Tag Archives: Childhood

F for Four Year Old Lessons

FThis is something I wrote at one of Rochelle’s workshops. I haven’t edited it too much and I might consider performing it. Then again, once I put it out there, I might not need to anymore. This is a delayed poem for the April 2015 A to Z Challenge.


Four years old
and learning new lessons
A lesson on violence
written in finger-shaped streaks
across my face

A lesson of searching
for thoughts that shook loose
and rolled off into corners
where I can still hear them
rattling and thudding

A lesson of displacement
of finding myself
in a different corner of the room
from where I was 10 seconds ago
of vision blurring and refocussing
seeing a different person each time, every slap

A lesson of size
Of how it comes in hugs and punches
And unbreakable grips
And grips that can break you
Of security and fear
Holding hands and holding you

A lesson of waiting
Of devouring books
in search of words to explain
Of trying to believe in
a normal where love means smiles
And home is happiness

Four years old and still learning.


*Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

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D is for Dread

DI’m rather late with today’s, having been struck down by a hot day and Andheri in general. But the delightful Jai Ranjit pushed me to explore my creative limits and how can I resist a challenge? He gave me ‘D is for Dread‘ and challenged me to write a story that had a positive ending. Here’s today’s #AtoZChallenge. (and have you read A, B and C as yet?)


D is for Dread

We took our casualties. We took the hits, like men. Sticks and stones, there were some broken bones. But that John, he cries like a girl anyway. Some guys can’t handle Grade IV fire. We’ve left him behind.

There’s brief respite. We’re home with our families. The summer is beautiful. But we all know what’s waiting at the end of it. These past four years have been playground fights, in comparison.

It must be done. The women speak of it with almost demented cheerfulness. But at night, when I’m sitting on the steps, watching my mother shell peas, I hear her sniff and say, “He’s not ready yet.” I’m tempted to run out and hug her. But I hold back and trudge back to bed. The time for tears is past.

It went by so fast. Yesterday Monica walked to the end of the road with me. We didn’t say much. It was everything that we were walking together. When we reached my door, she said, “See you.” I nodded, unsmiling and turned away. We both know she won’t. By next summer, she’ll have forgotten me. In fact, this Saturday, I know she’s seeing another guy. He lives next door to Allen. Allen, my best buddy, he gave it to me straight. Or maybe he was just happy to see her go. Allen never liked her. Allen doesn’t like girls, never has.

But he’s a good friend to have in all times. Especially in times like the one we’re going to be having. We don’t yet know what their militia have in their arsenal. Everyone in my section knows I’m the bravest of them all. But I’ll be glad to have good ol’ Allen at my side, flanking me, especially when the bus drives up tomorrow to pick us up.

I lay out my uniform on the bed. It’s crisp and new. The unfamiliar colours, that I’ve only ever seen on the older lads are now mine to touch and wear, every single day. I hang them up carefully, turn off the light and try to sleep. I’m going to need my wits about me.

Tomorrow, fifth grade.


D is for Dread

*Image courtesy olovedog on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ideamarked Jun2011: Conspiracy Theories, eGadgets & Hakoba

Mid-month, I had coffee with two digital agency people to discuss the Indian blogosphere and the nature of content. On one hand, I’m delighted that the world is waking up to the thought that blogs are not just lunchtime amusement for the bored employee or the lovestruck teenager. With attention, I’m hoping will come the respect that any creator of original content deserves. On the other hand, it’s something that did come out of my own bored/frustrated moments, a diarying habit on multivitamins. It’s still curious to know that something that grew out of a personal quirk is now worthy of a distinctive opinion and even space.

But blogs, being reflections of people and their sentiments, must keep evolving as do their owners. While over at XX Factor, I’m moving to a more balanced perspective on relationships, men and such things, here at The Idea-smithy, I’ve gone back to my roots. Aside from my commissioned posts, the announcements of posts and press, I’ve also been posting snippets, stray thoughts and sundry commentary. I don’t know if you, my readers will like it or not but for now, this is me. Have a lovely monsoon!

  • How To Deal With Bullying & Harassment In The Workplace‘: Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any support systems legal or union. But it still helps to know that this happens and that it is wrong. (via Hubpages)
  • One for the foodies, if you’re wondering how to add that authentic East-Indian flavour to your vindaloo. (via East Indian Masalas, link courtesy Phyrodite)
  • If you’ve been a victim of unacknowledged praise (imitation, copycats, yada yada yada), Tynt might have a solution for you. The article reviews the product and offers some handy suggestions. (via Makeuseof, link courtesy Kirti Kapoor)
  • A Technophobe Unravels The Android Tapestry“:’Marvin’, my Android, showed up on Yahoo! Recommendations with an app-review!
  • 10 Classic Indianisms: Doing the needful and more“: As Indians we take zero pride in our identity. When we comprise 1/6th of the world’s population and godaloneknows how much of the English-speaking group, why is our usage ‘wrong’? (via CNNGO)
  • A person’s attitude to reading depends on the books they’ve experienced, especially early in life. Meet some of my childhood friends in “10 Great Vacation Reads For Children” (via FriendsofBooks)
  • E Vestigio came back to life with a poetic bit of writing, in silence.
  • Cracked was my favorite guilt-reading for this month: “10 mind-blowing Easter eggs hidden in music albums” (those mind-screwing musicians, them!), “7 Easter eggs in words of art(and you thought the Masters were all high-brow!) and “If Historical Figures Endorsed Modern Products” (heh, lookit Dali!) (link courtesy Dischordian)
  • A pretty white hakoba dress and a whole lot of imaginative photographs are up on Purple Peeptoes.
  • Navin Kabra has an existential question for the socially networked world, regarding a witness for one’s actions (via Facebook).
  • The 30 harshest author-on-author insults in history” (via Flavorwire, link courtesy Meenakshi Reddy).
  • “Yeh ladki hain ya ladka hain?” could well refer to the actor singing the song. Oh wait, who did she grow up into? (via Youtube)
  • Move over Sheila Kejwani and Munni Badam, errr…whozzat is here?! What is with Salman Khan casting lookalikes of his ex-es in his films? Catchy song though, this Character Dheela (via Youtube)

Friends Of Books 1: 10 Great Vacation Reads For Children

Remember the Bournvita Quiz contest with Derek O’ Brien with its jingle that went ‘Ba-ba-luba-ba-ba-books-books-BOOKS!’?

Much of a person’s attitude to reading depends on the books they’ve experienced, especially early in life. I was fortunate enough to meet a number of stories, early in my childhood. I think the best thing my parents ever did for me was to surround me with a lot of books. They opened up my mind, shaped my thinking and in general, made me a
better person.

I’m sharing ten of my most cherished memories from childhood reading in my first post over at Friends of Books. If you’ve loved books too or have a child who does, leave a comment telling me about your favorite books too!

Click here to read ‘10 Great Vacation Reads For Children’ at Friends of Books.


1. One Thousand And One Nights:

A Sultan believing that all women are unfaithful, takes a new wife each night and has her executed the following morning. One of these wives, is Scheherazade, the daughter of his Vazir, who offers to entertain him by telling him a story. Her tale intrigues him enough to pardon her for another night,provided she has another story to tell. And thus begins a ritual where each story buys Scheherazade another day of life. When she finally runs out of stories, nearly three years later, the Sultan pardons her and installs her as his queen. Scheherazade’s stories are compiled as Alif Laila, more popularly known as the Arabian Nights. The collection includes classics like Ali Baba, Aladdin and Sindbad. I was also intrigued by stories of the wise Caliph of Baghdad, simple-minded Abu Sir and his greedy friend Abu Kir and several others. Any child really should be introduced to the colourful, exotic world of the Arabian Nights.

2. The Just So stories – Rudyard Kipling

I received this short story collection as a gift and I assumed that it had been given to me as ‘meaningful reading’. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it full of nuggets like ‘How the leopard got his spots’, ‘How the camel got his hump’, ‘How the alphabet was made’ and ‘The butterfly that stamped’. What’s more, the book was interspersed with beautiful illustrations of the stories. Each picture was accompanied by a caption, half a page long, which described the picture but also a conspiratorial note from the author on why he drew it in a certain way, what he was thinking and where the pencil slipped, causing mistakes. This last will tickle children who are constantly dodging the perfect world of adult admonitions to ‘stay within the lines’.

3. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne – Upendrakishore Roychoudhury

Upendrakishore Roychoudhury created the tale of two struggling musicians, ostracized because their music annoys everyone else to distraction. Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne, have since crept into contemporary folklore through songs and dramatic enactments of their stories. Roychoudhury’s vibrant story was later made into a film by his grandson, the noted film-maker, Satyajit Ray. I found an English translation of this book, well into my adult years but I immensely enjoyed
meeting Goopy and Bagha.

4. Swami and Friends – R K Narayan

R K Narayan’s tales of a quaint, fictitious little town called Malgudi situated on the banks of the Cauvery river have charmed Indian audiences for many years. Those who grew up in the 80s will remember the television series based on Malgudi Days (featuring Anant Nag). Swami, one of the most popular characters of R K Narayan’s quaint universe, is a 10-year-old boy growing up in British Raj India. He dodges bullies in the school playground, leaves a special offering to God before his examinations, listens to his grandmother’s stories and tries to avoid school and his father’s scolding. Even with the historical setting, Swami’s endearing antics make his stories relatable and thoroughly enjoyable.

5. The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame

A serious Badger, an earnest Mole, a laidback Rat and a troublesome but lovable Toad are the four characters that make up this funny story of friends. Toad is the richest of the four and most inclined to fall into problems but never learn from them. The other three embark on a quest, led by Badger, to reform Toad of his bratty ways. It’s usually a young children’s book that uses animals as key characters. However the characters, their relationships, conversations and the episodes in their lives are so human that this story is extremely relatable, not to mention entertaining for much older readers.

6. Heidi – Johanna Spyri

From the Swiss Alps, comes the story of Heidi, a five-year-old girl left in the care of her gruff grandfather. The early chapters of Heidi depict rural life as seen through the eyes of a child. Later, Heidi is taken to Frankfurt to be a companion to a rich, crippled girl called Klara. Heidi grows to love Klara but struggles with the city life, so different from her past. Eventually she returns to her home, her grandfather and her shepherd friend, Peter. Heidi is a simple tale of childhood, of friendship, of fear and loss. The beautiful descriptions of the mountains of Switzerland and the bustle of European cities leave the reader spellbound.

7. Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

Whether you read this in original or an abridged pocket book (like I did), Tom Sawyer’s antics will appeal to the little rascal in every one of us. The most famous anecdote in this young scamp’s story involves Tom convincing other boys to pay him (in sweets, marbles, knobs, dead insects and other objects of strange curiosity to the boy-child) for the honor of doing his chores – painting the house fence. Tom is constantly in trouble with his strict (and harried) aunt, resents his good-boy brother, falls in love with the new girl in town, defies the town convention by befriending social outcast Huckleberry Finn (who has a book of his own), fakes his death and does everything and anything that a naughty boy possibly could.

8. Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing – Judy Blume

Judy Blume writes some of the most popular books for young people today. Her stories are set in urban/suburban America but have a certain universal appeal because the stories are about sibling rivalry, playground bullies, school problems and adolescent friendships. Peter Warren is the narrator of all the ‘Fudge’ books. In Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing, we meet nine-year-old Peter who lives in New York City with his parents and his younger brother ‘Fudge’ (who Peter says is his biggest problem). Fudge swallows Peter’s turtle, ruins his school project, misbehaves in public and embarrasses Peter. Anybody who has ever had a sibling will relate to Peter’s troubles and love how he approaches life.

9. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren

I met Pippi in an excerpt in the Childcraft books. I must have been roughly nine (Pippi’s age) and my mind was instantly filled with visions of living in a mansion by myself and having a horse on the back porch just like the young heroine herself. Pippi loses her mother at birth and then her father, a ship captain is lost at sea. He leaves her a suitcase full of gold coins, a monkey named Mr.Nelson and shoes twice her size, for her to grow into. Pippi is also the strongest girl in the world so she can lift her horse into the dining room when she feels like company, defeat the strong man in the circus and do many other wonderful things. But Pippi having spent most of her life at sea, is unfamiliar with local norms and social customs. A comedy of errors ensues; her adventures followed by her neighbors Tommy and Anika. The high-spirited Pippi is part super heroine and part comic relief in her own story which will appeal to young readers of both sexes.

10. The Little Prince – Antonie St.Exupery

My sole saving grace about the start of school, was a new English textbook. Among the many memorable stories, I was captivated by a young artist who drew a picture of a elephant inside a boa constrictor, which was mistaken for a hat by the adults. Years later, I worked with the college magazine. Its editor, the Literature professor gifted me this book for my efforts. When I turned the page, sure enough there was the picture of the elephant within a boa constrictor. In the story, the child artist becomes a pilot who, on crashing into a desert, meets a solemn lad who demands that he draw him a sheep. The Little Prince goes on to regale the author with stories of his own life on a tiny planet with three volcanoes (which he cleans out meticulously every day), baobab trees and a single rose. The Little Prince is a class fairytale, layered with many meanings. Read it as a child and enjoy the sunset world of the Prince. Or read it as an adult when you need a little perspective on life, love and inspiration.

Playground Panorama

The open space opposite to my building affords a number of interesting sights. It inspired this story, for one. That was about the ground as a separator. But how about the ground as a space in itself? Here’s what it plays home to.

Yesterday evening, I spotted this man walking his dog in the pouring rain.   Now, I have heard of doggy-sweaters before, in cold places. But this is the first time I’ve seen a dog in a raincoat! What was funnier was that the man himself wasn’t rain-protected. Some people sure love their animals more than life itself!

The summer was full of screaming kids, playing crazily in a way that only children on summer vacations do. In one of those brief lulls, the park looked almost desolate. Except for its lone guest, a solitary bicycle parked right in its midst.

The same thing a few weeks later, right after a particularly rainy night yielded this sight: a log right in the middle of the empty ground, now lush with grass.

The weather hasn’t deterred our young, budding sportsmen.

Any semi-green patch in Mumbai acts like a magnet for all the children of the vicinity. This particular park doesn’t belong to any one housing society and doesn’t have an entrance fee either. So it often plays host to impromptu cricket matches, rainy football games, bat-and-ball toss and sundry other games that appeal to every boy under the age of 12 (and most of them above to, in retrospect). The kids come from the surrounding colonies and also the adjoining slum area. I’d like to say it’s a place where they all mingle but that isn’t really the case. They play in their own groups but at least they all play within close vicinity and I haven’t seen any territory battles happening.

A cricket game had just begun. First, a lone ranger staked out the pitch. Or perhaps he was sentenced to a remote fielding location. Either way, he didn’t look too bothered by it.

I was most intrigued by the batsman, being as he was the same height as the bat he was holding…just about.

They were watched by a cosy duo sitting on a log in a corner. I wondered what these two had to talk about that was so important. *Sigh* The good old days of a bestest friend to share playground secrets with!

In another corner, I spotted a bunch of boys practicing dahi-ka-handi for upcoming Janamashtami (which also kicks off festival season in Mumbai…hooray!).

Childhood is never out of vogue, even in a concrete jungle. It stakes out its own spaces and finds plays to jump and play.

Movie Review: AMEN

What’s better than spending Saturday night with a gorgeous, intelligent, witty and sensitive man? I had the privilege this weekend. Harish Iyer invited me to a private screening of the short film ‘AMEN’ based in part, on his life. My first question was to ask if I should dress up. He said, “No yaar, I’ll be there in my regular jeans and all.” Thank goodness for me then, that I’ve met Harish before and I know what his idea of ‘regular jeans’ is. Never trust a gay man who says he isn’t dressing up!

The movie was screened at Pixion, a luxurious 24-seater in Bandra. The poster shows a part of the famous Michelangelo fresco depicting the Genesis and bears the tagline,

“Life does not let you choose your parents or your sexuality.”

One social message is a heavy charge for a film to bear without getting typecast into the shoddily made, preachy documentary mold. AMEN touched on internet hookups, rape, incest, child abuse, trust issues and love, in addition to homosexuality. It is remarkable that a film could accomplish all of that without sounding like a laundry-list of the ills of society.

From a storyteller’s point of view, it was interesting to see how the team managed to make a powerful commentary about the life of a gay man, fraught as it is with much uncertainty, loneliness, fear, mistrust and anger….all of this through the very intimate portrayal of two characters. The film could have gone two ways – maudlin or sleazy. Instead, it came through as sensitive, realistic, disturbing but also thought-provoking.

AMEN is a 24-minute film with taut storyline and a certain freshness without the glitches of an amateur production. The characters were well-defined and both actors (Karan Mehra and Jitin Gulati) essayed their roles without any of the self-consciousness that one might associate with such a bold project. One of the best compliments of the evening came from Vinta Nanda (director, Tara). When she said,

“Ordinarily when you watch a boy-meets-girl story, the women associate with the heroine and the men with the hero. I am a woman but I was completely immersed in the story of two men.”

Personally I liked the two intertwining threads of story within the film – two characters who’ve come to a situation from different places. Their individual experiences have shaped them differently and as a result, how they come to terms with their lives and their sexuality is different. Everything that we watch and read about love stories involves a certain automatic slotting of characters into their gender roles, a certain, ‘It’s a guy thing’/ ‘That’s so girly’ attitude. But AMEN made me see the characters as two people, each one a unique set of emotions and experiences. It made me empathise with each one separately and isn’t that an artist’s greatest challenge?

One normally expects a certain kind of scene to draw a certain premediated response. The violence and intensity of the starting scenes were disturbing. However it was the subtlety of Harry (Karan Mehra)’s mirror scene that really brought tears to my eyes. The mirror, as a metaphor for self-reflection, for facing one’s fears and the subsequent connection of fingertip to reflection was beautifully done.

I also liked the way the conflict was resolved realistically and not in the conventional ‘happily ever after’ way. The ending completely satisfied me as a viewer and that may be the best thing that can be said about any movie.

The making of AMEN is probably enough material for another movie altogether. A labour of love for both Ranadeep Bhattacharyya & Judhajit Bagchi, the experience had them playing producer, director but also spotboy, technician, teaboy and scriptwriter. The shoot commenced over 3 days in a small bungalow, after which the team hand-packed the sets, bundled into a tempo and delivered back the props borrowed from friends and family. Midway during the production, they found even their tight budgeting would not cover the costs of the film. Then Harish put up a status update on Twitter about this and to their surprise, a stranger offered to help them. Expenses were often cut down but money would continue to make its way to them till they finished. Their online guardian angel, Tina Valentina, actually met the team for the first time only at the preview of the film. AMEN was helped greatly by an excellent background score, a gift from Jonathon Fessenden, Hollywood composer and a professional look/feel thanks to Prasonjit.

In sum, AMEN is a fine movie with a solid story that also carries a number of powerful messages. It will definitely be of interest to the gay community but also to anyone who likes good cinema.

(pictures from the AMEN Facebook Fanpage)

Annie-Mal & A Girl Called Chris

While every day brings new books, every visit to the bookstore results in a fresh wave of delight, I’m drawn to my memories of certain books that once possessed me. Every book has a story and is also part of another story, its relationship with the reader. How can I possibly express what I feel about a book, unless I tell you how and why it happened to me?
I picked up Marg Nelson’s A Girl Called Chris at the raddiwalla. (I refrain from preceding that with ‘friendly neighborhood’ owing to the fact that he once hit on me). It had a plain white cover with an image on the bottom-left corner which on scrutiny revealed itself to be a sort of modern artsy rendition of a girl in colourful slacks slouching as if in a corner.

The story was simple but rather extraordinary. A young girl who has just finished school and doesn’t have money for the college she wants after losing her father. In search of employment, she lands up – in all places – a cannery. And amidst stuffing tuna fish into cans, she finds friendship, resolution, love, confidence and some life lessons. It was a sweet coming-of-age story and it was perfect because I was about the same age as the protagonist (a girl called Chris) when I read it.

The year I turned seventeen, my mother was hospitalized after a long illness. She was under care for nearly three weeks and then recuperating for another two months. Caring for her was more than a fulltime job and we struggled to handle it. Tempers were short and I was at the depth of my own adolescent angst. It was a dark, heavy period in my life. The monsoons were particularly heavy that year, our phone line kept going down and we didn’t have household help. In sum, while my father ran from doctor to lab to hospital, I struggled to manage housework, groceries and cooking, the biggest bane of them all. I think my fear of the kitchen came from that time since my early experiences are tinged irrevocably with a sense of dread, fear and worry.

I’d have my lunch at college and then get to the hospital to wait till 4pm for visiting hours. Patients were only allowed one accompanying person and my father or grandmother would be by her side. I remember one particular day when I got to the hospital a half-hour early. I sat down on a bench in the little patch of grass facing the building. And then it started to rain. I had forgotten my windcheater in class that day. There was nowhere else to shelter. So I sat under the tree, not flinching from the water, almost grateful for the cold drops that covered me from head to toe. It was one of the few times I felt something and something that didn’t hurt.

Once inside, I would sit with my mother for about an hour. Then when she had other visitors, I’d walk around the hospital, especially the pediatrics ward, hoping the freshness of that place would lift my mood. Most days it did. Except when, after days of watching an incubator baby, I found it empty and the child’s mother, an omnipresent feature next to it, gone as well. One dead and the other, who knows where?

I turned my footsteps in the opposite direction for the rest of my mother’s stay in the hospital. One day a young girl dressed like a patient in hospital white entered mum’s room and backed out immediately with a worried expression on her face. I saw her sitting at the nurses station often after that and even the surly nurses would be smiling as they spoke to her. One day I smiled at her and thereafter we’d chat everyday.

Annie was from London, she said. She was two years older than I was. She had had several boyfriends though ‘none lasted beyond a week or two’, she admitted with a rueful grin. Her parents called her ‘Anne-molle’ (Malayalam for little girl) and her brother called her Annie-mal. Sometimes I’d see her pirouetting or turning circles with a solemn expression, in front of the wall mirror in the nurses station. She said she had taken ballet lessons and was practicing.

I was clutching A Girl Called Chris one evening, having finished the last pages as I sat in the visitors lobby waiting for her. She came and sat down next to me and took it from my hands without a word and turned it over. When we finished our chat and got up, she took it with her.

Mum and grandmother who saw her through most of the day hours thought she was slightly ‘off’ in the head. Nurses’ gossip later brought in the news that she had been assaulted by her father and had run away from home.

The day my mother was discharged, I took a round tour of the hospital again, with even a shuddering glance at the pediatric ward. And at the end of it, as a special occasion, I went to Annie’s room. She was sitting on the bed, talking to one of the nurses as she nodded in my direction. I waited for a pause in the conversation then told her that I was leaving. She got up, came over and hugged me, an action that surprised me since I wasn’t used to physical affection with my friends. Then I asked her for the book. She looked puzzled and then she seemed to remember. She looked under her bed and on the table and then told me blankly that she couldn’t find it. No problem, I shrugged and told her to take care of herself.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to ask her for her contact details. Or to visit her in the hospital later. I liked her. Perhaps I was a little scared of what I had heard about her past, even though she had never discussed it with me. But most likely I was just frozen into a suspended state of being and couldn’t feel anything human for a long time after that.

I never forgot Annie though. I miss my book also but I can’t think of it without also remembering Annie. And for what little it is worth, perhaps the spark of joy that the story brings is worth more to her than to me.


Marg Nelson’s A Girl Called Chris doesn’t seem to be well-known as its one Amazon entry doesn’t even have an accompanying image of the cover. I did find an entry on GoodReads with an image though it’s not the one that was on my book. I’d really love to read this book again so if any of you knows where I can find a copy, please do get in touch.


I was talking to  Ajay about attending midnight mass tomorrow. He asked me why I was attending. Here’s why.

I grew up in a predominantly Christian area.

My neighbors were a family of three very creative daughters. All of December was spent creating paper flowers, eggshell-and-confetti buds, tinsel-and-thermacol cutouts. All just in time for the tree and the Santa towards the end of the month.

My housing colony was one of many plots on either side of a straight road running the length. In early December, a huge star-shaped lantern would be hung up on ropes strung between the buildings on opposite sides of the road. It read ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ and stayed there till the first week of January was over.

When I was really small, the parents got together and organized a Santa Claus (it must have been one of the chubbier uncles, only I don’t know which one, they all looked big then). After he had ho-ho-ed his way and the games had been played, each of us got to go up to him and get our own presents. I thought it was incredibly nice of this big, fat, red stranger to give me just the toy I wanted. I don’t remember what I got but I remember thinking he was really nice. Then we ate cupcakes and wafers and orange juice. And went home to the holidays.

On Christmas Eve I was allowed to stay up late. While dad slept in the living room, mum and I would turn the lights off and stand at the window at 11.00 p.m. Just to watch our friends and neighbors and people we knew walk by in their year’s best to church for midnight mass.

After school, I went to a more cosmopolitan crowd in college, none of them Catholic. An old friend from school got back in touch and once again I had a connection to that world again.

In the weeks preceding Christmas, I was the audience to all the dating dramas of her friends and her, all out to bag a perfect date for the December balls. I’d get to her place on the 24th in the late evening. Even though I’d have had dinner at home already, her mum would put down a plate of some chicken and paos. And of course my favorite homemade wine. The family would get dressed and we’d walk down the village to the school ground. That’s where midnight mass was held.

It was quite cold on those evenings and I wondered how my friends managed to stand smiling in their skimpy cocktail dresses while I was shivering in my jacket-over-jeans. Then I’d be mesmerized by the mass that would just begin in Marathi. I remember listening to it, with an odd feeling. Marathi was my second language and I was good at it, curiously enough because my mum’s best friend/tuition teacher/alternate mother was a Maharashtrian. And I was listening to her native tongue extolling prayers I knew well from my school days.

After mass, we’d hang around a bit to gab with our school pack. Then we’d get home around 2 a.m. She’d carefully take off her dress to be able to wear it to the ball the next day. We’d sip another glass of wine, eat some cake and a little bit of the marzipan she had rolled earlier that day. And then we’d dance. She taught me to jive.

I don’t live in that place anymore. I’m not really friends with her anymore. I don’t have any of that world anymore.

Yesterday, after my weekly temple visit, I stopped by a coffee shop. And when I heard Boney M go,

Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day
And man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day
Hark now here, the angels sing
A king was born today

…I knew I could always have Christmas every year.

I tried this last year, planned it with a friend. We had a quick dinner and waited for it to be a quarter to twelve so we could walk down. To my surprise, the church was closed. I hadn’t realized that midnight mass doesn’t happen at midnight anymore. So I missed it.

But this time I won’t. I’ll be in Bandra by 10p.m. There are enough of churches there and I will be able to get to any one of them. It’s not my school church but it’s a close enough approximation. I’ll be going with people who’ve never attended mass before so for a change I’ll be the one who knows the most about the ceremony instead of the one that knows the least.

It doesn’t matter and yet, it does. The Christmases have evolved over the years with some wonderful people making it happen for me. Tomorrow I’ll take Christmas to some of the special people in my life.

And that’s why I’m going to midnight mass tomorrow.

I Must Be Dreaming

What a strange dream that was.

Do you ever wonder what your dreams mean? Of course you do, everyone does. There’s a whole genre of study devoted to understanding the interpretation of dreams – from the scientific, medical point of view as well as the esoteric, mystical side. One of the most succint opinions I’ve ever heard on this subject comes from my father,

Dreams are the brain flushing out the waste that it accumulates during the day.

Not to say that I believe that. Well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Belief is always a convenience thing with me.

I have loads of flying dreams, which Freud claims are about sex. Heh. Whatever.

I occasionally dream of thatha (who by the way, passed away 9 years back). I never dream of him dead or even as a ghost…in that, inside my dream I don’t seem to remember that he’s no more. I open the door and he’s dropped into Mumbai for a surprise visit; I’m arguing with him about something; I’ve received a birthday card from my folks in Delhi with (as was usual that time) a folded piece of paper inside it which is a letter from him. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling to be able to say that my grandfather is alive and well in my dreams.

Then there are the dreams of people long past. An ex-boyfriend, a former best friend and occasionally even people I’ve loathed (like the bullies from school…yuurrrggh). Funnily enough in my dreams, I’m getting along like a house on fire with them. We’re usually laughing, talking, partying and having very intelligent, fun, fulfilling times together. Ah, so that’s what the originator of the phrase ‘only in your dreams!’ was thinking. 🙂

Once in a rare bit there’s a dream of something that really did happen in the past, only things turn out slightly differently. Like we’re walking down a road which on wakefulness, I remember having done. But instead of taking a left like we actually did, we take a right in my dream. Of course that’s metaphorical but hey, you don’t really need to know the exact details of my dreams! Come to think of it, it’s not like even I remember them.

I dream the most when I’m going through some intensely difficult times in my life. A family emergency, a troubled relationship, a stressful time at work – these have been my optimal dreamtimes.

Of course I would have dreamt deeply last night. My mother has been hospitalized this week, after all and discharged only to relapse later. All of this while I am alone, facing the maid-from-hell and water problems. But of course. I will talk about this particular dream though.

Last night, my first online time in about 3 days, I looked into Facebook. I was shunning chat requests from friends online because I just didn’t feel like talking. I could probably have spent some mindless time playing Mafia Wars. But instead I chose to go picking on old scabs. I looked up people from the past (yes, yes, I do that. Everyone does.) whom I’d probably not consider adding to my Friends List for various reasons. No ex-es though, that’s been done to death way enough. But old classmates, friends-of-friends, people I met at a party 2 months back who don’t remember me this week (but I remember them because they’re journos and their pic appears next to their column)…that kind of people.

And in this random melee, I found her. She was the stuff of my nightmares. She partly inspired this post (though I also had a more current, more tangible version to contend with at the time of writing). I’ve never met her, spoken to her or seen her in real life. It’s all in the photographs and memories of his memories. At least what he told me about her. I was intrigued by her, then jealous, then resentful and finally just in pain. I have no idea whether there was any truth in what he said, which means I might be pinning all these emotions on a fictitious character. All I know is her name. That’s good enough to locate a person in this Facebooked age. We’ve got a couple of common FFs (Facebook friends). I haven’t looked her up in ages. On a whim I shot off a message to her, introducing myself. No friendship request though. And then I logged out.

In my dream, she said that contrary to what I thought, she knew of me as well. Then we ceased to talk about how we came to be talking in the first place. She made me laugh though I don’t remember what at. All I know is that she was fun. I believe we were having some sort of picnic somewhere and then had to run away or something. Okay, that sounds even sillier in writing than it does in my thoughts.

I told Astra the other day that sometimes a dream was just a simulation of a real world situation, something that needed to be faced anyway. And we could do it in a dream, play around, take a few risks with our imagination too, just to experience what we may not dare to, in real life. How about that? I never considered having fun with someone I might have such an awkward connection with. Whether I do in real life or not, is immaterial. I just know that in my dreams, I did. And in the end, how does it matter whether we played it out in the conscious universe or the subconscious one?

I have to end this on a cliche, I’m the queen of cliches after all.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

You really may, I won’t take offense.

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