Monday, November 30, 2009

Un-Clichéing Myself

Many are the lessons a woman learns as she grows older. Among the more important ones is shattering the Myth of the Mysterious Man.

Currently the flavour of the season is Twilight's Edward Cullen.
My best friend and I went to see the film the other day. As the tweens ooh'd and aah'd, we both found (to our horror) that every time the tortured vampire's tortured brow glowered at its tortured best, we dissolved into splits. Everytime he lurked darkly in the background, we got goosebumps - and not the fun kind either. The kind you get when you're walking on the streets of New Delhi at night and a carfull of drunk jat boys zips past you for the third time & you reach for that swiss army knife in your bag just in case...

Of course, I say all this as a woman who was once a girl who was once attracted only to the dark, brooding kinds. As if the silence gave them a booster shot of EQ or being misfits allowed them access to higher truths. Turns out the mystery was there for a reason - to hide who they really were: scared little boys.

Don't get me wrong - there's no shame in being a scared little boy. Who isn't (apart from us scared little girls)? Just let us know. For god's sake tell us women what's really going on. Dark silences are not very sexy. They're annoying because who knows what's happening in that male brain?

Which brings me to the next cliche - men are uncomplicated. Bull. Shit. You lot are the strangest, most bizarre creatures and I don't for one second claim to understand what you're thinking. Or if you're thinking at all. And if they call the lack of thinking 'uncomplicated' then I'm sorry - that logic will just not fly. Thoughts result in action - a pre-requisite for including yourself in the human race. Without thought, you'd be a bit like a comatose patient set afloat on a raft in the Indian Ocean. That's pretty complicated, I would say...

Anyhoo, point is - dear, sweet, well-meaning men above the age of 23. Please don't be mysterious, please don't brood or try to attract women by squinching your brows & hiding your feelings. Be nice, talk to us every so often. Who knows, we might just have a conversation that's fun. Trust me, nature intended for us women to seek out the stable, open and communicative types who are equipped to raise our babies with love & compassion. Not to zero in on guys who only wear black and have a tendency to weep after 7 beers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So Much Rage

I'm tempted to, but will not delete the post below.
Perhaps I can hold it up as an example of how I'm not as cool as I thought I was. That when push comes to shove, I don't see all humans as equals. That I judge according to the colour of one's business suit. That I have inner rage issues which find a convenient outlet in the much abused, unfortunate bazillionaire.
All may be Brahman but not when it comes to corporate flunkies. The fact that I can write an equally scathing review of folks I've encountered from the other side of the tracks is immaterial.

I am a hypocrite. I'll try and work on it...

Head On Collision with Corporate India

Spent the last two days trapped in the belly of corporate India. Had to film a Citibank conference and take interviews of people who have finance coming out of their noses. Worse still, I had to pretend that I, don't just give a damn but, am actually enthused by the functioning of banks and treasuries across this great nation of ours.
Was saved by frequent trips to the free Hersheys stand and the sound of my cameraman exchanging choice hindi abuses with the lightboys.

Reasons why I'm glad I never did an MBA:
1. Drab clothing. I'd have to say goodbye to all colours except black, white and a sickly blue that for some reason reminds me of tetanus.
2. Pretentious vocabulary: I bumped into a college acquaintance at the conference. I remember her vaguely as this mousy, very inarticulate girl who never had much to say. Now she spoke of 'verticals' instead of departments and 'making assets sweat'. So I ask - why can't corporate India speak normal English? Is it a ploy to have us wound up in language, while they go about screwing with our economies?
3. Pre & Post alcohol personality switch: We all change once a few pegs warm the cockles of our bosoms. But corporate India undergoes a bizarre switch from being walking-talking insurance brochures to sounding like pre-pubescent punjabi boys from Rajinder Nagar. The girls? They don't drink at all but are on hand to laugh nervously at all the pre-pubescent jokes.
4. Contempt for all non-corporate forms of beings: Just because I have come with a camera crew to film your lame conference (that I'm sure you slept through) does not mean I'm a wedding videographer, does not mean you can interrupt when the camera's rolling to tell me to find a good 'seating arrangement' for your clients, does not mean I'll wait for hours on end for your white-boy CEO to finish his 5th beer just so he can give me 5 minutes of talktime, does not mean you can let me pass through your venue gates but stop my lightboys because they don't look rich enough.
5. The Asslicking: I never did like the taste of ass. And if I have to laugh at my boss' bland jokes even after I've become the India Head for Citi, then really, it's not worth it.
6. The Regret: I cannot tell you the number of really rich, 'successful' and upwardly mobile people I met who expressed a great longing to be 'artistic like you'. For a second, they almost looked human as their eyes grew wider and they told me about all the music/ theatre/ dance/ debating/ poetry they did in college and now had no time for. I felt like a friggin therapist.
I'm guessing they can't all be bad. Yes, they did cause a global meltdown that directly affected my livelihood, which forced me to take up the job of filming the conference. Yes, the posturing and the facade of constant coolness can get exceedingly annoying. But at the end of the day they're the same Chunnu's and Munnu's I grew up with. They've got to be just like regular folks right?
Perhaps...but only on weekends & Christmas

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lines blur

I've always had trouble with reality. Not with accepting it, but in telling it apart from the movies running inside my head (soundtrack and all). Things are said to me, they pass through a wispy filter and reach my insides in an entirely different way from what was intended. Events happen and are fashioned by my neurons into an entirely distinct (often fantastical) story in my head. My emotions attach themselves to words and gestures rather whimsically, attributing new meanings to what's just occurred.
It makes for great parties in my head - celebrations that go on for days and weeks.
But invariably, there a comes a point when I'm forced to confront how the outside doesn't match the drama inside, there is a rude awakening and I'm left in a vacuum.

I want things to change. I'm not sure if I can completely revoke my citizenship of Lalaland or even if I really want to (especially since I've lately met wonderful people who've got permanent resident status there) but here's what I would really like to do: I'd like to build a railway system, something like the Samjhauta Express (perfect name too) that can, at regular & timely intervals allow me to cross the border & journey into reality. I'd like to purchase a lifetime pass on this train (first class only) and effortlessly navigate between the colourful carnival inside and the more utilitarian world outside.
I'd like a tour guide to travel with me, someone who can tell me which stations are worth getting off at, how long to stay at each stop before climbing back on the train again and whom to visit while I'm there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I found new music. A band called The Weepies. The rain is falling outside as it gets colder and colder. I snuggle inside my sweatshirt and listen to this beautiful music. And I dream...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recurring Dream

I have a recurring dream, where I'm either at the airport or making my way there, extremely excited because I'm taking a flight out to Anywhere-But-Here.
However, each and every time my best laid plans are thwarted due to some silly reason or the other. Either I've left my passport at home, or I lose my luggage, or I go the bathroom just before the flight's supposed to take off and I miss it. Once, I missed my flight because I forgot to pack underwear & decided to go home to get some. I thought I'd make it back in time. I didn't.
It is the MOST frustrating dream one could have - worse than being chased by wild animals or being stuck in a burning building or hiding from terrorists (all of which used to be recurring dreams but then stopped for some reason) - because I can almost taste the freedom of getting way, I can feel the promise of something new on my skin...and then I get left behind.

Perhaps this has something to do with my grandmother. She built a house for herself by the sea. She spent her whole retirement gathering things to decorate her house with. She did it up, furnished it from top to bottom - all for that day when she would move triumphantly into the apartment she'd built with her entire life's savings. Then a few days before she was supposed to move in bag and baggage, she had a massive heart attack and died.

The other night, I told you this story of my grandmother's passing. Just as I was getting to its moral for me ("Don't just spend all your time & energy planning. Learn when to take the plunge."), you say - "It sounds like your grandmother was really happy when she died...knowing that she'd realised her biggest dream."
As I looked at you, I felt a release. I laughed, then you did and we both couldn't stop for the longest time.

Perhaps because my flight had taken off the runway and I was finally on it.

Monday, November 9, 2009


This is what the good stuff is supposed to feel like.
This is what it feels like when someone waits for you. When you don't need to do things you don't want to. When you're no longer governed by 'Should' and learn to just breathe.
Just breathe.
I'm learning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

High level meeting

This was part of a conversation I had today over lunch at this very swanky Chinese restaurant, with a woman who was once my supervising producer and now a dear friend:
"Main tere lund ko kaatkar ped pe chadhha doongi. Phir kowey usko chodengey."

No More Familiar

A couple of days ago, someone gave me a gift. A two-inch tall action figure. Then we had a conversation that took me into spaces that I never share with people I barely know. I went with it, fought the discomfort and had an ok enough time. It brought up stuff for me that this person knew nothing about. It had been an effort but well worth it - I came a little closer to making a new friend. But I had no idea how exhausted it made me.

This last month has been a longer version of that day spent with the new person. My closest friend, my sanctuary in many ways, has moved cities, my professional life has taken me into spaces that scare & challenge me and bring up old things from the past, I have man problems (always fun) and I have run out of places and people to run to when I'm going stark raving mad.

Through it all, I have not cried a drop. Not even when my best friend hugged me goodbye (I got teary but no big sobbing). I have thanked the universe for keeping me busy. I have hung out at film festivals for hours on end, alone or with a bunch of people I vaguely know from work. I have made an effort to penetrate the shells of people who normally I would have left to themselves. All so that I could feel a little normal. All so I could clutch onto a little piece of the familiar.

Then today I had a really shitty day professionally - the ONE goddamned space where I am not confused, the one part of my life where I don't feel incompetent and ill-equipped - and it shook me to the core. It was the straw that broke this trying-to-be-sunshiny-happy girl's back. I felt the final facade of my well-meaning bravado fall apart.

I clutched that two-inch doll like it was my last ally and sobbed my heart out.


I'm not a poet. I've never fancied myself as someone who even remotely understands the form. A client once asked me to write the title track lyrics for a children's programme based on 5 superheroes. It brought me to tears.

But one evening in a tiny resort called Georgia Sunshine Village, 3 hours out of Bangalore, under the influence of some fine weed, sitting poolside, I looked to my friend Mrinalini (Lotus Eyes) and came up with the following:

There once was a girl called Lotus,
Who was diagnosed with lodosis
Although she was nice
She harboured a vice
She liked to do dope in large doses.

Of all the things I've written in my life, this is right up there with some of my best work...