Monday, December 4

Probably this time...

In another effort to upgrade the traffic conditions in Pune, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was recently introduced on the Hadapsar-Swargate-Katraj route. BRT requires that the buses have a right-of-the-way lane. Separate dedicated lanes are meant to ensure punctuality, even during peak traffic hours. The ticket system is electronic, as in Pune’s case, to decrease the time of ticketing. It could also be pre-boarding ticketing for the same reasons. This is what an ideal BRT would include.

BRT is an ambitious project and might ease the traffic situation in Pune, which has deteriorated drastically over the last decade. The rapid growth of the city lead to increased residents and parallel growth in number of personal use vehicles. The public transport system which was hardly commendable was neglected further and still struggles to find its footing. The narrow roads in the city could not keep up with the increase in traffic and excessive vehicular pressure led to deteriorating road conditions. Over the last couple of years there have been consistent demands to alleviate the situation but almost nothing seems to have worked. N number of projects were promised, introduced, inaugurated and died their own death. Most of them tried to attract commuters to public transport and away from private vehicle usage to ease the burden on the roads. Projects like “Janata bus” (you wave out to the bus and it would stop almost anywhere you want it to, and the fares were also minimal), induction of new superior quality buses, plans to merge the PMT and PCMT, sky-bus etc. are just a few recent examples. The progressively deteriorating condition of the roads, the constant poor quality asphalting, potholes with the first rains and increased accidents have all made most of the citizens skeptical about any new programs that the PMC introduces to ease out things.

The timing of the BRT is also no better. It is less then four months before the PMC elections. The haste with which an approximate Rs.64 crore project is being implemented cannot be expected to create confidence and excitement among commuters. To many it came as a surprise pre-election do-good project. It seems more to be another of the Kalmadi projects. Pawar on the other hand is pushing for a metro system for Pune on the lines of Delhi.

As someone who is well aquatinted with the traffic conditions in Pune, I am not optimistic about the project. One, the BRT takes off an entire lane to itself on roads which are hardly three complete lanes. Most of the roads in Pune are extremely narrow to fit even the existing traffic, and banning maximum vehicles from one entire lane would make matters no better. The current stretch of the pilot project includes Swargate. On any given day Swargate is choked. Being an important ST and PMT bus junction, it bring along rickshaws, road hawkers, ‘tapirs’, restaurants, lodges, chaos, accidents, pollution…you name it. In such an unruly situation taking away vehicular space from others might just aggravate matters. The traffic in Pune is also not disciplined. Commuters hardly ever stand at a bus-stop. You will always find them out on the road, waiting, fidgeting impatiently for the buses. Now taking the bus track and the bus stop towards the divider side of the road seems like a dangerous proposition. Other vehicles which might want to cross or make a U-turn at places will be left waiting for an opportunity in the second lane. Generally those turning right are supposed to be towards the extreme right lane i.e towards the divider side which the BRT will now take up. The buses (each costing around Rs.70 lakhs) are said to be low rise volvo buses. Given the number of potholes and bumps I do not know how low rise buses would survive.

Of course it does not mean that the project is totally hopeless. It might actually help bring lane discipline and overall traffic manners to the otherwise notorious Pune drivers. If the buses do run fast, frequent and on time, personal vehicle usage at least among some section of the commuters can be expected to decrease. The transport authority could probably hope of a no profit no loss situation, instead of the current deficit. As the new buses are said to have a better technology we can assume that they might be safer than the antique buses that currently run on the roads. Also as they would have closed doors, incidents of accidents due to hanging at the doors could go down.

We will have to wait and watch over the pilot period if it actually benefits the public. Unless elections kill it.

Wednesday, November 29

Impressions II

Fall is a pretty season. Not just because it paints a beautiful landscape. It also provides wholesome bird-watching opportunity! And no girl would disagree.

The weather in fall is moderately cold (nights can get really bad, but then acche bacche don’t stay out late nights!), and warm clothing is essential. And that’s where the fun begins. Back home in Pune, I don’t remember having bought multiple sweaters or having worn them for more than 20 days of the entire winter season. Unless you are traveling early morning or late night, you hardly need a sweater. In school, which was an afternoon session, I didn’t even have a sweater! It would be pleasant. ‘Gulabi thandi’ for those who know what I mean.

The cold weather that I have experienced here is different and currently restricted only to Fall. And I am looking forward to winter. Snow is a major attraction. But an even greater attraction is winter fashion! Over the last two months since temperatures started dropping, every day has been a treat to my fashion buds. Girls here know how to look pretty even in minus temperatures! The range of winter fashion that I have experienced here, and tempted to buy is awesome. The variety of overcoats, jackets, sweaters, scarves, caps, gloves, shoes….. magnificent! I remember wearing either regular black front-open sweater or pullovers back home. I hardly knew anything else beyond that. A denim jacket or a windcheater at the most. But then winters were never so cold. Here I see girls in all hues and shades, dressed up in lovely sweaters, overcoats, boots, scarves and caps. They look both cozy and stylish. On any given day at the 7.00AM bus, a girl so dressed up would enter, carefully remove her overcoat and gloves and wear them again as her stop comes closer. And all this without disturbing her hair, makeup, or getting conscious about people watching. I could never have imagined taking off my sweater without spoiling my hairdo. This means it stayed there no matter how warm, or I removed it without bothering about the hair.

Probably it is the moderation of Fall that allows them to do that. Perhaps winters would be different. Perhaps they only look warm. Perhaps someday I would have the entire range of winter clothes and look as composed and elegant even in snow! {Hint* Hint* ;) }

Tuesday, November 21


There are so many I-did-not-expect-that things that you encounter when you are in a new place. After more than three months in the US I can say there are n number of things that I did not expect and experienced here. But what happened over the last couple of days takes the crown. We had power failure! Na, not the Bush one. Power failure as in 'batti gul'!

Of course there are power failures everywhere. But here! And twice in a row!! No way!!! I definitely did not expect that. The entire University of Maryland, College Park campus had a power failure for almost an hour today morning. Reason: some transformer somewhere. (no one I knew, knew what had happened:( ) Result: Statistically significant increase in levels of happiness on campus. Classes canceled for the hour, student disapparations, irritated professors, marginal increase in coffee sales, extended lunch hours, excited shopping plans, have-a-happy-thanksgivings.

The other power failure was at the place I live. I was in the bathroom getting ready for a lakeside walk. Looked into the mirror. Soaped face. Closed eyes. Bent down. Washed face. Looked up. Darkness. SOS!! And then suddenly the lights started flickering. It went dark again. Flicker. Dark. The sequence continued for more than half an hour. Rental office: Reason unknown. Electrical friends: Reason: some transformer somewhere.

Sunday, November 12

The missing green

(Pix: Bala)

I am in love! The weather is awesome. I can feel the wind through my hair tickling the nerve endings. The ripples in the lake carry fall colors to the banks. The ducks slide along smiling. The bench amidst trees makes me skip a heartbeat. I trod over fallen leaves. They miss you.

Friday, November 10

A different perspective

The first thing that comes to our mind when we hear the word radical Islam, is terrorism. It brings to mind the picture of an AK47 sporting Muslim guy who kills for religious reasons. The media has fed us with so much of ‘jihad' that it is difficult to think of radical groups as anything but driven by and killing for a religion. However, today I heard a talk by Eli Berman that gave me an economic and sociological perspective into the motives behind the formation and development of a radical group.

Berman’s mainly argued that ‘God’ or ‘religion’ is not the central motive of a member of a radical* group**. Instead the motives are altruistic. Ariel Morari, an Israeli psychiatrist studied suicide bombers and their families to conclude that they do not mention religion and heaven/afterlife as their motives. Neither is the primary motive seeking revenge for a personal attack nor economic deprivation. These people do not show any suicidal tendencies and are not depressed. Instead they have altruistic motives along with delusions about self-importance. They generally aim to change the status-quo or the current government they are unhappy with.

According to Berman every person tries to be a part of that group which provides him resources and benefits to run his family. Generally it is the government. But it could also be the radical group. These groups are involved in providing basic services like schools (even if in the form of mercenary schools), hospitals or health services, loan facilities and the like. The person will be a part of whichever of the two he thinks provides him better facilities. This to me has two implications. One, a country with a weak and inefficient government has a greater risk of strong radical groups. Two, a country/region afflicted by presence of violent radical groups can be treated by creating a strong government that efficiently provides the social services. However creating a strong government is difficult and external intervention for the same can be disastrous as seen in the Afghanistan and Iraq cases.

One of the important characteristic of a radical group is the restrictions it places on its members’ behavior. They have to follow a certain dress code, refrain from certain foods, pray according to schedules, etc. These restrictions leave the member with nothing better to do with his time but do that what the group wants. They are pulled away from the mainstream and the bonding gets stronger. The restrictions make them better participants by concentrating their energies and time on the goals of the group. However this raises the question why at a time when the overall consumption power of individuals is increasing would someone want to opt for the restrictions? Berman says that these groups are like close knit communities that have their own system of mutual aid and insurance where everyone’s needs are fulfilled. When the market in a region grows, benefits of better education, employment and other alternatives increase the fear of selective attrition of the talented young. The members fear that these young earning members would leave their community, country, or group and decrease the supply for mutual aid and insurance. In an effort to keep them within the community they become a part of such radical groups that limit their outside options. By restricting options the radical groups make the members into workers with contained desires and demands. This further makes them stay back in the group and not stray out attracted by the alternatives available. As the available alternatives grow, the restrictions become stricter.

Along with a strong mutual aid system, these groups are also good at coordinate violence. The aid system, restriction, and bonding lead to mutual trust amongst members. A terrorist organization builds upon this trust that it builds up through its benign activities of providing social services. A terrorist organization is, according to Berman, structurally same as the benign organization of a radical group mentioned earlier. The mutual trust helps them carry out terrorist acts, as the leaders are assured of the loyalty of the members they entrust to carry out the activities. As they are cut off from the mainstream, wish to change the status quo, are comfortable within the services and opportunities provided by the group and completely dependent and loyal upon the group they see it as their task to carry out the terrorist acts that they are asked to.

This theory is appealing. But it seems too simplistic an explanation of the existence of terrorist and radical groups. It does not explain exactly when a radical group turns into a terrorist group. There are numerous radical groups in the world (churches, Jewish groups, RSS) which are not terrorist groups. Why are they not violent (terrorists) and why are the ones in the Middle East that he was talking about violent? It creates a lot of questions, but also provides a different perspective into the motives of a radical group, which could help in dealing with terrorist organizations and afflicted regions.

*Used such as to mean away from the mainstream.

**He was talking mostly about radical Islamic groups in the Middle East.

Sunday, November 5

V for...

The Iraqi Special Tribunal in Baghdad on Sunday, November 5 sentenced Saddam Hussein to be hanged. This was the verdict of the first trial against Saddam for the execution of 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail, after a purported assassination attack on him on July 8, 1982. The trial which began on October 19, 2005 concluded on Sunday with the total verdict including,
1. death sentence for willful killings,
2. 10 years for forcible deportation, and
3. 10 years for torture.
Others convicted in the same case include,
1. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half brother and head of his Domestic Intelligence Agency – death sentence;
2. Awad al-Bandar, President of his Revolutionary Court – death sentence;
3. Taha Yasim Ramadan, former Vice President - life imprisonment;
4. 3 local Baath Party officials - 15 years of imprisonment for willful murder and another 7 years for torture.
Only one Baath party official was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Saddam’s lawyers have argued that he was justified in ordering a crackdown on the would-be-assassins as they were Iranian backed Shiite militants and Iraq and Iran were at war at that time.

Under the Iraqi judicial system the case now directly goes to the appellate chamber of the trial court on Monday. Though the chamber does not have to follow any specific deadlines, it is being predicted that Saddam could be hanged next spring after the chamber’s verdict. A second trial on charges of genocide during the 1986-89 Anfal campaign against the Kurds is also underway since August 21, 2006. Six other co-defendants are also being tried for the same.

The Saddam Hussein trial had been marked by delays, violence and courtroom drama. Three defense lawyers were killed during the trial and the original judge, Rizkar Mohammed Amin resigned in protest of governmental interference. Rauf Rashid Abdel Rahman, a Kurd was later appointed in his place. Human rights organizations like the Amnesty International, and international legal experts have questioned the impartiality of the verdict. According to them there were serious shortcomings in the fairness of the proceedings that undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the trial.

Some critics view the timing of the verdict to have been manipulated to come just before the midterm elections in the US on November 7. Failure in Iraq has been an important election campaign issue and surveys have predicted a loss for the Republicans due to it. The Bush administration had come under severe domestic and international criticism over the Iraq war and its failure in finding the purported WMDs, and restoring democracy and peace to the country. The issue of massive American causalities has been prominent in the election campaign. The verdict thus assumes political significance and could be used by the Republicans as a ‘victory’ point to gain some last minute votes. However, White House spokesman Tony Snow has rubbished such claims as being too farfetched and said that the judiciary in Iraq is working independently.

The verdict could also be a political blessing for the current Iraqi government. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil; for a democratically elected government over the tyrannical rule of a dictatorial Saddam Hussein. It can create a sense of the ‘government working for the masses’, as it is the Iraqi judiciary that has passed the verdict. It can lead to a trust in the present government. However, it is also true that bloodshed and misery continue to be a part of Iraqi life even today with regular clashes between the Shias and Sunnis, and the American military presence. The divide between the Shias and Sunni Arabs in Iraq could also increase further as the Sunni Arabs view the verdict as a political charade that satisfies the political agenda of the Shiite led government and the Bush administration.

Whether the verdict actually translates into a Republican majority in the Congress would be clear in a couple of days. Whether it translates into peace and fortune for the Iraqis is the real question.

Tuesday, October 31

Impressions I

“Oh-my-gawd! Just two and a half months! You gotcha be kidding!!”

Well that’s how my colleague reacted when I told her I have been in the US for the past two and a half months and also that I have visited New York a couple of times. (I don’t exactly see a reason to be surprised, except for that grad students notoriously crib about financial droughts. And yes I am not high-earning either and Maryland rents are enormous ;))

So. The last four months of absence from this place has been precisely due to that. US preparations and a illness interlude. I arrived here mid-august and before settling down into student life, acted touristy for almost a month. After all, he was here to show me around :)

The day after he picked me up from the airport, we visited the University. It is huge! With the jet lag and insufficient sleep, I found it a bit too widely spread out, and my school was through evil designs located at the far end of the campus. We walked all over the place, did the necessary paper-work (God knows what all I signed on!) and went off to Washington DC. Lovely place. Why? Well it reminds me of Pune! Contrary to my imagination of the capital of the US being a fast-paced energetic city, DC is relatively slow and old. I don’t intend to make a value judgment here, it is just a plain statement of my impression.

The first stop was a friend at Friendship Heights. I was awed. Amazing location for a house! Right across the street are some of the most famous brands Gucci, Lee…..The apartment lobby looks more like a hi-fi hotel lobby than an apartment lobby. The balcony overlooks the said showrooms and a long road that seems to reach the other end of the globe. After some refreshing Indian tea we left to see around the place, especially his University. We had to walk for almost an hour before we reached the place, but it was worth it. The entire stretch is lined with some of the best brands and the finest of dresses. (Smart skirts! Sigh!) As we walked my guides for the day pointed out some of the must-visit restaurants, making me hungrier (as if the walk was not enough). Past the restaurants you see lovely story-book houses with manicured lawns and all possible signs of a healthy economy (US or family?) We walked through a canopy of trees admiring, discussing and joking about US houses in general. Inside the University we again walked for a while looking at different departments and schools, admiring the sculptures visible through windows here and there and generally pulling his leg when he said things like, “Oh, that’s a building!” (As if I were Tarzan.)

After a quick dinner, he dropped me home in the metro bus :)

The next day was a Sunday and the place where I live has no public transport out of the place that day. So one day old into the US, I take a cab to the metro station and then changing the train lines at appropriate times reach his place all set for a new touristy day. (Boy was he impressed!) Today our stop was the Smithsonian mall, a huge expanse of land (you would ideally avoid walking across) lined with the famous Smithsonian museums and a place every American is proud of. We intended to see the History museum, but the almost identical architecture landed us someplace full of dinosaurs and gems! It is a huge structure housing dinosaur fossils in all shapes and sizes. I had never seen so many dinosaurs at one place before! And he thought it funny to click pictures that seemed as if the dinosaur was gobbling up my head. Up one floor is the gems section. Now this is something that every single gal out there should visit. Gorgeous diamonds! Some of the world’s best! Necklaces and earring that made me wonder about rebirth and if in one of my births I was the proud owner of atleast a couple of them! (sigh!) As I ohhed and aahed about them he realized the potential dangers that lurk and tried every trick to drag me away from that place. (But too late! I know what I want for the wedding :) ) Tired and in no mood to look at war memorabilia I insisted on admiring the large lawns instead. We located a peaceful bench overlooking the Smithsonian structures, children playing in the vicinity and sat down to catch up on the two long years of judai!

Tuesday, June 20

7/10 ?

"The court was adjourned till July 10, when the defence will be allowed to make its final arguments, a penultimate step before the verdict is declared."

So what do you think will happen on July 10?

Monday, June 19

Vying for the top post!

India recently officially announced the candidature of Shashi Tharoor, Under Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information for the post of the UN Secretary-General. Shashi Tharoor, London born Indian, is a very strong candidate, considering that he has been with the UN since 1978 with numerous achievements in his fray and is a well-known writer and diplomat.

Tharoor is a veteran at the UN and has occupied various positions since 1978. If elected Tharoor, 50, would be one of the youngest Secretary-generals of the UN. He is said to be pro-reform and committed to UN ideals. Moreover through an unwritten convention of rotation of the post, it is now Asia's turn to have a candidate in the topmost chair. The other Asians in the fray are Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Surakiart Sathirathai, South Korean Foreign Minister, Mr Ban Ki-Moon and Sri Lanka’s Mr Jayantha Dhanapala.
Surprised by the announcement and considering its impact on India's international standing, Pakistan is trying to play the spoil-sport. It is being claimed by Pakistan that there is no tradition of a large country fielding its candidate for the post or any country seeking both the top post of the world body and permanent membership of the Security Council. However India has rubbished this claim and said that as India is not yet a permanent member of the Security Council and has no veto powers, it can have its candidate for the post. According to PTI reports, reacting to this claim Tharoor said "On the contrary, the world deserves as broad a choice as possible." He is also reported to have said that the claim about no big country fielding its candidate is rubbish for there has been an Egyptian Secretary-General. Pakistan is reportedly trying to field a woman candidate, Nafis Sadik, who is the special adviser to the UN secretary-general as well as the secretary-general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. She is also a member of the secretary-general’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. There has been no female Secretary-General till date and according to Equality Now she is one of the qualified female leaders. If this move plays off, Pakistan can gain itself not only a Secretary-General, but also the benefit of having fielded a woman candidate. Not long ago, the Pakistani President had come under strong ridicule for his views on women. This could prove to be a major diplomatic victory for Pakistan.

India can however hope to have the support of the permanent members of the Security Council. (The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. Therefore, the selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.) The present civil nuclear energy deal and the general cordial phase of relations with the US, augurs well of US support for India. London would not be far off, considering its relations with the US and also amiable relations with India. Russia has been an almost consistent friend of India, and therefore its support is being considered strongly possible. China's recent "commitment" to forming "more strategic and cooperative ties" with India is being interpreted positively by some analysts.
Another important country, Japan has been a supporter of India in its bid for a permanent membership of the Security Council and one can be hopeful of its support for Mr Tharoor. Though there are other countries that India would need to work upon and lobbby hard.

October would be what the Indian officials and those lobbying for Tharoor would watch out for, for it is generally then that the process starts and continues.

Considering India's growing international stature, it would serve it well to have its man in the highest chair of the UN at this juncture. The Security Council permanent membership is apparently a distant dream and so having an Indian as the Secretary-general would surely increase India's clout.

Wednesday, June 14


The not-so-weird-but-hallucinating-about-being-weird Nirwa tagged me the other day. She wants me to write 5 weird things about myself!! Come on now Nirwa, you know I am not weird!

But anyways, it's impolite to not respond to tag, so here I go.

1. I don't know if I am weird or the people who do it are. But somehow it happens again and again. Many people I come across, many of them senior colleagues, or even my seniors in college tend to kinda ruffle my hair! Not always but once in a while, when you are least expecting it. Its something like you do (or want to do) to kids when they smile that cute stupid smile!!

2. This is again not exactly weird but it seems weird to people who are victims of it (I myself being one of them!). They fight, argue, debate, deny and what not, but most of the times they come back and lay down their arms and accept what I say. Well... I am talking about these 'feelings' that I get about people. I might not know them personally, they can be complete strangers like SRK would be to me, they can be my friends, people I come across in restaurants...... any human being for that matter. Somehow I get this 'feeling' about that person being in love with, or liking, or having a crush on some other particular person. I can have that feeling for both of them together and I don't need to see them together for it. Infact recently I had a 'feeling' about two bloggers and my God! there were chances of some truth being in it! (hint* hint*) It gets scary at times, because once I 'felt' about Abhishek-Ashiwarya and the next week there was a report in the papers about them being a couple!!! Weird is it?

3. When I think or talk to myself I generally talk in either German or English! Not marathi which is my mother tongue. Why?

4. This might be happening to quite a few people, but at times I think its really weird that people think this about me. And also really weird that it happens or I do it.'s like.... I blush a lot! I say I smile, but people think I am blushing. It's just that being fair enough I get red whenever I smile or laugh, its not blushing, is it? But I get smiled and teased because I blush so much. (Of course there are people who love my smile *blush* *blush*)

5. And again not exactly weird but weird. Probably you might have thought of it by now. You might be saying to yourself right now, get to the point girl, itni sari backgrounding or base kyu de rahi ho. But people, that's how it is. I am weirdly addicted to adding a lot of prefixes, prefaces, introductory remarks vagera vagera whenever I have to make a point. I jsut can say... "I have a weird habit of doing XYZ". This sentence will come last or somewhere in between, but never first. It will have a long prefixing sentences or words.

Phew! That's a lot of embarrassment for one day. I think I will pass on the buck to some more and feel happy that I am not the only one who's embarrassed. So...

1. Chetan(if that's the only way you can be made to update your blog, I wont skip the chance ;)),

2. Gaurav (if you belong to COEP you got to be weird!),

3. Ashuthosh(who's reportedly so brilliant, I am sure he must have streaks of weirdness)

4. ?! Dubious Moves (becuase the name itself is so weird)

5. Of course the one and only "he who should not be named"! ;)

Sunday, June 11

"Kyun na is dosti ko..."

One of my friends is all set to marry her 'best friend' next week. Both of them are very excited, impatient and hoping the D-Day arrives immediately! Having known both of them since college, I know they make a lovely compatible couple. However there is something that keeps nagging me.

Both of them started out as friends and in due course of time were deeply in love. Their courtship was full of fun, coffees and fights too [being friends keeps you aware of the other’s love life ;)] In time the wedding was fixed, and since then things have nagged me. Now, both are normal rational people madly in love. And they are also ‘friends’. This ‘claim’ nags me. I mean over the years I have seen both of them change distinctly and the relationship turning into more of a love relationship. The ‘friend’ factor seems to have diminished. During conversations with my friend I have noticed initially subtle and now increasingly pronounced traces of the friendship receding. Even when in a group the difference is evident; not in terms of coochicooing and stuff – as such they are against ‘public display’ and there have never been any embarrassing situations when in a group. But still one could make out that the ‘friend’ factor in their behavior, their conversations, their body language had changed. They were friends only because they were girlfriend-boyfriend and not husband-wife.

There are many couples who start out as friends and claim to be friends all through their lives. Sometimes even the best of friends! Films also promote this theme – college friends falling in love, “dosti ko rishtedari mein badal de” etc etc. Lines like “I want to make friendship with you” (that’s horrible English!!) with an intention of nothing else but flirting or dating are common. It’s a routine for friends to fall in love. My only concern is do they continue to be friends all their life? The words ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ imply that the couple are friends to each other, but are they? Do the sweet nothings and intimacies make the ‘couple’ factor dominate? Is then the ‘friendship’ hibernating only to blossom later? Even when after a few years the initial attraction and love is lost, is the friendship alive?

And then what is this being ‘friends’ all about? Does it mean that you share a wavelength, understand each other considerably and enjoy each other’s company? Or is it all about a good dialogue about varied issues of interest to them together or individually? Is it about going out, having similar experiences, sharing them and having fun? What exactly is it to be friends when being a couple?

Many people I have come across usually end up being engrossed in trying to be the best partner, a good lover, a good spouse. I have hardly ever seen people taking efforts at trying to be good friends. Most want to be politically correct. Many are scared of instability and the relationship going sour, so they end up playing it safe. Try to please the other. According to me between friends these things do not matter. You might never want the friendship to go sour but you are usually frank about your thoughts, don’t necessarily play it politically correct, diplomatic at all times. You don’t necessarily try to please the other; don’t forgo your desires for them.

And so I wonder if my friend is really marrying her ‘best friend’ or her ‘erstwhile best friend’!?!

Friday, June 9

All for the 'Vansh'

I have nothing against film lyrics. I firmly believe that it's a skill, an art to actually be able to churn out 'prose-on-demand'. I really do appreciate our film lyricists' hardwork. But at times they do work a bit too hard.

I recently came across one such song from the film Vansh.

"Aake teri bahonmein har sham lage sinduri
Mere man ko mehekaye tere man ki kastuuurieee... (sung by both the artists one after the other, each sentence repeated twice... thrice)
Meheki havaye udata achal
Lat ghungarali kale badal ..... aaaaaa......(twice)(male)
Premsudha nainose barse
Pi lenneeko jeevan tarse (female)
Bahonme kass lene de
Prit ka chumban dene de (fast! I mean the speed of the song!!)(twice)
In adharonse chalak na jaayee
Yauvanras angooriieeee.... (twice)(male)
Aake teri........ (duet)......aaaaaaa.......
Sundartaka beheta sagar
Tereliye hai rupaki ghagar......oooooo....(twice)(female)
Indradhanush ke ranga churau
Teri suuni mang sajau (male)
Do pholonke khilneka
Waqt yahi hai milneka (fast!)(twice)
Aaja milke aaj mitaaadeeee
Thodisiye duuuuuriiieeee... (twice)(female)
Aake teri...... (duet)(repeated till death!!)

Granted that the song is supposed to be a love song, something intimate between the lovers in the film. I haven't seen the picturisation, but the typical Kamal Hasan - S P Balasubramanyam songswala music and the tune and intonations etc are sufficient for me to picturise enough. I can see them on a hill in the typical "traditional" dhoti and sari-worn-like-a-dhoti attire with smoke envloping them at strategic words in the song. If it were to be remixed and picturised I am sure our item girls would search for "cover".

Today there are numerous (or is it all?) songs that would put this song to shame with their vulgarity and lewedity. Songs that give elaborate lessons in human (read female) anatomy and ensure that no mortal is ignorant to its "rights and needs." However to me this song is supreme! The creeps it gave me........ no Mallika Sherawat has ever been that far!! Sometimes euphemism can be worse than the strongest of words!

And so now I have a mission. The mission of my life. An investement for the 'birds and bees'. I am going to create a library of all such songs, songs that give me the creeps (songs that give me everything else can wait)... so that tomorrow my kids can have the greatest 16th birthday gift ever!
P.S. This post is not meant to offend or cast aspersions on any'body'.

Monday, June 5

Thinking aloud

It's been two years since 'he' shifted base and we began this phase of being in a long distance relationship. Two years since 'he' became a voice, a photograph. Having seen and heard of long distance relationships collapsing within the first few months, I take it as a big moral booster that 'we' are going stronger than ever before. There have been the ups and downs, innumerable debates and lots of tears, but each time I feel it adds to the relationship, to our understanding of each other, to the trust and love that binds us.

And yet now that the judai is nearing its end, I find myself scared of the entire prospect of meeting 'him' in person. The seven seas do not restrict or dampen our daily communications. If we are to meet tomorrow the conversation would be a continuation from where we left off yesterday. But then I am mighty scared of meeting 'him' in person.

I fear I have fallen for the distance. The fact that an email or phone call though capable of conveying everything also gives me a chance to veil and shield uncomfortable and disturbing facts, feelings and thoughts is very comforting. The feeling of being in a relationship and yet having your own space (lots of it!) is enticing. Two years is a long time for anyone to fall in love with that feeling.

And most importantly the fact that after two years each one of us must have changed in ways that cannot be conveyed through phone calls and emails. Things that might not have been anticipated, that the other could never have even dreamt of, matters of habit, changes in thought processes due to cultural differences…. lots of things that could surprise and shock. In such a situation when you meet the person with the old image in mind, and also the understanding that things might have changed, how do you react? A restrained reaction could be interpreted for lack of love? A fear, some awkwardness due to years of distance... how does one count for it? How does one assure oneself that such differences are minor and would not harm the relationship? How does one stop worrying and wondering about various scenarios that might arise, that one might rather avoid?

I fear all this and so I communicate. 'We' talk ceaselessly about all our fears, apprehensions and plans. Nothing is left unsaid. But we know it's humanly impossible to communicate everything one thinks of. The probability of things a human mind can conceive out of things left unsaid is immense. It could be subconscious, but it's there. It impacts our behaviour, our interpretations. It impacts the relationship.

Add to it leaving behind your family, your city, everything you have grown up with and shifting base to a completely new country, a new culture; what are the repercussions of it on the relationship? Do you channelise your energies towards adjusting and adapting to the new environment or do you worry about your relationship more? Do you try to overcome the homesickness, the loneliness, the unprotectedness or do you worry about what you are saying to your partner, your choice of words, your choice of actions? Do you try and be pleasing to him/her because he/she's been away for so long, away from you and family and friends and so has naturally suffered a lot emotionally; or do you concentrate on the apprehensions of your parents about sending you so far off, their concerns for your safety, their expectations about your conduct there? What do you do when you suddenly find yourself in a new country with your parents', your partner's and your own expectations piling up on all sides? Who do you turn to? Yourself? Do you expect your parents to understand? Do you expect your partner to stand by you, guide you because he/she has been through some of it and so could give you time to sort out things for yourself? Do you be a bystander and let things take their own course? Who takes the onus for anything that goes wrong? What do you do?!!

Thursday, May 18


Phew!! Finally the exams are over and I can get back to normal life……lots of sleep, films, ice creams……… The exams were a nightmare (ok just short of a nightmare) right from my preparations to the examination center all screwed up.

I generally never get tensed during exams. Infact I think I have a psychological problem. The sight of all those tense faces and voices actually makes me even more confident and puts a weird smile on my face. But this time I was tensed, probably because it was my last year of the Masters. Though it was good in a way, I concentrated more during the twinywini bit of preparation time I had. On the first day I had two papers back to back. Total six hours of writing to do. And with one of the papers being "more of current affairs and general knowledge" I was having a gala time, with only concern for my fingers. Of course I had read up stuff and studied, but my mom thought it was far below my usual standards. End result the papers went well, though my fingers were badly aching.

The most interesting part of the exam was the examination centre. Situated in a dicey kind of a locality, it took some real time to firstly search it out. The entire college consisted of some 15 rooms and the people appearing for exams were seated only in two. Infact for the 'first day first show' there were only 24 people! There was some big time construction work in progress and you had to go through a lot of cement, iron rods, bamboos, mud and what not. If you were unfortunate a decent amount of mud on your head was just fortunate. Then there was a continuous flow of water outside the window with a generous sprinkling of the same on the desk. For my last paper I had to sit at a window and boy it was torturous. The water sprinkling and the dust in no way added to my concentration levels. And at the end of three hours there was a thick layer of mud on my ruler! To make matters worse that was the chosen day for some high level banging (no pun intended). There was this continuous thud thud at very high decibels right above our head and every now and then I wondered if they were trying to knock down the roof. The fans which worked only for an hour were physically shaking, though not in a circular motion. The guy sitting right below one of them kept looking up every now and then with fear of a fan-crash writ large on his face. However the supervisors were very cool about it and leaving the class to their musing they took the opportunity to have men-to-men chats right there in the passage. Anytime one needed a supplement, one had to go out, call the person in and then feel guilty for having broken in on most important discussion of the century!

Wonder why the University chooses such examination centers were certain basics like silence, supervisor presence in classroom and legible seat numbers of desks are luxury!

Thursday, May 4

May his soul rest in peace!

Late evening returning home from office, I came across a few policewalas driving in a particular direction and I suddenly thought, "Mahajan must be dead." God knows why those policemen made me reach this conclusion, but that was the only thought to cross my mind. And so it was. Pramod Mahajan, the firebrand BJP leader passed away Wednesday afternoon.

After the teenage attraction and awe of all things glamorous and mystifying, and a brief stint in journalism, I have almost become indifferent to individual politicians. No matter how charismatic, how great their work might be, they fail to make me give them that second look. I still laugh at the thought that when around 5 years back A B Vajpayee took to fast unto death for some reason, I had briefly cried out of worry that comes out of love. I know the reaction would differ today.

For BJP Mahajan's loss is immense. He was one of their star campaigners, the right hand man of the two most important men in the party, the skilled manager, the expert fundraiser, the firebrand spokesperson, the face of a young BJP. With him a lot is lost. His death was so unexpected that fallback options might not in place; but for contenders it is an opportunity, a larger playing field.

To me it was curiosity initially. Yesterday the news of his death made me sad. I am no great fan of his. But definitely appreciative of his standing in the BJP, his rise from a small town boy to one of the probables for the PMship, careful grooming of his person to suit the media tastes, management of the BJP election campaign in Rajasthan and his oratory. The content of his speeches is a matter of debate, but his style was definitely impressive. He left you enthused, almost voting for him (or his party). His smile was assuring, though at many times cunning but lovable, and left you with a feeling of him being that 'familiar-face-uncle' you smile at during your morning walks. His death left me with the same feeling you have when that uncle is not seen for a couple of days and you wonder if everything is alright and then smile a extra wide smile when you spot him a few days later. Of course here, 'uncle' is never going to return.

Friday, April 28

Kodak moments

Happened to read to posts here and here dealing with photographs and it got me thinking.

How magical those moments seem when you revisit them through photographs. It is not just your perception, it’s the photographer's perception, the perception of the other characters being pictured. Those small frames convey meanings and emotions that you probably never associated with the moment then. Those school group photographs, the birthday photographs, the wedding ones…….. Here and there you find that at a moment when you were so happy, someone captured at the far end of the frame was actually unhappy. Its like those movies where say during a wedding the couple and their parents are ebullient, but somewhere standing in a corner is that secret admirer who is secretly unhappy, and the camera shows us that. Looking at old photographs can likewise give us a new understanding of people and their feelings. It can probably just change the way we perceive that person.

Sometimes even after a long association with a person, a photograph might just say much more than all those years of knowing each other. I remember looking at some of our colleges photographs with a friend. There was timid kind of a girl, who hardly spoke with anyone, was always there but never noticed. In this particular photograph of a college fest, where some of my friends were dancing, this person could be seen sitting quietly in the crowd, body language not differing but eyes lit up unusually……. a distinct love for dance in them, a strong desire to be up there and perform. And slowly I remembered how she would always liven up at the mention of dance. How sad and hurt she looked when we participated in a dance competition and she happened to be left out. Sigh! How I wish I had known it before…..!

Of course I don’t mean to say it is always sad. You have your lovely memories. You can revisit that slight brush of 'his' hand while the photograph was being clicked and the sudden blush that was thankfully not captured. His fond gaze upon you as he apparently prepared to photograph you all, but you knew….. it opens up such a treasure of memories. Your childhood photograph, were you are atop a tree and even though trying to be out of the frame, your father's hand is just there to hold you if you happen to fall. That pride on your teacher's face (and you always thought she was as emotionless and strict as anyone could ever be) as you hold the trophy.

So many moments… many memories adding dimensions to our life and relationships long cherished or long forgotten. Giving a new meaning to our understanding of ourselves, a chance to stand back and evaluate, introspect and grow.

Wednesday, April 19


Why is the phrase "the blind and the disabled" so used?
Is blindness not considered a disability? If, so wouldn't it have a bearing upon the rights and facilities provided to the disabled?

Tuesday, April 18

Harsh..... happiness abound!

Nice cool summer Sunday morning. 5.30 Am. Me sleeping blissfully. Suddenly mom waking me up, "Chalo jana hai na, jaldi utho!" "But its Sunday today" (groan). And then the words, "Fine then dad and I will go to the hospital, you can sleep." Immediately I am up as straight as a log, eyes wide open as if I had never been asleep (well my brother was rolling all over the place seeing me so). Give mom a look of disbelief. Mom all smiles.

And thus I became a proud masi (direct English translation is punishable!) that Sunday!!!! My sister had her first baby, a baby boy. An extremely charming little pink baby, with big blackish eyes (but I claim to see a tinge of green in them), tiny lips and holes for the nose, long legs and such-sweet-soft hands! How our lives have changed since then. First thing everyone does as soon as they get up, have a look at the baby. He is awake at 5.30am and playing and making all sorts of noises all by himself till either my sister or someone else joins him. Even I have started getting up real early to play with him. (Disadvantage: mom asking me to go for a morning walk "now that you are awake and the sun is still to rise"!) But then I am smart. I prefer taking the baby for a sunbath. Just as the sun rises and those first rays fall on him, he changes from pink to red. Looks at the sun eyes wide open, then at my mom or me (or anyone else who is around) and then munches upon god-knows-what.

The entire day is spent looking at him cycle, swim (his movements are like he were swimming in the air), look at my sister and smile, follow her with his eyes and ensure that she is within the range of his eyes and not cry but simply makes tiny sounds with his lips whenever he is hungry. Everyone who visits us is so enchanted by these tiny sounds. They all go ga-ga, "such a good boy, doesn’t cry even if he is hungry!" As night falls each one of us has to have a look at him, hold him before we go off to sleep.

It is amazing how such a tiny thing, unknown to the world till a few days back, suddenly becomes the centre of your universe. Every moment, every thought is about him, related to him. Even dinner discussions are about what he did today, how he listened to music and how he did this and that. Life seems wonderful. Feeling tired and low, play with him for a couple of minutes and you are completely rejuvenated. Very happy, play with him and watching him laugh with you the happiness knows no bounds. Not sleepy, try putting him off to sleep and the rocking will make you sleep but he will continue smiling at you. Even the scorching summer heat feels like a cool winter breeze when he laughs and smiles at you………..

Touchwood! for all the 'harsh'bhare days!

Thursday, April 13

Getting personal

The other day I was reading Chetan's personal post and wondered whether he was thinking, "Ok enough of 'intelligent' stuff, let me write something personal". Infact do any of the bloggers around stop to think about whether their post for the day should be personal or otherwise.

The blogosphere is full of wonderful 'personal' post writers. Like this one and many more such warm posts by Shruthi, or this by Suyog, or those by Nirwa who seems to be fond of writing very personal posts at times or the entire Blank Noise Project. All these posts are personal because they share the writer's experiences. But then every other post, be it about politics, films, science, food etc. each one is triggered by a personal experience. Only difference being that the experience is shared in a manner where the issue, the film, the dish becomes central and the writer merely a narrator. All such posts looking at 'issues' are also personal because they give the writer's opinion, a glimpse into his thought process. The reader's thought process is not restricted to forming an opinion about the 'issue' being discussed, but also about the writer as a person. And so greatbong comes to be thought of as someone with an amazing sense of humor and gaurav and ravikiran as 'intelligent'. Someone else is thought of as promising but still amateur, while some others are genius writers. With each subsequent post, the comments that the bloggers posts the reader's opinion about him/her changes for the better or for the worse.
For some personal posts probably mean those where the writer is a character in the story, whereas otherwise he is only the narrator, who was merely inspired by something he experienced. Experiences need not necessarily be first-hand and probably that is one of the distinguishing factors. But then when someone writes about the education system, he has experienced it himself and not been a mere observer. Some of my friends feel that writing about personal stuff exposes you to the danger of it being criticised, ridiculed, made fun of, when for you the matter might be of immense importance. Infact you are almost presenting yourself to be ridiculed and criticised and the personal information that is so given out can be used to the writer's detriment. Probably true, but then so is the case with your everyday interactions. I can understand that posting pictures of oneself, one's partner or such can probably lead to the photographs being misued and tampered. Those implications of technology are understandable and justifiable. But how can simply writing 'personal' posts have such serious repercussions.
By having a blog we are voluntarily giving our ideas, thoughts and also ourselves for public evaluation and criticism. When we have chosen to do it, how far is it right to crib when criticised and evaluated in a particular manner? Is self-expression, the motivation behind most of the blogs important; or the constant self-restriction for fear of criticism, thereby curbing one's own self-expression?

Monday, April 3

Watching myself grow

I have been reading all my life now. Comics, novels, thrillers, classics, non-fiction........ anything. I know that this consistent reading has a big stake in what I am today. And yet there have been few times I can remember when while reading I actually found those words 'impacting' me. Imagining, visualizing, dreaming of being like those characters..... these are distinct feelings and you can see them happening. But something actually changing within me, affecting my thought process directly and so visibly! It's probably the first time.

I have been reading Shashi Deshpande's essay collection 'Writings from the margin'. Now for starters, essays are not something I am too keen on reading. No reason per say. I have tried and left essay collections half way most of the times. But this time I read the entire stuff. Not in a chronological order but the entire stuff all the same. And as I read I saw myself being affected by her words, her thoughts, realizing how they said what I felt but was never able to identify them lucidly. They would be lost somewhere halftrack and I never knew how to go back to them. This book showed me how I really felt about those things.

Shashi Deshpande writes in a very simple and from-the-heart language. This collection ranges from her own experiences of creating stories and novels as a writer, the process through which she travels, to elaborating upon why she is a feminist, why English Indian writing cannot be termed marginal, how being called a 'woman writer' annoys her, a biographical sketch of her father that also gives us a glimpse into the strength of her mother……….. Some 15 odd essays on a variety of topics and yet each seems related to the other. There is a definite thread that binds them. Reading each of these, I felt refreshed as you do when some realization dawns upon you.

Probably belonging to similar social and geographical backgrounds the association is easier as the setting is familiar. When she talks of the idol of 'Annapurna devi' given to the bride I could relate to it. A wedding ritual that till now had received no great attention from me suddenly meant so much. How seeing my mother cook even I thoughts of kitchens in a romantic manner as she did too and how growing up it has now acquired a deeper meaning and association with women's life as a whole. When she talks of writing as a woman and reading other women writers and the irritation it causes when they are perceived as 'for-women-only' stuff; I knew that's what was nagging me all these days, only it was her putting them into words. When she says she took up writing in English not out of deliberate choice but because that was the language she knew to write in, inspite of being proficient in her mother tongue and such, I knew what she meant. Because that’s what I feel too. I have asked myself this at times, 'Why do I write in English?' and that’s the same answer I get. It’s a very spontaneous choice. Nothing purposeful or deliberate about it. Also when Deshpande asks how 'top writers' of the century, of India etc can be determined by some body that has access and understanding only of the English literature being produced; I nod in agreement. There are scores of other regional writers who would probably outscore on merit any of those in the lists produced.

All through the book I find her putting my thoughts into words. Thoughts that I knew only in bits and parts to exist in me, and which would have probably stayed dormant for all I know. They were articulated and I could see them as a third person. This conscious realization of something within me, something affecting me, is so beautiful that no words can express it. I can only express my gratitude to Shashi Despande for this wonderful experience!

Tuesday, March 7

Happy Birthday to me!

There are some moments in life you can never anticipate. And so when they do happen they leave you flabbergasted. I experienced something of the sort today.

Today, on my birthday, early morning I received a huge bouquet of roses! I was stunned. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the surprise element was so large that for a couple of minutes I kept looking at it mouth agape, and the poor delivery boy wondering if he had done something wrong. Finally coming to my senses I signed the receipt and carried the basket full of roses inside the house, wondering how in the world did he manage it!! It was my first every home delivery of flowers, and that too from my fiancé. The beauty of the flowers and the love they conveyed was enough to make my day, and forget that he is not with me today. (Thank you, dear!) Its a mixture of pink and yellow roses with white wild flowers kinda flowers (I dont know their name). They have been arranged in a basket like the kinds I thought only princesses in fairytales carried. Oh, how I felt on top of the world carrying it inside, just like those fairytale princesses, sweetly in love! (Sigh!)

I think I am probably going overboard with my excitement. But then when you are in love and separated (judai), ever gesture of love, every gift from 'him' means a million times more than it would otherwise have. You can feel the person with you at that moment, sharing the joy, smiling at your happiness and in love with you! This is my second birthday we are celebrating sitting at different ends of the world, but the love and warmth it has brought with those flowers has washed away all the pain I was feeling yesterday. The memories of undelivered shipment last year and the disappointment it led to is all forgotten today. Just a bunch of flowers and such happiness, such hope.

Well I sure am feeling on cloud nine today! Happy Birthday to me for sure :)

Wednesday, February 22

Sexing it up!

I recently attended a session on 'Gender sensitivity in writing'. With all due respect to the speaker and the topic, I, as a kinda professional writer (or writeress?) fail to understand why so much was being read into this issue.

The basic proposition of the speaker (this is a neutral word, isnt it?) was:
"Nonsexist language allows you and your reader to focus on what people do rather than which sex they happen to be. Using "he" and "man" as generic terms does not represent reality today. Research has shown that the average reader tends to visualize a male when reading "he" or "man". You can't expect your reader to think of a woman if you talk about a "salesman." If you inadvertently come across as sexist, part of your audience could feel insulted or offended, and will not even try to understand what you are saying. Using "he" as a generic pronoun can be misleading in certain contexts. Your audience may be confused and think that you are only referring to the male members of whatever group you are referring to."

The speaker went on to give strategiesd to avoid such 'sexist' stuff to the extent of saying:
"Use a mixture of male and female names in scenarios and examples.
You can then refer to John as "he" and Mary as "she". Beware of stereotyping the senior person as the male and the subordinate person as the female, but don't use reverse stereotyping for everyone either. Also be careful when the situation clearly cannot include both sexes E.g. In a medical text discussing pregnancy, the doctor can be either male or female, but the patient is always female."
(Please! Give me a break. What are we all, dumbwits/fools/mentally handicapped.... what?)

For one I see no reason why it should be such a big issue. I mean so what if I write "the baby was crying and so his mother petted him"? Why should the use of 'his' and 'him' matter so much so long as the point is being communicated. We have grown up with the language being used in a particular manner and for all practical purposes using 'him', 'his' and the like is more a matter of convenience than wanting to appear or being a 'sexist' and offending the other sex. Insteasd, using 'gender sensitive' tactics like writing plural, he/she, s/he, etc. is a rather clumsy way of putting things and would definitely make my copy look messy. Neither do I see any reason why using 'his/him' would make it difficult for the audience to comprehend and relate to the content. How many of us really even give a thought to whether the use of words is sexist or not to be in effect offended by it and focus on the sexist nature of the content rather than the meaning of the content itself? (how many of us actually focus on the content in the first place?)

How many of you would be offended if I say "the reader should kindly put in his comment for further dicussions about the issue"?

Sunday, February 12


I went out for a film with an old friend after looooooong time. And you bet it was fun. For one the tickets to AdLabs were free (she had won them! :) ), second the movie was good and of course we had so much to catch up upon and lots to gossip about ;).

So we went for 'Holiday' (which is supposed to be a copy of Dirty Dancing, though I have not seen it and so cannot comment). Though the name, the lead actor and actress are not exactly attractive, the beautiful blue sea on the posters is attractive enough. The film is about a girl (Muskaan), who is depressed by her failure at not being able to be a doctor like her father and how she finds herself and what she is made for through Salsa. The family is on a long trip to Goa, importantly to get Muskaan out of her mood and lively again. She is a very bookwormish kind of a girl, kind at heart but not like others her age, fretting over looks and guys. She sees a Salsa performance by Dino Morea (he surprised me by his dancing), who teaches Salsa at the hotel and is mesmerized. However she does not join classes and it is only through chance circumstances that she lands up taking lessons. She finds happiness in dancing and Dino Morea encourages her to pursue her dreams and not bow down and necessarily be what social norms expect her to be. The two fall in love and thanks to the usual party spoilers, they are made to part ways. The climax of the film is good where the hero comes back to the hotel so that he can fulfill Muskaan's dream of performing in front of her parents and seeing them applaud and be proud of her. And so she does, and they are united again.

The film is good because it does not keep on drifting into the passionate moments of the couple and we see a very nice relationship between them, where they are not just lovers but also friends. It is a film about the girl and her transformation through following her heart and that it what it sticks to. Somewhere I am sure all of us can relate to this theme, either because we do follow our heart or because we do not have had the chance to do it.

It is just a two hour film and definitely does not bore you. The lead lady is a very good dancer, very swift and graceful. Dino Morea surprises us with his dance, though his face is as stoic as always. Gulshan Grover has done a good job as the father who is also a friend to his daughter, and their relationship is well portrayed. The music is good and the songs flow with the story. In short it is a good movie, worth watching and enjoying some 'good dancing'!

Thursday, February 9

Things that make me go Grrrrrrrrrrr...................

Yesterday Suyog tagged me to this and so here I go………………
1. Staring at the screen doing nothing (writer’s block in a more sophisticated language!).
2. That mosquito that keeps on buzzing around you and everyone else looks at you as if your crazy waving your hands in the air.
3. People who start and never complete their sentence. (What? Should I mind read?!)
4. People who give you ‘khunas’ the first time you ever see them. (Maine kya kiya hai bhai!)
5. People who work with the expression that the existence of the company depends solely upon them. (So what are others there for, timepass?)
6. Girls who pout and talk. (Not everyone you talk to is going to kiss you, girl!)
7. People who bring jingling key-chains to office. (Announcing your arrival, are you?)
8. Girls you wear dark pink coloured lipstick. (Yuck!)
9. People who are constantly (jogging, working, eating, driving) dressed and behave as if they are facing the camera.
10. People who indicate left and turn right (or viceversa).
11. People you turn and then indicate!!!
12. Drivers who almost run you over and then look at you as f you were trying to run him over.
13. Guys who take offence each time a girl overtakes them, and then do all sorts of driving ‘tricks’.
14. People who jump signals.
15. Simultaneous digging up of parallel roads (Does it mean we start flying?!)
16. Garbage bins being burnt (Aren’t our cities polluted enough!)
17. Women who hit their kids if he/she falls down.
18. Girls who simply stick to their ‘guys’ on the bike (Fevicol ka majbut jod hai!)
19. Girls who give you the ‘kill you’ look even if you happen to give ‘their guy’ a passing look. (I am not going to steal him.)
20. Girls you try to act tomboyish when they are so clearly not. (Please be yourself!)
21. People who make plans with you and renegade and don’t even inform. (SMS is cheap on money and time, dear!)
22. Girls who you know are one of the greatest flirts and who still give you the holier-than-thou look once they are married. (Does that mangalsutra make you a sati-savitri overnight?)
23. People who do not acknowledge letters/cards (How am I know you got it!)
24. Indiscipline
25. Clutter

Pheww!! Ok now that’s quite a list. Suyog and Shruti, how about playing ‘my-list-is-longer-than-yours’?

Monday, February 6


Everybody at my place is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new baby (not mine!) in the house. And so it is no wonder I can think, dream and see nothing but babies :).(Its like when you or your friend buys a new car/ bike, you suddenly start seeing/ noticing that model everywhere on the road.) I stop and gaze at those beautiful little frocks and winter-wear, those cosy prams, enchanting toys, johnson and johnson ads........ everything!
During one such trancelike moments I suddenly remembered an incident a few months back. My mom-in-law had told me about a friend who recently had a baby. Now that is not surprising except for that the lady has a 16 year old daughter! The lady was all embarrassed telling this to my mom-in-law, but then they also had a hearty laugh. The point that made me think was that her daughter is now ashamed of telling anyone that she has a 7 month old baby brother. Not that it is surprising, even I would have probably felt the same in her situation. But why? Is it because it shows that the parents have a sexual relationship even after all those many years of marriage? Inspite of having a 16 year old child? That they are still attracted to each other and feel the need for 'it'? Because we are so ashamed of accepting the 's' word and more so when it concerns our elders?

A couple of years back I remember watching Pinjar where Lillet Dubey is pregnant at the time they are seeking a match for daughter Urmila Matondkar. I had felt a definite discomfort at that, but then I thought that's how it was those many years ago. All our grandfathers/ mother and even some of our parents do have 6-7 or more siblings and then the age different between the first and the last is more than 15 years too. They never felt ashamed about their siblings or their parent's relationship. Probably because they were 'unaware' of 'birds and bees'? Or it was so normal a thing that no one ever thought it different, embarrassing? Or did they have better things to think about and their minds were not 'polluted' with such thoughts? What was it exactly?

Why are we so ashamed of our sexuality at a time when we claim to be 'modern'? Not as 'narrow-minded' as our ancestors. When we talk and 'defend' live-in relationships, pre-marital sex, one-night stands and extra-marital affairs? When we go ga-ga over those sleazy music videos and Mallika Sherawats? When we talk about introducing sex education in school? When we praise and give examples of the 'westerners' who are sexually involved even in the 50's and 60's. Why are we not just 'shy', but 'ashamed' of this basic need and desire of every human being? Why today? Why not all those many years and decades ago? What has changed?

Is it not wonderful to know that a couple who has been married for a long time, has had kids, still feels the same kind of attraction and love for each other? That advanced age and beer bellies have not led to detachment? That even after fighting and roaring over increased expenses and bills, work stress and less time for oneself, they are eager for those moments of togetherness? That at a time when love generally fades away after a couple of kids and few years of marriage, the couple is still in love so much as to desire each other? Then why be embarrassed and gossip tauntingly? Why not accept and appreciate their love!!

Monday, January 30

Honey I shrunk the 'kid'!

There was something special about this weekend. Apparently it was just like any other, but somewhere something has changed. I have changed.

I have known this feeling before, as if you are an actor changing characters. I have known this feeling when my sister got married and left behind an unexplainable void that I unknowingly tried to fill up. When I first stayed over for more than a week with my in-laws-to-be, feeling the love that an entire family can shower upon you just because their son happens to love you; and you respond instinctively.

Today looking into the mirror I once again knew I had changed. To what extent I cannot say. But why? Yes. Because this Saturday I cut my hair. And cut it real short. It’s been seven years since they were so small. Over the years I had cared and seen them grow as a mother would her children and feel happy that all was fine. I had cried when they showed even a trace of being unhealthy (the reason why I cut them now). I had beamed when my mom-in-law praised them and looked at me with such loving eyes, it saddens me to tell her I cut them. I had been proud when everyone complimented them and loved them, just like when your kids are loved and praised by your neighbors. But they are all gone. The waist length deep black beautiful lustrous hair (ignore my immodesty, in this regard I am all indulgent) that refreshed me with its smell when I was feeling low, taught me that darkness can be beautiful, made me realize that ‘split-ends’ can mean growth ………… all that is gone now. All that remains is the sweet and sour memories of it.

And yet I am happy. Happy because this new ‘look’ is making me feel new. I suddenly seem to be more confidant than before. I am looking and feeling younger by a more than a couple of years and suddenly I have these teenage feelings dwelling up in me again. This haircut means that I have done some things which I never thought I would. I never dreamt I would cut my hair this short, and cut it without consulting my parents who adored my mane, without asking my mom-in-law who had explicitly been against me cutting them, my fiancé who knows everything I do as soon as I have even thought about it. It is the first time I did something on a total whim, the first time I ‘informed’ my parents about a decision and not ‘ask’ them, first time that I kept a secret from my fiancé! It was the first time I realized how much emotional strength (it was a tough 20 minutes for me as I sat through the haircut, closing shut my eyes tight as if hoping that I would open them and my long hair would still be smiling at me) I derive from my sister’s presence (she was the one who readily supported and accompanied me inspite of the the fact that she cannot see my hair being cut so short).

A simple thing like a haircut and a vista of memories, a new understanding about myself and those around me. Another reason to fall in love with myself once again!

Friday, January 27

Just an hour and a half

Its been quite some time since this last happened. Today reliving those moments I suddenly felt as if something long forgotten had come back to me. It was only a matter of one and a half hours beyond normal time, but it brought back so many memories, that the discomfort it caused escaped attention. It was totally unplanned, as such things usually are. But it was also unavoidable, as sometimes these things are.

Staying back after office hours, working that extra hour, can be so invigorating. I never knew it before today. Invigorating not in the physical aspect of it, but the mental. Stepping out of office set in motion a series of memories, some pleasing, other not exactly so.

My last job involved late hours and reaching home at 11pm was 'usual'. Driving home with the cold breeze playing through your hair on the almost empty streets, was something I really loved about my old job. The tension, physical and mental both, of the entire day was lost before I reached home, all fresh and ready for anything you said. There were days when there would be some colleague driving along and the non-office chat lead to many a wonderful friendships. Even in office, as the world around you gradually prepared to go to sleep, you were busy and excited for that was your peak time (I worked in a newspaper and newpapers start bustling with activity only after 6pm). The evening tea and snack, the gossiping and giggling, the teasing and laughing........ even as you keyed in your stories for the day......... it was all so wonderful. And as the hours passed by we all looked forward to going home and the excitement of it (I sometimes wondered if we were schoolkids!) led to work gaining greater momentum and so also the chattering. It was as if your brain had changed gears and was roaring at full speed. And if it was someone's birthday......... cakes and samosas and pav bhaji........ those were some of the immemorable days of my life.

I remember going out for my first dinner date with 'him', when I was so caught up in office that he had started wondering if I would ever make it. It was fun! I was dying to leave and 'boss' would not let me go. And so I played a little trick. I was carrying a different dress to be worn for the date (now this in itself was so unlike me that I had almost forgotten I was carrying it. And the look on 'his' face when he saw me in a different dress was simply a kodak moment!) So I quickly changed into it, adjusted my hair, packed some of my stuff and with the most innocent look on my face asked boss if there was anything more for me to do that day. Well, he got the hint and finally at 10pm I left office for my historical date. (Now that is a different story and will tell it some other time.)

But today as I left office I couldn't help feel that happiness all over again. Actually I am not fond of working late hours. I like to do my work on time and leave on time. But today was different. The work was suddenly alloted and with not much experience in that particular thing, it proved to be though task in the pre-lunch session. My best friend and I work together and sit next to each other, which meant that between us we had a 100 questions to ask of our boss. After a lot of to and fro of mails and files, we finally settled down into the thing and though I still have a lot of questions, they can wait till Monday. Today I have other things to look into, especially my Pensieve!

Monday, January 23

Woh kon thi?!

A typical college setting. A girl clad in green salwar-khameez with matching earrings and bangles, hair tied in a plait and a 'damsel in distress' look on her face and scarf walks in through the gate. A boy in blue jeans and yellow T-Shirt, sports shoes and the 'just-out-of-the-bed' look standing in a group of similar looking guys and talking on this latest mobile, laughing. The guy and the girl bump and she is flustered and he excited. Repeat scene for the next couple of shots. Love blossoms. Guy and girl meet everyday at restaurants, riverside, movies, coffee shops..... go around hand in hand, for long drives on the bike with girl hanging like a sack to his back.

One year later.............

Soft dimmed lights in a room decorated with marigold flowers. Girl in ‘ghungat’ sitting on the bed. Guy enters all excited for the upcoming ‘event’. He sits down next to her. She lowers her head in shame (sharam/lajja/laaj?). He takes her hand and kisses it. Goosebumps. Sweet nothings and lots of coaxing later girl agrees to 'mooh-dikhai'. Guy lifts the ghungat and (freeze frame on guy's face).......

Guy: Who are you? (Repeate thrice for that startled effect.)
Girl: Why? Its me of course. (Girl looking lost and damsel-in-distress as usual.)
Guy: No that cannot be! It can't be you!
Girl: What's wrong with you? Are you drunk? Its me, your love, your darling, your sweetheart!
Guy: No. You are an imposter mimicking her voice, taking advantage of the dim lights. I am putting on the big ones. (Switches on the two tubelights and the room is brightly lit.) I have been duped. (Sob! Sob!). You are not my sweetheart. You cannot be. She had these wonderful black eyes (looks into her eyes)....... you are wearing black lenses to fool me! Oh God! My love, she had these wonderful black eyes that I have been in love with for the last one year. She was my 'sharmilie', never once did she go around without her scarf covering her head and her face. Such sanskar! And you........ you are sitting here smiling at me without anything to cover your face with............. you are not my love! (cries)
Girl: But I......
Guy: Shut up! Oh God! Why are you punishing me? We had such wonderful times at the coffeeshop, sitting hand in hand, legs brushing one another....... we had only one coffee everytime (flashback to coffeeshop, the two sitting in the said position. Girl wearing her scarf and looking around with scared eyes of a deer once in a while.) I was so much in love with her as we walked along the riverside (flashback. Camera from behind. Walking, Guy's hand around her waist, close enough to not let an ant pass through between them.) And from the riverside to the bridge on bike, to that dark corner on the bridge, crowded yet so secluded! (Flashback. Guy parks bike and they sit behind it. Girl wearing scarf.) I remember the trembling of her hands, her scared eyes, her husky scarfed voice........... (Flashback. Guy holding hand, girl looking around. Guy holding her close and moving his hands closer to strategic places. Girl looking around scared and searching.)
Girl: And that trip to Sinhagad. It was so romantic!! Sigh!
Guy: What? How do you know? You must have read her diary! You cheat, you *****!!!! What have you done with her? (Sob. Sob.) It was such a wonderful day. We rode on my bike, she was holding on to me tightly. Then we went behind that little temple and............. Ohhhhhhhhhhh the warmth of her body, her softness ..............

Next morning. Guy still dazed. Girl all in tears. Enter ‘sasuma’.

Sasuma: Aren’t you people supposed to go over to her place? Come on leave now. (Calls out to ‘bahurani.’ Girl enters in a green sari, managalsutra, matching bangles, hair tied in a plait and tying her scarf.)
Guy: (Looks up) What you? Oh where have you been? I missed you so much. You know there was some other girl trying to fool me into believing it was you. She even knew our little secrets! (Girl lowers her head. Blushes inside her scarf covering her face!)

Ok now don’t think I have lost my mind to be writing that story. I was just wondering how it would be for those innumerable couples who love to court and roam around hand in hand. But at the same time they lack the guts to be brave enough and face the world and not hide their face behind some stupid scarf tied as “protection from the pollution.” If you look around you will come across numerous such couples where the girl covers her face and at the same time they are coochi-cooing in full public view. You must have seen ‘these’ couples during your treks as you stop for snacks at the ‘restaurant and permit room’ at the foothills. Darting you scared and ‘thank-god-I-don’t-now-you’ looks.

What infuriates me and what I really fail to understand is that if ‘these’ people are so scared of being found out and spotted, why go and attract public attention by being ‘physical’ with your lover in public? These same people, especially girls will carry the ‘holier-than-thou’ look and at the same time cover their faces and let their lover touch them ‘so far’ sitting on a bridge, a park and go to dicey hotel rooms with them and step out with their faces covered! If you are a Marathi speaking person you will understand my feelings when I say “chyala jaraka himmat nahi tar prema tari kashala karat hindatat!”

I have no problems with people falling in love. I am human enough to understand that when in love you feel a need to get ‘close’ to your lover. My problem is if you are not prepared to face the consequences of being in love, of being spotted with him/her, why go around attracting public attention? What will attract more attention a couple where the girl sits wearing a scarf or a couple sitting chatting in a carefree manner? And whoever said you cannot be identified with a scarf around your face? Any person who knows you for sometime will identify you even with a scarf. I really fail to understand the entire funda behind such behavior. It is extremely irritating and foolish to say the least. Really “jarka himmat nahi tar prema tari kashala karat hindatat!”

Wednesday, January 18

Five point, someone?

I had heard a lot about this book and like many others who read the reviews, wanted to read 'Five point someone' as soon as possible. However it did not happen till yesterday.

It so happened that my brother was reading something with a newspaper covering (or so it looked like) and knowing that he would never cover his books thus, I had to find out what book it was. That is how I landed up with this book. (Now its up to you to decide if a book with a coverpage that looks like its been wraped in newspaper invites you to read it.)

'Five point someone' is a story about three guys in college (IIT, Delhi), the 'fun' they have during their fours years together (Hmmm.....) and how they almost 'screw' up their degrees in the process. It begins with how a guy (near death) is being rushed to a hospital and then flashback (Hmm..... I know this?!) The author, Chetan Bhagat, takes you through the four years of the three guys, Alok, Ryan and Hari (supposedly the author himself) starting off with a ragging episode. Ryan saves the other two from some impossibly obnoxious thing during the ragging and their friendship is sealed. Ryan is this rich, smart and handsome guy who apparently has 'everything going for him', while Alok is this poor, intelligent, fat and (almost) ugly guy who has 'all the problems in the world'. And Hari is somehwere in between, an ok-to-do, intelligent and ok-to-look-at guy, who is narrating the story and so we hardly have any insights into his background. In the first semester itself they score a five point something score in their exams and that is how they come to be known for the rest of their stay, 'five point somethings', the underdogs. Ryan is irritated with the 'system' because it does not allow one any freedom to innovate things, but rather produces human machines. He proposes that the three friends have all the fun they can have as 'these are the days to do it' and so between movies, food, chess, porn and vodka they 'screw' up their studies. They never rise above their five point something. In the meanwhile Hari falls for the daughter of the Head of Department (a very strict guy who does not allow his daughter to talk with guys or receive their calls) and to impress him he wants to score an 'A' for his course. And the easiest way to do it is steal the paper! (Ryan's idea) So Hari goes to the professor's house to meet the daughter and with no one at home they end up having sex and he also manages to get the keys and go out (in the father/professor's shirt) and duplicate them and come back and bump into the father and meet the daughter clad in a bedsheet at the doorstep............ and in general have a blast! With keys in place they sneak into the office at night and get caught and are expelled for a term. Due to the expulsion and tensions at home, Alok jumps from the roof and breaks himself at a hundred places. Having 'screwed up' their degrees and chances at a decent job, they come to their senses and work hard on a project........................ You get the drift.

Now. The book is not as great as the reviews I had read claimed it to be. The story is good and it could happen to anyone. As such it is realistic. The characters are however very stereotypical. Ryan for example is goodlooking and smart and rich and hates the system and wants to have fun - it seems too much out of a bollywood film and stereotyped. The whole book has been written in a very 'yuppie' language to give it that college fun feel. But, as Hari says at a point in the book, "It kills the effect"; the yuppieness of the language does not flow naturally but seems to have been brought in after a some real effort. The yuppieeness is not as natural as the film Dil Chahta Hai, which seems to have inspired this book (Hmm..... now I know). Comparing notes with a friend we were unanimous that it seems to try to do a 'Dil Chahta Hai'.

I will not say dont read it. Go ahead and read it. Its a quick read with only around 250 pages and definitely not 'crap'(a word which has been used too many times in the book.) Read it to see that IITians are not all bookworms and studious, they have their share of fun and 'college life'. Read it to realise how its important to know where to draw the line. Read it and let me know!

Monday, January 16

Signing Off

I have been writing quite a few letters lately. After all those scores of letters I sat down to write one to my friend today. Dear Aparna,…………………… with reference to………………….. considering the circumstances……………….I would be glad to ………….. Regards!?” I suddenly realized how mechanically I was writing all that stuff. It seemed more a collage of all the letters I had been writing, than a new year wish for an old friend. God forbid had I sent it to her………. For one it was supposed to be a new year greeting letter (“today is 15 Jan you idiot! ***********) And I had signed it off with regards. She can take nothing but ‘Luv’ from me. ‘Regards’ is blasphemy! (“Regards! who the hell do u think were you writing to?”)

That got me thinking. How many of us actually think twice before signing off a letter. Generally for official/ formal ones we blindly sign off as ‘Yours sincerely/faithfully’ or ‘Regards’. With more informal ones it is either ‘Luv’ or ‘Yours truly’. And how many of us care to read how a person has signed off? Hardly. We know who has written us the letter and we assume that it would be either of those above. And so it is blindly ignored. And yet there are guidelines on how to write letters and how to sign them off; what should it be for the President and for the CEO and for the Queen. Yet that fussy teacher scolds you for writing ‘Yours truly’ and not ‘Yours sincerely’. Yet my friend would have let hell loose had I written ‘Regards’. Yet your boyfriend/girlfriend would be ‘hurt’ if you don’t sign off with a ‘love you’. And yet you cannot expect that if you sign off innovatively that would be noticed!

I have a journo friend who’s into a long distance relationship. So their main form of communication is emails. Once she happened to attend five lectures on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in 2 days flat and was so saturated with it, she signed off a letter saying “Yours IPR (Incurable Prem Rogi).” Another time she wrote “Love you. Mrs U”. I am sure that must be adding so much romance to their communications over miles. And then there was this HR person I communicated with at one time who signed of as “Cheers”. Another friend who wrote “God bless you!”. And there must be innumerable others out their who write innovate stuff to sign off their letters. Something that is probably forgotten after that one instance. Something that they consider a stroke of brilliance. Something they have put a lot of thought/love/time into. Something that was never noticed!!