All @ Vales - of homes and houses.

The true difference between addresses, houses (or apartments) and homes hit me very recently. At age 24, I guess I joined this party late. The process of understanding and digesting this began with my aunt's (Kala Chitti's) passing and culminated almost six months on, with my grandmother's (Paati's) passing.

I was born in Madras during the November rains of '92 (my singular attempt at making my birth sound fancy). My maternal grandparents had moved to Madras after decades in Bombay to continue life in (relative) retirement. Ma went there to give birth to me. From the hospital, I was brought home to 68 Janakpuri - or Vales, as most of the family usually refers to it. Vales isn't random - by talking of its origin story, I'd be giving out the address. It was my first house and home for the first couple of months of my life. 
January '93, Ma and I left to join my father and brother in Chandigarh. Chandigarh was (still is) home. But oh, we switched many man…

The Time When San Francisco Wouldn't Let Go

As a writer (What did you say? Jury's out on whether I can call myself one? But I want to sound fancy!), sometimes I selfishly wait for something to wrong when I travel, so I can write about it. Well, not too wrong. Just a smidgen. Not much more. Enough to recall and retell it, be a little funny - so I can come off as an affable, pretentious brat (ironically so) who throws her head back in laughter and says sentences like, "I was just recalling that one time in a small Italian town , after I'd had the best pasta ever and then I almost fell off the cliff, but something very Bollywood happened to me and we all laughed about it." Or "you know that time in Banaras when my parents thought I got lost in the tiny, winding alleys, scared by the police into thinking there had been a kidnapping, but I was just having limca at a stall. Because the temple guard didn't let me in because of my earphones in my wallet." (This actually happened.) 
San Francisco is a beau…

Part II: State of the Mind

Read Part I here.

"I'm fine" is often the most common lie we say. But it is the most convenient response to someone asking you how you're doing. On occasion, depending on the person and your circumstances, you go into detail and let the other person know. But it can get a little ridiculous when the person is an acquaintance who asked you "whazzaaaaa" for formality and you end up with a word vomit: "Honestly, I don't know. I want to go to Amsterdam and do that solo trip and not care for permission but the timing to plan it doesn't seem right. Then again, should I quit my job and venture into assisting someone as a wedding photographer or travel write like I always thought I would - if only to realise I have zero skills? I think I would have been so much better at being in my 20s during the 1990s - no social media, a slower pace of growth of a lot of things than right now. Maybe folks at work are being polite by not firing me but everyone knows I&…

Part I: State of the Mind

Millennials don’t believe in labels (possibly in irony, but not labels). Conforming to this label-les-ness, I won’t put a name on what I’m going through. Not least because my therapist didn’t spell it out for me. Maybe there isn't a diagnosis. 

For some time now, I've been struggling to write. The yearly bout of writer's block. This time though, it's stayed on longer. It has become friends with other, kind of not-short-term residents, anxiety and depression. Having written 4-5 lines now, I feel it's an achievement. But as I write this I’m not sure if it is a good idea to write about this. Some of you may not understand it - this is okay. Some of you may be concerned - thank you. Some of you may be upset that I didn't mention it earlier - I'm sorry but maybe this post will explain why. Some of you may relate to this - we could talk. Some of you may want to give me advice on how to deal - thank you, but I am now getting help that I'm comfortable with and w…

"Ganga snaanam aacha?" - of Diwalis past.

"Ganga snaanam aacha?" That's the greeting on Diwali that I'm more familiar with, from family (more specifically, the Paati/grandmother category). Appropriate amount of fear and caution surrounded the answer to that question, depending on the time it was asked, how cold the weather was (because as we know, time taken to get off the bed on a wintery morning is inversely proportional to the temperature), and what the status of the ganga snaanam was. The time had to be respectably early in the morning so as to not disappoint Paati(s). 
I'm Tamil, and my family's Deepavali celebrations have obviously differed from those more typical in a north Indian city like Chandigarh or even Delhi. For starters, it is an affair of the morning. Really, really early in the morning, to be specific. We have an "oil bath", referred to as the ganga snaanam. The ganga doesn't flow close to our home state and I've no idea why it is called that - possibly to signify…


Now here’s a post I never saw myself write. Last Friday, my Kala Chitti passed away. She fought brave and hard against the cancer. It still feels strange to think that you had cancer, Chitti.
Chitti gave us strength. Despite feeling physically weak, she would still somehow summon the energy to scold us about the messy room (and claim that her illness was only due to her house being messy and unclean – a dialogue Ma, her twin, employs often as well) or for looking morose, when really we were just watching a TV show on Zindagi or when Chitappa was not wearing a smart set of pants and a shirt – oh what I’d give to get that scolding once more. It didn’t feel like you were unwell, primarily because your concerns were pretty much the same as before – like when your phone wasn’t switching on and how you felt out of touch with the world.
I used to call her up, first thing, when I landed in Madras. Chitti would then jump into her car, drive bare feet (a trademark of them Bombay sisters/twins),…

Where's the Masla at?

The TV in our household largely brought shouting matches disguised as prime-time news debates, rom-coms on Romedy Now, action and thriller movies, among some Bollywood favorites to our home.

Appa is not the best with handling electronics/gadgets, Ma is something of a pro. Ma has this engineer/scientific curiosity when it comes to handling them- tweaking, figuring out their features and fixing them. When it comes to the TV however, Appa has always been the one in control. Of course when the set-top box acts up, he sits and waits for Ma (or me) to fix it. Often it's that simple trick of restarting the system. But otherwise, he has always been at ease with the TV - effortlessly switching back and forth between Sarfarosh, Taken, Baadshah reruns and Arnab Goswami. It's an artful performance.

Last year, we purchased a 'smart TV' and Appa discovered the world of watching YouTube videos on the big screen. Something strange began to happen. Live TV (a.k.a shouting matches, not…