Coming home

My mom used to change the house a lot. When we were kids, my mom would regularly move the furniture around the rooms, trying to see if the house yielded more space than before. It was great fun for us kids. We got to push the chairs and tables around once in a couple of months, and felt very strong. At that time, dad was mostly out of town, posted in towns far from us. Given the travel involved, and the safety issues associated with it, dad would usually visit us once in a fortnight, sometimes a month.
Now that I think of it,  I wonder sometimes how it made dad feel. Coming home to a new home time and time again, at the same address and with the same people in it, but just different in little ways.
When I left home to go to college, we lived in a flat in Baroda, a city we had moved to 2 years ago. I still didn’t have a hang of the city, but I was slowly getting a feel of the house. It had a basement that I studied in, a balcony out back with potted plants. And then I moved.
While I was in college, we bought a house in Baroda. The first time I saw it, it was a half constructed house, but the walls already felt of home, and it came associated with a permanent address, something I had never experienced in life.
In a few years the house was finished, we moved in, we made it home. All this while, I was in a bigger city, far far away. Every trip home I would find new additions. A new show piece in the drawing room, a microwave in the kitchen, new sheets that I hadn’t seen being bought, and other things small and large that were part of the house.
Last trip, it was a new room. A room with cement walls, large windows, a fancy design. Wall color and furniture choices were the questions most discussed. This will be my room, and hence my choices are important. What should the shelf look like, will there be a low bed, or a study table, where’s the best light.

What I couldn’t voice , and probably will never be able to, is that I never want all this. I just want to come home and be the little me again, happy with what I painted in drawing class, feeling strong and invincible. That’s what coming home should be about.


5 Down

5 years is not a short time.

Half a decade!!

If I go back in time by that amount of time, I would find myself sitting at an office desk, just like I’m doing now. Only difference would be that it was a working day.
If I go back half a decade more, I would find myself probably trying to figure out what’s my next class. That was another life, filled with books and cycles [the biochemistry types] and chemistry and hostel life. Let’s leave it there and come forward by 5 years.

I had finished my internship, 6 months spent learning office etiquette, SAS programming, document review and formal communication, all the while also realizing that it’s not as difficult as I imagined it to be. I was absolutely scared about this internship before I started. How would I cope in a place that required you to do things on time, in the right way and all this while maintaining a formal dress-code? I had conveniently ignored the fact that I had formals in college, that IBAB taught us to meet deadlines and pull all-nighters, and most of all, 16 years of education in our education system had taught me how to conform. So, unexpectedly for me, it turned out well. And in turn, they offered me a job.

And it has been 5 years since the day I signed on the dotted lines and took up a job as a Statistical Analyst at Novartis Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. at Hyderabad.

What did I manage in these 157,766,400 seconds?

Well, many of these 1,826 days were spent lazing around at home, sleeping, eating and just being lazy. But of course, there were days which were more productive.

Workwise, I managed to stay ahead in the rat race for most of these 43,824 hours. Lately, I have been falling a bit behind, but I guess that’s just the Normal distribution catching up with my life. I saw my department change names, 7 times. Then I decided to change department. 7 is a good number, you see.  I managed to work with people based out of 6 countries, and more than a dozen nationalities and ethnicities. I learnt how some stereotypes are true, and some are just made up. I managed to leave the office as early as 2PM, and also as early as 3AM. At one point, I even got accustomed to people randomly walking up to me and asking me how to solve this issue and that. Never thought that day would come. Over 60 months, I realised I was a decent speaker, and also grew a penchant for teaching and training.

Personally, I managed to get through 2 relationships. Fell in love a considerable number of times, though it was mostly one-way traffic. I gained at least 10-15 kilos, lost a few strands of hair, a few feet of vision, and managed to outgrow all my old clothes. I Learnt that I could travel, and that I loved watching performing arts in any form whatsoever.  For a few months, dramas held my imagination like nothing else ever had. And then for a few more, I was engulfed in photography, learning its various nuances. I also understood that I can write half-decently, but don’t have a good vocabulary or understand anything about web traffic. I have learnt how to follow recipes and how to appreciate a good drink. I have also learnt that sometimes you can let your hair down, and get on the dance floor. But what the hell! Travel, photograph, enjoy a little drama or dance here or there. And I have managed to make and hold on to a decent number of people who call me their friend, and a few who wish me well. What more can you ask from life.

Well, you do! You want more money, a nice car, a great bike. You want a fine home. And most of all, you want a companion to share this all with. But I think the once that for me precedes all this is the thirst to see the world. Luckily, I did manage to get a taste of this for 14 days in Switzerland. And as is true with all appetizers, I’m dying for more.

In true corporate style, I should now lay down a roadmap, for the next 5 years. And this will coincide with Modi’s grand vision for India. Hope we both manage to pull off a few unexpected rabbits out of our hats, and go well beyond all expectations. Here’s to the next 5.

To look back at the last 5, here are some pictures from the last half-decade of my career.
[advance apologies to everyone featured in the pictures below. if you want me take down any of these images, let me know]

Hampi, my escape!

The Diploma





Kerala, Lighthouse

First white hair, 6 Sept 2013



Odd expressions


And a little bit of Google Magic

Colors in the sky

Food, before flying

For the soul

Odd stuff

With Crazy!

Covering events



The exhibition



More reading, and gifts


The look??!!

The mice

Desolate office spaces

More fun

And posing

Go home Hasselhoff! You are drunk!

Home improvement!

New Mahabharat


Crazy choices


Photograph My First International Sunrise by Korak Datta on 500px


Summer days of Yore

Summers, especially if you are a kid in India, should hold so much of your memories as it does. Its the hottest time of the year, and for many parts of the country, its just basically the same as the rest [My brother in Chennai would agree]. And yet, these months that come after the winter chill has vanished, and before the monsoon decides to wash away this land, somehow, manages to hold each of our imagination. It plants itself in our memories forever, refusing to let go. And I guess this time, the heat has got to my head. I can’t see any other reason why I would decide to write this post. Except this post that brought back old memories..

*** I think this is going to be a long post. Leave now, or grab your glass of chhass, sit back, and enjoy ***

Summers, according to me, can be classified in many ways, some of which I display below. 150 possible combinations I see.

Classifying Summer

Now, of course I mention these because I have lived through all these. And until I made this table, it never struck me how versatile life has been.

I grew up in the state of north eastern state Tripura. I lived in three of its eight districts, and have traveled to all but one. And the thing about summers there was it was always hot & humid. Sticky, actually.

I would spend a few bored days at home every summer during the summer vacation, before we would get out of the house and travel somewhere, anywhere. Thanks to the LTCs that dad would be eligible for, every 3-4 years we would do a mega trip. The other years, we would just land up in Assam with my grandparents. So, when not bored during summers at home, I would be out travelling through India, or getting bored in a different location.

Then, at the turn of the millennium, with board exams in sight, we shifted to Modified Gujarat. In the middle of the summer, no less. The Oh So Hated humidity vanished magically from the air. And I realized soon how much I missed it. The heat was excruciatingly painful to bear, and my usual ways of coping would no longer help. When I was in Tripura, I used to spend the afternoons idling around a open window, with a book. The window would, now and again, let in a whiff of wind. And that would bring immense sense of comfort, even if there was a long powercut. In Gujarat, this didn’t work anymore. The air that would travel into the room was capable of drying out your skin with such quickness that you would feel short of breath very quickly. And if you closed the windows and hope for liberation, you would be stuck in a furnace. The solution, the aforementioned chhass, and other myriad drinks concocted out of mangoes and what not. It kept you hyderated, in a constant battle against the Sun and the dry wind.

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun while it lasted. A new addition happened to my life while I enjoyed these summer days. The old, angular, TVS Scooty. Red. With a stepney. This was my ride, zipping through town, to school, tuitions, … ya that’s all. It brought a sense of freedom, an end to boredom, on those long summer days. Though I would still not dare to venture out during the midday, the evenings at least were made artificially Kooler.. And of course, there were the breaks, to Mount Abu, the closest hill station, and then to Himachal, way cooler, of course.

After this, of course life moved on. Gujarat phase got over, and a new summer dawned on me. But that’s a different story. At another time.

The unforgettable things out of those old summers:

  • Rains in the hills, rolling in from far away, in the middle of the summer season. You could hear the thundering herd roll in from the horizon, engulfing you suddenly and ending quickly, leaving you thirsty for more.
  • The thunderstorm of the evenings, with a rich buildup. The wind would stop, the clouds spiral up in rage, the lightning stride across the skies, and then it would open up and go on for a good couple of hours, at the end of which we would all feel cooler and better.
  • The plane rides and train rides that would take me to exotic destinations like Puri, Goa, Haridwar, Gangtok, Shillong, and other locations that would fill my memories and fuel my imaginations. Always loved that part of life. I guess that’t why I try to get out and travel as frequently as I can.
  • The books, oh yes the books. The Bookfair would fill my coffers each year, and summer would be the time to go over them again and again. Also, there would be the language books from other schools. Oh yes, I used to read up the english books from other schools and other classes. My little pass-time.
  • The cooling agents- juices, coconut water, chhass, all came later in life. In the beginning, there was the banned pepsi, and the malai icecream from the street vendor.

Lunch @ 5

The lunch was always a quick affair,
Tucked between returning from school
And leaving for the tuition on the pretty little bike.
The tiffin at school was heavier,
The evening snack, healthier, familiar.
The lunch, the ignored meal of the day.
With our feet running the rat race,
The laptop bag digging into the shoulder,
There are no more mid-day tiffins.
Mother no longer serves the evening snack,
Or maybe she does, and I’m no longer home.
Fighting off competition, and my own demons.
Breakfasts are now hurried,
Dinners gobbled up at midnight,
And Lunch, it’s now @ 5.
Poem nahi hai khaas to hate to mat karo yaar,
Abki bar……. Dhurrrr Burbak!

Royal Notes – My thoughts about Queen.

The midnight Phone Call.. Tring Tring….

The incessant ringing of the landline woke up the mother in the dead of the night. The daughter at the other end of the ISD call asked her, “hing ko english me kya kehte hai?”. The Rajouri street dogs outside kept barking away to glory. Probably they knew the answer. 

This was one of those slice-of-life moments that you get to experience with Queen, or Rani from Rajouri, India. Many more light scenes like these will keep you either laughing out loud, or smiling that slight smiling remembering the time when you did something similar.

The story of Rani takes us from the very real life of Delhi, with its numbu-pani and aloo-pakode stalls, to the bustling streets of Paris (Parieiiieeieiieieieiie ….. if you want to  say it like one of the Parisians ), all the way to Amsterdam, with its boats, booze and b**bs, and then back to Delhi where she finally finds her freedom.

A beautiful film all the way through, Queen can boast of a fantastic soundtrack by Amit Trivedi who continues to mesmerize with his music, and this time even decided to sing some. Of course some songs took me back to Udaan. Listen to the full songs on youtube, and let me get you started here. The camera work and edits are crisp, though during a few scenes I would have liked a little more clarity of what was going on. The scene when the friends leave a piece of their soul on the Backpacker’s Hostel wall would be one such. Though we can guess that Rani puts her wedding invite on the wall, I personally would have liked to see it more clearly. But that’s how the Director wants to push this film through I guess, sometimes in your face, and sometimes very subtle. For more reviews and spoilers, there are too many websites out there. Go look them up on the internet, or as its called in today’s tongue, Google them! I have just 3 things to say.
  1. Kangana proves her mettle with this role. As expected in all her films, she has the booze on her side, but just for a few minutes thankfully. She is raw & vulnerable as always, but also has those moments when her inner strength boils up to the surface, resulting in a scene soon when we see he smiling. And man, that’s a pretty face. Hoping, just hoping, that Queen is a beginning of a journey, and not just a blimp in the talent Radar that fades within a moment.
  2. Olexander, or Sikandar, well I hope both of you don’t show up in a sequel. Bollywood and Sequels don’t make good bed-buddies.
  3. Rajkumar Yadav/Rao – Boss, you nailed it. The bursts of english, the sense of achievement and ownership, and the sense of helplessness of failing to find your missing bride, well, as I said, you nailed it, Bro.
Go watch it if you haven’t yet. What are you, living under a rock?
Don’t know where and how? Here, Einstein! This should be helpful.

And remember the biggest lesson from the film. Save for your honeymoon, starting now. Only then can you afford a fancy one. Unless you are smart and marry someone overflowing with cash.

These were not the people you just read about!  These are some Hyppie type firangs 🙂
1. I have been getting fleeting glimpses in my head about another film, somehow related to this one. And finally it surfaced. Mahanagar, a 1963 Bengali film by Satyajit Ray, had a female protagonist with a similar steely determination.
2. The songs. These 2 have intertwined in my head somehow. 
From Queen:
From Udaan:

My first Girlfriend

She sat there, next to the window, admiring her shiny red nail.
I looked on.
She gazed outside, at the passing headlights.
I stared.
She started searching for something in her handbag.
I was inquisitive.
There was a small click.
And I heard the sound. Faint, only in my left ear.  But still it was clear, over the din of the bus, rumbling through the state highways of North Bengal.
SP Balasubramanyam sang “Tum Se Milne Ki Tamanna Hai” in my left ear, and I thought ‘I have met her already’.
She looked at me and smiled. “Enjoying?”
“Yes”, I said. “I will ask dad to get me one too”.
“Yes, you should buy a Walkman, and also buy some nice cassettes. Buy Saajan, its superhit. That guy, Sanjay Dutt, he limps in the film, but he is the real hero. And Madhuri can dance so well….” She went on telling me the virtues of the superhit film from last year, and I dozed off. (Well, this habit of dozing off mid conversation will come back to hound me throughout my grownup days)
I dreamt of telling my classmates not to tease me anymore, or I’ll call my girlfriend, who had promised me to use her long nails to help me in my fight. “For Justice, For Honor, For the last starfruit/guava on the tree”…
I found out from an acquaintance almost a decade later that she had passed on to a better world, after a bout of a strange fever, at the early age of 20. That’s around the time I was close to 7-8 years old. 
My first girlfriend.