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?


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.


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.


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. 


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. 


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.