Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Two years down

We've been married for two years today. The dutiful man that my husband is, he sent me the customary red roses with chocolates to work. (We've NEVER gifted each other chocolates & roses prior to getting married). Last year it was a heart shaped chocolate cake with red roses & 7 days prior to our anniversary a bouquet of pink roses were promptly delivered to work, much to the wonder of my colleagues. 

"How can YOU be married to a rockstar?!"
"You're so uncool man, almost aunty like"
"You don't even like metal!"
"8 years you've been together? Bechara insaan!"
"You didn't send him anything on your anniversary for the past two years?! Haww!"
"God bless his soul for jheloying you for so long"

...have been some of the kinder remarks thrown my way. In my defence - I was a very cool person at 21 & I have personally handcrafted whacky yet meaningful gifts & couriered it to him year on year during the eve of our kiddie anniversary - 13th June 2008. (We have two anniversaries. One where we decided our fate & the other where society decided it for us). So I think it's safe to presume that I've earned these grown up displays of subdued affection in the form of roses & chocolates. 

"How does 2 years of marriage & 8 years of being with the same man feel like?" asked a colleague. "Lonely", I replied. "But why?", she questioned bewildered. "For 27 years of my life I've lead a cocooned life at home with daddy & mom dropping me to college, work, watching movies like a maniac & shopping endlessly. And from that being thrown into a city obsessed only with work, making money & surviving in the toughest of rat races came as a shock - without a husband around mind you. His work makes him travel outside the city everyday & we meet only on the weekends."

"So how do you cope?", she asked. "I've adapted. I've become a stronger, less mollycoddled person. I've become the husband & the wife in our relationship. I'm kind to my bais who cook & clean for me & I'm an absolute nightmare for our corrupt Gunda-like society treasurer who tried to pocket 20 grand of ours."

Marriage, in my opinion makes people tougher, patient & more open to a completely different viewpoint & perspective towards life. Some we absorb & some we stubbornly refuse to adapt. As for love, it changes over time. 

I'd prefer a clean house & helping out with some basic household chores to be more romantic than a candle-light dinner in an overpriced restaurant. I'd prefer giving each other space (in our case, space is aplenty!) as opposed to being in each other's faces 24*7.

Marriage - it's not for the faint hearted! Take the plunge only if you are ready. 

In conclusion, I end with a lame joke (because I'm too lazy to conclude this piece in a better manner) - Marriage is spending the rest of your life with someone you want to kill & not doing it because you'd miss them. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My 29th Birthday

29, the end of the glorious twenties. 

29, that age when your bones start getting rickety & places of your body which you didn't know existed, begin to hurt violently. 

29, that phase in your life when you decide to stick to a particular career path or not, decide to have babies or not & begin to ponder about "adult things" such as home loans & moving abroad & starting your own business. The weight of the world begins to rest on your shoulders & things get a little more complicated than which dress to wear for a friend's house party. 

29, the age to start worrying about wrinkles & how much weight you still have to lose or maintain to look half decent. 

29, that age when your metabolism begins to slow down & you cannot eat like a pig anymore. That extravagant dessert you had the previous night WILL come back to haunt you for 1-2 weeks minimum. 

29, that age when you can either decide to be a bully with your juniors at work or be a nice person. 

29, that age when people slowly begin to look up to you & begin to take you more seriously. 

29, that age when you become a crabby stubborn mule who doesn't want to listen to other people's opinions anymore (not even your Mom's). 

29, I'm trying hard to shrug it off as just another silly number that is here today, gone tomorrow. 

29! There's no escaping this wretched old age *Sigh* :'( 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mumbai Locals

I have been petrified of these metal monsters ever since the day I first stepped foot inside one of them. I've been pushed, pulled, smashed, thrown out & robbed of my belongings on these overcrowded metal contraptions. I always failed to see what the big fuss was about these things. The locals swear by them & it is considered to be the lifeline of this mad city.

When I came to Mumbai in 2008 I was forced to take them to work everyday (which is WHY i left the city in the first place). Unfortunately I dont have the luxury to make those decisions anymore because I'm married to this city now. I am a Mumbaikar. I'm no longer considered a Mallu, a Chennaite or a half Bong - I am a Mumbaikar. The city does that to you. It absorbs you & forces you to change & become one of them. 

I tried my best to fight back, to retain my identity, to not take trains. It worked for 1.5 years, I stuck defiantly to autorickshaws, took up a job that was 12 kms close to home (Yes, close!). Distances don't matter here, the time of day when you choose to step out of home or out of office determines everything. If you leave home at 8.00am as opposed to 7.50am, you've had it. If you're a road commuter, beating traffic should be your only goal.

3 months ago I landed a job that is 30 kms from home. I couldn't say no to the offer & I found myself travelling 60kms back & forth on the roads for 4-5 hours everyday. I was burning out, I knew I couldn't do this for long. My new colleagues found me to be an absolute lunatic - either I was stinking rich or I was a complete psychopath. I was blowing up Rs 1000/- a day taking cabs back & forth. After about 2 months of taking cabs, a kind colleague who stayed in my neighbourhood forced me to take the train with her one evening. After much protesting I finally gave in. 

She taught me some simple tricks to tackle the train demon :
  • Find a seat - anyhow
  • If you can't find a seat, stand between the sitting aunties & ask all of them one by one, which station they would get down. Claim your seat, mark your territory & sit down the minute the aunty gets down
  • Take share cabs & share autos - paying full fare for public transport such as cabs & autos are for losers
It's been a month since I've started taking trains & I feel liberated. The money & time I'm saving everyday on travel has made me extremely happy. Indulging in that one extra dress or shoe, no longer makes me feel guilty. 

Although I haven't started munching on chana dals or made "train friends" yet, I consider myself a train pro now. I'm no longer scared of the crowds, the shoving, the pushing & the pulling. Travelling to work has become a breeze - all thanks to the Mumbai locals. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Home, that safe haven which opens a flood gate of happy memories. Home, that happy cocoon which forces you to leave behind all the burdens of the world & become a child once again. Home, the big house with the cozy nooks & corners, where you spent hours with your grandparents doing inane things. 

Home for me is Trivandrum. Every road in the city holds a memory for me. The Ganapati kovil in the middle of heavily trafficked Kumarapuram road, where Appuppan did a special pooja for me every Friday, the road opposite the railway tracks where Appuppan banged his odd looking brown & white Fiat against a relative's car (said relative promptly came home & complained to ammumma), Shanghumugham beach & the temple next to it, Azad hotel, Piaco, Kalavara, the Sharjah juice center - the memories are endless.

I shed silent tears every time I enter Trivandrum because everything about the city reminds me of Appuppan. As the road slowly winds up to our house, I always wonder how Ammumma has managed to live alone for the past 12 years, in an absolutely remote & cut off part of the city. Our house is right on top of a hill. The view is magnificent, but the silence & the loneliness of living inside such a large house is a very huge price to pay. 

I've always felt guilty that I've never been able to go back to Trivandrum for work or studies post Appuppan's death. I always promised Ammumma that I would go back to her, but it never materialized. 

Born in Ernakulam, raised in Trivandrum & Chennai, married off to someone in Mumbai (who swears by his hometown, Dilli & brags endlessly about how great the capital is), I think it's safe to say I have multiple personalities. I wear my inherent Mallu hat in Kerala, I become a true blue Tamilian in Chennai & switch to a hardcore aggressive work obsessed machine in Mumbai. Each city holds a special place in my heart. Each city feels like home to me. But there is no place like Trivandrum - the city where Appuppan settled down post his retirement & ensured that the siblings & I had the most happiest childhoods. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Christmas is a lot of things for a lot of people. It's the most happy time of year with rum cakes, free flowing wines & Christmas cheer everywhere. For me, Christmas has always been a time when Santa never came home. I would deck up my Christmas tree every year & sit next to it for hours into the night on Christmas Eve & on Christmas Day waiting for Santa to drop a big shiny box with a red bow tied to it.

My parents would laugh & say "Santa doesn't exist Gayu. Go to sleep."; which would make my resolve even stronger to stay up all night & wait for him. Years went by & I still clung on to the hope of meeting Santa.

Zoom forward to Christmas of 2011, the entire family reunited at Trivandrum. My cousin was preggers & the baby was due, end of December. Being a pregnant woman is not an easy task. I still remember the helpless look on her face when we would all sit around her, crack jokes, laugh like hyenas & plan what to eat for our next meal, while she was stuck motionless & big bellied in her designated hospital room.

The doctor finally announced that the baby may arrive on 01-01-'11. Although we had all planned our Christmas holidays for the baby that year, the focus slowly but steadily, shifted from the child to food (It's a family problem. Food is our biggest distractor. Show us a plate of mutton biryani or beef chilli from Azad in the midst of a war with bloodshed & gun fights, we would without a moment of hesitation if I may add, choose the biryani & the beef)

We decided to go to the Leela in Kovalam for a breakfast buffet. We all woke up the next morning by 5AM to pay our respect to the food Gods. We drove all the way from our home in Kumarapuram to Kovalam, for close to 20 kms, in the freezing 6AM Trivandrum breeze. The wait, the sleep deprivation & the long drive was absolutely worth it, because the Leela property was stunning. Surrounded by cliffs & the Kovalam beach on all sides, the view was breath-taking. We were guided by the hotel staff to an outdoor, pool-facing restaurant with the view of a gorgeous beachy Trivandrum.

What followed next, was one of the seven deadly sins as listed by the Bible - shameless gluttony. We ate like we'd never seen food & over-stuffed our faces with every last dish on the buffet. "Eat Gayu, eat. We are counting on you to make this experience paisa vasool", goaded my brothers.

We stumbled out of the restaurant after an hour, in a deep food coma & with the news that the baby had finally arrived. We all rushed to the hospital to meet the bundle. My first glimpse of her was in my mother's hands. She was covered in white & was sleeping peacefully. Our baby! The first baby from the next generation! I was an aunt!

"Gayu, you came here as a little girl & now you're leaving as an old lady, an aunty.", teased my uncle. I realised then that maybe this is what Christmas cheer is all about. Babies, food OD & a crazy, happy, loud family. Santa can keep dilly-dallying his visit to me. I've made my peace with his ditching ways.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Of Samosas, College Nostalgia & Work OD

Post a nightmarish day of work, the bestie pings me on Whatsapp.

Bestie : Hello, do you remember me? Full off grid you are. Job & husband is all you know
Me : Guilt tripping bandh kar tu nautanki
Bestie : Once a month baat karne se aap chote nahi hojaogi madam

And we chat like that for close to 3 hours, until I finally reach home at 10pm. Yes, I suck at keeping in touch with people. I've been accused of this many times over by close friends & family.

She pings me again this evening (like a typical PR person, who follows up endlessly with clients & journalists) :

Bestie : So you stay alone when Raj is not in town? :-O
Me : I want a samosa. I've been dreaming of one ever since I left work at 7pm & all the way back home in the cab. I've called all the farsans near home, they've all stopped frying for the day :'(
Bestie : Do you remember Shirdi? 

Shirdi. Our favourite haunt back in the days, where we spent countless hours post college & even during college hours, to bunk lectures & hide from the prying eyes of nosey classmates & perenially pissed off nuns (I went to an all girls Christian/Catholic college)

Shirdi. A pokey hole in the wall, almost tapri-like place, inside a run-down building adjacent to college. The food was not great. But the laughs & the countless hours spent, over piping hot samosas & kachoris were priceless.

I'd do anything to go back to those carefree days, when our biggest problems were end-semester exams & pain in the ass bitchy classmates. (Life in an all girl's college is not hunky-dory. The cat fights are real! And the melodrama is always OTT.) 

To answer your concern (bestie), I haven't changed. I haven't forgotten you either. My 15 hour work day & 60km cab ride everyday have just made me fuzzy. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Confessions Of A Workaholic PR Professional

Back to work after a 2 month hiatus – a little less than 2 months actually. From vegetating at home, lazy dips everyday in our apartment's pool to writing about things I care about, I had almost forgotten what it was like to be a work driven machine.

My first week of work hit me like a whirlwind, by the second week I almost felt like my machine self again.

New office colleague to me: I need an ambiance to write you know, I just can't write out of the blue.
Me to her: Leave the writing to me. I don’t need an ambience, I can even write from the gutter, if required.

And that’s when it hit me. I’d been selling my soul to the corporate machines for the past 5 years. I’d forgotten how to write from the heart, I wrote for the sake of writing. I wrote to pacify my clients, I wrote to sell their stories to the media.

I get slapped around 25,000 times a day from various audiences (& for the pettiest of reasons) – all those in the client servicing world & especially from the PR industry can feel my pain even as I type this sentence. I'm sure some of you are vigorously nodding along with me. We all have our own horror stories to share with each other - which makes this ride a little less painful. We always try & look at the bright side of things & try to find the humour in the worst situations. 

Hats off to all my bosses & to the veterans from the industry. I’m feeling fried after a mere 5 years. I don’t know how you do, what you do. Cheers to you, cheers to us & cheers to the PR world! We truly are firefighters, in every sense of the word.