Posted in Anecdotes

My Hidden Genius a.k.a When Procrastination Dresses Up As A Fairy Godmother

I suffer from a phenomenon whereby my creative skills get stimulated only when I have some other pressing matter at hand. During school, I remember having an idea for not one, but TWO novels in the 10th grade a month before my final exams. I wrote a couple of chapters with meticulous planning, recognising that the call of inspiration needed to be heeded more than the mediocrity of academics. It was all going very well till my exams ended and writer’s block set in. For the next two months, I sat at home watching TV, craving school and essentially bored out of my wits. The novels never saw the light of day.

Two years later, in the midst of a model biology test held by a centre that coached us for entrance exams, I realised I was not only a writer but a gifted composer as well. The music came out of nowhere, and while all the others in the hall shaded the bubbles with gusto, I wrote down lyrics on the back of the question paper and finished my first song in fifteen minutes. The next time catharsis struck was during a second test two months later, and although the song started off well, I couldn’t get past two stanzas. I hummed the song in my shower in desperation numerous times, but that bolt of lightening evaded me – until the day I sat at the hall of the ACTUAL test, the one that would decide if I could get into medical school or not. And voila! The second stanza came gushing out as everyone furiously worked their pens. Contrary to expectations, I got into medical school and (surprise, surprise!) I never composed again. I still bask, albeit grumpily, in the glory of those two songs.

Fast forward to 2016 when I supposedly prepared for the next biggest challenge of my life – entrance into a speciality course. I had no idea what I wanted, except that there was no way I could do the whole preparation thing again. Stress, check. Turning point of life, check. And before I knew it, yours truly had started a blog and was minting out posts by the dozen. It has got to be the most creative time of my life. Anything and everything evoked deep thoughts and poetry, and all of a sudden my 8 MP phone camera was miraculously able to capture breathtaking shots. Officially a writer and talented photographer in the making. Or so I thought. Well you can guess the rest. Once I stepped into the threshold of the post-graduate course, the clock struck twelve, iPhone turned Android and the blog posts dwindled into near-oblivion.

Till now. Final year exams are right around the corner, and whaddyaknow, my innovative traits are back. I have a presentation tomorrow that I’m barely prepared for, and here I am, chugging out post after post.

But it is not only writing that draws me in now; after being married for over a year and surviving on take-out since I loathe cooking, my culinary side has finally caught up with me. This week bore witness to me cooking my heart out – breakfast and dinner every day for Mr Beloved, and with such furore! Every day I experiment with a different type of chutney, pretending not to notice his quizzical (but delighted) glances at my newly acquired ‘wife-ing’ skills.

The exams are set to fall toward the end of November, which gives me three solid months to unleash my inner chef. Like they say, I might as well make hay while the sun shines. Or perhaps cauliflower fritters while the oil is hot.

Posted in Anecdotes

Grilled Fish, Pudding and Bliss

Ardent fans of the ’90s TV show Friends might recollect an episode where Rachel decides to start giving herself some alone time while dining out. The plot involves the hilarious paranoia that men have about women who eat alone. Although I laughed along like any other fan, it was definitely one episode where I wondered what the deal really was. What is really so bad about eating at a restaurant by yourself?

As someone who immensely enjoys my own company to that of ‘acquiantances’. (By the way, am I the only person that has trouble spelling this word, every time?? Even my phone’s autocorrect gets confused these days thanks to the many times I’ve misspelt it.) Anyhow, the same trait involves going to restaurants alone as well.

Now, I am not going to admit this isn’t hazard free. For one, there is the endless cacophony of happy faces, general frolic and chattering that you seem to notice ONLY when you’re alone. Thank God for technology, for I am now equipped to fight the same with WhatsApp and Anybooks. But of course, as someone who has ventured into this zone one too many times, one thing I know for certain is – the major problem for me is actually the eating part. My borderly-anorexic self gets fooled by acute hunger into ordering too much food, and not having someone to share makes me look like a pampered brat who has no concerns about the starving children of wherever. Or worse still, a sense of adventure floats in out of nowhere, and before I know it, I’m locking eyes with a weird looking Indo-European pasta or a noodle variety that says anything but Chinese.

Varying portion sizes are of course another culprit. You order a serving of fried rice, and they bring either a spoonful or enough food to feed a state. There is honestly no single-person sized serving in this world for all I know, resulting in me leaving the place either hungry or guilty. Never satisfied. Add to that the reminder from my expense tracking app that I’ve used up 130% of my monthly budget as the credit card balance dips to an all-time low, and I’m nearly tearing up right there.

WHICH is why yesterday’s lunch made me glow in the way pregnancy does (if that is actually a thing.) I was alone, had all the time in the world and better still, had a healthy appetite – not hungry enough to order everything on the menu, but not willing to stop with a piece of celery either. And best of all, the prices didn’t make me want to run when I still could.

No adventures this time. I ordered a sweet corn soup and grilled fish. The former, I virtually grew up swimming in, and the latter I had tasted multiple times when I visited the restaurant with friends. I decided to hold off ordering dessert till after the meal, just in case my tummy protested. (It didn’t)

The food – the soup, the fish and the caramel custard – was nothing short of glorious, the waiters were courteous and sweet, the bill didn’t give me a heart attack and I for once left a restaurant basking in culinary bliss and proud of my choices in life.

I mean, just look at these pictures. Aren’t you drooling a little yourself?

Grilled fish served with tempered vegetables and a flavoured mayonnaise dip

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Caramel custard in all its perfection – not too sweet, not too burned, and just the right consistency

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P.S. If ever you visit Pondicherry, India, do not forget to dine at Debussy Restaurant for lovely budget food and drinks!

P.P.S. They didn’t pay me to write this, just in case you’re wondering.

P.P.P.S No, seriously, this is all me.

P.P.P.P.S It’s starting to seem a little desperate isn’t it. Maybe I should um.. yeah. Bye.

Posted in Anecdotes

Call of Duty

I woke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was TR calling. I briefly checked the time before holding the phone to my ear, baffled at why he’d ring me up at 7 on a work day.

“Yes??”, I asked, not bothering to mask the grogginess in my voice.

“Dr S’s mother died”

I shot upright on the bed, all traces of sleep gone.

“What.. how.. who told you??”

“Dr P messaged me. He felt we should know, since we are close to her. She is already on her way to the airport.”

I stared at the wall and blinked. Slapped myself and shook my head to make sure it wasn’t a nightmare.

“God, I’m a horrible person T.. I know I should be thinking about her mom.. but, damn.. my thesis!!”

Dr S is my ‘guide’, the official mentor under whom I work on my postgraduate dissertation. Which is due for submission in a week. She and I were supposed to work together on the final draft over the weekend, and now all the plans suddenly seemed to dissipate.

“Are you crazy?!”, I came to, hearing T shouting at me. “She will be back in a few days, don’t worry about that..”

“But it’s her mother! Do people get back to work so soon? She must be shattered!”

“I’m sure it’ll be okay.. don’t worry. Now get ready soon, the lecture is at 8.30.”

The phone clicked. I blinked again and put my head in my hands, still unnerved at the thought of missing the deadline.

The I picked up the phone and sent a short text to Dr S. Heard the news. Hope you’re alright. Take care.

I was still staring at the wall when the phone rang again. It was Dr S.

“I just wanted to tell you a few things before I left..”

I listened in disbelief as she went over details of corrections, instructions on the changes that needed to be made, and told me to collect the manuscript from their home that she had entrusted to her husband before leaving. All this, on the way to her mother’s funeral.

We hear about professionalism, how some people are dedicated, that trait of working ‘beyond the call of duty’.. We admire them yes, and leave it at that. But there are some rare instances when we come across such people, and are touched to the core by how empathetic they are, how they put the team or those who depend on them before themselves; that someone would put their responsibilities first even at times of personal distress.. and it is those instances that inspire us to be better versions of ourselves as well.

This time, when I hung up the phone, I had tears in my eyes.

Posted in Anecdotes

Breath

I veered my scooter towards the left, entering the street on which my apartment stands. Two middle aged women who were playing badminton on the road moved to let me pass. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a boy, aged around 15, sitting alone by the side of the lane, gripping a cigarette between his lips and trying to strike a match. I counted one, two unsuccessful tries by the time I crossed him.

In my head, I saw myself turning my scooter around and riding towards him, stopping right next to him. He would relax his hands and look up at me, questioningly. I would pause, hesitating for a moment to decide how best to convey what I wanted to, to the young stranger before me.

“You know”, I’d say, “Each breath that we take for granted, that moves in and out of us unseen, may not always remain so. I’ve seen people struggling every second of the day, every single gasp a test of persistence, of never ending pain. I do not know you. I do not know whether this is your first cigarette. All I know is that, with each puff you take, it gets more difficult to quit. Have you heard of marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? What you hold is more addictive than them all. Before you strike that match a third time, please think whether you need to.”

Perhaps he’d stare at me like I’m deranged. Maybe he would ask me to go to hell. Or stand up quietly and leave. The next time he reaches for a cigarette, maybe he’d think of what I said. Or maybe he won’t.

I would never know how the story ended.

Because it never began.

I got into the lift in the parking lot. As the doors closed, I felt the thought dying slowly inside me, even as the flame must have leapt in between his fingers.

Image courtsey: Amigo SV

Posted in Anecdotes

Entitled

The minutes tick by as I sit at the railway station, reading another e-book, waiting for the late ride. In the meantime, the Kochuveli-Guwahati Express, beginning a 4-day journey across India stopped at the platform where my train should have been present half an hour ago.

“That’s the A/C compartment!”

I turn to see a porter addressing a pair of north-eastern migrants, two of the many hundreds who now inhabit Kerala working as labourers, probably on an yearly pilgrimage back home, about to get onboard with two visibly shabby hand-held bags. The statement was an innocently conjured, and surely prejudiced, advice to those who obviously were ignorant, and would have to pay the price if caught.

“We know.”, one of them replied.

He didn’t sound defiant or hurt, the tone was very matter-of-fact. They paused for a second, and climbed onto the coach that even migrants are entitled for, and can afford if need be.

The porter shrugged and walked away. I went back to my book.

Posted in Anecdotes

The Little Brown Ball of Joy – Remembered

Two years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a piece that I still believe to be one of my finest. It was about our dog, Brownie, Browns for short. He was sick at the time, on the verge of dying, but came back miraculously due to Mother’s care. Last week, he finally passed after 13 long years – eons in our reckoning, for we cannot remember a time without him. As I watched him being laid to rest in a small hole dug up in our backyard, I couldn’t help but wonder.. How is it that it is the tiny ones that take up the most space in our hearts?

I am re-posting the same now in his memory.

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We were a regular middle class family; nuclear and dysfunctional.

I was a teenager struggling to find out the whereabouts of my mind and comprehend the ambiguity of my thoughts, and the more than occasional feuds at home did nothing to help. But, in a way, they also broke the monotony. It never failed to amaze me how three people can share a house and still live in their own private shells, completely cut off and oblivious to one another. Parallel universes that intercepted at dinner and continued on their way after. Mother was perpetually busy in the kitchen, cooking her way through bliss and bitterness alike. Father left for work in the morning and returned at night, and spent the rest of the time watching TV, listening to different versions of the same news stories on various channels.

As my parents found their own individual ways to overcome the midlife crisis, I hid in between pages. Books  became bricks of my own little fortress, guarded by dragons and imaginary allies. Every time an argument ensued, I’d run in and close the gates, drowning the cacophony in the chatter of fairies or the drumbeats of adventure.

Till he arrived.

The year was 2006. I was returning home after an extra class at school. As I walked towards the house from the bus stop, I could see Mother standing across the fence looking down at her feet, smiling and talking as if to herself. I assumed one of my little cousins had stopped by. As I came around to the front, I noticed it was not a child but a little brown ball of fur, complete with drooping ears and eyes that melted your heart in a wink. We now had a puppy!!

He was originally bought by a relative who happened to change his mind, and so it came to be that my family owned a pet for the very first time. And how! We adored him with all the pent up love that had been lying around in our hearts unused for years. His every movement was celebrated and every mischief recounted with vigor. Ooohs and aaahs drowned the news reports and his little paws tore away my fortress. We’d sit in the living room watching his antics, laughing at how he slipped on the tiles and chased his own shadow. Every day when I came back from school he’d be waiting at the gate with my mom, and his tiny form would squeeze right through the grills to welcome me, the tiny tail wagging so fast I feared it’d fall off. The same ritual happened when Father got home, and he would not let him enter without playing a bit of fetch and chase. Mother would bombard us (and anyone who happened to visit) with his tales and eccentricities; anything that he happened to do was a reason to smile.

It has been 10 years, and the tales have not grown stale. With the puppy grew our love for him. As I write this I can hear my parents in the next room, worrying about his health, how he has not been eating well for some days now. His energy is waning, he seems to sleep a lot more. It is difficult for us to accept that he is growing old. That he may not be around a couple of years from now. Because to us, he is not just a pet, but a little brown ball of joy that turned three strangers into a family again.

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Posted in Anecdotes

Waterproof

I recently discovered that my regular eyeliner is a waste of time compared to the costly gel variant. The lady behind the Maybelline counter was quick to get to work on my eyes with a dexterity achieved by years of customer service and the result, I’ve got to say, is impressive.

But would I be able to recreate the same?

Questionable. 

But then it’s waterproof, so I figured I’ll just not wash my face again. 

😎

Posted in Anecdotes

The Barber

In the past two weeks, I had two interesting rendezvouses with the general topic of barbers – neither on a personal account.

The first was a movie, Savarakathi (The Barber’s Knife), a fine piece of black comedy that emerged from Tamil cinema. It was hysterically scripted and executed with ace. Needless to mention, it suffered severe losses at the box office front as all masterpieces are bound to do. In the meantime a cheap commercial flick with neither content nor aesthetics continues to run in full houses. Go figure.

The second one, which actually prompted this post emerged in a class on human resources management. The lecture/discussion was successfully lulling me to sleep when she decided to take a detour from types of recruitment interviews, which in addition to tests and walk-in interviews may also be skill based, and enlighten us with examples. In the recruitment to the post of drivers, where you would be required to drive the examiner around certain roads and he would rate the your skill at driving in addition to the way you handle the vehicle and take precautions. And then, of course, the barber.

Our institute has the official post of a barber within the campus and the recruitment process is apparently quite interesting. A senior professor happened to be present at the last one. Each of the applicants were asked to demonstrate their skills at shaving with the help of shaving gel, knife and the hairy right cheek of a institute volunteer. One by one, they came in with their respective instruments, shaved away with abandon and exited.

Except one fellow. Once he was done, he wrapped up his kit and requested the volunteer (a professor himself, I should imagine) to meet him again once the recruitment tests were over. He wanted to finish up his work on the left cheek as well. Now, that’s professionalism!

He landed the job of course.

 

Posted in Anecdotes

How Tanishq Has Not Ruined My Engagement

Had I written this post earlier like my fingers itched to, the proposed title of this post would have missed a certain three letter word. My plan of revenge a.k.a. annihilating the multinational company with one post in a blog with less than 200 followers was probably a bit much, but then my frustration was such.

Maybe I should start with some background information.

I am getting married soon. This may come as a bit of a shock to some of my readers who may recall something I wrote less than a year ago, pledging solidarity with singledom and giving whimsical details about my reasons and strategies to remain so for all eternity. (No? None of you remember that marvellous piece I whipped up? Shame on you. You may achieve redemption by clicking here).

As these matters go, society has certain set rules as how to achieve the privileged status of being married. Holding on to a guy till death do you part has pretty much nothing to do with it. Oh no. You need to make sure that you adequately shout out to the entire world about the oncoming process. Thousands of people get married on a daily basis around the world, but somehow humanity never fails to get excited by the fiasco. All the married folks who cautioned you against following their path are suddenly jubilant to have you join the club. All those who are not married are jubilant that it is happening to you, not them. All those who are single are jubilant about the prospect of free food and meeting prospective partners. General air of jubilance, to sum it up.

So it came to be that unconditional love was not enough to solemnise a marriage – you needed truckloads of cash as well. Hence I have effectively depleted all my savings on the purchase of multiple glittering attires, ornaments and decorative paraphernalia that I can’t possibly scavenge and religiously put my future at risk as expected of me, thereby bringing the whole family to tear up for once in pride and contentment.

Now the one thing, perhaps the only thing, in all this chaotic humbug that I felt deserves real attention is the pair of rings. Wedding bands. After all, that is the one thing I will be carrying on my self for all eternity, so it is imperative that it should encompass and adequately symbolise our love for each other.. and of course, go with all my varied outfits. Which is why I took the pains to go to every major jewellery showroom in town (trust me, there are a LOT) and finally landed up in Tanishq. Mr Beloved was sweet enough to accompany me once the first round of screening was done. Stylish and innovative designs from a reputed company – we were happy enough to take our pick from the many options.

So we found the ring of our choice, paid the amount and were promised delivery well in advance of the betrothal date.  All was well.

Until they called up to say there was a MINOR change in the design. So minor that you can’t make it out with your eyes closed. Apparently the heart engraving that we had asked for couldn’t be done on a machine-cut ring so they decided to do it by hand, and humans do things a little differently. I tried to contain my hyperventilation and inquired if it was possible to get the original done again. Oh yes, they said, it would only take 15 days. That would work wonderfully, I chimed, seeing that the engagement date was in 10 days. Silence. Apologetic faces glanced sideways at each other as my face grew redder. They sent me home after promising to make a call the next day after sorting out the mess.

The bad news is that I was entirely skeptical of anything happening and spent the night spewing expletives in every direction and into every pair of ears that were willing to listen to the utter wrongs done by me and to consumers at large, in a moving dramatic rendering, with a finesse expected of a bride-to-be that years of watching chick flicks granted me. I’d go to court. Oh yes, I would. Okay, maybe I’d wait till after the wedding was done, but I so would.

The good part is that all that was completely unnecessary; they called me up the next day and promised to deliver the ring of our choice in less than a week.

And they did.

Okay, so maybe these large companies are not always horrible conniving sly people who care nothing of the rights of the consumer.

Oh well. Peace out.

P.S. We love the rings. They were a perfect fit.

🙂

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Posted in Anecdotes

The Trip To Traquebar (That Did Not Really Get There) – 2

The first part of of our trip is here

The weather proved to be rather histrionic on our way back. It continued to be cool even after noon, and we stopped to munch on apples after riding for an hour. That was when the sky suddenly erupted out of the blue. I had packed two raincoats and we quickly rode on. The helmet which had been tucked safely inside the boot was brought out to brave the heavy raindrops. I enjoyed clicking a few more pictures as he rode. And ten minutes later, the sun was out and we were donning sunglasses to beat the heat.

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The pitstop for apples where I spotted my favorite wildflower – thumba or the Ceylon slitwort

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It was nealy 3:30 by the time we reached Pondy and lunch was long overdue. I took him to one of my favourite places, Space Bar, close to where I live. Food was gone within moments of arrival, with only a pause in between for clicks.

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Yummy strawberry.. already half gone!
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Noodles and a brownie shake

Back in my room, we fell on to the bed. The next thing I remember is him poking me and enquiring about dinner. I peered at the phone – it was 10 at night. By the time we actually walked out the door, it was 10:30. I had planned to take him to a band playing at a restaurant by the beach, but Google informed me that I was a useless imbecile for sleeping six hours straight in the evening because all good restaurants close at 10. Yaay. After putting in one name after the other, I got a hit at Spice Route – apparently those people have no life and are open till 11:45. Good enough for me!

Christmas Eve proved to be quite a lively affair; a lot many people were on the road. The few churches that dotted the streets were lit up and brimming with people. We made our way to Spice Route by 11:00 and as we triumphantly crossed the threshold, we were informed that they were closed for the day. Now that was the second time Google was cheating us in a day. Bad server, no cookies for you.

Thankfully, the adjoining Pizza Hut let us in. Neither of are crazy about pizzas (I know, I know, there must be something wrong with us), so we ordered pasta, garlic bread and chicken wings. I did wonder later about the possible idiocy in placing an order for pasta at a pizza place, but the food turned out to be quite good. We rang the bell twice on our way out.

The Rock Beach was bustling as usual. The festive time guaranteed that a lot more people were inebriated though. The sea breeze was laden with a heady mix of beer and tobacco as it passed us by. We walked the entire length of the beach in search of ice cream for him, before realizing that the shop was on the other end.

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We finally settled on the rocks facing the sea with a scoop of Russian Flair from Gelateria Montecatini Terme for company. The mix of apple, milk and vodka was a pleasant twang on our tongues as we watched the waves.

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A few sky lanterns rose in the distance and slowly burned their way into oblivion. Someone danced on the sand with a stranger, both drunk and euphoric, laughter and song erupting from within. The waves crashed, spraying foamy greetings. It was Christmas.