Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From Dilli to Mumbai

I’m a Delhiite.
I’ve been told by some that I’m not at all like a Delhiite. (“You’re actually nice!” were the exact words)
But then again, some have said, that I’m the pakka spoilt South Delhi Chick. (of course, forgetting the fact that I no longer even live in South Delhi)
I’m not sure what a Delhiite is really supposed to be like. Spoilt, rude, dressed up?
Frankly, I don’t care. I love the city. How can one not? The amazing wide roads, the huge bungalows, spacious flats, the chilly winters, street food, Delhi University…I could go on and on. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. This post, surprising as it might be, is about Mumbai.
My summer internship was in Mumbai. This meant, that for the first time in my life, I was going to totally fend for myself, away from home, family, everyone, in a city I had barely even visited before. My salary, my headache to find a place to live, to figure out a way to eat, travel, everything. It was exciting, to say the least. And scary.
Weirdly, everyone expected me to hate Mumbai. Apparently being from Delhi, that is the expected code of behavior. After all, we’ve all been part of those endless futile discussions about which of the two cities is better. I was apprehensive, but definitely not in a mood to hate a city I may have to eventually spend my life in.
As it turned out, I didn’t hate Mumbai.
In fact, I loved it.
Fine, so I agree I did my share of cribbing (Why are the roads so narrow? I could get a huge house in Delhi for this much rent! The meter in the auto runs even when its stuck in a traffic jam! Damn…in this much time, I would’ve managed to cross the whole of Delhi!! I hate humidity! Oh god…I can only see heads in this local train… Wait, I wasn’t supposed to get off at this station, let me back on!!! And so on…). But then I think that much is expected.
But there were so many things I loved.
I loved meeting new people in office. I loved walking on the road and not having a zillion lewd comments thrown at me. I loved being able to wear whatever I wanted to, without feeling conscious. I loved the sea. I loved walking through cobbled streets like a tourist. I loved sitting in a local at midnight. I loved the city glowing alive in the dark.
I loved the life.
I loved Mumbai.
Perhaps, I loved it because I spent a cozy two months there. And perhaps if I were forced to travel in that local every day during peak hours, I wouldn’t remain such a fan of the city anymore. But none of that can change the two beautiful months I spent in Mumbai.
But now, sitting here at the laptop, I realized what truly makes me love Mumbai. It isn’t Marine Drive, the pav bhaji, or even the life. It was the people.
It was my friend, who welcomed me to his city and made me feel at home, when I was a complete stranger to the place. The friend who took me around everywhere, and tried to make me see the romantic side of the city. Needless to say he failed miserably at the latter. But I saw the city, and I loved it, simply because of him.
And it doesn’t stop there.
While my personal experience might have been great because of one person, I realized another reason why I hold that city in such high regard.
It’s Mumbaikars’ passion.
They love the city. Not just love, in fact, they’re crazy about it.
Filmy and romantic, some might call it, but they are. Amazingly so.
I think it was their obsession for their city which really drew me to it, which made me want to see it, and understand it.
I did.


This is not an emotion I would ever like to admit to.
I’m not claiming to be one of those strong people who aren’t scared of anything. Of course I’m scared, of more things than one. For God’s sake, I’m even scared of the dark. But there is a difference between that, and what I’m feeling right now.
This emotion has hit me only recently. It had been a good year. With loads of extremely good things happening. I achieved what I wanted, I slogged for what I believed in, and I managed to do what I had set out for in the first place. And yet, in its own twisted way, each and every one of those things turned on me and took it all away.
The achievement is still there. The feeling of exhilaration, missing.
So please, someone, tell me, why should I still believe?
In age old sayings, like hard work pays off?
In my own personal choices?
In myself?
Why should I still work hard towards achieving what I want, when each day I manage to do something worse, and am continuously reminded of all that has gone wrong?
Yes, pessimistic post, but I can’t help it. If I was a pessimist before, I don’t even know how to describe my current disposition.
And worse still, I think I’ve started feeling it. Every second, minute and hour of the day…
As cowardly as it sounds…

The Journey

Heading back home, finally.
I think that’s the excuse I’ll always use to explain the idiotic dumbness I displayed today. How else is it humanly possible for a person to be absent minded enough to forget to print the train tickets? Not misplace, not forget in the hostel, but simply forget to print the ticket?!
After showing my heroic stunt of booking my own train ticket, independent of all other Delhi-goers, preparing myself to travel in RAC, and travelling alone in a train, I of course undid it all by being plain stupid.
So, euphoria is the excuse.
As I watched the train slowly start to chug out of the station, I looked at the passengers around me. I was quite pleased. No noisy aunties, no burpy uncles, and most thankfully, no bratty and crying kids around. Everyone seemed to be pretty young, a newly married couple, a guy who was probably from a nearby B-School, and a serene uncle checking his mail on his laptop.
Laptop…internet…email…I mailed the ticket to myself…e-ticket…TICKET!!
And that’s when it hit me, that I had managed to do everything, and they were simply going to throw me off the train anyway. I’m not proud to admit this, since I’m usually not the type, but this time I visibly panicked. I know this because I could feel it. And also because the uncle in front of me realized that something was wrong.
So while I was talking exceptionally fast on the phone to a friend aboard the same train, and causing two people to hyperventilate at the same time, he simply looked at me, smiled and said, “Relax.”
I stopped and looked at him, something about his expression made me cut the phone and actually sit down.
“Never panic. You have your PNR number and I-card. Relax. It’s not a big deal, it can be managed.”
I did relax, a bit.
As it turned out, I was let off with a fine of Rs.50. I still had my seat, on my train, heading back home, finally.
“Whatever happens, you should never panic.” He started. I could sense some gyaan coming my way. But he had helped to really relax me, and so the least I could do was listen. So I smiled and nodded.
“Whenever something goes wrong – Stop, Think, Go.”
Hmm.. More smiles and nods. But he was making sense. I shouldn’t have panicked. Very uncharacteristic of a future manager.
And then we talked more. A lot more. It wasn’t really a conversation. He talked and I listened. The never talk to strangers rule was being kept aside for the time being.
Now this is a time in my life when I have ample number of things to worry about. With placements right around the corner, and the economy not exactly in its rosiest mood, there was definitely one huge thing to worry about. Personal life, friends, family are perennial things on a persons mind anyway.
And then he told me his story. Which suddenly made all my worries look embarrassingly miniscule. And it made me listen to him even more.
It’s funny how context can suddenly change everything.
Here was a man full of clichés, literally. Every second line was a cliché. Ladies first…Do your best, he’ll do rest… But the clichés didn’t sound bad anymore. They actually made perfect sense for once. Just because he was saying it, because he had lived them.
I got into bed, knowing that this had been an important train ride. Also knowing myself, realizing that I would forget its importance pretty soon. Maybe that’s why I was suddenly compelled to write again. In memory of a few words, which made perfect sense.
“Mere jeevan ki chaabi mere haath mein hai.”
Whatever happens, never let anyone, be it your parents, friends, husband, anyone, control your life. Keep the key of your life closely guarded with yourself, and it’ll all be alright.
Sounds silly right? But at the time it didn’t. It made perfect sense.
He mentioned in between that even if you believe in God, it doesn’t mean he’ll come down himself to help you. But he will send someone. “Like I helped you when you were panicking.”
I smiled.
I don’t think he realized how much he’d actually helped me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yin and Yang

Wow. I can’t remember the last time I opened a word doc to…just write.
I can’t remember the last time I had something worth writing publicly about.
I can’t remember the last time I felt strong emotions.
No, I’m not sad.
But I don’t remember being happy.
I do remember telling myself that I wont blog again till I have something non-sad to write about.
So what is this then, you ask?
A reminder to myself, that I am yet to blog, and its been way too long.
One friend I’m meeting after months, “You’ve changed.” (Fatter? Darker? Uglier? Something??) “You’re more serious and troubled now.”
An hour later, news from Friend No. 2:
“I got a tattoo. Guess I beat you.”
No, not just double blah!
It’s been way too long.
Time for a few changes.
Time to come back.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


The sunlight streamed in from the window, making me cringe as it hit my face. The rocking to-and fro motion had become a part of me by now. A journey made much longer than what was required. I could hear the chatter and laughter from the next compartment. Brown berths (blue seemed prettier, somehow, tired souls, frustration flowing out, hurriedly wrapped in the form of jest, straining to let the sarcasm out, get away from present company, away from the three hurried days in another city.

I turned away from the yellowing scenery to spot the source of the voice which called out to me. There it was. Sarcastic banter. To and fro. Throughout the journey. Good entertainment, mentally stimulating.

I finally turned back to the window with a “You think I care?”

“What do you care about, Ms. Shively?”

I looked up, gave an answer which reeked of pfaff, and returned to my beloved window. But the yellowing scenery was no longer beautiful. I was deep in thought. And I hated myself for letting him get to me. Specially when he didn’t even realize the significance of what he’d said. But I had never thought that someone who barely knew me would ask me that.

The same question. Twice in a month. And I still didn’t have an answer.

It bothered me.

What do I care about?

I’m not enthusiastic about any sport, any music band, any hobby that I religiously follow. I feel jealous of my friends fanaticism about golf and tennis. I don’t have a fetish for shopping (simply because I can’t afford it), for butterflies or vanilla essence, for art or literature, for counter strike or any other form of entertainment.

What do I get excited by? What am I passionate about? What do I live for? What would I die for?

Why are these questions haunting me again and again?

Is it that bad to not be passionate about anything in life?

Or is it unacceptable to be passionate about the morally incorrect things in life?

Am I boring simply because I can’t tell you what I care about?

Or do I scare you with my incapability of feeling strong emotions for anything?

Is my life worthless if it isn’t for something I care about?

Don’t I care about me?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It’s an unsettling experience.
That weird feeling in my stomach.
The light-headedness.
And then it hit me.
I’m happy.

Monday, February 16, 2009


What happens when the very things I believe in, the very things I rebel for, are the very things I realize I no longer believe in?

What happens when I find myself incapable of being passionate about anything…anything at all?

What happens when the one person I’m out to prove wrong turns out to be right?

What happens to my identity?

What happens to me?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dev D

Bollywood is finally coming of age, they say. And I’ll have to agree with that. It’s finally time for showing more than just the current reality, the stark one, if I may say and playing with the viewers’ minds in ways unimaginable. The characters are well defined, their heads warped, their decisions even more so. And nothing is justified, nothing is shown as pitiable. Everything is our own choice, our own doing, and the psychedelic scenes bring our illusions to life like never before.

I left the hall feeling messed up in my head - full of frustration and awe at the same time. That was probably the desired effect, and it was appreciated. But the one thing I did not appreciate was the depiction of events in the movie which drew close parallels to actual scandals which have rocked the nation over the past few years. The depiction of an MMS scandal and a BMW hit and run case. It doesn’t take a genius to make the connections to the real life events. On the one hand, the director actually garners sympathy for the protagonists, showing their side of the events and the torturous aftermath, specially in the MMS scandal. But somewhere he seems to have forgotten that these are actual people living out there in the world somewhere today. Does that girl need the nation to remember the scandal all over again? Is that not torturous in itself? Or worse still, the suicide of the protagonist’s father, followed by her running away and turning to prostitution to sustain herself – was that the director’s take on the supposed mistake she had made? How could that be his point of view, when he supports the character with powerful dialogues such as ‘…and they called me the slut.”

A lot of my friends did not agree with this, for at the end of the day, a story is a story, and everyone has the freedom to express their opinions. All I know is, I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life being judged and paying for the so-called mistake I made once, a long time ago.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Paradise Revisited

Beautiful day with absolutely clear skies... ten minute walk from campus...the towering structure...disguised as a harmless stroke of the creator’s brush on the horizon... small circular staircase...damp smell of abandonment at the entrance...rickety steps...broken railing...infinite pirouetting steps...disorientation...too far from the ground, yet no end in sight...continue climbing...praying for it to end...to never make this mistake again... sunlight...a wobbly platform...the final jump onto cement...heart racing at the sight of the gaping hole a few steps away...pure darkness...the hope of water at the bottom...merely a hope...

The height, dizzying... the sight, breathtaking.

The force of the wind, astonishing... the fury, beautiful...the presence, liberating...

Satisfaction... elation... a rush...calmness... emotions... numbness...

Oh, that beautiful numbness.