Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Kilimanjaro Girl

 We learnt to cycle around the same time. She, a few weeks earlier. And by the time I managed to comfortably get to the seat and pedal, she could double carry her sister. I remember the evening I met her, at her neighbour’s. The first thing she told me was, “oh I have the same skirt; maybe we should wear it on the same day someday.” It was yellow polka dotted skirt with a matching top that had a little bow.

We went to school together, she was my best friend through grades 3, 4 and 5. We got our barbies married and then graduated to paper dolls. Those three years were pretty packed. Under a shaky mulberry tree, we would discuss menus for the aforementioned weddings and what we wanted to be when we grew up. While I would settle for anything ranging from an airhostess to a forensic expert; she was set on being an army doctor, because she would say, her father was in the army and mother a doctor, and hence, wouldn’t like either of them feeling shortchanged. At age 9, it totally made sense.

Endless hours of house-house later we would be mostly quiet. Pretend accents and impromptu adult dialogues can be very exhausting. The town we lived in hadn’t seen a coke or its variant yet. Newspapers were a weekly feature. Every Sunday, we would get the last 7 days newspapers. [If you are curious about the town, it’s Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh, though I doubt its googlability. During the rainy months [9 months a year], it would be cut off from rest of the state and the world.] Yeah so we made do with chilled glasses of kissan orange squash. Deep orange in colour and deeply satisfying. 

She was my first introduction to the cool. Cool in the form of luncheon meat. It was lunchtime. We decided to not go too far into the playground with our lunchboxes. We sat on the edge, where we could discuss grades, the importance of good handwriting and how unimportant boys were; and then she opened her lunch box. I am yet to taste a better sausage. That with some sticky rice, and salad. The perfect lunchbox that I often think about.

We were hardly adventurers but there's this absolutely random thing we did once. On a Diwali night, we overdozed on a certain sweet made with cashews, pistachios and sugar. We just couldn’t stop. Finally, after we could no longer move from our chairs, she looked at me all wide eyed and asked me to stay still, said she was sure the sweets had drugs and our parents would soon find out what we had done and it would all be over for us. The tale of two girls who had ODed on suspicious diwali sweets, disowned by families and friends roamed cities in search of the very sweets that took them down. Noooo, we shook our heads that can’t be our story. I am happy to report, it wasn’t.
   
I remember that moment when we started whispering our borrowed knowledge of periods, breasts and boys. She had an older sister who made us paper dolls and would sometimes would offer sage advice. Wide-eyed, hushed voices, followed by nervous giggle; that was our first real adult conversation. Nine seemed the right age to have that kind of a conversation, especially when done wearing faux-sarees and sitting crossed leg.

And then we moved to different cities. And because it was way before Facebook, we wrote letters. We spent a few birthdays together, eating too much cake, talking too much, listening too little and watching Steffi Graf play Monica Seles. She was a Steffi fan. I was not.

Soon after we got busy with our new lives, newer friends, entrance exams and then jobs. Then I found her on Facebook, spoke a little at first, almost shy, without any idea what to say to each other. And then we spoke about lives, paper dolls, jobs, men and that mulberry tree. She grew up to be a beautiful elegant woman living a very wholesome full life that we often see on pinterest. An experience-rich life. We never got around discussing pinterest. We should have.

She supported Amnesty, baked strawberry sour cream cake, traveled far and wide and climbed the Kilimanjaro, living a very full life. And then she left.

Soon after her climb, which she did as a part of amnesty challenge, I remember telling her how while she was busy doing something as life changing as this, I was busy living a very pedestrian life, chasing the unremarkable and being bothered by things that are trivial. She said we should be more. I told her I want to work towards my very own Mt. Kilimanjaro.

She lived. And she lived it really well.  

I often think of her, picture her in my mind. Not like how she looked on her Facebook albums or atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. I try to think of her in that yellow polka dotted skirt, smiling with her eyes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

bangalore: weather very fine, rains all the time, trees very green, pollen very mean, people very good, traffic very rude, maids very lazy, only English everybody

i bought gumboots, not yellow ones though, just after having spent a week in bangalore. we moved here in august. and it rained every evening. sometimes all day long. but on most days right when you check your outlook for one last time, shutdown, drink some water and reach for your bag to leave office for the day. and it pours particularly bad on the days you have washed your heaviest bedspread. or on the days when you forgot to get the almost-dry pair of jeans inside before you left for work. september was equally wet. i can't make pickles. but those who do, would find it exceedingly difficult to make any here. i dream of sunny mornings and hot afternoons, a little heat wave even.

but surprisingly it's never humid. not at all. which brings me to the weather of bangalore. it's splendid. making it very difficult to get out of the bed. or move from whatever position you are in right now. it's the closest one can get to the hill-station holiday weather while making a living. and the trees have a huge role to play in the whole hill-station feeling. 

oh. the. trees. they are big. they are green. they are dense. and they are everywhere. like everywhere. having spent my first 17 years in the north-east and andamans, i am not new to trees. but trees of bangalore like people of new york[from what i read] are truly something. extraordinary. it's impossible to imagine the streets here bereft of them.

but trees have flowers and flowers have pollen. i haven't had a problem yet [knock on the wood]. but i have heard pollen horror stories. from what i hear, the coming winter months will be bad. but so far nothing to report. perhaps upping the vitamin c in my diet would be a wise thing to do. people have advised several such home precautions.

people here are nice. they are just there. they are not on your face, which is very nice and which also means i have no opinion on them. they are polite when you talk to them, else they will just go about their business. they don't try to be your friend on the first meeting, or on the third or fifth. which isn't saying they are indifferent. they let you be, and you should let them be.

and people come in cars. busses. and autos. and on bikes.

the city stops breathing between 9am and 10.30am and again from 6pm to 9pm 10 pm. the calm, smiling polite people of bangalore turn into some sort of soldiers. angry, bitter soldiers who have lost their everything. but they rarely scream. they keep moving ahead with hope and not much else at 20kmph. it's jammed 7 days a week. the 5 day traffic rule doesn't apply here.

but there's something else that's very unruly - the world of domestic help. they are spoilt. and they don't care. and they are awfully lazy. while having a maid is a luxury, and very often i am left wondering if i would be better off doing it all myself. i laugh at this preposterous idea and continue to have her come 1.5hrs late on most mornings, listen to her tales of absence -  a runaway sister [she is 19 and ran away because her mother wouldn't let her play :-O], an alcoholic husband who beats her up if she turns up for work, and a daughter who insists her plaits be tied in a certain way hence leading to a 1.5hrs delay. go figure.

also, what i took time to comprehend and what i am still getting used to is the fact that everyone here speaks english. everyone. when speaking to shopkeepers, waiters in restaurants, flower vendors, newspaper boys etcetera, i usually break into polite hindi, and i have always had this notion that speaking in english would be considered rude even. not here. while people do understand hindi, english is the language they prefer. i know it's horrible and doesn't say much about us, but we do tend to associate the knowledge of english with they way people dress up or look. and i have been guilty of that. but i have learnt my lesson on many more occasions than one. so stereotypes be gone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

how to stay single when you are not single.

via pinterest
let me quickly run you through my last 72 hours [this is crucial to the story].
yesterday and today: i woke up, got ready for the gym right-away. without having to spend 30 minutes making tea and then drinking it. i don't need caffein before my workout. got a good workout. got home. had a shower. read the newspaper while relishing a long breakfast. spent time deciding on what to wear, wore what i wanted to and not the first thing i found in the closet. oh! i also had the time to consider wearing some eyeliner. so i got ready. left for work. escaped the traffic. on the way i was nicer to fellow commuters. the phone was comfortably inside the bag because i didn't have to frantically check the time every 27 seconds. reached work. on time. a not-so-hurried hello to the receptionist later i began my work.
via pinterest

today: woke up. went to a vegetable market that i have been wanting to. chatted up with the lady at the counter. clicked pictures of the capsicum. clicked a few selfies against the backdrop of capsicums. and laukis. cleaned up the closets that were top on my to do list since we moved in to this house. chose to go to a salon 6.5km away. just because. spent 6 hours on pinterest. bookmarked some DIY projects. made plans to meet a friend's friend. etcetera.

point is i had time. a whole lot of time.

so what did i do differently?

the man and i fought fought a couple of days back. which meant no conversations - and which meant not having to be a good roommate - want some tea? let me make you some tea. wait i will get the jar of biscuits too. what do you want for breakfast? yeah, i could wait for you to finish showering, i could wait for you to finish that last chapter of the book. while i get late for work. where are the keys? no i really don't know where the socks are. oh, sure you can have another cup of tea. 

so, in our happier days, the man and i often discuss how singles have so much time. time to pursue hobbies they like and also the ones they don't. time for friends, colleagues, and yeah strangers-turned-friends. they just have so much time. so. much. time.

nb. so we patched up a couple of hours ago. we are talking. laughing even. and i couldn't make it the organic green patch sale that i had planned to.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

on apologies and no apologies


the new year is upon us, and with it comes the big, big project - resolutions. so, to take the pressure off the last week of december and the first week of january, i have a plan. setting the 2014 resolutions well before it's due time.

yes, so apologies. the trigger has been a huffpost article i read a while ago, which said women are much more apologetic than men and it also had a list of the 9 most silly reasons to be sorry about. i read through the dammed list and found i was guilty of being sorry for a whooping 8 out of 9, maybe make that 9 out 9.

chronic apologizers also tend to apologize for mistakes of others - friends, family, colleagues and yes, absolute strangers. i nodded in agreement. and thus began my 'let's change things here' agenda. having spent a substantial part of my life in a complete apologetic mode, i figured this needs to change.

so this is how it goes - go very easy on SORRY,
use THANK YOU sparingly, and YES' only when absolutely necessary and only when i want to say it and mean it. not otherwise. and to never, never use a SORRY with NO.


and if that makes me rude, be my guest. :)


  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

of goodbyes, last days, nicest and funniest colleagues, sweetest interns, greasy tuckshop and sugary tea.

facebook doesn't get me. i looked for an appropriate status update in the new facebook feature: feeling followed by a suitable smiley of your choice, i didn't find any.
what emoticon can capture what i am feeling right now - happy, loved, sad, tears of joy, tears of sorrow, this huge sinking feeling, this massive montage of experiences in sepia, color and black and white. feelings of these all at once... 

this is yet another last day at work, this is the hardest last day at work. sachhi. :-)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

whatever they(whoever "they" might be) say about life... they have got a point

via pinterest
and this is what they say - life is too important to take it seriously. this has been bothering me for sometime. like questioning my existence, nah nothing so hardcore but in a way it has. questioning my decisions and choices. my routine. my everyday. so in a way it is pretty hardcore.
 let's take the case of my blog -there's so much i have to say, share, but i trash them condemning them unfit of a post. labeling them being not true to my blog type/category[if there ever is one]. and as a result, 3 months of no blog appearances.
 i want this blog to be a diary of sorts, no not the - this what i ate, this is what i wore kind of a diary - but the kind that chronicles beautiful/interesting/inspiring things i discover/experience, the way i learn and unlearn.  this is a blog about being a work in progress.a constant work in progress. while attempting to live a life, accomplishing goals, and live boldly. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

to be master of your craft, stop pursuing it

our cook is was no cook at all.
she was clueless about the basics. let's just say she didn't know the basics. she would cook on high-flame not let the meat and the vegetables cook through.she would always, char the vegetables, always as a rule over spice or under spice the meats. etcetera. why did i still have her? she is an extremely nice woman. she is honest. her timings worked for me perfectly. and because i like to cook. while i didn't get around salvaging her culinary disasters, but when i really felt like eating something, i knew i could cook that myself. so, she barely managed the everyday routine meals, for the rest i micro-managed her or cooked it all myself.
and then she took a month off. a month became two. and then two and a half. we began to relish the stuff, the substitute cook made. though her timing were pretty hard for me.close to the graveyard shift. and she would come for just 45 mins a day. so often i had to do most of the cooking. and that sucked the joy out my kitchen time. so, when  finally my regular cook got back, i welcomed her. while i was happy to see her, the realization that we were back to eating the part-charred-part-raw stuff hit me.
but luckily weekday mornings don't leave me with much time to dwell over the contents of my lunch box.
but with the lunch time approaching, i dreaded opening my lunch box :-| when opening in front of a very hungry lot of colleagues. my maid-made rotis had laugh-of-the-day potential. they were pretty infamous in these parts. and then like all stories with happy endings - my lunch box revealed the perfect egg curry and the near perfect soft rotis [flat breads]. no less than a miracle.
next morning she arrived. she walked tall with a new confidence i hadn't noticed previously. not wanting to make a big deal about her sudden prowess in the kitchen, i casually asked her if she had been cooking a lot when away. she looked at me, and said "no i didn't even make tea during the whole time. all i did was sit with my sisters and my mother in the kitchen and watch them as they cooked my favorite things."
huh? yeah, i saw things perfectly now. she picked up nuances, the delicate details by relishing the flavors and by watching, a whole lot of watching in the kitchen.
a vacation is in order perhaps,  a vacation with neil french, hegarty and abbott.