A postscript for Nain about tigers.

Dear Nain,

Do you remember that survival guide I wrote for you, to be followed post-college, should you ever be unlucky enough to have me disappear from your life?

I haven't yet, disappeared, that is, and it seems even more unlikely now that I'm back in Delhi, but life is unpredictable, and I want you to be prepared.

This, Nain, is a guide on how to survive tigers.

I have been working on a book about tigers and I know everything there is to know - everything there is to know - about this magnificent predator. If you happen to make a trip to Corbett or Ranthambore or even to the zoo, or if you are on the street and a tiger suddenly bounds up to you, its eyes glowing fiercely (although tiger-eyes only glow in the dark, did you know that?) then this will come in handy. You better show this to Mikhail, in case he is with you at Corbett, or Ranthambore, or the zoo, or on the road when you are accosted by a ferocious tiger, because I sense that the survival instincts in that one are not very strong. He has "Eat Me, Tiger" written all over him.

But first, some fun facts about tigers! What a treat! Here is a random sampling:

1) Male tigers can move their penises backwards. I would post a photograph here, but I'm at work, and my boss caught me watching a music video yesterday, where a bunch of Asian women were leaping around with their breasts merrily jiggling (I did not know Breasts were going to be involved) so I'm not going to risk googling tiger penises. I believe many cats can do this (lions for instance), but I'm not talking about lions, I'm talking about tigers. Anyway the reason they do this is not to have kinky sex, but to mark their territory by spraying urine everywhere.

2) Tigers are largely solitary creatures, but they keep track of the stuff that's happening in their world through a variety of ways. One is through their sense of smell; the other is by communicating by infrasound. Infrasound is like this sound we cannot hear because we are inferior creatures, but basically it is a sort of sound that moves great distances, even passing straight through mountains.

Imagine that.

So you have one tiger, on one side of a mountain, and another, on the other side, and the first tiger is like, Hey man, and the message goes through the mountain to reach the other tiger, who will probably just put his tail down and slink off, instead of replying.

3) Tigers can survive in temperatures that range from -55 C to 50 C because their fur has the ability to trap air, keeping their body warmth at a steady 37 C. I thought this point would interest you because it beats thermal underpants, no?

4) The binomial nomenclature (scientific-fancy-name) of the tiger is the Panthera tigris. Panthera is the name given to the world's big cats: the lion, the leopard, the jaguar, and of course, the tiger. They are classified together, not because they have tails, or because they murder deer, but because they have a special roaring ability that no other animal has (though drunken men in sports bars have been known to try and attempt it). This roaring is made possible by thickened vocal folds right below the vocal cords. Its species name is tigris which is classical Greek for 'arrow'; the straight and swift river Tigris also gets its name from here.

5) The tiger's earliest ancestors were called miacids. They looked like this:

Isn't evolution absolutely marvellous? 

6) The reason that white tigers are relatively rare in the wild is because they have trouble camouflaging themselves, so deer and antelope usually manage spotting them, and have time to run away, so these tigers usually croak before they manage to have babies to pass their white-tiger genes onto.

Okay, I have loads more fun facts, but I'll stop at six. If you want to know more about the majestic tiger, I am willing to reveal everything I know in exchange for chilled beer. Keep that in mind.

Now this is what you have to do in order to survive an encounter with a ferocious tiger.

A few preventive measures, first.

1) Do not go near baby tigers because tiger mothers are worse than Indian mothers and will destroy you. They communicate with their babies through sound and smell, so don't kid yourself that Mama Tiger's stepped out for a stroll, and won't see you.

2) If you see two tigers Doing It, hide, because when tigers Do It, the male tiger is full of hormones and likes to show his woman how manly he is by going around slaughtering things.

3) You could climb a tree if you have time. Tigers can climb trees, but the claws of their paws are positioned in such a way that they can only climb down a tree by going head-first, or leaping off. They're also quite heavy. So they don't really enjoy climbing trees. But then again, they can leap like 20 feet into the air, and from what I know of you, you aren't really an expert tree climber so...

This is, honestly, your best chance of survival:

Stand your ground and stare into its eyes. Do not run, do not weep, do not wail, do not go down on your knees and beg the tiger to spare your life, do not attempt to pet it either.

Just stare at it, and your stare should say, yeah-motherfucker-you-think-you-can-kill-me? I-may-be-a-puny-human-bitch-and-I-can't-run-too-fast-because-I-smoke-cigarettes-and-stuff-but-my-kind-invented-the-internet. 

Tigers are not used to living creatures standing and staring at them, they are used to everyone and everything running away from them, screaming and squealing, so the tiger will be discomfited. When tigers are discomfited, they sulk. The tiger will be too busy sulking to kill you and you will be safe.

Go, Nain.

Oh, here is a picture of a tiger for reference. If you see one of these anywhere, and there are no iron bars or walls-and-moats separating you from it, follow the above instructions. You're very welcome, by the way.


The One.

When I was nine-years-old, I was standing in the old conference room at the CCFC, that has long since disappeared, peering out the window at a couple of boys playing table-tennis. I was with Jahnavi and the two Biswas sisters - Jayatri and Raji - and we were all crowded round this window, silently watching the boys.

There was one skinny, bespectacled one, with dark hair, who caught my eye. 

"Who's that?" I said.

"That's F.A." replied one of them. (I refrain from using the full name although I'm pretty sure anyone who's studied at La Martiniere will know who I'm talking about, I'm just going to call him The One from now on, which isn't creepy at all, obviously). 

"Oh," I said, deciding I was in love.

In the following years, I stalked this poor boy remorselessly. Jahnavi and I would sit around in the Pool Room (a dark and dingy room with a pool-table) and watch him play pool. We rarely played ourselves. We just sat there, for hours on end, staring at him. 

One day, I decided to embrace my femininity, and I walked into the Pool Room wearing a little skirt. Jahnavi snorted and said, really loudly, in the presence of The One, "Haha. Why are you wearing a skirt? Are you trying to be cool?" 

The next day, she sidled in, wearing a mini-skirt too, but I won't dwell on that.

We used to go swimming, and The One would swim often too. He was a brilliant swimmer, and I spent many memorable hours skulking in a corner of the pool, watching him cut his way effortlessly through the water. 

Once, when I was standing by the side of the pool, Jahnavi pushed me into it, right on top of him as he was swimming, and we both sunk to the bottom. I don't remember what happened after that, but it definitely wasn't the start to a beautiful friendship. 

Another time, we were at the deep end, and he swam up to the deep end, and I, trying to show off my own aquatic skills, attempted an underwater swim. I ended up kicking him on the groin, but by the time  he recovered from yelling and began to search for the culprit, I was at the other end of the pool. Fastest swim of my life. 

Then Jahnavi and I discovered that his favourite song was Crazy Town's 'Butterfly'. We both landed up at the club the next day with a butterfly proudly emblazoned on our t-shirts. 

There were sleepovers where we would ruthlessly plan how to win over The One. I hatched an elaborate plan one night. I took out an Archie comic and showed it to Jahnavi. The cover had Jughead reading Archie's horocope to him. The horoscope said, A pretty woman in blue will reach out to touch you. Archie was looking extraordinarily pleased - who wouldn't want to be, er, touched by a pretty woman in blue - but unbeknownst to him, a police-woman in blue was standing behind him, ready to catch him out on a parking ticket or some such thing. 

"This is what I'll do," I said to Jahnavi. "I will go to the CCFC tomorrow, and I will wear blue, and I will have this comic sticking out of my bag, and when I see The One, I will accidentally drop it, and he will realize it's a Sign from the Universe and we'll live happily ever after." 

It was a fool-proof plan. How can you ignore a Sign from the Universe? 

But the Universe had other plans. The One wasn't at the club the next day, he didn't come for a few days, and I eventually ran out of blue clothes to wear. 

The highlight of my, er, association with The One happened when I was about eleven, and I was in the car, winding my way through Snake Lane (the twisted lane that joins Palm Avenue to Ballygunge Place). I was sitting in front, chatting with Sabir, when another car passed us. Very slowly, because the lane was so narrow. The One was sitting in the car. We made eye contact, an expression of horror dawned on his face, and he quickly looked away, gazing at the graffiti smeared wall next to his window with extreme concentration. 

Undaunted, I rang Jahnavi as soon as I got home, and told her the entire story. 


I can always trust Jahnavi to rise to the occasion. She knew exactly what it meant. 

"IT MEANS HE RECOGNIZES YOU!" She yelled triumphantly. 

Then there was the memorable time when I detailed my pure and true love for The One in my diary, and made the mistake of taking my diary to school. Jayatri got her grubby paws on it, and began reading it out loud in Assembly, much to the delight of everyone standing around. I spent nearly half-an-hour chasing her around school afterwards, and after an inconclusive tussle in the field, I finally got my diary back. I never took it to school again. 

The One passed out of school soon after I turned fifteen. I was in love with someone else by then (that someone being Bastard, he was the one I was trying to impress when I lost my teeth, common-sense was still a few years away for me) and my obsession had fizzled out, but something remained. I still felt a pleasurable leap in the pit of my tummy when I saw him outside school, or swimming at one of the clubs, there were a few weak moments where I would stalk him amidst a crowd, but by-and-large, I left the poor boy alone. 

I never saw him after he left school. I heard about him in the news once (and felt rather proud that he had pyromaniac tendencies), but I moved on with my life. Jahnavi added him on Facebook, but I never did, although I would visit his page now and then and stare at his profile picture. It is because of him that I am aware of how dismal Facebook's privacy settings are. 

In college, about twice a year, I would be lying around with nothing to do, and I would say to myself, "Hum, I wonder what The One is doing now," and I would google him. 

I did this once just before graduating college. I found him on LinkedIn. According to LinkedIn, The One was in Delhi. 

The One was in Delhi. I was in Delhi. 

I was, temporarily, taken over by my ten-year-old self, and I spent a good ten minutes leaping around my room shouting, "It's a sign! It's a sign!" 

But I never saw him, fat chance while I was tucked away in North Campus, and then I went back to Calcutta and forgot about him again.

Last week, the night before Mawii's birthday, I met her in TLR in Hauz Khas for drinks. Nain, Rheu, and Vikram, you know, Mawii's boyfriend, the one she cuddles in inappropriate places, were going to join us, but they were late. 

For some reason, we started talking about The One. 

"I just realized it's been more than eight years since I last saw him." I said to Mawii. "That's nearly a decade." 

And we started talking about how quickly time had flown, and all that. 

Then the others joined us, and we started drinking. After a while, Mawii and Vikram went downstairs. Vikram returned two minutes later, looking slightly confused.

"Mawii sent me," he said. "She says to tell you that she's in the room where you had coffee with Ketki the other day, and that someone called The One (note: he did not actually say The One, he said The One's real name) is there." 

I nearly knocked over the table in my hurry to get downstairs. I have never moved so fast. I flew down the stairs, and to the little verandah where Mawii was. I didn't look left or right, I just walked towards her, and then turned to face the rest of the room, and I saw him. 

The One. 

He was, naturally, talking to a white girl who was taller and thinner than me. 

We lit cigarettes and stared surreptitiously at him. My heart was beating incredibly fast. It was just that it had been so long, it had been years, and I'd been talking about him just an hour before, and if that wasn't a Sign from the Universe, what was?

I stared at him for a bit, and then I realized that staring like an imbecile at someone is a lot less fun at twenty-two then it is at twelve. 

So I went back upstairs. He came up later, and my college friends started nudging each other. I had a strange flashback to Jahnavi nudging me at the CCFC all those years ago. He sat down at the next table for a while, and though it was quite nice to have him there, and to be transported back in time, however briefly, I didn't get much satisfaction out of it. 

"You should go and talk to him," said Nain, who was attempting to chat up his friend so we could get him at the same table. 

"Nah," I said. "I don't look cute enough today."

Which was true. 

But what struck me then was that I didn't really want to talk to him. I was happy just staring at him now and then, and when he left, I didn't really care. And I realized, in that moment, that The One was absolutely nothing compared to this-person-I-sort-of-love (I'm just going to call him Boyfriend on this blog until I think of a better nickname) and I felt very old and very wise and very over The One. 

Maybe it was a Sign from the Universe, a Sign saying, Trisha, congratulations. Even though you have sighted The One after more than eight years, you did not humiliate yourself, or make an attempt to stalk him through the club. You eyed him a few times, which is natural when you see an old crush after years and years, but you didn't do much else. You've done it. Twenty-three diaries after the one about The One, and you are a Normal Woman.

I felt extraordinarily pleased with myself, until the next morning, when I went through my phone and noticed that I'd sent Boyfriend some ever-so-slightly-creepy text messages the night before. I was stalking his facebook photos at the time of this discovery.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. 

PS I was talking to Boyfriend about what nickname I could give him on this blog, and he strongly objected to being mentioned on this blog at all. I said, you know you should be supportive of this. I have 35 followers. Boyfriend said that Justin Bieber has followers so that doesn't prove anything. And then he suggested that I call him Socrates. I said no, and then he said, 'K' and when Boyfriend says, 'K' it means he is becoming hostile.

Anyway, I don't need his input. I've thought of a nickname. He will be known as Pill (Person-I-Love, with an extra 'l' to symbolize his hostility towards this blog). So that's sorted then.


2013 so far.

Because the Universe has an odd sense of humour, I find myself back in Delhi this year. I returned without any fanfare on January 3, nursing a hangover (my birthday was the day before) and a sore knee (a legacy from that disastrous and humiliating Christmas Eve).

The story of how I got to Delhi is long and convoluted, but to put it in a nutshell...

I lost my IELTS marksheet so I couldn't go to Australia this February and I wasn't sure if the course I'd chosen was the right one for me anyway, so my mother said, "Trisha, you need to introspect" and then I had a meltdown because I introspected and found absolutely nothing except a desire to sit around eating cake and then, to top it all off, I kept visualizing myself as a forty-year-old journalist living with my mother and writing for the T2 and then eventually marrying a pot-bellied, bespectacled film-studies professor from JU. And then after all these things, I locked myself into my room and refused to come out and my uncle, Pud, was sent in to "get through" to me, and he told me to man up and go and get a job. I said, "What job? I don't know what I want to do." So then we made a list of things I was vaguely interested in, and when Pud saw publishing was on the list, he said, "Get Dilsher to write to David and see if there's an internship opening at Aleph Book Company." And then I was like, okayyy. I'll do it soon. And he said, "Do it now." So I wrote to Dilsher (who is Pud's brother and therefore my uncle) while Pud hovered around, and he wrote to David, and David said, yeah, we can take her on for a month. Tell her to send me a 500 word book review and if it's good, she's got the job.

I could write an entire blog post, nay, a book, on the torture I went through attempting to craft an intelligent and well-written book review. Having my mother constantly sticking her face over my shoulder, saying things like, "This should be changed," and "I don't like this" and "I used to be a copy-writer therefore you should listen to me" didn't help either.

But in spite of her, and many break-downs over the course of a night, I sent David the 500 word book review (Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall) and I was told to report to work on January 4.

This is how I landed up in Delhi on January 3, and started working for David Davidar the following morning.

And then I really wanted to get my internship extended, but I didn't think it was possible, so I started looking around for other internships, but then they asked me to stay on till the end of March, so I was like, whee. But then Ambition struck me again, and I went a bit cuckoo and started googling things like, "How to get ahead at work" and "How to get a promotion" and "How to be indispensable at the work-place" and I even kept a little notebook with the title, "Trisha's Plan for Becoming Indispensable to Aleph Book Company So They Keep Her on Beyond March".

Anyway, they've kept me on so haha. I must have done something right.

And mind you, this is in spite of the fact that I have a tendency to fall over the chairs in David's office when I go in there. The other day, I was passing by, and I distinctly heard him tell our chief designer, "Watch out for that chair. Young Trisha keeps falling over it." I was humiliated, but I think it's important to note that I have been kept on despite single-handedly wreaking havoc in my boss's office every time I step into it. My efficiency at work, therefore, exceeds my poor motor and balance skills. This is cause for celebration.

I love my job. I'm the youngest at my workplace by miles, and I think some of the others are a little taken aback by my starry-eyed cheerfulness. My most recent project, which has involved re-writing the blurbs of some one thousand books, has sucked a little bit of soul from me, I'll admit, but then I switch to another project, which involves writing an entire part (yes, an entire PART) of a book that's going to be published later this year, and life-blood is once again pumped back into my soul. I have also had lunch meetings with authors (well, alright, one lunch meeting with one author, but it's a start), and seen Vikram Seth wandering around my office with a backpack on. I thought he would be tall and moody, but he is actually a rosy-faced, gnome-like fellow, shorter than myself. I try not to be disillusioned.

Today is the 19th of March, and I am twenty-two years old, and in a land very far away from that December afternoon when I was sobbing into my pillow at home in Calcutta, uncertain of where to go and what to do. I have chosen my career path, and I also have a shiny debit card which I use to pay for alcoholic beverages at TLR in Hauz Khas. Oh yes, and I can read proofing symbols too.

This has been a very large nutshell, but if I had to sum things up in one line (I am getting quite good at summing things up in a single line, although it's not as much fun as rambling): It's been a very good start to the year.