Friday, October 31, 2014

First Impressions: Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert

Pilgrims is a collection of short stories about people who are living quiet lives that seem to be on the cusp of something. Sometimes, they glide over that cusp and move into the shimmering yonder and sometimes, they don’t. None of the stories in Pilgrims have a fantastic point to make. Each one comes like driftwood, mossy and beautiful, a gift from a large ocean of possible lives being lived out in this world. Some pieces of driftwood have just a few simple grooves. Some others have more intricate etchings.

The first short in Pilgrims tells the story of a young girl who is hired as a stable-hand in Wyoming. She is a sturdy girl with a sturdy dream. Just the sort of girl who will do all the robust work expected of a farmhand and then one day, just take off on her horse into the world.  

Another one, ‘Elk Talk’ is a delicate tale of a woman living with her husband and nephew high up in the mountains. They don’t have a neighbour for miles around. One day, though, a family of three drops in unannounced and introduces itself as the neighbours. It’s Halloween and their little girl is dressed with antlers on her head. The father has invented a whistle that emulates an elk’s mating call. All of them stand in the porch when the father demonstrates this whistle. They stand there in silence for a long, long time. Then finally a large, handsome elk steps out from the shadow and stares at them. Towards the end of the story, the woman tells her neighbour to stop whistling and moves away in a huff with her son. She is disgusted with the way the man could manipulate a beautiful animal like that. Also, a little resentful that the vastness around her that she had taken for granted has been compromised.

In ‘Alice to the East’, a young girl and her brother get stranded in Verona because their car has broken down. A stranger offers to help. What happens, over beers in desolate pubs or dusty trips to a mechanic, is a young girl excavating the man’s lonely life through conversations.

‘Bird Shot’ has a man trying to teach a young boy about his father’s legacy as a good shot of game birds.

In ‘Tall Folks’, a divorced couple are also rival pub-owners. One day, the man’s pub shuts down and the woman hires her nephew to take care of her place. The man’s club, however, is bought over by a misogynist sort of fellow with three daughters. He has pole dancers who mostly look sad and bored. But in that dimly lit bar, some stories get exchanged between people known to and estranged from each other.

The collection has a sweet, almost- love story called ‘Landing’. A tough, sophisticated girl falls for a redneck driver and their scene ends in silence in a diner over coffee.

‘Come and fetch these stupid kids’ is one of my favourites, along with ‘Elk Talk’. Two couples in their teens or early twenties live together in a huge mansion by the sea. The house belongs to a boy in the group. He is spoilt, entitled, and has a charm that is impossible to indulge. One eventful night, there’s a raging storm and the ocean’s heaving and churning. In that storm, the spoilt boy wants to go swimming. The other boy in the group, J, is the strong and sensible type. For some reason, he agrees as well. The girls acquiesce and they all wade into the ocean. The rain pelts down, huge waves toss them about here and there, lightning slashes across the sky and for a little while, all of them can hold their own. Then slowly, each one, except for J, starts losing steam. They sink and try to heave themselves out but get sucked into the sea again. The worst case is the spoilt boy though. He has gone really far away from the store and is drowning. J rescues him and swims back to the shore. Meanwhile, the storm has become a lot stronger. J’s girlfriend watches him swim to the shore and wonders if he will call the Coast Guards or come back himself. While her other friend is trying to stay afloat, she wonders about her boyfriend and how much resentment he might be feeling because none of his friends can take care of themselves. Including her.

While this earlier set is mainly snapshots of a mood or a specific time in a particular place, the next batch of stories have a more pronounced plot. “The many things that Denny Brown did not know at age fifteen” allude to whether comparison is an inherited compulsion. “The names of flowers and girls” has a young man allow a woman to captivate his imagination to understandable, sad results. “At the Bronx Terminal Vegetable Market” is an interesting tour into the world of vegetable dealers and buyers in the Bronx. It’s also a study of how one man keeps his dreams alive in that scenario. In “The famous town and restored lit cigarette trick”, a celebrated magician loses his mind and is later redeemed by his plain, stoic dogged daughter.

“Finest wine” has a 70 year old woman entering fantasy land where she drives a bus filled with all the men she has loved foolishly and wisely.

What struck me was the gentle commonplaceness of these lives that Gilbert writes about. No great transformations occur. No great tragedies or resurrections either. Yet you get this unmistakable feeling of how much changes even when nothing happens.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


"We must have the stubborness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world." - Jack Gilbert

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Ma bought me a beautiful dress from Zara - it's in a brownish, copperish silk fabric with fine pleats from top to bottom. It has a lovely, deep back and it's knee-length. I love the demure, stylish feel of it. It is indicative of desserts to be had by a fireplace or a walk on the beach after a fancy meal on the yacht or a cozy coffee at some lovely cafe on a cobbled street.

The dress fits. Now to get a lifestyle that goes with it.


Yesterday, saw a beautiful blood-red flower blooming in the midst of a wall of leaves. It had a white centre with some yellow antennae-like filaments. My friend took a picture and today when we tried looking for it, it was gone. It must have been plucked.

But we also saw tiny buds in pale pink blooming along a vine. They'll grow up to shock and tingle passersby on early morning walks in a week. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

854 - Climbing hills

Sometimes , if I have been irregular, the hill I climb looms like a spectre - something that scares me a little before I trod on its uneven pathways with halting steps. Then, as I climb, as I face the breathlessness with deep gulps of cool air, I relax. The smells of the fresh pudina growing alongside and bright yellow buds dotting the shrubs seem welcoming. Then climbing the hill is like moving my hands over a face - one that I am so familiar with, one that I love.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

855 - in which I find out I am a little bit spoilt

The weather in Pune is supremely beautiful. It's grey, cold, rainy, and the perfect backdrop for tiny yellow flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. The kandeels and Diwali lights are still out and there's a movie-feel to a day when you go about doing something as basic as buying milk.

This morning, I met up with a school friend at Dario's again. We were 'partners' in school, which meant that we shared the same bench and also the same tiffin, I think. Anyway, in school I think she was not deemed to be very bright which of course means that she has gone ahead to make a success of herself in the world. (My school was odd, like that - people who seemed to be going nowhere have had some serious accomplishments.) It's funny - meeting up someone from school. I don't know why there isn't any awkwardness. Why there is an easy flow of conversation. Why there is absolutely no sense of the huge gap in time. Anyway, we chatted over coffee and then promised to catch up again - next time, hopefully, with enough time for a movie.

Now, getting to the part where I got the sneaky feeling that I may be a little spoilt.

One of the ladies who comes to clean is on a longish leave. So, today I had to wash my clothes. I don't have a washing machine so I had to do it by hand. So, I did. Then I had to dry the clothes. Obviously but I don't know why I thought I needed to soften this very harsh experience. To do this, I switched on the fairy lights and sat out amongst the plants and looked at the foggy night sky. Then I wrung out the clothes and dried them. Then, to treat myself, I went to Peter Donuts for a hazelnut cappuccino and a custard cream-filled donut.

There, I flipped through the latest Vogue with Deepika and Barkha Dutt on the cover. It looked interesting. While flipping through it, I came across this bit by Barkha who said that despite whatever she had to go through, she never played the victim card. I think that's a real triumph. To do what you have to without whining 'Oh, I'm a victim...feel sorry for me' nonsense. Good on you, Barkha! I think I will get that issue - you know, as a reward for washing and drying clothes.

Now to wash the vessels, sweep and mop the house.


856 - Fiction in Verse: Death in Rhyme

Death in Rhyme
We sat in a circle,
My family and I,
Looking and asking those questions unsaid,
If each of us had a solid alibi,
How was it that the patriarch had ended up dead?

“He was old,” said my brother
“That counts for something, doesn’t it?”
“It might have,” piped the policeman,
“But we found traces of arsenic.”

“Arsenic! You mean poison”, I asked.
I fumbled and sweated and looked aghast.
“But how did it get in his whiskey,
When he himself had poured the drink and handled his glass?”

“It could have been suicide”, said mother,
“He could very well have killed himself.”
“True, except that he’d made a will the day before
Where he’d mentioned that if he died suddenly, search the shelf.”

“The shelf?”, I asked looking up at the stone slabs
“What’s there on the stone shelf that we didn’t see?”
“We found a scroll - his horoscope,
And a letter that said, I believe in the believe me.

“He wasn’t very well liked”, I said
“Angry and cantankerous and weird as a black moon,
But maybe his horoscope points to the killer.
We could decipher that and be done with this soon.”

The horoscope itself was long-winded
Couching in maybes and it coulds and it is very likely that
It outlined his opportunities to be a statesman
And eventually turn into a pompous, obnoxious twat.

“What’s that?”, pointed my brother
To a strip stuck across the scroll’s breadth
“It seems to be what we were looking for,” said mother
“The prophecy of the conditions of his death.”

It will be painless, as merciful as death can be,
It will be slightly twisted with a pall of mystery,
But look no further and waste no time,
 A Libran will have killed me; it’ll be a Libran’s crime.”

We gulped in shock and looked somewhat scared
The policeman noticed all this with an ice-cold gaze
The evidentiary sanctity of a prophecy was slim,
But the truth was that we were all born in early October days.

“That’s stupid and foolish and occult, isn’t it?
He could have written the horoscope, that silly old twit,
That paranoia just implicates us, alas,
We were all out, I tell you, we didn’t go near that glass.”

A mewl was heard and we glanced out,
A fat black cat was climbing into sight
The dead man’s companion for a great part of his life,
His heft a joke, his demeanour a fright.

The uniform was about to continue a discussion
Of motives and intent and oblique references to gallows
When we heard a thwack and saw a dribble from above
Of a thin stream of liquid into the whiskey glass below.

The cat squatted and flicked its tail silently
Unaware of the medicine spilled from the bottle
The policeman inspected the ingredients of that liquid
And after that, deductions moved full throttle.

“There’s arsenic in these eyedrops
Prescribed for the man,
Whose is this cat and where did it come from?
Tell me everything now as much as you can.”

“Oh, it’s our father’s”, said my brother
“It’s a symbol of his search for irony,”
“So, even though he wanted a totem for good luck
It’s a black cat, he got, as you can see.”
“She was born before us, though,
To a neighbor’s ginger cat,
I remember the celebrations that day,
In fact the nation celebrated that.”

Noticing the policeman’s puzzlement,
I fitted in pieces I remembered
“I think he was born on Gandhi Jayanti,
Yes, it was a few months before December.”

“That’s right!”, my mother exclaimed,
“It was his stupid yearning for irony then,
The cat was born on October second,
But he called it Jinnah, just for fun.”

“So, the cat’s a Libran?”, asked the uniform
“It’s a curious incident, that.”
With that, he left still worried
How a death prophecy got executed by a cat.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Finished reading 'Myth = Mithya'. So, naturally I felt a little bereft today. Went to Crossword and picked up a few books. The coffee and the baked Philadelphia cheesecake at Moshe's is pretty neat! I feel a little bad that I'm not living up to my resolve of not buying new books. But I swept and mopped the house today (the cleaning lady is on a holiday) so I think I deserved a little treat.

Here's what I got:

The Devotion of Suspect by Keigo Higashimo (Why? Because it's a Japanese writer and they seem to write with a sensibility I love.)

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro (Why? Because of 'Remains of the Day' and 'When we were orphans'. Because he can write in a way that can make your heart ache. Because he can make your heart ache in a way that will make you feel glad for the pain because it at least means that you can  feel.)

Then there was a quick dinner at One lounge at Koregaon Park.

All this and its just Friday. Although I will have to work the weekend, it feels good to take it nice and slow after a long while. I just wish the cleaning lady hadn't taken an off.

But never mind, grateful for all that is. Because there's plenty.


Thursday, October 23, 2014


It was a superb Diwali! Started off with a walk up a little hill with a friend. On the way, we usually cross a house that has a part of the hill in it's garden. So, it's a natural 'rock' garden, so to speak. This house had a kandeel in flaming orange fluttering in the morning breeze. There were lots of orchid blooms tied to the grills of the gates and white and red rangolis dotted the porch.

Then Mum, Dad and I had breakfast at Dario's. I love Dario's when you're the only person in their outdoor space, watching sunlight filter though trees and hear the peacocks in the backdrop. They also play some really good 90s music that seems to come from far away. I love that sense of being a little lost in time as soon as you sit down at one of their purple and white tables.

Then I met up a friend for coffee. He gave me a bunch of movies which I hope to watch over the next few days and we went to Shaniwarpeth. It was lovely. Reminded me a little bit of Zaveri bazaar. I saw the Dagdu Sheth ganpati for the first time. I have to say it is the prettiest Ganpati I have seen ever. I mean ever. Lots of pink, blue, purple and green lights around. The roads looked iridescent.

Now I'm home, taking in the cozy nooks that twinkle with lights. Eating some seriously good palak paneer with a cup of chilled Red Bull and reading 'Myth=Mithya' by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Dear Universe, Lakshmi entering household or not, I feel seriously abundant tonight!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

860, 859, Diwali

There was a walk home one late evening. And a sudden purchase of two kandeels - one large one with mustard, fushcia and indigo cut-outs of flowers and the Indian mango motifs. I wasn't going to buy those until I saw another customer asking for a demo. The salesperson put a bulb under this kandeel and suddenly, so suddenly, it sparkled like a jewel. You could imagine it in a large palace with marbles or in a large garden with fountains and jasmine shrubs and peacocks. I got that for my mother. I also got three small kandeels - simpler ones in an ivory glossy paper with a thin rim of gold shimmer around the rings. For my own home, I put up a slim string of blue fairy lights. They go up around the grill, around the legs of a chair and a little bit around the bookshelf. The rest lay clumped and untidy on the floor. But when they were lit, my home, my floor looked like the resting place for baby stars who would grow up and join the large constellation when they woke up.

May you all have light of all kinds cuddled up in different corners of your worlds. May the light wake up happy.

A great, joyous Diwali everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Yesterday was Sunday and I came in to work for a couple of ways. My mind is now so twisted in angst in connection with office that it feels like quite an upheaval to simply relax and even think of a possibility when workdays felt normal and good and when I used to cross the road and enter the office premises without having a knot in the stomach. But I often think back to this line by Virginia Woolf, "Arrange whatever pieces that may come your way." I am trying to do that.

So yesterday, I wrapped up work in a couple of hours and took my mum out on a drive. We bought some diyas. Mum got some sparkly ones painted in red, green and gold. She also got a set of translucent heart candles that you can float. Mom does that in our Vashi home. I got some basic clay ones in small and really large sizes. What we really tripped out on were the lights. I got lots of fairy lights - a string in snowy white, another in sky blue, and a third in a rich, vibrant yellow that softly fuses into a gold blush if you set it up that way. Mum got this nifty strip of electrical diyas that you stick on grills or ledges or wherever you want on some adhesive. And a strip of fairy lights in really faint blush-pink. It is lovely!

So, overall, looking forward to setting up these lights now!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


On tough days, maybe one gets nothing more than a patch of purple sky that sweetly turns pink just as you look out the window. Maybe on those days, that's all you get. No prayer gets answered. No wishes come true. But the Heaven seemed to have put up a show just for you. 

It's been a good day.


Friday, October 17, 2014


Today in office there is colour. A lot of it. Diyas in thermocol have bright pink, yellow, and orange with glitter strewn on them. There are tiny tealights where flames flicker in a pool of translucent red gel. There is a floral rangoli made with orange and white flowers. Somewhere else, which I found the loveliest section in the office, patterns have been made with shredded leaves.

I love leaves. I wish when it came to decorations, we gave flowers a break and leaves a chance.

Story of sorts in three letters

Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Shernaz M []
Sent: Thu 22/04/2014

Hello. I'm sure you are very busy or at the very least, believing that you are. I haven't heard from you in ages. Must admit I'd have hoped for a mail when Sunny had colic but I didn't get one because you must have been busy. You know, Tanya, I don't get why you must be so spoilt. I know you are upset with me because I didn't gush over your ad but Nitin is a very demanding husband. He'd had a bad day and you remember he was not even all that sociable over dinner. I just couldn't...Tanya, you don't know how it is.

Anyway, Sunny's birthday is on 24th July. Please come. I was thinking of having a theme party. Can you suggest something? Don't worry. I only want an idea. Not any further assistance. I know 'you're busy'.

-          Shernaz
P.S. – Why do you work for a company called 'Bullshit'?

Re: Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Tanya Gaya []
Sent: Thu 23/04/2014

Hi Shernaz! Given that you are swilling around with sarcasm all the time, it took you a long time to write this letter. And yes. I was busy then. I am busy now too. So consider yourself lucky that you're getting this email. And yes, I was hurt that you didn't respond to my ad campaign. And I was even more hurt when you used my ad to wrap Sunny's nappies.

Anyway, I'll come.

As for a theme, how about you use the theme of the Universe? Position yourself in the centre of the room...because you know, if there is a 'Universe', you'd fancy yourself in the centre of it, won't you?

And I work in a place called 'Bullshit' because it's clever and the name is a tribute to the philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. (He wrote a book called 'On Bullshit' where he very eruditely differentiated the notion of 'bullshit' from 'lie' and 'deception'. Get the book. It's a great read and is published with very absorbent paper that you might find useful for Sunny's nappies.)

Also, why does it surprise you that I work in a place called 'Bullshit'? You were a lawyer, weren't you? 


Re: Re: Son's birthday and notification of my pissed off status
Shernaz M []
Sent: Thu 22/04/2014

Hmm...Frank Herbert, eh? Very similar - the stuff that comes out of your mouth and Sunny's butt. Whatever. You work in a company called 'Bullshit'. You employee of the year yet? I like the Universe idea, thanks!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

865, 864

There is warmth, comfort, and tender homage to a beaten soul - the way fiction draws one in. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Impressions - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling's pseudonym for a series of murder mysteries.

I haven't read any J.K. Rowling earlier. I tried reading Harry Potter multiple times but gave it up on reaching page 5. So, I am not a fan.

Now that I have these two things out of the way, I 'll get to the book.

It's a decent read for a whodunit. The book is approximately 450 pages long and I could figure out the murderer by page 200 so the 'big reveal' at the end wasn't exactly a surprise. I had hoped for a bit more psychological profiling of the killer or even of the private detective, Cormoran Strike. There is some but not enough to warrant gushing praise or earnest recommendation.

The Cuckoo's Calling begins with the death of Lula Landry, a supermodel. Lula is flying flat and splattered in the snow. There is speculation that she has jumped to her death. Her brother, however, does not think so and hires Strike to find out the truth. Strike is a detective with 'a past'. He's a mess in that appealing way all private detectives are. He served in Afghanistan before taking up detective work, left the army for the love of a woman, lost the woman, became homeless and lives in his tiny office which he can barely afford to keep because the arrears in rent are piling up. He is also the bastard child of a famous father and a mother who was a groupie and a heroin addict and who, the story goes, killed herself. Strike doesn't believe that story.

Anyway, back to Lula. In the course of the story, we explore the world of the superbly beautiful and the rich. We are told how they are hounded by not just the press, but the voyeurism that fuels the press and the characters of the 'inner circle' that sell their stories to the press. Lula was a black girl adopted into a white family. She never felt like she belonged to her regular family. She was born looking like a goddess. So she never felt like she belonged to other regular people either. She suffered from depression, was keenly looking for her roots, had friends who were misfits the way golden swans may be misfits in a plastic pool, and one day she died.

The thing is that after a point, you stop caring about that stuff. The writing is trite. For the most part, there's nothing fresh in there. It takes too long to come to the point by which time you may very well not be bothered about the killer, motive, and technique of murder. There's a bit of posturing in the way the club scenes are described ("Hey, you menial people! Here's how the swish set parties! Bet you didn't know that!" - that's the vibe I got when reading some portions.)

Even Strike - whose back story has a back story, which may emerge in other books - even he seems to lack dimension sometimes. Yet, for reasons even I am not very clear about, I read through that book and will possibly read the next one as well. Because, the pull, when you least expect it, comes from very strange quarters.

Right at the beginning, there's a description of Lula Landry lying in snow in a sequinned top. She is dead. It's early in the morning. Snowflakes drift along the rich London neighbourhood. The cops are there smoking. Flash bulbs go off incessantly. But this very beautiful body, clothed in sequins lies in the snow facedown. At the time, all the artificial light available in that small portion of the world is reflected off her clothes and she looks if she is moving. I found that bit really touching. I don't know why but I wanted to know about the person who died. Not who killed her and why and if she did commit suicide, what were her reasons and all that. Just...who was this person who even in death in the dark, shifted haltingly, tiptoeing on light?

Then there is the description of London streets and London pubs - where there is a quiet despite a crowd. In another section, Galbraith describes a scene in an uber-cool club where a dangerously good-looking  Evan Duffield (Lula's boyfriend) is sitting on a leather couch surrounded by women. His habit is to wear a wolf's mask when he is out in public to avert the attention of the public (or not so much avert attention because a wolf’s head does get attention but to cock a snook at them). This specific description of a fragile doomed man who holds his dominion by virtue of charisma alone is very...feral. It’s like, you know how if you are too intelligent, there’s a chance that you just might go mad or turn evil because how are you going to handle all that brain? Well, what if it’s the same with looks? What if you are so good looking that you just can’t handle it? Evan seems to be a poster boy for just that contingency.

There is also a bit where Strike remembers some personal tragedy and he focuses on the rain outside. He notices 'raindrops tracing ellipses over the window panes.' That’s poetry. In the middle of trite prose and boring details, that sentence made me sit up.

There is beauty in some portions that is hard to turn away from. So I read despite the tedium that sometimes set in. That and the strange notion I have that Lula Landry is 'modeled' in some way after Naomi Campbell.


Monday, October 13, 2014

867, 866

A quick round-up of the last two days:

An interesting discussion with a group of pals on the epistolary form of writing. We even did an exercise and it was fun.

On the way back home suddenly decided to go to Bombay. And one reason I love a flush, full wallet is that it allows me to change my mind and indulge in a trip home.

So I went to Bombay and it was nice. Went for Haider. It was nice enough but it left me underwhelmed. I think if you must adapt, then the characters that die in the original must die in the adaptation. Why did Haider live? I think if there isn't that kind of fidelity to characters, then it's just another story of a son seeking to avenge his father's death...and that is any of Amitabh Bachchan's 500 movies.

But maybe the real Haider or Hamlet is Kashmir and it's demand for 'Azaadi'? The way the film is shot, the place really comes alive like a spectre, like a soul, like a song.

Back home to Pune with high fever and a solid backache.

Rested at home and read a book. Now, will paint my coffee table.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

869, 868

Tw really good days. I managed to make it to yoga class and make it through the yoga class. I was a little stiff but overall, the stamina was goo. The flexibility will be back in a while.

A friend of mine is a stylist and I usually ask her to pick me some stuff when she goes shopping in Bombay. So far, she's bought me a beautiful blue long dress and another cotton one in dusty pink and faded grey. I love them - especially the grey and pink cotton dresses. This time I asked her to get me a bunch of white shirts. Turns out she was purging her wardrobe and gave me some clothes. They are so awesome that I blinked back tears when I saw them. There's a gorgeous mul shirt that I'm wearing now. It is soft and floaty with bat-sleeves. There's another sharp and structured one. There is one superb one that's like a cropped shirt made of fine, gaamchha material. It is dark wooden buttons in the front and back with a dori you can use to fit the shirt as loosely or tightly you want. There is also a cotton dress with teeny bubble print on it (slightly retro) with a dropped home. I intend to wear it very, very soon.

I think this white shirt is very lucky for me because I could get done on time and go for yoga. After the class, I had a shower, put on this shirt with a pair of jeans and a dark red lipstick and went out for dinner. It has been age since it's happened.

And the Amazon sale is on with Neil Gaiman books being under 300 rupees.

This month has come to me with many things being made clear. The clarity is that my family comes first.

Also, that it is time for me to take steps to guard my space, especially the one where I write. To that end, whatever steps I need to take, I will.

Good days.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

870 - a goodly day was had

Today is a Wednesday. I like Wednesdays because the day seems to have the most rounded-off edges of all the days. There's a homely softness to the sound of it, to its being, to how it comes like a soft interlude. Anyway, at work nowadays, every single second seems to be offered at the altar of some deadline or the other, so there hasn't been any downtime as such.

Anyway, as a show of some kind of defiance to a crazy schedule, I just sat back during lunch. Really sat back. Leaned back, breathed in deeply, and just stared at the minty blue horizon in the distance. Then I finished some work and wrapped up, making it known very clearly that I was leaving for the day. A pal and I went to Crossword and I was really in a mood to blow up some cash. There's a beautiful release when I swipe a credit card or hand over money in exchange for stuff. This time, I bought these books:

Myth = Mithya by Devdutt Pattnaik
Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, and
No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez again.

We had French-press coffee at the Moshe's there. I had an open-toasted sandwich with caramelized onions, mushrooms and shredded cheddar. Some fries with that too.

Then I came back home listening to the songs of Aashiqui 2.


half of the sky, full of the moon

Polluted is the city with paradoxicity
With a reddish moon impaled on the sky
Like a withered hibiscus in a garland
Smog is the answer to a why that's dead
But gets resurrected in October
Because that's when festivals begin
And we light up to lighten a darkness
That hitherto illuminated the way
That's the paradoxicity polluting this faded city
That lies tessellated in the void
And misshapen in the wind
And stretched in the hours
And goosebumped on the skin
And furiously paces
In a mind that dies
For an unforgettable amnesia
that memory denies.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014


One of  those times when one day I decide to moderate comments and the next day I don't. Today i decided not to. I think it will perhaps serve me better to believe that people will be decent, kind and honest.

Oh well. 

Monday, October 06, 2014


Of the things I dislike - being lied to is perhaps the most important. Maybe that is one reason I did not pursue law. Anyway, moderating comments from now on. Dissent is easier to tolerate if things are at least, half-way decent, even if they are unfair.

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Of late, I have been complaining a lot about the hours I work. Also, after working those many hours, I just tick off something from a long list of to-dos and don't really feel a fullness from what I have done. The work itself, I think, has shaped out well enough but I still feel that what it took out of me was far too much. I am so grateful to have the kind of mum I have. She is such a partner...gamely putting up with my absences without making me feel bad about not making the time for her.

Overall, I think some amount of resentment has also started calcifying the heart. I don't feel like being in touch with my older friends anymore. Those days when I used to feel warm and cocooned in their goodwill - that feels very fake somehow. I think a year or so ago, there was a robbery in my house and my parents were harmed. None of my friends visited my folks. None of them even called to speak with them. Sure they called to find out how they were doing - the y I suppose one may ask about a trip to Shiridi. I feel particularly sad because my mother is genuinely fond of these pals of mine. She still asks about them and wants me to call them over. And I know the reason those calls or those visits didn't come is because Vashi was too far or a cal would have eaten into their time. It was inconvenient.

To be fair, though, the one guy who did go and visit my parents I lost touch with. So I suppose if one focuses only on what didn't happen instead of being grateful for what did - it's no one's fault.

Anyway, I did the nine-day fast this Navratri and t has really helped me. There was a time when I felt very, how shall I put it, emotionally bloated. Like I couldn't breathe and feel at the same time because some emotion was taking up space in the body. The fast seems to have cut through some blubber and has brought up some issues that I can actually articulate and get a handle on. Otherwise it was just going through the void clutching mist.

Anyway, I suppose I wasn't there for my friends when they were going through things either. No point in feeling bad. It is what it is. Do the coffees and the dinners or the travels and the conversations - but this time, do them with the eyes open.

Friday, October 03, 2014


Read this somewhere...a piece by Pema Chhodron:

In life, we think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem. The real truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together for a time, then they fall back apart. They they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that.

Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for the grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self-inflicted, when we are expecting the "ideal" to overcome the 'actual', or needing things (or people or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.

Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don't cop out on that. Don't run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.
What is the lesson in the wind? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you gace it with courage? With full honesty - lean into it.


(This was published in Golden Sparrow a while ago.)


You’re new in Pune. 

You’re probably stuck on the side of the road, trying to cross the street. Or looked down at the plate of Mughlai food and wondered if the dish’s description in the menu was fiction. Or were blindsided by the brutishness of the autorickshaw drivers. You are away from home, fed up, and want out.  Understandable. Bu hang on because with a few things explored, that lens will soften and getting by will be easier.

Arrange for that rickshaw ride: First things first. It’s tough going about town when you don’t have your own vehicle. Negotiating with rickshaw folks (the term ‘negotiating’ is used very loosely here) is very draining. The situation in recent times seems to be improving in some parts of the city where they do ply by meter. However, instead of taking a chance, you could book your rickshaws here: They have a service charge. However, the rickshaws go by meter and you get details of the rickshaw driver and the vehicle. This makes it a safer option than hailing an auto. It’s also cheaper than booking a cab. 

Walk: Either in the blush of a summer evening or the dreamy rainy mornings, Pune is quite a sweet treat to the walker. There’s a wanton innocence in the lanes strewn with garnet-hued hibiscuses, peach blossoms and buttercups. In parts, the roads are wide with broad footpaths like in Baner. In some places, they wind and slope like SB Road. The little path in Bhandarkar Road is a wonderland in tar. Also pretty is the long, winded Sus-Pashan link road with bends that seem to take you right into the heart of the hills. You could explore the by lanes of Aundh and window shop for whitewashed bungalows. Perfect for your imagined soirees under the stars. The Balewadi stadium is a large ground with lots of facilities for sports. It has an Olympic-sized pool , which is its chief draw. The grounds of Pune University also make for a great spot to head to with your running shoes (or even a thermos and a book.) No matter where you go, you find neem trees with their delicate leaves that curl up like eyelashes and filter the sun. Walking is like having a deep conversation with the city. It may start off shy but end up meaningful.

Open-air: Some cities have the sea, some have century-old tombs littered across the cityscape. Pune’s thumbprint is its Goldilocks ‘just-right’ quality of an open-air experience. Choose dinner by the pool at Green Park or on the roof-top at Post-91, a brunch in the patio of Dario’s or Terrtulia, or even a late evening drink at Salt by the humble Balewaadi faata. Choose live music at High Spirits or Soul at ABC Farms. Choose to watch a movie at the weekend, open-air screenings at Seasons. Choose coffee at wee coffee shops like Zodiac or heck, even a CCD. Choose anything open-air and you have chosen well. Sitting outdoors for a meal is quite the mood-enhancing experience (so mood-enhancing that you even forgive the ulti-multi cuisine pastiche that most restaurants offer. That is saying something). This experience, interestingly, does not come with the caviar pricing you find in big cities.

Stocking up Supplies: Thankfully, there are the old-time kirana or general stores in Pune so you don't have to get into a large Big Bazaar type establishment every time you want some sugar. They are usually well-stocked with the usual stuff like potatoes, onions, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, regular oils, and usual spices. Nowadays, they also keep jars of olives and balls of red cabbage, broccoli flowerets and if you're lucky – zucchini. (Pronounced at times as 'jhuggini'. So, one hopes you can identify a zucchini in its raw form because the pronunciation won't be explanatory.) Several even offer home-delivery services as well. For fancy groceries like sushi rolls, avocados, wines, different kinds of cheeses, and such, check out Provodor in Aundh, outlets of Nature's Basket and Fine Foods, as well as the ABC Farms outlet in Camp.
Friends being strangers you haven’t met: Transition to a new place is never easy and without friends to sandpaper that experience, it’s tougher. However, there are a lot of people in the city from outside so there’s a large group that’s feeling dislodged. is a good way to connect with them. There are groups with similar interests out there who welcome members. There’s a variety of groups to watch movies, discuss writing, go trekking, explore haunted houses, or consider start-ups. Some are even formed to discuss appraisals. (It’s true.)

Sweet Serendipity: Overall, the appeal Pune is quiet. It doesn’t jump out at you immediately. It needs a close peering, a waiting, and then, should your spirit move you, a gentle exploration. You could get curious about what lies over a hill that shimmers in the distance. Then you climb it to find a vista that fills you up. Or you could take a wrong turn and land up at an old sixteenth century Shiv temple that’s built around a banyan and has a creek in its backyard. (It’s at Someshwar wadi.) Or you could be dining in ABC farms and listen to a remarkable music band making its debut. Or watch birds in jewel-tones perch on a branch or hundreds of vines with purple flowers creep up a telephone pole. Pune is garnished with a whole lot of such mundane beauties. It’s fun when you find them.

Nightlife: Pune isn't exactly known for having one but there are several options. An old favourite is Thousand Oaks. Good food, warm, mellow lighting, very good music, and beers. Shisha Cafe is again an old establishment. A little run-down but with the faded carpets on the wall, wine in your hands, chello kebabs on your plate, life is good. The newer, shinier spots like the Oakwood One lounge remain open until really late – maybe 1 or 2 a.m. over the weekends. Hoppipola in Aundh and Mezza 9 in Hinjewadi are a couple of favourite spots in the suburbs. For some late night coffee, there are the 5-star hotels of course but also check out the CCD in Chandni Chowk or the Sky Garage in Aundh. The biggest plus, perhaps, of the nightlife in the city is the relative safety it affords to its women. It's not unlikely to see a group of girls all dressed up, have fun on the dance floor and then head home on their two-wheelers.
Koregaon Park: You’ve probably heard of the area, its notoriety, its opulence, its reputation for being the petridish where hipsters breed. Locals might tell you KP is a tired cliché. Yet, go there. It will soothe out the routine wear-and-tear of a migrant life. There’s a dulcet hedonism about the place that will help you settle down in Pune. It’s in the white lilies and swaying bamboos of the Nala garden (it’s an enchanting little place made over a drain. Dare you to go there and not be amazed.) It’s in the quiet lanes with large houses, some lovely even in their ruins. It’s in the wedges of banana cakes made of buckwheat flour (at Naughty Angel). Explore that area once and you’ll revisit every time you want to exhale.

Nor work-life, all-life: You have one huge advantage over locals if you’ve moved to Pune from another big city. You don’t really see a 40 minute commute to be very horrible or a reason to not make any evening plans on a workday. In most other places, going for a swim, getting to work, catching a movie, and going for drinks and dinner may be plans you make on four separate days. Not so in Pune. Places are still comparatively close to each other and you can indulge a last-minute whim without thinking, “So far!”
Of course apart from all this, there are the malls, pubs, speciality restaurants, bookstores, and multiplexes – everything that makes urban life so comfortable in their familiarity. But that’s not how you’ll ‘settle’ down here. One settles down when you hush up and wait. When the sky will change colour, flowers will bloom in all their glory and the robust greenness of trees will envelope you. It’s when you will look up and look around and know that with a patch of earth and a patch of sky, anyplace could be home. 

And with these kinds of patches? Most certainly.


Saw a play, Educating Rita, at Bal Gandharva. I was quite nice although the British accent that the actors were using was not really required, considering they couldn't manage to keep it up and were lapsing into an Indian accent mid-way.

But the car has a flat so it was rickshaw ride to JM Road, etc. which was super fun! It felt really nice to weave through city traffic late in the evening with the cool air on the face and the hair getting all knotted up with intra-city travel. That part I miss after having a car and always driving with the windows up.

Had taken a couple of friends to the Durga pandal near Congress Bhavan and they loved it! It is quite nice, really and the food stalls looked awesome. One of my friends had steamed fish with mustard paste and they both had the prasaad - khichdi, chutney, kheer jalebis, and papads. We got rangolis and very pretty frames to make the rangolis in.

All in all, a very good day!


Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Lots to do. Lots to think about. Just some time, dear Universe....just a little bit to stop and think...

878, 877

Last night, I had driven my mum, neighbours and another girl who works with us to a Durga pandal near Congress Bhavan. It is supposed to be the biggest Durga Pandal in Pune and the busiest. So I wore a saree, convinced my mum and got my neighbors excited about the pandal as well. It was the first day though so the stalls and stuff were not set up yet. The devi's murti was there though and I love the first glimpse of Durga in a pandal - dazzling white and red. The durga murtis that I love though are the ones I have seen in the Ram Krishna Mission and ISKCON. Even the Patwardhan Park in Bandra. Also, the one at Koregaon Park and the one I had seen near Someshwar Wadi. Those durgas are what I am used to imagining Durga as. She was only sixteen and very beautiful and fierce. The durgas in Maharashtra usually are older and look matronly. That's not the durga I search for during this season. I look for eyes that blaze and mesmerize. She has the youth and innocence of one who knows that she will vanquish. She looks like a rose moulded out of fire.

Anyway, the pandal was beautiful. We did the darshan and sat around having juice and ice-creams. The neighbors are hard-core vegetarians and I think they were a little surpised to see non-vegetarian food being served in a devi pandal. This is something I had never thought of growing up because mutton chop and prawn biryani was such an integral part of our durga darshan.

Anyway, driving back I was thinking about how much I liked this - staying in a new place and taking my mom around the city. Or if she wants something, I like being able to get it. Not just my mum. I like doing that for people I love and am responsible for. Yes. I think I like being the provider - in as much as one can provide something for someone. By staying away from them, of course. Proximity I am still not okay with.

So no. Not done with Pune yet.