorry, for that it’s just jail. You’ll need to insert foreign objects into me to make your way to the gallows. So great, for now you’re safe. It’s just 5am wake up calls and watery daal for you for a few years.  Incredible India  indeed.

We need to wake up to the fact that rape is rape. There is not lesser or greater. There are no degrees. If it’s proven, it calls for immediate action. You do not have the right to violate me.

Stay away. For all I want is Death for Rape.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

WORK FROM HOME: 5 WAYS TO GET IT RIGHT

So I've started working with a startup and I think I've made the right decision. It's a bunch of really smart, crazy, illogical, erratic alcohol lovers. Perfect fit, I know. So I've started blogging for them as well and much as I love the product, I refused to blog on anything remotely technical or even connected to my field per say. I often find blogging for a company rather tedious and I didn't want it to be like that. I wanted to do what I was good at but something that also resonated with my workplace. So here's a link to my first piece with them. Tell me what you think and share away! 

http://www.wicfy.com/blog/work-from-home-5-ways-to-get-it-right/

In case you can't click on this, just copy paste the URL and check it out! 











Yep, the above is pretty much what my work space looks like and you know what? I love it. Not to forget you get free beer. Officially. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

MEANDERINGS

So here’s a thought- how about I be more regular with the blog? How about I not have to answer the barrage of questions that mainly revolve around why I’ve not been writing. How about me not writing about things that only worry me? Will that be so bad? Believe it or not, these are the questions I’ve been pondering over for the past many months. And I haven’t written a word as a result. That’s the thing about being branded as a writer, you can’t just get away with writing about absolutely nothing. There’s always the constant expectation that I should be pissed off about some random and sometimes no so random nonsense. I’ve decided to break away from the expectation that there needs to be a reason to what I write. So I’m planning tons of interesting things for the blog. I hope most of it turns out the way I hoped it would. Also I didn’t realize the number of people who read my trash. It’s pretty heart-warming and all that.

So what’s been up since August last year (woah)? Not much. Things have stayed pretty much stagnant since I moved back home. Wrote a little, thought a lot, travelled a bit, dated minuscule amounts but emerged absolutely refreshed and fabulous. I start work next week so I thought this was a good time to kick start a whole new chapter on the blog. The parents are watching ‘Scent of a Woman’ in the next room. I don’t know how that’s relevant but I love that movie. Just so you know. SO anyway, professionally, I hope I’ve made a wise decision. My  initial decision of quitting journalism for the lack of creative freedom still holds strong. I don’t think I’ve had stronger faith in the fact that most feature editors need to get a grip. Like, seriously. So when I apply I usually get the same jargon about how I may own a popular blog, but that doesn’t mean that I can write. Because clearly, this is an art blog and none of the content has any semblance to the written word. That explains the lack of freshness in most publications. This is when I also realized that the blog needs to diversify. So the new diversification plans would need a lift monetarily, for which one needs a regular income because freelancing is a lethal plan for someone as lazy as I.

Also, moving back home after 4 years is the same as moving to a new city. Pune is home, but it couldn’t seem more alien. Things have changed to the extent that I can’t fathom sometimes. But I’m learning to live with it, not that I have much of a choice. Century old buildings and places I considered landmarks are now being broken down for apartment buildings and malls. My tearful and emotional reaction to all this is of course a tad late because my friends have already gone through it all, leaving me to mope all by myself.  Walking down the same alleys is even stranger as half the trees don’t exist anymore. And holy mother of god, did I hear Honey Singh blaring out of an SUV the other day? Oh yes, I did. Right in the middle of my street, in a city that can’t tell Gurdaspur from Gurgaon. It’s all sunk right in thankfully.

My love life stays as amusing as ever. With hilariously failed dates and the even more hilarious wine and impersonation sessions that take place right after with my cronies. I can’t say I’m spoilt for choice but for someone as stubborn as myself, there can’t be a compromise. I’ve also learnt to live with the fact that I don’t want romance. I want Yash Chopra romance. I think many of us artsy types do. The hopeless, incorrigible romantics that we are.  And I love every bit of it. Poetry doesn’t seem to work as well as song compositions though. Or chocolate. Or perfume. Or  aroma oils. Or shoes….oooo SHOES! Ok I’m done.
This is such a random post, but I guess that’s the state of mind I’m in. It’s not empire, but I’m getting there. Also major book ideas have been running through my brain. Finally. I won’t share much but what do you guys think of the idea? That’s all for now, it’s Saturday night and I have a life.  Nothing like ending a week like conversation and wine I always say.

Ok chal bye. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

AN ODE TO MY SINGLE SISTERS



I woke up this lazy morning and did the usual. Brushed  my teeth, strolled around the house sipping my morning tea, making my way to papa’s study. He didn’t have to go to work today. He sat by himself on the rocking chair reading the day’s papers. He usually yells out a piece of news that he finds interesting, he feels that the whole family should know what rocks the nation’s boat. Not this time though. He sat pensive and looked terrified, while still reading on in rapt concentration. This was no bomb blast, this was no flood or epidemic, not even a political catastrophe. This was the story of a young girl of 25 who lived in Mumbai. She was killed by the watchman of her building for resisting his lusty advances. Her throat was slit and when her boyfriend came home the next morning (he was at work all night), he found her swimming in a pool of blood. They were to be married this year.

Pune has some fantastic weather and  my usual morning swim was in order. So I slipped into my costume, over which I wore shorts and a green t-shirt. I was just about to leave the house when he walked up to me and asked ,Where do you think you’re going?”

 I looked at him quizzically, “For a swim. Like everyday.”

“Well no, you can’t. Go in the evening when the pool is a little crowded and don’t forget to take a bath robe. A towel wouldn’t do.”

I was clearly confused. After a little argument with him, he finally came out with it.
“That girl in Mumbai? She could have been you. And one can’t leave any stone unturned as far as safety is concerned.”

A single woman in this country deserves a gallantry award. She really does. When you’re just out of home, struggling to make ends meet, running a house, tackling tempestuous  bosses, unreasonable landlords,  travelling back home and still managing an active social life, you’re truly nothing short of a goddess. 

This one is for you, all you young single women, who struggle everyday to beat the harrowing glances and advances of perverse men, those of you who learn how to fix things around the house ,thereby negating the very need of a man, those of you who make successes out of yourselves despite not having the comforts of home and its people. You make the truest friends because you are well aware that in an alien city, your friends are always family. Having a man in your life makes little or no difference when it comes to your  daily war with everything outside your front door.

I got sick of all the above so I came home, which is why I look up to each one of you even more. Because maybe I wasn’t strong enough.  In Delhi, my roommate was stopped by 3 drunk men. While 2 of them held her back, the third forced her to watch him ejaculate. My roommate in Mumbai was pinned down by 8 men and brutally molested. Is this some sick way of telling us that we don’t have any business being independent and have the guts to have a career? I’ve always maintained that the Indian woman  may have moved from the bedroom to the boardroom, but only on paper. We’re still a vile nation, where our men still get away with anything and we should stop denying it.

This is the first time my thoughts are flowing with no real direction. Because that is just how  livid I am with this incident in Mumbai and the general state of women’s safety in this country of ours. And I don’think anyone gets it. If you live with your parents you don’t get it. If the only time you've lived away from home is to study, you don’t get it. So don’t even try.

And darling Mumbai, stop being so conceited, you’re getting as depraved and as nasty to your women as any other place. You should really stop boasting about how women can catch cabs at 3am in short skirts because you know what?  This is Mumbai, not Miami. 

To every single young working woman out there, you are a hero. You cry, you break down, you suffer, you may break your bones under a moving truck, but you can still  manage to stand right up, dust yourself and walk on to catch a cab to work the next day. It is outstanding and you have to walk on with immense pride and dignity. Be safe, take care.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm humbled as always to have ever been a part of your community. It has given my heart and soul all the strength it carries today.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yeh Tera Ghar, Yeh Mera Ghar



She walked in home drenched in the revelry of the night that had been. Reeking of whiskey and the warm yet comforting stench of tobacco. The doorbell rang about ten times, interspersed with her loud giggles and the sound of keys  struggling to get into the keyhole. I could hear her heels click against the tiled floor outside the door occasionally slipping in gay abandon, after which her palms thump the door repeatedly. “Open the door, Banana!”

I rush across the house, look through the peephole, open our bright blue door. There she stands. All dressed in a thin black shrug, her blue heels, her eyes just the right tinge of pink filled with a flurry of excitement and coquettishness, telling tales of what went on at ‘Bonobo’ that night.  She darts inside, only to flop on the couch and remove another bottle of wine which I look at disapprovingly but eventually share. She then hugs me and tells me it is all going to pan out the way I imagined it would, no matter what or who stands in my way. I’m touched and I extend my arms for her to fall right into them. We’re not into long pensive hugs with the same sex. So she is upright again. We talk into the remaining part of the night, until we feel the sun shining through our French windows, imploring us to call it a day.
The next day is heavy on both our heads. The world swirls in our apartment along with the sugar in our freshly beaten coffee. Back on the couch we were. She looks at me with those dreary, tired eyes and says “Banana, just so you know, all those things I said last night? Well they’re all true. I’m here ok?” Umm, awkward silence time.

“I know you are. Let’s go get some lunch?”
“Sure. Just dress properly ok. I know we live next to a trash can,  you don’t have to look like one.”
“Bugger off, I’ll be ready in 10.”

Roommates. I can’t even begin to describe what they’ve meant to me over the years. After an initial hiccup with two who used to use my bed for nefarious doings behind my back, I’ve had all the luck with the rest. They become a part of you that can’t really be detached. Atleast mine haven’t been able to. Back in Delhi, I was healing a broken heart. Here in Bombay I was resurrecting a flailing career.  The few moments of  happiness and contentment in both places, would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the lovely women I shared my home with. Cheems saw me through the depths of listlessness and disillusion. She did what any true friend would do for another friend getting over her biggest break up- introduce the victim to new steaming hot men with an IQ of -2, the one thing Delhi can triumphantly boast of.  A few months later, the favour was duly returned when she was boyfriendless and had her head stuck in a tub of ice-cream. I call it the Ostrich effect and as women we truly believe it is the solution to all out break ups, till the time the nasty vindictive temptress starts making her way round your waistline.

 Bombay was a whole different ball game. My bond with Pee emanated from my utmost disgust with a philistine city that seemed to lack a soul. She was the first person I had an intelligent conversation with and that was enough reason for me to share a home with her. Simple as that. Her drunken nights followed by my nocuous workdays kept up the entertainment quotient, most of which was expended on a bottle of wine. And the cycle continued.  In a city where most people experience  their dreams come alive, I watched mine slip through my consciousness. I stopped writing and as I sat in a corner of my room watching my books and my diary collecting dust, I imagined them gently weeping.

I would watch Pee come back home every night discussing feverishly her advertising ideas, pitches, who said what, what art meant to her, whose work she could kill for and whose the industry could well do without. As I listened to her, I realized I had lost that passion, my passion. I had nothing to say, nothing to compare myself to, no benchmarks to set myself against. For the first time in a long time, I felt uninspired. Death for a writer.

Pee finally sat me down and spoke to me about how I needed to get my mojo back. “Honey  you stopped loving yourself ages ago. From what I hear, you were quite the ballsy b**** and had boys by their you -know –whats. Where did all that go? And why the hell do I have to know you know when you’re this depressing?” Only someone really close can talk to you like that and get away with it. It was at that instant that I decided to stop moping, pick myself up and follow my heart. Vikram had moved in by then and the ‘let’s get banana moving’ campaign was on full swing. With long debates and discussions into the wee hours of the morning to reading every single one of my articles to even getting my culinary-artistic high with Masterchef every night, I seemed to have atleast a few happy memories to look back at.

In a world where single people living in alien cities, away from the warmth of home, is as common as a roadside tea stall, is it really that important who we live with? My roommates were my substitutes for family. They’ve hugged me when I’ve cried, they’ve pulled my hair back when I’ve puked (ok this was at 21. Totally allowed), they’ve stealthily put blankets over me, when in my sleep I’ve kicked mine off in Delhi’s biting winter, they’ve nursed me back to health when I’ve felt like a Somalian refugee. But most importantly, they’ve laughed with me and spread the kind of joy in my life which is quite irreplaceable. And yes, they will still need me and they will still feed me, when I’m 64.

What’s been the payback? Well, just the same. And I’d do it again. A million times over.