Constant Vigilance.

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Cobra. Bodyguard. Impower. Bullet. What are these, you wonder? Brand names of pepper spray. Why do I know, you ask? Because New Years’ Eve happened.

Unlike so many others in Bangalore, I wrapped up work at 5 PM on NYE to head home! Yes, I wanted to stay indoors while the rest of city revelled out in ten degrees of chill. If finding commute on regular days is a pain, that evening was exceptionally terrible. It took me ten minutes of futile attempts at booking an Uber and three refusals, before an auto driver agreed to drop me home, by the meter. Anyone who’s travelled in Bangalore knows ‘by the meter’ is a blessing. But was I to know what would follow? In the guise of a request for smaller notes to buy gasoline, he borrowed 2000 bucks from me, skipped the gas stations and took a wrong turn. On my insistence to return the money back, he stopped at the beginning of a flyover, turned around to scare me with stories of a fresh murder he’d committed and threatened to put a knife through me. I, obviously, didn’t want to see him brandish a knife, so a couple of futile attempts later I got off the auto, lest he drive away with me. Oh, he wasn’t crazy; he was crazy drunk. I saw him speed away with my money, but more importantly, my composure and the peace of my family and friends. At the end of three hours, I’d found my strength again, a helpful auto driver and with my friends in tow, filed a complaint with the police.

They say PTSD is diagnosed after a month of the symptoms, which generally show up around 3 months after the tragedy. But what is the diagnosis for the deviant thoughts that strike me every time I step into an auto now? What about the anxiety that rushes through me when the auto driver takes a shorter, new route? What about my friends now who keep asking me if I’ve reached home, while I am still stuck in Bangalore traffic? What would I have done if the man had taken out a knife? You’d say ‘don’t overthink’. I try not to. But when I look out of the auto to distract myself, I catch myself reading auto license plate numbers, searching for the one I’d unfortunately ridden in. When I look inside the auto, I furtively glance at the driver in the rear view mirror. When they argue about the fare now, I prefer to get down midway. When I give them a bigger note, I worry if they’ll return the change. This happened in broad daylight – would I have survived an attempt at night? I have seldom felt more vulnerable in Bangalore but that day in the usually crowded metropolis I found no person to walk up to. There were barely any cars on the roads, people were scattered around on a five-point crossing and there was no traffic police guard. Post my written complaint, I expected the police to immediately start a search to nab a drunk driver – after all, I did have his license plate details on camera. But I can’t tell them how to do their job, right? Would the driver have done this if a man sat in the back seat? Would a pepper spray have helped me? Could I have punched him in the face and gotten my money back? What if the driver hadn’t stopped the auto at my insistence? Should I have sat there and argued or cowered at his macho attempts to scare me?

I am not maligning all auto drivers. But nor do I plan to forgive and forget what happened. What I wonder is what had I done wrong? How do I ensure that I don’t get into another such situation? How do you ensure constant vigilance?

Oh, also. Happy New Year! ❤

Graciously Yours!

Cooking up a storm!

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I am 26. I am single. I am a female. In India, that’s enough to set people rattling off about marriage and family planning. In my case, more advice follows about learning to do tasks that suit a woman in the house than one in office. To name a few – cooking, stitching, birthing, being graceful, looking pretty, being an ideal daughter-in-law, the ideal wife, the presentable new addition to the family. These were my bones of contention with a man who would have almost cut me off at the knees, stopping just in time as he rightly realised the bloodbath that would follow. Needless to say, I didn’t take it well. Oh yes, I didn’t take his abstaining well! And I console myself thinking many others wouldn’t have either. Love has mysterious ways of revealing the real you. What do I do to ward off the very things we parted ways over? Do those exact things to prove myself capable, to perfect myself, to console myself that he didn’t fight hard enough for me.

So I cooked the other evening. There were reasons, of course, which had nothing to do with proving to myself that I could cook. Or so I tell myself. I was procrastinating working on my manuscript, at some level of my subconscious. The mood to write just wasn’t right! So cooking. Also because the cook hadn’t turned up. And my flatmate couldn’t be fed take-away with a running body temperature of 102 degrees! So you ask what is the big deal about cooking? Well, there isn’t. At least in my mind. Except, people around me (read: relatives, the ones who call me twice a year – on my birthday and on their birthday to remind me that I’d forgotten about them. Well, I didn’t forget you. I chose not to remember you.) think it is a vital sign of being a good wife. And here I thought I should prepare to commit myself to a partner, whole and soul. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Maybe because most of my favourite dishes are best eaten raw! Salads, sprouts, fruits, milkshakes, sandwiches! But like everything else, I like to do it well, whenever I do cook. And lo behold! I cooked the main course for three people with stunning ease and a record time of 40 minutes. Of course, I’m only talking about rice, lentils and a curry, but hello? It was stomach filling, soul-fulfilling and lip-smacking – with a serving of ghee added to it. To all those skeptics and cynics, why do you keep cooking up a storm?

When the time comes, life teaches you everything. Or it perishes you. Why do you have to keep pushing people into a box, trying to fit them into standards, forcing them to keep up with how the world was fifty years ago when you were our age? Why is it still expected of women to be the ones running the house and holding together the fort, while encashing cheques at the month end? What is the man bringing to the table except for the money? Pray, tell me, if it was just about the money, then as a woman with financial stability and an understanding of financial management, why do I really need you men? Maybe a little consideration? Maybe join me as I flunk ‘Cooking 102’? Maybe let’s have a good laugh over how easy calculating ROI is compared to roasting the wheat flour just brown enough to not burn it for the halwa? Maybe let me sit around and watch you churn a chocolate banana milkshake for me? It’s about wanting to run the house with my partner, rather than for him. And if he isn’t ready for it? Well, then he needs to haul his ass from the couch and come stand by my side like a man.

Oh also. I can stitch a button on as good as I can your lips!

Graciously Yours!

What’s in a name after all?

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The SpaceX BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is now called the Starship! Musk has been known to be creative even when it comes to naming his ventures. At least, the latest ones. Boring Company. Why? Because they bore through the ground to make tunnels! Brick Store. Why? Well, duh. Because they’re selling bricks! Bricks from the tunnels bored! And my favourite? ‘Not a Flamethrower’ because anything named Flamethrower could not have been shipped through US Customs! But would you call him creative? Or just plain? The names are generic, after all. After all, people who came up with the names Dunzo and Dependo – aren’t they the creative ones?

But why are we discussing names?

Of late, news reports doing the rounds involve Uttar Pradesh and the changes in city names by the current Chief Minister of state, Yogi Adityanath. Yogi Adityanath was born Ajay Mohan Bisht, Guess he didn’t like it much and renamed himself. In a political career spanning over two decades, he’s been known to change names of markets, lanes, roads, railway station platforms and cities. Think of the number of platform displays, milestones, letterheads, postcards, envelopes, shop displays and road signs this man has single-handedly changed. Do the agreements and tenders also require to be changed? I hope not! It isn’t as simple as a Microsoft Word Find and Replace function, after all. Think of the amount of trade he has generated just by the stroke of his pen!

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This isn’t the first time India is witnessing such a drive. Our politicians prefer changing working names rather than doing the actual work of bringing about a change. Their claim to name is religion, history, patriotism and God (of no particular faith, of course) knows what not! From Calcutta to Bangalore, Allahabad to Madras, no place has been spared. Be it the Congress or BJP, Trinamool Congress, or even DMK – they all make name changes when in power and cry their lungs out hoarse when in Opposition! If an act is considered unnecessary and expensive, hold the same standards for everyone – whether in power or in opposition.

The plea that the names were given by the British or the Mughals or whosoever is bollocks! They, even if they were atrocious to us, were a part of our past and they have helped shape our present. If not for the British would the union of the states of India have been possible? Or would we still be ruled by kingdoms and factions, warring for more land? Would we have been another Middle East or the world’s second largest economy? If not for the Mughals, the Persians or the other Muslim rulers, would we have the Qutub Minar, Red Fort and the Taj Mahal? We cannot pick and choose our history. Even if we do not accept it, it’ll still exist. Changing the name of a place will not alter the course of history of the places.

Yogi Adityanath is at the helm of a state which has almost 10 times the population of Australia at 20.4 crores but a purchasing power parity of Tajikistan. With 828 persons per sq. km, against a country average of 382, the state has only 2 working international airports and a crime rate that exceeds all other states of the country, when it comes to communal violence, custodial deaths and police clashes. With over a year into the CM role, there’s so much more for him to focus on. But if only he and his troop of sycophants could focus on the atrocities and deprivations that our people are facing today rather than the ones hurled at us by rulers long dead! If we could only focus on paving the way for the future than trying to alter history. Does no one want to build a legacy these days?

Oh but if we are going to continue with this, then can the psuedo-Gandhis drop their borrowed surname as well and come clean? Now that will be altering the path of history, won’t it?

Graciously Yours!

India Amidst Trade Wars.

An opinion piece I penned recently was published on YourStory.com! Yayy! It details the history of trade, the milestones we’ve achieved, USA at the eye of the trade war storm and how India features in it. Feedback is most welcome.


Over the last year, the United States of America under the leadership of President Trump renegotiated trade relations with the European countries, its’ North American neighbours, Asian economies and has now brought India under its’ lens. Post an apolitical stance in the Cold War era, India opened up its’ trade borders extensively to the U.S but no bilateral trade agreement was signed between both countries. Now that we seem to be on the brink of one, here’s what to expect…

Read more at YourStory.com: https://yourstory.com/mystory/india-amidst-trade-wars-jifc8k86l8

Graciously Yours!

 

Wanderlusting blind?

In my last blog post I asked you a question – do you prefer your travels to be meticulously planned or be a blind adventure?  I am still deciding which one suits me more – plucking out memories from earlier trips, deciding which lessons are worth being learnt and which were just flukes of the hour.

I recall a trip to Udupi, a quaint temple town, nestled by the beaches lining the Arabian Sea, in the Western Ghats – a trip I had researched, Googled about, interviewed earlier travellers and jotted down an itinerary to the extent of having even decided the breakfast to be ordered at Woody’s! Yeah, called me obsessed but I was really excited about that particular trip, not that I recall the reasons now, but it could have something to do with beaches! I am a beach baby who fears the seas, after all. Take that for irony! Guess where that led me? The moment I set foot on one of their islands, St. Mary’s, I began looking for that particular patch of lagoon where my friend said he’d played volleyball with his friends and how picturesque the location was. I set foot on the island with someone else’s idea of beauty rather than making up my own mind about what I felt about the island. I led myself to see through someone else’s eyes and thoughts. Not a moment of rest to the mind, not a pause to stand and absorb, feel and think, a constant rush to check the next sight off the list, not standing long enough to even breathe.

But. There’s a but.

Last month, I visited Hampi, known for its ruins of the Vijayangara empire, hippie style of living, a bed of rocks that transports you to an era a few hundred years ago – possibly the heat that plays with your mind. Circumstances made me procrastinate planning for a trip I had sincerely vowed to. Such desperate were the times, that despite three attempts to map out the route of our visits, technology failed to help us chart a plan. So we were left to hang dry with no map references, no lists of ‘Top 10 places to visit in Hampi’, ‘7 things you should do in Hampi’, ‘5 must-try restaurants in Hampi’ and so on! “Oh chuck it,” I thought when a man tried to sell me a ‘Tourist’s Guide to Hampi’. I’ll go in blind this time, I thought. And you know what I ended up missing?

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THIS! I MISSED THIS!

I walked away from this detailed, breathtaking, mind-blazing, still mostly intact ruin from within fifteen metres of it, after reading the sign that spelled out its presence! For freaking Heaven’s sake, this is the third image result that pops up when looking up Hampi and I did not visit it! Such a bummer. But well, we did manage to do a lot of other crazy stuff that cannot make it to the blog for want of keeping your faith in my sanity intact.

So what do you say? Guess I need to find a little balance? And pray, how do I do that?

Graciously Yours!

Peering In.

Weekend getaways are a solace I look forward to. I find myself in the middle of nowhere, no networks to connect to, innocent, city-oblivious eyes peering out from house windows, lush green or azure seas or b both inviting me to lose myself in the peaceful insanity of it all. These short trips don’t happen as much as I want to or happen much more than my Mom wants them to. Either ways, at the end of it, both of us are happy – me with a lighter wallet, she heavy with my experiences.

But. There’s a but. While I’m on the trip, there’s a guilt accosting me often. The guilt of either knowing too much about the place or too less. Striking a balance between reading up about the most interesting places to see and ending up with a list of twenty places to cover in thirty hours is a task for me. With the extent of the reach of internet, there is not a place worth the penny you wouldn’t find a blog on, along with photographs revealing the beauty that a camera can manage to capture. But that ends up unveiling the surprise the sight has to offer! Well, and if I don’t read about the place, how would I know where from to extract the best of the experiences the place has to offer?

More on this in detail in the next blog! Meanwhile, what do you prefer? Blind dates with a place or well prepped for an apocalypse?

Graciously Yours!

Trapped?

To the countless storms

Swirling inside of you,

BREAK FREE.

Because if you’re waiting

for the right time,

you couldn’t be more wrong.

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Stop waiting for the stars to align, the Universe to send signals, the Gods to descend. Make your own mistakes, choose your own days, decide for your own self. What is the worst that could happen? You could fail? But what if you didn’t try? Then you did fail.

They weren’t wrong when they said that we could conquer the world. But first, you need to conquer your own mind. More than half the battle is won then!

Graciously Yours!

I am.

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I am so much more than just a broken heart.

 

I’m the fire that urges you to make something out of your life.

I’m the rage you feel when you see dishonesty.

I’m the pain that stops you from breathing.

I’m fire. I’m rage. I’m pain.

 

I’m the passion that stirs your sleeping soul.

I’m the love that brings tears to your eyes.

I’m the empathy that makes you reach for your wallet at the roadside.

I’m passion. I’m love. I’m empathy.

 

I’m the fear that denies you the adventure.

I’m the courage that makes you stand up.

I’m the hurt that makes you stop and think twice.

I’m fear. I’m courage. I’m hurt.

 

I’m the hope that makes you smile.

I’m the faith that holds you together.

I’m the trust that opens you up.

I’m hope. I’m faith. I’m trust.

 

I’m so much more than just a broken heart. I’m the truth.

 

Graciously Yours!

 

Muse.

For writers, in life, some people end up becoming a muse – thinking about them gets the words flowing, the ideas add up and the fingers don’t stop typing (or writing)!

I was introduced to this concept of a writer and a muse way back in 2010, when the first season of Castle was being telecast on Star World India. That night I was switching channels with the remote in one hand, the landline phone’s receiver (good ol’ landlines!) in the other, sprawled on the sofa, talking to my soul sister about if we should have really skipped the party our batchmates were at, at that moment. After thirty seconds of awkward pause, each of the two imagining how outlandish the idea was to get out of your pyjamas, put on the little makeup our mothers would allow us to and dress up for a night out with people who you’ve hung around with for 14 years of your life, almost 8 hours each day. No, thanks! We might as well have crashed at each other’s place and have more fun poking fun at life! Which is when I came across Castle – the 90’s kids that I am, Tata Sky and it’s schedule of shows was new for me and I excitedly checked out the episode summary by clicking on the ‘i’ button of the remote. I was hooked – line and sinker!

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Beckett was a smart ass, Castle was a pain in her smart ass (but ruggedly handsome!), the plot was thrilling and funny, and there were English subtitles which helped me follow the dialogues delivered in hushed undertones at the crime scene. Little did I know that 8 years down the line I’d still be a fan of the man whose name I’d made fun of! I mean whose last name should even be Castle?

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But why am I telling you all this? Oh yes, muses! Castle found his muse in Beckett and I understood the importance of one. I haven’t fathomed the psychology behind it yet. I found mine a few years ago. I only found him back again. 🙂

Welcome back. The blog missed you! ’nuff said.

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #13.

Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?

News media often carries reports of people who have failed to measure success in their acts – standards of success that the society set for us all, marks in examinations, money in jobs, marriage by a certain age, being a mother – suffer from depression and end their lives.

But once in a while you also come across relatively successful people, who have much more means, who have earned more respect than the average individual, yet they too suffer from depression. A couple of years ago, a well-known Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, opened up about reclaiming her life from the dark clutches of depression. She shared her vulnerability with the world at large, and very bravely so. She made depression a household phrase, more rightly and less commonly used from then on.

Just in came news of an IPS officer, aged merely 30, who committed suicide, apparently due to depression. The case is still under investigation so it is possible the facts of the case might change later. But becoming an IPS officer is an achievement few have been able to boast about in the country. Out of 9 lakh aspirants each year, merely 200 are able to achieve the glory. And it requires you to slog your ass off! I know it because I’ve myself given it a shot or two. He was just 30. But being an IPS officer must have meant he was immensely respected and an immensely powerful carrier of change. Despite what I think would have been an ideal place in life, he was under depression. And depression strong enough to lead him to end his life – which means sharing his plight with others hadn’t helped, hoping that he had. It saddens me to think that someone in his stature, position and with the visibility among people he had, the visibility his work demanded, the best of therapists he could afford, he still believed the death was the solution. That deprived his soul felt!

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I know there could have been circumstances at work or at home which may not have ended in a rosy life. I know there could have been sufferings in his past that had led to this step. I know there could have been therapists and medicines but they didn’t work. I know all of it. I acknowledge that I do not know the full story. But I fear the fear depression institutes in people, the helplessness it causes, the grief it brings to our beings.

And that is what leads me to think:

Is happiness an illusion? Or is the search for happiness a mirage that lures you until you’re too lost to even know so?

Graciously Yours!

Raw emotions. Inked.

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