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. 

Friday, November 27, 2015


The Shahrukh Khan-Kajol starrer Dilwale has already created waves of expectations in the minds of millions of romance-hungry Indians, myself included.

Gerua is such a magical goosebump inducing song because it takes me back in time to their cute Raj & Anjali days in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. It also reminds me of their more sensual Suraj Hua Madham number from K3G. 

My idea of romance started & ended with Raj, Rahul & Rohit. SRK’s witty one-liners & hilarious hand gestures to emphasize who he is, to every hot girl he meets, in every single movie of his, always left me in peals of laughter.

I wondered how it was possible for such a mediocre looking man to be goofy & romantic at the same time. I wanted someone to tell me; “Raj, naam toh suna hoga” in real life as well.

My adolescence was filled with notions of the impossible love which SRK made possible in every movie of his. I knew right then that I had to have a dramatic love story with fireworks, action, comedy & lots of romance. I was not going to settle down with the first “Well to do Mallu boy from the Gelf who is a doctor” whose alliances were flowing in slowly & steadily.

Inspired by all those SRK movies & with an accelerated adrenaline pumping through my naive 21 year old veins I decided to move to Mumbai on a whim, much to my parents horror. I had already been campus placed with a leading MNC IT company in Chennai as a Technical Writer. The brand name of the company caught my fancy for 2 minutes but the designation seemed as dry as toast. I knew I would never settle down into a non-creative job.

I found myself working for a mid-sized youth magazine in Mumbai as a Features Writer. One of my very first assignments on the job was to interview a humour metal band in Mumbai called “Workshop”. They were a funny looking bunch of boys in blue boiler suits & bright yellow hard hats.

The lead guitarist of the band was a “Raj”.  But he didn’t seem to have any interest in Bollywood or SRK. This “Raj” had long curly unkempt hair, wore sloppy bathroom slippers & was always in shorts & metal band T-shirts.

But there was something about him despite his appearance. He was well-mannered, polite & street smart. I found myself drawn to him & ended up spending all my free time post office hours with him, his band mates & his college friends.

We didn’t have a grand Bollywood romance like Kajol & SRK but we had our share of drama, fireworks, action & comedy. That was 8 years ago. We met as 21- year old kids & have grown older & wiser together into our late 20s. I found my “Raj” at the most unlikeliest of places minus the Bollywood glitz & glamour. I wish there was a little bit of Bollywood in him, but no one can have their cake & eat it too, right?  

Thursday, November 26, 2015


God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made parents. I’ve had a funny relationship with mine over the years. Between the ages of 4 & 10 my grandparents were my parents. It took me a little less than a year to acclimatize to the change of not having parents around. By the end of that first year I completely forgot about my parents, they became vague memories & exotic guests who visited us once or twice a year.

I bragged about my daddy to all my school friends & teachers, he was my knight in shining armour, the cool dude who fought wars for the country & the kind man who brought home the shiniest red apples from Kashmir in large baskets.

Mom was an exotic foreign entity with the shortest hair I’d ever seen on a woman with the fanciest salwar kameezes (which were the height of fashion in the early 90s in Kerala where women had long flowey hair & wore only sarees).

After having served with the Indian Army for more than two decades Daddy finally got a transfer closer to home. His nomadic life brought him & mom to Chennai in 1997. They decided to take me with them to Chennai & before I knew it, the world I had known for 6 years was uprooted from me. I didn’t want to leave my Ammumma & Appuppan. I begged them to fight with my parents, to try & dissuade them from their decision.

“Every child must stay with their parents. It doesn't matter where you live. We will always love you”, said Ammumma with tears in her eyes. From a palatial house in Trivandrum I was suddenly brought to live in a large 3 BHK Army flat near the Marina beach in Chennai (which looked very small to me compared to my home in Trivandrum). I was given a bedroom all to myself with a huge balcony, a bed with pink flowers, a study table & a dressing table.

I was shocked to learn that even my brother was given a room all to himself. I had never slept alone until then. I was so used to snuggling between Ammumma & Appuppan every night that I found it hard to sleep in that alien room, with the perennially windy balcony. Late at night when the last light in the house was switched off, I would quietly sneak out to the balcony, shed a few tears & whisper “Ammumma, Appuppa” into the winds, with the hope that my grandparents would hear me & take me back to Trivandrum.

Years went by & I slowly got used to the Army lifestyle which my parents led. Swims everyday at the olympic sized Madras Gymkhana Club pool that ended with chilli chicken, malabar porotta & Feast or Chocolate Cornotto slowly began to soothe away the pain of staying away from my grandparents. I had to catch a large green army bus/truck every morning to go to school, I got bullied by boys half my age & size (because I was a little bit of a wuss back then). I even got bullied by the pretty didis who were dad’s colleagues children.

Pretty soon I hit my rebellious teen years & like every child in the 90s I gave my parents absolute hell! But being the cool folks they were, they took every tantrum of mine in their stride & gave me all the freedom in the world to do what I want, knowing well that I would never do anything to bring shame to the family.

I had my share of late night outs (which ended in dad giving me a verbal thrashing every single time), some terrible friendships & some terrible bike accidents. My parents thanked the Lord in heaven when I finally overcame this phase & began to focus more on my career & my higher studies.

My parents have been my rock. They’ve been through it all with me & I know they would do it all again. Sorry mom, for all the times I didn’t want to listen to you & took you for granted. Sorry dad, for all the times I made fun of you while you fidgeted around with your smartphone, laptop & digi-cam.

You truly are the best parents in the world & hats off to you for your tolerance levels. With me as your daughter I’m sure it was not an easy ride. I hope to give my children the exact same childhood you gave me & I hope to be as loving, warm, kind-hearted, giving, patient & sensible as you are.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pursuit of Happyness

Remember the movie with the same title? Will Smith starred as a struggling salesman of a portable bone-density scanner whose luck was down & out. His wife leaves him, he is kicked out of his own home & he has a five year old son who is dependent on him. The movie was downright sad except for the last five minutes when he gets called into a meeting with the senior management of the brokerage firm he is interning with. They call him to congratulate him on his excellent performance as an intern & they offer him a full time position with the firm.

My point is, Will Smith was genuinely in a bad place in his life, in the movie. He needed the money. He had to slog his ass off to make ends meet. What’s our excuse? By “our” I mean, my generation of work hardened overly ambitious position obsessed bunch. And I admit I’ve joined the bandwagon.

We are chasing the positions, the power, the big brands & the money. But are we happy? Are we chasing happiness? Or are we just turning into lifeless working machines that “society” has imposed on us as the “right” thing to do.

I feel helpless getting sucked into the system & to be honest I’m not sure what the alternative is. I love what each job brings my way – the feeling of being looked upon with respect, the wealth of knowledge that I acquire & the opportunity to interact with senior, respected people from my industry.

But am I happy? Are WE happy? I’m not so sure. We drool at exotic destinations from our sad workstations & promise ourselves that we will DEFINITELY make one of those trips by the end of the year, which never materializes of course. Year-ends are the worst time of year because we end up making those “Annual ROI” PPTs to the 10,000 clients we service. Everyone is fried & the only vacation we can think of is going to bed to take a 25-hour nap after horrendous work-days!

The rate at which we are propelling with a hardened drive to jump from one designation to the next till we dominate our respective chosen industries will become our downfall. I cringe to think of what we have turned ourselves into. Happiness, I will find you. WE will find you. In the meantime, please wait for us? Pretty, please? 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Me: “Do you know lots of women die during childbirth? Especially older women, post 30”

Husband: “Shut up, nothing will happen to you”

Me: “But what if it does? Can you live alone?”

Husband: stares blankly

Death, a topic none of us want to discuss, yet have experienced many times over. If you haven’t seen a loved one die in front of your eyes, consider yourself lucky.

It was a bright sunny day in 2004. It was a school day. I was in the middle of my boring business studies class when my class teacher suddenly came up to me with a sad look on her face. “Your father is waiting for you downstairs, take your things & leave immediately”, she said. “Why ma’am?”, I asked bewildered. “Your grandfather is unwell. Your father will explain everything on the way. Leave now”, she said.

Puzzled, I took my things & went to meet my father. He looked shattered. One glimpse at his eyes & I knew that he had been crying for hours. I showered a barrage of questions at him about my grandfather. “Appuppan is fine Gayu, but he is in the ICU so we must go to Trivandrum immediately. Arjun has also come from Bombay. Everyone is waiting at home for you to pack your things”

When I reached home my aunt from the other end of the city (Annanagar) was also waiting for me with her bags packed for our roadtrip. The 10 hour car ride was grim. Everyone sat in silence, anxious to reach Trivandrum.

The silence was finally broken by the shrill ring of my father’s cellphone. “Yes, we are on the way. Yes, we will reach before the funeral”, he said. I looked at my aunt in horror & sobbed hysterically into her saree’s pallu. “You did’nt know appuppan has passed away?”, she asked. “No! I thought he was just unwell”, I replied.

The rest of the journey was a blur. By the time we reached Trivandrum it was well past midnight. I ran inside our house & saw him resting peacefully. My heart broke into smithereens & I cried for god-knows how many hours until someone had to pull me away from him & take me to one of the inner rooms.

The week whizzed by with the funeral & other ceremonies. It was the darkest period of my life. I thought I’d never smile or be happy ever again. My appuppan was no more. My appuppan who dropped me to school everyday & got scolded by me each time I was late to school, my appuppan who wiped away my tears & my runny nose every morning when I made a fuss to go to school, my appuppan who ate all my leftovers from my plate & my school’s tiffin box, my appuppan who took me to Shanghumugham beach to eat giant sized chicken cutlets & vanilla ball icecreams from the beach-carts.

I cursed myself for all the times I fought with him & made fun of him. I wished I was kinder to him while he was still alive. “Your appuppan loved you mole. He always had a smile on his face whenever you called to speak to him”, said ammumma.

He had called to wish me on my 17th birthday in 2004, just a few days before his death. I had no idea that would be my last phone call with him.  I regretted not being around him in his last moments.

There is a large gaping hole in my heart that can never be filled again. Blessed are those who have experienced a grandfather’s love. I am grateful that he was in my life till I was 17 years old.

He was so proud of us – his grandchildren. He bragged about every small achievement of ours to everyone. He created an editorial snippet for me with one of the leading Malayalam dailies in Kerala which boasted about an exam I had taken in which I had scored a distinction. The achievement was not extraordinary, lots of kids from my school had taken the exam along with me & had scored around the same percentage that I had. But to him I was extraordinary & my every little action was special.

My grandmother has lived all by herself for the past 11 years in that palatial house in Trivandrum refusing to leave. She believes appuppan’s spirit will always be inside those walls & near her.

I miss his absence everyday. Especially when a baby is born or a sibling gets married. He would have loved to experience all this. My wedding was held exactly 10 years after his death & ironically in the same month that he had passed away.

I wish you were still around appuppa - to meet my husband, visit my home & see me as this work-obsessed demon that I’ve turned into. You would’ve probably told me to take a chill-pill & you would’ve continued to hide your salty-fried peanut chakna in the steel almirah to be had on Sundays along with your drink.

You are my Hero.1 & my King - no one has replaced you & no one ever will. I love you & miss you so much. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Finding Inspiration

“You WERE a writer. I was so proud of you when we first met. I used to brag about your blog to everyone. But offlate you haven’t given me anything to be proud about”; said my annoyed husband accusingly.

“I can’t seem to find any inspiration, I always had so many reasons to write about in the past but my brain has become so rusty now. My creativity is dead. I can only think from a very corporate point of view. All my writing now aims at brand reputation, image management & crisis communication”; I retorted.

“Save it. Don’t give me this sad little story. No one has time. You make time for your art. Look at me, do you think I have time to play in 2 bands with my crazy job?!”

He got me there. He did have a crazy job. I barely see him Monday through Friday & his two best friends on the weekends are the bed & the pillow.

When I came to Mumbai 8 years ago I came as a little girl with a dream in her heart & a burning hope to become the next big thing in the world of print journalism. Mumbai’s crazy rentals & the hellish train ride from Powai to Dadar everyday nipped out those dreams in a jiffy. I went running back to mom & dad after all of 3 months. I was not happy that I gave up. I was more confused than ever.

I stumbled in darkness for a few months more till mom rapped me on the head, gave me a reality check & shoved me back into college again to pursue my higher studies. She pushed me into Public Relations. I hated being a student again, I hated the course & I hated all the childish rules & regulations that were suddenly imposed on me by a six decade old system.

As luck would have it, I found myself working for one of the largest PR agencies in the country in my lovely Chennai the minute I passed out of college. I didn’t have to move out of home & I finally found my happy place within the PR industry.

After close to 2 years into the job it was time to pack up & leave home once again & this time for good :’( It was time to get married.

Mumbai post marriage seemed like a completely different city to me. It suddenly seemed less cruel. I was thrown into a world of bright possibilities – personally & professionally. So many places to eat at, shop at, sight see & most importantly - so many companies to apply to. Along with all this came the loneliness, I had to deal with the reality of a perennially travelling husband without the sheltering of my parents.

The first year was tough, I was always homesick & I wondered whether moving to Mumbai was the right thing for me to do. But I was no longer a single carefree girl, I had to think about another person before making any life decisions.  I eventually made my peace with this. I had to. If mom had the same thought process 38 years ago, I wouldn’t even be here!

I’ve learnt to set up a home from scratch, I’ve learnt to deal with aggressive cooking & cleaning maids, nosey watchman, greedy society treasurers &  bullying autorickshaw-wallahs! All in a day’s work – Hehe!

Doesn’t matter what job you do or which city you live in. A supportive family is all you need to survive the day, month & year.

Well, there you have it.. another blog post by yours truly after more than two years. Thank you hubby dearest for the much needed kick up my backside.