Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hi Guys,
I have moved my blog. The new link is
I do hope you continue to visit my blog regularly and look forward to your feedback.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hunger is an illusion. That’s the latest theme of my life. I am surviving on 4 litres of lemon water, 4 cups of milk and trying hard to tell myself that its doing me good. It is in a way. I am a good 20 kilos lighter and I am a whole lot fitter, but I am also one of those girls I once hated. I cringe at the sight of oily food (its hypocrisy because I still want to eat it). I’m extremely paranoid about the calorie content of my lip balm even. And I am asking the men in my life the dreadful question, ‘Do I look fat?’
So how did I become this monster? I grew up promising myself I would never be like this. I promised myself I wouldn’t shop for clothes that required me to suck my tummy in and now?

Well, firstly I fluffed up and then I found the magic word-‘detox’. This included trips halfway across town to a doctor, depriving myself of food to the extent of crying my hungry self to sleep and sweaty, tiring walks around five gardens.

It was an impossible task but as soon as my first kilo was off, I realised how good it felt. I went on and on until I was about 10 kilos lighter. And I fell in love with the feeling of fitting into clothes two sizes smaller. I loved the way my old clothes hung on me, and I loved how everyone gushed about my weight loss for a change.
The addiction continued. I kept walking, I kept eating right and I kept sipping black tea and fruit juices through the day to keep my body in shape. And it happened. I started missing the lose jeans syndrome and I was back on the dreadful detox. It’s got me down to the size I was in school (I was a chubby girl!) I love the lighter feeling and I love fitting into clothes that I once looked at in disdain.

But I have also turned into a typical girl. I suddenly love getting my hair done (I had a crew cut back in college!) I loved shopping for clothes, I loved taking a walk rather than eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet and I actually care if my clothes match my bag.

Which makes me wonder, do we tell ourselves that we don’t care about our (or for that matter, others') appearances simply because we aren’t ready to work hard enough on our appearance. Or is it that we live in denial, forever rejecting the idea that losing weight is good for not just your appearance but your health even.

Or does getting a little thin cause a chemical locha in our brain which makes us realise how much we can stretch ourselves to look good? I am wondering help me before I turn into a monster I promised myself I’d never turn into…

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Imperfect Mr. Right

Here goes, I am publishing the first chapter of my novel on my blog. This is the reason why I have been so irregular with the blog... Dying for some feedback :)

Chapter One:

OneStop was a noisy place in the calm by-lanes of Bandra. People just poured in to buy groceries, clothes, make-up, jewellery, electronics, food, films and music or just to walk through the maze of shops, making wish-lists. The perfume section was the most popular section and everybody seemed to be fond of the witty young salesman, who could boast of a special talent. Rahul Rajgopal could tell people by their perfumes. Almost everyone coming to the mall was sure to succumb to Rahul's charm and drift into his section and most of them almost always came back.

There was one person though, who in spite of being a regular shopper at the mall, had never ever come into his section. Not that he hadn't tried, but she just never succumbed to his charm. She must have been living in the vicinity, because she came often and at odd times.

Today she was walking directly towards him. He shrugged it off….She might be wandering looking for some other section, she never bothers with this section, he thought as he started rearranging the perfumes on the counter.

"I am looking for a perfume for a 35-year-old man."
A soft female voice said to him in a rather rude, uninterested way. He looked up and there it was; the face that had been intriguing him since a last couple of months. He couldn't believe the hostility of the voice. "I am in a bit of a hurry so show me something quickly." She said as she fiddled with her purse, trying to look for something.
"What sort of a perfume would you want, Ma'am?"
She looked up from her cell-phone, "I just told you; anything for a 35-year-old for his birthday." Nobody spoke to Rahul in a rude way and Tanya was hurting his ego.
"Well there are these perfumes which suit most 35 year old men, this one," he said spraying the perfume into her face, "is for calm, collected persons, while this one is for those who are sort of young at heart. Yes and this one here is for sporty sort of people and…"
"Just give me something for someone extroverted, funny and romantic." Tanya interrupted before Rahul could spray another whiff on her face. She wondered why he wasn’t using the tester strips.
"How about this one? It might be perfect. It has an amazingly sharp whiff, which doesn’t shock people approaching the person wearing it, but calms them down. This perfume is for people who like to be with a lot of people." He held out a strip for her as if he had read her mind. He watched her face as she took in the fragrance. There was a hint of a smile, but she opened her eyes and the smile was gone, as if it had never been there. "Good. Wrap it up. Fast" He took a box off the shelf and began wrapping it, still staring at her. Her choice of perfume had left an odd sinking feeling in his stomach.
As he carefully folded the wrapping paper around the box, he thought about the person the perfume was for. She really cared for this man. He knew enough from his experience that women bought this perfume for the men in their lives. Was this man her husband? Not possible, there's no Mangalsutra or Sindoor , but then most Indian girls never wore it anymore anyway. No ring either. Probably just a boyfriend… His chain of thoughts was broken by her cold request.
"Write the card out for me, Happy Birthday, Ravi Bhaiyya ."
With a smile across his face he wrote out the card and as he handed her the box, he looked at her face, searching for a smile, but it remained expressionless, as she grabbed the gift and handed him her credit card before turning away starting a conversation over her cell-phone. He couldn’t understand why he felt relieved to know that the most important man in her life was her brother and he couldn’t understand why, he felt angry at her. Who the hell did she think she was?
Grabbing the credit card he glanced at the name; Tanya Kher, nice name he thought as he swiped the card and handed her the receipt. She signed it in one swift motion, grabbed the gift and walked off. He couldn’t believe it. No thank you, no goodbye? He wasn’t used to that kind of customer behaviour. He shrugged and went back to packing off the perfumes; after all he had had a busy day and there was a busier day coming up tomorrow…

As she stepped out of the busy mall, Tanya heaved a sigh of relief. Crowds always made her a bit dizzy. Her eyes searched frantically for a cab but there wasn’t a single one to be seen around. She started to walk angrily across the pavement towards a taxi stand. Nobody could have guessed looking at her that her high heel shoes were killing her toes. She walked as if she owned the world taking long strides, looking straight ahead as if she would crash down anybody coming in her way. Her business suit added to the no-nonsense attitude which made people turn around and look at her in awe, as she tick-tocked down the road. She finally saw a cab and made a run for it. “Cadell road!” She said as she sat in. Mumbai cab-drivers were used to being asked whether they would like to take you to wherever you wanted to go. He turned around and gave her a weird look. “Move it, I am getting late.” She ordered in her broken anglicized Hindi. The cab driver shrugged and put the meter down, “These modern pant wearing girls!” He muttered to himself as he sprung the rattling cab into motion. Tanya ignored him. She had better things to do than to pick an argument with a male chauvinist cab driver. She looked at her watch when she saw the shimmering homeward bound traffic. Tanya could imagine her sister-in-law, cursing her for being late.
Anita had called Tanya eight times at work to just remind her to leave her office on time. Once Tanya was out of the office, her cell-phone kept her busy with reminders to leave her home in time, which Tanya obediently did, but as she passed the mall, she remembered that she had forgotten to buy a gift, which had forced her to stop at the mall to buy a quick gift. She found herself wandering through the crowded mall clueless about what to get for a full quarter-hour before she had managed to buy a perfume from a rather enthusiastic salesman. ‘The mall has too many over-friendly sales people.’ She thought to herself. She hated going to the friendly neighbourhood grocer or the friendly neighbourhood boutique. She chose to make a trip to the mall for the smallest things she needed because it just had everything she needed. What she hadn’t realized was that she was stuck with a friendly neighbourhood mall!
As always her cell-phone’s boring tring-tring brought her out of the flashback. She knew who it was without even looking at the screen. “Anita I am getting there, I am so sorry, stuck in traffic.” She fixed her gaze on the red light as she heard her sister-in-law complain. “I am sorry! I’ll be there.” She clicked off the phone and looked at her watch. She was already half an hour late and it looked like she was going to take another half hour to reach her brother’s birthday party. She was right, the cab screeched to a halt outside her brother’s house at exactly half past nine. She threw the money at the cab driver without waiting for change, and ran into the lift, almost slipping off the marble floor in the lobby. She had to hit the button a hundred times before it closed, making her grow impatient and irritated. The doors shut, revealing a reflection of Tanya, with her eyes rolling in irritation again. Her straight long hair was completely out of place thanks to the jerky and windy cab ride. Tanya was very particular about how she wore her hair. She never experimented with length, colour or its style. She liked it long straight and brushed clear, falling over her shoulders. At times she wore it in a pony, but only if it was a hot or a windy day. Her grey-green eyes always had a stern look in them behind the rather expensive rimless glasses she had been wearing for the past 5 years; every year much to Anita’s dislike she bought the same frame, same colour, dull-gold. No experiments. She wore no make-up except for mascara and two lipsticks that she alternated according to her clothes, most of which were rather formal and business like. Rarely did you catch Tanya Kher in Indian clothes and almost never in casual clothes. In fact, her brother joked about how Tanya worked around the clock because she was dressed to hit the boardroom anytime.
Today, however, she had managed to pull out a bit of a fancy woolen bare shoulder top Anita had gifted her. She checked herself in the mirror, pulled down her top so that it fit well and didn’t give Anita another reason to bicker. She had just enough time to smooth the hair with her fingers when the elevator opened on the ninth floor. She got out of the lift and before she could reach the bell, Anita opened the door with a where-the-hell-were-you expression on her face. Unknowingly Tanya gave her the- you-know-me smile and shrugged. Anita nodded her head in an at-least-you’re-here-get-in expression and pointed to the living room.
The living room was full of candles and dim lights and she could hear glasses clinking and people laughing above the lounge music playing in the background. She saw many faces but the one she wanted to see was lost somewhere. She could hear his high-pitched voice from another corner of the huge living room. She moved through the living room, smiling reluctantly at faces, some drunk, some pretentious, some judging her, some appreciating her.
“Of course, he is going to be fired. He is a lousy coach, if we want the world cup we need someone more focused on the game rather than the media, you know what I mean? Tanya! We thought you would definitely make it by my next birthday.” Tanya looked down, embarrassed. She hated being in the spotlight and her brother always managed to put it right on her. “She’s a busy woman, my sister, so I am going to leave you guys for a moment to make the best of the time I get from her.” Ravi exclaimed as he put his arm around Tanya.
“Why do you always have to make a joke about me?” She scolded him as she handed him the box, “You are getting older but not any wiser.”
He took the box and plucked the card off. Holding it in Tanya’s face he complained. “It says Ravi bhaiyya. How many times did I say stop calling me bhaiyya? We aren’t 10 and 16 anymore okay? I don’t like it.” He frowned as he tore open the wrapping paper. The frown on his face disappeared as he saw the box. “Aqua Di Gio! Impressive. It’s a pleasant change from the gift vouchers you’ve been giving me. Somebody’s coming back into humans, huh.” He nudged Tanya in a playful way. “Met Anita yet? She was whopping mad at you.”
“Oh, she opened the door for me. You could say she’s okay now. I am going to go see if they need any help around the kitchen.” Tanya was about to make a dash for the kitchen when Ravi yelled out, “Oye, we have a caterer this time, so there’s no excuse to hide; these people are decent you know. They don’t bite.”
“I was just being nice.” She said walking off towards Gia, Anita’s friend from Delhi, who was one of the few people Tanya looked forward to seeing at her brother’s parties. She always had exclusive stories and gossip from the television channel she worked for. Gia’s constant jabber took all the socializing pressure off Tanya.
“Tano! Long time… Howdy!” She screamed with delight as she hugged Tanya, who knew instantly that Gia had had quite a bit to drink.
“You won’t believe it, but I am going to be shooting one of our shows at the Delhi branch of your firm, it is about these two models and blah blah. I was just thinking about you when we finalized things with your firm. I am so glad to see you babe!” She hugged Tanya once again.
“Oh! Really? That’s amazing. So which show is this?” Tanya asked sipping from a glass of wine she picked up from the passing waiter’s tray.
“Another new one! The boss thinks that the glamour, sex and high heels will get us the much needed TRP boost. Star is screwing our advertising revenues. Obviously you know that. Silly me.” She laughed out throwing her head back.
“Star is hot property as far as prime time slots are concerned, but this guy at your office is offering us great deals if we plan to advertise across all the channels. We are, as a matter of fact, recommending Zee, it is cost effective.” Tanya explained with a boardroom confidence.
“At least someone’s recommending Zee! Oh there’s Aneesh, he just broke up with his girlfriend and you know what nobody knows, she was cheating on him! Let’s go say hi!” Gia chuckled.
Tanya nodded along. She was always lost for words when Gia gave her all these bits of classified gossip. At the same time, she enjoyed the fact that she could just nod or smile or say a few words and kill time. It was better than standing in one corner, and then getting introduced to random people by Anita and Ravi.
So, Tanya spent the next few hours by Gia’s side as she chatted away with everyone at the party. She used her little knowledge about the television business all thanks to her position as a media planner to add bits and pieces to Gia’s stories, but she had to make a great effort which tired her out by the end of the party. She hated crowds and she hated parties. She wouldn’t attend a single party if it wasn’t for Anita and Ravi’s enthusiasm. They hosted a lot of parties and Tanya had to be there, not as a social obligation towards her brother and her sister-in-law but because she knew it satisfied them to see her mingle with people at their parties. That’s the least she could do for the two people she loved the most.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A slice of my life

The old ceiling fan on the high ceiling of an Irani café rattles and whirs.
“How’s that lady we met. She runs a food website doesn’t she?”
Slurrp.. A sip of stewed dark brown tea from a saucer.
“The one who lives in Winconsin? I think she’s fine. I haven’t seen her website in a long long time.”
A ceramic saucer lands on our table, neatly lined with pieces of Irani bread, with a generous amount of butter lathered on.
“I don’t want that. Too many calories!”
“I want to dip in the chai. What time is the movie?”
“Hurry up with your chai, we have 20 minutes.”
“We have a lot of time, it’s only a 2 minute walk. That pao looks tempting, Mama you want a portion without the butter?”
Mama nods. Slurp, we three collectively sip more.
“Madame ke liye ek pao bagair maska…” Dad turns to me, “You took quite sometime to get the tickets. Full hai kya?” I love the Bambaiyya burst the chai has brought about.
“Nai re. There was this couple in front of me. They were checking out plans in all the three shows.”
“Hain? They didn’t know what movie to watch or what?” Mama asks innocently as Dad starts laughing.
“Arre they wanted to know which show is emptiest. They took forever to get those khopche wala seats.”
I stare at Dad laughing.
“It’s sad. There should be some lovers’ gardens around the city. I mean kids have parks so do the oldies. Hum naujwanon ne kya bigada hai?”
“The Parsis had made that provision. Five gardens mein generations of lovers have held hands,”
“Off late, there’s moral police everywhere. Where does one make out?” I stare in wonderment at my frank question.
“True, space is a luxury in the city. There should be a lovers’ park,” Dad agrees.
“What do people do though, if they can’t afford malls or cinemas?” he wonders.
“They just tell cabwallas to drive around for a fixed amount or something,”
“Mad or what? I don’t think so”
“They have no choice. Think about it. It could be a newly married couple, living in a 250 sq ft house with 6 other members in their family. They can’t shell out Rs. 300 for the comfort of a theatre, so they pay a taxiwalla Rs.100 and say take me around.”
“You can’t go around much in Rs.100,”
My mother is watching us silently.
“Dad, when did you last take a taxi. 100 rupees is good enough,”
“Hehe, you seem to know a lot!”
“I was working on a story about lack of space for lovers! Don’t jump to conclusions…”
“You two hurry up, movie starts in 10 minutes.”
We walk into the film.
Michael Clayton amuses us.
There is a major scene set in Winconsin and you know what’s a coincidence. The film ends with Clooney entering a cab and saying, “Give me 50 bucks worth. Just drive.”

Me and my Dad have a good laugh at how our random conversation’s strings reappear in the movie.
This is my life- mad, random and weirdly intertwined with movies.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

life... where it comes from and where it could go...

I escaped last week. I escaped from the questions that the city life was posing before me. I escaped from the people that were coming too close for comfort and I escaped away, far away enough to think about what was keeping me from breaking the walls.

I wasn’t escaping permanently, but just for a time enough to catch my breath and come back and deal with my life. So off I went- best friend, sister, and sister’s best friend in tow- to Malvan. A small town in Sindhudurg district, Konkan.

My relationship with Malvan has been a strange one. Although my family came from this place, I never went there for 9 years. When I did, I was a pesky 10 year old obsessed with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. So there I was, in the backseat of the car, singing along to the songs, observing the trees passing and asking my grandfather some silly questions.

On that trip he told me that we all face same situations through our lifetimes, how we deal with them, is what differentiates each life story. On this trip, he could have ignored me, treated me like a kid but he didn’t. He treated my questions with integrity, answering them till I was convinced.

Soon, I didn’t have to ask any questions. He told me of his childhood, his mother, his father and a life full of poverty. He told me of his restlessness, to move out of the small town. He told me of his life in Mumbai, his struggles. He told me how he became a rich man and then bankrupt again. He told me how he tried to fight his bankruptcy and rise again. He told me how he succeeded and most importantly he told me how in his success he also failed.

I came back, the same pesky 10 year old, but I knew a lot more about my grandparents. And the narrow streets and thatched roofs of Malvan stood as a symbol of the story.

The whole village seems abuzz. The streets that once saw not more than one or two cars a week, were experiencing traffic jams. The street, on which my grandfather played Veeti-Dandu, is full of halogens as we approach a Ganesh mandir. The bright exuberant Mandir is decorated with flowers, lights and devotees.

An old man wearing bright orange robes walks in with an entourage of 10-15 people. And at every step, someone touches his feet and seeks his blessing. He smiles and walks. He stood before the golden Idol, bowed his head and stood again, looking at Him with love. It was a different kind of devotion.

He walked back and sat by the edge of the Mandir. People from the village, from outside the village came and paid their respects to this man, who’d grown up on this very piece of land. This man, when he was a boy, struggled to keep at school. His father was a simple man who was passionate about Ayurveda. Though the family lived in limited means, this boy grew into a man rich with curiosity. He struggled to start a handwritten magazine. He may have dropped out of school, but he read and soaked up the knowledge books had to offer. He learned Sanskrit and astrology. He soon started wondering about the world outside the boundaries of this village.
He went, he struggled, he conquered, he lost, he struggled again and now, he was the man who commanded respect with the way he walked. Tall, elegant and serene.

In a village, where once he had been too poor to be able to afford simple joys of life, he had built a grand Ganesh mandir. In a village, where school masters wrote him off for dropping out, he built a school. And even today, the money doesn’t matter, he continues to be rich with curiosity.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Don't gimme red!

Ok so it’s the time of the year where TV, radio, newspapers and magazines start harping about love. All the shops are coloured pink and red with merchandise and all the couples around you start planning dinners, gifts and what not.

Yes, Valentines’ Day is around the corner and although I haven’t been in Mumbai for the past 2 years, I haven’t been untouched by the pink phenomenon. In fact, the last two valentines’ days spent abroad have made me tolerant to the Mumbai Valentines’ Season!

In 2006, I was a desi student at University of Sussex. While the under-grads, changed their boyfriends every week and took periodical breaks from dating and coochie-cooing, it was sacrilege for them to be single around the second week of February. And those who didn’t bother with the dating through the year, miraculously pulled their heads out of their labs and libraries to check out other singles. All to ensure a date for Valentine’s Day!

My best friend at the Uni spent most of her year missing her boyfriend, but she didn’t make any bones about Valentines’ Day, one of the reasons why I love her so much. And I didn’t give a damn. I was busy with my thesis, my sister was going to arrive in a month and I had to save up for a grand French holiday. I’d rather damn the Valentines’ day. That was my Valentines’ in Brighton.

The year after that, I had moved with bag and baggage back to Mumbai and was visiting UK for my graduation. I extended my trip and was going to be in London for Valentines’ Day. Immediately, a couple of my friends concluded that I had got together with someone and wanted to celebrate the day with him. I didn’t need that lame an excuse to extend my stay in UK. I love that country. It was my home for almost 2 years.

But it was that valentines’ day that has made valentines’ season in Mumbai much bearable for me. Everywhere I went, there were people holding red roses. Every store’s window display was red and pink and hearts were in abundance. On the bus, tube and on the streets, everyone was kissing and whispering sweet nothings. I am sure, Cat Stevens was in London around the Valentines’ season when he wrote ‘Love is in the air’.

Some of the couples seemed genuinely sweet, but from my experience at the Uni, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these people were genuinely in love! Like my SRK says in a film called ‘Dil to Pagal hai’- How many of these people will even bother to see each other beyond this hyped celebration of love. Is it that, these same people may celebrate the next valentines’ with a different person in their arms?

By the time the Valentines’ season wound up in London, I was asked out by some 5 random men, I was tempted to buy myself a gift for bearing through this unbearably sweet celebration of love with gritted teeth and I realised that Valentines’ Day is the season to segregate those who are single by choice for this occasion and those who hook up to avoid being alone on 14th of February!

And yes, if you don’t hook up and do end up staying in with Tesco finest pre-cooked pasta and a glass of cheap wine- don’t worry the TV will remind you that the world outside rejoices being with someone by playing the mushiest films, mushiest videos and the mushiest episodes of popular television series.

The romance-cynic in me is happy! It’s the 3rd of Feb and nobody’s bothered to tell me that I need to be with someone this season… How I love Mumbai!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Short on Money, head to Mani’s

If you’re running out of pocket money but need a good fill of food, don’t think twice before parking yourself into this modest eatery at Matunga. Mani’s lunch home has dished out crispy vadas and soft idlis to many college students for over a couple of decades.

There are three seating areas to choose from. There is the classic Udipi bench and table set-up inside, there is the open air seating on plastic stools and kattas outside and the third section is the comfort of your own car.

The most sought after section is the one on the footpath! Yes you read right, the footpath. The plastic tables and the marble lined kattas are a hot favourite amongst the college kids and those looking to revisit their college days.
The car service bit is rather popular with families. All they have to do is park by the curb, and Anna will bring you your order. Eat up and drive away!

The Annas can’t be called waiters. They don’t treat you as customers. They treat you like they would treat a guest at home- insisting on another cup of coffee, bringing you extra sambhar and chutney without you having to ask. Try the Mysore Sada Dosa, a crispy dosa with a soft, chutney lined centre. If you’re a health-freak demand steamed Idlis, dunked in the sambhar which is just perfect in consistency, not too spicy, not too sweet and not too tangy. Just perfect!

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, check out the chalk written board for specials. Bondas, banana bhajiyas and sheera are absolutely delectable but are very oily. “No problem,” says Anna in his signature south Indian accent. He disappears and brings us a cup of coffee. The aromatic filter coffee washes down the oil and pumps up the adrenaline to hit the road. All done in a little less than half an hour!

You maybe are wondering why we’ve not mentioned the price. Well, at an average cost of Rs.10/- per dish, you can eat to your hearts content for just Rs. 50/- , so who wants to watch the bill. “Order karo khata jao,” advices Anna as we move away.

Mani’s Lunch Home is located near Ruia College, Matunga-400019 and is closed on Mondays.