Blind dates and giant wheels

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This incident happened more than a decade back. A lot can happen on a blind date especially if the blind date is on a giant wheel. For me, what happened was a case of extreme phobia and my inability to focus on the gentleman who I was setup on the blind date with. This blind dating experience was in IIT KGP(year 2005), where we went for their annual spring fest. The process of setting one up on a blind date was simple. On signing up at the blind date booth, you had to wear a badge which had the name of a celebrity. You then had to look at guy’s chests(not embarrassing at all) to find the name of the male celebrity that the female celebrity(whose badge you had worn) was dating. Well, the thing about blind dates is that….well….they are blind. As much as the much-prophesied quote about love being blind and all, there is an element of choice involved when falling in love with someone. My friend had worn a badge which read ‘Aishwariya Rai’. When she saw her ‘Salman Khan’ hovering around, she quickly removed the badge and darted from the scene of blindness into light.

I don’t remember the celebrity name I was wearing. All I remember is that no darting from the scene happened. My blind date walked towards me. Now don’t start imagining a Bollywood film where the hero walks in wearing sunglasses, his clothes well pressed, muscles popping out of everywhere and a jawline that seems godly. Movies set up unreal expectations about everything, including how ‘the walk’ should be and how the ‘walk’ should induce a typhoon which should blow the girl’s hair in a systematic fashion, not messing up her hair in any way. This guy with his ordinary walk introduced himself. I can’t remember his name as of now. So, I will name him BD – Blind date.

Once I found my blind date, we had to pick a chit together and it would reveal the details as to the venue of the blind date. We picked out a chit and it turned out that our blind date was on a giant wheel. I have to confess that this wasn’t as big a giant wheel as the one from where I escaped death decade and a half back. As I sat on this medium sized giant wheel, from where if I should fall, I would just break a bone or maybe sprain a ligament or something.

I feel a lot of sympathy for sprains. It must be so depressing for them, with no real identity. Sure, sprains hurt, but everyone just says ‘It is just a sprain and not a fracture.’ It must feel like a sidekick to the main villain. Everyone is scared of the villain, the sidekick is a person with a permanent identity crisis. Now, this giant wheel started and BD started asking questions. I replied, but fear had its grip on me as the giant wheel started rotating faster. Fear is irrational, so forget the last paragraph about sprains and their identity crisis.

My subconscious was busy reminding me of the time when I had gone to a local fair(mela) in my hometown. I was about 5 years old at that time. Me, my mother and my sister sat on a giant wheel. This giant wheel would put the blind date giant wheel to shame. It was the height where you would not really worry about bird droppings. Not that you need to worry too much about bird droppings anyway. I mean, it is your choice. Life is short, choose your worries wisely. If you must worry about bird droppings, go ahead!

The giant wheel started. Me, my mom and my sister held on to the rickety iron bar tightly. The only learning I got from the incident that I am about to narrate is that one should never wear clothes that don’t have spikes on them or are not declared skid proof on a giant wheel(not that I had time to purchase skid proof clothes for the blind date). As we reached the top, my non skid proof clothes started giving way. I started slipping inch by inch as we started the descent. Since the giant wheel was descending at such speed downwards, I was off my seat and dangling from the giant wheel car, clutching on to my Mom’s hand while she tried pulling me up. She shrieked for help, but the guy operating the giant wheel was in his candy…errr…paan world. He was busy chewing and somehow missed us. I never make fun of movies in which actors find themselves dangling from a cliff. It happens to us ordinary people too. We went another round with me dangling. By then, I think I became pretty comfortable with where I was. Or perhaps I had passed out with my eyes open. The paan world guy finally stopped the giant wheel. We got off and till date I feel a little traumatised when I think of the incident.

Back to Kharagpur, my blind date got over soon. For me this blind date was neuro-associated with the giant wheel incident, which meant that I would be reminded of cliffs and no bird droppings zone, whenever I looked at BD.

Well, even otherwise, no sparks flew.

That evening we had to attend a concert in campus. We were pretty excited. This time, we took a lot of time getting dressed. Indian Ocean was playing and for some strange reason, me and my friends thought that we would be the center of attention. Why else would we spend almost an hour and a half, agonising over every little item of clothing which we were to wear? We reached the entry gate to the main campus and there it was. A queue longer than most banks in India would be having due to the demonetisation. We stood at the tail end and stared at the line which was hardly moving. There were loud chants and cheers going off in the main auditorium, the place where our bums should have been. We saw a few guys from another college, who seemed almost illegally cheerful for people who were stranded in a queue. They were singing a song which sounded catchy as hell. We(the girls from our college) surrounded them. The guys from our college were nowhere to be seen.

We started singing along. The lyrics consisted of two names – a gentleman named Baburao and a lady named Gangubehen. Now, the rest of the sounds in the song seemed like a bit of a hi-fi music effect. We started singing the song like parrots, copying the music effects and everything. One guy whispered to another – ‘These girls are pretty cool.’ Of course, we were cool. We didn’t realise that they had measured our coolness basis the song we were singing, which we later came to know had extremely questionable lyrics. But before this startling discovery as to the meaning and implications of the song, we had already sung it in every nook and corner of the college. The last I remember singing the song was at 7 in the morning, after the fest was over. No wonder people on their way to their classes on bicycles, kept turning back and staring at us like the characters of Ekta Kapoor serials do, before they drop their respective plates in utmost horror.

Do I look like Akshay Kumar?

We all love compliments in all shapes and sizes, don’t we? You innocent people. I also thought like that for a good part of my life, until one day at the gym…wham! Little did I know that day, that my myth of all compliments being good was going to be shattered.

So, I had finished my cardio and was sipping on some water, whilst standing on the terrace of the gym. I saw a dude walking towards me. Mind you, this is no ordinary dude whom you can forget in a day or two and free up the memory cells of your brain. This dude was someone whom you instantly know would occupy memory cells permanently in your brain, just like you feel about Facebook messenger on your phone. Like it or don’t like it, you will be forced to install it and have it happily eat up a large chunk of your memory just for sitting there on your screen.

So, this guy who looked like Sanjay Dutt although photoshopped to be a decade older, walked up to me, his shoulders moving almost like Sanjay Dutt’s shoulders would move in a slo-mo dance performance. He had worn sunglasses at night, so I assumed that he didn’t like any form of light whatsoever.

As soon as he was at a one hand distance from me, he said something that a normal water sipping gym going girl would not expect.

‘You have a gummy smile…like Akshay Kumar’ he said.

I looked at him for a few seconds trying to get my brain to elicit a response which would seem suitable for this kind of description for my smile. Mind you, he had taken all this effort to walk 10m and approach a stranger to say this. Hence, I could not be completely rude and walk off. And what if it was a compliment? Had I been a guy, I would have spent the night at the gym and gulped down a few liters of protein shake, thinking I had a possible career option as a kick-ass action and comedy hero waiting for me. Being a girl, all I could think of was saying ‘hmmph’ and walking away. But, I just blurted ‘Thank you’.

He continued ‘No, you really do’.

I said ‘Aha’.

He then mumbled something about his life. But I had traveled far and wide into my head, trying to figure out whether this comment was sarcastic or it was meant to be a compliment. I could not even see his eyes while he said it, because of those black beauties hiding his true, scheming self. I walked out of the gym after his story was over and went home. I threw my gym bag on the bed and went to the bathroom. I smiled. He was right. I had a gummy smile. I then googled a few pictures of people smiling. They didn’t have a gummy smile. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or not.I dismissed the matter, but I developed a habit of staring at people’s teeth whenever they laughed or smiled or opened their mouths, just to see if they shared this trait with me. So far, it is only me and Akshay Kumar. So if you see me jumping off buildings for a bottle of Thums Up, know that the jaws have possessed us and are making us do crazy things.

Years later at a dreaded dentist appointment(poor dentists, nobody recalls their visits to the dentists as pleasant, relaxing or something that they really looked forward to), a dentist told me I had a jaw overbite, wherein the upper jaw totally overshadows the lower jaw when the mouth is closed. I knew some of my rebellious nature would have seeped into some of my body parts. Perhaps my upper jaw decided that it would never align with the lower jaw, just because it was expected of it to do so. It causes the jaw muscles to be swollen and strained all the time. Things didn’t end there.

After having done ample amount of research to link all my life problems to this damn misalignment(since I could not even smile or laugh properly without inevitable muscle pain), I went to a dentist who asked me to slide my lower jaw in and out a few times. He was pretty shocked at what he saw. For those few moments in the dentist’s chair, I felt that he thought my lower jaw was some sort of Hot Wheels car, which he just wanted to slide up and down a road.

With a grave expression which normally follows such kind of shocked curiosity from dentists, he said ‘ Your jaw is not just vertically misaligned. It is horizontally misaligned as well.’ Leaning tower of Pisa?

He gave me a contraption to wear at night, which would be stuck to my palate, which would help to retrain the jaw muscles, the only issue being it is made of acrylic, which is known to be carcinogenic. I put it on a few times and felt more free than I have ever felt in my life. My only option now is to get braces or a surgery. Both of them don’t sound like a walk in the park. So right now I am trying to do it the natural way – talking to the jaws trying to convince them to let go of the rebellion. I am not sure it is working. I secretly feel that my jaws have joined AAP.

Imagine my skull being put in a biology class a century from now. People would think I am some sort of alien who walked the planet and there would be frantic phone calls to discuss and decipher this unknown species with such non homosapien type jaws.

P.S If you are trying to google Akshay Kumar pictures, please google ‘Akshay Kumar Gummy Smile.’ 😉

Disco, fake President and a fingerless ghost

We went for IIT-Kharagpur(KGP) spring fest in our second year of engineering. This decision was taken after no introspection. It was just one of those things for me, where I knew that spending five days in the campus of a college that I didn’t make through, would do me some good. Maybe breathing in the KGP air would endow me with some more IQ points using which I would be able to top my class in the college that was kind enough to give me admission. Fat dreams.

So a bunch of us(equivalent to the number of people you would fit into a mini bus), headed towards IIT. The train ride was pregnant with an air of excitement and anticipation. We would be in a free place for the next five days. Having stayed in a hostel with heavy rules, it felt pretty good. We reached the IIT campus late in the evening and headed to the dormitories, the place meant for us to shiver through the night, thanks to the KGP winters.

We slept pretty late at night owing to the noisy college girls from another city(not to be named), who found it imperatively crucial to discuss clothes and makeup at the top of their voices at 2 a.m. It felt as if they had a secret bet on who could shatter the glass windows first. Thankfully the glass windows had probably weathered such specimen in the past as well and were pretty robust. We woke up next morning with enthusiasm and sore throats.

But this was no time for us to sit and lament over our throats and talk about the burdens of life. We had to get ready. The college guys were waiting for us for breakfast. Now we are no queens and we didn’t have an elaborate makeup, hair and clothes train routine for us to cater to. Food motivated us to get ready in a few minutes . We headed out. The campus stood out in all its splendor and freshness. IIT has a pollution free campus and you can use your leg joints, bicycles and rickshaws to get to different places. We decided to lubricate our leg joints. We were informed by the guys that there were tiny breakfast joints right outside the campus. The cold wind hit against our faces and increased our anticipation of the hot coffee that we would find outside.

We had breakfast comprising of hot idlis, sambar and coffee at Rs 10(or a similar amount). We were thrilled at how inexpensive the place was, considering that we were students and we loved a cheap bargain. God knows what we would do with the saved up amount, but it came in handy if we had to fill in fines of some kind in our college, which we eventually ended up doing more frequently than you might imagine.

We stepped back into the college campus wondering where to head next. We decided to walk around to the area that we had alighted the previous night after we had been picked up from the train station. There was loud music playing. Curious we headed over to the area where the main fest celebrations would be. There was a huge open area, enclosed by tents(food, games, dating booths…etc). Few people were dancing in front of a stage. Dancing in broad daylight on a dance floor was a concept that I was not familiar with till then. After the IIT trip, all these tiny, irrelevant and useless inhibitions were shaken off. The gender ratio was extremely skewed in IIT, we realised. We were told that there were 600 guys and 6 girls. I don’t personally vouch for the numbers, but me and my friends did feel like queens given such sparse female population. Guess you don’t need a clothes train, a crown and an elaborate makeup routine after all, to feel like a queen.

There were chants of ‘KGP ka tempo high hai’ happening all over without any prior warnings. We also decided to create a ‘K…I…T…S….Dhishkiyon’ in order to keep pace. Just because we couldn’t make it through the IIT exam didn’t mean that we couldn’t create funky slogans. The ‘dhishkiyon(sound of a gun shot)’ had to be done with our fingers shaped like guns and pointed towards the sky. Pretty stylish, eh?

I will reiterate that one of the most liberating things was that we were on a different campus. The reason I am doing this is to justify in advance the series of incidents we found ourselves in next. The girls hostel entry time was 2 a.m, if my memory cells are on track. Boys were scot free as usual with no entry timings. Deep breaths. We decided to play rebels that day. Some of us wanted a bonfire and a night out. The chances of getting caught were slim, given that there was no one closely monitoring our entry into the hostel and we were not such VIPs that we would have wanted to imagine. Our only goof up was that given the IIT campus was quite large, we didn’t realise that we had set up camp right behind the girls hostel. Yep, the girls talking (screaming?)about hair and makeup were maybe around a hundred meters from us. Shudder. But, we didn’t know all these facts then. We laughed, admired the fire and felt free. There were rounds of Antaskshari that happened. But then…..he came.

He who was not to be named…since we didn’t know his name in the first place. This specimen, who you might have guessed was a man(and probably still is), came on a bicycle. At first we brushed aside his presence in the shadows as just another passerby, someone who would just stare at us, judge us and cycle away. But no. He came towards us. Do you realise how unnerving it is to have a stranger cycle towards you at midnight in an area where there are more trees than buildings and there is a foggy undertone to the environment? He reminds me of Boman Irani in 3 Idiots when I think about him now. Actually, I have forgotten his face and now I can only remember Boman Irani’s face. So I will name this character Boman.

Boman got down from his cycle and put on his cycle stand(irrelevant I know). He had worn gloves and had a gray sweater on, obviously with a shirt underneath. We all stood up and stared at him. He was unabashed by the presence of a bunch of overenthusiastic, hoarse voiced people who were creating a ruckus a few seconds back. He went around shaking hands with everyone, mumbling – ‘Shake hands with me. I am the President of India.’ We complied. So far we had considered only two options as to the issue with this gentleman – 1. He was loony OR 2. He was drunk. We figured he would leave us alone and scurry off after he introduced his Highness. One of the girls in our group was next in line to shake hands with Boman. She extended her hand and as she shook hands with him, she started screaming. Now, when someone starts screaming in a blood curdling fashion, you follow suit. You don’t draw up a Powerpoint presentation with a detailed analysis of why this person is screaming.

She shouted ‘He is a ghost.’ Our faces lost all colour. The man indeed scurried off, probably to get his head or eardrums examined. But she was hysterical by now.

We shouted ‘What?!?’

‘He has no fingers’ – she screamed.

At that moment, we could have realised that it is possible for a man who looks like Boman Irani and who walks around pretending to be President at 4 in the morning, to have lost his fingers in an accident or something. But being scared at that time was better than proving our valour(and foolishness) by sitting there lest he should come back. We got up and started walking towards the hostel. It was during this time we realised that we were almost sitting on the fence of the girls hostel. We decided we would say we had gone for an early morning walk. God knows who wears such clothes and earrings to an early morning walk. As we entered the hostel, we saw a lady whose face turned into the colour of a sleepy beetroot as soon as she saw us.

One thing I know is that if you say anything with confidence, the other person buys it. But this beetroot was no ordinary person. We tried our flimsy morning walk excuse. She screamed like a banshee on her period. After she cooled down, she said ‘You will have to attend a DISCO tomorrow.’

We were thrilled for a few innocuous moments where we actually mistook DISCO to be a place where people danced and wore sexy clothes. I imagined people in IITs didn’t like going to discos, maybe because they were intelligent and reasoned a disco to be a place where ordinary commoners with not as high IQs as them, wasted their precious time on frivolous things like dancing. We smiled a little.

‘Disco?’ one of us endowed with nerves of steel dared to ask.

‘DISCO. DISciplinary COmmittee meeting’ she said.

Why would they do this to us – raise our hopes and then prick them with an acronym which hurt the depths of our already harrowed souls?

We hardly slept that night. The makeup girls had already slept off or maybe passed out from sheer exhaustion from their previous night’s conversation. We looked at each other with hopelessness and fear. We were afraid that this incident might be reported to our own college and we would have to pay dearly for it. Although the 10 Rs breakfast had ensured that we had plenty of financial cushioning for fines, the sin committed by us was so huge that the paying dearly would be in the form of a non monetary punishment.

The DISCO started the next morning with authority figures staring at us with disdain. I figured they would have thoughts aplenty of what this generation had come to – enjoying their birthright of freedom and everything.

One of us narrated what happened the previous night with the glove man. Their expressions turned from disdain to one of defensiveness in a matter of seconds. They assured us of our safety and swore that IIT campuses were safe and we should not make a big deal out of this outside.

We nodded and left the room. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of relief exiting a DISCO. More on this trip to follow, once I am able to put together my incoherent thoughts into a readable format. 🙂

Bad haircuts and dance performances

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I was always into dance performances when I was in my teens. I would participate in local dancing competitions, school functions, Independence day parades and so on and so forth. There were two issues which presented themselves during these dance performances, which make me slightly discount the endorphin, adrenaline and serotonin high I got from those performances.

Firstly, the dances were of the nature which required a girl to have hair which could be tied into a bun. In those days, I used to get an embarrassing haircut called the ‘Mushroom cut’. Till date, I don’t know what possessed me to get those haircuts. I looked good in them, but it was not me. I would get those haircuts and then spend the next few months defending the haircut. There is an unsaid rule in my life that only I can make myself feel bad about my hair. No one else can.

Now most of these dances were of a traditional nature where we had to wear saris and artificial jewelry along with ‘alta’ which is a Bengali red dye applied on hands and feet(imagine Madhuri and Aishwariya’s look in Dole Re song). We wore big bindis and five kilos of makeup. I didn’t have an issue with makeup, but it clashed with my mushroom cut look. It presented me in a bad light, as if I was deeply confused about my identity in this world. Was I the spunky chick who sported a funky hairstyle, but had decided it is not sanskari for me to do so? Or was I the traditional young lady on a rebellious streak, who would just rebel in small ways and not do anything too drastic to upset the other traditional people? Still trying to figure out what that look meant.

I had to use false hair/artificial bun to make things easier for the audience. I now know from experience that it plopping a bun on top of your head, while the rest of your hair falls naturally into a mushroom cut look, makes you look slightly retarded. It looks like an ice-cream cone, with the scoop being too large for the rest of the cone, maybe because the scoop wanted to make a loud statement just like Rakhi Sawant. This ice cream cone look didn’t have any particular impact when it came to my dance performance.

Once I had used false hair for a performance. In the middle of the semi classical and eloquent dance steps, my false hair decided that it had had it. It just slipped effortlessly on the floor. I picked up the false hair, in a series of dance steps to make it look choreographed. and then slipped off the stage as if that too was planned. I then frantically clipped on the false hair, mumbling a few curse words(which were of an innocuous nature at that time and mostly included donkeys). I then slipped back onto the dance floor quite shamelessly, as if the last seconds of my life had never happened.

Secondly, I detested the fact that they made me Mahishasur(the obese devil with a big handlebar mustache whom Goddess Durga killed, which is why we got ten days school holiday every year). Yes, so in a way, I was responsible for those holidays. You can thank me and send me gifts if you want. But, I could never understand why I was picked as Mahishasur. Was I a natural for the part? I did have fairly bushy eyebrows till I started getting them threaded. The confusing part was that I was Mahishasur but I had the Dole Re look, with the ice cream cone bun and everything. For people, the question ‘Who am I?’ comes after a lot of spiritual and deep meaningful years of pondering. For me, I think the seeds of doubt started sprouting after these performances.

We were once performing on a huge ground on the occasion of Independence day. The sequence was such that I had to dance normally, then fall under the Goddess’s foot on a particular cue for her to kill me(it always felt like walking and then fainting under her feet for a few seconds). After she killed me, I had to get up and start dancing again(maybe this was the afterlife dance). I had rehearsed this fainting and afterlife dance sequence enough number of times, so much so that I stopped feeling humiliated about why they chose me for the part. But…..I don’t know what came over me that day. I decided to fall at the Goddess’s feet a few seconds earlier. Maybe this is what the inevitability of death means. You know it, so why fight it? She got confused and mentioned that I was before time. This was the only time in my life when being before time led to the air being distraught with panic and utter directionlessness . After a few awkward moments later of sheer inactivity between me and the Goddess, I was killed by her.

If you find me sobbing uncontrollably at a hair salon if my hair gets cut too short, you know why.

Image Credits: http://www.picturequotes.com

 

 

The wildlife Zumba class

So, I start going for a few dance classes at my gym. I want to believe that I am a decent dancer, so I avoid looking at the mirror(which is on my right). Ignorance is bliss. Delusion is Heaven(don’t buy into this. I am just getting carried away).

I go for a Zumba class. This lady who is in flawless shape puts on the music and starts instructing us. We allow ourselves to be instructed, thus maintaining the decorum of the class. There is no mention of any kind of fish market from her, so I assume she is happy with us, although the music is so loud that I forsee fish market people saying ‘What is this? A Zumba class?’ sometime in the future.

She dances really well and we try to follow her. Then she adds in her instructions ‘Be sexy. Like a tigress.’ Now I have been a human being all my life, so I try hard to ape her. I can see that everyone else is also trying hard. You can tell when one is trying hard when they have strained expressions(inside the bathroom or outside).

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She shouts ‘Sexy tigress.’ We take it that we are doing well. Pardon me as I decide to speak for the whole class. She gets flustered and shouts ‘tigress’ once again. I am trying hard to coordinate my left foot, right arm, left eyeball and my ponytail while still trying to feel and look like a tigress. A tigress with love handles.
I don’t think that a tigress can do all this shit at once, while trying to look like a human being.

Then she exclaims ‘Tigress. Not Hello Kitty.’

So much for the sexy moves. Come to think of it, I always liked fluffy cats like Garfield better than some tigress who multitasks.

Image Credits: Unknown.

#dance #garfield #funny #ilovedance

Thunder, Lightning and the Speed of Thighs

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Image Credits: Dumpaday.com

Do you ever have a crazy mental dialogue when you go shopping alone? Or always, for that matter?

Date: 28th March 2015

Venue: Shopping Mall

Before visiting the mall, I checked out a website which tells you what colours you should wear depending on the kind of energy you project. I realised that I had been wearing dark colours all my life whereas I should have been wearing bright colours. I agreed with the same for lack of a valid counterargument and went shopping.

Brain: In order for you to accomplish this, look at all the colours that you would have never worn normally, before your life changing ‘which colour should I wear’ discovery.

Me: Ok.

I stayed off the dark colours and went to look for the more chatak(loud) colours. 

I picked out a few clothes, with slightly shaky hands. Changing the core colours you wear almost changes your identity in some way.

Brain: You will look like a fruit salad wearing these colours.

Me: Snicker.

I picked out a few of those fruit salad clothes, determined to feel good looking like a fruit salad. After all, if it lifts my energy and makes me happier(like a yellow coloured minion), who cares? I also picked out a few pairs of jeans and went in.

Now, before I go into the juicy details of the trial room, I want to give let you in on a conversation which I had with a senior on Yahoo chat almost a decade back.

X(For lack of a better codeword): Do you know that guys in the hostel call you thunder thighs?

Me: Umm.

What the hell is one supposed to do with information like this? And why do people feel like passing on such information? It is like going to a dog and saying ‘You know that you bark, right?’ . Uh! Ok.

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Image Credits: www.boredpanda.com

As I thought about the thunder thighs label, which always brings up an image of Sridevi in a wet sari dancing with Anil Kapoor, who is her brother-in-law now (Bollywood, you scare me), I pulled out a pair of jeans and started trying it on.

Me: Ugh!

Brain(in an animated paan chewing driver’s tone as the jeans reached my thighs): Ab tak to Manali tak ka raasta tha, easy tha. Aage se Rohtang pass hai.

Me: Ssh!

I gave up on the jeans, as it probably gave up on me. I walked out of the store with my self respect intact. What goes on in the trial room, stays in the trial room.

I went home and did the weighing scale dance. The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Remove all coins from your pockets.

Step 2: Get on the weighing scale.

Step 3: Blink a couple of times in horror. Hope that the blinks scare the damn weighing scale to lower the weight.

Step 4: Give the weighing scale a second chance, by checking its zero error. Who knows – the scale might be pointing to 5 kg instead of the default 0 kg?

Step 5: Bring out curse words with as much venom as possible. Make the weighing scale feel bad by screaming ‘Once a traitor, always a traitor.’

Step 6: Take charge of the situation and create a zero error in the opposite direction.

Step 7: Congratulations! You are now 5 kgs lighter. You can be the poster boy or girl in one of those pretentious weight loss commercials, in which only the ‘After’ photo gets photoshopped.

I want to hear about your crazy shopping and weight reduction experiments. Don’t be lazy. Comment below. Typing makes one’s fingers thinner, so I hear. 😉

Proudly yours,

Thunder Thighs

P.S – I have sworn myself off the virus called ‘perfection’ in a ceremony that involved two frogs, one unicorn and five strands of hair of men who have now turned bald but were wise enough to preserve those strands of hair for my ceremony. Talk about foresight. This deadly virus leads you to squint and read through your text at least two dozen times. I am trying to return to normalcy and hence I read through the text only a couple of times, after it is done. Pardon me, if there is a typo, although you can let me know about it…in private, of course. Together we can fight this virus and save time.

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Keys…Bermuda Triangle…Sigh!

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This story dates back about two decades. I owned a bicycle back then. Monotony didn’t feature in my dictionary back then. I loved riding the bike on the road in front of our house, back and forth, with no agenda to reach anywhere whatsoever. I loved the feel of the wind against my face, the quiet neighbourhood, the street dogs who would sometimes run behind the bike and the endorphins(although at that time I didn’t know about endorphins).

There was only one problem that interfered with this hobby of mine. A friend of mine used to pop by expectedly every day and snatch the bike from me. Well, I had been taught to share, so I managed to stuff my possessiveness of the bike and the aforementioned endorphins within me. That is what good girls did. And so, I didn’t say much during the first few days. After, he started taking my trying-to-be-good nature for granted, I had to do something. My kiddy brain gave me one piece of advice – to hide the keys. I don’t know who I was hiding them from, since he never came into my room to grab the keys. But, I wanted it out of sight, so that I could tell him that I could not find my bike keys. At that time, the guilt of lying was much lesser than the pain of being giving due to a lack of choice. My friend came, I told him that I had lost the bicycle keys(with much tsking to validate the point). Guess Bollywood resides in each one of us in the way we dramatise things. He went off, probably to find other people’s honesty that he could mess around with.

I relaxed that day, doing things that kids do. The next evening, I decided to sneak out my bicycle to go somewhere new, somewhere I would not bump run into this friend. To my utmost horror, I could not remember where I had hidden the keys. It was one of those duh moments, which I can never forget, as if the memory cells in my mind which had the information on where these keys were, had been sucked in by the Bermuda Triangle or something. I searched everywhere possible for the next few days. It was the dumbest thing to happen to me(and anyone I knew). I was the laughing stock for my family for the next few days. Ultimately, the lock had to be broken, when the keys were declared missing permanently by me. The next day onwards, I had to share my bicycle with him again, this time with a feeling of guilt and stupidity tugging at my heart.

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Interviews, Zippers and Mistaken Identities

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Interviews. I think of zippers whenever I think of interviews. Strange neuro-association, isn’t it? I can hear you mumbling neuro….what? Neuro- association is the way in which the brain links up two things together which it considers logical. In my (over)analysis of my neuro associations, I have gasped multiple times at the ludicrous neuro-associations in my brain and then tapped on my face to remove those ‘logical’ neuro associations(read about EFT tapping before you judge me). Sigh, I secretly dream of a world where we all are as weird as I am. That doesn’t seem likely unless I create billions of weird-face-tapping clones of me.

Back to zippers….and interviews. Interviews bring up images of folders with a resume in them, complete with a passport size photo in my mind(apart from zippers, of course). It feels insensitive to call it a resume, it should be called the ‘Shining Glory of My Life Spent on This Planet’ or something like that. Aah. Anyway, I had carried my ‘Shining Glory…blah…blah…’ to the interview room few years back, after having fixed my hair and lip gloss a few dozen times, aiming to give a perfect impression of my sincere-shining self. People walked in, asked me questions, nodded a lot and then informed me that few other people wanted to interview me. I smiled unnaturally, as is natural to do so in the interview. Perhaps, people finish their quota of smiles(and lip-gloss) in the interview room and then frown for the next few years they work in that place.

I first stared at the walls of the interview room, which I feel obliged to do in such situations, where nothing else seems to fill that time between the going out and coming in of people. I then stared at my skirt. It looked nice…black…formal…and dull. Good. But then, I noticed that my skirt zip(on the side of the skirt) was undone and spoilt. So now, one could see the holy white tucked in shirt, through the black skirt. Eeks!

I didn’t know how any of this was my fault, but I was convinced it was. In some way it was…as it always was. My hand immediately covered up the gap…the gap which would put gaps between cliffs which people dream of jumping to shame. I felt handicapped at that moment, with only one hand of mine operational, since one hand had to do its job of saving my izzat(respect). The other hand  would have to be used to shake hands and wave animatedly in the air in order to declare my passion for the job. The second set of people came in and asked their stuff. I replied, one hand stuck to the side of the skirt. I sensed that they sensed that there was something wrong with my arm. But, I was determined to not let ‘the gap’ spoil my interview. Finally my interview ended and I walked out with a sense of confidence that I could single handedly(sense the pun?) sail through an interview.

My neuro-association is prompting me to write about yet another embarrassing situation where I was asked to wait in a coffee shop for an interview. I had checked the Facebook profile of my interviewer the previous night, as part of my research. Amazing how one can do anything under the pretext of research. So, I was looking for this lady of a particular nationality to come and interview me. A lady breezily came up to me and said ‘Hieee. I’ll be back in a moment.’ I smiled politely and rummaged through my brain for the Facebook photo I had seen of the interviewer the previous day.  Mismatch! She was not the one.

Perhaps, she had decided that she wanted her face to match another nationality’s and had then gone through a series of painful plastic surgeries to make that happen. I settled(sank) into my chair and waited for the lady-who-had-changed-her-nationality. To my horror, I saw a person with a face that matched the Facebook photo I had seen earlier walk towards me. She sat next to me and started asking relevant questions. I started spurting out my replies in an organised and rehearsed manner. The breezy-lady-who-I-thought-had-changed-her-nationality popped up again and stared at me and the interviewer-whose-photo-matched-the-Facebook-profile.  I just pointed at the interviewer’s head and nodded as part of some secret code that the breezy lady seemed to get. She nodded apologetically and walked off. The interviewer stared at me and I blabbered something like ‘She must have assumed I am someone else’ and continued jabbering my answers…..as if nothing happened.

Over to you. What weird(funny) interview experiences have you had? What pops into your mind whenever you think of interviews?

P.S – I have sworn myself off the virus called ‘perfection’ in a ceremony that involved two frogs, one unicorn and five strands of hair of men who have now turned bald but were wise enough to preserve those strands of hair for my ceremony. Talk about foresight. This deadly virus leads you to squint and read through your text at least two dozen times. I am trying to return to normalcy and hence I read through the text only a couple of times, after it is done. Pardon me, puhleeeez, if there is a typo, although you can let me know about it…in private, of course. Together we can fight this virus and save time.

Image Credits – Unknown(but brilliant).

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Morning Glemashomikumona

Bromo Sunrise-2Mornings…We either love them or hate them. The media has a big role to play in terms of how mornings should look like. For them, the idea of a morning involves the following sequence of events – Bright sunlight streams into large sized rooms(with no clutter, obviously). A vivacious woman wakes up with her hair perfectly falling on her shoulders. She has a wide smile playing on her lips. She proceeds to take a steamy shower using a shower gel.  She sometimes plays with the lather that forms and blows it out to no one in particular and then happily proceeds with her day. Depending on what is being sold in this version of mornings, the vivacious-girl-who-plays-with-lather might drink coffee and/or wave to people(sometimes even strangers, depending on how desperately they want to sell you what they are selling you).

Huh?

I would not speak for everyone, but my mornings are vastly different. For one, sunlight is not responsible for waking me up every morning. The alarm clock rings, leading my half awake self to turn it off multiple times. In fact, for some strange reason, I have two alarm clocks ringing at the same time, on my phone and my husband’s. I get up and turn both of them off and head back to my bed after this vigorous activity early in the morning. I almost feel guilty for sleeping without setting an alarm and then turning it off. Switching off the alarm, or turning on the snooze button earns you that right…the right to sleep for a few extra minutes. Those few extra minutes, if caught in a wrestling match with the remaining 6 (or 7…or 8…or 9….are you a lazy bum?) hours of sleep, would win hands down.

Over the years, I have understood the importance of a morning routine. It helps me find myself. Before I head into the day, doing what I am supposed to do, I sit and be ‘me’ for a few minutes, sipping on ginger tea and writing in my journal. I pick out angel cards in the morning to get advice which a person like me feels she needs to do, in order to be equipped to tackle the challenges of the day.

Earlier, my morning routine consisted of only three things – Get ready, have breakfast and listen to mindless dance Bollywood songs on MTV. That set the tone for the day. Over time, I have become more finicky(and weird) about the stuff that I need to squeeze into my mornings. I feel like an HR manager recruiting for an extremely tough role. I consider various options of what to include in my morning routine and then carefully hand-pick some. If they don’t provide value, I kick them out.

The first thing that  I do as soon as I open my eyes is look at the clouds. I feel thrilled if I see feather or angel shaped clouds, because I consider it to be a good morning wish from the big guy(or gal) up there. Then I scroll through Facebook and my email(not ideal I know) and get in touch with ‘reality’. I then make myself a cup of ginger tea and write in my journal. No playing with soapy foam for me, thank you. Sometimes, I just stare outside my house and think….about nothing in particular. Then I do some energy medicine moves, which have been recruited recently by me. And then the day starts….The value of this morning ‘me time’ has increased over the years and it acts like a soft landing before the day starts.

Now for some weird stuff that finds time in my morning routine. I sometimes write gibberish in my journal. I feel that the pressure for words to make sense build up over time and we talk in an extremely structured way with other people. But, words can’t do justice to raw emotions. Ever cursed and went on a I-don’t-know-what-came-over-me trip? Exactly! Now you know a way to curse without anyone ever getting offended.

Hence, I write nonsensical words(or sometimes sing them, just like kids do)….bapulaposimapoleeee. It feels great because emotions that you are not ready or express in words because they may be too ‘wrong’, come up. If you think I am crazy for doing this, try it. Most importantly know that Osho preaches this a fair bit. I feel much better dragging someone else into the picture. And just imagine if Aamir Khan spoke gibberish instead of what he said recently about intol…err… shimatolipasomimosa. Phew, that’s better.

What weird(or normal) stuff do you do in the mornings?

Signing off now..Have a great day!

Image Credits – Lenspaint Swyl Saksena Studio

P.S – I have sworn myself off the virus called ‘perfection’ in a ceremony that involved two frogs, one unicorn and five strands of hair of men who have now turned bald but were wise enough to preserve those strands of hair for my ceremony. Talk about foresight. This deadly virus leads you to squint and read through your text at least two dozen times. I am trying to return to normalcy and hence I read through the text only a couple of times, after it is done. Pardon me, please, if there is a typo, although you can let me know about it…in private, of course. Together we can fight this virus and save time.

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The Bond Guy on the train

mandovi-express

We have an amazing habit of linking things up. Right now, as I hear the thunder outside, I am reminded of tea which goes fabulously with rains. And tea always reminds me of the tiny kulhad tea that gets served in trains – The comforting sound of the train on the tracks, the voices of people talking (sometimes a bit too loudly, managing to disrupt the art of hiding behind a book to avoid the people sitting in front staring awkwardly at you, due to the sheer berth arrangement which makes people want to talk to each other) and the sounds of vendors selling tea, bhel and other items which somehow taste better on trains.

This incident goes back to my college days, back when we proclaimed ourselves to be cool. In an attempt to live by the code of coolness, we had to do certain things like not care about reserving our seats and behave indignantly when asked for tickets by the ticket checker. On one such fine day, we decided to buy a general ticket for our travel back home. It was an overnight journey and we thought we would just pay the difference and get a reserved seat, just like we always did.

That day was different. Firstly, the train was jam packed with smart alecs like us, who were also in the race to be proclaimed cool. Secondly, the ticket checker was ……well, I will let you form a judgement on him. We sat on seats hand-picked by us and went gabbing about things of paramount importance – who said what to whom in college….and why….and when….after which we went on to the debate of who was right. Within this time, the bond guy,  as we shall refer to the ticket checker, made his way to our kingdom.

The conversation after this went like this:

‘Uncle, can you upgrade our seats?’ my friend said.

Silence…. Bond Guy looked perturbed after which a wave of anger crossed his face. Yep, it was definitely anger, what with all the clenching(of the jaw, silly) and furrowed eyebrows.

‘Uncle?’ he gasped.

My friend giggled. Unfortunately, Bond Guy took more offence. This time he almost spat his response. Swach Bharat, anyone?

‘If I wore Nike shoes and spiked my hair, you would not be calling me uncle,’ he said.

We looked at each other in dismay. This uncle was our only support in the train, the only one who would redeem us of our general class tickets and give us reserved berths, where we would continue our who said what to whom and when game. But he adopted an air of huffiness. We could have buttered him on his looks, but it would mean lying through our teeth(and dentures, if anyone was secretly wearing them). We could have said sorry, but cool people don’t do that, according to the the ‘Worldwide Guide of Being Cool Handbook.’ I just made that handbook name up. Hope you didn’t waste your time searching for it online. I give classes on how to fake coolness, by the way. Wink.

Anyhow, the matter had slipped out of our hands, as we stared at Bond Guy, who stood there devoid of his Nike shoes.

‘Go to the general compartment,’ he ordered, pointing his index(not middle) finger in a particular direction.

Since we were part time rebels as well,  we walked in the opposite direction.

‘Hey, the general compartment is this side,’ he reminded us, although not too loudly, because by now the snorers had taken over the compartment.

We started running as fast as we could. He did not run after us…because of his Nike shoes dilemma. Now, because our semester exams had just gotten over, our college mates were spread throughout the train – some who would help us and some who….well , would show us the middle finger, because few things about us rubbed them the wrong way. Actually, all things about us. One of the people from the 1st category(the ones who would help us) was fortunate and well planned enough to be travelling in A.C 2nd tier. AC 2nd tier in India is the compartment in Indian trains, where curtains are used to provide privacy to passengers. As I ran through the 2nd AC compartment, I got pulled into a side lower berth by that well meaning 1st category person.

He hissed in a voice that only villains would take the risk of hissing in.

Chup jaa pagal. Warna T.C(Ticket Checker) pakad lega,’ he said. Heaven knows how he found out about the Nike dilemma. My legs were hanging from below the curtains. If there is one thing I know, it is to not get comfortable around any sort of hissing noises. No exceptions. I fled out of there. Meanwhile, my friend came running towards me.

‘You know what happened?’ she said.

‘What?’ I said.

‘This classmate (let’s name him Delusional Dude for reasons that are best undisclosed) whipped out his hand across the aisle out of nowhere,’ she said.

‘And?’ I said.

‘And he had a balm in his hand. He said “Ye lo…Balm lagao” ‘ she said.

‘What? Why?’ I said.

‘I don’t know. I shrieked,’ she said.

For those who don’t know, shrieking is considered a valid…almost expected response in these situations. If you don’t scream, perhaps you are as loony as him.

‘The worst part is he was probably asleep,’ she said.

Oh, the drama of the subconscious mind reveals itself just when you think you have concealed ‘that part of you‘ which no one should ever see.

We kept running until finally we found a bunch of seniors who were travelling in the same train. They were kind enough to provide us with ample inches for our bums to settle in.

Years later, I travelled in a train after Mr. Laloo had ended his reign as the railway minister of India. At that point I was not concerned much about the state of the railways, et al. To me, at a micro level, all that mattered was that I got to my destination without having to witness a guy….umm…how do I put this delicately….well, without having to witness a guy pleasing himself rather apparently under a thin bed sheet, on a berth that was right next to mine.

So, I settled into my side lower berth with rather low expectations and high excitement due to not having to share small talk with people staring at me. When I was about to fall asleep, my subconscious mind woke me up, perhaps sensing some danger. What I witnessed next was the fury of three cockroaches, rubbing their legs(?), arms(?) together on the train wall, while staring at me with eyes that were well bigger than ordinary cockroach eyes. I panicked and slid out of the berth, like a snake, albeit a terrified one. The trio didn’t budge, displaying their confidence and authority over a compartment that they probably considered their own. I begged someone to let me sleep in an empty berth next to theirs. But all night, I kept staring at the train wall, hoping that the trio didn’t follow me there.

Image credits: Unknown

Thursdays, Maggi and Short Circuits

Relationships grow with time. They take hard work, dedication and well…..bad hostel food. Such was the relationship between me and Maggi, the instant noddles brand which had been banned recently amidst much hue and cry. When I had joined hostel, Maggi was just a snack, something that could be substituted easily with a sandwich, samosa(deep fried Indian snack) or rolls. But, it required excellent effort by the hostel chefs to deep fry paneer(cottage cheese) coupled with my roommate’s love story with Maggi which illuminated me. This illumination happened via a series of events which repeated themselves over a period of three years. Every night, this room-mate (lets call her ‘S’) would diligently pick up a cooking pot  that she kept in a clean corner in the room(which was hard to find those days, since we mistook messiness for coolness). She would go to the tiny stove which was placed in between two flights of stairs. Some would see the stove as just another fire emitting appliance, but ‘S’ saw it as something which lit a fire of hope in her heart, that there was edible food in her vicinity and that she would not have to face a day where she was so starved that she would have to consume that…..deep fried paneer. I would accompany her on those fire-of-hope-Maggi-expeditions and watch her eyes light up as soon as her turn to cook came, even if the wait before that was half an hour long. She would boil the water first, then put the masala(spices), slit open two green chillies, break the Maggi square into smaller chunks and then….pure alchemy.Sigh!

Another friend of mine got seduced by this whole concept of Maggi saving lives and giving people hope deal. She got something which looked like it had been recovered from the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. She called it an appliance , a kettle which would help us make Maggi. So we sat around the ‘kettle’ like early men would have sat around a pile of stones with the intention of starting a fire. Our hearts were heavy with gratitude of being able to cook Maggi in the room and perhaps cholesterol due to gulping down golgappas(Indian street food) with pure oblivion to the concept of calories.

She turned on the switch to the electric heater. Smoke filled the entire room within seconds. Now, regarding the usage of electrical products in the hostel, we were not even allowed irons. But, every morning irons were exchanged amongst people with a towel covering the irons. We were in no mood to start a crumpled clothes fashion line. After the smoke started escaping the room, we switched the Mohenjodaro structure off. We sneaked out of the room to check if anyone had noticed the smoke. The entire floor’s fuse had blown out thanks to our kettle and we were immersed in complete darkness…and smoke. We thanked our stars and metaphorically dug the relic that had caused the blackout to happen.

Years later, Maggi found a permanent place in my schedule – Thursday nights. Every Thursday night I would rip open packets of Maggi as a welcome to the long awaited weekend. The steady accompaniment of Maggi in my house was (and still is) chill paneer. The recent Maggi ban in India due to suspected high levels of lead in Maggi, upset me a little, leading me to question my faith in the food that gave me so much joy. I switched to the tangier cousin of Maggi, i.e Ching’s and fell in love with it. The switch wasn’t easy though. I had a lingering guilt every time I opened my cabinet door to fetch Ching’s and saw Maggi staring back at me, reminding me of my betrayal towards it.

Horror Terror

I am terrified to the bone when it comes to ghosts – all types of them, although if the Indian TV shows producers were to hold a seminar on ghosts, they would have only one kind – the white sari clad ghost with a questionable choice of hair conditioner and toothpaste. When I was a kid, I was pretty brave when it came to the concept of ghosts and I used to brush it off as something that existed in stories. But slowly, shows like ‘Aahat’ started having a grip on my innocent psyche, what with the music score that sounded like a thousand hyenas who were singing like a certain Indian singer who holds his mic way above the Earth’s stratosphere.

Me and my sister started discussing ghost stories and it came up that there was probably a ghost in our room who liked to shake our bed, just for fun. How claustrophobic it must be for the ghost to slip into the space between the bed and the ground, which was hardly two inches. Plus, shaking of the mammoth bed with two damsels(this is the first time I got to call myself that) who were sleeping un-distressed , required a fair bit of muscle power, which I never remembered the sari clad ghosts in those horror movies having.

Even in school, people had these stories about ghosts, one of them was that someone saw a ghost standing on a tap while they were on the toilet, minding their own business. I can’t imagine the kind of ghost who would want to stand on a tap which was extremely difficult to balance on, especially with the volume of hair they carried with them, tilting their centre of gravity upward. And what if the aforementioned person ‘freshening themselves’ on the toilet, turned the tap in a rapid motion? Would the ghost fall down then or would it lead to tightrope-walking-kinda-balancing-moves like in the  abominably boring movie called ‘The Walk’ which should have been renamed to ‘The Walk Which Cures Insomnia…Forever’.

Another rumour that I heard about ghosts was that they came out at 12:00 in the midnight and all dogs started when the ghosts made their appearance. That eerily came true most of the nights I stayed up, causing me to shiver off to sleep whilst chanting Hanuman Chalisa(mantra) with utmost fervour.

By the time I stepped into college, the fear of the unknown had become paralysing. During my hostel days, I turned into a night owl along with three of my friends. Sleeping at 12:00 was not for self-proclaimed cool people like us. So we would haunt the hostel aimlessly and do other things which I shall reveal in a later post. One day, one of my friends(let’s call her ‘P’) decided that we should play a prank on another of our friends(let’s call her ‘S’). P got a white bed sheet from her room and put it on herself in a ghostly kind of way. She instructed me to fetch S from the room she was lazing around in at that time. S sleepily got up and walked into the dark corridor. I knew what was about to happen, but not completely. The events of that night forced me to go deeper and analyse my phobia of ghosts and white bedsheets strung over people in general.

As we walked down the corridor, I was grinning internally. In a moment, S would scream her lungs out and we would all laugh at her. P sprung out from the place where she was supposed to screaming a little in a ghostly voice. S screamed loudly with her hands on her ears, as is advisable to do so to prevent your delicate eardrums from the torture of your own scream. What surprised me was that my scream was louder than hers! In fact, hers would not even have been heard if a train was passing gingerly through the corridor. Mine! Well, lets just say that if a rocket ship decided to fly horizontally through a building called ‘Queen’s Castle’, its noise would be like a soft whimper. After the shock of two women screaming died down, I put on a smile – a corny-I-knew-what-was-happening-and-I-screamed-to-make-this-prank-feel-even-more-real-smile. But, my friends were in splits. I tried putting in all my creativity to convince them that I was not scared and that I had nerves of steel. But the grinning faces they had when I made those bold proclamations said it all.

It was around that time that I decided to quit watching ghost movies. You can’t drag me to one even if the aforementioned rocket runs on the ground and you tie me to it. An over-active imagination also plays a big role when it comes to this phobia. Alas! I hope I have not ticked off those who might be peeking into this post from behind me. I have to keep my mantras handy for tonight.

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The day I turned DJ…for a taxi driver

Before I come to the actual story , let me give you a bit of background. Years ago, I was travelling in a cab at night in Mumbai. One doesn’t hesitate to travel at 11:45 pm in Mumbai, owing to its title of being a safe city. I hopped into the cab, a Maruti Van, incidentally the image of which has been marred by multiple movies as a kidnapping/rape vehicle. Thankfully, things went peacefully, as the car cruised along the Lower Parel to Bandra back road. Now, I am a suspicious person in general. I am sure I must have been a sniffer dog or something similar in one of my previous births. I noticed that in the middle of the cruise-y drive we were on, the driver put on his ear cords. Nothing suspicious about this if you really ponder hard with strained face muscles after the incident happens, but at 11:45 in the night everything(and everyone) looks suspicious. I was seated right behind the driver and I decided to keep an eye on him.

Approximately 5 minutes and 30 seconds later after the ear cord putting action, I looked into the rear-view mirror after having completed the pressing task of making sure I had read all the latest status updates by my friends and groaned after the battery ran out.

The driver was fast asleep! And that was not the worst part. The worst part was that the car was running on happily, as if nothing had happened, at speed 70 kmph or so.

I tapped the driver’s shoulder, a thing I normally avoid doing because I am a stickler for people’s privacy and if someone taps on my shoulder, I jump out of my skin which I deem as an appropriate response to the aforementioned act of invading my privacy and tapping on my shoulder. The driver thankfully just gasped loudly and realised that he had dozed off. We were near Mahim, a place which I would prefer to search-for-a-cab-because-my-driver-is-like-Garfield only during the daytime due to its close proximity to Dharavi, one of the most crime infested places in Mumbai. But I had to make the choice. A sleepy driver made the entire city unsafe for me. Even if he dozed off in front of a police station, I would no longer be alive to write this blog. So, I got down after doing some vague probability calculations. My phone was also peacefully asleep by now and there was no one on the road, except a few street dogs. Thankfully, a cab arrived, after what seemed like thousand years. The cabbie demanded Rs. 200 for going to Bandra, which if I ran at that time of the night, I would reach in 15 minutes tops. I took the cab and sighed loudly, as is customary to do so when one has undergone through such trauma. I reached Bandra safely and vowed to the following.

a. Never doze off in a cab when I am the only passenger in it.

b. Stare into the rear-view mirror from the back-seat to the point that the driver gets scared.

Cut to 2015 I found a new option to ensure that drivers don’t doze off anywhere they fancied.

2015: We were driving to Surabaya from Yogyakarta. We had left Yogykarta after sunset and we were well into the night. As the night progressed, everyone started dozing off, including me. I realised that point ‘a’ of the vows I had made approximately 5 years ago was getting violated. So I stared into the rear-view mirror. But the driver had eyelids which covered most of the eye area, even when his eyes were open. *Physics and maths always sneak into one’s life unannounced, don’t they*. I kept staring and he was impervious to the rudeness which I was exhibiting. The car kept moving at a steady pace.

Earlier on the trip we had talked about how the area between Surabaya and Yogyakarta was infested with ghosts and snakes. But the combination of the two had scared me the most – ghost snakes. What if there were ghosts of snakes in our vehicle? Also, there had been mysterious cloud type formations in front of our car the moment we talked about ghosts and they mysteriously disappeared once we got appropriately scared.

Anyhow, back to the driver and my self proclaimed role of a passenger-who-would-not-let-drivers-doze-off. I had figured out by now that it was impossible for me to understand if he was asleep or awake using the power of my eyes. I had to do more. I asked my friend who was fast asleep on the front passenger seat to take my place and I took my throne on the front seat. Ironical how it becomes a throne when you do something important on it, like saving people’s lives. Friends who were in the car – you can thank me by buying me coffee ;).

Once I sat on my throne, I felt in control. But things had to be done. I examined his full face, feeling like a moronic robot while doing so. He looked weary. I suddenly remembered people’s love for Bollywood in Indonesia. I had a bucket-load of Bollywood item songs. I know it reflects poorly on my taste of songs and one ‘should’ listen to more soulful songs, but jarring sounds coupled with questionable lyrics wake me up best in the morning and hence the item songs on my tablet. I started playing one after the other in a loud volume.

The driver started grinning from ear to ear. He also pressed the accelerator and brake with more alertness and enthusiasm, I noticed. I was bushed, but there was no way I could stop mixing the songs. All was well. We reached Surabaya safely and I realised how exhausting it would be for someone to be a taxi DJ, if such a profession ever took shape.

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Spinning Class, John Abraham and Hypnotised Goldfish

Once upon a time, a big trend in the fitness world caught my eye(and thighs) – Spinning. When I first heard of it, I imagined it had something to do with going round in circles. But, on searching the internet for this trend, which my friend swore helped women of my weight burn 700-800 Kcal in a one hour session, I was intrigued. It was a cycling session, plain and simple. It was just the right thing for me to attempt, given that I had a knee injury a few years back which had prevented me from doing any high impact exercises, leaving me with the options of swimming and cycling. I decided to dive into spinning. I used to stay in Bandra in Mumbai, close to the hippest gyms that I could ever dream of being close to. The hippest gyms were made hip primarily due to the species of people that walked in there – actors, models, aspiring models, college kids and misfits like me who had no business being in that area or those gyms. Well, it was and still is a free world. Hence, I walked into Gold’s Gym in Bandra and signed up for spinning classes which cost me Rs. 2000 for a month.

Simpleton that I was, I didn’t realise the impact spinning could have on one’s life and thighs. Also, my lungs were ready be shocked out of their wits especially after mocking a certain guru who used to teach pranayam on tv with the best of intentions, results etc for the people who actually went past the mockery to do what he said. Anyhow, when the fee for spinning class was whipped out from my bank account. my brain started getting paranoid over the fee.

‘You are paying Rs. 2000 for cycling?’ my brain said.

‘It is spinning,’ I said.

‘Doesn’t matter. It is the same thing. Didn’t you have a cycle back home which you got bored of and now use to hang towels on?’ my brain said.

I was stumped. I decided to go ahead with the class the next day before I beat myself up prematurely over my poor financial decisions which astrologers had predicted all their lives I would do.

The next day, I arrived on time having booked my slot for the class. Even wild horses could not keep me away from the class which had aroused my curiosity for knowing the difference between the cycle back home and the cycle which would be used for spinning. Armed with a water bottle in hand, I stepped into the class. As soon as I entered the spinning studio, I noticed the dim lights. Then I saw the instructor whose cycle was on a pedestal with the rest of the cycles below. Was she going to teach us how to cycle? Puhleez, I thought to myself.

We mounted the cycles which were kept in neat orderly rows, close to three walls of the small room. The 4th wall belonged to the instructor and her cycle. There were wall sized mirrors on each wall except the instructor’s and large speaker systems mounted around the room. The door was closed and to my surprise the lights went off. The music was turned on at a delightfully-eardrum-blasting volume. And then…Drumroll…..Disco lights were turned on! The instructor patiently explained to me as to how to ride the cycles and it was certainly more complex than what I had thought, given all the code words and instructions she promised she was about to use.

We started cycling, err, spinning and staring at the mirror in front of us. It was a delight spinning in a disco type setting. It was one of the things that I never thought I would experience or be allowed to experience in a real disco. And here I was- loud music, lots of mirrors and disco lights. The only thing that didn’t go well in the setting was the unnatural number of gasps that I was letting out due to the stale air being pumped out of my lungs. The instructor made it look easy, as if she was cycling in a meadow in France. There were exquisite movements which my cycle back home might not have been able to handle me doing. I would not be surprised if they made us do upward and downward dog yoga moves on those bikes. But thankfully, they concluded the class after making sure that atleast 15% of the stale air in my lungs was pumped out, much to the telepathic delight of the pranayam guru who seemed to be smiling much more when I saw him on television the next morning after having regained consciousness post 15 hours of sleep owing to the intense disco shock my body underwent. But, I felt strangely good about myself, maybe because of the extra boost of dopamine in my brain.

Evening rolled around and I sprung back to the spinning studio, this time more eager than the first day. Months passed by and the love affair between me and the spinning class grew stronger and stronger. One evening I was at the reception of the gym, talking to the receptionist in order to book my next day’s slot in the class. She started off well, acknowledging my presence and then started behaving distracted. She didn’t even bother to maintain eye contact at this point. There are certain things that I feel obliged to be offended about, one of them being people not paying attention when I talk to them. I adopted a firmer tone, hoping that she would realise that I was the customer and I was upset! I wanted to be able to use the word ‘irate’ because there is hardly any occasion that I get to use it, but I remember being upset in a no-veins-sticking-out-of-my-neck-while-I-yell way.

There was still no response from her. I turned to the object of her distraction, the person who had made me the abandoned-hanging-between-upset-and-irate spinner. It was one of those moments where the world became extinct and the only object of my focus became the entire world. The object of my focus was John Abraham, decidedly flashing his best smile, with furrowed eyebrows, perhaps because my expression was now out of my control. I stared at him, looking like a hypnotised goldfish, with my mouth opening and closing, trying to form words. When I think about it in retrospection, I feel like Ross felt when he kissed Denise Richards on ‘Friends’ and then scrambled around for words.

‘Say something. Say anything. Say hi!’ my brain went at that time.

But, my mouth just opened and closed, with no words coming out of it, much to my dismay. This may have happened for 5-10 seconds, but it felt like eternity.

The next obvious thing to do after screwing up a potential conversation with the drool-able actor was to update my Facebook status.  The likes and comments were like balm for my goldfish soul. Blob!

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Maggi, Shahrukh Khan and Mt Bromo

Bromo Sunrise-2

From Ijen crater(read-jaws of hell) to Mt. Bromo

We headed from Ijen crater to Mt Bromo by car. By this time we had accepted some realities of life which had presented themselves during the trip. One was that our driver said ‘yes’ to everything we asked him and then went into a long pause during which his eyebrows became furrowed, perhaps trying to understand what he had said yes to. Second was that sleep was a luxury which we could not afford except for the few minutes we nodded off in the vehicle during our drive. Of course, the sleep was interspersed with heated conversations about Indian culture, politics, few random topics during which everyone got heated up without any concrete conclusions on the topic of the debate(gender wars being one of them) and the interpretation of the driver’s expressions and nods.

We had a fair idea about our journey ahead. We were to reach our hotel which was quite near the sunrise vantage point from which Mt Bromo could be seen. In the month before the trip, I had seen two dreams of volcanoes erupting. I just hoped during the trip that it had something to do with the volcanoes which we often saw in Chacha Chowdhury comics, related to Sabu’s anger outbursts and not prophetic dreams about real volcanoes erupting. I informed the gang about the dreams I had been having and they brushed it off. I needed a clear conscience. If something were to happen, at least I could say ‘See, I told you so,’ to the gang, before we ran for our lives. Obviously you must have figured out that since I am posting this, the dreams had something to do with the aforementioned Chacha Chowdhury comics and not Nostradamussy dreams.

But I wish the dreams I had few years back of beating Milind Soman in a race could come true. Sadly, that kind of dream coming true requires more effort than flopping into bed and letting the subconscious mind go crazy with its whims and fancies.

The hotel we checked into was a decent stripped down hotel, with bare necessities well provided for. The hotels around the place were of a similar kind, adding to the rustic beauty of the place. After taking a shower, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. We carried some Maggi packets with us, just in case we didn’t get vegetarian food. I sat in a corner, waiting for the rest of the gang to figure out what was on the menu. When they came back to our table, they looked excited.

“So, do they have vegetarian food?” I asked

“No,” my husband said, beaming with joy.

“Ok,” I said.

“They have french fries on the menu,” he said.

“That’s vegetarian food,” I said, beaming a little with joy.

It is always good to not beam too much at the mention of french fries, because it is politically appropriate to show some concern for the calories contained in the little devils.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, disappointed.

“They have vegetarian sandwiches on the menu,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, my face lighting up completely. There is nothing politically incorrect with your face lighting up at the mention of sandwiches.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Why are you so happy then?” I said, not wanting to spark a discussion at that time about how happiness should spring up from inside as I often preach.

“Maggi,” he said, his eyes sparkling.

“Maggeeee?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“They agreed to let us use the kitchen?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Aha!” I said, this time my voice heavy with anticipation.

One of my friends entered the kitchen and the staff mesmerised by her beauty called her ‘Kareena Kapoor’. As she told me this, I could remember multiple Bollywood movies where the heroine walks into a room, her hair flying in a remarkably organised way and the guys in the room look like hypnotised goldfish. Back to reality, we started cooking the Maggi. Now, I would not like to comment on the state of the kitchen, because I am not Gordon Ramsay, but he would have passed out a few times on seeing the kitchen, each springing up back again to scream at the people handling the kitchen.

As we cooked the Maggi, we could smell the jealousy of the people back in India where Maggi has been banned. P.S – Singapore gave a clean chit to Maggi almost as soon as the verdict of the ban came out in India. We endured the rather watery Maggi with a grateful heart owing to the choice of having something other than peanut butter bread along with chips of various flavours. Having swallowed down one bowl of Maggi each, we scurried to our rooms after being told by my husband that we had about 2 hours to sleep.

We were woken up at 11:30 pm by my husband, who seemed extremely excited(and willing) to turn into a frozen popsicle by venturing to Mt. Bromo. I brr-ed my way out of the cozy warm bed. We headed to the Mt. Bromo sunrise point. I can hear you informing me that sunrise doesn’t happen before 5:00 am anywhere in the world. In my defence, we went early to the sunrise vantage point to click pictures of the Milky Way around which the trip had been planned. As we got down from the army type vehicle which had carried us up the slopes, with us chattering our teeth like skeletons which had TMJ(a painful jaw condition which I suspect I have), we realised that the gift of sweltering heat had to be cherished once we got back to Singapore. Ah, I can feel the humidity all around me right now and it is golden. One of our friends had carried a blanket from the hotel, to brave the cold well-armed. I saluted her presence of mind. We reached the sunrise vantage point and sat down there shivering like jelly which had malaria. My husband looked around for the Milky Way, but it was nowhere to be found. Small tufts of cloud coupled with stars tricked us into believing that it was the Milky Way, but alas and woe.

We headed back to our vehicle at the parking lot and huddled there. Slowly people started trickling in to the sunrise vantage point. I had realised the value of warm air in my life and was in the process of taking an oath of never going to any place cold ever! My husband who still seemed to be impervious to the cold weather, convinced us into moving our lazy and frozen bums down from the vehicle into the coffee shop which was 2 metres away. I decided to listen to him before completing the aforementioned oath.

The coffee tasted like drops of magic from heaven, each drop invoking a fighter spirit in me. Finally as I took the last sip, I declared that it was time to see the sunrise and that shivering in the cold was for sissies. We walked up the stairs again, this time with hordes of crowd already jammed into the tiny space, with cameras and phones already in place for the sun’s grand entry.

And there it was! The sunrise was like a gold chariot rising high in the sky, illuminating everyone around with its beauty, announcing its presence with valour and dignity, leaving us ordinary subjects spellbound, overawed, to the point of making us feel servile. Clicks went around everywhere. After a dizzying hour with all kinds of cameras, trying to capture the magical spell that the sunrise had cast, with clouds blanketing the land, owing to the sheer height that the photographs were being clicked from, it was time to leave. It almost seemed like the sun had reserved its most special sunrise performance for Mt. Bromo, her lover, seducing the volcano every morning with her enchanting beauty, making it and the thousands of subjects take notice.

We went back to the hotel drenched with happiness, after a few pit-stops for photos. We had to leave in a few hours for Surabaya. As we were leaving the hotel, a driver in the parking lot asked us – “Are you from India?”

“Yes,” we said.

“Chal chaiyya chaiyya chaiyaa,” he started singing.

We left the place with a smile, having seen one of the most beautiful performances of nature followed by a reminder of the fan following of King Khan. I remembered the song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ as we boarded a train that afternoon, hoping we would not be expected the clamber onto the roof of the train and dance like King Khan.

Thankfully, we just snoozed throughout the train ride, waiting for our next destination- Yogyakarta.

Image Credits- Lenspaint-Swyl Saksena Studio

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The walk to the jaws of hell.

We went to Indonesia a few days back for an adventure filled trip. I am generally not a person who finds pleasure in doing random acts of adventure especially during holidays where the contrasting option is always a lazy morning with a widespread buffet breakfast made complete with items which I never miss while I am at home – orange juice, potato wedges, baked beans and so on. But during holidays, these items are the elixir in my life, seducing me every morning to wake up and grab a nice seat by the water body which is always around the breakfast area. My husband being painfully aware of these fascinations of mine probably shuddered before he booked this trip. He would probably have imagined my breakfast buffet devoid face while going through a trip where the only thing that spelt luxury was the woollen jacket that I got to choose few days back and also Kopi Luwak, one of the most expensive coffees made in the world, made through a careful series of steps, one of them being passing through the intestines and in the poop of an animal called the Asian palm civet.

 

Note- I did not have Kopi Luwak ultimately.

 

A bit of background-My husband had started planning for the trip a few months back. We were 4 of us going for the great adventure. He sent us multiple emails on the itinerary asking us to confirm whether we were okay with the plan. We agreed to the plan, without going through the email. There is something about avoiding blatant and harsh truths which gives a sense of comfort, of knowing that you are in control. Reading that email would have led to months of discussions on how difficult it was going to be without food, sleep and clean air, in some cases. Avoiding reality gave us a nice bubble to hang out in, in a world where all of the above were freely granted.

 

Reality didn’t strike us even when we landed at the Surabaya airport, from where we had to drive for 9 hours to a resort near Ijen crater. The drive was peaceful and we reached the resort(?). The walls of the resort were paper-thin, which reminded me of the Friends episode where Ross cheats on his girlfriend with Rachel. Of course, nothing of that sort happened here, but I was incredibly tuned into the hope that there were no snorers in any of the adjoining rooms. Thankfully, I slept like a log for two hours, before it was time for us to see the Ijen crater.

 

Note: I didn’t know till I came back from the holiday that BBC had a documentary on this place titled – ‘Kawah Ijen Volcano- In the jaws of hell’.

 

Knowing myself, I would not have hopped out of the hotel like a happy bunny wanting to go to a place with a description ‘Jaws of hell’ . Come to think of it, I would not even watch a movie titled ‘Jaws of hell’. I get teary eyed when I think of my blind innocence. We reached the foothills of the mountain on which the crater was located.

 

Note- One reality you need to be aware of when you go to Ijen, is that the concept of time and distance is lost on the tour guides. They will say anything to make you keep walking. If they say it is a 5 min walk to the crater, glare at them till they come out with the truth. Sometimes even that doesn’t work. You might just need to ask your lungs on how long it can keep you alive and that is the distance to the top(can be the top of the mountain or the place you go to after your lungs give up).

 

Anyhow, we started walking. We were of the impression that it was an uphill walk of 2 km. I was overconfident about my abilities to scale such a tiny distance. There were N95 masks passed around, but I folded mine and kept it in the pocket. My lungs had survived the haze in Singapore and a little bit of volcano dust would not do me or my lungs much harm. And I had done pranayam(breathing exercise) a week back, so my lungs were probably covered in some sort of impermeable golden halo which no volcano dust, smoke or farts could penetrate.

 

Note: I did not know that the crater boasted of vast amounts of sulphur and the beautiful lake that you see in the picture below is an the largest acidic lake on the planet Earth.

 

We started moving forward. We had carried an innocent looking torch for the trip. The tour guide and my husband were the ones who got to carry the torches. The rest of us were clueless people just walking ahead step by step, counting metres till we saw what was to be seen.

 

I did a bit of small talk with the tour guide.

 

“So how much time from here?” I asked, not seeing the point since we had to reach the top anyway.

 

“2 km.” he said.

 

“Ah!” I said.

 

Silence followed by some panting and puffing by the people around. It was cold and the wind was hitting against my face. I used my muffler to cover my face as much as possible.

 

“How many times do you go to the top?” I asked.

 

“Once a day.” he said.

 

“Lazy fellow. Had I been him, I would have gone at least 3 times. It is just 2 km.” my brain said.

 

I decided not to let the rudeness of my brain escape in the form of words through my lips. I smiled and walked on.

 

The air started becoming more and more impure. It was getting difficult to breathe. The voices in my head were getting muddled. The only saving grace was the misery of the people around. Had they been hopping on the way up, it would have raised serious questions on my fitness levels. We gave each other the look that prisoners probably give each other – one of desperation coupled with anger . For us, the anger was based on the decision to leave the cozy confines of the thin-walled hotel in order to smell sulphur(willingly).

 

My husband was relatively unperturbed by all of this. He reminded me of Jillian Michaels where she gets all brutal and smiles occasionally to encourage the gasping beauties on her show. We took breaks, walked on, trudging in darkness most of the times, because the tour guide was flashing the torchlight everywhere except on the ground and we were too out of breath to complain. Some prayers may have escaped my lips, not that I remember now.

 

I stopped asking the tour guide on how much longer we would take to reach the top, because of his blatant lies and his lack of knowledge of time and distance. Amidst all the helplessness, a wave of sulphur air hit us, almost as if a bunch of dinosaurs had decided to fart at the same time, although the smell was a bit more pungent than dinosaur fart would be.

 

The tall women walking in front of us announced to their tour guide that they were heading back because someone in their group couldn’t breathe properly. I was tempted to join them.

 

We were then given masks by our tour guide. These masks, my husband informed later, are used to avoid poisonous gases in war zones, etc. Although the masks looked ugly, they looked like the sweetest present sent from heaven as if to give us one last chance at life. Can anyone else hear a symphony of angels?

 

There we were(gasp) finally at the top. The tour guide told us that we could either wait to see the sunrise from that point or we could walk down(ugh) a few metres to see the blue fire, which is essentially ignited sulphuric acid. The couple who had come with us decided to stop at the sunrise point. My husband wanted to see the blue fire. I was game until I saw the narrow path down the crater with few rocks being used to balance oneself and walk downwards.

 

“I am not going down that road. What if I fall into the blue fire? What if I skid, surpass the thousands of people who are walking in front of me and end up right in the middle of the blue fire?” my brain protested.

 

I decided to go ahead anyway. We started walking downward, with me using curse words ever so often, to warm myself up from inside. There was a railing which we had to hold(read grab onto for dear life) as we walked down the slippery path. The smell of the sulphur fumes grew stronger. The blue fire would take at least 45 minutes to reach given the slippery path and the heavy crowd. My husband (thankfully) decided to click the pictures from a comfortable spot, at a fair distance from the blue fire. I gasped in and gasped out, trying to get back to normal after the walk we just had. During this time, the tour guide informed me that there were workers who carried 80 kg of sulphur from the crater to the foothills every day. My lungs shuddered when they heard this fact.

 

We walked back up to the sunrise point after 15 mins of picture clicking. After reaching the sunrise point, we clicked selfies and smiled at each other as if all of the above never happened. Some people, however were undeterred by the entire walk or probably had done a lot more pranayam(breathing exercise) than me. One of the guys who was standing next to our group asked me as to what language I was speaking and told me that it sounded cute. At that point in time, I couldn’t have cared even if a bird had come and spoken in Hindi, which happened to be the cute language I was speaking.

 

But it was not over yet. In our minds, we knew that there was a long walk back, down the slippery road. But, the thought of hot Indonesian coffee and clean air kept us going.

 

Image Credits- https://www.facebook.com/lenspaint.
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