I know, Facebook is ticking.....

I should be working on creating a presentation right now. or responding to an email & yet again, I find my thoughts drifting away from work.

Earlier they would say 'clock is ticking'. Now I say 'Facebook is ticking'. No, really!

Every day it's feed reminds me of all the important milestones, appropriate for my age as deemed by society, that I have missed. That could be my 'half empty' mindset right now or the winter blues. God knows! but I see weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby announcements, sentimental messages going from one spouse to another & I suddenly feel old. very old. A lot older than my physical age. I also feel 'spent'. Does that make sense? to me it does. It feels as if I have crossed the age barrier when I should have done those damn things, when I should have said those damn words.

It wouldn't bother me a bit few years ago. I was the mean one to tell people to go and get a room everytime I saw a wife leaving messages on facebook for her husband who is, may be, sitting at the other end of sofa. I never thought it was playful. Now I do.

Of all the announcements, the ones that I read & go awww over are the baby announcements.

I was always maternal. ever since I remember, I have liked being around kids. younger, the better! there is no pretence, there is no motive. Its unadulterated fun & laughter & wishes & love. A straight acceptance. They like you or they don't. And they are not afraid to tell you so on your face. There is no drama. I have also gotten around them famously. I can count the instances on my fingers when a kid has not responded kindly to my smile. They smile back, almost always! May be, I look funny but hey, I can live with that too ;)

and I digrace!

So, I have always wanted to have a kid. Funny enough, I have never felt as strongly about marriage or husband. My roommates can vouch for this. We have spent hours talking about new borns, kids & their tantrums, how it's a life turning event not only for the mother but also for the daddy dearest. I have enjoyed arranging baby showers more than birthday parties. I have loved watching pregnancy journals & documentaries. Nat Geo's 'In The Womb' is my all time favorite. I still watch it sometimes & feel the goosebumps all over my body every time that tiny little girl is being delivered & then the shrill cries. I have read 'What to expect when you are expecting' cover to cover. And chances are, I can explain preeclampsia to you as expertly as an Ob-Gyn nurse would do (no, I wouldn't go as far as comparing myself to a doctor). I can also spare you midwife consulting charges and explain all the birthing choices you have as a pregnant woman.

Basically, I dig everything about babies. The process & the product :)

Many have told me it's because I don't have any of my own ;) I get it. The sleepless nights, the diaper duties, the terrible twos & those long supermarket bills. But I am sure when your child leans over on your shoulder after a tiring day, when they get all sleepy eyed and just collapse on your lap, when they cant contain their excitement at something very mundane & want to tell you everything about it, when they curl their tiny little fingers around your finger, when their head bobs on tiny necks they cant yet support, their toothless smiles, their first steps & first schoolride alone, their hollow cries & dramatic demands, their blind faith that you could solve every damn issue in this universe, I am sure you feel good. You feel great!

Even when I am caught up in the rat-race called indian IT (yes, there is a special brand called INDIAN IT), I have always pictured myself with a baby. It's just I never saw myself old enough to have one! But these days, all I see on my Facebook feed are birthing announcements & I go hrmhhh...; don't get me wrong here! I am tremendously happy for the lucky parents and their young ones but I can't help but feel a slight twinge of envy. No, I am not jealous but I am envious.

So is it the peer pressure? Is it about comforming to rules of being a woman? Nope. I am caught somewhere between pro-choice & pro-life but incline more towards pro-choice at times. It's a woman's body & her life & therefore it's her right to decide whether or not to borne a child. I am not one of those who think it all must be done and a child must be had. Nope. Nope. Nope. It's all about how you feel & most importantly what you want. If a child isn't that, I am not going to judge you just because you belong to the fairer of the sexes.

I long to have a baby - by birth or by adoption. So yes, a few years down the line if I am not what they call 'settled', I will think about adopting one. One that will be mine & mine only. One that does not have to leave with their moms at the end of the day. One whose chubby cheeks I can squish as much as I want without having to care for what their mom might think. One I can chase around the playgrounds. One whom I can introduce to the ultimate pleasure of this life - being able to read & visualize the world through those pages. One that I can take around with me to travel the world. One that I can spend unending nights worrying about. One who I can send to the poshest of schools. One who will live a childhood I never had. One who will grow into a person I could not. One that will not have to live in a cruel, mean and selfish world. One who will love me no matter how boring, how ugly, how old, how grumpy or how poor I get.

So yes, I know Facebook is ticking but that's fine for now. I have a plan :)


The Spring when I shall belong..

I write this post in the middle of office work that I have procastinated enough already... but then thoughts jam my head & I am not able to concentrate on the task at hand anyway.. so I open my long neglected blog...

I am in London & its a case of unreal expectations may be but the city has not warmed upto me yet. Possibly because I am not yet communicating with it. I am lost in a faraway land of States, comparing my experiences of that land with this land & then wallowing in misery.

The Tube here reminds me of 'T' in Boston. London Bridge reminds me of Memorial Drive of the same city. The buildings here take me back home, to Churchgate - an area of my beloved Mumbai also built by British when they ruled India. The buses here, though far more in numbers and far more useful in their frequency, remind me of DART of Dallas. The fallen leaves as I walk down to office everyday, remind me of the Fall of New Hampshire. The cold reminds me of when I vacationed in New Mexico once. That -12 degrees centigrade, I thought was the chilliest I would ever experience in my life and yet a paltry 2 degrees here make me shiver just as bad. Every time, I cross the road here, I remember how flabbergasted I was in NYC and embarrassed too when it took me 15 minutes to cross a road near Battery Park. Being a Mumbai girl, that was a skill I was very proud of! The Off-Licenses here scare me just as much as 7-11s did back in Dallas. Everything shuts down by 6PM. I get it, people here work just to make a living. They spend more time enjoying life than making a way for it but that's still awefully early for the Mumbai girl that I am. That's something I associate it with dullness. Sigh!

The Christmas here was subtle to a point that it almost did not exist. Barring the long queue of cars outside the Church just down the road, nothing seemed Christmacy.. I walked in vain for hours, hoping to meet at least one stranger with kindness in their eyes who would say hello, Merry Christmas to me but found none. The front lawns were as unkempt and undecorated as they were before Christmas.. I was so sad that I decided to buy a ready made cake mix from a store & bake a cake to feel normal again. The cake turned out photogenic but too flour-y to my taste - another dampner.

But its not all that bad. I don't have Barnes & Noble or Borders every couple of blocks here but I have lovely charity shops run by volunteers - some of the nicest strangers I met so far. They let you go through the books for hours. Books that I would buy for a throwaway sum. I can see a huge pile next to my bed, I can see books everywhere in my room by the time I have to leave this city & this time, I don't have to go too far. These books, my books will go back on the same shelfs once again to make another lonely girl like me happy while they were there.

I know the reason by now. Its not the city that's not talking to me. It's me who is far too busy comparing States with Kingdom that I have closed my eyes and mind shut to new experiences. Work is not helping either. Bonding with colleagues has now become an 'exercise' because no matter how friendly I get, the lead in me is too threatening it seems for them to feel that way.

I wish this feeling of helplessness, the feeling of being stuck in a wrong place goes away with the cold. I wish I can put a lid on my feelings stuck in US & open a new compartment in my head & heart for London. Back in US, I was cribbing for a good enough Public Transportation to be able to explore more, to head out more & here while I have it available, there is no will to get out or explore. I hope it comes back with spring & the leaves on the naked trees.

I have always loved cold & winters but now I am desperately waiting for the spring!

Soul Of A City...

Do you believe a city could have a soul? As in a breathing, thinking, rejoicing and occasionally weeping soul? I do.

For me, cities are not just a cluster of buildings or a mesh of railway tracks. They have much more to them than just the infrastructure. I also strongly believe that a city is as much part of your personality as your zodiac sign is and that makes you vaguely predictable. As in, almost every Taurean is fiercely stubborn – a bull with locked heels. Similarly every Mumbai BBU(born and brought up) is street smart. Of course you do see exceptions to prove the rule. I have seen passive, doormat-ish Taureans and similarly you can occasionally find a naïve Mumbai BBU or a subtly dressed Delhi BBU or a native Hydrabad BBU correctly pronouncing H1B instead of Hech1B or a Chennai BBU not enjoying rice-sambar! Point being, cities have  soul and we have soul and sometimes we actually find a city that is in every sense our soul-mate. It understands you, nourishes you, often fights with you and yet at the end of the day, takes you under its broad and rusted wings. I don’t mean to suggest that villages don’t. Or that they don’t alter you. They certainly do but their charm works magically as you near retirement. You think of a village when you want to sit back, read for hours, eat fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits and swim in the river or sea. Cities associate themselves with growth, cut-throat competition, parties, deadlines, commute that lasts for hours, eating leftovers & freshly baked pizzas and sleeping for four hours max. Cities mold you, break and re-make you, they shape an identity for you and before long, you become what your city wants you to be! For example, can you imagine Sex & The City or Suits happening anywhere but in New York City? Can you imagine my latest favorite - The Lunchbox unfolding anywhere but in Mumbai? Can you read any Jhumpa Lahiri book and not find Boston in it? Can you imagine Taslima Nasrin’s Lajja as riveting anywhere but in Bangladesh? I cant. Even though these are fictitious characters, their city becomes a tiny and yet very core part of what they do, how they think, why they fall in or out of love.

For me, when I fondly think of any city, Mumbai is of course the first name that comes to my mind very effortlessly. This city is in my being. It accompanies me when no one else does. I do often find myself feeling lonely – that could happen in a train or on the beach – so basically when I am not alone and yet, it’s the same city that comforts me as well. I was born here, in an area of Mumbai that later gained its popularity for a deity – Shri Siddhivinayak Temple. The deity whom this area was actually named after – Prabhavati Devi has since taken a back seat. There is, after all, no comparison between the gold plated steeples of Siddhivinayak Temple that attract millions every year and a small temple hidden behind a skyscraper where oldies still go to devour the calm and peace it offers. While I was growing up & attending Shardashram, famous only for being Sachin Tendulkar’s school, my city started from Matunga & ended at Nariman Point. I was not known of any suburbs. My parents took me to Dahisar at my mama’s place when I was in third grade. This area marks the end of Mumbai Municipality and upon my return I told my class teacher that I had been to America. Yes, suburbs were far off, almost like a foreign land. My experience widened and so did the boundary of what I considered Mumbai as I started with college and yet I felt relieved at the end of every day as I returned to Prabhadevi and its familiar sights and smells. We stayed in a chawl & like any other chawl dweller we considered it to be a bad place for a growing up girl so I wasn’t allowed to mix with other kids. Books became my friends then. So in a way, I owe it to this city, my love for books & also the freedom it offers me from being too dependent on people for happiness or sorrow.

Every Sunday, I was taken to Shivaji Park. Its not actually a park. I mean there wasn’t any park then. It was just a beach with golden sand, horse carriages, Ghati (and by that I mean a caste and not the non-maharashtrian synonym for tacky) men carrying wicker baskets full of yummy kulfi. There were a very few stalls that sold chat that is now ubiquitous but then we never had money for Bhel Puris or for balloons and yet I was a happy kid. I built castles. They were the proof of how pathetic I am at art and crafts. All I could ever make was a cone shaped mountain. Sometimes I longed for the plastic beach toys that other kids had which would enable them to carve nice shapes and actually make forts. I think that was the time, I had grown up enough to understand the value of money and how its abundance or lack could impact you. I always wondered how would it be like to have rich folks who could get you all the chat you wanted to eat and a ride on the nearly-dead horse and a balloon shaped as a plane and those plastic beach toys. 
Then, there were very few couples sitting at the back of the crowd and carried on doing what couples do. Holding hands was the ultimate limit of obscenity. Instinctively I knew never to ask my parents what these college going, young couples were up to. By the time I enrolled in D.G.Ruparel College of Art, Commerce and Science, these couples were mushrooming everywhere on my beloved beach, their antics had now crossed the first base. An umbrella still covered them from the prying eyes and yet I wasn’t sure why people would want to be in public for their most private moments. A stone’s throw away from where these couples cootchi-cooed, was a Hindu crematorium – the traditional one with wooden logs, fire and sundry. If my parents ever saw a funeral party approaching, they made me look somewhere else but that did not stop the smell of burning flesh from making me gag. Again, I knew what that was all about. We would take longest route on our way back home, to avoid the place, to avoid the mourners, to avoid the chant – Ram Naam Satya Hai…

but beyond anything, my most favorite moments on the beach were when we – my father and I, collected the shells. They weren’t too distinct. There was almost the same hardness and same pattern of red, cream and white on their body. Collecting as many as possible, hiding them from my mother and smuggling them back home was an adventure. Later, I would clean them with soap water and my mom would just know – she could find sand deposited all over the place. Those shells decorated my book-shelf and also a lot many of my otherwise pathetic art and crafts projects. All those in my class, not fortunate enough to stay so close to a beach would envy me for that bounty. It felt good to be on the other side of envy, for once. The second best moment was the sunset. I loved the painted sky and the reduced glow of sun as it dipped in the sea. I would stare hard at the setting sun and then for a minute or two, everywhere I looked, I could see it. A bright, orange dot on everything I lay my eyes on.

Finally, my dad would take me to the water. We both would remove our shoes. He would fold his pants. I would be wearing a knee length frock that wouldn’t need any folding. He would hold my hand just to keep me from running like a monkey. The first wave washing off our naked feet was always too cold. It always deposited the while salts on our brown and tanned feet but the second, third and fourth would be warm and inviting and we wouldnt care if there was more salt on us. I would bent down, dip my fingers in the water and taste it. It was always too salty and made me cringe but that was a ritual. We would stand there for some time. My frock would fly around me but it didn’t occur to me to put it back in place, to tidy up to keep my modesty from onlookers, firstly because there weren’t those many perverts around. 10 year old could show her undies in public and no one would look twice and secondly because it indeed was a carefree age. While my dad held on to my hand like a leash on dog, I would bend down and splash water back into the sea. I guess, for the first time, even before my menses showed up, when I myself realized I wasn’t a carefree child anymore, it was on this shore. My father had stopped holding my hand. He would just stand there looking at the horizon, pointing out Mount Mary church in Bandra and later Centaur hotel. I would make sure to tuck my frock between my legs so that it wouldn't fly all around me. That – being aware of onlookers and comprehending their eyes was the flashcard this city had waved at me – Finally I was a grown up.

Even today, I go to the exact spot on the beach where my parents would take me when I was a kid. A lot has changed. I have changed. My parents no longer accompany me. Walking in sand exerts a lot of pressure on their aging and complaining knees. There is no sand now. It was all dug up and sold to builders all over the city. Sea has reclaimed that land and hence you have only a tiny crescent of place where you can sit now. Your clothes get dirty now because there is no sand that slides the moment you get up. Now there is a very fine sand, called reti, black as tar and it clings to your body and clothes. There are at least 2 dozen stalls selling everything from chat to chinese. People eat that irrespective of its price or hygiene. These days kids don’t carry any toys with them because there is no sand and most importantly there is no space. It’s so crammed that you can’t tell one family from other. Couples are still there – now we see the married ones as well, not quite sure if they are married to each other though. Or maybe, like a friend explained, they are. They are married and stay in a cube shaped room with 10 other people. They come here on this beach to find that solitude. They come here to hold hands, steal a kiss, gaze into each other eyes, tell each other dreams of growing old together, dreams of having kids, dreams of making big in this scary city – basically to do everything they can’t in their overcrowded home. Not that they are alone here but that’s the beauty of this city – it walks by your side and yet you can choose to be alone and on your own when you want. The privacy they cant afford or expect in an overcrowded home can easily be found here with thousands of other unknown faces. I know its all sweet and heart-warming but I cant help but resent when people completely forget where they are. I have seen the worst. They have long passed the third base and the fact that there are kids and elderly around be damned! 

These days there are no shells. What you find instead is all plastic. Empty containers, paper dishes, used condoms, plastic bags full of garbage or sometimes with wilted garlands & flowers that were offered to  Gods before dumping them here in the sea as per our customs. There will be human shit now instead of horse dung patties that were common back then. Needless to say, I no longer taste the water for its saltiness. I don’t venture into the water. Last time I tried, I was up whole night scratching my feet. The rash was instantaneous & remained itchy for next 3 days.

Every summer, my father would take me to Nehru Tarangan (Planetarium). Its here that I dreamed of becoming a scientist. I know, 99% would want to be an astronaut but I was happy on planet earth. I just wanted to be that guy who wrote those books about stars and had a telescope of his own. I would diligently weigh myself on all planets. Then, my weight was non-existent on moon. I was always scared of dark and yet my father tells me now, the only place where I didn’t crib about it was this place. Stars, galaxies, universe, earth, black holes, supernovas – It was fun to be lost in them. They were sparkly, bright and very pretty. At the end of the show when the projector in the middle would settle back down at the center of the theater, it always played tricks on me. For a few seconds, I would feel as if my chair was in the air and it was me and not the projector that was slowly moving back to the floor. We never had money to buy a telescope or even those books on sale outside but I knew not to ask for anything. My father felt inadequate when my demands were not fulfilled but i always dreamed of returning to this place with lots of money and I did go back last year with pocketful of money and almost bought the entire shop and then returned it the next minute. I just didn’t have time to read these books, most of which I had outgrown but I promised those books to my future child. S(he) would read all that and I will vicariously live through that.

 I know Mumbai is not just about Sea, a Planetarium and its ever present crowd but for me, they hold together a lot of childhood memories. They make me feel small, insignificant with their expanse. What am I really as compared to a roaring sea? What is my achievement of life really as compared to the universe this planetarium sketches across its dome? What is my unhappiness or my problem as compared to millions around me? With all the hue and cry i make about my life not being perfect, about some days spent in despair, there are so many out there who would give and arm and leg for life as privileged and protected as mine. There is no other city that can make you feel so blessed and humble even if you have limited means!

I may be shifting to suburbs very soon – for a better and bigger house so that I could have a room of my own – a luxury I have always wanted but never had till now. I know that suburb is also part of Greater Mumbai but its NOT Mumbai. For me Mumbai is sea and salt in the air. For me Mumbai is my third parent that has seen me growing up. For me Mumbai is what made me into what I am today so I am going to miss Prabhadevi and the sea and my planetarium that's literally minutes away from my home but like this city has taught me - I must move on!

Shuddha Desi Bakwas - Are we confused between One Night Stands & Live In?

It took me two days to make up my mind about Shuddha Desi Romance. Its promos were promising and yet I could never trust Indian film-makers especially the commercial ones to tackle a subject as foreign and yet very-much-around as Live In relationship sensibly for what it is – a choice of living your own life. After spending Rs. 350 in a multiplex, I have come to repent my choice. My gut feeling was right about everything that could possibly go wrong with such a film & SDR failed to make a point let alone impress! 

So it’s a story of two young ones, the boy - Raghu – conning tourist guide in Jaipur & an orphan & the girl -Gayatri– an IAS hopeful (I almost choked on my Coke) & parents-intolerant (you know as in lactose intolerant types). These two meet in wedding procession of none other than the aforementioned  boy & sparks fly! The kissing spree begins here. Raghu’s commitment phobia now fueled by an animalistic (no other word after those kisses) attraction towards his ‘rented’ sister gets better off him & he bolts from his wedding leaving his never-to-be bride asking for Coke (as in Coca Cola) to calm her nerves. To his credit, he does see how beautiful she is & yet marriage means commitment that he cant handle, for now. 2 weeks later, his rented sister - Gayatri corners him into a store & they start dating. Of course they don’t mind sleeping together on their first date & without much ado Raghu gets his boriya-bistar to her home and voila! They are in Live-In relationship – Just like that! And like it always, always happens, once they are done with their song & dance ritual, doubts creep in. Raghu is jealous of her colorful past. The very things that impressed him about her - her chain smoking & her Open Book lifestyle where she can count her boyfriends one after the other & give him a one line run down on each. e.g one was funny but too funny. You don’t want to marry Charlie Chaplin. Second was perpetually horny so she dumped him for having no brains (!)! - start to bother him. On her part, she conveniently forgets to tell him about the third one that got her expecting! Later, these love birds, in a drunken stupor overcome their phobia & decide to get married & as part of the divine justice, Gayatri elopes. You feel less than sympathetic with Raghu as you just have, in previous scene, watched him considering doing the same thing to her. Enter the Ex – Tara. A modern girl, almost out of league for Raghu, saves his ass from beating in a wedding. They start dating after she asks him in what is considered a cool way if he would like to be her boyfriend. You could almost see him wiping drool off his chin! What follows after is so confusing that I actually stared at the glowing red Exit sign in the auditorium for one complete minute to get my thoughts on track. I wish I hadn't gone alone to watch this movie. I really needed someone to bitch about it the moment it ended.

Some well deliberated questions:
-          - Is commitment phobia something you are born with? You know as in you are born Gay. Because no other explanation is provided in the movie as to why these two characters are so jumpy about getting married. They have not been married previously or haven't fought a multi-million dollar divorce or custody battle etc etc. It makes them almost comical.

-          -They killed off everyone’s parents except Gayatri’s – they stay in some faraway village to be bothered about who their daughter is staying with. And of course her parents don’t call as often as mine did so they would never know what’s happening in the city. Mr.Writer – there you took the short-cut OR you implied Live-In relationship is for orphans or for those not tied down by family. Wrong again! 

-          - Isnt it common sense for you to want to search the person you fled four own wedding for? Raghu does nothing of that sort. If Gayatri hadn’t chanced upon him (as script would have it), they would practically never meet. Is that what happens to the ‘Control Ke Bahar Ka’ attraction in two weeks! 

-          - Living In these days is considered akin to civil union. There are legal aspects to it just like getting married. In my organization, I can claim medical insurance for my live-in boyfriend if I can prove the nature of our relationship and if its at least 18 months old. While doing that, I need to prove that we both are financially supplementing each other & our home. (Yes, I was shocked too when I read it the first time in HR policies!) But of course, our hero heroine are too busy copulating to think about medical insurances, rent or other ‘practical’ aspects of such life. 

-          - Once bitten twice shy isn’t true for our IAS hopeful (and therefore somewhat brainy) heroine as she indulges all her fantasies of open roof sex and what not with a stranger whose past, sexual or otherwise remains obscure, never thinks about contraception or the possibility that there could be consequences i.e. pregnancy, STDs etc. Though I agree the pregnancy scare would have made it too clichéd but a sensible or even teasing discussion about this very important and practical aspect would have supplied some credit to this drama. 

-          - Gayatri blames her elopement on Raghu’s non-trusting nature but what is trust? How do you define it in a Live-In relationship where you always keep the door open (as they discuss in the end) for your partner to walk out? Is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell synonymous to trust? That made me laugh – that scene where she hits him, crying and accusing him that he would never be able to trust her. For me, trust is when you bare open your life to other person with its most grievous mistakes & your shortcomings instead of hiding them in the name of ‘starting afresh’. It sounds utterly unconvincing & stupid when Gayatri mouths those lines. 

-          -They share a bed & that’s how they start to Live-In. Very unfortunately this is what Indian movies reduce it to. That was my worst fear before I booked the ticket & it came true! Live-In relationship has to have something other than just sex. It’s still a relationship WITH commitment. It does not welcome promiscuity by the virtue its nature. You still are answerable to each other. The only thing it does not have is the need for divorce if you part ways. A girl can still lodge a complaint in police station and have the guy arrested if he wants to get his hands out but she doesn’t. Its not as easy as the movie makes it look & sound. What it shows is the 'cool' part but not all the trappings that it comes equipped with.

-          - So the guy left you at the altar. You want revenge and you want it bad so you start dating him & then midway you forget all about the revenge and sleep with him unapologetically and giggle about it?! That was the track when I was staring at the Exit sign. Tara tells Raghu how she pressurized everyone at her home after Raghu’s disappearing act and got into an Air Hostess academy & carved a career for herself. I was kind of getting impressed with her and then bam! In the next scene she confesses to simply running to Jaipur to avenge him. “Oh I am not an air hostess. I just come to airport, look at the cute pilots and eat something on my way back home” – How in the name of god you manage this if your parents are dead & you have lived an orphan’s life at your uncle’s? Am I the only one who feels bogged down by such questions? And for that matter, I don’t know how Gayatri and Raghu survive Rs.90-per-KG-Onions economy by the meager jobs they do? Shouldn’t these people be worried more than average about the money matters? 

-          - In the end both, Gayatri & Raghu decide to get married, supposedly because Raghu feels she is The One. Really? Once Gayatri leaves, It doesn't take him more than a week to propose to Tara for marriage and a week after that to do the hanky-panky! Wouldn’t you wait for The One or try to find her or at least want to seek revenge for the cowardly act?

-          - And eventually they do totally opposite of what they set out to do! They offer explanation for their choice. They offer justification and that’s where you lose remaining sanity & reason. So arranged marriages are fake, they are cumbersome, they feel like compulsion. Marriage in general means closed door! And since these two characters moonlight as ‘rented baratis’ they see it happening every day (!?!) and hence they shit bricks at the thought of getting married. What utter bullcrap! These two haven’t been even shown interacting with people whose marriage they are rented for. They simply wear blingy clothes & dance with abandon and THAT changes their views on marriage so drastically? So if people rent baratis (why would they do that is my question in first place), their union is fake?  Wasnt the whole point of this non-sense drama to show how its done without offering any justification and as the natural course a relationship might take when you are 'serious' about each other? You as an audience cant help but ask if they got confused between One Night Stands & Live-In relationship? They are not the same!

All in all, this movie is utter disappointment! Even the kisses, so hyped, suck so badly. They look ‘forced’ and utterly sloppy! The Tejwala attraction is not to be seen anywhere. Sushant is unbearable with his goat-like voice. He whines and he whines so much that it grates on your nerves. An average Indian guy would very rightly wonder what’s in this guy for these two beautiful and hot girls to follow him wherever he goes (and Rishi Kapoor’s character asks him that at one point). It is just me may be but I have had enough of Parineeti Chopra’s bubbly roles. There is a very very fine line between bubbly cute & irritatingly loud!  And finally the writers -You can be unapologetic, free and a spirited woman without being a motor-mouth! And Indian movies, seriously GROW UP! Having multiple sex partners (I hate to call them boyfriends or partners in general cause the film never touches on the emotional or companionship part of these relationships) does not mean ‘You are living life on your terms!’ enough of that bullshit already! 

The way this movie was publicized in India with their polls on merits of Live In relationships & cons of marriage (especially arranged marriages), you would think they were breaking the stereotype but when they, in a way, imply that only a girl with a very colorful past (someone we would call ‘gone case’ in our native Mumbaiyaa style) can be in a Live In relationship, it’s all lost! So for all those,
homely ones, Live In relationship aint for you!

 I may not have first hand experience of this but this movie riled me up so badly because my best friends from Ruparel - one Sindhi & other Gujrati were in Live In Relationship for 5 years before they decided to tie the knot. There was no fuss. There were no explanations. The rest of our gang came to know about it one day (while it was night in Germany) when we called his landline and she picked up. They fought, separated for few months, dated other folks and got back together. They decided to get married so as to provide a stable environment for their kids when they happen& for their families (which did kick a fuss for some time, funnily less for the Live In part and more for the  intercast-ness of the match!). I have spoken to them at times & have seen how deliberately they moved ahead with each step without being melodramatic towards it.
My verdict - Refrain from watching this movie! This is Shuddha Desi Bakwas!

The Mistake

This morning when I looked at myself in the mirror, all I could see was a jumble of feelings. They are so contradictory & overwhelming that I want to cry out loud but I know I cant..

- I miss United States. There it is. I finally admit it. What makes it further complicated is the fact that I dont miss Dallas where I stayed the most. I miss the huge Harvard and MIT campus of Boston, I miss the trains & ferries of New York, I miss the astounding beauty of peaks & mountains of Colorado, I miss the falling leaves of New Hampshire, I miss the glitz & glamour of LA, I miss Muir Woods of SF, I even miss the miles and miles of barren land of New Mexico but I dont miss Dallas. It does not help that I am watching Grey's Anatomy & House MD alternatively for hours at end. I see Seattle. I had planned my vacation there just last year. Then I see Jersey and NY's outline. I see the snow falling down in heap, I see people dressed in smart woolens & I suddenly realize that Its not going to be with me this year. I will keep wearing my cotton shirts & kurtis & keep drenching in sweat this winter. I open my cupboard & touch my winter coats and further delay the time when I need to pack them in plastic sheets & move them to the loft above my bed. I wont need them for a very long time or may be forever!

- I miss living on my own. I love my family, I seriously do and yet I miss those moments of solitude. I miss coming home to an empty apartment, a messy kitchen and the fact that I can keep it messy for as much time as I want. I can just loll around & read and not do the dishes. I can watch SRK's movies back to back, order a pizza, clock in some hours working on office assignments & not sleep till 4 in the morning & then get up at 3 in the afternoon the next day. I miss the feeling of being responsible to pay rent on time & the 10 other bills. I miss being in control of my schedule. Here, I cant possibly miss my 7 am bus that collects me from across Siddhivinayak to go to office that's situated in some far flung suburbs. I tried doing it once and then cursed myself through a taxi-a bus-another bus-a rickshaw ride to get there. I hate it when every evening when I return home, its already pitch dark outside and some inane saas-bahu serial is playing on the TV and my parents sit glued to it as if their lives depend on it. I hate the cacophony of sounds - children screaming over a cricket match, dogs barking through early hours of morning, elevator pings.

- I miss being Single & when no one pushed me to change it. I still am single but every month, like a clockwork, my father receives a call or two from the families of prospective grooms. Sometimes I don't like the profile and it ends right there. My parents don't force or even ask me the reasons but I still feel guilty. Sometimes it takes a step forward and I end up daydreaming about my happy married life. A few hours later, I realize I don't even remember the guy's face clearly. As the proposal moves forward inch by inch, the face gets blurred instead of getting brighter. I speak to my friends and they speak of their struggle to keep their relationships intact and I wonder if I even have so much of patience & a big heart that forgives. My mind slowly recedes of its hope & instead I am filled with dread. Am I ready to do this? The commitment, the adjustments, the understanding, the joy, the sadness and the heartbreak. My doubts get worst of me after a few days & deep down, I wish the recent proposal doesn't go through, that they find our Kundalis dont match. I wish they find me dark & fat and cancel on me. I know the pain and hurt but somewhere I know this is nothing as compared the disappointment I would feel in myself if I commit to him, his family and not be able to fulfill my duties. I know the pain now is nothing to what I would feel later if I am not able to make him happy, make myself happy. When we dont hear anything back from them and my family moves on about their lives, I heave a sigh of relief.

- I miss being a top performer. Its a new project and initial hiccoughs are always a possibility. I make mistakes and I don't like that. That's me. I like to give my 200% to everything I do. It could be a crafts project for a kid or a high end job. I want to do it perfectly. I love the rush of deadlines. I even love the tension that floats around in my brain when I hit a roadblock. Next moment I am finding workarounds, I am finding a way to face the situation & correct it. But that is not what's happening. I have been blessed with managers that encouraged me and I know it sounds silly coming from a Technical lead - a tiny spec in the pool of such others but they, my managers did it without bruising my tiny little ego. They let me know my mistakes politely, all the while telling me that its part of learning & growing. Its not happening in my new project. I am part of an advance leadership program that opens up for only 1% of total employee base & while people are in some kind of awe when they hear that, it also isolates me. It makes me the freak. It reminds me of my school days when I was banished to the front bench for being the top ranker. It pushes me on the other side of the fence. People expect extraordinary-ness from me which wont come till I find my way around this new project but I am not getting a chance to grapple on the walls to do so! Me being a fast tracker, I am expected to do it quickly & on my own. People here are rude, insensitive & closed up in their tiny little shell. I miss the appreciation. I hate being a newbie! I hate when people think I can learn everything in a day and deliver the next.

And yet I cant blame anyone but myself for this confusion. I chose all of the above for myself. And I not only chose it but also made sure that it happened. I left United States, asked for a transfer from a project that I was part of for 6 years and I let go of my apartment that was my own - with every little thing that I had collected with love & pride. Though it wasnt the only goal but getting married was on my agenda too. Had I wanted, I still could have gone on living my life exactly how it was but then I didnt like it even then right?

Why does it all feel like a mistake? Why do I not like the change I so desperately wanted six months back? When will this confusion stop? When will the self-doubts stop? When will this life now become my comfort zone? I wish sometimes I could just stop thinking & assessing & re-thinking. I feel like my brain is going to explode!

The Matrimonial Meetings - Dos and Donts

"Are you a virgin?" Asked the guy without batting an eyelid. 10 minutes into the discussion, this was hardly a question I was anticipating. My face, otherwise poker could not remain so. Took me a fraction of second to compose myself. I looked on, expecting him to retract his question upon seeing the reproach on my face. His anxiety seemed to be increasing by second as I remained silent. Finally I had to say something. So I smiled and said,

"I am if you are."

Suddenly color drained from his face. He looked sheepish and averted his eyes. The rest of the discussion was a formality we both knew that had no meaning. Normally I do but this time I did not hide my impatience. Soon, I was out on my way back to office. I couldn't waste my precious lunch hour on a guy that couldn't digest an honest answer. For him, I was a feminist - someone you would clap for as long as the podium wasnt inside your home. There was no follow up on that meeting thereafter. Even though I knew what the 'verdict' would be, I had mine ready long before I had even left the venue.

"I expect my wife to be a very good cook since my mom is one" He answered. So proud of his mom as if he had taught her how to cook.

I blinked twice and gulped down my now lukewarm coffee.

"No. That's not what I meant when I asked what your expectations are from your wife." I felt alien. Trying to communicate with another that belonged to some other planet.

"I meant in terms of nature, support and 'wavelength'" I explained nonetheless.

He remained mute and looked at me as if I had spoken Farsi. Keeping condescension out of my voice, I explained.

"We don't get married for cooking or cleaning, right? We get married for a companion, someone who can complement our life's choices. Someone that you can share everything with, good bad and ugly. That way?"

I suddenly felt as if I was standing in a conference room explaining something to one of my fresher team-mates.

"Oh.. Yeah.. I mean, Its all usual" He said, completely put off by me. I sympathized with him. I should have known what was 'usual' in wanting to marry a person. My culinary genius was something unusual hence that had to be gotten out of the way.

2 weeks later, his family realized our 'Patrikas' weren't matching. I let out a sigh of relief.


 "It is my mother's wish that our first kid be born in the first year of  marriage." He said blushing. I waited for my dark cheeks to resemble any suitable color on red pallet. It didn't happen. I cursed my own 'Blush system' that didn't work when it should. It responded - 'The first meeting with a stranger is not the time to discuss kids hence no blush, sorry' Huh!

He might have sensed this little dialogue happening in my head so he explained.

"Its a tradition. That way, no one gets any chance to question the compatibility of couple".

By compatibility he really meant 'his manhood'. I let it pass but he expected an answer. That was the catch.

"umm... I do function like a lady however I wouldn't think myself as accomplished in the matter as to set a deadline for a function as complex as baby making. Sorry"

Did he register the not-so-subtle sarcastic tone? I didn't know as I feigned receiving a work related SMS which meant our discussion stopped right then and there. I was running as fast as I could. Production system in my office be damned but I can not fathom discussing your reproductive system with someone you just met. Sorry if that seemed a little rude.


"So whats your job profile?" He asked glancing at his watch the fourteenth time in last 10 minutes.

"I am Quality Assurance Lead." I said feeling no need to explain it any further as I sat across a TL in IT industry.

"Oh Testing... hmmm so why didn't you choose Development instead?" I inhaled deeply. This was going to take time. Very unfortunately I was discussing my future with someone who underestimated my work.

"I didn't think I had the logical brain required for Development so... " He interrupted me with a smirk I normally wipe off in my office with very detailed Defect Sheets. Those developers know better than to flash it to me. He did not.

"So you chose the second best... testing" He said with a tone obviously more superior.

By then I was fuming and yet I said very calmly.

"No. So I chose what complements Development and provides the last word on it" superior be damned!

Next 20 excruciating minutes were spent in Development vs Testing feud and I desperately needed an out.

"So can you find any defect in me?" He asked again with a challenging tone that I hate coming from someone so biased & poorly updated on life.

"We Testers find defects in an application that's completely developed. You on the other hand lack this requirement. You need to grow up a little and may be some day we will meet again & then I can give you a very comprehensive list of defects"

He was taken aback. I wasn't too surprised and I could really care less.

I guess, I need not write about what happened to this 'match'.


         These are only a few conversations that take the cake. Not that all guys turned out to be wackos but most did and as I met more and more of these, my hopes in finding Mr.Right (not Perfect) were pushed down the drain. My parents will not stop their efforts any time soon so I will have to suffer many more of such meetings in coming future but it does make me wonder if there should be a guide of Dos and Don'ts for these meetings as well... something that would save a lot of embarrassment for both the parties involved. So here is what I would present from my side.

* I am a girl. Well educated & with my own very distinct personality. If you are not ready to listen to my ideas & opinions, please don't show up. I would respect my husband provided he respects me just as much. Who takes the lead in the marriage is a stupid point to mull over.

* Do NOT in your wildest dream think about underestimating my job. I have spent a significant part of life preparing for it and even now, it matters a lot to me. Whether or not I would like to continue with it after babies, please leave that decision to me. I respect all jobs cause every job has its function of running a home, of providing for your retired elderly, of shaping up the future of your little ones and hence no job is small or big. If i am a tester at work, I am not so at home. If you dare to ask me defects in you, be ready to listen to them. If you feel offended, you asked for it!

* My virginity is NOT open for discussion & interpretation. I am pretty old fashioned and by that being unmarried automatically makes me a virgin but I would not answer it so politely. If at all this topic is of so utmost importance to you, please be open to discuss yours as well. Dont be tongue-tied if I ask you the same question in return.

* I have had my share of crushes. I wasn't going around blindfolded all these years. If there was someone worth falling for, I might have day dreamed about him. If you are so delusional as to think you would be my first crush ever, I wouldn't marry such delusional guy ever! Pyar ek baar hi hota hai aur shadi bhi ek bar hi hoti hai happens only in movies. I wont ask you about your past. At least not in the first meeting. And as long as your past doesn't feature in your present and future, I will not have any problems with it whatsoever.

* Dont expect me to possess dual personality. If I am a tough cookie at work, I will not turn into a domicile cow upon returning home. That part of my personality, now after 28 years is fully developed. I would want my husband to take pride in my confident demeanor instead of feeling threatened. If you find confidence in a female intimidating, we are certainly not meant for each other.

* You do NOT get married to cook meals and take care of parents or for their happiness. You get married for your own sake. Do not drag poor parents in between. When i say expectations, I mean in terms of wavelength and as an intellectual. I mean it in terms of someone with whom you can be as comfortable as to show your silly side without the fear of getting judged. Household chores and domestic responsibility is understood even without saying it. It will be taken care of but that will not be the 'need' or 'motive' behind marrying a person.

* I will take care of your parents. That goes without saying. My confidence and what I do at work has nothing to do with how I behave with elderly. You must give that credit to my parents for bringing me up correctly. Do not enter a relationship with notions derived from Kekta Kapoor's daily soaps. Not all daughter-in-laws are wickedly cruel and after their mom-in-law's life and vice a versa. You talk for yourself. No need to state your clauses of not wanting to separate from your parents. Its mere mention shows how shallow you consider of the person you are supposedly thinking of marrying.

* For goodness's sake, stop bird watching! Girls are blessed with a sixth sense that is further fine tuned while selecting a mate! Do look around. (If you stare at me, thats creepy too) but do not ogle at other girls. Nothing screams cheap as loudly as this one act.

* Do turn on your sense of humor before we meet. I want someone thats sincere which does not translate into serious grumpy. If you thought I looked better in the photo, be kind to me & excuse yourself early. Do not sit there stealing glances at your watch, looking utterly bored.

* I have never used Fair & Lovely & have absolutely no intention of ever doing so. I purposely send my photos un-photoshopped so please have a look at it before you come over. I am planning to lose weight but again that has nothing to do with snaring a match. It has to do with my fitness and stamina. It will happen slowly and gradually  but till then I am okay with how I look. If you arent, I am not sorry about that.

* Yes, I am a foodie & I can easily beat a man of my age when it comes to polishing off a plate if the food is that good. If you want a typical girl that gets full on 'Masala Papad' I am deeply sorry to have caused you the inconvenience of seeing that unfeminine side of me!

* Good manners & chivalry go a long way! Do pull the chair for me & offer to pay in the end. Dont worry, I would never have you pick up the tab on your own. We will do TTMM (Tera Tu Mera Mai) and again, dont have that look of horror on your face when I offer to pay my share. I earn just as well as you do and it wont look any 'less' of a man if you let a woman feel independent. You offered in the beginning, that was more than enough.

* Dont talk about kids in the very first meeting & worst of all, dont discuss your future family planning! There is nothing more off putting than this. There is time for everything & first meeting isnt that.

* Do not tell me how much you make every month. Its tacky! What you earn will not weigh you up or down in my opinion. Thats not why I would ever marry you. A man that has a vision and someone who is enterprising in his thoughts would take care of his family in any case. You can show me that confidence & passion in your self. The pay slip doesnt matter. Same is true for how many cars you own or flats you have booked! I am not a gold digger in making.

* Do not ask me how much I make every month! That's second subject NOT up for discussion.

* Be who you are. If you are nervous, its cute but that nervousness should not turn you into a bumbling baboon. If you are shy, I understand. There is a very rare kind of charm in meeting someone who is comfortable in their own skin. Do NOT pretend. Its not a contest and its definitely not an ego battle.

* I am NOT super shy. I am reserved but that's not out of shyness. If you wanted someone super shy, chances are more they are not working full time. Full time working girls in industries where their interaction with other guys is a thing of every day, you will not find them hesitant and shy. You may want to go for someone who is ultra protected by family and has had no interaction with opposite sex. Blushing & stealing glances would come but not in the first meeting.

* Above statement does not mean I am besharam either. Modesty is something I value a lot but its more in the manner in which I address people than remaining mute in their presence.

I know a lot of people would disagree with almost all the points written above. Whats wrong in being shy and girl like in front of a guy you would ask? I would say, nothing but how long can I keep being what I am not. Is it not advisable instead to open up as a person - good AND bad and let the other person decide if they liked whats good and can live with whats bad?

All this also does not mean I dont want to adjust. I do. I have seen from near and far a lot of couples and adjustment is everywhere but I would hate to make it a compromise. There is a difference. When you say, you compromise, there is an unwillingness attached to it. Adjustment on the other hand also means letting go but there is willingness. There is something you have found so priceless in your partner that you dont mind tweaking yourself a little. Adjustment is a two way traffic. It will come automatically once I start to respect and trust you but again it wont happen in first meeting.

I would want to know about how your life has been so far. Was there struggle? I would love to hear that. Tell me about your job and your family. Those insights will help me understand how much you value them and learn to value them myself. Ask me about my job and family. Be polite. I can certainly live without getting married to you. What we are aiming for is a union of equals. None of us are doing a favor to another.

In the end, do remember that wedding is the most easiest part. What is time and effort consuming is, is the marriage that follows.

We need a new Indian Culture! Not the one with 'Sita' and 'Draupadi'!

             After an hiatus of almost a year, i did not want to write about anything sad. I may not even be the right person to comment on the issue owing to the fact that i am not residing in my home country any more and that no matter how much i scream and yell in protest, my words would lose their power and sting after travelling 22000 miles as they reach Indian populace which is a very limited readership that my blog has! and yet, i wanted to pen my frustration onto this blog after reading on and on about the Delhi gang rape in newspapers. There have been numerous discussions about everything related to the case. Right from the technicality of it, the apathy of our system, the protests turned wary as a constable died of cardiac arrest and the entirely foolish 'why it happened' analysis that tend to point fingers at the victim involved!

The amount of pain that the victim went through is not imaginable by someone like me who has always been protected by the family and friends. The scarring of the lifetime that her friend has is even more painful. She is gone but he still has to lead his entire life with the knowledge of what happened that fateful night. His remorse for what has happened must be the darkest at this hour! The poor guy must be batting off questions in his head about why and how! I am sure he must be wondering again and again about why he chose to ride that bus and hence revisiting the horror every single time! I am sure it was tough for her but i cannot turn blind eye to this man who will continue to have nightmares his entire life and may or may not be able to trust 'system' ever again!

As usual, we Indians are excellent at Root Cause Analysis. We just so have it in us to dissect every minute detail of an issue and then finally blame it on West! The statements about how the 'westernization' is the culprit behind all this reminds of a scene in movie Swades where the croaking 'mukhiya' talks about something that Amrika does not have - our culture, values and tradition! Mohan Bhargava's apt response to that is so valid even in this case.
Which Indian culture are we talking about?!
The one where Ram discarded his pregnant wife Sita on behest of an ignorant peasant?! The one where Sita had to 'prove' her innocence and chastity?!
The one where a woman was made to be shared by 5 men against her own wish? or the one where these very 5 men used her as a bait in a gamble and then lost her?
or the one where this menstruating woman, a princess by birth lost by her 5 husbands, was about to be undressed in a room full of men while her husbands useless enough to be called impotent  sat with heads bowed down?!
May be for us God is the culture so He had to descend down to save Draupadi from the 'vastraharan' but sadly God couldnt help the Delhi Gangrape victim as she underwent immense torture at the hands of few men!
Indian men of all should think 100 times before hiding behind the usual excuses of how West has polluted their culture. As far as women are considered, Indian culture was never bright to begin with!

During my 3 years of stay abroad, i have traveled many cities and can tell from my own experience that the men in the West are far more cultured in terms of treating women. Its more American fellows that keep the door held open for you and let you board the elevator first. Its more Indians that engage into catcalls than Americans do! I have never seen an American getting mad because his lady boss told him off. He could be mad about the words used or the feedback received but its hardly ever because its a woman telling him off.
I have seen many more examples of women letting their careers go to dogs to save their marriages in India than i have seen in the 'West'. I have come across Americans that refuse to take their wives, the home cooked meals, the washing and cleaning for granted than Indian men! A woman in west has a right over her body, her mind, her choices of whether or not to give birth to a baby! Instead of taking leaf out of their book, we only take what 'West' itself is trying to discard and then again instead of doing something about this selective aping of ours, we blame 'them' for what goes wrong under our own nose!

More shameful than these cases of rapes is the sick mentality of those who still try and find a justification of why it happened.Whats more disturbing is this blame game with the west and the audacity of people pointing fingers at the victim's dressing sense or the time of the day when she was out!
but at the end of the day if we have to blame it on culture then my question is that whether only women should be accountable for following the traditions and values? Are men allowed to forget that the country itself is called a 'mother'? If covering yourself up from head to toe is culture, is respecting women not? Was helping the naked and shivering victims when they were thrown off the moving bus not taught by Indian culture? Does Indian culture teach us to treat a rape victim as if it was her fault? or that she 'invited' the trouble and hence she must be of 'loose' character?! How many so called cultured men come forward to marry a woman that has have been victimized. Even our movies show men committing suicides when their wives were raped instead of trying to start afresh or to provide her the support that she needs in time such as this?!

and furthermore does Indian culture feel that absence of any physical assault on a woman is equivalent to respecting her 'enough'? that makes me laugh and cry at the same time! We Indians have very wrong ideas of respecting a woman to begin with! Respect is not only about considering her a human but considering a human of intellect, feelings and a voice of her own! Respect is all about not wanting to kill a baby girl while she still hasnt seen the world on her own! Respect is to not treat a son and a daughter any differently. Respect is to slap a boy hard the first time he shows misogyny in his behavior! Respect is to allow a woman to make her own decisions and to treat her in equal rights! Respect is what comes out of humility and not God or religion!

Its high time we write new stories for our children than Ramayana and Mahabharata that treated women like properties! we need stories of women that were able to overrule such notions! we need stories of women that tailored a new culture that respected women!