Friday, December 27, 2013

the boy i used to know

The very first time I fell in love, it was with a boy who had leukemia. Leukemia, the fancy word for blood cancer.

I can't pin down the exact date now, but I think I met him 3 months after his treatment had completed. Or maybe it was a year later. The details of this are so hazy now, I can't really say. All of this happened more than 10 years ago.

The day we had our first conversation, it felt like pins and magnets.

It was electric, it was beautiful, and first love is so naive and innocent and powerful and heady.

We lived in different cities, it was the age of the internet, and we would only meet face to face a whole 2 years later.

He called me his angel, one he met after surviving a really rough time of his life. He called me his diamond, one he found amongst littered stones.

Eventually, our lives brought us together in the same city. We shared bike rides, walks on the beach, pizzas, dosas, popcorn, and arguments.

So many arguments.

I felt my life was like a movie. I thought nothing could stop us. I thought it would work out, no matter what.

But you know that it didn't; these things rarely do and that's just the way the universe works. And I am glad for it.

We did try to stay in touch even after it was over. The rare phone call or email or facebook inbox message did exist. Sporadic though it was, we tried and even though neither of us wanted the friendship anymore, I often got the feeling I was sitting next to him in a classroom, and it was just a matter of leaning over and exchanging notes on our lives.

I often got this feeling. I don't any more.

He's married, he lives in a different country and we no longer have each others' numbers.

I remember thinking that the only reason for me to contact him was if I felt I was having a life experience which only he would understand.

If there is someone in this world who understands the emotions with chemotherapy, I think it is him. If there is someone in this world who can talk to me about life after chemotherapy, it is obviously him.

And the odd thing is, I have no desire to re-connect. I thought I would. But I don't.

I guess that's life. You love, you get hurt. And then you just move on. Even if you fell in love over the internet with a boy who had cancer, eventually met face to face and kissed in the rain. Even if you spent many years volunteering at a cancer NGO because of him, even if you always donated way beyond your means to cancer charities because of him, even if now, several years later, you've seen cancer up close and you finally understand it. Even then. It is possible to move on.   

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

government aunties

They strictly travel as a pair or in a pack. Never does this type of species travel alone. There is no such thing as a government aunty. However, there is definitely such a thing as government aunties.

Government aunties are found on the Delhi Metro. Between the set of them, government aunties carry at least 4 plastic bags in addition to their individual handbags.

If government aunties happen to find a place to sit, it is against the order of their species to allow only one of their kind to sit. Either they must all squeeze in to the same space, regardless of how much is available, or they must all egg on one another to occupy the space and then scowl at the one non-government aunty person who finally dares to sit down after watching their politeness match.

If seated, government aunties like to eat their lunch or do their knitting.

Government aunties strictly wear salwar kameez. It is against the order of their species to wear any other type of clothing. If it is winter, government aunties strictly wear woolen monkey caps. The colour of the cap can be black, brown, maroon or on a particularly wild day, dark green. It is against the order of their species to wear any other coloured woolen monkey cap.

Government aunties always board or de-board the metro from Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat or Udyog Bhawan stations.

Government aunties talk about the sun. If it is summer, they discuss how not to sit under the sun. If it is winter they will talk about how to sit under the sun.

If it is raining then I suppose they run out of conversation. Or maybe the metro runs out of its supply of government aunties during the rains. Have you ever met a group of government aunties inside the metro during rainy weather? Neither have I.

Do you belong to a group of government aunties? Would you like to tell us more?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

cancer people

Today at the chemotherapy day care centre the youngest patient was 7 years old. He has leukemia. He was quiet and shy and smiled at all the nurses. But he didn't say a word. He fell asleep during the chemotherapy. It must be hard to be so young and spend your winter vacations feeling tired and sick. It must be hard to sit still in hospital for hours at a stretch, doing chemotherapy while your friends run and play.

He came with his father. His father kept quiet and sat opposite him and stared at him the whole time. He didn't say a word either.

Father and son spent 5 hours today, sitting across from each other, not saying a word.

But what is there to say? Chemotherapy teaches you that words can be empty. When the silence is filled with so much meaning then there is no need for words.


Each patient at the chemotherapy day care brings at least one other person along with them. At least one. At the hospital we go to, there is no outer limit on the number of people a patient can bring along to keep them company on their chemotherapy days.

Patients themselves are silent creatures. Most are too tired to be noisy. 

But the noise levels escalate.

One boy who had come to keep an eye on his father declared within 5 minutes of entering the day care center, "The noise in this place is like the sound of drums. My ear drums are beating drums."


The bravest woman I saw today had breast cancer 7 years ago. Now the cancer has resurfaced, and this time it is growing on her kidney. This time, because the cancer is on her kidney, the oncologist has refused to do a surgery. She needs to be treated with chemotherapy alone.

Her daughter said they do not know yet whether she can be treated successfully or not. The doctors haven't told them anything yet. This time around, for the cancer on her kidney, she has had 15 chemotherapy cycles so far.

Chemotherapy is hard. You have to watch someone you love doing it know exactly how hard it can be. I've seen 3 cycles so far and I can tell you it definitely doesn't get better with practice.

Her daughter is my age. She was calm and composed and matter of fact as she talked about her mother.


I know exactly what that calmness feels like. I know exactly how much effort it takes to treat the fact of death like a fact of life.

But I have no idea what this girl told herself this time around, 7 years later and with no words of hope by the doctors.

No words of hope except the words you speak to yourself inside your mind. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Elvis & Alice

When I lived in Chennai, I used autos a lot and a place I needed to go to a lot was ELLIS Road. ELLIS. ELLIS. ELLIS. 

Anand, who took a special interest in hailing my autos for me, INSISTED on telling the auto driver that I had to travel to ELVIS Road.

ELVIS. Like the singer.

Not ELLIS. (Ellis, like the road).

I tried many times to correct him but failed, and ultimately gave up.

Then suddenly, a few months back, I remembered he used to call Ellis Road ELVIS Road. Why did I suddenly remember this? Because I'm simply that awesome.

I said to him, "You used to always say Elvis Road instead of Ellis Road."

He said, "Yes. Because that SHOULD have been its correct name. I mean, atleast everyone knows Elvis. But Ellis? Who the fuck is Ellis? And anyway, it's Alice.  Who the fuck is Alice. Not Ellis."

Friday, December 20, 2013

French kiss

Yesterday I was at a cafe by myself when a man came and sat next to me.

Our eyes caught each other, I smiled, he smiled, we talked. He was French. No, it didn't end in a kiss.

It was broad daylight, this was an outdoor cafe, and in any case, my life is rarely that exciting.

A conversation with a complete stranger. Male stranger.

I wouldn't have had it with him if he was Indian.

If he was Indian and he smiled at me, and tried to talk to me,  I may even have left my meal halfway, paid the bill and walked away.

But maybe if he was Indian but very old and doddering and his eyes caught mine, and he smiled at me and started a conversation, I would have responded.


Men and their reputations.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

side effects of chemotherapy

Disclaimer: These are my observations as a lay person. For a trained medical opinion, please consult an oncologist. 

On the day of the chemotherapy itself, you are likely to feel nothing.

24 hours after your chemotherapy, you will need an injection to boost the count of your white blood cells. This is because a side effect of chemotherapy is that it reduces your white blood cell count. White blood cells are important because they help your body fight infections. If you are under chemotherapy, the susceptibility of your body to infections increases.

Chemotherapy kills the cancer cells but it also kills the normal cells. You may feel very weak as your heamoglobin levels tend to fall. You will be required to take blood tests often throughout the course of your treatment and if your doctor feels your heamoglobin level is dangerously low then you may need a blood transfusion. 

You will experience hair loss but how quickly it sets in or the rate at which it falls differs from patient to patient. Some people lose all their hair within the first week - 10 days, others lose theirs gradually, over the course of their chemotherapy sessions.

You may have body pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation or general weakness. The week immediately after your chemotherapy session is the hardest. If you have been advised to undergo chemotherapy on a weekly basis then you may feel like you are constantly having to deal with its side effects. However, if your chemotherapy takes place with longer time gaps between the sessions then you may even feel fit or normal after your spell of weakness. 

Depending on how strong you feel, you can drive, go out to work, meet friends or go to a party.

Everything is possible because anything can happen at anytime.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Disclaimer: These are my observations as a lay person. For a scientific explanation on chemotherapy, please consult an oncologist.

Chemotherapy is not radiation. The 2 are different and you shouldn't get confused by the movies.

Chemotherapy can be given as oral tablets, as an instant injection or through a slow drip.

The chemotherapy given as a drip is the most common and also the one that I have closely observed.

You check into the hospital with your prescription. When you check in, they begin preparing your chemotherapy drugs. Preparation has to be done in a sterile environment and the drugs must be used immediately and not stored.  This is why they will begin preparing your drugs only once you have checked in. It can take anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hours for the lab to prepare the drugs that you need.

Dosage and types of drugs are different for each patient. There are more than 50 different types of chemotherapy drugs. So once you are checked in, the lab prepares the drugs for you in the exact concentration and dosage as has been prescribed by your doctor.

Once the chemotherapy drugs are ready, they are administered to you via a drip. You can spend anywhere between 5 - 8 hours in the hospital while you are on the drip. You can lie down or sit up. You can read, eat, watch TV or sleep. You can even ask the nurse to disconnect your drip if you need to take a bathroom break.

You will most likely feel nothing. Side effects only kick in over the next few days.

Depending on the dosage prescribed to you, you may need one or more drips. When they have finished giving you all your chemotherapy drips, they will give you a final saline drip.

Once they have finished giving you the saline drip, you can leave the hospital. Your chemotherapy session is over. Each session is called a "cycle". The frequency of your chemotherapy cycles are decided by your doctor.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

creative explanations

"Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) launched on 3rd December, 2005 the Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) and Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programmes (IHSDP) are being implemented which focus on basic services to the urban poor and integrated development of slums."

Press Release, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India

Saturday, August 24, 2013

house wearing t-shirts

Anand: I want to go to Sarojini Nagar. Let's go to Sarjoni Nagar.

Me: What do you want to do in Sarojini Nagar?

He: Buy cheap stuff!!!!

Me: What type of cheap stuff?

He: House wearing t-shirts!

Me: Do you need house wearing t-shirts? How many house wearing t-shirts do you already have?

He: Many!

Friday, August 09, 2013

The idlis are delicious. Did your mom cook them?

My mother is Punjabi and she doesn't know how to make idlis. In fact, she doesn't even know how to cook. Yes, my parents had a love marriage. Get over it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

what i have learnt about adulthood

Most jobs are dull and uninteresting. So unless you are fortunate enough to be rolling in your family's wealth you will just have to suck it up.  

Smile, make small talk, be pleasant, call it friendship. It's your network. 

Read EVERYTHING before you sign it. Take the time out to read it. Knowledge is power. 

If you have dependents, do everything in your power to take care of your health. Your health is your wealth, it really is. 

Money can buy you independence. 

Be financially independent. Nothing beats the power money gives you to take your own decisions. 

If you don't own a house and cannot afford to pay the movers and packers, practice object detachment. Rent leases don't last forever and neither will your children's willingness to physically move every fucking thing you own into your next house. 

Things rarely go according to plan. The universe is filled with too many unaccounted for variables. Everything can change in an instant. But if you've financially planned for it, you'll survive the change. Most likely, you are not going to have the time to deal with your emotions. Just move on. Time changes everything. As does context. What troubles you today will not trouble you tomorrow.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


The very first time I met him he said, "I went for late marriage. My children are 5 years old." (He looked about 45. No, I did not ask him about either his children or his marital status. He told me himself, of his own accord.Within the first five minutes of our meeting.)

You would think the Indian Parliament was big enough for me to avoid running into this man forever after. But no. Everytime I go there, he magically shows up in my path. (Yes, my job sometimes involves entering the Parliament building. No, I'm not that powerful. Yet.)

One day when I ran into him he said,"If you need anything, just send the driver." (Again, I had not asked him for anything. He said this himself, of his own free will.)

On another day he said, "You should use your office computer for research." (Yes, this was a random statement. I have no idea why he said this to me. We ran into each other and he blurted this out. Immediately upon seeing me this is exactly what he said.)

Today he said, "You should go for higher studies. I will be so happy if you do a Phd."
And then he said, "If you need anything, I will send the driver to you."

Fans and avid readers!!!!!! Please notice the promotion!!!! Earlier, I had to send him the driver if I needed anything. Now HE will send me the driver if I need anything. WINNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


It's hard to see people you grew up with visiting different cities, exploring the world, getting an education you cannot even afford to fill out the application forms for and building an international network of friends and potential work / business associates.

It's hard because you're still sitting in the same city you grew up in, it's littered with lecherous men, you're constantly watching your back, you live a boderline middle class poverty life where you spend your time and energy trying not to go bankrupt. Because you know what bankrupt can look like, you're living it anyway and you're scared. You want to get out of here but you can never leave because you cannot afford it.

Monday, July 01, 2013

train tales

My sister told us about a conversation she had with a co-passenger on a train.

He: Are you working or studying?

She: Neither

He: Oh, you must be a web designer.


Monday, June 17, 2013

identical twins

My friend told me that a few winters ago, she had a bottle that looked just like her. 

It was black, and it had a pink cap. She spent that winter wrapped in a black shawl and a pink woolen cap.

She said, "I and my bottle looked just like each other. In fact, if you didn't look hard enough, it would be easy for you to mistake one for the other."

Monday, May 27, 2013

grandmothers and grandaughters

Two weeks ago, I saw a girl about my age, at the hospital with her grandmother. It reminded me off all the nights I spent with my grandmother in the hospital, especially in the last months of her life.  Also, specifically, it reminded me of the last day when she was alive, the morning on which she and I rode in the ambulance together and talked about remembering to lock the house. And of later that afternoon when I rode back in the ambulance with her dead body, to the cremation ground. Does this sound like nobody else in our house wanted to ride with us? Actually, I think they knew not to interrupt us.

Last week at the airport I saw a little girl with her grandmother. They were there with the rest of their family but they happened to be sitting next to each other. The little girl asked her grandmother something, which I couldn't hear and then, in response, the grandmother pulled out a sweet from her handbag and gave it to the little girl.

For some reason this reminded me of my grandmother. It's because she was always the cool one. She was cool because she didn't ever withold the cool stuff, the way my mother did. My mother worried that we never ate enough vitamins and proteins. My grandmother would always give my sister money to buy chips, chocolates and any other yum stuff. 

This evening, while I was walking in the park, my little five year old neighbour and her grandmother overtook me. They were holding hands and racing down the sloping walkway together. This is something my grandmother and I never tried. And I wonder what it might have felt like.

This morning I was in a plane and I fell asleep. It was one of those really nice days where my grandmother showed up in my dream. She was about to say something when the airhostess who had come to collect the trash woke me up. I wonder what my grandmother was about to say.

And I also wonder how it is possible to love someone so much. And how it is possible to miss someone so much, especially if they always come to meet you in your dreams, even if they are dead

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

the price of dreams

That awkward moment when you realise that dreams aren’t for everybody. That dreams cost money and not just hard work and practice. Because you can always work hard and you can always practice. But sometimes accessing your dream means paying for it and then you realise the universe has thrown you a series of uncontrollable events and you are just too poor to afford to dream.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Pasta with Aastha

Fans and Avid Readers!

Today my sister met her friend Aastha. They went out for lunch and ate pasta. Pasta with Aastha.

Yes, that's really all I had to tell you all.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Delhi gang rape

I write it and you read it. I say it and you hear it. And we both know which one it is. We know EXACTLY which one.

Strange. Strange because this city sees it happen every day.

How did you know which one it was?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

death, noise and silence

A few days ago, my nieghbour died. He lived in the house just opposite mine. He was 16 and spastic. He was bedridden and couldn't move. They never brought him out of the house. We never realised he lived across from us. We have been living accross him for close to 2 years now.
We used to see his sisters, father and grandmother all the time. We never saw his mother. Now we know why.


Then we heard the wailing. Someone else from the nieghbourhood gave us the news of the death.  Relatives from everywhere descended upon their house. So many that they had to set up outdoor seating in the park. Like we did when my grandmother died. That's the noise that death brings.
The silence stays in your head.


It is hard to imagine what his family must be feeling. Did he know who they were, did he know how many lives he has touched? His younger sister is only 5. Does she understand death? She cried the loudest. I heard her and woke up. Someone was trying to console her, but she couldn't hear them, she could only hear her tears.

The priest rang a bell over her tears. I heard that as well.

Yesterday a woman I had never seen before stepped out of his house. I think she was his mother. Freed. Perhaps. Or perhaps just running away from the memories that lay inside.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

conversations with my boss

She: I am going for a conference. Would you like to go with me?

Me: Yes, of course, I'd love that.

She: Okay, but I am going to be very busy over there so don't expect me to sit next to you the whole time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

love story of singh vs. kaur

This is the title of a Punjabi movie I went to watch yesterday.

Ok Fans, Avid Readers and random people who typed this into Google and landed on my blog!!!!
Thank you all for coming here and trusting me to give you a movie review.

I refuse to be a slave to your trust and expectations.

I would like to thank Google for increasing my Punjabi readership. This moment would have been incomplete without you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

home video

Today my sister discovered an old video we had filmed with my grandmother, on the last birthday for which she was alive. There is my dad singing two different birthday songs at the same time. There is my mother getting impatient at my grandmother's slow cake cutting skills. There is my sister trying to film us all. There is Mami saying that next year, we should bake an even bigger cake. There is my grandmother, sweetly bewildered by all the attention and obediently cutting her birthday cake. The video freezes at the point where I and my grandmother pose for a photograph. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013


That one incident that forces me to acknowledge that I probably cannot love you anymore.

The immediate aftermath of this moment, where I ask myself what I will feel like at your funeral.

The memory of the time I agreed to care for you because someone both you and I loved asked me to look after the family on the day she died.

The realisation that in order to continue caring for you, I need to stop loving you.

The realisation that people change. That you have changed and that there is no point in crying for the person I once knew you to be.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

tax saving

I am broke because I just signed away everything in tax saving schemes for the next five years. I don't know if I will have enough money to make the annual payments for the next 5 years. Does this kind of thing happen to other people as well?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the boomerang blog

" Stop writing whatever you feel like on your blog. This is India. It will boomerang on you."
-- My mother, to me

"What? What does she mean 'boomerang'? Your blog has no content."
-- My friend, The Stud.

Monday, January 28, 2013


These days, when I am up working late at night, sometimes, I hear my mother screaming in her sleep.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Power. Money. Fame. Family holidays. Friendships.

Noise. Ambulance. ICU. Crisis. Debt. Illness.

Dependence. Empty house. TV noise. Long days. Guilt. Loneliness.



Friday, January 25, 2013

what they do at credit card companies

First, they assess whether or not you may be given a credit card. 

Do you have a job? 

Do you have a house? 

Do you live with your parents?

Are you married?

Are you single?

Have you ever gone shopping? 

Have you ever spent your money?

Do you have the potential to spend your money?

Do you live in a world where you have to spend your money?

If any or all or some of this applies to you YOU ARE WINNING THE CREDIT CARD GAME!!!!! YOU CAN BE SAFELY GIVEN A CREDIT CARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

P.S. Are you in debt? It's ok. Plastic costs nothing. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

how to care for your bag and your backside

Place your bag on the floor of the metro.

Congratulations, your bag is now dirty. 

Step off the metro, climb into a cycle rickshaw. 

The cycle rickshaw has a narrow seat. Either your bum or your bag can fit on the seat. 

Your bag is not allowed to touch your lap because your bag is dirty. 

Offer the cycle rickshaw seat to your bag because that is the polite thing to do. 

Your bum can no longer sit on the seat because the bag has touched the seat. 

Your bum is clean. 

Remember not to shit because that will dirty your bum. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Today, I met Anand for coffee.

He pulled out a blue ink fountain pen from his pocket and used it to colour over the alphabets on the sugar packets.

I tried to be interesting. I said, "You are spending all your time colouring the alphabets on the sugar packets instead of paying attention to me."

He said, "I am an artist."

Friday, January 11, 2013

How to hide your Russian boyfriend from your Punjabi grandmother

Tried and tested by my friend. Shared by me for the benefit of all of you. Because I am generous like that, and also because you all have Russian boyfriends. 

1. Invite your Russian boyfriend to stay with your family for the holidays

2. Tell your grandmother that all your friends are hosting foreign students for the holidays

3. Take your Russian boyfriend for a short trip to a touristy destination, like Jaisalmer, just the 2 of you

4. Look around for white tourists posing for photographs. At any given time, one of you should unobtrusively wriggle into the frame and pose while the other person unobtrusively takes a photo of the group. Repeat as often as possible. 

5. If you are burdened with obtrusive personalities then the above step does not apply for you. Instead, make sure one of you inserts yourself right into the centre of any space that is crowded with foreign tourists and make the other person quickly take many photos in succession. If you are lucky, some of the people in your vicinity shall be facing the same direction as you at any given point. 

6. Show these pictures to your grandmother. PROOF!

7. Russian boyfriend? There is no such thing.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

metro manners

 " They are used to running in one direction, so they run in the opposite direction as well."

-- My forward thinking friend, on why people cannot stop running while changing trains at Central Secretariat metro station


Do you use the Delhi Metro?

Do you go to Central Secretariat metro station? 

Do you ever change from the yellow line to the purple** line or the purple line to the yellow line at Central Secretariat metro station?

Are you one of the people who rushes out of the train from one line and KEEPS ON RUNNING until you reach the next line? (Don't lie. You are. Everyone who switches between the yellow and purple lines at Central Secretariat metro station is one of these people. If you are NOT you are either a blatant liar or a foreign tourist or me.) 

The purple line begins at Central Secretariat. So passengers who get off from the yellow line like to run towards the purple line because they think that if they reach faster they will get into the train faster and find a place to sit.

Central Secretariat is a station somewhere in the middle of the yellow line. So if you get onto the yellow line at Central Secretariat, you almost never get a place to sit. But it is a fact that users of the purple line also run towards the yellow line, even though they will not get a place to sit. Fans and Avid Readers, you are hereby informed that thanks to my forward thinking friend, we now have a scientific explanation for this bizzare behaviour. Obviously, if you are used to running in one direction, you will run in the opposite direction as well.



Friday, January 04, 2013

falling fred

Yesterday, my friend The Sleepwalker traumatised me for 26 minutes by showing me this video game called Falling Fred. 

 Here, I found a picture of Fred for you: 

Fred is falling through an endless unidentifiable location. Your aim is to make sure he KEEPS ON FALLING. Yes! If you stop him from falling, YOU LOSE! 

Interestingly, you can let parts of Fred be chopped off by random computer-generated objects while he is falling. All you have to do is make sure he hits a random computer generated object. When this happens, a part of his body gets chopped off . BUT if his head gets chopped off, YOU LOSE! 

You dont't ever win this game. You can have the illusion of winning as long as Fred keeps on falling. 

But wait! It gets better. Apparently, there is a newer version of this game and it is called... SUPER FALLING FRED!!!! In this, the graphics are better, Fred falls faster and there are even more vicious random computer generate objects.

Fred is falling. Let him fall. Fred is super falling. Let him super fall. Fred has a head. Yay!!! Fred lost his head. OH NO! Fred has a super head. Super Yay!!!! Fred lost his super head. SUPER OH NO!