Saturday, October 1, 2016

Durga Puja!!!

This is the first one without Rajesh, it is going to be many years and so many memories. His enthusiasm for Puja was beyond words. Buying clothes, to driving late night to every pandal( after office), to eating out was just unmatched. Rajesh would wear his crispiest dhoti with a superb silk kurtas and look every inch a star. He knew how to dress!
He would drag all his friends, office colleagues etc to the puja pandal. His office friends too find it hard to imagine a Puja bhog without him.

It took few years for me to get into his madness of durga puja and the concept itself. I couldn't fathom why all bongs went from one pandal to other and looked at the diety( which to me looked the same) and commented or judged them. And that too so late at night. Me being a early bird this was a toughest part... to stay awake!
Once I met another friend who is also married to a Bong and his look was like why I am being dragged here...we had a private joke on this that we will start a "married to bongs"club where we can exchange notes.
I also couldn't understand the Bong fetish of planning for what to eat next while we were at it. But I guess it takes a while to get into this.

To combat that, I found a way out-
I started shopping at pandals, the sarees, the various designs of shakha polas ( I have at least 5 different pairs by now ) and indulgence in sweets. Being vegetarian, I couldn't handle non- veg and greasy food ( that seemed to be the highlight of pandal cuisine).
I am a great fan of the bhog and always wondered why couldn't they give some khichandi( for poor souls like me) also in the evenings and on the Dashmi day too.I went along with all this and I did it only for him.

Slowly the puja ferver seeped into my blood along with Rajesh's insanity of staying awake.  I started enjoying the madness and actually started looking forward to it. I also understood the difference in the art and craft of each diety( big one for me). I figured the Bengali script and translated some food descriptions for Rajesh at the pandals. My bong friends also teased me about it my Bengaliness. Often people mistook him to be the non-bong and me the other one ( of course they never heard me speak).
When I joined Yogoda, he always joked about finding a guru and that too a bong!! I loved the last day of Shidur khela, not so much for applying the colour to each other but for putting the sindhoor on the forehead of Maa. It was just divine feeling being so upclose with diety.

Last year, I knew that he was going...and there was a profound sadness  that he will not be there for the next one. He had bought me the classical red white saree to be worn at puja only, I wanted to at least apply the sindhoor to Maa...just one last time...that never happened (this is some part of me that I can't understand) . I knew that I could never do that again ...ever. He was so sick that I couldn't leave him for even for a short time.

Sometimes when I open my cupboard, I move my hands over the stuff that I have tucked away in the corner,the red and white sari, shakha- pola- and tears start flowing down, unceasingly..

I still haven't wrapped my head about how to go there or whether I can even bear to go there at all. It's all him there at every corner of those places...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Girl on the road

It was the second day of Ganapti, I was in cab and the traffic was moving at snail space. I saw a girl unsuccessfully flagging down cabs. A typical rush hour where no cabs were empty. I had moved may be a distance of 5 minutes. And again I saw this girl in the rear view of the cab, now walking up. I realised she was talking on phone with headsets as tears were rolling down. I asked my cabwala to pull up on the side.

When she came close to me , I offered her a ride. She got in and thanked me. She wanted to get off at closest destination and hence obviously wasn't any getting cabs for such a short distance.

She had got off the phone and was still in her own grieving space. She was hardly 24 years old. perhaps a Young joinee types. I asked her "can I say something to you, I am almost 2 decades older to you and having seen fair amount of up's and downs. I can say this with conviction that everything in life can be sorted unless it is death, then it can't be helped ".

She sat quiet and listened, nodded her head and then just her silence spoke. We connected in that silent moment.

She had to get off and she did with a very quiet Thank you.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#Mussorie on my mind

Recently I went to #Mussorie, and came back all new. Hills rejuvenate me. I don't think sea has that kind of effect on me or may be seeing the grey Mumbai sea every other day, has something to do with it. Out of the three elements, if I had to pick, it would be hills, sky and then sea.

First two days were chaotic, it felt like the whole of Delhi had descended there. But as the week began to pan out, the only crowd we saw were locals and some honeymooners.

The hills are majestic and magnetic, they draw you into their folds and the mist envelops you at times. Its like magical scene unfolding in front of you. You are taken in for say 10 minutes and then it all clears out. Something mysterious happens in that deep 10 minute recess.

Just walking up the hills changes life. The breathlessness first makes you realise how out of shape you are. The fitness of pahadi people is astounding. Second thing that hits you is the freshness of the air and the beauty around the place. Especially if you are from Mumbai where the air is equivalent to smoking 200 cigarettes (so they say). On second thoughts, I think my poor lungs can't cope with so much fresh air. Just not used with so much good air.

Coming back to beauty part. One can catch stray exotic flowers growing randomly anywhere, which makes me go ballistic. Imagine a cluster of peach coloured roses or orangish pink Gladioli's swaying in the wind.

I have seen some fuchsia pink dahlias as well. Oh man! I can dance with joy. The tress are covered with ferns from top to bottom and they look almost electric green. So fresh!

Hills have a discovery angle, a lovely house on turn. a snake trap like plant on the other, a flight  of mouldy steps that lead up to a haunted guest house... Dalhousie lodge. Tempting me to check out if there is a ghost. Or the beautiful church with stain glass. The floor was amazing black and white tiles. I later discovered that this one is the same church also seen in Saath Khoon Maaf movie. The Christ image is in stain glass. Simply divine. I love the silence in a church. A prayer in whispers can be heard.

The roads are all like winding, so you keep going up and down. So breathlessness is accompanied by cramps in the legs. By the end of the day you are finished. Its heartening to see the young people cycling up and down.They seem to have field day while you are just about managing to catch your breathe.
Some of the eating places are designed beautifully. The Travern, Clock Tower, The Ivy Inn and the Dommas Inn. All these places are visually treats, I am not so convinced about food though. Dommas has full Tibetian interiors. It also had superb Harley- which has Tibetian motifs, parked right outside.

I discovered an antique shop on Landour Road. Bought copies of some famous painters. The guy has amazing collection of blue pottery but how to cart it is a million dollar question.

We saw Ruskin Bond's house up in the hills. Half wondering if we should go knocking at the door. Then prudence decided against it. Went to Cambridge stores and bought his autographed books. Spent a whole night and morning reading it in one go. I had stopped reading for some time for last whole year but this trip changed it all.

I left Mussorie wanting to come back again. To breathe the air. So embrace the mist. To fill my lungs with Deodar scent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Wind in my hair...

I was in Pune for just a day. Had to run some errands. Previous day was a mad day to travel on expressway. Huge serpentine traffic jam. Not that the next day was any good. But it was about 1 hour in the ghats.
In the evening , I borrowed a scooty and went riding to my friends place and the wind in my hair ,the scent of rains. Certain freshness that life offers in Pune.

Plus, I think half the Puneities went out of town, hence traffic was peaceful. The lane I stay is lined with all bungalows so it is peaceful and serene compared to the hustle -bustle of  Mumbai.

There is literally a carpet of flowers of Parijaat on road. Gulbakshi flowers growing in plenty.

I sang to myself and couldn't care a hang of what people thought.

Nature and Music and heal any broken soul.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Doing my bit for Robin hood army

A little thought for someone less fortunate

This was two  days back when I was on my way from Delhi. As usual they served us dinner in flight. Among the other things, they served a bun and also some butter, I was terribly hungry and  ate most of the meal but left these two out. Now normally I am very particular about not wasting food, so was feeling a bit guilty .I also know from my past experience that airlines throw all the leftovers out as garbage. They don't sort it. Then on the spur of the moment, I decided to pack it with me instead of letting it go. I collected same items from my other colleagues. They  were very supportive. I decided to do the Robin-hood army thing. Collected the  3 buns and 3 small cubes of butter all in a carry bag. I must admit I was embarrassed to do so. Then I had thought, at least 40% of people must have not eaten this bread butter. Not to mention the sugar and creamer that we all wasted. So  much food would have made  any poor  family  happy. Almost 40 sugar packets. That was a lot. What if we made an  announcement  and collected all leftovers, wouldn't that be a great idea. But then I wonder, we are all so conscious about how  people will perceive us and I am no different.

The flight was  delayed and I  reached home past midnight
By the time I reached home, I realised I was still carrying them. I decided to give them to my watchman. And can't tell  you how happy he was to have perfect bun pav along with his chai

Friday, July 22, 2016

My frangrant treasures

I got up very early today and couldn't sleep. Stepped out in the balcony to see the new flower on my Madanbaan Mogra and a mini Tagar( moon beam) fully bloomed.

I smiled joyfully. Life suddenly started feeling great. So decided to take Teio for a walk.

It had stopped raining and was misty and looked beautiful. I met a lot of school going  children on the way.
Children are lovely to watch. Some smile, some are talking to themselves, some are in awe of me (me having the dog actually). Others are being dragged to school. And some just side step when they see me ( these are the ones who are told that dogs bite you ). There is a certain freshness to them. Unlike adults who walk to offices. Adults are dead people with worried looks/frowns/ burdened in life look. No joy watching them.

I passed by the regular road and suddenly there was on heavenly fragrance. I looked around and then up, there was an Ananth - Gardenia, blooming with many flowers and I was mesmerised.

It lingered with me, enough to keep me smiling through the day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Precious Gems of my life- my friends

Some friendships are cast in stone while others just dissolve over a period of time. I was meeting her after 5 years again. This time under different circumstances though I categorically told her no condolences. She was coming from US and had just one evening free. So I decided to travel to Vile Parle, late in the evening and took a train, fastest way to beat the evening traffic.

As I settled to the rhythmic beat of the train, my mind went  22 years back when I first met her. I was new in Mumbai and looking for a PG accommodation and someone had given me an address in Vile Parle. I climbed the 3rd floors and rang the door bell to see a petite girl, she had a voice like small girl and smile that was hesitant, straight hair that fell to her shoulders. Hesitatingly she allowed me in. Showed the place around. There was nothing to not like. I moved in the next 2 days. Medha was my room partner and we became friends instantly. She introduced me to places around Parla. Be it Murugan Stores, Sharma Pani Puri house and or new avenues of dabba and many more. Our trials with dabbas and sometimes the stale food that came with it. She was an Engineer, working with Software company and I worked in Advertising. Though our worlds were poles apart, we were in tandem. She was from Pune and so was I,  so on weekends we travelled together to go home.
She introduced me to the local trains, a frightfully alien system, She dragged me to watch FIFA and I got hooked on to Football. She insisted that I put the toilet seat up ( don't know why..there were no men living with us;). We stayed together for a year  with no arguments or fights. In fact we were BFF.'s She moved on to HK and then US. we both got married around the same time and had children at the same time. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries on email and slowly it petered off yet whenever she came down we met.

My thought chain halted as I reached Parla station, and there she was waiting for me. She hugged me tight and conveyed so much, her pain for not being with me in my difficult time. We walked hand-in-hand like two 23 year old again. We looked for the similar signs and places that used to visit. lamented on the changed landscape. Despite living in US for so many years, she has no accent so whatsoever. Still a chatterbox, she is more hyper while I have quietened down considerably.

We decided to eat  Pav Bhaji at Shivsagar, her favourite joint.Spent 2.5 hours or more trying to catch-up on our lives.  Spoke about our various crushes and heartbreaks of those days. And how much fun life was then. Suddenly 21 years had melted away and we were gigging away much to the amusement of waiters around.

Here is cheers to another friendship that has remained after so many years.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A little touch of humility and greatness

It was a new locality that I had shifted in and was still discovering the neighbourhood. Walking the dog is a challenge in most crowded cities. I miss living in gated communities that provide enough walking spaces. Here, I was on the main road, so much noise, so much traffic.

As walked by, in one lane, I noticed an elderly, tall man, with a handkerchief tied to his nose, covering the entire face sweeping the footpath. He didn't look like the municipality sweepers, nor was he dressed like one. Every single day, I would see him sweeping. I noticed that whole stretch looked cleaner, neater. The trees in that area were not dusty but clean and shinning, they looked happy. He often collected all the flowers that were shed on the road and made floral patterns or carpets making it heavenly feeling to walk by.  One day out of curiosity, I asked who maintained these green patches and he waived at himself. I took that opportunity to tell him that I liked walking through this patch it felt really nice. That did one thing, he removed his handkerchief and smiled. I noticed the gentleman had kind eyes and smiled with his eyes, As days passed by, we got talking. We sometimes exchanged a few words. I found it intriguing as to why does he sweeps the path regularly when he easily could get the job done by municipal sweepers, who swept the place around him. He said, there was too much of garbage and also he felt it was a great way to bring himself down a bit. He said"not all of it was noble" with a twinkle.  A little humility did better in life. So he started sweeping and that he has been doing it for a whole decade. One day I asked him what he did for living, other  than sweeping and he said he had catering businesses across the city. He also came from a well- to- do family, so was curious to know what the family thought of this morning ritual . He said there were very supportive. I thought that was great, because I am quiet sure this wouldn't have been accepted by most people I know of.
So many people talk about Swatcch Bharat Abhiyaan ..blah blah..and here is a man who is living it every single day for last 10 years.
Here are some of his floral designs on the road and yes, finally I asked his name after about 4 months and it is Kiran Shetty. Kudos to a man who cleans streets, every single day. I am honoured to meet a person who keeps his surrounding clean without any accolades or photo-ops coming his way. I wanted to take his picture too but still haven't got around to asking it. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Once upon a time- a short fictional story

Maia woke up out of deep sleep as the air hostess tapped her ‘gently’ to straighten the seat. It was landing time. Early hours had made her groggy. The flight was going to halt for full one hour before taking off from Delhi. Oh! how, she hated these stupid connecting flights. For a journey of 4 hours, this was going to take via- via route of 7 hours.  The cabin crew and on ground staff started their regular routine. She decided to stretch her legs. Walked a bit up and down. The crew again asked all passengers to remain seated. Head count once again and they readied themselves for the drill. Maia put on her reading glasses and buried herself in the book.  

Books are great escape on long distant flights. Since she had a window seat, she was left largely undisturbed. A little movement in the row caught her attention and realized a man in 40’s was trying to put his luggage up. Maia thought her breath just stopped, she froze. Not knowing what to do, she quickly hid herself behind the book almost looking out of the window, so that he couldn't see her face. He settled himself in the aisle seat. Maia almost felt that she wasn't breathing and yet her heart was racing wildly and so was her mind..after 25 years, there he was, looking almost the same, a bit older, and a little plumper but yes it was him. She checked him from the corner of her eyes. He looked older but smarter, graying at the temple and also way sharper than what he was earlier.  

So many scenes rushed past in Maia's head. Their chance meeting in college, the 5 years of graduation, their hang-out joints, the movies that watched together, and their bitter miscommunication about another friend. Their fight. She waited for him to make the first move. And he didn't. And neither did she.They never spoke again, she had just upped left for another city for post-grad course, never turning back. In the days of no- emails and no mobiles, it was very easy to lose touch. Life moved on, she had gotten married. Sometimes when she reflected back, she thought about him and wondered where he was and then brushed it away. She had no complaints now, life was good, well-settled, a loving husband, children, career, all was going great. 
Maia always thought that she had so many answered questions about their abrupt break-up then but slowly over the years nothing mattered. 25 years was a long time for anything. Maia brought herself back to the present, there was a dull ache in a her heart. She reminded herself that she was happily married and very much in love with her family. 

She continued looking out of the window, the sky was still darkish and cloudy, it seemed it was going to rain. All this while she still hadn't dared to look up and continued to be buried in the books. Debating furiously in her mind , should she say hello, smile or continue to ignore. Then she decided it was foolish to ignore, they were going to be seated next to each other for the next 1 hour or more. She turned towards him and he looked up. His eyes registered the shock. He managed a faint smile. Maia mumbled a weak ‘Hi’. Thankfully there was no one seated in the middle seat. There was an awkward silence. He uncomfortably looked down in his papers, she looked out. The air hostess was the one to break the silence. She gave water and left. Finally, he asked, 'Maia' Oh! his deep baritone, 25 years and it was the same.  It stirred strange feelings in her 
 Why did you leave ?  She replied ‘I thought, you wanted it that way after our fight’.
There was dead silence. After an uncomfortable pause, he said " That was not what I had meant then, I wanted to explain you but you just left without giving us a chance.  I waited for you every single day Maia, hoping that you would reach out and then one day I gave up on you. I just wish you had said a bye before going. I wish you had just talked once". There was so much anguish and pain in his voice. Maia was stunned because all she heard in their figh was that he didn't want her. She never realized how much pain she had caused. Maia reached out to him and with tears in her eyes and said 'sorry for leaving without saying anything''. It was a heart felt apology for never speaking out, for making someone wait endlessly. Ironically, she had also waited for him. They both had just waited for each other... stupid egos.  Maia thought today,  they had completed what was unsaid and there was nothing more left for each other. 
She looked out of the window- the sky was cloudy but not that dark. 

They made polite conversations. Caught up about 25 years of life in bits and pieces. She spoke about her husband, children. He about his family. He had lost his mom and both his sisters were now settled abroad. He didn't mention a wife and though she was curious, she didn't ask. There was that weird feeling of being so close at one point, yet distant now. The vast many years that made them strangers today. As the plane landed, they parted like two long lost friends. Before leaving,  he gave her a hug( more brotherly), a pat on her head and then said bye.  She felt his eyes were moist but then chided herself , it can't be. This time they parted again not exchanging numbers or emails. 
They went separate ways, just like 25 years back, although this time Maia had no unanswered questions in her mind. Maia got out and looked at the sky, it looked clearer like never before and all blue.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My learnings and the NOW me

My Leanings...

Dealing with utmost painful events like a loved ones death, makes you realize how fragile life is and how important it is to live every moment. 

Here are some learnings of my past most gruelling 10 months.

Mantra- Don't resent, don't hate and don't curse anyone. If you do, you are giving them rent free accommodation in your body and an invitation to illnesses. 

Life isn't fair, nobody said it would be, so deal with it.  There is nothing personal in whatever people do to you. Its their and your journey. So drop the baggage. Forgive them without an apology, and move on.

Here is a list that I have derived from the most painful months of dealing with death.

1. There is nothing bigger than Life, if you have one rest all can be dealt with.

2. People in your life are not accidental. They are here for a purpose. Some people come in life as blessings and others come as lessons. They both are equally important.

3. Difficult situations remain till the time it teaches you what you are supposed to learn. So surrender to it.
4. Everything that you buy or get here including your precious I, me and myself has to be left behind when you go. 

5. Money is important and it can't buy you everything but you can't be happy without it either. Nevertheless that too becomes inconsequential in due course of time.

6. Watch sunrise everyday...especially when everything is falling around you. It rejuvenates you.

7. Hate is  a big word. Use it carefully.

8. Drinking and smoking are as dangerous to body as mindless shopping and other indulgences are to mind

9. Live beyond yourself. You will see how many lives you can change.

10. The only person you should compete is with yourself. Nobody else matters.

11. Help comes. Should you ever need it, ask for it. You will get it.

12. Life doesn't stop without anyone or for anyone. It continues. 

13. Cherish and nurture your family and friends. I am sure, I did something right in my life that I had such wonderful people who stood by me in the most harrowing phase of my life.

14. Be grateful for everything that you have in life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


It was first day of January of 2016. I was at the bus stop to drop a friend off. It was almost 2 pm and there was no sight of the bus. I saw a familiar lashing sound along with the drum beats. I saw a  Potraj mother and child passing by the shops.The child, smeared in turmeric and kumkum, wearing colorful rags was whipping himself. His mother, with another baby on her back, was beating a small dhol.
The child, who was barely 6 or 7 years old came to ask me money after it finished the regular whipping show. I asked him if it hurts and he smiled back saying a big"No". I  have always wondered how whipping with such intensity doesn't hurt and why must one resort to such torture to get alms. India has some strange customs like Devdasi, Potraj which are regressive. I normally wouldn't give money but this time I did. I dug into my bag and gave him a 10 rupee note. The child's face broke into a super lovely smile. He took the note, took to his lips and did a lovely flying kiss with it and that too with such ecstasy that I was completely unprepared for. No beggar ever, ever has done this . Me and my friend, both burst out laughing at his cheeky cuteness.That smile and that gesture stayed with us through the day.

Thank you, child, wherever you are for making my day special. I am grateful to you!

Note: The Potraj are a fast vanishing tribe that hail from the Western state of Maharashtra. They are worshipers of a goddess that is referred to as ‘Kadak Lakshmi’.
The Potraj are nomads who get alms for displaying what must be an extremely grueling profession. The women balance a small platform with their deity perched on their heads and play a drum to a foot-tapping beat while the men dance, twirl and smack themselves with heavy whips made out of woven coir or leather. The whips may weigh in the region of 10 kg (22 lbs) each and are knotted for added measure and land on the backs of these performers with a resounding ‘thwack’. Children are thrust into this profession at a very early age so that they may grow up and be able to bear the crack of the whip on their backs. Young boys may start as early as the age of six with lighter whips till they reach puberty and their teens and graduate to the heavier ones. Apart from the gruelling treks between cities, nights spent exposed to the elements, unrelenting sun above their heads the entire day and the unforgiving rope whip on their backs, the members end up living a hand to mouth existence on what can only be described as meager charity.