Category Archives: Nostalgia


I looked at her. And felt the words swell up in my mouth. But I had to say them. It was already almost too late.
“Virginia, I’m so sorry. Really I am. I wish this could end differently. But. We just aren’t working anymore. You know? I can’t depend on you. And I’m tired of paying your huge bills.”

She remained silent, staring at me vacantly. I soldiered on. “Please know that I wish you well. If there was anything else I could do for you, I would. I’m so sorry.”

I stopped speaking. The tears welled up in my eyes. After fourteen years of being together, I was saying goodbye. We’d known each other since college. And through first jobs. And then second. And first loves. And seconds. She’d waited for me when I went off to parts unknown to work or study. And I’d always come back to find her arms wide open, ready to support me in every way.

And now. I had to say goodbye. And trade her in for a new model.
I sighed and stroked the seat of my Kinetic Honda. It was hard saying goodbye to a bike that had seen you through teenage, your twenties and your thirties as well. A bike that I’d cried on, laughed on, babbled on, like a crazy person to myself and even guiltily broke the law by using a mobile phone on.

Goodbye Betsy Virginia Matilda. You were awesome enough for three names.


Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Nostalgia



Notes to my 26 year old self.

Recently read this somewhere – Every human being is stuck at a certain age in their heads. What age are you stuck at?

Now, it’s probably different ages at different times for different people.
But it got me thinking. Right now, I think I’m stuck at 26.
And after watching too many episodes of Big Bang Theory and especially one about time travelling, I wondered – if I could go back in time, what would I tell my 26-year-old self?

Technically, this is a letter to myself now. Because I’m 26 in my head no? And more conundrums. So anyway, here goes.

i) This too shall pass. No seriously. You’re stuck in a job you’re scared you will never get out of. You’re stuck with a person you’re increasingly fed up with. In a year, both will be gone. Sometimes I think my best memories of advertising come from that job. Unbelievable isn’t it? So. RELAX. Till 2011, things are fine. I think things are fine beyond this too, but I can only confirm that in a letter from my 29+1-year-old self.

ii) Oh yeah. Till you’re 29, you keep rounding age up. As soon as you hit 29, you’re going to start thinking about 29+1, 29+2, etc. Enjoy these halcyon birthdays. Don’t make faces and not go out with people who want to take you out. ALWAYS accept invitations. ALWAYS. You can walk out mid way. But if you don’t go, how will you know? What do you mean that’s a bad rhyme? Shut up! And take notes.

iii) You know how you already dislike advertising mightily? Well, that’s not going to change. Start working on a book, a degree, a hobby, a play, articles – anything. I don’t know if it will change anything career wise, but even writing one article a year will give you a sense of achievement. And I mean girl, there are days coming when you will contemplate suicide and cutting and drugs. Just contemplate. But this annual article might help you not cry so much. If you have something concrete on paper, you feel better about yourself. And that brings us to

iv) You know how bitching is so much fun? And sometimes you’re rude to people you don’t like? Yeah. That’s going to haunt you. Like the time you stupidly kept calling that guy when you were 21. The haunt date of your dating mistakes come with an expiry and forgiveness date. But I can guarantee you that when you say or do something hurtful, the person it most hurts, is you. Your soul will never allow you to forget it. I know. It’s so reiki isn’t it? But true.

v) At this point, you, the 26-year-old child, is probably thinking “Gosh, the old me is so irritatingly zen.” Firstly, I’m not old, you bitch. Secondly, nope. Not zen. Still a long way to go pal. All the fights you’re having with your parents? About marriage and losing weight and idiot arranged marriage candidates? Not over. Not by a long shot. The good news is, you make up with your sister. Sort of. When she calls. Oh, you should really tell your sister she goes to America. Of course, the jury is out as to whether she stays there. But yeah.

vi) You know the boss that you’ve made the centre of your work life? The one whose mood dictates if you have a good day or a bad day? The one you spend your day avoiding or trying to impress? After a year, he will not matter. Yeah. Even the slightest. The worst punishment for him is one he inflicts on himself. So forget him. And oh, his life is far more fucked up than yours can ever be. So pity him. Also, you will never stop trying to understand why people do what they do. But in some cases like him, and the other girl at work who blocks you after a point, don’t bother. There’s no point. Yes. Soon, you will understand the wisdom of “leaving well enough alone.” At least on some occasions. PLEASE add spur of the moment hair cuts to this list of occasions.

vii) Oh and talking about work. SAVE EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF WORK THAT YOU DO. I cannot stress this enough. In 3.5 years, all those campaigns you’re worried about will go through round after round with idiot CDs from Mumbai who have more attitude than manners. Brains are also debatable. But the little business owners, the IT guys, the indie businesses – they want to see your BROCHURE work and your internal com work. At 29, I have NOTHING. Please save every single piece of work you do. At the very least, when you wonder where 7.5 years have gone, you will look at what is hopefully a full USB drive and can at least know where your youth went. Also when you show off those glossy brochures you can charge double. Really.

viii) Remember that guy who asked you out last year? And you said no because you were afraid you weren’t thin enough? And intelligent enough. And funny enough. And intellectual enough. I could slap you for that one. Say yes. Go out. You could get laid. Or get a funny story. God knows there are never enough of those.

ix) You know the office sluts who make you want to cry? Ignore them. You will realise that there is a little iron fist in your head that will not allow you to do what they do. Resistance is futile. Accept it. You have certain values. And fighting your inner you? Just makes all four of us unhappy. (What four? You, your inner you, me, my inner you. Obviously, our math skills have improved.) So you will always be the girl who isn’t drunk, who can’t and won’t get drunk. But you will always be the one who knows she can get home safely on her own. You will be the one who doesn’t have to embarrass others or put people out to get dropped home. Yes, there will come a time when that happens to these girls too. You’ll also realise they have issues that go far deeper than weight. And you will be thankful. So make life a little easier. Let go.

x) Last one. When you go to Singapore next year, buy two Creative Zens. I have an Apple iPod. Yes. I know. I know. Stop screaming. Yes. YES, AN iPOD. No it is not the spawn of Satan. iTunes is. But there’s no choice. Buy two Zens so one can replace the other. Else you’re gonna have your soul sucked out by iTunes.

I think these are enough to start. Honestly, I can’t see life going very differently no matter what you do. I’m still confused about destiny and fate versus free will. And although I am much much more spiritual, I have far less tolerance for the rituals our community practices. Far lesser. Anyway, the Time Machine gives me only 10 points and a preamble. Now, I must get back to the future.

What? Yes, that movie still rocks. No, Michael J Fox doesn’t get cured. We’re still waiting. Great Scott!


Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Conversations - weird, funny, etc., Nostalgia


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Birthday cake.

When I was 10 or 11, I can’t remember which, I had a birthday party.
There were mini idlis, samosas, pav bhaji, chips, dahi vada – all home made, this being the conservative Gulf, money being fairly tight in a three-child family and house parties being the only arena where stay at home housewives could do something, anything to shine and feel different.

In the midst of all this food, admittedly awesome because my mom was a brilliant cook although she hated it, (maybe that was the secret) my friends and I only had eyes for the birthday cake.

After taking a much saved-up for baking class, my mom had practiced a lot and with her best friend Sunita’s help and oven, had created this masterpiece of a cake for my birthday.

For once, I didn’t sulk and moan that no one loved me. I didn’t complain that my parents loved my brother and sister more than me. That cake made me feel like an only child.

It was beautiful. The cake was in the shape and form of a small wire basket with a lid, and flowers and vines spilling out from the lid. To my 10 year old eyes, it was even better than the Barbie cake the bakery always had out in its window.

It had taken my mother and her friend 2 days of back-breaking work to do. Two layers of cake, creating and freezing the sugar icing flowers, piping and freezing the even more delicate icing for the wicker-basket effect on the cake, freezing some more icing so that it became stiff and could be cut in the shape of a handle for the basket, using a paintbrush to delicately paint velvety texture on to the petals of each flower….I can’t even remember what else.

Sometimes I wonder what made my mother do it. Was it an urge to prove something? To my dad? To herself? To the neighbours? To her housewife competition? Who?

Once the cake was half done, it was deposited on the dining table for the finishing. We weren’t allowed to go near the cake for more than a day. I kept staring at it with greedy eyes throughout from almost 10 feet away in the sitting room, almost afraid that I’d blink and it’d be gone.

In the actual party, I was the envy of all my friends. Such a beautiful cake. So many flowers. So lucky you are, your mummy loves you so much and spent so much time on this.

By that time, after seeing my mom clutching her aching back, by seeing how much effort went into something that was demolished within 3 minutes, I could only look on numb as people sang happy birthday and I cut into the cake that had taken 2 days of my mother’s life. I bit into the cake, but couldn’t taste it. Melodramatic I know, but all the adults there had told me how grateful I should be and by the end, I was choking on everything.

It was only later, after the guests had gone, and I had cried and apologized to my shocked mother for making a fuss and making her make this cake, and she’d held me and assured me that she wanted to do it all, that I could finally taste the chocolate.

I gathered the only things left –  the flowers and vines and stored them in a box, taking them out every day for almost a week, licking each sugar flower as delicately as my mother had painted it, sharing them grudgingly with my siblings.

I doubt I’ll ever put in that much effort for my (future) children. That kind of labour of love – for it can’t be called anything else.

And today, I saw this video – of this guy who created an actual, working (so to speak) Angry Birds cake for his son. And I thought, “Oh, I’d definitely do that. Someone would need to show me how to turn on a bloody oven, but DAMN that looks like fun!”

It also looks like a lot of work.  This man painstakingly creates a cake that looks like a level of the game Angry Birds – birds, pigs, grass, brick – the whole caboodle. And then calls his son in, and they PLAY THE DAMN GAME – demolishing the cake.

My parents would have KILLED me if anything had happened to my cake. To be fair, it wasn’t that kind of cake or that kind of generation. I don’t think anyone at that time would have thought of creating a cake you could destroy BEFORE eating.

When you see the video, you realize that this took enormous effort too. But things have changed. My generation is a lot more irreverent and indulgent than my parents’. And I guess it shows in big ways and smaller ways like this.

Watching the family hurl the sugar icing birds around, I could only think of my little plastic box with the sugar flowers hidden in the back of our cavernous fridge for an entire week. And wonder if this kid too would get a lump in his throat when he thought of his birthday cake years later.


Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Nostalgia, Ponderings


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C by 2

Two figures stood in the doorway of the house, their silhouettes outlined by the tubelight from inside.
As one of them, a girl of fifteen watched, the lamps in front of each house in the street were turned off as people turned in for the night.

The girl stood there, with her grandfather, watching the stars twinkle. Even the stars looked different here. Not like what they were at home.
After living with her grandparents for six months, she still thought of the other place as home. After all, she’d spent the last four years there. And her family, her parents, her little brother and sister, were still there. Possibly missing her as well. Of course, it’s a well proven fact that the people you’re missing can never miss you with the same intensity, the same depth of feeling, no matter how much they assure you otherwise.

Of course, she had her grandparents. Who she’d lived with before. And who she liked. Most of the time. Sometimes.
Well, she had TWO rooms here, after years of sharing one with her sister. AND a swing in one of the rooms.
AND she could go where she liked, in autos, on her own, until six pm, because after that, her grandfather tended to fret, even though her grandmother muttered under her breath about old fools. AND she had pocket money, for the first time ever. AND she now went every month to the medical shop and chose a different brand of face cream and soap and face powder and body lotion and deodorant EVERY single time, feeling very grown up. AND she was in college now so she couldn’t cry anymore.

AND anyway, she couldn’t have stayed. So. Shaking her head vigourously, she tried to flick off the memory of her mother’s voice. The chugging sound of the AC in her room at night. The memory of her sister, sitting on their bed with her thumb in her mouth, watching as she, the elder sister, danced and lip synced to Take That.

Shake, shake, shake.
“Ai. Yenu? C by 2 na?” growled her grandfather. (Yenu = What?)
The girl looked at him through the corner of her eye. She loved her grandfather. They were of the same ‘nakshatra’ , the same ‘rashi’, and had the same ‘tarle’ as her grandmother was so fond of saying when the girl didn’t do what her grandmother wanted her to. Her grandfather never did what grandmother wanted him to. But mostly, she loved her grandfather because they both could pick at each other, continuously, without a break until her grandmother screamed on both their behalfs.

“C by 2 means what?” asked the girl.
“Kannada nalli kelu,” said the grandfather. (Ask me in Kannada)
“Thatha!” wailed the girl, knowing that it was beyond her.
“Seri Telegu loni adugu,” said the grandfather magnanimously. (Okay, ask me in Telegu.)
Concentrating, trying to remember the shape of words from years of eavesdropping on her parents, the girl stuttered out “C by 2 andre?” (C by 2 means?)
“Haiyo. Phull yamerican accentu. C by 2 gottilva?” sneered Thatha. (Full American accent. You don’t know C by 2?)

The girl shook her head again. Climbing on to the gate, she swung it foward, holding on while it creaked its way forward.
“Murdodre nim appan ge bill kalistini!” threatened Thatha. (If it breaks, I’ll send your dad the bill!)
The girl only smiled and swung harder.
“C by 2 andre yenu?” she asked again, sounding like an American. It still stung that people in her college wouldn’t speak to her because they thought she was putting on an accent. Knowing that she had the best vocabulary amongst them eased the sting, but not by much. It’s not fun knowing meanings of words no one else has even heard of.

“Haiyo. Shobachu. C by 2 andre half crack.” chortled Thatha.
The girl wrinkled her nose. Another word. “Shoba-what?”
Thatha threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Shoba-what! Hahahah!”

The girl smiled and waited. It wasn’t her move yet.
Her grandmother walked slowly up to the front verandah. “Hucchu na? Hanondu gante aitu. Yellaru malkond irtare. Saaku banni. Naale college ide avalage”, she admonished. (Are you mad? It’s eleven o clock. Everyone must be sleeping. Enough, come in. She’s got college tomorrow.)
The girl smiled. “Ammamma, Thatha nanni sata-is-tu-na-ru.” She said haltingly. (Telegu – Ammamma, Thatha is troubling me.)
Ammamma hissed “Yaak ri? Paapa magu!” (Why I say?? Poor child!)
Thatha shot out a hand towards the girl’s ear – the girl deftly jumped off the gate and raced inside, giggling loudly.

Thatha mock yelled “Yella actingu. Pah! Baa re! door lock maadbeku!” (All acting. Bah! Come here! We have to lock the door!)
Ammamma shook her head at the stupidity of mankind, or rather one man in particular and shuffled back in.
The girl came out again, her eyes shining.

Thatha shut the door – and looked at her expectantly. In the last six months, this had become their daily night time ritual.
Paranoid by nature, Thatha had eleven locks on the door, and one huge iron bar across it.
It was decided that the girl would lock up every night, under strict supervision of course.

She got to it, her fingers quickly shooting the bolts home, turning locks and finally hefting the iron bar across the door.
Now came inspection. Where Thatha would try to unlock a bolt without her noticing, so that he could grumble at her. And where she’d keep an eagle eye on things, so she could grumble back at him.

“HAA! You’ve not locked this one! Yene neenu!” he cried triumphantly. (Yene neenu = transliterates to What are you doing?)
“I LOCKED THAT! I LOCKED THAT! YOU UNLOCKED IT! I SAW YOU!” she squealed in excitement.
Giggling, both of them re-locked the door and headed inside, the girl still evading her grandfather’s attempts to twist her ear.

“Shobachu means what?” the girl asked.
“Haiyo. Kannada nalli kelu”, Thatha smirked. (Ask me in Kannada)
The girl pouted. “Tell me or I’ll tell Ammamma you’re pinching me.”
“Ai! Nange blackmaila??” Thatha chortled, thrilled. (Oooh! Blackmailing me is it?)
“Shobachu andre dirty goose!” He crowed.
Wrinkling her nose, the girl said “Sho-ba-chu. I can say it in college?”
Thatha chortled again. “Ashte mathe. Hahahahaa. Helu helu!” (That’s all then. Hahaha. Yes, yes, Say it!)
The girl smiled. That laugh meant no. “Okay, I’ll call Nainamma that when I see her. And I’ll tell her you said to.” (Nainamma = the girl’s paternal grandmother. And mother in law to the girl’s mother. Thatha and Ammamma were maternal grandparents.)
“AI! C by 2!!! Adella maadbeda!” growled Thatha. (Ai! C by 2! Don’t do all that.)
Giggling, the girl ran it.
She’d won tonight.

That night, while burrowing her way into her rug, she murmured to herself “C by 2. Shobachu.” She’d have to call her brother and sister that when they called this Friday. Smiling, she closed her eyes.


Posted by on April 19, 2010 in Nostalgia


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