We Indians love our elaborate traditions and gaiety. We have many festivals all through out the year, and each is celebrated with joyous splendor and magnificence. But there is one festival that we love more than others, even more than Diwali – Weddings. The union of two souls is memorialized in grand ceremonies and extravagant show, and the Indian wedding only seems to get bigger and fatter with every passing year.
Since November-December is supposedly very auspicious for weddings, every year my Facebook news feed is religiously occupied during the marriage season with lovely pictures and picturesque check-ins of weddings and honeymoons and everything that precedes and follows it. And a very amusing trend in the matrimony “industry” (and I use the word “industry” because a lot of people mint good amount of money during this period) is the pre-wedding photo shoot. I saw it the first time couple of years ago, and it was absolutely adorable!!!! It has been long since then, and looks like this one is here to stay, except now, it has become kind of, cringe-worthy.
I don’t get it. What’s with these mock-up, larger-than-life pictures that look so unreal, like the romance has retreated from the life of the couple before it even started? I saw a photo-shoot recently that left me astound – one picture of the couple was overlooking the ocean, the other on a mountain top with the obligatory Titanic pose, and yet another was in a forest! I mean, is it a photo-shoot or a 4th standard Geography-text book?
At the risk of getting unfriended by truckload of married friends, who have wasted precious money on those mushy and pretentious pictures,me – your oh-so-single friend is telling you that you that those photo-shoots are actually, very silly.
Tell me something, is the romance really about exotic locations or filmy postures? Ask yourself if this is how you fell in love with your partner, while getting photo-shopped on the top of Himalayas, or when he/she reminded you to go easy one that ice-cream because you are still recovering from a cold? Why is romance, or love, supposed to be so mythical and beyond the realms of a normal world? Isn’t it about practical wisdom, dealing with each day as it comes, and stealing moments here and there to express how mad you are about each other?
My parents didn’t have a fancy wedding photo-shoot, and neither did yours. And they still turned out pretty well. Look around you, don’t you squirm uncomfortably when you hear of young married couples struggling to make it work, irrespective of their marriages being love/arranged, because they are incompatible? Why can’t love be more, honest and straight-forward, instead of fake? Why not have a photo-shoot that shows the two of you living life like you normally do – enjoying that occasional glass of wine or goofing around each other?
As I sip my coffee and go through some really crazy photo-shoots, I have no clue whom I am getting married and when. But I sure as hell know what I am not planning to do – A down-on-one- knee proposal picture with relatives in tow. Eww, no! Doing headstand together though, now that sounds interesting!
It had been a tiresome day. She was up since 5 in the morning, out on the roads. She had been struggling with a photographer’s block from past 2 weeks, and so she clicked everything and everyone in her sight. She absolutely had to finish the photo assignment by tomorrow, and she was short of one last “magical” picture. It was already sunset, she would have to figure something out later. She booked a Uber from Nariman Point – going to Malad would easily take her 2 hours in the evening rush.
“Kamal? You in there?”, she spoke as she opened the door to her humble abode, a 2-bhk with a posh builder in the city, something her father gifted her on her marriage with Kamal. It has been 7 years since they married – he worked with a talent agency and she was a photographer. Their friends often marveled at their compatibility – no one remembered them arguing about anything. They understood each other perfectly, they supported each other through all thick and thin. Due to crazy demands of their respective jobs, they had mutually decided to not have children. Of course their families and friends weren’t happy about that, but they had made their choice, and didn’t have regrets.
As she stepped into her apartment, she knew something was amiss. The house seemed – disturbed. There was a three-quarters’ full bottle of Jack Daniels on the table, and a glass with a last sip left. The sofa rug was lying on the floor. And their picture, the one they took while holidaying in Seychelles last summer, was lying face down.
“Kamal? Where are you?”, she didn’t even bother to put down her apparatus, and rushed to the bedroom, her camera flying across. The closet was open, and half of the hangers, were empty. Kamal sat at the edge of their bed, face down, staring at the packed suitcase in front of him.
“What’s wrong? Where are you going? What’s going on?” All the questions ran through her mind, but she knew better than to ask. She stood at the doorstep, waiting for Kamal to speak.
“I called up Dad today, told him all about us.”, Kamal spoke, not even looking at her.
She waited for him to go on.
“More like me, I told him all about me. He was shocked, I hope it is not too much for his weak heart. I was fed up of hiding it from everyone, and I felt too guilty when you lied on my behalf to all. I feel so… unburdened. Is it wrong to feel so?” He looked at her, and there it was, her cue. She took several pictures, all close-ups. Her photographer’s block finally freed her, as she captured the glitter of freedom.
I saw him today. He had come for the evening Aarti. He looked just as I remembered him – unassuming, quiet, unremarkable. The kind of man you wouldn’t give a second look in a crowd. He is dutifully religious, he comes for Ganga Aarti every full moon day and Ganga Snaan on Thursdays. It is hard to believe he is the owner of Rajshree Jewels, he bears no airs of a rich man.
They say he started small. His father had a small shop in the old market area, but he made what Rajshree Jewels is today – opulent, regal and one of a kind. Apparently, Bollywood stars specially order jewels from his shop; his daughter’s wedding graced by so many VIPs was a testimony to his powerful network.
His daughter, they say, is a splitting image of his wife. His wife was the daughter of his gardener, and she was so beautiful that he fell in love with her the first time he saw her. He fought with his traditional family to make sure he married her; his parents gave up in front of his strong will. They were tied in a wedlock in a quiet ceremony, and were blessed with a daughter within a year of the marriage.
Nothing is forever though, isn’t it? The wife died in a terrible incident 10 years ago, she was on her way from her morning walk when she was shot three times in the chest at point-blank range. Paid assassins, the police said. The motive was to kidnap her apparently, to seek a ransom. But when she resisted and fought back, she was killed. The police, despite all sorts of political pressure, couldn’t find anything about her murderers. People speculated that they were foreign nationals, who ran away to their respective countries after the killing.
The man was bereft at her funeral. He turned to religion to overcome his grief, and hence began his faithful evening ritual at Har ki Paudi, followed by feeding orphans and beggars.Today is his wife’s birthday, so he will distribute Moong dal halwa with Matar Poori. My dinner for tonight is already fixed. Sometimes I feel guilty though, shouldn’t I let him know how his wife stopped screaming the moment I fired the first shot into her heart?
via Moody . My dear friend at 3rd Perspective Photography asked me to write something for this photo and though I have been crazy upbeat post the dance showcase on 17th (more about that later!), this picture made me write something very dark and melancholic. Maybe I had a not-so-discreet mood swing 😀
He moved through the tunnel gingerly; a flaming torch in one hand, and the other numb from rubbing across the cold walls, looking for some support for his tired hands. The water was knee-deep, he had no choice but to do this. He continued his cautious walk, startled once or twice by strange noises that were probably rats scurrying around, or so he hoped. There was no time or place to rest for a while, the water made sure he had to keep moving.
There was a flicker of light, in distance. He blinked hard and fast, to check if the flicker was his imagination – but it stayed. Hope started to grow in his heart, the end was near. He quickened his pace, and began to move faster , oblivious of the splashing water and darting bats.
As he moved faster, the source of light grew brighter. He had a spring in his step now, his exhausting journey was drawing to a close. The dark walls had finally began to get illuminated, the water level receding. He ran, to touch the warmth that proliferated the confines of the tunnel.
He had finally reached, he could see the sunlight coming inside. But he realized he was behind a gate, of glass, that allowed him to see outside. Suddenly, a melodious voice spoke.
“Hello! You are about to enter your land. Please do the last task and you will be free to go.”
Pumped with adrenaline, willing to give his best to the last challenge, he asked ,”What is the task?”
“Please watch one of the movies from the list below. The gate shall open after the closing credits roll off:
Remember the first time we met? In 2003, when I visited the first “mall” of my life at Kids Kemp? It was the month of October, and when we reached, it was drizzling. Someone told my dad, “There is some scientific experiment happening in Chennai, which is causing this artificial rain here.” I was awed, this was the city of engineers and scientists, and anything was possible I thought!!! I remember roaming in the Kids Kemp, amazed by so many toys available under one roof. I remember our friendly taxi driver who took us to Mysore and Ooty and then back to you, who treated me and my brother with so much affection, that it became one of our most memorable trips ever.
And then, almost 10 years later, in 2012, I came back to you, in the guise of a geeky engineer, trying to find a foothold in the IT city of India. I remember my first office where I was an intern, a huge building in the sea of construction around and for some reason, I was excited – after all, you are the Mecca for an IT engineer. The weather was cloudy and pleasant – a refreshing change from the blistering heat of plains and Manipal, even in the month of June.
Finding an accommodation was a challenge, I didn’t know Kannada, and I struggled. But then, I got used to it. I picked up few words as I haggled with auto-wallahs, who are as unpredictable as your weather. But we all managed, didn’t we?
2003-2016, it took me 13 years to learn that any turbulence in Chennai weather results in winter-like temperature drop and incessant rains with you. I learnt that you are quite different from the places I have known – it definitely rains in June and November beginning, especially around Diwali; Gobi Manchurian is the real deal; there is no holiday for Holi/Diwali; the rents are high but the security deposits are even higher and travelling 5 kms during rush hour at Silk Board can take an hour at least once a week. But that really didn’t stop me from getting used to you.
It was not all smooth though. I learnt, much to my dismay, that I would almost always be a “Northie” and that you are not as safe for women as people make out you to be. But I also re-discovered myself – I learnt to cook, I learnt yoga, I performed, I watched movies alone, I watched plays alone, and I even shopped alone. I read, I wrote (and not just code), I attended Instagram-meets and networked and I made friends for life.
As I sit at the cafeteria today, watching the clouds gather over the traffic snarling across Bannerghatta Road, I realized that you are that one place I have stayed the longest at, and that too all by myself. You have seen me grow as a person – with my opinions, ideas and interests and together, we have shared a lot. As much as I get mad at you and childishly term you a “village”, whenever there is a power cut, or no sun, or when I can’t find something that is readily available in a Delhi neighborhood, I know that you, with your plate of steaming hot idlis and filter coffee, made me the person I am today. I am a fan of your Sambhar, so much so that I don’t like Sambhar anywhere else anymore.
Stay as you are please, I know they say that the pollution and the water woes will make you unlivable in 5 years, but I also know that you would prove them wrong. There are always going to be people claiming you are “theirs”, but between you and me, we know you don’t need anyone to own you – you stand by yourself – vast and forgiving.
A “Northie” who has not been to Nandi Hills since 2003
P.S: They are going to tell me to change it to “Bengaluru”, but I know you like “Bangalore” more 😉
The other day, right after midnight, one of my friends messaged me – “If you had all the money and time in the world, what is that one thing you would want to do? Like, your true passion?”
“Write. Read. Dance. But mostly write”, pat came my answer. And then on second thoughts I said “But if I had all the time and money in the world, why would I just do one thing? Why not many things?”
That is who I am. I am a multi-tasker who fails at it everyday ! I absolutely have to have it all, do it all. Starting from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night, I do tons of things out of which very few are really necessary. It took me 3 years and Chicken Pox to realize that I needed a house-help, my weekends were all about cleaning and sorting and sweeping and moping earlier. The relief I get, knowing that I don’t have to do the dishes before I sleep or sweep/mop/dust on the weekends is not something I would be willing to let go of that easily anymore.
I cook all of my meals on my own-breakfast, lunch, dinner. Because I want to be healthier. But I also “wanted” to exercise in the morning – walk, functional training, HIIT, yoga, something. But I do go for my evening workout, so why did I want to make my mornings more rushed than they were? Once I realized that I would have to trade-off between cooking and working out in the morning, I chose what I “really wanted” to do – cooking, hands down.
Even at work – I am a software engineer, I kept trying to do something to become “better” – that Front-End Development online course, that Java certification, that coding competition – till I stopped and asked myself,”How is this helping me? Am I becoming better or worse?” In my bid to “improve” myself, I realized that my performance was actually suffering. I did not have enough time to do everything and do it well. Hence the courses were left incomplete, the certification never happened, and the coding competition emails remained unopened. And that didn’t stall my professional growth, surprisingly. In fact, I can concentrate better on work now, not having multiple things screaming for my attention.
This year has been a year of self-discovery of sorts for me. I started out as this over-enthusiastic woman who wanted to learn to “manage time” to do EVERYTHING. It took me an entire year to wise up and recognize the real problem – I really didn’t have to do it all!!! There is a scene in the movie “Dear Zindagi” – and this is a spoiler, when Alia’s character meets SRK’s character for the first time, he asks her about why we tend to strive to take the arduous path? Why scale mountains when there is no need?
So do read that book you have meant to, sketch if you like, pick up photography, and join that Zumba class you have wanted to try but couldn’t because of work demands. Because life is too short to keep pushing ourselves in the web of “multi-tasking” and not really achieving anything out of it. Human brain is really just meant to focus on one thing at a time, and in today’s world where opportunities are many, it is easy to get side-tracked and get sucked into something you took a fancy to, only to realize you really weren’t required to.
It was love at first sight when I saw my yoga mat for the first time at Decathlon, Banerghatta Road, Bengaluru. It was pretty in purple, dark on one side and light on the other, and double purple is never too much.
The moment I stepped on that beauty, I knew we were a match in Yoga heaven – the mat just wouldn’t slip. It stayed steady and sturdy as I tried Warrior 2 and Downward Dog, much to the boredom of the salesman, and within a few minutes I decided to buy it. The beauty, of 2150 INR, was available at a discounted price of 1800 INR, although I would have gladly paid even 2500 INR for it.
And so it began, my affair with the mat extraordinaire. The first time I did Chaturanga, the mat held me steady, not letting me go. The time I tried a variation of Chakrasana, the mat held me firm. It stood by me when I came to class on Yoga Day on 21st June 2016, and I loved it when it held me tight during my attempt at headstand, not slipping at all. It had lines all over it, including in the center, which made sure my posture was aligned when I practiced.
Yoga Poses I can do (kind of)
I grew into practice, and it showed on the mat. People would come to me and ask where I bought it from, and while I readily told them, I was just a teeny-weeny happy when Decathlon India stopped manufacturing it. My purple mat and me were exclusive now, we were one of a kind.
As my practice advanced, the mat took the brunt of it. The threads starting coming off a little, but no damage, for it came with a guarantee of 2 years. I would leave it with other mats in the yoga studio after my practice, which has a separate place for daily practitioners’ personal mats, and I would smile seeing it sitting like a princess, the special purple mat in the sea of ordinary PVC mats.
In October I became a little irregular with my practice, but the mat waited for me patiently to come and try Kaakasana one more time. So when I went to class after Diwali, I was excited to reconnect to my lovely mat; I knew it would be lying at the same place as I kept it before I left for home, tucked comfortably in a corner.
But it wasn’t there. Maybe someone kept it elsewhere, and so I searched, knowing that my purple beauty would be easily recognizable, I had branded it with my name “SANJEET”, so that everyone knew who it belonged too. But I couldn’t find it. Class was about to start and I didn’t want to miss my session, so I moved on and took one of the mats kept for common use, the one brown in color, and oh so ugly and smelly. But the yoga practice must be beyond aesthetics, I told myself sternly, and continued to practice, scrunching my nose each time I did Ashtanaga.
After the class, I rushed to the personal mats’ holders, and I asked my colleague, who also comes to the same studio, to help me find it. But it wasn’t there! I looked everywhere but it was nowhere to be seen, someone had flicked my beloved yoga mat!!!!
I told the receptionist, a little angrily, that my mat is missing. I told my teacher, he said he would ask the morning receptionist too. THE YOGA PRACTICE IS BEYOND AESTHETICS, and so the next day I took with me another mat, this time with my name all over it, so that no one touches it even by mistake. I continued the practice, but the new mat was nowhere close to my purple love. It would slip even for Downward Dog, and I would often have to lay a smelly tattered common mat over it, to give me the required grip 🙁
I kept looking for my purple beauty, my lovely mat that had Vanished into thin air, hoping it would turn up one of these days – maybe some innocent newbie would return it, apologizing for attempting to use the “bae” among all yoga mats.
But I also had to find a new mat, which I did this Sunday, when I bought a nice sturdy mat from Isha Yoga Foundation. It felt sturdy and firm too, and it is of fabric so perhaps more eco-friendly. I purchased it happily, hoping to continue my practice, although the loss of my purple bae still felt raw.
As I stood outside the practice room in the studio today, waiting for the previous class to end, I saw that the Creepy Weirdo. Mr. Creepy Weirdo embodies the worst stereotype among Indian men – middle-aged, rich and awful AF. He is a businessman based in Gulf, and has a huge house in one of the poshest areas of the neighborhood. He has an 11-yr old son, but isn’t ashamed to flirt with women closer to his son’s age than his own. I was glad Mr. Weirdo was in a previous class than mine, I wouldn’t have to deal with the unnecessary innuendos of “Shall I drop you home?”. But wait, what was the Weirdo doing his Shavasana on?
Brain-fuzz engulfed me as I realized, the mat on which Mr.Weirdo was resting his unholy bum, was my purple princess!!!!!!! I was shocked, I didn’t even know what to say. I turned to the receptionist and said “That man in the white T-shirt over there, he is using something that looks exactly like my lost mat.” She looked at me with a surprised smile and asked me “Are you sure? Wait, I will ask him today.” “Yes dear, I am pretty sure”, I replied, still a little baffled by what I just saw.
The class got over and Mr.Weirdo came out, smiling and waving Hi to me.I did an awkward half-smile, my eyes not leaving the purple mat in his hand, with its threads hanging out..Oh My God, that mat was mine!!!!!
The class was going to start, but I just couldn’t let that rascal get away with the mat he had clearly stolen. Mr.Weirdo, owing to his travel, hardly did 2 classes in 3 months, and he would usually use a PVC mat, a blue one that too. Even if he purchased the mat new, there was no reason it would look so..well-used.
“Hey, I had a mat exactly the same as yours.” I mouthed the words dryly, still staring at the purple mat, looking for my name, or an indication.
“Of course you did, it is from Decathlon.” He replied, with a cunning smile, like he knew what he had done, but he also knew he was about to get away with it.
“Yeah but Decathlon doesn’t make it anymore”, I was talking to him, but stealing glances at the mat, hoping to see my name, even if rubbed or faded.”
“Oh it does, it does, you should check it out. And if you want this, just give me 100 INR more than the MRP” He winked at me, and laughed.
And at that moment, I knew that this man, the Creepy-AF-Weirdo, had bloody stolen my mat, and was getting away with it. I had no choice but to smile and carry on to the practice room with a heavy heart, wishing there was some way to not let my purple bae go. I don’t know when I am going to see my lovely mat again, but that man stole it, and there is nothing I can probably do 🙁
P.S : After the class, I told my teacher that this man had stolen my mat. Even he remembered that guy using a blue-colored PVC mat, and told me that he would try to check out with the guy to figure out where he got the mat from. My heart says that mat is mine, and now it is with that rich, possible kleptomaniac idiot, perhaps in his car, gathering dust till he comes next time to the class after months.:-/
Has it ever happened to you, that you thought “Oh I am never going to forget this in my entire life”, and then couple of weeks/months/years down the lane, something that someone said or bought or did, triggers that memory you had sworn you wouldn’t forget? But it is faded now. You remember a few details but the picture is hazy, and the face you thought you would never stop loving/hating is in the picture, but Faded .
I don’t know about you, but this happens to me damn too often :-/ I am a person of extremes – either I love hard, or I hate hard. There is no in-between, and that doesn’t mean I don’t do impersonal or friendly – work teaches you to be professional, but that is that. In my personal life, I am this “OMG I love SRK” / “OMG I hate Salman Khan” person. My friends can vouch for this, hell hath no fury like me scorned!!! My mom has spent precious hours of her life hearing me rant about someone or the other – that friend who forgot my birthday, that relative who was unnecessarily snarky, that bug in code that just wouldn’t resolve, and so on and so forth, till she tells me, exasperated, to go do something else, and let her do something else, like watch “Naagin” (I am kidding, if my mom ever watched that lousy piece of shit, my dad would disconnect the dish, so yeah no “Naagin” )
So many times it happens, the things/people who meant the world to me at a point of time, just..fade. Friends whose betrayals hurt like hell (by betrayal I mean finding a boyfriend to hang out with in college, obviously), are just names in my Facebook friends’ list, whose pre-wedding/wedding/honeymoon/karvachauth/anniversary pictures flood my feed, whom I politely “Like” and “Love”, and I move on, doing more interesting things and mildly remembering the “outrage” I felt when they first fell in love with the guy they eventually married and started “ignoring” me.
Or that one time, when I worked too hard for making my college fest a success, and now all I remember is the smiles I had and the laughter I shared with my friends, some of whom are for life now. Or that one time when I didn’t win a position in a debate competition at school and I was heartbroken because, well, I was and still am, a sore loser.
Or those days when I chased love, just like a moth attracted to fire, only to get burnt in the end. And now all I remember are faded faces I was madly in love with, but no heartache, no anger, just..nothing.
So if you ask me what have I learnt all this while, the past 27 years of my life, ranting and raving about everything I or others do or say, is that something got to be ignored. So every time I get pissed about something or moved by something, I ask myself ,“Is this going to matter in another 5 years?” Since the answer is hardly “Yes”, I try to let it go, over a glass of water (or wine, whatever is available), and some sound sleep. And usually, the morning after consists of faded memories of last night.
We, the nation of 1.25 billion (and counting), are a proud nation. We love bragging about our ancient Culture – the science of Yoga and Ayurveda, the Zero we invented, our literature, the diversity of languages, respecting elders, abusing and harassing women…wait what? Am I insane? What am I talking about? How dare I question our great Indian culture, that worships Durga but kills a girl child? See, I am doing it again. Wow, I must be a Feminazi.
If you want to know about the great Indian Culture, ask that girl who takes the bus everyday, and stands in the corner with her bag covering her chest and hands at the back, hoping this would be enough deterrent for a potential molester. If you want to know about the great Indian culture, ask that girl who takes an auto/cab everyday, praying that the driver is a decent guy so that she doesn’t have to spend the entire ride under his lusty eyes gazing at her from the rear-view mirror. If you want to know about the great Indian culture, ask that woman who drives to work everyday after dropping her kids to school/day care, and is honked at incessantly even though she overtook the driver from right, because she is “a lady driver”.
If you want to know about the great Indian culture, ask that girl who is made to parade in front of a new family everyday, because she is of “marriageable age and dark skinned”. If you want to know about the great Indian culture, ask that girl who was called “a b*tch with an attitude” by a random stranger at the pub she refused to dance with. If you want to know about the great Indian culture, ask that girl who is flooded by hate messages in her inbox, because she chose to comment on a sexist answer at Quora. Or how about you ask that woman who is branded “sexually frustrated” because she spends long hours at work and pushes her team of men to do better on the sales pitch, while rocking that red lipstick and high heels?
Or, maybe you should ask that woman who can’t enter the Puja room during her periods about how great the Indian culture is. Or the woman who is told by her aunt when she is eating her favorite blueberry muffin “How will you find a nice boy if you keep stuffing yourself? Why don’t you eat a salad for a change?” Or maybe the woman who was broken up with because she was more qualified and earned more than her insecure boyfriend.
The Indian culture will still remain great, because some of you will continue to bother the girls who didn’t say a clear NO to your advances, despite dropping hundreds of hints. The Indian culture will still remain great because I didn’t laugh on that horribly sexist joke you sent me over Whatsapp. And of course, the Indian culture will remain unlike any because a Hindu IAS topper chose to marry a Muslim IAS topper, and it was very obviously Love Jihad.
Do I need to specify that all this is “pungent sarcasm”? I guess I do, I don’t have the patience to explain it later to the protectors of “Bharat ki Sanskriti”.