Category Archives: Musings

Iyer and Iyer we went…

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The objective was quite simple. Find the nearest mall, buy a pair of shorts, and head to the NH7 Weekender. But, what ensued was a series of incidents that could potentially lead to a marathon of ‘What happens when three Iyers walk into a bar’ jokes.

Scene One: Outside the apartment

We rent out an apartment in Hebbal, or as we fondly call it, almost Andhra. And, this is what we see; a scene out a movie set in Texas where land is barren, there are plastic covers flying in the breeze and there is not a single soul as far as the eye can see. We contemplate booking an Uber, but from nowhere Iyer No. 3 spots an auto at a distance and convinces us that that’s a cheaper alternative.

As the auto heads closer, we notice that the autokaran is finding it quite overwhelming to drive in a straight line. But, a large hearted clan that we are (at the most avoidable times), we pity the old, shrunken man driving it and decide to join in.

10 minutes later, we’re three metres away from the apartment gates, still waiting for the auto to start. We remain large hearted.

20 minutes later, we’ve moved 300 metres. Just as we begin to demand God to add this gesture to our good Karma, speed-breaker happens and the auto stalls, half on each side of the speed-breaker. We get down to help push the auto but well, our man, our funny, funny old man starts the auto at ease and moves forward, as though trying to show us that the problem is not with the auto but with our collective weights.

We remain large-hearted and enduring.

30 minutes later, we’ve covered 2 kms and stop to ask a few pedestrians where ‘Esteem shopping mall’ is. A fellow autokaran pops out of nowhere and says, “Madam Helmet shopping mall?” And, Iyer No.2 goes into intellectual mode.

Iyer No. 2: No sir, E ’lement’ shopping mall. We don’t want helmets.

Autokaran: Madam, there is only Helmet mall. Which area you want?

Iyer No. 2: (trying hard not to read too much into his words): I want to go to Esteem Shopping Mall near Hebbal.

 Autokaran (relentlessly): Take right, straight and Helmet mall. New mall. Shopping only no?

Iyer No.1 to Iyer No.2 (encouragingly): Let’s check what’s there. You can also wear a helmet to the concert. You’ll still get noticed.

And so we take a right, go straight and land up in front of what was, in reality, ‘Elements Mall’.

Scene Two: Inside the mall

What’s common between Puma, Domino’s Pizza, Derby and Levis? They’re all opening shortly.

But, we don’t give up. We spot Lifestyle and head into the western wear section.

Iyer No. 2 to the sales lady: Where can I find shorts?

Sales lady (with a straight face): We don’t sell shorts here.

Iyer No.2 (having slight Amma flashback): Err do you have three-fourths?

Sales lady: Yes, we have animal prints and cargos right there (Points straight ahead).

So, we gleefully go and search the whole rack to find one cream coloured three-fourths, naturally, in a size that one can only dream of fitting in.

Location two, Spar (yes yes, the hypermarket only). When Big Bazaar has a clothing section, why can’t Spar? What we found (or didn’t find) there is a different question altogether.   The closest we could get to shorts was a komanam designed like pregnancy pants (you know, like the one Phoebe lends to Rachel when she’s pregnant?)

Disappointed and rather shaken, we head to the food section (which is actually what the place is meant for) and buy lays.

Iyer No.3: I know how to steal this pack of Lays out of the hypermarket without getting noticed.

And so, all three Iyers huddle up in curiosity.

Iyer No. 3 (continues): When you walk out, just stretch your hands up and hold the food packet in your hands. The detector won’t recognize it as you walk out!

Enough said.

Scene three: Outside the mall

Iyer No.3: What do we do now? 

Iyer No.1 (points out to a T-Nagar style fashion boutique): Maybe we should try there; the mannequin has short clothes on it. 

Iyer No.2 (bewildered): Or, there’s an Adyar Ananda Bhavan right down this road. Let’s head there.

And so, we do. After a round of masala dosai, oothappam, steaming hot sambaar and chutneys, we decide to head back to the apartment.

Did we find shorts? No. Did we find our way back? Yes, in a brand new auto with a smart young man who chose not to strike a conversation with us (even to check for directions).

The end.

Two Baileys, Utter Chaos, then a note

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A week before I was due to turn a year older, I felt a slight churn in the pit of my stomach. More so than earlier, because this year, I was due to hit the quarter century milestone.

Age is just a number. And 25 is certainly a hype created by people around us,” said a friend. While a cousin said, “25 will be the most memorable year of your life. Make the best use of it!”

I listened and tried, like a child, to blindly soak in an ideal world where turning 25 was synonymous to pomp and galore. But that hardly happened. Because, on the night of my birthday, I downed two Bailey’s and put on the party pooper hat.

In no time, my mind started racing with a million questions. Only, the questions became more specific and the anxiety more prevalent.

What’s the purpose of what I am doing right now? Okay, what DO I want to do right now? What gives me happiness? More so, being an Indian and being single, there was the threat of attending family occasions and being interrogated about why I was being so pricey about “choosing a boy”, much like in a flea market.

An entire week went past, with not a hint of sunshine. And then, a week later, I found a note on my desk, written by my mom, which, if not gave me the answers to my questions, at least gave me the strength to face the curve balls that life was preparing to throw at me.

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And then, I remembered a post I had read a year ago about ‘25 things I want myself to know at 25.’ One of them was; Enjoy getting to know your parents, as their adult child and realize that they still have a lot to teach you.

Well, at least I’m sure of one thing.

 

Not just a note for Father’s Day

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Every year, Father’s Day comes right after Appa’s (meaning father, in Tamil) birthday. And, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had endless discussions with my mother and brother about what would be the perfect gift for him. A wallet? A tie? An iPod loaded with his favourite songs? We gave it all and more, and every year, he securely wrapped it in a box and kept it in one corner of his wardrobe, to be taken out when needed and to be kept back in the exact same place every single time.

This year though, there was no hullabaloo at home as Father’s Day approached. Everybody seemed to be oblivious to the fact that a celebration was around the corner. Then, one day, I came across a few beautifully written posts about what each person’s father meant to them. Upon reading them, I had my Eureka moment. I wanted to write about Appa too. Not to show him how much I loved him, but to tell the world that, to me, he will always be the first man I fell in love with.

As a child, there were things that I learnt by observing him, and then, as I grew into an adult, there were those that he passed on to me during our long walks across the beach, every Sunday. I probably can’t write about every memory here, so I’ve captured a few that are close to my heart.

When I was a child, tall as a television set, every time Appa came back from work, upset, he quietly sat in the courtyard and sang to himself. To keep himself at peace, I told myself then. Today, I subconsciously sing or hum a tune when I’m upset or low. It puts me at peace.

During my first day at a new school in a new city, as I nervously held my father’s hand and walked into a class full of strangers, he stepped forward, struck a chirpy conversation with my classmates-to-be, cracked a few jokes, and left. He broke the ice for me. Today, I thank him for teaching me to be laid back.

When I reluctantly began my music classes, my parents insisted that I practice music every morning. An adamant child that I was, I sang carelessly, out of tune. And, my father sat in front of me, eyes closed, nodding in appreciation. Eyes welling with tears, I practiced all songs to perfection. Today, I owe that discipline and love for music, to him.

As I grew older, when life lead me at crossroads, be it in my academics, career or life altering decisions, while my family took decisions about what would be right for me, my father said, “You choose what you want to do with your life and you face the consequences of it. I promise you, I will stand by you through every mistake and every difficulty.” Today, I thank him for giving me a chance to build life of my own. I have no regrets.

Today, I’ve come to an age where society demands that marriage be on the cards. In fact, most of our Sunday walks comprise deep conversations about life and destiny.  But, once in a while, he keeps asking me a question, “What kind of a person are you looking for?” And I wish I could tell him, someone like you. Because you were the first man I fell in love with, and it’s another such man I would want to spend the rest of my life with.

 

5 reasons why lists can be a form of writing, and can be useful

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A couple of days ago, I had come across a post by an author who’d written about ‘10 reasons why making a list is not writing.’ To sum up his views in a line, he believes that a list is an easy escape route for the video game generation, and that it discourages a reader from actually reading.

Being a writer myself, while I agree that it can’t, by any means, be compared to literary writing or to the passion and effort taken to come up with even a 500-word piece, I do beg to disagree with the generalisation of his views. So, here’s my list of five reasons why making a list can, in fact, be a form of writing, and can be useful too.
Lists

1. What you want is ultimately the same: Whether you’re an author writing a mind boggling crime thriller, a blogger plotting a clever twist in a 500-word tale or a ‘list-writer’ sharing some guidelines, your end objective is to capture a reader’s attention till the last letter of the last word.

 

2. It gets someone who’s never read a book to develop (remotely, at least) a reading habit: Even if every single word in the list has been dumbed down to an easy-to-understand language, is simple, straightforward and requires no effort on the reader’s part, if it captured the readers’ attention for a few minutes, it has at least sparked a reading habit in them. If that continues, you never know, their interest in reading might grow and someday they might be spotted in a park bench burying their nose into an Ayn Rand or a Jane Austen.

 

3. You can’t complain about a bunch of list-writers telling you what you should do when there are self-help authors who write an entire book about How to be not just cool, but Awesome, or How to Twitter your way to better life, or well, How to write a how to write book.

 

4. On the contrary, certain topics bode well with lists and can be used as a reference point for further research or for leads; like 10 useful Windows commands you should know, or 10 drugs to carry when you’re on a road trip (at least this can be a reference point before you head to the Chemist’s), or 10 do’s and don’ts when on a tour to China (P.S. Did you know that gifting a clock is a sign of attending a funeral, and gifting a book is like delivering defeat?)

5. It’s not easy. It took me an entire hour and careful consideration (ironically, as the author put it too) to make this list. So don’t undermine the effort.

Lastly, you have a choice. You don’t have to read everything that’s on the web. If lists don’t go down well with you, ignore them.

Coming back home to Chennai

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“Chennai is too laid back and conservative for my taste. I can’t imagine being in such a dull city,” said a friend who’d come down from Mumbai. In fact, he said it every single time he made a visit here. And, I’m quite sure if I look up on the internet, I’ll find at least five blogs written about why, on the contrary, Chennai is an awesome place to be in or about how North Indians or people brought up in the North have a stereotyped and often, narrow-minded view of the city.

But, keeping aside all that, if you ask me, I’d say, what makes a city beautiful is the memories we hold from the years we’ve lived there. That’s why, Chennai to me is a place I call home. It’s a city that nurtured my childhood, watched me fail and get up again, and in all glory, shaped me into what I am today.

Chennai to me is the memory of my early childhood, when I ran back home to Nanganallur to the unconditional love from my grandparents, when every single day, without fail, I would find a bowl of fresh pomegranate stocked in the fridge, new things to discover in my grandfather’s desk draw, new games to play with a colony full of friends, and a new bedtime story from an epic.

Chennai to me is the memory of my high school days, when I spent the evenings sitting on the sidewalk at Besant Nagar beach with my best friend and watched the world go by, when I saved up a whole week’s pocket money and eagerly bought a creamy cake from the Royal Bakery, when birthdays meant pooling in a handful of money and buying a greeting card and pencil pouch from Words & Worths, and when the best way to boost our egos was to get our friends to fill fancy slam books.

Chennai to me is during my college days, when I first experienced the feeling of spending three years in an all girls campus, when I sat up till 3.30 in the morning on a conference call with friends, fine tuning my class project, when 10 Downing Street was the most talked about, -had-to-be-there-and-do-that pub, when 29C (an empty one in that) was a life saviour, and when a snack at Mary Brown or Subway was the coolest hangout destination.

Chennai to me is the memory of my first job, when I travelled to Egmore every single day, waiting to make my mark in the company, when I gathered with my friends outside the sandwich shop, waiting to sink my teeth into the hot, spicy, egg sandwiches, when going out meant a dinner at Dhaba Express or Little Italy, when weekend meant party at Dublin or Zaras, and when festivals meant going to the Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar temple.

It’s been close to 14 years since I moved into this city. From not knowing the language at all to taking shelter in the warmth of the city that holds memories of a decade of my life, Chennai, to me, will always be a place I call home.

Since you’re on Facebook now and saw this, you might as well read it

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Before I start, I’d like you try this small experiment. When you’re walking on the road, just once, unplug your earphones, keep your gadgets in your bag, look up, and walk.

I bet you faced at least one of these circumstances.

1. You were suddenly very aware of your surroundings. As silly as it sounds, you felt as though you’ve woken up from a dream to a little too much happening around you. – I know, vehicles zooming past you and people walking along side you can cause panic.

2. You noticed a small (surprisingly, resourceful) store at the end of a street you zoomed past every single day, and wondered how long it’s been there.

3. If you had to cross a road, you hesitated at least for a few seconds, because, let’s accept it, earphones plugged in with loud music make it so much easier to achieve a herculean task!

Keeping in check the threat of sounding ‘ancient’ and ‘clichéd’, I can’t help but be amused by how gadgets have made us their slaves. That’s right, I did say we are its slaves. If you think about it, a large chunk of our conversations happen on a device. When we think about someone, the first thing we remember is their latest Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profile picture – so much so that we almost fail to recognise them when we meet them in person (Oh and blame the photo effects on every phone that make us look supernaturally attractive!). And, we share the best and worst moments of our life, even something as trivial as, “I jumped across a pothole today, Yay!’ or ‘I slammed the phone on my boyfriend now. *Feeling angry*’, online. (P.S. I bet when each of you reads such a status, you have Uncle Scrooge saying, “Bah! Humbug!” in your head).

I believe we’ve all successfully come to a stage where, when we are sitting across someone and actually listening to what the other person is saying (Oh! The horror of it!), we’ll be judged as friendless, lifeless, ill-read (Seriously, you just missed an entire minute of twitter news feed), and boring person.

So, bearing in mind the threat of sounding like my Grandma (again), I think we should keep aside our gadgets at least for an hour a day and take in reality (in all its beauty). (Now, don’t act smart and tell me you can do that when you’re asleep. I mean when you’re wide awake). When you do something as simple as sit on the beach and listen to the waves gushing to and fro or, share a smile with a stranger on the road, an unbelievable sense of contentment fills within you. And that, my friend, even your smartest, closest to human emotion gadget cannot give.

And, for all that you’ve lost in the artificial world in that hour, just call Google. They’ll give you enough and more information about what your friends are upto.

Finally, for all those who haven’t seen it yet, check out this beautiful video that pretty much encapsulates all that I’ve ranted on about, in this post.

 

Brace yourselves for TamBrahm Arranged Marriage Version Gen-Y

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Though enough’s been said and read about the idea of Tambrahm arranged marriages, you just can’t fill the funny, funny void that it has created. I tell you, there’s something fundamentally un-Tambrahmish about arranged marriages today…

1. You meet ‘prospective life partners’ in an ultra cool matrimony networking site. Don’t laugh. It’s cool ok. I have facts to back up my justification.

No hacker can NEVER download your lakshanamaana photo and misuse it! I wonder why they would take it from a matrimony site, but still, let’s give you the benefit of doubt.

2. Oh and every boy or girl is a non-smoker, non-drinker, religious, earns well, will swear to love the future partner until death do them apart and is ‘funny, smart and handsome’. Now, now, I understand if you feel intimidated and loserly.

3. I swear, women spend more time deciding which profile is ‘suitable’ more than they spend time shopping.

4. Go on a normal day and try telling your parents you’d like to date someone…

You tell first. I’ll pray for you.

BUT, in an arranged marriage, you have the freedom to talk to as many, go on multiple dates, talk day-in and day-out, bring home heart-holding teddy bears and show it to smiling parents and, still say ‘No’ and escape pannify at any point of time. No questions asked.

5. God forbid your parents get involved in your ‘first date.’ They’d say, “Paaru andha payyan blazer pottundu smart ah vara poran, Edhavadhu fashionable ah dress podu di”.

This is exactly when you have those flashback moments.

No sleeveless to work, kannu padum.

No ‘midi-skirt’ to meet friends, road la kannu padum.

No dresses to parties. Kalyanamaana pasanga ellam irupa. Kudumbathula kozhapam undaagum! (??!!)

No shorts at home. Vayasu pasanga flat la iruka!

6. Anyway, moving on…today the girl’s/ boy’s parents don’t vijarichufy with pakathu aathu and yethaathu about you. They surusuruppa ‘check you out’ on Facebook. That’s why naa appove sonen,’Keep calm and pray to Umachi’ profile photo vaa maathu nu. Nee ketiya? Ippo anubavi.

7. There are kaadhu ku inimaiyaana moments in your life when a maami suddenly comes and tells your mom, indha kaalathu ponnunga ellam 26 la thane kalyaanam panra. Enna avasaram unaku? Konjam freeeya iruka viden? Now don’t ask me if they were being sarcastic or genuinely meant it. I’m clueless. Anything’s possible. Anything.

8. This is heights of hypocrisy. Before wedding you just HAVE TO wake up early morning, vaasal thelichu kolam potufy, know how to cook Tambrahm saapadu and get home by 9 PM. Why? Because andha imaginary maamiyar and payyan ku seri varaadhu! Post wedding: You get sloshed and end up in a zoo, turn into a hippie, go bald, live under a bridge, pierce your eyebrows, they don’t care. Because adhu ‘un kudumba prachana”.

9. Oh and top it all off, “En ponnu nalla paaduva. Cinema paatu kuda paaduva!”

Thus, the hilarity ensues. To my fellow Tambrahms, Keep calm and really, pray to Umachi.

The New Year resolution: 12 things I discovered in my 20s that’ll last a lifetime

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There’s something about New Years that gives you a fresh lease of life, a second chance to give a shot at life again. A chance to forget the past and create a future you always wanted. Maybe that’s why, a lot of us look at the year gone by and religiously make a list of things we missed out on and want to do, in the year ahead. In simple words, we make resolutions. I did too, for many years. But then, for a person who is hardly a disciplinarian, it was a mammoth task to make it last even for a week.

So, this year, for a change, I decided to look back at 2013 (in the hope that fate doesn’t have any big surprises in the last 5 days), and list down things that I learnt from the whirlwind of a year. Things that I’ll probably carry to my deathbed. Of course, with the possibility that this list will grow by the years.

  1. Despite being confronted with several circumstances, we still don’t know when to say a firm no, when to say a yes or when to forgive. Somehow, there’s always an element of doubt.
  2. It’s a fact. We brag about how we don’t care about what others think about us. We stand tall. We stand proud. But, even the most optimistic among us has a tinge of unshakeable insecurity. And, it takes conviction beyond imagination to not let it affect us.
  3. Our parents were always right, especially, about the kind of friends we had right from kindergarten until now. They sensed the trouble-kind like a bloodhound long ago, while we took a hit and went running back to them years later, just to hear them say, “I told you so.”
  4. Oh, and they know exactly what we do and how messed up we are. They just don’t confront us.
  5. We wake up one day and realise, we can literally count the number of friends we are truly comfortable being around. We panic, yes. But, at some level, we prefer to spend time with those few who know us inside out.
  6. While on this subject, we realise it takes tremendous effort to keep in touch with those select few. But, we are willing to go ten extra miles to do exactly that!
  7. Hangovers are not fun anymore. Our legs start weighing down on us even before the stroke of midnight, and we yearn to go back to that wonderful, wonderful bed at home.
  8. Whether we care to admit it or not, when we see our closest friends bear a child, the first signs of growing old and becoming adults hits us like a storm. Of course, not fashionably so.
  9. When we were in our teens, we could hardly relate to someone who was even two years older than us. Somehow, we were the more awesome know-it-alls’. Enter mid-20s – we have that shocking revelation that most of our friends are at least two to three years older than us. And the best part? We prefer to be around them at most times.
  10. All the things that mattered to us in a ‘dateable person’ seem insignificant and immature now. And what we look for in them now? Well, there’s no list. None whatsoever.
  11. For all those of us who make or used to make diary entries in our early and late teens, when we read it now, we can’t help but laugh at the trivial concerns we had as kids! And now, we begin to wonder if the troubles we have now will seem insignificant to what we would be facing in a decade. And that, my friend, is scary!
  12. Finally, we oh so miss the summer vacations, when we watched Cartoon Network day in and day out, played in the blazing heat with friends and when the biggest worry was to show our report cards to our parents! We’d give anything to trade lives with a five-year old.