Friday, September 27, 2019

Some sketches

Each of these is accompanied with a short story or vignette. You can head over to my Insta  page to read those. (Notamistake...) I find these images on Pinterest that I sketch out and tweak them according to my constraints.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

That question, that answer, and possibly peace someday

My grandfather, mom's father, was a judge. He was also an ace chess player. When I studied law, I would sometimes call him up in Cuttack and ask him a few questions about what I was studying. If I prepared for a moot Court competition, I would go over my case details with him.

He was very strict code though. One night at dinner, he did not let me have dinner until I completed understand a particular part of the Civil Procedure Code.

When we played chess, he would flare up sometimes because I was not strategizing enough. Often he would tell me that to win a case, to arrive at truth or justice, and to trump at chess, you had to question, not guess. It's in the subject matter of the questions that a lot of success lies. Much later I came across this quote. I think it's by Voltaire or some French philosopher. "Judge a man by his questions, not his answers "

I think of this because today is Friday the 13th and my day didn't begin well. I had a conversation with someone who said something so cruel and went on and on about it. Or maybe it wasn't cruel. Maybe if the same thing was said to him, he wouldn't mind it. But, well, never mind. I wonder if something about me gives the impression to random strangers that it's acceptable to talk a certain way. Anyway, I don't have answers to any of that. But I felt like crap and I just stayed in bed for a major part of the day. Had two work with a client who was so vague that it was unclear whether he wanted copyediting or cake.

When I woke up, I noticed that I was clutching the bedsheet, the way I would clutch my mother's nightie when I would sleep next to her. It reminded me of one afternoon with Mom.

Her health had started failing and she had stopped eating. She had had a bad fall and was in pain. If any of us tried to move her or change her, she would cry out in pain. Sometimes she would get angry and scratch. And then throw away the food and go off to sleep like a baby. Later when she would wake up, she would feel very contrite and sad about how she had behaved. We would make her listen to some music and she would away a little bit and go to sleep.

One afternoon I sensed that she was not sleeping. This was around the time that she would sometimes not be able to remember something. The way Ma was sleeping, the way she looked, she reminded me of my grandfather.

I asked her if she was sleeping. I could see that she had heard me but wasn't replying because she thought that I would force her to eat something. Then I pressed her tiny, soft hands. She loved massages. She extended her hand a little. I don't know why I asked her that...but maybe because I thought of my grandfather and how he had always insisted on asking good questions. I asked her if Ma knew that she was loved.

She nodded. Strongly and surely. She said in a voice that was the clearest that I had heard in a long time. She said, "Yes, I know."

For the rest of the days here, I think I will be very sensitive about my mom. The pain is unbearable. But it's unbearable now in a predictable sort of way. So I suppose that is the first step to healing?

But I can't explain the deep peace and joy I find in this little incident. That at her OUR mother knew that each one of us loved her.

That is a good way to go.

Friday, September 13, 2019

That day in office

It was a slow day at work. Around that time, a lot of people had been resigning from their jobs so the office floor was emptyish.

I had started getting along with a colleague of mine. She was a stylish, witty, and an all-round interesting person to hang out with. She had great taste in music and she was from the fancy part of Pune. When I had just come to know her, I used to make fun of her. I'd tell her that Baner (where we worked) was a good area too. We too had indoor plumbing. She'd nod and say, "Okay but does it work?"

Anyway, I introduced her to Peter Donuts in Aundh. Really great donuts and very good coffee, run by a Korean guy. She approved of the place and we'd drive there often, park somewhere under the trees, have our coffees, listen to some intelligent podcast on her phone, and get back.

One day I asked her what her tombstone would read. For some reason, I was really worried that I couldn't think of anything for mine.

I don't know if my friend was having a rough day that day or had been having a rough day for a while. But as soon as I finished my question, she turned to me and said, "I fucking tried." And then she laughed and turned to work again.

I really liked her tombstone inscription, so nice and succinct. I didn't quite understand it, though.

For a year or so now, I have been trying to act from a place of kindness. And the day I decided that is when certain kinds of personalities have been crawling out of the woodwork. It had been hard but I thought I managed.

Today, interacting with such people feels like lifting something heavy with a torn ligament or touching something very hot with a bruised finger. Today, the first thing that happened in the morning was that my buttons got pushed so hard that I acted unkindly.

And now I don'

That part of me that wanted to get through today being generally nice to people just died. Maybe it will resurrect later. Can't say. But for now I have it buried.

And on an imaginary tombstone are the words,"She fucking tried."

She most certainly did.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A sweet little question

Came across this person's question somewhere, "What's the difference between appreciation and gratitude?"

I found that really innocent. Something a sparrow may ask a pond. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Rain music and a child played with a dog

I had gone to Mystic Mama again. Had been feeling a little anxious around the house so I went there to eat their pahaadi noodles. It was raining outside. I love this city so much. I love Bombay. I love Mumbai. I love whatever name this city gets conjugated into. I love it for the lushness of stories and films and broken down dreams and illusions that hang in its thick, putrid air. I love it because even in its most indolent self, some scrap of trash becomes my North Star.

I sat inside. I was thinking of my last few days in Bangalore. I was thinking about BJP. I do not support its ideology or its goal of bringing about a Hindu Rashtra, etc. But for once, I was not thinking of it with anger or fear. I mean, as a person who does content marketing herself, one can only marvel at the singularity and cohesiveness of it's messaging, the outreach and stickiness, and the gusto with which everybody in the party believes in the overdue triumph of Hinduism. One strong message spoken strongly over and over again is the stuff any content marketer aims for. They did it.

Overall, I do not feel threatened by Christians and Muslims so I don't think Hinduism needs any deep protection. But I meet more and more people who stridently believe in BJP and its message. And not just people - a few who I deeply love and trust. Even in their eyes, I am some stripe of weak, insipid, hypocritical liberal but they do extend their friendship to me.

But J had long ago once said that a lot of people who claim to be liberals are weak and ill-informed about history. They feel ashamed about their legacy and will bend over backwards to appease minorities. They will shun their own legacy but mostly, become really close-minded and arrogant.

I dismissed all of that. Then one day, J had shared an article on Ayurveda and some BJP minister's endorsement of the same. I think the minister had said something to the effect that it's time to reclaim Indian wellness or something. Someone had responded to J's post by saying that it is precisely because of so-called 'Indian' snake medicine that our mortality rates due to certain illnesses are high, etc. J had responded asking whether the person making the comment had tried Ayurveda and if he had not, he should probably comment after experimenting. The gentleman's response was, in my opinion, disgusting. Up until then, he and I shared a lot of views. I personally believe in alternative healing greatly. In fact, I am very opposed to Big Pharma. But I do think if the establishment is so gung-ho bout people using traditional therapies, they should make insurance cover it. When a Reiki session costs Rs.7,000 upwards, it really may be cheaper to just go in for a dialysis.

Anyway, that guy's vitriolic response to my friend actually made me wonder whether we, who are supposed to be open-minded, are not being completely close-minded ourselves. Because the thing is - when you fight generalization with generalization, you really get nowhere. Not all BJP-supporters are uneducated, insecure louts bloated with privilege. In fact, a couple of really close friends and family members have gone out of their way to help individual Muslim friends. A friend who is so vociferous against Muslims actually moved out of his own apartment building because the committee refused to let a Muslim woman and her daughter rent a room. And then on the day of Article 370, there was a tirade against hypocritical, secural liberals - especially Arundhati Roy.

It's so strange. That people can be blind to their own capacity for kindness towards those who they must ideologically hate.

So,  I sat at the coffee shop, watching the rain pelt the ground. A three-legged dog snoozes outside the cafe. He woke up and was jumping up and down. A little boy in a blue jersey rushed towards him and hugged him so tight! That dog's tail wagged so hard that he could have actually flown off. I have had very strong opinions about (against) the BJP. But it's getting tiresome.

This evening, watching the joy of a child, the love of a dog, the poetry of the rain, I allowed myself to get a little weary of this struggle. I think it's quite possible to accomodate a dissenting (and sharply dissenting) point of view with a measure of compassion. It's not just possible but I think necessary. One can't hate the haters. Not when you have known them, loved them, and they have known you, and loved you. Maybe I will just regard a BJP supporter the same way one regards a favorite girlfriend who's dating a guy you find very weird. You don't see the appeal...but hey, if he's loving her right, maybe he can't be all that bad.

Or that's the hope I end with today.

(Oh - and you stay very careful of not dating him or his friends.)

Monday, September 09, 2019

And point proven

This morning I woke up to a very cheery message. A friend of mine had delivered a baby girl. A tiny baby with curled fists and squished up toes and teeny nails. I haven't seen pictures but I imagine her to be pink and bald with chubby chipmunk cheeks.

A little baby. A little baby girl.

Around six years ago, I had visited this friend, Sara - I will call her, in Gurgaon. She was pregnant with her first baby then. (Who is also a beautiful little girl I have had the privilege of traveling with. She had once told me to stop singing her a lullaby.) Anyway, at that time Sara was pregnant and was wearing a loose t-shirt on which she had painted the phrase, "Unfold your own myth." (She is an artist and a beautiful person. I mean, she has the features of a goddess but there's a quiet, sing-song benevolence in her eyes and the first sunrise you wake up to after spending a night on a snowy mountaintop.)

We had hugged. I had spent a great time with her, celebrated a birthday there, etc. That phrase stayed in my head. "Unfold your own myth." I didn't quite understand what it meant.

But lately I had been thinking about what I believed about myself. One of the things was about consistency. That I am impatient, I lose interest in projects if there is no immediate pay-off, that I am attracted to the next shiny toy. But writing a post every day was me unfolding my myth.

I could be all those things - impatient, ad hoc, unreliable, easily distracted...and I could still be consistent. I could keep a promise I make to writer self. There are several writer selves. This writer self that I keep my promise to is quite sweet and humble. (The others are arrogant and wear their egoes like porcupine needles. But they protect this sweet and humble writer.)

Anyway, today I looked back at my blog and noticed that I have written every day. Every single day. Whether I published a post or not, I wrote.

That's one myth unfolded. On the day a little baby girl is born.

I think that's what daughters are (your own or anyone else's) - unfolder of myths.

Friday, September 06, 2019


I have been feeling very very nauseous since yesterday and my stomach is really bloated. I met a friend today and that was nice. But today not having mom around really hit. I don't understand how something is getting steadily worse by and by.

It feels like all is lost but nothing is over yet. It's very very horrible.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

282, 283, 284 of 15,400

Last night, I visited the home of one of the first friends I had made in Bangalore. Had stayed at his house a couple of times. This time, it felt like I was visiting him for the last time before I left for Bombay.

Today, another friend who's stayed with me for a couple of days also left for home. In the days that he stayed here, I bought mattresses and also got a sweet little Ganpati, and tried (feebly) to get the geyser fixed.

Tomorrow I leave for Bombay where I will, for the very first time, returning home where I won't find my mother.

You miss people in so many different ways. But missing people in homes is pretty special. You say hello to a void. In some cases, the void may get filled with a returning. With others, you lay down on a familiar bed thinking about a loss that just has it's own continuum.

There is great courage in saying goodbye. And we must say it so many, many times. 

Monday, September 02, 2019

281 of 15,400

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. Happy festival to those who celebrate it. Actually, not so much 'happy' festival but 'meaningful' festival.

I am at work. I was going through some notes in my book. I came across a slip of paper on which mom had written out a to-do list. My mother's handwriting was really cute - all the alphabets looked big and round, spread across the paper like playful babies.

Anyway, feeling very very tired.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

279, 280 of 15,400

I had a superb lunch with a dear, dear friend of mine. We used to work together in Pune and also go for walks up a small little hill early in the mornings.

We even did that trek when it was pouring one day... pouring like crazy! The hills in Pune, especially Baner where I stayed, were so gorgeous during the rain. That month that I spent with her (before she took up another job, got married, and moved cities) was possibly the most wholesome month in my adult life.

Anyway, we went to the Tibetan place again and this time I had LaPhing in the dry variation, which was tastier than the soupy version. We also got Phengshe, a dish with glass noodles and we had Mountain Dew. Then we went for coffee to Starbucks. It was a perfect afternoon.

Then I had to stay back and work in office until 2 am. I was chatting with a friend from Bombay that late in the night and it felt good.

Anyway, I have some recommendations from my friends. I intend to seriously go through each of their recommendations because they usually send good stuff along the way.

1. J recommended 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson. He is a clinical psychologist from Harvard and is considered to be a rockstar in academia.

2. The Gate by Natsume Soseke, a Japanese author. My friend who I had lunch with loved this book and I trust her taste. In fact, she has now bought all his books.

3. Movies by Yasojiro Oso. My friend said that his movies are simple and beautifully constructed. They are available on YouTube.

4. Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter. Another friend recommended this highly when I asked her to suggest a good thriller. She said it was scary and hard to shake off.

Today has been productive thus far. Two assignments done. Will get dressed and go out now. Maybe get a good sandwich or teacake somewhere.

Friday, August 30, 2019

278 of 15,400

Last night I had gone to the Kali temple for the Amavasya puja. I had also gone to pray for my mum. Earlier the priest had told me that I could give the material for the puja to him and that could be offered during the prayers. I have been a little wary of involving a priest to establish any sort of connection with my mom. But it was Ma Kali and mummy and I have a tiny secret related to her. Or not so much a secret, just a mother-daughter thing.

When I was a child, I remember seeing the first Kali murti, I think it was in a temple in Bombay, and being very pleased with it. That she could be my friend. The fact that the version I saw was the fierce manifestation of a dark goddess and all that didn't somehow feel real. I felt that she looked all enthusiastic about something and would like you to participate. Who wouldn't like that?

Then I don't think I visited a Kali temple for a long, long time. Then, in Pune, I was somehow very drawn to her. It was quite sudden. I still remember that one morning I was brushing my teeth and I had this urge to get connected with her. Like looking up a school friend.

So I did.

I went to the Kali temple in Khadki and well...I can't explain. I don't know what it would feel like to the best, most free and innocent part of you that made it's very first friend. But it felt like that.

One day, I got a very small and pretty Kali murti from Shaniwarwada. I would keep her in the terrace amidst all my plants and light a candle in front of her at night. On full moon nights, when the light shine down on my flowers and terrace, there she'd be - looking happy and earnest.

Around that time, when Mummy would visit, we both would sit in the terrace and have our coffees, watching the soft glow of a candle flame dancing off Kali's brass surface. Apparently, there are a whole lot of rules of whether you should keep a Kali murti in the house and where and how you should keep it, etc. I have never followed that. She just felt too much like my own to bother with protocol.

Anyway, one night, Mummy and I were playing ludo on the terrace. I was looking deep into a candle flame and told my mom that fire was such a beautiful thing. Mum said that this sweet, cool darkness in the heart of fire was where Kali stayed. And her hair looked like black flames - wild, unruly, strong. (Mom had this knack of describing something very visually.)

Months later, Mom's health started declining. She hadn't had the cancer yet but she was getting weaker and restless at times. Around that time I started visiting the Kali temple in Vashi. A friend had told me about it. (I like Kali temples anyway because they are usually empty and seem more 'playful'.) But that place is one of my favorite places in Bombay. It's so cheery. I like the way the priest sways a little with a rose in his hand when he is doing the aarti. And there's often tasty mithai. And the vegetable khichdi Prasad there is really good.

And Kali there in that temple is just too cute. Unlike other Kali murtis, where the goddess has a longish, slim face, the one there has a full, round face. She looks like a cherub. I know that she is the mother goddess and all that. But whenever I see her, I think of a little girl who wants to jump in puddles of stick her fingers in jam and invite you to do the same.

I used to take my mom there later. I think that was the last temple that she visited.

Last night, as the aarti was going on, I saw Kali the same way my mum described her - a friend who lives in the cool darkness in the midst of light. With hair like black flames.

Maybe mum is braiding it now.

I get the sense that a few things are going to end now. I keep making plans for September and October and November and December, etc. But something inside me is telling me that none of it is going to happen. That in the next few days, some things will collapse or evaporate or something. But in a good way.

As mum had once told me during a game of ludo, that fading to black is perhaps the most important answer to a prayer.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

276, 277 of 15,400

Will make this quick. Some places that I tried out:

1. Tibetan Mother's Kitchen that serves LaPhing (for only 40 bucks) and tingmo (the Tibetan bread). So this joint I intend to be a regular at.

2. Grameen for Indian food, especially their tadka daal and chapati. Have heard good things about their bajra khichdi with jaggery.

3. Some kind of salted chips that has Varun Dhavan's face on it

4. Kombucha at Good Earth cafe. Even their pastries.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

275 of 15,400

Yesterday I spoke to two people.

To one person, I said that I was feeling a little adrift in Bangalore with regards to work and life. But it's a good feeling.

To another person, I listened to how Bangalore had anchored him and helped him build a fresh new world. And that's a good feeling.

Both points seem to be on some kind of continuum.

How moving away to build something we call home is, in so many ways, returning to a world that was familiar and forgotten.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

274 of 15,400: Traffic as an ice-cream flavor

It is soothing to be in traffic sometimes. There's a sweet communion of people one will never meet. Or will keep meeting if they travel the same way everyday. When people commute in a city, they build a cocoon so efficiently - their books, their music, their calls, their social media,  their videos, the shut-eye, the chanting, the humming, the knitting, etc. In that teensy flimsy cocoons, something is getting built. This something will emerge when the traffic has been crossed and the destination has been reached.

Traffic can really feel like a sorbet in between a rushed morning and a crazed rest of the day.

Monday, August 26, 2019

273 of 15,400

It was a good enough day.

Puppy adoption event at Koramangala and a visit to a local park with happy trees!