To Bangalore, With Love

Dear First Love,

I hope you are still brimming with greenery, boasting to every newcomer about your benevolent climate, craft beers, quaint hideaways, and colonial heritage. Yesterday, here, the legendary April storm, roaring in a heavy tone once again mercilessly rattled the windows as I scurried my way to close them. Within a couple of minutes, I could hear the pitter patter outside my house along with the incessant thunders bombarding the parched city.

Unlike most praying for the abatement of the furor, the heavy downpour didn’t fail to stir up the child in me. With a steaming mug of coffee in hand, I watched the rains flooding the streets, crippling the maddening traffic for a while.

All of a sudden, the feral weather became a metaphor of nostalgia to me. It invoked memories that you created in my heydays.  Just like your verdant beauty, the whimsy drizzles had a subtle impact on me. The sight of cumulus clouds drifting away was always a distraction from the long hours of studies as the charm of your sombre weather was difficult for my eyes to behold.

My mind took several leaps back flashing vivid images of the past making me wiggle on my couch with excitement. The day I visited you for the first time is etched deep in my mind when my little feet clambered down the stairs of the plane only to be greeted with lush greenery and a balmy weather. Holding my father’s hand, I got into a big car waiting outside the airport that within a minute whizzed past the outlandish autos, bikes, and mammoth buses.

While gallivanting around you, I was in awe of the new culture personified by underground shops with signboards written in a different script, homely crowd drenched in simplicity, and mouth-watering authentic cuisines dished out at dainty eateries. An enduring relationship was formed then and there with you.

Hailing from a city with a perturbing political atmosphere, I found you as a refreshing escapade from the burgeoning urban rush. My unforgettable journey began with a hassle-free admission in a top-notch school followed by winning academic accolades, fostering new friendships, and imbibing a whole new culture.

The pleasant strolls on the historic shopping streets with pals, sneaking into offbeat cafeterias to taste the fresh-brewed filter coffee, satiating my hunger pangs after a yawn-inducing class with crunchy masala dosas at the college canteen, and the summer afternoon reading spree when the rains would unexpectedly come pouring down, sum up into an ecstatic, care-free life that I once led.

Your cosmopolitan tapestry lured every visitor, contradicting the belief that cities are not meant for soaking in nature. With a plethora of opportunities for youngsters, you began to proliferate into a worldly-wise urban sprawl, bristling with possibilities of a better future. You became the one-stop hub for international retail brands, global concerts, tourism, and vivid cultural activities.

Like a coin has two sides, you too devised challenges for me only to show that no road is devoid of curves. Every year when the crisp autumn arrived, the absence of the galore of festivities celebrated in my hometown always left a deep void inside me. In return of a high standard of living, many like me coming from all over the nation had to make petty sacrifices. Howbeit, when I see the bigger picture, you overloaded my life with unconditional love shaping me into a suave personality with layers of emotion, strength, empathy, and vivacity.

Green city, retirement paradise, pub capital of India, student town, and Silicon Valley of India were your ruling synonyms that always made any Bangalore-bred youth like me swell with pride.

The day I left you, even the sky cried pouring the raindrops on my face, beseeching me to stay back forever as I boarded the flight. The reality was bitter to gulp down as none could contemplate me breaking the decade-old relationship without a concrete explanation.

You might be awestruck thinking how the bits and pieces of memories are still fresh even to this day. The coy and naive 9-year old whom you met two decades back has flown the nest and now put down roots in the same place that is believed to be her origin.

It’s been 7 years since we parted, still you keep coming back to my mind, not failing to fill my eyes with tears. Although you might not believe, every phone conversation with friends commences with asking about your well-being, and then the usual gossips. Some even whine about the changing patterns of your weather, indefinite hours of standstill traffic, and the growing pollution. But in my heart, you would always be holding a special place as home is where the soul is even when it’s miles apart.

With lots of love, hugs, and tears,

Your Admirer/Friend

The Eye Opener

There is no such fun as cruising through the drenched streets of Kolkata in the wee hours of night sans the notorious traffic that has been my antagonist since the time I moved back to a metropolis. Not an ardent party animal, it was just one of those Saturday nights with foot-tapping music, luscious dinner, and juicy gossips at a friend’s prenuptial house party I just couldn’t afford to miss.

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As the clock struck 12, my phone started buzzing, flashing my mother’s number across the screen.

” Yes ma I will be leaving in 5 minutes. You just relax Akansha and her husband will drop me home in their car.” I answered falteringly.

Akin to the damsel in distress in the fairy tales, I had already exceeded the midnight deadline set by my mother. Hurriedly, I yelled at my friend to wrap up for the night, not minding her frowny face. After exchanging hugs with all my pals, I finally got into the car bidding goodbye while hoping to reach my abode in time.

A heavy shower in the early evening had given some respite from the sultry heat, leaving the botched streets with puddles, appropriate for floating paper boats. When we were driving through the posh localities of the city, the pitched road gleamed with delight as the streetlights shone down on it. The cool breeze was blowing my face as I could sniff the fresh air, feeling emancipated from the societal and professional bonds for a fleeting period of time.

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Immersed in my world of fantasies, it didn’t take even a minute to come out when Akansha in a fretful tone said, ” Hey just look there.”

Startled and upset, we saw a bunch of young girls leaning against the myriad lamp posts waving to the passing cars. Decked up in a little dress with loud makeup, their roving eyes were on the men driving flashy cars. Akansha signaled me to roll up the windows and ordered her fiancee to drive faster.

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Ironically, the nocturnal red light area we newly discovered is an upscale residential place during the day that boasts of a well-renowned temple where several devotees flock in huge numbers daily. Every Saturday the pious spot sees a row of shops thronging the pavements, shouting uproariously above the din touting hordes of local incense sticks, variegated garlands, and sugared sweets, the ostensible means to impress the deity.

Struck me like a thunder, I muttered to myself, “On one hand the Goddess residing inside the temple, personifying motherhood, chastity, and immense power, is venerated, while on the other hand, her living embodiments stand like mannequins outside letting the men decide their monetary value for the night”.

Soon after we left, countless thoughts crossed my mind. Criticizing prostitution is a mammoth blunder we all have been doing till now. The unceasing growth in crimes against women in a country colored by religions, traditions, customs, only shows the crass mindset of the Indians not wanting to espouse the existence of a profession that could put a full stop on perversion plaguing the minds of every male chauvinist nestled at every nook and corner.

The paraphernalia of these helpless girls might perturb most of us since we hail from a decent family setup where the word “prostitution” is considered to be a taboo. Passing a judgment is easy as our society looks down upon those women forced to shred their dignity only for some money that could light up their poverty-stricken homes.

Ironically, the status plays an idiosyncratic role with the higher class women given humongous respect, irrespective of their promiscuity while the needy ones labeled as “call girls” are shown the back door for being a part of a double-edged trade.

I could see how Akansha was squirming in her seat as she too didn’t expect to witness a sight at a reverent place, carrying out the most understated business in the world whose roots traces back to the historical ages. I comforted her by telling to erase the scene from her mind as I was soon heading towards my destination.

After saying goodbye to both of them, I stealthily entered my house and ran straight to my room. Call it a motherly instinct, my bed was already made and my mom was sitting on the chair dozing. Tears sprang to my eyes and I just ran into her arms, cuddling tightly, feeling the eternal peace.

Still curled up in the chair, her eyes opened that shone with worry and maternal wrath.

“Ma I owe you an apology”. I said. Swelling with pride and love, she asked me the reason. As I went on explaining what met my eyes on the way home, she caressed me listening to every detail.

A long pause in our conversation followed as I had enough for the day.

“Go to sleep sweetheart and just before closing your eyes thank the Almighty for being blessed with a life that’s anything but dark like the poor girls helplessly trading their flesh at such a tender age”. She she said and left the room.

Those few words rekindled my respect for the young, dauntless girls painstakingly scouring a sex-starved society to some extent. With my tired eyes shut close, I prayed that someday their profession gets legalized, opening doors to all the basic amenities a human deserves, and most importantly nip human trafficking in the bud.

Why I still crave for the 90’s TV shows?

As I gaze out of the patched window of my car, my mind goes back to the year 1996 when my gullible parents switched to cable network and jettisoned the prodigious antenna dish haplessly planted at one corner of our terrace. My encyclopedic brother had been pleading for months as he felt that the soul-pleasing local channels were loosing their charm. A mere spectator to the coterie of cultural programs and believable family dramas, I was too young to voice my opinion. My brother on the pretext of earning good grades in his upcoming nerve-wracking exams convinced my parents, and finally we opened our doors to the dizzying array of cable television channels.

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Denizens of an upper-middle class neighborhood, we were bestowed with all the little luxurious items, colour television being one of them. Our well-decked up drawing room did not have any dearth of furniture. We were not engulfed by the internet technology which has astonishingly become an indispensable part of the 21st century. The resplendent days of the 90’s were not obscured by high-end gadgets. If walkmans, tape recorders and landline phones are considered to be lame devices now then we definitely led a simple and hassle-free life back in those days.

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One of the most fascinating traits of the 90’s television programmes was that they refrained from rattling blatant stories. The bouquet of loathsome K-embedded serials telecasted today is far-fetched from reality. Back then, the serials instilled good virtues and didn’t fail to broaden our mental bandwidth. That apart, the plots were decently penned down to maintain consistency. The content on television was neither incongruous nor banal. We derived life-changing lessons from a slew of television serials served on our platter.

It had become a habit every day after school to keep my eyes fixed on the antique wall clock tucked away in a corner of the living room till it was time for my favourite cartoon programmes to make their way to start another journey of fun and laughter. Now, I seldom have that kind of desperation to even touch the remote control. A dose of comical relief every evening used to infuse new energy in me. Oftentimes, my mother rebuked me for skipping my afternoon naps as she feared I would soon metamorphose into a couch potato. Not to forget, the petty squabbles I had with my brother over the television programmes, especially when the overtly hyped cricket season commenced.

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Over the last two decades, the quality of cable television serials has denigrated to a wide extent. Now we are fed with a bunch of irrational reality shows and nauseating soap operas that reeks of immorality and sarcasm. It is a sheer shame that even the well-ensconced national news channels sneak into the private lives of least-revered celebrities as well as politicians to paint a darker picture about the state of our nation. Gone are the days when the cable channels of the golden era scored high on music, humour, suspense, and entertainment in ample measures.

Today, the mere mention of any old comedy serial makes my eyes twinkle with glee. Countless nostalgic thoughts can be liaised with the 90’s that could make anyone’s eyes overflow with tears. Although I couldn’t win against the changing time, I am gratified that I grew up on a diet of captivating and polished television programmes.

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A new life awaits at the other end of the tunnel

When I often view my life through the prism of reality,

A checkered past steals away my felicity,

Every time I decide to turn a new leaf,

Unexpected predicaments alters my self-belief.

Still I do not stop to dream,

Because quandaries cannot take away my gleam.

Written by me 🙂

I have often received a lot of flak from my near and dear ones for my puritanical nature. Over the years, I have learnt to shed my inhibitions and handle antagonistic situations as well as individuals. Endowed with supportive parents, the odds were always in my favour since childhood. They have respected all my decisions I have made so far without showing any acrimony. Yet, I do not need any specific reason to return to the state of melancholy and sulk over my debacles. I never fail to show my wrath against life which hurls challenges at me with all possible haste.

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While I cringe and summon help an invisible force stokes me and murmurs near my ears to face the mammoth problem with all might. In no time, my underlying strength braces me against the high tides and helps me come out strong and unscathed. No matter what kind of turmoil you are trapped in, remember that all bad things come to an end. May be it is impossible to get respite from worries but spare no effort to battle against the obstacles. It takes a second to slam the door on opportunities that assumes the shape of problems and brings out the best in you.

Countless encounters with cold-hearted individuals have made me believe that strained relationships cannot be mended or coated with unreciprocated love and forgiveness to keep them going for years. In the twinkling of an eye, irresolvable dilemmas can snap the bond between you and a dear pal. There could be a multitude of reasons for the sudden breakup. Still, you might never be able to fathom the core cause which triggered animosity.

Although we all hanker for long-term association, under certain circumstances our inner demons set us against the people whom we trusted for years. On the other hand, we go an extra mile for that special someone only to realize that our selfless endeavours were taken for granted. When we come to grips with the reality it takes weeks to get over the emotional hangover. But always remember that you do not owe your life to anyone. So pull up your socks and tread a new path on which you can walk for miles and emancipate yourself from insecurities.

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A florid life is dreamt by all but unless we do not go against the grain our unscrupulous life will bog us down. However, at the cost of my health, family and me-time, I sweat out daily to shield my disgruntled job. Yes, once gain it all boils down to financial priorities. At the end of every month, when I see my genuine efforts put at work get monetized the feeling is absolutely eccentric. Money cannot buy happiness but it can give a young woman like me a dignified position in a gender-discriminated society. If I reside in a democratic nation then nobody can snatch away my right to financial freedom.

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One by one, I am throwing the baggage of unaccomplished relationships and gearing up for a promising future. I suggest you to follow the same path. Dance, sing, volunteer or simply travel to different places. Unveil the hidden mysteries of your life and enjoy the moment to the fullest. Just keep in mind that the ability to counteract the adversities in life is innate. You are the ruler of your undiscovered freedom.

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Munnar- A splash of bliss in the hills

The aroma of tea had awoken me on a drizzly morning in Munnar. The cryptic yet pleasant roar of the raindrops coerced me to take a walk into my balcony and observe the misty clouds hovering over the Kannan Devan Hills. I found a heaven on this Kerala’s tea country and this was only the beginning of my rendezvous with the real nature. I went head over heels when the warm sunlight poured through the forest and illuminated the verdant hills. The infallible hospitality of the local people tugged at my heart because as an urbanite I seldom get such a selfless treatment back home.

Contrary to popular belief, hill stations like Munnar ought to be visited during the monsoon. Certainly, cloud bursts and subsequent landslides are common in hills stations. Nonetheless, Munnar welcomed me in the most unique and candour way. The tiny drops of rain bathed the mammoth tea plantations on the hills while the joyous songs of the cherubic birds were an accompaniment to this heavenly view. Since I have a penchant for the less boasted-about trips, Munnar was never on my to-do list. My closest friend was tying the nuptial knot, and skipping it for professional commitments would have desisted the umpteen years of camaraderie. Moreover, I wanted to take a hiatus for few days from the hustle and bustle of the city even if it meant a quintessential trip.

Admittedly, I had a whale of a time at the wedding ceremony but couldn’t resist myself from exploring the other undiscovered facets of Munnar. I immediately moved to a cosy home-stay which made me live in close quarters with the wild outdoors. The swishing sounds of the wind in the evenings and the whiff of the cardamom and pepper plantations tempted me to take a leisurely stroll down the unkempt paths of the lush green hills. It would take days to pen down the array of cuisines I sampled at Munnar. Whilst at the pompous wedding of my friend I did have delicious food, all the original Munnar dishes made of organic ingredients were available at my home-stay. Although a health-conscious person, my taste buds needed a change.

It was surprising to see how the local residents used indigenous methods to prepare nutritious food. I was glad to be in a place which had no fixation for high-end technology. The less-travelled tea trails in Munnar oozed enigma and wove uncanny folklores of the great hills. The last leg of this breathtaking trip included an ayurvedic spa which made me feel rejuvenated and enthused after a really long time. However, all good things come to an end and extending my stay at Munnar would have definitely tantamount to a sordid crime as believed by my boss. My face was bedewed with tears as I had to bid adieu to this ravishing home-away-from-home. However, some promises are unbroken and the unspoilt hills will not miss me for a very long time.