Saturday, June 08, 2013

Woh Bhooli Dastaan, Lo Phir Yaad Aa Gayi,
 Nazar ke saamne, ghata si chha gayi
 Kahaan se phir chale aaye, yeh kucch bhatke hue saaye
 Yeh kucch bhoole hue naghmein, jo mere pyaar ne gaaye,
 Yeh kuchh bicchdi hui yaadein, yeh kucch toote hue sapnen,
 Paraaye ho gaye toh kya, kabhi woh bhi to the apne...
 Na jaane unse kyon milkar, nazar sharma gayi.

 Re-reading the blog makes me think of this song.

But then, of course, other songs come to mind. In particular, the lines "Jo khatam ho kisi jagah, yeh aisa silsila naheen". I will be back here. Soon.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Lessons I have learnt over the last few weeks:

1. Kheer is not impossible to make.
2. Despite however much you bitch about the pollution and the firecrackers, Diwali like any other day really hurts.
3. Don't put woollen clothes in a dryer and set it for 'Cotton'. DON'T. The sweater will unravel.
4. I still have it in me- the ability to do an all-nighter.
5. Whiskey, rum, Jagermeisters, LIITs and Beers are not a good idea. Especially not together. ESPECIALLY not simultaneously.
6. I'm still as interested in the Partition as I ever was.
7. When you try to throw people out of your life, you sometimes have to throw a lot of yourself as well.
8. Cooking is fun, yes, but a pain.
9. Nothing beats sitting in a nice, warm room and having tea, Biscotti and shortbread when it's snowing outside.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Humne dekhi hai in aankhon ki mehakti khushbu, Haath se chhooke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do.
Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo, pyaar ko pyaar hi rehne do koi naam na do.

Sigh. What a lovely line, and how true.

And the second song, to my mind linked inextricably with the first:

Na Main Tumse Koi Ummeed Rakhoon Dilnawazi ki,
Na Tum Meri Taraf Dekho, Ghalat Andaaz Nazron Se.
Na mere dil ki dhadkan, ladkhadaaye, meri baaton mein,
Na Zaahir ho tumhaari kashmakash ka raaz nazron se.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Noo Yawk, Noo Yawk!!!

Those observant souls who are blessed with the power of deductive reasoning (and five years of association with these has convinced me that they're much lesser than I thought) will gather that I am in the Big Apple.

This is true.

I am currently at New York, attempting to do a Masters', and realising that studying is hard when lives in the aforementioned city. Happily, I am getting away with this by not studying. The exams shall come and bring woe, but then they always do.

Today was a nasty rainy day in the city. Today was also the day when I had to a. attend two classes, b. attend a compulsory check-in that I should have gone for a month back but hadn't, and wasn't planning to until I was warned that there was a real possibility of my being deported, c. go and meet a friend uptown, and d. find a Bath and Body Works outlet for a friend who wanted stuff, and had threatened hellfire and brimstone were I not to get her many body washes and splashes. I tried to convince her that soap was good enough for anyone, but when she started saying nasty things about me, my hygiene, and my intellect I decided to buy her stuff. Discretion is the better part of valour, and this friend is not someone one can trifle with. Not usually. Not if you're me, at any rate.

So I wake up at seven in the morning, planning to read for class, but sink back into Morpheus' embrace, and wake up thirty minutes later. Hurriedly performing my ablutions, I get out of my flat to realise it is raining. Really raining. Like, think primeval deluges, and you sort of get the picture. Unfortunately, I also realise that I am umbrellaless, and getting soaked. I run to my room, pick up an umbrella, and head out again. I reach the Academic building and realise that I don't have my ID. The lady over there is adamant. The conversation goes something like this:

Lady: "Manaav, you have to have an ID"
Self: "But see, you know me! You know my name! Can't I get in"
Lady:"Rules are rules"
Manav: "Woah, you're talking to a lawyer, woman. Rules are NEVER rules".
(Repeat ad nauseam, until she finally takes pity on me and leds me in.)

And so the morning went.

Now, after class, I realise that the rain shows no sign of abating. Unfortunately, I have to get to the aforementioned checkin session, and so I make my way in the rain. On my way, I pass a friend who, as I pass, lifts his umbrella in what I assume is salutation. I think it only polite to reply, and lift mine as well. Thirty seconds later, we're sorting out the wreckage of two umbrellas which have collided head-on. Ah, well. After the session, which is boring, is over, I go to eat something before leaving to meet the friend. They have something called 'Samosas' in the cafe, which, the lady selling them omits to tell me, are filled with blue cheese. Now I have nothing against blue cheese, and used to like it a lot more till the smell of my room-mates socks was compared to it in fourth year, but one must admit that when one bites into a samosa, Roquefort is not what one expects! After wiping my mouth and tongue with a wad of paper napkins, I threaten to ensure that the Indian embassy files a formal diplomatic complaint against the food she sells, a slur to an ancient and honoured civilisation, and walk off, at intervals wiping my tongue with flapping paper. (Those of you who don't know what flapping paper is, go away.)

On the uptown train, I (having taken another umbrella from the library, one that is pointy and looks like a walking stick) realise that not only will the new umbrella not fit in my bag, but it will also not either recline on the side, or fit between my legs. (Pun, what pun?). The train fills up. I get up to offer my seat to someone, stand, and hold the umbrella at a sixty degree angle off my shoulder. So far so good.

Suddenly, I step back. There is a sharp hiss of indrawn breath. I turn around, idly curious, and am paralysed in horror. What has happened is this. The umbrella is now about four and a half feet off the ground, which happens to be exactly the location of a lady' that is covered by what my grandmother calls brazers. Apologies ensue, at my end, and glares at hers'. I now feel like a walking, talking advertisement for the need for ladies' compartments.

At Central Park with friend is pleasant, despite the rain. We reminisce about old Hindi songs, and my translations of them on the subway, which she thinks are obscene. I accuse her of having a dirty mind, tell her that 'Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar' is a wonderful song, and the fact that it translates to "Don't leave me now, I'm still not satified, you just came and spread like spring, now don't leave me with a half-quenched thirst" isn't my fault. She then leaves, and I head to Bath and Body Works.

Now the woman who is desirous of vastly expensive "bath accessories" is not aware that BBW seems to be going through a lean time. Most of the stores are closed, and the rain makes trudging across New York a hard task. A gust of wind destroys my other umbrella. Full of strange oaths, though happily (as the lacerations on my face testify) not bearded like a pard, I read South Ferry Mall, where, for some reason, people refuse to understand what I am saying. I try to ask for Bath and Body Works in any way possible, but until I don't spell it out, nobody seems to understand. This, I feel, is strange. A woman at the store asks me to try, for myself, the cupcake (or some such) body wash. Thanking her, and assuring her I have no desire to smell like confectionary, I pay, ignoring her disturbing comments of "But sir, many people seem to like it".

And so the evening passes.

Comfortably dry at home, I now sit listening to old Hindi music and sipping wine. C'est la vie!

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Laif, laif is to enveiye. Naat is be bore."

This splendid bit of advice comes from the splendidly awful Pakistani film Pindi Wal, which I managed to get hold of. The movie features songs like "Golden Nights" and a Punjabi song which literally translates as "Take out, take out, take out what you think someone else has put in". While the song may have multiple interpretations, the gyrations and contortions of the dancer strongly suggest that the meaning is incontrovertible. Add to that a vamp called, unoriginally though effectively, Perveen Boby, and you find three hours of brilliant entertainment.

But yes, the advice is good. It is also given by a woman who clearly has done her share of envaiying, and now is reaping the rewards through her...establishment for fallen women, ensuring further steep and precipitous descents for them. The exact nature of such enjoyment, however, is subjective.

The period between applying for LLM applications and waiting to hear their outcome is one that is always fraught with stress. People I am close to have suggested various remedies, most involving alcohol and television soaps, in varying combinations. Unfortunately, however, I have never been a TV-addict, and living with parents imposes certain constraints on one's ability to consume immense quantities of alcohol. Happily, however, my academic mind has come up with an alternative. This solution, for which I require further inputs, is deep and sustained research into the meaning of lyrics in South Indian cinematic productions.

This interest originated when I heard that there existed a wide and substantial difference between the Hindi and Tamil lyrics for the "Hamma Hamma" song. While the Hindi lyrics modestly hinted at the meeting of minds, and referred to bracelets and anklets tinkling due to some vague and unspecified pleasurable activity, the Tamil lyrics show a healthy disregard for verbal subterfuge, claiming that the slipping of the Pallu induce visions of heaven and heady delight in the observer. Whattay!, said I, and instantly started looking for more.

In this quest, I was helped by friends, old and very new, who eagerly sought out more such songs. I leave you, dear reader, with the following:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's been one of those long hiatuses, again. :)

In the intervening period, I've graduated. Yay. Way to go, Manav. I have also been for a wonderful trip to Kashmir. Siddharth's blog has the descriptions, I suggest you read them.

So, today, I'm going to talk about Delhi's weddings, having been for one recently. In a really old post, I remember describing the Sangeet as an occasion where old crones sing^, and where old (and young) men make a beeline for their whiskey, and keep at it. Usually, at some point, with the older generation, the talk turns to Partition, and then sentiness takes over.

Things have changed, somewhat. First of all, it is ESSENTIAL now, to have a DJ. This is supposed to be a good idea, and it is, to the limited extent that it shuts up the old crones who used to alternate between singing in terrible voices, and (depending on their essential characters) discussing the following topics:
A. How they have outlived everyone, including (and this is important) people who are six months younger than them, even though they were so 'Dalicate' in their youths.
B. What Mrs. Chadha actually said, and why her daughter-in-law does not live with her any more.
C. How they really brought a lot of dowry, and they would like to know what happened to it, and how (meaningful pause) the gold necklace that their "Nanad" is wearing (meaningful pause) looks familiar.

To that extent, a DJ is a good idea. However, Delhi's DJ's play TERRIBLE music. There's simply too much Punjabi music (as I discovered while organising my parent's silver wedding anniversary, where me and an aunt had a tussle about the need for a DJ, but that's a different story), and it's all simply too repetitive. This is a function of the fact that now people earn much more than they ever did, and that loud Punjabi music, interspersed with (for God knows what joy) Britney, is the best way of announcing it.

The essential nature of weddings (and families) has changed too. I was reading a wonderful book, Mother Pious Lady, by Santosh Desai, which spoke of the cliches of being Indian, where it talked about the elastic nature of the Indian house. Being the last generation to actually have experienced that, I know what it's talking about.

See, until the middle of the last decade, and when our parents were young, and their parents were young, and so on ad infinitum, weddings were a time when the whole family got together. Relatives were accomodated at your house, and at the houses of other relations who lived in the same town, up to the point where the house was full of bursting. It didn't matter that you had a one BHK, you still had 12 people staying there. The one thing I do recall was that there was never a need to ask. You called, and told people the date you were coming, and it was expected that the persons you were staying in would be at the station to pick you up, and you could stay there for a while. Likewise, the house where the wedding was was where the family congregated EVERY day. Some used to help in the cooking, some in the wrapping up of gifts, some with getting the clothes organised, and a few were invariably dispatched to buy the booze, no small matter at a wedding! Usually, this was the uncle who was in the army, who got vast amounts of rum, beer and whiskey by exhausting his, and his best friends' quotas for the next year.

When people speak of the 'raunaq'- a word for which there is no English translation of a 'Shaadi Wala Ghar', my memories run to the two hours before the Sehra Bandi/reception of the Barat, depending on who exactly the relative in question was. Utter chaos prevailed at home, with kids running around as irate mothers, clad in various stages of formal Indian clothing, ran behind them. Invariably, an aunt in a blouse and petticoat would be roaming around the house asking plaintively "Does anyone have a safety-pin? I'm sure I put mine in the purse, but...". All of us (the slightly older kids) would be sent to the presswalah to get everyone's clothes ironed, and there would invariably be a tense moment or two when Bua/Chachi/Tai/Masi discovered that she couldn't find one of her ear-rings/kadas/rings, until it would finally be discovered on the bed, and, on one immensely memorable occasion, in the WC!**

Recently, though, things have changed. As the "Ji, mere rishtedaar ke shaadi hai, do hafte chhutti milegi?" requests have started to be increasingly rebuffed, the number of relatives who come have reduced. The ones that do come, come as guests. They will usually require a bedroom to themselves, and shan't do too much work. Those hosting, on the other hand, balk at the idea of too many people coming, and have an array of hired helpers that they didn't need earlier, and couldn't afford either, to help out. Everything seems a little too choreographed, a little too formal, and lacks the zest of earlier.

Or maybe, in my case, it's nostalgia for a half-remembered past. I can't imagine giving up my room for two weeks for relatives I hardly know, so there!

* Some songs were really REALLY ribald, including one that describes the stages of pregnancy in excruciatingly funny detail.
** The restoration of the article of jewellery involved lots of consternation, a bet, five hundred rupees, and LOTS of Dettol soap.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Don't. Don't fucking not call. Don't say that you'll call and then forget. I spend hours awake- forcing my eyes open- waiting for them. Don't flippantly apologise, and don't, just don't, have that note of pity in your voice. I can deal (somehow) with your indifference, I can handle your sympathy, I can handle your friendship, I can't handle the tone of amused condescension in your apology. Don't say we'll meet, and throw my programme in disarray as I screw up everything else to reach, only to get a message saying "But nothing was confirmed". I wouldn't do that to you. And you know that.

If you say you actually do care, then prove it. Else leave. Easy come, easy go. It's worked out fine earlier.

"Don't make anyone a priority in your life when you're nothing but an option in theirs"

Sigh. If only I could learn from the past.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Three Idiots, and Other Cool Things.

"So, you're telling me Three Idiots are going to watch 'Three Idiots'". Superna Kapur, 29th December 2009.

Yeah, so, I apologise for my mother's alleged sense of humour. Alleged in italics, like The Times of India* has taken to writing. As you have gathered, I went to watch 'Three Idiots' yesterday. With two of my friends. Neither of whom are idiots.

I was completely bowled over by the film at the time. I loved it. I have never been so bowled over by a film, not even Milk, which I watched, dry-eyed, in a hall full of weeping people who, furthermore, kept quiet during the movie. I loved this film despite a kid screaming "Mama, Susu aa rahi hai" when [spoiler alert] the examination paper is being leaked. It's exuberant and easy to relate to if you've been in college recently- in some cases, a little too close for comfort. It leaves you laughing at most places, and (not entirely unusually if you are as soppy as me) crying once or twice. It's amusing, even at points where the humour is hackneyed and less-skilled actors/directors would have you rolling your eyes. The innuendoes are not, for the most part, overdone- which is a merciful blessing. The movie starts off well, and progressively gets better until the interval. After the interval, the plot falters a bit, and lapses into a collection of vignettes rather than an actual film, but soon gets back on track, and gives us a true-Hindi film meet Wodehouse climax, where nobody is unhappy at all.

It also shows a lot of Delhi (always a good thing as far as I am concerned), and cocks a snook at some of Hindi cinema's holy cows. The long-suffering mother, the villainous Seth, the 'Apaahij' father and the 'Ayaash Beta' all come up for their share of flak. Of course, being a Bollywood film, it does have wild coincidences, and really insane scenes when vacuum cleaners are used to assist a woman in voiding her womb, but well, that is, after all, what makes Hindi films what they are. I mean, who would really want to see what an IIT-ian's life is all about? Six hours of physics, an hour of oiling one's hair, and twenty four hours of sexual frustration are not what I would pay good money to watch.*

All in all, it was an enjoyable film, though Why one needed to go to Vasant Kunj from Daryaganj to get to a decent hospital was beyond me.

Jumping from one engineering college story to another, I recently read the delightful "Oops...I fell in love....Just by Chance..." by another of Shrishti Publication's finds. (Aishwarya has referred to another oeuvre of this publication house here). The book is notable for the way it blends traditional Indian values with modernity - a protagonist evidently has three of every kind of imported underwear because three is his lucky number. It also demonstrates acute sensitivity towards queer people- the author thoughtfully points out that only the "non-gay" section of IIT suffers from sexual frustration. An encounter with "a gay" at trendy malls in Delhi is also dealt with with the wit and humour which is a hallmark of the house of Shrishti- a kick in the balls is to be recommended to those of us who have had to deal with unwanted same-sex advances. The romance in the story is brilliantly portrayed; what woman could resist a man who saves her from (gasp!) being coated with chocolate by her friends! No, what?

The author also shows feeling for italics. One suspects he has taken to writing for the Times of India. Or- and equally probably- that the Times of India recruits from amongst these literary genii.

My interest in the author meant I researched a little about him. After all, to be 22 and have a book published is no mean task. After all, Rushdie (Harsh's inspiration) hadn't published a book at 22. Nor had Coatzee [sic], another of his favourite authors. Harsh informs readers of the IIT- E Magazine that he does not grudge them their success- after all, as he sagely points out, "their books have a world of their own". Harsh's inspiration for his own magnus opus is interesting- a blast in Mehrauli in 2008 served to unlock his creative juices, though, as he points out, he had already written for the aforementioned E-Magazine, which had, for some obscure reason, failed to recognise his talent earlier! Fear not, Harsh, their loss (to quote a marginally more-celebrated author)parallels the story of the base Indian who threw away a pearl richer than his tribe!

To us- who have not yet seen our name decorating the cover of a book, Harsh offers constructive advice. Confidence, he says, is the key. When one is convinced one's book could stand on the same shelf as Sidney Sheldon or Coatzee [sic], there will be light! "The light", he goes on to tell us, "that will dazzle you with humility and self-pride at the same time." One waits, earnestly, for such light to shine upon us.

Harsh acknowledges, however, that his books are prone to one criticism- that of being reminiscent of other books dealing with life in IIT. To counteract this, he offers us a sneak peak into his second novel, which is being written as I type. The book deals with the life of a person afflicted with AIDS,which I am sure he will handle with the sensitivity he has so aptly demonstrated. One waits, eagerly, for his latest.

* Apologies to Manu and Siddharth.

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Heading, Just Stories

Much has changed since the last time I blogged, not least my mood. Seven weeks in Delhi have done much to make it better. While I still haven't figured out things, I'm more optimistic than I ever was about life.

I just read Siddharth's blog. I've spoken enough about my loving Delhi to not type my usual paeans of praise for the city again. The post made me think, though, of when I fell in love with the city. I concluded it was relatively recent- until about 2003, I hadn't thought of the city- atleast, not as a city. To me, parts of it were just home. It's only when I started travelling alone that the charms of the city unfolded themselves.

I read a book once which talked about how all cities live in one's imagination- that one's love for cities stems from the way one visualises them in one's mind. That made sense to me, for ironically, what initially drove me to explore the city was the fact that it was supposed to be like Lahore- and at that time, with my interest in Pakistan- and Lahore - being at its' peak, I started exploring the city. trying to discover traces of what Lahore was in what Delhi is. Sometime in that discovery, I fell in love with Delhi, and the charms of the actual Delhi displaced the hold of the other, elusive, imaginary city that had so captivated me. In doing so, I learnt more about India and its' past. For a history buff who had been singularly umimpressed with Indian history, the city I'd lived in made me realise how blind I had been.

Moving on from what threatens to become another eulogy of the city, it's been a fun month and a bit. I interned at a place where I really enjoyed myself,and went on my first trip alone to Jaipur with friends. Various interesting things happened there. I got drunk every night for a while there- with rather dismaying results one night, discovered that all of my friends were, in fact, b......s (!), and saw the most amazing places in India. I also discovered I had evolved from the time I thought all religion was nonsense- in fact, I was almost at tears at the Dargah at Ajmer, one of the most wonderful places I have visited. Along with the light and sound show at Amer, that made the trip an awesome memory- the fact that one was there with friends made it unforgettable. In other bits of wisdom, I discovered it was possible to go for a holiday and not eat any non-vegetarian food, and enjoy the trip nonetheless! Not to mention the fact that people, generally, are usually a lot nicer than we give them credit for.

The trip deserves a lot more, but I think posting a few pictures will be a better idea, not least because it is 2 am, and I wish to sleep. Readers, wait excitedly, photos will soon be put up!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eloquence just flees sometimes when you don't know what to say.

So let's just start with a story. I have often contemplated the possibility of death. It has not frightened me- not mine, at any rate. I have just wondered how people would react were I dead. Unfortunately, the last two days have brought me uncomfortably close to death.

So, this is what happens. Shock for the first three hours. Grief for a day, or two, or a week, or a month. Soon, however, things start kicking in. Life starts going on. Projects have to still be submitted. Group IDs, that seemed so busy with condolence messages, start again with demands for projects/letters of recommendation/whatever.

I'm not saying its a bad thing. I'm not saying it shows a lack of feeling. I'm not disputing the factum of grief. Not saying that those who move on are ghouls. Some of them have lost much more than what most of us have

Just this: That life- for most of us- will go on eventually, a little poorer for the loss. There are very few people you are indispensable to, and when you go, you've pretty much shattered their lives. For all the others, your friends, your classmates, people you know- but not too well, things WILL eventually come back to...well, not normal as they knew it earlier, but a normal slightly off an axis. All I think one should do, is look at those who one IS indispensable to, and wonder what our actions will do to them. If you're lucky, you yourself will be one of them.

This was meant to be a condolence post when I started out. It isn't. Just rambling. Requiescat In Pace.