So, as I approached the 30 mark, I had been doing a bit of introspection about the years gone by and the lessons learnt. I came up with this. And thought I’d share it with you’ll. So, Happy Thirty to me and happy reading to you.


(Credit: Art by Kanan Doshi)

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A new room?

Nandini, fondly addressed as ‘En’ amongst friends is a spirited, 27 year old, girl-next-door. A go-getter, and an achiever, she still remains a complete ‘heart’ person, never letting us forget about the smaller joys of life. In the fifth part from the series of ‘A day in the life of En’, enjoy another slice of life story as she traces back memories and people from a distant past.

It was one of those days for En when she had exhausted a day of her annual leave on doing something completely unproductive. Standing before the mirror, she asked herself, ‘And why did I exactly do that?’ Much to her dismay, the mirror couldn’t speak.

So yes, that weekday afternoon, En found herself welcoming home this annoying cousin of hers, whom she hadn’t seen in the last fourteen years. He comfortably made his way to her apartment, with three large suitcases and a backpack. En had no option but to greet him with a smile, as broad as she could. And assure him, it wasn’t going to be a bother to have him around. Hell yeah! It was already. So much for despising hypocrites all her life!

The sight of him, threw open so many questions in her mind. Most importantly, ‘Am I that easily gullible?’ One phone call from Maa and there she was, entertaining this twenty one year old, very irritating cousin. And that was not it. En was also supposed to be his helping aid, his city guide, and if need be, his personal financier.

Through the course of the day, he kept asking her about things that were not only pesky, but also lame. Where’s the washroom? Do you have a maid? When did you exactly shift base? What were your dreams then? How far is Churchgate station? What time is good to visit Juhu Beach? Are people in Mumbai spiritual? Each time addressing her as ‘Nandini didi’. The sound of which was nearly driving En, up the wall. She thought she was going to choke and it was still Day 1. By the end of the day, she had decided to set the record straight. In a rather high pitch, she spoke, “No one calls me that. Just call me ‘En’”.
He looked at her astonished and nodded his head in approval.

Days passed by and one evening when the much-despised cousin, Amol was sharing the dinner table with En at the local Chinese joint, he mentioned that he couldn’t have been more grateful to her and that he really owed her this dinner. He paid the bill and announced that he was moving in to the boys hostel, closer to the college. En suddenly found herself swallowing on the mukhwaas she had greedily grabbed on her way out. The walk back home seemed longer than usual. They engaged in chatter all along, as the heaviness in En’s heart grew deeper. The two of them were laughing about old stories, relatives and life in general.

Amol: But seriously, don’t you think ‘En’ is such a wannabe name? ‘Nandini’ has so much more character.
En: So you think I lack character?
Amol: I wouldn’t know that. I’m your brother!

En was running after Amol in a careless fashion as they both raced towards home, and finally hit the couch, gasping for breath.

In the next few days, Amol left for his new abode. En’s little pad now seemed spacious but hollow.

She was standing once again before the mirror, probing. Asking herself, ‘Why did I think he was annoying? Well, he had thrashed a huge basketball onto my favourite ice cream, some fourteen years ago. A memory I had held on to so strongly, that it became the only memory of his, for all these years. But this young boy, had managed to pave his way through my narrow mind, and emerged victorious. He had managed to find a place in my heart, by breaking through the shackles of an old ridiculous recollection.’

En felt silly and ashamed for having wasted so much time holding on to a belief that was hardly true. He wasn’t annoying. He was like any of us at twenty one. Youthful, carefree, vibrant, bustling with energy and ideas. Yet, what set him apart was his sensitivity and candour.

That summer, En saw new changes happening around the city. And also, in her head. She realised that it’s not about making new room for people, but about leaving that door open for people to walk into your life.

[Maa ~ Bengali word used to address ‘mother’. didi ~ Bengali word used to address an ‘older sister’. mukhwaas ~ Indian concept of an after mint.

* To read more stories from the En series, simply select ‘A day in the life of En’ in the Categories section on your right.]

Today, I remember nothing.

It’s been a long while.
And as I walk past your streets,
fleeting moments fill my mind.
Though of mistrust, pain and a lone valentine.

If we were to cross paths,
I wonder what will it feel like?
Too raw? Too old?
Or that sinking feeling of a gaping hole?

What shall I speak to you, today?
Should I speak of the colour of my curtains?
Should I speak of the unseasonal rain?
Or should I speak of your callousness?
Should I speak of my disdain?

Remember the times, you called me names?
I was hiding it all, for fear of shame.
So no one would hear, no one would know,
of the choices I had made,
and things I had learnt to let go.

And the borrowed melodies,
do you recall?
They raided my heart, as I traded my peace.
I begged of you to heal my ache,
you laughed it off, you enjoyed the tease.

As the roads that lead to thee today,
I hold no memory of the time gone by.
I stand silent and disconnected,
my heart, a resemblance of the dark sky.

Dressed today, on different arms,
making yourself believe.
Shoes that are cut for one,
may just fit another’s feet.

All you Facebook lovers, hope you’re reading.

After years of being tormented by email spam for enlarging my penis, winning a million dollars, finding the man I will marry over an online dating site, donating money for the kid who’s suffering from a severe ailment or being part of some ridiculous spiritual chain mail, it’s time for the monsters of ‘social networking’.

Now, I don’t deny that ‘Facebook’ has been a boon in this age of digital revolution, but I guess there are always the downsides to everything that looks oh-so-great on the outside.

Take for instance, when you have been desperately avoiding conversation with that weird guy in office, he decides to add you on Facebook. Let’s say, he’s nailed you right in, leaving you with little to no choice than accepting his ‘friend request’. I mean, it’s just stupid to tell someone I haven’t logged in, in a while, when he can practically see everything you’re doing on your screen. Gees’!

Oh! And have I told you about my 12-year old nephew who’s on Facebook? Well, so is his Grandfather. As if having ‘my’ father on Facebook wasn’t enough. So yes, my parlour lady, my dog’s vet, my ex’s ex, that random guy I asked for directions this morning, and the random guys I have never asked or spoken to about anything, all wanting to be my friend on Facebook.

This ‘social networking’ should do a lot to inflate my ego, right? Well, not always. Especially not when someone tags a picture of you, because they look fabulous in it. But oh hell, I look like I could totally win the first place in a ‘King Kong Reborn’ contest.

Photographs form an essential part of these networking sites. So much so that people love to pose and click now-a-days, just to be seen on Facebook. Nothing wrong with that. But it can get a little ugly when people post mushy pictures with their respective lovers all over Facebook without realising that their ex is still their ‘friend’. Well, if you think that’s discomforting, ever heard of people breaking up over Facebook? That happens too. And what follows is sheer pandemonium. There are status messages posted about how ‘Men/Women suck!’ or ‘Relationships are nothing but a fickle person’s imagination’ or ‘Look at me, I’m so depressed, falling in love is the worst thing I could do’. I mean, people, get a life. Clearly ‘that’ person doesn’t care a dime, if you feel that way. And trust me, all the others who you haven’t seen in the last ten years in person, don’t either.

Well, I guess ‘status messages’ have their way. There will be those who will post, ‘I’m super busy today’ which often makes me wonder, that they still had the time to post it on Facebook. And then there are those who constantly bore you with the ‘I want chocolate’ or ‘I just hurt my toe’ or ‘I’m too sleepy’ or ‘I miss my sweetiepie’ or ‘I’m having a bad hair day’ or ‘I just installed a new chip in my computer’. Yawn!

Talking of status messages, I need to give special mention to the horrendous typo brigade or to those who torture us with the ‘nyce / gurl / kool’ language. I mean how retarded is that? These so-called ‘cool’ spellings don’t even reduce the number of alphabets, if your excuse is convenience. Any other excuse is strictly disregarded. But the ones I despise the most, are the ones who don’t really think twice about lifting a quote over the Internet and using it as their own. Now, if Oscar Wilde or Williams Wordsworth were alive, apart from their love for writing, they would have a lot more in common. Being in Coma for instance.

And then there are those people, who really don’t know when to press the ‘like’ button. Imagine someone, hitting the ‘like’ button on your message that reads, ‘Rickshaw drivers are sick. One of them just killed a dog before my eyes’. My response to that, keeping all that fake politeness this social networking site expects us to follow would be, ‘Can I kill you, Sir, please?’

Oh, and also the ones who will post something and ‘like’ it themselves. I mean, why would you even post something that you don’t like?

And what do I have to say about the guys who love flooding my wall with Farmville, Fishville, Café World and some other crap that I don’t give a damn about? Well, how I wish, I could just run a bull-dozer over all their crops, fry those fish and have it for lunch or just burn down their café. Stop bugging me with those requests now, will you?

So well, yeah, Facebook is that one common ground where the self-obsessed, the sympathy craving, the show-offs, the depressed and the gender benders, all live happily ever after. Happy Facebooking.

It took a long night.

I kissed him in the midst of the wind,
and he disappeared without a trace.
With unsaid rules blowing through the breeze,
and the blinding dust on my face,
I walked the murk, with forbidden desire.
Hoping against hope,
my feet tugged along the deepest mire.

The dawn spewed on me, new surprises.
All that lay good, were now mere vices.
The tiles still drawn, the rules had changed.
Pebbles strewn on both sides,
and footprints estranged.

I stood there waiting, pleased in denial.
Burning a hundred yearnings,
wishing he would walk through the aisle.
Not a sound in the distance or a whiff in the air.
Rewritten in history, was a tale of despair.
My face still smeared, as I rose up to see,
the day had set in, the mist had cleared.

The gift of a life.

Nandini, fondly addressed as ‘En’ amongst friends is a spirited, twenty seven year old, girl next door. A go-getter, and an achiever, she is a reminder to all of us, never letting us forget about the smaller joys and humble beginnings. In the fourth part from the series of ‘A day in the life of En’, watch her discover a new shade to herself as she realises the gift of a life and what are the possibilities that lie before us to make each moment worthy.

En was back in her hometown, Kolkata, to spend the long weekend with family. It had been eight long months since she was trying to keep the promise she had made to her mother to come home and help her, dye her hair. Weekends had passed by and months together. En had been busy increasing the profits of her company and fuelling an over hungry appetite for the material needs of a good life.

Now that En was engaged in covering salt and peppered streaks of the most adorable fifty five year old she knew, she looked around to find that missing someone. She was hoping to see the familiar face all of the last two days. Even though the person in question was annoying, she had warmed up to the idea of his presence constantly around her, through all her growing up years. With lanky hands and legs, he had troubled her all through her childhood, pulling on her pigtails and drawing funny faces on the outside wall. She had hated every minute she had spent with him and he enjoyed bullying her around as much as she despised it all.

He had ruined every great moment for her, including her first attempt at draping a saree, her first time baking a cake and also her first date with the boy from the army school. He was the omnipresent parasite in her life that she had never found a perfect cure for.

There were always more stories of disaster attached to him than sweet memories. But what she hated the most about him was, how much her parents adored him. This made her often wonder if they had a really weird side to them which only surfaced occasionally. She had never quite found an appropriate answer to that one, though she had explored every possibility there could be. And suddenly, as her mother shifted herself to the other side, En was broken from the chain of thoughts running rapidly inside her head. She was thrown back to the silence. The house seemed too quite to be comfortable.

En’s mother was getting tired of the stillness herself. She had looked forward to a time like this with her daughter for over months now. Not trying to maintain the quiet any more, she asked, “Nandini, you must be thinking of Ranjit.”

And before En could express surprise or think about diverting the subject, she was interrupted again. “He died last month in Saudi Arabia, working in an oil mine…”
As her mother continued narrating the incident in detail and about the trauma his family went through, Nandini could hear the words just as a distant sound, hard to comprehend. She was transported to a different time.

As she sat packing her suitcase to travel to the city of her dreams, Mumbai, she was constantly being irritated by the greatest pest she knew. He delayed every action of her, causing panic and annoyance, just before she was about to leave.
And in his trademark style, Ranjit had asked her then, “So moti, what would it take for you to marry me?”.
Not drawing any seriousness to his intention, she had retorted, “May be, if you went and worked in an oil mine in the Gulf.”
To which, he had said, “Is that all?… Aah that’s simple.”
En had laughed aloud and said, “Let’s see, if you come back alive from there.”

That was exactly eight months back. He was standing before her in flesh and blood. Alive. She could hit him if she had to. Now, she just stood in a pool of questions, not knowing what to feel worst about. Playing the fool on him and asking him to go and work in a place where he was almost certain to die or about not having the heart to understand his emotions or about not being nice to him for the last time she could ever see him. For not being nice to him ever.

moti ~ Hindi word for ‘fat’. In this context, lovingly/teasingly used to irritate the person.

A case study of moronic conversations.

Here is my case book of some really ridiculous conversations I have been a part of and I take pleasure in narrating them here. Have fun.

Case #1: Mindless Front Office Guy
It was a regular day in office until the front office guy (FOG) decides to walk up to my desk and ask me a few questions (like irrespective of the answer, these are the set questions he intended to ask.)

FOG: What’s your extension?
Me: Do you see an extension on my desk?
FOG: But how do you pick up the phone?
Me: I don’t. Because I can’t!!
FOG: So, your extension is 22 or 23?
Me: !!??!!

Case #2: Long Distant – Short Tempered Sister
For my birthday this year, dad bought me a fancy Guess watch. So, when my sister called to wish me on my birthday, what followed was just stupidity at its best.

Me: Hey, Dad got me a watch for my birthday.
Sis: Oh cool! Which one?
Me: Guess
Sis: Arre say nah which one?
Me: Guess!!
Sis: Chal nah… what pakao you are… say nah which one?
Me: Guess baba Guess!!
Sis: Arre don’t fry yeah… just say which one?
Me: Oh god! How many times to say… Guess!!
Sis: Aaarrgghh!!
Me: Aaarrgghh!!

Case #3: Account Executive with the power to decide someone’s life span.
Being in the business of advertising, you meet a lot of over enthusiastic Account Executives (AE). Mind you, they sometimes possess the power to think. Now, this could actually turn out to be quite lethal. Here is how I was assigned a rather not so interesting job in my first week of work.

Me: The obituary ad is almost done… But you still haven’t given me the date of his death.
AE: I would have, if he were dead.
Me: What do you mean?
AE: Well, we should know the date soon I guess. You can hold the ad till then.
Me: What??!!??