Turning 25 and a half is a bitch – II

This is, apparently, the second part to what looks like a series. Totally unplanned. Like the first hangover movie. They didn’t know then that they were going to make a sequel. So they couldn’t name it Hangover – 1. But two just happened. This is my second hangover. In two days.

We lost two in one week. One to a surprise engagement in Kolhapur and another, to a pre-engagement announcement. We paid our respects in the city of Gaavran chicken and the Mahalakshmi Temple and then road-tripped to Vegas (Hotel in Mahabaleshwar) and gambled and drank our small moneys away. That relief, however, was only temporary as we came to a realisation during the car journey back.

We realised that we are in the stag-est phase of our lives. Complete nadness for us 25 and a half-ers. Us constitutes two other friends of mine who were born just a month either side of October – my birth month.

We are like our birthdays. We are almost exactly the same. Indifferent, lethargic homeboys of average smarts who seem contented after having reached the heights of mediocrity. We are far away from mainstream. One is waiting for Ms Right because she’s wrong in so many ways; the second in rehabilitation from a success of 20-day relationships; and the third is in mourning. We are still living in the now, while we see all the women around us scouting for future potential.  Yes, we’ll chat a girl up every now and then, feed them some bullshit and they’ll bite. But sooner or later they’ll realise we’re just beetle juice and spit us right out. We are on either sides of the commitment fence and ridiculously unattractive to the fairer sex at this moment. Even more than before. One look at us and the women are hitched, bored or extremely ambitious. Thus leaving us tweeners out in the grey. 

Our lives are completely colourless. Drab and undecorated like a bachelor pad. We’ve stopped watching movies in theatres because guys just don’t do that with other guys. We’re on a steep cultural decline. We have money but no inclination. Also most times, we are swatted away by popular bars for the embarrassing shortage of women folk. So we drown our sorrows in cheap alcohol served by the shady bars that have ‘Family sections’. Another realisation that I came across while swatting mosquitoes and sipping beer at Radha – a trucker’s bar on the highway off Balewadi. Every night is a boy’s night out.

But the boys are slowly dwindling. They’re biting the dust one by one. We lost two in one week and we’re down to three. It’s time to rev up the engine. Pull up our socks. Get unstuck and start making our way towards the bus. Or… just write more blogs.  

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It’s time to get rich

 

 

 

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The bald brothers were down for the night. On attempts of revival, the younger one came to. But on me – there was a look of tired resignation. I was beyond resumption.  

All it took was a couple of LIT’s – no, LIIT’s my brother kept correcting me throughout the party. Is the ‘Island’ a hyphenated part of the L or does it merit a separate I? That’s one of the many non life-altering debates we had. And then I paired up with an old football friend and subjected some very unfortunate people to the most disgustingly hilarious joke. I sang a Honey Singh song to a girl, then told her I was a pilot. I even made a recreational footballer famous. The point is – a couple of LIT’s is all it took to get from zero to plastered. Maybe 2 beers and 2 and a half portions of what was in the flipped cup. But still. That’s not much. At least, not as much as it used to be.

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Above: Me and the Recreational Footballer who I made famous

My body was so hospitable to spirits diverse. Beer was a constant tenant. Rum had a flat booked in the belly. Tequila was a regular weekend visitor. Toxins and healthy stuffs lived in perfect harmony. Not today. Today was war. The night was a blur. I passed out flat on the grass next to my younger brother who had to carry me home.

That night was meant to be redemption, reassurance that I hadn’t in fact lost it. That I was not ‘old’. You see, these three months have been life-changing. I have had to raise a dog baby. Teach him right from wrong – (stuff he is and isn’t allowed to chew on). Pill swallowing. Potty training. Learning to be one with dog poo. Play dates with other puppies. Play sessions. Discussing doggie-eccentricities/arguing competitively with fellow soccer moms. Evenings spent taking care of the baby while rejecting invitations of friends who were drinking on a Saturday night or playing football or worse yet – both. I sacrificed football for the baby. That’s how committed I was and am. You can imagine the pent-up frustration. Alcohol guzzling was supposed to be my answer. But it turned out to be harsh realisation.   

As my sleep was rudely thwarted, the next morning, by the blood-curdling scream of my mother who was irritated by the sight and smell of dog faeces, I woke up, mechanically leashed the baby and took him out. He led me to a snaking walk of shame. I could not stand straight. The light was drilling a slow hole into my head. I pleaded with Kyro to finish his business fast so that I could be horizontal again. He very kindly obliged. He squatted to shit while I was puking away what was left of my youth.

The shift back home from Delhi was the transition, I think. Delhi was rebellion. I was playing the field while all around me were tying the knot. There were no moral boundaries in Delhi. No filter. Animal freedom. So much to write about. So much written. So carelessly. But now I have become cautious of my words, my actions and my drunken escapades. I have become responsible. I have a routine. Get up – feed kyro – take kyro down – work – feed kyro – take kyro down – eat – work – feed kyro – take kyro down – play football – work – feed kyro – take kyro down – watch tv – sleep.

Taking care of the little one has its own rewards. The stereotypical ‘new pet’ kind of rewards that I won’t ramble on about. So I’m not complaining. I couldn’t, actually, even if I wanted to. I was going to feel old whether I liked it or not.

The hair-line is receding by the hour. Everyone else is growing up too fast. 25-year-old boys feel ready for marriage. 15-year-old girls now frequent bars. Clothes are getting scantier. Facebook vanity is increasing exponentially. The shorts are getting shorter. The hash tags are getting longer. The generation shift is taking place. The ship is slowly sailing.

The time has come to accept my fate. I’ve already shaved my head – prepared for the inevitable. It’s time to get rich.      

 

 

Shades of Black

I grew up with my dog. We bought Koblar – our first black Labrador – when I was six. I still remember sitting on the steps of my playschool alone and disconsolate that my parents were almost an hour late to pick me up. My dejection turned magically into euphoria when I saw the black big-eared bundle of joy they had brought along.

We both were new to the world around us, curious in our own weird way. I used to like throwing matchboxes in the toilet. Koblar liked killing toads. Then we decided to team up. I would slip him all of those revolting green vegetables when Ma was not looking and he would devour them opportunely.

Then he grew twice my size, while I still remained a frail little boy who’s voice hadn’t broken yet. “Hello, Beena?” – Everytime I picked up the phone. In addition to that, I had to face the humiliation of being manhandled by my own dog. “You’re taking your dog for a walk or he is taking you?” – was the snide comment that I had become immune to. It was very irritating. And I resented Koblar for being stronger than me. But he never seemed to care. He was so damn psyched to see me walk through the door every single time. How could I remain angry?

We both loved the outdoors, freaked out on car-rides and were die-hard fans of our mother. Dogs always have a number one in the family. That spot was reserved for my mother. She took care of him like she did me. He was always so affected by her. Ma’s voice would wake Koblar up from his deepest slumber. He would raise his groggy head after the distinctive double honk of the Maruti 800 and go absolutely crazy after hearing two rings of the bell in quick succession.

He was also petrified of her. Once, when my mother and brother got into an epic fight, screaming their heads off at each other, Koblar got up from his deep sleep and ran and hid under the bed in extreme fear. I tried to slink into the room to go to sleep, but was shooed away by my angry brother. So I made my way to Koblar’s space and we both rode out the storm together.

He was always so forgiving. I accidentally had his tail trapped in the bathroom door, once, when I was first entrusted with the responsibility of giving him a bath. His tail started squirting blood and he screamed in anguish. I was crushed. I wept for an entire day – convincing my parents that Koblar would not love me anymore. He’d hate me for what I had done. But when I walked through that door reluctantly, he seemed psyched as usual, wagging his bandaged tail with the same intensity. What a guy!

He became an intrinsic part of my life like any other family member. And seeing him die right in front of my eyes was the hardest thing I ever experienced.

 I was 16 years old and inexperienced in matters of death. And on that dark day in February of 2006, when he lay down defeated, with stomach distended on the cold bathroom marble, I felt absolutely powerless. His tail that wagged with endless love for stranger and friend alike lay lifeless on the floor. His eyes that were forever quizzical were now small and weak. I didn’t want be there, watching him die. I couldn’t take the heartbreak. I just wanted to run away from that place. But I didn’t. He had showed me nothing but solidarity throughout his life. I couldn’t betray him, my mother explained to me. Not now. Not when he needed me the most. To comfort him on his journey alone into the unknown. And so his head was in my lap, struggling with every breath that was heavier that the last. Till he breathed his last.

My life was filled with a profound emptiness after he was gone. The chewed legs of the furniture, the scratch marks on the bedroom door for when he wanted to enter, those on the door for when he wanted to go for a walk, all made me break down into silent tears. I was so used to his presence. I looked at certain places and always just expected him to be there. But he wasn’t. And he was never going to be there. That hurt the most. It also hurt when people were so insensitive about it. ‘Buy another dog’ – they said. But it wasn’t that easy for me. Buying another dog just a few weeks after Koblar’s death felt like betrayal. I needed to go through an unadulterated grieving process. I didn’t want to forget about him. I wanted to talk about his quirks, those funny incidents and remember him for the lazy, goofy, loving legend that he was.  

It took a while, but Koblar’s memories became fond ones. I didn’t deflect the topic of my dog anymore. I wouldn’t get all choked up when anyone spoke of him. I remembered him for the good, loving soul that he was and earnestly narrated to all who were dear to me, stories of his amazing personality. With every dog that I met, with every Labrador that crossed my path, I began to melt a little. I started missing a dog in my life. And then I saw this video of a kid with down-syndrome being lulled into hugging his golden Labrador. That slayed me. So after 8 long years, I decided I was ready to have another dog.

I was hesitant to have another Koblar, however. It would bring back bitter-sweet memories, I thought. I looked at bull-dogs, Alsatians and Dalmatians. But they just didn’t cut it. My heart seemed to be set on Labrador. I checked out forn, golden, white, coffee but was involuntarily convinced by black. The decision practically made itself.

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And in walked Kyro. Curious as ever. He was oblivious to embarking on any sort of journey of the shoes he had to fill. He was just an innocent little puppy, freshly weaned off his mother, biting his way through the exploration of the new world around him.

It has only been a couple of weeks and the little rascal has already left his mark. On my bruised ankles, the chewed up furniture, the lace-less footwear, the remote control, my mobile cover, the mop… amongst other things.

I’m number one now. And he’s made sure I earn that spot. In his first week, he bit my nose and woke me up three times every night at 1, 4 and 7 am to the rank smell of his faecal matter. That’s not something anyone wants to wake up to. And I’ve been doing it almost every day – all day. Once, when I came back home drunk at midnight and settled on the couch with my snack to watch ‘Boston Legal’ – my nose was affected by that familiar fetidity. Undrunk, I held my puke in, grabbed toilet paper and plastic bag, nabbed the shit, over-turned the plastic bag, unpleasantly took in the soft texture of turd-piece and threw it in the dog bin. I then proceeded to disinfect the stained area and satisfactorily nestled in my spot and unpaused Alan Shore’s closing – when that same rotten smell made its way back into my nose. He shat again in the same place. And then he vomited in the hall.

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‘It’s all part of being number one’ – my mother said, laughing at my plight. But little Kyro makes all the bother worth it. That inimitable joy with which he greets me when I enter the house. That look of despair he has in his eyes, every time I leave the room. The peaceful trust with which he sleeps soundly on my torso. The way he follows me everywhere I go and waits patiently outside the bathroom for me till I finish. To see him sleep so peacefully on his orange cushion and to know that I have made a significant contribution to that picture of tranquillity is a good feeling.  

The void is being filled again, slowly but surely and I’m looking forward to many more memories. 

Mad City Delhi

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Tired but happy

 

“Do you promise not to judge me?” If I had a penny for how many times I’ve started my sentence with this line in these last 8 months in Delhi, I’d be a typically wealthy Delhiite.

As I was clutching the side-handles of the dangerously unstable cycle-rickshaw en route to my Friday night hangout, I began to reminisce my Delhi days. I realise that 8 months sounds like too short a time to reminisce, but these 8 months have felt so much longer than 240 odd days. Dog months.

So many beginnings and an equal number of conclusions. I’ve had a relationship start and end, twice over. With multiple people. I even got a divorce.

The wife left me. Delhi got the better of the poor bastard mentally and physically. He broke his leg in his final month and decided to call it quits. No evening Tang, no pointless fights, no burps on my face, no dinners at Qureshi’s (which FYI is owned by Huma Qureshi). I could almost picture a montage of all these wifely duties in slow motion with ‘Dost…Dost na raha’ playing in the background.

 

I was forced to shift house from the upmarket Greater Kailash 2 to the dog’s infected rectum that is Govindpuri. Govindpuri – where the roads smell of piss, traffic signals are a waste of metal and a flurry of screaming vehicles whiz dangerously passed lazy cows forever stationed right in the middle of the garbage riddled roads. When the screeching of the impatient cars dies down, the share-an-auto drivers are screaming random destinations in the ears of the passers-by.

By 9 pm, however, the traffic comes to a halt, the noise is negligible and the setting is solemn. This is in preparation for the rapes and robberies that take place at the dead of night. I, fortunately, have no first hand evidence of this – I’ve just been warned by many an auto driver. My initial reaction was that they all were exaggerating. I would know since, I’m a bit of an expert in that field. But then I saw this random guy standing on top of a relatively new Santro break the windshield with something that looked like a large brick. I looked at my auto guy in disbelief. He shrugged it off as just another usual occurrence.

The auto guys around my house are a nice bunch of guys – a rarity in Delhi. I know most of them by face. I just have to utter the words – metro, football or bar – and they know where to take me. I have never been one to experiment. I was on my way back from a drunken escapade once, when one the auto guys – Esrarji – blew my intoxicated mind.

I started a conversation with him, like I do with all auto/cab guys. I mentioned that I hail from Pune and his eyes lit up. He told me that he was an Osho follower and I couldn’t believe my ears. He asked me if I was married. Then he asked me if I have ever had sex. Then he shared his opinion on sex.

“Sex is not the destination, but the boat that takes you there. Marriage is against everything that I believe in now. But I am bound by responsibilities. My only other regret in life is that I had picked up Rajnishji’s book too late. If I was unmarried I would have all the sex I wanted so that I could finally reach my ‘dhyan’ – where you can talk to the trees and the stars”

Obviously, by this time, I had realised that his breath was a significant contributor to the stench of alcohol in that stuffy auto. But I didn’t care. When will I ever meet a forward-thinking auto guy again?

That’s one of the things I have loved about Delhi – the access and proximity to some amazing people. In one week, I talked football with the Maharaja of Tripura – he is a big Fernando Redondo fan – I had a beer with the owner of Salgaocar Football Club and met a guy who very nonchalantly narrated an incident of how he had been kidnapped in UP. I also had a drinking session with Rumboy Nicholas – one of the funniest people in the world. Amongst other disgraceful, disgusting yet hilarious guy-talk, RN educated me on the ‘Fart Theory’ while we slayed an old monk. “Macha, the louder the fart, the deeper the connection” – he told me. “There is a certain comfort factor with a willingly vociferous eructation. And that is the true test of a relationship. So let her rip!”, he said. We laughed our guts out.

And then I turned 25. I still don’t agree with the ‘quarter life crisis’ tag that comes with this number – at least not for us guys – but it does make you think about your life. When all your contemporaries are rattling off announcements of engagements and marriages and sometimes even babies – you do feel a little old. Like you’re on the brink of adulthood, on a cliff hanging by a thread that is getting weaker every day. You want cram a lot of craziness in the little time that you have left.

Luckily for me, I’ve been been doing that even before I turned 25. Delhi has been my hub of insanity. Never a dull moment. Many an unspeakable moment, I even wrote a song. But this mad city has always kept me at a safe distance from boredom. It has been exhausting, confounding yet exhilarating.

I got off the cycle-rickshaw aware of my intense fear of the rickety contraption and was calmed by heart-warming smile of the moustachioed door-keeper of 4S – my place of peace. It’s all good when you’re having a beer at 4S. I probably won’t settle down here but this will always be the place where I created the most memories. Oh and my moustache finally grew in Delhi.

 

Running on a Whim

The onset of November means that it’s running season of the marathon kind. The cool crisp air, moderate temperatures – the city has shed itself off all the heat and humidity and is in its accommodating phase of cordiality before the frigid winter takes over.

It welcomes the debutants with their mild morning practice, the motivated yet unfit lot who are on a spirited endeavour to complete 10 kms, the serious amateurs who are looking to beat their previous time in the half marathons and the seasoned lot that already have a few marathons under their belt. For the steely professionals, weather conditions matter little.    

With a couple of half-marathons under my belt, I form a part of the serious amateurs – or so I’d like to think. I’ve grudgingly half-followed the internet plans of early mornings, strict diets, progressive running strategies – an utterly disciplined lifestyle required to complete 21 full kilometres of road-running. That was for my first half-marathon and it was an amazing experience – a sentiment that will be echoed by other debutants. But it wasn’t a patch on the second one where I ran all of those 21 kilometres without training for a single day.

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In fact, it was quite the opposite of training. During my lethargic stint as a Mumbai journalist, I was living the unhealthiest of all lifestyles. On a diet of cheap beer, rum and oily junk food and with no inclination to run whatsoever, I completed 21 kilometres in 2 hours and 53 minutes. That was rebellious, intense and hardcore.

It all started with this beautiful Bawi girl that I was in love with. She was incredibly sweet, smart and had this cute little British-Indian Parsi accent when she spoke. And I would melt every time I was in front of her. That particular time, she slayed me at the NGO that she worked for when she convinced me to buy a Marathon bib for a little more than half my monthly salary. I agreed with no hesitation or care in the world – nodding away to everything she said. I agreed to run for her smile, and for the children of course.

My boss was quite happy when I told her this. Not happy enough to reimburse me for my foolishly vulnerable innocence, but happy that I’d now be able to run the first five kilometres of the marathon to get a feel of the atmosphere and add a whole new dimension to my article about the potential Olympian – Ram Singh Yadav – provided he made the qualification time. Experiential writing she called it. Boy, was she in for an experience.

Yes, as the junior-most, I had to sacrifice my Sunday morning sleep and report on the Mumbai Marathon. As far as running five kilometres was concerned, I was sure that I would be reeling at the end of 2.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen 5 am on a Sunday morning sober. All I knew was that I was depressed waking up to darkness and sure as hell wasn’t looking forward to running pre sun-up. But I put on my marathon gear – my lucky tight red bikini briefs (my ‘Marathong’ I call it), Nike skins – which protruded pregnantly at the stomach, my short shorts and running shoes and set out to the Bandra side of the sea link – the starting line.

I couldn’t reach the sea-link, however, because of the thousand odd people that had turned up. Within minutes, there were a couple of hundred people gathered behind me and the feeling was not unlike being inside a weekday morning local. I went where the crowd took me and awaited the flagging off 500 yards behind the starting line. Wiser from experience, I stood at the side and watched while the foolhardy beginners sprinted like they were competing in a 100 meter race. I jogged slowly, then paused before I saw the huge expanse of the sea link in front of me. The Marathon gives you the privilege of running on roads most people don’t get the chance to walk on and then to stop and stare at some breath-taking views of the city of Mumbai. I took my chance to enjoy the scene. And then I saw the early sprinters peeing off the bridge. Each one has their own pleasures I guess. Some were getting pictures clicked; others were on the phone with their loved ones attempting to describe the magnitude of the moment. I was alone. I carried on.

 The legs that were stiff and high-strung on that torturous morning were slowly warming up as I reached the half-way point on the sea-link. I was able to enjoy the energy of a thousand people. Two kilometres down and I was surprisingly sprightly yet circumspect with my strides. I decided to walk half of the third kilometre just to ensure I would make it to five and avoid embarrassment and humiliation of my friends and colleagues. I increased the pace slowly after and joined the crowd in speeding through the open toll gates. Nothing was going to stop us then. The Gujaratis, Marwadis, old or young, male or female, all were of a free spirit that day. Maybe the sprinters weren’t foolhardy after all. Maybe they were just propelled by the release of all their inhibitions. I, however, was still running on a whim. I continued at jogging pace through the fourth kilometre. I was giving it a little extra as it was time to wind down at 5, like I had planned, like my boss had told me too.

I reached the end of the sea-link, the end of my little stint and I began to come to a slow halt. Except that I didn’t really want to stop. I saw this sweet little girl running with a big smile on her face. An old fit man was jog-walking bare feet. I might not have had the energy but I certainly hadn’t run out adrenalin. And I estimated it to be another couple of kilometres before I would run out of steam completely. I’d still be able to catch up with Ramsingh after quitting at 7 km, I thought. So I began running again.

The next two km were a bit of a drag. We were to take a left at Worli, run all the way up to INS Trata circle, take a u-ey, and come all the way back to the end of the sea-link. I wasn’t satisfied with that so I continued running. Just up until Atria mall, I thought. Then I would call it quits for sure. I would have to, no?

No. I alternated between swift walks and slow jogs as the notorious Bombay sun slowly started to make its presence felt. I managed to trudge up to Worli dairy with Atria mall in sight when I heard my name being shouted out loud. I looked swiftly to the right and saw an open top bus full of my fellow journalists covering the event. I was cheered on by them. Another shot of adrenalin. I ran past Atria and on to the bridge towards Haji Ali.

The sun was now taking prime position to drain. And I was slowly falling victim. The Adrenalin tank was running on empty again and reality hit me with its brute force. I started cramping in my stomach. I slowed down and walked slowly. My thighs started to pull a little. I came to a halt. I had completed 14 kilometres and was contemplating quitting. There was also the matter of Ramsingh – potentially only the second Indian to qualify for the Olympics – tomorrow’s front page news.

Then I saw the old man again, jog-walking away at his consistent pace with single-minded focus and I said F**k it! I’m running.

At that point in time, I didn’t want to be caged by responsibilities, I had no intention of being the diligent hard-worker I always had been, the teacher’s pet. I felt like doing something outrageously crazy. Carelessly rebellious. I lost the plot completely. It was the most amazing feeling. I decided to complete the 21 kilometers.

I had absolutely no energy but I was propelled by my own release. I smiled at the old man. He didn’t bother responding. I jogged passed Haji Ali to the right and then stopped to walk again.

The stretch between 15-17 kilometres is the toughest. It’s the loneliest stretch of the race. You have no water to quench your thirst. You’re stomach growls intensely – crying for some food. You have nothing but the clothes on your back. The sun is now prime position to take away your reserve of energy. You’re looking for some solace in the smallest of things. I was. And I found it on Peddar Road – where my 8-year-old nephew spotted me, shouted “Kabir Mama!!”and ran towards me. I had never been so happy to see anyone in my life. I was cheered on by his parents as well. They stayed right on Peddar Road but they woke up that Sunday morning and participated. They were part of that Mumbai spirit that is such a vital fuel for long-distance running.

I waved goodbye and walked up the slope. I grabbed 14 Parle-G biscuits from the other enthusiastic little kids on the sidelines and devoured them all at one go. That biscuit had never tasted as good as it did then. The salivating juices in my mouth dissolved the biscuits into a succulent gooey mush. I had a mouth-orgasm. With Parle-G.

When I turned right into Marine Drive, the sun was at its scorching worst. The legs were weary and heavy as concrete blocks. My back was stiff. I could barely move my hands. I felt like I was just a stride or two away from dehydration. But my mind was somewhere else. At 18 kilometres, you involuntarily let your guard down and become a little crazy. I felt intoxicated with exhaustion. Then I was distracted by some screams on sea-facing side of the road. I saw two beautiful figures with mikes in hand addressing the crowd on a stage.

Then I found myself stopping and shouting “MONICA! NANDITA! I LOVE YOU!” – exclaiming my feelings for Dogra and Das all at once.

Some laughed at me. Other fellow half marathoners were dancing to the music playing in the background. There was an old bald fat man who stopped and started singing “Tum Hi Ho” and doing a little Hritik Roshan dance. Everyone had gone mad. Everyone was happy.

I turned left at the Oberoi and passed my work place. I had just run all the way to work. That was quite cool. Now the journey to the finish line – the last lap of the race that inevitably is the longest. I had nothing to distract me. I couldn’t help but focus on the pain. My legs were red and now screaming with pain. I could barely lift them. My stomach was cramping up. I sucked it up and continued towards the finish line that refused to arrive. My thigh pulled up again and I just began to walk slowly, not allowing the twister of a cramp to take over. I finally reached CST and the finish line came in sight. I was elated. And then it hit me. I hadn’t covered the marathon. I didn’t have my phone with me. The office would be expecting news right about now. I was hoping against hope that Ram Singh didn’t qualify. But a journalist friend I met at the finish line informed me that he did.

I took an empty train home. I rushed to my cell phone and found 39 missed calls – 28 from my boss and 11 from my two colleagues. I had to change immediately and make my second trip that morning to Express Towers, Nariman Point. Needless to say, my boss blew her top. My colleagues were venting their transference of anger from her. Life was hell on steroids for that day and the next two week – because of my act of defiance.

But I honestly didn’t care. I was still high on running on a whim. I felt undefeatable. If I had to, I would do it all over again. I’ve made it a habit to do something spontaneously combustible every now and then. And I believe that everyone must do something radically crazy at least once a year to keep themselves sane.

This one’s dedicated to the Bawi girl, who just announced her engagement last week.

 Here’s wishing you all the best as you set out on a marathon of your own. 

Independence Day

In our 67th year of Independence, we are just about standing up straight as a nation despite the evils of deep-rooted corruption and backward thought pulling us down. We should be proud.

As a people, each one has his own definition of and perspective on independence that he strives for, to carve out an identity for himself in society. For the respect of society. In India, respect is the most powerful weapon and reverence – its favourite pastime.

As far as my own journey is concerned, this year has been crucial in terms of my independence. The experience of living in a strange city with few support systems has been enlightening to say the least. To venture away from the comfort of familiarity and be pushed towards the struggle of a new life alone has been tough yet illuminative. My battle with proud poverty has been constant. Pride, because you feel a sense of achievement for every month you survive with the money you earn. The initial jolt of having a three-digit bank account truly educates you about the value of earning a healthy amount of money. You need money to live. Otherwise, you just survive.

While managing a house, there is a constant outflow of money. You never really settle down. The bills just keep piling up. Rent keeps rearing its ugly mug every month, bleeding you dry.

The five odd months of this struggle has given me some sort of perspective with regards to the people in India – at least in the three metros – Pune, Mumbai and Delhi.

Delhi is innately aggressive in love and hatred. The people will either love you with all their heart or hate you with the same amount of malice. Much like the weather, the people oscillate between the extremities of hot and cold. They are an ambitious people and Delhi is extremely wealthy. It’s easier here if you have a lot of money.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is a land for every pocket. You can struggle comfortably there. Struggling is a given. You’re either a billionaire or part of the rest. And the rest have to take the impossibly crowded trains from the unbelievably filthy platforms. They have no choice but to wait patiently in the inescapable traffic jams. They have to wade through floods and fall prey to diseases and bear the incessantly scorching heat. There is no concept of winter. They must live far away from their work-place. They must shell out an exorbitant amount of money to live in a box. There are frustrations, but there are also avenues to vent. You have the Janta’s and the Gokul’s, where the atmosphere has the perfect mix of shady and safe. Dim lighting, ugly drunken brutes with an equal amount of respectable women. Everyone is accepted. This collusion of classes and cultures adds a certain amount of character to the city and makes it extremely accommodating.

Pune is getting there. It’s a baby Bombay. Pune is still a slow city, but has gotten and is getting progressively fast-paced over the years. It’s a city run by the teenagers and the orthodox settlers – a distinct point of difference from Delhi. In Pune, most women have to come out of the closet straight, while the boldness of the gay culture in Delhi is astounding. Certain cultures still have reservations about the openness of the Pune woman. But the teenagers are slowly rebelling. It is an exciting time to witness the result of this rebellion. This teenage struggle.

Struggle is a necessity. Struggle is your wisest teacher. The key is to learn to love struggle and all that comes with it. Take some risks. Strive to be the hero of your life at the risk of being a victim. Go for broke.      

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Lord don’t move the mountain,
But give me strength to climb it
Please don’t move that stumbling block,
But lead me Lord around it

The way may not be easy,
You didn’t say that it would be
For when our tribulations get too light,
We tend to stray from Thee.

–          Mahalia Jackson

The Pursuit of Happyness – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NoLh4xYp1Y

Why cuddle now?

ImageSex is the most complicated thing in the world.

Sex is that simple act that is intricately compound in nature. Sex is edgy, cool, straightforward and yet so contradictory in its various forms.

Sex is a bomb, a drug and a cure. Sex is abstinence and addiction; fake yet carnal; impure but indispensable. At times – natural and at others, unimaginably perverse. It’s a thrilling mystery and routine boredom.

Kids wonder what it is. Adolescents are increasingly curious. Teenagers want it more than anything in the world. Young adults get it by the pound. And then they think they’ve understood it, but that turns out be far from the truth. They enjoy sex while it lasts and then there is the inevitable stress of delay. Everyone walks the plank. With that sharp sword of worry prodding us closer to the sea of stress.  Few fall in, The rest are let off with a bloodcurdling warning.

 We continue to have sex. A little more cautiously. We are more in control. Everyone loves carefree sex. You make love in a relationship. You get bored. You bang a random friend. You’re brimming with machismo. Spontaneous sex is the best kind.

After that stressful day of work, or football, or if you’re just tired from doing nothing, sex is the perfect release. Till it’s not. 

Sex becomes devastating, violent and devious. Painful pleasure. Sex is a beautiful vice and an iniquitous sin. It takes the equation to another level. For some odd reason, emotions are attached to this outrageously physical act.

For some, sex breeds love. Love, unlike sex, is abstract, unconditional, truthful and pure in every form. For me, sex is sex. I love sex but I don’t fall in love because of it. I’m not stone-hearted. I have my romantic moments. Here and there. Now and then. But sex is physical. Sex is phenomenal. Till it lasts. And then it’s over. The deed is done. So why cuddle now?