Sunday, July 15, 2018


Aren’t we supposed to get wiser as we get older? I must’ve missed the memo.
The abiding takeaway from this whole advancing towards middle age thing has been: confusion.
I long for the certainty of my early 20s, when this was absolutely good and that was definitely wrong. When of course art trumped the artist and hell yes, we'd yell bloody murder if someone assaulted or cheated on us.

Now? Mmmmmm….ffffff… - I don’t know…

Such a gift. This aging.

I’m in the last year of my 30s so technically – technically – I’m not old. But thanks to the magic of television, the Panic has started. Not really of boobs sagging or fuses going pffft on the ovaries, but of knowing that this is it. I am not Helen Mirren. I won’t be shooting gangsters at 70.

I’m going to be broke like a millennial. Gosh that made me feel younger for a minute.

I will tell you this though.
If we age correctly, it won’t be because things get less confusing. It’ll be because they get more so. The cause – our humanity. We may have had all the education, all the cuddles and all the life-lessons handed down to us; we may try really hard not to be a little shit – but a little shit we will be. We will, at different points in our lives, be both perpetrator and victim. We cannot avoid it. Understanding that this is who we are, is hard. 

Into the cracks of these existential catastrophes, we must dive. The waters are murky. There’s no way but to feel our way through the contradictions. Turns out we sometimes lie, cheat and step over another for our self-interest. Turns out, we can be weak. We won’t be the girl who reports her abuser. We won’t be the guy who turns down a job in the tobacco industry. Still. We are the girl who stood by someone’s depression, someone’s cancer. We are the guy, who supported a colleague’s fight against workplace harassment. We showed up for the tough stuff. We let someone down. We risked reputation for the greater good. Sometimes we weren't up for the fight. 

We will grapple with how both versions of self can exist side by side. We will realise that our lives aren't bigger than Life, that complex beast just beyond reach. When we surface, we will feel good. Look ma, I learned this thing. Look ma, I saw.

Not so fast. We merely survived. We didn’t flippin’ triumph okay? Our cave wasn’t the only one. Our learning wasn’t one-size-fits-all. We came out with the Shoulds still strapped to our backs.

So here's the bad news, we might have to dive in again. And again. And again, until we discover the meaning in our contradictions: compassion. 
Because really, there's no other way. We tried judgement, it didn't make us better. We tried debilitating criticism - the self-talk nearly killed us. We held ourselves & each other to impossible standards. We only caused hurt in the end.

With compassion we might be able to tell the difference between mistakes, ignorance and Trumpian evil. We might learn how to discern what deserves our anger and what doesn't. Compassion allows room for confusion. But more radically, confusion, allows room for compassion. And maybe that's why we age at all.

Because there sure as hell isn't any medal at the end of it.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Greatest Threat

  • Sherlock: I am without peer. Without sane peer, anyway, which is functionally identical to being without peer, full stop. I can only extend so much of myself to a non-peer, which means I can only extend so much of myself to anyone. I've made progress, of course, but I don't know how much more growth there is within me. If I can never value a relationship properly, then, at what point do I stop trying to maintain them?

  • Meeting leader: You haven't turned your back on the world yet.

  • Sherlock: But I am without peer. And that's the greatest threat to my sobriety.

  • Elementary 
  • S02E21

Friday, February 23, 2018

Six Ways To Sunday

For you, you motherfucker 

First was when you said
You’d never love
Never stay
You fucked me one way to Sunday

Second was when you stayed
The night
The next day
You fucked me two ways to Sunday

Third was when you danced
Then away
You fucked me three ways to Sunday

Fourth was when you kissed
Me to life
You fucked me four ways to Sunday

Fifth was when you left
You fucked me five ways to Sunday

Sixth was when you stubbed
Us out
like a smoke
After you came six ways to Sunday

22 Feb, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Dance around the empty page as if it were a wild animal ready to lunge.
Staying still is effective. Sometimes climbing a tree. Sometimes trusting that it won’t care to devour you.

Dance around the empty page like Ali.
Be masterful in technique and quick on your feet. Anticipate, shuffle & weave. Your words, your swirling thoughts - align them into one deft move. Wait until the moment’s right. Ding, ding, ding. It could all be over in a flash.

Dance around the empty page like an unsure contestant on a reality show. 
Carry your hopes & ambitions on your back. Don’t let them weigh you down. Be light. Own the stage. You won’t know if it’s your day until you’re in the spotlight. Hope like hell it is.

Dance around the empty page like it’s a ritual, dark art.
It might fold itself into precise linearity, building itself up to be the sharpest of scalpels, designed to pierce your many skins and make your insides spill out. It might hurt.

Dance around the empty page like it’s home.
Open secret doors that only you know exist. Search fearlessly in hidden corners. Sashay & swing from the rafters. Know that its beams will hold you. You are safe.


One of the first performance reviews I ever received as a professional was, “You bounce too much.” I was 20 and this was my first job in a film production house. I had three bosses, all men. I didn’t know then that feedback on my buoyancy qualified as harassment. At the time, there weren’t too many companies doing the type of work I valued. So I stuck around for 17 more years.

It’s taken me nearly two decades but I’ve grown from intern to the title of ‘Head of Content & Creative Development’. My work is appreciated. I get due credit for every deadline I meet and every product I turn in. I am given a chair at meetings, where as the sole woman in the company I am often referred to as ‘Madam’. Meetings usually begin with stories from my boss’s life. We are expected to either laugh in solidarity or gasp in wonderment. At some point, he swivels his chair towards me and says, “Toh Madam, kya karein iska?” What should we do about this issue?

I then jump in with all the enthusiasm of someone snorting the same stuff Sheryl Sandberg does. I am flush with ideas on how to build and solidify teams, how to make operations more efficient, how to resolve the financial holes we seem to find ourselves in regularly. My boss’s eyes glaze over. I know he is far away now and my voice is white noise. As my designation in this organisation becomes loftier, its men develop increasingly creative ways to tune me out. Typically, there is no real outcome to the endless meetings (why aren’t these men in a hurry to go home? Why do they search for excuses to hang around in office? Are they avoiding domestic duties? Do they equate being in office with being useful?). Within weeks, we hit another crisis. I get called by my boss, “Madam, we should have listened to you. Let’s have another meeting to discuss.”

In the interim, I continue being validated for the films I write. Regularly spaced pats on the head and good-work-gold-stars keep me satiated even as other contributions are summarily dismissed. I conclude that my ideas are bad. I’m an efficient workhorse but I just don’t have the chops to lead.

Then I walk in another door. This time as volunteer at a community project. It is led by a woman, supported by a council, predominantly, of women. In the beginning I decide to stick to my corner, be an efficient worker and go home with the satisfaction of a day’s job well done. When I am given a seat at the table within one short year I assume it’s because I show up and do what is asked. It doesn’t occur to me that the project head thinks I can, well, contribute. But she does. She demands my ideas, expects my leadership and extends support. She finds a 25th hour in the day to consider my thoughts.

I begin haltingly, often filled with terror and flooded with a sense of inadequacy. Despite that, things work out like I strategized. I marvel at the meetings we have. They don’t begin with the mandatory stoking of egos I’m otherwise used to. People stick to agendas. There is big idealistic talk but it’s mixed with practical strategies. We hold each other accountable and we applaud each other’s achievements. No one swivels their chair and calls me ‘Madam’.

We are busy people juggling home, children, day jobs, passions and this work. We are often tired from other parts of our lives in ways that I’ve not seen men be (seriously, we need to stop being so tired all the time). Time, therefore, is a precious commodity not be wasted, not even on self-doubt. Ideas are converted into reality with great efficiency. I update my CV from workhorse to leader.

I often wonder if these starkly different professional experiences are a function of gender alone. After all, leadership styles differ and it may simply be that to me, one individual is more impactful than the other. Yet, I see similar experiences reflected, time and again, in the stories of other women and I realise they aren’t just mine. I hear about women’s voices being muted, even as their labour is consumed by male-majority groups. I observe women being invisiblized, when they stretch beyond what they’re hired to do. Here we are, us women, ‘leaning in’ to the point of falling on our faces and there’s barely a ripple in the fabric of the dude-workspace.

I used to alternate between despair and shrill outcry. I used to want to show the man. Not any more. Increasingly, there are all-male meetings without me, where I imagine chairs swivel as folks discuss how madam has lost her edge doing ‘NGO hobbies’. Meanwhile, I take my creative energy to new partners. We shake hands on the promise that our talents won’t be wasted. We widen our circle of influence and build new things.

When time comes to review my performance, I know I will hold up well. I may even get extra points for bouncing.


A version of this piece first appeared in November 2017, on The Ladies Compartment - a website that's mysteriously disappeared, which is good because it (my piece) was hacked to pieces by the editor.

The Schuyler Sisters from 'Hamilton'

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This Blog Is Drunk

"Oh, that's what we doing? We being childish, my nigga?
We just pointing and clicking and we not talking, my nigga?
You fixed your pussy-ass fingers to really block me, my nigga?
Like you Mutombo, my nigga? Like you don't know me, my nigga?
Five years by your side and I'm just a button, my nigga?
You wanna push me, my nigga? You wanna push me, my nigga?"

Issa Rae in Insecure (Season 2)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Rat Stories

This morning there was a rat in my kitchen. Until last night s/he was free to roam and break my 'Thought For The Day' coffee cups with impunity but now s/he was occupying a well ventilated 1 BHK trap in a corner. We both waited for release.
But, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first time a rat visited a house I was solely in charge of, was in 2014. At the time, I was flush with the privileges of my birth and didn't want to engage with the rat issue (the way some people "just don't believe in politics"). But when there is no one else to prevent your home from becoming a cesspool of vermin, one grows up well before their time (or right on time, if you, like me, are in your mid to late thirties). The rat was in my house and so was I. We were alone together.

Back then, it seems like a lifetime ago, I opted for bars of sweet-smelling rat poison. "Ghar ke baahar martey hain" seemed like the ideal final situation. I didn't stop to think about the violence of it all (someone once told me, "You eat meat. Don't pretend to be against murder" so I shrugged in agreement and from that day on, became a dangerous assassin). The poison worked well that first year and I didn't stress about rats anymore.

In the second year, I found a rodent skeleton in the nether regions of a cabinet that I'd just removed from storage after 3 months. The skeleton and I stared back in horror at each other. I couldn't believe I had to deal it with myself. So I got myself a boyfriend (well, ok, the boyfriend already existed. He just happened to be in the house when the body was discovered). He came from a chaste upper-caste family and I could tell that extracting rat skeletons didn't jive with his vibe. So I wrapped a plastic bag around my hand and went in. And I mean all in. Because even though its little ratty soul had left its body, the body refused to unstick itself from the bottom of the drawer. Ladies and gentlemen, I tugged.

Have you ever tugged at the mortal remains of a once-alive-with-hopes-&-dreams thing? I don't recommend it one bit. It puts you off your grub forever (yet somehow your weight keeps increasing). Once the body was disposed of, the boyfriend decided to overcome his yukkies and helped me clean the cabinet. He received a medal of valour that day. Then we broke up. Despite this, the rodents kept visiting.

By now, social media had grown me a conscience and I decided that I could no longer kill rats, who bore no ill will towards me. I had to trap and release them like a compassionate Buddha (who ate meat by the way so shut up). This went against every ethic held by the entitled shit that lived inside me. She argued - why do I have to be brave all the time? Why do I have to be the one who cleans the toilet every single time? Why do I have to put all my hard earned money into house rent? The answer came swiftly from the annoyingly-smart-lady in my head - because you live alone and get to eat whole blocks of cheese without sharing.

2017 was a new dawn. The monsoons arrived and with it, a new rodent. This time it was caught not by the noise it made in the kitchen, but was felled by its unfortunate taste in pop music. One morning I was listening to whatever Apple Music tells me I like and Ed Sheeran came on. As he warbled about loving the shape of me (stay tuned for the remix version 'Shape Of You - Time To Go On A Diet') a tiny rat nose peeked from behind the speakers. I saw it but didn't scream. I mean, how can you get scared by a rat who's clearly gettin' its groove on (or, if it's like the ex, getting off on vibrating surfaces). We waited for Sheeran to fade out and then I yelled. It ran. I set a trap that very evening before I left for my walk.

One of the most under-reported benefits of cardio exercise is the courage it gives you to deal with vermin. When I returned from my jaunt I was practically reeking of irrational bravado. I opened the front door, saw the president of Sheeran's fan club trapped in my aluminium cage and right there decided that I was Sparta. I invoked the memory of my father (he's not dead, he just lives in a different house) as he'd set out on muggy evenings like this, trap in tow, off to look for shrubbery at a safe enough distance so the rat couldn't return.

The rat and I went for a walk. Along the way, we met folks from the building who cheered me on with "Oh. Rat?" and "Ohohoho." Many gave us wide berth as they saw us approach (was it the rat or was it my unmarried-at-38 status? We will never know). I made it to a barren spot of land outside the colony. I opened the cage door and waited. The rat refused to leave. It didn't trust me and I couldn't blame it. It sat in the trap as I made hrrummpphing noises. Then I begged "Please rat, please go. I'm trying to be nice." Never underestimate the power of good manners. The rat bid me adieu and scampered off.

Which brings me to this morning. I woke at 4.30 am knowing there was a rat in a cage in the kitchen, where my breakfast also lives. But I felt none of the bravado of last time. It must be PMS I thought, sorely disappointed with myself. Stop being an ass that rat is more terrified than you you've done this before imagine people who kill rats with their bare hands your privilege (or is it patriarchy?) has ruined you you can't even carry out the basic acts of survival. For some strange reason, I put on an oven mitt and changed from my shorts into a salwar. That didn't help. I still didn't want to engage. Meanwhile the rat was getting restless. It must have been tired and scared and was probably regretting taking that gap year to go see the world. I had to make a decision.

I decided to wait for the young man who collects the garbage. No, how could I? Wasn't that terribly exploitative? I will pay him. Yeah still doesn't make it better. I will request him nicely and if he refuses I will be okay with it. Acceptable, you phuddu. From 5am till 8.30 I hung by the door like never before (wondering when I will stop waiting for men like this and just get on with my life). At last, he appeared with his sunshiny happy face.
'Hello hello. Kaise hain?'
'Accha aapse kucch kaam thha. Aap manaa kar sakte ho. Mai pehle bhi kar chuki hoon lekin aaj bahut darr lag raha hai. Matlab pataa nahi kyun wohi cheez jo pehle daraati nahi thhi aaj dara rahi hai. Kabhi aapke saath aisa hua hai?'

'...... kooda hai?'
'Hahn. Lekin, ek second andar aiye...?'

In an instant he went from sunshiny happy to 'am I going to be murdered by a dangerous assassin?' and I realised I needed to get to the point quickly. I confessed about the rat. I confessed my inadequacy. His face relaxed and the smile returned. Show me the rat, he said and strode into my kitchen. With a gallant sweep of un-mittened hand he scooped up the trap and exited the premises, my grateful cries of 'ghar se door chhodna....' trailing behind him.

I returned to the kitchen to sweep up the debris of nibbled bread and rat poop. There was an air of lingering rodent in the air (Not literally. Like relationships, rats don't stink until they're dead). There was this feeling of having shared this space with an unwelcome roommate, now gone. The relief was yet to set in, I knew it would take some time. I felt nauseous and defeated, most un-spartan. I was grateful for the young man who helped me but also ashamed of my cowardice.

Then the phone rang. It was the rat. Calling to tell me, in a hissing voice, "you can't get rid of me so know I'll be backkkk....sssss".
No it wasn't. It was my mother. When I told her this story she got impatient and said, "Shut up. You think too much. We used to get rid of rats all the time. Besides, rats don't hiss."