How To Lose Your Sanity In One Easy Step

Step 1: Try to please everyone.
Do you remember that scene from F.R.I.E.N.D.S when Rachel’s mother behaves outright rude with Monica for a minor (and unintended) lapse, yet Monica continues to apologize profusely and disproportionately to her? There are people who can remain impervious to others’ opinions of them. I am not one of them and have an innate need to please everybody, avoid conflicts and fall-outs. It would be sheer idiocy to actualize my desire and I succeed in not being a ‘Monica‘ when it involves people whose actions or thoughts I detest strongly. I turn completely indifferent to their existence and memories. But when the people I respect and admire harbour a distorted perception of me owing to misunderstandings or miscommunication, I worry myself sick about setting things right. I would fret about where I had gone wrong, apologize continuously, take repeated initiatives to sort things out, and allow them to stamp all over my dignity by giving undue importance to their (lack of) response. It would torture me to wonder how I am being perceived, and in my restlessness, contribute negatively to that distorted image by offering unnecessary justifications. Recently I went through a similar situation and it disturbed me a lot. Between the two of us, the generous share of wisdom belongs to my younger sister and I often look to her for advice.

Sis: Why do you care so much about what others think of you? 
Me: I don’t know. I can’t help it.
Sis: Then prepare yourself for a lifetime of self-induced tragedy.
Me: How do I get out of this need to seek everyone’s approval?
Sis: Seek approval of only those who matter to you and for whom you matter. Judge yourself if a person falls in that category. If no, don’t think about it again. If yes, try to sort out any misunderstandings or apologize appropriately and genuinely for any lapses. If they don’t acknowledge or appreciate your efforts, don’t go overboard by giving others the power to hurt you.
Me: I was being an idiot, wasn’t I?
Sis: A first-rate one.
Me: Hmm.
Sis: There’s no use wasting your mental peace over unnecessary issues. But also keep in mind how you are quick to shed off excess baggage of certain people and fussy about who you let into your life. Sometimes people might be selective about letting you into their lives too, and it might not be because you had done something ‘wrong’. Accept that.
Me: *big kiss*
It won’t be easy to change overnight, but I have to learn to let go of my need to please all those whom I had let into my life. That is the basic requirement to preserve my sanity.

As if on cue, I stumbled upon this wonderful children’s book by Plath as an “an admonition against the perilous preoccupation with other people’s opinions“.


Often I don’t foresee any disconnect between what I say and what others hear, and feel assured that my words are being perceived in the same context that I intended them to be. So, it troubles me when I have to clarify misconceptions about my intentions. What saddens me is not the misunderstood content, but the thought, “Is that what you have been thinking about me all along?“. Such conflict in perceptions vitiates or nullifies for me any previously laid foundation of kinship; and I can’t help viewing any past conversations or interactions through the distorted perception of the other person.
Even when the doubts get cleared, all future interactions get tainted with a nagging fear of being misunderstood again. I don’t hold any grudge against the person who misunderstands me, such conflicts are fairly common, and quickly forgiven. But they contribute to self-doubts and heightens my awkwardness in dealing with people. Being an introvert, it takes me paramount effort to establish new friendships and connections, and misunderstandings generate questions about what I am doing wrong. I rely on my instinct to decide the people I feel safe enough with to rely on, open up to and consider as friends. When the instinct proves false, I get the impulse to go back to a shell, surrounded by my books.
I am quite upfront and not used to carefully measure my words, but when misunderstandings occur, I hesitate with what I have to say. They restrain me, and I can’t just be myself, and that is never a good feeling. What hurts me though is that I lose the opportunity to continue getting to know some wonderful people, but I have no idea how to overcome my fear of being misunderstood again. I am not averse to giving people second chances, I am afraid of taking up second chances myself, lest it leads to even greater distress and anguish. I isolate myself due to that fear, but I don’t want to.


It’s funny how we inhabit two worlds simultaneously; one that is real, tangible and where ‘A is A’, and the other that is essentially an overlap, crowded by our myriad assumptions about the objects of the real world. People, intentions, books, movies, places, relationships, emotions; nothing is spared from the realm of assumptions.
I am no exception and often assume who is worth letting into my life, and who would be merely excess baggage to lug around. Despite being a insatiable reader, I still harbour prejudices about the readability of a book if they belong to certain genres, or the section of the readers they appeal to. I do it without even flipping open a single page. The same goes for travel choices; often I assume that certain places have nothing worthwhile to offer apart from the usual touristy stuff. I make assumptions about relationships (often equating superficial variables like time spent together, number of conversations to the amount of care; even when I talk only once a month to my closest friends), about emotions (I am/was in love with a boy I met a couple of years ago and had known for just a month, and it was initiated on the assumption that he liked me too. stupid), and even about everyday conversations (what did she mean by that? should I read between the lines?). It is human nature to create our own versions of everything we see, feel and hear; blending with, and sometimes even overpowering the truth. Sometimes I feel guilty about jumping to conclusions without bothering to verify facts, but usually I brush it off as it doesn’t affect me in a direct and immediate manner.

But it is troubling to be on the receiving end of such assumptions. I have a close friend from my junior college days who had suddenly started giving me the cold shoulder. I assumed she was busy and didn’t disturb her with frequent calls and texts. But when it persisted, I confronted her only to be told that she had assumed I was the one avoiding her! Now we are the back to our giggles and gossips, but I shudder to think that a mere assumption might have destroyed a decade old friendship. My sister is home for her summer training and I was bursting with joyous anticipation about all the places we would visit and all the conversations we would have. But she came home, slumped down on her bed, barely talked to me, and didn’t leave the house often. I assumed she was tired, while she assumed that I had cancelled her offer to study abroad due to trivial reasons and harboured a silent grudge. And this would have continued had I not asked her directly about what is bothering her.
It is surprising how often we let assumptions colour our lives. The Anne Tyler books that I have been reading makes me want to tear out my hair in utter despair, what with all those people drifting apart due to mere assumptions and unsaid words. Children drift away from parents, lovers and spouses drift away from each other, and friends separate too. It is such a waste, yet it is happening all around us. This is one mistake that no one ever learns from.

I guess we would do ourselves a favour if we talk it out instead of sprouting assumptions. But that’s tiring too, isn’t it? Sigh!

Happy Birthday, Devi

Stay blessed, and madly in love.
I don’t remember how we ended up as friends. I am just glad that we did. We value the same things in life, we have hearts drunk on love, we enjoy solitude, we vouch for the off-beat. We had awkwardly hugged each other (I guess the only time in the decade that I had known you) on the day you had left to start off a new life in a new country. We are never expressive about how much we love each other; it is understood and treasured. Bruised egos often got better of us and we had spent long months sulking over petty arguments, and then one day we would miss other so much, and without any apologies and explanations, our conversations took off from where we had left it. We had seen each other at our best and worst; and I had learnt resilience from you. You also taught me by example to follow my own heart, and not bother about others’ opinions. I am still learning to do that.
For six years we were inseparable; through all the ups and downs in our lives. I would never forget the last night of November in 2004 when you had shyly accompanied me on our family dinner. But it was fate that I had forced you to accompany us, you met your husband that night. I recall with a smile the awkward phone calls, when he called you up on my phone, in the beginning of the courtship. And now you are planning to have a baby with him! I can’t believe we are old enough to talk about bringing a new life to this world; I mean, the things we still discuss and laugh about, doesn’t speak highly of our maturity levels, do they? And when it does happen, I am going to pamper your baby so much. We would have so many tales to tell them, won’t we?
The past decade of knowing you had blurred the lines of friendship and sisterhood. You are definitely in the latter camp now, after all that we have shared and been through, and yet decided to stick together, no matter what. To the world, we had always been a weird duo, sitting at some corner in silence for hours, lost in our own thoughts, interrupting it with occasional jokes that only we understood; wondering at the things that interested ‘normal’ girls but never us; sneaking off to the hostel terrace at midnight to talk about our hopes and dreams, because it was only in the cover of the dark night we got the courage to spill our innermost thoughts; roaming wherever our restless feet took us; the study nights that inadvertently turned into gossip nights; and you introducing me to so many firsts: the first ride on a city bus (where I painstakingly counted the coins), the first sip of wine on my birthday, you were even my chaperone on my first real date! So many memories. So many stories. Remember the brain we stole to study for anatomy exam, and wearing black goggles, to ward off the stinging sensation of formalin, when we studied it later that night?
I was always in awe of the long line of your admirers everywhere you went, and how calmly you handled the attention. I had a few favorites of my own and wanted you to end up with one of those few, and fretted about the possibility that you might choose “laughing cobra”, because of the sheer determination (or desperation) with which he pursued you. Thank God, you found Divy! I never believed in love at first sight, until I saw it happen to you and Divy. It reinforced my belief in love at a time when it had dwindled to near extinction.
Tomorrow you will turn a year older, and I wish you were here; we could have celebrated it together, and followed it up with our usual never-ending conversations. And hey, I miss telling you the little things that goes on in my life. I miss it so much, your sane advice and even when you doubled up with laughter at the comic situations I get myself into.
Happy Birthday, Devi. Have a blessed life ahead. All the best for your exam, do well. And yes, go make a baby too.
Love and Hugs,
P.S: I miss you so more than I can describe in words, and I know a lot of words.

Midnight Girlfriends

I’ve friends in town. but the ones closest to my heart are scattered all over the world. The statistics are as follows: 3 in US, 2 in Delhi, 1 in Noida, 1 in Pune, and well, 1 is in Guwahati, but is perpetually tired after a hectic day at the bank, so it doesn’t count as being near. An occasional phone call, a funny email, frequent texts, ‘liking’ stuff on social networks; that’s the current platform where friendships have shifted.
It’s no one’s fault; life moves on, career and marriage decide the course of our lives. Thousands of miles deter that staying up all night to talk, long days of shopping for the best bargains, excited whispers of a new romance and the loud screams that follows, sitting quietly over a cup of coffee, and never letting our inner child lose in the mayhem of adulthood. I do feel a sense of loss; but I accept the inevitable.
But technology has narrowed this chasm somewhat. It connects three of my girlfriends every midnight with me. There is this Wisconsin bombshell, a bundle of wit, who has me laughing my guts out every night with her hilarious stories. She is always on the invisible mode on chat, and I’m never sure whether I would be disturbing her at work if I send her a hello. But she invariably sends me a message few minutes before midnight; and our talkathon begins! We talk about our fathers and the funny situations they land up in so often; reminisce about college days and gossip about the ones we shared the classroom with; we worry about our negligible love lives and the reluctance to do anything to salvage it; she teases me about my ‘innate romantic streak’; she is exasperated with the men I fall for; we discuss the silliest topics ever on the face of this earth; and confess to each other the queries in our minds that we would be too embarrassed about asking another individual. Often we go, “yeah, me too!” She is a ray of warm sunshine at midnight!
There is my friend in Noida; we connect over the BBM alternative, Whatsapp. She sends me soulful songs; we discuss music, movies and our beloved books every night. She is privy to the turmoil that my heart is in; and is a soothing voice to all my apprehensions. She says things will be alright, whatever happens; and I believe her. She is always the first reader of my blogs. I tell her the stupid assumptions that my heart makes; and she patiently listens to them. She is often the voice of  reason that I can’t hear myself through the blur of love. I love telling her the little details of my day; and she joins in my enthusiasm always. It’s a feel good hour of conversation every night.
Another is the lady in Boston. We don’t chat, we don’t talk on the phone. We write each other long mails. Really, really long mails. We expose our vulnerabilities, we lay bare our hearts, we share our deepest thoughts, we tell each other stories. I treasure all her letters/emails. I read the vivid life updates that she sends every fortnight and feel I’m there with her, as she shows me around her new life. We write about love, about women, about reading, about writing. I value her advice a lot and follow it diligently. Every time my inbox flashes her name, I know the reader and the friend in me is in for a treat.
How isolated I would have felt without my midnight girlfriends! I need someone to talk to at the end of the day, share the little things. My sister raises a suspicious eyebrow when she sees me typing rapid texts on the phone every night. She asks me who is the boy I’ve been talking to. I show her, and she shuts up.

Duet: On People who Gifted Me Books. On Love.

 On People Who Gifted Me Books

Only four persons gifted me books I love and thus brought upon them the misfortune of being gushed over for life by yours truly.

Ruskin Bond’s autograph

There is Mannan, my classmate from medical college, who is straight out of an Austen novel- brooding, intense and frighteningly intelligent. He was in Mussorietraining to be an IAS officer and I had asked him to try to get me Ruskin Bond’s autograph. A few months later he sent me a book autographed by an author whose stories populated my childhood. Thank you, Mannan. I really appreciate the gesture. He gifted me Dust on the Mountains by Ruskin Bond.

Reading it now

There is Shakeel, a friend from high school who writes like a dream. He is living a life I covet and admire; writing and getting paid for it. Someday I hope to read a book written by him. Our mutual friend, Snata, is an amazing writer too and I’m simply happy to know this talented duo. I received a book from him today; and it was so unexpected and it made me so happy. Shakeel, prepare to be gushed over for life that would embarrass you enough to hide behind doors and duck under tables whenever you see me. He gifted me The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi.


The third is Amrita, who is nothing short of my soul sister. We have conjoined hearts and minds. She is a quiet person weaving her own world; and it’s a beautiful world peopled with soulful thoughts. I’m glad she invited me into her world where we can talk about books, movies, love, life, men and hills. She has gifted me a lot of books including Paulo Coelho’s The Fifth Mountain.

Heart-felt essays and poems

Then there is Priyanka, who is courage personified. She brims with intelligence, wit, confidence and a passion for writing and for making the world a better place. She has taken risks in life that I highly admire; she is vibrant and full of infectious energy. She recently got into MIT as the prestigious 2012/2013 Elizabeth Neuffer fellow and it makes me proud beyond measure. I cherish you, Priyanka. She gifted me Kora by Tenzin Tsundue.


On Love

I write about love, but I’m not a lover. I read about love, but I don’t live it. I see love, but I am a mere observer. Even when I was in love, when I was a lover, when I thought I was loved, it was emptiness and detachment wrapped in a thin crust of passion, that was a ghost of some earlier self, and a dollop of forced interest. This detachment and ambiguity of feelings scared me and I tried to be involved; I became neurotic about it and felt re-assured when I experienced symptoms of romantic jealousy or missed someone, which gave a false sense of being in love, or capable of being in love. I am often swept off my feet, but never by a person; it’s always a singular attribute: a warm smile, owning a common set of books, very often it’s the eyes, or kindness, sharp wit, ambition, intelligence, a fancy pair of shoes, arrogance, clean nails, someone who dines with family, writes poems, well-travelled, chivalry works every time too, or sometimes it’s just a mix of serendipity and hormones.

I can’t define love anymore. I was naive once, not so long ago, in a time when everything seemed possible and there were no missing puzzle pieces. I knew it once, this love, without having to say it in words and I poured it copiously in letters and gestures. But one day it slapped me out of my reverie. Singular attributes continued to lodge in my heart instead of a whole person. Now that time has lifted the veil off the pretenses I had forced myself to believe, I wonder why I ever considered it to be love. The conversations bored me, the laughter was hollow and I longed to be alone and with a book instead. But instead I talked for hours, laughed out loud, was a finicky and clingy lover, as if the love was real! I planned strategies, I made lists of pros and cons, I observed the duel of my mind and heart, and I was scared of acknowledging that it was doomed from the start or that I was passing off a fleeting attraction as love or worse, that I was incapable of love anymore. At twenty three! I was scared of letting go lest I don’t meet anyone before I turned thirty, or forty, or fifty.Knights on white horses were a cliché even when I was just ten. The concept of ‘casual dating‘ and testing the waters is lost on me too. So I settled for the first decent person who confessed his love for me. Sad, I know.
My friends call me the ‘most romantic person ever’ and I squirm in discomfiture. I worship romance. I love to love. I crave intimacy. But on actual confrontation with it, I panic and withdraw into a shell. It baffles me. Why do I get attracted to men who I know for sure will break my heart? Why am I incapable of living the romance that exudes from every single fiber of my heart? Have you watched the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is making love to Diane Keaton and she just lies there in bed, inert and passive, and her soul has an ‘out-of-body’ experience and walks around the room, lights up a smoke and reads a book? That’s exactly how I feel when I convince myself that I’m in love!
I have thought about it and have come up with few half-baked theories:
a)  I have set certain standards for the man I want to fall in love with and so far I haven’t met anyone who had lived up to them. Practicality convinces me that the standards are high, and I should settle even when just a quarter of my expectations are met. I did so; but deep down I knew it wasn’t what I was looking for and it would only damage me; so I clammed up, emotionally and even physically. One called me prude; the other thought I was sexless. But I tell myself it’s just about not meeting the right person.
b)  I can’t believe that anyone can love me. I have my own set of insecurities which leads me to wonder why would a person decide to devote his time and love on me when they could do so for the millions of other girls who are prettier, can speak well, can make them laugh, can walk on high heels, have lustrous hair, independent and knows how to dance. Why would anyone love me? And this question leads on to another disturbing query, ‘Do I love myself?’ Over the years I have started liking ‘me’, even though I am not bursting with love for myself. If loving self is tough, it becomes tougher to believe that one is worthy of love. Cynicism sets in. Sometimes it takes deep roots. It’s tough to see ourselves through a lover’s eyes, which in my mind is always scanning for flaws! ‘You had been bad relationships. Once you know love, all your cynicism will go out of the window’, my friends tell me. I give them a wry smile and my eyes mock their optimism, but my heart thumps with hope.
c) I worry about the word ‘forever‘. Intolerance is rampant. Who has time for love? Or the patience to make things work. People jump from bed to bed, memories fade, and all that remains of what started as a promise of growing old together is a tattered  Hallmark card. You start cautiously; you exchange likes and dislikes, you move on to dreams and hopes, then comes the stories of childhood and secrets you don’t tell your friends. You remember anniversaries of first date and first stirrings of love, and get wooed by flowers and dizzy kisses. Then one day when you least expect it (or expected and dreaded since always), everything vanishes. And you are left wondering why you invested so much time and effort on the relationship. It disturbs you that your declarations of affection and confessions of your innermost thoughts are in the mind of a man forever lost in the crowd. You despair that you are back to square one; you have to lay a foundation again, and build block by block another relationship. Just the thought of the effort tires you. So you remain passive.
d) I am scared of infidelity. I have seen it at close quarters in people around me. I question the existence of monogamy. And it disturbs me that I have reached a stage when I feel fidelity is a blessing. I try to be nonchalant about the end of a relationship and feel liberated from a worse fate in the future. But lurking in the subconscious is a cautiousness that’s overwhelming and sometimes damaging, nipping opportunities in the bud.
e) I am selfish. I want it all. The wooing, the proclamations of love, the romance, the right amount of possessiveness, the loyalty, the opposites that attract, the similarities that bind, the conversations that are endless and effortless (Before Sunrise hangover), the adequate space, public displays of affection (not bordering on perversion), the flavor of newness, the comfort of familiarity, the intimacy of knowing looks unknown to the rest of the world, the respect, the honesty, the book-lover, the laughter, distinctively ‘I’ yet ‘We’, a team of two in this world or against this world, growing together in life (not in chronological sense), and a disarming smile is always appreciated. And yes, soulful eyes. Since re-incarnation is not an established fact and I’ve just one life to live, why compromise? So, I wait.
A cynicism has seeped into my attitude towards love that I largely attribute to certain bitter experiences. But in the past week I watched three movies, three unusual love stories that have dusted off some of the cynic crust layering my heart.


The first is Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’. This movie seduced me! It curled my toes, sent a shiver up my spine and unspeakable parts of my anatomy, and haunted my dreams for the next few nights. The simple act of passing each other on the stairs on the way to buy noodles can be orgasmic for the viewer. It told of a love that crept up unknowingly, discreetly; a love that would be illicit yet the purest form of love. Intense gazes, dark passageways, metaphorical rain when the tension brought you to the edge of explosion, a haunting melody that intensified every gesture-a bend of the neck, a touch of the earlobe, a wave of the hand. ‘It is a restless moment. She has kept her head lowered, to give him a chance to come closer. But he could not, for lack of courage. She turns and walks away.’ The agony stayed with me, I lived that tale of doomed love for two hours and a long time thereafter. It reinstated something I thought I had lost.

Subtle longing

The second is Before Sunset. Its prequel is one of my favorite movies of all time. But this movie edged ahead with a subtler love and longing that I could identify with better. It’s set in Paris over the course of an hour; two people who met just once and had spent an amazing and meaningful night in Vienna, meet again after nine years. They are still in love, but are cautious and bound by new commitments. They walk around and talk about everything under the sun. The effortless conversation portrayed in the movie is what I crave. No mushy talk, no promises, no flattering. But the love is palpable as it surfaces with every passing moment. The fragility of it all and the fierceness with which they protect it and hide it is touching. The way he looks at her, the way she looks at him, secretive yet fully aware, melted my heart.

Melt! 🙂

The third is Barfi! I don’t need to elaborate on this; by now everyone and their uncle must have watched it. It felt like a warm, fuzzy cocoon. Misty hills, the humor (Saurabh Shukla takes a nervous bow when he is caught peeing in the field by the hidden farmers), the dizzying visuals, the refreshing silence that spoke volumes, the Chaplin-esque acts, the lifted sequences (like the train scene from Fried Green Tomatoes) that blended so well and thus forgiven in an instant, the charming Barfi and the adorable Jhilmil ignited in me a love for the whole world! So this weekend I feel everything is possible and good things will happen. I put Libya and Egypt and diesel hike away for a while and basked in the mellow Barfi daze. But it’s the tender innocence of a love so giving and so enduring that rejuvenated my sense of romance.

I’ve a filmiheart!

Smorgasbord: Dating Readers, Ephron’s Neck, Calvino and Me, Being Jane Morris, Birthday Blues, Wedding Whiff

via urban sketchers

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to understand how my words and actions get interpreted, because more often than not people read between the lines for non-existent revelations. I lack the social graces and the ability for small talk; I get nervous when the onus of conversing with strangers or more than one person befalls me. I can’t talk about the weather, the people in front of me might not be readers and that eliminates books as conversation starters, I stare with my eyebrows raised to show interest, my mouth freezes in a half-smile and to heighten the creepiness I check the time every fifteen seconds. My tongue utters sentences that seem alien to my mind, I curse the unbearable length of a minute, I feign nonchalance and tip my head back but tip it further than I intended to and my chin hangs in an awkward thrust towards the ceiling, and heaven forbid if I have food in front of me, my lap is littered with crumbs. The  funny sentences, the smart one-liners, the queries about the pet and the travels, the sympathies about dental work and humidity-assaulted hair, and interesting trivia about Einstein or Madonna come to my mind usually a day after the end of such disastrous conversations. Despite the utmost caution with which I tread in making my point across, I often send innumerable wrong signals. My list of faux pas when it comes to interactions with people other than those in the inner circle of friends and family is longer than Sheldon Cooper‘s failures in detecting sarcasm.

Today I re-read this article about dating ‘a girl who reads‘ that I had read a year earlier. I present an excerpt from the article; it’s a lovely message that only lovers of book lovers will understand thoroughly.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

via Cyril Rolando

Sundays find me awake at a frighteningly early hour and staring bleary eyed at textbooks ranging from medicine to orthopaedics, and later reading the fat weekend newspaper while I eat my breakfast at the pace slower than of a snail finishing a marathon. Then I struggle for a frustrating ten minutes to hide my scalp, the graveyard of my beloved and recently deceased clumps of hair. I drive out of home a few minutes to nine am and on the way I rewind and keep listening to the songs that the iPod throws my way. I appear for a mock test every Sunday morning which I hope will equip me well in preparation for the important exam in January. I get bored of attempting questions after just twenty five minutes and start tapping my foot till the students around me glare disapprovingly. I dash home for the half a day in the week when I have declared a self-imposed ban on my MCQ books; from Sunday noon to midnight this bird is free from its cage. I sweat in anticipation and my hands grow cold as if I’m off for a secret rendezvous with a panting lover hidden in the dark bushes outside my window. I got that from Madame Bovary. I open the novels that had titillated me in stolen pockets of time throughout the week and watch a movie later at night. Twelve hours of pure, unadulterated pleasure and none of it involves a lover or dark chocolate or Disneyland.

I read two books last week Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart‘ and Nora Ephron’s ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck‘, and they were as diverse as they can get. One is set in a Nigerian village towards the end of the nineteenth century and the other is set in  1960s-1990s New York City. One is fiction based on stories the author heard, the other is an essay of womanhood. One is written by a legend of African literature and the other wrote few emotionally-manipulative Hollywood movies that I love so much. One is about drinking palm wine in the first hunted human head and the despise towards a lazy, flute-playing father, the other is about the joy of Julia Child’s cookbook and hiding wrinkled necks in mandarin collars. I loved both the books; but since my week had started on a sad note, Achebe’s grim novel was slightly upstaged by Ephron’s breezy essays about living in the most vibrant city in the world, the woes of ‘maintenance‘ by manicures and blow drys in case one runs into an ex-lover, the stages of parenting etc made me smile more and she won my heart with the sentence ‘Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.

This weekend I bought three books from Flipkart: Italo Calvino’s ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller‘, Dorothy Parker’s ‘Complete Stories‘ and Julio Cortazar’s ‘Blow Up: And Other Stories‘. I also got Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl‘ and David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas‘ on by e-book reader. I am reading Calvino this week because his imaginative novel makes me, the reader, the protagonist!

I make sure to indulge in something sinfully good every week; sometimes it’s poetry by Whitman or Cummings, sometimes it’s a dark chocolate ice-cream, last week it was browsing online for  Pre-Raphealite art by my favorites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and John William Waterhouse. I devoured these paintings for hours till I fantasized being Jane Morris with the long honey-coloured curtain of hair and that proud nose and those sensual lips. I was mesmerized by the warm greens and mellow golds in their paintings.

 One of my favorite paintings is by an associate of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Sir Frederick Leighton; I had an acute case of Stendhal Syndrome when I first saw his ‘Flaming June‘.

Birthdays make me delirious with joy, they are highly over-rated in my world. I become excited on New Year’s Day for my birthday in November! I expect the world to stop spinning for a moment on my birthday to acknowledge its significance in my life. I blame it on my parents. Growing up, birthdays were the most coveted and lavishly celebrated events in an otherwise commonplace childhood in a small town. There were more than five hundred guests, I repeat, five bloody hundred guests on each of my birthdays till I decided I was too grown up to wear a party hat and cut a cake while standing under a tuft of balloons. I missed the mountain of gifts though. I continued celebrating birthdays that ranged from a rowdy get-together of friends with mock stripteases and dangerous truths to quiet dinners with family and a temple visit in the morning. Birthdays rule my life and birthday cynics turn me off. I make sure I don’t let the birthdays of my loved ones be just an ordinary day; I am worse than Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreations determined to celebrate Ron Swanson’s birthday. That’s why the news that this years AIIMS post graduate entrance exam is scheduled for the day after my birthday has caused such an emotional upheaval in my life! I don’t want to study on my birthday, but that’s what I’d probably wind up doing instead of all the good stuff I’d imagined, one of which included a leisurely lunch with my girlfriends who would coincidentally all be in town this November.

But God is kind, and he soothed my bruised heart with a news that made my heart do joyful somersaults. My oldest and ‘best-est’ (yes, I use this word) friend is planning to tie the knot next year and I feel so happy for her and the ‘best-est’ (again!) guy in the world that she has chosen to spend her life with (I told her just now that I am officially in love with him too after hearing about his romantic gestures and old-world, Victorian era gentlemanly concern for her which is so hard to come by nowadays. He is Mr.Darcy or ‘non blind’ Mr.Rochester!).

I will watch a movie now, In The Mood For Love.

As I Chew On Bon Bogoris…

I ate wild plums today.

Bon Bogori, for my Assamese readers. Red, juicy, salted ones.

Food can be a source of comfort and often trigger nostalgia. I think ‘wild plums’ and I am transported back to my school days. The ride back home from school, shirt sleeves finally rolled back, tie knot loosened, slouching on the backseat of the car (a white Fiat), listening to the same cassette of Kishore Kumar songs and eating wild plums I had bought during lunch break from the vendor outside school. This routine rarely varied during the half an hour ride. Except on Thursdays when my sister and I got pocket money to buy an ice-cream. I would keep reminding her from the previous evening onwards that we had to collect the ice-cream money before leaving for school the next day. Because there was a high probability of forgetting it in the early morning rush of bathroom queues, last minute homework, reading my favorite Archie comics while having breakfast, jostling for space in front of the mirror while combing our hair, tying shoelaces (a pain even now), packing my school bag and lunch box; and I used to wake up just an hour before school started!

I remember a very comical situation I got into (and I have an innate talent for such kinds) during that 7am ride to school once. There was this girl in my class, PKY, whom we used to call tubelight owing to her much delayed understanding of what was being said. Once on the way to school, I saw PKY waiting for the school bus. I told her that I’d give her a lift but she smiled and replied that she doesn’t want to bother me. But I was insistent and she agreed to travel the remaining three kilometers to school in my car.  I had to buy a notebook on the way and stopped at a stationery shop. While waiting for the shopkeeper to find the two-lined notebook, we saw PKY’s bus go by and we smiled and waved to our friends in the school bus. But when it was time to pay for the notebook, I realized I had forgotten to bring my purse. And my purse was in my school bag! I panicked. I had no option but to send our driver back home to get my school bag while PKY and I walked two kilometers to school and reached quite late. She never took a ride with me to school again! I still remember the look on her face that day, trying hard to suppress her anger and mumbling curses against me while I was trying very hard not to giggle. I’m still not able to suppress my giggles every time I’m reminded of PKY.

For my best friend :)

August 2003:

The humidity and the heat was making me angrier by the minute. Hyperactive sweat glands fueled an irritable mood. I was waiting in the queue for admission into the medical college of my choice after I cleared the entrance examination. The nervousness of being cross-examined by the professors on the counseling panel was adding to the sweat glands working even faster! Then I glanced back at the tiny, petite girl standing behind me in the queue. I hated her for looking all aglow and fresh, not a drop of sweat! I was wondering what antiperspirant she used! We exchanged a few words, don’t remember what, during that long wait to get into the colleges of our choice. Little did I know then that she’s going to end up being one of my best friends!

First few days of medical college, fear of ragging in the air, the task of making new friends, trying to get a grasp of the hectic schedule of classes; it’s all a chaotic blur now. Things were just settling down to what will be routine life for the next five years, when I saw that tiny girl again who just refused to sweat.

A month rolled by, an occasional “hi” lead to more conversations and slowly she and another girl became good friends of mine. The first year of medical college along with these two friends was the best year of my life. From stealing brains from anatomy hall to bunking classes to making home movies to doing the weirdest possible things in our own weird way; we had a great time together. Everyone in class used to think of us as aliens. We were. Our talks were different, not superficial. Our jokes were different, only we got them! We were different, and extremely glad to have found each other. Happy memories that I’ll cherish forever.

The years went by, Devi (the tiny, sweat-proof girl) and I became close friends and confidantes. We weren’t like those air-kissing, party-hopping, giggling girlfriends. The comfort level we shared, the quality of time we spent was something I’ll always treasure.

Everything wasn’t smooth running all the time. We had fights. Ugly fights. Wasted months sometimes in not letting go of ego hassles and grudges. Then we would miss each other way too much and happily resume our friendship again. We had seen each other through many tough times, a lot many tough times. And even though it wasn’t expresses explicitly always, her presence was a source of silent comfort. Sometimes we took each other for granted because we knew deep down in our hearts, we’ll always be friends no matter how many ups and downs cross our lives.

Now, distance has crept into our friendship. Thousands of miles separate us now. I miss her presence in my life. I miss calling her up and boring her to death about every tiny detail of my life. I miss my confidante. I miss my best friend. I am doing a bad job at describing how much I miss her. I know nothing has changed in our friendship, rather we have become more vocal about expressing our emotions. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Hence proved.

She’s getting married in less than a month. And I won’t be able to attend her wedding because it is being held  in another continent. I can’t express in words how missing out on being part of that important day in her life is affecting me. To say I’m sad will be a huge understatement. But here’s wishing her all the happiness and joy life has to offer.

Devi, happy birthday!Miss you! 🙂

Hugs and love,

Well Wisher

Wake up my dreams,
Envision them; revel in the pictures they paint.
Lost in infinity, a billion lives intermingle;
Lurking among them, don’t remain.

Witness my life, each moment,
In you, a mentor, a protector I search;
Shield the blows, cushioning me so,
Hold my hand, steady my stumbling steps,
Encourage my ventures into the unknown,
Remain forever, if you will, my well wisher.

P.S: This is for my well-wishers who have always believed in me, encouraged me and saw me through many a difficult time. Thanks a ton. I will always be grateful to you all.

Letters I Forgot To Send

I’d seen this being done in several blogs. Indi’s and Tasha’s at first, I guess. It consists of letters to certain people in my life without revealing their identities. What I’d really like to say to them, but couldn’t do so for whatsoever reasons.

1) I was so proud of you always. Everything you’ve achieved till now. The way you’ve achieved it. The love you showered on me. Then slowly I discovered that even you were flawed. And that you had continually hurt the person who loved you the most. I detested you for that at times, wished you’d change for the better. Sometimes I even wished you’d die in the moments when you hurt her a lot, but the very next moment I prayed hard that nothing bad happens to you ever. I can’t even think of my life without you. I never hated you. Can never hate you. I cherish each and every moment I spend with you nowadays and prefer not to think about the bad times anymore. You’re a good person, but one single flaw of yours made me lose the respect I had for you. I’m regaining it again. And I like that as an adult, I can talk to you about anything that had bothered me in the past, without feeling weird and that has changed the whole equation of our relationship. I like our relationship now. It’s what I’d always wanted. You wonder aloud whether I’ve forgiven you. I can feel it in the way you look at me at times, but had never gathered the courage to ask it yourself. I have forgiven you. And I’m still proud of you.

2) If I’m asked to choose just one person whom I can’t live without, I’d choose you. Always. You know me inside out; you’ve seen me make a fool of myself, you’ve seen me stumble at various phases in my life, you’ve seen me at the worst moments of my life. And you had stood by me, listened to me, offered advice, and never once judged me. You were the one dancing with joy at all my achievements, even the not too significant ones. I can be goofy with you. I can tell you anything. I can be plain stupid. I can watch corny tearjerkers and even the “No. 1Govinda comedies with you, knowing fully well that you’re not judging my IQ. You have an uncanny sense of knowing when I need you, and when I need my own space, without my even telling you so. You love me a lot, but would rather have your toe nails plucked out before admitting it. You can always make me laugh. We think alike, but it amazes me that still we’re so different. You know all my secrets. And although I’m much elder to you, I look to you for advice on anything bothering me, because I know it’d be genuine and heartfelt. And even though while growing up, there were angry moments when I was ready to sell you off, but then I would have lost the sole witness to every little detail of my life and the one who loves me despite my shortcomings. I feel blessed to have you in my life.

3) I don’t know your name. And I don’t ever wish to know it. I dread seeing you ever again in my life. Not because I’m scared of you. But because I don’t know whether you’ll survive if you cross my path again. You are the lowest form of being on earth, I pity your existence. I wonder how you can look yourself in the mirror without wanting to kill yourself with shame. I presume it’s not difficult for you, because you obviously lack a conscience, and repentance is something one doesn’t expect from your kind. You probably will have a long life, a long marriage to an unsuspecting wife, and maybe you even have kids, and I wonder whether you lust after your own daughter even!

4) Thanks for introducing me to the world of books. That’s the best gift I’ve ever received.

5) I take your presence in my life for granted. And it’s such a comfort. Eleven years of friendship. No matter where life takes us, the bond we share will grow stronger each day. It’s one of the few things I can be sure of in life.

6) If I could go back in time, I’d make sure I never let you in my life. Lies, deception, fraud; your whole life and existence can be summed up in these three words. Now, when I think back on our time together, I realize I was never in love with you. I did care for you. I believed when you professed your love for me, and thought it was my DUTY to reciprocate your feelings! It felt good to be loved by someone with such strong intensity. I reveled in that attention and care you showered on me. And when your deception began to unfold gradually, I couldn’t bear to lose the one who said he loved me so much! It hurt my ego that the love I received was a farce. And since I had begun to be so much emotionally dependent on you, the very thought of being alone scared me. I devoted years to the relationship and everything turned out to be pretense. I was ashamed of facing friends and family because I had let you into my life and didn’t recognize your true nature! I was feeling guilty for your mistakes. You are living proof of all that’s bad in the world, and it’s not just because you broke my heart. You have made me too cautious to fall in love again.

7)You were a lot of firsts for me. I loved you. And now I miss being friends with you. And that quirky humor, and that shy smile, and that confused frown you always wore on your face. Hope you’ve a good life, “genius reborn”. If we ever meet, hope we can be friends again. I’d really like that.

8) Distance and time has crept into our relationship lately. Job, new friends, new place. I’m possessive of our friendship, and I’m afraid of losing the one I grew up with.

9) I’d hurt you so many times. I had a bad day; I took out my anger and irritation on you. For no fault of yours, just because you were always there, the available target. And you never mouthed your disapproval. I had been unreasonable, cranky, and plain intolerable. And I’m so sorry for all those times. You’d led a difficult life, devoted your whole life to the happiness of others. And often these people took you for granted. You never complained. And I hated you for being so weak, and was angry with you instead. I was wrong. I realize your strength now. Your enduring power marvels me. Not everything is as simple as I think. Love is a complex emotion, and the extent we tolerate for love is something I’m beginning to fathom gradually. I understand you now. I realize my anger was misdirected. I’d never be able to repay for what you’ve done for me. And even the thought of repaying back, you’d perceive as an insult. But, I want you to know that I’m everything I’m today because of you, and I love you so much. Thanks for giving me my life.

Photo Courtesy

My best friend is an alien…And I so love her for that!


Today my best friend completed the quarter century mark. Of all the people I met while growing up, I wonder how we two ended up being best friends. Chalk and cheese. North Pole, South Pole. Complete aliens. You get the idea. Little did I realize on the first day of school in 1992 that the new kid with the curliest curls ever and bawling non stop on her first day, would end up being my best friend.

Let me tell you a bit about her:

Name: A.S (disclosing her name might end in fatal consequences once she reads the post)

Fondly called: GT, Angu, Afu

Species: Surprisingly…human, of the female species. Despite certain characteristics that seems impossible in the earth folks.

Character Description: Crazy. Wild. Wacky. Chaos personified. The mere presence of who mimics a tornado hitting the place. Nick name generator. Some of the victims have still not recovered from the humiliation of their nicknames yet. Wildest and the most baffling imagination ever! Imagines at age 20 of digging a tunnel under the ocean in between India and Australia, and ride a bike to reach Australia because she didn’t want the hassle of getting a passport and visa! Another sample. Imagines of marrying a simple peasant and him working hard in the fields, sweating in the mid-day sun, while she carries the lunch basket atop her head and did I mention wearing a fluorescent yellow saree and Gucci shades! Used to spend evenings ogling at a cut out of a wrestler in the gym window opposite her room balcony. Resembles a frog while running, all bent knees at awkward angles…a run I immensely enjoyed watching during school days. Offers sage advice on important issues like how to avoid the “Kalyug” (the movie) disaster, that is avoid spy cams in hotels during honeymoon…put up a mosquito net over the bed and drape a thick blanket over it! Has the largest database of jokes on M. Gandhi of all people! Wears the darkest pair of shades only because they are oh-so-pretty and stumbles every few steps on the road. At art school, she was the proud achiever of sculpting a man with exceptionally huge cheeks (not the *** ones). Biggest fear was the subject “Mental Mathematics” in second standard. Had her share of being stalked by some exceptionally weird characters who were smitten by her. Proud owner of the loudest and the heartiest laugh ever. Cries at the drop of a hat and recovers just as spontaneously. Suffers from water-brash (mouth fills up with saliva while talking fast and has to pause and swallow every few seconds). Talks faster than you can comprehend. Loves singing in the famous nasal tone of the 50s era. Stands up for important causes…began a crusade against rock hard brownies served in Café Coffee Day once. Is a modern day Draupadi, she’s the wife of many celebrities…but unfortunately (?) they don’t know it yet. Is competitive while comparing embarrassing episodes. Has an uncanny sense of spotting hotties within a range of few hundred meters. Champion of facebook games…usually played during office hours. Expert in landing me in awkward situations and rescuing at the last moment. Dreams of pole dancing at her best friends’ weddings wearing a golden bikini! Fellow glutton. Pigs out on rice dishes. Has the tendency of laughing for so long at times over some topic…she forgets by the end of the laughing fit what was so funny. Biggest fan of King Julian of Madagascar. Loves to buy sexy sleep wear…just for the diva feeling it brings about. Writes wonderful poems. Was angry with me once for borrowing two lines, that she came up with, to complete a poem till a settlement was arrived upon involving chocolates and toffees. Overactive sweat glands and pesters me about conducting a nerve section on her to permanently avoid sweating for life!

I could just go on and on about her quirkiness. By now, you must be wondering whether such a person really exists! Yes, she does. And she’s my best friend. Even with the apparent quirkiness bordering on craziness at times, she’s one of the loveliest human beings I’ve ever known. It’s only her close ones who get to see the wacky side of her. The impish child in her. She is a doting daughter, a caring sister, a fabulous friend…and a very, very good human being. A brilliant student, topper in her graduation despite her childhood phobia of numbers…and now working in a great job. She’s an extremely talented painter too. She’s so kind, so loving, so supportive…you just can’t help smile and be glad to have just known her. She’s a prominent “feel good” factor in my life. Every time I’m feeling low, I know my pep up pill is just a phone call away. And how much we can talk!! Oblivious to everything in the world…talking, giggling, comparing notes on embarrassing incidents, and even more giggling…again becoming the two little school girls we once were. Even when it comes to the real nitty-gritty of life…I’m amazed at the sensible advice she offers each time, considering the clowning she’s up to in the rest of the time. She’s a wonderful friend, and I feel so proud and blessed to have known her. It’s so cliché but please don’t ever change,GT. I want you to influence my grandkids too with your overactive imagination. Love you loads. Happy Birthday once again! Muuuuuuuaaaaah!