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.
Nikhita

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,

Why Game of Thrones is Awesome

So with the new season of Game of Thrones underway and ever since I decided to start reading the books (1 and 2 DONE. Woop woop), I began to wonder what it is about this show (and the books) that makes it so universally loved. I mean people who found Harry Potter hard to understand watch the show (erm, how?). Inexplicable as it may seem, here’s a list (I seem to have a list fixation) as to possible reasons why.

  1. People are sick of sitcoms and so am I. SPOILER ALERT. The final reveal of the Mother in HIMYM has left legions of fans crying into their pillows (my sympathies; if I watched an otherwise mediocre show which in a cheap but clever act of gimmickry waited 8 seasons to show the owner of an umbrella, I’d cry too). I don’t wanna watch pseudo-situational pseudo-comedies any more, especially when they question my intelligence as a viewer by giving me cues to laugh. Stop telling me what to do! That wasn’t funny at all and the ‘hahahahs’ in the background aren’t gonna convince me otherwise.
  2. After listening to legions of whiny women crying about their relationships and how ‘Men are the Devil’, I am finally happy that a show portrays women to be strong, conniving and beautiful all at the same time. Case in point Daenerys and Cersei. These women are powerful, they make their own rules and basically kick some butt.
  3. It has blood. It has gore. It has a lot of sex. And boobs. BOOBS. Hit the jackpot there because these elements just appeal to the vile and voyeuristic qualities we all have (or is it just me?). I liken it to the scene of an accident. Everyone knows it’s going to be unpleasant but a crowd of people will gather to watch anyway. But with that said, the show itself is quite sophisticated. The subtle nuances in the script (and the actors’ expressions) make it such a joy to watch. The humour is dark, and the scenes are intense. It grabs your attention right away.

    Ooooh, errr.

  4. They found an incredible cast. I don’t think anyone can play Tyrion better than Peter Dinklage can. Having read the book, all the actors fit the characters like a glove. Pretty much exactly the way I imagined them to be. I’m glad they didn’t make it into a movie straight, because the books are ornately detailed and to give justice to the books, every book requires at LEAST a season.
  5. George R. R. Martin (genius this man) doesn’t hesitate to kill off major characters. None of your favourite characters is safe. They could have their heads on a pike in any episode. That kind of makes you want to keep watching.
  6. Finally, the elements of Westeros are beautifully depicted. They don’t dumb it down and insult your intelligence. You can expect a shocker in every episode. It’s a WIN all around.

How to survive a Quarter Life Crisis

A quarter life crisis is a scarily real thing generally known to afflict college seniors about to graduate. Unceremoniously thrown out of a comfortable collegiate existence where waking up for class and passing a test were my biggest problems, I am now being chewed up by the real world and everything that entails. You need a job. You need to pay rent. The five minute walk to class becomes an hours commute. The list of twenty people you could call on any given Friday night to chill whittles down to a meager two or three. Recovering from a night of debauchery takes much longer than it used to.

What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Where do you wanna go from here? Why is the yummiest food always so fattening? I see friends getting married and making that lifelong commitment. I can’t even decide what I want for lunch. I’m sitting here writing a blog while a 16 year old develops a new cure for cancer. Definitely puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it? There are people travelling the world, not worrying about a steady income but paying their way as they go. I can imagine the reaction I’d get if I even tried. “Arrey, how could you send your only daughter like that? Those firangs na, very dangerous. And that too she’s a girl! What is the need.. anyway in two years we’ll find her a nice boy to marry.”

Substitute football with travelling. And chapatis with dosas.

Okay, so in my parents’ defense and particularly my moms considering it’s Mother’s Day and all (love you Ma) they have never said anything along those lines. Thank freakin God. But I’m sure an entire line of third cousins twice removed will have something to say about my life decisions. But I’m veering off topic. The main task at hand, what do you do about the quarter life crisis?

  1. Don’t pay attention to what other people are doing with their lives. It’s easier said than done with constant reminders being thrown at you from every social networking site in existence (#PartyingInRioBitches, Close up: shaking hands with the President, @mycutiepiehubby love u sweetu!). Everyone has some point in life at which they peak and then plateau out. That peak could be at any given time. Yours could be around the corner, so you man up and make it HAPPEN. Don’t expect to sit around and have things happen to you. Ain’t gonna work.

    Or happen, either way Tim Gunn is happy.

  2. Do what makes you happy. Be it travelling, programming, designing, being a wife, a mom. Whatever it is. You know YOLO and everything, so if you gotta do it once, do it right.
  3. Everyone is in the same boat as you are. Sure, outwardly I might look like I have it all everything sorted out while I’m living my perfect little life. Not the case. Talk about it, to friends, to your parents. You’ll feel better and you might even get some bright ideas about where to go from here.
  4. Meet some new people. Try to gain some new experiences. Get some fresh perspective. This doesn’t have to be camping out in the Sahara, it could be doing something you’ve never done like volunteering at an NGO, reading a book (yes, people haven’t) or learning how to ride a unicycle.
  5. Have some goals but be flexible about it. You need to get from point A to point B. Work in that direction. The time it takes may vary, it might take incredible amounts of work but you’ll make it there eventually. Recognize your achievements and let them propel you forward. Also, don’t be so harsh on yourself. Assuming you’re under 25, you have the rest of your life left to do the things you want to do. It will happen in due time. If you’re older than that, well sorry to break it to you man its over. (I kid, I kid)

Preschool, British Accents and Work

Cutesy wutesy theme alert. What’s not to love about a bunch of adorable animals? Takes me right back to my preschool days. It’s kind of weird, one of the earliest memories I have is of my 4th (or was it 5th?) birthday at my preschool in Bangkok. I remember a slightly blurred montage of kids of various races (very United Nations like, erm it was an international school) singing “Happy Birthday Nee-keeh-tah” and as always, I kept making snarky comments bang in the middle of it. In a very British accent (again international school). About 7 or 8 years later, I found a scratchy old videotape that I put into the VCR and there it was, a live recording and a surprisingly accurate one at that. I couldn’t understand my 5 year old me’s accent. I was jealous of my 5 year old me’s accent. How can you say no to anything when asked in a British accent, tell me this.

My lady, would you do me the great honour of jumping into these shark infested waters? I seemed to have dropped my handkerchief. Why, YES of course.

Well, dreamy Brits aside.. work is starting to really feel like work. The ID card dangled around my neck is a noose. I need a breath of fresh air. I never really did understand why people would decide to work for a smaller organization, or even for a startup. Lesser pay, lesser benefits and no brand name right? But I really get it now, I do. I always wanted to be my own boss and hell, that was the plan like ten years down the line. Until then, work for a big company they said. What they didn’t say was that you’d be another drone in the assembly line.

Sure, you’ll have a few productive days that give you a glimmer of hope (what if it gets better..?) but soon you realize its denial (and delusional). Most days are boring at best. I’m pretty sure I spent most of my time blogging, reading blogs, Facebooking or repeatedly refreshing Gmail. Oh yeah I did the project they assigned to me too, it required about two weeks of work (for a five month project). I’m glad the five months are coming to an end, and I’m even happier that I didn’t give in to the temptation of continuing in this comfortable but totally uninspiring job. I need more. I don’t know how, when or where I’m going to find it. But I refuse to waste the youth of my life sitting in front of a desk, staring at the computer screen reading about exotic places in the world.

Work has gotta be doing something you love. We’ve heard people say it, but it hits right home when you’ve lived it. I want to learn something new everyday, I want to feel like I’m a part of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, I want to wake up everyday looking forward to the challenges that await me – not go because I absolutely HAVE to, or take as many days off as I can without a pay cut. So until then I’m going to find something I actually enjoy doing and try not to panic at my impending state of unemployment.

Ladies, Go Home

Until now I had mistakenly assumed that Hyderabad was far less conservative than its neighbours in the South and that women traditionally held positions of significance in their public and private lives. I returned to Hyderabad on my usual weekend sojourn only to find news that was a smack in the face of all development. If you haven’t read about it yet, then brace yourself before you attempt to read more. It will make you see vivid shades of red. The gist of it though, is a bunch of legal aged partygoers went to a pub for a farewell party being organized by their juniors. While they were leaving the premises, they were filmed by a TV channel against their wishes and repeated requests.

“The media persons were relentlessly chasing us, and even after getting into the cab, and hiding my face, they harassed me by pursuing with their cameras. They never let us explain what had happened before they arrived,” Sravanthi (name changed), a final year student of law said.

The versions of the story differ, but there was some kind of altercation between the media and the students. The next day, grainy footage of the girls appeared on major news channels, ‘fleeing’ the pub.

“On the morning of 12 April, news channels including TV9, Saakshi TV, Studio N and ABN Andhra Jyoti, aired a news story in which they claimed minor girls had created ruckus in an inebriated condition in Hyderabad.”

The pictures of the girls were blurred to suggest that the girls were topless and drunk. ‘Drunken ladies hulchul in Hyderabad’, ‘Special focus: Girls romance in hostels and rooms’, ‘Drunken women creates hungama.’ Gasp, women in a pub having a good time with a drink.

I bow my head down in shame. I’m a 21 year old girl. Yes I go to my fair share of parties. Does this make me morally loose and does this mean ‘Western culture’ has sucked out my soul? I don’t think so. But of course, regional television channels seem to think otherwise as they scrolled defamatory headlines over voyeuristic footage. I wonder what the main issue is here – drinking, women drinking or women drinking and protesting against unwanted filming. It seems that instead of moving forward we are regressing. The students in question have filed a case in court, a move which I applaud. I find this entire incident repugnant due to its sheer misrepresentation and bigotry against women. If it goes unquestioned, how many more injustices will be dealt out to the women of Hyderabad.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop here. The police seemed to have jumped on the moral bandwagon and have proceeded to cancel Ladies Nights in all the pubs of the city. This is to do what? Protect women (you will get raped if you are drunk)? Protect others from drunken women? But it seems even that wouldn’t suffice to curb the dented-painted women of the city, our policemen also set to motion the following rule.

“In an effort to discourage pub owners from attracting too many youngsters with offers like free drinks for women, Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest consumers of beer and cheap liquor in the country, has decided to ban the entry of women into clubs, pubs and bars after 10 pm.”

OH! So by 10 pm, we must go back to our kitchens and hang up our labels of being modern, free women along with all dignity and self-respect. And of course, wait for our men to come back from the pubs by 11 pm so we can welcome their arrival with a modest smile and eternal servitude. I see where this is going, and it isn’t a very good place.

Note: After I wrote the blog and the story was published, the Hyderabad CP and top excise officials told Firstpost that no such ban has been put in place yet. Emphasis on yet.

Sign the petition here (http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/victimization-harassment-and-defamation-by-local-news-media) and raise a hue and cry. This moral policing needs to stop.

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