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


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. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The budday post 2014

The world is full of amazing people doing amazing things.
People kept telling me the other side of 25 sucks, but two years down, and it really hasn't been so bad.
In fact, it's been pretty kickass.

After five years in publishing, I switched jobs and joined an ad agency.
Ad agencies seem to be madhouses.
But music plays all day long, which is a plus. 
I might like to have a cat someday. I love the feeling of cats rubbing themselves against my legs.
I've gone a whole year without one train journey and it's making me miserable.
There's something about watching the whole world move in front of the window.
I like being around lots of people. Crazy, happy, nutty people having nonsensical conversations.
RC whiskey still transports me.
​I watch orca videos when I'm low.

I discovered Andy Gibb this year.
I have a crush on every other guy I meet.
My latest is this guy who washes cars near our office. Damn sweet chap, looks after our adopted stray puppy.
I've a weakness (and weak knees) for guys who are good with animals.
Also guys who make good dosas. And omelettes.

I was at the receiving end of the following comments this year:
You're cut out to be a writer, you're not cut out for advertising. (wtf?!)
You've got a cute nose. (many hours were spent examining it in the mirror)
You're full of surprises. (Now we're talking yo​.)
How many works you have? Why you are doing so much works? When do you play? (Colleague's son, who spent a day with me at work)
Let me give you some advice. Listen carefully to people and then go ahead and do whatever the fuck you want. (This is a good strategy.)
I dislike driving in cities. 
Baby you can drive my car.. and maybe I'll love you.
I've learnt to be suspicious.
Trust doesn't come easy as you grow older.

I get a kick out of meeting people who are everything that I am not.
This new age traveller-tourist debate drives me mad. There is responsible tourism/travel and irresponsible tourism/travel. End of story.
It's like we want to define each and every thing and slot people according to the category they fall into.
We want to divide, divide, divide - whether we say it out loud or not, our minds are judging, allocating, classifying.

I am prone to feeling caged.
Open spaces attract me.
Openness attracts me.
I am impressed by people who have a single-minded focus.
I like doing multiple things at once and I've realised that's what makes me who I am.
My face is an open book. I suck at hiding what I think or feel.

I think I might be good at public speaking.
Being a Boss is tough.
Being a good one is even tougher.
I think I would like to be a Boss someday.

I'd be patient and calm and kind and inspiring and everyone would love me so...

​Family is steadying.
Love can be unsettling.

I love the sound of the mandolin.
I need to move to Bangalore.
The thought of moving abroad is just scary.
Mostly because you can't have 5 rupees chai on the roadside at 6 am.

I love white flowers. Peace lilies!
My favourite colour is green.
I hate groups that are formed by a mutual dislike for another person.
I'm an escapist more than ever now.

Try your best to keep away, but some songs just stick.
Ab blue hai paani paani paani paani paani paani
I've learnt the importance of trusting that good things will happen.
Sleep is a highly underrated activity, especially by creative people.
Good, uninterrupted, deep sleep is a blessing.

Photographs used to be such a special thing. A birthday, a family outing, a school farewell, sunset from Tiger Hill. Now they're just setting suns from everybody's balconies, new hairstyles, owls, and selfies with disproportionate forearms.
I find the word creative overrated. Again, a divide.
Everybody on this planet is creative.
I can wear kalamkari clothes all my life.
I always wanted to be dark and skinny, with curly hair. 

​I'm stubborn.
​I love making things for people.
I believe in aloe vera.
I'm a sucker for children's books.  ​
Birthdays make me happy.
​There's cake. 
I will go and kindly do the needful.