Friday, January 23, 2009

In an attempt to find a vocation

I am having difficulty with my career. In fact, as far as I remember, I have always been in a state of mind-whirling confusion about my career interspersed with a few peaceful phases of inert career planning where I did not care that much or was too busy to do any thinking. When I would cry, my dad would say I am intelligent in doubt and my tears would stop.

I think it all began at the age of 14, one stifling afternoon when one of the archaic sounding aunties had come home to meet my mother. I was sitting in my parent’s bedroom doing one of the only two things I thoroughly enjoyed doing: speaking animatedly on the phone or being deeply engrossed in a paperback.

My mom called me in the drawing room where I had to demonstrate how well she had brought me up by saying a polite hello followed by the short-lived salaam.

“What do you want to become after you grow up?” she asked well intentioned.

I replied with spunk, “I will invent my own profession.”

Then, my mother nervously laughed and her friend chimed in as well hesitatingly.

So yeah, that has been an overbearing issue.

I am one of those people who is decent at mostly everything possible including 12th standard physics which constitutes my biggest academic nightmare. I could almost do anything and suitably excel in it.

I could dance, I could act, I could write, I could draw, I could design, I could direct, I could photograph, I could delegate, I could publish, I could research, I could yawn and still survive.

However, I did not want to do any of that. I wanted a deep yearning passion, an innate longing to do what I totally liked doing. I had made my endeavor to find work, not only my life’s mission but life itself.

Then, there were those occasional stories about how the 4th floor woman made customized nail polish colors and was paid a 20,000 rupees creating a color for the copper mauve lehenga that Sussane Hrithik Roshan wore for her wedding.

I thought that woman was cool. She spent only 2 hours of her precious life apparently doing that. I could do that or something like that. Choose to go to yoga class, go travelling, live in an ashram, go scuba diving, and have fun all the time and work for two hours a day.

So after my media degree, when fellow mates chose to become client servicing guys, photographers, journalists and directors, I wondered why would these immensely talented friends of mine chose to do what many of the world are already doing and practically dedicating their lives for it.

I wanted to do something different. It began with different and then went to useful. I wanted to make myself useful. This rather became like my obsession, a crutch. I wanted to find purpose.
In an attempt to be purposeful, I forgot to do what I genuinely enjoyed doing. I forgot to do what I liked. I forgot to write, I forgot to play, and I forgot to lighten up. I was heavily perplexed by this never-ending pursuit of figuring out what to do.

Then, after many months of failing attempts, in a fair-trade snazzy cafĂ© in Bandra, P said, “Do what you have fun doing.”

Such a simple thing broke down all my multifarious theories surrounding career choices and motivation and incentives and life. Stupid, as it may sound, now I am searching for what I enjoy doing. If you have any ideas, try me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A summer memory

I had just finished eighth std., which means I was 13 year old. There was much to rejoice for, it was summer time and it was “Summertime @ Prithvi.”

I had religiously spent each summer running around like a colored speck in the very colorful premises of the Prithvi theatre. It would be K and me mostly, being our precocious selves, sipping coffee after class to deliberate over the issues in our grownup world.

That summer we were doing an interesting workshop. I do not remember what it was, why it was and why I care enough even right now to proclaim it interesting but I remember one class particularly being “raising up the eyebrow” material.

As part of rudimentary theatre exercises, the ones you do before you actually ‘do’ theater, we had to pair up with a partner of the opposite sex and then stand facing them, close our eyes and touch them all over.

Yes, that is what it exactly was.

So, I was randomly braced with this guy, and we found our little private space under the peering of the million imaginary eyes which probably included my dead grandmother. In our relatively safe cocoon, we stood like statues, surprised at our own lack of moment, considering my heart was beating fast enough to shake the foundation of the building.

I think I asked him to start. I closed my eyes and waited. He started at my hair, both his hands moist and light travelling down my face, his fingers feeling like fleeting tears going down my cheek to my chin, resting at my neck, stopping and then moving again to my shoulders, pausing, pausing and halting completely. I hear him breathe. Inhale. Exhale. His hands moving down my arms, holding my palms and then just when I thought he had gained momentum, he stops again briefly, confused, nervous and scared, he reaches for my tummy and then my hips and quickly shifts to my thighs and calves and feet. It is done. For him.

The idea of the exercise was to be comfortable in one’s skin, to rid oneself of the self-consciousness, shyness and the occasional vanity. So that we could interact with each other, free of our baggage, our ego and our bodies.

Honestly, I do not remember where I touched him, how I laid my hands of him and whether I touched him at all. I just remember that I followed the instructions to the dot and embarrassed him. I hope he was not scarred for life.

I remember this episode often followed by how progressive and fun I thought it was. How brave and fearless I felt after it.

Strangely, I go through this episode every single day now. Only this time, instead of a lone boy, I have at least five women stuck against me at every angle from calf to ear, sweaty and smelly. Such is the morning Mumbai local if you have every traveled in it.

If nothing, that experimental afternoon in the faraway past sufficiently prepared me for several crowded, busy mornings to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A for Archimedes

In my book of the English alphabet, A would be for Archimedes. He is sort of like my hero, my role model. I did not know that until a couple of minutes ago before I decided to pen this down.

To begin with, I know two things about Archimedes: The golden crown anecdote and the fact that he was from Syracuse. I think it is good to know less because he would be no role model if I knew about his secret affair with his pet horse or something like that.

Anyway, right now I am all love for him. I love the idea of him. I want to be him.

When I was young, I believed, in fact I knew, that there would be a moment in my life which would be an epiphany, a breakthrough, a path breaking discovery of the all knowing accompanied by this immense clarity and meditative focus. My existence would be a singular static in the pasts and futures of the times and spaces. It would be meaningful and meaningless at the same time, that moment would bring forth a divine unifying energy, and I would be free, free like the way one farts when no one is in the room or the way one dances when no one is looking. The walls of convention broken and the self-limiting beliefs dissolved. ..

.. and I would run on the roads. I dreamt of that as a kid. The narrow road below my building with its golden light and empty souls. I would run naked and there would be phosphenes everywhere as if I have just woken up from deep slumber. I would run, run and shout, “Eureka. Eureka,” and everything would be okay. Pure, liberated and shining.

Archimedes, thank you.

Monday, January 19, 2009


My dad is a big man when he walks on the road. In actuality, he is an average-sized man but when he walks on the road, he is a king. He owns the road so much so that he walks right in the middle of it with no care of the world.

As a kid, dad and I did a lot of walking. Through the cloth market of Dhobi Talao, century-old hardware shops of Null Bazaar, our old retail outlet at Mohammad Ali road, the perspiring crowds at the stationary hub of Abdul Rahman street and the bohri mohalla of Bhendi Bazaar. Dad and I walked through it all.

He walked swiftly and boldly. Like an English Lord. When he would cross the road, he would just cross the road. He would hold his hand up and the vehicles would stop like his crossing the street was destined and the raising of his hand had called upon the stars to create a karmic protective bubble around him. He always crossed safely.

Me on the other hand, I was slow and meek. I would prance like Bambi on the busy streets just to catch up to him. I still do.

It is unfortunate that I inherited none of my dad’s confidence and gallantry or his delusions of supremacy. Whatever it is. When I cross, I run. I do reach the other end of the road but I am awkward and flustered. It is always a battle.

Is it just me or crossing is tough?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Surprise and Enterprise

M did not have change to pay the rickshawwala. She calls me so I can hand her some. I pay the rickshawwala the exact prescribed amount reflected on the meter. We are about to move away but for his incessant digging of his pockets.

M is trying to emphasize that he does not need to return any change and we have paid as much as was the required amount.

He, on the other hand, very causally so, hands her a visiting card and drives away.

It’s a Max New York Life Insurance’s agent’s card.

Mumbai surprises me every day.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I am wandering aimlessly in my head as I am walking towards the exit of my college.

“Oye, rickshaw!”

The rickshaw takes a sharp turn and leisurely arrives at where I am standing.

“8th floor,” I say.



“Madam, kidhar jaana hai?”

Moral of the story:When you think the rickshawwala is your liftman, you are stuck in an everyday rut. Get out.

Aap ka aadmi kahan hai?

I am in Hampi. Its 7:30 pm in my watch, which means that most people in the village where I am heading, are already asleep. I am waiting at the highway hoping to hitch a ride back to the village. There is almost no light but for the paling yellow glow at the nearby teashop. The shrubbery is dense and I am trying to look as conspicuous as possible so that passing vehicles notice me.

I see several bikes zipping past me, one after another, but that does not deter my frantic waving. I am not going to spend the night in another unknown village.

After much of waiting and watching, a small carrier pulls into the teashop. The hopeful me shouts out to it and two young boys half my age pop out of the seats. After a brief spill of irrational kannada, they say, “Hindi?”

I say, “Yes yes, haan haan. Anegundi jaana hai.”

The taller one pauses briefly and states, “200”

“50”, I retort.

The one with the half tooth says, “Aap ka aadmi kahan hai?”

Eyebrows contorted I utter, “Kaun?”

Two blank incredulous faces stare back at me.

“Aap ka aadmi kahan hai?”

“Oh accha, aadmi nahi hai. Chalo abhi.”

While they look at each other, I plunk my backpack onto the vehicle. In a couple of minutes, we
are good to go.

My lack of youth

K and I are walking past the Shivaji Park ground trying to catch another one of those meetha paans we love so much at the Sharda Panwala, when we see an old man mounted on skates.

He is learning to skate in one of those dim yellow parking lanes. A young chap holds him by the hand every time he begins to slip. Yet he tries, slow and steady.

Whoever that man is, I love him.