28.12.12

2012's last life lesson.

I will forever be grateful to 2012 for teaching me things, and not too harshly either. It taught me that it's okay not to know what you want to do once you've finished college, but also, that it's not okay to sit around and complain about it. It taught me that if you can't be specific when someone asks you what you want to do, then it's important to go out and find the answer, rather than waiting for an epiphany to find you - epiphanies have better things to do. It taught me a lot about self control: namely, that it's possibly the most important quality to have. Without self control, it's difficult to have self respect. It taught me a lot about people: those who seem shallow and boring and who seem to have not much to say for themselves are sometimes the least pretentious, the ones who have their heads screwed on right.

Anyway, this isn't a monologue on how I've evolved this past year, it is rather, an anecdote on something extremely stupid I did, and what I've learnt from it.

Date: 24.12.2012 (which turned to 25.12.2012, which should have been the first warning).

Place: Third party of the night (second warning)

Incident: Climbing into Varun's car (sensible, if it had been Siddharth Sharma's, I would probably have been dead by now).

Fault: mine, and it was a twofold one. It included my natural accident proneness, and also, large quantities of wine and vodka, which was an amateur mistake, and one I am kicking myself over, because I learnt long ago not to mix drinks, and this was a good reminder of why you shouldn't mix drinks, or drink irresponsibly.

We were at this lovely party, but unfortunately (actually, fortunately) I don't remember much. Beautiful house, and long stretches of garden, and cheerful bonfires which no one fell into, and I was feeling pleased with myself because I was wearing high heeled shoes and not falling over. I always get into trouble when I feel pleased with myself.

This is good, said my treacherous mind. Let's have one more Vodka and Redbull and feel like we're in college.

(I'm not in college. Note to self: never want to 'feel' like being in college again, it was an undignified time).

The drink was lovely, let's have one more. Oh look, people I know, let's talk to them. Oh, but they're being boring, so let's rudely move away mid- conversation, and go join another group. They're even more boring, why are they talking about this, why do I want to hear about this, maybe we should go back to previous group, oh no, wait, there's a friend I haven't spoken to in twenty minutes, let's go over and say hello. (I have more than one voice in my head usually, I'm sure most of us do).

Oh look, here is a Frenchman I've only met once who is extremely good looking and rude, let's be rude in return to show that we don't think he's good looking. Okay, done being rude, let's go get another drink. Oh look, there's another friend. Tra la la la la.

[Insert dancing which I don't remember].

[Insert leaving party which I don't remember].

[Insert climbing into Varun's car which I do remember, albeit vaguely].

The next thing I remember is that the car was moving, and I hadn't closed the door properly, but I didn't have time to shout, or maybe I did, and I was desperately scrabbling around trying to get a hold of something, but I missed, and the door swung open, and I fell out. I remember wrapping my arms tightly around my head as I fell - hah! I do have some sort of half baked survival instinct then - and I hit the ground.

I remember lying there, thinking this was the end. I think that's where the vodka comes in. I know there were people around me, but I couldn't open my eyes. My consciousness had tucked itself into a warm, dark corner of my mind, and it just wanted to be left there. I felt a friend shaking me frantically, and I wanted to respond but I couldn't. It was all very strange and traumatising.

And then I heard the word hospital, and I was just like, NO. No way was I going to be taken to hospital, a recorded statistic of irresponsible drinking. So I sat up, and I suppose I got back into the car, and then I came home. My mother yelled at me and put me to bed.

Later in the morning - Merry Christmas! - I went to get a tetanus shot, and to get my knee dressed. All the skin of my knee had come off. It really wasn't a big deal at first, and I came home to a whole lot of undeserved Christmas presents, and a peaceful day, spent the way Christmas should be spent.

But since then, I have visited a doctor, and been informed that I should get plastic surgery on my knee, and I am supposed to be leaving for Delhi on the 3rd to start a new job, and basically, all hell has broken loose.

None of this was as bad as the phone calls and e-mails I had to send off the morning after the party, to all the people I'd apparently been rude to, traumatised, and otherwise inconvenienced.

I strongly believe in making the best of bad situations though, of emerging from a pile of poop smelling of roses. So I am trying to tuck away the embarrassment, the humiliation (there is nothing I can do about the pain which, I assure you, is AGONY), and instead, use this incident to emerge a better person.

The obvious answer to that is to never let it happen again.

More importantly, I think, if faced with a similar situation, to ensure that it is tackled with a bit more dignity. Up to this point, I hadn't made a resolution for 2013, but 2012 cackled and was all, "think you've gotten through me with no need for improvement, next year? Ha ha, let me change that, just a bit."

Courage, someone once said, is grace under pressure. I don't know whether I would call that courage, but to be graceful under pressure, and also not to aid said pressure with Absolut, is what I will strive for this coming year.


20.12.12

The Annual Recap


1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

- The big ones: graduated college, had a proper job, earned paycheck, studied an online course on the side, saw Death staring me in the face and triumphed. Yes, I did. 
- The little ones: drove an auto, flew a kite, baked edible cookies, learned how to do many push ups in a row, went skinny dipping in the ocean, started driving, got chased by a cow, etc. 

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

My new year's resolution was to do something new every week. I didn't manage doing that every week, but I made a valiant attempt to. No resolutions for next year yet. 


3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What countries did you visit?

Indonesia, and since I visited Hong Kong and crossed over to Kowloon, I suppose I can count China. 

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A little epiphany on future career paths would be nice, but...(see point 8)

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

June: I graduated college, left Delhi, aaaaand, well, it was memorable for other reasons as well.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

It's not an achievement yet, but probably giving up on epiphanies. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Sat around on my ass too much. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope. 

11. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My uncle Pud. 

12. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

No one comes to mind. 

13. Where did most of your money go?

On Saturday nights out. 

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

Haha. I can't say. Too embarrassing. 

15. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Probably anything by Katie Melua.

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

Technically, I am depressed and confused at the moment, but honestly honestly honestly, deep deep down, in the pit of my stomach, back of my mind, SO MUCH HAPPIER. 

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

Nothing, really. 

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

Less flirting. Actually, no. That's a lie. 

19. How will you be spending Christmas?

With friends and family. 

20. Did you fall in love in 2012?

I didn't fall in love this year. 

21. How many one night stands?

None. 

22. What was your favourite TV programme?

The Misfits, The Big Bang Theory. 

23. What was the best book you read?

Er, probably Eric Ives' biography on Anne Boleyn. It sounds lame even to me. 

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Mmm. Can't think of anything offhand. 

25. What did you want and get?

 I can't say. But something really important and wonderful and I thought I never ever would, but I did. So HAHAHA.

26. What did you want and not get?

A fixed plan for next year. 

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

Don't know. 

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

I turned 21 and had a big party and the neighbours complained. 

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

A lot of things, but I think I had quite a lot to be grateful for. 

30. What kept you sane?

My mother for the first half of the year, Akshay for the last half (after she went nuts with the perimenopause), and Mawii, throughout. 

31. Who was the worst new person you met?

I can't say in case that person finds my blog. He probably won't, but just in case. 

32. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a lot of people, but no one special comes to mind. 

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learnt in 2012.

No. 

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

No. 




30.10.12

Twenty one.

A shattered glass on gleaming floors,
Amber liquid spilling out,
Curtains burnt to make way for
Dream catchers hanging by the door.

Youth runs barefoot on hot concrete
Softened only by thin threads of grass,
There is the sharp salt air of the sea,
There is the jazz, broken, complete.

You cannot feel things in their halves,
The sun is servant to your prow,
Old men whisper that nothing lasts,
But bottled time flies from your mast.

12.10.12

Exploring Chatroulette.

I'm a novice when it comes to internet porn, internet sex, internet pleasuring yourself, whatever. I've never even watched porn, not really. When I was ten, my friend Jahnavi and I accidentally found ourselves on a porn site (or maybe not accidentally, I'm not sure), and then we clicked something, and pictures of naked people started popping up everywhere, and then my father walked in on us, and that was pretty much my first and only experience with porn.

No, that's not completely true. I have friends who watch it, and I've seen bits and pieces, but I've never managed sitting through more than a few seconds, because quite frankly, I think porn makes sex look unappetising, which it obviously is not.

Even less have I understood the concept of virtual sex. You go to a chat room, and you type that you're taking your clothes off and you're feeling hot and your fingers are exploring but I find it difficult to buy into that concept. I always get the feeling that at least one person is just sitting around in pyjamas eating a tub of ice cream. Also, I don't think I'm capable of doing naked things in front of a webcam either.

Anyway, the other day I heard about this site called Chatroulette. You go to it, and if you have a webcam you start conversations with strangers. If the conversation is not going as hoped, you click a button saying Next, and you are connected with another person.

Here are a couple of screen shots. In the first photograph, Chatroulette is finding me a partner. In the second, you can see the guy it connected me with. I didn't talk to him because he clicked the next button three seconds later (just for the record, my webcam wasn't even on), but as you can see he is on the phone, and I heard him say the words 'hemorrhoid cream' into it, so maybe it was all for the best. Anyway, as soon we got disconnected, Chatroulette moved me to another partner, but I shut it down, because if you haven't understood how it works by now, there is no point reading further.



Anyway, a couple of nights ago, I was really bored, and I went to Chatroulette to see what it was like. Also, I really felt like writing a blog post but I couldn't think of anything to write about, so I decided, for once in my life to be proactive, and to research something and then write about it which is what I'm doing now.  

What I wanted to do was to find out why people used Chatroulette. People from all over the world use it - in a matter of moments I met (for want of a better word) people - men and women, girls and boys - from Germany, the Netherlands, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, and France. I didn't talk to most of these people, just kept clicking next, but what struck me was that nearly all of them were young, and not unattractive either. What I really wanted to do was to strike up a conversation with a couple of people and find out exactly why they used it. The experiment was not a success.

Case A:

Man 1: hey

Me: Hi! 

Man 1: wanna take your shirt off?

Me: Actually, I'm on this site for research.

Man 1: lol

Me: Yes, I know. Lol. I'm trying to find out why people use this site to interact with complete strangers instead of, I don't know, going out and meeting people at a social gatherings. Why do you use this site?

Man 1: wanna see my dick?



I clicked Next. 


Case B:

Girls 1 and 2: *waved*

Me: *waved back*

Me: Hey, quick question...



They clicked Next. 


Case C:

Man 2: *saw my face and obviously clicked next*


Case D:

Boy: hey

Me: Hi!

Boy 1: how old are you? 

Me: How old are you?

Boy: 16... ;)

Me: Welllll, that's too young for me, but I'm really not on this site to socialise. I'm trying to research why people use it  to interact with other people.

Boy 1: c'mon..how old are you?

Me: WHY DO YOU USE THIS SITE?

Boy: to meet hot women.

Me: You're sixteen, right?

Boy: yeah... ;)

Me: Don't you find it a little pathetic that at the age of sixteen you are sitting around on sites like Chatroulette trying to pick up strange women whom you can show your private parts to? 

Boy: well...


Me: Why don't you get out? Go meet a nice girl your age at a park or something. Go meet someone in a bar using a fake id. All that stuff is better than this.

Boy: you're right...


Me: Really? I'm getting through to you.


Boy: tell you what...i swear i'll delete this account as soon as we're done talking...


Me: !!! :) 


Boy: just show me your tits first. 


I clicked Next. 


Case E

Man 2: hey

Me: Please don't tell me to take my clothes off. Please listen to me. 

Man 2: ok

Me: I'm trying to research what satisfaction people get from using this site and sites like this. I've met a lot of people tonight and no one seemed like they were hideous or suffering from Asperger's, and I can't understand why they don't want to meet real people. Can you help me? Why are you on this?

Man 2: lol...I'm married. 

Me: Um.

Man 2: someone told me about this site and i'm checking it out for the first time because i was curious. 

[LIAR!]


After that, I gave up. I had no energy left to find out why thousands of people the world over use Chatroulette. I will say this in its defence though: I may have gotten no sexual satisfaction that night, but I did get quite a lot of entertainment. 


2.10.12

Why do we like art?


"I'm interested in art," is a vague sentence, and not a particularly intelligent one, but I know no other way to put it. To me, it is incredible that you can look at a painting, and it may mean absolutely nothing to you, you may not know anything about its history, or its composition, or even why you like it, but none of that matters - that does not stop you from being unable to tear your gaze from it, from being incredibly moved by it, from feeling it in a way that words themselves cannot be felt.

And paintings can bring up so many feelings. I've seen paintings that make me feel safe, that make me feel  I belong to them. I could be thrust right into the middle of the colour and the movement, and I could curl up in a corner, and nestle myself against a pigment of paint, and find peace. I've seen paintings that have disturbed me, and scared me, and yet, I could not move away. They could root me to the spot, and I would not know why, and that is part of the fascination, because I think when you are confronted with something that shakes you to your core, and you don't know why, it makes you ask questions that you would rarely allow yourself to ask. I've seen paintings that I've just enjoyed looking at because they are so goddamn pretty, even though you're not supposed to say that, and I've seen paintings dripping with history that tell the stories of people long dead, long forgotten, reaching out to you, even as you step forward, through the frame and through the canvas, allowing their story to become a part of your own.

Today, modern art is often about installations, but I have not yet learnt to appreciate them. I don't like installations because they are not permanent, they are not intended to be permanent, and one of the things I find comforting about art, and about books, is the permanence they offer in a world where everything is constantly changing. They outlive their creator, and so, something created by man, becomes greater than man, and - most fascinating of all - turns into something man can never completely understand, and can never wholly grasp.

I'm working in an art gallery at the moment, and this is a question that has often been thrown at me. It is a question only the most honest of my friends ask me, because it's one that you're not supposed to really ask: what is the big deal about art?

In the world I've been exposed to, inside the gallery, not the one I've been brought up in, the honest answer is that art is a business, like everything else. A lot of people buy art because they see it as an investment, or because it cements a certain position they have reached in society, whether financial or intellectual.

But, if you shove those issues aside for a moment, if you shove most of that world aside, as well as the people that belong to it, you might find something else. There is a book by Tracy Chevalier, it is called Girl with a Pearl Earring. In that book, the painter Vermeer tells the servant girl Griet, to look at the clouds outside the window, and then he asks her what colour they are.

"White," replies Griet.

The painter tells her to look again, and a little confused, she does. And then, as she looks, perhaps with a furrowed brow, she begins to see that the clouds are not white at all, but yellow and purple and pink and even green, and they all come together, to form a perfect pearl coloured cloud.

This is what that something else is, this is what lies at the heart of a world that has turned into an industry, and this is why, for all the people who buy art because it is a symbol of money or intelligence or social position, there are many who buy a painting because they like to look at it, because it gives them pleasure, because they find beauty in it and they like beautiful things, and there are even a few, who like art, not all art, but some art, because it takes them to a place that cannot be found anywhere else on earth, a place that is close to divine, despite being created by stained human hands.

20.9.12

Boys in Calcutta cannot get laid.

For some reason, the boys (the men? I've reached that stage where I'm not sure what word to use for my peers) in Calcutta cannot get laid.

This has been an ongoing problem for the past three or four years- more or less since we all finished school. Oh the irony.

You see, in school, practically everyone I knew was in a committed relationship by the time class 11 rolled around. My friend Kimi was in a committed relationship (to be fair, Kimi hadn't been out of a relationship since class 8, but this was definitely her first serious one). Min was in a serious relationship - a major achievement since her first boyfriend lasted about three days. There was Ishani-and-Shourjo, Teesta-and-Riku (although if my memory serves me right, Teesta was the first of us to, er, break free - and how!) There was Jahnavi-and-Sidharth, and then Jahnavi-and-Siddharth.

Let me digress for a moment here to tell you about Jahnavi-and-Siddharth. She had just broken up with her first serious boyfriend, Sidharth, and fallen in love, or like, or whatever the term is, with Siddharth. Anyway, Siddharth was a bit clueless. Thought he was smooth, but was not. Jahnavi had a big party for her seventeenth birthday which I attended. During this party, having made up her mind that Siddharth was The One, and deciding not to waste time now that her mind was finally made up, Jahnavi set about seducing him. It was like bearing witness to a perfected art form.

"Look at the moon, Siddharth," she said, pointing towards the moon.

Siddharth obligingly looked at the moon.

"Kiss me, Siddharth," she said.

Siddharth obligingly kissed her.

And that was that.

Anyway, back to school and committed relationships. So there was Jahnavi-and-Siddharth, me-and-Vikram (I know I should write Vikram-and-I, but me-and-Vikram describes our relationship better), Aditya-and-Anurina. Everything was a perfect fit. Jahnavi was one of my closest friends, Anurina was a close friend of Jahnavi's, Vikram and Aditya were siblings, and Siddharth was their best friend. These relationships continue to hold, although we have all stopped dating (each other).

Oh yes, and there was Varun-and-Mawii, which is something I still haven't recovered from.

There was even someone unnamed who was in a serious relationship with her tutor. I have great respect for that human being. I believe most people would think the tutor was the one taking advantage of the student, but I have a feeling it was the other way around. (You know who you are. High five!)

There were even three girls in the Commerce section who had, er, each other. Once someone spied a hand creeping up a thigh during Second Language class. I'd rather not go into details but my point is: everyone was getting some.

Come to think of it, even Vikram's old classmate Mohak was in a serious relationship. And he was balding. At seventeen. But apparently his girlfriend used to threaten to run away and throw herself under metros so perhaps that sheds (har har!) some light on the matter.

So everyone was in love and - to use my mother's memorable term - flaunting their sexuality. There were love bites galore on people's necks, girls and boys. We used to swap tips on the best ways to conceal them, even though no one ever really wanted to, because it was essentially a big sign saying, "HA HA! I HAVE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER! HA HA! I AM COOL".

Then the changes started. (An obvious one: love bites in your twenties are not cool. They are lame.)

Jahnavi went off to college, that was more or less the end of Jahnavi-and-Siddharth; Anurina went to college, it was eventually the end of Anurina-and-Aditya; I, er, went on holiday, and that was the catalyst for the end of me-and-Vikram. Ishani left Calcutta, goodbye Shourjo. Min and her boyfriend lasted a bit longer, but much to my joy, it ended eventually. And so on and so forth.

Now we come to the interesting bit. All the girls eventually went on to other relationships. And even if they weren't technically relationships, the girls were definitely getting some.

A conversation with one of my male friends - well one of them in particular, the others are more reticent, would, on the other hand, involve this - "WHY CAN'T I GET LAID? WHY CAN'T YOU HOOK ME UP WITH SOMEONE? WHAT IS THE POINT OF HAVING YOU AS A FRIEND IF YOU WON'T GIVE ME A GIRL?"

"Girls are not commodities," I said with severity, having just read Irigaray's 'Commodities Among Themselves'.

An anguished howl on the other end of the line.

"Okay, okay. I'll see what I can do."

What is fascinating about this is that it only applies to my male friends living in Calcutta.

The ones who weren't in Cal, didn't have a problem. They were banging their way around Bangalore, poking their way through Pune, drumming on dinglebobbers in Delhi, and so on and so forth. But Calcutta was left high and dry.

"Do you know any single girls?" I asked Min on the phone one day.

"No," she said curiously, "why?"

"I have a line of boys who kind of need to get laid."

"All the girls are doing it," said Min, and proceeded to ask me when I was coming back to Calcutta so she could visit my building for a reason I am not at liberty to reveal, unfortunately. Although you might guess if you're quick on the uptake.

I have now moved back to Calcutta, and I can witness the problem firsthand. If I want to have a night out, and none of my male friends are keen, I just lie and say that I'm bringing some girlfriends along. They will come in hordes. And then I make up an excuse, because to tell you the truth, I don't have too many girlfriends in Calcutta, and the ones who are here, are all seeing someone. I have one single friend - just down from Delhi - and she is invited for every outing, because my male friends hope she will bring some of her single friends, and then things will take their natural course, but she has no single friends either.

It's a sad and sorry situation, and I wish I could help them, or even discover whether there is a reason behind the lack of sex for the boys in Calcutta; there seems to be plenty going round for everyone else.

Are they ugly?

Well, my friends aren't, not all of them anyway, and Calcutta boys, though not known for their looks, aren't worse than most Indian boys.

Are they stupid?

Most of them, but even the smart ones have trouble getting laid.

Are they boring?

No.

Are they on drugs?

Yes. But so are many girls, so I don't see why this should be a problem. Get high, have sex. It should work, why doesn't it?

Do they have bad breath?

I'm not willing to find out personally, but I have friends who've made out with friends (this is a very incestuous city; I once drew a chart of who's hooked up with whom and the result made me realise that there are less degrees than six separating us all), so I think I would have heard by now. Also none of the Calcutta boys I've ever made out with have bad breath, so it can't be a general thing.

It is a dilemma I just cannot solve, but it has led me to find the answer to one of life's most puzzling questions: can men and women ever be Just Friends?

Of course they can.

Here's why.

Men want to be your friend and not because they want to sleep with you. Men want to be your friend because they are optimists, and they hope that you have many friends, of the female variety with bigger breasts and longer legs than yourself, tucked away somewhere. In Man Land, this thinking is known as Logic.

I believe this theory is applicable to men all over the world - and it works for some, it really does.

Just not for the ones I know in Calcutta.

On a completely unrelated note, if there are any reasonably attractive single girls living in this city aged between 19 and 24 reading this, please get in touch.





10.9.12

For my best friend, Mawii.

Dear Mawii,

I have desperately tried to write you a blog post (as per request, but I always intended to anyway) about our three years together battling the duhs and dumbos (too many out there) and embracing the drugs and drinks (but not enough) of Delhi. I have tried, and tried again, and failed spectacularly each time. This is probably why I haven't been able to update my blog for months on end. I began berating whatever little skill I believed I had as a writer, because what is the point of being able to write, if you can't write about something that means a lot to you.

This is the crux of the matter: I finally discovered something (you, me, you-and-me) that I could not write about. The cigarettes I have smoked over this have only hastened my slide towards death, but don't feel too bad. It was either that, or a plane plummeting down to the bowels of the earth.

It's been a few months since college. No more sitting under the dhaba tree whining about our sad little lives, no more sipping nimbu pani and sneaking cigarettes by the shed, no more hauling our world wearied bones off to Kamla Nagar to comfort ourselves with Food. No more waiting at the corner under the merciless sun for merciless autos to take us back home, no more spending slow hours in the ridge, on a rock, with one eye out for monkeys. No more assignments to write, no more assignments to not-write, no more classes to sit through, voices droning on-and-on-and-on, no more Roy tutorials to be silent in. No more dinners comprising that fucking chappati and paneer, which I will hate for the rest of my life, no more uncouth hordes of savages elbowing us out of the dinner line, and no more having to share bathrooms with diseased people. No more deaths-by-mosquito, no more lizards slipping through the fan, no more long drawn out power cuts, and no more having to listen to Raju telling us to quit smoking. No more Rajesh and Krishna banging on the door, no more ineffective coolers, no more waking up at eight in the morning to that fucking John Mayer singing Gravity, no more Malka parties with you getting drunk and dancing like a lunatic in the middle of the dance floor while I sit in a corner and wish I were at home, no more lying sweaty in bed wishing we had a joint to smoke while ants climbed freely over our precious skin, no more making our way to murky Majnukatila to procure ourselves the aforementioned joint.

 I won't lie, I don't really miss all that too much. Actually, I don't miss all that at all.

What I do miss is lying in our room, the fan whirling slowly overhead, watching episode after episode of whatever television show we happened to be addicted to. What I do miss are breakfasts at the PG which we refused to skip, Aunty's beaming face, her stirring our coffee. What I do miss is running off to Khan Market in the middle of the afternoon (not the Metro, I definitely don't miss the Metro), to Chonas, or to My Bar, either by ourselves, or with friends, and drinking cool draughts of beer, chain smoking away to glory. I miss the buy-one-get-one-free cocktail offer, I miss the free drinks at Cafe Morrison and Turquoise Cottage, I miss borrowing your clothes every time I needed something nice to wear for, er, reasons known only to you. I miss lying in bed at night, with the lights off, waiting for sleep to come, and passing the time rolling around with laughter at our own nasty yet incredibly witty comments about people we know. I miss the two of us sitting around with green face packs on, I miss seeing your pregnant fantasies manifesting themselves in strange walks and pillows under shirts, I miss my free haircuts, I miss our complaining about the stupidity and futility of men, I miss the lives we'd plan for ourselves: they are not so vivid when I am alone. I miss those bloody pizzas, man, with the ham and the pineapple and the black olives. I miss smoking up with you, and I miss smoking up with you-and-the-others, and laughing at inappropriate things, I miss the nights where it would just be the two of us, forever alone, drinking port wine, and then passing out - plop, plop - not remembering what we'd been talking about the next day, when I woke up with a hangover, and you woke up without one. (I do not miss the hangovers.) I miss the auto rides to college, especially on winter mornings, when the air was sharp and cold and we were bundled up feeling hep in our blazers and (in your case) boots, the auto rides up the ridge, where the forest would stretch out to our right, a dazzling green tapestry, and the sky would look like a watercolour, and where, on a good day, we'd see a peacock. I miss going off on random holidays (well, alright, we did that twice - thrice if you count The Trip That Wasn't, but I know you will not) and being completely at peace, talking when needed, lazing when not needed. Being with you is like being by myself, except better.

When I first went to college, I told Nick I was worried about having a roommate because I was so used to privacy.I was terrified, I thought I'd hate it, I didn't know how I'd be able to handle having someone constantly by my side, there when I woke up, there throughout the day, there when I went to sleep. He didn't help matters, telling me that they were going to see every side of me, not just the one I showed to the world.

He was right, as it happens, but turns out that having someone constantly by my side wasn't a bad thing after all. It was what ultimately got me through those three years, it was the cause of nearly all  my laughter, and the comfort to all my woes, and now that the source of it all is in Delhi, and I am here, I miss it like hell, and am glad that, of all the idiotic things I did at college, taking you for granted was never one of them.









8.9.12

Bali Revisited.

Or, That Time My Mother Nearly Drowned. 

My uncle organised a family holiday in Bali a couple of months ago. My cousin Rajeet finished his master's degree, and was about to embark on a teaching job, Pria had finished her undergraduate, and so had I, and my uncle, who is quite possibly the grumpiest person who has ever existed and also the most generous, gave us this holiday as a present. 

He rented a villa for the entire family and eloquent though I attempt to be, I don't think I'll be able to do justice to the villa, so here are some photos instead. Bear in mind that they don't really do it much justice either. 



 Anyway, this really isn't about Bali, or the villa. This is about one fine sunny day when my mother and I walked down to the beach which was about ten minutes away from the villa. The others aren't really beach bums (my uncle doesn't approve of sand, he thinks it's too messy, ding dong!), but my mother and I adore the sea, and we went swimming at every opportunity. The stretch of beach we used to frequent was actually a surfer's beach. The waves were large, and they were strong, and they tossed you about. It was great fun. We'd wade out and we'd wait for a huge wave to come crashing towards us, and then we'd dive underneath it, and wriggle around in the ocean until it passed, before emerging to tackle the next one. Sometimes, when they were large and gentle, we'd keep afloat, and be lifted up with them, before being let down again. Anyway this one day, the sea was deceptively calm. The previous day, the waves had worked themselves up to a fury, and had flung us around, and we'd emerged quite bruised. But we'd also been more careful. My mother is more cautious than me, but we were both more confident than we should have been, and we made the fatal error of floating on our backs. I'm not sure what happened, but the current must have been incredibly strong. I'd only been floating a few minutes, when I heard the lifeguard's whistle. Since I am spineless, and terrified of disobeying authority, I looked up straight away, and got a bit of a shock. The shore was really far away. Really really far. The people on it were like a speck. I was starting to feel every so slightly panicky, but I shoved it away. The lifeguard blew his whistle again. 

"MOTHER!" I yelled. "SWIM! SWIM! SWIM! WE'RE GOING TO GET INTO TROUBLE!" She was a little further out than I was, but not too far. 

I began swimming back to shore, and I looked over my shoulder at her. She wasn't moving. 

"WILL YOU MOVE IT!" I snapped. "DO YOU WANT TO GET INTO TROUBLE?" 

She looked at me then, and I'd never seen that expression on her face. It wasn't fear exactly, it was bewilderment, it was a sense of helplessness, it was something that I'd never ever associated with my mother who has the strength of a rock and the hide of a rhino, as she is fond of proudly proclaiming. 

"I can't move," she said. 

"What do you mean, you can't move? SWIM!" 

"I CAN'T." 

I looked at her in bewilderment. I just couldn't comprehend the fact that she couldn't swim back to shore. It was something that my brain was just not being able to process. 

"TRY!"

She made a few feeble attempts to move, but she did not. It didn't occur to me then (thank god) that she was stuck in a rip tide. 

"I can't make it," she said. "I won't be able to swim back."

This is it, I thought. This is the end. She's going to go under any minute, and obviously, I'm going to be obliged to save her, and obviously I won't be able to, and we'll both be drowned. So this is my post college life. I end up dead. Typical. Just typical. 

These were the thoughts going through my head as I began swimming towards her. I wasn't scared, or if I was, the terror was locked firmly away somewhere for the moment. I was just annoyed with the universe in general, and my mother in particular. 

"Don't come towards me," she said. "DON'T!" 

The lifeguard. I lifted my arms and waved for him. I waved and waved, all the while, moving my legs desperately so I could bob in one place near my mother. I saw two of them come towards us with their surfboards, but I was still scared, I was scared that they wouldn't reach in time, I was scared that my mother would be pulled out to sea or go under, I was scared that she'd die, I was scared that I'd die, and funnily enough, I only realised I was scared later, not just then, I didn't actively feel anything just then, these thoughts and emotions skimmed the surface of my mind, but I couldn't pay attention to them, because all my concentration was directed at my mother, and making sure she was alright, and on staying afloat myself. 

It took the lifeguards a few minutes to reach us, but they did, and I thought then that everything was going to be alright. One of them hoisted my mother onto his surfboard and kicked off back to shore (I made it a point to sputter that I was fine, that I didn't need any help), and the other, after I waved his surfboard away with a look of disdain, started swimming alongside me. 

It was the most difficult swim of my life. I started off alright, repeatedly remarking to my lifeguard how weak my mother was, and how I was just chilling, and how this was no trouble at all, but eventually, I started feeling really tired, battling against the current. I realised then - it sent a shiver through me - that if it hadn't been for the lifeguard next to me, I wouldn't have been able to make it. He provided this sort of mental reassurance to me. I knew it was impossible to drown because he was there, and if my arms and legs stopped moving, he'd drag me onto his surfboard, and it was that knowledge which enabled me to keep swimming. But the shore was really far away, and I was very tired, and I realised, probably for the first time in my entire life, just how powerful and forbidding the sea is. You can love the sea, you can speak to it, you can be its friend, you can never ever be its equal. 

My mother by this time had reached the beach. I was swimming and swimming, using all the will power I'd ever had, and then the last wave picked me up and threw me on to the shore. I looked up at her with a faceful of sand. 

She was dancing around. "Did you see me catch the wave? DID YOU? DID YOU SEE ME RIDE IT ON THE SURFBOARD?"

No Mother, I did not, because I was busy battling for my life. 

"Are you okay?" I said tenderly, realising how close I'd come to losing her, though I was feeling less fond of her than I'd been before she started describing her new found surfing abilities. 

"Well, I was really worried."

"Me too."

"I was worried that my bottom looked too big. It was shoved right in the lifeguard's face. He was quite good looking. I really hope my bottom looked okay." 

"..." 

It hit her eventually. She woke up feeling frightened in the middle of the night.That woman has the survival instincts of a passenger pigeon. Although, I  have to admit, she stuck to the pool for the rest of the holiday. We both did. We blamed it on the sand. It really is quite messy. 





23.5.12

Oh Brother.

When I was eighteen, during the summer after I finished school, I spent about ten days in Bali - I had an aunt and uncle living there then, and my cousin was visiting at the same time.

This is him by the way:



My mother thought he was gay for a long time, but he isn't. I wish he was. His nauseating interactions with his girlfriend are all over my facebook page (this is the mildest form):



Anyway, now that I've made fun of that, back to Bali.

We were at the beach one morning, and my cousin - let's call him Hippopiggiepippo (HPP) and he will know why - was, for once, in the sea with me. He'd been avoiding it strenuously, because he was worried about getting a tan which, incidentally, during that time, was probably my only sole purpose in life.

I was a little further out, floating on my back, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, when suddenly he started yelling. Really yelling, really loudly.

"What's wrong?" I asked, swimming towards him.

He didn't answer, he just kept yelling, and the tone of his voice got higher and higher, until it changed to a steady piercing shriek.

"My foot! My foot! Something's happened to my foot!"

"Jeez," I said disgustedly, once we'd ascertained it wasn't bleeding. "You probably stepped on a shell or something."

"IT HURTS!"

"Man up,"

He threw me a look of contempt and hobbled off somewhere. Superbly unconcerned, I lay myself out on a deck chair, sipping on a mojito, watching the steaming sand and gleaming sea in front of me.

Suddenly an Indonesian woman came up to me.

"You are Trisha?"

"Yes," I said, rolling my eyes, knowing what this was about.

"Come, come with me." She seemed agitated.

As I followed her, very reluctantly, I thought to myself what a twerp HPP was. One little bruise on his foot, and he'd raised a hue and cry (and what a cry).

She led me, as I expected, to the beach hospital. It was a single room, roughly made of sweet smelling bamboo and wood, with palm fronds framing the entrance. My cousin was on a cot, groaning, and he was surrounded by a bunch of women. One of them, to my surprise, was hitting his foot with a stone.

"Er," I said, by way of greeting.

They looked up at me and started pointing frantically to him and then his foot and then to the sea. The trouble was they didn't know any English, and though HPP knows a bit of Indonesian, he couldn't understand what they were saying. Not that he was bothering to listen to them.

"EEEAAAAAHHHHHH!" He yelled, as the lady who was hitting his foot banged on it particularly viciously. I was tempted to ask them to let me give it a go: it would give her a rest, and it would give me great pleasure and satisfaction, but I restrained myself.

Eventually they stopped.

"Can you figure out what they're saying?" I asked him.

He whimpered.

One word seemed to be repeated more often than the others: ulaar.

"I think whatever it was is an ulaar," he said to me. "I don't know what that is."

"Maybe it's a jellyfish?"

After he deigned to remove himself from the cot, we thanked the ladies and went home.

"Why are you back so early?" said my aunt, when she saw us.

"Something's wrong with your son's foot," I said grumpily. "He made me come home."

"What is it?"

"They said at the beach that it's an ulaar, whatever that is."

The two of us decided to check an Indonesian - English dictionary.

"Ulaar, ulaar, ulaar," we muttered, flipping the pages.

Sea snake, it said.

"Oh shit," we said.

The End.


PS: HPP was alright in the end. My aunt whisked him away to the hospital and he spent the night having the poison drained out of his foot. Incidentally, we have reason to believe that he was bitten by a sea urchin and a snake at the same time.

Also, three months later, while in the sea, he got bitten by a snake (or was it a sea urchin?) again.

I know, right? Even I was rendered speechless.





18.5.12

Someone's unfurled a stubbled carpet across the room.
Precise hands, laying it just so. The angle has to be right,
you know. And carefully, mundane objects need to be placed
on it: three feet between the lighter and the lamp;
A dead pressed flower laid, ripped of thorns,
By the same invisible hands.

Place your scrubbed foot on this spot here,
That I might see its sole; but the right amount
of skin, dear, the right amount of skin.
The curtains, blue and white, twitch them carelessly aside,
That half a cup of sunlight might creep in.

Over a pint of bottled beer, accurately iced,
The naming of a car, and fingers: fast,
furious, fabulous, heated, glorious
Putting things in their place.
And for two thirds of a moment, laughter
on a face.







12.5.12

Specially written for Nain's study break.

So Nain, I was kind of wondering what to write about, on account of how I never have anything (meaningful) to write about - at least not here. But I'm bored, and I know you're bored, and soon we shall part ways, and I don't know when we're going to see each other again.

Keeping this in mind, as well as that old adage about the uncertainty of life, blah blah blah, here is a list of things I would like you to keep in mind for the rest of your life. I would tell you this in person, but we both know you never listen to my (admittedly unwanted) advice, and you rarely have the courtesy to even pretend, so if I happen to die in a plane crash sometime soon, or if we have some kind of terrible fight and never talk to each other again, I want you to know that I care enough about you (and am bored enough at the moment) to leave this: a semi permanent record of things you should know in order to survive this pit that people called life we mostly just roll around in.


I. How to survive a shark attack.

There are approximately 370 types of sharks in this world. Most of them aren't dangerous. Some of the sharks that are dangerous include: great white sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerheads, to name a few.

Interestingly enough, even though the great white is the most maligned of the lot (I believe this is for two reasons: Jaws and its sequels, and because they are common off the coast of California. Incidentally, I suppose both reasons could be condensed to one reason: Americans are hysterical). However, they're not really as aggressive as say, the bull shark (more on them later). The trouble with great whites is this: you know how animals have particular senses that are strong? For example, eagles have excellent eyesight, and snakes use a special apparatus called Jacobson's organ to smell? Well, the thing about great whites is that they explore things using their teeth. Or to put it slightly differently: if they don't know what something is, they will bite it. Unfortunately sometimes this something can be a human being. Great whites aren't naturally inclined to eat humans, so often, after having a little nibble, they will swim away. The trouble is that a little nibble is often enough to leave said human headless or limbless; basically either maimed for life, or dead.

Bull sharks on the other hand, are a lot more aggressive. They aren't bothered by brackish and freshwater, and even move inland through rivers. And they will pretty much bite you because they feel like it, and they won't stop after a bite either. Anyway, I'm digressing as usual: I want to teach you how to survive a shark attack, so if you're ever floating on your back off the Australian coast, and suddenly see a grey fin, you'll know what to do. (I am leaving out obvious things like, "sharks sometimes follow boats. If you are on a boat and a shark is following you, do not enter the water.")

1) It's probably not a wise idea to venture into known shark infested waters if you're bleeding - even if it's from a small cut. Great whites, for instance, can detect a single drop of blood in one hundred litres of water, and can sense small amounts of blood from five kilometres away.

2) If you see a shark while in the water, get out quickly and quietly, using the breaststroke. Shouting, splashing, or kicking wildly, might cause the shark to think you're a wounded animal and it'll move in for the kill and then goodbye Nain.

3) If you are attacked: a) try to punch or poke the shark in the eyes, or gills. These are its most sensitive areas. Keep on hitting it no matter what; it might decide to go look for easier prey. b) If there are rocks in the water, try to keep your back to one. This means the shark can only attack you from the front, leaving you free to follow step a. c) Avoid swimming after dusk. Though sharks will attack in the day, they're more active in the evening. d) Never wear a watch or jewellery in the water. They glitter like fish scales. You don't want the shark to think you're a fish. e) Don't swim where people are fishing. Dead fish and bait may attract sharks. And finally, f) If you are diving or surfing, don't lie on the surface of the water. From below, you may look like a turtle or a seal, or other shark prey. Here's a visual example:




II. How to avoid becoming a target for a serial killer.

Living in Gurgaon, you're probably aware of the usual safety standards. However, there are other measures you can take, such as reading newspapers, especially if you're anxious to avoid becoming the victim of a serial killer. Everyone knows the story of Jack the Ripper, and other murderers who capitalised on his crimes (think Woody Allen's Scoop), and alright, probably if you were a prostitute in 19th century London, there would be very little you could do to alter your position. But if you were a sensible prostitute, and aware of the murders, you'd also probably take certain precautions such as hanging out with fellow prostitutes instead of standing around alone. Come to think of it that might be a problem because of the competition, and you wouldn't be able to afford competition, so...

Okay, that's not a good example. But I hope you kind of get what I mean because I can't think of any examples right now except stupid ones like avoiding orange cars if you hear about a serial killer who probably has an orange car, which will never happen in real life.

Something about cars though: if someone in a car stops and asks you for directions, make sure you stand far away from the car itself. If you go too close, it might give them a chance to stab you, or drag you in, and rape and mutilate you. Of course, they could still shoot you with a gun, but the chances of this are highly unlikely, and anyway, if you do see a gun being pointed at you, just dive as soon as you hear the noise and keep your arms over your head, since it is unlikely they will attempt to fire a second shot, and will most probably drive away. (My father told me this one).

Also, it takes the brain three seconds to react to something like a gun shot, or anything traumatising/shocking, so you might want to keep that in mind, and even use it to your advantage if battling with a potential rapist.



III. How to avoid unnecessary fights with your boyfriend.

When you're really pissed off, and in that stage where you don't feel like communicating maturely, and you might say something you'll regret (especially if you're drunk and in Nasty Nain mode), then just switch your phone off and make a voodoo doll of him and burn it. Catharsis, man, catharsis. Here's a video to show you how:




(Note: I have not watched it just in case it's a cursed voodoo youtube video but don't let my cowardice stop you).


IV. How to deal with wasps in the bathroom.

I don't know if you suffer this problem at home, I doubt you do, but I have in the PG, and it might come in handy in the future. Now, the trouble with wasps in the bathroom is that you're essentially defenceless. It's difficult to run away if you're sitting on the pot about to do, er, what people usually do while sitting on the pot. Trick is to keep a can of Hit with you. So you can just sit there, at ease, on your throne, doing your thing, and if you see that nasty yellow bugger heading straight for you, just pick up the can, press the little white cap thing, and pffft.



V. How to handle Mawii when she's very, very drunk.

I'm not going to be in Delhi this year, and you two are, so I thought this might help. Now Drunk Mawii passes through several stages. You're familiar with the first two: she gets loud, and she starts dancing. You're better equipped than I am to handle the dancing, and the loudness, well, there's nothing anyone can do about that. But those are just the initial stages: there are more. She sometimes gets paranoid and so, you cannot leave her. If you do, she will become hysterical and think you're getting raped somewhere, and will probably have a heart attack (chances of this will increase as she gets older especially if she doesn't quit smoking). It is important that you stay by her, constantly reassuring her of your presence. She also becomes very obnoxious and makes socially inappropriate comments which is why it's also important to keep her away from sensitive people. If the situation is really bad, and you need to control her, do it with a joint: a joint is to a drunk Mawii what a Scooby snack is to Scooby Doo, and what the boatman is to the dead in Hades' Underworld. Finally, the best way to deal with Mawii when she is absolutely plastered, is to just get even more plastered than she is (or pretend to) because her natural sense of responsibility will kick in, and she will attempt to look after you, sobering down in the process.






VI. How to deal with feeling alone, unloved, and very close to going to the garden and sadly popping worms in your mouth.

You can't always depend on friends, unfortunately. There are going to be times when you call them up, feeling absolutely terrible, and they're going to be sympathetic, but busy, and they'll have to get back to you later. There are going to be times you aren't even going to feel like talking to anyone, not even people you love best. According to me, there are four ways to cope: 1) Get very, very drunk, and play dark wrist splitting music really loudly, and secretly revel in your misery. 2) Sleep it off. Either the world will look a lot brighter once you've had a good nap, but if it doesn't (sometimes it takes a while), you can just hide under the covers for a few days and no one will judge you. 3) Ignore the feeling and hope it will go away. 4) Identify your problem, the cause for your depression (there is always a cause even if you don't want to admit it) and tackle it logically, taking a step back from your emotions as it were. This is the one I recommend, because it's the only one that really works in the long run, although, between you and me, the first option is the most fun.


VII. How to lie convincingly

We are often told that lies are "bad". This is not necessarily true. Lies are told for a reason: they help you avoid unnecessary drama, they get you out of trouble, they often save other people from hurt, and they save a lot of time. There is one golden rule to telling a lie: always remember the lie you have told. People usually get caught because they lie about something, and then forget about it, and then it pops up in a conversation with the person they lied to, and then the inevitable "...so you lied to me?" follows. Liars must have good memories. This is non-negotiable.

Lying convincingly is an art form, and it must be perfected. A half lie is the same as a half truth, which is neither here nor there. You want something that is definite, something that is wholesome, something that is pure and unadulterated. Your first step is to make it possible for yourself to believe your own lie: note the word "possible". Your lie therefore has to be truthful in some ways, especially when it concerns your own character.

For instance, once (this is, naturally, a hypothetical situation, Dad) I was sixteen years old and had a love bite on my neck. My mother did not approve of love bites back then (I don't think she approves of them now but I don't remember the last time I had one, which is another indication of the dull dreariness that is my - never mind).

"WHAT'S THAT ON YOUR NECK?" She screeched at me one day.

A lesser person would have said, a mosquito. That is ridiculous, everyone knows the difference between a love bite and a mosquito bite, and I did not make the mistake of underestimating her intelligence (another important point to keep in mind: do not underestimate your opponent's intelligence...and yes, the person you're lying to is an opponent. Don't be deceived on that score).

"Oh, Jahnavi and I were really bored yesterday, and we were reading a Cosmo article on love bites, so we tried it out on each other."

My mother gaped at me.

However, she bought the lie. Why did she believe it? Because she is familiar with my personality, and with my friend Jahnavi's personality, and with the fact that we often read Cosmo, and she believes us capable of performing such an act. Also, she was unaware of the fact that I sneaked my boyfriend into the house the previous afternoon, but that's not the point.

The point is this: while my mother undoubtedly questioned my santity, she has been questioning it for years. It was nothing new. So while it probably didn't improve her opinion of me, it saved me from a long and tedious lecture on how I was "too young to be flaunting my sexuality".

So in order to make your life a lot less stressful than it is, learn to lie, and to lie well. A quick recap: always remember your lies, make sure your lies are characteristic of your personality, and since you're lying anyway, make it good.



Let me end this post here, on the subject of lies, by revealing a lie: I did not write this post for your study break. I wrote it to give myself one.

But you will also know that it is not an artistic lie, and that I am capable of much better, and so are you. 

9.5.12

Annual Documentation of Pre Exam Trauma.

I am depressed.

I am depressed because I printed out a copy of my syllabus last night, and I pinned it on the bulletin board in front of my desk, and then next to it, I attached a copy of the exam time table. My instinctive reaction was not to be depressed; it was to have a hysterical breakdown. 

I locked myself up in the bathroom with half a cigarette (I'm trying to ration 'em) and stuck my head out of the window and tried breathing exercises which didn't help because I was smoking, and so instead, I just blubbered. And then Aditya called, and I started screaming at him, and he passed the phone on to Vikram who's had more experience with my screaming, and after repeatedly being told that I was an undiscovered genius, and all I needed to do was calm down in order to tap into the pool of genius buried deep (deep, deep, deep) within me somewhere, I managed to drag my body with its battered soul out of the bathroom.

I stopped blubbering, I made myself some chamomile tea because it said on the box that it relaxes and de-stresses you. I also lugged two big bottles of water to my room, after recalling an article I read a few weeks ago about how it is easier to absorb information if you're well hydrated. 

So I studied late into the night. And I studied all day today. 

The hysteria has gone, and I wish it would come back, because though unproductive, at least it provided me with a small quotient of unnecessary drama. I'm quite fond of unnecessary drama as long as it happens in private, and not in public with scary women attacking me in bars which is another story that I will never be able to tell here, which is a pity.

Anyway, I got Mawii to deactivate my facebook account, and I've switched my phone off, and the only face I've seen all day is my mother's (she's being very sympathetic: making me coffee at nights, and hugging me a lot. She hasn't screamed at me in twenty three hours which must be some kind of record). 

After the exams, many, many glorious things await me, and with a bit of luck, life should be absolutely wonderful, and I won't be depressed at all; I'll be too busy prancing around revelling in the marvelousness that is my life for the rest of 2012. So what the hell. I might as well just sink myself comfortably in misery for the time being; spend some quality time with it before saying goodbye.

Here is a photo of my study area which has been put up for two purposes: 1) to demonstrate the suitable gloom of my surroundings (I cannot study in a happy, bright, and positive environment) and 2) because I like putting photos on my blog now. It makes it look more colourful although this photo is not.  




PS My mother, upon seeing this photograph, felt it was necessary for me to qualify that the bottle of Absolut Vodka on my desk contains water, not vodka. She does not read this blog, but was understandably worried about what its readership (hello there, Anonymous!) would think of her parenting skills. 


7.5.12

Truth is rare and it is strong and it is a cliche, and when it exists, in its most purest possible form, it needs to be preserved. And sometimes, the only way to preserve it, is to end what created it. Not with loud voices, or recrimination, or regret, but like fire on earth: consuming itself to survive. 

17.4.12

Goa: Part V.

Palolem is shaped like Bombay's Queen's Necklace. It is a long stretch of white beach - a mile, I think - and it curves inwards on either end. We were staying on the curve to the right: during the day, the sea would recede, leaving an island of land, on land, with smooth grey rocks that seemed ideal hiding places, and rivulets of water, knee deep in some places, forming rivers right there in the sand, all eventually trailing their way back to the sea from which they came. At night, the sea would conquer that stretch. It would creep up, swallowing the curves, devouring the rocks, leaving nothing but a calm expanse of black, silver bordered water, with the forested Butterfly Island reaching to the skies from beyond. The sea was never violent. It was never loud, never aggressive, never forbidding. It watched silently, after the sun had set, as people spilled out from one shack, stumbling their way to another. The shacks were all lit with lights and occasionally, music. Rough wooden chairs and tables were set out on the beach, centred by a dim lamp, and human voices. Some of the shacks had colourful divans and cushions, and people would kick their shoes off, and stretch their feet out, as they ate and drank and talked.

Our first night there, we had a couple of beers, before moving back to our hotel (for want of a better word. The set up there comprises these different bars and restaurants, and behind them, belonging to them, are groups of shacks where people stay in.) Ours was called Brendan's, and they grilled a marvellous steak, and the Dubeys, Mawii and I, polished them off along with a couple of cocktails.



Later that night, safely tucked away under a mosquito net, I heard Mawii groaning and making a lot of strange noises.

"What's up?" I murmured.

"I threw up," she muttered, weakly. This was followed by more retching noises, and I winced.

"Do you want me to help?" I offered half heartedly.

"No."

I offered a silent prayer of thanks for Mawii's ability to take care of her own vomit, and ignoring my conscience, rolled over and went to sleep.

We didn't eat or drink much the next day.

A couple of days later, as I was heading to the beach, Mawii leaned over and poked me on my butt. "I think you've got a piece of paper stuck there," she said.

I waited for her to take it off, but instead, I received the unwelcome news that it was not a piece of paper; it was a hole.

"Is it noticeable?" I said, in great distress. I didn't want to have to buy a new swimming costume, and I was very attached to this one: it was bright red with a low neck and I'd bought it in Bali, as a symbol of emancipation, and I loved it, even though I was the only person on the entire beach who didn't own a bikini. Even old white women - especially old white women - wore bikinis, showing a lot of unattractive, wrinkled, lobster boiled skin, but cheers to them, I suppose.

"Nope."

Later that afternoon, as I was going in for another swim, I asked Mawii whether my bottom looked respectable.

"The hole's gotten bigger," she said, examining it. "And I think there's another hole as well."

"Does it look like paper?"

"No, it looks like your ass."

Muttering expletives, I tramped to the high street, and went - barefoot - into the first shop I saw. There was a little girl there, and I told her I needed a swimsuit.

"Yes, yes," she said, airily. "We have those. Here."

And she shoved a pile of bikinis at me.

"I don't want a bikini," I said, horrified. My mother had long ago instilled in me the notion that only people who are built like models can get away with a bikini. Recent experience (in the form of those white octogenarian women) taught me she may have had a point.

"No bikini?"

"No." I said firmly.

She handed me a plain white swimsuit, and just as I was going in, I saw a black and white bikini set, that I picked up impulsively. Just to try, not to buy.

I tried on the one piece first. It was a swimming costume and it was white. No big deal.

Then, just for fun, I tried the bikini on. It was black with white patterns, or white with black patterns, either way, it was quite attractive. I looked down to see if I could see my stomach sticking out; I could not.

Then I looked in the mirror and I nearly fell over because I have never seen my breasts look so magnificent. Yes, I know, I'm being vain, but I'm sorry. I'm telling the truth. They're okay enough, I suppose, but that bikini top (it was a cup size too small) just made them, whoaaaa.

And the bottoms were alright too - not too small, so I didn't have lumpy bits of buttocks sticking out unattractively. Everything was covered just right.

I strolled out in the bikini, and told the girl I was taking it.

"Twelve hundred," she said to me, smugly.

I looked at her, hoping I was giving her the same look my mother gives people when they say things she doesn't want to hear.

However, since the girl didn't tremble like a leaf, but looked back at me, her eyes meeting mine, clear and unafraid, I suppose I need to practice.

"Seven hundred," I said weakly.

"Eight hundred," she said.

"Okay."

And then I went back to where the others were, feeling oddly shy, but quite happy.

"I paid eight hundred for it," I told Mawii.

"WHAT?"

"It was originally twelve hundred," I said, defensively. "I got it down by four hundred rupees."

She shook her head.

"How much would you have paid?"

"Four hundred, five hundred." She said pityingly, and I snorted, and went into the ocean to test out my new swimsuit.

The bottoms nearly came off during a particularly large wave, but otherwise it held up well. Of course, I was already really tanned - but my middle wasn't because my previous swimsuit had covered it - so I was walking around with a brown face, brown limbs, and a yellowish white back, that was in retrospect, probably extremely unattractive, but whatever.

Now about a month before our Goa trip, Mawii and I got drunk one night, and made a list of things to do before leaving college. Getting identical matching tattoos (in a hidden place) to commemorate our college years was one of the things on the list. The other, was to go skinny dipping.

"I want to go skinny dipping," announced Mawii even before we left Delhi. This was a refrain she continued throughout the holiday.

I-want-to-go-skinny-dipping-I-want-to-go-skinny-dipping-we've-got-to-go-skinny-dipping-I-will-go-skinny-dipping.

You get the picture.

Our last night in Goa saw just the two of us, forever alone as usual. The Dubeys had gone to another beach to catch up with a cousin of theirs, but we decided to stay in Palolem.

"I want to go skinny dipping tonight," said Mawii decidedly. "Tonight is the night,"

"Meh," I said. I didn't feel like skinny dipping: my enthusiasm fluctuated, and right then, it was at an all time low. I watched her in disdain as she sipped a Bacardi Breezer through a straw, and turned proudly to my beer bottle (no straw, no glass) sitting in front of me.

An hour later, as I swigged from my breezer (ALTHOUGH I DIDN'T USE A STRAW!), going skinny dipping didn't seem like such a bad idea. In fact, it seemed like a necessity.

We stumbled our way to the end of the beach. Butterfly Island rose majestically before us, but we ignored it.

"Do you think it's safe?" I said, looking around. It was a dim area - you could see people lit up by the lights from the shacks from the way we came, but I didn't think they could see us. The only light coming our way was from the moon that was, at the moment, busy sedately occupying the sky. There were a group of people a little ahead of us - but they were smoking up, and didn't seem the type to be too concerned. Besides, we could only see their silhouettes, and naturally, they would see no more than we did.

"I don't know if I can do this," I said, nervously. I'd never even ventured into the sea after dark before - it always seems a different creature at night.

Mawii ignored me and started stripping.

"Oh fuck it," I muttered, and ripped off my clothes, and ran straight into the sea, before she was done.

The water was cool and as soon as I was hip deep, I dove straight into an oncoming wave, gloriously naked. I twirled around, under the sea, seeing only blackness and surfaced, feeling glorious. HELL YEAH, MOTHERFUCKER, my mind was screaming (I use extremely bad language in my mind when I'm excited about something), FUCK YEAH. I AM NAKED AND IN A SEA AND IT'S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I'M A BADASS. YEAH!

"Don't swim too far out," said Mawii, who'd joined me.

I didn't (even in the midst of my euphoria, I was still worried about being snatched by a shark - so much for being a badass). I lay on my back and the sea bobbed me gently up and down, and all I could see was the sky stretched thin over my face, because the lights from the beach made it look translucent, with stars gaping down, and Mawii with a look of glee on her face, and I added it to my list of immortal moments: moments that you know you will see should your life ever choose to flash itself before your eyes.

And so this is where the story of Goa ends: in a black sea, under a white moon, naked and full of joy.