Changes

There were days when summer was the best season in the year. It meant vacations, long lazy days of doing nothing. Summer quietness was a special thing… that serene silence in the afternoon, after a heavy lunch and the feeling that your limbs were drugged. Of course, it was meaningless if we were indoors… so those times were spent in someone’s gardens, on someone’s roof or in a shady corner of the playground, making plans for the evening.

I woke up today morning with the realisation that I now loved winters. The warmth of my comforter, the chilly wind mixed with patches of sunlight on the balcony. The air smells different and a heavy lunch is just the icing for the day. The days are surprisingly short… pitch dark by 6 in the evening. I wrap myself up in layers and sit in that little patch of sunlight… does it make it old?

Today my bones feel weary, like they have walked many miles. The weak winter sunlight, the cool breeze and the lingering peace of the afternoon feels refreshingly soothing.

In a couple of months, I will be waiting for the summer heat again… maybe. But in too long to remember, I can feel winter descend on the city… with its sharp breeze, shorter days, darker nights and the overpowering fog covering us all.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia: yearning for the past.

Or as someone else put it, a “psychiatric disorder.”

That perhaps suits the state of the current generation. Our generation is supposedly given more to nostalgia than any other previous generation, perhaps due to the pace at which things change.

I came across this blog where every post starts off with ‘remember when’. I don’t know how old the author is, but at 25, I have a series of ‘remember whens’ that make me feel incredibly old. Or like I’ve lived a long time.

I lived during the age when there were no computers – and if I ever tell that to any kid today, they would look at me as ancient. There were no cellphones either. I’m not going to get into the debate of if communication was easier or better in those times. I barely even remember those times… except for this one night when I was having a sleepover at my place and one of the girls wanted to call her boyfriend (who being super rich, did have a cellphone). I did have a phone line outside my room, but all the time my friend was whispering sweet nothings into the phone, me and the other girl stood anxiously hoping my mother wouldn’t come out of her room and demand why the hell we had to make a call at 1 in the morning. Cellphones definitely solved that problem.

But there are other things that I do miss… like the orange chocolates we used to get for 5 paise. That is like… a really, really small fraction of a rupee. Or these things we called ‘lollies’ – frozen ice packed into plastic that we sucked on after school. It would cost 50 paise… now, I barely even get to see those coins. And yeah… mango pulp called ‘Naturo’… they don’t even make those things anymore. I do love my Snickers and all those, but I definitely miss those little sweet things.

We discovered a little shop near my office recently who still stocked the orange candy. All my friends at work, regardless of what region we came from, were familiar with it… and after going back thrice to buy more of those, we ended up buying the whole bottle.

Are these longings for a simpler time – like childhood? Or simply easier times… without so much stress?

Life was easier then… I did not have to go to the local mall to do my shopping… the grocery list could be dropped off at that little store (with your brand names) and he’d bring the entire lot to your house – without a delivery charge. You’d have a running account with him for those other one-off purchases, which could be settled at the end of the month.

Coffee was filter coffee at SLV and Coffee Days didn’t exist. CCDs were quite a novelty when they opened – the last few months of my 12th standard. We would chill out there after college, drinking a ‘tropical iceberg’. 10 years later (or more), the menu is still unchanged, the quality has gone down and the prices, up. College kids now prefer sheesha/hookah and ferroro roscher shakes.

Some changes are for the better. Thanks to chain restaurants, more options for home delivery of food. Or the malls… now you can pick up certain items without raising an eyebrow, or having to wear an elaborate disguise to pick it up. But some… make things complicated.

A note from the past

Everything is so quiet. Quiet, not silent.

There is plenty of noise. The clock quietly ticking, the wind blowing, the leaves of the coconut tree rustling, the tree scraping against the railings, the sound of an occasional motorist passing, the sound of footsteps of a tired person returning home, the dogs barking far away having their own party, the murmurs of conversation of people walking down the street eager to get home. The sound of my own pen scratching against paper.

But none of these are noises. They all blend into each other, forming an atmosphere of coziness and warmth.

I am alone up here. I’m not lonely. Sounds of laughter and arguments drift upstairs, where I sit with my pen and paper. The sound of the fan running… there are people here. There are books around me. Books filled with the brave, the weak, the scared, the strong, the moral, the immoral, the good and the bad, the ones who plan their lives and the ones who live enjoy and savor every moment of it… people who influence my thought and so my life.

I get a feeling of peace as I lie on my bed, holding a book, listening to the wind outside. I am wrapped in a huge shawl, leaning against the wall. A sharp crack, a twing broken.

All the sounds blend into a picture. A smell wafts up, the smell of burning oil and a minute later, samosas. It is a mild interruption into the contended world but in a mom that too is absorbed into the picture.

As I return carrying a plate of samosas, I smell myself as I enter the room. A flowery scent – reminding me of myself in the days when I cared for none but the joy. I wonder how the scent came into the room? Was it because I had left it locked or I broke a bottle of perfume without my knowledge? The scent lingers, just brushing me lightly. I sniff the air, trying to locate the source but it suddenly vanishes, like it came.

It evoked memories – memories of a girl speeding on her bike, memories of a gang of girls out all by themselves, a girl buying a t shirt for the first time all by herself, memories of a girl returning home late, high on her independence, memories of a girl who was high with her first taste of freedom, independence and womanhood.

Much has changed since then. I glance around. The girl still peeks out from here and there… like the old poster of an actor on the wall, the motto scrawled in a marker on a cupboard, the ripped jeans that was worn with such panache, the dried red rose  – the first one she every got, the black gown, the clippings of stars and ads and articles, the photograph of 3 gangly girls grinning – tucked away in a shelf, the coins – all lucky ones. But there is a mark of the girl now – the way the motto is artfully decorated, the way the clippings are filed, the coins are arranged – signs of growth. But what is the huge box under the bed? Memorabilia – photos, magazines, souveniors. Oh! Who cares about a clean room?! Let’s go through some stuff… and finally I find the badge, the one my friend had given me, this piece of bandanna… it would make a nice wrist band…

And in this woman lives on the girl, still savoring her freedom, independence and womanhood.

Old Friends, Old photos and Sitcoms

A tummy full of good pasta (finally!). An evening spent browsing photos and paintings. And then whiled away in a coffee shop, just chatting with old friends.

What is it about old friends that is simply so… refreshing. I actually cannot find the exact word for the ease I feel… while talking to them, or even the silence shared. Perhaps I have been around the others too long and had forgotten how it really can be. No efforts at conversation, no need to say anything and yet so much to talk about. And the ease with which you pull each other’s legs.

There have been many that are close to me… some still are and some have just wandered away. But there are only a handful with whom I never have to worry about opinions, judgements, upsetting them, ego clashes and one-upping the other. It could be simply from the fact that these are nice people. And I don’t say that because they are my friends. But they are generally not spiteful, the sort that back stab you.

Of course there are other good friends. But there is a slight disconnect, a slight difference of opinion.

After having lost friends to various things at the age of 25, I have learnt to cherish relationships. I know the effort it goes into maintaining a lot of them… but as they say, the best things do come easy. There aren’t complaints if I do not call them for a week. They call me. That isn’t an ego thing.

Or maybe just the confidence of knowing where you stand with someone. That is what lacks in most of my newer relationships… the fear of crossing a boundary. Of saying something that is probably politically uncorrect about them, even if it is true. Or of calling them too much or too little. Or of them misunderstanding your intentions – particularly in the case of a guy.

That perhaps bleeds over into my other relationships. Appear nonchalant… don’t give them too much importance… don’t call them too often… who makes up these rules? Rather stupid, aren’t they, when we are all looking at the same thing? It happens if it does. If it doesn’t… well…

***

I found a bunch of old albums – from the days before digicams – yesterday. College snaps. Ethnic day… the days when we had some extra exposures to finish… trips… oh how we have changed! Fatter, sleeker (I like to think), shinier, polished… and as… immature as we ever were. Perhaps some of us are slightly wiser but when you meet those old friends sometimes, you revert to the person you were then, along with all the… miseries and inconsistencies.

But those photos made me smile… even as I looked at myself and laughed. Oversized t-shirt on my skinny frame. French beards that were the trend on the guys. Horrible attempts to wear a sari (at least for me. Every other girl friend I had least had bodies made for saris and managed to carry them off with elan. I didn’t even own a blouse… didn’t see a point in getting one stitched for the once-a-year-event, so I wore my mom’s blouses altered. My mother does have an excellent selection of saris. But what looked beautiful and elegant on her, looked like… well, a 12-year old wrapped in a 9-yard cloth on me) My hair was super frizzy because I hadn’t yet discovered products to tame them into shape yet. I looked like a kid and perhaps, despite my know-it-all attitude, I was one.

I feel a lot more sober at 25… and older, wiser… too old sometimes. Perhaps that is why we drink… to experience the madness of youth again.

Oh I’m getting maudlin!

But it was fun going through those photos and trying to put names to some of the people in it. How could I have forgotten people in 5 short years?! *Slap*

Ironically, I ran into someone I had met in college. I had done an article on him for the college newsletter… and though his company was barely getting started then, it is a fairly well-established and known deal now. I didn’t expect him to remember me… I met him maybe a couple of times or  more. But he did. “It is a unique name,” he said when I was surprised.

It is. I am, too. But I still am surprised he would remember.

***

I pulled out my Sex N The City cds today. Remembered I had them when I was hunting for something (now that I think of it… I didn’t even find what I was looking for!). So I grabbed the first cd that came to hand and played it. After watching the movies, I am sort of turned off the whole sitcom. I used to rave about it earlier. Their dating escapades and gyaan seemed so relevant to what happened to me that particular day. But then… I got jaded.

But I played it again today… and it was about Carrie beaking up with someone and dealing with the aftermath. There it was… the rules about breaking up, the way of dealing it with.

“You take exactly half the time you were with someone to get over them. And then you repeat everything you hated about them over and over again in your head,” Charlotte says.

No no… I’m over the boy. But it definitely took longer than half the time. And I tried hard to repeat everything I hated about him but that didn’t really work for me. And the first meeting… awkward? No? I don’t know… I guess I expected to run into him a lot more often given our hanging out places were the same. I was constantly braced those first few days. Weeks. And then… it fades.

I do wish I were in touch. Friends. The whole disconnect is bizzare. But whatever…

The women do look jaded and I haven’t gotten to loving Carrie anymore. But it did make me realise I didn’t do any of the traditional break up things… no tubs of icecream, no rebound guy, no tons of shopping. Funny how things go on.

Photo of the day:

Lab Bokeh, originally uploaded by Jagdey.


Reunion

I never have as much fun as when I’m with my camera, a bunch of people willing to be photographed and they are all old buddies.

A mini reunion you could call it, and not an official one or with a purpose. The exclusive intent was to meet each other… and despite all the confusion regarding the venue, it was fun.

It is a little surprising that 5 years have passed since some of us saw each other. 5 long years… so many things we’ve done in that time. Many of them are married… some have kids. Some are single, some are somewhere in between. We didn’t really talk about college, surprisingly. It was all about work, hating work, frustrations of working, stories about weddings attended and missed, drama and other things.

We slowly lost all sense of time and space as we sat there, getting louder by the minute. Somethings never really change… the way we go back to those college style talk, noise and completely unconcerned about our surroundings.

Such a relief after the primness of working! It was a small, diverse group… and we are all doing something interesting. Quite an achievement from this bunch of ‘what the hell are we gonna do’ people! 5 years and going strong!!!

And looking forward to the next time we meet and more stories!

Photo of the day:

The Race

My mind goes back to 2007… July and August were hectic days then too. I had just graduated and there was the graduation ceremony to attend. So had all my friends, so there was the party to plan. It was frantic because it was almost time to go home after being away for more than a year and a half.

It was summer. The days were long and the beach was right there. There were no more assignments and the rush of the university. Only the fun of knowing people were free and partying. And working. Late nights at the restaurant, with tourists filling it every night. Funny people, stupid people, clever people, gorgeous people. Guys you wanted to date and wouldn’t ask you out and the ones that did whom you didn’t want to go out with. Shopping for a “graduation dress” and wondering what else you could do to while away time.

Partying till wee hours in the morning, knowing you could sleep late. I had just met someone and it was fun and exciting and absolutely comfortable. It was perhaps the most idyllic time of my life that I enjoyed.

3 years later, it is a shock how much has changed. I know I have written so often about this but every year, I begin thinking about this stuff. So many people are married and many more are on their way to be married. Actually, forget the marriage race, now it is the ‘having a baby’ craze. Which means I can safely drop out of the whole thing because there is no way I can catch up, if I wanted to.

I guess life can be simple that way.

Recently, a friend was planning a party for her 3-year old kid. It was the first major party… and she was going a little crazy. “What do I do?” she asked me. I was a little confused… it was fairly simple right? Get the cake, give a shout to all the surrounding bacchas… who would already be waiting because they saw you get the cake out of the car, buy those party balloons, some caps, put on the music and you are done.

But apparently, it is a little more complicated than that. Which I realised only when another friend offered to help. This one just had a similar party for her kid so she knew what was involved.

That was when I felt a little out of touch. Yeah, I still don’t see what the fuss is. I mean… fine, even if you have to invite every friend you have… call up the caterers, book a hall and the rest follows. And with thoughts like these I wonder if I will ever be cut out for such a life… I would like to do it. Oh yes! I already have the party plan in mind… but am I cut out for it.

I guess I am the slow bloomer… when my friends are planning birthday parties, i’m thinking of a steady relationship. It follows the natural course… when they were drooling over guys, I was still rolling my eyes at my best friend – who happened to be the object of their affection.

Indian movies perhaps ruined us a little bit… all those stories about how a boy meets a girl on the road/in the bus/across a room/in the classroom/on the cricket field/in a fight… the girl says no, the guy pursues and she eventually gives in and gets married. And then she becomes boring. So people thought life follows the same track. Guys didn’t think twice about approaching a girl they thought was pretty, or sending “frandship requests” to random women. And while I was laughing about these idiots, I realise the girls right next to me are reciprocating.

When did I miss the booklet passed around about how to respond to such guys? Or I got the wrong one.

So some of them dated, some of them broke up… and I was still in the phase of thinking “bbbut… he’s some random guy off the street! (and he aint cute and he stinks)”

So I missed that bus. And because most of the people I knew got onto that, our worlds just split into areas complex than the bermuda triangle.

I guess what I’m really trying to figure out is what race am I running? Am I in a race? Who makes up these things?

The thing I miss most today is my group of homies.

The group of people who’d be there for whatever plans you had in mind, or none at all. The times when we would hang out, playing silly games, sitting under a tree sipping a cup of chai from small plastic cups, when we would drink at small places that you wouldn’t even glance at now.

It is raining in Bangalore today… the kind of day young ones like us should be out there, taking advantage of. The times when even people who hated the rains would come out, hopping over the puddles and easily evading the dripping storefronts.

Life isn’t exactly like a sitcom… there are no friends breezing in and out of the apartment… there are mostly people logging in and out of skype. There are updates on Facebook about where you are and what you are doing and the rest adding their two bits in.

But today, with the rain dripping outside my window, I miss those times of barbeques, of silly card games, of bowling mostly gutter balls when the rest scored a perfect 10, late night icecreams by the beach, attempts at hot home-cooked meals and watching movies while everyone fell asleep.

Did the world really get smaller or we found portals to make it small and then lost the key?

Song of the day: Pink – So What

Inspirations

It was a slow friday and after my quota of news reading for the day, I wanted to read some funny blogs. Except that I seem to be bored of all those my list (which are updated at least – do you notice that the best ones are rarely updated?). So I went back to this one blog I had started reading a long time ago but gave up because what seemed cute and nice turned a little too narcisstic and boring.

But I figured rereading this blog was more interesting than much of the new stuff out there, so I went back to the very first post written and started to read.

I had to compare to my blog and the first few posts there, where it was a little personal (not as much tell-it-all like this one) and it was fluid. It was about today and the emotions and my thoughts without worrying about if that guy who sits in the far-off seat at work is reading my blog. Somehow, though I wanted all these people to read me and stuff (seeing that little stat counter going higher everyday is such a kick!) I didn’t want people who knew me to really be reading this because then I could no longer be personal and open.

Now, every time I do write something really personal I end up deleting it right away or passwording it and only people who ask for it get the password. Or I have to word everything so carefully and not write “straight from the heart” style like I used to.

Anyway, a little incident at work today –

Every time someone leaves, there is one of those “It has been a pleasure working with you” emails sent out. These are sometimes sent to the entire fricking company (almost), so you are sitting there and wondering “who on earth is this guy.”

Except today, there was one such mail that was the most honest I’ve ever seen. Summarizing, it said “well, I didn’t know all of you because I sit in a corner, with a not-so-great view, but I did make some friends and so for what it is worth, it was good and thanks for that.”

There was no keep in touch with email IDs and phone numbers. Short, simple and honest. Of course, some people thought it was weird and rude. Sort of like Miss Congeniality where Sandra Bullock says everything but ‘world peace’. But I liked it so I replied saying “good luck, even if you have no idea who I am.”

That somehow was suited the line of my thoughts… I’ve been thinking about all the lost opportunities for a while. I never was much into joining too many clubs and socializing in college. I never sat and chatted with professors in school because there was always something else to do. I guess it is called networking and I am not too good with that. I never invite people over for a casual drink because I don’t want people I barely know meeting my family. The ones who get to meet the family are special.

But somehow it has been in my mind… the clubs I should’ve joined, the activities I should’ve participated in. The little features of the school, college or whatever I could’ve taken advantage of – I didn’t. All that money I should’ve saved  but didn’t (and actually had fun with it).

I guess those are forever gone and there isn’t much you can do about it. Sometimes I tell myself to be a little more proactive, go approach those people and all of that but I never seem to. Many who know me think I am outgoing and all of that… which perhaps I am – in bursts.

I was chatting with a friend shortly after returning to India and mentioned how it was a little awkward to meet this professor of mine. “I always feel a little shy when I meet him,” I said.

My friend started to laugh “Where did you leave the shyness when you were here? In your cupboard back home!”

That sums it up. Appearances are deceptive I guess. Which is why networking sites are a good way to break ice that exists years after people fell out of touch.

Song of the day: Summer Sunshine – The Corrs

The Answer?

The silences do get longer and longer, don’t they?

The week has definitely been interesting. Just when you think your job is a little blah, something interesting happens. A reporter’s job is never monotonous. Even if you aren’t writing about it, we like to speculate, come up with the most outrageous reasons… it is good entertainment.

3 years ago, my friends were hunting for the graduation dress. They were excited and making plans, inviting their families to come down, or wondering how to party despite the families coming down.

I was sitting on the beach and wondering what on earth was the fuss about, particularly for Indians? For the Ozies, yes it was a big deal. But for Indians… we were expected to study, get that degree and follow the set path. The MBAs and the engineering degrees were so cliched. They were expected to the residency, a cushy dollar-paying job, getting married, raise babies. So why was everybody so excited?

When I graduated from undergrad, my friend proudly said “we survived”

What were we surviving now? I learnt more from outside the uni than in it. I worked as a part time waitress at an Indian restaurant. It was neither sleazy, nor Hollywood-like. It was fun. I interacted with various kinds of people. I traveled. I went on an expedition, one of the few people in the world who can claim to have set foot in the utter wilderness of the Wollemi. I met people from various countries and various cultures. I partied. I learnt to salsa. I learnt to avoid the unwanted advances of some guys. I never learned how to get to the one you wanted. I learnt how to nurse a broken heart. I had my share of the firsts. I learned to travel alone. I learned to really rely on yourself. I learnt the pleasure of curling up in bed and watching a movie.

I learned how it was to live with $3 in my account and yet not worry. I learned that people were funny, stupid, irritating, frustrating, nice, obnoxious and many other things.

And in uni, yeah… I learned how bad it was to procrastinate. Or maybe i didn’t. I did it every semester anyway. I did learn how to put together a project in the last minute. And yeah I read a little more than I had, and some I probably wouldn’t have touched if it wasn’t on the course’s reading list. I fine tuned some other skills. And I had a piece of paper saying “I am now fit to go out into the world and practice on people whatever it was that I learnt there”

And somehow, that didn’t seem much like a cause of celebration.

3 years later, I am at the other end of the spectrum and somehow I felt I was a little wiser then. Or at least… a little braver. Perhaps sprang from ignorance. Still…

Now, I am a little more rigid, a little less flexible to change and want my world to be the way I envisioned it. The funny thing is though, I no longer remember how I saw it at 21. It was all rosy… I knew where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing. And I thought I could make it work.

Oh to be 21 again and not think about visas, family, a boyfriend etc.

So I start on a fresh page. And what is the first thing people tell me? “DONT”

They celebrated the piece of paper which was achieved without much difficulty. And now that I am actually planning to start out on a real test, what I get is “don’t”?

Do we have to follow on the path we set for ourselves 10 years ago? People change, dreams change. And anyway, what would a 16 year old who doesn’t know shit about the world know about what he/she would want to do with the rest of their lives? I mean at 16 being an architect and building things probably sounds cool. But 2 years into it and you realise you really can’t draw. Or even if you can, you’d rather visualize improbably graphical buildings. Or you don’t want to do that for a living. At 16, being a doctor sounds incredibly cool. But you don’t realise the amount of work that goes into it.

Okay… we do know. At 16, you do know what you want to do. Mostly. But what if you want to add something to it? If you want to do something else also?

Like an actress would say, they keep getting younger and sharper all the time.

But “don’t” perhaps isn’t the answer.

Because, I am beginning to think, there really isn’t an answer. Not to what you want to really do, not to what is a hobby and what is a profession, not to who will stay with you forever, or who and what the guy is, or what life is.

I could be wrong. And this could really come back and smack me on the head. But… we have to jump.

Song of the day: Madonna – Jump

Friends Forever

Dedicated to Tsu.
Good Luck.

Being citizens of the net world today and software, we are used to separation. A close friend in US, another in France and another in Japan is nothing unusual. There are emails, there is skype and video conf. You don’t even miss the saturday night drinking session, thanks to video chat.

Yes I am used to my best friends living far away.

Yet, in the past couple of years, I carefully steered myself away from relationships which moved. The ones that already had were fine but I wanted friends here, the ones who would come over at 3 AM for something, the ones you could catch up for a movie or a drink or mere silence. Most of us were settled around here and the ones who left didn’t count.

But now, after a long time, when a good friend is leaving for another city – a city which is barely an hour fly time away – I wonder about the impermanence of relationships.

I know we’ll be friends (or maybe not – forever is a long time) because we would want to. I am not much worried about the distances driving a spike in this relationship… but I wonder, in today’s world of change, where are those relationships that stay by you? Or has the definition of such relationships changed as well?

My uncle and aunt have friends that stretch back to 50 years. They still get excited about meeting an old pal from school. Short distances were long then. My uncle’s friend who lives in a town about 100 kms from here – a couple of hours drive at the most – stays over for a couple of days when he ‘comes to town’. They talk about the weather and the news, but when they sit there in silence, you see that friendship born of being together for long. They perhaps have not been there are every crisis the other one did. That is something perhaps of our generation… speed dialing a friend and removing them from the friend’s list when the friend doesn’t reply… but there is a solidarity which completely surprises me.

I perhaps have that… otherwise there would be no way to sit in a cafe, drinking coffee, whiling away time and chatting nonsense. Those hour-long phone calls simply would not have been possible.

And maybe when I’m 70 and in a rocking chair, I’ll realise what set apart these relationships from the other fleeting ones.

But the one truth of my generation – it isn’t the distance that kills a relationship. It the lack of intent. And any place is only a flight away.

Song of the day: Vitamin C – Graduation (Friends Forever)