You know the Thought Experiments. This is the back of the envelope.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Wish

It's the time of year to visit the Delhi Book Fair and brave the milling millions at Pragati Maidan. To drive over the AIIMS flyover in a haze of fog. To drive through CP, Barakhamba Road, Dwarka and Dhaula Kuan; over NH-8, MG Road, and into DLF - IV. To go for a walk on the Ridge and gaze at Kashmere Gate from the Mutiny Memorial. To eat cotton candy at India Gate. To watch pigeons fly over Rashtrapati Bhawan. To play memory games on the Yellow Line and exult in the joyride that the Blue Line is. To relive memories at Rohini and Vasant Kunj. To find Noida's traffic annoying. To dissolve into history at the Red Fort and the Qutb Minar. To want to see and feel more, raw and vulnerable as one already is.

It's the time of year to drive through Rajarhat and New Town, over miles of straight road, with nothing but the silence of the night, and hundreds of streetlights for company. To drive through Salt Lake and, this time, play memory games with the artwork on the pavements. To marvel at the perfect reflection of a city at rest at EM Bypass. To romance the relics of the Raj. To smell hibiscus and camphor at Dakshineshwar.

It's the time of year to admit to a few vulnerabilities, yes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Irony

'Are you coming to Hudson Lines for dinner?', I asked my friend, who was waiting outside the Seminar Room.

'Can't', she said shortly. Couldn't blame her. She had been sitting there all afternoon and evening, waiting, first for her group discussion, then her interview, then another...and now for the results. In three years of college, I had never seen her so worked up.

'I'll wait here with you.'

'No, I don't want company. Honestly, I'll feel a lot better if I'm here by myself.' Her reply was so prompt, I stopped midway through hoisting myself onto the windowsill to sit next to her.

I didn't argue. I understood.

'I hate people from Human Resources', I thought fiercely to myself. 'And recruiters are the worst of the lot. I'm glad I've never thought of getting into HR. I don't want to. Ever.'


'You went to all this trouble for someone who said such a blunt No?' I was incredulous.

He shrugged. 'You have to do what you have to do. Besides', he busied himself looking out of the window, 'I don't like her. I mean, I like her well enough, but I haven't fallen for her or anything. That's all in your imagination.'

'Right.' I didn't bother veiling the sarcasm. He and I had seen each other through one low too many for me to buy that.

He gave up. 'Yes, I like her. She likes me back too. Maybe. I don't know. It doesn't matter. I'd have done this for her anyway.'

'And what about you?'

'I'll be fine', he shrugged again. 'Look, I needed to know she'd be okay.'

'All you end up with is a lot of broken pieces', I mused, walking out of the dining hall. 'I wonder how people fall in love. Why fall in love at all? I'm glad I'm not in love. I don't see that happening. Even better.'


'Aren't you going to miss this place?'

She gave me a rather puzzled look. 'Why should I miss it?'

'Well, all the time you spent here must count for something. A little bit of emotion, maybe, or some memories?'

She laughed. 'Yes, yes, I like having been here and I guess I'll think about it from time to time. It's okay. The world won't stop turning!'

I laughed along, but with a sense of uneasiness. I didn't understand. 

Whether it was the result of forced intimacy, routine, or actual emotion, attachment could not be avoided. Should not, if you asked me. For what kind of a life would it be, I wondered, where something was a constant presence, yet completely uncared for? It was waste of the most regrettable kind, I thought, to allow something to occupy so much of your time or space - or both - and not bother connecting with it. Time spent like that was time spent existing, not living.

Detachment, I thought, was more of a theoretical concept. I, for one, would never be able to put it into practice.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slow & Sudden *

You take a while
getting accustomed to.
As familiar

As you are new.
Teasing. Throwing challenges
My way.
Daring me, gently

To get used to you.
I meet your eye;
If I chose you, or

The converse is true.
Like black coffee,
Bitter chocolate,
And ungodly hours.

Tentativeness that
Melts into habit
To eternal addiction.

Damned if I let you
Grow on me
Damned if I don't.

Before I know it, you are
An acquired taste.

* Written four days short of a year ago on Thought Experiments. Re-posted as a nod to that which will happen, no matter what...and which did.

Point taken, Life. Shall we?

Thinking Aloud - II

An overnight train journey that lasts exactly as long as you need to sleep every night, doesn't really count as a journey. And a 40-minute flight that isn't on board an ATR, doesn't feel like a flight either. In both cases, you're physically in another geographical location before you've had time to effect the transition in your head - including seeing the landscape change, which is the most important part of the journey anyway. If you're flying fifteen hundred miles on board an ATR, at least the size of the craft matches the length of your flight. Else, you're just sitting in an A320 at forty thousand feet above sea level, expecting to be able to get through eight chapters at least, and voila, you're already being asked to fasten your seatbelts for the landing. It confuses the brain. And don't even get me started on train journeys where you enter, stow away luggage, settle onto your berth for a nap, and wake up to a plaintive-sounding chaiwala telling your co-passenger that there's another fifteen minutes to go, and would they like adrak chai or plain?

Who would have known that the concept of inertia of motion would - in its own warped way - apply to Crossworder when she travelled? Physics, is this how you choose to get back at me for playing pen-and-paper scrabble instead of working at those numericals back in eleventh grade?

I do hope you realise it's a mean trick.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lorem Ipsum

Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannonball...
Some day you will find me caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky...

I happened to look up as I entered the premises of my house today. There was a full moon visible through broad palm fronds. Beautiful. I remember thinking, about eight weeks ago, that the moon looked like a bowl of whipped cream. But it was a creamy white that night. Tonight, it's like a shiny new silver coin.

Nice life it has, the moon. I'd like to be the full moon for a day, somewhere near an ocean. And then, I'd like to be the moon over the highest hill in the Western Ghats. Sounds like a fun idea.

How many special people change
How many lives are living strange...

This is the perfect evening for a long walk. All alone.

a morning message

I miss the University.

Yes, I am familiar with the idea that distance makes the heart grow fonder. It isn't always that, though. :)

And I can't get the picture of India Gate, swathed in fog, out of my head.

Oh dammit, Delhi, you and I were supposed to go our separate ways!

Friday, January 14, 2011

For 214, A-10, 201, #3 and #5

Life's been a study in variety these last seven years. I've lived in varied places, with all sorts of people. When I first left home for Delhi in 2004, all I understood of the concept of studying in a different city was that I would not be living at home. Not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to make do with phone calls and emails instead of family dinners and bear hugs, I didn't even realize that living outside not only meant living away from family - it also meant living with people I didn't know, to start with. Since I hadn't given it any thought, I didn't react to the fact when I came face to face with it. My moment of truth came when the Section Officer handed me an acknowledgment card bearing my Univ enrolment number, and Dad said "And now for your room."


And that's how it began. From not having given it any thought in particular back then, to cherishing all that life in Residence, hostels and flats has taught me and come to mean, I've been on a constant trip - pun fully intended. On various occasions, I've been asked if I'd have chosen any other way to live these last seven years. The No comes quicker, I've noticed, than my response to who is my favourite author - and that's saying something. A lot of my day-scholar friends still wonder how. Most of them tend to think of life away from home as either perfection, or an impossibility. It is only those who have been in the gray area in between who understand that there is a gray area. Each room I've lived in left traces of itself in me. No kidding...sometimes, I can single out a trait and tell you exactly where I acquired it. Like sugarless black coffee, constant music and staying up late from A-11; the "Okay, I'll deal with this" approach from 214; all-nighters and a broader acceptance of human nature from A-10; the dubious ability, on occasion, to sleep through alarms, and the comfort in opening up to a bunch of strangers, from 201; the capacity to let go and unwind from Room# 3 and Room# 5 - as also the joys of bonding and sharing that only someone who has spent a lazy Sunday in a  house with  twelve other women, would know.

No, I really wouldn't have it any other way. If you asked me to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't ask to change anything or anyone from these seven years.

In the course of all these years, I've lived in...wait a minute, let's see...eleven different rooms, not taking into account the flat I stay in now. And I've had twenty-one roommates in all. Single rooms, twin-sharing roommate, two, four - been there, done that. I've lived in a building with 200 other girls in it, then in one with 52 others, then 15, then 60. So, yes, I have had my fair share of away-from-home experiences.

So I was more than prepared to come and live all by myself in a two-bedroom place in Bhubaneswar when my employers took it into their heads to send me here. I don't mind staying alone - on most days, I am thankful for the solitude. That's another trait that living with new people builds - emotional self-sufficiency. You can live all alone and still not miss anything; you can share a room with half-a-dozen relative strangers, laugh and talk, have enormous fun and share a tremendous lot, and still not lose your space if you don't want to. You don't quite notice when you inculcate this just notice, when you need that kind of strength or stability or patience, that it's right there. That is not to say you won't feel lonely or claustrophobic at times. You will. It's just that you are also extremely likely to find a way to handle it that much sooner. Also, you learn to build and enjoy independence; and to own up to your responsibilities and mistakes...not to forget, how to pack up an entire room - tutes and clothes and posters et al - every summer, and unpack it all manfully when you return.

And, of course, surviving entire weekends on Maggi, and developing a liking for the oddest food combinations - think biscuit-chutney and salad crackers. Goes without saying that when you run out of said culinary oddities too, you learn to walk brazenly into the neighbouring room - never mind that it is 3 a.m. and they're lost in the dreamless - and ask if they have any.

You learn that it is good to share - not just books and the occasional sweater, but also what you're going through. Funny happenings during the day become funnier when shared that night; good things become better. And no matter how severe the heartbreak, or how lousy the day - it will still stand a very bleak chance against the kind of comfort a conversation with the right people can provide. Life teaches you - on its own - exactly how easy or serious you need to take it. Also how easy, or seriously, you need to take yourself.

Anyway, so as I was saying, the whole idea of living all alone here seemed like yet another experiment, and I was more than keen to get started. It hasn't been smooth, truth be told. Maybe it's a combination of factors, maybe it's just me...but it can get lonely here sometimes. Having said that, I wouldn't give up this sense of freedom and space for anything. I do, however, reminisce about Rez, K-14/20, L-7/3 and 32 U.B. more than often.

And so, this is for all the women I have shared rooms with. I'll probably also write, at some other time, about the women who weren't roommates, but who I lived with nevertheless, and about what each place means to me...but for now, here's what I'll always remember each of my roommates for -

TP, for empathizing with me - we were both, after all, confused, hassled girls trying to figure our way about 8:40s, bad breakfasts and worse lunches, and terrifying seniors.

PS, for being the perfect first roommate...and, to date, one of my favourite people from Delhi.

TT, for being fellow-Eco-fuch, Baby Beyonce and hostel-life-coach all rolled into one.

PK, for initiating me into life as a first-time employee and being the protective mother bear and annoying older sister at the same time.

G, for teaching me how to laugh through the madness.

SG...honorary roommate. I loved your attitude to everything that bothered you. Still do!

AA...grace so perfect, it bordered the comic. Maturity so great, it bordered the perfect.

GM...our Little Miss Muffet.

DJ...ballet dancer extraordinaire and the ultimate diva. don't always have to spend a lot of time with someone for them to think of you fondly for the rest of their lives. Thanks for showing me how, with a carnation and a text message., lady, taught me how to negotiate my way over wafer-thin ice.

PS, a week is all it took for me to become a lifelong fan. You were perfect.

AJ and SG - I had to mention the two of you together. What do I say about the two of you that you haven't already heard me telling you between guffaws, in all-night heart-to-hearts, childish arguments...and in my sleep?

AK: Interesting. Always.

NM and VJ - short and sweet, eh? :)

LA...I spent six months with you in one room - and we exchanged all of 56 sentences. How did that even happen?? By far my quietest roommate...

TV - For giggling (and giving out wrong information) when you were nervous, for panicking meaninglessly before exams, for subjecting me to endless queries on what looked good and went with which bag and watch...for going from girl-next-door (literally) to one of the people I miss the most.

MP - tall, talkative and lovable. I've never met anyone else who invited me home in the first thirty seconds of conversation! brought life full circle.

I spent anything from a week to fifty-two with these women...and I wouldn't trade any bit of that time for anything. 

This one's for all of you, ladies...for being one of the most integral aspects of the most interesting phase of a life of 25 years.

Miss you guys.

Thinking Aloud - I

I'll be the first to admit that you have to have nothing to do - or so much to do that you do not know where to start, so end up doing nothing eventually - to think of things like these. I have a lot to do tonight and this week. I have had a lot to do in the last two months. But I can't help thinking about this fact of life, ergo, it has found its way to this page.

You know, when you're living a moment, that is all there is. It fills up your life. You don't really stop to think that in another second, this moment will become part of your past, never to be recovered except in reminiscence. You certainly do not stop to think that it is also becoming part of your future, but in a quiet, unobtrusive way. Like this moment. Here. Now.

Because if you had known that the moment could never be recovered, you would have been more careful, and more accepting of its ephemeral nature. More appreciative, maybe. Less scared, perhaps, or more honest.

For several moments in the year that has passed, I have the same wistful longing now. It's useless, I know. Nothing's going to bring them back, least of all more time spent wishing them back into the present. But if I had known that, countless times last year, I was living the kind of moment that would never repeat itself, I would probably have been more careful with it, handled it with greater care. Living life on a no-regrets basis is great...but one of the problems is, if you do stop to turn and look back, you run the risk of being overwhelmed by instances of what could have been. Oh, dear God. There I go again. I hate what-ifs. I've lived my entire life on the principle that I wouldn't  ever do anything that left room for a what-if. Everything would get the chance it deserved. Everything is worth a try. Sure, you fall and scrape a knee. But you also score one thing off the list of things you'd otherwise be wondering about at 84.

I'm sleepy and a little blue. I really don't know if the last ten sentences make any sense.

But I do know that if I had known I was living so many lasts last year, I'd probably have...I don't know. What would I probably have done? I do know I lived those moments off the top of my head, spontaneously, the only way I know...what would I have done differently? From that last visit in February to the last walk in April; from the last just-because trip in May to that last call; from that last journey in September to the last meeting in many moments I wanted to grab with both hands and keep safe...all gone.

I'm getting bluer by the minute. I should probably turn in. Days have a way of behaving better once ended and begun afresh.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I'm asking myself tonight:

1. Why didn't I just call my professor in October? What took me so long?

2. What sent all sense flying out of the window that Sunday in July?

3. More importantly, have I retrieved it yet?

4.Who, from the U.A.E., tried my number four times this afternoon? Real mystery. I don't even know anyone in that part of the world. And, for the fortieth time, why on earth have my employers disabled international calling on all corporate numbers?

5. So when do I plan on tidying my room?

6. How come it's a mess anyway? This is my room we're talking about.

7. What should I gift my favourite colleague on her wedding day?

8. I was supposed to turn in at ten. It is half-past eleven. What on earth...??

9. Do you think I'll make those deadlines?

10. Why am I compiling this list?

11. I'm pretty certain I missed a birthday today. The question is, whose?

12. And if that is indeed the case, how did I miss a birthday? I'm usually good with those.

13. How did I ever think I'd be glad to get out of Delhi?

14. What if I had submitted that essay the way I originally wrote it?

15. What am I doing this March 30?

16. No, really, what is the point of this list?

17.Would they just send me on a recruitment trip already?

18. I have a book I haven't finished in five weeks. Now how did that happen??

19. Is it just my computer, or has Blogger really started acting difficult again?

20. This could go on for a while. When, exactly, do I intend ending it?

21. Am I going to publish this or relegate it to the Drafts folder?

22. Eh, well. Let's turn in, shall we?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Take a bow, Mr. Carroll.

Some of my favourites from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass...this is for an author and poet I have grown up loving. For train journeys, winter vacations and after-school afternoons that he lit up with his warmth, wit and humour. You're one of my favourites, Mr. Carroll. Thank you for happening to that six-year-old throwing tantrums when the train was delayed. :)

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here." 

"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. " 

"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'

I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!" 

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"


"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again." 

"Why it's simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don't you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing's impossible!" 

"If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later." 

"Just look down the road and tell me if you can see either of them."
I see nobody on the road." said Alice.
I only wish I had such eyes,"the King remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see Nobody! And at such a distance too!" 

"And how do you know that you're mad? "To begin with," said the Cat, "a dog's not mad. You grant that?" I suppose so, said Alice. "Well then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags it's tale when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad." 


Sunday, January 2, 2011


But oh, how it feels so real
Lying here, with no one near, only you
And you can hear me
When I say softly, slowly,
Hold me closer, tiny dancer...

'I'll tell you something that makes a lot of sense', she sighed meditatively. 'It seems like the end of the world, but it isn't.'

I waited for more.

She looked at me, a little surprised that I hadn't recognised the wisdom in her words yet.

'So...?' I prompted.

'So it isn't the end of the world, and will not feel that way', she said, a little impatiently.

'That's the problem. It feels that way right now.'

'So don't let it'. She'd gone right back to complacent wisdom.

Jesus freaks out in the streets
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back, she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad.

I glanced at her, stirring sugar into into her coffee. We had lost touch after I left the firm; had discovered, thanks to Facebook, that we were both in town for Christmas, and had made a spur-of-the-moment plan to meet up. I wondered if she had ever had the slightest idea. It didn't matter anymore whether she had, but it was definitely ironic that she should be telling me not to let it feel like the end of the world now.

'I don't think it will, much longer'. I focused on a speck on the table.

'It's difficult', she acknowledged, frowning thoughtfully. 'I took it hard too, when it happened to me a couple of years ago. You remember that time when I used to be really irritable at work, and once took that long, three-week break for no apparent reason? May, I think. Or June. But it's okay. You get over it. All it takes is some time.'

'There was none here, Jen', I pointed out. I didn't want to mention that I had very vague recollections of the time she was referring to. It was around then that I had resigned, and I had had issues of my own to deal with. But telling her that wouldn't have been very polite.

'That shouldn't affect your decision'. She straightened. 'You need to think clearly'.

More and more ironic, I thought.

Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You've had a busy day today

'Let me know how it works out', she said, as we were paying the bill. 'And do learn to show up on time. We were going to meet at five, not five-fifteen.' She smiled. 'I'm glad you admit to the feeling, at least, Ray. I didn't think I'd live to see the day that you felt this way about someone!'

It seemed about time.

'Jen', I looked her straight in the eye. 'This is not the first time I've fallen for someone. I felt this way about you back then, you know. When we worked together. I just never told you. And...' I faltered, suddenly uncertain. It didn't appear as harmless an idea as it had four seconds ago, this choosing to tell her about feelings that I had put away for good. She was staring at me, still with shock. 'And...' I went on, putting all my courage into my words, 'it did seem like there was someone you were constantly thinking about, so it didn't feel like the right thing to do. It's all in the past, of course. I think I'll leave now. See you later?'


'Yes?" I turned. She hadn't moved an inch.

'Think clearer this time." Her voice was hard and her eyes were unusually bright.

I sat in my car, listless and a little troubled. Maybe I should get more coffee to go, I thought, absently fingering the receipt from our coffee. Jen never collected receipts. It was a habit everyone at work used to kid her about, I remembered.

The order for a latte and a double espresso had been placed at 4:53 pm.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


One breath, one blink, one tick of the clock - and we move into a new year. The last just melted into posterity, and this one's young and full of beans.

To me, the arrival of a new year is always magical. Who knows what it's got up its sleeve? True, if we get down to brass tacks, it's just a digit changing on the calendar. But a life lived amongst the brass tacks wouldn't be half as much fun, now, would it?

'night, World. The other half of you is probably ringing 2011 in about now. When we meet next, we'll all have begun the new year. So long!