Move to

Hi guys. So I have finally managed to shift completely to my own servers, with the same QuixoticSemiotic domain. I’m not quite sure what the situation with the followers is at the moment, but if you would like to read my stuff, please subscribe at Quixotic Semiotic.

Here’s my first post on there to lead the way.

Incredible India is a Myth

Cheers everyone!


Startups and All That Jazz

Things have been busy lately, in no small part due to my own tendencies for over-achievement and sheer pigheadedness.  I was until about a week ago, buried under mountains of documentation and fistfuls of hair that I had pulled out. No one really tells you about how hard it is to work at a tech startup no. All you usually hear about are the million dollar investments and the sweet corporate buyouts. No one tells you about how you get stuck for ages while fervently refreshing StackOverflow hoping for some answers. No one tells you that Google for once, can’t solve your problems. If there was ever an incentive for original thought, this is it. New ideas have no reference to build upon, and you have to do it from scratch. I feel like a low-class version of a scientist, which is not a bad place to be in all honesty.

Going back to how I pushed myself into a pit of my own despair, well I guess I should start at the beginning. I’m an above average writer and I have been since a while now. I’m quite the nerd among my circle of friends, so every now and then I’d get requests from people to write recommendation letters or essays or anything else that needed to be written. Weirdly enough, I was always happy to do it. Writing never feels like a job to me, its something that comes as naturally as breathing. The fact that other people recognized this made me feel worthy somehow. As friends started applying for graduate school and jobs, the number of favours I did kept increasing. My company is always on the lookout for fresh talent, and I’ve put out a lot of feelers all over social media and I have received plenty of resumes and cover letters that I dutifully forwarded to my boss. The quality I saw there shocked me, it really did (it was bad not good, in case I didn’t make myself clear). I mean these were mostly from my classmates and peers, people that I know are smart and talented but didn’t have the time or the inclination to dress themselves up on paper.

I can help friends, but there is only a limited circle of people I can reach. What about people outside that circle? When push comes to shove, all you need is a little nudge to get you the start you need. I’d never done anything about it so far except continuing to help people where I could. But working at a startup for the last 3 months or so has made me realize that I need to trust in my abilities to do things. We’re always putting ourselves down for various reasons because it is easier to cope with lower expectations than it is to try and fail. I’ve been there and a part of me is still there. But this magical little book called ‘The 100$ Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau is what really made me take the plunge (no I don’t get paid for any advertising, I wish I did).

We know about these billion dollar startup success stories like Facebook and Apple, and this has evolved into a stark form of tunnel vision. This is what we all aspire to be because this is what we know. Our hopes and dreams are jumbo sized in accordance with these pillars of success. ‘The 100$ Startup’ reminded me otherwise. The book is written very simplistically and it is such an easy read. It’s full of stories and anecdotes about real people who set up small businesses and are living a happy, comfortable life doing what they love. A guy who used his Frequent Flyer miles effectively to travel all over the world decided to share his tricks and he makes over 100,000$ dollars a year. The basic premise is that you don’t need to invest a fortune in an idea and the book reinforces that. The beauty of the internet and e-commerce is that it allows you to have a virtual presence all over the world at a nominal fee. More importantly, money can be made in ways other than founding a hugeass company or slaving away at a multinational.



This infographic says it all. The nirvana like state called convergence is where you can find true happiness. I read the book and I was itching to finish it only because ideas were popping into my head like kernels of popcorn ricocheting all over the place. I raced through the book and planted myself in front of a computer and I’ve been there ever since. I finally came up with the name, ‘The Perfectionist’ with a ridiculous back story to go with it (because quirky always sells). I’m not going to go on about what we do there because I’m sure you have a fair idea by now and I don’t want to shamelessly advertise.

The Perfectionist.

The Perfectionist.

 Well, that was subtle. 

Anyhow, there’s no predicting how we’ll do and I’m not even going to try. I’m optimistic though and kind of surprised that I actually came so far with this germ of an idea. Failure is scary, but as always if you put yourself out there in the first place that means you have the balls to take whatever comes at you. Before I end this tirade, let me get on to my soapbox for a minute.

Find your convergence! Think about skills that you have that bring value to others. I’m pretty sure every person has one. Graphics wiz? Make posters. Sports champ? Make coaching videos online. Artist? Create affordable, custom pieces of art. Photographer? Do weddings and baby showers. Party girl? Event planning. Tech geek? Possibilities are limitless. You don’t need a huge bank balance or a massive loan to start something. Just take that leap of faith, it will be the most sound investment you ever make. 

Note: We are also on Facebook, so you can go there and like us if you haven’t already. If you want to. Not that I’m advertising or anything. 

Dark, Fat, Ugly, Everyone is Beautiful

The ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign started by Nandita Das immediately caught my attention, as I belong to the darker persuasion myself. This is somewhat of a genetic aberration because my mom has much lighter skin, but the accepted explanation for this anomaly is that I was tossed into an incubator and my poor mother had to hang around the hospital to feed little jaundiced me. So the tale goes that I was born white and then all the rays from the photo-therapy darkened my skin to the luscious brown it is now. I question the scientific reasoning that was the foundation for this story but I’m really not complaining. Thankfully, my parents didn’t give a crap either. All my limbs were intact and I was jaundice free. Anything after that had to be a welcome bonus.

But as always, if you’re born in India every relative and the aunty brigade has to have an opinion about personal issues. “Why is she so dark? Don’t let her play sports any more!”, “Oil her hair everyday, who will marry her without a thick braid”, “So many pimples she has paapam, my Pinky has clear skin”. I’m just glad my name isn’t Pinky or Dolly or anything that ends in a y. The pimples will clear up but that’s here to stay. I’m pretty sure this was all well meaning advice, because this is what society’s expectations are and we’re supposed to adhere to some standard that somebody set. For me it was a non-issue and it always will be.

Time to wade into murky waters. It was a non-issue for me, only because I somehow managed to get past every other hurdle that society threw at me. I’m dark, but I have big eyes and I can style my hair decently to cover the bald patches (HAH). I’m average sized as far as weight goes, and tall enough to pass off as an adult (at last). I think the campaign comes from a good place, but I question its usefulness. People are discriminated against for all sorts of things. Fat people. Ugly people. Dark and fat. Ugly and fair. Fat and ugly. Are we going to start campaigning against every single bias that we have?

I realized how inadequate so many young girls felt purely because they couldn’t live up to the societal standards of beauty.

I am shocked to see the rise in the number of fairness creams, dark actresses looking paler and paler with every film and magazines, hoardings, films and advertisements showing only fair women.

There is nothing wrong with what Nandita has to say, but skin colour is the least of our problems. Every page of every magazine tells us that fat is ugly. Every film star endorses six pack abs and size zero figures. This is so much more prevalent than fair actors and fairness creams. Some people are fat. Unhealthy or not, that’s how it is. Can we start campaigning about how unfair it is that society has created a standard of what is thin and what is fat? Beauty according to societal customs is defined as symmetry of features, big almond shaped eyes and button noses with angular cheekbones. Bad features? Ugly. Bad teeth? Ugly. Bad figure? Ugly. Dark skin with killer features and a hot bod? I don’t see anyone complaining. The so-called standards of beauty are constantly evolving. In the 60’s, a woman with curves was a bombshell and a skinny girl was a boyish waif. The tables are always turning.

The point is this — beauty always has and always will be in the eyes of the beholder, and we will always want what we cannot have. Fair skinned, vampire-y skinned people in the West go tanning because chalky white skin is a fashion faux pas while we go through the ritual of spreading dollops of fairness cream every morning. I go to the gym every day to lose pesky fat and my grandmother tells me I need to put on weight. There are always going to be people who cash in on our insecurities — celebrities, fitness trainers, plastic surgeons and fairness creams, but this a battle we just can’t win. Advertisers will advertise because as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

Countless studies have shown that attractive people are more successful in life, that things are always a little bit easier for them. There is no way to fight that kind of inherent bias, we all make those judgements. These are the uncontrollable factors given to people by an awesome gene pool and a whole lot of plastic surgery. This whole dark issue is moot. Instead of attacking the advertisers and the fairness creams, how about a campaign to teach young people to take pride in themselves — mind, body and soul? How about teaching teenagers that looks will come and go, but it’s intelligence and confidence that will take you the rest of the way? How about teaching parents to raise their kids to be tolerant and accepting of everyone regardless of height, weight or skin colour?

Beautiful inside and out. That’s how we should feel about ourselves and balls to everyone else.

In conversation with a jaded Indian man and a dented-painted Indian woman

(Taken from comments made on my post, Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Other Inconvenient Truths)

I am an Indian guy and I need to say many things from my own experience. I have noticed that Indian girls who are good-looking have a feeling of pride and attitude and behave as though all men are their slaves.

People who consider themselves God’s gift to the world do have that attitude and this goes for men and women all over the world! I’ve had guys not give me the time of day because I wasn’t upto their standards of attractiveness. It works both ways. I really don’t think this is a gender issue or even an ‘Indian’ issue.

Regarding attitude that you mentioned as not being gender specific, I again disagree. Perhaps, what you say is true to an extent. But there is no denying the truth that good-looking women have an attitude much more than their male counter-parts.

Although I’m inclined to dismiss this as hyperbole, I’m going to answer this anyway. Why do ‘hot’ Indian girls have so much attitude? Setting aside the fact that this isn’t something that is specifically gender based, I’d like to focus on why ‘good’ looking Indian girls in particular are said to have this ‘attitude’.

Easily put, it is self preservation. The thornier the exterior, the less likely anyone is to approach. Every woman in the country has been mentally undressed at some point by leering men, and this as everyone now is well aware of, is the least of it. And of course there is the slut shaming, where a girl who has a lot of guy friends is immoral and loose, and a BAD BAD girl. No wonder then that girls (in particular the ‘good’ looking ones) would rather be ice queens than be vulnerable to this quagmire of unpleasantness. But like I said in my earlier post, it’s something that I’ve personally been working on as a part of my own effort. This gradual change in attitude needs to be augmented by changes in the very system.

Somehow, Indian women (urban educated), it seems have got it into their heads that they are superior to the men. I wonder what makes Indian women  pride so much when they are not even half as beautiful as their Russian and Ukranian counterparts (although I agree beauty is relative).

I’m an ‘urban educated women’ as you put it, I don’t know why you think we consider ourselves superior to men. We have finally reached a time where we see a significant number of Indian women working, driving and doing other ‘manly’ activities.

That is a different debate altogether whether feminism has brought about good or bad in society To me, its definately made society worse.

Oh dear lord. To anyone who says this, all I can say is — keep your women safely locked up in the kitchen  because if you had it your way that’s where we would be. No voting rights, no right to inherit property, no right to our own reproductive choices, no protection from domestic violence and the list goes on. I see how it has made society worse.

Do we take pride in the fact that we are making huge strides in this male driven society? Yes.

Again its another debate and about technology having been the cause of this so-called empowerment. But its definately NOT a male driven society as you women claim it to be. I would dispute that; contest it and I have enough reasons to do so. Rather, I would say its always a female centric society where men are made the scape goats whenever the need arises.

India is a male driven, patriarchal society. Period (oh wait, that’s a female thing).  Sigmund Freud stated that for women ‘anatomy is destiny’ and it makes me sad, because it is true. Even now I hear friends’ parents telling them not to choose Civil or Mechanical Engineering because girls can’t work on the field. Even now, in 2013 I have friends who aren’t allowed to enter the kitchens in their homes because it is their time of the month. Even now, women in the corporate world can never feel secure about their jobs after taking a maternity leave. Even now, hostel timings are set at 6 p.m. for girls while there is no such need for the boys. Even now, at 21 I get asked when I’m going to get married because that is my sole goal in life. Someone needs to tell me how this isn’t a male centric society. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I can even call myself a feminist. I wrote about it in an earlier post, “Where do we go from here?”. Sometimes I wish it was black and white.

Yes, there are cases when men are falsely accused of rape and women get the benefit of the doubt. It does happen, and it is wrong. There are women who use their gender as an excuse to be morally repugnant. It is best to acknowledge that these situations do exist, but at the same time remember that so many crimes against women go unpunished.

Do we feel empowered that we can stay alone and work in a different city without fear? Yes. Does this have anything to do with men? No. It is just pride in our own achievements, that we are able to do things our mothers and grandmothers couldn’t do.

Too much of corporate-fed media here. You are brain-washed to believe that mothers and grandmothers weren’t achievers. They were bigger achievers than all the achievement that you can ever imagine. Just because they didn’t mean much to the MNCs as they led simple lives didn’t mean that they were under-achievers. Turning a house into a home is a much bigger achievement than owning bungalows, cars and 10 digit packages.

By achievements, I don’t mean earning truckloads of money and owning bungalows (although that is never a bad thing). My grandmother on my father’s side was married at the ripe old age of 14. When I think of myself at 14, I can only scoff at the idea of getting married then. There are so many things she could have done, if she had the chance to. She didn’t even get a chance to work on her hopes and dreams. Turning a house into a home is a huge accomplishment, I don’t deny that. Was it their dream? Was it the only thing they wanted to leave behind? Was it a choice or an expectation? We have an entire world full of possibilities now. 

We claim that we are a gender equal society. Then why the hell should a guy approach a lady and not the other way round? Why should guys pay the dating and dining bills and not the other way? (now don’t tell me that you go dutch. Saying is different from doing and even if I assume that you do, what about the other women?). 

We can’t claim that we are a gender equal society because we aren’t.

Yep, we are habituated to pampering women…..

For this I’m going to direct you to this wonderfully acerbic post. She tells it far more eloquently than I will ever be able to.

But lets say that men and women are to be treated alike. In which case, who pays rests totally upon the individuals in question. Sure, social norm for ages has been that the man pays. But that’s not the status quo anymore.

If a guy told me that he didn’t want to pay or couldn’t afford to pay, I would be okay with that. If he wanted to pay for my meal, I would be okay with that too. But I earn my own money. So I’d be perfectly comfortable paying for our meals. Can I speak for all women? No, I can’t. But it’s inaccurate to make a blanket generalization.

I do not agree with many many things that you have mentioned. First of all, I told you not to speak for yourself when it comes to paying bills. I have had this argument with many ladies who make such claims but when it comes to actual payment, they back out. Its real! Its my experience. What you speak here is immaterial; what you do in reality is what matters and there is a HUGE difference. Secondly, when you cannot speak for other women, why do you even need to refer to that? As a guy I know how many times I had to pay bills and how many times I was exploited. Sorry, I can’t accept your contention.

I’m sorry but no one is putting a gun to your head and asking you to pay. If you choose to go out with women who are that exploitative in the first place, that is entirely your fault. Women aren’t succubi. We’re not out to suck you dry of your money and your soul. If you’ve had multiple such experiences, I’m truly sorry but I think its time for an exorcism.

Regarding this article, its well-written. But, I also do not agree with you when you say that a guy who seeks ‘Fraandship’ is a bad guy.

The guys who seeks ‘Fraandship’ may not be a bad guy. However, when a person I don’t know sends messages like that after simply looking at my profile picture, I’m not going to be inclined to be friends with him. Even if he happened to be the nicest guy on the planet. That’s not how you approach a person.

For example, a guy added me on Facebook. He sent me a message saying, “Hey, I read your blog and I like the way you write. I wrote a blog exactly like that once and it felt like you expressed my thoughts exactly.” Would this be someone I’d like to be friends with? Yes! He shares my interests and I know he’s read my work. It’s all so subjective really.

This is one of the fundamental differences between the psychology of women and men. You cannot deny this. Women and men are different in many ways and I sometimes wonder in the correctness of gender equality itself. How can there be equality between two different creatures?

And finally the cusp of this mostly fruitful discussion. I wrote about Gender Bias-ity and I strongly believe that the only thing different between men and women is anatomy. Two different creatures would suggest a different species altogether and that isn’t the case. Gender equality, by strict definition is that men and women should receive equal treatment. Arguably, this is the final destination that we need to reach. I will go on a limb and say maybe this means that as women we need to let go of certain privileges bestowed on us for the sake of equality.

If I have to give up men opening doors for me and paying the check in return for equality in other places, that would be the best trade I’ve ever made. 

Sylvia, Esther and The Bell Jar

I just finished reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and now I have a rabid dog feasting in the recesses of my brain as my mind whirls and churns and futilely attempts to make sense of everything and nothing. The Bell Jar is often compared to Catcher in the Rye because of its Hollywood-esque ‘coming-of-age’ theme that everyone seems to adore. I wouldn’t even know how or where to begin the comparison. I sympathised with Caulfield’s travails, but I saw myself in Esther Greenwood. She is deviously smart, and like most smart people she breezes through her classes without absorbing an inkling of knowledge. She somewhat penitently but with a smidgen of smugness admits to exploiting the system by convincing her chemistry professor Mr Manzi that she shouldn’t take the class because she would get an A anyway. It is easier than it sounds, because by virtue of my grades I got away with a lot of things I shouldn’t have.

Esther’s descent into the darkness is so logically chronicled that it feels strange that anyone should feel otherwise. It makes depression feel like the natural state of the mind, and happiness an aberration. The fact that this is a semi-autobiographical story stops me from discounting any of Esther’s thoughts as ‘this is fiction, this doesn’t happen in real life’. She goes through the quarter life crisis we all struggle with, she’s constantly asked what she wants to do next, and she doesn’t have the answers and neither do we, most of the time.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

The book was written in a different time, when women had to choose and there were no in-betweens. But even now, we face the same questions, the guilt and the torment. We shuttle between our wants and our needs, the precarious balance between all things wanted can never be at perfect equilibrium. You balance the scales, adding and removing, hoping that you get there before you tip over.

“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
“Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
“She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”

I think Allison Pearson’s, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” portrays the struggle without a hint of sugarcoating.

The way I look at it, women in the City are like first-generation immigrants. You get off the boat, you keep your eyes down, work as hard as you can and do your damnest to ignore the taunts of ignorant natives who hate you because you look different and you smell different and because one day you might take their job. And you hope. You know it’s probably not going to get that much better in your own lifetime, but just the fact that you occupy the space, the fact that they had to put a Tampax dispenser in the toilet – all that makes it easier for the women who come after you….

Esther feels the same way, albeit without the pedigree of experience. Her musings on the injustice of it all, that a woman’s virginity was to be guarded like treasure but a man had no such qualms. The hypocrisy of the society she lived in rankled, until she could no longer take the weight of those expectations. She sleeps, but she cannot sleep. Words are as undecipherable as hieroglyphs. She is suffocated by the stale air, a butterfly in a jar. Freedom doesn’t always mean being free.

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.

because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

She paints her suicide attempts like works of art. Simple clean lines, a razor blade is to puncture delicate skin and that is its sole purpose of existence. When she finally creeps into the cellar and swallows down a bottle of pills, I felt the terror she seemed immune to. The images in my head looked like a David Lynch movie. I once knew Sylvia Plath as a talented poet who stuck her head in the oven. She is so much more than her tragical end.

This entire diatribe has been littered with random thoughts and quotes in no particular order and with no significant meaning. But this is what lingers after reading the book, and this is what I will remember for a long time to come. In particular, these few sentences of the book are what I consider the bane of my existence.

How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?

I often wonder. How can I write about life?

Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Other Inconvenient Truths

So after my last post made me sound like an enlightened life guru (if only I could follow my own advice), I decided to take a stab at something infinitely more difficult — the complex conundrum of an Indian woman’s mind and the single, double and multiple standards we impose on our men. As an Indian woman (Or girl, I’m not sure yet. No one’s called me aunty yet, so I think that’s a good sign), I feel like I’m well equipped to answer this.

Consider a typical situation. A girl is approached by a random guy in a nightclub. He’s decently dressed and the crotch of his pants is more than 5 inches off the ground and there’s nothing shiny in sight. He politely says hello and asks what her name is. Of course, being the Indian girl she is, she throws a dirty look (reasons for which will be deciphered soon) and the poor guy slinks away. Next thing you know, conversation with the girl friends ensues.

“Guys, so I was standing there at the bar and like this total creep hit on me. I mean what does he think. This is a club and I’m a good Indian girl who is at a club. How dare he?!”

Let’s evaluate. So we’ve established that the guy was not rude in any way. He didn’t come up and say, “DAT A$$” (which totally can happen by the way), but he was shot down anyway. Now in itself, this isn’t a bad thing. Personal choice of the girl in question and all that jazz. But let’s look at the double standards here.

Consider a not-so-typical but still feasible situation.  A girl is approached by a random guy in a nightclub. She doesn’t care if his hair is oiled and he has a middle parting. Why? Because he’s a foreigner and not a creepy Indian. He could come up and say “DAT A$$” and still get her number. This conversation would go something like:

“Guys, so I was standing there at the bar and this hottie hit on me. I hope he likes me and we get married and I can have cute gora babies.”

What just happened? Since he’s not Indian, he’s not threatening. Hence he is no longer the rapist all Indian men are.

Now let me point out another scenario. Girl is walking on the street. A random guy who can’t speak English very well asks her for directions in Hindi. He gets the royal brush off because “Ew, what the hell? Gavaar”

Girl is walking on the street. A random guy who can’t speak English asks her for directions. Cue effusive answers. Huh? Oh wait, he’s a white guy who doesn’t know English! How adorable! How endearing! “Oh, walk right down the lane, and take the left, and then sweep me off my feet. Or I could just take you there myself and then you could meet my parents.”


True Story

The Indian girl in question has been me, several times. Guilty as charged. I’ve noticed that when I go abroad, I’m much more comfortable talking to a guy I happened to bump into on the street. I’d be thrilled in fact. If the same thing happened here, I would question his ulterior motives, because obviously he can’t just be making conversation. This is such a convoluted double standard with more than just female whims as its root cause. Growing up, we are told to be careful, to walk on crowded streets during the day, to avoid taking an auto at night, to dress conservatively, to appear diminutive — only to ward off unwanted attention. As Indian girls, we experience the leering, the catcalling, the groping and everything else that comes with the possession of lady parts. And hence, we paint the entire male population with the same brush.

I wouldn’t have noticed this, because hey, in what way is this bothering me right? Not like ignoring a guy is a crime. But I realised that the very same thing I had been doing to random guys, was happening to my own guy friends. My perfectly nice guy friends. All interactions with girls who aren’t family or friends or friends of friends, were skewed. At a bus stop, my friend once asked a girl whether the bus had arrived. She looked the other way and pretended she hadn’t heard the question. He was flummoxed and although he wouldn’t admit it, hurt.

As a society, it appears as though we are racing towards modernity. We hang out and we pseudo-date. Our dating is like getting married over and over again, conveniently without the stigma of divorce. There’s some talking, a grand proposal, I love you’s are shared and you’ve sealed the deal. It’s less dating and more a series of relationships. By its strict definition of course, dating is meeting new people outside of your usual circle of friends like the cute guy at the gym asking you out for coffee or the barista writing her phone number on your cappuccino. This doesn’t happen of course, because a. No Indian guy would dare, for fear of getting bitchslapped. b. An Indian girl dating a series of guys is a ho.  c. A strange Indian man is always a kidnapper/terrorist/rapist/animal abuser.

Its unfortunate that all the “Will u plz make frandshipz wid me” messages have ruined it for all Indian men and there are so many good ones. My girl friends and I have whined so many times, “Why can’t we meet new people?!” especially now that we’re working and our social lives are practically non-existent. But we’re still not making the changes we need to. I decided a while ago that I want to make a conscious effort to be more open minded, and cautiously hopeful that not every man has the wrong intentions. It is always scary, and at times downright stupid, but I think it’s a benefit of the doubt everyone deserves.

NOTE: I feel like I have to add a disclaimer here that this post isn’t representative of all Indian girls. I’m an urban English speaking, college educated girl and this post reflects that. Similarly, the guys I tend to bump into aren’t your typical goonda types, although I’m sure there’s an abundance of them in other parts of the country. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal choices, and this is one I choose to make.

Europe? Hot Girlfriend? Job at Google?

You hit the 20 mark — you know the beginning of the dark ages when you start saying no to ‘come on dude, one more shot’ and guzzle down a litre of water instead in a last ditch attempt to appear less corpse-like at work the next morning — and overnight, it feels like things that were floating around in your peripheral vision, rise up like pernicious ghosts to smack you in the face. Apart from the usual philosophical quandaries like ‘Who am I? What have I been put on this planet for and where do I go from here?’, there are the less intellectually stimulating but equally bothersome questions like ‘Am I in the right job?’ ‘Everyone is travelling including that dumbass who thought Spain was in Africa. Should I go too?’ ‘She’s fatter than me and she has a boyfriend! What’s wrong with me?’

They say growing up after adolescence is just coasting away on cruise control, but what is the misery of a few zits compared to the angst of trying to figure out where your life is going? The social network has kept us all wired in, but in a sense this has made it so much more difficult for our generation to make decisions. We are ultra-competitive and hyper-judgemental. Your friend getting a job at that big international firm? Stab to the brain. Your friend getting engaged to the love of her life? Stab to the heart. Your friend on a world trip? Stab to every dream you ever had. We punish ourselves in a myriad of ways. Overcome by the deluge of information about other peoples’ lives, we try to win a race we never even meant to be in. And in that, we lose the pursuit of happiness on the transit to the pursuit of ‘Everything-Everyone-Else-Has’.

You always dreamed of writing your own book. Instead you’re working at an IT giant crunching numbers and hoarding away money to your growing bank balance, because you’re going to be that person who makes his/her first million and buys that fancy car. You’re going to travel to Switzerland, although you can’t stand the cold because that’s where everyone goes. You don’t have a viable idea nor do you have any skills to back it up and yet, you want to start a startup because thats where the big bucks are. It is so easy to fall into this trap, and I find myself going there ever so often.

As hard as it can be, take the time  to learn about yourself; spend time looking inwards and not outwards. I’m your average over-thinker, and in all honesty, I should spend less time thinking and more time doing. I bug people all the time. ‘What do you want to do in life, tell me?!’ and I’m usually shut down with a ‘I donno man, chill na’. That’s where the trouble starts because it is so very important to know your own goals, another reason why being 20 something sucks. Assuming a life expectancy of 75, you’ve only lived about 25% of your life. So you’re supposed to make a decision about the remaining 75% with this little experience? That’s like writing a test having studied a quarter of the syllabus. It scares the shit out of me. But that’s how it works.

So think about what makes you happy and fulfilled. Those all-important milestones you want to hit. Write them down. Tattoo them on your forehead. Every time you find yourself doing something, be it a trip abroad or a major career change, ask yourself ‘Is this going to help me reach my goal?’ and then go ahead with it. For instance, if your aim is to work for a major Indian firm and settle down here then going to a business school in Europe for the glamour of it is a poor decision. Looking at pictures thinking, ‘Ah this guy is partying with firangs so even I’m going to go’ is probably a bad idea. On the other hand, if your main goal is to travel and to meet new people (with job considerations low on your list of priorities) then go to business school in Timbuktu if it pleases you.

The point of the rant is this. I’d like to remind myself and everyone who needs a reminder that we only get one shot at doing this, and we need to try to get it right. The ‘peer-pressure’ we experienced as teens to dress a certain way was a joke compared to what we have to deal with now. Our parents bore the brunt of our younger teen-y scream-y versions, but now we have no else to push the blame on. Regardless, no amount of gloominess can cloud the fact that these are by far the most exciting times of our lives and there is no where else I’d rather be.

EDIT: If you liked this, then you might possibly like this as well. Happy reading.

The journey that led to this

It’s been a while, and writing is some serious mental exercise. Just like getting rid of that stubborn arm flab gets harder with time, shedding the mental hubris and actually making sense of the word vomit in your head is a major achievement. But I finally had some major inspiration, thanks to a wonderful blast from the past. Friendships formed in elementary school last as long as an ice cream on a hot summer day. I probably had a new best friend everyday and all it took for the catastrophic shift of allegiance was a piece of gum. Score!

It’s a miracle then, that I met someone who touched my life in a myriad of ways that I realize only now, almost 11 years later. (Shoutout to Anisha!) I’ve always loved to travel and I assumed that it was something I was born with, having lived in a foreign country for four years. In retrospect though, I have Anisha to thank for much of it. We were incredibly precocious kids at the tender age of 7 (or was it 8?). If we weren’t busy stuffing our noses into a book or chasing kids around the pool, we would chronicle our mystical journey around the world.

Welcome to Spain. Your next trip is to China.  We were quite knowledgable about clothes. Becoming a fashion designer was the fad of the day. Shudder.

Welcome to Spain. Your next trip is to China.
We were quite knowledgable about clothes. Becoming a fashion designer was the fad of the day. Shudder.

Welcome to China. Your next trip is to Arabia. And a Chinese lady. In a kimono. In the days of no internet! Damn.

Welcome to China. Your next trip is to Arabia.
And a Chinese lady. In a kimono. In the days of no internet! Damn.

And it went on, to over twenty different countries that I still have relics of and probably several more that we dreamed up ourselves. It was always dreams on paper, places too exotic to exist in the realm of reality. But that germ of an idea festered and grew into a full fledged travel bug that caught the both of us. Australia Belgium Canada Czech Republic Denmark England Finland France Germany Hong Kong Italy Indonesia Kenya Malaysia Mauritius Norway Poland Singapore South Africa Spain Sweden Switzerland Thailand United Arab Emirates United States Vatican City. 26 countries in my 21 years of existence and I feel blessed.

For me travelling isn’t all about the sights and the scenery (although that is a huge part of it). It is the thrill of new discovery, finding those beautiful little nooks that the world has forgotten. Opening yourself up to the new possibilities, of finding yourself by losing yourself completely. It’s the freedom of being the person you always thought you could be, but never got the chance to. It is the joy of meeting new people and the awe that comes with knowing we’re all the same. It’s the smile on your face when you see a gorgeous couple holding their dog on a leash and kissing in the rain by the Seine. The magic in the air as even the most mundane things like taking a bus or ordering food become new experiences to be relished and recollected and recounted over and over again. It is a drug, and the high never ends.

Anisha: I’m so glad we got to experience this together, maybe not in body but in spirit. I’m sure you know what I mean. Some part of our subconscious was plotting away and put us back in touch right where we left off. 

I love how you planned for contigencies. 'If I have also...'

I love how you planned for contigencies. ‘If I have also…’

Going from there to you being on top of the Eiffel Tower is so ridiculously romantic, it should be made into a movie. We wrote such long letters to each other despite living in the same city, on colourful paper with those sparkly pens. I guess I have to thank you for my love for writing too. Ah, the list grows longer. We’ve come full circle with the postcard that took an entire month to reach me, but it was completely worth the wait (Paris to Hyderabad is kinda far). I’m glad you got to do it and I’m glad I could be a small part of it. 

'After all if life isn't something to celebrate, I don't know what is'

‘After all if life isn’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is’

I also just noticed, you sign Love the same way we used to. I guess some things never change.

A Day in the Life Of

Seventeen years. That’s how long I’ve called this city of mine home – Hyderabad. It’s the unfortunate stepsister to the bigger metros of the country, still begging for that pedigree. I feel the heat acutely, no amount of time can tell my body to please, just get over it already. A sweltering 44 degrees on this summer day and the back of my neck is damp instantly. Sweating is unladylike so I do some mental voodoo. Must. Stop. Sweating. No such luck.

I get into my car and turn up the air conditioning full blast. Public transport in Hyderabad happens to be a bit of a joke. You have two options, buses or auto rickshaws. Auto rickshaws will force you to ingest a month’s quota of dust and smoke in a day while simultaneously ripping you off. The buses amble along languidly going as they please, can’t blame them really. Hyderabadi’s, as we’re called, are notoriously late for everything. Let’s meet at 4 is loosely translated to ‘Call me at 4 and then I’ll get into the shower’.

The area I live in is quiet, a temporary oasis. The houses are packed closely together on the narrow street, and foreign cars purr in and out. A few hundred meters and a turn left later, you’re rudely thrown into the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m safely ensconced in the comfort of my car, but I see women carrying umbrellas rushing for shade and men drinking icy sugarcane juice from the carts. I reach a busy intersection and as always I curse. Regulated traffic is one thing, but this form of random chaos is an entirely different experience altogether. I swerve sharply to avoid grazing a car on one side, only to almost hit a guy on a cycle on the other.

For a city filled with almost 7 million people, the world I live in is very small. I travel within a small area of the city and I meet a very limited set of people. This is one of the things I hate the most, and I only have myself to blame. The social structure of my particular circle is rigid. You go to a predefined list of places, and do the acceptable list of things. Number one on the list is where I’m headed – Beenz. It’s supposed to be a coffee shop but no one here drinks coffee. It has an earthy looking feel from the outside and attempts to recreate a rustic village setting with evenly spaced huts to sit under. Parked outside is a row of Jags and Mercs. The irony escapes everyone. The air is scented with the minty smoke of hookah and I watch as people strut in and out. I almost hear the mating calls.

As the evening turns to night, the set changes but the characters and script remain the same. Now it’s TGI Friday’s. The American assembly line has spit one of these out here too and who are the masses to complain? We proceed to have one too many drinks taking full advantage of Happy Hour and I’m happy to be surrounded by friends, I am. I’m enveloped in a warm glow and I’m singing along to all the music but in the back of my head, I’m wondering – whose life am I living?

NOTE: This is a part of my Travel Writing Evolution Assignment. I chose to write my piece in the Narrative form, “Hometown in 500 words”. This was part of my brief, I hope I’ve stuck to it.

The “plot” of your story can be about anything, from passing back through town after being away for a long time, to simply reflecting on it through an anecdote or a “day in the life” of the place. Please try to keep your narrative to 500 words or less. Most importantly, be sure to use terms, place names, and details that are as specific as possible.

We the Twenties

We whine incessantly, drone on and on
She said. He said. Oh my god. I hate the world
Too old for teen angst and too young for placid calm
We the twenties, we have it good.

Lives lived in cocktail glasses, martinis
Rose tinted aviators, perched jauntily
On noses so high up in the air
Young, bold and beautiful
We laugh, we scream, we drink, we love
We the twenties, we plot our dreams on complex maps.

Those untwenties, what do they know
Faded ages, faded faces
This unerring confidence, a totem of sorts
Worn like a badge of honor
We the twenties, we know everything.

All it takes is a single crack, a shard of glass
A push turned into a shove turned into a fatal jump
How much do we know now?
Oh you untwenties, you are older and wiser
Those aged faces, those are marks of wisdom
Even the best maps can’t take us to places that don’t exist
We the twenties, we will eventually learn.

After being torn to shreds, ripped by cataclysmic desires
We start to resemble the jaded untwenties
But we have superpowers, that auto-detonate
Intense hope and brighter dreams
A renewed jolt of what ifs and maybes
The elixir of youth isn’t staying young
Its keeping that same hope alive
And the untwenties can shove it
We the twenties, we’ll be happy,