Code word, BLACK

Dear evasive 2k,

You double dholki, you! You’re clean and yet, you’re also black. You are the embodiment of social transformation, economic reform and the lighthouse of controversial change.

And yet, you are also dirty and found in numbers so huge that lone cars and hidden vaults are unable to contain you.

You were introduced so that terror would slink away with its tail between its legs.

You were revealed to the adulatory public as whitewash … washing black money and making it white, leaving a trace of pink behind.


But, you magically became black. The one thing you were meant to curb has now become a dirty river in full flow.

Not only has the earlier black become plywood. The current black, sorry pink, has become the most elusive little thing. The hottest. In demand. Ticket to survival. For the poor. What a fine reputation you’ve earned for yourself in 34 days.

You are the symbol of a ‘little inconvenience’ but an alchemic, gilt edged distant future.

The problem is this new black stain. It’s refusing to wash away.


An unimpressed user

Dear Celebrity Obituaries,

I’m trying to choose the right outlet to express my loss for a beloved celebrity. On a social networking site.

R.I.P, the most often used, pithy and safe expression … it’s non-committal, on the fence and looking into the park with binoculars. No one sees you or notices you. You, however, notice it all with a token hands up in the air. A part of the tribe that wants to be part of the larger tribe. The Hail Mary #I’mwithit #IknowmyGK bandwagon. An apologetic meow.

Then, there are the quotable quotes. One step further towards committing to a stand. A neutral quote that allows you to wet your toe without getting into a provocative debate.

The forwarded article comes next. This one is a bit dicey. Is it safe enough to put your name to? Will it get the likes and will it position you as smart and up to date? Or will it give away your political ideology, your state of mind, your carefully cultivated personality type or upset friends and family? While you’ve wet your ankle by now, it still keeps you at the water’s edge. You are using someone’s views to position your own. The trolls are still distant.

Then there are the news clips and the documentaries and the audio-visual clips to share. The commentary may simper, be obsequious, surprisingly factual or just downright fake but there’s a choice to be made again. Will you associate with the genteel, intellectual, smart and factual or the frenzied, over the top and volatile editorials? Deep thought.

Then come the Originals. Downright direct, undiluted opinions. Fearless or foolish. Open to bouquets and brickbats. Expressing like or dislike of the person who has passed … may god rest his/her soul. Anything and everything is fair game to this opinionated soul. Measured, contradictory, rabid, dramatic, emotional, ridiculous, loving, angry, soulful, all embracing …. endless genres of expression. Loud roar.

So many choices. So much to weigh. My image is at stake. Definitely, my sanity. To be a fence sitter, observer, water temperature tester, ass licker, skinny dipper or just plain cussed … what will it be? Wary that the beasts on the social net whacking sites could troll. The cops could break down my door. Some jail time. Public apologies. Haters. Worshippers. Nothingness. Safe anonymity. What do I choose?


A mourner.

Seriously, it’s not about me.

Dear Life,

At the age of 82, stooped, gnarled hands, knobbly knees … i pause and marvel at this body that houses me. I feel my heart beat. Steady. My blood thrums in my veins. My brain is sharp. I know the clock is ticking but so far my body and mind have stood rock solid by me for all these years. 0946b0911defb3036cd61b9d64ed1b29.jpg

I’ve experienced joy, love, sorrow, loss. My heart has sung and it has ached. My liver has too.

In my 20s, i didn’t give my body a thought. It was there and i pushed it as far as i could. I whipped it. I disregarded it. I took pleasure from it. I took it for granted. It absorbed all the pressure and unpredictability i put it through and yet, it stuck with me. It must have complained. It must have felt abused. I couldn’t have cared less. I was young and i was driven. I was the master of my destiny.

As i grew older, i had to get my machine serviced from time to time. A fracture. Pneumonia. Appendicitis. Flu. Heart attack. Diminished eye sight. Diminished hearing. Stuff. Each breakdown reminded me of its value. This wonderful machine that works so hard. Relentlessly. No weekends off. No power naps. No holidays. Definitely, no vacation. It keeps at it. Noiselessly. On and on. I feel such admiration and awe for this incredible gift. There is nothing i wouldn’t do for it as appreciation.

Maybe, its that partnership I formed with my body that allowed it to give me its best. Or maybe I’m one of the lucky ones. Whatever it is … i am grateful.

I pray I’m also one of those lucky ones to pass over in my sleep. Peaceful and happy.

A young old man

Dear Mr 500 and Ms 1k,

8dd15347639378c4e9dc34d16d11f8c17d2916d211f5ca5e4b86735e51ffba38The two of you are now sum zero. ZERO. From hereon, you will be seen as the prime example of how to failao a raita.

In a split second, you have become a symbol of terror and panic. People who were hoarding you in their mattresses and underground bunkers are making a pyre of you, sending you down the ganges to commemorate your early demise or running helter skelter to replace you with more meaningful notes. People thought you would buy them security. Now there is only insecurity. How does it feel to wield such power over an entire nation? People are scurrying like little, helpless mice across the landscape, in search of ways to rid themselves of you. Shake you off their back. Slap you off their person. Its a full on maara maari dudes. That’s true Power. Sadar pranaam.

There is Mr 2k, of course. Very pricey. Very hard to get. He has a slightly warped fashion sense. Very pink and very tacky. And very big on selfies. He has stepped in to help tide over the difficult times. 2k for a vada pav and samosa. Nice.

Mr 500 and Ms 1K, your departure was received with jubilation and mass hysteria. People have been lining up in long, never ending queues feeling like they belong to a momentous and revolutionary chapter in history. A movement that will cleanse the nation of its grime. Make it shiny and new again. A nationalistic fervour has swept across the land and people are stoically sacrificing their time, their energy and even their lives. This sacrifice is rewarded with a limited token from their very own savings. Its so nice to have someone take charge of the nation’s bank balance and limit their spend. Varna hum toh besharmon ki tarah daal chawal aur bhaaji khareed rahe hote!

Mr 500 and Ms 1k, you have unleashed a debate so powerful that it is like stepping into a minefield. There are two clear factions – National and Anti-national. They spend their days judging each other and everyone else on the basis of their belief system. There is another large faction – its called, chutney- in-the-making (CITM). Interestingly, the CITM are the ones who believe that these ‘inconveniences’ will one day gift them a world where they can buy land, feed their families without worry and live a life of dignity. Last, but not the least, is the So-rich-i-don’t-care faction. They wince a little, shrug a little … life goes on. Just another blip in business, as usual.

Hopefully, India will soon be a shining example of a seamless transition into PayTm karo. Corruption will cease to exist. India will become the super power it was always meant to be. There will be equality.

The innumerable soldiers of our hinterland can then smile with pride. Their sacrifice would not have been in vain. Hopefully.

A surprised, befuddled, confused ….
tax paying Indian

Dear Institution of Marriage,

I’ve been witness to your evolution for a long time now … at close quarters and not with much affection. I mean, ya, as a habit you’re ok. So is smoking. The latter kills you physically and the former kills your spirit. In my childhood, marriage was a sign of stability except when cold or hot wars raged. As i grew older and independent and learnt to think for myself, marriage was aspirational and yet something in the distant future … an invitation to surrender all that you were becoming. And then marriage itself. I always wonder why i did it? All my instincts rebelled against it.

Let me be clear. I played an equal and contributory role to this whole, roles and expectations and KRAs type arrangement, little realising that work relationships and personal relationships require a different grammar. I discovered that we wanted different things after marriage while all along i had romanticised that it would be just us on an island, wanting the exact same things, forever more. In time, the island got claustrophobic. We both stayed away at work for long hours. At home we devised ways to stay out of each other’s way. The walls began to cave in. And yet we continued in those ruins, breathing the unhealthy air and the death of affection and love. Each day and every minute was exaggerated and underscored with irritation and heaviness. We’d pretend with family and friends and the facade was so clever that i sometimes believed in the unreality of it all … till it came to sitting at the dining table at home with no words. Just the sound of the cutlery and the heavy silence.

It’s not meant to be like this. A relationship should exalt.

Finally, at the cost of being labeled failures, we moved apart and as with any habit … this cold turkey was also painful … but now the air feels clean and i take long, deep swallows of breath and … i smile.

with immense gratitude,

a traveller

Dear male protagonist of indian soaps,

I wonder how you stand up at all since you have no spine. You are so easily manipulated by the women of the house and ready to believe the worst of the woman you marry. You follow some profession or the other but it’s rarely of any consequence, till the time you succumb to politics and backstabbing and lose all your money and render your family penniless and then blather on, while your wife rises to the occasion with her miraculous and hidden powers of submissive leadership … all the while trying to ensure that she doesn’t step on your fragile little ego.

As a father, you rarely have anything of consequence to say to your kids. As a son you are respectful and dutiful and often mindless.

You come on strong and then back off in a hurry.

You are often possessed by the devil, lured by a temptress or just plain dumb but you are largely like a vessel that rolls from one point to another depending on which side the bride … Oops, I meant, bread is buttered …

You are a nice guy overall. Just mind numbingly stupid. You wanna look around and see some men in real life? They are far more evolved and while they are struggling to comprehend and adapt to the changing world, they are far more flexible and funny and dynamic and aware than you and what you stand for … LOOK at the world around you. You may find that there is still time for you to stand tall.

definitely not a fan.

Dear Superwoman of Television,

You amaze me. Your patience. Your ability to take shit and not die. Your desire to be everyone else’s dream come true. Your need to live up to everyone’s expectations. The fact that you have no expectations of your own except being the perfect cook, best make up artiste, a veritable Kanjeevaram clothes horse and the ideal domestic negotiator of the most passive aggressive kind. Your martyrdom is legendary. Your tears forever threatening to slide down your heavily mascaraed eyes. Your ability to blindly trust and forgive those who have killed your spirit with mind games, taunts and proprietorial behaviour.

Your amenable acceptance of a sexless marriage, courtesy a misunderstanding with the husband, that keeps you both apart in the marital bed … sometimes for years. Your longing underscored with a haunting emotional track, kohl’d eyes and modest silence.

Your Gandhian principle of turning the other cheek when hordes of women in the family decide to become your enemy number 1.

Your incredible lack of awareness about politics, work, environment, money and the outdoors.

You are the superwoman of Indian television. What an icon you make! Your guileless ways and your tear filled eyes ensure you are always the tragedy queen struggling to surmount the hurdles your loved ones keep throwing your way. Yours is the story of an underdog who remains an underdog for the duration of the show.

Dear superwoman, I do hope you will venture out into the real world and gain acceptance as a smart, thinking woman. Real housewives across India are more substantive than the version we see on the screen. I hope you will not always have to transform into a naagin or a robot or a goddess to be taken a little more seriously or even to express the vengeful or angry side of your self. I hope one day you become like some of the real women in our country who fight for their place in the community and the country, who contribute to the nation’s economy, who fight for equality and carry their female tribe with them instead of undermining them every step of the way. I pray for your awakening. Step outside the box that has been defined for you. Take a deep breath. And make yourself heard.

Compassionately yours,

A mother of two young girls