My Story

Catching Up

It’s been almost 4 years since I wrote here, even the posts I wrote then were old, so somewhere I gave up. Here’s to the new chapter, pun intended. This particular piece is merely a summary of the life events that have happened in the past 3 or so years, where I was and where I am. Some of it might be too mundane, but read on… My life isn’t too boring or so I think.

2016 is the year life truly changed for me, in the most physical sense of it, February of 2016 Gaurav and I made the decision to say bye-bye Delhi and hello Bangalore. What brought us here? What made me leave my beloved Dilli?

Gaurav had already been working with our current employer in Delhi, and on a short stint of support in their head office here in ‘luru they offered him a position here, soon I got a call too, from the same people and long story short I accepted it and we packed our bags, well lots and lots of bags and boxes and loaded ourselves into the Rajdhani and came chugging here. I took a huge leap of faith moving here, I gave up my career as a chef, left the kitchens, and moved to an industry which is ancillary to hotels but falls under the wide spectrum of Hospitality. Leaving my whites, hanging up the apron and putting my knifes down in exchange for corporate life, laptops and a 9 to 6 was such a tough call. It created great dissonance in my own head and this fear that I would never be able to go back to my one true love; Food. But anyway, I was ready. Leaving Delhi was even more difficult, I had just settled back into the city, the fast pace of life, rekindling old friendships and finding new friends as my closest ones had moved on. But Delhi can wear you down sometimes, its exhausting keeping up appearances and its even harder to deal with socioeconomic pressures of the city.

But Bangalore had its own pull, I have roots here, every summer vacation spent languidly drifting in and out of slumber, mangoes and Ammuma’s  big hugs. I had Jasper Place to come back to, the house of my sweetest memories, the house that belonged to my whole clan and the house which is now my home. The weather in Bangalore is one of the major reasons I moved here, the evening showers, the breezy mornings, I loved the fact that I would never need woolens here.

And over and above this all was the huge prospect of starting a new life with Gaurav, we had only been seeing each other for 2 years at the time we took this call, but we both knew that we needed this, our relationship needed it. After all we had been in a long distance relationship for the whole time, sorry guys but Dwarka to Mayur Vihar also counts as Long Distance especially because we both worked in hotels. The first 8 months here Gaurav and I lived separately, trying to keep up a facade for our families (I’ll write about this in detail some other time) but we gave up, we moved in together, I don’t know the dates or time even, it just happened and now its been almost 2 years like this.

In between we took the biggest decision of our lives (around April of 2016), a commitment of 15 years at the very least and in came Ms. Spooky J Bagla our first rescue, she was all of 3 months old, spindly, thin and injured but so full of all things puppy. Spooky is an Indie, who looked like a Great Dane when she was younger, but boy am I glad she isn’t the size of a Great Dane! Spooky was just what we needed, sometimes I think the decision was a little premature, I worry about the fact that it ties us down, the way it affects our daily life but then I look into her eyes. And all my doubts are stripped away.

Life went on as normal, wake up at 6, have coffee, water the plants, scroll on random social media, have a bath, eat breakfast, walk Spooky, fight with an auto, go to work. Come back, binge on Netflix, eat dinner, walk Spooky, binge again, go to sleep. Life in the past two years had no creativity for me. I stopped reading, writing, travelling, and got stuck in a rut. Everyday was the same as the day before, and the one before that.

As the days wore on, Spooky became the center of the universe, Gaurav and I turned into hypochondriacal pet parents also over obsessive and protective of her. She fell sick terribly so, after a botched up surgery and 2016 ended with Gaurav and me struggling to keep her alive. She made it through, she’s a fighter that girl and her phenomenal doctors at Cessna made sure she did it! But post Spooky getting better I fell into a bout of deep depression, anxiety and intermittent panic attacks. I would just sit and cry in a dark room at home – I mean how clichéd can one get right?- but yeah… that was a dark place to be in.

I got out of that slump, I spent New Years Eve of 2016 sleeping. Sleep became my new best friend. Sleep at 9 wake up at 7, was my new cycle, I used to jokingly say “Sleeping is the best way to solve a problem” and that truly became my life.

Few months down the line came another big change, Master Theodore B Jaiswal, an abused and abandoned dachshund found his way to us as a foster but not even two days with him and Gaurav and I knew he was not just a foster. In came Mr. Quiet, absolutely opposite to spooky and quite the devious little munchkin. He looks cute and harmless, but he is the smartest doggo there is.

The past year for me has been a year of revelations, pain, loss and immense transformation within 8 months I lost both my grandmothers and Achu (my mausa ji). Losing them has been a great wake up call to me, the fact that they are gone still hasn’t sunk in and it’s going to be 2 years soon, I can’t fathom it even now. People see death first hand at various stages in life, I never lost a close family member or friend till 2016 and then 3 whammies together turned my world upside down. I miss them everyday, and every damn day I try to become more like them in the smallest of ways possible.

I miss my family, you know? My parents, my brother and Sheru, my didi back in Delhi, but this is my home now and my parents are always with me in spirit, for the girl who would not talk to her mum and dad for weeks on end, 3 calls a day to mom 4 calls a week to dad have become the norm. We visit each other often, but not as often as we’d all like, but that’s life right? We all move on in some way or the other.

As a person who has always been, sarcastic, cynical, agnostic and an absolute non believer this year I gave up all these pre conceived notions I opened myself up to new possibilities, to positivity, the power of positive thinking and to getting people to see the real me. I always come across as this super confident, outgoing person, but I am constantly riddled with deep-seated social anxiety. This year is about changing that, and putting my deepest thoughts out here for the internet to read is a conscious decision.

Scrolling is the new smoking. Oh yes, I quit smoking after we got Spooky, sort of atleast. For sometime. Now I smoke once in a blue moon. Oh I also gave up on drinking now I stick to just wine and sometimes beer. These are big things I guess, for someone who loved partying and was living life on the edge, I think I heard my liver and kidney and lungs  groaning and moaning one day. Back to scrolling, though I quit all this I think my phone has replaced all of this. I mindlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram, play stupid ass games, read crappy listicles, 1 line articles on some celebrities Instagram post.

Going back to writing, wearing sarees, writing about them, spending time in my garden, exercising, working on my diet, reading and spending time with my pups is my way of breaking my cellphone habit. I need to kick this lethargy off and put life into another gear.

Here’s 1300 odd words about me. How narcissistic. But we all love talking about ourselves, and it is something one has to learn to accept. I have, maybe you should too.

The many little things I touched upon today are big parts of me, and I plan to write in detail about each of these as the days go by.

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Impending last moments: A Vignette

The sun behind him, twilight almost, a dark leather jacket; my favorite one. A hint of a green muffler and invisible eyes.

Hidden behind a pair of Ray Bans I craved a glimpse. he walked by me and I couldn’t even smile. Fear enveloped me as I imagined it to be the last time I’d ever see him. But then that moment felt like it lasted a lifetime.

I know for a fact that this moment is a defining one.

When in a split second you know that losing someone will be the end of a beginning. In that moment you cling onto whatever you can…. And for me that face, that walk and that intensity is imprinted forever.

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Where I Come From

A tiny spot on the map

A little place called Churu

The hottest place in the country.

 

A little town on the coast

Down Under in Kerala

From the family of the Prince of Ernakulam.

 

The smell of tanneries

A general flatness next to the Ganga

A little but big town called Kanpur.

 

I come from all these places

But my heart belongs to the center of my country.

I come from Dilli

 

I come from no real religion

 But a puja on every Diwali and Vishu

A set of new clothes and Vish-Kanni.

 

I come from a three bedroom apartment

From orange, blue and red walls

I come from a little black wagging tail not seen above the bed.

 

I come from a road full of Gujjar boys

Flashy cars and crass loud music

A momo stall and the smell of kathi rolls

 

I come from the Simpsons, FRIENDS, and SO You Think You Can Dance

The talk of Manchester United, Shin guards and mercurials,

And the sounds of someone screaming “Man On”

 

I come from 3 amazing people, 3 amazing friends

A tank on a terrace

The lights from a cellphone

 

This is where I come from.

And this is where I’ll be

For now and for the years to come.

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The Man With No Name

The man with no name.

 

Its in his eyes.

The darkness in the depth.

The darkness that leaks out with every blink.

And yet with every blink shoots in some light filling up the void.

I’ve met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

In the flecks of gold in the sun.

In the speckled shades of a starry evening.

In the dark tint of a moonless night.

I’ve met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

In the quick cover ups.

In the easy laughter.

In the unbridled passion.

Ive met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

In the fear I see for me.

In the love that flickers suddenly.

In the slips that let the secrets spill.

Ive met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

In the mirth of every moment.

In the little things that make them shine.

In the tears that never fall out.

Ive met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

The truest part of him.

The most raw.

The most uncontrolled.

Ive met the man who has no name.

Its in his eyes.

His lips may lie.

So may his soul.

But his eyes tell the stories untold.

Ive met the man who has no name.

 

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Agra. Of Love and Growing Up.

Living in Agra for three long years of my life the Taj Mahal became the most normal part of life.

That monument that brought a million people to India, was just another spot in the horizon from my window. I worked at The Oberoi Amarvilas which offers some of the worlds most spectacular views of the Taj, I saw it day in day out every moment of the day it shone in its white glory.

To tell you the truth all that charm of the monument wore off very very fast, it was then the only reason I was earning my bread and butter.

I’d been to the Taj quite a few times as a child, as relatives and my parents colleagues came in from all over the world we took them unfailingly everytime to Agra. The National Highway route to Agra was something I almost knew more than the roads in Delhi. As a child the taj was a wonder; large, looming and romantic. He built it for his wife, his late wife in her memory and then he too died gazing at it from a distance. This was my version of the taj till I grew into a cynical and critical adult. Then I cursed the man for his wife’s death, I told myself that having 14 children itself was the worst curse possible, then I learnt from one of Agra’s most accomplished guides that; Mumtaz Mahal died while accompanying her husband to Central india for she knew he had his eyes on one of the princesses somewhere there, so to keep an eye on him she travelled in her 8th month of pregnancy and while giving birth on a barren plateau she passed into the void.

What was it in the end? A mausoleum? A glorified mausoleum was all that Taj ever was and ever will be.

In these cynical jaded rants of mine I came to despise seeing the building( that’s all it was for me anymore, a building)

Until that one day when I made a trip to Mehtab Bagh, a little known garden across the river where rumours run thick in the tress, where the sand of the riverbank whispers stories of the ever elusive Black Taj Mahal. My first visit to Mehtab Bagh incidentally was on a Friday, the day the Taj is closed for business, and in the thick of the monsoons. Having gotten off an auto I bought a 5 rupee ticket and casually sauntered in, not waiting for anything miraculous and treating this like yet another unkempt garden of the indian world of archaeology. I walked straight down the path and then the path naturally curved to the right as I turned I looked up from my smartphone which of course always kept me busy I looked up and I stood transfixed in my spot. I just stood.

 

 

Breathing heavily I didn’t dare blink for I felt I may lose this image once and for all, there stood in front of me a starkly white building, almost glowing for the sky was a fierce grey behind it, luminous against the choppy water of the Yamuna which was full till its seam for it was the monsoon. And then there was me.

I slowly started walking till I reached the end of the garden where between me and the Taj flew only the river. And I sat down. I sat till I couldn’t look no more, till I heard whistles for sundown and the cops came with their lathis. That was the day I fell in love again. With the Taj Mahal and I found my place of solitude in the world Mehtab Bagh.

 

I write this piece equally about the two you know?

That ancient garden changed my life, it was my version of the secret garden, the place where I tread softly for every inch held my dreams, my hopes and my vision. Days I was sad I was in Mehtab Bagh and days I was happy I used to jump in front of the taj attempting one of those perfect pictures. I went there with friends I went there with lovers and I went there alone. Everytime meant something new something unique and something different.

I grew up in Agra, in between the streets of old city gorging on Nizamiya ki biryani and 10 rupai ke beef kebabs with ulte tawe ke paranthe and hot gulab jamuns. We had a favourite place called Shanu ke kebab, he had a little cubby hole in the market square and used to sit outside with a sigri in the evenings. He made the most delectable beef seekh kebabs in the world. 20 rupees for 4 of them and I could sit for hours and order. Then there were those funny anglicized breakfast places in the budget part of town, where all the hippy foreigners stayed on a shoestring. Where pancakes tasted like rotis and omelettes were just plain old yummy. Then of course was my favourite place of agra, Costa Coffee, that place was home for me. Those baristas have seen me through three crazy years with new friends old friends foes and everyone else. Ive sat there in the pouring rain getting drenched with just my mug being protected. I would walk up and sit outside, within a moment or two a mug of a cappuccino extra shot slim milk would sit in front of me. In the mornings a croissant too and sometimes a packet of lays.

I am pulled into a crazy state of nostalgia when I think of those days, we used to say “ chhote chhote shehron mein hum bhi bade log hote hain”. Restaurant owners knew us, so did auto walas, shopkeepers would stop us and give us our usuals without us having to ask.

There are parts of Agra that are so unexplored, being part of The Oberoi Amarvilas I had the chance of visiting the Wildlife SOS sanctuary. Nestled in the lush green environs of Khitam Lake, Wildlife SOS is a rehabilitation and rescue center for the diverse society of the dancing bears of India. With large habitats for these injured and insulted animals, Wildlife SOS tries to give them a better and a more normalized life. The bears often suffer from blindness and repetitive body movements after having been captive in dark constricted spaces. Along with the bears they also have a peacock called Danger who tends to attack people at random, a Great Dane they found wandering on the roads called Devil and one hyperactive Guinea fowl too! Visiting the sanctuary I found a place I could turn to when I needed to look for the unconditional comfort that only animals can provide.

Catharsis. Fatehpur Sikri. The ancient city a few kilometers outside Agra has had a major role to play in the life of all those who have ever visited it. A sight to behold emboldened by the Buland darwaza, this UNESCO World Heritage Site renewed my faith in the forces that lie beyond us. The tradition of tying a “dhaaga’ in the tomb of the great Saint Muinuddin Chishti has existed for years, the intricate marble trellis that surrounds the sanctum sanctorum is peppered with dhaagas of various colours. Showing us the hope that humankind puts in prayer and in wishes. Each thread tied with utmost conviction, holding someones dreams within its knots. Some of us are lucky that these dreams get fulfilled some of us hold on to the hope that someday they will be fulfilled. It is said that once your wish has been fulfilled you have to come back and remove any one of the many threads. I tied one in 2010, and in 2013 had the extremely blessed opportunity to remove one, for my wish came true. On this trip back, I met a young man all of 8 years who offered to be my guide to the city, Sul Mohammad was his name. With a prominent lisp this little one told me the story of Akbar, his wives, his prayers for a son and in his poignant tale he told me that Islam, Christianity and Hinduism could all exist together as he pointed to various symbols of all three religions in the architecture. How an 8 year old could understand this and talk so eloquently I still cannot fathom. But he gave me some perspective in life. And I do believe that’s the most important gift anyone could give to another.

Living at the edge of this town trying to be a city has been the most defining time in my life. Let Agra do that to you too. One day when you get the time, not half a day not a few hours and certainly not just the Taj. Let Agra do its magic.