Looking ahead by looking back

My friends tell me I am always in a mad rush to change things, people, the world – both things I can influence and things I can’t. I know that. It manifests itself in the impatience (that has also quadrupled during my 8 years in McKinsey) with which I regard situations, in the passion with which I throw myself into things I love, in this jumbled mish-mash of my hyper-focused short attention span combined with an-almost contrarian risk aversion.

And that is unfortunate. Because in this tumult of running around just to keep with what I want to do, there have been casualties.

I found this over the weekend, when I sat down to read my blog archives. In my first post ever (incidentally, in 2004 on a blogger address called Mumble Jumble, because why not?),  I tapped in not-very-vast reservoirs of anger to rant about slow internet speeds, spam and limited-size email inboxes.

And over the course of the next three hours, I read the book of my life (ages 19 to 30-something) as jotted down by a capricious teenager who was faced with the enormity of growing up and becoming her own person.

I still like her – that 19 year old Shruti. She seems manic – running from one thought to another with nary a breathing space. She is naive and the knowledge of the rest of her life hasn’t fully hit her yet. The troubles, thus far, in her life haven’t made her jaded or cynical, though she really wants to be. And she is fun, so fun.

Her writing has the same quality. It is breathless, moving from one topic to another at the speed of light (the way I still think, incidentally) and utilises way too many exclamation marks and unbound ellipses (Like this!!!!…..). It is imaginative – running the gamut from useless advice columns and fake book covers to the creation of a whole new character, Shruti Fraud. It is intimate – she made inside jokes to her regular readers with a wink and nudge; in fact, learning that she had regular readers inspired another breathless I-can’t-believe-it post. And most of all, it is personal – that young version of me treated her blog like a diary, ripping band-aids in public, whilst keeping the story private.

And like Google coming and solving that terrible limited-inbox problem, I have grown up into someone the 19-year old would not fully recognise. Yes, some of the quirks still remain, including the perpetual clumsiness and the manic-ness that has morphed into a self-aware undercurrent of impatience.

She would approve of what the 31 year old has done – she’s gone to a good school, got a great job that lets her travel the world, found her place in the world FINALLY (India is not kind to women who don’t conform to the norm of expectations), broken/mended her heart a few times (“Not to anyone inappropriate, surely”, she’d muse) and become more comfortable asserting her authority.

And, everyday I try and over-plan my future and try to reconcile my life and my ambitions, I forget how far I have come. And that, to be entirely fair to the 19 or even 25-year old me, is inexcusable. Because to look forward is also to look back sometimes and pat yourself on the back. It’s been a long journey but I really do think it’s been worth it.

While approving of the general direction, the 19-year old would wonder, “But what about your hobbies? What about writing? Singing and twirling in the house with abandon? Doodling in all corners of your books? What happened to all the manic energy you put into creative pursuits? Why have you stopped? And, and, and… what about your friends?”

And for that, I need to start making amends. Consider this step 1.

The Divine Wind

She strips the linen off the shikifuton, moving on to the pillowcase. Wet. It is all she can do to run out of the room and give voice to her silent agony.
Instead, she folds the futon, takes the linen and puts it to wash. And then, she walks out steadily into the spring sun to see Takashi.
He stands in the courtyard with the fallen cherry blossoms, a small smile on his face.
“Aiko, I was waiting for you!”
“My apologies. I was caught up in my chores. What can I do for you, Takashi-San?”
“Could you please send this postcard out when you can?” He hands her a postcard with some money.
Her mouth blurts the words out, “But I have no change.”
He waves her off with the familiar twinkle, “That’s okay. You can keep the money. I am bribing you not to forget.”
“I won’t”, she smiles hesitantly at this old young man and moves closer, to hold his hands. And they stand motionless in the sunlight.
The other girls come clattering out, holding flowers. Aiko and Takashi move apart and he bows to her.
“Thank you, Aiko.” He says formally, “till we meet again”
“Till we meet again, my firefly.” She lapses into the familiar rhythm.
And he walks away from her into the rest of his life.
The plane takes off and dips its wings in salute – once, twice, three times. Aiko’s friends wave their boughs of flowers at the rapidly disappearing speck.
And then she reads the postcard addressed to his parents. A single sentence like a solitary ship adrift in the vast sea of unspoken words.

I meet death on my terms.

And she walks back into the dormitories –  back to his tear soaked pillowcase.


Hilary Clinton

I admire the woman.

Anyone who can take that level of knocks, weather all the storms-in-a-teacup, brush aside petty minded criticism and STILL rise like a phoenix deserves any and all kudos that you can give her.

Mrs. Rodham-Clinton, I hope to grow up to be half the woman you are.


That’s the sand of time, slipping away,

As you try to greedily hold on to everyday.

The smudge of your memory on the horizon,

Is fading into legend; the words, they are done.


We drink from the chalice of forgetfulness,

And dance the mute minuet of sorrow.

Is it true that our eyes confess,

How we dread the dawn of the morrow?

The Not so Petit Prince

Or Don’t Panic. Just take me to your leader

“Hi, my name is Peter, aged twenty three,

I have a terrible fear of growing up”, says he.

“Not very different to other millennial men,”

I laugh, “you should fit right here then.”

He flirts. “I am all paid up on a nice asteroid,

Right off Hyde Park, just into the Oort Cloud.

And, if you’d like, we can live there comfortably,

In the asteroid, just the three of us, honey.”

“Three of us?” I echo. (not quite a witty repartee)

“You, me and my robot valet, Jeeves, ‘Tis three.”

“Does this asteroid have three volcanoes?”, I enquire,

“Yes!” he says, “Have you been to this land of extinguished fire?”

“No. But it does seem you have come a long way,

From pining after a rose to having robots”, I say.

“Well yes. I did make a few billion rupees, *

From this book I call the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

My mind works in ways that are too mysterious even for me to fully comprehend. So, if anyone asked you what you’d get if you combined the works of Antoine de Saint Exupery, J M Barrie, P G Wodehouse and Douglas Adams in a hodge podge of Futurama meets a romantic comedy, the answer is this poem. Just so you know.

* Clearly, the Prince knew I was Indian


And, these players? They sit through the morose night,

Watching their listless life pass by in a flickering,

For the game belongs neither to the player nor the played,

It belongs to the restless regrets of the unmourned morning.

When love dies

Her screams were like those of a bird of prey. “Don’t touch me. Just leave. Just LEAVE.”
He was threatening her, “You do know it’s your fault, don’t you?”
I was awake in my bed, at 3:30 AM listening to the neighbours playing out their tumultuous relationship.

The screaming match had started at 2:30 AM – or maybe that was when the sound had penetrated the fuzziness of my sleep. I tried muffling the sound with my pillow for a while, but that didn’t work. One hour in, I was lying on my back staring at the spotlights in my ceiling (the previous owner was an artist, apparently), wondering if this fight was going to cut into any more of my precious weekend Zs.

“I wonder what happened here. Was it a case of she-cheated-he cheated? Sounds like it… or was it just a case of gradual drifting apart, till no love remained? Is this how love feels – in the middle of the night, hoarse voices and aching heads, many threats – right in the middle of a wintry Australian night?”

There was some clattering from next door. A mundane thought struck me, “Is she throwing his stuff downstairs in a fit of theatricality? I hope not – we are 16 floors up.”
Downstairs, the sounds of drunken revelry floated up; the last of the party-goers were winding their tipsy way past the Surry Hills Police Station. Next door, the fight was still in full swing.

“Why aren’t you leaving? There’s the door.”
I was lying still in my warm bed, hoping to hear the bang of a door and to hear the end of the argument. Common sense, however, dictated that there was nowhere the man could leave to in the wee hours of the morning.
“Why don’t you leave? It’s MY house.”

“Ah,” I thought, “the plot thickens. I hope they don’t own a pet. Or a baby. I wouldn’t like to see the fight about that.”

Another ten minutes of this back and forth followed. This argument was becoming tedious. The voices, however, had gotten fainter – it seemed like someone was getting closer to the front door.
Suddenly, the woman raised her voice, “Help me, someone, help me.” Her voice had become less bird of prey, more cockatoo.
It became more insistent, “Help me!”

I sat up, wondering if I should do something. Bang my fist on the common wall and ask them what was going on? Walk out and knock on the door, asking if everything was alright? Or do nothing? Because doing nothing is easy, isn’t it? My fickle mind threw up another thought, “Am I suffering from bystander effect? I am the neighbour that did nothing, aren’t I?”

The man murmured something. It sounded threatening, if murmurs could sound threatening.
I was still in two minds, thinking in run-in sentences – “Go to the flat, knock on the door, check if the woman is okay – will we become best friends because I helped her out in bad times? Or is this a normal couple’s quarrel? After all, they had fought last week too and will I be interfering in what was a weekly routine? Wait-a-minute. If it’s a weekly routine, should I ask them to pipe down? What’s the etiquette in this situation? Will she throw dishes at him next?”

There was silence. And then again, the croak of the cockatoo-woman, “Leaveeeee!”
This was the theatricality of the mundane. And there we all were, the players and the writer, the theatrical and the mundane – existing side by side. Watching the last embers of love die.

Ring in the changes

Hello, blogosphere-waasis,

I know you missed me terribly. I know that, in the words of some immortal Mallus (my mother usually), that you were waiting for me, kannil ena ozhichu (with oil in your eyes – isn’t Malayalam very descriptive?)

Things have changed, muchahos. I no longer live in the so-European of cities – Brussels. This is what transpired…

Sometime in the end of last year, I took stock of my life and decided that, whilst I really loved travelling, I wanted a place to call home, and a home I loved. I then decided that I would either change my job, or my home. Things fell into place, I decided I would move to Sydney and 3 weeks later, the decision was made.

So, now I live in Sydney.

And-I-saw-a-submarine-parked-in-my-backyard-bay-isn’t-that-amazeballs? Yes, I have regressed; I use the word amazeballs in a non-ironic manner. It WAS amazeballs. 

I am utterly, un-cynically in love with Sydney.  I wake up every weekend, with vague plans of what to do. These plans are usually scuppered, because all I can think of doing is curling up with a book in the park next to home and watch the million dollar yachts bobbing in the water. And of course, skip over to the Opera House to watch a show or two. And whilst there, pinch myself; because the weekend has just been perfect.

I am also utterly in love with my flat. For once, the house feels like home – it has things I love in it. (The story of how I sidled sideways into my couch will eventually be told… someday) Books, paintings, a kitchen that is big enough to use, and horrors, a home office with a chair!

have grown up. And I even bought a washing machine. 

It’s ridiculous really.

Kids say the darndest things

So, the nephew runs in my mother’s house at Mach speed, enroute stopping at the sofa to throw two cushions at me.

“Sweetie, do you want dosas? Ammachi has made the batter for you.”

“Dosaaaaa. I am SO hungry.”

My sister told him, “We need to go to the house and have lunch in an hour. So don’t eat dosas here and make ammachi cook.”

He was insistent and this went on for a while – “I want dosas. I am hungry. Ammachi, can I have some dosas?” 

So my mother made him a dosa whilst my sister took a break and went downstairs. He wolfed the first down as if a pack of wild dogs was chasing him to partake of it and went back to the kitchen for another.

Ammachi, can you give me another one before mamma comes back?” (His mother still hadn’t give him permission)

My mother’s heart, of course, melted for his innocent button eyes and she gave him another dosa. In the meanwhile, his sister was eating cupcakes.

He immediately decided he needed a cupcake. “Ammachi, can I have a cupcake? They are so yummy.”

My sister came back and my mother went to report the success of I-made-your-son-eat-food-so-hah plan. She’d, by then, seen her son munching on the cake and turned to my mother saying, “You have spoilt his appetite”

Meanwhile the scamp had decided he wanted to get out of any (prospective) trouble with his mother. “Mamma, ammachi gave me cupcakes. I don’t know why.” Again those innocent I-don’t-know-why-people-give-me-stuff eyes, just a little let-down by the fact that he was still eating the unwanted cupcake. 

Everyone laughed, which gave him a little courage. So he went downstairs to the car and told his father, “Please wait, dadda. I am having my cupcake.”

Everyone laughed again, which pleased the little clown no end. By then his cupcake was over; so he turned to my mother, raised a little finger and declaimed, “Next time, ammachi, listen to my mamma.”

This is what is known as having your cupcake and eating it. I see a bright future for him as a politician.