What stung me at 24

To write or not to write.

But today, I shall.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve refrained from writing because I was afraid.

Afraid to reveal my emotions. But my emotions cannot be kept captive. Not by me at least. And if not me, who can anyway? So here you are, about to read what rattled my cage one fine evening.

There was one thing I was sure of all along – that I’d never succumb to the word ‘quit’. But I did, and then I invited that word into my vocabulary.

The incident: It was sometime last November, a very senior colleague said the same words I was used to hearing for the last 10 years or so – everyone always implying I behaved 10 years older than my actual age. But this time, it didn’t make me feel better, it stung me deep instead. Because this is what he said.

You’re a very bright kid, but there’s one problem. You’re 24, and you behave like you’re 34.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. Not a bit. And when I narrated the same to a few friends, they did tell me that I should take it positively. Mind you, this was not the first time I was hearing a comment related to my age. But it was the first time someone pointed it out as a problem and and not as a leverage I have over my counterparts.

But sir, here’s the thing. And I’m going to keep this crisp.

I was a 10-year-old when my father passed away. And on my next birthday, I turned 21.

Twenty-one. Not eleven.

And if I turned 10 years older, my mother turned 20.

So yes, while you did get the math correct, you miscalculated 10 years of my life.

You didn’t calculate how cartoons and fairytales had to be skipped in order to allow reality to show up at our doorstep in one of the strangest manners I’ve known. You miscalculated how my sister and I had to be parents to our brothers while our mother ensured a full basket of bread on the table.

A grey hair showed itself through my sister’s braided hair. We knew what it was, but put it off by teasing her that she was going to turn wiser.

Through these years, sir, I learnt how to be responsible – for all the turns I take, for all the choices I make. And if this offended you, I’m sorry.

Now, I’m 25. And I’m not worried about what you think. Simply because it doesn’t matter anymore.

Categories: Open Letters | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The India I visited in 2015

2015. Now since it’s gone by, my conscience forces me to write something. And since I’d not written much throughout last year, I thought of summarizing it here – on my blog. I will probably always remember 2015 because it was the year I jumped out of my comfort zone and fell into the lap of a new city. A city that posed multiple challenges even before stepping into it. I left Bombay for Delhi. I traded the overnight trips to Goa (home, not party) for a journey that took over 24 hours instead to get home. I moved away from everything I was familiar with and decided to start with a clean slate. New place, new people, new learnings.

After moving to Delhi, I continued to visit Mumbai once in three months, and went back home for Christmas. Apart from these places, I also ventured into new terrain. Turf that was still unexplored. Ever since I visited Manali in 2014, I’ve fallen deeply in love with Himachal Pradesh. So when I realised I was so close to the state, I didn’t waste too much time and took off to Dharamsala with my flatmate Bhavna.

Dharamsala, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh

Bhavna and I didn’t want to do the regular sight-seeing in Dharamsala. So we decided to visit a few places, and we decided to trek. We stayed with a family in Ramnagar, watched kids play cricket and other outdoor games in the village – Ramnagar, climbed up nearby hills, stopped and admired the landscape, ate ordinary food, stepped in and out of mandirs. We also visited the Namgyal Monastery in McLeodganj, walked to Dharamkot and Bhagsu Nag, climbed up a hill (some five kilometers) to reach Indrunag, from where we could see the whole of Dharamsala. And on our last day, we visited Norbulingka – an institute dedicated to preserve Tibetan art and culture. This was a trip taken in June 2015, and over a weekend.

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Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal is where Bhavna hails from. So when she was heading home for Raksha Bandhan, I tagged along. It was during monsoon. Bhopal reminded me a lot of Goa during the rainy season. I mostly stayed at home enjoying the delicious food her mother cooked, watching movies with her sister – together we watched the trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. When we stepped out, we took a boat ride at the lake, visited the dargah that’s in the middle of the upper lake, visited temples and ate at a Marwari restaurant. All in all, it was a very relaxing break.

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Kasauli and Dagshai, Solan district, Himachal Pradesh

I’ve already mentioned my love for Himachal Pradesh. So when my sister said she was visiting Delhi, I took the chance of taking another trip to the state, but this time, another district. We reached Kasauli before 7am and kept hunting for a place to put up. Finally we found one, settled in and left to walked around the hill. We walked to the church, through the market, ate at a lovely restaurant (I cannot recollect the name though). We also climbed down the hill to see the Mohan Meakin Brewery. Unfortunately, we had to soak our eyes with the exterior view only. Visitors weren’t allowed inside.

Post lunch we thought of going to Dagshai, one of the oldest cantonment towns in Solan. My sister had read about St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, and since we were not too far away, she wanted to visit the church. I must admit, it was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen till date. The church was undergoing renovation, but it shined nevertheless. We left for Delhi the same evening. In a day we covered both these places.

What I loved the most about Kasauli was its people. We talked to so many people during our bus rides and each of them remimded me of a world that’s not cruel at all.

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Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Now since Siera was here, she also wished to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. So I took a day off work and we left for Agra early morning. We walked around like tourists, reading and taking photographs. Before we left that evening, we ate lunch at a tiny restaurant and loved the way the chicken was cooked.

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Mangalore and Udupi, Karnataka

The final trip of the year was because of a friend’s wedding. My girlfriends and I went to Mangalore for the wedding. We ate fish like we were eating pani puri or momos because it was readily available at every corner. My favourites – The chapel of St Aloysius college and St Mary’s Island. I couldn’t take my eyes off the walls, arcs or the ceiling of the chapel. That’s because this is a beautiful, hand painted chapel that narrates the life of Jesus on the walls and the life of St Aloysius on the ceiling. Apart from this, Jesus’ disciples feature on the arcs.

St Mary’s Island is beautiful too. It’s a two-hour drive from Mangalore and you need to take the ferry to reach the island. My girlfriends and I played in the water like kids and collected sea shells. I’ll let you see the photographs.

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Categories: Travelogue | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A comic book on Naxalism in India: Interview with cartoonist Sumit Kumar

CR58sIzUsAEDACrWhen I heard that my colleague Sumit Kumar has published another book, I was curious. At a team meeting, he said it was on Naxalism in India, and my curiosity grew even bigger. In that moment, I remembered my college days, and a very senior journalist and professor Sir PK Ravindranath (PKR), who I’d sit with post lectures to understand India’s political system. Sir PKR (may his soul rest in peace) used to tell me stories on naxalism, and I wouldn’t find too many of us interested in the topic. But when I heard Sumit had chosen this topic, I had to get my hands on a copy. I wanted to know more. And the route Sumit took is even more fascinating – he took non-fiction and tied it with comics. He married a serious issue with humour and satire. He took this serious topic and sketched cartoons to narrate the naxal problem to us. 

I will not write more on the contents of his book Amar Bari, Tomar Bari, Naxalbari, I’d rather you read it. 

I shot a few questions to Sumit through an email though. And here’s what he had to say about his newest book and Naxalism in India

Q. Firstly, who are these people you are talking to through your novel Amar Bari, Tomar Bari, Naxalbari? And why?

I intend to reach out to the regular folk – those who don’t read scholarly books. The idea is to inform them, because as Indians we rarely say no to an argument. We dive into it. This comic book can help your argument swim in an argument about the conflict.

Q. Why did you choose to take the route of humour and satire to touch upon such a sensitive topic – Naxalism in India?

If you think of your own life – funny things happen in the strangest of circumstances, even when the larger situation is bleak. Sometimes, it’s just the irony in the situation that is funny. In conflicts, human stupidity offers immense opportunity for humor. And this is what I have used to create unique moments in the book – you’re laughing, yet you feel sad and guilty.

Q. How much did you have to read, research to put together these 150 pages?

A lot of books. Endless articles. One to one interviews. All the sources are mentioned at the end of the book. The reading was hard, but liberating.

Q. What were the easiest and toughest elements of putting together this novel on this subject?

Easiest was finding things to make fun of – human stupidity – it was available in abundance. Toughest was research, and making sure I don’t dip into depression, which frankly, kept happening. What you have in your hands is a summary, but when you research you are exposed to much more – and those stories of suffering have an impact on you – it becomes difficult to even enjoy, say a costly coffee, or a costly dinner – it seems pointless. Most difficult was to portray the actual Naxalbari incident scene by scene – because information on what happened on that day is only available in salamis.

Q. What are your thoughts on Naxalism in the country?

It’s stuck in a deadlock. And there will be lot of violence before it gets over – remember how LTTE ended? The common tribals in these places have suffered, are suffering and will continue to suffer. If it’s not the conflict, then it’s the lack of solutions to something as simple as malnutrition.

Q. Also, I’ve always been confused with the difference between Naxalism and Maoism – could you shed some light on the same?

Indian communists who took the path of violence have always been clubbed together as Naxals – all rooting from the original Naxalbari revolt – naxalbari being name of the village. Communists are anal about their different sects and how they are described – so I wont dive into how you describe Maoists, just know that different groups who were called Naxals, and were on the violent path, finally came together under a unified party called CPI (Maoist). Just to make it clear – Mao talks mostly about class struggle. I could be wrong though. phew.

Q. Who do you think is paying attention to these issues? It is time to sensitise the youth about such happening in the country? And why?

There is no false sense of purpose I have in writing this book – like to do something for the youth etc. Like an author said “Youth is not a guarantee of innovation and change, but the youth is mostly a group of cowards.” The book is for everyone who’d want to know about the subject.

Q. Are there any specific cartoonists/ authors/ writers you’ve been drawing inspiration from? If yes, tell us more.

Every cartoonist and their comics impacts your work, but it’s not limited to the visual world alone. A lot of different work has inspired this book. Very clearly – Maus by Art Spiegelman (not sure about the spelling) and footnotes from Gaza by Joe Sacco WERE NOT AN INSPIRATION – because everyone who does anything in comics mentions these as inspiration. Apparently, the only way comics can get some literary respect is only if they are about Gaza or the suffering of jews in WW2. In that regard, my inspiration was more Simpsons than these masterpieces. I had no interest in turning my book into a masterpiece, which as a rule are supposed to be boring.

Q. Tell us what went into coming up with the book title.

Name comes from a famous slogan of that time – Bari means house – so,
Amar (my) Bari
Tomar (your) Bari
Naxalbari (Naxalbari is our house)

Although the book covers the history of the red corridor and Bastar, this name just stuck, and it was unique.

Another famous slogan of that time was – AMAR NAAM TOMAR NAAM VIETNAM VIETNAM!

Q. What’s coming up next from your desk?

I have no intentions to repeat myself and stick to one kind of storytelling, because in my craft you have to be genre specific – THAT CARTOONIST WHO DRAWS FUNNY COMICS ON INDIAN POLITICAL HISTORY. I want to just play with things and improve my storytelling – whatever happens as a result is welcome.

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Today, I want to write something. But what should it be?

Warning: Here, I am complaining about myself

I’ve wanted to write something for a while, but lately I’ve started questioning every theme that’s dancing in my mind. I wanted to write a piece on what stops me from wearing a saree. I did put together 800 words, but I deleted the word document because I was not happy with the piece. Then I never got back to writing it again. It doesn’t start here. This goes back several months.

I went to Dharamsala in June. On the trip, I made note of pegs I could write on. This included things one should keep in mind when planning a trip to Dharamsala, places worth visiting over a weekend trip to Dharamsala, my opinion on the villages of Dharamsala versus McLeodGanj, and the last one – why my friend and I decided to trek around this pretty city in the district of Kangra. What I landed up doing was uploading all the images in the form of a photo-blog. I didn’t even caption each photograph.

Why am I writing this, anyway? Everyday, I tell myself that I need to write 500 words, but these 500 words don’t materialize. But this evening, I was spending some time with a senior colleague at work, and she asked me what I’d like to be doing in the next three years. Again, I said the same thing – I want to write. I seem to be using this line as my sword, but I don’t seem to be sharpening it at all, and everyone’s realizing it. But me.

When I moved to Delhi, I started exploring the city through churches. The idea was to eventually write on the churches in Delhi. Well, that didn’t take off either.

Now, I’m writing this because I want to ask myself why I haven’t been writing. I’m lazy, I’ve been procrastinating, I’ve had more time than ever on my plate, but I’ve been using that time to scroll down Facebook and Twitter. Oh and, I haven’t been reading either. Neither have I been watching any TV show nor movies. What have I been doing then? Sleeping. I sleep like I’m not going to be allowed to sleep for the next three days. Why am I writing this, again? I don’t know! Maybe I should stop complaining about myself and write something worth your time instead.

Tell me, what would you like to read. Let me write something for you. Maybe that’ll push me to write something worthwhile. And sorry for putting you through this😐

ahh-procrastination

Categories: Scribbles | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Kangra: Away from the usual McLeod Ganj

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On love: Letter to a best friend

I want to fall madly in love, Suezelle.

A very close friend of mine sent me this message on Facebook. I don’t know why she randomly sent me that thought, but I found myself caught in a puzzle. I’ve fallen in love. Deeply. And I keep falling in love with people, with things, with places. And then it goes nowhere. There’s always a problem. There’s always something that blocks the progress. And then I withdraw.

But this is not about me; it’s about this friend. She went on to say:

Doesn’t matter if it ends good or bad, but you got to feel what you got to feel, right?

I want to fall madly in love. Just once. Even if it doesn’t end well.

 

So here’s a little message to you, my darling.

It’s not easy to fall in love. There is no documented recipe or formula. Neither can it be prescribed by someone. The word love is invariably treated like a feather that floats with the breeze. And when you find yourself so madly in love with someone, little do you understand your own steps.

A strong-headed woman like you will find it all the more difficult. The boys I’ve met like such women, but not to fall in love. I don’t know why. Sometimes, I want to speak with 10 boys and ask them if they’d fall in love with me. If yes, why? And if no, why? But let me walk you through the experience.

I’ve been in this situation at least three times with every new one making it all the more difficult. It’s given that we like this one person’s company. For me, I just liked spending time with him, speaking with him about my day, sharing bits and pieces about my family, sharing my future plans only with the hope that somewhere I will get a sense of what’s going on in his head.

I think about him all day. All the time. And then you’ll find yourself smiling at yourself. You start telling yourself a story that you’ve convinced yourself with. You sing. You want to dance more than ever. You want to be happy. You ARE happy. You’re in love. And that’s when you want things to work out. You start to get greedy. I wanted him. I wanted him with me all the time.

And let me clarify, when I did fall in love, I wanted it to be smooth. So I didn’t even hold his hand, let alone a kiss. These were small realisations that drew me closer to him. And then I had to stop. And like every other time, I withdrew. Every time I spoke about him, I had friends who wanted to fall in love in a similar manner, but only I knew what they were hoping for.

While you opened up to me, I don’t think I’m the right person to guide you here. I’ve invariably failed, and I’ve failed because I still don’t get my way out of this maze. But read this what Naren shared with me.

Love isn’t just about how you feel or how someone makes you feel. Love should be an act. What are you willing to do unconditionally? Love is about clarity – stating your intentions and moving forward with purpose and conviction. Love is about vulnerability – allowing yourself to be hurt. Love is not a memory. It is an ever present source of strength.

Falling in love comes naturally. Someone will come along and just fiddle with your mind, and then with your heart. As long as you don’t sow hope, you will be fine. But the moment you do, remember, hope grows faster than any plant. It dwarfs everything around it when it cuts through the roof.

Fall in love. It’s the best feeling. But when it doesn’t work, condition your mind to fall out of it as well. Because then it’s time to archive this and begin again.

Categories: Scribbles | Tags: , | 1 Comment

How to squeeze in time to read everyday

Months ago, I walked up to Jaideep Shergill (our former CEO at MSLGROUP India) and asked him how he made time for all the novels stacked up around his little space in office. Just the number of books overwhelmed me with guilt. I did feel terribly ashamed to even ask him that question. But I asked it anyway because my reading hours shrank considerably, and I knew I had to do better. And look at me – I was comparing myself to a man as busy as him. Well, his answer was as brief as it could get. ‘I travel a lot.’

So here’s what I gather:

Read while traveling
When my reading hours decreased, it was because I was living only three-four kilometers away from office. By the time I opened a book or even tried to skim through the newspaper in the morning, I was already standing below my office building. That’s when I figured it was better to live away from my workplace, take a train, get a seat and read.

Take a short break at work
Inspired by another gentleman at work, I realized I could read in office as well. While everyone takes a chai break, I prefer opening a book and reading as much as I can within 15 minutes. It’s not a bad idea, and it works as a break too. Then back we go to our laptops.

Before you go to bed
After a long day at work, this is usually not what happens. There were times when I used open my laptop and get glued to some television show that I’d downloaded. It was just convenient. However, I still do watch an episode every night, and for the next 30 minutes or so, I read. I like the feeling of reading myself to bed. The moment I realize my eyelids are ready to hug each other, I place the book next to my pillow and go off to sleep.

As soon as you wake up
When I was reading Rebecca, I would sleep with the book next to me and wake up to read it first thing in the morning. I liked how it panned out. So I tried this on a couple of other books and liked the idea of waking up to a novel every morning. There are days when I read and go back to sleep in the morning.

And while you’re at this, make sure you are disconnected. Keep you mobile phone away from you or you’re going to be distracted by every ping and the incessant buzz makes it all the more difficult to concentrate on a story.

In case you have more ideas, do share. I shall happily add it to this post.

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Because it’s your turn now

Go away.
For I have,
And now, the turn is yours.

Stop doing that little dance in my head.
Quit playing havoc with my thoughts like you’re a carpenter and my head’s a plank of wood
That you’re whittling away at and slowly trying to destroy.

Go away.
Go away because I’m letting you.
Go away because I’ve brought you down from that pedestal I’d designed.
Also because I’ve pulled myself out of your ugly thoughts.

How would I know that?
Why wouldn’t I?
The little head of yours can barely comprehend my words.
Leave alone me.
I was never your cuppa tea.
I was mistaken when I dreamed I was.

Go away to never return.
Go away because you’re better off when you’re fucking miles away.
Go away because I’ve gone too.
It’s your turn anyway.
I’ve done it twice.
And this time, the third time,
You go.
Go as far as you can.
Because this time,
I couldn’t comprehend your words.
Those last few words.

Go.
Just go.
You’re better when gone.
Or maybe not.

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The Misleading Love for Delhi

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Delhi.

It’s funny.

The story of how I grew fond of a place I hadn’t even visited.

While newspapers and news channels kept screeching about how unsafe the city was turning into,

I was still coming to love our vulnerable capital.

 

I reflected.

Reflected hard on what was attracting me to Delhi.

 

The first time I stood on Delhi land,

It was at the New Delhi railway station.

My girlfriends and I were on our way to Manali

And when our train halted at the Capital,

We stepped out.

I looked around like I was taken to a park for the first time.

My eyes soaked with chaos.

My mind drowning in thoughts.

 

Within a month, I was back in Delhi.

This time, I stayed longer than the last 15 minutes.

I was there for two days.

I felt the winters.

Smiled at the peeping sun.

Got stuck in traffic. Quite like Bombay.

Sometimes it reminded me of Goa as well.

And then it reminded me of a person.

The person who spent some time in this city, and loved it too.

 

And on my way to the airport, I realized why I started liking Delhi.

I was actually in love with the storyteller and not the story.

Every lonely moment I had was filled in by thoughts of this secret love.

I began missing this almost-something-person.

Only then did it dawn upon me that I was in love with someone,

Even I didn’t know.

And since these stories were narrated,

I gradually started falling in love.

Falling in love with someone.

Falling in love with the city,

Because he was in love with it too.

 

A month later, an opportunity knocked at my door.

A new job, but it required me to relocate.

Relocate to Delhi.

I was still in love.

So I jumped and grabbed it.

I confessed my love.

No, it didn’t reciprocate.

 

Weeks later, I decided.

I decided to bid adieu to Bombay and go to Delhi.

I took up the job.

I was ready to set out on a new journey.

I was ready to write a new chapter.

And I started writing-off.

Writing-off people.

Writing-off stories.

Writing-off memories.

Writing-off the chapter where I risked falling in love.

Writing-off my orphan confession.

 

Maybe this time,

When I step on Delhi ground,

I will fall in love with the city.

And not with a person.

Not yet.

I will love the capital for its richness.

For the history.

For the heritage.

For something that can erase the last memory.

Categories: Poetry, Scribbles | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

7 things I loved about Reena Martins’ Bomoicar

It’s been a while since I turned the last page of Reena Martins’ Bomoicar. I read the book, smiled as I flipped pages and then passed it on to some of my hostel girls. Even though a few are not Goans, they expressed liking towards the stories, towards the writing and towards Goa and its people. While Bomoicar is a compilation of short stories written by various people, Reena Martins ensures that it doesn’t read like it’s written by different people. Even though there were some overlaps here and there, I didn’t mind reading bits and pieces over and over again. That’s how beautifully the book is complied, edited and presented to us.

252186-untitled-1Here are a few aspects about Bomoicar I really loved.

The stories: Not all stories were related to love. There were stories within stories. There were stories of separation, stories of a person loved dearly by all, memories. And each of these stories found ways to be tied back to this city. There was romance, there was mischief. But it was all related to Bombay. Some stories were left incomplete in reality, but in the book, there was an ending even if it wasn’t a happy one.

Konkani words: Recently, my warden called me to her office and asked me to stop speaking in Konkani. It’s rude, she said. Bomoicar, on the other hand, encouraged the usage of Konkani words. For instance, words such as dumpel, copachem, kapod – these words took me back to Goa. There were these moments of nostalgia. I think I also paused my reading at one point and started telling my roommates stories about our house in Goa, our neighbours, stories about my grandmother.

The Goan Aunty: She was everyone’s aunty. If there was anything running common across the book, it was this aunty. It was around the time Morarji Desai was elected as the Chief Minister of Bombay State in 1952. This aunty saved the parched throats who longed for alcohol. I started liking this aunty, and so will you, once you read about her. Quite a saviour she was, I must admit.

Beyond singers and musicians: Bomoicar introduced us to Goans who played various other roles – Julio Riberio the supercop, renowned architect Charles Correa, a national name in urban planning Edgar Riberio, other merchant navy officers. The Goans we know are usually connected to the music industry. Bomoicar introduced us to the other successful and inspiring lot.

Devotion: There were times, when I was transported to Goa because of this aspect. Aunties took their daughters to church, first dates were at Sunday mass, and attending Sunday mass was mandatory. It was just so-catholic at times. But that’s how Goans are, aren’t they? Everyone believes strongly in some saint or the other. I liked it much.

A walk through old Bombay: These stories had a good amount of Bombay history attached to each of these tales. There was politics, there was architecture, there were words that described Bombay in its early years. There were stories about the bifurcation. So it was not just people, it was more than that. It was the story of Bombay through the eyes of Goans.

Goan culture in Bombay: These stories will resonate with every Goan who reads Bomoicar. It narrates stories of Goan aunties, the floral dresses they wore, the houses Goans lived in, the food – especially choris pao, the drinks (booze), etcetera. And how can we forget the ‘wat men?’ and the likes? Our bastardized version of English is still what defines the Goan community in Bombay. Sad, but true.

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