Wednesday, February 08, 2012

In which alternate careers are explored

So yesterday, someone on my timeline (why, yes! I am on Twitter now!) asked one of those questions that are guaranteed to mess up your head.

“Are you what you’ve always wanted to be?”

The reason this kind of question throws me into a tizzy is because I’ve never been one of those people, who, since the age of five, have known, with dazzling certainty, what they wanted to grow up and be. Hell, I don’t think that thought (or any thought really; I was not a very bright child) crossed my mind until I hit eighteen and was forced to, y’know decide on a career.

Like most daydream-prone, reality-divorced people, my professional (for want of a better word) ambitions were usually based on something I’d recently read about / seen / heard. This, for someone who grew up in a household full of genre-defying cultural stimuli, proved to be, as you can imagine, a bit of an issue.

At some point or the other, some of the professions (and I use the term loosely) on my list were: Maria von Trapp (or Julie Andrews), astronaut, fairy, singer (I haven’t given up on this one yet), doctor, vet, theatre actress (more on this later), rich heiress, item dancer (someday, when my body catches up with my mind) and, umm, hooker.

It was some time after our third-year exams, when the prospect of another whole year* of doing the same bloody things loomed large and depressing, that N and I decided we would become hookers. There was, it seemed, such a thing as too much painting. And too much drawing. And too many goddamn girls wearing black nail-polish and too many boys wearing their hair long and too much of being surrounded by people who were so much like you that you want to throw up at the very sameness of it all. And of course, this being Delhi in the late 90s, the concept of part-time jobs to supplement your meagre pocket money did not come into the picture and GOD were you sick of asking your parents for money.

And because a not-quite-graduate from art school is a gloriously, magnificently unemployable creature, 'hooker' was the only career option we had the er, assets for. But we weren't just going to be ANY hookers, mind you, we we’re going to be hookers from BROOKLYN, bay-bee! Because that’s where all the awesome-est hookers went (or came from). I don’t know where we got the idea that Brooklyn was the pinnacle of hookerdom - probably from the same place we got the idea that getting paid for sex was like, the coolest job *ever* – but there you have it. (Considering that we had never been to the States, nor had any previous hookering (hooking?) experience, I’d say the place was called Really Stupid Central.)

Ah, youth and all its accompanying idiocy!

So according to our plan, were going to quit college, somehow reach the states, proceed to sleep with different guys every night and get paid for it. Except, and therein lay the rub, neither of us had lost the curse yet** and sex was a little like Kandivali, i.e. unexplored and possibly hostile territory. And because the market for Brooklyn hookers was kinda difficult to break into – being the seat of higher hookerdom and all – we decided that we needed some sort of specialisation that didn’t involve any actual,

The plan was shelved back then because it seemed no-one wanted to pay to have baffling conversation – which is the best we could offer at that point – with cute-but-clueless girls (oh cruel world!). But as the noughties rolled around, the internet’s orgy with language and capacity for instant gratification led to the birth of instant messaging, which has unearthed in me a surprising talent.

I might be socially inept and magnificently awkward in real life, but I give great IM.

Kind of like a 21st-century whore of mensa.

*I don’t know if this is a case with a lot of other undergrad courses – with the exception of engineering and medicine – but ours, the Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Delhi College of Art was four years long. And in this I was informed, we were lucky because earlier it was a five-year course and before that a SEVEN-year course. Though what on earth you could possibly do in art school for SEVEN YEARS is a bit of a mystery to me. What you can do after seven years of a liberal arts education, is an even bigger mystery.

**Yes, yes, we were slow starters okay? Although it *was* more a matter of venue than virtue. Did YOU guys ever get any that wasn’t a furtive grope in the back of somebody’s car? I mean, where, if you were in college and yes, still living with your parents DID you make out?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


So, over the weekend, I attended my first ever post-funeral prayer meeting and discovered the following:

1. My wardrobe is hideously ill-equipped to deal with family gatherings of the more serious kind. I’d been asked to dress ‘sober’, which apparently meant 'wear a salwar-kameez, preferably in white or pastels', and not ‘please, please don’t show up like drunken skank’ as I’d first assumed. BUT, since I had only ever attended Sindhi functions which typically call for COLOUR! And DIAMONDS! And SPARKLY THINGS! I had nothing. Not ONE measly outfit in anything remotely pastel-ly. Then, after much rummaging around in suitcases of clothes-that-no-longer-fit-you-but-you’re-living-in-denial-about, I found the white kurta I’d worn to my graduation (along with other stuff, pervs). It was a little snug around the hips but wearable, so some small part of me (obviously not the hips, shuddup) sat through that POST-FUNERAL prayer meeting being delighted about fitting into my pre-30s clothes. Really, It's a wonder I'm allowed into civilised society at all.

2. Man, these Sindhis co-opt *everything*! When the priest started reciting I was all “oh prayers in Sindhi, okay I’ll just sit here in this corner and look serious”. Then he ended a paragraph with the words “Satnam shri wahe guru!” and I was all, ‘What the…?!’ For a few puzzled minutes I wondered if the SB was secretly half-sikh and for reasons unknown, had chosen to hide it from me*. Found out later that Sindhis just take a bit of everything they like from the great celestial buffet in the sky. Bataao.

3. Was stopped by grim old lady in a white sari who asked me, “Tu Mala ki bahu hai?” For about three seconds I was all, ‘Who? Wha...? NO!!’ until it sunk in that wait a minute, I *am*! Was so startled by the realisation that I could only manage a weak smile and a sheepish, Ji. See the thing is, I hardly ever hear anyone addressing the MIL by name, and I have never, never been called anybody’s 'bahu'. Freaked me out for a minute, is all. Have since then been fighting the urge to go around asking people “Whose bahu are YOU, bitch?”

4. Despite my tendency to look like a chicken-that’s-seen-pictures-of-a-tandoor when faced with the prospect of attending ‘family functions’, I managed and towards the end, actually got quite comfortable. You know that saying, the fear is often greater than the danger itself? That shit is TRUE, y’all.

So, er. That happened.

* Which would be very twisted because I am one of the few women I know who find Sardars VERY hot. (I blame Rabbi Shergill for this).

Monday, March 08, 2010

10 ways... drive your friendly neighbourhood editor mad as a loon.

1. When you send in your first ever enquiry mail, make sure your mail features a large variety of fonts in different point sizes, in every colour of the rainbow and then some. No really, nothing warms the cockles of our little editorial hearts than enquiry emails that sear our retinas. Eyesight? Pah! Who needs it?!

2. Pitch your editor story ideas on the lines of, ‘I went to this fabulous place that every single travel magazine has covered about fifty thousand times before! I have no new insights on it at all but hey! This is me! The fabulous-est writer in all of writerdom! Surely you would not deny yourself the privilege of publishing something *I* have authored? I may even let you pay me for it! At higher-than-standard market rates, of course! And yes, you may now weep with gratefulness.’

3. Pepper your pitch with misspellings, atrocious grammar and cryptic acronyms. A generous sprinkling of ellipses is always appreciated. And don’t forget children, commas are the new confetti!

4. Before submitting your story, send your editor angsty pieces about your troubled relationship with your father. (You should preferably be of the male persuasion for this to have maximum worry effect). Then, pointedly ask the bewildered, flustered soul what she thinks of them. You may also accost her on chat and show her pictures of your houseplant / dog / ex. Ask for her honest opinions on these as well.

5. Miss your deadline, preferably by three to five days and make sure you are absolutely unreachable in that time. The window should be just enough so that your editor starts tearing her hair out with worry, but is not quite sure whether it’s worth commissioning another writer because it would mean briefing them, and then begging them to give you the piece by the now-even-tighter deadline.

6. Plagiarise, plagiarise, plagiarise. To do this with style, leave in the hyperlinks to the websites you’ve brazenly lifted from. When confronted by said editor, be absolutely unapologetic. Say things like, “But an Onam Sadya is the same wherever you eat it! I can’t write THAT differently.” When informed by the editor that she will not be carrying your story because it is not, in effect, YOUR story, get all huffy. Send her an angry, indignant mail telling her that she should have TOLD you about the Wiki links so that you could rework it! And that if she’s NOT carrying the story, the loss is HERS. So there!

(This will probably cause your editor to cry big splashy tears into her keyboards, but really, she is stupid and had it coming. What can you do?)

7. Once you have sent in the story, ask her repeatedly what she thinks of it, expecting of course, nothing less than effusive praise. If she has the temerity to suggest changes, get all huffy. Hey, YOU’RE the writer. If she was one, would she be editing??

8. Once your story has been printed and you have received your payment and your magazine copy, mail your editor accusing her of being unprofessional and unethical for editing your story TO HER MAGAZINE’S STANDARDS. The nerve of her!

9. Coldly inform her that you are no longer interested in writing for her magazine ever again. Then, after a month or so, send her an alleged email exchange between you and a friend, which has absolutely nothing to do anything on god’s earth as she knows it. And now that you’ve broken the ice with the aforementioned email, tell her that you’d like to get to know her better. And that you’d like to continue writing for her. Because lame attempts to flirt, especially with a person who is thoroughly spooked out by you, will get you EVERYWHERE.

Ah! And it turns out there are only nine.
So far*.

*Oh great proofreader in the sky! I am not trying to tempt fate or anything. I have witnessed thy wrath! Please do not send me any more of the crazies!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I'm not a big one for jewellery, but there's a pair of earrings I want. I can't show you pictures of them (I saw them four years ago), I can't tell you where to pick them up (they were hanging from a friend's earlobes) and I can't tell you exactly what they're worth (not much in money, but because I can't have them, effectively priceless).

I can tell you what they were like though. Think dark hair falling in soft waves. Black metal. Not shiny, just, very black. Think art nouveau wrought iron, winding, curling, looping. Distilling the waves from her hair into a dark lattice. Then, hanging from different points in the framework, garnets. Not real ones; just cut glass. But a deep, deep red. Like the arils of ripe pomegranates.

And every time she moved her head, the facets would catch the light, somehow turn it inwards, and glow. Like embers in a dying fire.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

No longer skirting issues

So, last week, I went and bought myself a skirt. Which, if you know me at all, is just mind-boggling because my legs haven’t actually seen the light of day since, oh about 1995 which was my last year in a school uniform.

I don’t know whether this is a result of spending all those years in rape-capital Delhi, but the Skepticus sisters have always been modest (and I’m being kind here – the correct description would be ‘severely retarded’) dressers. If you have ever caught a glimpse of above-the-ankle Skepticus-girl-leg, it is almost certain that you are either a spouse, a sibling, or a parent of the sisters (and we shall not mention the boyfriends of the youngest Skepticus girl (aka, yours truly) because even in those cases, as LONG as her clothing stayed on, it was perfectly modest, thankyouverymuch).

Now while this bizarre sense of fashion would've had the sternest Taliban elder brushing away proud tears from his rheumy eyes, it rather confounded everyone else. The Skepticus parents had never imposed a dress-code on their daughters, so this concerted effort to drape themselves in shamiana-size attire was quite a mystery. They consistently wore shirts three sizes too large, skirts that routinely swept the floors and salwar-kameezes that would have sent maternity-wear-designers rushing for their sketchbooks.

”Show some forearm, woman!” was the kind of exhortation a Skepticus girl got from friends, when she was worrying about boys not noticing her.

This extreme modesty also parented the invention of the Emergency Skirts that prevailed in the Skepticus household through every summer through the ‘90s. The thing was, Delhi summers were non-conducive to the sisters’ Victorian ideas about dressing; sweltering limbs do not a comfortable Skepticus girl make. Now there was no choice as far as public appearances went (because the world couldn’t EVER know they had legs!), but within the confines of their home, they felt liberated enough to don shorts and t-shirts, provided there were no non-family people around. But this created a curious problem, for if all the sisters were thusly attired and the doorbell rang, how would they answer it? So the girls procured a bunch of ankle-length, elastic-waisted skirts in various patterns, with the single common feature that they were all uniformly ugly. Their only redeeming feature was that you could slip them on in half a second over whatever you were currently wearing.

Now the Skepticus mom, being the Skepticus mom, found this fervent modesty hilarious, and proceeded to tell all her friends all about it. Which might’ve been okay, if said friend-list had not included Mrs Chauhan – a lady with the lung power of a particularly accomplished Wagnerian valkyrie (with a pucca UP accent, that too) and a complete and utter lack of tact.

The aforementioned Mrs Chauhan one day decided to call upon the Skepticus household. Finding the door locked (unusual for the Skepticus home), she stood at the doorstep armed with her iron lungs and yelled, “Arre kapde pehenne ki zaroorat nahiiin! Main hi hooooon!” simultaneously scandalising and deafening all of F-block, the sisters and particularly poor, grey-haired Mr Satija (their neighbour downstairs) who forever after looked at the sisters with suspicion and a wee bit of wonder. (The man had four sons – enough to worry about without the disturbing revelation that the house upstairs was home to wanton nudists.)

But age, perspective and the absence of loudmouthed neighbours are slowly bringing about a change in this attitude and it is no longer so unusual to catch a glimpse of Skepticus-girl calf (as in, part of leg, not baby bovine) or even inch-above-the-knee leg. You might even run into a Skepticus girl who is actually wearing a top which leaves no ambiguity (!) as far as her gender is concerned.

And then yesterday, I went and bought myself a halterneck top, effectively laying to rest the ghosts of Delhi in the '90s, four completely daft sisters and the very loud voice of one Mrs Chauhan.

Say hello to the world, shoulders (and legs)! You're going be seeing a whole lot more of it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mapmaker, mapmaker, go find another cause, ok?

It seems that people will still insist on giving me directions even after I tell them I'm navigation impaired. Even after I tell them that I'm just nodding intelligently to make them feel better and nothing they say is actually making sense to me.

I'm wondering if there's something I should do to deal with this. Sticking my fingers in my ears and going lalaalalalaa! is likely to be ineffective, as is an honest admission, so I'm thinking, the next time someone attempts to tell me how to get someplace (despite my cries for mercy), here's what I'm going to do:

1. Listen very attentively. Like, super attentively. Focus my eyes right on their mouths and follow the movements of their tongues. And then frown, like I don't understand why their tongues are moving that way.

2. Lean in, look deep into their eyes and in my huskiest, I-want-you-NOW* voice, say, "Did you mean 'left from Senapati Bapat Marg'?"

3. Smile brightly. Then look away, hurt. Then giggle. Rinse and repeat.

Okay, that's all I've got.

Although anyone who knows me well knows I will have to work REALLY hard at this. Wanting someone usually just reduces me to a goggle-eyed, incoherent, gawkward mess.

Fascinating insights into the working of my brain.

OR, why people like me ought to have restricted access to the Internet.

I opened a wiki page to research something, and then forgot what the thing was. I have the attention span of a gnat.

I only know of gnats as vaguely insect-like creatures. I have never actually encountered one.

(Not that that stops me from passing judgement on their limited attention spans)

Hey, how do I know I haven't encountered one if I don't know what one LOOKS like?

Wait! I have a wiki page open! I will now find out what a gnat looks like, and consequentially, whether or not I have ever encountered one.

Wiki has no gnat pictures! Now I will never know!

Oh wait, there's google images. Googlingooglingoogling...the hell? Gnats look just like mosquitoes!

Ah! And wordweb implies 'gnat' is a generic term for 'various small biting flies'. Unless you're British, in which case gnats ARE mosquitoes.

So it turns out I HAVE encountered a gnat before. Only, I always thought of them as small, black, shiny, and vaguely beetle-oid. It's strange to find out they're just mosquitoes.

It reminds of my 5th birthday when half the presents I received were in my real name, and the other half were addressed to 'Aparajita'. Because that was supposed to be my 'official' name, though for some mysterious reason, it never quite took.

Now I know how you felt, gnats.

Ah shuddup, you'll live.

Though not for very long.

But I guess that's okay. You're gnats, what the hell do YOU have to acheive in life??

Not that I've done much on the acheiving front.

(Dammit! I can never spell 'achieve' right!)

Which is appalling, considering I edit stuff for a living.

But I DID spell 'appalling' right.

Fuck you, gnats, I bet YOU can't spell 'appalling'.

(I just gloated over one-upping gnats. This has got to be a new low.)

Not that you'd ever need to. I mean, where would you possibly use 'appalling' in a sentence?

"Your haemoglobin levels are appalling, human!"

(But if you can't spell appalling, you sure as hell can't spell haemoglobin.)

And then the human in question would cringe and feel all inadequate about being yelled at by a mosquito.

Though I feel adequate enough; I can spell appalling and haemoglobin and I bet I have enough of it (haemoglobin) in MY blood to feed a large army of gnats. Ha!

I should probably stop typing now.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ripping off the band aid

The problem with discovering you’re an introvert late in life, is dealing with all the people who remember you as someone who wasn’t.

Is there an easy, gentle way of telling someone that you’ve outgrown them?

I didn’t think so.

I'm sorry A, I really am. But I don't have the bandwidth for this friendship anymore.