Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A story of a boy and a girl

This is the story of a boy and a girl. They were strangers at first, then friends. Later, they became family. And this is a story about when and how it all happened.

They both had curly locks, belonged to God's Own Country and worked for the media. But the similarities ended there. Where he was aggressive, she was passive. Where he was the angry young man, she was the charming quiet lady. Where he loved cycling and the outdoors, she loved curling up with a book indoors. While she lived with her family in Chennai, he lived alone, away from his family that was in Kochi.

One Diwali, when he was to visit home, she decided to accompany him. It was a last-minute plan, the tickets were for the general class. And like most Indian trains, theirs too decided to make them wait. So they waited on the platform where she lay on his lap while he brushed away the bugs that were trying to suck blood out of her. Finally the train arrived and with the influence of their press card and their combined charm, they managed to get seats in the AC compartment.

The journey was long, but one of discovery. They discovered tidbits about each other and about Kerala too. They clicked photographs at stations where the train made unscheduled stops. And they talked – about life, love and everything in between.

They reached Kochi the next evening. It was her first time. And he was the proud yet patient guide. Being the natural explorer that he was, he knew every lane of his city and almost every street corner held special memories for him. Memories he hadn't shared with many. Memories he was sharing with her now.

After a 40-minute auto ride, they reached his house. And what a welcome it was. His mother welcomed her with a warm hug and a kiss. And his father, with a sweet smile and a handshake. Within no time they were sitting happily around the dinner table, feasting on the choicest of Kerala delicacies.

The next day, they got onto his bike and went to visit his friends. But before that, they made a pitstop at his college. He told her stories of the pranks he would play, and introduced her to his old teachers. Later, while he caught up with his buddies, she ventured into Broadway, one of Kochi's oldest shopping areas. Some stores she peeked into, some she entered and some she stared at with open awe. It all seemed so quaint to her. By the time her Broadway adventure ended, evening had set in. So they decided to go on a boat ride into the bay. The boat ride was beautiful and funny at the same time. Beautiful because it was a boat ride in the Arabian Sea. Funny because of the people (read typical tourists) that they had for company. Between bites of Shawarma that he had magically procured for her, they admired the Kochi skyline and giggled at the gaffes of the tourists.

On their way back home, he decided to give her a taste of the famous ferry rides. And though it lasted all of five minutes with vehicles and people jostling for space on the cramped ferry, it was one helluva ride.

On their way home, he had a brainwave. It was Diwali and she was away from home. So he took her to his friend's house where four little kids were celebrating the return of Rama with some crackers. And they joined in on the fun. When you are around children who are enjoying themselves, you become a child yourself. And that rainy Diwali night, the two twenty-somethings looked more like two eight-year-olds.

The next day was spent lazing around at home. And in the evening, they went for a bike ride. To describe it in words would be doing it injustice. It was on a long road running along Fort Kochi. And it was delightful. They passed many churches along the way. At some, they stopped and prayed. She for him, he for her. It was a largely quiet ride though. They didn't talk much. But if you were with them on the bike, you would agree that silence indeed speaks.

On Sunday, they went for a walk to the park nearby. And there she walked barefoot in the grass, watching him wrestle with his brother at a distance. Later in the afternoon, she did some regular sight-seeing. He had people to meet so he sent her a replacement guide to show her around Jew Town, the synagogue and the famous Chinese nets. She did the regular touristy things. She clicked pictures, smiled at persistent shopkeepers (“Please come inside madam. No charges for seeing”), visited art halleries and sipped on ordinary tea in fancy cafes.

Soon it was the last day in Kochi. They decided on doing a farewell tour of his haunts. And on this tour, he opened his heart out to her. Throughout the trip he had regaled her with happy stories of his childhood. But now, he chose to tell her about the agony of leaving a place as beautiful as Kochi. And though she had been in Kochi for only 4 days, she had seen it through his eyes and she had fallen in love with the city.

Along the way, she also realised that blood might be thicker than water, but sometimes, water is more essential for life than blood. And when water meets blood, it becomes red too. It was at that Eureka moment that she realised something else. that in him, she had found a brother – a brother for life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vibrant shades of dacoraason

M*********. That was the first word I heard when I stepped out of the Jaipur airport. Surprisingly, instead of cringing I smiled. Maybe it was because the insult was not directed at me. Or maybe it was because it reminded me of a certain North Indian friend who would often say that North Indians swore a lot more than South Indians.

Jaipur. How I had dreamt of visiting this city. From when I was three and a half, pink has been my favourite colour. Why three-and-a-half? The story behind that is too long and too silly to be printed here. Anyhow, I still remember the day I learnt about Jaipur being the pink city. First standard. GK class. And since then, I have wanted to visit this wondrous land of pink. So when I peered out of the window of the plane, I was disappointed with the colour scheme of the city. Where did all the pink disappear?

But once I got around to exploring the city, I only fell more and more in love with it. After much running around for a hotel (it was the season of the Jaipur Litt Fest and most hotels were full), we finally checked into one. There were two categories of rooms – one with dacoraason and one without dacoraason. What was this dacoraason we wondered and asked for the room without it. Out of curiosity, I asked the bellboy to show me the room with dacoraason. When I entered the room, the bellboy pointed out to the Rajasthani carvings and paintings on the bed stand and said, “Madam, woh dekho Rs 150 extra only.” I smiled and said, ok. After all, Rs 150 is a small price to pay for some authentic Rajasthani decoration eh. Oops! I meant dacoraason.

Then began the touristy things. But instead of doing what most tourists do (read going on guided tours where the guide rattles of the historical significance of the at the speed of a rattle snake), we decided to do things our way. After much poring over maps, googling, making lists, tearing up lists and tearing up t-shirts, we came up with THE LIST. Since we were on a not-so-tight budget, we decided to opt for an autorickshaw as our mode of transport. After a fairly longish screening process, we short-listed two autos. Both were charging us the same price so it was a tough choice to make. Finally, I picked the one that had more dacoraason. For me, that was what Jaipur was all about.

Finally, we set out on our Jaipur darshan. But not before making a few pit stops to satiate the rats growling in our tummies. Ok, the rats were growling only in my tummy. Anyhow, the rats were fed dal baati churma (a Rajasthani speciality and an acquired taste) and the journey was resumed.

First stop was the famed Hawa Mahal. I had envisioned a beautiful entrance to the palace lined with trees and maybe a few fountains thrown in as well. So when the rickshawallah stopped in the middle of a busy market place and asked us to get off, I was taken aback. But the surprise was not to last too long for once you enter the street leading to the palace, the sense of calm transports you to another world. And the palace, well, you have to see it to believe it. Beautiful would be an understatement.

It was at Hawa Mahal that I began to fall in love with the people of Jaipur. First was the old woman sitting under the sun on the verandah of the palace. Though I am not much of a shutterbug, she looked almost picture perfect. When I went up to show her the picture, she broke into an innocent smile. And then there was the man at the exit. While we were clicking photographs near the exquisitely carved door, he stood grumpily by the side, but the moment I asked him if he could take a picture of his, a smile broke out on his lips. After fussing over his turban for five minutes, he finally posed for the camera with a somber look on his face.

Jantar Mantar was next up on THE LIST. While my friend was excited, I wasn’t too keen on it. For one, I was a poor student of physics and despised any reminders to the fact that I had once flunked the subject in school. Also, the place was under renovation. But at my annoying friend’s insistence, we spent a good half-an-hour looking at the various sun dials on display. “Why do we need those when you have a watch?” I asked only to be rudely asked to shut up.

Now I was suitably tired after all the walking around so we changed the sequence of places-to-see on THE LIST and headed for Kanak Vrindavan garden. Within minutes, I was bored of lounging around in the garden and so I started counting the number of lovebirds doing the peek-a-boo. And the number? Let’s suffice to say I ran out of fingers and toes to count on.

Day 2 was spent largely at Jaigarh fort and City Palace. While the view from the Jaigarh Fort was spectacular, the stories that I heard in the City Palace were even better. Here’s what happened. There were a bunch of us tourists clicking away in a large verandah-like area in the City Palace when we heard strange noises of a woman having a good time (if you know what I mean). While some tourists opined that it was the spirit of a Queen who had many lovers, others were seen trying to trace the origin of the noise. In the end it turned to be a couple of naughty pigeons.

The next night, we decided to catch a movie in the famous Rajmandir theatre. A serpentine queues and several squabbles later, we thought ourselves lucky to get seats in row A. As it turned out, A was the row nearest to the screen. So not only did that idiotic (yes, I am making a miserable pun on 3 idiots) movie give me a headache but proved to be a pain in the neck as well (pardon the second pun).

But day 4 was the best. For a large part of the day, we lazed around, ate heavily, watched television and finally at night we went to Choki Dhani – a village resort. Though I suffered from pre-conceived notions that I would be killing the authentic experience by going to a “created Rajasthani village”, the man singing Kesariya Balama at the entrance put my fears to rest. The song was quite special to me. And his renidition, accompanied with the strings of the ektara, made me want to fall in love again. And I did. With Jaipur.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Random conversation (Day 2)

I can't believe this is happening. I make a resolution on Monday and on Tuesday, I break it. I had thought I would last longer.

So to make up for it, I am going to write a compensatory post as punishment for my utter indolence.

How about a random conversation. Here's what happened.

The other day I was at my aunt's place. On the dinner table were my aunt, uncle and cousin. I was sitting on a sofa by the side. We were talking about going to the movies.

Aunt: How about going for that movie Love, Sex Aur Dhoka?

Uncle (looking at us): Oh, so there are movies like that as well...

Then my uncle turns to my aunt and says "Now only Dhoka remains."

Monday, May 10, 2010

To new beginnings (DAY 1)

Writing a blog after a period of xx months can be a painstaking task. I have been wanting to write one for quite some time now but haven’t. Simply because I couldn’t think of anything earth-shattering enough to write on.

Often on my bus journey to office and back home (and yes, it is quite a journey, not just a ride), I would mutter to myself, “You must write today.” But it would remain just that — a random muttering.

So today, when dear Diana and I were talking about resolutions, I said out loud, “I am going to read and write every day.” Now, words once said out loud cannot be taken back. So here I am, sitting in the office at 8.36 pm, typing out the post that is to become one of many. One of many. Yes, I plan to write regularly. Wait, why don’t I write a post a day.

So let me raise a toast to new beginnings. And hopefully no quick, abrupt endings. Will those three mystery followers of this blog please raise your steel tumblers to this.

I promise to write something more coherent in my next post. Until then.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Tickets to the Chennai Open: Rs 150

Popcorn: Rs 20

Hearing a 4-year-old shout "Come on da Moya, CONCENTRATE": Priceless

There are many things in life money can buy. For the rest, all you need is a a young heart and an innocent mind.