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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I did in Goa*

1. Got tanned. No, not voluntarily. I never tan voluntarily and frankly, I completely fail to understand this new fascination for us pre-browned Injun types to get even browner. I don’t like being browner, hell it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with being the colour I am. You can go blame it on the little Kashmiri girl I was friends with when I was five. Her name was Payal and she had light eyes and porcelain skin and when in she came in from the sun, her cheeks and nose would be this adorable bright pink that mine never, *ever* turned. Oh how I longed to have cheeks that turned pink! And then because I hated raw tomatoes and my mum is evil, she told me that if I ate one ripe, red tomato everyday for the next I-don’t-remember-how-many years, I’d have rosy cheeks too. Guess who has yet another grudge to hold against their mommies? Meeeeee!!

2. Bumped into friend from PG who is now officially out of the closet. Way to go G! On an aside, gay men are the best huggers. No seriously, there’s none of that awkward arms and legs and bumping-heads confusion. G just grabbed me in a big bear hug and did not let go until I did. Which was nice because I’m one of those horribly clumsy huggers who are so self-conscious about a) displays of affection and b) any sort of physical contact that is not make-out-related that I’m always worrying about how close, how long and get-out-of-the-way-damned-boobs. Yes I know. Shut up.

3. Was air-kissed by cute French guy and discovered that I’m a sucker for old-world chivalry. Not the pulling-chairs-out, the being paid-for or the hold-open-doors-for-me variety (though I think the last is rather sweet), but show me a guy who leans in to air-kiss you, thus giving you a whiff of sexy cologne and brushing a stubbly cheek against your soft one and I’ll show you a girl who’s fast melting into a puddle of mush. Oh and offer me your arm, or gently switch sides with me so that I’m away from the traffic and I will be your slave. Not sexually, but you know, I can get you coffee and stuff.

4. Consumed more than half of Goa's piscine population. I’m almost convinced I have fully developed gills behind my ears. And I’m sorry fishies, but it was you or my taste buds; I picked my taste buds. And shark xacuti? Mmmmmm!

5. Walked along the beach and watched the raindrops stipple the sand around me. Hypnotic, almost.

6. Had the wind in my hair and the sun in my shades as we rode through miles and miles of chlorophyll-sheltered lanes. Chlorophyll makes me haappyyyy!

Next up, What I did in Bangkok. (And no, S, not who, what. Smartypants)

*Goa is now officially the place where I bump into ghosts from my past. Last year it was A, the guitarist ex who I spotted at Thivim station. And then because I’m the queen of awkward and socially inept, I hid behind a pillar. I’m not proud of it, but not terribly ashamed either. Hey, some us are introverts okay?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The body as a temple*

She wants to get a tattoo too, but she wants it in Mandarin script**. Why? Because in Arabic, it sounds too...'obvious'. I ask her what she wants it to say – her answer, "The divine is." In Arabic, that would be Allah hu.

Of late, I've become increasingly wary of religious people. This isn't religion-specific – almost all of them spook me out now. There's a certain I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong-ness that apparently comes with the territory.

But I can't help feeling a little sad for her. She has faith, but she cannot declare it in the language of that faith. Because it would be too 'obvious'.

The world is a weird, sad place.

*Or denomination-specific house of worship of your choice***.

**Does anyone know the name of this script? Does it have one?

***A question to the believers; have any of you actually chosen your religion? Have you ever thought of switching?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy birthday to me

The full poem here*.

*Although somehow, I liked the last line more than the entire thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cabbies and conversations

He says he loves philosophical cabbies. He recounts this one time when he'd hurt himself and was walking around with a bandaged forehead. He'd got into a cab and had just settled into the seat when the cabbie asked him,
: Sahab, aapke sar pe kya hua?
: Chot lag gayi.
: Sahab, dil pe lagne vaali cheez chot hoti hai. Jo sharir pe lage usko 'maar' kehte hain.

He's laughing so hard as he tells me this, that I begin to love the cabbie too. Not for being philosophical, though there's that too, but for making him laugh this way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


He's a complete and utter sweetheart. Only....somehow, he was a lot more *interesting* inside my head.

You know what I mean?

The stuff of dreams - Part II

In other news, I dreamt of Amitav Ghosh last night. Yes, THE Amitav Ghosh. In the dream, I’m in some Singapore-like country (and I know this because I have veg hakka noodles for lunch. Ha! How elementary is THAT, Watson) and we bump into each other and, get this, it turns out, he wants to revive our affair and I’m all, no no, I can’t do this, I’m married now! And then he gives me all these accusing-alternating-with-beseeching looks and while on the outside, I’m being all morally-high(ly?)-grounded, there is this one moment, one, when he takes my hand and holds it to his chest and people, I melt (this on the inside, of course).

(On an aside, I am now seeing him in this completely different light. Completely. Not that any actual seeing happens, since he’s Amitav Ghosh and half way across the world and I am, well, me. But you know what I mean)

And then the dream turned into one of those trippy meta dreams where you sort of know you’re dreaming and all I could think of was, thank god this dream-affair didn’t happen before I interviewed him because, well, we all know how composed I am when faced with people who’ve featured in my dreams.

So did I tell you about that interview? Because it was my first interview ever, I was determined to be all professional and non-fan-girly. I researched like crazy, did all my homework, stayed up late and finished the book and drew up a list of questions. The interview went off well-enough (except that I lapsed into ultra-sonic mode a couple of times. I do that when I’m nervous. Charming, I know). He was an absolute darling; all soft-spoken and sad-but-intelligent-sounding and then it came to an end and I wanted to get my book signed and then chaos (of a sort) happened. For some mysterious reason, in the moments leading up to the signing, I was thinking about that one Friends episode in which Monica gets to hang out with Hootie and the Blowfish and one of them signs her bra (no wait, that was the one in which one of the blowfish gave her a hickey. Which was the autographed-bra episode?). And then I started to worry about which bra I was wearing and whether or not it was even remotely autograph-worthy* and of course, I couldn’t remember, so I had the bright idea of somehow subtly trying to figure it out by feeling the straps through my shirt. Well, for those of who are trying this out right now, YOU CANNOT TELL FROM THE STRAPS. So then I figured, well he’s still looking for a pen so maybe I can sneak a quick peek down my shirt; it won’t take more than a second! So I did and when I looked up there was this worried look on his face. I don’t know if it was because he saw me looking inquisitively down my own shirt or because he still couldn’t find a pen.

His autograph says, ‘For CS, with my best wishes, Amitav Ghosh’. The ‘F’ in ‘for’ starts out a little wobbly but is fine by the time he reaches the ‘r’. I think I got away with it. Don’t you?

* Not that I *planned* to ask him to autograph it, but it would’ve been nice to know that I had the option.

Friday, February 13, 2009



Holy fuck, what is *wrong* with me?

Worth their weight in gold*

In conversation with girlfriends who also have 'weight issues':

CS: I don't really care about getting fit, all *I* want is to be thin!
Girlfriends in chorus: Oh gosh! Me too!

Conclusion: Growing old doesn't make us any wiser; it just makes us more honest about – and oddly, more accepting of – how shallow we are.

*Friends who have the same amount depth (or the lack of it) as you. :)


Dedicated to the gentleman who comes to the gym in RSS-style khakhi shorts.

If you want a body like Zeus's
We do recommend that you use
This thing called deodorant
About which we're militant
Because you don't smell like a rose.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Hell hath no fury…

…like an insomniac awoken.

Dear friends, family and other assorted nincompoops who call me past 10:00 p.m.,

I love you all, dearly, and I would lay down my life for you (not you, assorted nincompoops) in a hot second, but seriously, WTF? Why do all of you persist in calling me only after 10:00 p.m.? Why is the thought of conversing with me appealing only AFTER the clock strikes 10? Do I sound better when I’m groggy with sleep? Does the disorientation in my voice make me more endearing? What is it? WhatwhatWHAT??

I don’t know if you know this about me, but roundabout in 2004, my one-time-good-buddy Morpheus deserted me big time. We were close once, yes, but our 14-hour long trysts are now a thing of the happy somnific past. Dude has walked and left me a raving insomniac. Which means sleep now is something that happens infrequently and with great difficulty.

Where earlier my bedtime was a simple two-step process:
1. Place head on pillow
2. Crash into deep, Kumbhakarna-like slumber from which the devil and his horses cannot rouse me.

Now, it is the following:
1. Place head on pillow
2. Shift pillow around, punch it into shape, shift it around some more
3. Kick off bedclothes, then pull them on, then kick them off again. (repeat one hundred times)
4. Clamber out of bed, adjust fan speed, climb back into bed. Climb out again, adjust fan speed again. (Repeat three times)
5. Toss, turn, toss, turn, toss, turn (repeat till you have pretty much butter-churned yourself into exhaustion and fitful sleep).

And when finally, finally I get to the point where I’m about to drop of the precipice of consciousness and float down on a fluffy cloud of sleep, one of you calls me, the shrill ring cruelly jerking me back to that state where I will have to go through steps 1 to 5 ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

Why folks? What the hell have I ever done to you?

You just called to wish me a happy birthday? Well, that is thoughtful of you, and now I feel like a bitch for telling you this, but this how happy you’ve made me.

CS: Slowly, after many hours of tossing and turning, drifts off to sleep.
CS: Shoots out of bed, wild-eyed, crazy haired and disoriented as fuck.
“What the…?! Who the @#$%^&* is calling me at this time of night?! Bloody @@#$%!! Couldn’t it have waited until @#$% morning??“

So yes, happy? I DON’T THINK SO.

See the thing is, I’m not anal about the dates. You can wish me happy a YEAR after the event and I won’t hold it against you. I know remembering dates can be a pain and I forget them myself very frequently (which might explain also why I’m so willing to forgive, but that’s neither here nor there). Birthdays, anniversaries, New Years, Christmas, Diwali, dude, they are all just dates. They do NOT matter. What does matter is being able to have a decent, non-groggy, non-murderous conversation with you under circumstances that we are BOTH comfortable with. Have I ever called you post 10:00 p.m.? Is it ever MY phone calls that rouse you out of bed on sleepy Sundays? No, right? Then why, why this sadistic urge to yank me from my hard-earned sleep and as a consequence, ensure that I spend the next day walking around like bear with a sore head?? WhywhyWHY??

*sobs brokenly*

I understand that some of you live in different time zones which somehow make you forget that your afternoon is my midnight, but it’s not that hard to do, really! So here’s the deal. The next time you’re taken by the urge to hear the melodious sound of my voice, take a moment and think it through. Then stop and think again. Also, for your convenience, I have made out a little checklist of circumstances under which you can and cannot call me after 10:00 p.m.

1. You are dead. Or very close to it. Or someone in our immediate family is in grievous danger. (Yes, call. No, second cousin twice removed does NOT count)
2. There is a terrorist attack in a random part of the world that I have no connection with and more importantly, cannot do anything about. (No. It can jolly well wait till morning)
3. It is my birthday / anniversary / random festival (No. Remember morning? Yeah, WAIT FOR IT).
4. You want to hear the melodious sound of my voice. (No. Call me post 10 and what you get to hear will be nothing even remotely melodious. Trust me on that)
5. There have been blasts close to where I live and you’re worried about me. (No. Unless you hear of blasts specifically inside *my* building. Trust me, I’ll be home safe. If I’m not, I’LL call YOU and tell you so.)

And now that we're clear on that, I would like you to know that if any of you now call me post-10:00 p.m., I am striking you vehemently off my will...vehemently!

With all my love (except to the nincompoops),


Monday, February 02, 2009

So much for my coffee shop in Coorg

In the words of Calvin (the six-year-old, not the stoic), "Reality continues to ruin my life."


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, serves 1*

Take ginormous coffee mug, one in number.

From coffee machine, add two small cups of coffee and two cups of hot water. (Yes, in the same mug. No, don’t argue).

From your secret stash of emergency caffeine supplies, measure out two heaped tablespoons of instant coffee (It’s repulsive, I know, but the secret stash has no room for a coffee machine and coffee grounds. Although wouldn’t that be great?).

Purchase packet of hide and seek from crazy canteen lady (Meena).

Into the ginormous mug with the coffee-water-coffee mixture, crumble three hide-and-seeks. Make sure you crumble only the biscuit part and leave the chocolate chips intact (trust me, you’ll thank me for it later).

Stir and sip, stir and sip, stir and sip.

When you’ve finished all the liquid (and got a mother of a sugar-and-caffeine high), spoon out the cookie-sludge from the bottom of the cup. Enjoy the coffee-tinged-cerelac flavour until you come across a chocolate chip (or two). Feel them dissolve on your tongue and send delicious cocoa-and-sugar messages via your neurons to your brain.

Be thrilled**.

*Or, How to completely gross out the coffee purists.

**At least until the high wears off. Then you’ll be yawning like the dickens.