Happily Unmarried

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sunday Post

There was this particular Sunday a few months ago. I was stuck in Leh because I was ill and four others were stuck there, to give me company. Now, Leh isn't a place with a happening nightlife or for that matter a life at all. The one passtime there is to hop from one Tibetan / Continental cafe to another and compare the quality of food, the prices and the crowds. If you are feeling indulgent, you could glug Godfather beer (I swear that's the name! It has Francis Younghusband on the label).

And if you are feeling realllly adventurous, you could go watch a movie, like what we did! Yes, a cinemascope, big screen, city-like movie! The theatre is called Delight Cinema and if you are ever in Leh, look it up, along with the Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa. But the trick to finding Delight Cinema is not to ask the Ladakhis. Very few of them aknowledge there is this aberration in their town. We asked the Kashmiris, they are there just for the season and like their bit of urban entertainment.

And then we saw the dingier side of the town. The cinema is tucked away in the old part of Leh, with narrower streets and with only the views of backs of crumbling houses. You will recognise it by the stink and the Pepsi poster outside.

We were there just for the experience of watching a movie in Leh at 12000 ft, so we bought the Rs 15 backstall tickets. We were there to watch Sarfarosh. Wonder if Aamir knows what hues and colours the movie takes on when played in Delight Cinema. The chairs were wooden and we got additional entertainment by a drunk Ladakhi or two who decided to somersault to amuse us. But if you don't fancy that and want to be more propah get the balcony tickets which claim to have cushioned seats.

There were even a few adventurous firangs who had decided to check out Bollywood... Should we have warned them that Bollywood isn't exactly as it seemed in Leh? We let them discover it themselves.

Aamir and Sonali and patriotism are entertainment enough in the plains. But when there is an overpowering smell, there is only so much you can take of it. After the first half hour, I decided that I like my movies at PVR and Rex, not Delight. And finally managed to drag my brood of boys who were valiently waiting for Sonali's skimpily-clad song.

The ocassion and the adventure seemed to warrant a Godfather beer so we trooped into our regular haunt for dinner and some beer in an attempt to get rid of the stink from our nostrils. I didn't find the experience funny at that point, but looking back, I can say that I have watched Sarfarosh in Leh and what a Delight-ful experience that was! (eeeeeks, bad pun, but can't help it)

- I

Friday, November 11, 2005

Confessed

There is this blog that I read once in a while. It's amazing really how this girl thinks, expresses and writes. She is just sooooo much like H, Umsy, Tanu (when she belonged to the happily-unmarried club) or me!

And I don't mean just the singlehood and lost-in-mid-twenties tangents that she goes on. It's the way she strings her phrases, it's her way with expressing everyday conversations with people and with herself.

In some strange way she even got us thinking in terms of this blog to shout out our tangents and quirks from the rooftops of cyberworld.

- I
PS: The credit - Yes, Yogi, you sent me the link first.

Of Seagull Managers

Our seagull manager was in town for two days - he came, he crapped / faffed on us, he ate our food, he left. Disclaimer - That wasn't my description, that was how the head of HR described him. Can't say that I really disagreed with her.

He came, he gave big, unrealistic ideas, he hopped from one big plan / not-very-workable suggestion to another and he left. They were two days and late evenings spent cocooned in our little corner, discussing the next big thing we will attempt, crunching budgets and HR issues. The outcome: We are all still trying to figure out what that could be.

And ofcourse, how could I not mention the circus that our team put up for the boss's benefit. Here's a sample...

Day 1, Scene 1
Boss: Can you create a web access for an e-mail ID?
Reality and sys admin's answer in other circumstances: How can that be done? It's a local server in Bangalore, it's not on the web. All I can do is redirect the mails to your ID.
BUT answer to boss: Sure! I will create one and send you the link in half an hour!
Me: Did the server have a change of heart and decide to plug itself to the big bad www??!!

Day 1, Scene 3
Boss: I think the design is crappy! We need to have a whole new perspective. And we will need 5 different options.
Vociferous designer's answer in other circumstances: I have spent 2 whole weeks on this design. I am not going to change it. You content people are inefficient and can't make up your minds! And I refuse to give you more than one option.
BUT answer to boss: Yes, I can give you different options by tomorrow. I want our website to be the first to do something radical, something that no one else has done before.
Me: Hellooooo! Haven't we had this argument before?! NO one, not even the leaders in the internet space (Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft), have done this 'radical' thing. And they haven't done it because it's STUPID. Why are we making an effort to give bad user experience? And what's with the ' yes, I can give you different options by tomorrow'?

Day 2, Scene 3
Boss: We will introduce an incentive scheme that will make the team competitive! We will send people on foreign jaunts if they manage to tangibly increase the numbers for their respective channels. We will figure out a way to quantify design and tech. We will blah blah blah blah
Dumb flunky (swivelling on her chair): *Shrill scream* Oops! I forgot to mention that the chairs in office are bad in this morning's HR and admin meeting!! I have fallen down twice. Infact, I know two other people in office who have fallen down from their chairs. The chairs are really not safe, you know?
Boss and everyone else: WHAT? Where did that come from?!
Me: I want to cringe and die! I am not part of any team that SHE is in! I don't want to know her! I don't want to know she exists! I don't even want her to exist!

Ok, the last one gave me my daily dose of giggles yesterday. But the others left me wondering if it was the same bunch I work with everyday. And if I should make the most of the boss's presence (and the team's inability to say 'no') and push for company-paid phone bills, new sexy comp, a workstation away from the dumb flunky, more storage for music on my comp, my old boss etc...

This post has turned out way longer than I expected. I just wanted to get the bitch-bitch-rant-rant out of me so that I can get on with my weekend. And now I think I have bitched enough for the next weekend as well.

- I

The new Producer

The Production team is all in place. There are four of us plus DK and we toasted the new team at Toto’s day before and for my part, I was prematurely thrilled that we make such a great team. And then reality bit. The fourth Producer joined yesterday and it took me half hour to decide not to like her. I know, I know. Very un-Buddhist. I should have looked harder for her Buddha-like qualities, but too late, my mind had signed, sealed and delivered the verdict. And I rather liked it.

She claims to understand everything from Java to stock markets and politics to telecom, parrots the last two words of every statement the bosses make in meetings, volunteers unasked for information and makes all the “right noises” like I says. To top it all, she cooed “bye, dear” to me yesterday before leaving. When I asked DK what he thought of her, he was at his corporate diplomatic best and said “she seems bright and enthusiastic”. I read that as “know-all and hyper.” Well, like I told I yesterday, I already see the makings of an older, thinner, smaller and marginally more sophisticated D, minus the oomph, mass and enticing wardrobe. I refuse to accumulate any more negative karma by bitching; let’s just call her the comic relief in my work life. I’ll just remember to take 387 deep breaths before every meeting now on.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Of birds, bees and babies

Missed posting yesterday so will make up with two or more today.

Highlight from the past two days is that Shwetu gave birth to a baby boy. Shwetu is a Mom. She has a Son. And she just hung up on me cause the baby crapped! Wow. This is the girl I've had many, many firsts with. This is the girl who’s known me through all my boys and men from the time we were both 14. It’s one of those girl-friendships where you seem inseparable to begin with, swear undying loyalty, slowly grow apart when life situations change, and you get back in touch many years later only to discover that somewhere along the line, you’ve both become women.

So you hurriedly, awkwardly try and update each other on everything that’s gone by and you fall in love with each other all over again. For the same reasons you’d seen so much more clearly at 14. Shwetu and I are like that. We haven’t really kept in touch from the time we both passed out of junior college. But we’ve met every couple of years and tried to “take it from where we’d left off.” That never really happens of course; there’s too much we don’t know about each other’s lives, but somewhere, we both know childhood friendships don’t need the same degree of servicing and maintenance that grown up equations do. We don’t need to hang out, party together, vacation together or even call and sms all the time to feel connected.

But then, I’ve stretched this comfort to unbelievable limits. I once accused her of having a scene with Chetan and tried to hate her passionately. And then I went right back and broke down in front of her when he broke my heart for the first time. And incredibly, two years ago, I missed her wedding. Because of no other reason, I simply forgot. And if that wasn’t enough, I shamelessly tagged along with Shwetu and Harish when they went on their first weekend trip together after the wedding. And I forgot to pay them back the money I’d borrowed in Pondicherry. And after pouring my heart out to her about Sandeep, I didn’t even meet or call Shwetu before I shifted to Bombay. Despite the fact that our houses in Blore are half a kilometer apart.

But that’s us; blowing hot, blowing cold, not blowing at all at times. And what can I say about her? She’s had her shares of strange men, relationships and tangents. But now, she is a wife and a mother. Obviously, the birds and bees talk that Champa gave us on a hot Bangalore afternoon has paid off. Shwetu has got it right; while I am still fumbling.

- H

It's part of the rites of passage I think... the girls that you have grown up with, shared real and imaginary heart aches with, agonised over restrictions at home with are now wives, mothers and daughters-in-law. There are saas-bahu stories, visits to the gynaec stories, playing the mother stories and the high of being married stories floating around. When you hear these, it does seem like 'these are things that happen to others, not me'.

I think Sneha was the first in my brood to take the plunge and get married and make baby in quick succession. I remember going through this phase of 'Fuck! Sneha just had a daughter and she has a husband (doesn't matter that I can't stand him)! And I am not even sure if I am with the right man and if I am, if I want to get married?'

Four years with Srushti has sort of gotten me used to the idea that I am part of the leftovers of our bunch. But what the hell! Mountains, Ladakh, Manali... none of those would have happened if I was saddled with a husband or a baby or both! But I think I should buy my first floral singlet and crochet bag when Tanu says she is going to have a baby or if you decide to jump in the deep end, H.

- I

The latest man in my life



He is green, he is small and he rides a cycle rickshaw. Need I say more?

- I

3rd day and this is what happens!

H has decided to play the diligent worker and has abandoned our combined effort of rediscovering our supposed way with words! I am left as the lone, valient torch bearer to update the blog... Sigh!

- I

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

5 Questions on a Thursday Morning

It's 8:29 AM by my watch and I have been in office for the last 15 minutes. Among the various chosen swear words directed at job, people etc are 5 questions in my mind:

1 - Where will my next vacation be? (This question is just always there, H will vouch for it. I am just always planning my next trip away.)

2 - What else can go wrong today? (I think everything did yesterday... but there just might be something that chooses to surprise me today)

3 - Would it be totally improper to take a swing at someone I really don't like today? Even if it's my co-worker / flunky / neighbour / dog?

4 - Is it time to move out of the city in the plains finally? (The city by the sea offer by H is tempting...)

5 - Should I go back home, get back in to bed and sleep till 3 in the afternoon?
5a - As an alternative, can I just curl up under my desk and sleep till 3?

- I (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

At home, with myself

After several months of severe sloth in the erstwhile job, and a brief stint of panicky unemployment, looks like I am gainfully employed at last. Just finished a three hour-long training session about a tool called Jake. Sorry if that sounds obscene. But it’s just an… errr…Internet tool.

I’ve been saying that I have a real good feeling about this job and this company and that I’ve never felt better in my six-year work life. But like I figured yesterday, no matter how great the job is, no matter how much fun my friends are, the loneliness always comes marching in the minute I let myself in to the house. On a bad day, it’s almost physical and that’s when I am embarrassed about not appreciating life enough.

Amazing family, wonderful friends, great job, food in the fridge, books on the shelf, at least some crap on TV… and all I think about is how much I hate going home to myself.

On rare days, I am glad for the solitude and thank God that I truly live a privileged life in Bombay. Mind space AND physical space I can call my own in one of the most crowded places on the planet.

But then, I guess it’s a syndrome singles face the world over. An evening with multiple options, but a night when you have to hug the pillow for warmth.

Ps. Shift here no, I. We can rent a place and I promise to cook south Indian food on weekends, clean when my OCD strikes, pay bills after we’ve split it, leave you alone when you are crabby, snap at you when I am, laugh at you, with you, at the world, talk, shut up… You’ve lived on a plateau and in the mountains. High time you tried a city by sea a try.

- H

Wednesdays disguised as Fridays

It is not an earth-shattering, life-altering, the-rest-of-your-life-starts-today day. But for the past two weeks, my Wednesdays have made it a habit to behave like really tantrumy Fridays. Murphy's Law is in full swing. Everything that can go wrong - personally, professionally, psychologically, paranormally (can't think of any more p words) - is going wrong. And some that normally CANNOT go wrong as well.
My break from reality today is coming from looking at some of my Ladakh and the more-recent Goa snaps. Alternate realities really, the way life moves in the mountains - or the beach for that matter - and here in the pink and blue madhouse we not-so-fondly call office. Waking up at 12, lounging around with a book till 3 and finally emerging at 4 only to go back to bed at 1... damn! I miss my home in the mountains.
My other entertainment is being helpfully provided by a flunky who has confused her past and present tenses. The joys of bullying someone righteously!
H seems to have decided to work for a change. I am guessing it's a new job syndrome she is suffering from and nothing more fatal...

Till later
- I

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Goaed, at last

Picture-perfect sunset at Fort Aguada


Thank God. We'll never again have to respond to, "WHAT?! You've never been to Goa?!?!" Went there, saw that and came back with, well, with lots of dirty T shirts. Now we can hold a Cool conversation with head held high in the Hip Circuit about how Goa Rocks Man. I don't mean to sound condescending; for all our obsession with the mountains, Goa is really Happening. The beaches are lovely, the sun and sea are in complete agreement, the country side is lush, the food is (I am told) orgasmic, the shopping is fun, the night clubs are rocking, the people are friendly, the beer is cheap, the shacks are cool and the babes are hot.

Boat on beach

I've been wondering whether to disclose details of the place we stayed in. It's not in South Goa. And it’s not Baga. Not Candolim. NOT Calangute. And surely not Anjuna. Well, it's a place further up North, a few kilometers away from the Goa - Maharashtra border. The beaches are lovely, clean, not crowded, with a fishing village on one side and a hill on the other. Go figure!

I think the best thing I did was to take a bike taxi after getting off the bus at Mapusa. For one, it woke me up after my fitful, cramped sleep on the bus and for another, I got to see some of the country side in the early morning light. I briefly wished I was riding pillion on a Bullet with 6 ft Something Significant Other rather than a Hero Honda being ridden by a Goan bike pilot. Reminds me of the time I rode pillion with Meherchand, my paragliding pilot-turned-biker from Solang near Manali, who had also offered to teach me skiing besides taking me up, up and away in a hot air balloon. But for Rs. 100, the ride was well worth it, Significant Other or no.

The resort we won't name

The resort was idyllic and I am not about to give the name away. I had somehow been expecting to see large numbers of Great Indian Families On Their Annual Vacation; turned out I was the only Indian around besides the people who worked at the resort. At the cost of sounding racist and xenophobic, I was glad when I saw only firang tourists. That meant, I didn’t have to feel obliged to explain why I was alone, who I am, what I did and where I come from. (I am sure many will scoff at this; such things probably don’t happen in Goa).

This also meant, I wouldn’t find a beach littered with Kingfisher and Bisleri bottles, candy and chocolate wrappers, empty packets of Ruffles Lays, Haldiram's bhujiya and Kurkure and other assorted garbage The Great Indian Traveller (term courtesy Jug Suraiya) seems obliged to discard at touristy places as thought to leave behind a trail in case he gets terribly lost.

No Indians also meant there wouldn't be zealous parents encouraging their offspring to take a leak or a dump in the wide open, pristine beaches because there was so much space and so much water at hand anyway.

Bullock cart on beach

But as I sat alone waiting for breakfast, my Indianness sure perked up and I made some small talk about the weather with the woman at the next table. She soon invited me to join her for coffee and then we were on a roll. Turned out she was an American and worked as a Chief Protocol Officer in the US embassy in Baghdad, after having worked in Turkey and New York. After that, the conversation was like any between two single women, anywhere in the world. We ended up bantering for almost ten hours, talking about everything from, you guessed it, Men and Relationships, to life in Bombay, Bangalore, Baghdad, New York and Delhi, to books, music, families, travel, work, cricket and baseball (!), religion, politics, wars and everything in between. (Disclaimer: This conversation sounds more intelligent than it actually was.)

Male companion's wishful snap - that we will walk way into the sea


It's strange how people halfway across the globe seem to have parallel lives.

Tracy left after we jointly figured out various means by which she could leave for Kerala the same day. After calling numerous airlines and railway helpdesk numbers, she finally decided to take an overnight bus. And I decided to call a friend, Vinati, who had grown up in Goa, lived in Bombay for many years, had settled down in Bangalore, and was vacationing in Goa. I met them in Baga, and after a welcome drink of Ranju's chilli vodka, Vinati and her large group of friends and cousins and their spouses, inducted me properly in to Goa. Praise the Lord. I have now earned my stripes and I've partied at Club Cabana in Arpora.

Pity I was too pooped to stay long or party hard. But it was Wednesday night and it was free entry for women AND the drinks were on the house. But after hardly a puff of Ranju's joint, I started craving for a bed and I tottered out and hired a cab for an astronomical sum to take me back. The heightened sense of safety that one feels in Bombay makes one want to be just as reckless and carefree in other places, but I can’t say I wasn't worried and scared through that drive. I am amazed at the thoughts that kept surfacing in my head: I prayed very hard while I tried to stay awake and hoped that if the driver decided to rob me, or worse, rape me, let him please do it nearer to the resort as I was in no state to walk. Stoned and in high hells.

Though the previous day was overcast, the morning was crisp and sunny. While I was hungover. But after a large breakfast, I went down to the beach and lay down with my book and felt very, very cool indeed. All by myself, lying on a beach in Goa, with a book in hand and the glares propped on my head. The stuff Wednesday afternoon office fantasies are made of. When I thought I was turning to toast, and considering that my very Indian skin tone doesn't need any more of a tan, I decided to lie out on a beach chair under a canopy instead, with a beer AND book in hand this time, and a lunch of beer and salad (I repeat, I am a vegetarian.)

Three shadows

By evening, my company arrived from Bangalore and then it was Goa routine all the way. Drinks at Mambo's followed by a joint on the beach and dinner at a shack. Again, morning at the beach, beer though the day, bike ride to Baga, lunch and wine at Britto's, dinner at (hear, hear!), a vegetarian place called Bean Me Up and night under a star-crusted night sky. All this peppered with lots of girly banter about life, universe and everything else, when our solitary male friend silently, languidly, resignedly stared in to the distance and sighed. The last day before we left, I shopped at a place called - here's a giveaway about the title of this blog - Happily Unmarried - and did just one touristy thing - Fort Agwada. It's an impressive place; if only it wasn't for the wrapper-and-bottle strewing Great Indian Travellers again. After pizza dinner at a semi open bar with a view called 9 Bar on Anjuna we followed it up with Goa's very own King's beer at a rather classy shack called Zanzibar, and rummy back at the resort, where I was beaten silly.

The day of return was pretty uneventful, and felt heavy the way all return journeys do, when all the concerns of city life come weighing down even before you are physically back. After a trigger happy morning on the beach when we hurriedly took pictures after putting it off for three days, it was a dash to the chaotic airport and an even more chaotic boarding exercise for the Go Air flight, operational barely two days ago.

This post turned out way longer than I thought, but it's not a bad way to spend my second week in a new job, on a Tuesday afternoon.

To wind up, I'll say Goa Rocks, too. But then, to those of us living on the plains and obsessed with the heights, the sea always seems beautiful, but unidimensional. And threatening too sometimes, for all that it keeps hidden in its depths.

As opposed to mountains who wear their shapes, stature and size and brazenly invade the privacy of the skies.
- H
Shadow, starfish, sand

Completely with H on Rocking Goa! I now, sort of, even understand why the hype and why so many people I know make it their pilgrimage (We loved Goa, but pilgrimage will always mean the mountains. Something about those impossible heights that keep pulling us back). To add my 2-bit to the 3 day Goa weekend, my Jet Airways bag decided to go jet-setting to Bombay, Delhi and finally back to Goa! Thanks H, for the generous use of your over-packed wardrobe. And yes, I finally don't look as blank as I used to when people spout names like Candolim, Calangute, Arambol... And all thanks to our sole male companion who not only ignored our girly banter, but also put up with very be-sur renditions of old Bollywood songs. And the other highlight of our trip - we are finally moving beyond boundaries. We have identified the place we are going to discover on our first trip beyond the sub-continent. No, we are not disclosing the place till we have been there or atleast till our tickets are booked.
- I

Monday, November 07, 2005

H and I

We share the same surname, loads of people think we are sisters or at least related. Might even be true considering some strain in our blood comes from the same village. We went through 3 years of college without realising each other's existence. And then came a few firsts - job, man (for one of us), trek, time in the mountains and now, we are almost alter egos. We sing the same songs, go on the same singlehood tangents, dream of the same places, plan and go on holidays together... the only difference is now we live in different cities - I, in the plains and she, by the sea. And this, we hope, will be our common space to share current personal / professional woes, plan trips to the mountains and exotic destinations, crib about the lack of eligible men, panic about dying as spinsters (in floral singlets, with a cat on our laps and crochet bags on our arms) and everything in between.
- I