Did the Pope see what I was reading?

News of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation broke just as I was reading about Reilly sitting in The Vatican, wondering if the pope is aware of the facts that’ve turned his world upside down. Reilly is a character in this book I’m currently reading.

Which book? This one:

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Creepy coincidence.

*shudders*

YouTube on Rahul Gandhi

We’re all busy. Very busy. At work, at school, with families, with friends, planning parties, buying cars [*giggle*], paying debt, raging over the weather, spilling coffee, and a whole bunch of other things.

In the last few days, I’ve gotten rather busy too. And in the bargain, I missed out on listening to the much hyped speech Rahul Gandhi delivered as the Vice President of Congress, in Jaipur.

Thank heavens for YouTube!

I got a few minutes to spare this morning and decided to finally look the speech up on YouTube.

I have nothing against, nor for the party or the person. I know very little about both to be able to form an opinion.

I’d like to add that at this stage, I’m only halfway through the 40 minute long video of his speech, but it was in the third minute of his address that something rather…*ahem*…strange caught my eye.

I had to take a screenshot and write about it. Just had to.

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click on the image to see a larger version

What’re you trying to tell me, YouTube? Are you making a statement on Rahul Gandhi? ARE YOU? Is this your take on him? Eh? EH?

*looks on with a straight face*

And you thought this post was going to be about the actual speech. Heh!

I don’t write anymore…

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I’m not sure why.
The words haven’t run dry.
But I always seem to
Have other things to do.
I click and post.
I’m a good party-host.
I invite and attend.
I ping; type and send.
It’s easier that way.
I work and play.
Spend time here and there
(But mostly on my chair).
I type and click and listen and read,
And somehow, pay no heed
To the words that seem trapped…behind a door.
And I just…don’t write anymore.

The gift of observation

This is what happens when 10 year old pieces of papers with long forgotten scribblings on them materialize out of thin air.

*****

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Observation is a gift. Or a curse.

Depends on how you view it, I guess. Actually, it depends upon the situation you’re observing under. For instance, it depends upon whether you’re observing out of sheer lack of anything else to do over a cup of extra sweet, luke-warm cappuccino, or if you’re observing while waiting for someone to show up, who would have arrived an hour ago if they had any sense of time at all.

In either scenario, I’ve come to realize that eventually boredom or frustration leads to an intense amount of concentration on behalf of the observer, wherein he / she ends up taking in their surroundings to such an extent that a carelessly ignored receipt floating on a puddle of freshly-settled rain water under a table in an outdoor coffee shop when picked up by the janitor or crushed under a chair by a casual, unintentional nudge of a passerby’s foot causes mayhem in the observer’s world.

*****

Unfinished. Because the person I was waiting for arrived.

I smile

As I chatted with a friend of mine today, I realized I’d forgotten.

Forgotten what makes me smile.

The word seemed to alienate itself from my existence. I had to distance myself for a while to realize that whilst I’ve been remembering to plaster it on each day, everyday, I’ve increasingly forgotten what truly makes my lips turn into a grin…into a heartfelt smile.

My smile curves into a lopsided grin when I sit back and listen to someone speak the words I want to hear. It’s lopsided because those words aren’t meant for me. They’re spoken for someone else…to someone else. I remain a mere bystander, observing. And somewhere in my fantasies, I see myself secretly trade places with the lucky lass.

I smile when I suddenly hear that song that somehow found itself at the bottom of my playlist. I smile at the memories that it brings along with the melody. And the words. Oh, those words! It pulls at those long-forgotten strings lying deep within a long-lost life…and there it begins to play a tune of its own. This time, however, a little different…a little nostalgic.

Dance… I smile when I see someone dance. I smile for I know I cannot. I smile because you can. Or he can. Or she can. I smile because they can. I smile because I know that someday, one day…so shall I. Dance…

My lips form an involuntary curve when I stumble upon a look that is shared between two of cupid’s newest victims. I smile when I find myself as an unexpected, uninvited and nonexistent part of their moment…of that glance they thought no one else noticed. I smile because I sense their desire, their passion, and their sheer helplessness when they seek each other out in the midst of hundreds of others…and I smile because I understand why they can’t break away from that stare. I smile because I know that for them…only they exist.

And…I smile.

For the first time in months, I truly smile.

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Love in the time of Mumbai

 

Was it a gang war that broke out? But it was in the heart of Mumbai – Mumbai’s underworld couldn’t be taking that big a risk, however drastic the cause.

So who was shooting? And a taxi blew up too? Wasn’t it miles away from Taj?

As I unpacked at my Mamaji’s place in Mumbai, more such comments were being heard. I’d reached Dadar a little over an hour ago and was freshening up for dinner. The next couple of days were going to be insane – lots of people to meet, pots of shopping to do before heading back to Dubai. I just wanted to get the stress and fatigue of my friend’s wedding in Delhi out of my system.

Stress? At a friend’s wedding? Why would I be stressed at a friend’s wedding, you’re probably wondering. Well, that’s because at the same time as my friend, there were about 40,000 other people in Delhi getting ready to pledge their loyalty, their life and their existence to their soul mates. And one such couple was Rohit’s first cousin.

And I, being Rohit’s girlfriend at the time, was coaxed and cajoled into attending the wedding reception and to then have a mini “muh-dihayee”, as it were. This shouldn’t have been that big a deal had he toned down on the extent of his affection for me in front of his family. More so since no one in my family except my brother Shashank knew what was going on between us. Long story short – I met his family and belatedly realized that there had been no reason to stress over! I was showered with nothing but good wishes and love.

With Rohit in Dubai and me in Mumbai, I could finally heave a sigh of relief and unwind. Which is exactly what I’d planned to do in the four days I was to spend in Mumbai.

And if only life went on as planned!

A few hours after I reached Mumbai on 26 November 2008, there were confused, unsure reports trickling in of some kind of a shoot-out happening around The Taj Mahal Palace. As the minutes turned into hours, the severity of what was happening hit us hard.

This wasn’t a gang war. This wasn’t a drunken-shooting incident. This wasn’t a poor-little rich boy’s venting session with his well-connected father’s licensed pistol.

This was war. War on Mumbai. This was war on India soil.

Within minutes of first being termed as a terrorist attack, Mamaji’s landline started ringing off the hook. The first call was from my parents who sat in Dubai, knowing that I’d landed in Mumbai a little while ago. Despite knowing that I was at home with family members, safe and sound, they sounded stressed. I reassured them that I was safe and wouldn’t be venturing out on my own.

All this time, I kept looking at my phone, wondering why I hadn’t heard from Rohit yet. He would usually send me a text or two in an hour, at least. Maybe he hadn’t heard about the shooting. Regardless, this was very unlike him.

I sent him a text a just to see if things were ok. Within seconds the text bounced back. Now, I knew I had enough credit, so that couldn’t be the issue. I didn’t want to call him from the landline and have him calling back, in case I missed speaking to him. Since I’d told Shashank a few days ago, obviously no one in Mumbai knew about the two of us.

Whom could I possibly take into confidence? I had to get in touch with him somehow!

Since it was rather late at night, I decided to let it go for the time being. He was probably stuck at work. He’d call or text when he had the time. There was really no point stressing. On that note I drifted off to sleep.

It was when I checked my phone in the morning and didn’t see a message or a missed call from him that I really began to wonder what was going on. I took my cousin into confidence and told her I needed to use her phone to get in touch with Rohit. I gave her a brief round-up of who he was and boy was she thrilled! I’m not an emotionally-open person in general, so it must’ve been quite a shock for her to hear me talking about him.

This time around the text went through to Rohit and within seconds my cousin’s phone rang. I answered and ran out of the house for some privacy.

“Hey you, Mr. Bu– “, before I could finish, there were a gazillion profanities that I encountered, followed by an equal number of questions.

“Where on earth have you been? Why is your phone not working? I’ve been trying to call you since last night! Have you seen the news?! Do you know how worried I’ve been? Well, say something!”, he exclaimed.

“I’ll say something as soon as you give me a chance to!”, I managed.

“Yaar…what’s going on? Are you ok? Is everyone there ok?”, there was a resignation, a concern in his voice I’d never heard before.

“We’re all okay. Relax, we’re fine. They must’ve blocked off external sim cards. That’s the only reason I can think of for my phone not working. But I’m ok…really”, I went on.

The mood of the conversation suddenly went from concerned to drop-dead serious within a matter of seconds. “Swati, just come back, please. I just want you to come back. I can’t stand the thought of you being there all by yourself. I can’t stand the fact that you’re in an ounce of trouble – or could be in any potential danger”.

I had a mile wide smile plastered on my face as he said this. Our relationship was taking a new turn. Even though I sensed this new level we had gone to, I couldn’t have even imagined what he said next.

“I’ve…I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to speak to Mum tonight. Before you say anything, hear me out. I can’t bear this…I can’t have you so far away from me. I’m talking to Mum tonight about us. Now, either you talk to your parents, or I’ll ask Mum to do it directly. All I know is…I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I can’t get in touch with you again. Ever”, he declared. “I’ve been watching the news for the past two days, hoping against hope that I don’t see or hear your name. I’ve cringed every time something new from Mumbai is reported. I can’t…I can’t not be with you.”

As I listened to him talk, tears seemed to roll down my cheeks on their own accord. All I could do was smile and nod. Yes…yes, I wanted to be with him.

A month after this conversation on Christmas day Rohit went down on one knee and proposed. Our parents met subsequently and Rohit and I were warmly welcomed into each other’s families.

In June 2009, I married Rohit in Glasgow in a small yet unforgettable civil wedding ceremony. In August that same year, we had our much-awaited Bollywood style Delhi wedding.

And every single waking hour of my life I wonder what I’ve done to deserve an angel for a life partner.

Remembering JPD

Blue chappals.
Bunny Bakery.
Phone calls.
RD 350. Red.
Cricket bet. Baldness. Cheating.
Donald Duck hair.
Fear. Apathy.
Friends. Fake.
Threats. BDA complex.
Koramangala.
Pecos. Diwali.
Amma bhenchod pump.
Rooftop. Smiles.
Smirnoff.
Club X.
Seetha Circle.
BDA complex.
Casablanca. Ek simple si coffee.
Katriguppe.
Pot.
Big Bazaar.
Dollar’s colony.
MSR. Fuck ups.
Bihu.
R T Nagar.
Silver. Platinum?
BS.
The Club.
Violence.
Birthdays.
Diamond studs. Lost. Remade.
Momos.
Zippos.
FC.
Pranks.
Pork.

You were an A-class asshole, but there are things about you that will always be missed.

Rest in peace, JPD.

64 years today

She runs in my blood stream.

She’s my first love and my biggest inspiration.
She’s my one true motivation and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t strive to give her something back – in the smallest or biggest way possible.

She kicked out the Brits 64 years ago.
As I sit in the land of the goras after having left her over 4 years ago, there’s still just one chant that echoes through me:

Saare jahaan se accha…now, and forever.

Happy Independence Day, India.

Rest in peace

Somebody I once knew used to say that no one has a choice in picking relatives. We are born into our respective families and there is little, if not nothing, that one can do to change that.

And there is no doubt that we all have our fair share of relatives we wish would suddenly disappear into thin air. *poof* Just like that.

I personally would go to the extent of saying that a large majority of my relatives fall into this category. Do these people ever oblige? *shakes head* Never.

Then there are those relatives one looks up to. Idolizes, even. Could be a smile that appeals to us, or their warmth, or the love they share, or even their laugh. It’s that uncharacteristic smile that appears on our lips and a peculiar kind of joy one feels in their presence. Now, such relatives are rare. Mighty rare.

Unfortunately, I lost one such relative of mine late last night.

My mom’s uncle, the youngest amongst his brothers, my ‘cousin’ (for lack of a better word) nanaji left us last night: Avtar Nanaji.

I remember the times when we were kids and used to visit India over summer break. And summer breaks in India meant one thing and one thing only: relative-hopping. It was the norm.

My brother and I used to always look forward to meeting Avtar Nanaji and Naniji. I remember his laugh – from the pit of his stomach, from the bottom of his soul. It would resound through the room and invariable make everyone around him smile in response. I remember the long drives he used to take us on and I remember the Campa Cola and Gold Spot stash in a cooler in the trunk of his car. I remember a gorgeous, magnanimous house and even bigger hearts that used to welcome us.

And I remember my Dadaji (grandfather). I remember how fond he was of Avtar Nanaji. I remember their friendship and their smiles together. I remember my Dadaji saying to my mom, “Avtaar neeche tak chorrne aaya tha aur tumne oopar nahin bulaya? You know how much I like that man!”. And my mom would just smile and say that she had tried. But he had to rush, he had to be on his way. He had to meet other people. He had to share his life, his joy with them too.

We were packing, getting ready to head to Jaipur for a friend’s wedding when we got Avtar Nanaji’s news. As my mom disconnected the call, she looked at me.

“What do we-,” she started.

“Cancel all plans. We need to cancel all plans,” I said to her. And that was that. Our bags were left as they were – half packed.

As the four of us sat together sipping tea, we couldn’t help but smile. Even thinking about him made us smile. Such fondness…such joy…such a fantastic life.

But the smiles tend to fade just a little when you see what a void he has left behind. Listening to his elder brother, now over 90 years old, well up and make an unsuccessful attempt at stifling a sniffle and hiding his tears does bring a lump in my throat too. Overhearing him say, “Baari toh meri thi, phir yeh kyun chala gaya?”, and trying to figure out how to console a man who has lost his younger brother is…yeah. Add to that his inconsolable younger sister. Not to mention his daughter, grandchildren and relatives from across the world.

And despite the tears and agony and pain, one thing seems to be repeated over and over again by people in that gathering: What a man! What a life!

You, Avtar Nanaji, will truly be missed.

Of tears and pain. Of agony and fond memories.

Rest in peace.