Trapped

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KC bid me goodbye at 6 am for his impromptu FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) trip to Mumbai for Ganesh Chaturthi. I lazed around in bed till 6.45 am when the househelp rang the doorbell. Rolled around in the empty bed some more till the cook arrived at 8.10 am.

“To go or not to go for a bath?”. The cook is fairly new so I didn’t want to leave the house all to herwhile in the bath. I waited for her to leave and rushed to the bathroom. The door clanged shut before I could think twice about it. After 15 mins, feeling squeaky clean and smelling fresh with my white bath towel draped around me, I tried to open the bathroom door. But it wouldn’t budge. The door handle had been giving trouble for the last few days and we had started leaving the door slightly ajar or pushing the door open from the outside. Getting it repaired was on the weekend To Do list.

“Fuck my life”. Of course, this had to happen. I mean, OF COURSE. I could have gone for bath when the cook was around and she could have pushed the door open. But, noooooooooo. And it had to happen on the day KC wasn’t around. And of course, his trip was very last minute. The entire universe had conspired for this moment. They never do that when am stressed at work and need a way out.

I contemplated my options. 15 mins were spent trying to pull open the handle till it came off in my hands. Well done, muscles. This is why we hit the gym. To break stuff which locks us in further. I pulled on my night shirt and decided to call for help. As a woman living in Haryana, getting rescued in a towel by a bunch of strange men in an empty house can only go one way. I noticed the small window in the bathroom and was relieved to note that it faced outdoors. The stream of fresh air helped me wave off the mild claustrophobia.

There were two options – climb down 13 floors from the window or scream for help. The former was my back up plan (if a lean Rajkummar Rao could do it in Trapped, so can I) and I screamed with all my might for the guard. It was past 9 am, the window overlooked the bathrooms of all the other apartments and they were all sealed shut. Who is at home after 9 am in Gurgaon? Probably, nobody. And my voice wouldn’t reach any guard on the ground floor. 10 mins later, the angel who lives below me ducked her head out and asked what happened. I quickly explained the situation and she called the control room for help. 10 mins later, someone rang the doorbell. “What the fuck? They need to break open the front door to rescue me”. After 10 mins of more silence, I screamed for the neighbour and explained that I was trapped in the bathroom and the front door needs to be broken.

15 mins later, there were sounds of people outside the front door. I sighed in relief and thanked the stars for not latching the outside grill door. Else, they would have to break open that door, then the wooden door and then rescue me. Thank God for small mercies.

20 mins later I was staring at the faces of 4 mildly amused men for who this would be the most entertaining tale of their lives.

Epilogue:

The guards and the complex carpenter quickly located a carpenter who could replace the front door lock and the bathroom door handle. And I took half day off from work to ensure this is done immediately. Also, thanked the neighbour below me profusely for all the help.

In the meantime, the control room had called KC for permission to break open the door and he had requested his friend to rush home for help.

KC is well known among the building guards for losing his keys frequently and calling the keymaker in the middle of the night. I had asked him to join the keymaker’s loyalty program for discounts. But this incident makes up for all his carelessness and we are now quite famous among all the guards. Well, we may have to increase our Diwali money budget for them this year. But of course, I don’t know any of their names. Because as a privileged, well earning member of society, I think money makes up for my snootiness and pretension.

 


Neighbourhood haunts

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On a relaxed evening I walked into the bookshop. There was no husband waiting at home, the cook was given the evening off, no gym to rush to, no series on Netflix left to finish.

I wasn’t there to discover new books but rather to pick up the ones on my long list. The second part of Maya Angelou’s memoir wasn’t available and the staff offered to order it by tomorrow. “That’s ok. I will read it on my kindle”; I said. But out of guilt picked up the 3rd book in the series. I am always torn between books and ebooks and keep switching between both. At any given time, am reading different books on both. Gemini, you see. Need double (and more) of everything.

I circled every aisle twice so any book screaming out to me wouldn’t get missed. Spotted a cute guy in my aisle and acknowledged his presence. In the next aisle, a woman almost collided against me. We were both moving away from the shelves and twisting in all positions to spot books in the farthest corners. “Why do people exist?”; I thought. But then she laughed and I gave her the “all is forgotten” shrug and smile.

I asked the staff for “The Brave new world” and was delighted with how quickly they located the book.

In the magazines aisle, all the health and fitness magazines had men on their covers. Why hadn’t I noticed the sexism before? Oh, look, cooking magazines for the women. No wonder print is dying.

An old man approached me with “The brave new world revisited” in his hands. “You should read this as well if you’ve picked up The Brave new world. The original was published in 1930s but this one was published in 1950s”

“Do you work here?”

“No. I love books and my house is filled with them. I was a patron of this store in Khan market when I lived in Delhi and now I frequent the Gurgaon store”.

“Thank you. I will buy the book”.

At the counter, the staff was dragging the billing because they were hoping I would pick up a book from the cash counter. Bloody buggers were right.

“Mam, should we start billing?”

“Please. Else there will be no money left to pay for essentials this month”

“Mam, you should check out these two books. They are brilliant. You will love them”

Here is a secret about me. I can’t say “No”. I will evade, ignore, lie or say ‘Yes’ and ditch. Because a ‘No’ means ‘No’ and a door once closed should never be opened again.

“Ok. I will buy one of those books. Now please finish my billing”.


Travel buddies

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Why do people travel?

  1. To explore a new destination or revisit an old one

  2. To get away from everyone and everything

  3. To pursue hobbies or adventure activities

  4. To spend more time with people they care about

Except for the last one, none of the above reasons require company. Instead, point 2 requires that you categorically travel without people.

I only travel for 1, 2 and 3. The best outcome of marriage has been having the perfect travel partner. KC and I had taken a trip to Matheran within the first month of dating. Through subsequent trips together, we have developed a certain comfort zone. Taking regular trips is a priority for both of us. He has never backed out of a trip because of work (ugh). Sure, there are places he does not want to visit (Bhutan, treks and Kaziranga national park (????)) and likes completely relaxed vacations while I like to explore everything there is to see. All our fights on vacations surround this. Over the years, we have found a balance and it works 80% of the time.

My rules for vacations (for myself):

  1. 75% of relaxation time will be spent reading

  2. Other 25% will be spent sleeping

  3. Morning runs are mandatory

  4. The destination will be explored to the fullest. None of the bullshit of spending all day in the resort and not even exploring the city

  5. Shopping isn’t a priority. It never is.

  6. Conversations will be kept to bare minimum

  7. Drugs and liqour aren’t part of my vacations

That’s it. I am quite chill that way. #notreally

The only reason I would look for someone else to travel with is if I was trying to spend more time with them. But the idea of spending 24/7 with another person who wants to talk sounds exhausting.

A vacation is about the destination or about getting away from everyone and everything.


What is love?

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Her – Do you love him?

Me- Do you love your friends?

Her- It is not the same thing.

Me- But it is. It is a relationship but we want to put it on a pedestal. Do we question ourselves everyday if we love our friends? We conclude we love them and continue to do so till a conflict arises or we drift apart. And even then the love lingers. A marriage is the same. I know how to recognize and define care, comfort, lust, friendship, trust but love? I have no idea what love feels like. Love goes from meaning everything to meaning nothing.


Personal Training – yay or nay

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When I started working out at a neighbourhood gym in 2013, the trainer would make me lift 2 kgs dumbells and work my “core” with sit ups. I discovered the Nerd Fitness blog, read all the posts and told my trainer I wouldn’t touch 2 kgs weights again. The weights kept going up and once he taught me everything he could, I switched to Fitness First. What I love about the Gurgaon branch is that none of the trainers have tried to sell their personal training to me. Instead, most of them have been very kind with their time and advice. From helping me with training plans to shooting videos of workouts before I moved to Mumbai, everything learned was for free.

Few months back, a new trainer approached me for personal training and though I was polite to him and took his number, inwardly I was annoyed.

Here is why personal training seems like a waste of money:

  • Most trainers are not well qualified. I have come across so many of them who are wrong about half of what they teach
  • Don’t need a trainer to help me get to the gym and get a workout in. I refuse to pay someone because my will power sucks
  • Don’t see the point of spending money on someone to count my reps and put the dumbbells back in their place
  • Personal trainers don’t teach clients how to workout on their own instead the objective is make them dependent
  • Am not so lonely that I need someone for small talk at the gym. Also, hate small talk at the gym. And everywhere else.
  • Trainers don’t customise their plans basis the client’s objectives. They have fixed mindsets and don’t necessarily work on the person’s weaknesses.
  • A huge part of fitness is nutrition which a trainer may or may not influence. All the time in the gym is a waste if nutrition isn’t corrected.

Let me call this trainer X. He has been observing me and my workouts. Sometimes he will ask what exercises am doing and why. Or he will correct my form. Today, he criticised my form and lack of effort. He gave me tips on the correct form for a workout and how I should focus on what my body is doing instead of the mind. He is right. I haven’t been listening to my muscles and that’s why there is no soreness. I have been drifting through the gym because my current goals aren’t very ambitious. I can take small steps to meet them and that is all the effort am putting in. He made me the pectorals workout very intense at the lowest weight and I was shocked.

This is how the conversation went.

X : Give me 45 days and I will get your body in whatever shape you want. We will work on your thighs, shoulders and waist and get you an hourglass figure

Me : I don’t care about shape and size. I want to get fit and strong. I want to get to full range full form pushups and pull ups

X : Done. Give me 45 days and I will get there

Me : Deal

Guess it is time to make ambitious goals and get some help to meet them.


Stree

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It was 2 years back in Singapore. We had our flight to Delhi early in the morning morning and decided to catch a movie in the vicinity on our last night. The Conjuring was playing in the theatres and I was excited about watching a horror movie. Being a normal human being, I was glued to the phone during the scary scenes. Am I actually supposed to watch them? Nobody told me the rules. KC got pissed off and he dragged me out of the theatre.

We did watch The Conjuring in Gurgaon with his friends and this time his friend and I were glued to our phones during the scary scenes. Since then, he refuses to accompany me for horror movies. Honestly though, I think he is scared but refuses to admit it.

Yesterday I watched Stree alone and didn’t look at my phone though I did try hiding behind a coffee cup during scary scenes. A pat on the back

All of the above is a filler for people who haven’t yet watched Stree but will scream ‘spoilers’ while reading this post.

********* START OF SPOILERS*********

  • Isn’t it wonderful that we have stories from small towns instead of the usual Mumbai and Delhi? Thanks to actors like Pankaj Tripathi, Nazwazuddin, Irfan Khan, Ayushmann Khurana, Rajkummar Rao etc etc etc, who look and talk like regular people.
  • Stree is brilliant. So brilliant that I plan to watch it again this week. Dum Laga ke Haisha is the only other movie I have watched twice in a theatre.
  • I can watch a movie which has Pankaj Tripathi playing all the roles. Like, he could be playing every character in the movie and I would watch it. He crackles in every scene here.
  • Stree is the perfect horror Bollywood comedy I have ever seen. Suitably scary with suspense and the effects don’t feel tacky.
  • The movie is about a female ghost who comes to the town 4 days in a year and any man who steps outside the house unaccompanied at night is taken away by the ghost. She only leaves his clothes behind. Pankaj Tripathi explaining this to Rajkummar Rao and his friends ‘The ghost is a female. She isn’t like us males. She doesn’t force anyone. She asks for their permission. Only when you turn back and look at her, does she consider it a “yes”. For her, only yes means yes”. A Bollywood movie talking about consent.
  • Scenes where the men are afraid to step outdoors at night are hilarious. Pankaj Tripathi “Ours is the only town in the country where the men feel unsafe at night instead of the women”.

In a gist, please go watch it.

It was the best part of my day yesterday which comprised of late morning, no-pants-day-at-home, Khan market, Perch, coffee, undisturbed reading time, Sarojini Nagar, candles shopping and lots of metro travel in the rains.


Entertaining at home is a bitch

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I hate inviting people over. I am so focused on the logistics that I can rarely relax and have a good time.

Do we have enough plates? Is everything clean? Is there enough food? Is the food hot? Is everyone comfortable? Has the food turned out ok? Etc etc etc? Try thinking of conversation topics that can interest 4 people and watch me panic.

Until last year, I had invited only 1 person over and cooked a meal for her. Because we hung out at each other’s house anyway so I wasn’t worried if something got messed up. But in the last 1 year I have made the effort to invite people home. Specially colleagues. It is a lot of effort. I don’t have a live-in househelp and would never entrust the meal to a cook. And if the plan is to order in, why not just meet at a restaurant instead for the meal? If am inviting someone over, it takes me atleast half a day to organise everything and I make sure to cook a few courses, if not all of them. Even if it isn’t perfect, it is personal. And that counts, in my books.

I invite people over when I am trying to take my relationship with them to the next level. The objective is to let them know that they are special, I care and would like to stay in touch. That I enjoy their company and treasure the good times we’ve spent together.

But entertaining at home is what I dread the most. So, when I hand out an invite “Why don’t you (and your spouse, if he/she exists) come over for a meal?”, I silently cross my fingers hoping the person will turn it down with “Sorry, we are too busy and have better things to do”. But that has never happened (HOW the hell not?). Maybe they were too polite to say so but were thinking about it in their head. And so a mutually convenient date is worked out and I clear out my schedule waiting for that weekend. I tell KC “I have invited XYZ over on Sunday for lunch so please come early from cricket”.

The house is cleaned till it gleams, there are diffusers and candles in every room, flowers in the vases, a menu decided after hours of planning in my head, food cooked without any help, snacks/beverages/liqour fit for 10 people purchased because I don’t want to run out. Like, yesterday I wasn’t sure what the teetotallers would drink so I bought buttermilk, diet Coke, regular Coke, diet Pepsi and regular Pepsi. I didn’t want someone to leave the house with feelings of disgust because they had to drink Pepsi instead of Coke. Or vice versa. But then again, would I like people who were that pedantic?

KC watches me in amusement and stays out of the way. He is very clear about the split in responsibility “You invited them over. Don’t expect me to over extend. When I invite people over, it is for video games and cricket matches and nobody cares if they are fed or not”.

I know, I know, I have turned a simple act of entertaining at home into this gamut of complications and the people accepting the invites have no idea they are entering into a venus fly trap of expectations from which there is no escape.

 


Dil se – a story of love, lust, obsession, infatuation

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Let me flip the coin and talk about SRK’s portrayal of a lover obsessed.

The kind of love that knows in that one moment. You see them for the first time and in that one conversation, something fits right. Your whole world falls in place. Every event in your life transpired so you could meet this person. Every next meeting and conversation is just a period of waiting for him to realise the same. Afterwards, you don’t remember what you talked about but you come away feeling warm on a cold winter night. You sleep wrapped in the sound of his voice. A spring in your step. A smile on your lips. Twinkle in your eyes. Everything and everyone is awesome. You have a crush. Are infatuated. In love. And it feels bloody damn good. You steal glances at him, know his schedule, find ways to bump into him everyday. Everytime you close your eyes, you can picture his lips on yours. There is magic, passion, chemistry and complete surrender. This is all you want. Forever.


20 years of Dil Se

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All the recent articles online on Dil Se inspired me to re-watch it. The movie completed 20 years and I can recall the first time I watched it when it released. It was in boarding school and some of the impressions left then echo even today.

Though you are all waiting with bated breath to read my rant about the movie, let me start with what I loved.

  • The music. It is magic. I watched the movie with subtitles and oh-my-god, the lyrics blew me away. There is more meaning in every line than a whole movie in today’s times. I can’t get “Dil Se Re” out of my mind. It will be playing on loop till my partner throws me out of the house. And then I will take shelter at a friend’s place till he/she loses patience too. Totally worth it.
  • Manisha Koirala is brilliant. She balances out SRK’s hamming and how. Such a tricky, complex character played so well. She is suitably mysterious in the 1st half and torn between love and loyalty in the 2nd half.
  • Preity Zinta is a great contrast to Manisha’s character and her feistiness is adorable. Asking the guy you are meeting for arranged marriage if he is a virgin is bold by every standard.
  • There was an article online that talked about North Indian arrogance which is complete oblivious to the minorities in far flung states in the country. Even the song Jiya Jale is significant because Preity’s character is a Mallu whose engagement is North Indian style. From a demure bride with henna she is transported to Kerala as a seductress. Wow.
  • The cast. Piyush Mishra, Aditya Srivastava, Mita Vashisht, Raghubir Yadav etc.
  • Watching SRK and Manisha argue in the last scene was my favourite. Both sides of the coin are represented and of course, there is no middle path or compromise possible.

What I absolutely hated:

  • SRK. I get it. He is happy, exuberant, optimistic to balance out Manisha’s character. But tone it down a little, dude. People have called it his best role till date but I disagree. At the same time, I can’t think of another actor who would have done justice to this role. Can you?
  • As a kid, I watched the movie surrounded by my hostel mates. Most of them were SRK’s fans and loved him in it. Even at 14/15 years of age, I knew it was infatuation/attraction and not love that SRK felt for Manisha. There is no such thing at love at first sight. Bollywood movies where the hero stalks, molests and tries to rape the actress onscreen in the name of “love” makes me cringe. “No. No. Just no. Oh god, No”; I want to scream.

Let me decode this for the men

  • No means No
  • Maybe means No
  • If you make a move and she ignores it, it means No
  • If you make a move and she starts avoiding you, it means No
  • Being forced into it means No
  • Being made to feel like she has no option means No
  • If it is half hearted it means No
  • If you have to beg/plead/threaten, it means No
  • Only Yes means Yes. A clear, resounding, leaving-no-room-for-doubt, enthusiastic Yes is the only YES.

How to get through corporate trainings

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Corporate trainings are like being a female heterosexual. If they (men) don’t exist in your life, you complain and miss them but when they do, you regret their presence. They take you away from everything else you’d rather be doing.

Here are my simple strategies to get through those trying 2-3 days, honed over hours and hours of mindfucks.

  •  Where you sit matters. Most people assume the trainer will pay attention to you if you are seated in the back. So, it’s best to sit in front. But in reality, a trainer already knows that the back benchers are least motivated and they don’t want to drain their energy trying to get them to pay attention. They leave the back benchers alone, more or less. After all, there are so many wide eyed zombies seated in the front noting down every word they speak.
  • Who you sit with matters. It is very, very important. Sometimes trainings are with a bunch of strangers and you don’t have an option. But if you follow 1, you will be seated next to like-minded people who can smell bullshit miles away. It is easier when the trainees are your colleagues and known to you. You know who to avoid like a plague.
  • Sit next to someone with a sense of humour and cynicism in life. Stay far, far, far away from those who wear a badge of success for their middle management position in the corporate. You want someone who thinks of the training days as a paid holiday and is there to chill. A perverted sense of humour will add beautifully to this combination.
  • I don’t remember the first time I did this but now it is my normal state of mind during trainings. I relate everything to sex. It is like imagining people in the audience are naked to help you get over your nervousness during public speaking. Suddenly everything sounds exciting and relatable.

“The more you give,

the more you get”

Definitely not with Indian men

Get uncomfortable”

Anal? Threesomes? 69? BDSM? 

“Empty your cup”

On the agenda as soon as I get home

  • Pre work is for losers. That is how the trainer differentiates who can easily be turned into zombies and who will be most resistant to it. The trainer will always, always give time for pre work in the training course. Do not waste your precious time over it before the session. Ever.
  • Team/Partner sessions are where you network. Networking and team bonding doesn’t happen at work. When you are asked to pair up, pick people you like to spend time with and don’t see as often as you’d like to. I walked out with a colleague ready to launch into the discussion assigned and he asked me one question “How many of your managers have spent time to coach and hand hold you?” “Zilch”. All my relationships have developed after I stopped reporting to the manager and moved out of the team. There was no need to be diplomatic anymore and I could finally be myself without restrictions. We spent the next 15 mins ranting about work and felt much better. The next time I paired up with X and we got philosophical about our personal lives. Just stuff that is more memorable than “coaching tips”.
  • Don’t answer unless you are specifically asked to. 30% of the people in the training assume the top management is gauging them through the invisibility clock and handing out marks for class participation. I am so grateful to the presence of these people on this planet who make the rest of our lives easier. I will only be picked to s