Friday, December 30, 2011

The year that was: 2011 in 40 questions

I know, I know, I'm lazy. But I've lost the will to write this year. Blogging and tweeting, both, have become things I need to really really push myself to do, which sucks. Memes just make it easier.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Watched the brother graduate from college. Left home. Started driving. Started B-school. Organized a Diwali party. Ropes courses. Cooked for 50 people. Where does the list end?

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I'd said I would look out of the window every morning and check the weather before getting dressed. I've done that maybe twice this year.
So no, not making any resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

The one great-aunt who didn't lament that she may not be alive by the time I return passed away. Which is ironic and horrible and guilt-inducingly relieving all put together on levels I cannot even describe.

5. What places did you visit?
Mumbai and Nasik. Kolkata, for work. Mumbai again. Boston, London and Edinburgh. Kolkata again. And then I just packed my bags and moved a world away to the US.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A bit of a social life. Not because I want it, but because I've realized I really shouldn't stay as holed up at home as I do all the time.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 25 - When the dream came true.
May 21 - The brother graduated from college.
19 July - I left home.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Apart from the aforementioned dream coming true, you mean? Learning to drive in phoren. 
Also the story got published in the Chicken Soup book. Seeing my name in print was more fun than I'd expected.

9. What was your biggest failure?

The lack of social life, as described above. No really, I can't be this much of a hermit. I'm in school for Pete's sake.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, actually. How weird.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I'd say my car, but it's turned out to be a lemon, so I can't. My lovely purple jacket, maybe?

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I dunno.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
Every single politician in India.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. The lemon. School. Life.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting into b-school bhai. What else happened this year? oh the brother graduated too....

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
I dunno.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
A bit of both, truth be told. Overall, probably happier.

18. Thinner or fatter?
Wayyyyyyyyyyy thinner. WOOHOO. I don't like the food in phoren. So there.

19. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Met people. Spoken to people. Networked for the job search. Sigh.

20. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastination. Spend money.

21. How will you be spending Christmas?
Had friends over for lunch, with the mother cooking. Went and saw Tintin in the evening. :)

22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
No yaa :(

23. How many one-night stands?

Tch. Like I'd tell you if I'd had any.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Castle. Community. Rediscovered and fell in love with Grey's Anatomy and White Collar again. Also quite liking Once Upon a Time.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Duh. I wouldn't be me if I didn't find new people to waste negative energy on.

26. What was the best book you read?
Zilch. Literally. I read nothing this year.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Amit Trivedi. I finally listened to Udaan on NYE 2010, and spent the first six months overdosing on his music. LOVE.

28. What did you want and get?
How many times to repeat man? B-SCHOOL. It's all this year's been about.

29. What did you want and not get?
I wanted to write more this year, and meet my friends more. Neither happened as much as I'd liked it to have.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Dhobi Ghat. Delhi Belly. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Deathly Hallows 2. Didn't see much else.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Hee. Turned 26. Day was spent at work. Mum had the gal pals come over in the evening for a "crazy shoe" theme party. Turns out I was the only one who didn't take the theme seriously.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Be able to apparate between B-school and home all the time.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
I got a little more girly, truth be told. Dresses and skirts have entered my wardrobe. Maybe a little less tomboyishness is happening soon.

34. What kept you sane?
Family. GReader. Twitter.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one, this year. I've been very out of touch with all that.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
What didn't? Set of nincompoops running the country, and bunch of morons trying to take over the running of the country.

37. Who did you miss?
Everyone back home yaa :(

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Some people at B-school haven't been too bad :)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Life's impossible without the people who know you best.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Yeh kaha aa gaye hum...?!
You know what I realized while doing this? The first seven months of the year are a blank to me. So much happened, and I had to think really really hard to include any of it in this post. It's like life before B-school never existed. This sucks.
A better annual flashback post is warranted. And is going to be a lot tougher than usual.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas musings

We watched Mausam yesterday afternoon. I loved the first hour; it reminded me of movies from the 90s, when the hero would lead his suitably secular gang of friends (with the token fat guy always there to be made fun of), creating a ruckus as they roamed around town, then with the heroine making an appearance and stealing his heart away, and so on.

And then the movie went downhill. I liked the idea of the movie. Communication really wasn't that easy before we all got mobiles and access to the internet, but geez these people were stupid. I mean, why would you leave a letter for the man you love with a woman who loved him at one time, rather than Gulzari, who knows your family and his? Have you not heard what Congreve said about a woman scorn'd?

It was both interesting and overdone, the links to events in India and the world. Ayodhya, 1992. Mumbai, 1993. Kargil, 1999. Gujarat, 2002. I didn't see why 9/11 had to be brought in; that was both forced and unnecessary. The rest... well, they could have been done better.

What annoyed me most about the movie was the way it looked like it had been produced in the 90s too. Movies look very different today; the scene where Shahid Kapoor's plane is on fire looked like a poorly animated comic movie. Why?

And much as I like Shahid Kapoor, he disappointed me. He was fine as the happy-go-lucky village boy, but the grim, almost-angry Air Force pilot left a lot to be desired. I'm not sure if he was trying to channel Rajesh Khanna or Shah Rukh Khan, but he didn't do a very competent job of it. And Sonam Kapoor - well, I've realised she does a reasonable job if she has nothing more to do than alternating being cheerful and sad, and she did a very adequate job of both in this movie.

What struck me about this movie was how it kept bringing up incidents over the past almost two decades, incidents that never touched me when they happened, that happened in cities far away from me, and yet impacted the way I see religion and politics. How many times this country's burned, all in the name of religion, and for what?


I went for a Christmas Eve service yesterday evening. I've gone for several in the past, in India; this was my first in the US. Not so different, truth be told. I loved it just as much. The same things appealed to me, and the same things turned me off.

What I always love about church services is how simple they make it for people to understand what they're telling us. I'm agnostic, technically, but the rituals of Durga Puja have always drawn me; every year, I go and give Anjali, and every year I'm frustrated that I have no idea what exactly we're saying or praying for when we repeat those mantras. And it's not just about English vs. Sanskrit; not enough priests in Hinduism make the effort to explain what the mantras mean, which I feel is sad. Church services on the other hand - at least, the ones I've been to - take what's in the Bible and interpret it for the followers in a way that can be understood and made a part of their lives.

What I don't like about church services is how they always say that the simplest way to go to heaven is simply to accept God as a part of your life. That it doesn't matter how much you sin; if you make the Saviour a part of your life, you will receive salvation. When the pastor said this yesterday, the first image I had in my head was of a fat Indian man praying in the morning and then going and either receiving or giving a bribe. Big deal, he's accepted God in his life, innit?

Maybe I'm oversimplifying what I heard, but it just seems like they're saying once you've accepted Jesus as your Saviour, a lot of the responsibility for being good is off your shoulders. You know what I like best about Hinduism? The fact that every single one of our gods is flawed. All of them. They all did something that made them imperfect, more human. And they all regretted it, and tried to make up for their sins. They owned up. And while I may not know, or even like, much about various religions, I like that about the one I was born into.


I really shouldn't blog about religion. It makes me ramble more nonsense than usual. Or during cricket matches. No one's going to read this.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Moments of cheerfulness

Amidst all the madness, it doesn't take much to put me in a more cheerful frame of mind.

Having brunch on Saturday with a friend, before attacking the dozen-odd cover letters to be written over the weekend.

Finding a second hand first edition copy of a US hardcover version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Meeting the guy who runs the Indian store, and getting a free banana simply because. Making Maggi for dinner.

Waking up Sunday morning to an absolutely gorgeous video about Calcutta.

Getting to wear jeans and t-shirt to school after weeks of non-stop corporate presentations and office hours.

Receiving a Whastapp message from the BFF, reminding me of a note I had scribbled for her before leaving India, which she saw five months later on a visit home.

Having a late morning class, which meant I could watch Jon Stewart while having chai and toast for breakfast.

Nope, it doesn't take much to make me feel cheerful. What takes an effort is sustaining that feeling.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Where I use italics to emphasize how pained I am

Technically, I will admit, I have a flatmate. However, we lead entirely separate lives - I like to get home and stay home as soon as I'm done in school, and she likes to study in school and rarely comes home before 1 AM. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, I'm pretty much living on my own.

Which is actually great, given our previously discussed discovery on how little I need people around me. The problem arises, however, when I go shopping for groceries. Why is everything in this country so big? Or was it big back in India too, and I never paid attention because I didn't need to?

Our meals are completely separate - I'm not sure if she even eats, actually. So when I'm shopping for groceries, I'm shopping for one single person. Wherein lies the problem. I buy a packet of salad leaves, it should last me a week, but invariably spoils before that. Cauliflowers are the size of what a watermelon would be, back home.There is no concept of "half-bread" here. After being out of eggs for more than a week (they got recalled, apparently), Target finally got some in yesterday - all in either family size packs or in sets of dozens. Where are the half-dozen sets I need, dammit? I needed flour because the mother gave a really easy recipe for soup, but the smallest packet size I could find is going to last me six months.

Is desh mein log kitna khate hain?

I mean, even the dishes. The flatmate bought a lovely and full china set of plates, bowls, etc. before I even landed up here. Only, those bowls. They're huge. Like, bigger than the soup bowls in China Club. Seriously. I had to go on a very long hunt before I finally found a set of small, reasonable sized bowls (which were actually super cool, because they come with plastic lids, which means I can also use them for storage, but that's not the point).

The brother had always warned me that servings when you eat out are huge in this country. And I discovered that very, very quickly. So if I buy a sandwich or a quesadilla for lunch from the cafeteria in school, I know half  of it is coming home for dinner or breakfast the next day. What no one ever warned me about was how much extra one ends up buying to make things at home.

What makes the situation somewhat better is that yours truly has now started driving (that's right - I CAN NOW DRIVE). So I don't need to depend on someone to take me to Target, shop up for the week, and then watch everything spoil because I thought I'll have time to cook something with that mushroom, but guess what, I didn't. I can, usually, stop by on my way back to school and pick up whatever I need to cook either that night or the next day - assuming I have the energy. The trouble with that is I then also end up buying a whole bunch of stuff I never intended to buy. No walking up to the corner shop and saying "bhaiyya ek half bread dena".

The only thing catering to the single-person-living-alone that I can see are those frozen meals-for-one. And there is only so much of those meals that one can have.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A good girl

Several moons ago, I was headed for dinner with a colleague and her husband, and her husband decided to have a smoke while we waited in the car park for some another colleagues to join us. He asked if I smoked, and before I could respond, his wife chimed in, "no, no, she's a very good girl."

Two nights ago, I asked a classmate what he thought when he first met me. Among other things, he said he thought I was a "good Indian girl", and that while some of the other impressions have changed since then,  apparently I am a "good Indian girl."

A good girl. Me. Why? Because I don't smoke, don't drink very often, haven't been in a series of relationships, what? I'm trying to understand this phrase. Maybe all of these things are true about me - I do lead a very uneventful, and even what some people might call dull, life. This makes me good?

So any woman who does all these things is therefore not good? I think that's what bothers me. You want to call me a saint for not being fond of certain activities, that's your prerogative. But by definition, we're then judging the women who do make those choices. And I don't like to be reminded that even today, this still ends up happening.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Things I've learned about myself in 3 months

I like cooking. It calms me, even though I'm not very good at it.

I prefer eating home food much more than my mother would have believed about me. I also don't like sandwiches and pasta as much as I had thought I did. Give me good old roti sabzi any day.


Nearly two decades ago, the father got transferred from Chandigarh, where we had lived for most of my childhood, to Delhi. Apart from the culture shock and the discovery that the distance between Sector 34 and Sector 17 was really nothing compared to the distance between any two places in Delhi, I was convinced that I'm not a big city person. This belief lasted with me right up the moment I landed in the US.

Because I like to pretend that I'm still an anonymous blogger, we're going to leave out where I live and study. Suffice to say, it's a small town, where you can't get anywhere without a car. Despite which you barely see any cars on the road. And it's quiet; God, it's quiet.

I spent two days last week in Atlanta, and wow did it feel good to be surrounded by tall buildings and actually hear cars on the road. My friend was freaking out about being stuck in a traffic jam on our way to an appointment; a teeny weeny part of me was actually thrilled about it. I sat in a restaurant for dinner, gazing out of the windows, just watching the cars go by, listening to them honk away. I used the train to get from the hotel to the airport, and it was nice.

No question about it, I'm definitely a big city person.


I'm much more of an introvert than I had previously imagined. Not only is it really hard for me to strike up and maintain conversations with people, but I really can survive quite happily without meeting or hanging out with people. A bit worrisome, how little I need the company of others. Also worrisome, my inability to "network", given how much importance it has in the whole job search process here.


The things you learn. There was something else I wanted to include in this list, but I forgot. Oh well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The sounds of rain

I've mentioned briefly, I think, in the past, about waking up to the sounds of rain falling on the skylight back home. It's a soothing sound, one that usually made me snuggle in further into my razai and snooze a little while longer.

It's been raining off and on for the past week or so here. My classmates don't undertsnad my fascination and delight with rain; it makes them utterly gloomy.

Rain here brings out a tinge of nostalgia and homesickness in me. Why, I'm not sure, given that it's greener here, there are no traffic jams, and the roads can last beyond a ten minute shower.

But it annoys me no end that while I can hear every step taken by my neighbors who live right above me, the sounds of rain get completely shut out from my apartment.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Conversations I miss

The brother, to me, a couple of months ago:
People quote Voltaire, Shakespeare, and all sorts of great writers. You? You take pride in quoting Friends.

My aunt can be somewhat... decisive. She makes all these plans, and then just gets everyone to follow through. It's quite awe-inspiring, the way my relatives who're otherwise quite decisive themselves just give in when she gets going. The clan got together a while ago for a Sunday brunch, and she was railroading people into doing things her way as usual, while her husband watched with a resigned expression on his face.
Me: I think I'm going to be just like Mashi when I grow up.
Uncle: Good God.

The mother informed me some time back that the father and she had been having discussions of great importance:
Her: Your father and I were talking, and we have come to the conclusion we are now a middle-aged couple.
Me: Umm, hello? I've been calling you buddha-buddhi for ages now.
Her: Yes, but now we have realised it.

A friend, who we shall call J. A., started working in a school as a school counsellor. The younger classses were manageable, she tells me, but she went through utter stress the day she had to meet the 16-year-old brats from Class XI for the first time. So what does she do to break the ice? Introduce herself in the following manner:
My name is J. A., and I am not a terrorist.
I kid you not.

On the other hand:
Father: Why did you go to the eye doc if you aren't going to put those drops?
Me: I didn't know he'll give me drops to put!
He was not amused. :-|

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stayin' sane

I haven't been happy with the last I-don't-know-how-many blog posts I've churned out. They said what I wanted to say, but not how I wanted to say it, if that makes sense.

Part of it, I think, comes from my desire not to let a almost-two-month-long break from blogging happen again, like it did last year. (Of course, part of it could also be that people have simply stopped commenting or even rating my posts, but I'd like to believe I'm not so dependent on external feedback.) One of my hopes for this year was that I would write more. But somehow, that's not happening - not the way I wanted it to. Even my presence on twitter has reduced dramatically ever since I quit the job - apparently I need a regular structure to my days and something to distract me from for that to happen. So whenever I have something to say, I go ahead and say it without really paying much attention to how it's coming together. Which sucks.

In Orientation earlier this month, the Second Years repeatedly emphasized how crazy the next two years are going to be, with no time to breathe, or anything. As one SY put it, "you'll suddenly realise it's been three months since you spoke to your brother, or emailed your best friend." Eeks. Their point, however, was that all of us need to identify what's important to us, and make sure we block time to do that, be it daily, or weekly, or whatever.

At the time, I wasn't sure what those things would be for me, except for probably keeping in touch with people back home, which honestly, isn't really an option ever since I bought this BlackBerry. But over the last few weeks, I've realised it's this. Blogging. Tweeting. Reading blogs.

This month, while hectic, has been much easier than what things will be like come September. So far, I've managed to make time to go through Google Reader every day and check into Twitter once in a while. Because that's what keeps me sane, I've realised. It's often my only way of even keeping up with what's happening outside this campus. So I need to make sure I keep this up somehow.

And as far as my writing is concerned, well, I'm not going to say I intend to stop blogging altogether till I feel the perfect post come out - that could take pretty much forever, wot? But I do hope those feelings of satisfaction and output that blogging used to give me come back soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ow :(

In the six weeks that I was made to get a tetanus booster shot, I have:
  • cut a vein on my left hand (one day after getting the shot) while trying to get something off a glass shelf at the pharmacy;
  • given myself a four-inch long cut on my right forearm merely by holding a plastic folder;
  • burnt myself at least twice while cooking;
  • nipped my finger while cutting vegetables;
  • scraped my shoulder while scaling a freaking wall;
  • banged my right hand against hard wood;
  • stubbed my toe on a weekly basis; and
  • given myself sundry paper cuts, all at least half an inch long.
Those last two, admittedly, are no uncommon incidents in my life. But the rest of it? The eleven years between my last tetanus booster shot and this one were not this eventful in such a compact period of time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

International conversations

So I'm an international student, don'tcha know? And while most of the conversations over the past three weeks have been about what we all were doing before B-school, and what we plan to do after this, there's also a lot of interest in my background.
You've never lived in the US before? How come your English is so good?
I'm sort of taken aback by how many times I've been asked this question. Yes, my English is probably better than the average Indian, but I'm just so used to having spoken it all my life, that it startles me every time someone asks me this question.
Classmate: What's the time difference between here and India?
Me: Ten and a half hours.
Classmate: Oh yeaaaaaah, you Indians have that funny "and a half" thing going on.
I had not realised this was such an unusual occurrence. Really.
Oh you're Indian! I love Indian food! Chicken tikka/ Butter chicken is awesome! You must make it for me!
Because y'know, Indian food is pretty much entirely made up of what you get in Delhi and Punjab. For the record, I have never cooked a chicken dish in my life. My specialities have just recently expanded from Maggi and Knorr soups to include pastas. Indian food - of any region - remains a distant goal. Except arhar dal. I make awesome arhar dal.

A conversation yesterday was interesting though. I was again asked how I'm finding the transition, and I again responded that it's really really quiet. And a classmate told me, "But you know, coming here, to a small town like this, will probably tell you so much more about the real US than going to any of the cities in the North East would. Those cities are too cosmopolitan. This is the real America."

And it struck me, that's quite possibly true. If my classmates came to India and visited me in Delhi, got introduced to my friends, saw Mumbai and Bangalore, would they get a sense of the real India? We, the "urban", English speaking, Indians can afford to travel around and get the kind of exposure we do - we are a minority, aren't we? And we - at least I - tend to forget that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More impressions

Am I homesick? I don't know. Too soon to tell, surely.

I miss the chaos of Delhi. The noise. The constant honking on the roads of Gurgaon. Even the traffic jams.

I miss the loud and colourful Pepsi and Coca Cola hoardings on shops in the local market.

I miss the father's voice. The princess' entreating eyes. The mother's quibbling over my room.

I looked out of the car window while coming home tonight and I could see hundreds of stars. That's how clear the sky is. But I couldn't see Orion's belt, which is usually what I see if I look straight up standing at the gate back home.

I look for familiarity everywhere. So the early morning cool air and the green trees remind me of Kasauli. The drive around a residential area in downtown tonight reminded me of military cantonment areas back home. And the restaurant we went to felt like The Big Chill for a while.

So am I homesick? Maybe a little. And to think it's only been a week. And school hasn't even started.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

First impressions

I'm 26 years old, and I've never lived away from the parents. College, grad school, three years of work - it all happened from the comforts of home, where the biggest decision I had to make was what to wear the next day.

I stood in Walmart's yesterday and spent five minutes trying to figure out which type of milk I should go for. I finally chose Organic and Fat-free; it sounded healthy yet more appealing than soymilk. It took me ten minutes to figure out which mop stick to buy; mainly because the cheapest one didn't have refill mops available, and the ones which did were too expensive. Buying an iron was easy - the cheapest option was also the only brand I'd heard of.

My Japanese flat mate and I invited people over for dinner tonight; I, all the Indians I know, and she, her friends from the language pre-classes she's been attending. I was chatting with a Colombian girl, who's moved here with her boyfriend. Both of them will be going to school with me, and as it turns out, both lived with their respective parents before they moved here. So they spent 15 minutes today trying to figure which type of soap they should buy for the dishwasher. As I told her, it felt SO good knowing I'm not the only one in this state.

In other news, people keep asking me if I'm homesick. Now that I've given in and bought a BlackBerry, with everyone just a text/BBM away, not so much. The only time I sniffled a little bit was when the mother showed the princess on Skype this morning. She can't get a smartphone. Maybe the mother's idea of inventing a cell phone for dogs has some merit.

May I also say, that for all the talk about Indians behaving very differently when they go away from their country, at a dinner party of people coming from the Far East, South America, and Europe, the Indians were the only ones walking in two hours late. Indian Stretched Time is a constant everywhere we go, it seems.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It all ends here

I have three half-written blog posts waiting to be finished and published before I leave tomorrow night, but the one that gets priority must be my thoughts on one of the two movies I saw on Friday - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.


The move begins right where Part 2 ended, with Voldemort taking the Elder wand from Dumbledore's grave and Harry sitting besides Dobby's grave. David Yates assumes, quite fairly, that his audience will not have anyone who didn't see Part 1, and so spends no time on unnecessary recaps. And while Part 1 was necessarily slow, just like the first half of the book it covered, with a large part of it having little to no action, Part 2 moves rapidly, with no time to breathe as the scenes move from Shell Cottage to Gringotts to finally Hogwarts.

The performances were amazing in this movie. Every single actor stepped up, and how. McGonagall is brilliant when she takes on Snape (although I did wish her voice had been a tad bit stronger when she sets up the protections for the castle), Alan Rickman blows your mind away as Snape, and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort gave me goosebumps. The threesome truly come of age in this movie. Rupert Grint's facial expressions and ability to deliver one-liners were always a delight, and his face when he's running in the Room of Requirement is hilarious. Emma Watson, after a very long time, did not annoy me, and Daniel Radcliffe brings Harry to life in this movie. Truly. Neville Longbottom, given a fair amount of screen time in this final installment, does a brilliant job as well.

And to a very large extent, the movie stays faithful to the book. The planning in Shell Cottage, the visit to Gringotts, the meeting with Aberforth and finally the arrival in Hogwarts are all dealt with quite fairly, with only the occasional straying. I had predicted right after the first part that Dumbledore's story would be left out - if Voldemort's history wasn't considered important enough for the movies, why would Dumbledore's family or friendship with Grindelwald be included? When the truth about Snape is revealed, you will have a lump in your throat. I was never as affected by his story in the book as I was when I saw him climb the stairs in the house Godric's Hollow on Halloween all those years ago. A bit of creative liberty on the scriptwriter's part, sure, but oh, it worked. The one moment in the movie where I had tears in my eyes was the same as the book - when Fred, Lupin and Tonks are last seen.

And my absolute favourite scene in the movie? When Harry comes back out of the Pensieve in the Headmaster's office, walks down three steps and sits down heavily on the steps. The background music (which was quite wonderful, by the way) stops, and there's about thirty seconds of silence, with the camera simply focused on Harry, as he realises what he must do next. That's when you realise he really has grown up, and is ready to meet his fate, if you will.

Where the movie falters is in the last half hour - the final battle, in the castle itself. Which is a great pity, because in book that was unnecessarily long and rambling in places, that scene was perhaps the most tightly written and impactful scenes. But the movie takes it all over the place, quite literally. Nagini's end, the battle between Bellatix Lestrange and Molly Weasley, and the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort are all drawn out to such an extent that when the end finally happens, you don't even realise it - that's now little impact it makes.

But the best part of a Friday morning screening of a Harry Potter movie, the day it releases? You get a fabulous fellow-audience, full of hardcore Potter fans. The father and I were surrounded by college kids, who would have grown up reading the books, and who like us, had come to say farewell. So the guy sitting next to me, who had clearly come alone, was muttering just as exasperatedly as me during the final battle. When the intermission was announced at the worst possible moment (well played, you idiots at DT), at least four girls sitting behind me exclaimed in chorus "NOW? Seriously?!?" When Molly Weasley points her wand at Bellatrix Lestrange and shouts, "not my daughter, you bitch", the entire audience was clapping and hooting. And the epilogue ends, and the credits began to roll, all of us burst out into applause.

And so endeth an eleven year long relationship for me, one I'll cherish for a very, very long time.

Finite Incantatem.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The world of G+

I'm feeling left out of the entire Google Plus conversation, so here's my two paisa worth on the new social networking must-have.
  • The way I see it, G+ seems to be the opposite of Twitter. You follow people who want to hear from on twitter; on G+, you add people you want to share with to your circles. Isn't that sorta in-your-face?
  • Facebook is where I keep in touch with people I know IRL, and those online folks who I've connected with beyond twitter and blogs. G+ hasn't caught on with a wider audience yet, so at the moment, most of the people suggested to me are online folks. Doesn't help, because I haven't connected with those many! So my circles are fairly empty at the moment.
  • A lot of it so far seems to be sharing of articles and posts that people are finding interesting. Why do I need another site to do that? I have twitter, GReader, and occasionally, even Facebook. Anything I want to share with the world is adequately shared through these three sites. I don't need another.
  • And my biggest pet peeve: the big USP of G+ was supposed to be the idea of sharing specific things to specific circles. I just shared my first article on G+, and it asked me which circles I wanted to share it with. Here's why that doesn't make sense to me. I may have a circle called College friends, but from the 30-odd people I went to college with, today I'm close to less than people. So I may not want to share with all the 30, no? On Facebook, I have lists similar to circles anyway - School, College, Work, and now B-school. I also have three lists called Severely Restricted, Limited Profile, and Kinda Limited. One gets to see my wall, but nothing of what I post. One gets to see some links that I post, but rarely my status updates, and none of my photos. And the third gets to see most of my status updates and links, but very few of my photos. (I'm a little paranoid, yes.) It doesn't matter where I know you from, it's how well I know that defines what I share with you. So yes, while I could make a Circle saying "People I like and want to share my whole life with" on G+, it's easier to keep people out than bring them in.
Does that make sense?

I do realise that for people who are very active in the whole Social Media, Social Collaboration, and that kind of stuff, will get excited by G+. Google Wave was also made for such people, and was actually a very cool thing - just way ahead of its time, which failed, in my opinion, because the wider audience had no use for it.

I'm part of the wider audience, I think, because any talk of optimizing social media just bores me to death. I'm on the sites I am for interesting stuff to read, and some nice conversations. And I'm very happy with my twitter conversations, thank you. The anonymity I pretend to cling to there comforts me. I don't need a second site for these conversations, especially one where I have to tell the whole world who I am.

Monday, July 04, 2011

What, man?

The mother and her younger brother have an age difference of about 7 years between them. One afternoon, when she was in college, the two of them were at the bus stop, waiting for a bus to take them home and away from the rain. A guy, standing nearby, kept staring at my mother. My uncle, at age 11 or 12, took offense and walked up to the guy and said, "What, man? Can't you see it's raining?"

Decades later, I was in my early teens when the brother and I were making our monthly visit to B.C. Roy's Children's Library in the car. I was sitting in front, giving a last read to the book I was about to return, and didn't really notice when we stopped at a traffic light. When the car started again, my 8-year-old brother piped up from the back seat, "Why were those men in the bus staring at you, Didi?" I shrugged and said I didn't know. "Well, I glared at them and then they stopped."

Protectiveness clearly runs in this family.

I can never say or hear the words "what, man" without bursting into giggles.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Zinda ho tum?

Have you heard this one?
Dilon mein tum apni betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum
Nazar mein khwaabon ki bijliyan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum
Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise aazad rehna seekho
Tum ek dariya ke jaise lehron mein behna seekho
Har ek lamhe se tum milo khole apni baahein
Har ek pal ek naya samaa dekhe yeh nigaahein
Jo apni aankhon mein hayraniyan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum
Dilon mein tum apni betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum
I'm going to be doing the blogging equivalent of thinking aloud in this post, so bear with me a bit, yeah?

I've been listening to the songs of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara on loop for the past few weeks, and something's been bothering me while I listen to them. At least three of the songs talk about "learning to live again". I'm trying to understand why people need to learn to do this.

We're all living, aren't we? We work, we come home, we meet friends, we spend time with family, we spend some time doing things we enjoy. Isn't that living?

Sure, I haven't seen the movie, so maybe there's something that I'm missing. Yes, there are workaholics, people stuck in jobs they hate, people who have no one, and so on - but all of that is also living, isn't it?

I spent three years in a job that I loved. I was a workaholic. I hated a lot of things about it, but I enjoyed the work, and I admired my bosses, and that was enough. And when I was at work, it didn't matter what stresses there were at home - those would recede to the back of my mind for that period. And when I would come home - which, granted, would often be a lot later than it should have been - I was home. I was with my family, or with my friend, or with you guys, on twitter.

That's living for me. I've never had much of a social life, and that's okay for me. I'm not much of a people or a party person. So I've never had the desire to go out and "live", whatever that means.

But there are all these movies, and songs, and posters on tumblr, that keep telling me I should remember to live my life. So I want to know, what does that mean exactly?

I started this post a week back. Since then, I've read this delightful post by @localteaparty, and this morning, read this in my GReader shared items, which in turn reminded me of this one that I'd come across nearly a year ago. All of which are trying to explain the same thing to me I think, but I still want to know: what does go live your life mean exactly?Link
Tell me?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saying au revoir

I spent all of today visiting relatives in Calcutta, with more to be met tomorrow, all to say adieu before I head off for my MBA in a month's time. Of all the people I met, no one else made me as emotional as Doctor Dadu and Didu.

I'm not related to them. They were my Mam's neighbours all my life, in her old home that she moved out of some years back. Dadu was a homeopathic doctor, so if any of us ever fell ill while visiting Calcutta, he'd be the one we went to. There is also some story of him saving my life when I fell seriously ill as a kid I think, but those details are too hazy for me to be clear on.

Every visit to Cal, no matter who else we met or didn't meet, Doctor Dadu and Didu had to be met. No matter how rushed or hectic the trip, that half hour to walk next door and sit with them had to be taken out. And it was never a duty; theirs was a house we unanimously all wanted to visit. And very few people make me feel as loved as they do.

Maybe it's because we're not related. Maybe it's because there's no baggage, you know. With everyone else, there's a history. What he said about us, what we said about her, what he shouldn't get to know, how they behaved with them, and so on and so forth.

With Doctor Dadu-Didu, there's no such history, just a very genuine affection. Every time I go, they exclaim over how I've grown up and become such a lady. They start about how they hear such good things about me from the grandmother. They feed me mishti and give me a chocolate to carry back with me. And they tell me how good it is to see me again.

They're childless, Dadu and Didu. Both in their 80s at least, they live alone, and a niece comes to see them once in a while. They're both very well read, and their memory is still amazingly sharp. Dadu can't hear, so every time I answer a question Didu asked me, she'll scream and repeat what I said to him, and he'll nod and pretend he understood, then turn and ask me the same question again. Didu fell and hurt herself a couple of years back, and is almost completely bed ridden now. But the two of them are chugging along, living and laughing together.

Ever since it's been known that I'm going off for two years, all my great aunts and other elderly relatives have been telling me wistfully, "who knows if we'll still be here when you come back." Mam said it today, and I lost my temper with her and stormed off.

But then Doctor Dadu said it too this evening. And I broke down and started bawling. And it struck me that after the grandmother and the princess, if there's anyone else I'm going to be praying to keep alive for me to come back and see, it'll be Doctor Dadu and Didu.

But then Didu saw me crying, and laughed. She patted my hand, and told me, "don't be silly. You come back in two years, and you'll see I'll be walking again."

God I hope so. How I hope so.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Of diets and allergies

There are nice mirrors and mean mirrors, you know? The mirror in my Mam's old house, for instance, had a knack of making me feel pretty. The reflection in the glass doors that were the entrance to my grad school on the other hand made me feel fat every time I saw them.

Some clothes do that too. Unpacking four years of clutter, the brother found my favourite pair of jeans that had travelled back to Boston with him in March. I've been wearing them as often as possible since I got them back, and I feel good in them. Of course, it helps that I've lost a teeny-weeny bit of weight lately.

If this holiday has taught me anything though, it's that I am wayyyyy more unfit than I thought I was. The brother wanted to climb up to the top of a cliff, and I agreed to accompany him. We took the easiest and shortest trail there was, but I was huffing and puffing for most of it. So since coming back, I've been put straight back on the "diet" I've been following since March, when my doc looked at my test results, and told me to go off sugar, go on a low carb diet, have absolutely no carbs after 7 in the evening, and basically be half my size when I went to see her again in three months (which is about two weeks and I am nowhere close to being half of what I was).

You don't really realise how much carbs your diet has till you start avoiding them. Roti, bread, rice, potatoes - ALL of these are to be avoided now. And since I am made to have dinner by 6.30 these days, I start feeling hungry by 11ish again. And then there's NOTHING I can even have.

What I did realise was that my biggest enemy was sugar. I used to go through 7-8 cups of tea a day in office, y'know? Each with almost 2 spoons of sugar. Once I reduced that, and replaced sugar with Sugar Free, you could literally see the weight falling off me. Which is very depressing, because I am addicted to sugar. There are times when I actually crave the taste of sugar.

To add insult to injury, I went last week to the doc who'd diagnosed me with asthma last year, and got a full allergy test done. Apart from random airborne allergies which can't be helped, we discovered two food families that I am allergic to - lady fingers and lemon. Anyone who says there is no universal conspiracy out to get me is either blind, or lying. I mean, seriously?! The one vegetable I like is bhindi, and now I can't have it. And do you know what a comfort food nimboo-pani is for me? And how is one supposed to have maachher-jhol-bhaat is I can't put nimboo on it?

I have a cold and a dash of fever right now, so yes, I'm a bit cranky, and meandering more than usual. And I have an appointment with the dentist in exactly two hours. Who knows what he's going to ban for me.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Tuppence on the Delhi Slutwalk

My twitter timeline and GReader feeds have been flooded by one issue over the last day or so, and I'm not talking about a certain baba's antics. Delhi's gearing up for a Slutwalk it seems, and the reactions are varied.

There's cynicism, there's support, there's wisecracks. There's a number of women who have blogged about their experiences in the streets of Delhi in an attempt to explain why, even though they may not necessarily agree with the entire concept of a Slutwalk, it is needed. And there are those, mostly from other parts of the country, who are wondering how "Dilliwallas" will react to this walk. You know, because Delhi's the only city in the country where men are scum. My own friends are questioning the name of this walk.

It's not that these kind of events haven't happened before in India. Blank Noise has been organizing activities that emphasize the concept of "I never ask for it" for years now. But this Slutwalk seems to have caught everyone's attention in a way they never did.

Is it the name? Why? Because people, most people, think a slut is a prostitute? The original meaning of the word, when I had looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary at the age of 14, was "a dirty, slovenly woman". Over time, it's come to be used to describe women who are sexually promiscuous. And that, as we all know, is to be severely frowned upon. Because it's fine for Ranbir Kapoor to have as many flings as he wants - it's after all material to be used for jokes at the Filmfare awards - but if Deepika Padukone goes on to another boyfriend, she's labelled a gold digger and all sorts of other things. And not just by men, dear Lord no. It's the women who can be cattiest about such labels.

Even if the word slut did mean prostitute, so? Does that justify sexual harassment? I worked as an HR consultant; if we chose to say no to working with a particular organization, they couldn't force us, right? So if a woman, who makes a living by having sex with men - for whatever reasons - says no to a man, and he forces himself on her, why should that be justifiable in any way?

Why is a Slutwalk needed in Delhi, of all cities in India? Do I need to chronicle incidents, the way this woman did? The groping at age 12, being stopped by a car two lanes away from my house, the numerous incidents in DTC buses? The comments on my own blog five years ago, by two men I consider friends, that a woman wearing a mini-skirt gives the impression that she is inviting men to try their luck. This post on Desicritics, some years ago, that outraged me and prompted me to write this post in response. And for the menfolk who express their concern that men in Delhi won't understand this event, look at your own cities. A friend was flashed on Pali Hill in Bandra. Those cops who started this entire movement, by using the word slut in the context of the women who were raped, were in Vancouver. Isn't that supposed to be a first world country or some such thing?

Don't tell me this mentality is about city or state or region or country. It exists all over the world. And I can guarantee that this Slutwalk will do absolutely nothing to even change this mentality. As someone tweeted yesterday, "When slutwalk happens, no one will think of the real victims. Just like no one thinks of animals during naked PETA campaigns." The last thing on any bystander's mind as they see a mass of women parading on a road is our right to tell them to keep their hands to themselves.

But there is the faint hope that maybe some men will be affected, maybe some women will change the way they view other women, maybe some folks will stop blaming the survivors of sexual abuse/harassment. And if this Slutwalk achieves even this much, I'm all for it. Oh yes I am.

I realised, while discussing this post with the BFF on gtalk, that I never actually articulated what the Slutwalk is about, really. And why I'm not completely enamoured with the idea, even though I do want it to have some positive impact. So in her furious but very articulate words:
who even fucking says slut in india
no one even knows what it's about
so after this will rape stats go down?
will all the sex-starved indians suddenly start respecting women and do all nahi nahi ma-beti jai-jai
and will indian women now start catching buses from DK in fishnets?
There you go then.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Brief History of Time: A Meme

So I'm bored, I have writer's (or blogger's) block, and I really want to blog. So I'm doing a meme.

20 years ago I . . .
1. lost my paternal grandfather to leukemia. To the day, actually.
2. asked my bachelor great-uncle why he couldn't marry my just-widowed grandmother since they were both now unmarried (I was SIX, okay?)
3. still lived in Chandigarh.

10 years ago I . . .
1. gave my Class X Board exams.
2. bid goodbye to any paper to do with Science. WOOHOO.
3. thought becoming a House Appointee was SUCH a big deal.

5 years ago I . . .
1. finished college and started my Master's
2. started this blog, after a year of keeping a private blog.
3. went for the long-dreamed-of trip around Europe with the family.

3 years ago I . . .
1. finished my Master's and started my first job.
2. travelled to Kolkata and Mumbai, and realised that Delhi is, after all, home.
3. joined twitter, and well, got addicted.

1 year ago I . . .
1. took the plunge of applying to B-school.
2. had a miserable time at work.
3. got diagnosed with asthma, grew fatter and fatter till I pretty much doubled in size, and altogether just let my health go completely.

So far this year I . . .
1. got into B-school.
2. quit my job.
3. watched the kid brother graduate from college.

Yesterday I . . .
1. went for an eye check-up.
2. applied for an apartment to live in for the next year.
3. booked my flight tickets to the US.

Today I . . .
1. woke up crying with the worst migraine in a long, long time.
2. took an appointment for my visa interview.
3. met my future classmates for dinner.

Tomorrow I will . . .
1. go get an allergy test done.
2. watch Kung Fu Panda 2.
3. hopefully have lunch with one of the gal pals.

In the next year I will . . .
1. start B-school.
2. learn to live away from home, the parents, and the princess.
3. hopefully figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life - or at least for the first few years after I finish my MBA.

Hmmm. Okay, I tag The Zig and Puneet, because they should blog more often, crimsonshadows and Runjoo, because they read my blog (which I know because they leave comments) and have blogs, and anyone else who feels like it. Only, tell me if you do this too, yeah?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


The day the brother's Board results came out, we went to Kasauli for the weekend. I haven't been back since, and I didn't even get to pick up mushroom pickle from NAFED. Hmph.

Barely three months later, he left for Boston, completely unwillingly and unexpectedly. When he came back for his first summer vacation a year later, soon after I finished my post-graduation, we went to Mumbai and Mahabaleshwar for a family holiday. Well, the father went on work, and we sort of tagged along.

A month later, I started working. In the three years since then, I've been to Calcutta, alone for work and with the mother otherwise, to Nasik with the father, and Jaipur with the brother. The brother's been to Ajmer and Assam with the mother, and he's joined the father in Hyderabad and Calcutta. We've all had individual trips - alone, with friends, or with colleagues.

We've all travelled, - but the four of us, together, haven't gone on a holiday in three years.

24 hours from now, the parents and I leave for Boston, to see my kid brother graduate from college. And then the four of us head to the UK for a family holiday.

In a couple of months, the brother takes up his first job, and I join B-school. Who knows when this will happen again?

I should go pack. Dammit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If I tell you...

  1. ...that I'm an HR consultant, it doesn't mean I can find you a job. There's more to HR consulting than recruitments.
  2. ...that I studied psychology for five years, it doesn't mean I can tell you what you're thinking by reading your face. Idjit.
  3. ...that I'm in HR, it doesn't mean you get to gasp in surprise on seeing that I am reasonably intelligent and competent with respect to technology, math, etc.
  4. ...that I'm Bengali, it doesn't mean my diet consists of roshogolla and machher-jhol-bhaat. And no, my name doesn't automatically get pronounced with the "aw" syllable. And please, please don't say the words "aami tomake bhalo bashi" to me.
  5. ...that I'm a romantic and/or read chick lit, it does not disqualify me from being a feminist. Or vice versa, for that matter.
  6. ...that I'm a feminist, it doesn't mean I believe in bra burning. I simply think gender equality is important. Get over yourselves.
  7. ...that I'm 26 and going for my MBA, it doesn't mean my hopes of landing a nice boy for marriage are over. Hopefully. Even if it does, so what? Why does marriage and kids have to be my ultimate goal in life?
  8. ...that I like kids only at a distance, and I'm not sure if I ever want to have kids of my own (even though I've sorta decided what I'll be naming them), why does this make me less of a woman?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

To Mamma, with Love

The mother loves bacon. She doesn't have it too often because she thinks it's expensive. So when we went to Flurry's earlier this year, I bullied her into ordering it, and made her have it. And this morning, I woke up at 7.30 AM for the first time since quitting my job, and fried bacon for her. And now she won't let me take her out for a Mother's Day dinner because I spent SO MUCH MONEY on a packet of bacon.

For as long as I can remember, she's done that. Scrimped and given up on what she likes, what she wants, because it may be too expensive. But nothing we ever wanted was too much. Music cassettes would be lying on my breakfast plate if I got a fabulous score on my math test, the brother got his electrical guitar after he cracked his twelfth Boards, the father was gifted a Bose music player for his 50th birthday.

Mamma got married at 20, right after finishing college. She did her Master's and started working after marriage. She decided to stop studying the day her two-year-old son looked at her and whined, "why you always studying, Mamma?" Everything she's ever done in her life has been for her family - her kids, her husband, her mother, her brothers. She has a terrible temper, but is terribly disappointed at how unladylike her daughter is. The current easiest way to irritate her is to call her Ma instead of Mamma or Mommy because you know, Ma just sounds old.

In school, there was nothing that happened in my life that the mother didn't know. Of course, not much happened, because I have the most boring life ever, but whatever did, she knew about. She made sure the brother and I read as kids, she made sure he and I were best friends as kids, and I know that no matter where we go in life, how rarely or frequently the brother and I talk, he and I will always have a good relationship because our mother made sure of it.

She's gorgeous, you know? In my leaving school slam book, a friend wrote "Roses are red, violets are blue, your mother is beautiful, what happened to you?" When I met him and his wife last month, he went into rhapsodies of the first time he ever saw my mother. A couple of years back, the first guy I ever had a crush on added me on Facebook, a decade after I'd moved away. His first question when he caught me on FB chat? "Is your mother still as gorgeous?" We regularly meet shock and disbelief when we announce we're mother and daughter, not sisters. Very demoralizing it all is.

I was watching an episode of Friends once, in the parents' bedroom. The parents were having some discussion, the brother was pottering around. It was one of the flashback episodes; the father glanced at the screen and asked, puzzled, "how did she become so fat?" "Oh you know, her brother was a miracle baby, so he was loved a lot more, so she was depressed and would eat a lot, so she's kinda fat." And as I said those words, everyone started grinning sheepishly, because it's SUCH A PARALLEL TO MY LIFE. Only I'm elder.

It is a universally known fact that the brother is the mother's favourite. The only person who denies this is the mother herself, who thinks mothers don't differentiate between their children. Hogwash, I say. When she goes berserk and stubborn, he's the only one who can calm her down. He's the one she likes to whine and talk to about stuff. He's the calm, dependable, go-to person in the family. Of course, part of all this could be because I'm a little... shall we say, hyper and opinionated about the things she says and does. Which is actually exactly how she is with the grandmother, but saying this to her would classify as being opinionated.

I look at the mother sometimes and wonder how anyone who's been through so much, who's had the life she's had can still be as strong and cheerful and together as she is. And I wish that my similarity to her extends to making me half the person she is.

Happy Mother's Day to the best mommy I could ever ask for.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When the dream came true

More than a year ago, when I was taking the decision to embark on the whole MBA application process, I had one of my all-too-frequent moments of self-doubt at a time when the brother was home. Should I even bother? Did I have what it took? My academic record wasn't too great, I had only a few years of work experience under my belt, and so on and so forth.

The main theme of this particular phase of self-doubt, however, was the fact that I had always got the second-best option of whatever I went for. I wanted to study Psychology, but got into JMC, not LSR. For my MA, I got into South Campus, not the more renowned North Campus. I was working for a niche consulting firm, but not one of the bigger "brands". What made me think I would get into a top B-school in the US?

The brother heard me whine and rant for some time, rolled his eyes, and spoke, saying something to the effect of: You've never given anything your best shot. You just went with the flow of things. And you got into the second-best option every single time. All of which, while not the best, were pretty damn good options. So if you really try and work hard, why can't you get into the best?

And it struck me, he was right. I've always somehow taken pride in the fact that I've never really gone after anything. I just went wherever the road took me, wherever life led me. That's what a traveller does, after all. And while I have very few regrets about where life took me - college in JMC gave me three of the best years of my life, and my work has been my passion for the past three years - what would life have been like if I had actually gone after something?

So when I decided to go for an MBA, I gave it everything I had. I cracked the GMAT, I obsessed over my essays, I drove everyone around me crazy with my erratic work schedule and my constant stressing and fretting, I procrastinated till the last possible moment and then pulled off all-nighters to finish things, but I did it.

And then exactly one month and one day ago, it happened. The one school I had my heart set on ever since I even thought of an MBA accepted me. The one school I would have given up almost anything to go to said they would be delighted to offer me admission.

For the first time in my life, I knew what it meant to get something you really really wanted. What it meant to get into the best.

There's a lot that I still had to process. There are a lot of worries and stresses that started creeping in ever since I realised that I actually am going off for my MBA. Another very good school was offering me financial aid, and the dream school didn't. But then I do have the most incredibly supportive parents, and a know-it-all brother and a set of friends who convinced me that the dream is what I should go after.

And so, come July, a new chapter will begin - one I actually went after.

WOOHOO. Also, *gulp*.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#CSAAM April 2011 - Hearing Survivors speak

I was 12 when a stranger came and grabbed me and tried to fondle me from behind at the New Delhi Railway Station. He did it twice or thrice till my cousin sister, elder to me by two years, kicked him and pushed him away.

I was 13 when a guy started making prank calls to our home phone. He'd hang up if anyone else picked up, but if I picked up, he'd ask me a question in Hindi. The same question every time. It carried on for several weeks till one day the father picked up the extension and gave him a blasting. Till today, I've never told anyone what exactly he would ask me.

I know that a large part of my outrage over rape and sexual abuse come from these two experiences. That when the guys in the next car pass comments, I get upset and aggressive because I know it can get worse, no matter what the mother may say about it being no big deal.

But do these incidents classify as child sexual abuse? I've never really thought of them as such. Not even abuse really. Harassment, probably. But not abuse. But then, I was lucky no? These were fleeting incidents in an otherwise very secure childhood, and my family took care of me. They may not have taken the impact these incidents had on me very seriously, but
they took care of me.

One of the hardest things about being a Peer Educator with RAHI was hearing disclosures. As girls in our college became aware of our campaigns, some of them began to approach us to tell us their stories, stories they had never shared with anyone else. There were times we spent hours sitting outside the canteen, listening to a girl we had never spoken to before, a girl we never spoke to again after that. Just - listening. Some were convinced to go to Anuja for formal counselling, for others, just that one conversation was enough. So many others never came to speak at all.

When the second batch of Peer Educators was formed, RAHI helped some 8-10 girls from the two batches to form a group - a group of survivors. The rest of us, in the larger group, knew the group had been formed, knew they would meet more often, but we didn't know who all were part of the group. Some of the members were close friends, and had told me they were part of it, but the others chose to keep their counsel.

Even though I had stopped working with RAHI by this time, I continued to run the mailing group on Yahoo for the Peer Educators those days. One night, I got a frantic call from a fellow Peer Educator, asking if she could recall a mail sent to the group. When I checked my mail later, I realised why - she had sent a mail intended for the survivors' group, confirming the time of their next meeting, out to the larger group. Everyone would now know she was a survivor, and she was not ready to tell the world.

The group naturally discussed this incident in their next meeting, because over the next few days, 3-4 of them wrote to the larger group, saying that they too, were survivors. Some were surprises, some not so much. Many of them remained silent.

At the end of that year, the Peer Educators again organised a seminar to talk about child sexual abuse. This time, from the survivors' perspective. They had created a movie where the survivors spoke about their experiences, even the panellists of the seminar were survivors this time. I wasn't able to attend the seminar, but I saw the movie a year later, when I went to help Anuja with a workshop. And I heard the voices of my friends, friends I hadn't realised or even suspected were survivors, talking about some of their worst memories.

Over the past month, I've been reading posts by survivors, talking about what they went through, and how they dealt with it. And I am in awe of how strong and brave these men and women are. To be able to put out your worst memories, and your emotions, out there, so that people become aware of something they otherwise refuse to acknowledge even exists - it really is incredibly brave.