I hate you, Mark Zuckerberg.

Dude, Seriously! What was your problem? The world was a happy place. People derived joy from beautiful things and lived in the moment. And then, you came along. Your chauvinist Harvard going ass had some serious girlfriend issues that lead to a series of events and you came up with Facebook. Okay! I saw The Social Network and you deserved what you got. And look at what all that has led to. You have made people’s lives revolve around your stupid website.

Facebook is such a part and parcel of our life now that I log into it even before I check my e-mails in the morning. You’ve made me addicted. You are like most men. You are just cashing on the fact that most people take interest in what is going on in other people’s lives rather than their own. Yeah! But that’s not why I really hate you. You have caused people to a social status through your social networking site.

I was once talking with two of my friends and one of them was looking at a potential suitor. I asked my friend for his name and quickly tried to pull him up on Facebook, and he didn’t have an account. The other friend who is more of a nerd pulled his profile up on LinkedIn. But I involuntarily retorted, “No! He doesn’t have a Facebook profile. What kind of a person doesn’t have one. Reject him!?!” Now you see what my problem is. You realize what you have done to millions like me?

I hate being photographed. When I am out on trips with friends, be it at the beach, or at the mall, or at the Empire State building, I want to absorb the beauty of the place. You know, to see the beauty with my eyes and freeze a beautiful picture with my mind and keep it in my heart forever. Do you know what that feels like? But this is what I get.

Hey!!! Let’s pose.

Take a group picture. Take a solo picture.

Put this up on Facebook. Tag me.

Please don’t tag me.

No, don’t put this one up. I’m closing my eyes.

Take my FB display pic, na!

I’m looking too fat. Let me stand sideways. Take one more and yada yada yada.

Thanks to you! One of my friend always stands a little aloof from the group when we take group pictures. No hugging her or putting hands around her shoulder. Why? So that she can crop herself later on and use it as her display picture on Facebook. You know, you sorta brutally murdered and buried Orkut ruthlessly for most of us. We didn’t even have time to shed a tear and mourn over it. Well, the Orkut days. They were good times, you know. Because they let you know who visited your profile. If you fought with a friend were not on talking terms with them, you could find out if they still cared about you by seeing if they visited your profile page. Orkut had testimonials that you could beg your friends to write for you and then show them off to the rest of the world. You stupid Harvard dropout. You came up with the timeline, and the feature to edit comments and statuses, do you know that a testimonial means much more?

You make people depressed. Two years back, when I had just graduated and was desperately looking for a job, I used to Facebook a lot. One of my juniors had gotten married to this really handsome guy and they lived somewhere in Europe. This girl posted pictures with her handsome husband in the pretty backdrops of Europe every single weekend. I felt happy for her initially and wished her joy and all that. But you know, when you don’t have a job, and are worried about how to pay your bills, such happiness rubbed right into your face doesn’t help much. I hid her updates. Yeah! Such a killjoy. What could I do? I couldn’t hate Facebook then, I was addicted.

You know what else you have done to people apart from making them bury their heads into their smart phones and waste time on Facebook while sitting in a restaurant and caring as little as mosquito shit about talking to the person they are dining with? You have caused people to tag themselves all over Facebook instead of enjoying a movie at the theater or being excited about a ride at the amusement park.  And you have to trust me on this one, I heard that once a bridegroom was posting live updates during his wedding. I pity his poor wife. I really do. You also encourage people to stalk. Well, you may argue that you have worked really hard on your security systems or servers or whatever, and that people cannot hack and all that. But you know what, I got nearly 365 photographs from a friend’s profile for her calendar wedding gift. Of course, she is on my friend list but I could obviously access her friend’s friend’s photographs as well. Talk to my hand on this one because I a computer toddler who doesn’t even reset passwords and calls Customer Support to download a new antivirus software that is just two clicks away on Google for free.

Now I am an addicted Facebooker. And I am a normal girl. I sometimes share crappy and long status messages. I like it when people agree with me and I get mad when people don’t. So I won’t complain about everything. Mainly because I’m a software nitwit. I like the Timeline because I enjoy going back to see how much mature or dumb I have gotten over the last few years. It’s a good calender record. I also like the fact that you can edit stuff because I’m usually aggressive and type too quickly in haste. But I think what I liked the most thus far was that after one of my posts sorta went a little ‘viral’, I got a lot of appreciating messages from unknown people and I of course, totally and completely enjoyed the attention. There was this one guy who sent me his recorded songs. How sweet, no?

But here is why I actually hate you. Why does the world have to revolve around your website. Like it is some platform to declare love, express hatred, wage a war, and what not.

Three years back, I worked part time every weekend and used to get really tired. My room mate and one of my best friends had this annoying habit of not making her bed when she woke up. I told her a 100 times that it bothers me that she doesn’t fold her blanket when she wakes up and she really didn’t care. One evening, I got back from a 10 hour work shift and I saw that her bed was not made. I lost control and yelled at her and in a minute, we were calling each other names and it seemed to me that we would never talk to each other again in our lives. I was really angry and in no mood to apologize and stayed in the room. My friend banged the front door and barged out of the house. But can you imagine what she did before that? She sat in front of her computer for two quick minutes and removed me from her friend list. What the hell? I mean, seriously, I wanted to punch her face with her laptop. Of course, I barged out of the house too, and it turned out that we both went to the same place on campus to sulk. It was a beautiful fountain called The Lady of the Mist. So, I just decided to get over with the fight. The fountain tends to have that affect on you. We apologized to each other, came back home, had dinner, and we became friends on Facebook again. She continued to not make her bed and I learnt to deal with it.

Two years back, two of my best friends ganged up on me and drifted apart. Now this wasn’t the ‘make-your-bed’ type of fight. It was a serious one. And here is what these two people did. They blocked me. Like literally blocked me. And this was the time when I didn’t even know you could block people or whatever on Facebook. You know, again, because I am a computer toddler. I don’t know or care to explore all these stupid features that you have to offer. It was one thing to ‘unfriend’ me, but to block me??? Like I never existed or something. That was when I began to think. What’s this whole stupid deal with you? Why has your website gained such importance. It was during these times that I realized that if the both of us (me and my fighting friend) complimented a common friend, she would say, “Thank you Sahaja and blah blah.” And I would be looking for ‘blah blah’s’ comment there. Eventually, we all came back to our senses, and the blockers are one of my best friends again. So all is well now.

Until very recently. I got blocked, again. By somebody else. I mean, it hurts, pal! What do you stupid blockers even think? Why do you block people? To shut them out of your life? To prevent them texting you? Can you shut them out of your mind? What is it? Blocked on Facebook means blocked from the mind, eh?. Wow, masterji, what brain power, like it is some button with the on and off switch. Can you bestow your Baba Ramdev powers upon me too, please?

Yeah!Why is this moronish Facebook the declaring and deciding factor.  Whatever. I have always been and will always tug along with this over sized emotional cloak on me. That’s what always causes me to think like a drama queen with only my beautiful heart and not with my supposedly sane head. So I have many friends, I fight a lot, and always go back to being friends. That’s the way I am made. And that is why I cannot hate the blockers. And that is why I will not ask the blockers to grow a pair of extra arteries and ventricles that help their heart think better when they think about me. All I will do is channelize my energy towards hating you, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg. Because you created this mess and yet, at the end of the day, you got the girl you started off with. You had your happy ending. But remember, you are one additional reason why the world has a lot of fake smiles, artificial affection and empty love floating around.

Those Four Shades

I have a theory about love. Yes, the girlfriend-boyfriend type of love. I came up with it a very long time ago, have looked around me, and seen that it does work on people.  If you are already my friend, you would have heard this theory at least a million times from me.

So love comes in four stages right after it takes off. Those four stages, I associate with four different colors. Now, my theory is generally not gender dependent and can therefore can be applied to anyone who wants to wear these shoes.

The Pink Phase: This is the happiest phase. The phase where you have just fallen in love, you know, the committed-to-each-other type, not the one-sided-pining type of love. So obviously, you could be on the roof top, screaming with joy. Literally. You are ecstatic and everything around you looks hyper happy and super pink. The lovey-dovey baby pink types. Nothing or no one matters to you except the person you love. This person is in your life, in every inch of it. In your dreams, on your phone, at the restaurant, in your college, and sneaks around your colony, and you absolutely love it. You will find yourself sitting with a group of friends and texting away, or looking out of the window while riding a bus and blushing for no apparent reason, or just calling friends you haven’t spoken to in a year, to scream into their ears that you are in love. You are sometimes so self-and-love adsorbed that everything else seems like a void, be it family, friends, exams, or career.

Life’s like a fairy tale in this phase. Perfect and perfect. Well, if you are still a teenager when you dive into this phase, you can sometimes act royally cranky. You will sit at a Coffee Day and read its tagline: A lot can happen over coffee and start to smile involuntarily. You are a firm believer in romantic comedies and will dream of watching your favorite ones like the Titanic, Sweet Home Alabama, You’ve got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle holding the hands of your loved one. Because, holding hands is true love.

Life, to you, is a beautifully directed Gautham Menon’s film that has a happy ending seasoned with Ilayaraja’s background score.  When your friends ask you to tell them how it all happened, you are always full of energy and in the mood to act all Udit Narayan-ish, and sing, “Aankhen khuli ho ya ho bandh, Deedar unka hota hai, Kaise  kahoon main o yaara, yeh pyaar kaise hota hai…” And actually, you wake up the sleeping poet in you and write up some really crappy poems, feeling like Trivikram all the way. These poems can go from anywhere like,

“You are Someone….  You are that someone whose hands I would like to hold and walk on the beach… You are that someone who makes my heart melt when I look into those eye that speak volumes… You are that someone in whose arms I could lay for the rest of my life cause love is pure, and such pure love is here to stay….”

to,

Premavaa?…Na premaavava? Premakai preminchava.. Na premavai  preminchava…. 

Prema anee, na premanii, ika nammavaa… Idi premani, mari ooha kaadani telchava…”

So, when you are saturated with all these emotions, you practically have no time to fight. This phase usually lasts for a few weeks, a couple of months if you actually picked a living angel to love.

The Green Phase: To start with, I wouldn’t call this the reality-dawning phase, because you know, the color is still green. And green means good to go. You however descend from cloud 9 or higher, and come to terms that you are in a relationship. Obviously, since you have digested that you’ll realize that your loved one is indeed your priority. You realize that friends and family are kind of important, so you try to make some time for them. Okay, you at least act like you are trying.

This is the phase were you want to pee all over your loved one’s territory. You know, mark your area so that nobody trespasses.  Sometimes, if you are two fools in love, it works well for the both of you. It usually does. But there may be some rare cases where one over does it compared to the other, and that may lead to a cute fight. This is the phase where possessiveness looks endearing and complimentary. Like you know, “Awwwww.. Baby.. You are jealous!?… You know,I love you. I just did that to see how much you love me.” And, anything that’s said on those lines is completely acceptable. That’s because you are listening to a lot of AR Rahman made music, sung by Sonu Nigam. Bring in “Ishq Bina” with all the “Tumne ishq ka naam suna hai, humne ishq kiya hain” here.

The first thing you want to hear in the morning is your loved one’s voice, and the last thing you want to listen to at night, is probably a lullaby by them. Because this is the phase for all the cuddly, cute, and revoltingly cheesy pet names. So even if their lullaby sounds like a donkey braying, all you can hear is Sonu Nigam singing, “Tu jo paas ho phir kya yeh jahaan… Tere pyar mein ho jaaun Fanaa…”

This is a seemingly important phase because, this is the phase you show your loved one that you sincerely care for them. You could start with being very eager about doing their work for them. If their laptop’s broken, you are willing to stay on the phone with customer support for two hours to get it fixed. If their scooty breaks down due to an empty tank, you make sure you are just a text away from getting help. If their records need to completed, you offer to sit up all night and finish writing them. And, you are saving up all your pocket money to buy an expensive ash tray and gift it to your loved one who is a smoker since the movie, Khushi, has kicked your sanity in the butt and turned your green color love bulbs on.

Fights!? Yes, you do fight here. Not quite often though. Most fights are over trivial things like, “why did you not wish me good morning today, or why did you get so carried away with work and forget to have your lunch.” Just remember, these fights don’t last long. A few hours maybe. And then, you are calling and saying, “Sorry, baby. It’s my fault,” and the other person goes, “No, no. Sweets. It’s actually my fault so I should be the one saying sorry.”

Ego!? Excuse me! We are in love. This phase lasts anywhere between six to twelve months.

The Red Phase: Okay, this has to be the reality-phase. The color says it all, no? Well, it’s actually more or less the yellow phase, when things are changing. And a yellow light, as we all know it, can turn red or green. So this is probably not a phase when people change or things change, but a phase where reality becomes, you know, real. In this phase, you can live for a day or two without any romantic good mornings and good nights. You focus on your loved one but that’s for about 70% of your time. You know love is important and all that but, you have to start thinking about a way to be together for the rest of your lives. So that means figuring out ways for you graduate, get a job, and be independent enough to take your loved one home to meet your parents.

So some priorities are juggled around. And that definitely is a good reason to ask for some headache causing troubles. Your intentions are always good, you know, because you are looking at the big picture and working towards being with your loved one for the rest of your life. But you want that rest of your life to start five years later. That’s why the present is neatly shoved into the back seat of your car and tucked under a blanket. It may begin with forgetting to ask if your loved one if they had lunch, or whether they took their sinus medicine, but will eventually lead to promising to meet at a restaurant for a date night and showing up 25 minutes late. Yes of course, the date wasn’t forgotten about, it was just pushed into the night by 25 minutes. So what was a, “Awww.. It’s okay baby, I understand you are busy, I will wait. Just come soon okay, we are going to have so much fun”, from the Red Phase (because it can never happen in the Pink Phase) now turns into a, “What!?!?! Is that it? Is this the importance I get for planning out this entire evening with you? You have changed!”

You Have Changed! This single sentence is what officially changes your yellow lights to a completely deep red phase. Every time love happens between two people, it is beautiful. I mean, if love is the most beautiful thing, then this sentence is what ruins it. It shows you that you are close to your exit. It gives you the feeling you get when you look at the sea. At the stretch where the sky meets the waters. You know that they never do, but you never explore that fact. So this phase is where you know that your relationship may or may not end, but that’s the area you never want to explore. People fall in love with people and, people don’t ever change. Never. It’s just that life gets shuffled often, and we start to think, “You traveled 200 miles just to see me on our first anniversary, and now you have forgotten that you were the one who gave me this watch for the occasion. Do you really love me?” Here is where you have dropped Sonu Nigam and Udit Narayan from your head and shifted gears to Hariharan’s, “Tu hi re… Tu hi re.. Tere bina main kaise jiun…” or Arjith Singh’s, “Tum hi ho..”

This phase requires a lot of reassuring. Reassurance that you need for yourself that you are in love and reassurance from your loved one that they are in it too. There are a number of fights here. A little miscommunication, some dodging from the truth, a  lot of forgetfulness and copious amounts of ego. That automatically leads to ‘no talking to each other’. In this phase, you are strong enough, oops, your ego is strong enough to act like you don’t care and so you can stay without talking with each other for a day or two. Not more than that. But, trust me, at the end of those two days, there are couple of tears, a few hugs, and lots of bottled up love. Every patch up will seem like this is the last fight you two are ever going to have.

This phase may last for at least two to five years.

The Black Phase: The color say it all, doesn’t it? This is where you put on your warrior’s dress, arm yourself and cruise across the waters to see if the earth and sky actually meet. I mean, you want to explore the possibility of an explosion. Your patience seems to be wearing off. You cannot tolerate the person you once loved anymore. It feels like you are in love with a chewing gum. You like it, but you can do without it too. Also, a chewing gum because, gum has it’s flavor initially, for the first ten minutes in your mouth probably. And then, the flavor is gone. It is tasteless but you just continue to chew on it for a really, really long time, and don’t want to spit it out. Ah! This phase is exactly like that. After the flavor is gone, you can’t seem think of why you are holding on to it, and you can’t seem to think why you should let go of it either.

Love seems so surreal. It’s not just them. It’s you too. The phases have reversed. What you did find so appealing about them, you now cannot stand it. If you once admired their self-esteem, you now call it unnecessary arrogance. If you once thought that they were being protective of you, you now call it unreasonably ridiculous possessiveness. If you once considered their child-like innocence cute, you now call it utter stupidity.

You, who loved talking to customer support for two hours to get their laptop fixed, cannot make a two minute phone call to check why your utility check bounced back. You are wondering why they are so stupid to not have checked it there was enough gas in their scooty tank. You don’t like it that you have fallen in love with someone who isn’t responsible enough to take care of their own tasks, like writing records. So when you fight, you aren’t dying to patch up. The love it there. But now, it has just got up from the back seat of the car and is lazing around somewhere in the trunk. Fights in this phase go on for a few days. Some times a week. And when, one of you puts you ego aside and calls, what was a, “Baby, I’m sorry, it’s my fault.” becomes a, “No. You did this. It’s entirely your fault. I can’t imagine you would even think I will say sorry. You know what, I sometimes wonder how I even fell in love with you. I called you up first, isn’t that good enough?” This phase is probably the first time that your exes get mentioned in fights too, sometimes.

Anything to do with them is like listening to Thaman’s drum-beat-only music. You will start to figure out that Shahrukh Khan makes crappy and revolting romantic movies and that there is nothing great about them. You understand that you were once stupid enough to blush to Udit  singing “Ho gaya hai tujhko to pyaar sajna” in his high-voltage-packed nasal-voice while SRK is busy shaking his head like a 40 year old who has deliberately acquired autism, of course with his with his silly, annoying smile.

Birthdays and anniversaries are forgotten, dinners are missed, sometimes an act of kindness is not appreciated, more often, love is forgotten. This is the phase where people either decide to work things out and stay together for life, or call it quits.

About 60% of relationships keep twitching between the Red and the Black. Almost 30% of relationships are running between the lines of the Red and the Green. Seldom do 10% of relationships stay in the Green. And trust me, nobody stays in the Pink forever.

But then, everything is fair in love and war. So, whatever said and done, everything will be back to being normal. You will stand up, dust yourself and look ahead. Then, there is the same heart, a new start, and fonder love. It is a vicious circle, this inevitable beauty called love.

**********************

Again, this is my theory. The statistics and logistic are all, of course, made up to support my baselessly lovable theory.  For what it’s worth, I am a hopeless romantic. 

With Love, Your Reader

Present day.

“Two hundred and fifty eight rupees, madam,” the man behind the cash counter said. She gave him the money, picked up the book and told him to keep the change.

It was finally out. His first book. She had known for sometime now that it was going to be out soon. Ten Short Stories by him. She held the book in her left hand and swiped her right palm against his name fondly, and smiled, or blushed rather. Her mind drifted to the first day she saw him.

************

Four years ago.

It was a busy day in March. The University newspaper department was crowded and hot. She had written at least eight articles on various topics and decided to try her luck at the Hyderabad Herald (HH), the University Newspaper. She wanted to be the Writer, Events. Although she had always wanted to write for HH, she somehow had never mustered the courage to do so until her final year. And finally, today, here she was. That’s when she saw him for the first time. She had read many of his articles and was always amused by them, but she had never put a face to the writings. He was the Associate Editor of HH and was in the Editor-in-Chief’s room, having a heated argument. He stormed out of the office, rushed past her with out even noticing. She went in to meet the Editor-in-Chief and showed him her work like an excited kitten who was just offered a bowl of warm milk.

Weeks later, the Editor-in-Chief thought her write-ups were crappy and declined to publish them. She wasn’t very upset since she knew she wasn’t that bad, and left it at that. Besides she was going to graduate in less than eight months.

************

Two years ago.

She was in a new city now and had a new job. But she kept track of him. He was her junior at the university, but had graduated and continued to work as the Associate Editor of HH, full time now.

She was buried neck deep into his writings now. It was like an obsessive attraction. Oftentimes, she wondered if she was in love with his articles or him. It is assumed that an author’s work reflects his personality. If that were true, she probably was in love with him. He wrote on a variety of topics. From the state politics to the university politics, from movie reviews to ripping apart actors ways of life, from orthodox festivals to secularism, from the university ball games to the Superbowl. She never subscribed to HH, but every Friday, when the paper came out, she would go online and read his article. He wrote one in every issue.

She thought he was bold, and somewhat amusing. There was some charm about him that was hard to resist. She would usually devour his article in five minutes, and go back to read it and re-read it a few times every now and then. He was definitely different. He wasn’t afraid to put forth his opinion on anything. It was like he cared a rat’s ass about a lot of things and wasn’t afraid to show that to people. You could tell that he researched a lot, and hence always argued a lot, sensibly of course, to prove his point. He had some sort of Chandleristic sarcasm about him. He was funny, and he was serious. He cared about society and he didn’t at the same time. He wasn’t afraid to write about tabooed topics like lust or sex or drugs. He was charismatic and was her addiction. She seemed to have fallen in love with his arrogance, and basically his everything. She liked the political party he supported, the movie he thought was good, and the sports team he favored.  His articles had that much conviction in them. It surprised her friends when she spoke sports because they knew she loathed any game, but she had her little secret.

She couldn’t tell anybody about it though. They would think it was stupid. To fall in love with a guy because she liked his writing skill. Besides, she knew he had had at least three girlfriends. His current girlfriend was very pretty too. She wondered what kind of fools the earlier girlfriends were to let go of him. He was on Facebook, and she visited his profile often. It was never locked, and she would go through his newsfeed. She imagined what kind of a guy he was and what kind of a life he lead. She knew they were very different and would probably never be right for each other, if that was even a possibility. She believed in God, he was an atheist. She hated politics, he loved them. She lived in a fantasy world, he lived in reality. She was calm, he was temperamental. She doubted her ability to write well, he was extremely confident. She would like to go on a date with him to a 3-star restaurant, he would take her to have roadside paani puri. She was a vegetarian, he was a non-vegetarian. She wasn’t a fan of the foul language, he used a lot of ‘fucks’ in his writings. She liked white wine, he was more of a whiskey-rum person.

Whenever she thought of him, she imagined him in a wrinkled blue kurta with grids. He almost always had long hair that he tied up into a ponytail. He always wore a pencil on his ear, like a carpenter. He was not handsome. He smoked a lot, and his black lips could turn you off. All this said, she knew that he wasn’t aware of her very existence. He hadn’t noticed her even once. She was silently in love with someone who would never know how she felt about him. This made her sad.

One day, he sent her a friend request on Facebook. A billion thoughts were swarming like flies in her head. Did he know her? Had he known her all along? She was thrilled. Would he chat with her? Was he the kind who sent random friend requests to people if he found mutual friends?

She accepted the request, but they never chatted with each other, not once. She sometimes would go frenzy and want to like all his statuses because they were that funny and awesome, but she never did.

************

One year ago.

Her best friends were getting married to each other. And since they had met at the university, they wanted to have the ceremony there, on campus. “Yes, two romantic fools,” she had thought as she put on the sunflower-yellow bridesmaid dress. She was back at the university. It always made her nervous and she looked around fervently hoping to catch a glimpse of him. But she never did.

The ceremony was over and everyone was heading out. It was late in the evening. She was thirsty and was running towards the water cooler that was around the corner when she suddenly bumped into somebody carrying a mug full of coffee. She had coffee all over the pretty dress, and looked up angrily only to find her eyes meet his. It was him. She had waited all her life for this moment. She turned crimson and hated herself for it. She felt that he would be able to read all those feelings she had for him, right off her face. She didn’t like it. She had never wanted him to find out.

He apologized immediately, and said, “I live on-campus. Why don’t you come upstairs to my room and wash off those coffee stains. It’s best the stains be attended while they are fresh.” She pretended to be angry. She was afraid that all that love would just explode in her heart. She replied nonchalantly, “That’s ok. I have a train to catch”, while her soul was screaming out loud, “I love you, goddammit.”

************

Present day.

Not a single day had passed since that day, last year, when she bumped into him on campus, without her wondering what could have possibly happened if she had gone upstairs to his room. Would she finally get to speak to the guy she was always dreaming about? Would he be nice to her? Would they have become friends? Lovers? She would never know the answer to that question. And that, hurt her.

She was done for the day. She tiptoed from the bedroom into the living room, flopped herself on the couch, switched on the reading light, made herself comfortable, and opened the book.

She always thought that he was more of a novel-writer than a short-stories writer. But nevertheless, she knew she was going to enjoy it.

The first story was titled, With Love, Your Reader.

“Interesting title,” she thought, and began to read. Something didn’t feel right. It felt like his writing, the story, and the vocabulary, but it wasn’t necessarily his style. It was a romantic story. An odd genre for him to choose. She knew he wasn’t the type who believed in ‘Love’ or ‘Together for life’.

It was about this young man who wanted to be a writer, a bold and fierce writer. Although he appeared to be the casanova types, there was this young woman whom he was helplessly attracted to. He usually followed her without her knowledge, and even though he was generally a talker, he never had gathered the nerve to approach her.

She rolled her eyes wondering who that young girl in the story might be because she knew that he partly based his short stories from his own experiences. She yawned and continued to read, actually a little annoyed that he had picked the love genre for the first time and wasn’t doing such a good job with it. Until she reached this part of the story.

…… The young man had heard that a couple was getting married right next to his office at HH. He knew she was going to be there. This was his now-or-never opportunity to talk to her. Yes, he had sent her a request on Facebook, and she had accepted it, but that was the only conformation he had that she probably knew of his existence. He wondered if she knew that he wrote articles every week and that he worked at HH, a place she once wanted to be the Writer, Events. She had moved on, but he hadn’t. 

So yes, this was his now-or-never opportunity. Something that had come to him after a five year wait. He didn’t know how to go up and talk to her. Yes, he generally was this arrogant person who cared a rat’s ass about people’s opinion and this shit called love, but there was something about her. She was his addiction, his secret obsession. He quickly picked up his coffee mug and watched till she came around the corner, and bumped right into her, emptying the entirety of the coffee on her dress .  

He apologized immediately, and said to her, “I live on-campus. Why don’t you come upstairs to my room and wash off those coffee stains. It’s best the stains be attended while they are fresh.” She looked angry. Of course, she had a right to be. It was a beautiful dress and it was indeed ruined. He was afraid that all that love would just explode in his heart while he waited for an answer. She replied nonchalantly, “That’s ok. I have a train to catch”, while his soul was screaming out loud, “I love you, goddammit.” 

“It will hardly take a few minutes,” he insisted, “come along.” She gave it a second thought and decided to go upstairs. He opened the door and let her into his apartment.

“Oh, by the way, I’m Sha….,” she began, when he cut her right in and said, “Yes, I know. We are friends on Facebook, right?”

She smiled. 

She took her bag and went to freshen up. She came back wearing a pair of jeans with a blue t-shirt. She looked around the apartment, and saw the blue kurta with grids lying on the couch. 

“Chai and biscuits,” he asked. 

“I really have to go. I don’t want to miss my train.”

How could he be so wrong, he wondered. He knew she loved him too. Her face was screaming it. He could see it, he could feel it. He hated himself for being this love-stricken loser. This wasn’t him. He had had at least three girlfriends before. 

Just as she headed towards the door, she stopped, and asked, “Are you the Associate Editor of HH, the weekly issue that comes out every Friday?”

She knew!

“Yes, do you read it?”

“Oh! yes. I think you are an awesome writer. If you published a book, I would definitely buy it. You are bold. Actually, I think I could use some chai and biscuits,” she said, as she set her bag down.

This was one of the best days of his life. She didn’t flee yet and she was aware of the person he was.

Seizing the opportunity, he said, “Well, it’s too late for chai, how about some dinner? I know this really good cafe, Moulana Azaad Cafe. It will hardly take an hour. You will still be able to reach the station on time.”

“This is so him. A cafe,” she thought to herself. Yes. 

He hauled an autorickshaw. She knew he wasn’t the cab kind of a person. She got in and sat in the farthest corner. Since it was a share-auto, very soon, they were neatly shoved next to each other. That was when their hands touched for the first time. It sent an electric wave through her body. He could tell she was blushing.

She was silent, trying to hide the blush behind her cheekbones. She wasn’t doing a good job with it. They reached the cafe. She stepped aside for a minute and called her travel agent and rescheduled her tickets. She knew it was her now-or-never opportunity. 

She ordered Pav Bhaaji and he got Mutton Biryani. “I eat meat. I hope that’s ok,” he said.

“I know. That’s ok.”

“I need to smoke. I hope you don’t mind.”

I know. That’s ok.”

He looked around, uncomfortably, and wanted to make the best use of his time with her. He wanted to impress the hell out of her. 

“So, since you mentioned that I should write a book, I’m actually working on that. I have been, for  at least one year now”

I know.”

Oh Fuck! You sure do know a lot. Pardon my language. It has become a habit now.”

I know. I’ve read every article of yours. I am a fan of your work”

“So, we have been at the university for at least three years. How did we never bump into each other?”

Oh, well! You are famous and opinionated. That either makes people insecure or afraid to come up and talk to you. I did see you a few times at the HH office though.”

He sniggered in disagreement about the famous part. “Do you write as well?”

Not much. And it’s about mediocre.”

He smiled. He couldn’t wait a second longer to take her into his arms. He loved her, he truly did. Although he hated the meek person he became around her. He knew she loved him back.

After dinner, they walked back to his apartment. 

Would you care for some white wine,” he asked. She looked surprised. 

You sure don’t look like the kind of person who drinks white wine. I thought you were more of the whiskey-rum person.” 

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. 

May I,” he said, and let her into the apartment. 

After hastily, gulping down a glass of wine, he sheepishly said, “I would like you to know that I know you better than you think I know you.”

She blushed. “What do you mean?”

I’ve something to show you,” he said, and went to his wacky, wooden cupboard. After a good five minutes, he came back with a stack of papers and set them on the dining table they were seated at. They looked really old and had wrinkles all over them.

She looked shocked. There they were. Her eight articles. The ones she had submitted to the Editor-in-Chief five years ago. Those eight rejected articles. 

Your articles are great. There is something about you in them. It’s like you are soft on the outside, but broken on the inside. You are someone very different. Very bold. There is this spark in you that I can’t help but admire. I couldn’t help myself but fall hopelessly in love with you. Not even an hour goes by without thinking about you. I’ve been dying to tell you this since the day you graduated,” she heard him say.

A tear dropped from her right eye. He drew her close to him. She didn’t resist. He hugged her, tight. He took his right hand up and fondly tucked the hair that fell onto her beautiful face behind her ear. Her hair was exactly as he had imagined it to be everyday when he dreamed about her. He held her face in his palms and stared at it for a moment longer before he kissed her on her lips, gently. He smelt of cigarettes, and his nicotine black lips weren’t a turn off anymore. It was everything he, she, they had imagined about each other.

It was perfect.

He looked at her eagerly. She nodded.

“Are you sure?”, he inquired.

Yes, this is everything that I have always wanted.”

He lifted her gently into his arms, took her inside his bedroom, switched off the lights, and switched on the fan. The night was dark and the only sound one could hear, was the sound of the creaking fan.

She closed the book. She couldn’t read any further. She had finally found the answer to what would have happened if she had gone upstairs with him to clean up the coffee stains on her bridesmaid’s dress. She turned off the light and stared into the emptiness around her. The night was dark, and the only sounds one could hear, were those of the harmonious synchronization of the creaking fan in the living room, with that of her husband’s snore from the bedroom.

 

 

It’s a baby girl!

She was 27, and at home.

She stood in front of the mirror, naked. She looked at her breasts. This was the biggest they had ever been. But she knew that they were going to get bigger. She stared at herself for a long while before she ran her right hand across the entire area of her belly, from just above her abdomen, all the way down to its lower end. It looked bloated and the bump had begun to show through her clothes now. She was five months pregnant, and had just received her scans from her gynecologist. She had dreaded this moment would come right from when she turned into a teenager. And 15 years later, she still wasn’t prepared for it.

“You are going to have a healthy and beautiful baby girl. You just have to keep eating healthy, and get good sleep and sufficient exercise, just like you have been doing so far.” The gynec’s voice rang in her head.

*****

She was 9, and had gone to visit her second cousins who lived in Chennai.

This was her first visit to a metropolitan city and she was all excited. She decided that it would be the best and the most memorable summer vacation ever. Yes, she was innocent enough to believe she could have an amazing summer in the hot and humid Chennai. She was to live with her grandmother’s sister and her family. Her grandmother’s sister was an extremely fun person to be with. She spoke to her in English, which was a very cool thing for grandmothers to do, and also gifted her, her first video game. Super Mario Bros. Oh God! She was in love with this vacation.

One evening, everyone in the house decided to go saree shopping to Sundari Silks in T-Nagar. They din’t want to take her along since the women knew they would take forever, and taking a young girl along would mean they had to take short breaks to take her to the bathroom, or feed her idlis if she got hungry. So they let her stay back at home and play Super Mario. Her uncle stayed back to child-sit her.

She was engrossed in the game when he came and sat next to her. He looked at her for a while and suggested that he could help her play better. He came over her shoulders, put his hands around her neck, and held her hands and the video game remote, and began to teach her how to play. She got the trick instantly. He stood behind her shoulders and continued to watch her. Then, he slowly slid his hands down and began to massage her breasts. She was shocked, and uncomfortable. Her breasts had just started to grow. They were very small and she was always in some sort of a mild pain as they grew. That entire year. So when her uncle did that, it hurt her more. She didn’t understand what that meant, she was very young. But she just felt that it wasn’t right. She felt violated, shameful, and very, very scared. She didn’t know how to react. She just took his hand, pushed it away and said nothing. Her uncle then came around and sat on her left, and put his hand around her right shoulder, pushed her right arm aside, and began to squeeze her right breast, hard. She was in real pain. The sad part was she didn’t know what was happening to her, she didn’t know what she was supposed to do, and she didn’t know if she should talk to her mom about this. All she knew was that it felt dirty. Yes, very dirty.

She decided that she would never visit Chennai again. A few years later, she realized that she was molested for the first time in her life, and that she wouldn’t be able to forget it for a lifetime. She made sure she never saw that uncle in her life ever again. Every family gathering she attended, she made sure he wasn’t attending. She loathed him from the core of her heart.

*****

She was 15, and in a temple near Bangalore.

Her family had gone to visit a very odd and old Shiva temple. The shrine was underground in a cave that was half-filled with water.  One had to walk through the waters for at least 1000 feet to reach the end of the cave where the deity had been installed. Two priests would accompany each family, walk them across the waters, perform the pooja, and escort them back to land. The entire group consisting of the two priests, and her mother, father, brothers, and a few cousins entered the cave. She was the shortest and the youngest in the group. The water in the cave came up to her neck making it really difficult for her to walk. Her mother came to help her, but the priest suggested that the water-walking was a routine for them, and that the group should continue walking while he took care of her. Her mother trusted him. So he held her right hand in his left hand under the water, and he had a basket with the pooja stuff in his right hand that he held above the water since he didn’t them to get wet. He was patient as she struggled to walk.

She felt a pinch on her waist, on her right. She thought it must have been a water bug and continued to pace slowly. There was a tickle on her waist that slowly moved up to her breasts. It took her 30 seconds to figure out that the priest was groping her body parts randomly and pinching them, all under the water and nobody could see that. It hurt, again. This time she knew what was happening to her but she didn’t know what to do.

They reached the shrine. The priest moved forward, conducted the pooja, and blessed everyone there. She was disgusted beyond imagination. What a hypocrite, she thought, and cried from within. While returning, he offered to walk her back. She gave him a “spit on your face, you sick, son-of-a-bitch” look and went along with her mother. What troubled her was that she never had the guts to discuss these things with her parents. She felt cheated because her parents never told her that such things could happen to a girl. Was this normal? If yes, then why did she always feel like tearing away the violated skin, and why did she feel so disrespected and defiled.

*****

She was 21, and at a multiplex in Mumbai.

She had always loved Bombay. She saw herself visit the city and go on a shopping spree in her dreams every fortnight. She had always loved her Bombay friend’s flip-flops, ear-rings, and shawls. So when her Bombay friend called her to visit the now Mumbai, she went frenzy.

One rainy evening, after she had spent hundreds of rupees on buying beautiful accessories, she and her friend went to the Infiniti Mall to watch Rang De Basanti. Aamir Khan was her favorite actor and she was excited. During the intermission, she and her friend went to buy some popcorn and coke. She stood in the queue, and her friend stood behind her. After a while in the line, her friend said, “This man behind me is weird. He is hard and is rubbing it against me.” This time, she knew what it was, and what to do. She pulled her friend aside, and yelled at him, “Hello, mister! What are you trying to do? Do think you can do anything to girls and they will shut up? You bloody molester! I will call the police. Go and shag at home, you loser.” The man fled. Nobody came to her rescue. Nobody cared. People were just glad that one man left the line and that meant that they would get their popcorn sooner. She and her friend couldn’t sit through the rest of the film. “I just want to go home and shower. I feel horrible.”, she said. They left the theater.

*****

She was 22, and at a research institute in Hyderabad.

She had been offered an internship at the L.V Prasad Eye Institute and was in love with her job. She commuted by the bus everyday. One evening, a little after 5:00 pm, she walked out of the institute. She was dressed in a black salwar with a georgette white dupatta. She had to cross the road to go to her bus-stop. She crossed half of the road, and stood on the divider to cross the other half. Since it was just after 5 pm, there seemed no stopping to the endless line of vehicles. She stood there patiently. Suddenly, two men on a bike drove past her. The one sitting on the rear of the bike darted forward and squeezed her bosom and forcefully snatched her white dupatta off her neck, and threw it on the divider, a few feet away from her. Everything happened in a split second. And before she could cope up, and yell, “You fucking bastards, may you go to hell”, the bike was out of sight. She was embarrassed and devastated. She picked up the dupatta and covered herself with it as people on either sides of the road stared on.

She went home and put a band-aid on the wound on her neck.

*****

She was 27, pregnant, and at home.

She hadn’t been sexually assaulted for at least five years now. Nobody had touched her, any part of her, against her will. And for that, she gave credit only to herself for leaving the country. She had been in the West for the past five years. She was an Indian, very patriotic, and stood up every time she sung Jana Gana Mana and all that, but deep within, she knew that her country shouldn’t  be famous just for its diversity, curry, and snake charmers. She wasn’t saying that the Western country she lived in was a crime-free nation. Yes, there was molestation, rapes, bomb blasts, terrorism, random shoot-outs, and a high crime rate at that. She could not deny that and did not assume that the West was heaven. But then, there was something different here. She didn’t know what exactly it was. The best she could say was that it was the sense of freedom.

She could go and watch a film without being afraid of someone groping her body parts in the dark. She could go and have an ob/gyn exam without feeling exploited. She could go shopping without having to fear hidden cameras in the fitting rooms. She could cross the road, and walk her dog at the same time, without having to be extremely cautious of male hands that could pop out of nowhere and abuse her. She could stand at the billing counter in a grocery store without fearing that someone would get hard and rub it on her ass. She could let the plumber or the electrician inside the house to fix stuff when her husband was not at home. She didn’t have to fear the male taxi driver or the bus driver. She didn’t have to shield her body with her laptop bag, or office files, to protect herself while walking on a crowded street. She didn’t have to fear that the guy on the other side of the cash counter at the bank would try to play with her fingers when she went to collect cash. She could go and eat at a restaurant at 11:00 pm and not be molested by 16 men on national TV. She didn’t have to fear sitting next to a man on the bus or train. She wouldn’t forcefully be made to watch two men masturbate at a dark street corner.

 *****

She was going back to India after two years. Her husband’s contract with the company here was ending and she had decided to quit working to take care of the kids for a while. Everything had seemed normal. And today, suddenly, everything had changed.

She was going back to India after two years, with a baby girl. 

A girl of her own. How could she protect the beautiful thing. She had lived with all of it. But she couldn’t imagine the same things happening to her daughter. It broke her heart to think that she had to take her daughter back home, to a place where if a girl is travelling in a crowded city bus, the chance of her being molested is higher than the chance of her getting a seat before she reached her destination. She had to take her daughter back to what she now considered to be the rape capital of the world.

*****

She brushed her teeth, put her pajamas and t-shirt on and went to bed. That night, she cried. A lot. Because there was nothing else she could do.

Ramesh’s Ruthless Revenge

Meher Ramesh.

I will never be able to forget the first time I learnt this name. It was when I graduated with a B.Tech degree and was doing nothing but hanging out with friends and wasting money. During this time, I pulled along with me two very good friends who couldn’t help but abide by the rules of friendship when I tortured them to help satisfy my movie maniac soul. We covered Hollywood, Bollywood, and Tollywood, and if I could convince them, Kollywood as well. Since my other two friends weren’t as jobless as I was, the mission was usually carried out over the weekends. If we didn’t get tickets for a particular show, I would take it very personally. I would take the pain to get hold of the guy behind the counter and say, “Anna… Please Anna, _______  hero (name changed as per the film) ku periya, periya fan, Anna. Ennaku Telugu teriyada, aana padam pakkanum.” For some reason, the ticket guys were always sympathetic towards people who were non-Telugu speaking and yet fans of Telugu heros. Anyway, that weekend I decided to watch Kantri, a Jr. NTR starer.  We were at a theater on RTC X Roads and the tickets were sold out. No luck with black tickets as well. So I decided to go and enact my little play but my friends hated the idea that I get tickets claiming to be a Jr. NTR fan. I did too. But like I said, I took it too personally so I got the tickets. We were seated at the 9th row from the screen, yes, that close! Jr. NTR’s films always gave me a headache but I thought to myself, “How much worse can it get compared to his previous films?”

Three hours later, I got my answer with a headache that Saridon couldn’t cure for two days. That was the minute Meher Ramesh introduced himself to my head.

KANTRI… BILLA… SHAKTI… SHADOW…  Four mega budgets. Four mega flops.

His latest venture, Shadow, is a film that can directly be placed in the “Vijayendra Varma-Okka Magadu” category. Basically, a revenge story without substance.  It is about how a sincere journalist’s son (Venky) sets out to avenge the death of his father. Now to achieve that mission Venky has to kill at least 5 people. In the chaotic process of doing that, he acts like a memory loss retard, meets the heroine, Taapsee, manages five duets with her, meets his long-lost mother and pregnant sister, and enjoys torturing us by adorning various extremely unnecessary costumes before we are blessed with rolling credits. Phew! Trust me, I was being very brief.

People often claim that Meher Ramesh may make bad movies but they always have a sense of style in them which I believe, is bullshit. Where is the sense of style in Shadow? Shooting a film in Kuala Lampur doesn’t maketh a stylish movie, stylish people do, or at least their designers. Now if Prabhas and Anushka looked classy in Billa, it is most definitely because they are. Making everyone you cast onscreen wear a pressed business suit and expecting that the audience  think you made a rich film does not do the trick. If you have seen Raghav Lawerence’s Don and Rebel, you will know what I mean. And what have you done with poor Mr. Venky. The chimpu look, the numerous finger rings, the over sized black coat, and the ridiculously hideous motor bike. The least the hair stylist could do was take the pains to either patiently straighten Venky’s hair completely or skip using copious amounts of hair spray. About Taapsee, I am not even going to comment unless she stops shopping for clothes from the kids section.

According to me, Meher Ramesh usually copies the entire plot of his film from a previously released film. Kantri was largely taken from Bluffmaster. Billa was an obvious copy/paste from the Tamil film, Billa and I haven’t had the guts to watch Shakti. His innovative approach with Shadow is that he hasn’t picked the entire plot from one film. He has taken parts from various meaningless films and blended them together to churn out utter rubbish. And the best part is, he even plays the original clip alongside with the copied clip. What fun, no? You don’t have to stress at all wondering where you have already seen this before. For instance, you will see that he picked the MS Narayana in the swimming pool shot from Billa. The killing Nagineedu scene was directly picked up from Agnipath. Apparently, he also confessed that he wanted this film to be another Lakshmi that was directed by V.V. Vinayak.  Now, what can I say about a director who confesses to copying? Much has been said about the Gabbar Singh Antakshari scene copy, so I shall rest my case with the plagiarism here.

Moving on to the next item on the plate. Consider Indian cooking, South Indian in particular. Most South Indian dishes have what is called seasoning that is added to almost all curries at the end. Seasoning usually has a basic formula; mustard seeds, jeera, asafetida, curry leaves, red chillis, channa dal, and urad dal, as appropriate. Now you can choose to add some or all of these items to get what you can call, tasty seasoning. But if you go ahead and add toor dal, masoor dal, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, it would lead to indigestion. So does a Meher Ramesh film. The guy uses hundreds of talented artists, important people, and yet none of them add value to the film. Although the film includes Nagababu, Srikanth, Aditya Pancholi, Rahul Dev, MS Narayana, Shinde, Kaatraj, Vennala Kishore, Harshavardhan, Rao Ramesh, Nasser, Nagineedu, Subbaraju, Suman and some 10 other talented people, none of them get justified screen space. It’s like the director is in a rush. A rush to establish the reason for revenge, kill the bad guys, reunite the family, and do hundred other odd things in about 2 hours. And, if you like Subbaraju, please don’t watch the film. I thought I could only give Krishna Vasmi the credit for portraying a man who played Chatrapathi as Chakram, now Meher Ramesh has followed suit.

The music. Much cannot be said about the music since it was given by someone who is possession of countless drums, of all kinds, in all sizes. It takes your ears a while to realize that the lyrics are “Vedevado vedevado, he’ll be there where you go, you would even know he’s a shadow” and not just “dedabadooo deedabadooo deedaade dab dab dab”. Meher should probably have stuck with Mani Sharma. But what could good music have done to a stale script anyway.

I believe Meher Ramesh holds us, the audience, responsible for his first three flops and decided that this time he will not spare the audience. Shadow is a story of how Meher Ramesh takes revenge on the Telugu audience each time they cringe at Venky’s playing Chanti while chewing on a lollipop, MS’s comedy, or simply the film’s mindlessness.

I can only begin to imagine the magnanimity of his next audience targeted-revenge venture. Because Meher Ramesh is like King Vikramaditya in Vikram-Betal, chasing the success ghost and never in the mood to give up.

The Hajmola – A sour friendship

My 2nd grade in Primary School was the least favorite year of my school life, or at least, this is what I thought back then. My mom took me to Tirupathi during the summer holidays of my 1st standard to have a barber shave my head. This was done to please God in return for a favor He had bestowed upon us. So I went to PS that year wearing a pink frock and a pale yellow hat. Little did I know that I was in for some serious bullying.

Now kids don’t generally think much. They say and do things without actually meaning much harm. So most girls always forgot my real name and began calling me Gundu (the Telugu word for a bald head), girls wanted to pull my pale yellow hat off my head, while some girls wanted to use my bald head to play tabla, some others wanted to run their hands across my head and feel its prickliness. It made me angry. I used to scream, fight, and complain to the teachers, but after a while I just let go and became very quite.

Our school followed the regular norm like any other school except you could throw in prayers five times a day. We were woken up class-wise, sent downstairs to brush in the kitchen pantry, came back upstairs to sit in a queue to where ammas would give us a quick bath, sent to have our hair checked for lice (which we fondly called butchi-checking, I have always wondered why), oiled and combed neatly and then sent downstairs for breakfast followed by assembly before we went to class.

It took me very little time to understand that since I could skip a big portion of the regime, that being the hair-service, I could be the first in class. Now don’t ask me what’s the big fuss in being first. I don’t know. In a class that had anywhere between 35 – 40 girls, being first was always a big deal. I just had to be the first one to wake up, and be first in the line to brush. The rest would follow. And that is exactly what I decided to do. Soon I came first in almost everything. The teachers began to like me and my class girls, not so much. They thought I was greedy and was taking advantage of the fact that I could skip butchi checking. I had competition and I always won. Eventually, calling me Gundu became incessant and I had no friends. Absolutely.

Until she came along!

We had the December and early January every year dedicated to Sports Practice. This meant that we participated in various dances or drills and performed on January 11th, the Sports Day. Sports time was always fun. We were baked under the sun for several hours and treated to Rasna, we had no classes for more than a month, could wake up late, and just hang around in the dorm playing Charlie Chaplin, Categories, will you please, The queen of the palace, and other odd games. But before we got into serious sports practice, we would have one last Parents Meeting at the beginning of December after which we could only see our parents on Sports Day. My mom had come to see me and I had persistently bothered her to get me a Hajmola bottle. I loved the Hajmola tablets, most kids did. You didn’t necessarily need to have digestion issues to take it, it served more like tasty candy, it was sweet and sour and tangy, all at the same time. They were 130 tablets of pure joy in a dark bottle. Since we were never allowed to take outside food into the school, I was worried as to how I could fool the teachers standing at the blue grill entrance and take it inside.

Image

Just as I was thinking of a plan, my parents bumped into hers. Apparently, they knew each other and were acquainted for a long time. They introduced us to each other and I realized that she was my senior. We didn’t really talk much since you never really could be friends with your juniors or seniors. Anyway, she figured out that I was planning to take the Hajmola bottle inside and decided to help me smuggle it inside. We both held the bottle in our tiny palms, and acted like we were holing hands, bid goodbye to our parents, and marched into the lobby with confidence. I must admit that there wasn’t much checking going on either as it was the last parents meeting for the year and there were just too many people.

As soon as we went upstairs to the dorm, we had a good laugh. I took a look at her and decided that I liked her instantly. She was nice. She suggested that we hide the bottle away in my shelf, between my clothes lest anyone finds out that I had it. I did so but before that I decided that we both deserve a treat. From then on we became the best of friends. We always hung out together. It was sports time and so not many people would notice that a junior and senior were hanging out that much. She yelled at people who called me Gundu, and always saved a seat for me next to her in the dining hall, and gave me her glass of Rasna as she didn’t like it. And I, shared one Hajmola candy with her after every meal.

The word that I had the Hajmola candy was spreading fast. Soon my class girls began to approach me for them, and I gave two to people I liked, and one to people whom I didn’t. I always had to give the candy cause they could go and complain to a teacher that I had smuggled goods if I didn’t. Apart from the daily after meals dose, I began to give her one candy each time I had my class girls ask me for it, since she was almost always with me. She also suggested that I hide the bottle in different places in my shelf each day. That way nobody could steal the candy. This went on for at least about 10 days. I was on the verge of forgetting the fact I had been bullied and friend-less for a major part of that year, and was happy. Happy for having finally found a friend.

One afternoon, we were sitting in the dorm ready to go out for the drill practice when she came up to me and suggested that we both go to my shelf and pop the candy. I wasn’t in the mood but I couldn’t say no to her, so I told her she could go help herself since she knew the hiding spot for the day. That was probably the very first time she was going to have the candy on her own.

She came back a few minutes later, and whispered into my ear, “The candy is gone. Someone stole it. All of it, except two.” I was shocked. We both ran to my shelf and I turned it upside down and looked for it everywhere. “Where could they have gone? Who would steal them”, she asked. I couldn’t imagine. And why would someone leave just two of them and take away more than 70. Very sympathetic, eh!?! I took the remaining two in my hand and was about to pop them into my mouth but stopped myself. I took one of them and offered it to her and she thanked me profusely. And we marched out for drill practice.

That evening, she didn’t give me her glass of Rasna and later that night, she didn’t save me a seat next to her in the dining hall. I tired to go and talk to her a couple of times but she was always busy with her classmates and pretended like she didn’t hear me.

I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that she was the only one who knew where I hid the bottle, and that it was the first time she went alone to my shelf to take the candy, and that she stole all of them.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the candy. As a 7 year old kid, I was heart broken at the treachery. She was in the same school for 10 years after this incident but I never spoke a word to her. I knew that in life I was going to be through friendships that maybe be more sour than this. But this one was my first, and it taught me what kind of a friend I should never be.

Band Baaja Bakwaas!

I hate weddings, big, fat Indian ones in particular.

They give me a weird vibe. An anxious bride in a heavy pattu saree adorned with more jewels she can possibly carry reminds me of a decked up goat ready for slaughter at the village fair. Or a nicely decorated ox ready to pull a bullock cart for the rest of his life. The crowd, the noise, the ‘aunty groups’ poking their nose into other people’s business and discussing dowry and gold, thousands of flowers withering away, and food, lots and lots of wasted food just turns me off.

It was lunch time and I was trying to catch up on some regular news on ndtv.com when I noticed a pop up that said, “Watch ABC’s makeover on Band Baaja Bride”. Just to kill those 15 minutes, I clicked on the link and watched an episode. That evening, I got back home and watched a few more. Band Baaja Bride is this stupid show where a bride is selected from a pool of applicants to wear a Sabyasachi outfit on her wedding day. The stupidity part comes in when the hosts, Ambika and Bharat take the bride and knock the tube lights out of her pea sized brain. Okay, I would be a hypocrite if I said I wouldn’t be proud if I had a Sabyasachi or Manish Malhotra designed lehenga hanging in my closet. I agree, they are amazing. I also consent to the fact that every bride wants to look beautiful and perfect on her wedding day but the question is, how far will you go to look beautiful on your wedding day? And, what is your definition of a perfectly beautiful bride?

As such, we live in a society that knows nothing but to judge.

Aunty 1: You are 28 and you are not married? Rama rama.. If you remain like this only, you will get twisted babies at 35.

Aunty 2 (at a friend’s wedding): Psst! Do you know how much dowry the girl’s father is giving? All that jewelry is 10 carat gold it seems. For matching matching sarees.

Aunty 3 (if you belong to the groom’s party): No no! Girl is not good. Ears look like an elephant’s, she is dark, she is very short and fat.

Aunty 4 (to Aunty 3): Yes yes! Paavam! He is a software engineer in America so he had only 15 days leave, so he came quickly and had to say yes to the first girl.

Mother-in-law (to Aunty 3 and 4): Hmmm.. It doesn’t matter that she is well educated, independent, decent and comes from a good family, she is not perfect. I will just remain uncivilized and comment on her looks. Her fate! Even Band Baaja Bride rejected her plea for a makeover. Yeah! Let’s just ignore that my son is bald and has a squint eye.

Indian society has made weddings a difficult affair for women, a highly acclaimed business affair, rather. Your dad needs to put his life savings into it, your brother needs to work his ass off to get everything ready, and your mother need to take BP pills to keep her anxiety down as your D day draws near. So much of a business investment that will simply go down the drain the next day. And finally, nobody cares.

In addition to an ‘already pain in the butt’ scenario, this brainless BBB has to come in and give more ideas. As it is, a women’s confidence is constantly subjected to trauma when foolish directors make ads that show that only fair women get jobs, and darker ones will be turned down in an interview. That if you use a certain type of sanitary napkin, you will loose a basketball match. That if you use a particular bar of soap, you will remain young. At the worst of them all being, if you have dark private parts, you will have a sad marital life. Why target women? Why not have a “Santoor for Men” advertisement. Something that has a kid running up to Madhavan or Saif (who use Santoor) while yelling, “Daddy!!!!!” and, the female photographer can go, What?!?!?!?!

Now BBB in all it’s novelty, points out to brides, that they need teeth polishing, or hair straightening. What shit! I don’t blame them entirely. I blame the brides too. Why the hell do you have to come on national television say things like, “I have a broken front tooth, I am afraid I may not be able to give a beautiful, open smile on my wedding day.” Or, “I have very curly and dry hair. I’m concerned that a pigeon will come and lay eggs thinking its a nest.” And, “I have been wearing glasses all my life and I’m allergic to contact lens. Oh Gosh! I want to pose for photographs without my glasses on but I don’t want to be blind too.” Seriously, what were you girls doing for the last 10 years? Couldn’t you just go and see a good dentist, hair stylist, and lasik surgeon. I mean, if your tooth, hair, and glasses didn’t bother you then, why now? Or are you just so cheap that you find pleasure in making the channel pay your bills.

Besides, nobody on the show actually cares about what you wear or how you look on your wedding day. Its all about displaying the Sabyasachi collection. If otherwise, why would Sabyasachi convince a bride who always wanted to wear a red lehenga that green is the color for her? Why would he convince a bride who wants to wear a lehenga to her Sangeet so that she can dance a step or two that she must wear a pattu saree?

The Botox injections for an eyebrow lift and cheek alignment, don’t even get me started on that. As such, an Indian woman is considered eligible for marriage based on her looks and sometimes her dad’s property, and now you come up with this whole artificial face lifts thingy. What are you going to do next? Bring in plastic surgeons and cloning experts to make replicas of Ambika Anands and Aishwarya Rais, I mean, your definition of ‘beauty’. What message are you trying to convey? Aren’t women allowed to have bad hair days, dark circles due to stress, walk on flats next to their really tall husbands, go without a facial for a month or two, and sometimes not wear any make up at all?

I would consider this post almost incomplete if I miss out mentioning the people who file the applications. If it is not a desperate bride dying to wear a Sabyasachi, it is either her mother, or mother-in-law or the groom himself. A few grooms on the show say ridiculous things that makes me want to crack open their skull like a walnut. “My fiance is perfect, but I want BBB to make her ‘more perfect’ on the wedding day”. What does that even mean, you superficial moron? Go and look up ‘perfect’ in the dictionary first. And, only ‘on the wedding day’ is it? Are you saying that eventually when her eyebrow lift drops, her hair goes back to being a bird’s nest, and her tooth filling falls out, you will not be in love with her anymore. You should stand in front of the mirror first and check out your not so perfect beer belly, bald head, and that prickly stubble that you think looks sexy on you. Why have only a Band Baaja Bride, why not have a “Grooming The Groom”? That would give a chance to help you realize your insecurities, talk about it on national television, and make your already perfect highness look ‘more perfect’ like a greek god on your wedding day.

My point is this. Weddings are supposed to be auspicious and joyful. What matters the most on your wedding day is whether or not you are in love with the person you are promising to share the rest of your life with. Whether or not you have all your near and dear ones around you to share the love and joy. Not whether you have bad make up, or a waist band that doesn’t fit you well. There was this one girl on the show who apparently moved her wedding day to an earlier date just to be on this stupid show and wear a stupid Sabyasachi outfit. If I were her groom, I would have called off the wedding then and there.

Please why don’t you just let a woman be!

Let it be okay if she acts at the spur of the moment. Let it be okay if she wants to be dressed in a casual kurti or a pair of jeans and a tee, and get married at the registrar’s office. Let it be okay if she to wants to take her ‘potential wedding budget’ and write a check to an orphanage ensuring that a few hundred kids eat decent meals for a couple of months. Let it be okay if she doesn’t understand the fuss about wearing a saree and lots of gold. Let it be okay if she wants to give importance to her marriage rather than her wedding day. Let it be okay for her to be confident and love herself, her body, and everything about her, her imperfections included.

Let it be okay if she hates weddings, big, fat Indian ones in particular.