Saturday, December 21, 2013

Meri Kitabe

Har jagah mein dekhoon, main paaoon kitabe,
Bachpan mein bada padhta tha-
Kabhi raat bhar chaddar ke neechey, ya kabhi potty karte
Har jagah main padhta aur padhta hi rehta meri pyaari kitabe!

Waqt ka koi ata pata na hota,
Bas kitabon ke inn panno ke beech aise hi waqt guzar jata
Naye dost bane, kuch naye rishte bhi
Malgudi ke galiyon mein khela, Rusty ke saath Dilli ke small screen theatre mein picturen dekhi
Inhi panno ke beech mera pura bachpan guzar dala!

Ab ek arsa ho gaya, duniya choti hone lagi aur mein bada ho gaya,
Dost badalne lage aur kitabon ki dosti purani lagne lagi.
Per unhone kabhi saath na chhoda,
Bas naye doston ke liye thodi jagah de di.

Taakte hai meri kitabe band almariyon ke peechey ya kabhi bistar ke neechey se,
Mahine ab hamari mulakat na hoti
Jin kitabon ko mein padhne ke liye besabri se intezaar karta
Ab woh mere wapasi ka intezaar karti.


Monday, November 26, 2012


(This story was written for the Urban Shots Yuva Competition, didn't get through but I really like what I managed writing. Hope you do as well.)

The Rubik’s Cube stuck in the middle of the sand cuts through - a tiny botch of colour surrounded by a sea of brown. I don’t know what appeals to me about this blob of colour. Is it because it breaks the monotony of the beach- that small little object catching the sun’s rays? It does look beautiful. But for how long can its beauty be admired? I mean after a while even watching a sunrise becomes a drag. That’s why we have the night.

It had been an insanely mundane day and somewhat I find these harder to get by than those super- charged tiring days. As I entered home it was as if I had entered a slow-burning oven. Long gone were the times when I’d get a hug or even a smile; now just the way Ma looked at me, with all that expectation shining in her eyes, it always started to bring me down. Was there no place I could go to be by myself? Be myself?
Where have you been, Natasha? Dinner was supposed to be served 20 minutes ago.”
The sharpness in her voice stung.

Coming in 10 minutes.

I replied equally strongly. I was going to pay for this later, I knew it.

I rushed into the dark comfort of my room. It almost felt as if I had entered another dimension- the warmth of the fairy lights, the view of the beach outside my window, the lingering smell from an unclosed Victoria Secret perfume bottle. Somehow, just entering my room was a complete mood changer. Do babies feel like this in their wombs, I wondered. They say that you might settle down in a hundred other places but your bedroom, and everything about it- that’s where one’s heart truly resides.

I look around my room with sudden nostalgia welling in my heart, it’s my happy place, and I knew ‘happy’ was a passing permanence. There were so many colours around- the soft board full of photos, messages, drawings, my very own jewellery collection, medals from my sport and dance events. In one corner, under the broken flap of my desk, there was Goolywog, my teddy, a few scraps with unfinished poems written on them, a ball of colourful threads, a small stub of a blunted pencil and, my precious pearl necklace – at least that’s what Alex claimed it was –“truly deeply freshly true pearl necklace” . I smile as I see them, Alex really treated me like a queen when he wanted to. But then that’s what those early infatuations assure- a promise of undying love - which suddenly dies when his eyes meet another’s which aren’t yours! Wonder where or with whom he was now.

There was so much life in these inanimate objects. Parts of me, after all - all lying in full view, but each with a story hidden in them, which only I knew. I wish I could just be up here forever. Just locked up in these stories....….

“Natasha! Do you need a special invitation? Dinner! Downstairs! Now!”

And I was pulled back from my happy reverie, the shock treatment of reality!

Dinner with family is supposed to be a happy affair, with food, cheer, conversation and love flowing around- it’s what Enid Blyton told me, years back. I scoffed as I thought of it: she should have met my family. It was almost like sitting with life- sized Dementors from Harry Potter- where’s the Patronus Charm when you need it?

“I asked you a question! Where were you at this time of the night?”

 That shrill voice of hers was really getting to me now.

“I was not out having sex on the beach, Mom or taking drugs for that matter. I just went out for a stroll on the beach and I lost track of….”


That was not totally unexpected but still threw me off balance. I sat there just looking at her, shamelessly.
My mind raced heatedly at a million miles an hour, and was reaching nowhere,, but I told myself “This too shall pass, this too shall pass.”
Life was just trying to break me down- with its show of control over me, with its constant questioning, with its ominous omnipresence. I ate in complete silence as Ma looked at me indignantly like an anger-spewing dragon.

The lasagna was actually delicious - maybe I should compliment her. Or maybe not, you never know she might think I was mocking her and get angrier. I tried focusing on everything but the pain. For the first time, I looked at my baby brother, Nascar, sitting, looking seriously at me, at the dinner table- for a little three-year old he was really silent! What a name to have - after a racing event! The boy will have trouble growing up. I am sure if he understood, he’d be throwing tantrums left, right and centre. Should this home be designated a Nazi camp?

At least I had a few hours of respite, when I went to college and then my own little time at the beach. Nascar, the poor brat had to bear Ma’s wrath 24*7. I stole a glimpse at the kid- his eyes were little glassy beads, There were no toys he played with, nothing! All he had was this little dino, which I had given to him - and he held onto it every night while sleeping.
It was a thought that brought a smile to my face. I loved seeing him sleep- it was as if he was finally happy.

Eons and eons of coastline lay before me now; I always slipped out of my window and came to this little place on the edge of the beach, open and protected with palm trees. I could sit here for hours and watch the world – sometimes only the stars - go by. I loved the feeling of water and sand run through my feet, like quicksand- it was like time was slipping away and I was trying hard to keep it, in between my toes. When I was here, I left behind all my problems, all my frustrations. Everything. Just happy to be. It was that place where I just sat and thought- about the way things were, the ways they could be, what they might become.

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they would live a lot differently.”
Hobbes was right when he’d said this to Calvin. It was a spectacle in itself. We had so much to be thankful for and yet we didn’t bother to appreciate it.. I sat there pondering, hearing the waves go by, keeping an eye out on the stars hanging like chandeliers in the sky overhead. I cared. Many people didn’t, but I did. I wondered if that meant anything.

Somewhere out there amongst those stars I saw my perfect world - up there! This existence here in these salty lanes of Margao seemed - forced, compulsory. I was a child of the sea, I did not belong to people or people did not somehow belong to me.

Would it have been different if Dad had been there?

I got Nascar here sometimes, but I don’t think he really was old enough to know why. I wish he did: maybe we could have talked about it. I missed a friend at times I suddenly felt pity for my brother. And my friends in the school, and my mom and everyone I knew- they were suddenly just pictures from a long book that I was living out. They had to put up with such a scary girl. I really felt sorry for them. A familiar feeling of hate, sorrow and pity welled up inside me again. I tried pushing it down, but it was overwhelming! I somehow blamed the state I was in on my dad- this life of a confused dreamer I was stuck in. Yes, it’s because of him. I feel my head go hot again and just as fast, the breeze from the sea counters it. I start thinking of him again, even after saying so much that I wouldn’t. I missed him, and today, I think I have to let go. There are times when you just have to. This is my time.

He looked out for me from somewhere. I knew he knew what I was up to and whether I was happy or not.
It was a pity my brother will not know him, he was a star of a man who made one bad mistake for which everyone was paying for eternity. I laughed at myself; I was such a mixed bag of emotions right now. But this battery of memories wasn’t going to stop until it ran its course...

He shouldn’t have left my mom for dead and ran away, with all the money, with someone, with us – by ironically leaving us behind. I will never know his reasons It was because of him that Ma had to shoulder all this responsibility and in trying to take care of her kids- she slowly turned into a control freak, behaving almost maniacally. She never let another guy even roam around me for fear that they might all turn out to be someone like my dad.

I couldn’t blame her either. She was being protective. Who could I blame? Someone who was a teenage girl’s very first knight in shining armor or someone whose aim was to protect and love. Who do I go to? Troubled times these, for someone, who was just another college student. And I was forced to leave such questions unanswered, more often than not.

But in my dreams, I revisited my Elysium- the house, the dinners, Nascar’s naughtiness, my life- everything that was a happy place once. But now the sea called. And I walked into it. I don’t know when I will stop.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Other World

Eons and eons of coastline lay before them and they just sat there without a care for anything. While they were here together, the world could move on without them, for all they cared! They would leave behind all their problems, all their frustrations. Just happy to be. After all, how many times did you get a chance to be away from everything and sit with a friend’s arm around you and a shoulder to rest your head on?

 Often the two of them just sat in silence and heard the waves go by or watch the stars hanging like chandeliers in the sky overhead, as if they were trying to tell us something. Something many people just didn’t bother about anymore.

The waves had another story to tell and they knew them to be eager listeners. The soft sound of the waves had something hauntingly nice about them. You felt like you were alone and yet as if there was someone around. 

It made you feel safely unsafe, if there was anything like that.

But it didn’t worry them too much, all they thought of was the unending horizon and the shade of stars overhead. This was their escape.

They sat there for hours on end, somehow unable to get over the fact that the sea shone like a fragmented mirror- dazzling and shining under the cover of the stars and the soft light of the moon. The world seemed so far away and strange from this piece of land- with all its hullabaloo and its troubles and problems.

Company mattered too and this was one place that neither brought anyone else to. It was meant for them, almost like a special song that a couple kept for themselves or a special seat in their favourite restaurant.
It was also the only place that they were their true selves, out in the open, in front of each other. Pulling back the layers of pretence and just being us- bare, vulnerable, happy, content. There was no fear of pain, of betrayal, of loss. Nothing. Just them. Being them.

That is when she began to talk of this as another world. A world where only the two of them existed, where they knew everything about the other and yet there was so much left to discover. He argued that they’d get bored pretty soon but she seemed adamant that it wouldn’t be so. And sometimes her conviction in the notion was so strong, it turned him into a believer too.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. In this other world.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Foreword- Pune Memory Project

After a long while, I felt like writing something and at the same time Pune Diaries was coming out with a new project...The Pune Memory Project. And I decided to pen down, in this case, type out the foreword.

Here it is....

Pune is a state of mind. A state of heart. It is a statement in itself. Just as traffic courses its streets, history courses its veins. And the city that sleeps late and wakes up later brims with students from every part of the country and beyond. Behind their laughter and camaderie are stories which make Pune as we know it today.

Hidden amongst the hustle bustle and continuous construction and burgeoning traffic are places that are its history, its heritage, yes something much more than that - its essence, its soul!

You have the lip smacking food of Vohumans Cafe which is as simple as a bun-maska and chai to the more evolved Marz-o-rin serving up a deliciously cool green apple chiller with an equally mouth watering pasta to answer the plea of an empty stomach. Amidst these splendid eateries stands the magnificent fortress of Shaniwarwada right from the time of Peshwa Baji Rao in the 1800’s and Manney’s- a 60 year old bookstore with a legion of its own loyal customers. Pune has it all, often taken for granted and rarely celebrated.

These sites have been the cynosure of all eyes for decade’s now and even as the newer generations pour into this city they become among the first things that they hear about or visit.

The Memory Project is a celebration; it is an ode to the owners of all the places we have managed to cover, and a tribute to each and every one of you and us, who have made Pune what it is, and will be as the future unravels on the foundation of what we do to it today. This project has given us the opportunity to talk to the owners and live a journey of transition through their eyes.

And now we want to take you along with us on this journey.

Welcome aboard this rickshaw ride into the sunset of stories…

Follow it on the Pune Diaries website, click here .

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where love affairs begin but never end…

 “Every corner you turn, expect to find something you will fall in love with.”

I do not mean the Italian men or women, (although I want to!!), but the place. And the place I am talking of is Firenze or Florence as the world calls it.

Florence, set on the Arno River is a lively, magnetic, romantic and unbelievably busy town oozing with architectural brilliance. Amongst many other things it is the birthplace of the Renaissance and is known as the Renaissance City. You can keep coming back to the town and not get enough of it even though it is relatively small. The town is an important part of history, and why wouldn’t it be after giving birth to world class artists like Bernini, Baroque, Michelangelo and Medici amongst others.

Stand on the Arno Bridge for hours and see the sun come up or go down, but you will not get tired of it. Get lost in the magnificence of an architectural marvel like the Duomo or overawed by Michelangelo’s David, but what you will fall in love with, eventually, is the city’s charming cobbled lanes and vibrant life that it exudes!

Someone had once told me that you can only “see” the city once you walk through it and there has never been a truer word. The place is a treasure chest of art and history- every corner we turned, every piazza we visited there had something delightful on offer. You can walk on the streets all day long absorbed by the busy-ness of this town.

Piazza della Signora, the town’s largest and busiest square emanates a bit of everything. Evenings fly by as you sit among the locals and while your time away in carefree chatter. You turn from observer to awestruck admirer while admiring the monumental structures of David (a fabulous copy of the original of course) along with other architectural wonders surrounding them. It’s almost as if Baroque, Bernini, Michelangelo seemed to think of the piazzas as their canvas as they set to immortalize the area with their work. People just sit there reading, accompanied by soft music played by musicians nearby, enjoying some alone time. This social gathering in the evenings is a ritual ardently followed by all Florentines- it is the only way to know the town gossip and what is happening in their neighbour’s lives.

In one of these cobbled and often crowded by lanes, a hungry soul finds Gusta Pizza. A restaurant that presents typical Italian pizza albeit with a lot of heart and love…literally! The speciality of this cosy little place is that their pizza’s, on request, are made in the shape of a heart. Their love for pizza and for the customers who buy it is clearly felt. For dessert one has to visit The Diner which offers the most mouth watering of dishes known as the carrot cake and as it melts in your mouth, even with a full tummy, you are left craving for more.

One of the most memorable places in the whole of Florence and every art lover’s fantasy is the Uffizi Gallery and the Museo Del Duomo, both are must visits. The Gallery houses the works of every sculptor, painter and artist the world worships- Bernini, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Tiziano, Rembrandt, Botticelli or Dante- you name it. It is truly awe-inspiring.

Some of the works are so good that many tourists end up buying a lot of these souvenirs as gifts or for personal use. Florence in that way is a shopping haven with something there for everyone. And the only advice one can give to a tourist is being a good haggler, always helps!!
Italians and style go hand in hand. Enter Ponte Vecchio and you will know why. It is only in Florence that one would find specially made rings of the most beautiful kind with a lot of filigree work which makes it really hard for men to control their better halves from lightening their pockets.

At the end of a long day when one seeks nothing but a place of relaxation, they visit Piazzale Michelangelo which not only gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of the Florence but is also home to Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David.

It’s like what the Eagles once said,
…you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…

 Claudio Spadi performs to a crowd with the Arno Bridge in the background

 Panoramic View from Piazzale Michelangelo

 Michelangelo's David at Piazzale Michelangelo

Riot on the streets near the Duomo

The Arno river, an eagle eye’s view.

Duomo of Florence

Sumptuous Gusta Pizza

View from the Uffizi Gallery

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jilted Lover's

The calls began to fade, the laughter died, love flickered and all that remained now was a few broken hearts and a lot of silence.

That was what it came to now! It was never like that though, but somehow, it had became so. Things died. Love died. She seemed to be perfect for him and his world revolved around her. They were young, incredibly infatuated and it almost bordered on unabashed possessive love…nothing ever happened and it seemed as if it had already. They shared feelings so strong that it sent tingles of happiness down their spines.

He acted like only a lover would, all foolish and stupid- blown away by the way she looked, closing his eyes taking in deep breaths of her as she passed by. He treasured every bit of her. Loved everything about her. The only date he ever remembered was the night of the 20th December, the 1st time she met him wearing a blue jacket and scored a knockout. Young love-the beginnings of a first love began to spring. It moved him to incredible heights of bliss every time she was around. Excuses to meet, fumbles when talking- everything, everything happened when she was around. And he couldn’t stop it. He tried hard to make an impression. But it had already been made. He just didn’t know it.

She on the other hand- opened up like a book and yet kept something guarded, something secret. She couldn’t get enough of him and showed it and yet there were things she kept hidden. From him. From the world. Things she believed would burst her little bubble of happiness. Or make him take things for granted.
Poles apart, she often wondered how they came to become so close, almost inseparable- what made her fall for him. It was a question she still stumbled with. What had made him the one? He charmed her, made her happy, let her be herself. Yes, that was it. She no longer was a façade, in front of him. She was allowed to open up. She was heard. She was wanted. And that was all that she craved for.

Everything moved on but time had stopped for them. They lived for each other and everything else merely existed. They lived far away in a small bubble of their own, untroubled with all the things around them.
But then came the test. There always was one- the test of love, the test of time. They believed they were too good for it. He believed he was too good. But he wasn’t.

School ended, college began, he met new people and began to lose a grip on things. In an effort to fit in, he began losing his place in the heart of someone he already fitted in. He hoped she would understand and she did but all it did was to feed his carelessness- he started losing out on the one thing he knew was the most precious.

The calls decreased, the texts became sporadic. He got taken over by the new environment, enveloped in it; he wanted to establish himself in his new environment and in the process broke all his established relationships. The people he loved the most, he hurt.

He hoped she would understand. She did and waited for it all to end. But the faith she had in him kept draining…decreasing just as everything else had.

Some part of her still awaits the return of the boy she had fallen for but he, for his part, has gotten lost in the mêlée of things and can’t find his way around…

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Big Bhandari Bash

This is for all those who missed the big Bhandari wedding bash…

One dance after another, the stage was set ablaze as families from both sides gave entertaining performances. The Bhandari's very own Shahrukh did one hell of a job. The oooh's and aaah's of the not so young and getting eyed at by the nieces and ladies from bride's side said it all!!

 But the one who actually stole the show was the bridegroom himself- he did what one would call a side stage dance!! Eyes only for the bride he was oblivious of everything that was around him. Love had made him blind and what they shared was what I had only read about- fairy-tale love!! Not for one second did he leave her side. And if he was whisked away he made sure it lasted only a second long.

At the baraat as I danced our socks off as did the others- for joy and for love, for fun and just because that’s what baraati’s do!! I glanced towards the "man" who we did all of this for- and I couldn't help but notice the excitement he was poorly concealing to get married to and get near bhabhi. He was clearly bowled over by this maiden. They were in love and it was written all over his face.

I guess even the horse Manku da sat on felt the entire weight of his love. I am sure he wondered why his rider had the sudden urge to move so much just like the pesks (read: baraati) in front of him.

We danced with every ounce of energy in our body and so did manku dada. So happy and so in love. His friends did the best to make him wait agonizingly long and enjoyed the various looks of anguish that flashed right until the moment they reached the phera's with even the pundit playing games with him. He just couldn't wait to be married and his updates on Facebook proclaimed the same too, inciting so many of us to make fun of him too.

This was the 1st wedding that I've attended in my life and I am so glad that it was this one that I made it to this one- meeting cousins, spending time with them was one of the good things but seeing such unabashed love between people was quite the experience that I will never forget in a lifetime.