Tag Archives: Pune

Poetry In Pune: Feature @ A Bizarre Weekend, F Beach House

The Hive asked me to ride down to Pune with them and be a poetry feature at A Bizarre Weekend. That’s ‘poetry’ and ‘Pune’ in one sentence so there really was no reason to say no. 🙂

It turned out to be a small, intimate gathering at F Beach House and here are the pieces I read out (rather than performed).

Flamingos is progressing with each telling and I hope that means it’s getting better. I’m very close to this piece and I’d love to know what you think.

I did Baby Invisible way back when I started and coming on the heels of a light-hearted Paper Plane, it felt heavy. But it was a relief to get it out and I didn’t want to revisit it again for awhile. But now I think it’s worth evolving further into something more. Again, what do you think?

Here’s Patchwork Relationship (I called it Love Story Season 2 in one telling). It’s my only ‘strictly poetry’ piece and while I’m happy with it, it doesn’t really evolve.

And finally, I wrote Passive Aggression in a workshop exercise ages ago and pulled it out because we had an empty slot. It’s not really performance but the sounds seem to suggest I could. What do you think, would you like to hear the sound of clanging dishes?

It was an excellent day and I’m very grateful to Culture Shoq for providing a platform for budding writers and other artists to hone and showcase their talent. The Hive is in need of donation and support. If you like my work or at very least, the fact that it becomes possible, please consider helping in some way possible. If you would like to contribute, donate, loan or invest any sum please do either in cash at The Hive or reach out to Sudeip Nair at sudeip@alivehive.org.

Hello 2015, Welcome In…

Hello 2015,

Welcome in. You are going to occupy my life starting now. And I’m welcoming you in. I have been looking forward to seeing you for a long time now.

You see, you end with a 5 which is a very nice satisfying number to be. I wouldn’t call you a multiple of 5 because the 0 ending years are those too and we both know they’re really overrated, aren’t they? You come exactly midway through the decades and midway points are quite delicious to me, personally. You know I was born almost exactly midway through the year. Which is why end of years always seem like personal midway points to me. So you see why I’m particularly happy to see you?

I’ve been looking forward to you getting here because you represent hope. Every day, every new minute is hope, of course. But with you, I get to change the title of each day a little bit. Instead of something-something-2014, I will now be saying 2015. Changing the names of days is like changing haircuts for a slightly dispirited girl.

No, 2014 has not been a bad year (that was 2012). But it has not been an easy year or even one that was a lot of fun. It has been a lot of hard work, much biting pressure and some crushing disappointment too. It has been the first year where I felt age crunch down on me and seep into my bones. Literally, with a broken foot bone, then a twisted ankle, several white hairs in my always glossy black mane and general fatigue and listlessness.

Here’s a highlight reel of the best moments of 2014:

(in no particular order: apple cake baked specially for me by Reema, Adi’s birthday, Alphabet Sambar meets, the Mumbai metro, my Mumbai Secret Santee, Ayurvedic treatment, dinner with Sonali in Bengaluru, Christmas with Aditya, Goa getaway and my 35th birthday)

I am now 35, that age where age does become relevant to healthcare professionals and related life decisions. This is the year I start doing periodic check-ins with my body to assess how close diabetes, cancer and a number of other scary things are. This is the year I get a health plan, not because it is the wise thing to do but because it is the survival thing to do.

I am sitting in my room right now typing this out. Fireworks are going on outside. I’m not going to lie and say that this is so amazing. It’s not. I’ve brooded through an hour and a half of miserable memories and various iterations of if-that-hadn’t-happened-then-this-wouldn’t-have-happened. I’ve yanked myself grumpily into work to drown out that. And at exactly midnight I stood at my window watching the fireworks for exactly 20 seconds before shutting away the cold air. This is what I’d rather be doing than be out burning money, watching strangers get drunk and make fools of themselves and sacrificing my safety. But that doesn’t mean it is not lonely. Lonely is dangerous for one and only one reason — it’s the kind of emptiness that welcomes dark, broody thoughts in.

Somewhere two people I once called unimaginably close friends, are ushering you in together and without me. Elsewhere someone who thinks they love me, is looking for and finding happiness in things I can’t comprehend. In yet another part of the planet, a once-soulmate is reveling in the staid comfort that they see as happiness. In sundry other places, the group that I partied with last year is doing various things, separately. I looked at them an exact year ago, y’know and thought, “This is temporary. Nothing ever lasts. I wonder how long this will endure.” And it didn’t last even upto the next party. So, friendships have weathered and waned.

And then again, in a few hours, I have a breakfast date with someone I met a few times in 2014. So new friendships await too, not yet ready to be born, but waiting.

When I was a kid I used to think of the solar system as an athletic track, complete with parallel tracks culminating in a finish line. At that finish line is where I believed, new years began. Now that I know that’s not the case, I realise you’re nothing great. You could be just about any other random point along earth’s orbit around the sun. You could be any other random number from 0 to infinity.

But you stand for something. You represent the acceptance that everything that has passed, has, well, passed. You represent the wait for the unknown, waiting in trepidition but also in excitement. You represent hope.

And for that, I say, welcome in 2015. It’s so good to have you here finally.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

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The Lavasa Chronicles: A Mixed Bag

This is going to be an off-the-top-of-my-head post just jotting down sundry thoughts from my experience. A number of more detailed posts will follow this and I’ll link-update them as they come up.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

 

I’m just back from the Lavasa Women’s Drive weekend. Over 250 participants from Mumbai and 150-odd from Pune competed in this rally to Lavasa. The event was a speed-time-distance based one with specific goals on each of these, for the participants. The rally flagged off on Sunday, 27 February 2011 from Bandra Reclamation. Each participating vehicle was started off with a minute’s interval from the previous, starting at 7.00 a.m. I was invited to ride along with the Windchimes team to cover the event and review the Lavasa experience over two days.

The other bloggers were Anu, Pushpa, Nisha, Kiran and Monika (specially in from Bangalore for this event). Shakti also joined us on the drive down to Lavasa but had to return almost immediately after we got there. Meeta was also spotted at Lavasa, from the Pune leg of the rally but she was there as a rally participant and not with the blogger team.

The drive took around six hours, counting the hour that spent at the breakfast stop on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Put a bunch of bloggers together and expect that they’ll talk. Make it an exclusively women bunch and you know there’s going to be no dearth of chatter. The waiters probably never heard so many human voices at one time, which may explain why they served us an incomplete order and worst of all, coffee with sour milk that made poor Kiran sick.

The car Shakti and I were in also stopped for a general look-see at the dam on the way. It’s something I’m used to doing from my childhood travels with dad and mum who counted these pitstops as an integral part of the journey. However, I have to say there doesn’t seem to be much that’s appealing by way of scenery, or perhaps it’s just the season we’re in. Most of the landscape looks barren and dry.

As we neared Lavasa however, it started to change a bit with sporadic bursts of colour, which we realised were flowers and shrubs planted by the Lavasa landscaping group. Maybe it’s just me but I’m not sure that I count hay-coloured rocky terrain dotted with violently pink bougainvillas as ‘beautiful’. The contrast seems jarring somehow, like a supermodel walking in a desert. Umm, perhaps that worked for Lisa Ray in a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan video but seeing it in real life, didn’t do it for me.

Still, as we neared Lavasa, there was a distinct change in the scenery. Visitors are greeted by a series of concrete pillars all adorned by gaily coloured butterfly and ladybird statuettes, which strangely enough are quite cheerful. Round the corners and suddenly you’re in a superclean, toytown with well-laid out roads, scenic buildings and a shimmering body of water in the distance. If the weather didn’t remind one of the tropical climes, you’d think you were in Europe. All around us rally participants milled around, resplendent in their costumes and Lavasa chic. I felt woefully out of place in my shabby travelling gear (and here’s what I did to compensate).

The Waterfront Shaw is a hotel right on the promenade over the said body of water. It’s flanked on either side by various eating joints including an English pub, an American Diner, Chor Bizarre and Oriental Octopus. The last is what we picked for our first meal at Lavasa. I’m afraid to say that our first taste of Lavasa food and service was regrettably less than satisfactory. The serving staff had the genteel air of condescension that one would expect at a 7-star hotel but without any of the accompanying service. Witness the following conversation:

Shakti: (reading from menu) I’d like the Pan fried Basa, please?

Waitress: Pasta? We don’t serve pasta. *sniff*

I skipped the soup in favor of Chicken Satay, usually a hot favorite with me. Woefully, it arrived as a frightening mess of yellow chunky gunk over tough meat pieces. It wasn’t wholly inedible as I don’t really mind peanut pieces but that’s not really how Satay is made, is it? Also, I think we’d have been a lot more forgiving had our reception been friendlier.

The vegetables arrived well ahead of the rice, so much so that we had devoured them by the time someone remembered to serve us the rice. And then we were served two bowls of rice in place of one.

All in all, the only saving grace in the entire meal was the Elanir drink, a mocktail of coconut water and pineapple juice. Even so, the waitress would have to put a zinger on it with her sneer at my excitement.

Me: Wow, that’s actually yella-neer, as in coconut water in Tamil!

Waitress: It’s Elanir, ma’am. *mother of all sniffs*

We were told later that the Oriental Octopus had only set up shop a week ago, which could explain the teething troubles they had in the kitchen. However, good customer service can and should start from day one. After all, how much training and experience does it require to be nice to people? Such a pity then, so much would have been forgiven had we just been served with a smile and a friendly word instead of all that sniffing.

Post lunch, though the evening looked a lot more promising. After dumping our things in our rooms, Anu and I headed out to catch the last of the music performances by Shibani Kashyap and SQS  Supastars. Side attractions included temporary tattoo artists and hair braiding stalls. I’ve never seen so many women let themselves run free. They danced, they cheered and jeered, they human-trained across the entire shamiana. It was a fitting end to the adrenalin rush of the rally.

That evening we were left to our own devices and fortunately for everyone, the blogger bunch all got along like a house on fire. We ended up walking around the promenade, shooting new display pics for our Facebook
profiles, watching the tourists and sampling curious delights like Chipstix. We turned in early after a light and very satisfying meal at Chor Bizarre, an Indian restaurant decorated with British Raj period antiques.

The plan was to get a good night’s rest before getting up for the promised 6a.m. nature trail, boating, extreme sports by Xthrill (if possible), a visit to Crystal House (a school for the labour force of Lavasa) and Bamboosa. Would you believe, we were all up and raring to go by 5:45 a.m.? Only, umm, who was taking us? None of the organizing team were to be seen. The bloggerati snuck in a photo or two between fighting off the affections of the numerous stray dogs and wondered what why we were up so early in a strange place. But Biswajit Dey saved the day. Within an hour, taxis had been arranged and we were ferried to Ekant, another hotel resort higher up the Lavasa heights.

We managed to get a good few pictures, of the panoramic view of the valley, the sunrise (always magnificent anywhere in the world) and the nature trail. Then we had tea with the friendly owner with the scenic view for company. We headed back to The Waterfront Shaw and ended at the American Diner for breakfast (where I had a dream omelette al fresco). The organizers team emerged around 10, by which time the bloggers were done with breakfast and were idly sitting around on the promenade. As it turned out, none of the promised plans actually materialized and we would spend another hour and a half exploring every inch of the same promenade again.

With only a couple of hours to go before leaving, the only thing left to do was Bamboosa, the Lavasa factory for bamboo handicrafts and products. This factory not only employs the local labourers but also includes a crèche facility for their children. The Crystal House (which we didn’t have time to see) brings a high standard of education to their children. I was told that this year’s graduating batch has four admits to Stanford.

We left Lavasa at 1:30 after a quick lunch at American Diner, the bloggers all in one car. And that’s when the treacherousness of the Lavasa access road hit us. Not belying the landscaped horizons, the road itself is very steep and has multiple sharp turns. Nisha was the first to pour her guts out onto the side of the road. Anu followed soon enough and to my big surprise, so did I. I don’t think it had to do with bad driving or food. Apparently the road down from Lavasa is indeed a difficult one, which takes its toll on the strongest of stomachs.

I was quite disappointed at not being able to catch any of the events on the promised schedule. What’s more, being up at 5 a.m. and waiting around for five hours and then cramming the lowest priority item into the last hour is not fun for anyone. It didn’t seem very respectful of our time and our presence at the event. I’m not sure whether it was miscommunication or mismanagement but I’m not about to get into that.

The company of all the bloggers I met more than made up for the organizers’ glitches. The ride back (synchronized puking notwithstanding) was delightful. We talked about parenting (Kiran, Monika and Anu are all parents and mommy-bloggers), travel, blogging, people we all knew in common, trolls and how to deal with them and all manner of delightful things that are so close to a blogger’s heart.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Other accounts of the event:

More at The Idea-smithy: The Lavasa Chronicles

Anu: Lavasa Trip, EkantNature TrailFood Memories

Kiran: Lavasa Trip and More

Nisha: Lavasa articles

Sakshi: Babes, bonding, bravado

Movie: Dhobi Ghat – Mumbai Musings

Movies are a big part of weekend planning. Realistically, what else is there to do in Mumbai? Let’s not go into the notions of what a ‘happening’ city this is. I’ve been active on the cultural circuit for the past year and a half and gone to everything I could find. Poetry slams, Open mics, music gigs, stand-up comedy, workshops, book readings, board game meets…to my utter disgust, all I found was the same frenzied networking, the same desperate need to be cool, the same petty politicking and hard-nosed business dealings, in place of any real interest in the event/field or depth of thought. I’ve struggled with this but had to conclude that Mumbai lets you make a living, not a life.

Dhobi Ghat, Kiran Rao’s directorial debut was this weekend’s big feature. It started on a less-than-pleasant note. Considering that movies are the only standard entertainment available and the skyrocketing multiplex prices, I tend to frequent the second-tier theatres that are still ‘safe’ for a woman to go to alone but cheaper. Moviestar Goregaon was my pick. We entered about ten minutes before the start of the show, when the lights were still on, which is probably why the filthy seats caught our notice. I don’t mean a broken armrest or an undone stitch on the upholstery. I mean filthy, godaloneknows what black, smelly, gunky-goo streaked across all the seats that we could find. The manager was apologetic enough but there were no cleaner seats available and so we had our tickets refunded. While on this, I must add that the theater is now under BIG cinemas which to me, means that service levels can only plummet. My past experiences show that Fame Adlabs, also part of the same group, offers rude staff, smelly (and bedbug-infested) seats and stale food for its high prices. I bid goodbye to another of my budget alternatives. The boy was most appalled at the fact that the other theatergoers streamed in, blindly (and deafly) made their way around us and arranged themselves comfortably in those same filthy seats, even as we pointed them out to the staff. Mumbai, you could redefine the laws of robotics.

We managed to finally catch the movie at 24 Karat, another theatre down the road and I was glad we’d persisted. After the kind of tortures that Bollywood has been visiting on our senses lately (Sheila Kejwani, anyone?), it was a real pleasure to not have to shield my eyes and ears.

A number of things stand out about the movie. Firstly, there isn’t one concrete plot. What there are, are a number of strong, well-etched characters and the little (and big) incidents that constitute their lives. Secondly, the absence of background music is noticeable. Most Bollywood films use music to cue the audience into the mood of the scene, sometimes excessively. Dhobi Ghat, in comparison, is understated, stark and disorienting because it doesn’t offer any such hints, preferring instead to let the audience figure it out for itself. It’s hard to tell whether you’re supposed to laugh at Zohaib’s poker-faced filmdom dreams or empathize with them. It’s tricky to deciding whether Shai’s pursuit of Arun (and parallel ignorance of Zohaib’s attention) is pathetic or natural. You’re not sure whether to dislike Arun or admire him. And thus we respond to the characters just the way we would to people in real life. With confusion, with warmth, with respect and then derision, with conflicting emotions.

It seems counter-intuitive but its not, that when the viewer is given so much to think about, even deeper levels make themselves visible. I liked how Dhobi Ghat effectively portrays that Mumbaikers blur the social order but don’t quite erase it. Economic classes, gender barriers, cultural divides are bridged and broken in mysterious ways. Most of us flit in and out of the periphery with a comfort that sometimes baffles outsiders. Interactions happen in that twilight zone as so relationships – odd, indefinable and yet deeply intimate ones like those of fellow train-passengers, bais & dhobis & house madams and people who occupy the same flat at different times.

Prateek Babbar (underutilized in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) steals the show with a poker face arranged around brooding-animated-wry-resigned-intense-pragmatic eyes. A hundred emotions flit across his face in a single look over a brun maska. And most impressively, his very silhouette seems to evolve over the course of the movie, starting with an awkward, blurred  look to a more resolute, defined profile at the end of the movie. I don’t know if that’s good acting or good cinematography; I’m willing to bet on both.

Kriti Malhotra comes in second in terms of her performance as the anonymous face in a series of video-letters. She’s spontaneous, realistic and her voice washes over you with as much familiarity as the neighbor’s.

I was the least impressed with Monica Dogra. Considering the footage she has in the movie, (the promos say it’s four people’s stories but she seems to be around the most), she doesn’t stand out much, except as a moderately pretty face. Interestingly, her act is what made me think that Dhobi Ghat may have made a good movie but it would be a great book. The characters are wonderfully created and the script is taut. Beyond that, it falls to the people who don the roles to bring them to life and I’m afraid Monica as Shai, just didn’t do it for me.

As always, I checked what Meetu had to say before watching the movie. This time, I don’t quite agree with her, when she says that the movie could have very well been set in New York or London or even Pune. Dhobi Ghat doesn’t just pay lip service to standard Mumbai iconography like trains and movies. It snaps up an accurate slice of Mumbai life, from its crowded chaos jostling with glitzy glamour to the near schizophrenic behavior that these contrasts seem to bring out in the city’s occupants.

I started this post talking about the robotic behaviour of Mumbaikers but I also speak for the tangible, prideful emotion that we carry collectively. A city is no more than a group of human beings, after all. And I’d like to think that the unique situations that this group finds itself in, day in and day out, makes us uniquely who we are. Dhobi Ghat seems to agree.

If you love Mumbai, this is definitely for you. If you’re appalled by it and there’s still room for an explanation, maybe this movie will give you one.

I Style!: Rock Chic

It’s been awhile since an I Style! post came up. Have Mumbaikers stopped being adventurous in their apparel? I think it’s got more to do with the fact that I am not on the road every single day, struggling through a workaholic life and thus extra sensitive to a splash of colour or ingenuity.

I’ve been meeting a number of interesting people. One of those wonderfully serendipitous (don’t you love that word, I do!) occasions was when I found myself sitting in *surprise surprise* the quirky Sapna Bhavnani’s house. I used to follow Sapna’s weekly column a few years back. Then I spotted her at a play and blogged about it, saying I wished I’d spoken to her. To my great surprise, she posted a comment saying she wished I had too. Anyway, in a nutshell, Sapna turns out to be warm and no-airs-about-her real, in person. That hasn’t stopped me from oohing and aahing over her quirky, colourful persona, though.

So here she is, featured not as a celebrity but as a regular person (because she is)…Sapna bringing back the I Style!

This picture was taken at the NH7 festival held in Pune in the first week of December 2010. Sapna was strolling around, shooting pictures of the venue and watching Airport set up. Even in that arty, colourful melee, she stood out. I’ve seen those those boots at an earlier gig and loved them but the place was too dark to shoot. This was a perfect occasion and I thought her dressing really spiced it up too!

Red hair, tattoos, black-and-white poncho, black tunic, orange leggings and THOSE boots! Take a closer look. In my mind, Sapna’s the original Indian rock chick.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

Ideart: Mere Pass WOGMA Hain!

Another Ideart opportunity and my marketing mind tells me this should be called co-branding. 🙂 At the Mood Indigo-BlogCamp Dec 2010 that happened over the weekend, I had a chance to showcase one of my works.

I first met Meetu at a common friend’s party. A few months later, we connected at the 2008 BlogCamp at IIT Powai. We kept in touch, our blogs establishing a mutual admiration society. Last year, I called to tell her I’d be in Pune and she invited me to crash at her place. I don’t know if she has had a chance to regret that (!) gesture as yet but her place feels like my home away from home to me now. I have also had the honour of being a guest author at WOGMA, the blog that makes Meetu famous.

So it was nice to have the opportunity to show my solidarity for WOGMA and Meetu in a very personalized way, the Ideart way! Meetu wanted a fun WOGMA tee-shirt to wear to the BlogCamp event. She also sent me the inscription and a detailed description of the design. I think she was quite happy with the result. 🙂

The tee-shirt says,

Tumhare paas
…actor hain,
director hain,

Mere paas,
…WOGMA hain!!

(a filmi tribute to Deewar)

I considered two fonts for the message. Since Deewar came out in the 70s (my favorite decade of pop-culture!), I first wanted the curly-wurly psychedelic font that characterised those references (think the title of Om Shanti Om). But the message was too long to fit such a complex font onto the tee-shirt and I didn’t want to risk taking away from the WOGMA logo.

So I picked the other font which was what I think of as a ‘Las Vegas’ font, since Hollywood movies often show casinos and clubs with their billboards flashing names and surrounded by bulbs around each letter.

As with many Ideart projects, the conceptualisation took up the bulk of the time. Once I knew what I was going to do, actually carrying it out took very little time. The main words were painted on with a flat brush and touched up with the hairfine point. Once dry, I applied tiny yellow spots on top of the black letters. You can’t actually see the yellow dots too well and the effect isn’t quite what I had imagined with the Las Vegas lights. But it does brighten up the otherwise severe black strokes without detracting from the colourful WOGMA logo.

I was quite nervous about the WOGMA logo since this was the only thing that Meetu really wanted replicated as closely as possible. The logo on the site is an online print and I was not sure I’d be able to reproduce it in fabric paint. So I took some liberties with the shades and tried to stay close to the shape of the coffee-stain style ‘O’. I used my favorite technique of dabbing water-diluted colours and blending them where they met, before they dried. The ‘W’, ‘G’, ‘M’ and ‘A’ were done in a slightly narrower flat brush using a maroon colour (I didn’t have the plum shade of the actual logo, sorry Meetu!).

The back of the tee-shirt was even easier since I just replicated the WOGMA logo and practically scribbled the ‘movie reviews from a part of the audience’ that Meetu had asked for.

There was still something missing and it looked too much like the kind of tee-shirts that corporate types give out at conventions. So I gave it a neckline to make it look less like a tee-shirt and more like a dressy top. The same yellow-dotted black stripe ran around the V of the neck in the front. I didn’t have a chance to do the back and I figured Meetu’s long hair would cover that anyway. The entire exercise took all of one hour but a lot of frantic phone calls to Meetu. 🙂

Garment: Standard V-necked women’s tee-shirt

Material: Tee-shirt cotton

Background colour: Plain white

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black (for basic script)
  • Fevicryl no.302 Pearl Lemon Yellow (for dots & ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.311 Pearl Spring Green (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.303 Pearl Pink (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.24 Vermillion (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.10 Indian Red (for ‘W’, ‘G’, ‘M’ and ‘A’ of WOGMA logo)

2009: Happy & Counting

So it’s that time of the year again, the time to take stock and look back. Funnily enough, for a compulsive organizer/list-maker like me, it isn’t coming naturally this time round. Even funnier considering it isn’t just year end but decade end and actually end of the first decade of the millenium and all that. Perhaps I’m changing.

2009 has definitely been an eventful year (in retrospect, which year hasn’t?). These changes have been big, life-altering ones but funnily enough they haven’t been looming high on my consciousness. What does that mean?

Well, for me obviously the biggest transition in this year was quitting my job and taking a sabbatical. And yet, there was no major build-up. I’d been feeling like it was time for it, for a long time and one fine day I just woke up and said, “This is the day!”. Just like that.

That was the single, discrete point that marks this year as a special one. But there have been other things. Of course I turned 30 this year which in itself is a special event. But I’ve been covering this phenomenon for awhile now, as befits a gradual but important phase.

One of my biggest thoughts this year was that I had achieved all the things that I had wanted a decade back. And in sum, that achievement didn’t make me happy. That is to say, it was satisfactory and all of that but I didn’t like the person I had had to become as a result. So I decided that I wanted to go back to the person I was, about a decade ago.

I think I’ve succeeded..mostly. A decade ago, I wasn’t a compulsive organizer. My thoughts were scattered, my actions aimless and my attitude open and curious. It was not a position that commanded respect from other people but I liked the person I was.

Six months since my break, I have a half-begun (not half-complete since I have no idea how long the book is going to be) book. I have a number of other book and story and writing ideas shooting about in my head. I have achieved high Farmville and Mafia Wars levels. December has been full of parties, meetups, coffees, dinners, lunches, fun n’ games.

I’ve made my peace with a number of people. I’ve cut out a lot of poisonous habits and people from my life. I’m not making sense most of the time and I’m generally riding on ‘inappropriate’ setting. But it’s great. I love my life.

One defining idea I had this year when I looked back at the past decade was how much I was struggling, how much suffering and angst there was in my life. I’ve made some rubbish decisions, I’ve been at the receiving end of some bizarre stuff from people I trusted. And I’ve been so angry, so much in pain. I tried everything I could think of to explain why all of this was happening to me. Why me? Me who had never broken a trust or cheated or wanted to hurt anyone?

The karmic theory of retribution was my last attempt and finally around my birthday, I looked up at the heavens, shook my fist and yelled,

Okay, enough already!! I’ve paid all my dues and I’m not standing for any more rubbish in this lifetime. No more! I’m going to have an awesome time from here on.

And would you believe, I did. It’s not like everything turned out swimmingly. Well, perhaps it did. Or maybe when stuff happened, I just felt able to skim over it. Let me see, what’s the bad stuff in the past six months? (Okay the lists are back at the first mention of ‘bad stuff’…hmm)

  • Mum’s hospitalization
  • My malaria attack
  • Dirty lies
  • Writer’s block
  • A nasty fight apiece with two close friends, both of which I thought would end the friendships
  • Failure (no details, there were multiple and they were bad)

But then there was other stuff

I don’t care to figure out in what proportion they balance each other out but somehow the good stuff seems to out-weigh the bad.

Life is good. I have God (even if religion finds it an uncomfortable fit in my life). I have art and inspiration. I have friendship and some love (even if it isn’t always the way I thought it would be). I have time and energy. And I have an idea that the next decade is going to be wonderful. What more do I need?

A very happy new year to all of you!

Pune Weekend: BlogCamp2, Beer Tweetup, Geeks & Elephants

I’m just back from Pune Blogcamp2. My weekend began at 4:30am, being woken up by Astra who got the timings wrong by an hour. I grunted and went back to sleep only to get up and rush out half an hour later. Emboldened by the hour, I walked up to a bunch of guys standing on the kerb and asked, ‘Blogcamp?’ They looked at me blankly (no, that’s not true…they looked hungry and interested…tch, boys). Then one asked, ‘Where are you going?’. I said, ‘Pune’. To which he burst into a wide grin and said, ‘We’re not going to Pune but can if you want.’ Idiot.

Anyway, we found @sensonize and @farrhad standing across the road and not at all angry with us for our 45-minute delay. How sweet, they’re learning early. After a pretty comfortable ride down the expressway, away from Mumbai’s dirty grey weather, we were in Pune. Even the air tasted delicious!

I thought the Punekers were a much better behaved lot than the Mumbai junta at BlogCamps. I mean, no one shouted, no one got into any arguments, no one sniggered vilely and even the tweet-bitching was absent. Okay, I tried to add to the last but I since my recently buffed-up pal isn’t on Twitter, it lost its tang. Incidentally, the twitter hashtag to check is #blogcamppune which methinx was a tad too long (bcp would do just as well for next time) but thanks, Tarun for unorganizing it and inviting me too!

Meetu got BlogCamp to a promising start with a talk on niche blogging. In my opinion (and hers too!), WOGMA‘s success really comes from the fact that Meetu is truly passionate about what she does, not because it is marketed well. Not all of us can find a niche but if one of you does, Meetu is your poster-child.

This was followed by a number of discussion on the big, heavies of the ‘how to make money online’ variety. Sue me but I think these belong to Barcamp or perhaps, Startup Saturday (if they’re innovative), not BlogCamp. But then again, I’m just the voice of a poor, penniless personal blogger.

I really liked Aditya Marathe‘s session comparing Blogspot to WordPress. He also had some cool (non-geeky) analysis on hit spikes and visitor profiles. This was through lunch and a number of people may have missed it but it was worth a dekko.

The Kabras were obviously in charge of revving up things since Navin kicked off the second half of BlogCamp with an intriguingly titled ‘300 years of blogging’. Among some of the interesting things he mentioned, he suggested tracking Google Alerts on keywords relevant to one’s blog to keep up-to-date on the topic and also for story ideas. That’s exactly the kind of idea that you look forward to hearing when you meet other bloggers. It’s simple, easy and workable.

This was followed by Sandeep Gautam who runs a science blog. Tech-blogs I’ve seen galore but this is the first time I’m hearing of a science blog. What’s really interesting is that while this is a niche area, it provides relevant, incisive analysis to its interested audience. One big difference between such a blog and the regular personal blogs is that the former is factual, written in a reporting style, akin to a journal which provides an objective look at current trends while the latter are purely subjective, based on perception and (in some cases), not supported by facts. I daresay the session came across as rather heavy but in retrospect, it was good to have been able to sit through it because of the quality of his content.

By this time, the post-lunch somna was setting in and the Mumbaiker restlessness asserting itself. With some egging on, Thakker was persuaded to take the stage. Since the rooms were both busy, he took his session out onto the staircase and would you believe – some 80% of the audience followed him! For an hour, our man held forth on the woes of a geek’s life, his (mis)adventures with dating and matrimonial matches and photography.

We ended BlogCampPune2 at the cafe next door with chai and bun-maska. The evening was fruitfully spent savouring Meetu‘s bhajia spread at the Kabras’ residence (which requires a map – not to get there but to get around within). At 8pm we got going…no, not to turn in but to the beer tweet-up. The beer brewery is part of The Corinthians, a club/lounge bar/hotel on the outskirts of Pune. The sweet, really sweet part of the occasion was the free, freshly brewed beer on tap.

I tried and liked a wheat-flavoured beer, which tasted more like a nice fruit juice than alcohol. As the beer went down, the jokes began to come up. Not the intelligent ones that (usually) intelligent, evolved people make but the ones that can only be categorized as PJs. Here’s a sample:

How do you kill a black elephant? With a black gun.
How do you kill a white elephant? – Throw mud on it, it turns black, now use a black gun
How do you kill a red elephant? – Scare it till it turns white, throw mud till it turns black, use black gun
How do you kill a blue elephant? – Make it blush red, scare it white, throw mud till black, use black gun
How do you kill a purple elephant? – Choke it till it turns blue, make it blush red, scare it white, throw mud till black, use black gun
How do you kill a yellow elephant?- Pagal hai kya, yellow elephant kabhi dekha hai?!

Amidst elephant-homicide discussions, one of the guys started telling me a story about Eval Conneval (I hope I got that spelling right). When I inquired who he was talking about, he yelped,

Don’t you know the greatest motorcycle stuntman of all time??!!

When I protested, I was accused on being a bonafide girl-geek. I am most certainly not. I mean I get some of the geek jokes but I am not, not, not a girl-geek!!! For the uninitiated, girl-geeks are even lower on the social scale of geeks, than the geeks themselves (a rating of about minus forty-five). Hmph, just you wait, Mr.X (protected to ensure privacy from boy-geek-big-brother), I’ll see you at XXFactor!

This morning I woke up to a full-of-naughty-beans Rabad saying it was time to wake up and how long was aunty intending to sleep? Pune Mirror had a story titled ‘Fourplay at BlogCamp‘ illustrated by a photograph of the event, my bright red tee-shirt clearly visible in the very center of the pic. Bleh, even a girl-geek is just accessorial (men, I tell ya!!!). But the lovely Pune weather must have made me a Punekar too since I didn’t feel like grrrrring about it. (This post was written after I got back to Mumbai, good ol’ irritable Mumbai!).

Fourplay at BlogcampPune

As the toll-naka approached, I felt the surreal magic of Pune slip away from me as easily as the clouds surrounding us at the ghats vaporized. It’s a sticky, warm night and the rain is pelting down incessantly outside my window. I’ve been woken at an ungodly hour, endured cheesy pick-up lines at 6am, been called a girl-geek and been inducted into an elephant-homicide cult. But Pune is a mere 3 hours away and Meetu and Navin are each a phone number and tweet away. It was a glorious weekend, guys, thank you so much!!
After much dawdling over chai, ek aur chai and breakfast-nahin-pahije-na? Sunday morning, we went out to ‘yewdhe lambh!’ Flag’s for lunch. Full awesomeness happening, I thought to myself over a Turkish moussakka, Italian crosstinis, lasagne and pasta. Then we ambled over to the taxi stand and I rode back home.

photo

* Photograph taken by Aalaap

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