Watching love as it ages


IMG_7207A school friend and I were discussing about the point (rather pointlessness) of life and we concluded that it is gene propagation; food and sex are just means to it. Sex is very primal and over the years, we as a society have started making random associations with it such as love, etc. So, love is a man-made concept and like all man-made concepts, it’s quite subjective, fluid and hard to define. Thanks to literature, and now media, we have a nice little template to go with.

If you are 16 (or probably younger today), love is that feeling which gives you the tingle, makes your groin ache and what not. If you are in your 30s, love is that feeling when your husband surprises you with roses even on your 10th anniversary, and you can put that on Instagram. When you are in your 50s, love is that hypothetical feeling when your husband praises your culinary skills in front of your family and friends. Given that the husband would never do such things, your love probably died the day you had kids. When you are in your 70s or 80, it is love when your husband holds your hand while crossing the road. But then you think he is trying to act like he is 16, because love is only for youngsters no?

I’d like to argue that love can be so much more, but we are limiting its potential by trying to confine ourselves to the template thrown at us by a large data set of movies with stereotypical plots of love and it’s implications on our lives. Ask anyone who has lived a long life (I mean like over 40-50 years) with a companion and all they have left of this person is memories, they will tell you what love felt like for them. If we all left love to take over our lives and let it do it’s magic without trying to control it every minute, I am sure we will have so many more stories about love to tell our next generation. Okay, I haven’t asked anyone about love when they are old and withering, and it’s hard to guess either because social conditioning makes us feel like its wrong to feel romantic love as we grow old.

We like to think of love as a short-lived fleeting feeling one only feels once or twice at the most in their entire lives. That’s because we still think of love as being that pain in the groin, and the thing that you feel down there in your 70s is just herpes. But what if love is not just about someone whispering sweet nothings in your ear or running their fingers down your neck. What if love were to walk into your life in a disguise, would you ever know? The problem is we don’t recognise the face of love as it ages, it only feels familiar in retrospect. The same love that you feel for someone when you are 16, grows into a different person as you grow older. This 3rd person called love in your life evolves with you.

What if I told you love is that feeling of exhaustion (or relief) when you walk into a house that looks like a disaster, but your partner has managed to put your toddler to bed by the time you got back home from a tiring day at work. If you are 50, love is that feeling of frustration you feel when your husband won’t let you sleep in late even on a Sunday because he can’t start the day without your home cooked breakfast. If you are 70 or 80, love is that feeling of helplessness you feel when your wife won’t give up on trying to change you even after 40-50 years of marriage.

Most of us have probably been in love once or twice, but watching love as it ages is a whole new experience all together, I think.


Temple Go-ers


After having lived in West London for nearly a year, we decided to go see South hall to belt some Punjabi food. As soon as we got out of the South hall railway station, we were surrounded by the whiff of mind-blowing food from the neighbouring Gurudhwara. We were no tempted to go inside and check if there’s food for non-Sikh people. We chickened out and made our way to this highly rated restaurant in the area which turned out to have the shittiest service I’ve seen anywhere till date.

Later I learnt that we could have very well gone to the Gurudhwara as there was free lunch being served to everyone. I also learnt about other temples and churches that dole out delicious free food to everyone. I learnt that there is a temple very close to where I live that serves delicious dinner as prasadam on Friday evenings and so we promptly headed there Friday evening. This temple is called Kanaga Turkai Amman kovil, and based on the misplaced ka and ga, I am guessing it’s of tamil origin. Everyone was dressing in very traditional Indian clothes, clad in jewellery, etc. I have never dressed up to go to a temple, so I felt a bit out of place here. I was constantly worried about getting caught. Caught for what, I am not sure.

People started reciting some shloka type thing from laminated sheets with English and tamil writing, that was being passed around to everyone. Sitting amidst all the unfamiliar chanting, I couldn’t help but think of what Yuval Noah Harari had to say about religion and how it is yet another imagined order. The way I’ve understood God, is that he/ she always existed, before all humans and before all animals. And most well respected temples back home are old very old temples that have existed from before our grandparents. Also, most of the time, there is a story like Old Rama stopped here on his way to Lanka, or Ravan dropped this Linga on his way from Kasi and so on, which makes the idol holier than a piece of stone some humans erected. The older the story, the more authentic the temple seems since more generations can vouch for its “powers”.

While finding directions to the temple, I read a review on google that said this temple is great because a lot of senior devotees come here. Now, this Ganesha in Ealing, did he come from India? How did he get past immigration? What visa is he on? How long has he been here? What are his powers? or do people just come here to feel a sense of community? I had so many questions, and I think I would have been more at ease if I knew the back story of this temple. Although, I was floored by these people who had left their lands (myself included), but brought their collective imaginations along.

All of us had our own reasons to be there, some to flaunt their jewellery, some to ask for happiness, some for the food, some out of practice, some to celebrate our collective imagination and some to just scream and run around like Berry. Ok, Berry wasn’t screaming but was surely running around some boy who was screaming and running to get her attention. These kids were truly having a good time, because how often do you scream and run around people who look familiar (people wearing saris and panches), without your parents constantly dragging you to behave in this country where manners matter more than feelings?

But as all good things have to come to an end, one elderly lady kept coming to us and asking us to control this boy who was screaming and running around. One, we didn’t know who this boy was, because his parents were no where in the scene and two, Berry didn’t quite fit the typical temple go-er profile, as it’s people like this lady (senior devotees who celebrate our imagined orders) who drive better google reviews for the temple, we decided to leave. No doubt, Berry screamed being tucked into the shackles of her carrier but stepping out made me break free from the shackles of a collective imagined order I no longer believe in.

P.S – I am not an atheist. I am not a non-believer of idol worship. I am just a sucker for stories. Thank you, Yuval Noah Harari for opening my mind, for allowing me to see the universe from a perspective I hadn’t known for over a third of my life.

“Feeling” homeless

A couple of years ago, I was a resident of Spain (where I didn’t have a home anymore), working in Indonesia (living in an Airbnb) and trying to move to the US for an exchange program (where I was still looking for a house). I was in India for a two week holiday, and technically I should have felt home, on the contrary, I was feeling terribly unsettled for not being able to feel at home anywhere in any of the 4 countries at the intersection of which my life lay.

One of my friends thought it sounded like a first world problem, and may be it was, but a problem it was nevertheless. I was hoping it was a phase, and it would pass. Two years hence, I am once again at the same place. 10 months ago, I moved to London convinced that my real home was always going to be Bangalore despite remembering what my cousin-in-law had once told me about being abroad “As long as you think your home is back in India, you will never make an attempt to make a home outside, grow your social network and so on”. The thing is, for the longest time I believed that I could never live anywhere else but Bangalore, and so despite my best efforts, I can’t feel home anywhere but Bangalore.

I had booked my tickets to Bangalore within a couple of months of moving to London, and so you can imagine, the countdown to this trip felt like forever unlike the actual trip itself which lasted 12 days. I thought I was going to feel at home. I landed in Bangalore, and went straight home, or atleast what used to be home before I moved to London. Although it felt like I’d never left (thanks to my family back home who had helped maintain our house while we were away), I couldn’t feel at home. I thought it was jetlag. I was surrounded by all my close family and friends, shared every meal with someone or the other, yet something was missing.

This has got me questioning on what constitutes a home if not for the people who make up my life? Is it my room? Is it my desk? Is it a definite routine? Or is it just the simple belief that some place (any place really) is actually home? Growing up, every time I felt unsettled and needed a fresh start, I would want to skip school/ college, spend the day re-organizing my room and spending some quality time with myself, penning down my thoughts. I used to feel at home in the confines of my room, rather my solitude. Ever since I’ve been married, and more so since I’ve been a mum, I have traded the option of occasional me-time (in my own room) to being drowned in constant company (read shared bedrooms or study).

Now, while this seems like yet another first world problem, “me time” is super important for all of us, sometimes just to pause, reflect and so on. May be that’s why people have a prayer room instead, because it seems like a legit reason to not be disturbed?

Letters to my Berry#15


This has been the longest I have actually taken to write you a monthly birthday letter and this is mainly because we were off to Bangalore on a holiday and my routine was completely disrupted. In hindsight, I am glad I waited because 15.5 months seems like a better milestone than 15 months because of the sheer developments I have seen in the last couple of weeks. This month, you met Santa for the first time at the Christmas party in your nursery, cried your lungs out but managed to get a lovely present from Santa (courtesy smithfield) and also enjoyed the music and movements session at the party. However, you were mostly sticking to us through the party, wonder if seeing so many parents at once was daunting for you?

However, you are a completely new person now. especially post the Bangalore trip. You are ‘tarle’ to the core, so much so that you bit our selfie stick into pieces this morning. You are in this massive destructive phase where you have all this unshaken energy that simply cannot be contained by one adult and it is positively correlated to the number of adults watching you. You seemed fine on the flight to Bangalore (slept for the first couple of hours), which I had dreaded for a while now. You were very perplexed when you arrived home here in Jayanagar, very unsure of where you had come and if it was okay to walk around the house, but within a few days, you’d become a ‘dada’ in that house pulling every drawer/ shelf you could find, running into the balcony at every opportune moment and trying to hide in the on-suite bathroom every time you saw the door open.

Your curiosity has increased multi-fold. You would keep trying to go into the bathroom and close the door behind you, but we wouldn’t let you. Finally one day I wanted to watch what you did, so let you close the door and then walked in a minute later to see that you were trying to pull up the toilet seat to see what’s inside and when I caught you do that, you had the cutest sly grin on your face. I am sure you will do plenty of silly things behind my back, and remember that even if I don’t peep in to see what you are upto, I will have a pretty good idea because you know what, I have been there and done that myself 🙂

The day we arrived in Bangalore, ajji thatha came home to meet you and you had no trouble recognising them, as you went to them quite instinctively, especially to thatha. I guess his hymn (onannna baranna berry-anna) helped a tad bit. You also went to Inna ajji at the same time, although with mani ajji you just smiled from far away and hesitated in the beginning. However, over time you grew quite friendly with her, so muchOne of the biggest revelations for us in Bangalore was seeing how social you are and have no trouble going to strangers, almost on the verge of being quite kidnap-prone. For instance, you happily held our house watchman’s hand and started walking away with him, even though you were meeting him for the first time. So, yeah, we’ve got to watch out.

The upsides to you being social of course meant that we didn’t have to bother taking care of you when we went somewhere – muthajji mane, leela aunty’s house, kitta thatha’s house, etc. In fact, you were a mini celebrity at muthajji mane on day 2 after landing in Bangalore, with your babble-y rhymes and dance moves. The most amazing bit about that day was how you went and hugged every person in the room in between your performance, almost as if to make sure each and every one there paid you attention and didn’t feel left out of your attention as well. You have clearly taken after your mutthajji in this aspect since neither appa nor I are this socially lubricated.

We even left you with Ajji thatha overnight for a couple of days just so you could spend more time with them since all anyone in India cared about was spending time with you rather than with us. They thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with you barring the time you broke amma’s glasses, and left them sleepless and exhausted, although they will vehemently argue that they enjoyed your destructive streak too. You even bore the mosquitoes like a champ, with one swollen eye and what not, thanks to your NRI-ness.

Ajji thatha have taught you some animal sounds, and the way you say meow is the cutest, EVER! You really like animals, you enjoyed playing with the kitten in Swaroopa’s house, random bow bows all over Bangalore and the ducks in the lake at Hyde park. You came with us to all the awesome bhindi places we went to and belted dose everywhere – Mahalakshmi, Vidyarthi Bhavan, Maiyyas and SN. To be fair, the only place you actually enjoyed the dose was at Vidyarthi Bhavan, and of course, enjoyed conversing with random strangers at neighbouring tables there too.

Thanks to hanging out with ajji thatha, we discovered that you know ABCD, all nursery rhymes and so on, which you seem to have picked up at your nursery. You have also started communicating extensively, mostly in babbles and it sounds so cute, except I feel very bad that I can’t understand what you say. You can also say a few basic things – in fact, you have started to use words to manipulate/ get your way. For instance, you say taachi (sleep) when you want to be breast fed because you think I’ll feed you if you were to fall asleep more than if you were to just ask me for milk. This goes to show how manipulation is such a basic instinct. Oh and you can also say kakka when you are doing potty, which is really cool because this means you are ready to be potty trained next.

Sometimes, we let you sleep in the crib and since, we have removed one side of it, when you wake up in the middle of the night, you come over to our bed by yourself and get all cozy with us. It’s cute, but scary because I don’t even realise when you come sleep next to me. You go to bed early and rise early. When you are sleeping between appa and me, you wake up the moment you lose warmth on one side, which is usually from appa’s side since he wakes up early every day. You follow him to the bathroom, brush your teeth yourself while he brushes his and then follow him to the kitchen and run around him till he gives you haala. You have your haala while we have our morning coffee.

You get ready with us every morning, bring your shoes and jacket just when we are wearing ours since you love stepping out of home. You keep saying tata and going off all the time, especially on your tiny bug scooter. You loved stepping out in Bangalore, since we’d take you up and down in the lift, which is your most favourite place in the world right now. May be you will grow up to be like M Ganesha and A Ganesha loving lift aata. You have also got a new peppa pig bag from ajji thatha which you will start taking from now on, since you love peppa pig. You can actually say peppa. Well, I must confess that I got you hooked onto peppa because I liked the show, so if there’s anyone to blame for excessive screen time that would be me.

Theres always so much to write about you, and when I fall back on my letters to you, it’s that much harder to squeeze so many things into a tiny blogpost. So I promise to write to you more often so I can tuck away more memories for us to reminisce on. You are going to your first late night, new years party now at our friends place, so I am going to end on a good luck note for us, so we can all have a good time (which means you will hopefully sleep early. Haha).





Relationships, spinach and their expiry dates


If you’ve gone grocery shopping to a super market, you’ll know that the fresher stock (with later expiry dates) is always stocked up behind the older stuff because supermarkets like to follow FIFO (first in first out). However, what they probably don’t realise is that there are people like me who know this and they will end up with LIFO (last in first out) instead. Someone like my husband would think why bother making the effort of sorting through the stock as long as they are all within the expiry date – what’s the big difference anyway? It makes a huge difference – If I know the spinach is going to expire in 7 days instead of 3, I could happily dump the spinach in the fridge for a few extra days not worrying about making the decision of salvaging it. It’s not always because I want to cook with fresher spinach, sometimes, it’s about having the option to not cook with it immediately despite buying it. Strange you think?

Think about this – When you are fresh in a relationship, you could have a fight or two in a day and still be snuggling up in bed later that night, but if you’ve been together for a long time, a fight is always ugly – you always have to deal with it immediately, it can take a few days for you to “resolve” it before you can snuggle up in bed. The fresher a relationship, the longer you can keep stuff in the fridge and not bother about it (until the expiry date), whereas older relationships can’t be taken for granted for too long because relationships have expiry dates, egos that grow with time and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the more likely you are closer to its expiry date.

With age, relationships mature, like old wine or single malts – so in a way, they don’t really ever expire. But some people enjoy the taste of it, some don’t. For those that don’t, that relationship has an expiry date. We all want fresher spinach because some of us want our relationship to retain its novelty, some of us want to take it for granted for longer, but we all want it to be fresher for longer. So when you’ve picked up spinach that is going to expire in 4 days and you see someone next to you who has picked up a packet that’s due to expire in 5 days, you want their packet so bad because apparently even one extra day can make all the difference.

We always want to go back in our relationships, even if it’s one step, because we are a day farther away from it’s expiry, its fresher by one day or we have a day longer to take it for granted. Familiarity increases with time, quirks become exposed, our reactions to the other person’s quirks mellow down over time (because you can’t possible break up with someone because they leave the toilet seat up all the time, come on!! that’s what men do right?), we start to become comfortable with things that were unthinkable at one point. Then, someday, something hits you hard, an expiry date or existential crisis for instance, and you start thinking and overthinking all the changes in your life and suddenly, you want your neighbour’s packet of spinach, you want to go back in time, just so you can shove your problems in the fridge for longer and not have to make the decision of whether you need to salvage it now or not.

God, this is such a morbid view of relationships. Sometimes, I can be very cynical. Most of us are, and it’s okay. As Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s also just our imagined order.

Does your memory embarrass you?


Ishita, my friend from Ross asked me if I knew this guy, Rohit Nair, who is her teammate at work. Yes, I know the guy. I mean, I don’t “know” know him, but I know of him. He is the same batch as me, and went to a different branch of the school I went to. He went to the same NTSE summer coaching class as me, back in 2002. Now, did we know each other then? No. We had this tradition in class, where the teacher would call out the names of kids with the top scores every week and his name was probably called out once or twice.

Now, if that wasn’t enough to get registered in my memory, I met this chap again in 2003 at an inter-school fest called Vivum at The International School, Bangalore. He somehow knew one of my classmates and by the virtue of having a common friend, we hung out for about 30min, not talking to each other really, but talking to the common friend. And now, 14 years later, I still remember the guy. If he ever read this, he would think I am creepy. But you see, it’s not me, it’s just my embarrassingly good memory.

At the very same fest, there was another girl who was a co-finalist in the personality contest – Akshaya Megharikh. She’d danced for this very popular number from this movie, Dil Too Pagal Hai, twisted her ankle mid way through her performance and yet won the contest. She was trained at the Shamak Dawar Institute. She beat Divya Suresh (who sang a song from Evanascence) and me (who sang Tere bina zindagi se koi). Now why do I remember all this?

Following on my classmate, Nikhila’s advice, we must remember the times we’re beaten because that’s what makes us stronger, I guess I just remember her because I was beaten? In any case, I had the great fortune of working with her on the same team 11 years later and creeping her out with my memory, although she confessed to having similar traits because she remembered one of my close friends, Rahul’s birthday, who used to be her neighbour 2 decades ago.

A lot of us remember such random details about other people that it’s almost embarrassing to say, because may be the other person won’t remember and they’ll probably think you are making stuff up or think of you as a creepy stalker. It takes a lot of courage to confess and that’s why, I love people who are brave enough to walk up to you and tell you that they recognise you from somewhere (even if they have just stalked you on Facebook!).

There are, of course, other reasons apart from being plain embarrassed or being too snooty to walk upto someone and tell them you recognise them – sometimes you wait to long before you make up your mind about coming forward and then the moment has passed and it’s too awkward. Once my husband met a friend and his wife, and the first thing he realised about the wife is that she used to be another friend’s crush and he knew the songs that his friend used to listen to when he was trying to get over this girl. Now, this is the kind of stuff you can’t say out loud, or you shouldn’t!!

People don’t mind remembering other people, they are more finicky about remembering events. Sometimes, people actively shut out memories of events they are not very proud of. So, it’s a good idea to not remind them if you happen to recollect it, even if you think it’s normal to recollect. For instance, my sister hates being reminded of her past, while I don’t mind. I had a good friend remind me of something she said when we were 16 about how a crush is like a sneeze and the harder you try to hold it back, the more painful it gets – it made me smile. It brought back good memories and I was glad to be reminded.

I think what is harmless to remind people about is if you happen to recognise them and they are able to recollect meeting you, with your help. Most of the time, I am pretty good at remembering people, if not events or numbers or anything else. If you ever find me not acknowledging you when you think I should know you, just come grab me, I am probably just too shy/ embarrassed by my own memory to come say I know you/ know of you.



We need real’er cartoons!

Until I had Berry, I’d always tell myself that I would not resort to letting the kid watch cartoons/ videos to make him/ her eat, but then, when you actually have a kid, your priorities change. I have mostly been optimising for my time and also getting everything done, which means I have resorted to cartoons just because it means I can prepare Berry’s dinner without her being stuck to my leg like a leech. But I have been quite picky on the cartoons I let her watch since I have to like watching them too.

By that metric, Peppa Pig had been a clear winner for us. I am personally more addicted to it than Berry, who honestly couldn’t care less about it. What I love about it is how relatable it is from a kid’s perspective. Compare it to a cartoon like Popeye from my times. It was about two men being in love with one woman, and one of them popping a can of spinach to beat up the other guy to win over the woman. I mean, why would you even care about this as a 4-5 year old?! Or take Perils of Penelope Pitstop – about this dainty little car racing chick who is always putting on make-up while this shady guy (with a cute dog, Mutley) is always trying to de-rail her path while he ends up sabotaging his own life – this doesn’t even make any sense.

On the other hand, Peppa pig is all about everyday stuff. Peppa Pig has several other animal friends who are all a different shape and colour, which accurately represents life in London which is such an amalgamation of diversity. I think it’s important to see and acknowledge the difference early on, else we have difficulty appreciating diversity of thought as adults. Apart from such big learnings, there is also little stuff like understanding what parents do at work in this episode where Peppa and George go to their Daddy’s office – There’s a cat that prints shapes (read makes presentations), there’s another person that looks at “very important” number (read the finance guy) and there’s daddy pig who does some analytics. So all everyday regular stuff that makes it easier for kids to understand the present life around them.

So you can imagine why I love Peppa pig as a practical guide to growing up. But it all changed last evening when I watched the episode “Sun Sea and Snow” in which Peppa’s family is supposed to go the beach the following day. It snows all night and the whole city including their house is kind of buried in snow by the next morning, so Peppa and George go jump on Mummy and Daddy pig while they are still in bed, asking them to wake up to come see the snow. And the next scene is all 4 of them going down the stairs fully dressed.

I mean, how could they all be ready that quickly? This can’t be real life. Getting ready and stepping out of the house with little kids is like a military expedition. You can’t skip the getting ready to go out bit, just like that. I was completely thrown off by how easy they made stepping out seem.

Who was going to pack George’s diaper bag (he’s 2!!), snacks and drinks for both Peppa and George, change of clothes just in case one of them gets messy, raincoats for everyone (because it’s Britain and the weather is so erratic), sanitisers, tissues and what not. How are kids ever going to understand what it really takes to step out, so they be more helpful in getting ready? I can’t wait till Berry becomes a parent to realise this. We need some real’er cartoons!!!