November 24, 2015


It plonked there in a little corner of the bus, seemingly out of place. As sturdy as it was, it could only see the things that it wasn't--colourful, flashy, stylish and most importantly, popular. After all, there was only one of its kind amidst a sea of the others. "But one of a kind is a good thing, isn't it"?, it thought, almost trying to convince itself of its worth.

Not far away, sat a group of people. None of them knew each other, yet there was a sense of familiarity forged by a commonness--smart phones, semi-western tops and stoles, polo tees, slim fit jeans, monthly bus passes, and backpacks on their laps. She sat in their midst obviously out of place, an old sari draped tightly around her to keep her from shivering in the cool a/c, no phone in hand, a bus ticket she could ill afford and her bag plonked at a distance.

As the bus slowed down at what seemed to be a major stop, almost everyone jumped off the bus and hurried to cross the road and reach their tech parks on time. She waited until they had all gotten down, picked up the dirty bag that contained her tools and walked in the direction of a construction site close by. It didn't matter if she showed up on time or not, she got jipped of her daily wages anyway.

Her only thought as she walked on was how she would make up the Rs 40 that she had blown up by taking the Volvo bus that day. 

November 23, 2015

Best friends

Two friends stood alongside a brown compound wall. They even wore similar shades of brown, not that they had planned it.

Both went out together every day, at least twice a day--once around breakfast and once around tea time. They didn't talk much but walked around in amicable silence. One would say something occasionally, irrespective of whether the other replied or not. Neither minded. Such was their relationship.

At the moment that I passed them by this morning, both had their backs to me as they faced the compound wall. One had his zipper down and the other had his left leg raised.

One was approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall and the other, 1 foot at best. Best friends for life.

August 16, 2015

When will our Independence Day come?

Our independence from the British came 68 years ago but when will it come from everything else?

Husbands oppressing wives, parents oppressing children, educational institutions oppressing thought, state oppressing speech, and not to mention the widespread oppression due to caste, creed and community politics--there is a hierarchy of oppression that is only growing, and growing rapidly. So what exactly are we celebrating year in and year out by wearing 'Indian clothes', singing the National Anthem, pinning the flag to our lapels and performing cultural events at schools, homes and offices?

One can say that we are celebrating the defenders of our freedoms--those who got us our independence from the Raj, and also those who are currently serving in the Armed Forces--but are they the only ones?

What about the many who are missed because they don't belong to a named group or aren't flattered by the media--ordinary people who strive everyday to make our country more equal and more just by doing simple things that impact larger communities and people without a voice. We don't thank them because we don't know them. They are, sadly, a minority and most importantly, they aren't loud.

Quotes and posts abound on Facebook of Tagore's 'Where the Mind is Without Fear'. It brings a tear and chokes us especially on August 15th, but shouldn't it bring a greater cry, a louder cry throughout the year because it remains a distant dream? Shouldn't it turn into an uproar until it becomes reality?

For that, we need to kick 'Habit', the dreary habit that won't let us stop, think and question.

On this 'Independence Day', I promise myself that I will strive for a truly free life for my children--one where they can question anyone and anything that stands in the way of their freedoms, one where they can learn whatever they want and however they want, and one where they can freely love irrespective of anything else.

Freedom, knowledge and love--isn't that independence? And not just one day every year, but everyday and for everyone. That, is true independence. And it will come. 

July 13, 2015

The player and the fan age (gracefully)

Was it only yesterday that a win or a loss would leave us both in tears, and my throat, perhaps more hoarse than yours? After all, you only yelled 'Come on!' when you thought that the shot you hit was perfect or if you won a tough point. Unlike me. I said it for every point. Your down the T serves at crunch time, your backhand crosscourts and your forehand drive volleys -- I would talk about them all day to whoever cared to listen. You probably thought about those too. I mean, you wouldn't have to talk about them to those around you, would you? They see that brilliance day in and day out.

Yesterday, however, was different although it started off as usual. Something changed after the second set. Maybe it was the early break, and the knowledge that the set had slipped away because it would be too tough to fight back. Did you feel that way too? I did. Your body language showed it but you still produced flashes of genius that left people hoping -- fingers and everything else crossed. The older me would've continued to scream and cheer and sit in the same spot that won you the second set. But I didn't, because I knew -- things have changed. You realised it too.

Yet, some things haven't changed -- I'm still superstitious and I'm guessing that you are too although how your family wasn't in the same outfits as they were on Friday is beyond me. Maybe they do other things, like eat the same food or carry something in their bag.

Is it age? Is it the plethora of things that occupy our older and wiser minds? Maybe it's our children. You, wondering if it was now their time and me, watching mine (at least one) cheer for your opponent.

At the end of it, I think that we are both gracious. You, in your defeat, and me in my mental acceptance of the changes that I will need to make in addition to the ones I already have. One thing I know for sure -- neither one of us will give up as long as we feel something that is, perhaps, hard to explain to others.

And we will go on with our lives, secure in that thought. 

July 11, 2015


if i were one, i would wake up late every day
if i were two, i would enjoy the freedoms of pre school
if i were three, i would eat more of that delicious porridge

if i were nine, i wouldn't fear the first boy that stood on the other side of the court
if i were ten, i wouldn't be embarrassed about wearing colour clothes on my birthday
if i were eleven, i wouldn't ignore the algebra teacher

if i were thirteen, i would talk to paati the last time that she called
if i were fourteen, i would value some friendships more
if i were fifteen, i would make more of my first trip away

if i were eighteen, i wouldn't stop training
if i were nineteen, i wouldn't skip that exam
if i were twenty, i wouldn't feel pressured

if i were twenty four, i would be stronger
if i were twenty five, i would work a little lesser
if i were twenty six, i would travel much more

if i were thirty, i wouldn't want that watch
if i were thirty one, i wouldn't blame myself
if i were thirty two, i wouldn't have agreed

if i were thirty five, i would be as bold
if i were thirty six, i would be more calm
if i were thirty seven, i would do and be the same

if i were thirty eight, oh that is what i am
so what would i do
and what would i not
i can only say in a matter of time
until then i'll remember and i'll write
verse or paragraph
it doesn't matter
only thoughts and memories do

July 10, 2015

Same clothes, same spot -- Sunday July 12

Today's match was peRFect not only because of the genius that is Federer but also because so many people in the world sat in the same spot, did the same thing, wore the same get the gist.

Join me. Same clothes, same spot on Sunday, July 12.

What? Superstitious? ME?

July 4, 2015

of friendship and crazy minds

long chats late into the night
crazy talk all through the day
lots of faces in the room
both familiar, and not.

similarities and differences galore
a range of experiences
of life, love and friendship.

at different times we met
and groups we formed
but what firmly remained
was the sameness.

each relationship so unique
each bond so special
was it you that enabled that?

where do we go from here
when do we meet again
it may be soon or not
life's too busy at times.

but, it doesn't matter
because whenever it is
we know what to expect
the sameness, the craziness
thank goodness for predictability, sometimes.

written June 11, 2015

June 29, 2015


New York and September said in the same breath often bring back memories of the twin towers -- 9/11/2001. But not for me. 9/1/2002 is what I remember, because that's the day I saw my two idols Pete Sampras and Roger Federer at the US Open.

It was my first time at the Open and I had grounds passes for fourth round play. As tempting as it was to buy an Arthur Ashe stadium ticket to watch the top seeds in action, my inner voice reasoned, "Why should you pay so much to sit so close to the heavens?". Ah, the smart inner voice saved me at least $40 then but that wasn't all as I would find out later. So there I was, armed with a $20 pass to roam around the USTA Center at Flushing Meadows all day long.

What started off as a bright, sunny day when I left my home in not-too-far-away Connecticut turned into a cloudy, grey cover that threatened to burst at any moment. No amount of hoping and praying could hold off the rain in. It began to pour around noon and it was relentless. I hallucinated that I were at Centre Court Wimbledon, at that Cliff Richards were singing but no! It was only piped music -- Nelly's 'Hot in here', Enrique Iglesias' 'Hero' and I think there was some Shakira, too. Whatever it was, it didn't matter. No one was enjoying the party and organisers finally announced that if rain didn't let up by 5 pm, play would be called off for the day and ticket money refunded.

There were loads of sighs, "I can't believe this shit" and much worse expletives. Deciding to have some fun on an otherwise gloomy day, I walked out to the refreshment stands to get a beer. I wish I could say that I bumped into Sampras and Federer while at the stands but no, that's not what happened. It was something even better. In a sheer moment that can make one believe in many things unbelievable, the rain slowed to a light drizzle and the sun came out, first slowly peeping from behind the clouds, and then in all its glory!

Dare I hope?

No, not yet but there was a sudden flurry of activity -- covers removed from the courts, water sucking machines (or were they vacuum cleaners of some sort?) doing their thing, ball kids with towels wiping everything they possibly could -- and the crowd was slowly getting back into it, cheering everyone and everything on. I ditched my beer and rushed to the Louis Armstrong Stadium, or was it the Grandstand court (they are adjacent to each other), which was starting to fill up and grabbed a seat in the front row near the service line, just watching and taking it all in. In some time, the announcements about court assignments began, and that's when the excitement kicked up another notch.

Usually, the schedule of play including which courts would feature which players is published ahead of time but because everything was so delayed due to the rain, the backlog was massive and there were readjustments galore. Even the top seeds weren't safe inside Arthur Ashe stadium. I only cared about one match -- Pete Sampras' very delayed third round against Greg Rusedski -- and when it was called for the court where I sat, I knew that it was my reward for having turned my back on the beer!

I didn't know how much longer Sampras, my 2nd tennis idol after Ivan Lendl, would continue to play. Rusedski had said that Sampras seemed a step too slow before the Open began and I remember wanting to punch his face if I ever came close to it, and here was my chance! Well, I could at least heckle him, couldn't I? Nervous excitement filled me, much like when I used to ready up for my matches, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Amidst all the music and announcements, all of a sudden the players walked out on court, Rusedski first waving to everyone followed by Sampras with his usual half smile and bent head. I had tears in my eyes -- not sure if it was the emotions or the pain from the pinch I had given myself to confirm that I wasn't dreaming. Sampras hit one perfect serve after another and volleyed with such precision that I felt like it was going to be his year again, irrespective of what the critics said. I don't remember how long they played, but I had screamed myself hoarse in the 4 sets that it took for Sampras to win. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to punch Rusedski's face; even first row seats court side didn't get me that close.

The many non-stadium courts that make up the USTA Center had matches of top seeds aplenty. Lleyton Hewitt, the defending champion, was playing Jiri Novak. I watched for a bit but even Hewitt's fist pumps and "Come on!", couldn't keep my attention. My thoughts kept drifting back to the match that had just finished. So I got out of there and headed to the refreshment stand, and on the way passed by a board that said M. Mirnyi versus R. Federer. I had watched Mirnyi (who was called the Beast) at another tournament and found his serves to be deadly and ground strokes really smooth but Federer, I had heard of only in passing.

Must've been serendipity. The players had only then come in for a changeover and the ushers were letting the crowd get in and out. So I walked in and sat on the bottom most steps of the gallery. The instant I watched Federer serve, I knew I had found idol number 3. There was no effort, it was just poetry. As I continued to watch him play, his one-handed backhand, which I have a penchant for, almost made me tear up again. Unfortunately, Federer lost that match but as the cliche goes, won many hearts that muggy summer night with his genial smile, cute pony tail and razor sharp game.

As I had predicted (to myself), Sampras went on to win that year and Federer had to wait until 2004 for his first US Open title.

I've often wondered what would've happened if it hadn't rained that day and play wasn't delayed. What if I were a Hewitt fan and had stayed to watch his entire match with Novak therefore missing seeing Federer play? And what if I had got tickets to Arthur Ashe stadium instead of just the grounds passes? I would've been closer to the heavens but wouldn't have seen the Gods!

It's taken me 13 years to document this experience, and it was largely inspired by Rahul Jacob's article titled 'The joys of being a McEnroe and Federer fan' in the Business Standard, June 27 2015.

June 23, 2015

When in doubt, ...

Self-doubt is one of the most natural feelings in the world. It is the ability to constantly question one's life, one's decisions. However, it isn't easy to acknowledge because doing so would mean also having to acknowledge that one is going through a difficult situation or moment due to having taken a particular decision. These moments of difficulty, sometimes, are nagging. Voices in the head berate constantly about possibilities – the what was', the what could've been's – so much so that a new line of questioning begins.

Sometimes, the decision is reversible; often, it's not. In the case of the former, one goes back to Plan A, or P, as the case may be. A fresh start with new decisions ensues, and the cycle continues until the next moment of difficulty when the pondering and re-evaluating starts all over. In the case of the latter – where the decision is irreversible – it's not as simple. To be fair to the decision, one thinks of both the positives and negatives. What was right? Was the wrong so wrong that it resulted in such a finality? And so on and so forth until the thoughts are all muddled.

And then, something happens.

Something as complex as watching someone else go through the same thing, especially when one's advice is much sought after for they are 'the experienced', or something as simple as reading some text or an email, which reaffirms the decision without an iota of doubt! It's as if one just got a fresh pair of prescription glasses – the clarity is that glaring.

And that results in acknowledging another feeling, a feeling of relief, of contentment. These moments of contentment are exhilarating. Liberating, even. Voices in the head become thoughts about the future – the what could bes', the what I want it to bes'! Self-belief – partly self, partly experiences, and mostly the support and encouragement of near and dear – kicks the hell out of self-doubt momentarily. But only momentarily, before the cycle begins all over.

But can a moment not last a lifetime?

May 13, 2015

The journey of a lifetime

Does the title make it sound like I'm Sindbad the Sailor, who has had adventures in many a magical place with many a weird monster? Well,given what I've worked on in the past, I can relate to the monsters – finance and analytics! No, no one forced me to study and work in those fields but because I was in another country and needed a visa, it became the most natural thing to get into but my heart was never in it. Writing is what I had always enjoyed.

So when I took a break from work, I started my blog, which was the easy part; the harder part was the actual writing! While I had loads of things I wanted to write about, I would perpetually have writer's block and not know where to begin. But I persisted. I would write about everyday situations that a displaced Indian faced, about my daughter's antics, and about life in general. Soon enough, I got my mojo back! (And it always helps to have the support and 'likes' of friends and family!). A few years as Editor with an organisation in India where I edited different genre – legal, medical, business writing, technical writing, development-related writing and more – gave me the start to finally do what I loved.

If I had to choose a category of writing that I love, it would be fiction based on personal experiences and Op-eds. After all, who doesn't like to express their opinion on this, that and the other! 'Randomness' is what I've titled my blog as it captures best what I write about. It's been nine years since I started this journey and I've never felt happier opening my laptop every morning. The monsters have disappeared and so has the writer's block – mostly. Work doesn't feel like work, and I can't ask for more.

If my story resonates with you and you feel like you're stuck in a rut, it's not too late to make a switch. Take a chance, try something new and discover what you love. I can't guarantee monsters or magical lands but the stories from the journey will be well worth a read.

Written as a promo for an IIHS course titled 'Writing for Digital Media'

April 29, 2015

April 23, 2015

'The' moment

It seemed to her like it was only yesterday when she was chasing after them to keep their routine irrespective of what day of the week it was. A change in bed time or meal times had repercussions for the next day. How would they handle that? How would she handle that?

Fast forward to today and there they were...all plonked on the bed in front of the TV at almost midnight watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban eating corn puffs and chips! When did they change so much? When did she change so much?

Many moments came to mind but nothing struck her more than that one moment - when he came into their lives and they became family. Related or not, family they had become and nothing could change that. Each one counting on the other for different things but all, knowing and secure, that they were together. That moment was the change. That was when she (and they) had let go.

Oh was this the beginning of the wonder(ful) years?

March 13, 2015

The sweet coin-candy swap

Was it so long ago that we used to beg our mums for a little extra change so we could come back from the store with some candy? Kids these days don't need to worry about that, for the change is itself candy!

During the initial days of this phenomenon, people only joked about it but often humoured the 'candy givers'. Alas! Yet another situation where acceptance has led to forced adaptation. To counter this, many a smart person has tried it in reverse, presenting a Rs 100 note along with an eclair or two to make up the balance. Alas again! Apparently, only one set of people have adapted.

Some basic questions must be asked. How and why did this practice begin? Did the Mint not dole out enough coins, or did the Indian Willy Wonkas get a few extra trucks of sugar? Does anyone know someone at either end of the spectrum who can answer these questions? They could redefine the term 'sweet deal', once and for all.

Charity begins at ...

Of late, she had been noticing that she turned heads while at the billing counters of most stores. Not just the shoppers in queue but also the cashiers gave her a second look. At first, she was sure it was because she was 'Fashion Faux Pas Queen' - either what she wore or what she was buying - but that didn't make sense while buying groceries did it? Choosing one brand over another surely didn't deserve an uncomfortable look from someone else.

So what was it?

She found out recently when she was at a clothes store. Could've been Max or Lifestyle...same difference, really. After billing her stuff, the cashier asked, "Mam, would you like to donate Rs x to charity"? "No!", she said. He was caught off guard but rather than ask outright why she didn't want to, he stared at her in a puzzled manner but then caught himself and went back to closing out the bill.

More than mildly offended, she asked him if he had any idea which charity it was, what was the cause they worked for, how much money went from the store to them, and a few others questions along those lines. His answer? A resounding "no". "So why should I contribute to this charity?", she asked to which he meekly replied that it wasn't mandatory.

"You think!", she wanted to say to him but realised that her anger would be misdirected. It wasn't his idea that she donate; he was simply parroting what he'd been told by his manager, who in turn must've received his instruction from some place higher up in the food chain.

Many have likely been in a similar situation -- one where the organisation is simply "charity". One where the person is so far removed, but still doesn't question why they're giving. It almost becomes a force of habit, similar to accepting a piece of candy instead of a rupee coin. Or worse, a way to assuage one's guilt. Or worst, an unshakable belief and trust that one is indeed doing something "good". Nothing more.

She hadn't always thought of it this way. It was only since she had watched 'First as Tragedy, Then as Farce', and thought about it in greater depth. Since then, her answer to the charitable donation question, especially at a store, was always a "No"!, irrespective of who looked at her or thought of her poorly.

Watch the film if you're in any way curious -- it's well worth the ten minutes. Else, say no when it's your turn and ask similar questions. Both scenarios could be equally interesting.

January 30, 2015

That's what it was!

"Can the number of posts in a year indicate how one's year has gone?", she wondered.

Are many posts an indication that lots of things are happening, so lots to write about or do fewer posts indicate the same because of not enough time to write at all? Anyway, everyone has these phases. Busy ones, boring ones and the opposites too. So what makes someone choose one topic to write about but not another? How does the mind differentiate and give precedence?

Is it based on chronology, meaning when something happened or when something was observed? Or is it based on impact, meaning how much something touched the person or how important it was? Or here's a third, is it based on a random fleeting thought? The kind that just flits about momentarily but leaves you feeling something. Something that wasn't enough to hold on to then but something all the same that makes the writer go "Aha, that's it"!?

Yeah, that was exactly it.