Morning Glemashomikumona


Bromo Sunrise-2Mornings…We either love them or hate them. The media has a big role to play in terms of how mornings should look like. For them, the idea of a morning involves the following sequence of events – Bright sunlight streams into large sized rooms(with no clutter, obviously). A vivacious woman wakes up with her hair perfectly falling on her shoulders. She has a wide smile playing on her lips. She proceeds to take a steamy shower using a shower gel.  She sometimes plays with the lather that forms and blows it out to no one in particular and then happily proceeds with her day. Depending on what is being sold in this version of mornings, the vivacious-girl-who-plays-with-lather might drink coffee and/or wave to people(sometimes even strangers, depending on how desperately they want to sell you what they are selling you).


I would not speak for everyone, but my mornings are vastly different. For one, sunlight is not responsible for waking me up every morning. The alarm clock rings, leading my half awake self to turn it off multiple times. In fact, for some strange reason, I have two alarm clocks ringing at the same time, on my phone and my husband’s. I get up and turn both of them off and head back to my bed after this vigorous activity early in the morning. I almost feel guilty for sleeping without setting an alarm and then turning it off. Switching off the alarm, or turning on the snooze button earns you that right…the right to sleep for a few extra minutes. Those few extra minutes, if caught in a wrestling match with the remaining 6 (or 7…or 8…or 9….are you a lazy bum?) hours of sleep, would win hands down.

Over the years, I have understood the importance of a morning routine. It helps me find myself. Before I head into the day, doing what I am supposed to do, I sit and be ‘me’ for a few minutes, sipping on ginger tea and writing in my journal. I pick out angel cards in the morning to get advice which a person like me feels she needs to do, in order to be equipped to tackle the challenges of the day.

Earlier, my morning routine consisted of only three things – Get ready, have breakfast and listen to mindless dance Bollywood songs on MTV. That set the tone for the day. Over time, I have become more finicky(and weird) about the stuff that I need to squeeze into my mornings. I feel like an HR manager recruiting for an extremely tough role. I consider various options of what to include in my morning routine and then carefully hand-pick some. If they don’t provide value, I kick them out.

The first thing that  I do as soon as I open my eyes is look at the clouds. I feel thrilled if I see feather or angel shaped clouds, because I consider it to be a good morning wish from the big guy(or gal) up there. Then I scroll through Facebook and my email(not ideal I know) and get in touch with ‘reality’. I then make myself a cup of ginger tea and write in my journal. No playing with soapy foam for me, thank you. Sometimes, I just stare outside my house and think….about nothing in particular. Then I do some energy medicine moves, which have been recruited recently by me. And then the day starts….The value of this morning ‘me time’ has increased over the years and it acts like a soft landing before the day starts.

Now for some weird stuff that finds time in my morning routine. I sometimes write gibberish in my journal. I feel that the pressure for words to make sense build up over time and we talk in an extremely structured way with other people. But, words can’t do justice to raw emotions. Ever cursed and went on a I-don’t-know-what-came-over-me trip? Exactly! Now you know a way to curse without anyone ever getting offended.

Hence, I write nonsensical words(or sometimes sing them, just like kids do)….bapulaposimapoleeee. It feels great because emotions that you are not ready or express in words because they may be too ‘wrong’, come up. If you think I am crazy for doing this, try it. Most importantly know that Osho preaches this a fair bit. I feel much better dragging someone else into the picture. And just imagine if Aamir Khan spoke gibberish instead of what he said recently about intol…err… shimatolipasomimosa. Phew, that’s better.

What weird(or normal) stuff do you do in the mornings?

Signing off now..Have a great day!

Image Credits – Lenspaint Swyl Saksena Studio

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P.S – I have sworn myself off the virus called ‘perfection’, which involves squinting and reading through the text at least two dozen times. I am trying to return to normalcy and hence I read through the text only a couple of times, after it is done. Pardon me, puhleeeez, if there is a *Sob*….Psst…Let me know about the typo in private so that I can edit the text…*Wink*.

The Bond Guy on the train



We have an amazing habit of linking things up. Right now, as I hear the thunder outside, I am reminded of tea which goes fabulously with rains. And tea always reminds me of the tiny kulhad tea that gets served in trains – The comforting sound of the train on the tracks, the voices of people talking (sometimes a bit too loudly, managing to disrupt the art of hiding behind a book to avoid the people sitting in front staring awkwardly at you, due to the sheer berth arrangement which makes people want to talk to each other) and the sounds of vendors selling tea, bhel and other items which somehow taste better on trains.

This incident goes back to my college days, back when we self – proclaimed ourselves to be cool. In an attempt to live by the code of coolness, we had to do certain things like not care about reserving our seats and behave indignantly when asked for tickets by the ticket checker. On one such fine day, we decided to buy a general ticket for our travel back home. It was an overnight journey and we thought we would just pay the difference and get a reserved seat, just like we always did.

That day was different. Firstly, the train was jam packed with smart alecs like us, who were also in the race to be proclaimed cool. Secondly, the ticket checker was ……well, I will let you form a judgement on him. We sat on seats hand-picked by us and went gabbing about things of paramount importance – who said what to whom in college….and why….and when….after which we went on to the debate of who was right. Within this time, the bond guy,  as we shall refer to the ticket checker, made his way to our kingdom.

The conversation after this went like this:

‘Uncle, can you upgrade our seats?’ Friend Number 1 said.

Silence…. Bond Guy looked perturbed after which a wave of anger crossed his face. Yep, it was definitely anger, what with all the clenching(of the jaw, silly) and furrowed eyebrows.

‘Uncle?’ he gasped.

Friend Number 1 giggled. Unfortunately, Bond Guy took more offence. This time he almost spat his response. Swach Bharat, anyone?

‘If I wore Nike shoes and spiked my hair, you would not be calling me uncle,’ he said.

We looked at each other in dismay. This uncle was our only support in the train, the only one who would redeem us of our general class tickets and give us reserved berths, where we would continue our who said what to whom and when game. But he adopted an air of huffiness. We could have buttered him on his looks, but it would mean lying through our teeth(and dentures, if anyone was secretly wearing them). We could have said sorry, but cool people don’t do that, according to the the ‘Worldwide Guide of Being Cool Handbook.’ I just made that handbook name up. Hope you didn’t waste your time searching for it online. I give classes on how to fake coolness, by the way. Wink.

Anyhow, the matter had slipped out of our hands, as we stared at Bond Guy, who stood there devoid of his Nike shoes.

‘Go to the general compartment,’ he ordered, pointing his index(not middle) finger in a particular direction.

Since we were part time rebels as well,  we walked in the opposite direction.

‘Hey, the general compartment is this side,’ he reminded us, although not too loudly, because by now the snorers had taken over the compartment.

We started running as fast as we could. He did not run after us…because of his Nike shoes dilemma. Now, because our semester exams had just gotten over, our college mates were spread throughout the train – some who would help us and some who….well , would show us the middle finger, because few things about us rubbed them the wrong way. Actually, all things about us. One of the people from the 1st category(the ones who would help us) was fortunate and well planned enough to be travelling in A.C 2nd tier. AC 2nd tier in India is the compartment in Indian trains, where curtains are used to provide privacy to passengers. As I ran through the 2nd AC compartment, I got pulled into a side lower berth by that well meaning 1st category person.

He hissed in a voice that only villains would take the risk of hissing in.

Chup jaa pagal. Warna T.C(Ticket Checker) pakad lega,’ he said. Heaven knows how he found out about the Nike dilemma. My legs were hanging from below the curtains. If there is one thing I know, it is to not get comfortable around any sort of hissing noises. No exceptions. I fled out of there. Meanwhile, Friend Number 1 came running towards me.

‘You know what happened?’ she said.

‘What?’ I said.

‘This classmate (let’s name him Delusional Dude for reasons that are best undisclosed) whipped out his hand across the aisle out of nowhere,’ she said.

‘And?’ I said.

‘And he had a balm in his hand. He said “Ye lo…Balm lagao” ‘ she said.

‘What? Why?’ I said.

‘I don’t know. I shrieked,’ she said.

For those who don’t know, shrieking is considered a valid…almost expected response in these situations. If you don’t scream, perhaps you are as loony as him.

‘The worst part is he was probably asleep,’ she said.

Oh, the drama of the subconscious mind reveals itself just when you think you have concealed ‘that part of you‘ which no one should ever see.

We kept running until finally we found a bunch of seniors who were travelling in the same train. They were kind enough to provide us with ample inches for our bums to settle in.

Years later, I travelled in a train after Mr. Laloo had ended his reign as the railway minister of India. At that point I was not concerned much about the state of the railways, et al. To me, at a micro level, all that mattered was that I got to my destination without having to witness a guy….umm…how do I put this delicately….well, without having to witness a guy pleasing himself rather apparently under a thin bed sheet, on a berth that was right next to mine.

So, I settled into my side lower berth with rather low expectations and high excitement due to not having to share small talk with people staring at me. When I was about to fall asleep, my subconscious mind woke me up, perhaps sensing some danger. What I witnessed next was the fury of three cockroaches, rubbing their legs(?), arms(?) together on the train wall, while staring at me with eyes that were well bigger than ordinary cockroach eyes. I panicked and slid out of the berth, like a snake, albeit a terrified one. The trio didn’t budge, displaying their confidence and authority over a compartment that they probably considered their own. I begged someone to let me sleep in an empty berth next to theirs. But all night, I kept staring at the train wall, hoping that the trio didn’t follow me there.

Image credits: Unknown

Thursdays, Maggi and Short Circuits

Thursdays, Maggi and Short Circuits

Relationships grow with time. They take hard work, dedication and well…..bad hostel food. Such was the relationship between me and Maggi, the instant noddles brand which had been banned recently amidst much hue and cry. When I had joined hostel, Maggi was just a snack, something that could be substituted easily with a sandwich, samosa(deep fried Indian snack) or rolls. But, it required excellent effort by the hostel chefs to deep fry paneer(cottage cheese) coupled with my roommate’s love story with Maggi which illuminated me. This illumination happened via a series of events which repeated themselves over a period of three years. Every night, this room-mate (lets call her ‘S’) would diligently pick up a cooking pot  that she kept in a clean corner in the room(which was hard to find those days, since we mistook messiness for coolness). She would go to the tiny stove which was placed in between two flights of stairs. Some would see the stove as just another fire emitting appliance, but ‘S’ saw it as something which lit a fire of hope in her heart, that there was edible food in her vicinity and that she would not have to face a day where she was so starved that she would have to consume that…..deep fried paneer. I would accompany her on those fire-of-hope-Maggi-expeditions and watch her eyes light up as soon as her turn to cook came, even if the wait before that was half an hour long. She would boil the water first, then put the masala(spices), slit open two green chillies, break the Maggi square into smaller chunks and then….pure alchemy.Sigh!

Another friend of mine got seduced by this whole concept of Maggi saving lives and giving people hope deal. She got something which looked like it had been recovered from the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. She called it an appliance , a kettle which would help us make Maggi. So we sat around the ‘kettle’ like early men would have sat around a pile of stones with the intention of starting a fire. Our hearts were heavy with gratitude of being able to cook Maggi in the room and perhaps cholesterol due to gulping down golgappas(Indian street food) with pure oblivion to the concept of calories.

She turned on the switch to the electric heater. Smoke filled the entire room within seconds. Now, regarding the usage of electrical products in the hostel, we were not even allowed irons. But, every morning irons were exchanged amongst people with a towel covering the irons. We were in no mood to start a crumpled clothes fashion line. After the smoke started escaping the room, we switched the Mohenjodaro structure off. We sneaked out of the room to check if anyone had noticed the smoke. The entire floor’s fuse had blown out thanks to our kettle and we were immersed in complete darkness…and smoke. We thanked our stars and metaphorically dug the relic that had caused the blackout to happen.

Years later, Maggi found a permanent place in our schedule – Thursday nights. Every Thursday night me and my husband would rip open packets of Maggi as a welcome to the long awaited weekend. The steady accompaniment of Maggi in our house was (and still is) chill paneer which my husband is a pro at making. The recent Maggi ban in India due to suspected high levels of lead in Maggi, upset us a little, leading us to question our faith in the food that gave us so much joy. We switched to the tangier cousin of Maggi, i.e Ching’s and fell in love with it. The switch wasn’t easy though. I had a lingering guilt every time I opened my cabinet door to fetch Ching’s and saw Maggi staring back at me, reminding me of my betrayal towards it.

Horror Terror

Horror Terror

I am terrified to the bone when it comes to ghosts – all types of them, although if the Indian TV shows producers were to hold a seminar on ghosts, they would have only one kind – the white sari clad ghost with a questionable choice of hair conditioner and toothpaste. When I was a kid, I was pretty brave when it came to the concept of ghosts and I used to brush it off as something that existed in stories. But slowly, shows like ‘Aahat’ started having a grip on my innocent psyche, what with the music score that sounded like a thousand hyenas who were singing like a certain Indian singer who holds his mic way above the Earth’s stratosphere.

Me and my sister started discussing ghost stories and it came up that there was probably a ghost in our room who liked to shake our bed, just for fun. How claustrophobic it must be for the ghost to slip into the space between the bed and the ground, which was hardly two inches. Plus, shaking of the mammoth bed with two damsels(this is the first time I got to call myself that) who were sleeping un-distressed , required a fair bit of muscle power, which I never remembered the sari clad ghosts in those horror movies having.

Even in school, people had these stories about ghosts, one of them was that someone saw a ghost standing on a tap while they were on the toilet, minding their own business. I can’t imagine the kind of ghost who would want to stand on a tap which was extremely difficult to balance on, especially with the volume of hair they carried with them, tilting their centre of gravity upward. And what if the aforementioned person ‘freshening themselves’ on the toilet, turned the tap in a rapid motion? Would the ghost fall down then or would it lead to tightrope-walking-kinda-balancing-moves like in the  abominably boring movie called ‘The Walk’ which should have been renamed to ‘The Walk Which Cures Insomnia…Forever’.

Another rumour that I heard about ghosts was that they came out at 12:00 in the midnight and all dogs started when the ghosts made their appearance. That eerily came true most of the nights I stayed up, causing me to shiver off to sleep whilst chanting Hanuman Chalisa(mantra) with utmost fervour.

By the time I stepped into college, the fear of the unknown had become paralysing. During my hostel days, I turned into a night owl along with three of my friends. Sleeping at 12:00 was not for self-proclaimed cool people like us. So we would haunt the hostel aimlessly and do other things which I shall reveal in a later post. One day, one of my friends(let’s call her ‘P’) decided that we should play a prank on another of our friends(let’s call her ‘S’). P got a white bed sheet from her room and put it on herself in a ghostly kind of way. She instructed me to fetch S from the room she was lazing around in at that time. S sleepily got up and walked into the dark corridor. I knew what was about to happen, but not completely. The events of that night forced me to go deeper and analyse my phobia of ghosts and white bedsheets strung over people in general.

As we walked down the corridor, I was grinning internally. In a moment, S would scream her lungs out and we would all laugh at her. P sprung out from the place where she was supposed to screaming a little in a ghostly voice. S screamed loudly with her hands on her ears, as is advisable to do so to prevent your delicate eardrums from the torture of your own scream. What surprised me was that my scream was louder than hers! In fact, hers would not even have been heard if a train was passing gingerly through the corridor. Mine! Well, lets just say that if a rocket ship decided to fly horizontally through a building called ‘Queen’s Castle’, its noise would be like a soft whimper. After the shock of two women screaming died down, I put on a smile – a corny-I-knew-what-was-happening-and-I-screamed-to-make-this-prank-feel-even-more-real-smile. But, my friends were in splits. I tried putting in all my creativity to convince them that I was not scared and that I had nerves of steel. But the grinning faces they had when I made those bold proclamations said it all.

It was around that time that I decided to quit watching ghost movies. You can’t drag me to one even if the aforementioned rocket runs on the ground and you tie me to it. An over-active imagination also plays a big role when it comes to this phobia. Alas! I hope I have not ticked off those who might be peeking into this post from behind me. I have to keep my mantras handy for tonight.

The day I turned DJ…for a taxi driver


Before I come to the actual story , let me give you a bit of background. Years ago, I was travelling in a cab at night in Mumbai. One doesn’t hesitate to travel at 11:45 pm in Mumbai, owing to its title of being a safe city. I hopped into the cab, a Maruti Van, incidentally the image of which has been marred by multiple movies as a kidnapping/rape vehicle. Thankfully, things went peacefully, as the car cruised along the Lower Parel to Bandra back road. Now, I am a suspicious person in general. I am sure I must have been a sniffer dog or something similar in one of my previous births. I noticed that in the middle of the cruise-y drive we were on, the driver put on his ear cords. Nothing suspicious about this if you really ponder hard with strained face muscles after the incident happens, but at 11:45 in the night everything(and everyone) looks suspicious. I was seated right behind the driver and I decided to keep an eye on him.

Approximately 5 minutes and 30 seconds later after the ear cord putting action, I looked into the rear-view mirror after having completed the pressing task of making sure I had read all the latest status updates by my friends and groaned after the battery ran out.

The driver was fast asleep! And that was not the worst part. The worst part was that the car was running on happily, as if nothing had happened, at speed 70 kmph or so.

I tapped the driver’s shoulder, a thing I normally avoid doing because I am a stickler for people’s privacy and if someone taps on my shoulder, I jump out of my skin which I deem as an appropriate response to the aforementioned act of invading my privacy and tapping on my shoulder. The driver thankfully just gasped loudly and realised that he had dozed off. We were near Mahim, a place which I would prefer to search-for-a-cab-because-my-driver-is-like-Garfield only during the daytime due to its close proximity to Dharavi, one of the most crime infested places in Mumbai. But I had to make the choice. A sleepy driver made the entire city unsafe for me. Even if he dozed off in front of a police station, I would no longer be alive to write this blog. So, I got down after doing some vague probability calculations. My phone was also peacefully asleep by now and there was no one on the road, except a few street dogs. Thankfully, a cab arrived, after what seemed like thousand years. The cabbie demanded Rs. 200 for going to Bandra, which if I ran at that time of the night, I would reach in 15 minutes tops. I took the cab and sighed loudly, as is customary to do so when one has undergone through such trauma. I reached Bandra safely and vowed to the following.

a. Never doze off in a cab when I am the only passenger in it.

b. Stare into the rear-view mirror from the back-seat to the point that the driver gets scared.

Cut to 2015 I found a new option to ensure that drivers don’t doze off anywhere they fancied.

2015: We were driving to Surabaya from Yogyakarta. We had left Yogykarta after sunset and we were well into the night. As the night progressed, everyone started dozing off, including me. I realised that point ‘a’ of the vows I had made approximately 5 years ago was getting violated. So I stared into the rear-view mirror. But the driver had eyelids which covered most of the eye area, even when his eyes were open. *Physics and maths always sneak into one’s life unannounced, don’t they*. I kept staring and he was impervious to the rudeness which I was exhibiting. The car kept moving at a steady pace.

Earlier on the trip we had talked about how the area between Surabaya and Yogyakarta was infested with ghosts and snakes. But the combination of the two had scared me the most – ghost snakes. What if there were ghosts of snakes in our vehicle? Also, there had been mysterious cloud type formations in front of our car the moment we talked about ghosts and they mysteriously disappeared once we got appropriately scared.

Anyhow, back to the driver and my self proclaimed role of a passenger-who-would-not-let-drivers-doze-off. I had figured out by now that it was impossible for me to understand if he was asleep or awake using the power of my eyes. I had to do more. I asked my friend who was fast asleep on the front passenger seat to take my place and I took my throne on the front seat. Ironical how it becomes a throne when you do something important on it, like saving people’s lives. Friends who were in the car – you can thank me by buying me coffee ;).

Once I sat on my throne, I felt in control. But things had to be done. I examined his full face, feeling like a moronic robot while doing so. He looked weary. I suddenly remembered people’s love for Bollywood in Indonesia. I had a bucket-load of Bollywood item songs. I know it reflects poorly on my taste of songs and one ‘should’ listen to more soulful songs, but jarring sounds coupled with questionable lyrics wake me up best in the morning and hence the item songs on my tablet. I started playing one after the other in a loud volume.

The driver started grinning from ear to ear. He also pressed the accelerator and brake with more alertness and enthusiasm, I noticed. I was bushed, but there was no way I could stop mixing the songs. All was well. We reached Surabaya safely and I realised how exhausting it would be for someone to be a taxi DJ, if such a profession ever took shape.

Spinning Class, John Abraham and Hypnotised Goldfish


Once upon a time, a big trend in the fitness world caught my eye(and thighs) – Spinning. When I first heard of it, I imagined it had something to do with going round in circles. But, on searching the internet for this trend, which my friend swore helped women of my weight burn 700-800 Kcal in a one hour session, I was intrigued. It was a cycling session, plain and simple. It was just the right thing for me to attempt, given that I had a knee injury a few years back which had prevented me from doing any high impact exercises, leaving me with the options of swimming and cycling. I decided to dive into spinning. I used to stay in Bandra in Mumbai, close to the hippest gyms that I could ever dream of being close to. The hippest gyms were made hip primarily due to the species of people that walked in there – actors, models, aspiring models, college kids and misfits like me who had no business being in that area or those gyms. Well, it was and still is a free world. Hence, I walked into Gold’s Gym in Bandra and signed up for spinning classes which cost me Rs. 2000 for a month.

Simpleton that I was, I didn’t realise the impact spinning could have on one’s life and thighs. Also, my lungs were ready be shocked out of their wits especially after mocking a certain guru who used to teach pranayam on tv with the best of intentions, results etc for the people who actually went past the mockery to do what he said. Anyhow, when the fee for spinning class was whipped out from my bank account. my brain started getting paranoid over the fee.

‘You are paying Rs. 2000 for cycling?’ my brain said.

‘It is spinning,’ I said.

‘Doesn’t matter. It is the same thing. Didn’t you have a cycle back home which you got bored of and now use to hang towels on?’ my brain said.

I was stumped. I decided to go ahead with the class the next day before I beat myself up prematurely over my poor financial decisions which astrologers had predicted all their lives I would do.

The next day, I arrived on time having booked my slot for the class. Even wild horses could not keep me away from the class which had aroused my curiosity for knowing the difference between the cycle back home and the cycle which would be used for spinning. Armed with a water bottle in hand, I stepped into the class. As soon as I entered the spinning studio, I noticed the dim lights. Then I saw the instructor whose cycle was on a pedestal with the rest of the cycles below. Was she going to teach us how to cycle? Puhleez, I thought to myself.

We mounted the cycles which were kept in neat orderly rows, close to three walls of the small room. The 4th wall belonged to the instructor and her cycle. There were wall sized mirrors on each wall except the instructor’s and large speaker systems mounted around the room. The door was closed and to my surprise the lights went off. The music was turned on at a delightfully-eardrum-blasting volume. And then…Drumroll…..Disco lights were turned on! The instructor patiently explained to me as to how to ride the cycles and it was certainly more complex than what I had thought, given all the code words and instructions she promised she was about to use.

We started cycling, err, spinning and staring at the mirror in front of us. It was a delight spinning in a disco type setting. It was one of the things that I never thought I would experience or be allowed to experience in a real disco. And here I was- loud music, lots of mirrors and disco lights. The only thing that didn’t go well in the setting was the unnatural number of gasps that I was letting out due to the stale air being pumped out of my lungs. The instructor made it look easy, as if she was cycling in a meadow in France. There were exquisite movements which my cycle back home might not have been able to handle me doing. I would not be surprised if they made us do upward and downward dog yoga moves on those bikes. But thankfully, they concluded the class after making sure that atleast 15% of the stale air in my lungs was pumped out, much to the telepathic delight of the pranayam guru who seemed to be smiling much more when I saw him on television the next morning after having regained consciousness post 15 hours of sleep owing to the intense disco shock my body underwent. But, I felt strangely good about myself, maybe because of the extra boost of dopamine in my brain.

Evening rolled around and I sprung back to the spinning studio, this time more eager than the first day. Months passed by and the love affair between me and the spinning class grew stronger and stronger. One evening I was at the reception of the gym, talking to the receptionist in order to book my next day’s slot in the class. She started off well, acknowledging my presence and then started behaving distracted. She didn’t even bother to maintain eye contact at this point. There are certain things that I feel obliged to be offended about, one of them being people not paying attention when I talk to them. I adopted a firmer tone, hoping that she would realise that I was the customer and I was upset! I wanted to be able to use the word ‘irate’ because there is hardly any occasion that I get to use it, but I remember being upset in a no-veins-sticking-out-of-my-neck-while-I-yell way.

There was still no response from her. I turned to the object of her distraction, the person who had made me the abandoned-hanging-between-upset-and-irate spinner. It was one of those moments where the world became extinct and the only object of my focus became the entire world. The object of my focus was John Abraham, decidedly flashing his best smile, with furrowed eyebrows, perhaps because my expression was now out of my control. I stared at him, looking like a hypnotised goldfish, with my mouth opening and closing, trying to form words. When I think about it in retrospection, I feel like Ross felt when he kissed Denise Richards on ‘Friends’ and then scrambled around for words.

‘Say something. Say anything. Say hi!’ my brain went at that time.

But, my mouth just opened and closed, with no words coming out of it, much to my dismay. This may have happened for 5-10 seconds, but it felt like eternity.

The next obvious thing to do after screwing up a potential conversation with the drool-able actor was to update my Facebook status.  The likes and comments were like balm for my goldfish soul. Blob!

Maggi, Shahrukh Khan and Mt Bromo

Maggi, Shahrukh Khan and Mt Bromo

Bromo Sunrise-2

From Ijen crater(read-jaws of hell) to Mt. Bromo

We headed from Ijen crater to Mt Bromo by car. By this time we had accepted some realities of life which had presented themselves during the trip. One was that our driver said ‘yes’ to everything we asked him and then went into a long pause during which his eyebrows became furrowed, perhaps trying to understand what he had said yes to. Second was that sleep was a luxury which we could not afford except for the few minutes we nodded off in the vehicle during our drive. Of course, the sleep was interspersed with heated conversations about Indian culture, politics, few random topics during which everyone got heated up without any concrete conclusions on the topic of the debate(gender wars being one of them) and the interpretation of the driver’s expressions and nods.

We had a fair idea about our journey ahead. We were to reach our hotel which was quite near the sunrise vantage point from which Mt Bromo could be seen. In the month before the trip, I had seen two dreams of volcanoes erupting. I just hoped during the trip that it had something to do with the volcanoes which we often saw in Chacha Chowdhury comics, related to Sabu’s anger outbursts and not prophetic dreams about real volcanoes erupting. I informed the gang about the dreams I had been having and they brushed it off. I needed a clear conscience. If something were to happen, at least I could say ‘See, I told you so,’ to the gang, before we ran for our lives. Obviously you must have figured out that since I am posting this, the dreams had something to do with the aforementioned Chacha Chowdhury comics and not Nostradamussy dreams.

But I wish the dreams I had few years back of beating Milind Soman in a race could come true. Sadly, that kind of dream coming true requires more effort than flopping into bed and letting the subconscious mind go crazy with its whims and fancies.

The hotel we checked into was a decent stripped down hotel, with bare necessities well provided for. The hotels around the place were of a similar kind, adding to the rustic beauty of the place. After taking a shower, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. We carried some Maggi packets with us, just in case we didn’t get vegetarian food. I sat in a corner, waiting for the rest of the gang to figure out what was on the menu. When they came back to our table, they looked excited.

“So, do they have vegetarian food?” I asked

“No,” my husband said, beaming with joy.

“Ok,” I said.

“They have french fries on the menu,” he said.

“That’s vegetarian food,” I said, beaming a little with joy.

It is always good to not beam too much at the mention of french fries, because it is politically appropriate to show some concern for the calories contained in the little devils.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, disappointed.

“They have vegetarian sandwiches on the menu,” he said.

“Aha,” I said, my face lighting up completely. There is nothing politically incorrect with your face lighting up at the mention of sandwiches.

“But they don’t have it,” he said.

“Why are you so happy then?” I said, not wanting to spark a discussion at that time about how happiness should spring up from inside as I often preach.

“Maggi,” he said, his eyes sparkling.

“Maggeeee?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“They agreed to let us use the kitchen?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

“Aha!” I said, this time my voice heavy with anticipation.

One of my friends entered the kitchen and the staff mesmerised by her beauty called her ‘Kareena Kapoor’. As she told me this, I could remember multiple Bollywood movies where the heroine walks into a room, her hair flying in a remarkably organised way and the guys in the room look like hypnotised goldfish. Back to reality, we started cooking the Maggi. Now, I would not like to comment on the state of the kitchen, because I am not Gordon Ramsay, but he would have passed out a few times on seeing the kitchen, each springing up back again to scream at the people handling the kitchen.

As we cooked the Maggi, we could smell the jealousy of the people back in India where Maggi has been banned. P.S – Singapore gave a clean chit to Maggi almost as soon as the verdict of the ban came out in India. We endured the rather watery Maggi with a grateful heart owing to the choice of having something other than peanut butter bread along with chips of various flavours. Having swallowed down one bowl of Maggi each, we scurried to our rooms after being told by my husband that we had about 2 hours to sleep.

We were woken up at 11:30 pm by my husband, who seemed extremely excited(and willing) to turn into a frozen popsicle by venturing to Mt. Bromo. I brr-ed my way out of the cozy warm bed. We headed to the Mt. Bromo sunrise point. I can hear you informing me that sunrise doesn’t happen before 5:00 am anywhere in the world. In my defence, we went early to the sunrise vantage point to click pictures of the Milky Way around which the trip had been planned. As we got down from the army type vehicle which had carried us up the slopes, with us chattering our teeth like skeletons which had TMJ(a painful jaw condition which I suspect I have), we realised that the gift of sweltering heat had to be cherished once we got back to Singapore. Ah, I can feel the humidity all around me right now and it is golden. One of our friends had carried a blanket from the hotel, to brave the cold well-armed. I saluted her presence of mind. We reached the sunrise vantage point and sat down there shivering like jelly which had malaria. My husband looked around for the Milky Way, but it was nowhere to be found. Small tufts of cloud coupled with stars tricked us into believing that it was the Milky Way, but alas and woe.

We headed back to our vehicle at the parking lot and huddled there. Slowly people started trickling in to the sunrise vantage point. I had realised the value of warm air in my life and was in the process of taking an oath of never going to any place cold ever! My husband who still seemed to be impervious to the cold weather, convinced us into moving our lazy and frozen bums down from the vehicle into the coffee shop which was 2 metres away. I decided to listen to him before completing the aforementioned oath.

The coffee tasted like drops of magic from heaven, each drop invoking a fighter spirit in me. Finally as I took the last sip, I declared that it was time to see the sunrise and that shivering in the cold was for sissies. We walked up the stairs again, this time with hordes of crowd already jammed into the tiny space, with cameras and phones already in place for the sun’s grand entry.

And there it was! The sunrise was like a gold chariot rising high in the sky, illuminating everyone around with its beauty, announcing its presence with valour and dignity, leaving us ordinary subjects spellbound, overawed, to the point of making us feel servile. Clicks went around everywhere. After a dizzying hour with all kinds of cameras, trying to capture the magical spell that the sunrise had cast, with clouds blanketing the land, owing to the sheer height that the photographs were being clicked from, it was time to leave. It almost seemed like the sun had reserved its most special sunrise performance for Mt. Bromo, her lover, seducing the volcano every morning with her enchanting beauty, making it and the thousands of subjects take notice.

We went back to the hotel drenched with happiness, after a few pit-stops for photos. We had to leave in a few hours for Surabaya. As we were leaving the hotel, a driver in the parking lot asked us – “Are you from India?”

“Yes,” we said.

“Chal chaiyya chaiyya chaiyaa,” he started singing.

We left the place with a smile, having seen one of the most beautiful performances of nature followed by a reminder of the fan following of King Khan. I remembered the song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ as we boarded a train that afternoon, hoping we would not be expected the clamber onto the roof of the train and dance like King Khan.

Thankfully, we just snoozed throughout the train ride, waiting for our next destination- Yogyakarta.

Image Credits- Lenspaint-Swyl Saksena Studio

The walk to the jaws of hell.

We went to Indonesia a few days back for an adventure filled trip. I am generally not a person who finds pleasure in doing random acts of adventure especially during holidays where the contrasting option is always a lazy morning with a widespread buffet breakfast made complete with items which I never miss while I am at home – orange juice, potato wedges, baked beans and so on. But during holidays, these items are the elixir in my life, seducing me every morning to wake up and grab a nice seat by the water body which is always around the breakfast area. My husband being painfully aware of these fascinations of mine probably shuddered before he booked this trip. He would probably have imagined my breakfast buffet devoid face while going through a trip where the only thing that spelt luxury was the woollen jacket that I got to choose few days back and also Kopi Luwak, one of the most expensive coffees made in the world, made through a careful series of steps, one of them being passing through the intestines and in the poop of an animal called the Asian palm civet.

Note- I did not have Kopi Luwak ultimately.

A bit of background-My husband had started planning for the trip a few months back. We were 4 of us going for the great adventure. He sent us multiple emails on the itinerary asking us to confirm whether we were okay with the plan. We agreed to the plan, without going through the email. There is something about avoiding blatant and harsh truths which gives a sense of comfort, of knowing that you are in control. Reading that email would have led to months of discussions on how difficult it was going to be without food, sleep and clean air, in some cases. Avoiding reality gave us a nice bubble to hang out in, in a world where all of the above were freely granted.

Reality didn’t strike us even when we landed at the Surabaya airport, from where we had to drive for 9 hours to a resort near Ijen crater. The drive was peaceful and we reached the resort(?). The walls of the resort were paper-thin, which reminded me of the Friends episode where Ross cheats on his girlfriend with Rachel. Of course, nothing of that sort happened here, but I was incredibly tuned into the hope that there were no snorers in any of the adjoining rooms. Thankfully, I slept like a log for two hours, before it was time for us to see the Ijen crater.

Note: I didn’t know till I came back from the holiday that BBC had a documentary on this place titled – ‘Kawah Ijen Volcano- In the jaws of hell’.

Knowing myself, I would not have hopped out of the hotel like a happy bunny wanting to go to a place with a description ‘Jaws of hell’ . Come to think of it, I would not even watch a movie titled ‘Jaws of hell’. I get teary eyed when I think of my blind innocence. We reached the foothills of the mountain on which the crater was located.

Note- One reality you need to be aware of when you go to Ijen, is that the concept of time and distance is lost on the tour guides. They will say anything to make you keep walking. If they say it is a 5 min walk to the crater, glare at them till they come out with the truth. Sometimes even that doesn’t work. You might just need to ask your lungs on how long it can keep you alive and that is the distance to the top(can be the top of the mountain or the place you go to after your lungs give up).

Anyhow, we started walking. We were of the impression that it was an uphill walk of 2 km. I was overconfident about my abilities to scale such a tiny distance. There were N95 masks passed around, but I folded mine and kept it in the pocket. My lungs had survived the haze in Singapore and a little bit of volcano dust would not do me or my lungs much harm. And I had done pranayam(breathing exercise) a week back, so my lungs were probably covered in some sort of impermeable golden halo which no volcano dust, smoke or farts could penetrate.

Note: I did not know that the crater boasted of vast amounts of sulphur and the beautiful lake that you see in the picture below is an the largest acidic lake on the planet Earth.

We started moving forward. We had carried an innocent looking torch for the trip. The tour guide and my husband were the ones who got to carry the torches. The rest of us were clueless people just walking ahead step by step, counting metres till we saw what was to be seen.

I did a bit of small talk with the tour guide.

“So how much time from here?” I asked, not seeing the point since we had to reach the top anyway.

“2 km.” he said.

“Ah!” I said.

Silence followed by some panting and puffing by the people around. It was cold and the wind was hitting against my face. I used my muffler to cover my face as much as possible.

“How many times do you go to the top?” I asked.

“Once a day.” he said.

“Lazy fellow. Had I been him, I would have gone at least 3 times. It is just 2 km.” my brain said.

I decided not to let the rudeness of my brain escape in the form of words through my lips. I smiled and walked on.

The air started becoming more and more impure. It was getting difficult to breathe. The voices in my head were getting muddled. The only saving grace was the misery of the people around. Had they been hopping on the way up, it would have raised serious questions on my fitness levels. We gave each other the look that prisoners probably give each other – one of desperation coupled with anger . For us, the anger was based on the decision to leave the cozy confines of the thin-walled hotel in order to smell sulphur(willingly).

My husband was relatively unperturbed by all of this. He reminded me of Jillian Michaels where she gets all brutal and smiles occasionally to encourage the gasping beauties on her show. We took breaks, walked on, trudging in darkness most of the times, because the tour guide was flashing the torchlight everywhere except on the ground and we were too out of breath to complain. Some prayers may have escaped my lips, not that I remember now.

I stopped asking the tour guide on how much longer we would take to reach the top, because of his blatant lies and his lack of knowledge of time and distance. Amidst all the helplessness, a wave of sulphur air hit us, almost as if a bunch of dinosaurs had decided to fart at the same time, although the smell was a bit more pungent than dinosaur fart would be.

The tall women walking in front of us announced to their tour guide that they were heading back because someone in their group couldn’t breathe properly. I was tempted to join them.

We were then given masks by our tour guide. These masks, my husband informed later, are used to avoid poisonous gases in war zones, etc. Although the masks looked ugly, they looked like the sweetest present sent from heaven as if to give us one last chance at life. Can anyone else hear a symphony of angels?

There we were(gasp) finally at the top. The tour guide told us that we could either wait to see the sunrise from that point or we could walk down(ugh) a few metres to see the blue fire, which is essentially ignited sulphuric acid. The couple who had come with us decided to stop at the sunrise point. My husband wanted to see the blue fire. I was game until I saw the narrow path down the crater with few rocks being used to balance oneself and walk downwards.

“I am not going down that road. What if I fall into the blue fire? What if I skid, surpass the thousands of people who are walking in front of me and end up right in the middle of the blue fire?” my brain protested.

I decided to go ahead anyway. We started walking downward, with me using curse words ever so often, to warm myself up from inside. There was a railing which we had to hold(read grab onto for dear life) as we walked down the slippery path. The smell of the sulphur fumes grew stronger. The blue fire would take at least 45 minutes to reach given the slippery path and the heavy crowd. My husband (thankfully) decided to click the pictures from a comfortable spot, at a fair distance from the blue fire. I gasped in and gasped out, trying to get back to normal after the walk we just had. During this time, the tour guide informed me that there were workers who carried 80 kg of sulphur from the crater to the foothills every day. My lungs shuddered when they heard this fact.

We walked back up to the sunrise point after 15 mins of picture clicking. After reaching the sunrise point, we clicked selfies and smiled at each other as if all of the above never happened. Some people, however were undeterred by the entire walk or probably had done a lot more pranayam(breathing exercise) than me. One of the guys who was standing next to our group asked me as to what language I was speaking and told me that it sounded cute. At that point in time, I couldn’t have cared even if a bird had come and spoken in Hindi, which happened to be the cute language I was speaking.

But it was not over yet. In our minds, we knew that there was a long walk back, down the slippery road. But, the thought of hot Indonesian coffee and clean air kept us going.

Image Credits- (my hubby’s page)


Mom, the cake is salty!


It was a bright morning. My friends were about to come home for a giggly girl gossip session. Going by my choice of words, I am sure you would have figured out that this incident dates back to my teenage years, back to a time when having giggly girl gossip sessions were considered ok. Of course, now we call them venting sessions for lack of better words, or plain old anger. I had gotten up early on that day and was feeling particularly open to hard work. It was a new feeling, especially during the summer holidays where the days used to be laced in a blur of endless eating, drinking and sleeping.

I had decided to make chocolate cake that day. My friends were(and still are) special and I was in a mood to soak in some compliments from them on my baking début.

One swift move and the apron was on. I opened a cook book which had pages that looked so delectable that I wanted to start licking the pages.Thanks to the concept of 2D and 3D , no such calamity befell the recipe book, which lay glistening with all the glory of the beautiful dishes which people often got tempted to lick off from.

As all recipes go, this one also had a (rather long) list of ingredients. I started collecting all of them, scurrying into the storage room next to the kitchen ever so often.

Do you recall the last baking show that you watched? Does it resemble anything that you do in the kitchen in real life?

The answer for me is no.

Baking shows make it look effortless and beautiful, with transparent bowls and everything neatly arranged before the camera starts. They don’t show a teenager darting off to different corners of the kitchen and store room using curse words that she has recently learned if she is unable to find the ingredients. No, those women are the power ladies(or teens).

After gathering all the ingredients and instructing everyone to stay out of the kitchen, I started preparing the dough and mixing the ingredients. Portions were carefully measured and the flour was washed off from the hands ever so often. Everything was perfect. My friends would be home in around an hour and the cake would be ready by then, shining in all its glory. After using all my muscular power to mix the dough properly, I carefully emptied out the contents into a baking tray brushed with butter so that the cake would not stick to the tray.

Note: I did not taste the batter.

As I often do, as soon as the batter was popped inside the oven, I started staring at the dough, almost pressurising it to rise. It did ultimately rise, flaunting its spongy golden brown fluffy texture. I was mighty pleased and was mentally preparing for an acceptance speech. My heart started beating faster as the time to take out the cake from the oven approached. I was gleeful, to say the least.

After what seemed like an eternity, the oven went ‘ting’. ‘Ting’ is always a sign of completion, a sound of achievement. But it is often accompanied by goofititis( coined by me- fear of goofing up). I picked up a fork and smoothened out the cake, leaving behind some crumbs for me to taste.

The cake crumbs went into the mouth. Even today, I recall everything from picking up the crumbs to putting it into my mouth in slow motion. That was where the illusion of having baked a perfect cake was shattered, and that tiny moment determined whether I was a good teenage baker or not.

“Aargh.” I shouted, blinking my eyes quickly as if to make sure that I had tasted the cake properly.

My mom who was just outside the kitchen came rushing in, realising that the earlier rule of no one inhibiting the kitchen but me could be broken.

“What happened?” she said.

“The cake.” I said.

“What about it?” she said.

“It is salty.” I said.

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Yes.” I said, now snorting like a pig.

She could not taste the cake because there were eggs in it and she is a vegetarian. But this was an acute baker goof up. How did the tv shows get it so right, I thought, my face turning a little green due to jealousy and due to the contents of the cake.

My logical brain ( which I think I possessed back then) came into action, trying to make sense of the situation. I looked at the recipe again. Did they intend us to make salty cake? You never know what trends pick up and suddenly you are the uncool one not knowing that salty cakes are being eaten all over the world. The ingredients however did not reflect anything of that manner. It was meant to be a boring old sweet cake.

What in there could I have goofed up?

Of course, I had put in salt. But what had I not put in? The only two contents that were white were flour, rice flour and sugar. I knew what sugar looked like – grainy. I was specifically given the jar for the all purpose flour from the storage room by our cook. The only thing that I hadn’t seen before was rice flour. I remember having opened the cabinet in front and picking out the first white thing I saw thinking it to be rice flour.

“Mom. Where is the rice flour?” I asked.

She went to another cabinet and showed me a jar. My worst fears that had culminated in that 10 minutes had come true. Instead of a cup of rice flour, I had used a cup of salt. My friends were to arrive in half an hour. I tearfully threw this cake into the dustbin, with a sense of valour rising up in me.

At least I know what rice flour looks like, I thought, my head held up high.  (If you wish, you can imagine some motivational song playing in the background to blend in with the sense of valour that had risen in me.)

I took in a deep breath and some tea and started again. My friends thankfully(and predictably) arrived late. I had a cake ready for them by the time they came. Needless to say, the cake’s name was fancier than the actual cake. But at least it was not salty.

1 large popcorn and some cherophobia please.


Happy day, peeps. Who likes to watch movies? Yay! I do. That’s why I decided to write a bite-sized fiction story on movies and their impact on our lives. Please note that there may be some gasping followed by some eureka moments. For the interest of the public, please do remember to wear your towel before you start shouting ‘Eureka’ while running on the streets. Ready? Here goes!

It was 6 pm. Sesha was going out for a movie with her best friend Tammy. Tammy arrived on time and lined up in the snack line before the movie started. She was fiddling around with a box of tissues in the line.

“Hi.” Sesha said.

“Hi.” Tammy said, pulling out tissues from her bag and folding them neatly inside her wallet.

“What are you doing?” Sesha asked.

“The movie. I heard it is a real tear jerker. The scene where the teddy falls from the roof and dies.” Tammy said.

“Get a grip.” Sesha said.

The snack line was moving fast.

“1 large popcorn, 2 coffees- one without additional cream, 2 samosas(Indian snack).” Tammy said, memorising the order.

“We have dinner plans after this. And I have had too much caffeine. I will start whinnying like a horse now.” Sesha said.

“You know what? My 5th floor aunt saw a horror movie yesterday- ‘Fangs and Bangs’. She is in hospital now.” Tammy said.

“What? Is she ok?” Sesha said.

“She claims that she started seeing with differently as soon as she got out of the theatre- her vision changed. All these years, she had never seen fangs anywhere, and suddenly there they were. Floating near her ceiling. Just like in the movie. She felt a pain in her chest and she was rushed.” Tammy said.

“Oh my God! Was it a heart attack?” Sesha said.

“No. It was gas.” Tammy said.

“What the….?” Sesha said.

“But the point is. She saw the fangs which didn’t exist.” Tammy said.

“So?” Sesha said.

“Movies…They do weird things to us. They control us in weird ways.” Tammy said.

“I think you have taken this a bit too far. Earlier you said aliens controlled us. And now movies.” Sesha said.

“There might be a link there.” Tammy said.

“What will you have?” the guy at the snack counter said, tapping his fingers on the counter.

“Umm. Let’s see. I large popcorn and some cherophobia, please.” Tammy said.

“Ohkay. 1 large popcorn and some……..?”  the counter guy said.

“Cherophobia.” Tammy said, not blinking an eyelid.

“What’s that?” Sesha whispered.

“Ma’am. We don’t serve cherry phobee here.” the counter guy said.

“Cherophobia. Forget about it. Don’t be stingy with the cheese, please.” Tammy said, putting the money on the counter for the popcorn.

“What was that? And what is cherophobia? The names of food these days.” Sesha said.

“I was just picking a bone with him. Cherophobia is not a snack, sadly.” Tammy said.

“Then what is it?” Sesha said , grabbing two handfuls of popcorn.

“It is a phobia. A mental disorder.” Tammy said.

“Why would they serve that here?” Sesha said.

“They don’t.” Tammy said.

“Tammy. Are you drunk?”Sesha said.

“Drunk, hypnotised, affected.” Tammy said.

“Why? Who did that to you?” Sesha said.

“The movies.” Tammy said.

“What?” Sesha said.

“Cherophobia is a deadly thing. You know the scene where something bad happens when you are extremely happy?” Tammy said.

“In which movie?” Sesha said.

“All.” Tammy said.

“Ok.” Sesha said.

“It has an impact on us so deep that we can never fathom. Like it had on my aunt. That was not cherophobia, though” Tammy said.

“I don’t see where this is going.” Sesha said.

“I don’t know what ‘it’ is. But I know where we are going. To the place where we will be hypnotised to believe that bad things always follow the good and that the world is a place to be scared in.” Tammy said, her eyes now glassy.

“You are crazy.” Sesha said.

“Ssh. The movie is about to start. Have some cherophobia, will you?” Tammy said.

***End of story***

Thanks for reading this post. I was not attacked by aliens, if that is what you believe caused me to write this post. I read an article on how movies impact us and it might do us good to be aware on what beliefs we pick up and whether they are true or simply absorbed from movies. Movies are after all a figment of someone’s imagination.