The Waist Band or the Waste Band?

We have all been born, raised and live in a fancy world. The one where we love to show off. Everything needs to be done with a lot of hungama and of course, fanfare. Come on, we all know that it is cheaper to send Mangalyaan into Mars’ orbit than it is to produce a Shankar’s Ai or a Rajamouli’s Baahubali. Our priorities man, they are always kick-ass.

Of course, I am generalizing. But that’s what happens in general. And that is why I go back to my most favorite and controversial topic. Our weddings. Whether a father has a house to claim as his own after working for nearly 50 years and as he is nearing his retirement does not matter. He simply has to marry away his children with a lot of wealth. One of my room-mates once told me that most dads in her state go to the bank and take a personal loan to get their daughters married because the in-laws expect the bride to bring in a lot of gold. And that’s what her dad did for her sister’s wedding and that he would take another personal loan for her as well, when the time came.

Well, the fanfare, wealth, food, jewelry and all that is fine, but at least when we are spending lacs and lacs of rupees on all this unnecessary crap, why are we supposed to buy jewelry that looks like absolute shit. Take the waist band or the waist belt, for example. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the ugliest piece of gold I have come across my entire life. I think it’s more of a South Indian tradition, but I could be completely wrong, maybe it is only an Andhra Pradesh thing (yeah! Mr. KCR, that includes the new state too), I don’t know. But basically, a gold waist band is a really thick, ugly looking piece of gold that’s worn on a saree, obviously around the waist. It always reminds me of one of those belt bombs, that’s how big most of them are. Now, I am not completely against them, I like the really, really thin ones and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the thin, sexy ones are not much appreciated in the market. edit 2 You see what I’m talking about? I mean, why, why, on earth do we have to buy a gold belt that looks like it was created only to strangle your self esteem. And to make you feel like a decorated cow at the farmer’s market. Now there are different kinds of people who will tell you different things and try to enlighten you on the absolute necessity of wearing or owning something as ridiculous as this.

The Financial Advisers: This is the group of people who self appoint themselves as your nearest kin and well wishers. It will seem like they have all graduated with an MBA in Finance from the IIMs and are therefore, the best advisers on how and where you invest your money in. ‘You don’t like the waist band? What are you even saying. It is gold, amma, gold always means investment. Whatever happens, gold is like property, it will fetch you loans, and blah ‘ they say. Okay, I get it. We are growing old even if we don’t want to and it is good to have some savings and investments, but why on earth does only buying a waist band amount to investment. First of all, I don’t care for that amount of gold, I would have to live on the streets wearing a gold waist band if I purchased it. And second of all, why can’t I get myself a dozen gold bracelets and really thin gold hoops in different sizes instead of this stupid thing. At least those I will wear without feeling embarrassed in public. Okay so I will get myself one and wear it on my wedding day, where am I going to be able wear it to without looking like a fool afterwards.

Or actually, why can’t I buy myself some really nice platinum bracelets. That’s what I like and I am sure that counts as investment too.

The Pretentious Gold Diggers: There is this one friend of mine who is on the heavier side, she weighed about 70 – 80 kilos at that time and her parents, after an extensive search, finally found a guy for her to get married to. We were quite surprised when the groom’s family approached my friend’s family and told them that they were not expecting dowry of any sorts. I have a bucket load of opinions on dowry and am very against it, but let’s not get into that right now. Anyhow I was very happy for my friend until the groom’s parents came back and said, ‘well, we don’t want any dowry but just get a gold waist band made for your daughter.’ Seriously, what the hell. And they were asking for one of those really thick ugly looking ones and they knew for a fact that, the regular ones available in the stores wouldn’t fit my friend owing to her heavy personality and her parents were forced to spend tons of money in the name of ‘no dowry’. How cheap! I mean, what if someone cannot afford that disgusting piece of gold! To these people, I just want to say, well how about this cute little buffalo for your daughter in-law, hey we promise, she comes with a gold waist band.

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The Thunder Stealers: Now this is a very weird category. The kind of relatives and/or friends who want to steal the bride’s thunder. The bride would want to be simple with no additional extravagance and when she is not wearing the waist band on her wedding day, these people will put on theirs and parade in the wedding halls. How self engrossed can you be? It’s the bride’s day, one of the most important days in her life and you are out there just to use this as an excuse to show off your collection of gold. Who do you think seriously cares? I know this one stupid family who got introduced to one of my friends just one week before her wedding, and they pretended to take up a lot of the wedding responsibilities, that is fine, but on the wedding day, the bride had clearly demanded a simple wedding, and they put on their stupid belt flashers that glow like stadium lights and started walking around. The worst part is, one of the aunts asked the bride if she wanted to wear her daughter’s waist band. How ridiculous. It wasn’t that my friend couldn’t get one for herself, she despised the very idea of a gold waist band. Why is that so hard for you to understand. And more importantly, why can’t that be considered normal?

Usually, I wouldn’t even notice whether the bride was or wasn’t wearing one and the people around her have one on or not, but you want to be in all the pictures with the bride you barely know and are constantly on the stage and your stupid band is shining like a million suns and blinding me and over shadowing the bride when I am trying to take decent pictures of her.

The Wedding Jury: Yes, you got it right. This is the group that will sit and judge the bride and her family. The bride for what she’s wearing and what she is not and her family for not being able to provide for her on her wedding day. They are the ones who can write in blood and give you a guarantee that your married life will be a happily ever after if you wear the right amount of gold. After all, that’s the factor that determines how happy and successful someone’s married life is, right? ‘Oh, she looks so dull without the waist band, at least her parents should have gotten her a plain and simple one with no fancy design. And why is she wearing such small earrings, I wonder if they are gold.’ they will say. Can someone please explain to me how all the gold I wear on my wedding day will help me constrain my anger and not yell at my husband when he forgets to wash his plate after dinner.

And that brings me back to, I will never want to own one of those big, fat, bright yellow bands. Not before my wedding, not on or after my wedding.

So eventually when I do give in to all the family blackmail, and sit down in the podium on my wedding day without the waist band, and you are there, please do not judge me. If I personally invited you, you’d fall into the category that doesn’t judge, but there will be a bunch of people who get invited automatically and I will have no say in it (that’s how it works for us). I will personally be distributing a printout of this post, so you can save yourself the trouble of trying to decipher why I’m not wearing the waist band. But if you see me wearing the really sleek and sexy one, again, you will have a copy of this and will understand that I am not completely against the idea of the waist band, I just hate the really thick and expensive ones that shine like the sun because personally, I feel embarrassed to wear it.

And finally, if you do turn up at my wedding and see me with a gold waist band that looks like a belt bomb, please call the cops, because if someone managed to slip that around my waist, they probably are also forcing the groom on me, so please come and save me!

My HP Story

Everybody has a Harry Potter story.

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Mine started sometime in 2001. One of my friends who sat in the chair behind me during the Language classes in my 11th grade was a die-hard fan of the HP series. She read the first four books that had been released up to that point during every English and Sanskrit class. And then read them again. And again. And again. I once asked her why a magical world of witches and wizards fascinated a 16 year old such as her, because at that time, in my opinion, a book on magic is probably something that a 10 year old must read.

Instead of explaining the whys and whats, she simply handed me the first HP book, the Philosopher’s Stone. Her handing the book to me at that time was a huge, huge deal because there was a long line of girls who had ‘caught’ places to read the books and I luckily got in the middle. It meant business. Like a challenge. ‘Read this one and tell me you don’t want to read the second book.’ That’s what it meant.

Well, the rest is history!

My Most Favorite Book: Whenever someone has asked me which one of the seven books is my favorite, my answer has always been, ‘The second one: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.’ Now, first things first about this book. While I was half way through this one, I was in the dorm one day, drying out my clothes on the strings. Two of my friends were in the dorm too, having a silly fight. It went on for a good ten minutes and one of them was really angry and yelled at the other, ‘Well, so that’s how you are going to piss me off? I’ll tell you this, Ginny Weasley opened the chamber of secrets.’

And there, just like that she ruined the book for me. I was so annoyed, you have no clue. But the chamber of secrets, although I knew who opened it, is by far my most favorite book majorly because of the reading experience this book left me with. We lived in a huge dorm with about 80 girls in it and had seven common bathrooms. The dorm lights were switched off every night at about 10 pm and this meant no chit chatting or studying after this time. If any teacher caught you doing anything but sleeping, the consequences were pretty bad. But I couldn’t stop myself from reading the book, I just couldn’t go to bed. So every night after my class teacher switched off the lights after night prayers, I would tiptoe into the bathrooms. The common bathrooms always had their lights on. So I read a major portion of the chamber of secrets sitting on an overturned plastic bucket in the bathroom. The bathroom was creepy as hell and except for the fact that it wasn’t a first floor girls bathroom, every inch of this bathroom reminded me of Moaning Myrtle. I basically read the entire book with two freakish fears. One, I was afraid Moaning Myrtle would suddenly show up from behind and drag me into the chamber of secrets; two, a teacher may walk into the bathroom and punish me for staying up late. So there, that’s the most enjoyable read I’ve possibly ever had my entire life.

The Drool over Sirius Black: As the other books came out one by one, I found myself drooling over Sirius Black. I was highly attracted to this man for a really long time. Sirius Black, to me, was a really handsome and valorous knight. Like a prince. I don’t know why I felt that way about him.  He was my password to a number of accounts for years. The password to my Gmail, Yahoo, Orkut and Facebook accounts. (Well, don’t try to hack into my account now, I obviously changed the password!) So I had high hopes on the guy who would play Sirius in the HP movies. But Gary Oldman completely disappointed me. I mean, you should have seen the Sirius in my mind.  In my teenage mind, he was the hottest imaginary hero that could possibly exist. And that is why while I was in the middle of reading the Order of the Phoenix and someone told me that Bellatrix kills Sirius in the fifth book, I didn’t get angry with them. Because if I had to figure it out on my own, his death, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It would have been too shattering to mourn his death all by myself. My knowing that he was going to die even before I completed the book gave me time to grieve and accept his death when it actually happened.

The Deathly Hallows Drama: That brings me to the release of the seventh and the final book, The Deathly Hallows, in 2007. This was the last book in the series and this was the only time I had been up to date with all the previous set of books. I was now ready for the release. If you are a HP fan, you should remember all those rumors about Harry may or may not die in the last book. The ones about where J.K. Rowling could be a bitter bitch and kill Harry because for Lord Voldemort to die, Harry had to die too. And this time, I wasn’t prepared learn what happens at the end from someone else. I wanted to read the book and devour the secrets all by myself. So here was my plan for the release of the seventh book. Being a girl from a small town where the book wouldn’t release on the D-day, I decided to go to Hyderabad. I wanted to be there. I wanted to stand outside the book store at midnight and be one of the first ones to rush into the book store when it opened that morning at 6. I wanted to push and pull and put up a fight and get into the store and grab my first ever and last owned HP book.

My mom and dad weren’t really happy with this idea. Mostly because this was an unnecessary expense according to my dad. And of course, he wasn’t entirely wrong. According to my dad, who is a voracious reader himself, HP was a book that was pure magical bullshit that did not contribute to even a pigeon shit size of common sense to growing kids. But when I asked my parents for Rs 2,500 (which was a lot back in 2007) so I could travel to Hyd, stay there for two days and buy a book worth Rs 1,200, they didn’t say no to me. So there I was, happy as a colorful butterfly that just ran into a bottle of honey. But….

My boyfriend at that time was a big tall asshole. Of the highest order. Two weeks before the release of the Deathly Hallows, he acted all jerk’ish and decided to pick a huge fight with me. I was already working real hard on our long distance relationship at that time and to prevent the situation getting worse, I spent my HP earned Rs. 2,500 to travel up to meet him, patch up with him and pacify him with an expensive gift. I never got to live my ‘buy my HP book’ dream. Of course, he sent me an e-copy of the book 3 days after its release and I spent 11 hours reading the book on my stupid P3 desktop. Seriously, if I had known at that time that it wasn’t going to work out with this guy, I would have totally dumped him for the HP experience. I mean, think of it, I would at least have a great story to tell. About how I punched someone in the line, jumped through hoops and broke a glass window at the book store and stole the Deathly Hallows at midnight, got arrested by the police for it, and finally read the stolen book in jail. Sexy, right?

The Popcorn Incident: Thank God for Universal, the HP experience did not end with the books. My first HP movie in the theater was the Order of the Phoenix. I remember watching this at Prasads IMAX. Now this was a time when the HP merchandise wasn’t really popular or out there in India. So when I saw that Prasads was serving popcorn in paper cones that had Harry, Ron and Hermione printed on them, I went crazy with joy. The popcorn was Rs. 20, that in my opinion was very expensive for popcorn. The guy who sold the popcorn to me clearly figured out I had problems because I was jumping up and down after seeing the HP printed popcorn cone. I remember telling myself that I would never throw away the printed paper cone and would keep it with me forever.

But after the movie, in the dark, and in the midst of crying over Sirius Black’s death, I lost the paper cone. I went to the popcorn fellow and begged him ‘Please, anna, can you give me a paper cone, I lost mine. I don’t need any popcorn, just the paper cone. I just purchased popcorn a while back; you do remember me, right?’ The asshole goes, ‘Give me Rs. 20, ma’am.’ I looked at him, flabbergasted. Seriously, come one dude, I just bought your popcorn, and I just watched Sirius get sucked into limbo forever, have some mercy.

But he wouldn’t budge. I finally gave him the 20 rs and took a new paper cone from him. ‘Take your popcorn again, ma’am,’ he said. ‘Fuck you,’ I thought, snatched the paper cone from him and walked away. Little did I know on that day that I would actually get a HP t-shirt for myself five years later and also wear it to the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Yay, me!

The Orlando Universal Studios Saga: I went to visit the twin entertainment parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL in early, early 2009 while I was getting my Master’s degree. The parks were fantastic but they left me highly disappointed with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Revealed in 2010” signs all over in the park. ‘Damn it, if only I had come to the parks next year.’ I had thought.

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Luckily or unluckily for me, I lived in Gainesville for about 3 months after I graduated and was looking for a job. So when a friend of mine who was visiting the United States decided to come and meet me in Orlando, I was super excited. Maybe this was a chance to finally get on to the Harry Potter ride in the Islands of Adventure. But since I was broke and was looking for a job and had zero savings at that time, all I could afford was a ticket to one of the two parks, and I left my visiting friend to pick a park of her choice. My friend wanted to go to the Universal Studios, the one that did not have the HP ride. I went along with her. It tore my heart to go to Universal Studios that day, to have the HP ride in the neighboring park, a few feet away from me and yet not be able to hop onto it. But I told myself, anything for friends. Because if there is anything the Harry Potter books taught me, it’s that you always have to be there for your friends, in the wizarding world and in the muggle world, and respect their choices.

So basically, I had been to Orlando twice, spent $300 on park tickets by this time and still hadn’t experienced the HP ride. Everyone knew my Orlando story. My friends, my co-workers, random HP fans, heck, even my hair stylist. All of them have asked me why I never went back to Orlando again. I have always told them that it just didn’t make sense anymore. To spend about $300 on flight tickets to Orlando, and an additional $200 on the park tickets. I mean, I love Harry Potter and all that, but since I’ve been to all the other rides at the parks, twice, spending $500 only to go see HP felt like real bullshit to me. Not worth it.

I have been cribbing and crying that I probably am the only specimen who has been to Orlando twice and has never been on the HP ride, until someone told me to suck it up. And that’s when I decided to give it a shot. Spend the money. Enjoy the Harry Potter ride. Know how the world of wizardry actually feels. They have a new ride in the Universal Studios too now. Apparently, it has the Diagon Alley too. A whole new experience. And so here I am, finally sucking it up and doing it. As I am sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to catch my connecting flight to Orlando, and eating my really gross hummus flatbread (I hate airport food), I can only begin to imagine what I have in store for me this weekend. I am super, super, super excited!!!

I almost silently, secretly and very desperately hope that when I walk into Diagon Alley this Saturday wearing my Harry Potter t-shirt, I see the dark figure standing tall in his deep black cloak buttoned up to his neck, his long wavy hair parted in the middle and running down to his shoulders, with his expressionless face whispering out to me, ‘After all this time?’

And I can say unabashedly, ‘Always.’

‘Always, Snape, and forever. You are to me, my fictional knight in a dark shining armor. You were, are and will always be my best fictional love, (after Mr. Darcy, of course). Be it when you were mean to Harry in the books, be it when you befriended Lord Voldemort as a death eater, be it when you killed Dumbledore, be it when I realized that you were the half-blood prince and began calling myself the half-blood princess, be it when you simply walked into a dim classroom, made it dimmer by shutting the windows with a ‘Turn to Page 394’ but remained the most brilliant personality in the room, or be it when you were just being Severus Snape. Because for me, Harry Potter wasn’t about Harry, Ron and Hermione or Voldemort, I didn’t care for the sorting hat, the thunder bolt scar, or for the invisibility cloak, or for quidditch or Hagrid and those unicorns, or for the deathly hallows. I really didn’t care for Harry and Ginny together or for the romance between Ron and Hermione . For me, Harry Potter was always about you. I love you, Severus.’

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Everybody has a Harry Potter Story. What is yours?

Have you really broken-up?

‘One Tall Americano, please,’ she said to the guy at the Starbucks counter, and looked around while she waited for her coffee to find a good spot to seat herself for the next two hours until her boarding time . When the Americano was ready, she picked it up, walked over to the sugar and cream counter and added half a spoon of raw sugar and did a weird swish-swoosh with the flat, wooden stir stick for a good 20 times to ensure the raw sugar had completely dissolved in the coffee. She would have continued the stirring if she hadn’t realized that the person waiting behind her was looking close to being angry.

The only empty table was the one near the sugar and cream counter and although she would have preferred a better table, she decided to take it. It was way better than not having a table to sit at all in a busy Starbucks at Terminal B in the Newark Liberty International Airport.

She hated this airport. But her work forced her to travel to Paris once every three months and the company she worked for always flew her through Air France with an inevitable connecting at the Newark Airport. And it always had been from Terminal B. For seven long years now. Today was no better than the first time or the 21 other times she had stopped at EWR. It had never been easier. The Starbucks, the escalator, the little Mexican restaurant that had really bad food, nothing had changed since then. Except, probably her heart. Oh and of course! Now she had also learnt how to drag her cabin bag along with her on the escalator without awkwardly tripping over the bag.

She looked at the table that she had been seated at with him on that fateful windy day in March, seven years ago. She tried to gulp down the painful knot she felt in her throat. It wasn’t easy. It never had been.

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‘Break-ups are never easy, Siriya,’ she heard her friend say. ‘You cannot expect to meet each other in the morning, have lunch at noon, catch a romantic movie, walk together in the park that evening and then, joyfully say goodbye to each other and call it quits.If break ups were going to be that pain free, two people in a relationship would never see a reason to break up in the first place.’

Siriya looked up, both angry and sad. ‘Don’t call me Siriya. It’s such an odd name. Could you not just stick with Siri for once?’

‘Okay, Siri,’ her friend continued, ‘if you have decided to break up and if you are choosing to do it in person because you need closure, whatever that means, then suck it up and go through with it but it’s not going to be painless.’

‘I know,’ Siriya said, biting the nails on her left hand and frantically tapping the finger from her right on the table. She was clearly confused, you could tell. Whether she was doing the right thing, you had no clue.

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She waved to him when she saw him at the airport. She had a five hour layover at EWR while she was flying to Phoenix and had decided it was the perfect duration. Not too long, not too short to go through with it.

He hadn’t changed a bit. He stood tall and had a plain face, like he always did. If you looked at him, you could never tell whether in his head he was singing a romantic song to you, or if he was so angry with you that a volcano was erupting right inside him. So this windy day in March, when he had come to meet her at the airport to break up in person with her, she couldn’t tell if he was upset or angry or both.

‘Let’s go upstairs and sit. There is a little Mexican place there. Maybe we could grab a bite?’ she said. She walked towards the escalator and he followed behind her. He was peculiarly more silent than normal. Of course, he had a reason to be.

She tried to put her cabin suitcase and her foot on the escalator at the same time and nearly tripped over the suitcase. Embarrassed, she turned towards him. Now usually, if she did something this silly he would mockingly laugh at her like she’s an idiot, but today, he just smiled and told her, ‘You need to put you feet on there first and then drag the bag along with you onto the next step, not onto the same step.’

They went up, got lunch and sat down. He stared at her without touching his food. She could feel his stare right through her. She could always tell when he was staring at her and when he was not. When he didn’t move his gaze for a long while, she looked up from her food and said, ‘Eat your food. It’s not that great but…’

“I’m not hungry,’ he interjected, even before she could complete her sentence.

‘See, I’m wearing my Harry Potter shirt. I know it looks too big on me but this was the only size they had,’ she smiled weakly, trying to lighten up the mood.

‘I know what is on your mind, Siriya, just say it. The ordeal is not going to turn into something happy just because you prolong it with small talk.’

This was him being curt. This was him being his usual self. But when he called her out by her full first name, she realized that although he hadn’t said it, he was hurting inside. If she peeped into his head, she would have found him curled up in a corner crying profusely.

‘I don’t think it is working anymore. I really love you but I have come to see that we are very different people now. We probably were different to begin with, but everything is falling into a realistic perspective nowadays. We both have always been emotionally very attached to each other but somehow we seemed to have been travelling the same path at different emotional levels at different points of time. When I was crazy about you, very needy and clingy in the beginning, you were balanced. And now, when I seem to feel emotionally stable, you have turned into me. The long distance, the time zone difference, convincing our parents, these are what we are always fighting about. We are trying to concentrate so much on having one good phone conversation without having a fight, and that makes me wonder, if we are trying too hard to stay in this relationship and failing at it, is it possibly cause we may not be in love with each other anymore? You have mentioned that your friends think we are not right for each other, so have mine, may be they have a point?’

‘If this is what you perceive, then I think you should reconsider. I am willing to cross certain boundaries I have laid down for myself if that means having to be with you. Why are you even doing this to me? Don’t you want to give us a chance?’ He was very composed even as he said that.

He had never spoken that way. It was his way of saying, I love you. I truly do. We both have our egos but we can work this out. I cannot imagine a life without you. I may not be as expressive as you would like me to be but no way on earth does that mean that I love you any lesser. I am impatient, yes. But that is me, just like you are immature. Give us one chance, just one chance is all I ask from you. You know that I haven’t loved and will never be able to love anyone the way I love you. You are the reason I smile from my heart. Without you, I will be miserable and shattered.

But he never did utter those words. She waited to see if he would say them at least today. But he never did. And she tried to understand him for that, but she really could not. She needed a man of many words and in his opinion, certain things were best left when unsaid and rather felt.

Those five hours were going to be longest hours of her life. She felt foolish for thinking that she had timed her break up and assumed that meeting him for one last time would bring her closure. He continued to stare at her, taking his eyes off her face only when he blinked.

‘Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee. I saw a Starbucks downstairs,’ she said, standing up and trying to break the silence.  He nodded. When they walked towards the escalator, the drama repeated again, and very oddly, he smiled weakly again, gave a detailed explanation of how you mount yourself and your bag.

He was being rather nice to her today. Why was she breaking up with him, again, she wondered. She tried not to confuse herself. She had thought about this for weeks now, her friends agreed with her, she was making the right choice.

‘One tall Americano, please, the name is Siri,’ she said, as they reached Starbucks. She turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows asking him what he wanted to drink.

‘I don’t like coffee here. Their beans are over roasted,’ he said.

‘No, try my order. I’ll make it the right way for you’ she smiled meekly hoping he would smile back. They picked up the Americanos and walked to the counter to the side. She picked up half a spoon of raw sugar, put it in his coffee and stirred it for two whole minutes, saying, ‘You need to add raw sugar and stir it until it completes dissolves in the hot coffee. Or else the raw sugar settles down at the bottom and even if you try to blend it in later, it tastes weird.’

He said nothing. He took the coffee, sipped it and she couldn’t tell if he liked it or not. Just like she couldn’t tell if he loved or hated any of the gifts she had bought for him. His face was expressionless.

They walked around the airport for a little longer and he suggested they walk into a gift store. She saw him buy something. For a second, she wondered if it was for her. Immediately, she shrugged her shoulders and laughed at herself. He never buys gifts for people. He isn’t that kind of a person.

Here and there, in their conversation, he indirectly asked her if she was sure about what she wanted from this relationship. It was almost like he was begging her to reconsider. They talked about when they had initially started dating and about how both of them skipped dinner every day just so that they could save some money to call each other on the phone. Cellphone calls were expensive those days. She remembered telling him that here AT&T allowed unlimited talk time and they could talk all night if they wanted to without having to go to bed on an empty stomach. She thought about how technology brought them closer while their hearts distanced themselves from each other.

She stood at the Gate as the boarding started. She looked into his eyes for the first time that day. They looked hollow and sad, very, very sad, like there was no life in them. She immediately hugged him, tight. He did not hug her back. He simply stood there, as if he was electrocuted. After a few seconds, he moved his right hand forward, as if to wrap his arm around her, but instead, put a small bag in her left hand.

 She was angry that he wouldn’t even hug her back. She knew he hated PDAs. But for god-sake, this was probably the last time she was going to see him. She clutched the small bag he put in her hand tightly and walked into the gate before turning back and waving a goodbye to him. He stood there like a rock.

She sat in her seat and hastily opened the bag. It was a magnet. It said, ‘Someone who loves me very much went to New York and got me this magnet.’ She started to sob uncontrollably and kissed the magnet.

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It had been seven years. Over the first three years after the break up, she had dated two guys. Both the guys had been great, but she somehow never felt as passionate about them as she had felt about him. It wasn’t them. It was her. It took her two years of wasteful dating and another additional year to realize that she will never feel the same about anyone else in her life. And that she was still in love with him. She was in love only with him. For her, it wasn’t about moving on, she just didn’t want to be with anybody else. It took her a really long time realize that when she broke up with him, that day, in this very airport, a part of her had broken too. So broken that it rendered her heart impossible to be crazily in love with another person. But when that realization had hit her, it had been too late. She learnt that he had moved on.

She missed him, terribly. It hurt her because she couldn’t go back to him. She missed his expressionless face, his wide palms with really long fingers, the smell of his silky hair and his large, deep eyes that always looked like they wanted to say something to her but never did. She missed the way he….

She shook herself to reality. She washed down the painful knot in her throat with a large gulp of coffee, wiped her moist eyes and looked into her handbag. She didn’t have to look keenly or for a long time to find it, the magnet. She took it out, caressed it fondly and planted a kiss on it. Whether he still lived in New York, she did not know. Whether he still loved her, very much, she had never had the courage to find out.

She then suddenly became aware of her surroundings because she thought she heard her name being called out at Starbucks counter where you collect your drinks. That’s odd, she thought. Nobody has her name. It was such an odd name, Siriya. Like her parents wanted to name her after a country and misspelled her name instead. She liked being called Siri until the stupid iPhones stole that joy too. She now preferred Siriya. So when she heard the lady at the counter scream, Siriya – Hot Chocolate and Pat – One Tall Americano, she was curious to see the co-owner of her name.

She watched in awe as a little girl, clearly at least 5 years old, ran forward and picked up both the glasses and walk towards the sugar counter right next to her table.

‘Daddy, one half spoon of raw sugar, stir until it completely dissolves, while it’s hot, right?’ she screamed loudly.

‘Yes, darling. Now hurry up or else we will miss the flight.’ she heard a familiar deep voice. The one that she frequently heard in her dreams every now and then.

She turned and looked at him. He stood tall and had a plain face. He was busy looking at his tickets. The little girl ran up to him proud of her coffee achievement, he took the coffee from her into his left hand, held her with his right and walked hurriedly towards the escalator.

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How color blind are you?

It was a beautiful evening during the summer holidays. That time of the day when the sun’s heat is just wearing off and the cool breeze wants to push its way in. Summer was always her favorite time of the year because she got to spend time in her grandparent’s village. The countryside, its lush green fields, her darling grandmother and most importantly, her cousins who played silly, childish games with her, all this made her summers beautiful. She was like any regular 5 year old. She played running and catching and house-house, lazied around the wooden swing in her backyard. She usually never carried her toys to the village. So this warm evening, she and her cousins decided to play house-house while all the elders went to the temple except for one of her aunts who stayed back to baby sit the kids.

House-house was a game that had a teeny tiny kitchen set. The kitchen set had all the utensils right from a cooking stove to spoons and ladles. She and her cousin sisters would pose to cook food, tiny amounts of rice, daal and chai and pretend to eat a sumptuously satisfying meal. But the game only started when the roles of mom, dad, and two children were assigned. She and her three cousin sisters played a random version of rock-paper-scissors and she was chosen to play the mom. She was excited because playing the mom was always the most important part. It was like the role Chiranjeevi played in the movie, Gang Leader, extremely important. She set her tiny pots and pans in a row, ready to start her cooking ordeal when her aunt who wasn’t paying attention until then suddenly intervened.

“Oh! wait. Are you playing the mother?”, her aunt asked looking surprised.

“Yes”, she chirped happily.

“No. Wait, you cannot. Switch places with Kavya. You play the father.”

“Why? I just don’t want to bring the groceries. I want to play the main role.”, she said, her eyes almost brimming with tears.

“You are dark skinned. You cannot play the wife or the mother. You should play the father. Girls who are fair skinned are always beautiful, so let Kavya take your place.” She heard her aunt say.

She looked at her olive skinned hands and wondered why she was that way. When her mother came back from the temple, she ran to her, and asked, “Why did you give me this dark color. Did you not like me? I want to be fair skinned too.”

Her mother, rather surprised, said, “What nonsense! Who is feeding such crap into your head. You are beautiful and you are important. Don’t let your skin color, caste or religion ever be something that defines your personality.”

She wasn’t convinced. She felt that it was her fault she was born dark skinned. She wanted a lighter skin tone and was willing to do anything for it.

                  *********

Every year, the 11th grade students would throw a farewell party to both, the 10th and 12th grade students. It was a painstakingly huge yet  a rewarding affair. It was a month of fun that included outdoor spot inspections, speaking with caterers, figuring out a theme for the party, arranging a student fashion show, some dance performances and a skit.  All preparations were done during regular class hours. This meant she could officially bunk classes and not be punished for it. She had always been good at organizing and at writing plays. She scripted the play and pretty much had everything organized, and her team voted for her to compere for the event. She was excited and glad to be the show host. She and her team practiced hard. Two days before the event, as they were rehearsing, her Class Teacher walked in. The teacher silently watched the entire show and called the team together afterward to give her input.

“Everything looks good.”, she said, “Great work. One suggestion though, if you want my frank opinion.”

The team continued to listen eagerly.

“I think your current event host isn’t doing a great job. I would recommend Preeti to host the show.”

She was upset. Nobody had told her to this day that she was a bad host. She had compered at several occasions and knew she always did a fantastic job. She went into the nearest washroom, locked herself up in the toilet and started to cry.

About 10 minutes later, she heard voices in the washroom and it took her an instant to recognize it was her Class Teacher and Preeti. She wiped her tears and moved up closer to the door to eavesdrop.

Preeti said, “Ma’am, are you sure about me hosting the event. I’ve never done it before, and I’m not very confident about it. I think she was doing a fine job. Besides, she has the experience. Why did you have to replace her with me?”

“You will be fine, don’t worry. I agree she was doing an okay job but you know what? You are more appealing. More presentable, you know what I mean! The audience always likes a pretty and fair-skinned face. And come on, nobody will even pay attention to what you are saying if you throw out your flashing smile when you are on stage. So fear, not. You’ll do great.”

She cried a little more and came out of the toilet after she was sure Preeti and her Class Teacher had left.

She went home really, really upset. Her Class Teacher reminded her of her aunt. This was just so unfair, literally. Thinking thus, she turned on the T.V and flopped herself onto the couch. That was when she truly paid attention to the fairness cream ad for the very first time. The ones where a dark skinned woman with the aspiration to make it big in the professional world is always rejected. And how eventually she would get her dream job after she applied tons of fairness cream and became light skinned.

She was in 11th grade. She thanked God that there was still time and hope for her to change. For the better.

The next day, she purchased her very first tube of Fair & Lovely. She rushed home to try it out on her face. The ad said it would take her just 7 days to loose her olive colored skin to a wonderful, wheatish complexion. Her mother was at home that evening, watching this famous movie, Krantiveer. She stood for a second next to her mother before she went to her room to apply the cream.

The scene in the film showed Nana Patekar slitting the wrists of a Muslim and a Hindu, hastily mixing the blood from either of them and saying, “This is Muslim’s blood and this is Hindu’s blood. Can you tell me the difference in both?”

Her mother turned to her and said, “What a beautiful way to say that all human beings are the same and that there should be no differentiating factor amongst us. Anyway, why are you back so late. Go and get ready fast, we need to go to Sheela Aunty’s baby shower.”

She walked into her room dazed. She looked at the tube in her hand and threw it into the bin with disgust. What was she even doing, she wondered. She had to love herself for what she is. She wasn’t defective as people pointed out to her. Everyone has red blood flowing beneath their skin, irrespective of what color the skin is.

 

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                                                                                                                                    *********

Adarsh had said he would meet her at the regular place at 7 pm. She drove to Mylapore and parked her Scooty at the Karukudi complex. She looked up and the restaurant’s sign, The Dhaba. She took a deep breath and walked in. The waiter smiled and came forward, “The usual table, Ma’am?”, he asked.

She nodded and walked towards the table on the extreme left. That had been their favorite table for four years now. Adarsh and she had agreed that it was the perfect table for two. It wasn’t too close to the kitchen or the washroom or the front door. And, the Zanjeer poster was visible to both of them. She sat down and looked at Amitabh Bachchan on the poster. She smiled to herself, nervously, and thought, “Four long years.”

She had first met Adarsh when she was pursuing her Bachelors in Biology. Adarsh was her senior and from the Electronics and Communications Engineering department. They met on the college bus, became fast friends and fell in love almost immediately. The Dhaba in Mylapore was their favorite in Chennai since they believed it was the only restaurant that carried authentic Punjabi food. This restaurant and Mr. Bachchan on its wall had seen them through a lot over the last four years. Right from the days when they lived on limited pocket money from their parents and shared one Rumali roti to when they got their own jobs and could afford a full fledged three course meal that started with Babycorn Munchurain, followed by Rumali roti with Paneer Butter Masala, and ended with Rasmalai.

Today was an important day for her and Adarsh. She had met his parents for the first time that afternoon and Adarsh was going to meet her at The Dhaba to tell her what his parents thought of their prospective daughter-in-law. She saw him walk into the restaurant and her heart skipped a beat as she waved him to their table.

“They love you. Dad absolutely thinks you are a darling. I would have never imagined that Amma and Appa will be so cool about accepting a non-Tamilian girl for a daughter-in-law. I am so happy, baby. This is it”,  Adarsh said, all under one breath.

“Wow! That’s great news and a relief. So, what else did they say after I was gone. I though my kurti was extremely bright colored. I should’ve worn a lighter shade, maybe? Did they think I should have worn a saree instead of jeans?”

Adarsh scoffed. “Not a word about that. You were simply awesome.”

She persistently asked, “Give me more details. What else did you talk about after I left? Anything that I should be aware of?”

“Well”, Adarsh began, “Amma did mention that she is concerned our relatives might say that you are on the darker skin tone. Not that she would hold you responsible for it and not to mention, it isn’t bothering her in any way. But she said it may bother the relatives.  She said she would feel relived if she threw it out in the open lest one of my aunt says it to your face.”

She became very, very quiet and said after a long pause, “What did you have to say to that?”

“Nothing. I just brushed it off. I told Amma that although you are dark, you have a charming face. You know, what people call kala. You are beautiful cause you have striking features and are a wonderful human being and it’s difficult for people not to like you.”

“So, you think so too?”

“Think what, baby”, Adarsh asked distractedly looking for the waiter.

“Think that I am dark skinned.”

He looked at her lovingly, took her hand in his, “But you a have really, really charming face”, he repeated.

She did not speak another word during dinner. When she got home, she called Adarsh and told him that she didn’t want to marry him anymore. She explained that it wasn’t because she failed to acknowledge that she was dark but that she was ashamed that her skin color had to become a topic of discussion in the first place.  She said that it made her feel that he thought of her like a defective shirt you would buy at an outlet store. A shirt that had a few threads hanging loose but was intact anyway. A defective shirt that you would buy at an outlet store only because it was on sale. She told him that she wasn’t defective to begin with. Being dark skinned was normal.

“You do not tell a really fair looking person that they are fair, do you? Why then, is my complexion a topic of discussion and you tell me that you backed me up with the “kala” argument. That is the worst justification ever! If you were a true gentleman, you would’ve argued that my complexion doesn’t concern you. I am afraid, Adarsh. I shudder to think that I have to spend the rest of my life with you, with someone who may look at our child in the future, and if he or she is dark skinned too, you may not blame me directly, but you sure may have it in the back of your head that I am responsible for it. Like being dark is horrifying or like it is leprosy.”

He tried to convince her but she wasn’t willing to hear him out. She lay in bed thinking why women had to face the trauma of worrying about their skin. It wasn’t fair. Men could be dark and that was normal.

“Are you asleep?”, her mom knocked on her door and asked.  She quickly switched on the T.V to pretend like nothing had happened and said, “No, come on in.”

“Adarsh just called me. Is this really happening? Have you made up your mind? I’m asking because I sincerely know how you have always felt about the issue.”, her mom said supportively.

Ding! Her phone notified that she had an e-mail from Adarsh. She opened it. It consisted of three lines.

Hello…. What the fuck are you thinking? This is hurting me. Good luck with all the rejection you will get when you go the arranged marriage route, you know why, because you are dark and you look like a servant maid.

She moved and lay her head on her mom’s lap as tears flowed down her eyes and said, “Yes, mom. I have made up my mind. It is not a hasty decision I have taken. I think this is what I want. I also think I want to get a Masters’ degree. I will leave Chennai for a while to think about what I want to do.”

“Sure, darling. You should get some rest now. You have had a long day. Good night”, her mother kissed her on her forehead, “Do you want me to turn off the T.V.”

“Leave it on.” She said, and sat up on her bed to watch something. Then, she saw Shah Rukh Khan mumble random horseshit about a new fairness cream for men.

What the hell is wrong with the world. Why does everything revolve around the freaking skin color, she thought and stuck  her head into the pillow and let out a muffled yet very frustrated aaarrrgghhhh before she calmed down and went to bed.

*********

Jake was probably one of the laziest and uninterested interns she had seen in the Cancer Biology lab at Cleveland Clinic. He was just different. She had been working at the Cancer Biology department as a Senior Research Associate for five years now, and somehow all the interns or co-ops she had worked with during that time were extremely passionate to learn. Jake was totally something else. That is why when she excitedly walked into the lab that morning with the ‘Blood Donation and Organ Donation Event at Cleveland Clinic’ brochure, and Jake was the only person in the lab, she did not want to discuss the event with him.

An hour later, when she realized that none of her associates had turned up to work due to the freezing rain, she decided to make small talk with Jake.

“So Jake, have you seen this brochure? Cleveland Clinic is teaming up with some Tissue Bank to organize an educative program on blood and organ donation. It should be interesting, don’t you think?”, she started.

Jake looked up from his petri-dishes with his sleepy eyes and said, “Yes, I did see it. Are you going to attend it?”

“Yes, Have you ever donated your blood, if you don’t mind me asking.”

Yeah, two to three times.”

“Oh! Lucky you. I would love to do it too. Although I cannot donate blood at this time. You know, because as per the rules, people who have gotten a tattoo in the last 12 months are not eligible to donate blood.”, she said, biting her tongue almost immediately for giving away more information than required.

“Oh, wait! Are you like allowed to donate blood here?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“You know, ’cause you are like an Indian.”

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“Jake Phil Baker, I am shocked that you can say such a thing. That is outrageous. Are you even seriously pursuing a degree in Biology? Do you even have common sense? Go and look up the blood donation guidelines in your country. The factors that go into deciding if you can be a blood donor is your weight, heme level, age, etc. There is no rule that blood donation is based on ethnicity. Of course, if you have traveled to a country that has its population prone to Malaria, which India is, you will have to wait for 12 months before you can donate. And you very well know that I have been here for four freaking years now. You asked me the other day. Also for your kind information, before you interject with a stupid argument about organ donation, I understand that the nearest of kin and/or people of the same ethnicity are a better match, that is because it is a completely different issue which is gene dependent. Blood and organs work differently in terms of donation and I won’t get into that, although people from different cultures and countries can be a match, sometimes. Like I said, I won’t get into that. What a nut head! Why am I even explaining all this to you. You should already know this stuff. You have been a donor yourself and your textbooks should’ve taught you this stuff.  I wish you all the very best in trying to complete your undergrad in Biology with that pea-sized brain and the Goliath sized ignorance of yours.”

She stormed out of the lab.

*********

The next week, she did attend the event and was very inspired. She decided she would be an donor and got hold of the form to be filled out.

Heart – She checked Yes

Liver – She checked Yes

Kidneys – She checked Yes

Lungs – She checked Yes

Eyes – She checked Yes

Bone – She checked Yes

SKIN – She checked YES!

*********

1

I never really thought very highly of Sukumar as a director. To me, he was just a messed up faker. And that’s probably because when he came out with his first Telugu film, Aarya, I was in a deep state of some sort of a one sided crush with this really cute guy who was in turn behind another girl. I concretely believed that this girl was prettier than me and my crush would never look back to find me following him around on campus.

That was precisely when I watched Aarya. Sukumar threw a new perception towards one-side lovers. He made it seem like the one who didn’t have the girl he loved can continue to be happy with simply the satisfaction of being in love from a great distance without ever having the person to yourself. And that according to me, is bullshit. I think it is stupid to be in love with someone who is already with somebody else. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it, I’m just saying it is plain stupid. One side love hurts. More than Sukumar could have ever imagined. But of course, Aarya was a huge commercial success followed by a similar result with Aarya 2. Now Aarya 2 was when I noticed that Sukumar has an inclination to men with psychological disorders. Because the guy who plays Aarya beats up the goons and then stitches up their wounds.

I had three reasons not to watch his latest venture 1: Nenokkadine.

One, it is basically something Sukumar would spit out for the class audience with a mass heart. Item songs, unnecessary fights, illogical story-line, great music, tall heroines, and not to forget, nutcase heroes.

Two, the promos were absolutely boring. Watching a film trailer is like a mother overseeing her teenage daughter. You can always tell the fate of the film. Just like a mother knows when her daughter has had her first love, and first heart break. No, you don’t have to say a single word, your mother can just look into your eyes and know it all.

Three, the regressive poster controversy. Being an outright feminist, I completely supported Samantha’s tweet on the movie poster, the one that had the hero walking on the beach with the heroine crawling behind him like his watchdog or slave or something. It was out rightly demeaning. And I was starting to get a little bored with Mahesh, the hero, having the women in all his films running behind him because of his good looks. It is getting too cliche.

Fourth. Yeah, I know I said I had only three reasons, but the fourth one came up much later. The movie ticket was sold at a gouging price of $18. Come one, I paid $7 for Dhoom 3 last week and was cribbing that the trashy film wasn’t worth my seven bucks. 

But I found myself in the nearest theater to watch 1 last night. The magnetism of Mahesh Babu was something my mind had unconsciously succumbed to.

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

Nenokkadine is a very different film. Although Tollywood has churned out only a few psychological thrillers in the past 20-30 years, Nenokkadine is definitely a differently gripping film. Something that stands out. The film revolves around Gautham, a Rockstar musician, who has a grey yet very blurry past. He is in search for his true identity and therefore is looking for his parents’ murderers. Circumstances confuse him all the more and he is consumed in a vortex that makes it impossible for him to tell the difference between what is real and imaginary. The lead lady, Sameera, who is a journalist, makes the situation only worse by playing with his disability until Gautham falls in love with her. The film then spins into a chilling pre-interval sequence

The second half of the film is about Gautham realizing that his parents’ killers are not imaginary and are actually his Harry Potter Pensieve-type of memories and he goes out to get both, his revenge, and also what is really important to him, Who is he. The second half starts great, drags on for a while and concludes with a 20 minute emotional climax.

Sukumar has completely surprised me with this film. He doesn’t waste any time to get into the story. Within the first 5 minutes after the introduction song, you realize you have to pay attention to understand the rest of the film. The director seems to be very clear on what his film is about. If you weren’t paying attention for a minute or took popcorn breaks, you sure are going to be confused. He has truly brought meaning to the genre, Telugu-Psychological Thrillers.  He did not feel the need to put irrelevant or cheap comedy side-tracks. Of course, he could have avoided the current length of the film, and that would’ve reduced the drag created by the Goa scenes in the first half. Although the story offers many interesting twists and turns, the editing takes care of not missing out on even tiny yet detailed aspects of the plot. The flow in which one scene led to another and wove the story into a neatly crocheted warm rug is worth a mention. I completely liked how Sukumar penned some one liners that make you giggle for a second or two. Now that is a thriller. You shouldn’t laugh for more than a second. If you have watched Jagadam and liked R.Rathnavelu’s cinematography, you will completely fall in love with his work when you watch this film. It is simply outstanding. This dude is a precious charm for Tollywood.

Mahesh-Babu

Given some obvious loopholes in what seems like a confusing story line, Mahesh has delivered brilliant performance. Be it the action packed scenes, the confused yet confident and disabled Rockstar, or the emotional lover boy digging into his dark past and searching for his parents. The entire film has conveniently been placed in his tattooed arms and he carries it with exceptional ease. I’m glad he chose to do a film that not only has him do his banal stuff like running, fighting, having the heroine run to him, hug him and express her love, dancing for the item number, but also gave him the opportunity to show his emotional acting side. His acting when he questions the actual antagonist who his parents are and is torn between keeping him alive to learn the truth and killing him because he is evil is probably the best act in his career so far. When you see in hug his childhood photo album and cry like a child, you almost want to go and wipe his tears and tell him that it will be okay. Like during his confrontation scene when he kneels down in front of Nasser in Athadu after the wedding. Psst. For all the girls, and guys who are not insecure about their looks: Mahesh looked hot! Be it while he was running, or wearing those thick black rimmed glasses, or dancing in maroon colored cargo pants.

Kirti Sanon was predominantly there because our films require a heroine. You could have gotten away with just having a male friend play her role as well. But she looked good and unlike other top hero films, she shares good screen space. Although her role wasn’t entirely written to be performance oriented, she did well. The scene where she pretends to talk to an imaginary Gautham since he refuses to take her with him to London was particularly cute. All the other artists performed mediocre to good but they were all just sprinkled around here and there. I also have trouble understanding why directors choose to have Kelly Dorji play antagonist roles. He doesn’t look like a powerful one to begin with, and for gods-sake, the 10 Telugu-film old guy still mouths dialogues in Hindi that you can clearly tell if you are a lip reader. Gautham Krishna playing the role of the Rockstar as a kid is just about average, given perhaps, the fact that it is his first film.  But that sadly makes me think that this is the beginning of yet another Star Hero son’s career in Tollywood and frankly, I hate the trend (including Mahesh) that an actor’s son automatically gets his right to become an actor with so little struggle. That is a completely different topic altogether, but sincerely, the little boy from Tulasi would have done a better job though. DSP’s songs not so great but what saves the film is his vividly engrossing background score. The background is bound to linger in your head for at least an hour or two after you walk out of the theater. It’s like DSP knows when exactly to hit the suspense cord, the thrill cord and the emotional cord. You probably may come back home and listen to a song or two but that’s about the songs. Oops! I also thought that the ‘Johnny Johnny’ song had pretty funny lyrics.

Like I said, Nenokkadine is a different film. Now if you are a regular Telugu film watcher without taste, the one who feels the need to leave your brains outside the theater and laughs at silly slapstick comedy or enjoys lame scenes by Brahmi or Venu Madhav, or thinks highly of films that have Tata Sumos flying in the air while heroes clad in crisp white lungis are walking with sickles in their mouths, or like films that have two heroines running around the hero with at least 6-7 songs where aerobics are being performed, this film is not for you. Also, if you are a Hollywood absorbent who thinks Telugu films are dumb and that directors and actors will never change their commercial elements (and blah!) and got dragged along with a friend to watch this film, this one is not for you either. Both of you will not enjoy it.

Now if you are someone who is nonchalant about the commercial success of films and the crores it garners, watches Telugu/Hindi/English films and never makes it a point to compare Tollywood to Hollywood and pin point the stupidity in Telugu films, and enjoys a film for what it is, this film is for you. You will like it. This film is not going to do well at the box office, no doubt about that, but this film is what will encourage directors to come up with experimental films, push actors and convince them to accept such roles, and therefore, will be a treat to people who love and care about good Telugu cinema. Also, this film is not about changing the commercial formula of Telugu films but it is merely the introduction of a new genre into Tollywood. A genre that gives the Telugu audience something non-cliche to watch.

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.

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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.