Monday, January 25, 2016

Bottoms of my trousers

People want to reach for the stars, be famous, write novels, break down (metaphorical AND literal) barriers.

Me? I just want to get back home, cuddle my cats, read a book, and maybe have some cake. Cakes and cats versus all-encompassing ambition and white hot brilliance. Cakes and cats always win. Always.

I like my friends. I like to socialise. I like to dress up and put on my party face. But mostly, I like to get back home and watch some TV. Cook some mutton. Read some books.

I spent most of last Saturday under my quilt, drinking coffee in bed, and watching Jessica Jones.  It was the most perfect fucking Saturday I've spent in a long long while.

Does that make me boring? Average? Passé? All of the above?

I grow old, I grow old. Are the bottoms of my trousers rolled?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Because, some things are traditions

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
  • Visited Cambodia and Thailand. Sat on the steps of the Angkor temples at dawn, effectively crossing off one thing from my bucket list.
  • Adopted a cat, my first pet ever. 
  • Adopted another cat.
  • Re-learnt swimming. Swam relentlessly all summer.
  • Started volunteering at a community library for underprivileged kids (It soon became my highlight of the week)
  • Set up a translation blog that people actually read.
  • Completed my 2015 Goodreads Challenge (30 books were successfully read in 2015.)

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Kind of. Yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
Cambodia! Thailand!
Also, the following places within India: Jaipur, Gushaini (Himachal), Bangalore, Bikaner, Jim Corbett National Park, Kashipur, Benares.


6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
Job satisfaction. Money.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?
19 December, for heartbreaking reasons

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
  • Finally getting my act together to change teams within my company
  • Making Cambodia happen

9. What was your biggest failure?
  Money, mostly

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing horrific, thank God (fingers crossed, knock on wood)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
 Tickets for Cambodia. Sushi for my birthday lunch. My first ever smartphone.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mine. S'. D's (surprisingly enough)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
K's, I think.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel. Food. Cat stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Cambodia. My cats.

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2015?
"Matargashti."
"Mohakaler koley eshe, gouri holo mohakali..."
"Everything is awesome."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
1. Happier or sadder? The same, I think.
2. Thinner or fatter? Fatter.
3. Richer or poorer? Richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Swimming. Dancing. Reading. Spending time with my grandfather.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating. (Good God, the procrastination. I think it's become some sort of a disease.)

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas with good friends, eating cake and biriyani, and drinking mulled wine. It was a good Christmas.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
The mother and the mother-in-law. (Such domesticity. Shudder.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Nope.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
None.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
  • True Detective
  • Masterchef Australia
  • Inside Amy Schumer
  • Lizzie Bennett Diaries; Pitchers; Permanent Roommates (Evidently, this was the year of the Web series.)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
Ooh ooh, this was the year of author discoveries. Fell in love with Chimamanda N'gozi Adichie and read "Americanah", "That Thing Around Your Neck", and "Half of a Yellow Sun" in one go. I also discovered Margaret Atwood, and was riveted by "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Stone Mattress: Nine Tales". This was the year of much good reading.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The existence of 8tracks

28. What did you want and get?
A new job

29. What did you want and not get?
Money. Peace.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Masaan. Asa Jawar Majhe. Ugly.
(This was also the year I discovered Star Wars, which should, I think, get at least an honorary mention.)

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
27. Sushi for lunch, and a party the day before.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
 More money. A bit more spine. 

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Lazy.

34. What kept you sane?
 Cats. Books. In that order.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
 Ranveer Singh. Neil Gaiman. Chimamanda N'gozi Adichie. John Oliver.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The "intolerance" debate, and everything that happened around it.

37. Who did you miss?
Dadumoni.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
M and M. Hands down.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Mortality is a bitch.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
"Here comes the sun/ And I say, it's all right.
Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter..."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dadumoni

Dadumoni loved his coffee, even though, due to health issues, coffee was a strictly regulated treat. That was a pity, because every time he drank coffee, he told me stories about Dhaka. To this day, Bangladesh evokes memories of sitting on top of a large dining table, sharing a bowl of muri and an occasional sip of coffee, listening to stories about countries torn apart; countries mended.

My earliest memories of my grandfather mostly involve that very large dining table. He would sit at his customary chair and tell me stories about the "homeland" across the border. About graduating, and struggling for a job. About being friends with Bhanu Banerjee and being taught by Satyendranath Bose and Mohitlal Majumdar. About being stuck in the "wrong locality" during a Hindu-Muslim riot, and about his thrilling escape after running into his Muslim dentist. He spoke about the interminable journey from East to West, when there was so much emptiness inside, but not much outside. He made "bhush bhush" sounds with his hands while talking about the packed steamer from Goalondo. And he smacked his lips when he spoke about the delicious chicken curry to be found aboard those steamers.

Dadumoni was a writer. The house was full of diaries where he wrote about hilarious real-life anecdotes. Stories about how he bluffed his way through exams, helped his sibling shelter truant freedom fighters from the British police, and made friends at work. Dadumoni taught me to love afternoon soaps, Sri Lankan batting, and the “lyaja” piece of the fish. He taught me how to sharpen pencils with a piece of blade, how to create elaborate collages by cutting up old pictures and newspapers, how to craft greeting cards for every occasion, and how to laugh without restraint. A belly laugh, he called it. He gave me my very first copy of Charles Lambs' "Tales from Shakespeare", and was the first person who read to me from Wordsworth.

He was also usually the first person to get up in the morning, generally by five. He would go about brushing his teeth and entertaining my infant brother by lustily singing "Dhono dhanyo pushpo bhora" or "Tomarei koriachhi jeebonero dhrubotara" at the top of his voice. (Even today, lines from these songs remind me of groggy winter mornings and a smiling grandparent.) Eventually, he would totter off to the market, with his walking stick and his precious bajaarer bag in tow. I learnt my first "bajaar skills" from him (always check the gills of the fish), and my first Nojrulgeeti (“Mohakaler koley eshe gouri holo mohakali...”). Everytime you went somewhere with Dadumoni in the picture, you had to build in an extra fifteen minutes, because he would invariably delay you with his inane anecdotes and his insistence of waving at you from the main gate whenever you left the house. (He couldn't walk fast due to acute arthritis. Not that you ever heard him complain.) And on exam days, when I would quickly do a perfunctory pronaam and try to rush out of the house, he would always take his time blessing me, whispering "Hori hori hori bolo/ Ajker porikkha bhalo/ Buchu porbe bhalo/ Buchu likhbe bhalo" in my ears. Strangely enough, the days that I insisted that I didn't have time for the prolonged blessing were invariably the days when the question papers seemed particularly tough.

Like millions of others, he immigrated across the border during tumultous times, and went on to live his life with unapologetic aplomb. He sang songs, drank coffee, hosted get-togethers, and opened his doors to guests from all over the world.

Dadumoni collected coins. He would give away shiny two-rupee coins every poila baishakh and bijoya. Once, on my birthday, he gave me a chocolate box full of old coins of various denominations. I carry around a few coins from that box till today. They are my lucky charms, my hereditary talisman.

My grandfather, Arun Kumar Sen—fish lover, Partition survivor, Ranatunga admirer, belly laugher, collage enthusiast, adda addict, Wordsworth aficionado—passed away in his sleep two days ago. But that's not how I imagine him going. I imagine him striding into wherever he is right now, demanding coffee, adda, loud songs, Goalondo chicken curry, and an uninterrupted cricket match. And sometimes, I imagine him looking down at me, and smiling, as I curl my fist around my lucky coin, and demand the same from life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jaipur

The first thing I notice about Jaipur, this time around, is how sunny it is. The second thing I notice are the pigeons. They are everywhere. Local men in bright turbans feed them grains. Backpacking white couples in patchy t-shirts and broken sandles take photos of Indian Birds Being Fed By Indian Men. When we manage to reach Amer Fort one sunny morning, flocks of birds periodically rise up from its courtyard. It's as if the whole city is forever perched on the edge of a rooftop, ready to soar up or swoop down at a moment's notice.

The Lit Fest crowd is the same. I run into bespectacled, thin young things at the Diggi Palace grounds. They all wear huge, tortoise shell eyeglasses and ethnic printed harem pants; they all have kohl-rimmed eyes; and they all stalk Dalrymple from one tent to the next. "Historical fiction is so passe", I overhear one of them saying. "If you want to impress the JNU types, read difficult poetry."

It's S' 31st birthday, and he takes off by himself, refusing to accompany me to the Fest. He roams the streets aimlessly and takes pictures of birds and monkeys. A man in a streetside stall feeds him Rajasthani kadhi-chawal, and he strikes up a conversation with an ancient camera-walla near the City Palace. The camera is one hundred years old and held together with strings. He brings back a black and white picture of himself that the man had shot. It looks exactly like one of my parents' old pictures - all faded and soft focus. I, on the other hand, spend the day getting almost squashed by an exuberant crowd running after Abdul Kalam. I also spend 30 bucks on tepid tea. (I wonder if I should have gone off with S.)

But the Fest goes on. Shamsie and Catton are delightful. Naipaul is heartbreaking. The awkward silence after his halting, senility-laden speech is deafening. I never did like that man, but it's difficult to see an arrogant soul being reduced to this.

When I step out of the palace grounds at dusk, I spot a group of bedraggled sparrows near the garbage dump that masquerades as the auto stand.They look tiny and frail and brown. They look tired. I am exhausted too.This constant exhibition of intellect has drained me.

Once I'm back, I order masala chai and french fries, and watch old reruns of CID to make myself feel better. Later in the evening, we go out and stuff our faces with laal maas and missi roti. 

After the food-induced haze has cleared, I realize that I'll always like CID reruns more than obscure poetry. "JNU-types" might shun me, but Jaipur, I think, will never judge me for that.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Easing back slowly.

1.What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Signed on the effing dotted line. (Refer to previous post. Ahem.)
Also, travelled alone a lot for work. Moved in with a member of the opposite sex as the only roommate.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did join yoga, and managed to do it on and off for the whole year. So I’ll give myself pass marks for last year’s resolutions.
Next year? Ah well. Who knows? I’m too tired, and it’s too cold to be productive and determined.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
None. But plans are afoot to remedy that soon. Places within India are a different matter, though. Here is the list: Kolkata, Benares, Bardhaman, Gobordanga, Indore, Bhopal, Jaipur, Dharamshala, McLeodgunj, Kasol, Jibhi, Trivandrum, Poovar, Munnar, Alleppey

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Satisfaction from a job well done; Courage; Discipline

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?
5th December, for obvious and clichéd reasons

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not quitting my job; Navigating December without losing my mind; Finding an effing flat in this godforesaken city within my effing budget (LOOK AT HOW DOMESTIC I HAVE BECOME. I LIST HOUSEHUNTING AS ONE OF MY ACHIEVEMENTS).

9. What was your biggest failure?
Communication.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Except for a painfully twisted knee and another severely twisted ankle while skipping around the Himalayas, nothing much else. (Fingers crossed. Dear God, don’t let me break all my limbs as soon as I finish typing this sentence.)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The microwave, I guess? (FURTHER PROOF OF DOMESTICITY! I MIGHT AS WELL CALL MYSELF MARTHA STEWART NOW.)

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mine. (Is that weird to write down? Ah well.)

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Let us not open the floodgates now, shall we?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food. Books. Travelling. (The three pillars of my life.)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
December. Because, friends. J
And January. Because, friends again. J

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2014?
Maahi ve – A R Rahman; Orpheo looks back – Andrew Bird

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a. Happier or sadder? Not happier, not sadder. Just pensiver. (Is that a word? That should be a word.)
b. Thinner or fatter? Thinner, I think.
c. Richer or poorer? Richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Pausing and thinking and taking it all in.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Seeking approval.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Christmas was spent with good friends and good food and good alcohol. So it’s all good. J I did fail to put up a small tree and some twinkly lights, but there is always a next time.


21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
The two sets of parents, I think.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Abar?

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
Seriously?

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Legend of Korra; The Good Wife; True Detective; Top of the Lake; Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi!)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Yes.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
Wild - Cheryl Strayed;  Daytripper  - Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon;  The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Andrew Bird; The Peninsula Studios; Preservation Hall Jazz Band

28. What did you want and get?
A Kindle

29. What did you want and not get?
Job satisfaction

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Highway; Haider; Dedh Ishqiya; Guardians of the Galaxy

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
26. Spent the morning recovering from wonderful night-before alcoholic shenanigans. Went to watch the godawful Gunday. Had incredible Malayali food for lunch. Evening was spent watching Doctor Who and devouring one whole large sundae. It was a good day. J

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Job satisfaction

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Make an effort once a month.

34. What kept you sane?
Books and friends, in that order.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Benedict Cumberbatch; Neil Gaiman; Ranveer Singh

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
These elections with their incredibly depressing results, and all the hell that has been breaking loose since then.

37. Who did you miss?
Calcutta.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
M, I think.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
Let go.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine/
I keep my eyes wide open all the time/
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds/
Because you're mine, I walk the line.

Monday, December 22, 2014

So.

So. This happened.



And I think I want this space back. Being away from this made me way more sad than I thought it would.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Khattam shud

To be truthful, this post was a long time coming. And chances are, my remaining one (or maybe two?) readers knew this long before I did.

Thing is, this blog is dying. And there's nothing I can do to resurrect it.

I started this blog when I was still a wee thing in college, and when my idea of great writing involved lots of ellipses and strange words. The problem, however, is that I am not a wee thing any more...and frankly...adulthood has made me realize what *great* writing really is.

It's silly to make excuses for not blogging. Hundreds of people hold down three jobs and five kids, and still manage to write amazingly well. I, sadly enough, do not even find time to pack my lunch every day.

That's it then, I guess. I've moved out of cities, jobs, houses these past eight years. It's time I moved out of this space too.

I'm leaving this place up, though. I am a fickle-minded soul...and who knows, I might come back to this one day.

But for now, this is the way it ends. Not with a bang, or a whimper, but with some awkward words.