Sunday, 16 September 2012

"If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?"

Yes, I am looking at you through tinted lenses, coloured with emotion and all those bittersweet memories that we have accumulated through the years. I do it without shame or apology. You are so beautiful in this light, with the rain pouring on you and the street lights filtering through the drops.

I remember the first day we met. It was blistering hot and you annoyed me. I despised you from my very core. Your food, the people you entertained and your million shades of hot and cold; it was a potpourri of awful. I wanted you out of my sight. I didn't have a choice though, and I tolerated you. I was stuck. I hated it. Everything around seemed to be coated in a film of dark dust – the beggars moving across traffic signals, the dented BMWs and Marutis, the roadside greenery and most of all, every single person’s mood.

It takes time with you, everyone knows this. Your first impression is your worst and leaves a sour taste in the mouth. But then you do these things, these hard-to-notice things that quietly but surely woo anyone who has gotten to know you. You are drenched wet in history - bricks and pavements that tell stories from centuries ago. Your branches reach out into these grimy skies and at the same time, your roots are planted in an earth that a nation's leaders built cities upon. Your mood swings have become a part of your charm, rather than a point of irritation. You wear your myriad dresses with equal grace, whatever the season. The fiery red of autumn and the white clean of the monsoon look just as stunning on you as the chilled blue of winter or the brilliant gold of summer. It is as if everyone in contact with you changes and moulds to fit the different your different personalities. You are a haughty queen that commands everyone's attention with your bold architecture and sprawling lawns.

No, you will not budge. You will bake us dry in the glare of your sunshine and you will chill us to the bone with a misty breeze. It is up to us whether we want to tolerate it or not, whether it is worth all that trouble just to be around you. Invariably it is, and we stay. You know this better than anyone and you take advantage of it.

Behind that dusty and well-worn veil you hide not only your mystic and conniving smile, but also a pair of dark and vehement eyes; eyes that have seen glory and gore in equal measure. You are as strong as you are stubborn. Your history and the millions of men and women you have been home to gives each person in your arms a certain sense of anonymity. This was my favourite part.

Because you are such a large entity, it is so difficult to know all of you. It reminds me of the story of the three blind men and the elephant. Each one of them felt a different part of the elephant and hence gave a different description of what an elephant is. It's just the same with you. Everyone has a different account about their relationship with you, disjoint and unrelated, making a skewed and distorted image of you as a whole. But each and every one ends up being hopelessly smitten if they stay long enough.

I can't bear to leave you tonight. As you look at me with those hardened eyes, my mind flits back to the lawns and the monuments and all the delicious food. It goes back to the friends I have made, the people I have loved and lost, the pain and the sweat and the shivering. I remember everything and I find it difficult to clear my throat and tell you how very much I will miss you. Because it's cannot be moulded into words, or feelings or tangible things.

Delhi, you have been Home for a long time now. I have cursed you, I have wept heavy tears because of you and I have also lived some of the best years I have ever had, cosy in your arms. You were some ride, and I promise this isn't goodbye. All those lessons you've taught me the hard way I will use. Although I never grew up with you, I still feel like you are now a part of me. You quietly stole a little bit of me to keep for yourself and that empty space left behind inside me you have occupied without invitation. I never knew how you did it, I never will. I try and remember all the reasons I hated you to muster up the courage to walk away from you.

Goodbye, my mistress. It's been a pleasure knowing you. Wait for me. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

With a Sniffle and a Smile

Oh Delhi, how you frustrate me and just as quickly, how you woo me. 

I woke up this morning, a disgruntled employee dreading heading out for work. For Delhi was flooded to the brim and I was getting emails about the Metro not working and the streets being clogged with grimy rainwater. Not to mention the incessant power cuts all through the night. 

Oh yes, and our caretaker Mukesh happens to live beneath my flat and he also happens to have three of the loudest kids in history. The bawling began at about 7 a.m. It did not cease even for a second. Add to that the slaps and shouts of Mukesh and Wife, I am neighbour to quite a noisy bunch. I forgive them. I play awfully loud music myself sometimes. 

Even the tiniest shower has Delhi turned into a disgusting brown mess. So after it rained cats and dogs here last night, it was only natural that skipping across puddles and getting grime splashed at me by passing cars was part and parcel of my commute. And the cows, good god! Even the cows splashed water on me.

In the evening, it was as if Delhi took a bath and got into a brand new outfit. The trees shone bright green and the cars on the street were washed anew. There was a beautiful breeze and the smell of rain wafting along with it. Dinner was steaming and delicious. 

My entire nasal cavity is under siege after the onset of the monsoon, my allergies and sinusitis are on full swing. I headed back to my room to quietly clack at my keyboard when Delhi once again wrapped me up in her blanket for the night. Mukesh had put the kids to bed and from his radio came old Hindi songs, the kind my parents would enjoy. The music now fills my room, punctuated by Mukesh's loud yawns. It is almost perfect for this weather. In between heavy coughs and grabbing yet another leaf of tissue from the box, I find myself smiling contently to myself. 

You have your charm, Delhi. I would have wanted to leave you just an hour ago, and now I feel warm and content in your arms. Here you are serenading me with all these love songs sung in vintage voices and here I am falling for you all over again.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Learning on the Job

There's something about a first job that is just petrifying. It's like that swell in your stomach when a premonition comes true and it is awful. I was apprehensive of this job and I still am pretty damn frightened but joining the Sales team at Zomato has been a whirlwind of an experience that's only possible when you work in a start-up.

The people here are passionate. They are working with all their heart but they are simultaneously up for partying with all their might. For many of them, this is their baby. They will defend and protect it with their lives. It makes the work they do for the company glitter pricelessly. They are some of the most intelligent, keen and talented people ever. It isn't about the fanciest resume, the highest marks or the most lauding recommendations. In a start-up, it really comes down to the quality of your work and if you can do it efficiently, intelligently and with dedication then no one will ever come in your way. It cannot afford employees to sit on their asses so every single person working in the company is adding massive value to its growth.

This is a fantastic feeling; to know that your actions are directly capable of substantially affecting the growth of the entire organisation. What's even more alluring (and what had me hooked from the start) was the proximity one has to the decision making process. Fresh out of college, knowing next to nothing about Sales and to be given a chance to feel first hand the changes made by the "guys at the top" and the impact those changes have on the firm was something that had my heart aflutter.

All the Economics I ever learnt has made its way out the window and in the place of the pages and pages of textbook rote learning has come a new phase of learning (and thinking) on my feet. There is a lesson to be learnt in every single conversation. There is food for thought in each activity that I undertake at the office. My learning curve has been so steep that I can honestly say I have never assimilated and retained this much information this fast in my life. This is when I realise that Zomato has got it right when it comes to training new recruits. Reading folders and enduring painful presentations can do only so much. Hopping meetings and talking to more experienced workers offers you those indispensable tips and tricks of the trade that end up being extremely useful. My training so far (it has just been a week) has consisted very little of structured lessons and far more of sharing anecdotes while heading to a meeting and laughing over past mistakes over coffee and cigarettes. Every single person has something that can contribute to your development in some way because each person that has been there even a day more than you have can give you invaluable advice. These little tidbits stick to you harded than that nasty dodge of gum underneath your sink.

Yes, it has only been a week. I am tired, I am sleep deprived, my health has taken a turn for the worse and free time is a thing of the past. So this is what they call being an adult. No, it is not rosy. But with the strong and confident feeling that I am in the right place, surrounded by like minded people (who never fail to make one laugh) and with a job that is perfect for my skill set, I am all fired up to take this on.

Delhi shall be my mistress for another year.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Island

Without much thought it seemed, I stepped off my little island.
I could say, I even leapt off it.
I could say, it was my impulsiveness; but really, it was my fear.
Fear that its beauty would fade if I stayed any longer;
The magic that tingled through my bones as the earth flowed between my toes would numb down;
The salty chill of the ocean breeze giving its secrets away to me in whispers would lose its allure.

I looked like a little girl hopping on to her next adventure
In many ways I was.
A world beyond my island that I still ached to explore.
Coral reefs my fingers wished to feel
Lagoons that my dark skin was waiting to taste.
Yet, swimming ahead and away: heart-wrenching.

I will preserve everything in the drawers of my memory.
No photographs, no messages in bottles, no souvenirs.
When memory fades, it will be regenerated
Something far more bewitching than it ever was.
The fruit sweeter, the sun warmer, the view more breathtaking.

The most valuable things
The ones with the most glimmer and sparkle
Deserve not to be contaminated by Time.

The Real Write Ups -- Pat

We don't have even one picture. I've done some of the craziest things with you around and we don't have even one photograph to document it. It's better this way. We were too cool for pictures anyway.

That red light and those dirty draws, what a shady, shady room that was. The room where it began, with those mad stories and random things being set on fire. I still remember always having to recharge text balance in first year thanks to you. I still remember calling you Anish. Yeah, I'm not going back to that again.

I don't remember second year that well, you weren't around very much. Then you came back to College and it took us a while to get back on track, but soon enough we were up to our old tricks again. Everything has changed now. How we see people is different, our friends are different, we are more cautious and there seems to be a lot more at stake somehow. But we will be escapists always. We can self-medicate like pros, that's something we've mastered over the years. We will drown our sorrows in a half and then celebrate the insane times with the rest. We will use our sarcasm as often as we can, snubbing the world and each other every chance we get.

We've carried each other at odd times of the night when we were like dead weights, we've walked around a hell lot of places with a bottle of Pepsi that you got free from the Cafe and we have set up headquarters in MyBar. We've fought and created drama and then forgotten it all the next day. We can spend hours laughing at people. Even the senti conversations, man. Sometimes you know exactly what to say. Cocky is your middle name, and you aren't apologetic about it. I'm going to miss our muk east breaks and our resolutions that we always give up on.

Yeah, I don't know what's going to happen once College is over. We're going to get busy and things will change all over again. In different parts of the city and Paharganj will be too damn far. I'm going to bet that we'll stick together though. I'm going to bet that I'll follow you around until you come to my place for "just a beer" and end up having another killer night. Here's betting that College was the beginning.

It's been some ride, Pat. Knowing you has been beyond insane. The fights and the drama and the bad trips were all worth it. After all, there ain't nothing that we can't fix with a, "Bhaiya, barah DSP aur coke".

No, I don't want your coke. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


I sat on that dust couch sulking
When you came in
Asking what was wrong
I growled stubbornly
And you turned away

In that second
My resolve melted
And the tears stung
Knowing not what error I'd made
Or why you were so cold

Suddenly you burst into the room
Prepared to shout
Or scream, disappointment
Clouding your brows

To find me curled up
In your corner of the universe
Knowing not my wrong
Or why you were so cold

Suddenly you burst into the room
Pick me up, straighten my bends
Shielding me from the very same
Hurt that you initiated

Lecturing and whispering
At the same time
Rebuking and nurturing
At the same time

Our strong hearts giving in
The room was filled
With the jingle of sincere apology
Alternating from our lips

You and I at once vindicated
When stubbornness gave way
To simple communication
How easy it can be

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Real Write Ups -- Raa

As I wrote write-ups for my friends for the College Yearbook, I realised how hollow it is to attempt to compress into three sentences the relationships I have built over three years. Here are the Real Write-Ups.

First Year Dirties
Like a fish to water, I took to you. It was quite effortless. Did you know you were the first person in College to call me "Mari"? I knew right then that you were going to stick around. There's no way I would let some random girl that looked like Ritu to call me Mari, unless I knew she would be amazing. We go back to the beginnings so often that we know it by heart. Small skirts and IDG talks. First year with "Where?" texts and coffee. With all sorts of outrageous outings like shady Metro Station beer. Now when I think about it though, it isn't first year that I hold most close to me. It's what happened after Diya and I invaded B.D. Estate and suddenly, it wasn't  "The PG". Suddenly, it became "Home".

We know dangerously too much about each other, Raa. Somehow it's always been easy to give away my worst secrets to you. From being friends, we became roommates and then everything changed. We were dealing with the dirties now. Fighting about switching lights off, about hair in the drain, about the maid and everything in between; and on those days, when we were at wits end and made each other cry, we also learnt about every little thing that pisses each other off. We learnt about or worst fears, our biggest insecurities, the ones that only show up when it's 12 a.m. and there's an exam the next day.
Spaz is our middle name

We've grown up a hell lot since those first year days (or have we?).You have taken care of me as the perfect mix between a sister and a best friend. The funniest and most memorable things that we've shared are best left unwritten. We don't want our kids (no matter how hard you try, Raashito, your children will know me) to find this post and use it against us.

That room of ours will be the best room. Even with all my creepy paraphernalia. That room of ours, as much as we hated it, has absorbed every ounce of our characters into its walls. All future Mittal PG residents will feel our creepiness resonate from those walls. I feel this is a proud moment for us. We have left our mark.

Our nights on that terrace, too many to count, with the smog of Delhi and one-and-a-half-moons are what I will miss the most. There's a certain sense of loneliness I feel when we are not up there together, because that's just the way it has always been. From watching interesting shadows to playing ridiculous drinking games, that place has done quite an excellent job of being refuge from bad days, bad food, bad landlords and bad anything else.

Take my secrets to your grave, Rashi Rathi. I love you.

P.S. I have too many pictures with you. Kay took almost all of them

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Real Write Ups -- Meg

We just started on the wrong foot. We should never have. There's this picture of us from Blues that I have. Can you believe this was even before I knew you? It's difficult to imagine that we weren't friends before. After the ice broke, it was all so effortless. Like the day walking from the metro, sharing earphones and listening to you explain the lyrics of Hosanna.

Like you said, we are much about the big things. We are bottlers and skeptics. We are move-onners and deciders. We are secret keepers. We are jigsaws that no one has all the pieces to. But the small things are just as important. The nights at the PG with those ridiculous coffee mugs of whiskey sour, with club dancing, star gazing, coin flipping and truth-or-daring, the evenings when we repeatedly got kicked of out that stupid park, the afternoons flopping and "stealing" our internet: these are the little security blankets that I will hold on to when I miss you the most. Will you miss me too?

It's difficult to quantify us. It's difficult to contain us into words and phrases and sentences. When I think of us, there are always these clouds of memory that float around in my head. Blue boxers and long legs. Gold hair clips to contain greasy hair. Picture posing. That crazy laugh of yours. Crying like a loser on your birthday. Fab India. Khan market haircuts. Side Wok. Coffee. Amma and crab at the Grand hotel and Amma's amazing Malayalam. Meggers, you are a goddess in most every way. From the kajal-lined eyes to how you are effortlessly The Smart One in the family.

I hope that our hugs, the best ones ever, will always be around. Not just to comfort (no, we don't need other people to comfort us, do we?) but also just-like-that. And when no one really gets it, when no one says it will be okay, you will walk with me to the park and say, "do what you want to do, MarsBars."

Mari doesn't konjify. But Mari will always konjify her Meg. I love you.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Strawberries and Whipped Cream

My entry for this week's Three Word Wednesday. The words were: Juggle, Fawn and Navigate.

You: juggling two bright scarlet strawberries
Me: aggravating a tall can of whipped cream
Impish sparks in our eyes

Under the filtered sunlight from the window
I attack, covering in gleaming sweet whiteness
Your dark, fawn-coloured skin

I squeal, you quieten me with an assault
Sour fruit juice trickling down my berry lips
Faster than summer sweat

Guiltlessly, like the children we are
Along soiled kitchen counters, sheets, towels
We navigate a path

To some blissful alternate universe
Like explorers with magic maps and grand plans
We escape the realm of time

--For Raa and Di. You know this poem was written for you.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


I was pecking at a grain
Of golden wheat
You chase behind me
I squawked and leapt but never flew
White streak across the backyard
Too slow my stubby legs
To escape, caught
And dragged into
A darkness
I cannot comprehend
But I see suddenly
And cry
Flapping desperately
Kicking your
Muscled arms
To no avail
Comes impending doom
I sees the swift
And heavy blade
My neck breaks
The sink a red river
Bloody and gushing
There was no pain I recall
As I watch over myself
In your arms, twitching
Bloody and gushing
A hot water tap is opened
The steam engulfs 
The dingy room
The odour almost
The knife was not enough
You drown me now
In the scalding hot water
The ruffle of my mane
Melts away into a puddle
The coarse, white overcoat
Gives way to
Tender pink skin
You fondle it with care
Feeling every bump
There is something
Kinky about the way
You do it
As if you know
I am watching you
You clean me
Preparing me
For my funeral rites
The horror is not over
You close your eyes
Take a deep breath
Bring the heavy knife 
Upon me once more
Crack my bones
Separate my good
And my bad
Categorised by others
Exactly like you
I am now
A meal
I am now
As a life, or a being
I am now
Just a price
Displayed in a supermarket
Chicken pie for dinner?"

--I love Three Word Wednesdays!

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Real Write Ups -- Anna

As I wrote write-ups for my friends for the College Yearbook, I realised how hollow it is to attempt to compress into three sentences the relationships I have built over three years. Here are the Real Write-Ups.
Shock of curly hair. Splash of colour. A laugh that frolics and resonates the halls like the patter of rain on a roof. An excited sense of animation that takes its form in the bubbly movement of hands and a light spring-like gait. No picture of you can be complete without these things and so, no picture of you will ever truly be complete.

I don't remember what day it was or how we ended up sitting with each other, but I do remember realising (and quite late, too) that we have a lot in common, a lot we could relate to about each other. It's a good thing, I feel. We still have a lot to do before we can rest and say, "yes, I know most everything about her." In the way that we worship our fathers or how we enjoy Maths, in the way we hug and leave vehement kisses on each others cheeks, in the way we talk each other through exams, in all these ways and more, we are quite similar, Annamo.

But you are more careful, more meticulous than I am when it comes to the important things. You are less reckless and more organised. This truth makes itself most clear about a week before any major exam. You will have a plan, you will stick to it. I will adopt your plan, fool around anyway and breathlessly manage to keep up with you somehow. We will both walk out of the exam hall though with the same expression on our faces. Sometimes it's disgust. Other times it's relief. There is also happiness, anger and quite often a look of absolute nonchalance. "It's over dude. Screw it."

No, I am not a real Malayali. I don't know the movie dialogues and the colloquial phrases. I can't read that well and watching the news in Malayalam sounds to me like aliens trying to make contact. But what do I have you for, then? In the same way you explain a difficult Trix question, you will explain these things too, but of course, you will laugh your insides out as you do. I have my share of bad habits and strange notions of life that you would most vehemently disagree upon. Despite this, we are the best of friends. I will still come to you, disheveled, unbathed and unapologetic after a night at Vijay Nagar and you will give me that look of utter disdain with your nose all scrunched up. In less than five minutes, we will return to laughing out loud at new nonsense.

The lazy afternoons we spend sitting in your room will be my best memories of Rez. Conversations ranging from Cherai beach to South Africa, punctuated with gossip and random anecdotes. I doubt we will ever stop having things to talk about. We don't need a Rez room to be who we are. We will do the very same things in Paroor, Thrikkakara, Padivattom or Thevara. We're going to be calling each other when we teach our kids Maths and reminding each other the tips and tricks we used in school and college. I feel our dads should meet and congratulate each other on the fantastic impression they have made on their daughters. As beach-lovers, I know that I can always count on you for a quick ocean swim.

You are a resilient rainbow. You don't fade even when skies turn grey and the sun hides behind the clouds. Instead, you will resonate even brighter and act as an assuring band of confidence. Oh, and when the sun is out and the rain has just given way to a misty coolness, you will beam across the horizon infecting everyone around you with an excitement that's hard to resist.

Annamo. You will always be my rainbow. Not just because of the range of colours in your wardrobe but for the vibrance with which you have painted my life. You will always be my horizon, not just because you are the standard I set for myself but because you unconsciously teach me that there is always more that I can become, greater dreams I can fulfill. You will always be that fluffy cloud holding me up with the lightness of your laughter and reminding me not to crease my forehead with lines of worry. I don't like black and white, neither do you. Let's stick together and make sure we never have dullness in our lives. As I always say, the kettippidichummas are for life. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fiery Autumn Leaf

I am the fiery autumn leaf
Flitting outside your window,
Just another one in your line of sight
Whose elevation increases
Every time you inch closer.

I am a snowflake on your tongue
That melted in an instant,
Whose angles and contours
You never noticed
As you devoured my existence.

I am the tune you sang
That night as your spirits soared,
Forgotten the very next morning
But forever transformed
By the way your lips held me.

I am a beached starfish
Silent in the palm of your hand,
Never moving or protesting
Yet writhing inside with
Every immobile nerve.

I am the cherry tree watching
Over you in your backyard
Battered, familiar, taken for granted,
The most loyal canopy
Of comfort you will know

Friday, 20 April 2012

You Two Are Strange

I can tell I miss the both of you because I just caught myself Facebook stalking you. Oh, the horror.

Then: When purple pants were cool
There are days when we have the most colossal arguments. Some are explosive (especially the ones with Ma) and some are like thin ice, quiet and solemn on the surface with chaos just beneath. There are days when I just refuse to do what I have been told, when I disappoint, when I am everything you don't want me to be.

Now: New clothes but still the same old crazy family
When I think of you both right now, though, it's with this brimming sense of pride that I couldn't really have hoped for better parents. With the vehement streak of rebellion always coursing through my veins, I can't imagine what kind of nightmare it must have been raising me. Since I can remember, I have been losing things. From wallets, to glasses to notebooks and everything in between. You teach me the same lessons over and over again with a patience that I can only hope I will develop someday. 

Both of you have your own ways of reading my mind; Pa, with almost identical gears working in the machinery of his brain as mine, does it without even knowing and Ma through her careful and meticulous skills of observation. Even though I am selective about the information I reveal, you offer the most apt assurance and support in exactly the way that I need it. You never expect much in return or boast about it. That is just the way it has always been. 

At the same time, you have also let me solve many of my problems alone. Like how Ma left me no other choice but to learn to travel by bus to meet my friends or how Pa got me to draft every single DD I ever had to send for college admissions. That "you're a girl" thing that we can never agree upon has me storming out of rooms and slamming doors all the time, but I am thankful that your reins weren't so tight that I could not find out for myself the ways of the universe. What you have made me is, very simply, independent. It's not just by making sure I know what happens in the bank or letting me learn to drive but also by example, showing me that problems can be quickly sorted with a clear mind and that if you want something done bad enough, you don't wait for anyone, you just go out and do it. 

"Elton Jayan" as he calls himself
Old School Christmas, 2011

The most beautiful lesson you two have unconsciously taught me is how fully life can be enjoyed if only you let yourself enjoy it. The stories that you brim with tell me that I am the flesh and blood of two people who will almost never say no to having a good time with friends and family. How many fifty-year olds will dress up in bright purple shirts or a white chattayum-mundum and throw embarrassment to the wind just to celebrate? There is still that sparkle in your eyes and a spring in your steps after all these years, which assures me that the child in me isn't ever going to fade away. You have taught me to enjoy my music, my food, my travel and my company as much as I possibly can. You've taught me that doing things not often done might just lead you to the experiences of a lifetime. 

We're all flawed, aren't we? I can't write about you and hope to pen down everything I owe you for. That wasn't the point of this anyway. What this was, I now realise, was my way of trying to mop away how much I miss your daily phone calls and your assuring voices in my ear. Unfortunately, I've been unsuccessful. 

Look what you've done over these 21 years, Zach and Sheba. You have made yourselves indispensable to me and now there's absolutely no way on earth I can function without you. Great. So much for being independent. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Real Write Ups -- Aayush

As I wrote write-ups for my friends for the College Yearbook, I realised how hollow it is to attempt to compress into three sentences the relationships I have built over three years. Here are the Real Write-Ups.

What's up, handsome?
Nothing much, pretty woman.

The most awful part of being your friend is the realisation that it took me far, far too long to be your friend. There you were, saying hello to me on that first day of College and it didn't even occur to me to get to know you.

But now my Hindi is better and your shyness has abated and I know that neither of us will ever attempt to get rid of each other (hypocritical as we are). My foodie. I love that we can sit at a table and not utter a single word because we are too busy stuffing our faces. I love your various sandwich inventions and the endless hours we spend browsing Zomato. Most of all, it's the unadulterated serenity on your face as you bite into something delicious that is always going to stay in my mind.

Sometimes, your "chuck it" when I'm upset is the most soothing balm. Because like you, I'm better off driving uncomfortable things under carpets and there is never something that a Hot Chocolate Fudge and (endearing) hyena laughter cannot fix. I could spend hours sitting with you in any given corner of College, just talking about everything, about nothing. From cars to parents to love and the lack of it, the range of our conversations makes it difficult to list or catalogue them into the files of my memory. When my forehead is crinkled with lines of worry, it will always be those easy afternoons with you that, like the gentle rain of Delhi that we so love, wash away the grime of my day.

In the next ten years, whether or not we make big money and find penthouse apartments in New York, the plans we make will always weave between each other like the threads in an elaborate tapestry. We are alike that way, wanting the same things for ourselves. Jaguars and supermodel spouses apart, we will also build schools and visit the dirtiest dhabas. We will goof off in our apartments making cheese tomato sandwiches and swapping relationship advice (that is more often than not stolen from How I Met Your Mother or Cosmopolitan). We will do things on our own terms sometimes, and sell our souls for a fat paycheck most other times. We will travel the world every chance we get (and depending on our relative income levels, one of us will fund the other on occasion). When I map out my life to you, I find so many of our roads crossing at the same point and it's comforting to know that even though we may end up in two entirely different corners of the earth, we will both be searching for the same essential things.

I think you should know something. I will always be grateful for the poise with which you didn't pick sides. You could have, I know. I also know that it would have been easier for you to have chosen. But you made diplomacy look effortless. I have convinced myself that you did this because I mean that much to you. Yes, I do like to flatter myself. It is the most precious thing you could have given me. Because along with losing a lot of things, I came that much closer to losing you and you made sure I didn't.

If you think about it, it's been a long time since the awkward hugs (as is obvious from your face in the picture). Now, our inside jokes span so many different spectra that it's impossible not to remember you on a daily basis. It's a good thing.

I said one day, "If we all end up in D-school, we're going to be friends for life" and you said, "I thought we already were." That will be my favourite out of all our conversations. It will be my reminder to hound you for everything from First Class air tickets to chicken curry at Kake-De-Dhaba.

Without any awkwardness or embarrassment I can say, I love you. I mean it, I do. Now get rich quick. You know I'm only in this for the money.

Twisted Mind

Draft elaborate plans

Old, crumbling parchment
Blue ink blotting
Your past

Run fingers through my hair
Paint my lips red
With teeth

Locate my weakest bone
Coldblooded grip

Salty steel and skin meet
Black, dense terror
Blinds me

Moth eaten, white pillow
Stifling the sound
From world

Lie back on your armchair

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


You took my soul, loved it with all of you
But I wasn't good enough to fight for
You took my soul, squeezed the life out of it
Gently, without you or I knowing

You left your fingerprints to haunt me
When I am sleeping, when I am lonely
You left your sweet tasting fingerprints
To remind me it will never be the same

I cannot forgive you for stealing my faith
Sixteen was too young to find a soul mate
I cannot forgive you for stealing the part of me
That could love without fear of being trampled

You swirl, swirl, swirl like the residue in a teacup
That is meant only to be thrown away
I swirl, swirl, swirl in my own confusion
In limbo between the past and present

If I could go back, I would pry
Out of your hands my most fragile parts
If I could go back, I would take my spirit
And save it for someone better than you

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Highway Rider

Buzzed on beer.
Buttons black leather jacket.

Shedding all inhibitions.

Steadily to alcohol.

Suddenly thrown into air.

Broken bones.
Barely alive at nineteen.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Walking On

Three Word Wednesday. This week's words: Amateur, Diligent, Nurture.

I fumble like an amateur as I tread the stony path to you, like I haven't learnt from my mistakes. My feet are bloody, I have forgotten the place from where I began. It's dark and rather lonely here. Sometimes I wonder why I trudge on because I see no sight of you. Or of anyone else. I wonder if it is because my eyes (and my brain) are set on finding you, and you alone. I hear echoes. If only they didn't resonate from the past. I feel the rubbery graze of a bat and goosebumps erupt on my arm. I curse you for always being more than a step ahead. I hate you for not waiting. The trees make strange shadows overhead. Stretching wily fingers at me. It's not fear that engulfs me but I can't figure out why I feel this nausea.

Do you remember those afternoons on the bed, with the sun filtering in through the sheer white curtains, when we played cards and bickered like children? When my fingers diligently traced the lines of yours as if I could memorize the exact pattern of your fingerprints. My mind drifts to winter evenings cycling to ancient corners for cheap food and loud crowds. When we found the little hill with the lone tree and you looked at me with eyes brimming with awe. I think of that quiet session with your music in our ears and the biting cold at our feet and I'd felt like we'd grown up, but stayed just the same.

I don't want to go on anymore. What used to feel like a blanket nurturing me in snowy weather now feels like a bed of nails. Those childlike antics of ours used to be enough. But innocence has been blackened over the years and what's left of our incredulous theatrics is simply a mediocre pantomime. Endless words and open laughter have given way to pathetic silences. The arms that protected now shirk responsibility, like a superhero past his prime.

I cannot let go, despite it all. My blistered feet walk on.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Real Write Ups -- David

As I wrote write-ups for my friends for the College Yearbook, I realised how hollow it is to attempt to compress into three sentences the relationships I have built over three years. Here are the Real Write-Ups.

I can't recollect the beginning of you and I. You're like my favourite purple sweatshirt. I've worn it so often that it's like second skin and it doesn't matter when it began because it feels like it was eons ago. I do remember the cartoons. I still have them in my drawer. In the beginning you were quite fascinating. I was mostly impressed by the fact that you could be so nice to everyone. It was a gift I didn't have and it came effortlessly to you. There I was, developing a crush on this little person with the thick-rimmed glasses sitting next to me. 

It was easy with you. Exchanging secrets over KFC didn't seem like such hard work (the hot wings helped). You do this thing when you laugh, it's as if your entire body is laughing. It's the most adorable thing I've ever seen. But I remember there was such a long time when I used to hold my tongue, lest my dirty mouth ruin your impression of me. For the record, I did try to clean up, but I was too far gone. I really didn't know how to make people laugh without being raunchy.

There's no one else who has convinced me so easily to go to church. I found myself walking to church in the evening with you, silently cribbing because some sort of Jesus-talk would automatically crop up. I found myself arguing with you over all these things about god and religion and being frustrated with you for not giving in and then frustrated with myself for not giving in. There was that book you gave me for my birthday that I tried so hard to make sense out of, but I just couldn't. I sang along to the songs though, because some music is always better than none. I felt happy by the end of it and glad I came.

I never did want to believe you were flawless, but then again, I could never convince myself you weren't. The sort of 'goodness' that beamed out of you was quite too much to process. I felt like I needed to defend you in case someone took advantage of it. No one messes with my David. It wasn't so much a sense of possessiveness as it was protectiveness. 

Then there was this 'paradigm shift' and for the longest time, I couldn't digest the fact that this New and Improved David really existed (someone told me, "David is not feeling well." I thought you had chickenpox). Badder, dirtier and yes, sexier too. Not that Old David wasn't sexy of course. We started all over again with you on my side this time. We began a new journey of firsts, ones that we may not be able to retell to many. But that makes them all the more special. I was always learning from you about the white and pure side of life. Now here I was, teaching you the ways of the dark. Not surprisingly though, your essential goodness stayed just the same. Of course, the level of niceness ranged according to moods and people, but it was still there. So was that gorgeous laugh.

We are more at home with each other now, I think. You finally laugh at my jokes. I feel like we could ride the entire yellow line on the metro and not be bored of each other. Though I'm pretty sure you'd be fidgety because it screwed up your meticulously planned schedule.You still inspire me. The way you read Economics, the way you love guitar and the way your sexiness just drips off you like honey. Yes, I knew you'd like that one. Look at the picture: I've purposely made myself look preggos so that your hotness is magnified. Oh, the self-sacrifice!

We may be light years apart in distance in the years to come. Will I let that keep you away? You bet I won't. You've seen and heard more about me than I am comfortable with and I will be damned if I let you spread that kind of nonsense to the rest of the world.

The most compelling memories of you are the small ones. Like days in the cafe and Google Talk conversations that lift my spirits. Like the little video emails that we send each other and the hugs that never lose their warmth and always manage to embarrass you. Like the bad habits we've developed over the years or the exchanges of Mallu chips for Stickjaws. With your variations of Stephanian sweatshirts with those same old ripped jeans and that big head of hair that my fingers always search for, you've made it impossible for me to let go. It will be these tiny things that I'll hold on to the tightest. From being your protector (at least in my own head), you have become mine. You are the one that witnesses my weaknesses and doesn't flinch. You are the one that knows all my stories and you've never judged. For even though your hands are small and often quite dirty (god knows where they've been), they are the kindest ones I'll ever hold. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Party

I wish I could help you.

Your dark skin hides among the wooden pillars of the shack. As the sun sets on the horizon and the sand begins to glint under the moonlight, you prepare yourself for another long night. You serve us even as you know we are beggars where we come from. You serve with a smile but your beady eyes are bloodshot. I wonder whether it's the daily grind or the ganja. As your feet move in time to the beat, your tanned fingers graze her back and she smiles, "are you hitting on me?" She's so obviously under the influence, but then again, so are you. Her hand is on yours. It takes just a quick shift of my gaze to the DJ for you to get her to walk to one of the rooms with you. It's routine. Do you remember who all they were? Their names or maybe where they were from? You look like you're tired of keeping track.

This place puts you in a trance of sorts. The ocean's waves are as perpetual and incessant as your heart beat. The sounds of the wind and the water form a soothing symphony that floats around in your brain. It's not just the sea. It's the lights reaching out into the night like confident arms and touching the stars. It's the music beating its rhythm till the sunrise. It's the hundreds of bodies moving, not moving, as the party dances on into the night. It's the bright red burn of chillums pouring smoke into the air. It's the smell of chai wafting through that smoke, doing a little tango. In the throng of the crowd, it feels otherworldly. I can't imagine how it must be for you, living on these shores for years, to be in this constant state of disconnection from the real world. The tourists come for a few weeks and return to their cages but your life is their holiday, extended dangerously.

You're back, beers and bottle openers on a tray. I hear you say to a foreigner with a strong accent, "we look like gods. Sex, drugs, money, alcohol. It's all here, we have all of it. The truth is, I am suffering." What makes you exhibit your anguish so openly? What makes you push it away before you can run away? Your arms are mottled with syringe marks and maybe it is the remembrance of a worse time that you tolerate what you are now. I wish I could walk you to the ocean and let the salty water cleanse you. I wish I could take you up on a helicopter and land you in a place that was less unfriendly to the concept of reality. I wish there was a different life for you besides smiling at these dirty white faces.

Suddenly, I look at myself leaning on this flimsy bamboo beam. The black lights make my billowing white dress glow. I look at you and then I scan my eyes across the dance floor. Wasn't I dancing just a second ago? My feet are still moving quietly to the sounds of the DJ. No, I don't want my feet to touch the ground of complete consciousness yet. I no longer find myself wishing another life for you. I look down at my ghostly body and remember the big bump that my tummy has become. "There's a life in there", I tell myself, "that you have the power to change."  It is a reminder that my brain doesn't allow me to hold on to. I touch my skin, leaving sweat marks from my palms. My heart rate steadily climbs as the slow wash of the comedown flows over me. Goosebumps erupt on my arms and legs as I walk barefoot on the cold sand, towards that next beckoning fix. 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Real Write Ups -- Ann

As I wrote write-ups for my friends for the College Yearbook, I realised how hollow it is to attempt to compress into three sentences the relationships I have built over three years. Here are the Real Write-Ups. 

The first image that comes to mind when I think of you is one where you are sitting at the back bench, with a book open, one leg crossed over the other, picking at your cuticles with your nails and reading intently. It makes you look curious and stern at the same time. It makes me imagine you as one of those professors that wear gorgeous silk saris and take no nonsense from their students. But of course, as with everyone, despite your shyness you are easily liked by your students. With that stubborn expression and a copy of Frontline along with the attendance register.  I can imagine you giving free attendance and silently smiling to yourself remembering how much we enjoyed it in College.

As my thoughts traverse on, our memories span across my mind like a film reel with your fingerprints marking every frame. When you broke down in the Metro. When you've hugged me for no reason (even though you're not a hugger). Malayalam dictation in Coffee Day. Endless hours of chatter (and quietness) in various comfy chairs and lawns in Delhi. Shopping as an excuse to go restaurant-hopping. Boys and continuous marriage conversations. Home, being away from home. Cherai beach and flopping in each others' homes. Fatness advice and lamentations. Just as it's impossible to isolate one frame from a two-hour long movie, so it's impossible to defragment all the million memories and list them out.

You've awed me, from the beginning. I was once asked why, and I never could come up with a good enough reason. Maybe it's the Malayalam or the music we share. Maybe it's Wills.  Maybe it's because you're so vehemently closed around most people and in contrast, so breathtakingly open around a few. I'd like to think it's an amalgamation of things that compound one over the other.

You are the golden sand that I dig my feet into when I go to the beach. Even as the waves spatter foam all over my legs and distract me, the strong foothold that the sand gives me makes sure that I am not carried away by the current. You are the epitome, not just of stability but this beautiful sense of calm. Even as you break into song sometimes in the middle of a conversation or laugh spontaneously at my ridiculous jokes, it is your unwavering presence holding me upright in times of doubt and confusion that keeps me close to you. It makes you stubborn too. In a way that makes me afraid to question or oppose you. When you say, "no", there is nothing else you mean but that. In a way, I respect that you are strong with your decisions. In a way, I resent that I can't attempt to change your mind.

Your sternness though is never present for long. You always replace it with that childlike smile of yours. I am going to be so very upset when we are forty and you still look like a twenty-five year old. As the weeks and the months pass on and we worry about our place in the world after College, I find myself missing you already. For even as the red brick and stone arches display their charm, the lawns and trees play the songs of the birds and the corridors paint gleaming sunlight rectangles on the floor, none of it has any depth or meaning unless it is filled with the people that made College home. I couldn't think of walking these halls without you right next to me and it is this thought that makes me fear what comes next.

Before I can let myself be sad, your voice plays in my head. The voice of firm assurance. I am reminded that we are not friends that disappear after College. We are the ones that will makes toasts at each others' weddings (I am already writing my speech). We will exchange prawn recipes and share secrets of where to get the best kappa biryani. I will think of you every time I hear Sultans of Swing. I will also laugh to myself when I am on a Spice Jet flight with crying babies. You will always be around, guiding my reckless little boat on this frightening sea of life.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Day At The Field

Three Word Wednesday. My first entry. This week's words are Cancel, Elastic and Labour.

She bends over the seeds
Golden paddy husk
And the sweat of her labour
Coat her tanned skin
Stain her blouse dark

Her spine bends over
Then straightens, then bends
Bones like elastic
Matted hair greasing her neck
Fingers worn and cut

She bends over the river
Deftly scrubbing her dirty clothes
She slips in among
The gentle lapping waves
To cancel away the day's grime

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Loss of Pride

In my worried head
I planned a gentle discussion.
I made it a point
Not to be bossy.
I know you hate that.

I said, "can you" instead of  "won't you"
"Try to" instead of "I want you to".
I heard my quietness.
My pride, bleeding
On the floor.

You enjoy the power
My weakness
Gives you.
As I try to hide
Behind stubborn eyes.

I don't ask you again.
You shan't reconsider.
Breath punched out of my lungs
I'm sorry you said, "No."

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Your fingers hold the cigarette with the unapologetic nonchalance that coats your every move. You have that severe look on your face, with your eyes crinkled, as if you are angry at everyone. You look at me quizzically because my eyes are intently fixed on you. I am trying to take a mental photograph of you with the cigarette between your lips. I want to seal it in my brain and summon it at will. But you take a drag, my concentration shifts for a second and I lose the picture again.

Your chest rises as your mouth fills with white cloud. A small, almost solid puff of smoke escapes your lips, but only for a second and then disappears back into your system like a ghost in limbo before it is whisked away to the underworld. As you breathe, I wait.

Exhale. But no, it isn't a warm jet of white nicotine that rushes out. Your exhalation is slow. The smoke curls around your parted lips like a lover's slow, teasing fingers. It floats over your mouth, trying to seduce you. It eases out of you gently, tentatively, like it isn't certain of the way you want to be touched.Your face shows no change of expression, no relief or submission as the chemical buzzes in your brain. I watch the paper burn under the midnight sky. The cherry burns bright red between your rough fingers and eats away the tobacco to leave that sickly grey ash that meets the dusty sidewalk with a swift touch of your finger.

Every drag you take seems more mesmerising than the last, even though you are doing it the exact same way. Or maybe it's because you do it that way. I could watch you for hours like this, just standing in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. When you finally reach the end, you send the filter flying across the street with a stubborn, effortless flick.

With a chilly inward breath, you begin to walk back home. 

Monday, 30 January 2012


It’s difficult to talk about him. The memories, fragmented as they are, seem more vivid in retrospect. It has been so long, over a decade. The hurt has only gotten stronger, never abating. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation then. I didn’t understand the horrible odour of death or that the sterilized blue-green smell of the hospital was not a good omen.
I ran along those hospital corridors, asking for money to buy hot chocolate from the cafeteria or taking a peak into the nurses’ Duty Room every few hours. I remember the downward sloping path to the Canteen and the prison-like gates of the small elevators. The hospital was big, and fascinating. I remember racing around the compound competing with my little brother to find the scariest things.
I remember the day it happened. Or at least, my memory has constructed images that tell me how it happened. I was outside the room in M ward. People were inside, cleaning his body. Ma told me later that there was just so much blood. I was confused at first, they didn’t tell me much. But I made sense of the lulled silence adulterating the hospital’s commotion. I remember Pa’s eyes, wet with pain. I never had, or have, seen him cry. To lose your father, no matter how, is difficult. To lose a father like Chachan, is downright devastating. My father’s strength on that day has remained one of the most compelling memories I have of him.
I remember crying, because I knew Chachan wasn’t coming back. I remember hating everyone, everything for not warning me. My cousin asked me, “Are you crying because everyone else is? Do you even know what has happened?” I thought about it for a while, and then I felt immense anger towards him. How dare he underestimate my understanding of the situation? I refused to explain myself to him. The rest of the memory is hazy. There was an ambulance, I think. I followed it, but they didn’t let me in. There were a lot of people, someone took me away. I don’t remember the funeral. Or anything after that.

There were days when I would sit in my room for hours, just looking through old photographs, searching for your face. Your smile was so pristinely beautiful in those pictures. 
This is the one where I am on your lap. I don’t remember it being taken. I was probably two or three. Do you see the joy in my eyes? You were my hero even then. You left too soon. It’s unfair, I never got to know you. The older members of our family tell me stories. He was like this, he said that, he told me this once. I resent that I have no memories of you to hold on to. It is with a mixture of anger and sadness whose source I cannot plug that my tears rain down making blots on the photo paper. I have resolved now, to create my own fantasies of you.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


Why do you hope for love
Like a wing clipped dove
Under a sheet of frost
Hopes for some warmth lost?
Love to me is a stranger
The liar, the ever-changer

In an opaque bubble
Blind to the inevitable
Existing in dark hollow
Reality too hard to swallow
Truth to me is a stranger
My fantasies it wants to injure

Alone is a beautiful place
To be without a shadowed face
Solitude, safe and secure
No company to smilingly endure
People to me are strangers
I have but myself to endanger

And now by reality struck
I am the rotten apple to be plucked
It is sparkling crystal clear
'Tis I, the true impostor here
This poet herself is the stranger
There is nothing to do to change her

Monday, 16 January 2012


Big shoulders strong enough
To protect
From everything
Speeding car, leering men, broken heart

Eyes that twinkle more often
Than they cloud
With anger or fear
Light brown pools of hidden emotion

Never perfect, yet seeming just so
Yet more than lazy enough to be human

Downs a pint of whiskey (only the best)
A gentleman
Loose, but never a drunken swagger

The smoothest driver, shifting gears
With ease
That cannot be taught, only admired

The kite flyer, the ocean swimmer
And carefree
The one who taught me to ride a wave

Brimming with stories and terrible jokes
A father
A friend
Switching between roles seamlessly

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Love Letter to Economics

You lured me in with your charm
The big names, fancy statistics
I was attracted to your novelty
The newness was my honey

There is no steady state with you
Keep working, keep improving, keep learning
Before the others have a comparative advantage
In vying for your attention

Hoping for positive returns, I tried
To understand your angles and curves
But they twist behind me and tie my wrists
Like handcuffs. I know nothing about you

You watched me follow you,
Random walk. You burst my bubble
And held the hands of another
I felt a sudden deflation of self esteem

I gave up, blamed your contradictions
Your paradoxes confounded me
The books I read for you dust over
My expectations bearish

Then I began to find the kinder side of you
Removing poverty, building bridges
As you orchestrated booms and busts
Your alter-ego intrigued me

After all these years, even today I pine for you
Short, long and medium run
I imagine a future with you
Even as I know you may never understand me

Monday, 2 January 2012

Chronicling Lessons

I learnt a lot this winter, all of them essential truths that infants above the age of five are familiar with. Yet, this twenty-one year old had a momentary lapse of memory. By momentary, I mean two and a half years.

One, being unfit sucks. The way to not be unfit is to exercise and eat right. The eating right part still eludes me, but at least I have begun taking trips to the gym and the swimming pool in an attempt to get healthy (and I don't mean the adjective 'healthy' they politely use to indicate you are fat). Fitting into old jeans became an event worth celebration.

Two, not all work is terrible and CV oriented. On the morning of the 12th of December, I woke up cursing my father for the internship I had to do at the Deccan Chronicle. I am not high on the recruiter's list of ideal future employees so at least, this would make that ever unimpressive resume shine marginally brighter. But in those fifteen days I realised that work that we enjoy is rejuvenating instead of tiring. I began to look forward to waking up in the morning, to driving through city traffic, to meeting strangers and talking to them. I learnt to understand the jargon: an anchor was a small 250 word piece, a lead was 300 words or more. I could figure out the back-and-forth banter between departments like the Tabloid writers making fun of the Broadsheet writers and vice versa while Ajayan Sir peppered the conversations with his quips. The keen interest I had in learning and improving was something I hadn't really felt before. For the first time, the internship wasn't about a CV. I was doing it for myself, and it made a world of a difference. The last two internships I did were tiring, I was exhausted and glad I was done. This time around, I asked Sujit Sir myself if I could stay on for a few more days.

Three, getting lost is the easiest way to discovery. Driving around the city to take interviews for the Deccan Chronicle led me to discover nooks and crannies of my city that I wouldn't otherwise have found. When I find myself in an unknown area, two conflicting forces drive me. On one hand, I am fear-struck and wanting to find my way home and on the other, my curiosity pushes me to drive further and see what comes next. Cochin is tiny, I agree, but it is filled to the brim with interesting things. Like the man selling LED candles in Broadway, or Vishal Hotel that serves a hearty North Indian lunch for less than a hundred bucks.

Four, there isn't a goddamn thing I want to do with my life other than write. This was one of the most important reminders that the people at Deccan Chronicle gave me. I had forgotten how amazing it felt to end every day, just tapping away at my keyboard, writing a story for the next edition of the paper. That feeling of holding my words, in print, in my hands was a warning of sorts, telling me never to steer away from writing. Ever since my stint at the Deccan Chronicle ended, all I've been doing is miss it; Jiji Ma'am's quiet typing at her computer and her eye for things that make one 'House Proud' and Priya Ma'am's easy smile or the twinkle in her eye when food is the topic of conversation. I miss Sujit Sir's constructive criticism and snippets of stories and experiences. I miss laughing with Shruti about the most random things and watching in amusement as she cheekily pulled someone's leg.

No matter what I end up doing at the end of this year, whether its saving the world or selling my soul or following my heart, I know that I will never let myself get too far from being able to write. I know now, for certain, that there is not a thing in the universe that makes me happier than this.

Here's to the amazing people that helped me remember my immense love for words and the English language: Jiji Cherian, Sujit Chandrakumar, Shruti Karthikeyan, Priya Sreekumar and everyone else at the Deccan Chronicle, Kochi. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.