Brighter than the rest - and neater, somehow, in its self contained light. A hazy path tracing itself slowly, unhurriedly, cloaked in a dark sky. To the left, a bare crooked tree, silvery branches cutting sharp lines through air that breathes shadows, and next to me, flattening the dew tipped grass, Love.


Did I ever tell you about that time I broke my teeth?

I was fifteen years old, and therefore, remarkably stupid. Even stupider than I am now, because, from what I've seen, that's what happens when you're fifteen. You reach the pinnacle of stupidity. It starts at twelve, naturally, and in my case, it was accelerated by a visit to Thailand from which I returned convinced I was a hippy. There's a sudden spike when you reach thirteen ("I'M A TEENAGER, I'M A TEENAGER! DO I LOOK LIKE A TEENAGER?" "No.") and from there it continues to steadily grow. At fourteen, you look back in disdain at your twelve year old self and your thirteen year old self, and you are convinced that you have finally matured, but then you spend three months dressed in nothing but black with too much makeup which you inevitably forget about when you start playing football and it trickles down, and then you go home and write bad poetry about it.

For me though, fifteen outdid it all. By the time I was sixteen, I was comfortable with who I was, I even started liking who I was (looking back, I put it down to bad taste), but I had to go through fifteen to get there. It didn't help that most of the time, instead of focusing on developing into a fully functioning adult, I was busy pining for someone who only remembered I existed when he needed a twelfth man for cricket (and have things changed, really?)

Anyway, I was fifteen, stupid, and I wanted to get the attention of this boy - known as Bastard, because that is what I constantly referred to him as in my diary.

The children in my building used to play sport according to season. Spring was usually football and basketball, summer was always cricket, autumn would bring football back, and the months between November and February were reserved for badminton.

Next to the badminton court is an open garage, the roof stretching from the first floor of the first block to the first floor of the second block. While playing, it was not unusual for the shuttle cock to fly up and land on the roof of the garage. It had to be retrieved by climbing a pipe, and using that to climb a wall, balancing on that wall lightly holding on to the barbed wire on top, and then stretching across (or leaping across depending on leg length) to the garage roof.

I don't want to brag, but I was the only girl who could do it.

Anyway, one evening in December, a week before I was due to leave for a family Christmas in London, the shuttle cock went up. The person who sent it up there was Bastard's little sister.

"Trisha," she said sadly, looking at me with big brown eyes, "my shuttle cock's gone up there. Please get it down for me, please."

What could I do? I had to play hero. There's something about six year olds with big eyes that just gets to me. I also knew Bastard would be on his way back from tuition any moment, and I envisaged myself as a selfless being who'd risked life and limb to help his baby sister, whom he has a huge soft spot for.

So I climbed. I'd chucked the shuttle down to her, receiving with quiet grace her cries of thanks, and was making my way down when it happened.

I was balancing on the wall, holding on to the barbed wire, when a bunch of dogs suddenly started barking. I was startled, I lost my balance, and I felt myself falling backwards. It all happened - luckily for me - in slow motion. I saw the moon, and I knew I was falling, and some instinct told me that whatever happened, I shouldn't fall backwards, so I did a sort of flip in the air, and dragged the barbed wire down with me to break my fall. And then suddenly I was falling face forward, and I remember seeing a woman standing close by with a very shocked expression on her face and thinking, "yeah, that's helpful, bitch," and then I hit the ground. My chin hit the ground first, and something plopped out of my mouth.

It took me three seconds to realise that my front teeth had fallen out.

I shakily stood up. Blood was pouring out from everywhere. From my mouth, from my hands, and my tshirt had been ripped and there was a long gash on my stomach. No pain, I was in shock. So I did the only thing I could think of - I started running around in circles, hands placed firmly over my mouth, screaming that my teeth had fallen out.

My friends had all landed up by this time - including Bastard who was laughing in a very un-chivalrous sort of way - and everyone was standing around helplessly.

"Go home," someone said.

"I can't go home," I shrieked. "I'm bleeding and I have no teeth. My grandmother will have a heart attack! She'll die!"

At that precise moment, my mother drove up. Her sense of timing has never been good - the only time she's ever been early is when she gave birth to yours truly, because that's what happens when a heavily pregnant woman goes dancing on New Year's Eve - but on this occasion, she was right on schedule. She took one look at me and bundled me into the car, but not before I'd managed to shriek, "FIND MY FUCKING TEETH!" to my dumbfounded friends.

She drove me to Jayatri's dad who is the doctor my family always turns to. He cleaned my mouth out very gently and put some cotton wool where my teeth used to be to stem the bleeding (I'd started crying by this time - the pain had set in by now, and I'd also caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror) and he bandaged my hand and stomach. It was a Saturday night and there were no dentists available, but we could, he thought, get the teeth put back in if I saw a dentist that night.

He called a friend of his - Dr Rajiv Butta. Dr Butta was in the outskirts of Calcutta, enjoying a dinner date with his wife, but upon hearing that I was a toothless fifteen year old, he told Uncle Jatrik that he'd head back to the city as soon as possible, and for me to get hold of my teeth and bring them to him.

My mother and I drove back to Kusum. My friends had already found one tooth, and were currently hunting for the other one.


"Auntie! There's something long and white and shiny under this car!" yelled a little Sardarji boy, nearly falling over in his excitement. He recovered quickly, and crawled underneath, while we all stood around with bated breath. He emerged in a few moments, dusty, holding aloft my admittedly long, admittedly white, admittedly shiny, tooth.

My mother took me home after that - but not before Bastard gently held my cut hand, tracing the bandages, asking softly whether it hurt very much, which in itself made the entire ordeal worth it, in my eyes, at that moment.

Dr Butta called around eleven pm to say he was back and to bring me straightaway to his surgery. So Mum took me - and my teeth in a little container of milk. I don't remember much of what happened there. I was in the chair for about two and a half hours, and the pain had made everything sort of numb. My mother told me later that I was very brave, the way I just sat there, very still, with my mouth open, but to be honest, I think I'd passed out by then.

He operated on me and put my teeth back in and held them together with a band that more or less merged with the teeth.

"Keep this on for a month," he told my mother. "And then bring her back. Once I take the band off, if God is willing, her teeth will stay on,"

"And if God is not willing?" I murmured, not thinking too highly of God at this point.

"They'll fall off," he said cheerfully, "and we'll put implants in."


I spent the next three days in a presription drug fuelled haze which made me feel like I was floating through space, and that nothing mattered. Eventually recovered, though much to my dismay I was banned from badminton for the rest of the season, and a week later I was off to London.

"I can't eat this," I told Sue on my first night, as she placed salmon steak in front of me. "My teeth will fall off,"

My uncle, who was sitting there, said nothing, but on Christmas Day, as I attacked turkey with vigour (I'd learnt to eat without using my front teeth by then - a habit that remains to this day), he casually remarked that it was quite incredible how my teeth never seemed to interfere with food I enjoyed eating. I chose to maintain a dignified silence.

When I returned to Calcutta, Dr Butta carefully took my band off. I'd stuck my tongue out, ready to catch my teeth should they fall off. I didn't want to swallow them.

But they didn't fall off, they stayed on. As Dr Butta said, as he fervently shook my hand, it was a miracle. He'd never seen anything like it before.

"So, everything's alright now?" said my mother, who'd aged about ten years.

"Well," he said, "they will fall off eventually, but I don't know when. Come back to me when that happens."

It's been a little over five years, and my teeth are still in place. I'm resigned to the fact that they will fall off eventually, probably just when I need them most, but I'm grateful to have come out comparatively unscathed.

And believe you me, the story makes for excellent bar conversation. Disastrous experiences usually do.

The teeth - ten days after they'd fallen out. Not bad, considering. 


Valentine's Day

I don't really pay attention to Valentine's Day, but this year, I wanted to celebrate it - mostly because I needed an excuse to have a good time, to do something fun.

"We should celebrate Valentine's Day this year," I said to Mawii, the night before.

"Eh?" An understandable reaction.

"Tomorrow I'm going to go to CP and buy chocolate covered strawberries and port wine," I said, my eyes glazing over at the thought of the chocolate covered strawberries.

Mawii's eyes glazed over too.

A little while later, Rhea Dubey accosted me on chat.

"BRO. Watcha doing on Valentines?"

"Drinking wine and watching a film with a devastatingly handsome male lead," was my answer - or something along those lines.

"My school friends want to hang out - "

"Fuck them. Join us," was my eloquent invitation.

"Yeah. They all have boyfriends they're going to ditch me for. But you're the one friend I have who's single!"

Aren't I obliging?

Anyway, so Valentine's Day dawned bright and clear, and I got no texts, no flowers, no messages, but I'm already resigned to the fact I shall probably die alone so it doesn't matter, and I cycled off to college, singing What A Wonderful World in an attempt to convince myself that it is indeed a wonderful world and not a lost cause, as I often fear it is.

After college, I was dead tired, and I gave up on the idea of CP, I gave up on the idea of celebrating, and came straight back to the PG and climbed into bed.

"I'll go buy some wine in the evening," I told Mawii, because she was tired too and I thought she was planning on going home in which case I was going to spend the evening drinking alone out of a bottle. Very appropriate.

But that didn't happen - Naintara landed up out of the blue, and then Rhea and Ketki came over, with that wonderfully cheap port wine you get in plastic bottles, and rum, and beer. It was nice, it was really nice. We all sat around and drank the wine and watched Misfits. Ketki drank more than she usually does, and then decided to light a joint, and naturally, she had to throw up after that.

Mawii and I are incapable of handling our own vomit let alone someone else's. She stared at me, hoping I'd take control. I stared at her thinking, Me? Have you seen my side of the room? You really think I'm going to deal with this?

We both dealt with it - rather admirably. Nain and Rhea conveniently left soon after, and eventually, Mawii and I dragged Ketki to her car. She stopped on the way to throw up on some of Mrs Khera's flowers, but as I remarked to Mawii, at least there's some part of the PG that is forever Ketki. We tucked her into her car, the driver looked at us very disapprovingly, and waved as she drove off.

"Now what do we do?" I asked Mawii.

There was half a bottle of rum left, and I'd stashed whatever remained of Ketki's joint, so, it turns out, we found plenty to do.

At one point, I went to the shop to buy cigarettes. It was dark, the air was crisp and cool, and all was right with my world. I was giving myself a pep talk on the future. It will all be fine, said my mind, you've been panicking over nothing. Just study everyday, study as much as Supurna, and you'll be fine. You'll graduate college, and I'm sure some sort of college abroad will want to take you in, you're not a complete retard, and then you can go to London and live at the National Gallery and eat lots of strawberries in summer, and nothing will ever go wrong -

I was interrupted by a pack of cows. I'd already bought the cigarettes and I was walking back towards the PG, but they'd decided to hang out in the middle of the road, and I'm not sure what happened, but one of them broke loose and started coming towards me. I am NOT afraid of cows, but this one was moving towards me with a purpose, if you know what I mean, and it had a very menacing look in its big cow shaped eyes, and it let out a low, warning moo. I fled. The cow ran after me.

"AAAAAAHHHHHH!" I screamed.

"MOOOOOOOOOO!" Yelled the cow.

But I beat the cow, and flung myself through our gate and then ran to our room and burst into it.

"I GOT CHASED BY A COW!" I shouted to Mawii, flinging the cigarettes at her. She looked at me with the befuddled expression of someone who's drunk, and after I repeated the story three or four times, gave a cursory little laugh and turned her attention back to the rum. Being a Mizo of Principle, she always has her priorities very fixed.

Ipshita joined us later, and we shared the rum with her, and all three of us took lots of photos with my webcam and put up an album on facebook then and there (the next morning, I saw it up on facebook, and I was like, WHAT. THE. FUCK. and Mawii was also like, OH. BLOODY. HELL. and we both hastily deleted it) and then we ordered pizza and then Ipshita brought out a joint.

It was a good day.

At one point, I started staring at Mawii.

"What is it?" said Mawii.

"This is our last Valentine's Day together," I said sadly.

She started laughing.

"It is!" I said indignantly.

"You're such a fool,"

Considering she was also wearing a purple flower clip in her hair, in honour of the occasion, there were many things I could have said to her. But I decided to be noble and let it go.

Happy Valentine's Day, folks.


The old, the familiar.

When I was in Calcutta this winter, I went to visit my piano teacher, Shormi. I've known her since I was six, because that is when I started learning the piano. To this day she believes I have prodigious talent, despite evidence to the contrary, and has fondly planned my life for me: move back to Calcutta after college, finish off my grade 8, perhaps do my LRSM, and settle down to teach the piano to angelic little children, having married a suitable Bengali man.

But even Shormi - despite her affection for me - has long acknowledged that singing is not my forte. Nonetheless, she tries.

"Why don't you come and sing with the choir on Saturday?" she said to me, on my last visit.

"I can't sing, Shormi."

"Of course you can sing," she paused, and then added gruffly, "well, you would have been a lot better if you hadn't left the choir. I told you not to leave the choir."

I laughed nervously, and forgot to cover my mouth, which is something I've been doing for the past three years whenever I'm in her presence, because Shormi cannot bear piercings (the only reason my friend Kahini didn't get a box on the ears from Shormi after getting her nose pierced was because Shormi was still recovering from Kahini's tattoo).

Now the thing is, in my first year of college, I pierced my tongue. I'm not sure why. I think it's because Mawii pierced her tongue first and I admired it immensely. Piercing my tongue hadn't occurred to me before - I nearly fainted when I got my ears pierced.

But as I stood in front of the mirror soon after Mawii's triumphant return (her face was only slightly swollen) examining my tongue, already having googled the effects of a piercing in that vicinity, I thought to myself, why the heck not. I was in college, it was time to rebel. But then I realised that I didn't have anything to rebel against, so I changed my tactic. I was going to get my tongue pierced to prove a point - the point being that I was eighteen years old and away from home for the first time, and it was my tongue, and I could do what I liked with it.

So I got my tongue pierced. We went to a little shop in GK to get it done, and Mawii held my hand. When I was sticking my tongue out, watching the gun coming closer to me, going cross eyed in the effort to keep it in focus, I will admit, I was tempted to back out. In fact, I was just about to scream a protest when I noticed a group of school children gazing at me in awe. That did it. I kept my tongue out and the gun or needle or whatever they use to make holes in human body parts went in, and soon there was a little silver stud there, and all was right with my world.

I swaggered out of there my chin in the air, while the school children gasped in admiration, and I only let the tears fall once I was out of sight.

Anyway, to go back to Shormi - for nearly three years, I'd successfully hidden my tongue stud from her. I'd nodded violently in agreement, mouth firmly closed, as she deplored the various hooligans who went around with shiny bits of metal embedded in them.

It was a nice long run. She would have found out someday.

"WHAT IS IN YOUR MOUTH?" She said, as I laughed, loudly and delightedly, my mouth wide open in front of her face.



"It's nothing," I said feebly.

"SHOW ME." The thing about Shormi is when she uses that voice -  and all her students, even the ones above thirty, even the ones above thirty who are nuns, would know what voice I'm talking about - I revert back to being six years old, completely in her power.

So I showed her.

She nearly threw her mug of tea at me, but did not, probably because she thought it would be a waste of tea. And then she yelled a lot, and finally calmed down, contenting herself with telling me I'd get mouth cancer and describing mouth cancer in graphic detail.

"When did you get it done?"

"Last month," I said feebly.

"Are you planning on keeping it?"

"No, no. I'm getting rid of it next week." I smiled weakly at her, and she nodded and harumphed and turned the conversation back to choir.

"You should come for choir,"

"But I can't sing!"

"You know, I told you when you sat for your piano exam that choir helps you with your aural tests. Do you remember what happened in your aural test?"

"I made the examiner wince," I said sadly.

"Which is why you shouldn't have left choir," she said triumphantly.

I nodded in agreement.

"So," she said, changing the subject, "do you have a boyfriend now?"

"I'm not interested in anyone at the moment," I said with dignity, being careful to add that it didn't mean there weren't people interested in me. Shormi waved my attempts to prove my popularity aside.

"What happened to that Vikram?"

"You remember Vikram? We broke up years and years ago."

"Of course I remember him. He used to hide in my garden while you were in choir."

"He was terrified of you," I recollected fondly.


Shormi really does sometimes remind me of my mother.

Whenever I have a male friend over - especially if it's Man Whore Friend - I always warn her to be nice because she can be intimidating. Not that she's not fond of MWF, she thinks he's a very "together boy" which shows how much she knows and it's obviously not much, but to this day, she's convinced that he spends his spare time trying to get into my pants.

"Mummy," I say patiently, "MWF (except I don't call him that outside this blog) does not want to sleep with me. Anyway, he wouldn't dare, he's terrified of you."

This information, though shared with her many times, never fails to please her, and she always says, "good!" with great satisfaction, and proceeds to be extremely sweet to MWF whenever she sees him.

He's terrified of me, is her logic. He won't sleep with my baby girl. Not when he has me to deal with. Hah!



Somehow Shormi bullied me into making a vague promise to land up for choir. I hugged her goodbye, promised to visit again soon, and made my way down the familiar path from her house to her gate. The garden was still the same, the tall leafy trees framing the path were the same, everything was the same, and it always is, and that's one of the reasons I love visiting Shormi.


Of course, that Saturday, I called her and faked sick. Could not come for choir as promised, very very sorry, was on the verge of death. She grunted, told me to drink hot water, and hung up.

It was a story I'd concocted many times before, with Shormi, with Nondon, with Manjudi, and I'm pleased to say, I haven't lost my touch.

"Why are you looking so pleased with yourself?" said my mother, entering my room just as I'd hung up. "Stop drinking so much beer, you're getting fat. And how many times do I have to tell you to stop smoking?" Whereupon she proceeded to walk around my room, picking up random objects and sniffing them.

I lay back on my bed and valiantly told myself it was good to be home.


Jaipur Literature Festival: Part 3.

Our hotel insisted on cutting the power twice a day. The afternoon didn't matter, because we were all at the festival, but it got really annoying in the morning. Bathing in cold water in north India during January just doesn't cut it, so we had to hang around and wait for the geyser to ping its red light which also meant we always missed the first talk.

There was no power cut on our last day there. Mawii and I sat and waited for it to go, and waited and waited, and then we realised it probably wasn't going off.

I must confess, I felt aggrieved. The power cut always gave me a good excuse to get back into bed, and it failed me, failed me, on my last day.

It took us ages to get there because Oprah was due that day.We got there halfway through a talk on superpowers of the twenty first century. The tent was packed - we sat outside on the grass, listening to it through the speakers. I felt like a hobo.

We managed muscling our way in for the next talk which was on Pakistan, and the panelists were Fatima Bhutto and Ayesha Jalal. It was probably one of my favourite talks - a cow, a lonely and emotionally fragile cow, kept mooing mournfully in between, and naturally the moderator had to turn it into a running joke, thereby stripping the entire situation of all its humour. Mawii and I, for our part, enjoyed ourselves, and passed snide comments about all the plebian fools who'd flocked to see Oprah.

I kept bumping into Dhruv Rajashekaran everywhere I went. I'm in the middle of a crowd, Dhruv pops out from nowhere with a cheerful hello. I'm sitting under an umbrella on the lawns, engrossed in a book. Dhruv pops out from nowhere with a cheerful hello. I'm walking from one part of the festival to the other. Dhruv pops out, still cheerful, with another hello. He also plucked his mother out from thin air for more cheery hellos.

I was standing under a tree at one point with my mother, delicately trying to extract money from her for more books.

"HELLO!" said a cheerful voice.

I have no objections to Dhruv popping up like a jack rabbit and disappearing again. I'm just making an observation. It's important to make observations. This is what this particular observation boils down to: Dhruv is omnipresent, and also omnicheerful.

Anyway, we were leaving for Delhi soon, so I said farewell to my mother. We put our arms around each other and hugged as if we weren't going to meet for another three years, even though I was going to see her three days later. She also gave me some money and told me not to spend all of it on books, but obviously I did. After all, it's not like there was anything else to spend money on.

The car ride back was quiet. We slept a lot, we paused at regular intervals so Mawii could relieve herself. Mawii and Vikram cuddled in the backseat. The weather was nice, the roads were long, yada yada yada.

By six, we were hungry.

"KHANAAAAA!" said Rhea to her driver.

He offered to take us to a motel, but no. For some reason everyone had their sights fixed on a McDonald's just outside Delhi.

So eventually, after an hour, we got to McDonald's.

"I haven't eaten at McDonald's in two years," I said excitedly to Rohin, as the crisp hot smell of fresh french fries wafted its way lazily towards me.

Half an hour later, I remembered why I hadn't eaten at McDonald's in two years.

The food sucks, man.

And I don't hold with this chicken burger nonsense (don't even get me started on their paneer selections). A fast food burger should be beef, but you don't get beef McDonald's in Calcutta, so obviously there is no way to expect it in Delhi, where cows are ranked only second to heavy gold and silver chains.

We dropped Vikram off, and then the Dubeys dropped us to the metro.

In the metro, Mawii kept burping on purpose because she takes delight in being a public embarrassment.

We came home and collapsed, and remained in that sloth-like state for more than twenty four hours. A banal end to an interesting trip.

PS There was an article in the newspaper the next day about the cow that conversed with Fatima Bhutto and Ayesha Jalal. It mentioned that the cow got agitated whenever its calf was taken away from it, but harmony had been restored later along with the calf. Nothing about the talk itself, nor the issues it dealt with. Only in Delhi...