Lessons from a dusty shelf.

Lesson 1. 

First tilt the head,
then raise the nose,
a cautious sniff,
a brow pulled up.

Then open mouth,
then lick the air

(it tastes different in your bones).

Lesson 2.

Is there poison in your soul?
Do you know?
Do you know?
I found some in mine.
(It took some time.)
There was more than I expected
to find.

So now I'm exterminating it.
Overhauling my soul a bit.
And I think it'll be fine.
Though it might take some time.
(There was more than I expected
to find.)

Lesson 3.

I hope that I will never
consume love in table spoons:
measured doses of mundane medicine
designed to

I want to choke on love.
Hold so much of it in my mouth
that it spills out.
And when it falls from my
lips - I am sure about this -
may it look like
what gratitude does.


The wedding.

I went back to Calcutta for three days at the end of December for the wedding of one of my oldest, dearest friends.

Here's an extract from a post written nearly ten years ago. Sort of captures our friendship a little.

"I didn't have a Last Assembly. I was late for school and I had to stand outside with a lot of people. Tanvi was one of them. Appropriate maybe because it was the tail of her dress that I clutched when I walked into Assembly for the first time." 

Funnily enough, my first memory of Tanvi is of her not being there. It was the first day of school. Lower Nursery. I was barely three years old. (By all accounts it was a spectacular day. Apparently I cried so much, I threw up. Twice.)

I remember being held by my mother and scanning the white-washed, high-ceilinged room, looking for Tanvi. We were already friends from the Miranda Hall pre-school days - although I only have vague memories of that.

The crying started when I couldn't find her.

I was a needy child.

Anyway, so she was getting married and I went for the wedding. Just about managed snatching leave for it. I landed the night of the Sangeet. My mother picked me up at the airport. She was late as usual. So I gave her a cold kiss instead of the usual crushing hug (she was seriously late, ok, and I TOLD her to be on time. ) But, as usual, five minutes later, I'd forgotten that she is the most maddening woman I know, and I felt the home love kind of love wash over me. 

The point I'm trying to make is by the time I reached the Sangeet it was nearly midnight. I was so excited, I rushed into the place in cargos and a leather jacket, forever cementing myself in the eyes of those who saw me as Cool. Until I changed into a beautiful, ethereal Greek Goddess kind of gown, and spent the rest of the night tripping over the hem and trying in vain to contain the cape behind me from billowing like Batman's. (I love Batman, but I didn't particularly want to look like him just then.)

I spent the rest of the night downing shots, dancing reluctantly, and dragging poor Pandey out to one of the little lawns so I could sneak a smoke without Tanvi's parents seeing me. Strange, that. I'm perfectly ok with my parents seeing me smoke, I really don't bother hiding it from most people, but her parents - I don't know, it's just weird. 


The next day was the Mehendi. I was going to put some on, but then I realised what it looks like when it starts coming off. Like skin disease. But I couldn't say that to the people who kept coming up to me and urging me to join the throng. So I said I was allergic. 

Allergies are so useful, man. I'm going to start saying I'm allergic to seafood, instead of telling people I don't like it. It will cut down on some of the judgement that is passed on me, as it is on us all. It's weird though, I really have tried to like it, and some things I'm okay with. Like sushi and sashimi. I love good sushi and sashimi. I also like Windsor Pub's crab rasam. And the Aunty-in-Goa's fish cutlets. 

Back to the point. 

Actually, I'm quite far away from it, so I'm going to skip ahead - past the haldi (that was emotional, man, that was so emotional, it was the first time the emotional hit me), and straight to the wedding on the third day. 

I was supposed to meet the bride where she was getting ready. After two people (Mum and Briho) wrestled me into my saree (oh my god, it was my Thakuma's, and it was yellow silk, and so beautiful, I'm going to wear it again at my wedding, if I ever get married), I sped off to the wedding venue. 

Got there to realise that she wasn't getting ready at the wedding venue (ITC), she was getting ready at the Taj. Why, I don't know. 

So I sat in the lobby for the next two and a half hours and stalked the following people on Facebook:

1) Exes and past crushes
2) Teachers from school
3) Ex colleagues
4) Random people I haven't thought about since school 

I managed missing the groom's arrival, and then, the bride's - and I only just rushed out in time to join the procession behind the bride, as she was escorted by her brothers to the wedding mandap. 

Saw the ceremony. (Wonder of wonders, my mother arrived in time for it.) A little bit of weeping happened. A lot of weeping would have, but I made myself think of work instead. I did still feel like weeping, but it was a different kind of weeping. On the inside. The tears, at least, dried up.  

Just after the ceremony, I was chatting with Tanvi's ayah, Chachi. Chachi is a delight to us all - when we are not the ones facing her bullet. For instance, I don't think Tanvi's mum was delighted when Chachi hid the keys to her cupboard after they got into an argument about something. I certainly wasn't delighted by the following conversation I had with her. 

Chachi: So. They're all married now. Tanvi. Avantika. Sonal. Roli.

Me: Yes. 

Chachi: When are you getting married? 

Me: No clue. 

Chachi: *eyes widening* But you have a man in your life, don't you?

Me: *shrinking visibly* No, Chachi. No man. *Pause* Not even a boy. 


I told Tanu the story later and, in doing so, dug my own grave.

It was time for the Vidai - which is the going away ceremony. Technically, the bride was only going to her hotel room and then going back home for dinner later, but no one was thinking of technicalities then. Most of us were howling. I thought about work, I thought about fat puppies, I thought about other unmentionable things to distract myself. But all I could think about really was the little girl, often mistaken in school for my twin, whom time and distance had never been able to fade for me, not even a little bit. 

So yeah, man, I was sobbing away to glory when she turned around (she was sobbing too) and called for me to go up to her.

There is a tradition where the gold jhinguts on the bride's wrist are shaken over the heads of unmarried girls. If a piece breaks off on one of the girls, it's her turn next. 

I was, unfortunately, the only unmarried girl singled out. 

No gold piece, predictably, broke on my head. 

But Tanu didn't give up, oh no. She thrashed the jhinguts on my poor head until a piece gave way. It had no option. It was no match for her. 

Man, that was hilarious and embarrassing. 

And reassuring. Because if I ever want a husband, I shall just shake it, and one will appear. At some point. Apparently.

I'm going to stop telling this story to everyone though.

The other day, I was recounting it to a friend's flatmate who told me, very reassuringly, "don't worry, you will get married." 

"That's not the point," I said, annoyed. "I don't want to get married, I've never really cared about getting married." 

"It's okay," he said, not realising it had been okay until then. "I can tell. You'll get married. One day."

I kept on trying to convince him that I wasn't telling the story for reassurance, I was telling the story because I thought it was funny. 

But no. 

It is going to be okay. 

And there's nothing I can do about it.

Us. Dec 2008.

The yellow silk saree. Oh, and Mum. Dec 2017.


The Usual Last Post: 2017.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you'd never done before?

- Didn't call this the Annual Recap. That's nearly ten years of tradition broken, pow!
- Got health insurance for myself and my father. Pow again.
- Got used to finding stray strands of grey hair without having a meltdown. (Trust me, this is a big deal.)
- I can't talk about the rest. They span from adventure to disaster to triumph. (And all juicy, which is why I can't tell, baha.)

But I think age is telling: some of the things I was going to mention, I realised I've already done before.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year's resolutions were: 
1. Write more and, specifically, update this blog regularly - Did not do this at all. But I blame Portugal.
2. Control my temper - I AM SO PROUD OF THIS ONE, I REALLY DID. 
3. Stop being lazy - Did not. 
4. I will not say yes to things I ought to say no to - I don't know what this means anymore.

No resolutions for 2018. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?


5. What countries did you visit?

None. I had enough trouble visiting my family who live thirty minutes away. 

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Home-cooked food. (This will, unfortunately, involve me cooking.)
Fewer bruises from walking into things (although that might be asking for too much).

7. What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

January. Because crap happened
And the year in general, which has had its fair share of downs, but will be one of those years that I'll look back at and be all, "Ah yes. I was happy." 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Escaping from something I thought I'd never end up escaping.
Man, that sounds so cryptic.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being the kind of selfish that hurts other people. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

At least, nothing major or hugely dramatic. 

11. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

I can't think of anyone.

12. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Mine did, at one point. I got a handle on it though. A colonoscopy for the soul. A souloscopy. Ha.
Aaaand Donald Trump.
Aaaand the Hindutva brigade.

13. Where did most of your money go?


14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The weekends.
Hahahahahahaha. *Sobs* 

15. What song will always remind you of 2017?


16. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Much, much, much happier.

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Taken more advantage of long weekends.

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?

I wish I'd ordered less from Swiggy. It did not help my finances.
(It did help my figure. I almost have a butt now.)

19. How will you be spending Christmas?

Christmas has come and gone. I was in Bangalore. It was different. There weren't presents, but there were friends and good cheer. What ho! 

20. Did you fall in love in 2017?


21. How many one night stands?

I'm too old for one night stands.

22. What was your favourite TV programme?

I don't want to say here...

23. What was the best book you read?

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?


25. What did you want and get?

You know that inner contentment/happiness thing? Yeah, that.

26. What did you want and not get?


27. What was your favourite film of this year?

Saw many good films. No particular favourite I think. 

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 26, had a huge party, which ended with a huge fight with my mother, and is one of the reasons I will be spending my 27th birthday sedately at work. 

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Being less hurtful to someone I care about. 
Working less. 

30. What kept you sane?
My therapist. 

My parents, I think. Yeah, my parents. 

31. Who was the worst new person you met?

No one.

32. Who was the best new person you met?

Brave New World peeps. 

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learnt in 2017.

How to switch the gas off.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.




I am done writing about Portugal. Fucking Portugal. It will just stay in my head, and the time spent in England after.

Like sitting on the stairs outside the National Gallery, all on my own, eating a sandwich and eyeing the pigeons suspiciously, while Yoda played a guitar close by. And visiting the flower market with Mawii, while Cockneys screamed for you to buy their flowers and not the other man's - as loud as any Indian hawker could. Finding a bookshop in a boat on the Serpentine. Meeting A.O. for a beer and a pizza and cramming a year of our lives into an hour.

Yeah, man, it'll just stay in my head. Infinitely more interesting there. Also, I am lazy.

I am going absolutely crazy because it's December, but work is interfering from my being December - which I am - so I cannot be out drinking beer in the sunshine right now with that crisp, smoky December smell wafting around me.

No, I must sit in office and be Hard Working and Dedicated and Ambitious. I can be these things, but not this time of year. Although I don't think Jijo will appreciate my going to him and being all, "Yo, can I take the rest of the day off because it's December and I need to make merry, not meet deadlines."

I don't know what to do with all this happiness - it's not the right kind of happiness for work.


Summer 2016: Part 7

One of my favourite memories from the trip is a day visit we made to go to a seaside town (naturally, I can't remember the name), a short train ride from Lisbon.

It was a long strip by the beach, filled with outdoor cafes and bars, all overlooking the sea.

And what a sea it was.

Seas are as different as people really.

Some are prettier than others. Some are mysterious and forbidding. Some are inviting, waiting for you to get to know them. Some are calm, nothing ruffles them. Some are volatile and unpredictable. Some don't give a shit. Some are full of shit.

This sea?

Well, why don't you see (haha) for yourself.

I know, right?

There really isn't much to write about this day, nothing particularly entertaining, but it stands out in my memory.

We plonked ourselves down at one of the cafes, facing the sea, and we drank wine and ate crisp salads and crusty baguettes. We sat there leisurely for nearly four hours, chatting, people-watching, just being.

Oh here's something.

To get to the ladies' room (which was also the men's room), you had to go into the cafe, climb the stairs, cross a sort of terrace passageway, and open a big industrial door with a key given to you by the landlord. The room was HUGE with loads of stalls, and lots of space in the window, and large windows, and white sinks lined up against the wall. Despite the light, there was something sinister about it. Large spaces are often sinister.

It was the perfect setting for a tourist to be murdered in.

I went into one of the stalls, freaking out because my imagination is truly weird sometimes and goes completely beyond my control, and though I'm perfectly aware of my irrationality, it doesn't make it any less real. So I sort of positioned myself with my phone as a weapon to hit someone if they were waiting outside the door, and with the key as a shameful substitute for a knife. I figured I could poke my potential murderer in the eye with it at the very least.

I didn't see any murderers, but I did see a drunk tourist brushing his teeth at one of the sinks. Even my imagination didn't allow me to picture him trying to kill me, so I placed the key next to him, avoided eye contact, and left.

I will skim over the rest of the day, because it won't interest you particularly.

Here's a funny incident that occurred once we were back in Lisbon though.

I really needed to go to the loo, so I went into one of the cafes by the station. I looked around and a man - presumably the owner - came up to me and said something in Portuguese.

"Um. Could I use the bathroom?" I asked.

He looked puzzled.

"The Ladies'?"

He continued to look puzzled.

And then I made that universal gesture, the one that nearly all humans understand, and showed him my little finger.

"Ah," he said, comprehension dawning. "You want to do this..."

And then he crouched slightly and made that other universal sound, that sssssing sound, but I took it in my stride and said, "yes, ssssss," and he pointed the way.

After that, I think we strolled around Lisbon for a bit. It's one of those places meant for strolling. We went back to our favourite cafe - you know, the one with the pigeons and the dogs - and had a glass of wine.

Yeah, that's about it.

Oh, but that's the thing about days like that.

'That's about it' is more than enough to satisfy.


Summer 2016: Part 6

I think it was the following day [i.e. more than a year ago] that we took a trip to Sintra to see Pena Palace.
Here it is.
A photo.

Wait, but this is a google photo! Why on earth would I put that up?



So the plan was to take the morning train to Sintra. We dutifully followed the plan. But Mawii and I were very irritated with each other by the time we were on our way. I think it started when I made her wait while I smoked a cigarette outside the station before boarding the train. She was worried we'd miss it or something and I was all, Mawii, relax, we won't miss it.

I know what you're thinking and you are wrong. We did not miss the train.


So she starting getting annoyed with me (in all fairness, I'm fairly annoying) and I started getting annoyed with her (because, if one is going to be equally fair, she can be goddamn anal sometimes). We got so annoyed with each other, we didn't even sit next to each other on the train.

Although, come to think of it, that might have been because we may have been just slightly late boarding. And there was no fixed seating - and it was a bank holiday weekend - so we had to make do with what we could get which wasn't much.

Sintra was packed with tourists. There were so many people milling around when we got out of the station, it felt like being back in India again. Minus the colour scheme.

Mawii marched on ahead, ignoring me.

I shuffled along, ignoring her, and eventually lost her in the crowd and ended up sulking near one of the bus stops.

Let her come and find me, I thought to myself.

But she didn't. And I know Mawii's moods,  I realised that she was capable of boarding the bus and leaving me behind, so I pushed my way through the crowd, muttering pardons and sorrys, and I finally found her standing in a queue at one of the bus stands.

We still didn't say anything to each other and when we got on the bus, that girl took the window-seat without apology or explanation.

That meant Mawii was Seriously Pissed Off, but so was I (the wordless occupation of the window-seat was the Last Straw) so I didn't care.

The castle is set on something that is too large to call a hill and too small to claim to be a mountain. It is surrounded by thick, dense forest. Both the castle and the forest are open to tourists. You can't, however, glimpse the castle from the drop-off point (which is a mountain path). You need to go into the forest to see it.

And, it goes without saying, you have to pay to enter the goddamn forest.

This is when I realised I didn't have enough money on me to enter. Not if I wanted to get back to Lisbon. I can't remember what happened, I think I'd left some notes behind at the B&B.

"I can't go in," I said to Mawii. "I think I left my cash behind at the B&B."

Obviously this is the point I expected her to lend me the money - feud or no feud - but instead she said, "okay, I'll meet you here in an hour."

And off she went.

In Mawii's defence, I found out later that she wasn't carrying enough cash for the both of us, but she was too annoyed with me to tell me then, so I called her many colourful names under my breath as I strolled down the path the bus had just brought me up on.

There was a cafe about a ten minutes away, tucked in on the side of the mountain. (Or hill.) I bought an Americano (even though I loathe them) because I couldn't afford the cappuccino. There was a little stoned-paved courtyard outside. I sat there and rolled a cigarette grumpily.

Time passed.

I took out a notebook and pen because it felt like the Right Time to Write Something.

Time passed.

It was not the Right Time to Write Something after all. I put the notebook back and rolled another cigarette.

Time continued to pass, as it tends to do.

A tiny robin - robins are the only birds, in my opinion, that are more or less okay - landed on my table and cocked its head at me enquiringly. I love the roundness of the robin, and the scarlet patch its chest.

Regardless, I hurriedly got up and left.

Robins might be more or less okay but I, evidently, am not.

It was more or less time to meet up with Mawii, so I headed back towards the entrance. I saw her looking for me, but - because I am extraordinarily childish and petty when I'm pissed off - I didn't go up to her.

Let her make more of an effort to find me, I thought.

Three minutes passed and the moron still hadn't managed to spot me, so I gave up and went across to her.

"It was beautiful," she said, in response to the obvious how-was-it.

"But I didn't go inside the palace," she said after a pause. "It was too expensive. I only saw the outside from the forest."

Boo fucking hoo. 

It turned out that the drop-off point was only a drop-off point, and not a pick-up point as most drop-off points are, so we started walking down the mountain (or hill) towards the town below. It was a good 2 km walk and we obviously made up along the way.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Mawii, you really pissed me off.

Mawii: I think you may have pissed me off more.

Me: Probably. I'm sorry. I don't want to be pissed off.

Mawii: Same here.

Me: Cool.

And then we were back to normal. That's what I love about my friendship with Mawii. There's so much affection, but no fuss. 

My memory is a little hazy, but I remember us walking around trying to find a place to drink and eat at. We found our way to a winding lane where there were plenty of shops selling all sorts of things for tourists to take back home, and I saw about five hundred things I wanted to pick up for my family and friends, but I didn't have the money. To be fair, if I did have the money, I would've probably turned my nose up at everything.

I could go on about the rest of the day, but the thing is, I've been going on about this trip for more than a year, and I'm quite fed up. I want to get to the end now. Here's a rough summary though.

- We walked a lot.

- We had a couple of drinks and a meal at a cheap pub.

- We found a grassy and abandoned park and spent a very peaceful half-an-hour there.

- We found a bus that took us to the station.

- We found the train that took us back to Lisbon.

- We found that Mawii's map wasn't as trustworthy as we thought, and we got lost on our way home.

- A twenty minute walk, therefore, turned into a ninety minute walk.

- We reached home and collapsed.

I am very tempted to be all, fuck the rest of the holiday, maybe I should write about something that is happening now, but I won't. I will continue to document this goddamn trip for the next three years if I have to.

Because, though the posts don't do it justice, it's one of those things you want to keep with you, however abysmal your manner of keeping it.


It's been almost a year since I went to goddamn Portugal.

Things I do not regret: the trip.

Things I regret: deciding to write about the trip.