Friday, November 23, 2018

the birthday post - 31

(For those who don’t know what this is about, I have been writing notes on every birthday since I was 21. Oh just some silly old tradition :))

I almost didn't write a post this year.
I started these posts when I was 21, and ten years seemed like enough. Nice round number. 
But it's great to keep at something I started a decade ago. 
Otherwise I'd have to say, "I used to write these articles..." - and then this would just become something I used to do. 

The first year of 30 has been a mixed bag. 
In my late twenties, I thought a lot about how I defined home, happiness, friendships and relationships. 
I experimented, rebelled, travelled, and was a passionate nonconformist. 
Post 30, I watch a lot of TV and try not to think. Other people can do the nonconforming. Goodnight sweetdreams. 

I'm very lucky to have found my passion -- something I think will sustain me forever. 
I think learning music/any form of art always gives you something to fall back on -- it keeps you sane, healthy, rooted.  

There's nothing like sitting at the foot of a roaring waterfall in the Western Ghats. 
What a magical range of mountains, these. 
What is it that's so therapeutic about water? 
I recently discovered I've been swimming wrong all my life.
But I love swimming all the same, and no matter how I feel when I get in, I'm in "bring it on!" mode when I get out. 

How many houseplants is too many houseplants?
Monstera is a fascinating plant. It just sits there and looks pretty. 
It continues to look pretty when nobody's looking. 

I'm slowly starting to understand privilege. 
I'm grateful to have had an immensely supportive family, good health, and the resources to do everything I've been able to. 
One person's good fortune is perhaps another person's sacrifice. 

It's amazing to think that most everyone in the UK has access to clean air, water and healthcare. 
India feels like an impossibly complicated gigantic knot that can't be undone. 
Sometimes, sitting here in the comfort of a nicely warmed UK home and watching the politics back home, she seems like a beautiful lady helplessly trying to untangle her matted hair. 
My heart aches for India sometimes, so much I love. 
Reading about the work Goonj does has had a profound impact on my life. 

I've often wondered if social media is bringing out the worst in people. Or was it that people were always this horrible? 
Someone I know once said (about a political figure he disagreed with) that she 'deserved to be raped'. 
Hmmm! The end of the world is coming. 
Kalyug, Amma says. No hope etc. 

I once received a comment from someone on Reddit who said my comic was the emptiest, worst piece of content he's ever seen. 
I wrote back to him saying that I try my best. He immediately apologised and said not to take it 'personally' and that he didn't really mean it. 
Anonymous people are brutal.
But that's just what they are -- anonymous. 

Being sensitive is a blessing. 
But I guess apathy can be wonderfully insulating? 

It surprises me how little we can do for the people we care about deeply. 
You can reach out, be there, talk to them, console, lend a ear, offer a shoulder -- but sometimes, I think. Is that it? Is this really all we can do for another human being? 

Appreciation, or rather the hunger for it, can kill the artist/creator.
We live in an age where writers are optimizing for SEO, artists are running after the 100th like, and everybody is a white-text-on-black-background poet on Instagram. 
That end of world? It's coming soon. 

This year, I hit upon the magic formula. It's to "Zoom out". 
Zooming out of a situation makes you realize how stupidly inconsequential everything is. 
It can empower and liberate you. 
Losing sleep over something? Zoom out. Had a bad day at work? Zoom out. Wondering what people will think/say? ZOOM OUT. 
It's the secret to true happiness. Take it. 

If that doesn't help, watch Planet Earth 2 over and over again. 

Good health is something to be grateful for, each and every day. 

It's so sad that we become more careful and more reserved as we grow up, always thinking about how much of us we can let others see.
It's great to do something with abandon, with no self-consciousness. 
There was a time when I put myself all over the Internet without really caring... 
Those were good times. 

I think social media is killing friendships/relationships. 
We think we have some insight into somebody's life because we know that they've had noodles for dinner. 
Haha! We have no clue what's going on. A simple "How have you been?" can lead to many surprising responses and the realization that we make wrong, wrong assumptions. 

This year, I found that while friendships can sustain and nourish, they can just as easily fade away. 
It always takes two. 
Living with one of the nicest people on the planet has enriched my life. 

Snail mail can be immensely comforting. 
Growing your own vegetables can be super satisfying. 
Plant a seed, watch it sprout and peek through the soil, look at those tiny leaves -- simply miraculous! And surprisingly easy. 
I spent most of the summer tending to lilies and herbs and chillies and carrots. 

You can't see it when you're in it. 
We can get all judgy about someone else, we can offer advice, we can think how stupid they are, but it isn't till we find ourselves in the very same situation that it hits us: 
You can't see it when you're in it. 

Success means different things to different people. 
It's mostly comfortable people who say that money doesn't matter. 

I would like to care less and less about what people think. 
I would like create content that is enduring, that people will read after years and years, and still find meaningful. 

Interesting things I heard this year:  
From a doctor in the UK: "You can show us your reports from India. You can get them translated."  
From a friend, a new mum, about her daughter: "She's all I want." 
From a friend after telling her I draw 'just' stick people: "Don't ever be dismissive of your own art." 
From a hair stylist who was doing my hair: "Oh, there's nothing I haven't tried. I've dyed my hair pink, orange, been bald, had leopard prints, everything. You should experiment when you can. That's what hair is there for, right?"  
Overheard at the hospital: "Just because you couldn't do something the first time doesn't mean you can't try again," a mum to her 1-year old, who was unable to poke his sound-emitting teddy bear hard enough for it to squeak. 
Response to an article I wrote about doing something for the love of it: "But why would you do something unless you want appreciation? That would be a waste of time, no?" 
From my doctor: "Don't anticipate pain."

I think I've changed quite a lot over the last year. 
Amma says it's all about evolving, something she's been remarkably good at. 
Quite a nice concept, this evolution. 

I think I still have some bits of leftover youth.
Must put to good use. 

Hello, new year full of promise. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

the birthday post - 30

This is my tenth birthday post, so here's to a decade of keeping this tradition alive :)
I've taken in the world for 30 whole years. 
I must say it's been altogether intoxicating. 

I'm immensely grateful to be part of this world and to have experienced so much of the wonderful things it has to offer. 

This year has been one of the most insightful so far. 
I feel like I've grown years in this one year, and like I've travelled mentally to far-flung areas. 
This year, I've been on a journey of self-discovery. 
I've had a short stay in the 'Lost and Found' box -- but it was well worth it. 

Ever since I've moved, I feel like I'm constantly travelling. 
Things still jump out at me and take me by surprise.  
I'm deeply in love with the countryside here -- the swans, the streams, the sycamores. 

Home travels with you. 
Home is about freedom. And acceptance. 

I love cane and bamboo furniture. 
I have a weakness for plants, especially on window sills and desks and bookshelves.  
Peace lilies are still my favourite plants. 

I've spent a great amount of time this year watching the various creatures in the garden -- especially the birds. 
The best way to never get bored in a house is to install a bird feeder.
My favourite bird this year has been the pied wagtail. 

Your thoughts can wreck your body. 
The easiest way to lose weight is by being really, really happy. 
You will never be thin enough or fat enough or fair enough or good enough for society -- something will always be wrong. 
With them. 

I really miss the days when blogging was about writing honestly. 
Now writing, at least on an online public platform, seems to be marred by SEO optimization and character limits. 
I've even seen people voluntarily add a "Tweet this!" button next to sections of text. I cringe at that. 
But then again, I hashtag the life out of my comics on Instagram, so who am I to complain? 

I have over 300 comics waiting to be sorted, but I use up all free time to keep drawing new ones. 
Seems like an awful waste of time to be sorting out stuff from the past. 
That applies in other contexts, too. 

I am highly attracted to driven people. 
I don't think I can ever stop drawing or writing, irrespective of what people think of it. 

Social media has also made us more conscious of ourselves and the image we want to create. 
The more driven we are by external likes and shares, the less likely we are to write something which isn't measured by how readers are likely to react. 
I think there is some kind of manipulation involved there, even if we are not aware of it. 

I believe that good creative work comes from an internal impulse. 

I always come home to writing because I feel like I have nothing to prove. 
I have nobody to please. 
It's such an enormous relief. 

I've become awfully conscious of what I let out of myself online. 
But I read so much online, and the best lessons are from others' personal experiences. 
It's an age where we can no longer be completely free -- every move is being watched. 
At least when we were younger, we only thought that God (and sometimes Santa Claus) was watching us. 

Contentment is overrated. 
I'm a little scared of being content -- I feel like it will be the point where all this passion and motivation dies down. No?  

I love making music. 
Jazz is complicated. 
The more you don't understand it, the more beautiful it gets.
I guess that's what draws me to it so much. The mystery. 
Other times, I just listen to disco. 

I'm an email person and I would pick email over phone conversations with clients most of the time. 
Couples often tell me their long and complicated love stories (to be illustrated), and each time, I feel so awed by the power of love. 
Love moves mountains. 
It causes enormous upheavals on the ground beneath your feet, for sure. 

No matter how many clients I work with, the best rewards come as emails from people who respond to a particular comic or piece of writing. 

Sometimes I wonder if I've been 'too nice' in the past. Especially to people who've not been so nice to me.
I had someone say something really mean about one of my comics on Reddit this year. I responded to them, and they quickly apologised, saying they had no idea the OP would actually read all the comments. 
Funny what anonymity can do to people. 

Working from home can be both liberating as well as isolating. 
With a remote job, I always fancy that I'll work under the trees in a park, or run off to some fancy mountain resort. 
But what I really want is a desk in a quiet corner within four walls. 

I really want to explore India...  
... On a deeper level. Live in longer periods in the villages, lose myself in busy towns, be overwhelmed by the cities. 
Mostly interact with the incredible variety of people and learn from their experiences. 

I love meeting new people. 
I love house parties. 
I like reading books and watching movies about space. 

I learnt only two years ago that hens lay eggs every day, and that not all the eggs we eat were meant to hatch. 
I also learnt only this year that there are gigantic cables under the sea that connects most of the world, and these were actually used for telephones/telegraphs earlier. 
That's quite mesmerizing. 
The more new things I discover, the more I realize that the number of things I don't know about is actually much more than I thought. 

This year, I've watched a ton of life-changing movies. As a book-over-movie person, never thought I'd say this! 
We evolve. 
I'm uncannily like my mom in many ways. 
Time doesn't heal. Not as much as willingness does. 

"You have a great future." I heard this sentence first when I was 13 and then again recently at 29. Got me confused -- isn't this my future already? 

I've realised that I write to remember, not to forget... it's not so much of a vent than wanting to hold on to a moment or an experience.  
I write to capture a feeling, a story or an emotion that I don't want to lose. 
Then I forget all about it, with the comforting knowledge that I can now revisit it at any time. 
I never do. 

The compulsion to write seems to stem from wanting to hold on. 
I feel slightly upset when I can't remember my dreams. Guess that follows the same pattern. 

Falling in love is so hard on the knees. 
But real love doesn't bring you to your knees. 

Self-control is a wonderful thing. 
Just knowing that you have the power to pick and choose how you react (or how much you are affected by something) can make a huge difference. 

I've been incredibly blessed to have the most amazing support system anyone could ask for -- my family, friends, well-wishers, relatives, mentors, teachers, readers, and more. 
I'm really grateful to have all of you in my life. 
I've taken in the world for 30 years. 
My eyes are not the least bit tired. 
I can't get enough! 
30 is going to be awesome. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

the birthday post - 29

This year, I faced an overwhelming amount of change. 
All those annoying quotes about change being constant are starting to make sense now.
I've redefined the meaning of home. 
I've found that you can be rooted even if you're transplanted. 

India is home. 
Well, so the redefinition hasn't helped all that much. 
Much as I romanticize the idea of a nomadic life, for me, home is always one place. A steady, strong presence that's waiting for me as much as I'm looking forward to it. 
Home is the place I can make a cup of coffee or tea to my preference, put my feet up, and sing as I wash the dishes. 

There are many different kinds of people in the world. 
Everywhere, people are the same. 

Emotional attachment can wreck you. 
Letting go is freedom. 
But I think the ones who get attached are the ones are lucky to have experienced it. 
Because too many of us are unfeeling. 
Or maybe we become like that eventually. 

Falling in love can be hard on the heart.  
There's joy in losing your senses... for some time. 

You could either go crazy or choose to be Comfortably Numb. 
Either way, you might get Marooned. 
And then you'd have to Run Like Hell. 
From the two constantly haunting problems – Money and Time. 
Very soon, we'll all be Lunatics on the Grass. 
But there's no harm in having High Hopes... 

Gosh, I've got to stop this now. 
Or else I'll Keep Talking. 

Not everything you do should have some grand motive. 
We should all do a great many things just for jolly. 
I want to grow lots of plants. They make the best decor, no? 

I hardly ever doodle... but don't tell anyone that. 
I can't work without to-do lists. 
I can't live without coffee. 
I mean, of course I can. When you really think about it, our actual needs are very less... I'm slowly leaning towards a more minimalistic lifestyle. 
Slowly. 

Interesting stuff I heard this year: 
"Don't be stupid." – when I told a friend I was homesick and wanted to move back to India. 
"Never be afraid of anything." – the better, unafraid half. 
"This is ghor kalyug." – Amma after Trump's win. 
"Put that machine away! It's very dangerous. We were better off when we didn't have those." – an elderly gentleman sitting next to me at the hospital, referring to my mobile. 

I made a fuss when my mother wanted to send me 100 kgs of stuff from India. 
But I had the most delightful time unpacking all the goodies. 
Family = full glowing happies. 

I love long, long walks. 
I'm a terrible swimmer – but I love swimming. 
It's the only sport I ever liked this much. 
It's a great reminder that you've got to keep your head above the water. Periodically, at least. 

The world is incredibly unpredictable and we're all living in our own little bubbles. 
2016 has been a shocker. 

An ideal way to spend my birthday would be to delete the 2000 unread emails and 3000 drafts in my inbox. 
I've drawn about 400 comics so far. 
I will draw and write for the rest of my life. 

It seems the aim of everyone in the UK is to live in a sprawling home in the countryside, with sheep for company. 
I would feel really isolated in that situation. 

We've all got to take it easy. 
Slow down, you crazy child, he said. Why don't people take the advice of these great musicians? 

Age is just a number. 
And a wrinkle here, a double chin there. 
We underestimate the importance of a good slumber. 
Five years ago, I would've said sleep is distracting me from all the wonderful things I've got to see and do. 
Now, I feel those wonderful things can wait till next morning. 
The world doesn't end overnight. Really. 
Try dropping off the radar for a while. When you come back, in all likelihood, things will be the same. 

I've rid myself of FOMO. 
Try it people. Do away with all these weird acronyms and you'll be happy AF. 

I always used to think that one's got to prepare for the worst...
But I've learnt to trust that nothing will go wrong. 
It's easier to believe that anyway.  
Confidence is your best weapon. 

A friend of mine always used to say, "So what? It's okay. You'll survive." 
I used to get offended back then. 
Now I understand what it means. 

The most important thing in life is life itself. 
That in itself calls for a huge celebration. 

Here's to another year of madness. 

Saturday, January 02, 2016

the birthday post - 28

Another year, another budday post!
For the uninitiated, I started the birthday post tradition when I was 21. 
For the regulars, it's been 7 years of my rants in your inbox! 
When I started this, I had just quit an MBA. 
This year, I quit a full-time job. 
All the years in between have been unbelievably exciting.

You get to choose what kind of life you want. 
Make your choice or circumstances work for you. 
Don't feel trapped - it's not worth it. Been there! 
I feel caged really quickly. 

Drawing and writing full-time is a dream come true.  
I have a sneaky feeling that teaching is my true calling.
That TrueCaller app should actually tell you what your true calling is. 
If there's any place on earth I want to revisit, it's the school in Vellore where I used to volunteer.

​I still can't carry a tray of glasses without sticking my tongue out. 
​I'm in awe of people who can stay composed throughout an entire day. 
My emotional graph per day dips and peaks in sine waves. 

Freedom and independence is key. 
No relationship should tie you down or make you feel bound. 

Fear blinds. 
Love cements. 
Trust frees.
Expectations stifle. 
Music heals. 
Freelancing teaches. 

I can look at pictures on the Sanctuary Asia FB group all day. 
A couple of months ago, I went on my first birding trip and fell madly in love! 
I now have a favourite bird per week.
The best thing to do when you're depressed is to watch whale videos. 

It's amazing to fall in love with non-human-beings. 
Fall in love with an animal, a plant, a flower,a book, a hobby, a colour, a song. 

It's amazing to fall in love with that which cannot leave. 
Fall in love with yourself. 

Let down your guard. But protect your peace of mind. 
I learnt that the hard way. 

WordPress defines beauty. 
I'm going to participate in Kala Ghoda festival someday. Maybe next year. 
One day, I'm going to drive my own car on the Bandra-Worli sealink. 
I love busy cities. 


​I used to be a really nice person all the time but nowadays I'm a not-so-nice person. 
I think it's okay to be a not-so-nice person when the situation demands. 
I read once that you should win over the unkindest of people with kindness. 
But I don't want to be kind to assholes. 

Cassette tapes were the best because you actually listened to all the tracks. 
I bought a harmonica this year. I'm struggling to play it. 
I'd like to play the flute some day... perhaps the saxophone too.
But the rich sound of the veena beats all. 

This year, I stood in front of multiple audiences to speak about my work. 
It was terrifying, 
But after I was done, I felt like I was on top of the world. 
I tried ziplining, went on two treks, bathed in waterfalls, encountered elephants, met amazing people last year. 

Interesting things I heard over the year: 
No matter how big the fuck up is, the world doesn't end. (from a friend) 
If my kids to go IIT, their life will be set. They will make my entire village proud. (our driver)  

Jazz is not random. It has structure and form. You have to be thorough with the theory to make it flow. (jazz teacher) 
Hyderabad is a selfish city. Everyone sits at home and plays music. Bring the music out, share, collaborate. Don't hide your talents at home. (jazz teacher)  
My biggest regret is that I didn't follow my dream at your age, so do it when you can. Start young. (a professor)
If you want to seriously live your dream, move to Bombay. (CEO turned full-time flutist) 
I grew up in the forest, and now I'm going to teach my kid its ways. (A new father and wildlife photographer, who took his 3-month old baby to camp in the wild. He'd done it at 6 months) 

Life is short and there's so much to do, see, absorb and experience. 
Life is short and you gotta keep yourself alive, kicking, and happy! 

I always wanted to be skinny, dark and have curly hair. 
Working on it. 
But I'm sort of used to being chubby now. Hurts less on a bike. 
I want to stand on my head soon. 

Old friends are comforting because time has tested the relationship.  
New friendships are both exhilarating and exhausting. 
Investing time and energy understanding the complexities that make up a human being can be rewarding. 
Exhilarating highs usually, at some point, see abysmal lows. 

People keep telling me to not get attached to people and places. 
But what's the point of wading through life without being attached or passionate?! 

Growing plants makes me happy. 
Money plants are the best. 
Money money. It's important. 

Beards still turn me on. 
Every time I fell in love, I thought it was the only time I was in love. 
Loving someone enough to let go of them sounds very nice on posters but is incredibly hard to implement. 

Is it harder to have your own space or give others theirs? 
Time doesn't heal everything. 
But it's easier to pretend there's hope.  

I wear socks with sandals and I doubt that's going to ever change. 
My toes get really cold quickly. 
I listen to Honey Singh sometimes. 
Yeah, how unexpectedly we all evolve! 

​Drawing is therapeutic. 
So are haircuts. 
And other people's babies. 

I'm learning to never get stuck. 
Never get stuck in one place, on one person, on one relationship, on one viewpoint. 
Keep putting one foot ahead of the other. 
Dance at least once a week. 
Shower with music on.

Do everything you love. 
Do everything you fear. 
Do everything you haven't. 

I sound so freaking preachy. It seems age does that to you.
But I'm 28 and life's just begun! 

Go out and celebrate everybuddy! 
Have a absolutely fantastic year ahead! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

the agency

​This place is a madhouse.

There’s someone wanting to breed cows, there’s an ex-chef of a fancy hotel, there’s an angry young man threatening to leave every day (“fuck you all!”), there’s another stumbling about drunk and grinning stupidly at everyone. There’s this chap who simply refuses to look anyone in the eye or smile, there’s a girl who blurts out what she thinks with an endearing lack of discretion. There’s the rights activist posting frantically on facebook, there’s that guy walking up and down in a silent, unnerving way, sneaking up behind our computers. There’s the world-weary, resigned chap in the corner, there’s the unperturbed illustrator lost in his own world. There’s the tomboy, with unexpected displays of girlishness, there’s the classroom bully with a heart of silly putty. There's someone killing us a little bit every day with his bad jokes, there's someone else who mysteriously disappears for really long hours during work, calling it lunch. There’s someone who laughs to himself periodically, making us all wonder whether he’s insane or whether he’s secretly laughing at our insanity.

Mornings usually begin with the santoor, go on to Telugu carnatic remixes, touching some Illaiyaraja on the way, before drifting into 90s Hindi film songs and some clean blues guitar. At exactly 10:30 a.m. every day, the gratingly overdone Nothing Else Matters is played by aforementioned angry young man with a seriousness I find amusing. On darker, busier days, Sadhguru spreads his gyan to a mix of believers and skeptics, after which plays a song about samhalofying zindagi such that it doesn’t become mauth. On some afternoons, violins and flutes spring to life, and on others, stand-up comedians on YouTube have their stage. Dog videos are regulars; whole movies are watched. There are politics, there is bitching, there are friendships. Everyone seems be ready to attack, counter, defend, prove. The energy level is high, frustration levels are higher, and heated exchanges take place every few minutes.

There are arguments, disagreements, disappointments, pull-your-hair-out moments. Heads come together to put together some brilliant stuff, whiteboards get inked in and abstract ideas bounce, fly, spin, shape up and get converted to the tangible. Brains tick, fingers type, hands draw, and the greys take on colour. Sketches are shared, criticism is selectively digested, approval is received with relief.

It’s incredibly satisfying to have cracked something and see it come to life... It's like learning animation and finding that something actually moves.

After five years in academic publishing and working with scientists, educators, researchers and professors (your typical khadi-kurta crowd), this is a breath of fresh air. After five years of Dears and Warm Regards, the lack of salutations is strangely liberating. After five years of careful, polite speech, the vocabulary took on colours within a week of being here. After five years of a silent editorial floor, the noise is more than welcome. I desperately wanted change, and that part is taken care of.

The very newness of it all is enough to sustain interest. There is constant food for the brain, there are a hundred stories and comics packed in a twelve-hour span. There are enough characters to fill a series. At the end of the day, everyone’s passionate about something, be it at work or outside work. There’s never not enough to talk about. Conversations aren’t boring. People aren't boring. Everyone comes in a distinct flavour. Everyone brings a different approach. Everyone draws a different tangent to the circle - and that's making this ride worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A story worth telling

I was travelling to Chennai by train in a third class compartment. There were six of us – me, one uncle and four aunties. We silently stared at each other till it was time to eat, during which I made some small talk to break the staring match, and then we ran out of things to talk about so we sat and stared again till it was time for us to put up the beds and go to sleep. I was on the upper berth, much to my relief, and I gladly made my escape.

I climbed up the iron rails and heaved myself onto the berth, when suddenly I felt something cold on my arm. I looked down, and to my horror, my left arm was covered in blood, which was steadily dripping onto the blue leather. I instinctively covered my hand before opposite Uncle could see it and make a fuss. I tried to discreetly slink (well, I don’t think I can slink with my bulk, but I tried) down to see what had happened, while trying to casually retrieve a piece of cloth from my bag at the same time. Unfortunately, I was right under Uncle’s nose and he saw some blood drip from my arm. I smiled wanly at him, while he exclaimed loudly,

“OMG! You are hurt! How did that happen! OMG! Blood is coming!”

“Er, yes, Uncle, it’s nothing, not even hurting, see I’ve got some tissue...”, I said, desperately hoping to get him to lower his volume.

Meanwhile, Aunty in opposite middle berth saw what was happening, and springing up (banging her head on the upper berth in the process), started fumbling about in her handbag which she was clutching:

“Oh beta how did you hurt yourself! Wait put some cream to stop the bleeding! Tie a handkerchief round your hand! Let us ask for the first-aid box!”

And then she said this..

“Oh no beta, I only have Fair and Lovely! Will that help?”

I smiled at her and said it was really okay, and that the bleeding would stop soon. Except it didn’t.

I inched closer to the edge of the berth and noticed a large nail sticking out of the side. So that was the culprit! I examined the wound again, wondering if there were chances of an infection, wishing everyone would shut up and go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, everyone in my compartment was up, and before more suggestions were made, I asked one of the Aunties for talcum powder. Opposite Uncle suddenly looked excited and said he had a small dabba of talcum powder in his shaving kit. He scrambled down the berth, looking very pleased to be of help, switched on all the lights, pulled out a large suitcase from underneath the lower berth, and proceeded to unpack. I didn’t protest, feeling a bit silly, a bit guilty. He pulled out a bag, from inside which emerged a pouch. He unzipped it and handed me a small Ponds talcum powder dabba triumphantly. I put some on the wound, tied it up with my stole, and thanked him relievedly. I switched off the lights before any further ado and the night went on peacefully.

I went to Pondy after that, where I spent a lovely weekend playing music and watching crocodiles with the boy. I had a waitlisted ticket for my journey back to Hyderabad on the same train. My mother was travelling on the train too – both of us were in separate coaches. At the last minute, my ticket was confirmed and to my surprise, it was the same berth and compartment as it was on my onward journey. I went to my mother’s place and gave her company for some time. I told her the story of how I hurt my arm, and she said, “Of course you’re going to look out this time, considering you know there may be something on that berth that can hurt you.” We had dinner and I left back to my coach.

I held on to the ladder rails and hurriedly climbed up (I was afraid I might step on lower berth Aunty’s toes), when I felt something cold on my left arm. I looked down, and my worst suspicions had come true. I had done it again! A symmetrical, deep cut now dripped blood, just below the previous wound. I messaged my mother, who came to my berth, did some first aid and rubbed the embarrassment in.

After some time, the attender came to my berth with a giant pair of pliers, asking where this nail was. This was my mother’s doing. He yanked at the nail and pulled it out, thus ending the story.

It’s been over three years since this happened, and I still have two scars just below my elbow on my left arm. They look like they’re going to stay.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

escape

She found herself like an eighteen-year old again, getting lost in the corridors of the buildings, moving past pillars and bulletin boards, trying to find her way to class.

Only to quickly find a way out once she got there.

She was constantly running, looking for something, looking for an outside.  Always guided by a shifting focus, she went where it took her, exploring abandoned cowsheds and unearthing hidden wells among the paddy fields.


There was excitement then, a curiosity, a yearning, a thirst. A rush of energy that exploded in a mad mix of creative satisfaction, surging hormones and stimulated nerve endings. 
That was then. And maybe, like all our stories, it ultimately fell to clichés.



Six years later, she found herself being held together by everyday routines, circumstances, and things to do. She was drifting through the days...
Drifting. Another cliché.

This time, she was too listless to question, less curious, less excited, less trusting.
Just hungry, searching.

This time, she was not so much pushing for meaning as she was pushing for more.

She was tired now… she had been tired for some time. She packed her days, as always, like a suitcase overflowing with things of perhaps not much importance but which kept her sane, nonetheless. 



Back then, she had found solace in the hills. She loved the feel of the burning sun on her palms as she'd place her hands on the rocks in the midday heat. It seemed to take away the unease, the overload, and seemed to burn it away. Once she'd reach the top, she'd heave a sigh of relief and sit down, to watch the beetles dig into the mud and the leaves laze on the trees.
She hated the concrete. She craved for the new. She craved change.
She travelled. She walked through busy city streets, empty forest paths and sat on cross-country trains. She wrote. She drew. Story after story, comic after comic, on atm slips, on pretty notebooks, on Photoshop.

Work was a distraction. It filled a big chunk of the day, and paid the bills. Sitting in a box, within the limits of her cubicle, it caged her, yet in a strange way, it allowed her to escape. 
The more she wrestled to get away, the deeper the routine pulled her in.

It was like music. Structured and patterned, yet the very pattern allowing for a flow, begging freedom.

The music got louder and louder, the riff penetrating her bones, reaching a shattering crescendo before a ear-splitting hush.

It was an old trick that musicians used. Everyone knew it was the pauses that mattered, the in-betweens. It worked, every time. 
In the silence, she found a grip, all over again, on a nearby rock, as she scrambled up.