Random thoughts

Fear of walking on the streets

In a world where you live in constant fear its impossible to isolate one and and label it as your worst fear. Fear of heights, fear of creepy, crawly things are nothing in comparison to the fear of losing a job or worst of getting stuck in a place and losing your freedom or the fear of committing yourself to the wrong person.

Deep-rooted, emotional fears actually go a long way in playing havoc. Just discovered one of these a couple of days back. Of late I’ve been highly claustrophobic. I get panic attacks when I come in close contact with known people and there is very tiny physical space between them and me. I need deep, long breaths and loads of air. If I don’t get that, I’m mentally the worst to deal with. I’ve gotten off packed cars with friends gawking in surprise. I’ve refused to sit in the middle seat of an aircraft and created a ruckus over that. And it doesn’t stop there.

Being violated in your personal space is the biggest fear you live with. You walk down the streets with cat calls on a dozen. You don’t respond you are forced to notice with stones or peanuts being pelted at you. Here we have videos on YouTube on women’s liberation – I am who I am etc., in reality you really can’t even walk in your own city or town without being objectified.

Is gender violence only limited to physical abuse and not mental trauma? How long will it take for the men to transcend the boundary if doesn’t stop? Wonder will Delhi or Calcutta be the next Papua New Guinea or will ‘educated’ men of the opposite sex sit up and take notice. Hope its not too late by then.

http://www.news.com.au/world/pacific/the-country-where-rapists-are-proud-and-happy-to-pose-for-photos/story-fnh819y6-1227377622821 – Can this really be our wake up call? Or we will act once we really turn our cities into such a hell hole?

Random thoughts

Lost & finding

I was meeting V after years. After that bitter spat we had almost seven years ago seeing him was sort of intriguing.

While we decided where to meet and I waited for him to hop by the chosen spot, I was anxious to see whether I would recognise him at all. The boy had grown tall, lost his glasses and grown his hair. Three years younger than me he always a little bachha to me. He was one of the few relationships I regretted letting go off. Few of the people who didn’t look at you from the social/moral tinted glasses but for who you really were and didn’t care about it too.

We hugged and settled down by my favourite spot at the Cafe. After pleasantries were exchanged he produced this letter from his pocket. I must have written that almost 10 years ago and he had preserved that in mint condition. The letter was as expected a rant about how conflicted I felt with everything in life. Whether it was home, boyfriend or the other stuff.

After glancing through it I just asked him not much has changed, has it? Here I am still battling to correct the same perspectives. Want to do what is the correct thing to do but don’t have the will to change my lot for myself. Every time you just feel like a failure. The harder you try the stronger you are pushed back.

Reading that letter I asked him how can it be that its been so long and I feel the same. He just said for as long as I know you, you know what the problem is but you don’t have it in you to go get the solution. Your mind wants something and your heart something else leaving you in a constant state of conflict and hence you don’t land up doing anything.

My mind was already in another tangent. Did I waste 10 years of my life over the same things. Why did I hold on to the negative emotions for so long as if it fuelled me, gave me a reason to carry on. I always sought innocence. Always wanted to be with people who were still less disillusioned by the cunningness of the world. That backstabbing nature of making you feel small. Purity of heart always lured me. But was I pure? Did my intentions mean right all the time? Even if I did the right thing, with the right intention I was proven incorrect. I hate lies but every time I tried to be honest I was kicked on the backside for it. It just leaves you frustrated, unsure and uncertain about how or what you should next.

Over the years you lick your wounds and let it heal. You don’t keep scratching it and then say it still hurts. I deal with loss by over thinking each loss. Whether it was the loss of the education I desired, the career I wanted or the ability to tell someone you got what you deserved. We have all but one life and somehow I looked at losses to make it all right. Overthinking and course correcting in a delusional sort of way. I guess it gives us fodder for good stories but not for living reality.

When I was cleaning up the house to move, I found my treasure box with so many memories that I had just hoarded. Each object there was a memory. At times when you try to go to back in time to correct things, things definitely tend to fuck up. Instead, you just accept your mistake, pray for forgiveness and then just let go. As I moved to the next round in life, I threw away lot of memories and still held on to a few. Maybe its importance mellowed down and its utility remained.

Always wondered should you cower down when you know you are right. There is always this question of what is more important, the relationship or your ego. Is it ok to rattle and make things right of years of animosity or is it best left buried as a thing that was not meant to be. Do you need to explain yourself at all times or should you just let it be.

I wonder how many years have I lost trying to find these answers and they still seem to evade me in some odd way.


What if there was no Goa Fest next year?

An annual conference on the sunny beaches of Goa was the holiday we all waited for. A refresher course as we would call it. Two days of international speakers culminating into the most happening advertising awards show in the country.  Since our agency hardy entered any creatives for the awards it was more for the break and the international speakers that we went.

The speakers were a league apart. Stuff we thought needs to be done they had already executed it and were talking about the benefits of the same. The need for full service agency rather than specialised ones. The need for agencies to stop working in silos and the need to collaborate to provide better value to clients. Digital, customer targeting, value generation and more. Inspiring award winning work and campaigns. And just imagine if all this came to an end.

Next summer we were told that budgets were tight and the conference is being canned. No more speakers, a small awards show will be held in Mumbai. Really were they serious?

This couldn’t be happening we thought. It was all this very, very bad dream and had to come to an end. We instantly went online and googled about the same. The entire advertising community was in an uproar. So much so they suggested that they would pay a little extra, didn’t want fancy stuff but the evil sponsors just didn’t want to relent. They thought of the event as a drunken party at their expense which they were better without. We clearly were not.

That night we went back home to think of ideas to counter this ‘client’. Each member of the fraternity had to think of five workable solutions to make this event happen.

In the following days, we held online petitions against these so called sponsors. Worked up a fund to invite some speakers on our own. And were finally ready to arrange for the biggest crowdsourced event in advertising history.

The flight was kind of jerky. The seat belts sign were on but we were just too excited about that we finally made it. As I was returning to my seat, the craft passed through a bad patch and I hid my head against a near by seat and passed out.

When I came to my senses, I found myself lying down on the floor with a severe headache. I think I hit my head against the bed post.

Oh crap! That means all that was a dream! We still have no funds, the event is really not happening? I checked the phone to see what day it was and the time. Just about 7.30 AM. *uggghhh*. With that crappy feeling, I got out of bed slowly to grudgingly go to work again…

Random thoughts

Finding innocence

So I discussed this point of view of innocence with my husband. He just shrugged and said I can’t judge people. They are how they treat me. And if they hurt me for no reason I’ll just walk away after some point.

I felt like screaming my head out and say really, are you REALLY that innocent? He just looked at me with the most adoring puppy face as if sensing an explosion and I smiled. He just had the guts to do what I couldn’t. He values the goodness in somebody more than the bad. He kept his innocence when everyone around him pulled him down. He had faith in himself and came out the better man.

It takes a lot to push him away. If he still believes in you he will come back and fetch you and believe in you with the same conviction he did earlier. Which is a bit weird. At times you feel like just leave me alone. I’m way past being goody goody.

Even in the innocence I found him, I doubt my own. I doubt my ability to trust and open up. Knowing very well that there he is, saying something to me and saying something else behind my back.

Random thoughts

The darkest conversation

I had just returned home from a long day at the NGO. Mom was waiting to talk to me. The sun was setting and I wasn’t in the mood to talk after the mentally straining day. I went straight to my room and lay down on my bed, letting the street lights stream into my bedroom. I didn’t want to switch on the lights. I just needed some space to collect my thoughts.

I don’t care what you think. I know what has happened was not right and no amount of cajoling would make me apologise.

Mom came in and switched on the light. She said she needed to talk. I told her even if she had to, to please switch off the light. I didn’t want her to see how battered I was. I couldn’t let her have a one up on the conversation. She started speaking of things that didn’t matter and I asked her to come straight to the point. She wanted me to apologise to my brother. I told her no. He apologises to me first.

She wanted to know what for. As if she didn’t know already. She was the one who had caught him in the act and told him what he did was wrong. She said it happened a long time back and I needed to forget about it. I told her if I could it wouldn’t be troubling me all these years later. She then bought up my promiscuity, saying that how come it hasn’t affected that? I just wanted to tell her there is a difference between choice and not knowing what is happening to you. And when you realise what has happened to you it scars you for life.

I tried to explain my point of view the way I would to any parent at the NGO. Just quivering at every word cause it was my mother that I was talking to. My mother who didn’t want to believe what I said, who wanted me to forget everything when I couldn’t. By the end of it she agreed I should see a shrink (officially) and get over with it. If that made me feel better, she said.

In that dark room she made many promises on how she would keep me safe and help me get out of my mess. But as she walked on to the light and till many days later she didn’t act. Thinking that our conversation would help me forget everything.

Years of self loathing and disrespecting myself, I learnt how to cope up and say no. I only regret the years wasted in self destruction. Only if she held my hand then and explained what we explain to survivors now. Only if she told me what good touch and bad touch was instead of shutting me up every time I broached the topic. My childhood memories are tainted with these well defined incidents and somewhere all the happy ones have receded into the black night. As dark as the night of the darkest conversation I had with mom.

Random thoughts

Holiday home

I lived in the same house from the time I was born till the age of 30. Writing about the same thing again won’t be very interesting. Instead, I think, I’ll write about the house I loved the most. A holiday home. On top of hill in one of the busiest cities in the world – Mumbai.

This tall mountain-like building was one of the finest in the area when Dad bought it. I always thought it was to celebrate my birth. He bought it in the year I was born. All my school holidays were in Flat 3A2. On the first day on summer holidays we would be flown to Mumbai and on the last day flown back.

I loved the size of the place. It was a small flat compared to large house we had in Calcutta. Cosy, comfortable and warm. Everyone was within hearing distance of each other. The living area was always breezy despite the torrid heat outside. I could read all  I wanted on the raised marble slab while everybody watched TV. Idle days, no school, nowhere to go…

The building was divided into two blocks A & B. Both had mesmerising mosaic pillars with suns in the centre. One in yellow and the other in orange. In the B side where the pillar was located, a constant breeze blew. So much so when you stood there around 4 PM with your skates on you moved with the breeze and not with any effort of your own. On the other side was a kid’s play area where I spent most of my mornings making sand castles with the other kids.

A lot of firsts happened during these holidays. I learnt to skate. I was introduced to Roald Dahl. I learnt how to make sandcastles. I learnt to ride a cycle. I learnt calligraphy. I learnt to read newspapers…

By the time I was thirteen my set of friends changed. All who I knew as kids had grown up and moved out.

The place at 12 which was a sketch of a busy city which left you alone grew up to be a small space where you always ran out of time.


From the local to the glocal

Pizza has always been my blue food. In all shapes and sizes. In every form.

As a child we relished the local style pizza. A thick 8” base with pizza sauce and salty Amul cheese. I remember crying every time my older siblings were quicker than me in taking a bite. Once we grew older and I was old enough to be taken to fine dining restaurants everything changed.

My first experience of a pizza as I know it today was at Trats, Tarttoria. Thin crust pizzas and mozzarella. It tasted nothing like I used to have before and a whole new world opened up. I remember getting the pizza treat after a dentist appointment and  I guess I never stopped craving for that taste after a bad day.

As we grew older we were introduced to still more varieties – the wood burn pizza, the chicago style pizza, the home delivery style pizza and yes, the local style pizza. During school, pizza was the cheapest option for a birthday treat and we frequented this place called Hot Breads. It had a medium, crisp base cheese pizza.

The phase of going to Fillers was a reward for a good swim instead of idling around in the pool. And then came the Dominos deep dish cheese pizza with extra cheese for every bad day. For exams, when you had a fight with your best friend or a minor breakup.

Then came the every Saturday catching up with a friend at my all-time favourite pizzeria, Fire and Ice with a Fungi and a lemon iced tea and a long, long conversation.

30 years of age I can literally list my favourite kinds of pizza all across the city. Some local, some Tuscan but all very, very good at beating the blues 🙂


Walk through the park

Nikki and  Anshuman walked solemnly across the park, clutching each other’s hands. Afraid if they loosened their grip they would lose each other too.  Near the exit, on a green bench sat an old woman knitting a small, red sweater.

Nikki didn’t realise it at first but the trickle of tears on her hand made her realise that he was silently sobbing at the sight. Two months ago they were planning to bring their first born to the park everyday. Now they just walked around here hoping to recapture those happy moments. She saw him crying and wanted to just hug him and cry to. But she remained stoic. Hoping her calm composure would help Anshuman remain  strong.

Anshuman always knew his wife was the tough one. She could take whatever blow and see the positive in it and make him believe life was all hunky dory. But it was not. He missed hearing the heartbeat of his child. The child he buried just two hours after she was born. A still born they said. He missed seeing the kicking feet. He missed every bit of it. The old woman made him think of his mother who received the news when she was midway knitting a sweater for his child. His child who just left him too early. Nikki tugged at his hand to move on , he wiped his tears with the other hand and walked on. Knowing this was just the beginning to a long and painful end.

The old woman was furtively knitting the sweater. Her grandchild was only a few months away and at this speed she would not be able to gift him the red sweater. It was a tradition in her family that the eldest gifts the youngest a handwoven sweater. She would have just loved to buy it off Macy’s or something but that was just cheating. So, she usually got out in the afternoons and spent the better half of dusk knitting at the park bench. Enough light which also helped her old bones. Looking up at her this day’s of work she held the sweater against the light to see if the stitches were all in a straight line. Satisfied with her day’s work she stuffed the unfinished sweater in her bag and headed home.

At the exit she saw this young couple arguing. She was a bit taken aback. Wasn’t this the same couple who were clutching each other’s hand in the park and that man there was even crying. What’s with these new age couples she thought and walked on.


One evening

Nikki held his hand and let him out of the car.

There is nothing to feel sad about dusk. Nothing is going to end today. We are going for the evening walk I promised you and that’s final.

She loved it when she could have her way him him. Towering over him outside the way he did at work.

Slowly they walked to the gardens. She knew that place. She had been there before. It was beautiful during dusk and she wanted him to see that beauty. As they walked the leafy path her eyes crossed the unkept lawns and the broken pathway. The only thing the municipal actually repaired was the path near the lake, she told him. That path was laid with perfectly rounded cobbled stones and black, light bollards  lined it on the inside facing the lake. It reminded you of Central London or something.

On the opposite side of the cobbled path were blue iron benches. Lovers had already taken their spot to enjoy the evening. The sky had turned orange and the water reflected the same.  The walked on for a while looking at the health freaks strut up and down as if that one walk will help them achieve their goal of losing x kilos. They laughed at the odd balls, the women in sarees and the men in pyjamas. They eavesdropped on mother-in-laws bitching about their daughter-in-laws. They heard married lovers speak about their spouses. They heard about the big plunge one stock took that trading day and lots of inane things which didn’t matter. What mattered was that sun was setting and he was happy.

The birds were cackling all around, returning to their homes as the sun went down. He loved bird watching. He was fascinated with the way they built their nests on trees and that they remained unharmed even in the harshest of weathers. There were enough and more species to look out for. But they were no ornithologists, they didn’t even know the name of the species. All that mattered was the setting was perfect, the birds, the breeze, the trees and the setting sun. Just like she wanted, just so tranquillising as if casting a happiness spell.

She was just happy to spend that alone time and hoping it would lead to something later… They found a spot after wandering along for a while and plonked themselves on the benches. They just stared out at the lake and the sun setting the big tree in the centre of the lake. Looks like a mangrove with its tentacle-like roots swamping all around. You can occasionally see a kingfisher stick his head out from under one of those roots. But today she was just waiting for a the first sign of darkness to fall over them. She just wanted to hold his trembling hand and show him that all is ok. She just wanted to kiss him in the cacophony of birds to forget all the apprehensions he has about sunsets. Evenings are never bad she thought, they were the most romantic time of the day. How could anyone possibly get upset during that phase.

And then he said something she could not understand. Nikki was to be busy watching the sun set that she forgot he was sitting by his side. She blanked out and he wanted to leave. He couldn’t take it anymore. The sounds, the warmth were to much for him and she couldn’t do anything to pacify him. She held him close and he kissed her slightly and all he said was let’s take the action elsewhere. She could do nothing but comply and nothing she ever said later could make him take another evening walk with her.

She still thinks what happened that evening. But guess there are some things best left unexplored, undisturbed.


A conflict about falling in love

Stop being a martyr. It’s been four years. How can you say you no longer have that love-walli feeling for me?

But I don’t. I never did. It was just a compromise and you know that. After AG, nobody has ever made me feel that way. I don’t want to be in this relationship. I feel so stifled.

Is that so?


Then so be it.

With that ended yet another messy chapter in my life. Yes, it’s been so many years. But there hasn’t been anyone else who makes me feel that way. Who makes me want to love and fall in love again and again.

I’ve lost my job, I’ve lost a seemingly right relationship and nothing seems to be going right. I just hope I get through that advertising agency I applied to. Time seems to be going just so slowly when you need it to run…just wish I saw AG for that one last time. I wouldn’t have held on to him with such fervour then.

The phone rings and interrupts my thoughts. They want yet another interview. Tch! How many more rounds, I thought.

Yes ok. I’ll be there at 2.30.

After yet another uninteresting meeting, where I needed to sound excited and happening, I got my offer letter. A measly increase but I need to start working now before I plunge myself into the sea of self-remorse.

Ok. I’ll be there from the first of next month. Yes, I will submit my documents before. Thank you for the opportunity, Sirs!

First day at work. Disinterested I go about learning the little bit I’m taught by an inept colleague. My boss is on leave today. His boss decides to take over and introduces me to the office and I go about saying my hello’s and introducing myself. It’s a Monday morning and the agency gathers around to plan the week ahead. I attend in amusement and dismiss all the disorganised others trying to wheeze their jobs in an already packed creative schedule. After many ‘pleases’ and ‘it has to get done this week’ most of the jobs are in place.

And then he walks in.

For a moment I thought my heart skipped a beat. Was I staring too hard? Or was the clickity clack sound of his shoes enough to attract attention. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t focus on what was happening? As if every other sound in the room automatically dulled out and I could just hear my heart beating really loud and the sound of his shoes. He came and sat at the head of the table in the opposite end and observed the proceedings while playing with his cigarette stick. I quickly adjusted my vision to my feet below the table. Staring hard at them till I didn’t regain some strength to not look at my right again. By the time I looked up the meeting was over and he had already walked out. Who was he? Whoever he was, I needed to stay away. I couldn’t feel like this about anyone. No, I couldn’t fall in love again. But those eyes, that swagger…sigh!

Three days into work and I had managed to avoid any kind of contact with the mystical man. On the fourth day, I was to meet the head of creative for my induction into their world. I just prayed it wasn’t him. But since when did my prayers get answered.

I consciously walked into his room and introduced myself. Focus, Nikki, focus. You need to hear him out not stare at his deep brown eyes. He will know in a jiffy. What seemed like immediately after he asked me if I had any questions, I said no and left quickly. Anshuman Goyal, the best creative mind Delhi ever had; a certified womaniser with a drop-dead gorgeous smile and childlike innocent eyes.

What was I getting into? I must avoid him and that’s for sure. He’s not my AG so what if their initials matched and they share the same birthdate. Yes, I googled him enough to know all of this. God, why me, why him and why now! I cursed under my breath.

For some reason, I began watching his every move in office. Tried to get as much gossip. Which wasn’t difficult since everyone just spoke about his escapades. Even then why was I so drawn to him. He seemed just perfect. I even contemplated changing my job. But something about him just didn’t make me leave. I now started looking for excuses to talk to him and soon we were working on a big project together. A biscuit launch.