Five to Nineteen: A Life

5, they talked about my wedding bells and finery,
someone who would come rescue me
on a white horse?- I listened perturbed.

9, they teased me about some awkward lanky human,
who liked me- they said I liked him too- eh?

12, when breasts and curves started colonizing my body, I wondered if indeed
I should have been an awkward lanky human.

13, that grouchy nun rapped me on my knuckles for
wrong hair (too short)- wrong clothes (I wore pants)- wrong name- wrong-
for kissing the most beautiful creature- classmate- woman?- I had ever known
in the dark cave of the washroom-
but the creature had liked it too!

15, I needed escape from this town that
gnawed at every minute of my
existence, mocked, threatened to
consume me from within —
eyes quickly averted as I walked- chuckles- violation- muffled screams- blood- pain- worthlessness.
Even love fled in fear.

17, I had arrived. Abandoned from home, three thousand in savings,
warned never to show my face in that crowd- i found an escape from
the constant mutilation,
I arrived when I saw you-
my first glimpse of the city waiting for a friend on the kerb.
Directions- something I had never needed- I asked you for directions and
gave you my soul.
We made conversation- you smiled.
Over a haze of caffeine and snap decisions, you took an utter stranger
into your home.
I found home when you reached into
the recesses of your attic,
to bring up boxes full of your memories
and create my little corner-
give me possession of everything,
but you.
When you doubled up in laughter
and caved into my bosom, I wanted
to kiss you in every language I had
heard or known.
All my nights were spent imagining
the contours and coarseness of
the body that protected your soul,
how we should be waking up tangled in
skin under the threadbare blanket.
I wanted to be a spectre in every moment of your life—
meander its ambiguities the way
you twirled your hair around your fingers. 
I tasted fire every time you shed your clothes anew-
almost pushed to desire what it was
to run my finger around your belly button up to the faultlines between your breasts – feel
your hair-skin-jaw-bones-cheek.
I filled my days with books and writing
about you, even as many jobs ate up my soul, you filled me up again.

18- i took to discreetly sitting at cafes-
looking out for you- oh, darling
I feared that the men you chose
to complete the puzzle that you are could never understand you!
My presence had become a threat-
you wanted to help but you wanted me out— what about the
constructive destructive imagination—
the life we have built together for our souls?
You said my presence gnawed
at your existence, the hue and cry of tears couldn’t move you,
neither did any other hue—
even though your eyes laid bare your truth.

19- there was no nineteen.

A love in progress

For the ‘A’s. The one who reads all my writing and the one who is travelling to Calcutta soon, taking my love back to the city.

One of the few reasons I started this blog way back in 2011 was because I wanted to write about Calcutta.
I had just finished school and moved to Bombay from Calcutta after a rather difficult year. At that point of time Calcutta and its beautiful people had given me solace. But I could never write anything that could do justice to what it had meant for me.

However, recently I got nostalgic about it for the umpteenth time and ended up writing something rather flippantly. I think I was trying to tell someone what it meant for me.

I try to not be too attached to Calcutta. I don’t know the city well enough. I don’t know the streets as well as I should. And most people mistakenly associate me with Calcutta- asking me if I am going back to Calcutta for the holidays and which part of the city I grew up in. Questions that trouble me, because I really wish I had grown up there or went back there for the holidays. All I can do then is give them a sad smile and say I am not from there and then go on to explain where I actually go back home to for the holidays!

However, this blog was meant for me to be honest about things and to also document my journeys. So here it is. My insufficient ode to Calcutta (or Kolkata, whatever it is that you prefer) – a list of things to do there, to get to know the city better.  

Isn’t Calcutta beautiful? Stop the buses in the middle of the street. Or scram about the city in the yellow cabs. Or the trams if you so wish. They’ll listen to you.
Go to North Calcutta. Go to Tagore’s home and know what inspired him! Walk in the bylanes of Kasba. Have phuchkas near Max Mueller Bhavan. Go to Swabhumi for Karaoke. And Nicco Park to be a child again. Go and shop at Gariahat and New Market. And go to Victoria Memorial and Botanical gardens, to soak in a bit of its ancient history.
Go to Chinatown for breakfast. And to Rabindra Sarobar. Go rowing. Or wake up some early morning to see the school children at it- the only city in India where rowing is a school sport, I suppose.
Go to Kalighat or watch a Mohun Bagan v/s. East Bengal match to know what real frenzy and hero-worship looks and feels like.
Go to all these quaint little cafes that pop up around the street corner on rainy days. Or just stop for rolls at Arsalan. Go for a ferry ride at Princep or Babu Ghat at sunset- it’ll be the most beautiful you shall see in your life. And click those artsy silhouette pictures.
Maybe go attend a lecture at Jadavpur. Know how politics and academia throb in the veins of the city, and co-exist. Have coffee at College Street Coffee House and shop for books there. And find a book with a long forgotten note from some kindred spirit you’ll never meet. Many greats before you have done that. People-watch in Esplanade as they go about their lives in a fashion that it seems like you’re a part of some poetry being composed.
And just walk down Park street at night holding hands with your girl. Pub hop there. Duck into the park street cemetery and maybe kiss her there, around all those long gone stories.

The Lionel Logue of leadership – Kenwyn Smith

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happiest in transit:

Of the brilliance of Young India Fellowship in general, and Professor Kenwyn Smith in particular.

Originally posted on My year of living and loving India:

December was a series of defining moments. Mostly due to the courses I took this last term. Professor Kenwyn Smith from UPenn taught Leadership in a New Economy and Group Dynamics over an intense three and a half weeks that left me exhausted and exhilarated. I think him the Lionel Logue of leadership. I learnt in ways so unconventional, I had a hard time explaining the courses to family and friends back home. Unlike most other courses at the Fellowship so far, I left for my winter break on the last day of term struggling to recount the lessons I learnt. I hadn’t learnt the 5 key steps to running a successful business. I didn’t know the secret formula to managing people. I thought long and hard about what had changed in me. I came up with a few things.

Professor Kenwyn Smith Professor Kenwyn Smith Photo Credits: Schitij Kulshrestha

Be present. Kenwyn wouldn’t…

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The Wonder Year: 2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. I thought I would post a preview of it here because it has been the best year yet of blogging, for me and it is you guys, who come back to read this blog who make it a relevant experience for me. So, thank you! And happy new year. It’s a fun report to read, yeah. :D

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thought Catalogue

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No, you can’t tell me that it is not okay to be in love with many people at the same time. Us, dreamers and readers and writers and idealists and believers- “whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same”.

So how can I not be in love with millions of beautiful ideas from the many beautiful people, all swirling around like goldfishes in a fish bowl in this universe of mine? I fall in love very quickly, very simply. Love, and not just liking. Love makes it more urgent, and real, and exciting. How can I not be in love with my kind of people and all the rapture, and confusion, and optimism, that they generate?

This fragile world demands to be embraced with all its vulnerabilities. So are you really telling me to only focus on myself and not empathize with their struggles and their beauty? We need to make the world a better place and lest my heart gets broken in the process there is enough love to band-aid it.

So no no no, don’t ask me to be selfish. There is so much to celebrate and laugh and dance about, and such music to be made, such adventures to be had, and such quests to be undertaken with these kindred spirits. I need to fully accept who they are, not be apologetic about their quirks. And how will I ever taste desire, if I don’t let go and thoroughly, completely fall in love with them headfirst?

So no sire, you can’t tell me that it is not okay to be in love with many people at the same time. Because I am lost in this quagmire and this is how I will find myself.

The Party

“Your haircut”,  she said, “I don’t like it much. You looked better with longer hair.” And there it was. This woman who had struggled to ascertain my identity half an hour ago, when I had walked through her doors, was now pompously passing judgments on me. I smiled feebly at my dinner party host for that evening and mumbled something- was it an apology of some sort?-in defence of my haircut that I liked so much and she didn’t, even as she sat right next to me, looking intimately into my eyes, smiling her ingratiatingly breathtaking smile, and served me chicken- a family recipe she said.
It felt strange to me, how chatty her daughter was with a stranger like me- we had hardly seen each other twice, maybe thrice- she was hardly 14, I was 22 and here she was, spilling the beans on her juvenile school days while I pretended to be interested for the lack of better company. Yes, our past conversations had been unexpectedly intelligent but what hope does a 14 year old have in engaging a 22 year old man? 
I soon escaped the company of the ladies, to share an awkward drink or two with the fathers. I was at that stage where they could accept my age but not my reality. So their invitation to share the first drink was the sign of my coming of age, but reaching out for the second glass of whiskey was greeted with raised eyebrows and a frown from my father.
And I sat there- thinking about all the parties I had attended- school, college, job parties, the networking events, where I smooth-talked men and women and snuck in with some for a quick washroom tryst- and how none of these had been ever so awkward. Perhaps it was because the other people at the party knew how much I was a part of their lives, and how much they of mine. 
And here I was with people I didn’t ever spare a thought for, who kept loading my plate with food and engaging me in mundane conversation. Here I was with people, who just by the virtue of me being their colleagues’ son, genuinely wanted to understand what I did for a living in faraway lands. Here I was, with people who apparently enquired from my mother, quite regularly about how I was, in Delhi- Bombay- New York- San Francisco- Tokyo- whatever city I happened to be in that day, on my nomadic job. Here I was with people who embraced me wholly as a part of their gossip and their lives, without questions, even as I struggled to escape their orbits. Here, I stood observing in a corner, alone, failing to fit back into the place I had grown up in.

That night, very soon, I faked a headache and trudged back home in the cold, through the streets that once knew me. 

Small town homecoming

For us small town kids who get the chance to move away
to larger towns and cities,
Grab at “better” opportunities, dream bigger dreams,
homecoming is often a humbling process.

The rate at which you progressed (or not) is put out to dry,
the things you are doing right or wrong are discussed,
and are you contributing to anything “worthwhile” is analysed.

And if you’ve moved too far away- it can be disconcerting,
even if it is not in terms of ideas and only in terms of space.

Not like the larger towns, where you are not put under the scanner,
You maybe successful in your own head but
what about the “reputations” of the others who “care” and their “standards”.

So it’s not just about going back to the people and the places
that you loved and that loved you back,
but also, if you did them proud and if
they in turn “progressed”
to the now adopted standards that you have.