Friday, March 31, 2006

Don’t call mommy a bitch and eat that fruit

Switch on your television. Go on, I know you want to. If you have cable I’m sure a majority of the programs on your listings page are reality shows of some kind.

My first recollection of a reality show is MTV Road Rules and that other show about hot, 20 something guys and girls all living together in a cool condo - Big Brother in perhaps its earliest avatar (anyone remember the name of that show?) Survivor and its spin offs all figure much later in my time line of reality shows (but I could be wrong, so feel free to correct me).

We’ve had all kinds of reality shows – teams battling it out on exotic islands for money, people eating kangaroo testicles for money, people getting plastic surgery live without paying any money. But the ones that interest me the most are the new breed of shows. (well, new to me) The ‘let us help make your life better’ shows. They’re all over the place tackling every aspect of human life – financial, sexual, romantic and professional.

Got problems with the kids? Call Supernanny. £40,000 in debt? Watch Bank of Mum and Dad (poor unsuspecting parents who think Jr. is £300 in debt find out they need to add a few extra zeroes to the figure). Not able to prevent your children from growing up to be ASBO awarded, drug selling yobs? Tune in to Honey, we’re Killing the Kids. Missed health ed classes and don’t know that brushing your teeth twice a day is good for you? Don’t worry you can always find out about the benefits of toothpaste by watching Too Posh to Wash.

The scary thing is that the above list is very real. And just skims the surface. Pay off your mortgage in 2 years, Look 10 years younger, You are What you Eat… the list of shows is endless. Forget DIY programs, what you should be watching these days is hour long specials on how to fix your life, not bad plumbing.

So why are these programs so popular? Why do parents need to be told that it’s not ok for their diabetic 6 year old to be eating Kit Kats every day and that it will kill them? Why do young people not know that it’s a bad idea to be 50k in debt and that declaring bankruptcy is not a fun thing to do? It’s appalling to see how inept some people are at – well running their lives. And that they need to be told s-l-o-w-l-y by a posh dietician and therapist to eat a bit more fruit and veg everyday and that their 4 year old should not call mummy a bitch.

So I’m wondering – what is it that’s made people this way? Is it family background? A lack of basic education? Sheer stupidity?

These shows are on air because there’s a need for them. And they’re probably helping a lot of people out there. But if we think the government is getting too nanny-ish for our liking, what do we have to say about our television channels?

And I can’t help but wonder where all this is leading? Learn to make your own bed shows? Don’t forget to take out the trash specials? How to chew your food documentaries?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and set some emotional boundaries with The Sherpa. The television told me to.


What can I say about this man? Nothing I should think as I am no authority on The Bard. His complete works weighs down my book shelf and I have every intention of reading the entire thing. One day. Honest.

We’ve credited him with adding over 1700 common words to our vocabulary, quoted him and made movies about him.

And now

‘A new edition of Shakespeare's collected works reveals that smuttiness is at the very heart of the Bard's plays. Heloise Senechal, the textual editor of The RSC Shakespeare, joins Mark Lawson to explain why she thinks previous editions have been too prudish, and how computer techniques helped her uncover the fact that Shakespeare's work is absolutely `packed with filth'.’

Source: The BBC website.

To listen to an interview with Heloise Senechal go here

And scroll down till you see Filthy Shakespeare.
It's a segment on a show called Front Row.

Very interesting, indeed.



That’s the gist of what someone asked me recently in the comments section of What an excellent profile to put up in a lonely hearts column, I thought, thinking of all the wonderfully weird people it would attract.

Every Friday The Independent publishes its Arts & Books Review, a 40 page supplement bursting with well written reviews and profiles. The last page is always devoted to Great Works – an in depth analysis of a piece of art and it’s creator that I always mean to read but never get around to. Cultural Life takes a brief look in to what singers, actors and directors are reading, watching and listening to. On one page they rip a movie apart and in the next they are interviewing its director. It’s a supplement that is entertaining, informative and above all well written.

Till recently however, there was always one part of the supplement that I blipped over. The Independent Personals. Why would I bother, I’m happily married after all. (that should put The Sherpa at ease… now time to delete my profile)

But a delay on the train home last week (a rather permanent fixture in my life these days) left me bored. So I thought ‘let’s see what the market is like!’

A quick skim through the columns revealed that most of the singletons writing in to this particular publication were above 40 (Though there were 20 and 30 somethings, they were outnumbered by their more mature comrades). There were even a few 60 plussers in there.

Each profile had a little caption in bold – a hook I guess to attract the attention of skimmers like me. I present to you here some of my favourites (edited).

Women seeking Men

Genuine, attractive, mixed race F in 40’s seeks Arab, European, Indian M 35-60 looking for relationship and possible marriage.

50+ to join five ladies for dinners in May.

Genuine F, 45, neglected rose, seeks loving M

Down to earth, kind, witty …

Russian/British Londoner 40 slim blonde, chic, integrity, eccentricity, Worshipper of intellect, I promise that a thinking, outstanding man would never get bored of me.

Genuine F, 60 with plenty of get up and go…

Men seeking Women

Gentle, affectionate M 47, likes DIY…

Attractive M seeks intelligent, attractive, stocking clad F

Men seeking Men

Good looking 43 year old cross-dressing M seeks kind person to have fun with

Women Seeking Women

Recycled Ferrari, 43 seeks TLC from a caring gay F for possible long-term ownership.

It’s nice to see that in spite of all the divorce statistics being thrown at us and the constant reports of celebrity marriages falling apart people are still looking for friendship, love and the odd used car. Here’s to you singletons!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I rarely think of school days. Today my art partner's samosa reminded me of a friend that used to steal them from the canteen! And that seemed to open a little trap door in my head to a time when I wore two plaits and a very unbecoming blue pinafore.


The quadrangle is flooded.
Blue pinafores hitched up at the knees
And unpolished, dusty, Bata shoes
Suddenly glisten
polished by dirty puddles of rain water
Braids are straightened – one fat and one thin
Meenakshi never gets them right
The uniform monitor scrutinises us
And we say a silent thanks to the rain
For shining our shoes
If only it had washed away the nail polish
We think, kneeling outside our classroom


Fountain Pepsi arrives at school
We queue and jostle
School bags are upturned for loose change
Bus and lunch money is spent
One Pepsi is purchased
And passed around
We feel like college boys sharing a cigarette
And giggle



Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bits and pieces

During rush hour the carriage is packed tighter than my holiday suitcase. Stragglers are shoved in to tiny crevices while the lucky ones sit neatly folded in their seats. I am a chiffon blouse after thought pressed up against a pinstriped suit in a similar predicament. Strangers savouring the intimate details of each other’s lives. Close enough to smell perfumes and aftershaves, smirk at love bites and count pimples.In the evening I study the council houses and apartment blocks of suburbia from my window. So close, like J.J flyover where flowered balconies and sagging clotheslines seem close enough to touch. Here, I cannot touch. So I see. Red walls, kitchen dramas, glowing televisions. Scenes of domestic bliss. Or so they seem from afar. Do they look out as I look in?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mami here's your gift - Haggis!

Come April and the Sherpa and I will be making our first trip home since coming to London. It’s been a year and a half – the longest I’ve ever been without seeing my family. Excited doesn’t do justice to how I feel right now. It’s almost as though I’m cocooned by a bubble of elation, floating along with not a care in the world (hey I survived a week of Christmas merriment in March didn’t I?)

Going home requires much thought and preparation. Getting the best deal on your tickets, convincing your boss that 3 weeks is not too much vacation to ask for (oh and could I have a couple of weeks off in June too?), thinking of all the things I’ve been deprived of in London – like my mother’s cooking - and making plans to ensure I get enough of it while I’m in Madras. But if there’s one thing that eclipses all these other tasks it’s The Shopping (we should give it the respect it deserves).

I remember as a child, preparation for our annual vacations back to Madras would begin months in advance. One could always tell that The Shopping season was about to begin when our post box became jammed with blue aerogrammes from India and phone calls from Aunties who had not spoken to us since our last jaunt home, telling us how pleased they were that we were coming and how they couldn’t wait to see us (and our luggage I’m sure)

My mother became the family Santa Claus, getting requests from nieces and nephews. Whether they had been naughty or nice they all got what they asked for. Maybelline announced record breaking quarterly profits and Mattel would have gone bust if it wasn’t for our trips home.

Fast Forward 15 years and one would think there’s no need for the going home shopping anymore. After all, there’s hardly anything you don’t get in India these days. That apparently is not the case. As a friend of mine said ‘everyone from the neighbour's servant to the ball boy at The Mylapore Club must be gavunichified or taken care of’.

Now being a pro-shopper I though it would be a cinch doing The Shopping. So I drew up a list of people that I felt should benefit from my largesse and what would be suitable gifts for each of them. Feeling rather smug about my meticulousness I called my mother the Queen Bee of shopping (and the donor of rather outstanding retail loving genes) and boasted about my list. Our conversation went somewhat like this:

‘Oh but what about so-and-so Aunty?’

‘Her? Why do I have to get her anything?’

‘She gave you a silver lamp when you left for London.’

‘I never got a silver lamp.’

‘Oh that’s because I took it and gave it to so-and-so for their wedding.’

And so the list grew and pretty soon included neighbours who had moved in after I left home, third cousins thrice removed and the corner wino Muniyandi. Armed with the list, the sherpa and I headed out. ‘Remember, stay focused’ the sherpa warned. I scoffed at the suggestion that I may be side tracked from my mission (forgetting how well he knows me).

Temptation was everywhere. I would stroke handbags far too young for my 60 plus Aunt and hold up dresses two sizes too small for my neighbour’s daughter (but just right for me!). My husband joked about putting me on a leash and after an hour had to surgically attach his hand to my upper arm (even a saunter through the lingerie department wouldn’t shake him off – and that always works)

Once my roving eye was under control, we faced another problem. Everything was made in India. And the last thing I wanted was to give someone an overpriced t-shirt made in Tirupur only have them to say to me ‘You could have got this for a fraction of the price in Tirupur!’

We pretty quickly realised that other than very high end fashion and food there’s very little actually made in this country. And seeing that none of our orthodox Tam Brahm relatives would appreciate a leg of lamb, roast beef or a Vivienne Westwood corset we began looking for things made in other ‘phoren’ countries. Vietnam! Thailand! China!
A search that yielded much better results than tartan kilts (though I do think they’d make a rather interesting substitute for lungis).

In the last three weekends we’ve managed to amass a small mountain of cheaply made overpriced goods. Almost every name on our list has been crossed off. With the sole exception of Muiyandi the wino. A bottle of Grey Goose perhaps?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

My god those bunnies are aliens!

Who am I kidding - at times (and by that I mean most no all of the time) my job can be the equivalent of Haemorrhoids. (I don't know what Haemorrhoids are but they sound pretty painful)

I quote from a brief sent over by a client

"We want to promote disco dancing at the centre. Something along the lines of 'if you like to boogie come and strut your stuff at Disco Dancers - the funkiest dance class around. Bop like your favourite pop star...' you get the idea."

Sigh. And to make matters worse I've been asked to start working on Christmas 2006. It's not even Easter yet you consumerist pagans! For a client by the way that won't let us shoot with Volkswagens because (please read in a Manchester accent. Think Daphne from Frasier) 'OOh not Volkswagens. I knew a girl who had one once and I didn't like her very much.'

Hard to argue with logic like that eh?

So how does one stay sane in such situations?

I present to you Angry Alien. And will say nothing more!

P.s Suggestions on how one can top "Park the Herald Angel sings? will be most welcome!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday is Amish Day

Friday. The end of the week and the beginning of the weekend. After 5 days of writing inane radio jingles, direct mailers disguised as exotic drinks from the Tiki Bar and television commercials that involve mannequins coming to life I am tired. My mind that was fully functioning at the start of the week has slowly degenerated in to semi-comatose entity that hardly knows what it’s telling the rest of my body to do.

As you can all imagine this has many fallouts. I begin to use words like ‘sparkly’ and ‘fabulous’ with reckless abandon. I find myself watching Project Catwalk and tearing up when the winner is announced. But nowhere else are the repercussions felt more than in the wardrobe department. Yes, by Friday I have become a sartorially challenged wreck who would make Trinny and Susannah rub their posh, breast grabbing hands in glee.

Now I’m no fashion plate. I don’t take to every word printed by Vogue as The Truth (if you ask me leggings and knickerbockers should have left behind in the 80’s along with perms and Rick Astley). But I do consider myself well dressed and make some effort in deciding what to wear (without being obsessive and ‘visualising’ outfits as the wonderfully trashy Victoria Beckham suggests).

It’s not like I wake up Friday morning and decide to look ugly. No it’s a gradual process that starts on Wednesday around tea time and kicks in to full gear by Friday morning. On Friday morning everything seems pointless and a waste of time.

Why bother with hair soufflés? (Children please don’t try eating them. Even the ones that say they’re Banana flavoured.) After all your hair just ends up looking like a bird’s nest thanks to the gale 3 winds blowing outside. And not even a cool bird’s nest like those kids in Camden Lock sport. No, just a sad ‘I’m 25 and am pretending to be 15’ looking one whose only redeeming quality is that it smells of banana soufflé. And I’m not even sure that’s a redeeming quality anymore.

On Friday morning I look at my mascara wand and think why bother? My eyelashes are notoriously clannish and insist of sticking together instead of spreading out in to long, elegant black whips. Eyeliner makes me look more Panda chic than exotic Indian and my lipstick seems to develop an inordinate fondness for my teeth.

But the worst thing on Friday is honestly what I wear. Let’s take what today’s outfit for example. For some strange reason I decided today was Amish Day. Long, frumpy denim skirt, starched white shirt and a blue sweater vest. (Don’t even ask my why I own as sweater vest) And to make matters worse I decided to slick my hair in to the most unprepossessing of buns. So not only do I look Amish, I look like an Amish School Marm.

The full extent of my fashion suicide is only apparent to me when I reach the train station. And then suddenly I’m surrounded by slick, put together women carrying Mulberry bags and draped in pashmina shawls. Their hair and make-up is perfect and I just know that underneath that tweed but not tweedy suit exist legs natural tans bestowed upon them by a Caribbean sun.

And they all look at me with pity. Wondering simultaneously when they started letting the Amish in to Britain. I usually use my newspaper as a defence. I hide behind the moral and intellectual superiority of The Independent trying to cast an
eye-rolling ‘oh-my-god’ you’re reading Heat? Which makes trying to cop a look at the Britney’s New Bump headline very difficult by the way.

And if getting to work is bad, then the journey home is even worse. Friday night revellers heading out to get smashed line the platforms like twinkling fairy lights. I try and skulk by them, hoping to draw as little attention to myself as possible. And then I catch it - that wry, sardonic eyebrow lift and lip curl from some nubile nineteen year old. I try not to have uncharitable thoughts or shout out ‘Bet you don’t know the GDP of Ukraine.’ But then neither do I so I skulk on to the farthest corner of the platform trying not to stare at the tonguing twelve year olds.

I’ve channelled a number of It’s Friday looks over the years. Immigrant cleaning lady. Garbage bag lady. Lady who looks like she lives alone with 10 cats. Lady who looks like she’s hiding one of those cats under her jumper.

So why don’t I buck up and make some effort on Fridays? Well in a few seasons some upstart fashion designer could be selling haute couture Amish School Marm dresses to an unprepared and unsuspecting public. And boy will I be ready for it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Dressed in wispy whites, polka dots and resplendent in floral overtures the shop windows of London have decided that spring is upon us. Bikinis worthy of St. Bart’s, peep toed shoes and dresses that would do the wives of Stepford proud beg to be bought. The burgundies and golds of Christmas have been replaced by citrus and the sea. Santa and Rudolph have made way for Malibu Barbie and mopeds. I walk past Miami Beach, The Parisian Left Bank and Marrakech. Names trying to exotify the cheap, Taiwanese garments being hawked.

But this spring blooms only in the glass enclosures covered in fake sand and redolent plastic daffodils. It borders the streets but does not spill in to it.

For on the other side of these Windolened barriers the world is colder. The sun does not shine. The trees are bare - branches sharp and angular like the teeth of a comb housing jaunty hairball nests. Feet blinded by wool socks and boots – denied the views the peep toes promise. The living shrouded in layers of cloth – hiding from the cold.

I hurry on. Fighting the urge to shatter glass and set spring free.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

First love + Railway station

Note Here is my last assignment for the class. Sightly modified.

Howard takes advice from a Mars Bar

'Platform 11A for the 09:06 train to Peterborough. Calling at Finsbury Park, Potter's Bar, Hatfield…'

Even though he had been taking the same train to work every day for the last 4 years, Howard waited till his station was announced before setting off towards 11A. He merged in to the mass of commuters – an ominous black cloud floating down the platform. People whose taste in music, movies and preferred sexual positions varied yet nearly all of them concurred black was the chosen colour when it came to winter coats.

Howard settled down in his seat. Newspaper neatly folded on his lap, waiting to be read. Mars Bar in his pocket waiting to be consumed. Howard himself, waiting for the regulars to board the train. There was Perennial Blue Suit – so typically English that it had been almost two years of travelling together before he nodded at Howard. There was Tour de France with his cycle and Learn Spanish in a week book. He had been reading it for a month now and hadn't got beyond 'How to ask for directions'. There was Funny Girl - Asian and always laughing uproariously garnering her disapproving looks from Perennial Blue Suit. There was Essex Emily lamenting on the phone to an assortment of girlfriends about ex-lovers, tyrannical bosses and Big Brother house evictees. Howard often marvelled about how much and how little he knew of these people he spent every morning with.

After the usual safety announcements the doors shut, locking out the usual latecomers wearing the usual expression of frustration and loss. You'd think they'd be used to it by now.

As the train pulled out of King's Cross Howard tugged out the Mars Bar and studied the familiar black packaging. Familiar. The word seemed to describe every aspect of his life. His job. The view from the window he sat by. His ring tone. They were all so disgustingly predictable. Self-loathing rose up in his throat like bile.

He turned the bar around in his hands. What was their new campaign? Do something new every day? I can do better stuff than that. But you aren’t. No, instead Howard wrote copy for insurance companies. Telling people what they were entitled to if they lost an arm or an eye. That their policy didn’t cover damage caused by ‘Acts of God.’

Howard deferred reading the paper to thinking over the proposition. Maybe I could buy a different newspaper. But even as this traitorous thought crossed his mind he clutched the Daily Mail protectively. So much for that idea.

Great going mate, instead of finding something new to do you’re feeling sorry for yourself again. Crap job. No friends. A love life so pathetic he'd been convinced he was homosexual. A notion corrected after a disastrous foray into a gay chat room with the moniker Backdoorbandit.

All his other attempts at ‘getting out there’ had failed miserably. Latino dance classes where he was always without a partner, dancing humiliatingly alone. Creative writing classes where the teacher had said he needed a life to be able to write about it. A life coach who had been avoiding his calls for a month. Speed dating where his 3 minute dates had all left after 30 seconds.

Loser. His 8 year old nephew had called him one the other day. The sight of the rotund Asian couple opposite him holding hands and giggling seemed to confirm this. Even that saddo’s found someone.

"This is your driver. Looks like we're being slowed down by the train ahead of us. Apologies for any delays to your journey today."

The train finally pulled into Finsbury Park. Some of the regulars got off and a new set of familiar faces got on. Familiar. There was that bloody word again.

"I'm afraid there's going to be some delay in continuing our journey due to a signal failure at Alexandra Palace."

Howard looked out the window without really seeing anything. What could he do today? The more chocolate he ate the more reckless he felt. Yes, today would be the day. No more whingeing mate, take your life in to your own hands. What could he do? Get his nipple pierced? But nobody would it – it was too cold to go about without his shirt on. A nose ring? No, his boss would have a fit and force him to take it off.

It was as these thought bubbles rose and burst in his mind that he saw her. She was standing on a lone platform, rubbing her hands and peering down the tracks as though willing her train to appear. She wasn’t beautiful. No, she was what his mother would call ‘attractive’ - not a great looker but a nice package.

Howard had been looking at her so intently he hadn’t noticed her staring back. She smiled in the way commuters occasionally smile at one another – a hesitant, rueful upturn of the lips. Before he knew it Howard was waving at her. Her smile became tinged with embarrassment and Howard realised he was brandishing his hand like the Queen Mother. He stopped smiled sheepishly and returned his attention to the Mars Bar.

He’d bit off the penultimate chunk of chocolate when it hit him. That’s it! No she’s it! She’ll be the new thing I do today. Well not do but – she could be … what of she's the one.

He looked out and incredulously realised that she was still staring at him. Howard choked on the chocolate. God don’t kill me now and ruin the plan. .

"Ladies and gentleman, this is your driver. Sorry, but it looks like we’ll be here a little longer. I’ll update you as and when I get more information.”

Howard’s hands were trembling. Should he go over and talk to her? He wondered when the next train was. He didn’t want to have to wait half an hour for the next one. What is wrong with you? The first and possible true love of your life is standing 20 yards away and you’re worried about train timings? Just be cool. BE COOL.

The fat Asian couple were staring at him, worried. “You ok mate?” Despite Howard’s inner turmoil, it still registered how ridiculous ‘mate’ sounded in a foreign accent.

Howard nodded and ran a hand through his hair. Ok don’t fuck this up now. Maybe you could hold up a sign? What if she’s short sighted? How about waving your phone at her? And what she telepathically transmits her number to you? Get off your arse and over to that platform.

Howard stood up determined. But a sudden wave of nausea and dizziness brought him tumbling back in to his seat. The last thing he wanted was to leave half digested porridge on her shoes. Be a man for God’s sake. Howard cringed as his father’s voice boomed in his head. He inhaled deeply and began counting very slowly till 10.

It was somewhere between 4 and 5 that Howard realised it was not nerves but the rhythmic motion of the train that was making him sway. Finsbury Park and Howard’s shot at true love were long gone and had been replaced by blurry images of the every day. Howard shook his head and made up his mind. I’ll buy The Guardian when I get to work.

Monday, March 13, 2006

journey home

on the train


the rim of the platform is edged
with people threatening to spill
over like unshed tears

i stand at the front
of this surging swelling mass
irritated at the triple delay

i see a man
push his way through
edging along the ring

he is close and
the urge to push him
over the yellow line

so intense
that I step back
in to the crowd

the train arrives
and he
gets my seat

and on the bus

blue veins
purple bruises
green eyes
tonight the bus is
a living breathing
pantone card

First love

Though my blog’s title indicates a love for shoes it doesn’t mean that only footwear can get my heart racing and my palms sweating. No, no. Being the generous person I am I see nothing wrong in sharing the love. With books, bags and cashmere sweaters that I swear purr when stroked, (I guess I should add The Sherpa to the list – after all he does help finance some of my more extravagant obsessions, so) The Sherpa.

Many of these are recent paramours. Except the shoes. No, that love affair started when I was 10 and my father took me to buy a pair for my birthday. The finance minister of our home (my mother) had issued a budget of Rs. 250. After much lower lip quivering and around the little finger twisting I managed to procure myself a pair for Rs. 750. They were brown leather lace ups with ever so slightly pointy toes. How I loved them.

As usual I digress. This post isn’t about shoes but another first love of mine. As a child I would run around department stores, greedy hands reaching out and touching everything my chubby fingers could reach. Not toys or Barbie dolls - no, I was pursuing a far more superior path of consumerism. Stationery in all its glorious forms.

Pink Hello Kitty journals and Snoopy post-it notes. Donald Duck erasers and pencil boxes adorned with Pokemon’s ancestors. Pens that not only released ink but also a sickly sweet perfume. But my number 1 love was notebooks.

I adored the smell - clean and pure. The pages smooth and unsullied. The corners still sharp before time and being squashed in the back of my drawer bent them into submission. Some became diaries. Other repositories of ‘To do’ lists. Though for the life of me I can’t remember what I populated those lists with – Eat wheetabix for breakfast? Play with Flower Power Barbie (who was more garden fairy that mod chick). In others I wrote stories that were never finished and always featured a blonde girl called Jessica May. Some bore my first attempts at art. Stick figures dressed in triangular skirts, boxy jackets and - even at age 8 - insanely high heels.

I could never see a notebook through to the end though. After a few months I would lose interest. The pages were no longer new. The excitement would subside and be replaced by loathsome familiarity. And like a fickle teenager I would transfer my affections to a new flavour of the month without little thought for the feelings of my former beau. In a year I had amassed a small pile of half used diaries and pads. Tainted with my scribbles and of no use to any one else.

In later years this obsession proved troublesome. When I started working, the office supply cupboard proved too hard to resist. Rows of shiny notebooks, envelopes, glue sticks and jars of candy coloured paper clips that were waiting for me to dip my hand in and satisfy the greedy 8 year old that still lurked inside. The expensive roller ball pens, the pencils sharpened to perfection – even the clear plastic folders weren’t safe from me. A few months in to my first job and admin began insisting that all staff showed proof that they needed new stationery.

While many of my youthful fancies have come and gone (like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) my crush on notebooks has developed in to a far more mature affair. The mouthless Japanese cat has been replaced by understated black moleskine and the leaking, pens held together by cello tape have been discarded for writing instruments that don’t turn by skin Quink blue.

But every now and then the 8 year inside manifests. In perfumed erasers, ventricular rulers and pens that leave a shiny, wet trail of glittery pink words.

Ps. For those of you that didn't notice, this post was just an excuse for me to tell all of you that I have a moleskine notebook and link to the site. I may never write like Hemingway but at least I have the notebook. :P

Friday, March 10, 2006

Seven sans Brad and Morgan

OK. I’ve been tagged. This is the last tag I am going to do. Please note that from today this blog is a tag free zone. Those that continue to tag me will be hunted down and forced to watch the movies on my ‘7 good movies’ list on loop for a year. Thank you.

Seven things to do before I die

· Walk the Inca trail
· Use my breasts to promote world peace
· Actually mean it when I say My other shoes are Manolos
· Win the lottery
· Write the book of the century
· Write, direct and produce a movie about my life (I‘m thinking Jennifer
Aniston plays me)
· Find out who started this whole tag thing and kill them

Seven things I can't do:

· Eat meat
· Not wave my hands about manically when I speak
· Keep quiet for more than 5 minutes
· Find another 4 things I can’t do. I'm a pretty open to new things that way.

Seven things that attract me to Europe (Who the hell came up with these questions)

· Cheese
· Old buildings
· Art I don’t understand but can pretend to (“wonderful use of space and light!”)
· European men I can admire from afar (get too close and you realise it’s true – they do have problems with bathing every day)
· Cheese
· Cheese
· Did I say cheese?

Seven excellent books:

Please refer here

Seven good movies:

· Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
· Dude where’s my car?
· American Pie
· American Pie II
· American Wedding
· Koodi Vazhnthaal Kodi Nanmai (Live together for much goodness)
· Untitled movie about my life starring Jennifer Aniston

Last week!

Hi everyone. Well only one more week of the class to go and here's the last assignment for those of you that would like to give it a whirl!



Any length is OK. I know the working titles sound a bit pulpy, but please don't let this distract you from your distinctive voice and style. The point is to use your chosen THEME + SETTING as strong guiding principles throughout your story. (The real title can come later.)

new beginnings / mosque
disgrace / cellar
anger /hospital
celebration / prison
corruption / brothel
revenge / farm
outrage / rubbish dump
regret / laboratory

I got "new love/railway station"


Ps. That's a picture of the first flowers of spring that have bloomed outside my office. Please note the 'Indian' restaurant in the background. The brick building next to it is where I work!

Monday, March 06, 2006

My flashback

This one’s for Grandma

Surya shivered as the sleety wind did its best to find chinks in her winter armour. She stamped her feet, trying to dispel the numbing cold and her mounting impatience in one go. The 114 finally came trundling down the road. It groaned to a halt, spluttering out smoke and passengers. Shuddering all the while as though it too felt the cold.

The driver grunted as she flashed her pass at him. The bus lurched forward and she stumbled into the first available seat. Her neighbour’s face was obscured by the faux fur collar of her coat, but the faint smell of turmeric and the bindhied forehead gave her away. Bulging plastic bags were clasped to her chest like well fed pups. Out of the corner of her eye, Surya saw chipped maroon talons pull out a tube. ‘Fair Always’ it proclaimed. The woman squeezed the tube releasing a sluggish yellow river that flowed through the crisscrossing tributaries of her fate. Camphor, saffron and a 9-year old girl’s fear burst out.

'Surya! Surya! Wake up. Lazy girl.' The covers had been whipped off before she could protest. Surya opened her eyes and looked sullenly in to the murky, cataract ridden eyes of her Paati.

'Who are you scowling at, hmm? ' Surya knew better than to reply and silently rolled up her bedding and made her way to the outhouse. Paati had hobbled after her as though to make sure she didn't fall asleep on the way.

As Surya went about her morning ablutions, Thangam the maid and Paati began a daily ritual of their own.

'Look how dark she is' Paati muttered – still unable to digest the fact that her son
(who was often mistaken for a fair Punjabi mind you) had produced such a dark offspring. And a girl at that.

'Look how she washes her face – how will the darkness go if she's so gentle? She needs to scrub harder' Thangam demonstrated with the coconut husk she was cleaning the vessels with.

The statement galvanised Paati in to action. Her self-diagnosed arthritis was forgotten as she leapt across the courtyard and grabbed hold of Surya's neck, mimicking Thangam's vigorous wrist action on her tender skin.

The bus stopped. Ms. Fair Always stared at Surya and then transferred her attentions to the smug, middleclass cars around them.

'Why don't you use the ointment I got from Neela’s?’ Paati had demanded ' Her daughter’s become white as milk.'

'Surya is fine. She doesn't need anything.' Her daughter-in-law retorted.

'Why would you want to change her –she's taken after you. You know, people think
Ravi is a-'

'I know, I know! A Punjabi. Maybe she's not Ravi's daughter after all.’

'Look at what she says! Shameless! When Ravi comes home I'll- what are you laughing at? Insolent girl.’

The memory of her grandmother’s impotent fury made Surya smile.

Mother and father were going out of town and Surya had begged to be taken along. She didn't want to be left alone with Paati. Mother had wiped away her tears and father had ruffled her hair. And then they left.

'Enough loitering at the gate. They've gone.' Paati had crowed.

Surya looked down the empty road and reluctantly went back inside.

'I want hot water to bathe Paati' she murmured.

'Oh ho! Did you hear that Thangam? Maharani wants hot water.'

Thangam sniggered in to her coffee.

'Shut up Thangam! Blackie.' Surya kicked an upturned bucket and received a smart slap from Paati in return.

'Who are you calling blackie? Huh? Dark as a coffee nut and so arrogant. Go!'

It was December, and the air was gently laced with cold. The idea of a hot bath was too good to resist. So she waited till Paati had adjusted her sobre, widow’s nine-yard sari and left for the temple. Cultivating her limp along the way for her audience of sympathetic cronies.

Thangam was washing clothes out back when Surya snuck in to the kitchen. A large aluminium vessel trembled on the stove – spitting out angry drops of boiling water every now and then. Mother had told her to keep away from fire but she shouldn’t have left her with Paati like this. Surya turned the knob as she had seen Mother do and stood on her tiptoes. She grasped the edges of the vessel with an old kitchen towel and had brought it down half way when-

'Thangam! Thangam! I forgot my coin purse. It’s in the kitchen.'

The 114 slowed down as it approached Surya’s stop.

The doctor had said she was lucky she hadn't been blinded. Mother had sobbed. Father had looked helpless. Only Paati had words.

'No hope now. Dark and disfigured. Nothing can be done.'

Surya turned to her neighbour.

'Excuse me. Can I try some of that cream?'


Slightly modified version. Only slightly.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blog-a-thon for Blank Noise Project

Image courtesy - Blank Noise Project

Blank Noise Project is hosting a Blog-a-thon on the issue of street harassment. If you’d like to participate, send an email to before the 6th of March.


Age 10 - PTC bus to tutions. A hand up the back of my skirt.
Age 13 - On the scooter with Appa on the way back from the library. Two boys pinch me as they speed by on their bikes
Age 15 - Waiting for my mother to pick me up after school."How much for an hour?"
Age 18 - On my Scooter at a signal. Car pulls up next to me, window rolls down and a man old enough to be my grandfather mouths obscenities at me.
Age 22 - Walking down the road minding my own business. Unknown hands reach out and brush against my crotch.
Age 25 - On a near empty carriage on the tube man comes and sits next to me. He smiles proud of the fact that he's wearing no underwear and his genitals are straining against his thin trousers.

Worse things have happened to others. But what binds us is our silence.


As many of you know I've been taking a short creative writing course that will be coming to an end in another 2 weeks. A lot of people have found the assignments interesting and some have even been taking them up on their own blogs.

So I thought I would post this week's assingment now instead of with the finished piece. That way those of you interested can take a crack at it too!

So students this week, we're writing a Flashback!

The assignment

What is a flashback? It's an illumination, it's in the past, and it's often quick as a...

A flashback is not an ornamental device or long digression. It must be relevant. It's usually a revelation which informs the present (or near past) character-story. It should deepen our understanding, add a meaningful new layer of insight, reveal aspects of the character's story which would otherwise be hidden. A flashback is not a rambling reminiscence or a guided tour down memory lane. It's usually involuntary, subconscious, provoked. As such, it can reveal 'secrets' to the reader -- insights which help to unmask even the most guarded or controlled characters.

Flashbacks are triggered clearly for the reader by a change in style, a key word, a striking image, an evocative sensation... or a direct reference to the time difference (eg "When he was 12...", "Years before..." etc). When you signal the change in time frame, you need to be in control of your tenses. You also need to be very clear about when you come back out of that deeper past.

Sometimes a weighty flashback works better if it is broken into separate chunks. Each stage can deliver a new insight. Whatever happens, we shouldn't lose sight of the main story. And we shouldn't lose our sense of narrative momentum. The central character needs to remain located in time and space. If need be, remind us that (eg) s/he is driving a car, eating an icecream or late for a wedding.

Avoid using clichés like "Memories came flooding back" -- unless you're playing with the technique in a self-conscious manner -- such phrases are the equivalent of cinema's calendar pages blowing away or misty swirls accompanied by harp music!

It's much easier to write from the present tense (eg "X is doing something" or "X does something") and go into the past from there.

So this week's exercise is harder than that! But it's also likely to be more useful.

-Write a story set in the perfect or imperfect past tense. (eg "X did something" or "X was doing something")
-Keep it to one central character's perspective only.
-S/he has a flashback -- usually in the pluperfect past tense (eg "X had done this") or a repeated continuous memory (eg "X used to do this" or "X would do this every Sunday...")
-The flashback continues (you can drop the pluperfect after a while, or else your story becomes riddled with the word "had")
-The story comes back to the im/perfect past.

If you want to save time, make use of an existing character or story you've already started, THEN DELVE!

PS. This is my 100th post! Thanks for still reading.