Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm not doing so good, Reader. I'm afraid, and I'm not quite sure of what. I've done this before. Sat around and waited to be rescued. No one ever comes. There's a reason why we write white knights into stories. They're mythical creatures. The mistake we make is believing that they can be real.
It's hard to realise that you are your own white knight. Rescuing is a tough business. It's never as simple as jumping up on a horse and galloping away. No. There are dragons to slay first. And not fire-breathing, scaly ones, but long, tedious ones, the sort that you can't fight with logic or fire. They don't make for very good stories. And they're all inside me.
No one is coming. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's raining in Delhi today. I'm lying very still in my bed. I've sprained my neck, the result of a fall a couple of days ago, and any movement is painful. Panda is keeping me company. He nibbled on my sleeve for a while, but now he's curled up under the bed. I reach down to pat him every time the thunder gets particularly loud. 
I can hear the rain and smell it. The lightning flashes illuminate my room, eerily. Otherwise, it is as dark as night. I tried turning on the light earlier, but turned it off quickly. It felt harsh and blue and intrusive. This darkness is better, if a little frightening. How quickly the clouds change day to night. 
I tried listening to music, but even Zila Khan sounded strained, singing as she did, over the rain. I didn't bother queuing up another song after she lapsed into silence.
I made a sandwich for us earlier. Honey and cheese, toasted and melty. I cut it in squares, and we ate it piece by piece. Afterward, we had coffee, strong and black. I drank that all by myself, because Panda didn't seem to appreciate it. 
It's nice, staying at home on a rainy day, even if it hurts to nod. 

Monday, July 18, 2011


I’m confused, reader. I feel a little like a hamster running on a wheel, just because it’s there. There are so many things I wish I could do, so many things I want to do… Picking one and sticking with it seems so scary. I settle for creative inertia instead, but now even that is grating on my nerves.

I took a long walk with Panda on Sunday morning, and tried to think. It didn’t help that Panda kept enacting different versions of this scenario.
(I'll credit this as soon as Ken tells me where he got it from. It was too good not to share.)

It had rained the previous night, and I was constantly distracted by scenes such as this.

Panda ran in mad circles about the lawn while I photographed mushrooms.

And I went back inside after my walk, as confused as I’d been before, but curiously comforted. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I've come here with no plan of what to say, just that I need to talk. The past couple of weeks have been... intense. I've been working unusually hard, sleeping less, thinking rather more than is my wont, and the strain is telling. I don't want a break, no. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and really, just want more of the same. I'm young and energetic and am finally, somewhat, coming in to my own. As I discussed with R, (who I've shamefully neglected for so long, I doubt I can even ask for forgiveness any more) I have a list of things I've always dreamt of doing. Now, I finally have the chance to pick up that list, dust off the cobwebs that've collected on its surface, and begin ticking things off.
I've begun the process, Reader, and it is both scary and exhilarating. But, as I'm also slowly discovering, I really can do all the things on that list. I need to break them down into component steps and evolve a plan of action, but really, five years of solving numericals make that part a piece of cake. As for the rest, I've taken a deep breath and plunged in. This is just me surfacing for air.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fairy dust

Life is very interesting, isn't it, Reader? There's so much to see and do, that some days, sleep seems like a waste of time. I've done only the most mundane of things today. Walked the dog, gone to work, laughed with friends, read, cooked... But somehow, of late, it's like a handful of pixie dust has been flung into the mix, giving each activity a particular charm.

Foolish me. I didn't believe in fairies. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It doesn't take much

Ah Reader, it's June and it is summer. The Amalta tree in our garden is blooming in an explosion of colour. Each day, the tree sheds a blanket of yellow flowers on the grass below, as if it knows that the green of the lawn sets off the flowers to perfection.

This morning, the wind lifted the flowers in the air and churned them in a mad dance, while one excited little dog chased after them. I watched and laughed till my sides ached. Each morning, after our walk, Panda and I play a game of catch in the lawn. I toss his yellow ring for him (A super-thoughtful present from G. It's still going strong now, months later) and he chases after it. Then, once he has it in his possession, he dodges nimbly around me, while I lunge and pant, trying to catch him. When I finally do, I retrieve the ring and throw it again.

At one point, he tires of it and collapses on the lawn, panting.

Today, I sat down next to him and watched the wind dance flowers across the lawn.

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's another of those nights, Reader. I have a to-do list before me, and long, uninterrupted night ahead. The dog kept me company for a while. Inspired by some rather questionable music, I picked him up and danced him around the room. As soon as I put him down, he retreated in disgust.
The LED marked "internet" on my modem is blinking frantically at me. It is the only movement around. The night is still and windless. I've already read all my favourite blogs, caught up on the news, abandoned a very soppy romance novel in disgust, and yes, danced with the dog. It's time to get to work, and yet, I find myself reluctant to begin.
I'm in a curious mood. I know what I need to do, but the doing is so hard. I wish I could throw prudence and caution and good sense to the winds, and march on, singing a song about following my dreams. I wish I could be spontaneous and passionate and unthinking of consequences. I'm tired of this, Reader... Of falling and getting up and dusting my knees and starting again. I want to sit in the mud for a while and have a good cry.
Then, I'll come back here, and sit down again, and work till dawn.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Snapshots of Chennai

I've been back from Chennai for almost two months now, and flipping through the images in my camera, I find plenty that I planned to share with you, but never did. So, quickly now, here goes:

I used to walk to Elliot's beach every weekend morning and run along the water. The stray dogs would be out at the time, sniffing through the leftovers of the previous night's revelry. When the tide comes in, all the footprints are washed away.

After my run, I would fortify myself with filter coffee at Murugan Idli, before the long walk back.

One weekend, I woke up at 4 am and went on a 48 km cycle ride with fifty other people, from Chennai to Mamallapuram. We watched the sun rise along the way.

It was about 7 am at this point and the day promised to be a scorcher.

At around kilometer number 39, I saw this lotus point on the opposite side of the road. After I parked my cycle on the left, it took me about five minutes to limp across the 15 foot road, to take this picture. I really ought to cycle more.

She was very nice about letting me take her picture. I, on the other hand, felt awfully touristy.

Kolams to decorate the house before the Savitri pooja. It's a festival when unmarried women and girls pray for the well-being of their future husbands... Or something like that... I was too busy giggling with my cousins to pay attention.

Ah, T Nagar. I could've spent a lot more time there. The shopping was lovely, the food good, and the sights, occasionally outrageous.

The evening before I left, we went to Elliot's beach again, ate chaat, south Indian style, and left our own footprints for the tide to wash away.

Oh and, I also had my fortune told. According to this lady, my future's pretty grim.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tired already?

Oh Reader, I'm really not doing too well. After yet another late night, my little dog decided to be just as aggravating as he could. It got so bad that I found myself sitting on the floor at 4 am in tears, holding his face in my hands and begging, "Please, please stop barking. Let me sleep." It didn't work.
So it transpired that I was up at 6 am with red eyes, tying my shoelaces, while an infuriatingly cheerful dog capered around and did his best to pull them undone.
The morning was pleasant; it had drizzled in the night and though the day promised to be sunny, we still had another hour before the sun really decided to shine. Panda bounded in front of me; he has a certain dance-walk that never fails to make me smile. He hops around on his hind legs, only dropping his forepaws to the ground often enough to thrust himself up again. Mouth open and ears perky, it just might be the happiest I've ever seen any living creature. It never ceases to amaze me how little makes him happy. An early morning walk, a hearty lizard chase (don't ask) and these days, even an ice cube.
The walk was enlivened by the usual stray dogs who gave us chase for a couple of blocks and the gaggle of Generals out on their morning constitutional, who always address a remark to me, to which I always reply,"I beg your pardon?" while pulling out my headphones. They've already walked past by then, so I assume they don't require a reply.
There was the old german shepherd Panda's developed a tenuous friendship with. They pant at each other from opposite sides of the road.
We got home and Panda, out of sheer exuberance ran around in mad circles, between intervals of digging up the lawn while I puffed through my morning stretches. It was then time for his morning massage, something that's essential now, since it's moulting season. I rubbed him down in a cloud of dog hair, while he blissfully chewed on my shoelaces. Finally, it was time to go indoors, something he did disdainfully, leaving a trail of muddy paw prints for Amma to scold over and me to wipe down.
And then indoors, he collapsed below the sofa with a satisfied grunt, while I rushed about to get ready for work.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


As I sat in a seminar today, the enormity of all I need to get done in the next three months finally dawned upon me. I live in a constant state of uncertainty, it is natural to me. But sometimes, there are too many variables and all my vague little equations refuse to balance, and I'm thrown off kilter. Half-asleep in the seminar, I subconsciously began a to-do list, becoming wider and wider awake as my list grew. 
I've been sick for the past couple of days, Reader. I spent them at home, doing nothing, believing it was okay to take a break from the life and the denial I was living in. Denial was still keeping me pretty busy. There were papers to write, a dog to walk, food to cook and a lot of tasks to ignore. 
Now, there's so much to do that I'm panicking. I cope in the only way I know, by working through the night. The night gives me some measure of control. Anything seems possible, if I just stay up long enough. Sleep deprivation is my penance, if I do enough of it, I will be rewarded with a tasks ticked off the to-do list. There's a snag here, of course. I need to actually do the things I'm going to check off, through the night, instead of read the news and listen to songs and write in my blog, in an effort to dull the panic.
I'd better get to it. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I went to Hyderabad for the weekend: in one day, out the next. I went alone by train, sitting by the window with the wind in my hair. I carefully avoided meeting the eyes of the other passengers in my compartment; I didn't want to have to speak. For one night, I wanted silence.

I read my book till it was too dark to read. Then, as the tubelights above began casting blue shadows on everything, I leaned my forehead against the grill and thought. I noticed that I felt annoyed each time the train slowed down. I wanted, even if I was slowing down, for the train to go fast, to give me a sense of purpose, of moving forward. Even a false one. I forced my annoyance down and told myself that for one night, it was all right just to be. Not to think, but to dream.

R is getting married. My best friend from college, my roommate, the one enamoured of purple coloured walls, who loves chubby babies and dusty teddy bears, is getting married. It seems like such a grown up thing to do. I tried to say it to myself, fast and slow, weightily and airily, to see if it would make any difference. It didn't. It seems like a fact too large to wrap my mind around, and yet, like something that had to happen, that I've accepted a long time ago.

The Saturday morning was already warming up when my train pulled into Secunderabad station. It was the same blistering heat that dyed me three shades darker and gave my feet the most interesting tan lines, all those years ago. It was vaguely endearing.

The station was as busy and noisy and colourful as ever. J was there to receive me and we drove home. Secunderabad perhaps has more right than any other place to be called my home. I lived there for eight years; we built our house there. We buried one dog and adopted another one there. It is the place where I made my decision to become a physicist, and the place where I changed my mind and decided to become a writer. J drove me to our house, his house now. It is the house with the little yellow corner room that I called my own. I would wake there at five in the morning and play the veena till my fingers stung. I would curl up in bed each night, and dream, big dreams. I used to have a mirror in there, a tiny crooked one next to the window, that I would stare into for hours and wonder who it was I saw.

I didn't have much time for introspection though. I was meeting A and R, after what felt like an age. Phone conversations, chats, all aren't really as satisfying as an honest-to-goodness coze, are they?

After a giant breakfast, J drove me to A's house and left me there to wake her up and then catch up. Our tongues worked tirelessly for the next few hours, there was so much to say! But then, there always is. R was busy with engagement preparations, but we were determined not to wait till the evening to meet her, and so joined her at the parlour where she's been camping all afternoon. We interrupted her facial and got glared at by her attendant, but it didn't matter. We ended up getting pedicures together, and on a reckless impulse, I chose to have my toenails painted vermillion.

Then we went out to dinner, the three of us, and R's fiance, and we talked some more. After R and her fiance dropped us off at A's place, we of course analyzed him to bits and concluded he seemed a very good sort and pretty perfect for R. Having settled that, we slept contentedly.

The next day was spent at the engagement. R looked very pretty and suddenly very grown up in her saree, her hair in a long golden plait. A and I giggled together and took a lot of photographs. I strained my pitiful Telugu vocabulary as far as it would go and then, having exhausted it, fell silent. Too soon, it was over. Garlands were exchanges, blessings were offered and it was time to leave.

A and I went to a restaurant and sat there quietly for about an hour, trying to digest what had happened. It seemed terribly important to understand and I couldn't quite explain away the vague sadness I felt. Perhaps it's because R is moving on and away, to a new life that I can't be a part of. The nights we spent in our room, her on her bed, I on mine, talking with the lights out, they seemed inexpressibly dear now. The times she comforted me when I cried, our KFC binges, the hours we spent shopping, all seemed suddenly significant. Too soon, it was time to leave.

I bid goodbye to A at the station. We shall meet again very soon at R's wedding, so the parting didn't seem too hard. Then I boarded the train and as it began to move, I propped my feet up on the berth before me, stared at my vermilion toenails and thought about it all.

PS: Reader, if just R's engagement has me getting this, um, deep, I wonder what her wedding's going to do to me. I'm dreadfully certain I'm going to cry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

After the rain

It rained in Chennai last night. It had to. It has been almost unbearably hot here for a week. By yesterday evening, it felt like the very sky had had enough, what with its bad tempered rumbling and occasional flashes. I philosophically had a second shower, turned on the air conditioning and went to bed. When I woke in the morning, it was to the scent of wet soil and sights of that particular clarity that only a good dousing of rain can give.

The streets were filled with that crisp gray light that is the particular product of a good night's rain. Colours seem brighter, the air feels cleaner. I want to drive a yellow jeep some day, Reader, its rear full of tail-wagging dogs.

They're constructing yet another multistory eyesore nearby. I have nothing against apartment complexes in general, they're only eyesores because these Chennai people often paint their buildings the weirdest colours. I've seen neon green, copper sulphate blue and a pink to rival this:-

I always wonder how petals as delicate as those of the bougainvillea hold up to the battering of the rain. They are translucent and shrivel up at the slightest beam from the sun, but they sit up proudly, wetly, in the rain, dripping raindrops from their tips.

One in every three houses here has a tiny temple built into its outer wall. You never have to go too far here, to pray.

The entrance to the park was blocked by a giant puddle. I executed a rather ungainly hop-skip maneuver to get in, but once I did, it was worth it. The park was almost deserted and I could jog bumblingly along the red paths, trying to count shades of green.

This leaf might have bent submissively under the rain but it was up and cheeky by the time I got there. It waved its long pointy fingers derisively at me, when I climbed up on a park bench to take its picture.

So yes, Reader, I got a new camera for my birthday and I'm going to turn into one of those bloggers for a bit, it looks like. I'm assuming it's a phase. Like all the others, this too shall pass.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two of me

I'm up late tonight, Reader. The house is silent and I can see the darkness beyond this cone of light I sit in. I have work to do, a great deal of work. My eyes are burning and to shut them, just for a moment, is a great relief.

I wonder why I never thought about this before: how doing anything at all worthwhile is the product of so much effort, how I need to have voluble conversations with myself, motivating myself, each time forcing myself back to work when I drift away. I've drifted a great deal already, checked email, checked facebook, read the news, read my favourite blogs, and pushed myself back to work relentlessly, after each distraction. But I'm like a child with ADD. I only need a whiff of an idea to be away again, to pursue it, to do anything but what I ought. I ought to work intensely for two hours and then go calmly to bed. I wonder when I'll grow that mature.I just thought of you and here I am, typing away on this blog, when I ought to be working.

I can hear myself scolding.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Night and day

Hello Reader! I've missed you! It is warm in Chennai; a sweaty, sticky warmth like a very close hug, where if you take a deep breath, you can smell the unique smell of the city. I stepped into that embrace just about a month ago, and it was comforting after the icicle that was Delhi. It smells of the sea here, and in the evenings, when the jasmine buds open, they add their own heady perfume. It smells of the ghee frying dosas on a thousand stoves each morning, mixed with the incense burning in the temple down the street.

I watched the Republic Day parade this morning, and felt proud. It was very nice to watch it on telly, on a balmy Chennai morning, sunk deep into a sofa. It was very easy to feel patriotic. I had planned to attend the parade, but well, I had to move to Chennai. I remember the night I walked down Rajpath alone. It was lit here and there by gaunt, gloomy looking streetlights and the papads a seller was waving at me looked ghostly. There was only one man selling soap solution; he would blow through a tiny loop, surrounding me with bubbles that burst as they touched me. There were many people there, wearing devil's horn hairbands that glowed redly in the dark. I stood at the Amar Jawan Jyoti and wondered what it felt like to actually give your life for your country, not just talk about it.

That road was busy today, ringing with the sound of a thousand marching boots. And I watched and sank deeper into the comfort of my sofa.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It is Lohri today. In the hostel, the girls will dress up this evening, in a flurry of borrowing and bright colours. They will light a bonfire, more smoke than fire, and dance around it, clapping their hands. The one amplifier we bought, during my third year there, will blare out popular Hindi songs, some of which will no longer be familiar to me. There will be boys, standing apart, awkwardly. The seniors will watch from the first floor corridors and sometimes shout out encouragement. Everyone will munch on damp popcorn and sugar. They will dance till the fire burns down and their eyes are red and watering, from the smoke.