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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

hai huku hai huku haiku

life truly has put its best foot forward. i always feel this every december  - the magical month jesus and i were born ;) - well how else do you expect a saggi to talk abt how great her birth month is!?

just a few days back it was a chaotic november morning when i sat scratching my dry scalp - postured like victor hugo - for some idea to rumble down. and it did rumble and mumble - above my head. clouds snuggled up close to each other and poured down as raindrops. beautiful weather to drink hot cuppas and write poetry had me do some hai huku hai huku haikus until my friends came all armed and knocked on my door - asking me to stop haikooing or be shot between my eyes.

i will share just one of the rain-centric haikus... b4 u too run for your life or try to kill me:

dead of the night hears the rain drumming down again/ 
i listen to the song of my dancing thoughts/
wrapped in a winter warming up under my quilt

tired of gaping at the clouds, the rains and people running for cover on the streets... i soaked in the tingling warmth of soothing 'lavender bath crystals' while the molten arms of the candles dripped its warm silky wax to touch the frozen bath tiles. it must have been still raining outside as i let my songs escape in full throat. lucky me - no one was there to mess my blissful me time. after the long bath, and a warm cuppa... some violent thoughts pelted down my poor brain. it couldn't handle that chaos on a romantic day. what violent thoughts you may ask? well so violent that i rather not talk about them. but they disappear if i resort to substance abuse - i mean pure hot filter coffee here my friend. it is abuse after a few cups as they say to every coffee-holic.

"every situation in life is meant to be solved," said a wise friend. like 12 cups can be cut down to 4!!!

today a random chat invoked some belly dance tunes. i put on the music and swayed instead of stretching to tear up yogic postures. mid day workouts help keep fit, rather keep spondylitis away for good. this also helps clear the head if you think you have had too much coffee already.

i am not a yogi (spiritually well-disciplined to seek higher wisdom). i am a bhogi (one who loves to enjoy life). no matter how close i get to spiritualism it bugs me when i can't have my dance going on. i am torn between the usual - discipline-ness and randomness. discipline helps me be the perfect person everyone loves and randomness just pulls the plug out! such is life.

i cant but get rid of the odds [obsessive compulsive disorders] of keeping things in order. am glad the month of november saw less of the tidying up cos i was at my random best. until something shook me up from deep below - buried in the depth of my consciousness - a guilty thought - of breaking a promise made to healthy living. aah! just that ntn else if you may think what the drama was leading to. it is the extra coffees that keep me wide awake. my friends have begun to call me an owl... not just for facial resemblance with the nocturnal being.

i am not ready to believe yet that 'giving up' is the way to be. i want to hold on to some few things i cherish from the past. like the rain memories. the filter coffee. winter mornings. long chats with friends. cuddling under the quilt way after day break. reading random books.

this morning i also came across another wonderful concept of 'emotional cuddling'. it was on somebody's fb status update. having been a dog lover all my life i can understand this 'cuddly aspect' more than any other form of physical proximity or gesture to care. i agree that emotional cuddling [not mollycoddling] is what fastens us to those people who love us. what a beautiful thought it is. very randomly perfect for the saggi me.

though i wish to, i really cannot blog about my recent interviews. i will tell you quickly why. first of all i don't think that it matters what i think abt it once it is out in the public. secondly, like a friend pointed out i may end up 'stuttering and muttering - these media people'. they have carried much nonsense about me. made me sound like some flossy abu dhabian socialite. they who? some concierge magazine.

except for that one interview all others are not so bad and are on my website [i.e. if my bangalore team has opened their mails].

note for irritating buggers: for those who like to pretend you have no clue on what am up to these days... or if u think i am getting way too much exposure/money for any [humble] artist... or if u think my blog is doing (an undercover) PR for myself - u bet u r bloody rt! but why undercover my bugger friend? it may be so for you but i am a true saggi - honestly honest, proud of who i am and very randomly busy doing what i love to whether you like/approve it or not.

note for my loving darlings: i know, you know how much i love you, whether i write that out or miss saying that when we catchup. thanks for being there always. hugs for helping me stay as good as i am.

Monday, 19 November 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 8: From Dilli to Mumbai]

R&D at Amrita Institute for Sciences seemed to have found some herbal formula for aids. It needed a TVC (television campaign).

Shot 1: Fingers crossed. Text on global aids statistics. Shot 2: Fingers open. Text on miracles of science. Shot 3. Green ribbon. Branding – logo and text.

The 50-sec aids awareness campaign was shot with the help of a hand model – at the end of my right arm; voiced over by Rini Khanna of DoorDarshan news reading fame. It was the first ad film – researched, scripted and directed by RD.

Everlasting Media’s production house got busier with the elections. Movie maker Shyamaprasad was flown in from down south to hear my script on ‘India shining’ promo. It had a futuristic/hi-tech story line - a software engineering student video chatting with her parents in the village. [In the previous decade video-chat was still futuristic]

The Lok Sabha Elections kept Mishraji very busy. He wanted his creative team [me] to help him with pre and post poll analysis long after work hours at his home [cum party meeting office] in Janpath. Thank you Yashwant Deshmukhji for your wonderful humour – that helped your team [and me] stay awake in the dead of the night reading horribly boring election data. It was while travelling to C-Voters’ huddled in a West Delhi flat, Mishraji’s house cum party office in Parliament Street and the production houses in Green Park, that I got a chance to ask myself what the hell I was doing.

Everlasting Media thus did not last too long. Janpath's khadi-clad poll potentials flashing their pan-stained teeth is not comfortable sight too long… even though you pretend to be a tom-boy it wears off when they kharrrr and phuaaat into the street-side nalah. I returned their namastejis [greetings] and quickly thought of a politically correct good bye to Mishraji and his pan-chomping brigade. ‘Sir my parents have found a groom for me so I must go to get married. Please give me your blessings.’ [Palms together like in prayer].

Every night I narrated the day’s story to my YWCA room mates and they laughed their lungs out. I almost believed I may have a parallel career in stand-up comedy. I loved that attention though my audience were just a handful of tiered-of-the-long-day eyes.

May be because I never asked for help, they all did. I mean my roomies. Why should they bother to look for a job for me otherwise?

An event organiser wanted ‘an enthusiastic journalist’ to join as their brand manager. Meaning to know what they expect of me I asked a lot more questions than Mr Boss had for me. Never knew before that if you ask questions at a job interview, you actually get the job.

When you are just about 23, and if you happen to spot Brand Manager on your visiting card, it puts a smile on your face like you have won the Oscars. But soon the smile turned upside down, so did my world, as the job took me away from [my] Dilli to faraway Mumbai.

At's Vashi office I could decide not just their website content and campaigns but also execute it the way I wished to - liaising with ad agencies. Power comes with some amount of freedom from everything except an honest social life. I was enjoying it anyway. I had an 8-member content team to ask for help [but they had full plates already]. I was here, there and everywhere - launching live reports and photos online from industry event's at Goregaon through my laptop and Reliance phone connection. I could not miss product launches and breakthrough deals at the various stands or the expert's industry forecast at the seminars. Some colleagues felt that with each road show to the event I was growing skinnier. Skinny is not a complement when you are already skinny.

While I attended business lunches in crisp business suits [borrowed from my MBA friends] and presented the company’s plans on PowerPoints, the family of Mr Boss, Mrs Boss and two kid Bosses socialised to find more industry partners/money/ideas. I ‘also’ got to fly all around the country – from Amritsar to Chennai - to conduct road shows, to announce the coming of the company’s new baby – Indian Converting Show 2002 [no background scores only clap-clap by team members seated strategically among the audience].

While in Mumbai after work – I ‘also’ got to do a diploma from SIES School of Packaging Packaging Technology Centre sponsored by the company [so that I ask intelligent questions to makers of Heidelberg and the like].

Lot of learning and running around there in a short time. 6 months sprinted off like a weekend short of a weekend. I was ‘also’ their highest paid employee. Mrs Boss said that many times in my absence that it reached me via grapevine as ‘also’ intended. Why? Because I must not leave on a personal vacation because they were already lining up so many travels anyway for me.

The company was ‘also’ a regular at Messe-Frankfurt’s fairs in Europe and was later on bought over by another global conglomerate in the events industry. All poorly paid skeletal staff were retained while Mr and Mrs Boss took a tour to Europe to taste the finest wines after their pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi – says grapevine.

Thank you Anil Arora for loving/accepting Bee-Pasha [the hardworking honeybee] as your mascot for India Converting Show. [It is another story that a lot of companies thought Bollywood’s hottie Bipasha was at the event.]

Donno if it was Mumbai’s masala, magic or madness… but I am glad it did rain to only make me dance in it.

Happy old couples by the beach inspired me to think of what true love must be like.

to be continued…

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Chapter 10: The long way back home

Chapter 11: Radio Killed The Video Star

Sunday, 28 October 2012

hamster on a wheel

today was one of the most overwhelming days, in years.

i had many things to do and an unusual mental block to prioritise.

at 10am i had 7 emails that demanded responses asap.

replied one after the other and got up to drink water. the clock showed 3pm.

had 3 more mails to go.

realized i hadn eaten. rushed to the kitchen to cook up a late brunch. nothing burnt - i thought.

but i had.

my head was spinning. quickly whipped up horlicks in hot water and gulped it down. felt energetic like they show in its ad… and got chopping and cooking.

this is not the first time. i love to prove hunger wrong. it’s weird - i know.

but among the many things i am forced to accept there are a few things i like to hold on like a headless person. like, to not eat on time.

and how does this matter anyone else anyway?

it does. cos when i am weak i am a mess. thoughts run wild.

most of all the war and truce happens inside the bluvian cranium.

i am programmed to not give up. perhaps i was a hamster on a wheel in my last life.

at 7pm i was on the 7th mail.

happier though tired.

after sending it i checked the inbox to find 3 follow up mails waiting.

i have nothing to say at this point.

than find out why i am here where i am.

isn’t this what i always wanted to do?

no. not really.

don't i want to create the many images i have been waiting to spill out?

when i am tiered with the coordination i am a monster.

a horrible one who is not an artist but someone whom i rather not mention.

weak, terrible, emaciated of ideas, holding on to forsaken memories that haunt. a wet mouse in a dark dungeon.

but tks to years of corporate nurturing. i make a good escape via e-mail communication. all that needs to be said for the sake of covering the b-side will be done on time even if i have to hold my bladder for another few minutes before the idea runs dry.

i think i need an agent's help though it may take some more time for my art to earn another person's salary.

but then i correct myself saying that i have taken this break to work for myself. i must invent ideas to help this situation. what is the use of all the creativity if i cant find a creative solution to this mess.

it’s 9pm. way past dinner time. i am done with the mailing.

ntn more to pen

ps: i haven't thanked my dear friends for their patience today... and am glad at the end of the day i can skip all that corporate learning with a few.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

13 Until I die! [Chapter 7: Hop, Skip and a Jump]

The turn of the century saw venture capitalists in the country and the resultant dot com boom. Electronic media was hiring ‘new blood’ because experienced journos were asking too many questions. Journalists unanimously hated this new change - swiping into newsrooms. And despised corporate arm twisting or IT-enabled human resource interference that recorded man hours etc. Newsroom corridors echoed - ‘Now they are gona keep track of our chai and sutta (tea and cigarette) breaks too.’ Press Club’s bar tender sold extra drinks while everyone else cursed in chorus - ‘this IT revolution won’t work for creative man-power’.

A picture from an old album of friends - YMCA's journalism classmates. To my left is Basharat Peer - though born few years apart we share the same birthday on December 16. He is a successful author today. To my right are Paromita Ghosh and Tessy Koshy, we used to hangout together at the canteen after work and before class. Am not in touch with anyone in this picture except for Tessy for a while after she moved to the UAE.
Unlike many experienced print-journos those days I had fewer questions to ask the hiring dotcoms. A hostel mate tipped off a vacancy and I joined’s small team in 2002. The website nourished a host of other websites including Yahoo! and with news/features feeds. The company was led by Rajesh Kalra, a seasoned print journalist. He is one man with so much energy - you can draw as much power required to probably light the whole of Gurgaon by just staying around him. His fav line - aho dasso [come and sit, in Punjabi].

I stayed on with narad for an year drawing the positive power and conducting live chats - first of its kind then - with everyone who made headlines. The process helped me learn finer tips to have a good conversation going. I also started following interviews and chat shows/talk shows on TV. And this habit has stayed on.

And then afaqs! happened when it was just the right time to move on from moderating live chats. Afaqs! (‘First Indian portal on Advertising and Marketing’) put me right on the pulse of ‘what moved the buck’ in the media business. Here I was mostly watching TVCs (television commercials)... reviewing or rewriting story boards, collecting public opinion and updating content on the home page. I learnt almost everything about a new monster – the back end of a huge website. Swati Roy, my then boss, an expert method finder to any madness, proved that one could do salsa even while clad a crisp-cotton-saree. Ok - that was metaphoric. By salsa, I mean dance through any issue. She also proved that a lady boss can be a good friend.

An year at afaqs! was good. Soon a competitor [Exchange4Media] offered a similar job. The job interview was barely one. They were just crosschecking back end facts of afaqs! I wasn’t sure if they wanted anything else from me. Of course, I did not work with them. By now I started loving interviews – it was an opportunity to meet new people whether or not the job came through.

Aimless wandering through Cannought Place (CP) had me walk in to an old colleague who saw dot coms bursting soon and suggested that I should rather look at TV as that was the next best place. A newspaper ad caught my attention. 'We are looking for young journalists who can create public awareness campaigns and interesting audio-visual stories for the masses. If you think you have it in you, call us.' I called.

I was called back for a written test.

I met Deenanath Mishra [a dhoti-clad, pan-chomping senior political commentator, and member of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's inner circle]. He liked my written test. The write up was my take on realty in New Delhi – an old report written for UNI [but never published]. I was offered a Creative Concept Writer’s job at Everlasting Media Pvt Limited, its office was in a posh commercial tower in the heart of the capital.

Mishraji was interested in everything that could enable ‘mass communication’ before the next elections.

[And RD now stood for Research & Development!]

... to be continued

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Pullu I Love You

I have just realized that my biggest fan on earth is my maternal grandma. Before I finish that story in one line. Let me tell a little about her.

Hale and hearty, she lives in Punalur, a town in south of Kerala. We grandchildren call her Punalur amma and the whole town also calls her so. The name has modified versions too - Pulloorma, Pulma, Pullu, Puls. Just how my pet name Babloo has its variants in Babulu, Bubbles, Ballu, Bals, Blu.

Her other name is Susheela Ramachandran. That name was given by Pulpa after their wedding. [Pulpa is grandpa – no points for guessing!]. He was the family nomenclature expert for he named almost everyone [and his son found it very entertaining to give nicknames].

Perhaps because I was the first born in the family, Pullu was completely hands on in bringing me up during my early years while my mother was busy making sense of her life and career. I was Pullu’s ‘golden doll with eyes like black grapes and a head full of soft curls’ - as she puts it.

Photo caption: Pullu with little Blu.

As a baby, every morning before giving me a bath, Pullu used to massage me with fresh home churned butter and used to force-feed me a secret recipe of herbs ground along with pure gold. ‘That is why you have good skin like mine,’ she had no issues pointing to her button-less belly behind the saree as she said that line each time. Button-less, because of an operation years back to fix umbilical hernia .

Force feeding was her second nature just like spitting out was my first. Hiding under the bed was not easy with Fanny [pet Alsatian] alive those days. I learnt to climb over the shelves to keep off everyone during meal hours.

But she had her ways. She would mimic an imaginary cat wrapped under her saree folds and have me down in curiosity. Her grip was strong like Dracula's and her legs held me tight between her saree folds. That is how the eating ceremony began. To have the pursed mouth open she made up stories with interactive interludes like 'when the parrot came you know what happened?' Ask 'what?' and a blob of food was slipped in. The blob was deposited in the hollow of the cheek until the excitement in the story fully distracted the brat… to chewing without realizing the lost battle. I sort of remember little bits of these episodes because for a very long time I did not eat food willingly.

I still wonder how she never ran out of stories. Perhaps necessity is the mother of all invention as they say. I remember the story of two cockroaches - a mom and baby duo - and their adventures in the pantry while the family was busy doing other things. The baby cockroach had a name too - Omanapatta [translates to cockroach, the dear one]. Pullu's stories had me eat my meals that I would have never had otherwise. After each meal-time drill she was so exhausted that only small naps could fix.

The reason I write this post is because yesterday, after ages, I wore a strapless dress. Of all the compliments I received I was touched to know that Pullu was so proud to see me fit. ‘Pullu is in her happiness unbound mode after seeing your recent pic’ – said mother.

My grandma is not the sober sort but her 'happiness unbound mode' means she would smile with her heart and be her chirpiest best to everyone who paid a visit. From the part-time help to our late watchman Kuttan Pillai’s family members who visit her once a while to collect spare change... will be updated on me and if they are lucky... will once again be told of the stories when I was little.

Don’t know if it’s a changed lifestyle these days or just plain dedication to yoga that I look and feel better nowadays. Whatever it is… it’s simply fantastic. Especially when you have a grandma who loves to sport you in a strapless what more can you ask for ;).

PS: Thank you for following my debut novelog '13 Until I Die'. Next post will have Chapter 7.

Monday, 3 September 2012

13 Until I Die [Chapter 6: Nobody's Children]

Playing safe was an unknown. What came next threw me off guard in ways never before.

The urchins in the street were exchanging unthinkable gaalis (abusive words) for their age. They followed me from the turn of the YWCA hostel to Bangla Sahib gurudwara's holy pond, my regular place to look for peace.

Thoughts on future were as good as vision without glasses. I stopped wearing the contact lens to save up on ReNu solution spends. Leaving UNI without finding another job was not the best thing to do. But it helped me understand what risk felt like in the grown up world's stomach. The previous month’s salary was my only backup.

While walking back to the hostel I decided not to give away spare coins to anyone - not to these abusive/ill-mannered urchins - I thought.

But they have their ways. "Didi kinni sundar lag rahi hai panch rupaye de na" [Sister you look so pretty please give five rupees]. The five rupee was given to the six-year-old who's smile reminded me of my youngest sister. "Didi fikar mat karo tumhe tumhara dulha raja bahut khuss rakhega. Sirf paanch dogi?" [Sister don't worry your prince will keep you very happy. You will give only 5?] said another. Naughty giggles followed me until the turn to the hostel.

At the hostel’s reception, once again I heard Mrs Varghese, the matron, storming at someone. “This is a hostel for working women… [Blah! Blah!] I have so many girls in the waiting list to get an entrée here [Blah! Blah!] … it’s against our principles to house the unemployed [Blah! Blah!].” I did not wait to hear the whole wretched sermon. I hurried back into my hole - dormitory I mean.

With each dorm mate leaving for work during the day the room of 6 was a dead place by 9am. One of my roomies worked at a call centre. She dragged her sleepy self into the room each day at 11ish to pull the curtains and crash. The sweeper was punctual at 12pm to do her usual stuff in a hurry. A curtained room was depressing and it added drama to my not-so-happening days.

I had to get out.

With my camera I walked nearby streets to take random pictures of regular things around. My fan club of street urchins loved to pose. I found a new pace to walk... unhurriedly to wander and stop anywhere I felt like. A camera or a mobile can make you feel less lonely and give more purpose on a damn useless day otherwise. Tan was just a plus you notice when you remove the bandanna - the gradation acquired each passing day was testimonial to my ambling ways.

Global March Against Child Labour team of friends and co-workers
When the heat was unbearable Standard Restaurant at the Regal Cinema building was the best place to hide. It gave the best view of the grass-scaped mountains that hid the underground Palika Bazaar [those were pre-Metro Rail days]. Standard’s ice lemon tea was my best quencher - it was cheaper than DeePaul’s cold coffee. At Standard no one was in a hurry. The waiters never drop hints that your time is up. It was heaven. Especially if it was raining outside and I got that favourite corner seat next to the window to savour the petrichor along with the drink. I wrote poems on their paper napkins and tucked em in my jeans pocket [to be found seasons later as papier-mâché].

Another nearby cheap haunt was this internet café with 100s of PCs in Paharganj. The locality was popular for cheap lodges, budget travellers and its streets full of noisy urchins. I came here to surf for jobs. A freelance feature agency WFS [women’s feature services] had emailed back approving my story idea on the ‘world wide web for women’.

PS: Payments will reach as DD on your provided address 10 days after the publication.

That was good news!

I bought two packet of jalebies. One for the boy who served them and the other for a beggar boy who followed me to the halwai. Fresh jalebies can make anyone happy.

Days passed by and my reserve was dwindling. I had begun to eat meals from the hostel’s mess to not give into sporadic thirst attacks near Standard Restaurant. I stopped tipping the urchins as often and they started giving me gaalis and broke into street raps stolen from Bollywood to have me entertained anyway.

The mess attendant Mr George used to save me a ‘kerala banana’ if I overslept and missed the breakfast deadline at 8am. Somedays food did not matter.

No matter how much you think you are living an invisible life that is not true.

The matron called for me. The storm was coming in pure convent-bred English with the right punctuations.

“Dear Miss [comma] can you please explain [comma] what keeps you busy these days [question mark with one eye brow higher than the other]” I replied in a wave of probable-escape-answers – “I am joining an NGO against child labour next week… was supposed to join last week.” As she never smiled, we girls never saw her other face(s) – “But why didn’t you let me know you don’t have a job [question mark]” The probable wave continued – “I did not know it would take this long. I am following up. By the way I am also freelancing.” She made a hate face while nodding in disapproval. I did not apologize as that was what was expected. I had a problem with people who intimidate you with their expectations. But I don't blame her - she had two grown up girls about my age and must have been fed up of hearing probable-escape-answers. “This is a hostel for working women… [Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!] The sermon was the same – she couldn't hold the punctuations after the first two lines - she completely lost it when I did not apologize [or hang my head down in shame]. Well-built for a woman - I thought while she stormed. Distractions rescued me always and kept me saner in such situations. For that flash of a second I saw my mother and my school principal rolled into one. I left her office as guiltily as not having done the maths homework in the 7th grade. The eavesdroppers outside the office hurried their feet back to their holes before I could see who was who. Myopia had me since sixth grade anyway.

Actually my NGO story was not completely cock and bull.

Once while eating out at a dhaba (highway eating joint) where they had employed children to serve, I wanted to talk to the little fellows but was not allowed to do so by the owner [he thought am some NGO spy]. I expressed my concerns for those faceless children who cleaned his tables and he laughed offering me a free masala pan... in other words asked me to get lost. The friend who was with me asked me to keep off these dhaba-walahs and gave me a low down on many NGOs in the city working against child labour. He suggested that I could join anyone of them till I get a good job.

I joined Global March Against Child Labour. It was a no-pay voluntary writing post. I asked for some basic remunerations and they agreed. It was just enough to cover YWCA’s rent and food. The job was to collect stories for the NGO’s official magazine that went to the UN. The team travelled to Alwar in Rajasthan where rescued children from all over the country were housed. Gruelling stories rooted in religious evils to poverty to cold-blooded greed – had children stolen from their legitimate childhood. Only few stories could go into the magazine as other pages had to talk about the NGO itself.

The magazine was out in 3 months – in print as well as online. It was time to move on.

When earnings drop you learn to get over claustrophobia. It brings you closer to the ground realities. I learnt to hop-skip-jump into DTC buses and slap men who deserved it.

I left the hostel temporarily to 'come back later with a job' as the matron suggested. I still think that Mrs Varghese was fond of me though I was acting smart the other day.

My school friend Amita Gupta housed me for a month until my next job. The first DD from WFS threw me into ecstasy like no other pay cheque so far. It kept me afloat till I found another place to work.

It was the beginning of the dot com boom and my next job simply wooed me over. I will tell you why.

In between all this there was something else also going on... a special chat friend those days proposed to marry me. Spinning me into weird thoughts - from 'do I look marriageable enough' to 'should I marry'.

More later...

... to be continued

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

sunny moon

please don’t ask me why the post is titled so.

there is no typo.

and of course there is no 'sunny mon' [mon = boy, malayalam slang] in my life… btw i may be wrong but i have noticed that people invent unique names for human beings [and pets alike]. i need to blog about this later for sure.

this post is here because one day the egg decided to fall off from its shell like this! ;)

an abstract sunny-side-up… a moon-shaped egg bull’s-eye to go with the breakfast toast! how did the egg know it was eid that very day?

is it a cool sign of times to come – abstract joys of free/random thoughts. a for abundance. a for art. b for blu and b for blu again.

the month of ramadan is over. trust it was a happy eid for all. for me it was the most amazing month. it was after all my first month of ‘being blu’ = completely free to be as random as bluvian thoughts and actions could get…

i have learnt some things... and would like to revise em along with you [rather shout em out in private - well that is what blogs are meant for anyway]

1. if there is no regime nothing gets done.

2. weekend fascination has not gone any where even though i complete over a month away from the 8 to 6 work schedule. its a happy thought around more freedom - so am keeping it [the feel] as intact as meant to be.

3. creativity and freedom are elusive to most people. accept this... than get worked up on each seemingly irritating question. the truth is that most quiz masters are prisoners [of attitudes - that make em think u r silly and make u think how horrible they are and visa versa].

5. you need to serve and not satisfy these prisoners. including yourself. dont bother finding answers for anyone esle other than yourself... and you need not always share all those grt answers with the whole worried world that cannot comprehend your reasons. this is completely acceptable in the mature world.

6. quality time can only be experienced when you are at peace with yourself – doing nothing in particular. you can also call it mediation.

7. my me-time was found while relaxing during post workout yog-nidra [google to know more abt this… experts elaborate the science of the cause and effect fundas that happen in our body/mind better]

8. point 1 will challenge point 7 but that is the whole challenge that comes along with freedom.

9. peace is not elusive it is just seated deep within – look… keep looking… remind self to look again when lost.

10. cooking great foods must be to share with friends or prepare to look inflated.

11. baking is just an urge you get used to when your first cake comes out bouncing soft-soft.

12. there is nothing absolutely that the hotel chef/patissier can dish up and you cannot – youtube zindabad!

13. btw i have discovered my source of bliss… it is in creating/finding/sharing enjoyable art/food/time… with everyone including family and friends.

14. its amazing to attend to home garden – the green patch kinda grows on you.

15. no house is large enough to keep clean. 30 mins for each corner a day – works very well. this OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) i will keep cos oddly the clutter goes straight into my head - may be because i am claustrophobic.

16. its amazing to know that you can make so many things at home - in your kitchen other than foods – like green cleaning solutions, packs and scrubs… etc.

17. light dinner/skipping late dinner keeps the scales almost in control but not possible if you hit bed late. luckily scales are stable so far. but am worried cos i love this late night reading and consequent fridge raids.

18. the good news is that this time (for the past one month) i have exercised the freedom to change a few pending things about me – like emotionally detaching from attention seekers… who come by to play a game of football with their opinions. this saves a lot of time and energy.

19. freedom is like an untamed horse – it will prance around and keep you entertained even when you may not have the time for it.

20. and nothing like making time while you have no time at all.

PS: this post does not have details on my art event at yas island that happened during this month. updates are there on my facebook open group 'bluart' and more details will soon show on the next post will feature the ongoing novelog ‘13 Until I Die’. thanks for all the feedback... they help a great deal :)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 5: Wings of Fire]

Have you experienced your alter ego break into Cuban salsa? This happens usually when you think you have arrived. My first time was in the winters of 2001 at Delhi Press Club @ Raisina Road - a place where you flash your teeth along with your press id card to those who doubted your age/eligibility to procure good food for less.

You get better story leads at the Press Club than most other places in the city. It is also a place where you - cannot avoid flirty senior journalists; fumble for the right words when you meet your favourite writers; bump into random drunkards like in Charlie Chaplin movies; find happy socialites who give free passes to events in the capital or get stuck up with chain smokers who hate everything from the politicians in the parliament to the next door pan walah and care little about the passive smoke you badly hate about them.

In his public speaking voice Samuel Baid sir (my mentor and then director of Centre for Mass Media New Delhi) announced ‘meet RD my friends – a promising talent’. His friends seemed to have read my stories. My cheeks burnt. Heart jumped out like Jim Carrey’s in the movie, Mask. They asked ‘what this RD stood for’. I was only too happy to explain that the alphabets R&D came from my mother's name (Devika Rani)... and dance in the limelight – a Saggitarian delight [chickchickyboom chickchickyboom chickchickyboom].

My dancing ego wanted bigger things. I wanted to go to war-torn Kashmir for a special story on ISI agents or uncover illegitimate money laundering in the prime minister’s office or find something unbelievable undercover in the stock market that could probably topple the government. I had just finished reading Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam.

I entered my raving 20s in style.

My nose for news flared at non-newsy city assignments. I worked extra to find special stories.

Once while staying later than usual somebody dropped these words over my shoulder at the UNI canteen ‘we have not been flattening papads all the while to get here… you need experience kid’. I looked back to the voice. There was a group of ‘no ones in particular’ – few cap and muffler-clad seniors. Dressed like terrorists they looked dramatic under the neon bulb of the canteen and behind the rising fumes of the gas stove that kept everyone warm. Wonder how flattening papads get you what you want? – I pitied aloud! The canteen walah loved the joke. As always he nodded his head in dissaproval even though he was smiling. The terrorists huddled/sniggered/disappeared into the shadows to die meeting their deadlines.

The cold war had begun. Colder than the sub zero chills in the capital.

My stories were being cooped/followed/developed by veterans/seniors [those faceless terrorists!] whom I have forgiven... and names forgotten. No one thought it is important that you know your story is stolen – after all you are just ‘a young thing’ [an insignificant fly on the wall… who must attend the opening of some stupid saloon or suffer a spat! Or better still flatten papads…]

Spotting nepotism ‘too early’ is a good thing. Thank you Sumit Nagpal sir (then Sr Business correspondent at UNI) for telling me to live in the moment and enjoy it than being caught up thinking about the future ‘too early’.

‘Too early’? In my head I was as good as one should be in 20s - utterly disgusted with the 'system'- but not ready to hyper ventilate resorting to usual ways via booze or smoke... and make my silly days sillier. I had plenty of good friends who knew the stories but only one very close friend who guarded my secret decisions - self!

I could now afford to miss my peaceful news editor – Nandakumar Varma – who painstakingly necked out of his neck-collar to modify each sentence while his favourite food - ice-cold upma and coffee - got colder by his side.

My puzzled classmates poured the same questions over cold coffee at Dee Pauls - ‘RD you are leaving UNI also!?’ etc. Cold coffees taste amazing in winters too. Similar to eating icecreams in the rain.

It was quick. I knew it was time to get out of UNI. I did not wait for the ‘honeymoon period’ to get over. On my last assignment there, I covered the launch of a new training institute by a new cosmetic brand Biotique. The shop gave me a fat press kit full of goodies that I accepted guiltily for my girl friends. [I like Biotique’s ‘Flame of the forest’ hair oil till date].

My roomies were attentive to my adventures of the day [chickchickyboom chickchikyboom chickchickyboom].

Roomies 322

Brian Adams sang Summer of 69 all winters until someone changed the cassette to Khalid’s Arabic album with Didi o didi o didi number. These were old albums - anything could entertain us in room no 322 @ YWCA. Dancing helped few of us to beat the chill in the non-heated hostel dorm.

A Press Club birdie tells me that the very soft-spoken Varma sir continues to be the news editor at the UNI head office in Parliament Street. Great news! Must visit him someday before either of us are history.

I miss winters in Dilli. [Dubai its high time you took some hints! ;)]

… to be continued.

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Monday, 30 July 2012

chappatti goring

previous night's chapattis with a makeover result in this amazing dish called chappatti goring. i would like to believe that this dish gets the name because it is made from chappattis that 'go' a long way!

 this is a wonderfully easy recipe for a lazy day... i simply love it.

the name is chapatti goring. not goreng with an 'e'- that would mean fried rice in malaysia or indonesia.

it is my favourite breakfast if there happens to be leftover chappattis from previous night. the dish is very simple yet versatile. it can be made nutritious with a little imagination. and can be made in no time.

let me share both the original and the improvised versions here.

original ingredients: 2 chopped chapattis [use left over from previous meal], 2 tbsp chopped onions, 2 chopped green chillies, 1 egg, 1 tsp oil, salt to taste.

original method: saute onions until they are pink, add green chillies, break and egg, add salt, add chapatti and stir fry all the ingredients. serve hot. you can eat it with coconut chutney powder [it is an enjoyable combination if you keep aside the thoughts on how healthy it must be ;)].

i have given some healthy tweaks to this wonderful recipe and have got 7 different variation of gorings over the last few weeks. trust me i love each one of them. keeping the common ingredients as chapatti and egg, try adding various vegetables.

here is the recipe of my favourite chappathi goring that i had this morning.

ingredients: 1 chapatti, 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped green chilli, 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, 1 egg, a pinch of garam masala, 1/2 tsp of virgin olive oil, salt to taste.

method: saute tomatoes until water disappears and they gleam in the oil, add chillies, egg, garam masala, salt, coriander leaves... mix and add chopped chapattis. saute.

[skip the chutney powder and serve hot... with a smile ;)]

ps: if in case you are wondering what happened to the chapters of the novelog '13 Until I Die'... let me please assure you they are right behind. and one more thing. my paintings are showing at radisson blu yas island all this ramadan, until August 20, 2012. these days event related work and travel keep me a bit distracted in learning new things all the time - so i think i can skip a 'sorry for the delay in my posts'. am also writing something interesting on my coffee on canvas paintings and it will soon show on stay tuned!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 4: The Blue Bedspread]

The commercialisation of the media in India's Mecca of journalism, New Delhi, was a cause for worry to many.

I dreaded the thought of buzzing around Page 3 glitterati for a quote! The reason being, I did not grow up watching a lot of TV and could not relate to the joys of ‘an opportunity to know stars closer’ [neither did I  appreciate free booze and gourmet kababs!]. How papers sell an opening when they are in a hiring spree is absolutely amazing! Unfortunately I had to leave the city's two leading papers despite the offer... I thought a news journalist had no job at the city's party scenes.


Here is that story...

In the early 21st century a well-dressed journalist was probably as strange as an ill dressed diplomat. Those days TOI (Times of India, a popular newspaper in India) and HT (Hindustan Times, another popular newspaper in India) were poaching for new blood to brighten their newly launched all-colour ‘city’ pages. They picked a few of us from the Centre for Mass Media during one of the placement sessions [I was already working for UNI but was keen to know how different a paper's newsroom was like].

Thank you Sourish Bhattacharya (then MD and Editor of HT City) for having thought of me as ‘someone who must cover the city’s party scenes for page 3’ because I ‘appear’ different. Had you not said that in the first meeting I would have got worried thinking what on earth I did to be asked to cover the parties in Dilli. You actually solved that dilemma before it began. And it was easy for me to leave (HT) after a week in your office. [I absorbed the newsroom ambiance - noted that no one thought it was important to smile or greet strangers - and I thought they liked it being really sad].

In just a few weeks this episode repeated in TOI when they picked a few of us again from the campus. Like an idiot, I was happy to share the news 'TOI asked me to come from tomorrow!' But this time I asked if there is 'an opening in another beat than parties'. The city editor stopped pouring through the papers on his desk. Looked up from above his reading glasses to take a good look at me... and made a few calls [while making rangoli designs with his red pen]. He asked me to wait [making a lotus bud mudra].

And I was waiting, sitting, waiting, reading at various desks he asked me to perch on each day. On the fourth day of waiting I finished reading The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha... at the then new 'careers' desk (supplements). The desk had an identity crisis whether it belonged to ET or TOI [I overheard some writers mumbling that at the Press Club].

The editor was clearly torn between many upcoming sections. I was waiting and he was busy... [to even introduce himself!]. He didn't seem to know what he could get out of me despite having gone through my UNI stories in the folder [I hope he did!].

'Oh! I need to brief you... just catch me when you see me next' [and then disappeared only after a few hours to show the lotus bud mudra and disappear again - this happened all day long]. After the 5th day of sitting, waiting, and starting on my second fiction at TOI [and nodding OK to the lotus bud mudras] ... I picked up my folder from his desk. Walked up to him while he was arguing with a colleague who let pass a misprint.

'Excuse me please... just want to say good bye.' And we shook hands for the first and the last time. I smiled at him and the colleague who looked worried. They looked puzzled [like the rest of the newsroom, had forgotten to smile].

And I disappeared. The ed threw a 'bye' back when I was almost out of the floor [he probably thought I left for the day]. I never returned to sit, wait and read fiction at TOI newsroom. No one was sent searching for me [he probably didn't know my name. I didn't know his name either. I did not turn back to see the lotus bud mudra another time].

Meanwhile at work in UNI, I was misunderstood to have liked being sent to cover boutique launches or saloon openings may be because I 'appear' the sort. 'So what did they tell you at the city desk?' [now you know why I called my self an idiot]. The news had reached the agency [and I thought nobody cared if I existed].

I was keen to know what moved the buck. Business beat, if possible - I told my friends. 'You refused both HT and TOI?' 'Who do you think you are RD?,' my PG friends looked worried over their cold coffees at Dee Pauls in Janpath. One of us was already busy covering the party circles in the city [and was the new rising star in the group as he had free passes and a new benevolent PR contact who always dropped these 2 lines in quick succession - 'come and have fun, all foreign brands are flowing free all night' 'and girls... I will myself drop you safe to your homes after the event so no issues ok?'].

I could never explain to my friends why I was reserving my byline for news stories... it would have offended those who felt proud covering the parties. I did not want to mess up anything - not my coffee time!

to be continued...

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

beautiful new morning

the though was to hold back all regular blog posts till i completed the decided chapters in the novelog. guess that is not necessary. especially when i have had this beautiful new morning today!

yes absolutely new and amazing. here is how it was.

it's the first morning i have made a wholesome breakfast all for myself and read newspapers while having it... with virgin radio playing in the backdrop. it is really an amazing feeling. simple things hold so much in them. inexplicable!

why have i never made a meal for myself when am all by myself? why did i grab anything from the fridge and have never bothered to cook fresh for myself? while am i all enthused to cook for anyone else who is there for a meal even if i may not be up to it some days? why do i not think i am important enough to be served by me?

have been cooking ever since 2006 when i landed dubai. Before that life was mostly spent in hostels focused on academics and career building... and while at home, during vacations and overfed with home treats, never really bothered to know what was happening at the kitchen's end.

could never understand who much food means to a foodie… before i became one.

the joy of cooking, serving and enjoying all at once - really one of its kind. and am loving it! cautiously though - i want to eat to enjoy the process and not over do the experiment and end up being 'unrecognisable' in my pics ;).

here is welcoming new mornings into my life. i am looking forward to working for myself and serve me well - i mean it!

i already feel a bit like my tail name - some king! ;)

here is my first blog with a pic. i enjoyed steaming fresh puttu (rice cake) with banana; bullseye (sunny side up) and black coffee - in my apartment on a week day. amazing!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 3: Paint My Love]

Cartoonist Ranga was grieving the loss of his loving wife who passed away that year (2001) but he still drew funny/remarkable sketches. He lived a plain life in his quiet apartment in Press Enclave. The secret of drawing Gandhi in one stroke was revealed by the master while the fan creaked above us and sparrows walked fearlessly into the drawing room. It was my turn. I sketched a newspaper boy with a gulmohar tree behind him. Ranga asked if I paint. He insisted I ‘must’.

[The following year Ranga passed away. My maternal grand dad also died, back in Kerala.]

I did not make cartoons afterwards. Not even when I wanted to poke fun at someone. And I secretly wished that I don’t grieve. [I did not attend grand dad's crematory ceremonies. I was grief stricken in Dilli.]

At work, because I was ‘this young thing’ [sporting a bandanna of biker-boys and a CD man hooked on my jeans’ pocket], I attracted many god fathers [were they agony aunts and uncles?] giving me free tips. Perhaps they mistook my enthusiasm for ambition! [Or did they see me as competition with many breaking stories already to my credit? Nah!] I did have some thing against free advice those days [ok mom you are an exception for those ‘umbilical connection’ reasons and also because you knew the industry before I did].

My first salary was INR13k pm [another 13!]. Needless to say it was a good amount - some13 years back for a single/hosteler yet to pub-hop [despite being addicted to MTV whenever the YWCA TV room was not occupied by serial lovers]. I really thought the coolest guys alive were MTV’s Jesus-like Luke Kenny and virus-like Cyrus. My new freedom exposed me to Indian TV and I loved Hollywood [read - Disney animations] and its eye-popping Jim Carrey.

Love for cinema was hindered by my claustrophobic self that couldn’t bear crowded ticket counters. There was no concept of a queue in Dilli. I had to come to Mumbai to learn what a queue in a public place looked like. Instead of enjoying the new multiplexes with my friends [who loved to venture all the new 'hep' places], I preferred the empty seats at Pragati Maidan’s Shakuntalam [a name most of my pals couldn’t event pronounce despite being Indians born and bred in the capital... many were surprised to know there was this cinema hall in the fair ground]. Shakuntalam played parallel cinema widely misunderstood as movies for the sad people.

I was among the few Delhi dwellers who were delighted at Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj’s announcement that International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will be held permanently in New Delhi. This decision was taken as Karnataka government failed to play host for the year’s event in Bangalore (from October 10 to 20, 2001).

Claustrophobia took over my life. I used to wait for the IFFI for it was not crowded and it also had friendly film school volunteers at the ticket counter who gave you options if you arrived late.

My salary was mostly spent on 'crowdless transportation' - cabs or autorickshaws - it was among the priorities to escape red lines and blue lines (buses). I was comfortable with my new title – RD, the loner. I smiled defiantly at close pals who advised I must travel cheap and socialise a bit more with my age-group. I did not think it was important to tell them that I was living my future.

Nostalgia was my faithful companion and it was dated minimum a decade back. My CD man blasted MLTR’s debut album all day long. Paint My Love was my favourite song – though yet to fall in love and/or start painting full on!

[It is true that IFFI moved to Goa since 2004. I miss it… as much as I do miss Dilli, my country and its joys.]

to be continued…

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 2: Three Men Army]

New Delhi, September 12, 2000 (UNI) MALARIA TOLL TOUCHES 2000 IN THE CAPITAL - my 13th breaking story was on the cover of every paper. I had stepped into the third month at UNI.

The news agency quickly processed my papers to staff reporter's after another written test on general knowledge and an interview. I never found time to read their 82-page ‘annexe on rule, regulations, policy and benefits’. It was deposited at the friendly guard at the YWCA working women’s hostel’s gate, while running for an assignment, and never collected.

The UNI Headquarters, my first work place
Not even 20, my first ‘break’ thus happened while still studying journalism at the Centre for Mass Media (YMCA, Jai Singh Marg, near Janpath).

Dee Paul’s at Janpath served the most important meal of the day – the cold coffee at 3pm [my tall glass of happy sighs!] – right after work and before class. Coffee time was spent mostly with classmates. The job was envied. Envy has this incredible power of making people invisible. It was the first time I got used to my invisible self. I became 'visible' a few years later [and I am guessing by then 'they' were tired of gaping at the void.]

I thank Ramesh Menon sir (guest lecturer on creative writing) for deconstructing my thoughts in ways no other teacher did. I also thank Samuel Baid sir, a senior Indo-Pak journalist (then Director of the Centre for Mass Media), who often reminded me 'to never settle down to just finding some stories for someone'.

Baid sir wanted me to be a cartoonist - 'the first female newspaper cartoonist'. He always felt the loss of being a busy journalist and mentioned that there was no one who pushed him to take his hobby of cartooning seriously. Whenever I paused by his office to greet, he tapped on my cartoons (a scrapbook on pocket cartoons kept on his table) and called my attention to it. Those were probably the first taps on visual comprehension.

In Baid sir's words - ‘there are so many Shobha Des, but how many Ajit Nainans or Laxmans, R D’. When I think of Baid sir, an old saying comes to mind : If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else - Booker T. Washington.

Baid sir sent R D to his friend N K Ranga, a senior cartoonist [the hand that drew Gandhiji with a single stroke on Doordarshan – remember? - check YouTube], for some serious reflection.

to be continued…

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

13 Until I Die! [Chapter 1: Maneka Gandhi and the Indian Peacock]

Serious journalism took a backseat after I came to Dubai in 2006. Partying hard after work was ok! [but looking for my pictures on party pages not so!]. The UAE's long ‘to-do list' [mostly defining ‘what not-to-do’] failed to impress me or my career graph … I wanted to be a hardcore journo when I started working in Dilli…

In early 2000 trainee reporters were called ‘cubs’ [this sentence makes me feel ancient]. It was an exciting start with United News of India (UNI), the oldest news agency in the continent [if no one else is claiming it now!].

Call it good luck, my first assignment got me my first ‘breaking news’.

It was a press meet by animal lovers at the WWF (World Wild Fund) - hosted by animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi. The speech was scheduled on a sleepy weekend at India Habitat Centre. [Googled to trace the date – couldn’t find. Online media was not popular those days.]

It had all the usual suspects from the media [worried - if Gandhi would keep the evening 'dry' as usual]. I was trying hard to ignore the Editor of The Sun (a Nigerian newspaper) seated right beside me. His bright smile [like a white moon rising and drowning into the night sky] was baffling me. Especially because he handed over a note to me ‘You are as pretty as an Indian peacock!’ (along with a spectacled smiley face). I looked up and spotted the spectacle. The Editor of The Punch (another Nigerian newspaper) necked out from behind ‘The Sun’ and I saw the moon rise and fall again – yet another spectacle.

[And I always thought peacock was male!]

I got the scoop anyway. It was hidden in the last para of Gandhi’s extempore. [By then most of my other colleagues had hurried to the buffet tables to yap-yap on better things.] To my delight, and my news editor's, my find was a front page runner.

HORSE WHIPPING BANNED IN INDIA. [UNI wires its news in all caps even today].

Next day I met him. Everyone remembered the story of the 15-year old Karmapa who in a Bollywood-type escape reached Dharamsala after crossing the highest Himalayan passes in the midst of the winter and the hesitations of the Indian government to grant him refugee status. At that time, many believed that he had been 'planted' by the Chinese to create confusion in Sikkim.  But good news came for the Tibetans as Kalon Tashi Wangdi, the minister of religion and cultural affairs in the Central Tibetan Administration announced to the press in Dharamsala that he had received word: "The Government of India has formally communicated to us that the XVII Gyalwa Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorji has been granted refugee status in India." Thus, Karmapa was meeting press in Delhi tomorrow.

to be continued…

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.