Thursday, April 17, 2014

Never Can Say Goodbye

I was at the Apex Plaza Landmark last Friday. Not surprisingly, they didn't have the book I wanted. What was surprising, however, was the fact that the staff seemed fully involved in what looked like a major moving operation. Finally, I'd thought to myself. A renovation that was long, long overdue. Unfortunately, the next day, I read in the news that the moving operation was not because of a renovation, but because they were shutting down. The news really killed me, it did. Landmark was my childhood.

I'd always read the occasional book when I was in preschool and such, but my reading habit really began when I was about 8. I had met with an accident that left me bedridden for about a month and a half, and the only way to kill time was was by reading. My mother got me new books every week, and I read, and I read, and read some more. I had never been the sporty kind, and after the accident, I loathed the outdoors and everything connected to it. My friends were my books, and books, in 90's Chennai, were Landmark*. I grew up between those shelves. Every time I returned to the store to get another book by my favourite author at that time, I'd discover a new one, and again. I went to the store every month, without fail, to the point where Amma would whine about how my father would have to work extra hours just to feed my reading habit.

Landmark was more than a store where you went to to buy books. It was a place that you went just to spend time in. Sometimes, you enter the store, take a look at the Best-Sellers shelf, flip a few pages from the books there and put them back because who reads popular stuff anyway, and head to your favourite shelf in the store, the shelf you know so well, occasionally stopping on the way to look at other books that aren't particularly your favourite genre, but they're books, and all books deserve a look, because who knows what you'll discover, maybe it'll even be your new favourite author. Some other times, you go to the store telling yourself that you have come here to buy one particular book and that book only, and you enter, and head straight for that shelf ignoring the other books on the way, pick the book out, feeling victorious and then you pause for a second, look around, see yourself surrounded by books, and you're like, NO I'LL TAKE THEM ALL, but then realize that even if you can afford to buy the store out, it wouldn't be the same to have all of them at home so you decide to just sit in the little chair between the shelves and get lost in the stories that surround you.

The last five years, with the change in ownership, online retailers taking over the scene, and brick-and-mortar bookstores all over the world shutting down, Landmark deteriorated. The books were old, the selections, dull and the place had the air of a graveyard. The penultimate time I went there to pick up a couple of magazines, the girl who did my billing told me I had Rs.250 in my loyalty card and asked if I wanted to use it. I'll use it the next time, I told her.

If only.

* (or Fountainhead in Mylapore but it's a well known fact that Landmark was much better) 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How I Wish You Met Your Mother

The TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother ended last week, and I'll admit that I was in that majority which hated, hated, HATED the season finale. Is this what I spent close to 6 years of my life waiting for?

I started watching HIMYM right after I finished watching reruns of all 10 seasons of Friends from start to end which was sometime around 2007. Looking back, I ought have just watched all ten seasons of Friends again. Let me put down what I hated about the finale. It's full of spoilers, but in my opinion, the entire finale episode was a spoiler.

Two people, both wary of commitment, but completely in love with each other, getting married and living happily ever after. After watching season after season of Barney and Robin pining for each other, being perfect together and screwing it up and then getting back together again and screwing it up and getting back together in the most perfect way, after watching AN ENTIRE FREAKIN' SEASON dedicated exclusively to their wedding and how their love is true and forever, they're made to divorce in an exceptionally lame way.

Let's write a show on based around a character. Let's never show that character for 8 years. Let's make the audience crazy by driving the show into becoming a steaming pile of garbage, knowing that they will stick on *just* for that character. Let's introduce her, let's make the viewers fall completely in love with her, while making them think about how perfect she is for the guy who's been narrating the story of how he met her for 8 years, and then, LET'S KILL HER.

Replace Chucky with Carter Bays. 
You guys are like the worst kids ever, and should be grounded, and made to listen to the story of how your dad met your mother all over again.

Kidding. Those two managed to stay adorable.

Anyway, that ends this rant. There are a lot of other fans who thought that the ending "made sense" and was "realistic" and that irrespective of how the show ended, there would always be criticism. Uh, no. If it had ended the manner it had been building itself up to, there was only one way it could've finished. No twists, no gimmicks, and no blue fucking french horns.

Apparently the video has been taken off due to copyright violations. The alternate ending goes like this - There's the wedding scene where Ted talks about how much he loves Tracy and how he'll love her forever, and it cuts to the Farhampton station where they have their first conversation, cuts back to Ted saying "And that kids, is how I met your mother" and the credits roll. No plot twists, just a mushy, grin inducing happy ending. Call it cliched, but why is it so wrong to go the predictable route? Not everything has to have a twist, or an explosion or death or divorce.I mean, this was a show some of us took life lessons from! I can't believe the writers thought it would be okay for Ted to be in love/obsessed with Robin THE WHOLE FREAKIN' TIME he was with Tracy and that Tracy herself was just some consolation prize. It's not okay for someone to be romantically obsessed with an another person for years together. If this is how the writers wanted the show to end, I hope it was because they had written a sequel series titled "How I Met My Psychiatrist".

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bhima: The Lone Warrior

Bhima: The Lone Warrior by MT Vasudevan, is the Mahabharata entirely from Bhima's perspective. The popular Mahabharata retellings have always etched a sort of stereotype when it came to the Pandavas. Yudhishtra the Righteous. Bhima the Strong. Arjuna the Archer. Nakula and Sahadeva the...ambiguous. Bhima: The Lone Warrior explores Bhima's feelings and perspectives on the events that unfolded in the Mahabharata.

From the first chapter, when Bhima arrives as a child to Hastinapura, it is made obvious to the reader that the fates have never been kind to the second Pandava brother. Dronacharya ignores his talent in archery, Yudhistra dismisses his counsel, Draupadi manipulates his raw love for her and most painfully, the entire Pandava camp celebrates the death of his beloved warrior son, Ghatotkacha.

It is difficult to talk about the flaws in this book, for it is a translation. MT's famed prose has not been preserved during the process of translation, and as a result, you don't feel strongly for the characters. There is no anger when Dronacharya picks Arjuna to be the most talented among his students, no righteous outrage when Yudhistra blindly refuses to listen to his counsel, no sympathy when Draupadi carelessly drops the precious Saugandhika flowers that Bhima risks his life to obtain, just to fulfill her whims.

One of the few living memories I have of my paternal grandfather, is of sitting on his lap listening to him narrate the story of Gajendra Moksham to me. One day, Gajendra, the wise king of the elephants, came to the lake to bathe, and fell prey to a hungry crocodile who managed to trap Gajendra's foot with his enormous mouth. Gajendra cried for help, but to no avail.
"Help me!" he cried to the fish. "Help me from this giant crocodile!"
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. "Ask the frogs!" they told him, and swam away.
"Help me!" he cried to the frogs. "Help me from this giant crocodile!"
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. "Ask the birds!" they told him, and hopped to safety.
"Help me!" he cried to the birds. "Help me from this giant crocodile!"
But they were too afraid of the giant crocodile. "Forgive us, Gajendra, but we can't help you." they told him, and flew away.
Gajendra was now alone. The crocodile tightened his grip on his leg by the minute. He began trumpeting loudly.
"Do not waste your energy, foolish elephant" said the crocodile. "No one can save you now. Didn't you see the way those cowards ran away from me?"
Gajendra trumpeted even louder.
"Elephant! I have had enough of your trumpeting. I am going to be your death" said the crocodile, and bit harder into Gajendra.
Stranded, and unable to bear the pain anymore, Gajendra called out to The Lord.
"Narayana!" he cried. "Narayana! Help me! Help from this giant crocodile!"
No sooner had Gajendra spoken the words, the clouds thundered, lightning blazed and the heavens parted, making way for Lord Narayana to come to Gajendra's aid. With a single swipe of his finger, he released the Sudharshana Chakra which killed the giant crocodile, and saved Gajendra.
This Hindu fable is supposed to illustrate Lord Vishnu's loyalty and benevolence towards his devotees, and is narrated to to tell people that the Lord will not let you down if you call upon him. I can never forget this story - not because of the message it carries, but because of the way my grandfather used to narrate it. I cannot narrate it like him. He made me believe in Gajendra's helplessness, Gajendra's pain, and Gajendra's faith. Truth be told, he could've made me believe that the crocodile was a poor, hungry reptile who was deprived by the nasty loud elephant and the masochist god Vishnu if he wanted to.

Today, the more I read, the more I realize that fables and epics are never about the story as much as they are about the story teller. MT Vasudevan's Bhima: The Lone Warrior, has his story, but it does not have him.

Buy it here

Thursday, February 20, 2014

If It's Monday It Must Be Madurai - A Review, Among Other Things

Travel writing as a genre had never really interested me. I am fairly certain that the numerous English Comprehension tests I wrote in school that featured extraordinarily tiresome pieces on places around the world are to blame. After I passed out, I’d read very little travel writing and whatever I’d read, I found to be too introspective and unnecessarily geographical for my taste, if not boring. Through the years, I managed to maintain the same distance one does with dull, but well meaning uncles with it: far, but somewhat friendly. So I suppose it was slightly out of character that I picked up Srinath Perur’s “If It’s Monday, It Must Be Madurai” - a collection of ten travel essays, based wholly on conducted/group tours the author has taken. 

It was one of the essays (“Memorial For The Victims Of Repression”), which was published as an excerpt in the Open Magazine that initially piqued my interest in the book. The essay featured his participating in a conducted sex tour to Uzbekistan. Perur, as the self-appointed fly on the wall among a group of repressed Indian men, is a joy to read. What I particularly loved in that essay, and as I would later find out, the entire book, was that he does not pass judgment on any of his travel companions - He merely observes, but his observations bear the kind of extreme sincerity that toes on sarcasm, and delightfully so. 

I laughed with this book in ways I have not laughed with a book in a very long time. There are some paragraphs in his essay on a conducted tour of Rajasthan, “Desert Knowledge, Camel College” that are so hilarious that I read them a couple more times for extra giggles. “The Grace of God”, an essay in which he describes his experience travelling across Tamil Nadu on a temple tour, made me reminisce about my own family’s seemingly never ending temple trips on which I was a very reluctant attendee. In “Saare Jahaan Se Accha”, he takes on Europe with his Desi tour group. Perur makes many earnest (and thoroughly amusing) observations about his group's uniquely Indian characteristics. However, one stood out for me - that of the the foresight of some of the members who had packed snacks and food from home. The reason it did, was because it brought back a rather stark memory from a trip my family made to Hong Kong in 2010. 

Excuse me while I indulge in a slightly long digression. 

My father’s rationale while picking out a place to go on vacation has always been very simple. Is a Saravana Bhavan there? If yes, then we could go. If no, then we shall go to the next closest city with Saravana Bhavan. This was primarily because Saravana Bhavan, according to my father, gave us the freedom to do away with hectic conducted tours that forced you to wake up at 6 AM on vacation. We could pick what we wanted to see in the city, when we wanted to see it and the moment any of us felt hungry, we could run into the reliable arms of our old friend, Saravana Bhavan. For some inexplicable reason, he had picked Saravana Bhavan deprived Hong Kong that year, and after much debate, we opted for what we thought was the perfect compromise: a “flexi-tour”, where we would join existing conducted tours as extras depending on how we wanted our itinerary to be. 

One of the days involved going to Ocean Park, Hong Kong’s famous water themed amusement park. Two tame rides, one ridiculous roller coaster and a slimy reptile exhibit later, it was lunch time, which, according to our programme, was “At Park”. As we trawled Ocean Park to find a place to eat, we found out that it was the kind of place that thought vegetarian food was fishy. Literally.
(We would also find out upon coming home that there was a pseudo Indian restaurant in another corner of the park, but unfortunately, it had evaded us). 

An hour of aimless wandering in the sultry sun took a toll on our hunger, and us – My sister and I wanted to just eat Ice Cream for lunch. My mother, who had previously suggested that we buy bread and cheese at a convenience store (a suggestion we had ignored because let’s face it we were too cool for that) wouldn’t have that, and started whining about how no one took her advice and as a result, here we were, paying the price for our coolness by being hungry in this strange country with no vegetables. My father wanted to sit down for a while, and that scared us, because he’s a diabetic and extreme sugar level fluctuations aren’t the most pleasant things to handle in a foreign country. Ten minutes later, by what could only be termed as divine coincidence, we found a place to sit next to an Indian family who were part of the tour group we had travelled with to Ocean Park. They smiled at us in recognition, and we managed a weak one in response. “Lunch?” was his next question, and my mother summed it up for us.


The man clucked his tongue in empathy - “Us also. Which is why my wife and I always bring Theplas when we travel abroad”, and proceeded to fish out a fat aluminium foil wrapped parcel from his bag. Some slightly uncomfortable silence later, which was primarily due to my family’s staring at theplas like Dickens Orphans, the nice man gave us the foil packet, which contained around a dozen theplas that were promptly wolfed down. “You must come prepared when you travel abroad.” Uncle said wisely, once we were done.  “We went to Europe last year. One small bottle water only 3 Euros. 150 rupees! Can you imagine food? If it we hadn’t taken Haldirams and Theplas, then I don’t know” 
After thanking him profusely for his kindness and adding his 13 year old daughter on Facebook, we wrapped our half day tour of Ocean Park, and three days later, were back at Chennai. The first thing my mother did when we came back home was locate a Thepla guy. We are, however, yet to make that trip to Europe.   

Coming back to the book - Perur writes about taking a trip to the North East in “According to Their Own Genius”. Reading the essay made me feel quite sad. It seemed I was more familiar with the places and culture discussed in the essay about Europe than I was about places in my own country! “Real India”, “Santa Claus Aa Rahe Hai” and “The Same Water Everywhere” were good to read, but “Foreign Culture” seemed a bit like a filler arrangement– something that he wrote because he wanted a nice round number of essays in his book. Incidentally, Foreign Culture might just be the only essay among the ten where it seems the author actually had a holiday, so you can’t help but feel happy for him and his toddy induced stupor.

My absolute favourite essay in the book, was “The Taste Of Sugar”. Perur undertakes a Wari, the traditional walking pilgrimage to Pandarpur. It is not often that you come across a piece of writing which balances being insightful and being side-splittingly funny with as much grace as this essay.

In all, I cannot recommend If It’s Monday It Must Be Madurai enough. Read it for the places he's travelled to, but more importantly, read it for the people he's travelled with.  

Buy it here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reading Challenge 2014

I suppose now is a good time as ever to get back to my usual style of "Write Like No One is Reading" because well, no one is reading. I am not worried about people not reading this blog (In fact, I urge people to go ahead and not read this blog so that I can write about them more freely).
I am, however, worried about my own habit of reading, which, like my writing skills, has plummeted from bad to deplorable. It doesn't help that I live with a boy who devours books with the kind of swiftness and purpose that I usually reserve for potato chips. Anyway, I've decided to undertake a rather ambitious reading challenge for this year - I suppose it's about time, I'd included "Read More" as one of my vague resolutions for this year, among other wonderfully ambiguous gems such as "Eat Healthy" and "Pursue Hobbies", but never really got to it.

I've a boatload of books that my husband bought for me to fill up my new bookshelf since I didn't have the heart to move most of my books from my bookshelf at my mother's place, so the easy part is done. The books I've got, but haven't proceeded beyond page 1 in most/haven't even removed the plastic wrapping are (I beg you, do not be appalled - there are some, ok, many "HOW HAVE YOU STILL NOT READ THIS" titles in the list):

1. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
2. Bringing up Bodies - Hilary Mantel (The sequel to Wolf Hall, because I'm ambitious like that)
3. Open City - Teju Cole
4. Casual Vacancy - JK Rowling (I'd read 100 pages before I got bored)
5. 1984 - George Orwell
6. On Beauty - Zadie Smith
7. Resurrection Man - Iain Ranking
8. A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
9. Bhima - MT Vasudevan Nair
10. 44A Scotland Street - Alexander McCall Smith

11. (Almost done reading) - If It's Monday It Must Be Madurai - Srinath Perur

I suppose this isn't, and shouldn't be, my reading list for the year. I can only hope that this is the beginning of a resurrection of sorts, of both my reading and writing habit - once I finish reading (or decide to give up on reading) each of these books, I'll post a review here. I suppose a one week timeframe for a book on an average should be about right, which means that there should be a review here each week. Here's hoping that I stick to it!

[A special Thank You to Rads - she's taking on a reading challenge at GoodReads and had posted it on her Facebook, which was when I decided to take this up!]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Daily Dinosaur

So I started a new cartoon blog a couple of weeks ago called "The Daily Dinosaur". If you're following me on Twitter you may have come across a post. I had been having this idea in my head for a while now of dinosaurs with people problems but it was after much procrastination that I got around to setting it up - I think what really sparked my motivation was when an old cartoon I had drawn for this blog started doing rounds on Facebook (without credit, ofcourse. The person who posted it claimed it to be "from their childhood").

Anyway, so I finally got to getting the blog up and running; The content and the artwork/doodle-work are all original, and I am having a lot of fun with it. I just didn't want to put it here until I was sure that I would be able to fulfill the "Daily" part of The Daily Dinosaur, but it has been up and running the last two weeks so yay!

Check the blog out/follow it on Tumblr (HINT HINT) here ->

The Dinosaurs are also on Instagram, so if you'd like having a dinosaur or two around photos of coffee taken from interesting angles, you could follow them there as well -> @thedailydinosaur

I also have a Tumblr in my name (you should see the link up in the navigation bar as well), which is essentially a compilation of the good stuff I've read on the internet. I'd like to think it's a good place to waste time in, so if you're into that sort of thing, feel free to follow it here ->
Finally, I'm afraid to note that this blog will continue to exist - my capacity to write bad humour in long form hasn't been exhausted just yet.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

So, How's Married Life?

If I had a rupee every time I was asked how married life was, I'd have had a dollar in my hand right now. Initially, I tried answering this question with sincerity, but it turns out "Married life a? But it's only been 3 days" is not an answer that is popular with the masses, so these days when asked the question on text, I offer my standard reply of "Oh it's great. I'm having a really good time!" followed by numerous smiley faces. Being interrogated about your "married life" during socializing I've found, is more of a challenge because unlike text messaging, it is difficult to ignore the assorted follow-up questions that tail my standard smile-and-"it's good!"-answer (Standard smile because if I were to show exactly how happy I am being married, most people would think I'm on a pretty potent blend of recreational drugs).

Say Crack Again.

The questions are more or less typical depending on the person asking it - unmarried acquaintances and friends want to know everything about my new domestic setup, older couples want to know if I am "having fun" (after which they say "Enjoy this time, you will not get it again" the same way one would to a prisoner on death row), and grandmothers want to know about the goings-on in my bedroom.

A couple of days ago though, I was asked if I've learned anything. I have actually: To begin with -

I Am Not A Domestic Goddess (Also the title of my upcoming Romance Novel)

The eight months or so that I was engaged, my father gave me a free hand at office to take time off whenever I wanted to. I suppose it was wise on his part to leave me alone because:

a. I am counter-productive to his practice as is, and

b. having a distracted me around would've made his office like one of those sitcoms where there's this strict boss but everything goes wrong for him and the audience finds it hilarious and keeps laughing except it's not a sitcom and there's no audience and he might lose all his clients and we might be too broke to have the wedding and OHMYGOD LET ME OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE.

So when I wasn't in the middle of wedding shopping or wedding running-behind-the-tailor or wedding hanging-out-with-fiance, Amma said I should take the time to learn a few things about "running a household" and "taking charge of the kitchen" or she wouldn't be able to step out in society without being referred to as The Mother Of The Daughter in Law Who Can't Cook Haha and then be scarred with that reputation forever. I was quite enthusiastic of course - I had been watching a lot of Nigella and surely Domestic Goddess-ness couldn't be that hard (especially considering the number of cupcake bakers on Facebook); and so I decided to take the time to learn new things. Unfortunately, all I learned was how to mercilessly burn three pans while endeavouring to master a brownie recipe and leaving a permanent stain on my mother's new frying pan trying to make Aloo Methi. While I'd like to think of these things as tangible memories that I've left behind for my mother so that she can recall fond memories of my presence in that kitchen and then cry some happy tears, my sister tells me that the moistness in my mother's eyes are not from bittersweet happiness, but relief.


A day or two after the husband and I came back from our honeymoon, I decided the time had come for me to exhibit my skill in the kitchen. Unfortunately, before I could as much as light the stove, I tripped over the metal door stopper and scraped a lot of skin on my foot resulting in a fair bit of bleeding (I held on to my trademark ladylike composure though, I doubt anyone could've hopped, skipped or squealed with the grace that I did) and I had to be taken to the hospital by my mother-in-law for a proper dressing and a really nasty tetanus shot. 

Amma dropped by the next day, and my mother-in-law gently patted my head and told her about how I was a poor thing who had to unnecessarily experience pain and go to the hospital, all because I had wanted to cook something. "Imagine what would've happened" said Amma thoughtfully, "if she had actually cooked"

[More lessons on married life shall be posted here as and when they are learned]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Band Baaja Bridezilla

[Originally written for & Published in Outlook India (Web). The theme is a little recurring, but what to do etc]

I got engaged to be married last November. The engagement was a rather unique event, since it happened without the boy actually being present. This was because of multiple reasons, including the fact that my fiancé was in New York at that time and my parents, understandably, wanted to close the deal before he understood what exactly he was marrying into.

Anyway, once he came back, our parents hosted a party for friends and family to introduce us as a couple. On the day of the party, because of a gaffe on the part of the salon where I got my hair done, my fabulous blow dry looked fabulous for exactly 10 minutes before I ended up looking like Cousin It from the Addams Family. I wasn't happy, but after the first 10 minutes, I didn't let it bother me. This evening wasn't about me, or the fact that I resembled a sari-clad scarecrow. It was about the fact that people wanted to celebrate two individuals who had just decided to spend their lives together! Right?


Throughout the evening and for quite a few weeks after, I got a lot of people coming up to me to laud me on my not breaking down (“I don’t know how you did it!”), to the point where you’d think I’d just single-handedly saved a village from a Tsunami while discovering the cure for cancer and breaking Michael Phelps’ freestyle record simultaneously, as opposed to have just had a bad hair day. Some more optimistic people, in their bid to cheer me up told me, “At least it wasn’t the wedding!”, because God forbid there’s a slip in the way I looked on that day, then you know, my whole life is likely to be in tatters.

A wedding today, has evolved, no, mutated from being a celebration of family and commitment to this major party where the focus is only on one person— the bride. In case you haven’t noticed, there aren’t any wedding magazines around— only bridal, with maybe half a page (if they’re feeling generous) dedicated to the other sundry details, such as the concept of marriage, or the groom. Every single one of those bridal magazines insist that you can never be good enough for ‘your big day’, never mind that your partner liked you the way you had been all this time. You might be skinny, they say, but are you a toned skinny? Your skin might be clear, but is it glowing, sun-kissed and radiant? Your outfit might be pretty, but is it Designer (and roughly the cost of an island in the Maldives)?


Me neither, which apparently makes me a poor naive country boor hick-bumpkin, because clearly I wasn’t aware of the fact that I have only one day to be happy, or that there are going to be photographs (PHOTOGRAPHS!) or that my wedding album is the only legacy I can leave for the next seven generations that are poised to spring out from my uterus and that unless I want to be referred to as “Double Chin Kollu Paati” by my great grandchildren, it becomes my foremost responsibility to do everything I can to resemble Indian Sari Princess Barbie.

Comrades, I confess. I’ve been dreaming about my wedding even before I was engaged, okay, even before I was even legal. Yes, I wanted the pretty clothes, I wanted the big party, but most of all, I wanted to be happy. Today I’m on the other side— I’ve seen enough sarees to go colour blind, looked at enough decor themes to make me wonder if I’m organizing a wedding or a full scale Disneyland musical, listened to enough wedding “advice” to compile an 8 book series and it all makes me want to burst multiple blood vessels, when the truth is that I am over the moon about getting married. You see, Bridezillas aren’t born. They are made.

It’s only when you take a step back do you realize that it’s just one day. One day. All that really matters is what is going to happen in the days, years and months that follow and not whether your earrings are colour coordinated with the stage arrangements. I really don’t want to go into my wedding like I’ve been preparing for some covert siege attack (or a reality television show) where failure will result in dire consequences. I don’t want to remember my wedding as a day where I lost whatever little left of my hair worrying about arm fat or the caterer, but as a day where I had fun, and I was happy. If that means not having my Disneyland perfect wedding, then so be it. I’d rather have a Disneyland perfect marriage.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fifty Shades Of Blue

(Originally Written For & Published In Tamarind Rice)

From what I can remember of being 10 years old, and mind that my memory is elephantine, I particularly recall looking forward to Std V, term 3, with the same excitement most kids that age associated with getting free ice cream.
You see, the third term of fifth standard was when we could start using pens to write. Pens! Those magical instruments that glided on paper in a wondrous shade of blue, and not those shabby, eternally breaking sticks that we called pencils. In case it didn’t seem obvious already, when I was 10, pens were as alien to me as humans were to Martians. I had been given crayons and pencils of all shades growing up, and even the odd sketch pen, but it was during one of my many Treasure Hunter (an extraordinarily entertaining game for one which basically involves raiding your parents’ dresser drawers) games the previous year that I first truly discovered these magical things.
It was a very heavy ink pen, and I remember thinking how ugly it looked, but the moment I let the coppery-gold nib touch paper it became a thing of beauty, of perfection. I had never seen anything like it before! It didn’t break like my pencils, or become coarse. It was just continuously smooth. The pen wrote in the shade of midnight, a blue which made even my doodle look like carefully thought out art. I scrawled until all the ink in the pen had been transferred to my paper, my hands, my clothes and my face. I ended up getting a dressing down from my mother that day for colouring myself beyond recognition.
But it was worth it.
Discovering the pen that day had changed my life, and while I waited for term 3, I started smuggling all the pens in the household. The more I wrote with them, the more I fell in love with the instrument. I wrote quickest with the ball point pen, but the interrupted flow of ink was something that I found annoying. I really liked the lighter, more turquoise ink of the gel pen and adored the smooth white shell of the “Pilot” pens.
My absolute favourite though, remained the ink pen. The steel nib with the miniscule engravings, the little compartment for the ink, the heaviness of a newly filled pen, the odd leak which flowed on to your hands as you wrote – for me, the ink pen was an instrument of joy. My first ink pen for school had been a Camlin, a maroon pen with steel accents and a wide barrel. It was hideous, but in the most glorious way possible. Every day I’d come back home from school with blue fingers (and some times, a blue nose) and spots on my uniform, but despite the inconveniences it gave my mother I adored my maroon Camlin. It was the only pen I carried that year. Eventually, I ended up losing the pen and predictably, moved on to it’s gel ink cousins for the sake of convenience and a stain free uniform. I did occasionally buy ink pens, but they stayed in my bag as remembrances of my former obsession with them as opposed to a functional writing instrument.
I’ve always believed that writing with a new ink pen is much like making a new friend. There are some pens with which you form a connection instantly, those pens where you just know exactly what it takes to bring out its best side the moment you come in contact with them. Those pens will last to be your favourites, the ones that you conveniently ‘lose’ in the depths of your bag every time anyone asks to borrow it, the ones that you’ll take time to clean every weekend in hot water, and the ones that will write out your most important exams, and your greatest secrets. There are some other pens that will take a little longer for you to like. They misbehave most of the time but occasionally show a good side so that you don’t give up on them; they teach you patience. And finally, those ink pens which, no matter how much time you spend on them, will never yield to you and like difficult people, are best left alone.
The last time I had used an ink pen was roughly seven years ago. I had stopped using them because they were very difficult when you were writing harshly timed exams. I became fully dependent on the keyboard and stopped using pens altogether when I cleared my Chartered Accountancy exams a year ago. Yesterday, I found an old ink pen while cleaning out my drawers – it was one of those relatively fuss free ink pens that operated on cartridges, and this one’s particular cartridge had been half full. I couldn’t help but try writing with it again – Half hour later, I had a paper filled with illegible squiggles that once used to be my beautiful handwriting, odd splats of ink, blue fingers and a blue nose.
But it was worth it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Happy New Year! I’ve never been much of a resolutions person (I was that annoying kid who’d go “My resolution is to not have any resolution Miss” every time school reopened after the holidays), and although the last few years I’ve been trying to break out of it, I haven’t really met with much success in framing resolutions for myself - My resolution for 2012 had been to survive the Mayan Apocalypse, so you can see where I come from.

Anyway, this year, since I’m going to go through major life changes and such, I thought I’d have some resolutions down, but the more I tried to come up with them, the more I realized that my changing depended a lot on other things changing, because it just doesn’t make sense to live in a noncooperative environment. (Also because nitpicking others is just easier and more fun.) Here are my resolutions for the world at large:  

  1. Arvind Swamy: 
        Hey Arvind Swamy, stay on that treadmill. I just saw the Kadal teaser, and God it feels GREAT to see you back on the screen again bearing so much as a ten percent resemblance to the guy who I fell in love with when I was 6 years old (You brought out my inner creepy kid). As far as I'm concerned, you're the original Tamil Brahmin Poster Boy and it gives me immense joy to see you look like the Tamil Brahmin Poster Boy, okay fine, Uncle that you used to be as opposed to the Monster That Ate The Tamil Brahmin Poster Boy For Lunch.    

Arvind Swamy? No, Arvind Did Not See Me Do This. 

2. My Hair: 

This Is A Pretty Accurate Representation Of What I'd Call A Regular Hair Day (I don't wear those sunglasses though) 
Dear Hair, Hi. I believe this is the year you should absolutely resolve to start behaving. I have spent double of Ethiopia’s Gross Domestic Product on buying hair products and other miscellaneous industrial strength chemicals trying to tame you, not to mention burning entire paychecks on salon “treatments” which were as effective as Manmohan Singh’s oratorical abilities. So start behaving or we might have to go through the Kerala Vaidyashala route again. 

3. My Wedding

Dear Wedding, I am only getting one shot at you, so please happen the way I expect you to. I want to remember you as the two days where I was undoubtedly the centre of attraction, a picture of total grace and poise while still holding on to my patent je ne sais quoi charm. Ok fine, if that's a little too much to ask, at least ensure that I don't take as many bathroom breaks as I usually do. I have this recurring nightmare that I would need one just before the thaali is tied and that my husband-to-be ends up tying it around my father.
Anyway, so we've got one of those hipster independent wedding photographers for the wedding, you know, for those candid photos that everyone goes all crazy on Facebook about. This would be awesome if it weren't for the fact that I'm strictly a "Chin Up, Stand Straight, Smile Please" kind of person because my smile is (to put it mildly) one of those crazy big smiles that look very creepy in pictures. I honestly hope that I get to talk to the photographer guy about this because knowing me, this might just be how the "candid" pictures turn out.


That's my list for change this year. What's yours?

Photo Credits: 


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