Red… For Hadia

SO we enter the abstract domain. Hadia, the inspiration behind this activity has herself asked me to write on “Red”.  This is what I feared. For me, anything that isn’t particular to the tee becomes nauseatingly close to psychoanalysis. And that scares me to pieces.

Yet, these are some disjointed thoughts that I associate the colour to.

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Mohabbatein was an all-round snooze fest. And as in every desert there blooms a cactus, yours truly took away a key message from the movie. Red Flower = Love, and Yellow Flower = Friendship. This of course was a part of the ever elusive Rose Day celebration in the cool college. And then the college I studied in had its own Rose Day celebrations. The only red roses I received that year were in a bouquet from a girl *cue confusion*. To her I remain eternally grateful for opening my eyes.

On a side note, I justified to myself that one offers red hibiscus to Ganesh idols because it’s “love”.

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I owned a red salwar kameez once which was just as gaudy as it was loud. It was bought for a school annual day event where the women were all “wives”. Of course the red was to be synonymous with married women. And that dress I wore whenever I felt like dressing up as Indian. I did the whole shebang with a bindi, and earrings etc. This phase went on till I realised the dress was suitable only in the context of “Ye Desh Hain Veer Jawaano Ka.” The only red I’ve worn since are a sporadic kurta here and there. Associations with choodha-wearing brides make me too conscious.

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I had an allergic reaction last year to who knows what. My face was swollen and was the shade of tomatoes. I ended up in the Emergency Room and then the ICU. But when I looked myself in the mirror, I realised this is what it must look like when an author says “he/she turned a brighter shade of red with embarrassment.” For me embarrassment is felt in the stomach, seldom shows up on my face.

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I remember my mother crying when I first started my period. I was 10, maybe 11. And she cried when she shared the “news” with her mother, then with her best friend and finally just cried every time she mentioned it to anyone. I didn’t get it then as to why she was crying if specks of blood showing up every month were normal, as she explained. A year later, the cramps began. Now, I cry every month yearning for the first decade of my life when I wasn’t bending double over my stomach.

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Marilyn Monroe looked like she had it all when she wore red lipstick. I think it was one of the late-night movies I sneaked a glance at oblivious to my parents. And then I noticed almost all of the “English film women” wore red lipsticks. At a discussion with peers (fellow preteens), I think one friend said it looked better on screen while another said it looked better on their skin tone than Indian actresses’. I bought my first red lipstick last year after a hijra woman I was interpreting for told me it would make my eyes stand out. Boy was she right.

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Priya Wal looked so damn cool in her red highlights in Remix, that Anwesha was my ultimate idol when I was in school. I wanted flaming red hair. Till I discovered naturally red hair. I realised I could never have those, or carry it off as confidently. The last time I was envious of the same was when I saw a senior colleague who carries off the red curls with better panache than Katrina Kaif in Fitoor. In my head, whenever I rebel, I have red highlights.

The Beach When It Rains… For Chaitri

There was a stage in my life when I loved to run around in the rains and get drenched.

Now I love to stay indoors and listen to some Petrichor appropriate songs (different from rain songs). And therefore I do not have a recent memory of the beach and rains together. I have one from a while back though. .. And it’s a moment I try to recreate here.

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The third year of college was an incredible year for me. If I were to plagiarise, I would say it were the best of times and the worst of times.

Therefore, once it ended and I was done with seeing docs, I decided to take a group trip. And this one was to Kihim and Korlaigadh. Also, whoever had heard of going to a beach in the rains?

Nevertheless, I went ahead with the plan. This post isn’t about the trip, though it was magical in itself. This post is about the beach where I got drenched to the bone.

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I’m a beach person. I’d been to Alibag before, and therefore to Kihim too. Yet, this time was different. Earlier I’d been with friends, and this time with strangers. And I guess that made all the difference in the world.

If you’ve been to Kihim, you’d know that it’s not the cleanest of beaches. It’s dirty, muddy and attracts the kind of crowd I don’t get along with- the drunken revellers who seem to be a constant presence on the beaches.

And ordinarily, I’d complain endlessly about these to everyone in the vicinity. However, as a stranger with a bunch of people who didn’t know me, I shut up. And if  you know me, you’d know that’s very difficult.

And then, as I tenderly entered the water, it started to drizzle. It’s frustrating at first, when you want to play in the waves but the rain hits your head… The first instinct is to run away and hide.

But imagine not being able to see the waves because everything in front of you is just… Water. So you give in, you let go.

I don’t remember too much from this trip, except that when I took a bath later, I still felt like the waves were moving me around. It was a Holi with the rain shower and pichkari-like experience.

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I don’t think I’ll love the rains on the sand too much now. I don’t even think I’ll love getting drenched either. But that one time, just that once, I didn’t really mind it so much.

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Yes, it says sukhi aatma.

Non-Monogamy or somewhere in the ball park area…For Sneha

I’d really appreciate it if you, as a reader, would decide for yourself if this is a topic you’d like to read. Skip to the next post if you’re not comfortable. Anyway, these are musings. There’s no point to it.

One of the things about being in the unmarried minority of 26-year -olds is ruminating on relationship dynamics all the time.

Non-monogamy isn’t new to these ruminations.

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As a curious, 10-year-old voracious reader, I came across the very scandalous idea that all of mankind was sired (umm, what’s the female equivalent?)  by 7 women. 

While my understanding of sexuality and sex was minimal (nil), it seemed strange that each woman would have SO many children. I had barely understood this concept, when I came across another scandalous article. A woman who talked about how she lived with her husband and girlfriend in the same house.

It took me another decade to grasp the concept of non – monogamous, polyamourous, or even non – heterosexual relationships. Yes, that long.

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My most favourite movie as a child was Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Big surprise. If you grew up in the 90s, the eternally college going SRK was as irresistible as the basket ball-playing, summer camp-going Kajol. Rani Mukherjee was a by the way person in their love story.

And that was my point of reference for relationships for the longest time- soul mates meant to be together even if there are many people who matter to you much walking in and out of your life.

So you wait and you wait, till a person you’re meant to be with walks into your life. Or dances in. Or plays rugby. Or your mom spots one in a wedding.

Here’s the thing though, do you realise how much pressure that is on one person?

Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi reh sakte. By which logic I should’ve had no trouble in being married by now. Multiple times. I could have a husband for everyday of the month, and then some.

And yet, it’s the expectation of being everything. The be all for one person for the rest of your life, for all your needs, that’s cumbersome.

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A worldly-wise friend of mine once said to me that you’ve not really been in a relationship till the time there are constraints on your life. While that’s not globally true, it’s a big disappointment for most people when their significant other is not jealous. Jealous = Invested in the relationship.

But then, heterosexual monogamy is the norm. I see friends give in to the pressure of relationships and align themselves to expected/accepted behaviour all the time. And  that’s because one is supposed to be in a long-term successful relationship.

I’ve seen many a person ruined by the pressure to conform. To be normal. Yet I find this elusive concept of a normal, everyday relationship slipping from my grasps. And that’s a struggle.

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I live in two houses now, one with the family and one with a flatmate. The latter is closer to work. I own two backpacks. One for work and one for travel. I have a bunch of friends to watch movies with, and another to discuss life with. I even own two phones, one for regular use and one back up.

Do you get the drift?

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child – First Impressions (Spoiler-free)! 

It’s overwhelming. Yup, that’s the word for it.

First things first, I’m giving out no spoilers. Read the rest of this post if you want to know what I thought of it and  to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Is it worth buying?
The short answer: If you’re not going to have the opportunity to watch the play, YES.

The long one:

Fans who followed the release and the news closely, would know that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes off where the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows left us. But here’s the thing, I don’t think Harry Potter ever left us. And that’s what J3 (Joanne, John and Jack) do. 
So,  yup. The play is a play on nostalgia, on our extremely fragile sentiments and of  course, takes you right into its arms from the word go. If like me,  you read all the books when they launched, a typical rainy Sunday; this script will make you travel across time and space. 
Without letting out much, let me tell you this, the play reads like it was made for the fans. And I’m not complaining! It feels like the fandom and its likes/dislikes were taken into consideration. Every time a new scene begins, you’ll either have moist eyes or pants (sorry!). If you’ve been a demented fan like me, you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen next. It’s the how it happens that I loved. 

At various points of my two-hour read I had to take a moment to wipe off a tear or really take it all in. This is something I could root for. This is it.

Is the play intense? Naah. Is it funny? In parts. But is it a fitting continuation of the series? Really depends. 

What I expected from the script of the   play was the story. The answer to ‘what next?’, and that bit was marvellous. Even if it’s not the same trajectory I imagined. What I’m now excited about is the actual stage production, because this reads like it was meant to be a movie. (Sidenote: I’d be really disappointed if this is not turned into another money-spinner on the big screen)

The plot in itself is complicated and at times goes into the implausible. You don’t want to believe J3 did that! SHE did that. But I guess, as the demographic of the Harry Potter fan changes (we’re almost all adults), some things had to. And boy does that bring about mixed feelings!

So, should you buy it? Yup, unless you get to watch it first. Even then, I guess I’ll buy the final script for posterity (this one was an ebook purchased on Pottermore).

Should you go in with expectations of it being the 8th book? Nope. Think of it as a tribute to the series. To its fans.

So did you finish reading it too? Are you reading it a second time already? I am!

Let me know what you thought of it!

PS. Please no spoilers in the comments! 

I need a favour…

Having studied literature and then liking to write and read isn’t an easy job, it isn’t the easy way out from the multitude of tougher careers out there as people might think it is. I not only do my work but I am obliged to a number of people to write/rewrite their essays, SOP, letters, speeches and help in all things related to language. It’s okay till the time I do not have work and wouldn’t mind “looking” at your work and approve of it; but more often than not I end up doing a Hermione Granger and write multiple versions of the same thing for people.

After having taken up writing/translation and whatever it is that I call “work” these days, it’s too cumbersome to do work for free for friends/family in the time I’d otherwise be charging for. It’s a curse to have a skill that others don’t appreciate as a profession. Tera toh English acha hain na, mere bete ko zara essay writing mein tips de. -_-

From avmarchitect.blogspot.in

From avmarchitect.blogspot.in

In a conversation with a CA friend I realised how wrong I was. He gets asked by people to look over his money matters, while an MBBS friend gets calls from neighbours when they have the sniffles. The law graduate friend constantly turns down requests from chaddi buddies to accompany them on trips to “scare” people and the engineer friend is required to fix mixer-grinders in the houses of all and sundry. My singer friend recounts how he was once asked to sing at the mourning/chautha for a friend’s father while the chef is constantly invited to potlucks where no one cooks anything.

Sportsmen/women have it the best though. At least they’re not asked to run from point A to B by acquaintances to showcase their skills at a birthday party or to box the host of a party to display that signature jab or hook. But I’m very sure there’s an aunty lurking somewhere who says field pe toh itna daudta hain, jaa sabji leke aa 10 minute mein.

Au revoir, Montréal!

This post was written on my phone at Montreal airport when waiting in the long queues for check-in and then security. However, due to some reason, it just got saved in my drafts and never got posted! So, though it is late, here’s my farewell note. 

P.S. If you find it soppy, it is because I did cry at the airport. I didn’t bawl, but I cried a little. :’)

An hour away from going back home, I think I should say my farewell before it’s too late. I will miss you Montreal.

I will miss smiling at random strangers and exclaiming “Bonjour!” every time a person initiates conversation. Quickly followed by “ça va bien?”DSC_0067

I will miss the extra fifteen minutes every morning in leaving the house to check the weather and dressing appropriately.

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I will miss seeing snow. And miss being frustrated by snow!

I will miss your abundant statues on every corner.

I will miss the culture of get-your-food-to-your-workplace instead of eat out everyday.

I will miss the love and care of the people who were absolute strangers to me 60 days back.

I will miss the Metro with it’s complications in ticket fares and a distinct odour that reminded me of hot water pouring on plastic.

I will miss the breathtaking scenes of the city from Mont Royal.

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I will miss being aloof and lost in my own world because I never understood what people around me were speaking.

I will miss the music and the art that thrives on your street.

I will miss the curiosity of people on what I was doing in a Francophone University with no knowledge of French and immediately helping me out with directions and making sure I was absolutely comfortable.

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I will miss you streets full of graffiti and even mundane walls being turned into pieces of art.

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I will miss the labyrinth  that is UQAM and finally giving up and starting all over again by going down to the Metro.

I will miss the chocolate vending machines that were just enough to give me energy but not too much to give me a sugar high.

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I will miss the friends I made.

I will miss the people I met.

But most of all, I will miss you Montreal. The city that’s my first home away from home. The first time living alone. The first of many experiences I had here. And no city could have been more perfect or more welcoming. Thank you!

A bientôt Montreal! 🙂

Tohfa.. tohfaa.. tohfaa.. Laaya.. laaya.. laaya!

(This is not a rant, though it is unexpected, it is seasonal since I’m a part of multiple secret santas and all friends seem to be born in December. This post ends abruptly. Just read it through you know?)
After the previous post, lots of people asked me what book would be “ideal”, what if I don’t like a book? Secret Santa even asked me what I want. Books, duh!
Let’s face it. We’re Indians and we have a million reasons to gift someone and two million reasons to receive gifts. Gifts work as barters some times and then as a chit fund. Who spent how much on a gift to someone validates your budget for the person’s birthday.
Inspired by a friend, this post is something that has been saved in my draft section for the longest time! Simple because, “asking” for a gift is presumptuous and rude. Especially in India, where you smile and accept crockery and then flash another smile and just pass it on to some other person.
Finally comes the part about types of people who gift. The ones who personalise everything, the one who gives a voucher, the one who asks you what you want, the one (usually a relative) who takes you out to choose what you want, the one who just wraps something old in new paper to gift and finally the absolutely sorted person who simply gives you cash and says “kuch achcha le lena.”
My family has seen all of the above. One Diwali we received a “magic tap”, the ones you see in a magic show or the museum’s kids section that runs water without being connected to any pipeline. I have no clue why we received that, or where we’re expected to put it on “display”, but it’s there in the attic waiting for the impulsive sister to start her own magic show some day.
I have a registry I maintain personally. A gift registry for all occasions – Utkarsha’s birthday, festival gifting for Utkarsha, surprise Utkarsha gifts, you’re-so-nice-let-me-buy-you-a-gift Utkarsha, possible wedding gifts and in celebration of me winning the Nobel Prize the same year as the Oscar- gift list too.
I’m picky about what I wear, what I read, where I go, whom I go with etc etc. Hence, when usually people gift me something, I go and exchange it. I am THAT person. So it’s simple, why not take me along? Or simply ask? Budget issues? Boss, I can do Rs. 20 gifts as well. And honestly, if you think it’s cheap and impersonal to give cash or a gift card, think again! Some of my best gifts have come out of those!
Even so, if you want to surprise me (I don’t want to be surprised), then here are the guidelines on what to buy me:
Books and Book Accessories.
Buy me a book I like, I would want to read or something you want me to read! It doesn’t matter! Get me a book and you will see me drool (not over it)! I even have a wishlist  for that purpose, ask me what I want, I send you the list, buy me a book!
I am a reader, I read in at least three languages and numerous translated texts. I read non-fiction, fiction, autobiographies, travelogues, children’s stories, humour, conspiracy theories. See how I left self-help out of that list? Clearly, only one thing is better than books, and those are book accessories.
Make a bookmark! It’s not that difficult to make, the simplest one would cost you around Rs. 20 for 3! Get me a book cover! Or a notebook! Or pretty pages! Anything! I’d really be grateful you know?
I’m the person who gifts books to all and sundry. Yes, I am that nightmare that has gifted books to two year olds and fifty year olds. It’s perfect, even to someone who doesn’t read actively. Enough said I suppose.
 
Stationary.
Ever met me on a normal day? Seen the amount of stationary I carry around? Seen the amount of pretty stationary I carry? Even my staple pins are red, baba. I like fancy stationary – cool stick notes, pens, pencils, erasers, stencils, files, folders, highlighters, glue sticks, rulers.. you name it and I love it! The dream is to own a stationary shop someday. And sell nothing.
 
IF You’re Buying Me Clothes.
Another part of being an Indian is the obligation to buy clothes on festivals, special occasions and basically anything you can think of! So here are my guidelines:
a.       I do not wear what is “in”. Do not tell me you bought me fluorescents because college girls wear those nowadays. I don’t. I wear a kurti/tee every single day. And if I’m in the mood for change, I wear a salwar kameez.
b.      Skirts are uncomfortable. A majority of my time is spent on the footboard of the train, obviously skirts are not ideal. Add to that me being extremely shy about showing off legs, they’re a disaster for me.
c.       I like to blend and not stand out. My voice does the latter for me, clothes needn’t do it. A sober pastel or nude colour is often my choice, not the ones with lace/frills/sequins etc.
Okay? I reiterate, take me to shop. I stay within budgets.
 
GIVE ME TIME.
Next time, ask yourself. Is it necessary to spend money? Is there something better? Birthday conversations that run into hours? A post-card that arrives out of nowhere! A long e-mail describing to me your day? Taking me out to lunch? (We could go dutch you know). Spend an evening at the beach or at Marine Drive? That’s me! A day at the museum, maybe the Zoo or the planetarium, I love that stuff!
Obviously if you know me, you know that I’m not a spontaneous person! I do not get up and walk out the house, but sometimes I do surprise myself you know? You can never gift anyone anything more than your time. Do that. And then buy me some food. And a book.