The Day After

Photo by Thiago Barletta on Unsplash


Today is the day after the catastrophe ended.

I Google to check for pandemic-related stats out of habit first thing in the morning. Zero cases, zero deaths. Good. The newspapers are brimming with stories about life coming back to normalcy.

Normalcy—I wonder what that is.

I dress up for work after what feels like forever and head out. The watchman uncle greets me with a high-pitched “Good morning”. I know it’s coming from his heart, I can see. There’s no mask on his face this time. I carry one in my bag; just in case. I say “Good morning, chacha!”, and ask him how he and his family have been. He says they’re doing fine with a contented smile.

I struggle for a moment in my head. I’m not completely convinced about riding the bus. I think I should take a cab. But I see a bunch of people waiting at the bus stop just like they did weeks ago. I’ll be honest—I’ve missed travelling with complete strangers in a crowded bus. I shrug my fear and start walking towards the bus stop.

I see my colleagues, not on the Zoom interface, for the first time in over two months. I smile at the receptionist for a little longer today. Watching my team members smile widely at me as I take my seat fills me with warmth. The office cafeteria—how I have missed sitting here! I make myself a cup of coffee, and gorge on some Pringles (like I always do). I hope I have too many meetings today; I can’t wait to see everyone.

My phone has been buzzing with messages from friends who have been making plans with a lot of heart since the time we were cooped away in our homes. Only this time, we don’t wait for the weekend to catch up.

We have now seen the invisible price tag that comes along with taking people, time, and plans for granted.

We decide to meet today, post work. 

The bar is overcrowded today. I think a lot of people are afraid to cancel plans now. For the first time in so long, I see people sitting close to each other, sharing food, hugs, kisses, and holding hands. Precious little things we always took for granted. I start reading the menu, even though I know it by heart by now. After going through all of the twelve pages, I order the item I’d always order during each one of my visits. Life may be too short to order the same things over and over, but today is dedicated to wrapping ourselves in the sweet sense of familiarity. Trying new cuisines can wait for now.

The bar has announced happy hours, apparently. We order one too many drinks because God knows how much we’ve missed the kick! The owner is present at the bar. Each one of the staff members is overjoyed to watch the space fill with customers; a lot of them are regular faces.

Today is not about the business—it’s about the many reunions that were long overdue.

We leave a fat tip after we’re done. We want to make up for all the appreciation we failed to give in all this time.

Mom has been calling incessantly because it’s late and I’m still not home. This time, I’m not tensed about going home to her fully-rehearsed lecture.

It’s funny how I’ve missed being scolded for not getting back home in time.

I get home, overstuffed with all the drinks and food, yet ask mom to serve me a little bit of whatever she has cooked. She’s the one who ran the house like a boss when supplies were limited. Now that things are back to normal, I want to respect every bit of the morsel that she puts on our plates unfailingly.

Things feel normal now, or do they? 

The stars in the sky are suddenly scanty tonight. Have they disappeared or have we screwed up our pollution game already? Stray dogs were hiding behind the bushes because a bunch of teenagers thought that bursting crackers was the perfect way to celebrate their freedom. Motorcycles are roaring on the streets left, right, and center. I pass by a group of aunties who are discussing a certain family who lost a member to the pandemic. They’re blaming the deceased person’s wife for not being careful enough. Umm…what happened to all the empathy and oneness that we were talking about throughout the quarantine period? 

It took us a pandemic to understand the power dynamic between humans and nature.

But once again, we’re consumed with abusing our environment, abusing the way we pollute the very air we need for breathing, abusing the way we discuss people and their loss. 

I guess general disregard is our normal.

It has always been; it will always be.

You Bring Out the Mumbaiwali in Me*

Photo by Yash Bhardwaj on Unsplash


Your half-open mouth when you’re half asleep,

Your messed up hair from the rickshaw ride,

Your hand on my shoulder,

that slyly sneaks to my waist,

All of that is mine; all of it is me.


I am the sharpness of your extra teekhi chutney,

I am also the wholeness of your cutting chai,

I am the sweetness of your last sip of coffee,

I am the chaashni and malai.

I am your unfinished whiskey by the bedside,

I am the warm yellow from the fairy lights,

I am the cool breeze on a boiling May afternoon,

I am the disappointing Mumbai winter, sometimes.

I will calm your demons by singing them lullabies,

I will fill you with my stories, wise and otherwise.

I will tell a hundred lies to the world,

only so that I can see you for a while.


You bring out the Mumbaiwali in me,

The abey and the oye in me,

The rust and the robustness of the kaali-peeli in me,

The shameless kisses in the rickshaws in me,

The missed sunsets at Marine Drive in me,

The fourth seat in the train in me,

The wrath of a delayed Virar local in me,

The casual bhai and the bantaai in me,

The angry, reluctant smile after our fight in me,

The meethi chutney on the sukha puri in me,

The “cheap Chinese” dinner dates in me,

The ritually losing the umbrella in me,

The rare finding of a window seat in me,

The bright red of the BEST in me,

The muddy browns of the floods in me,

You bring out the Mumbaiwali in me.

Yes, you do; you really do.


You bring out the serial bomb blasts in me,

The bullets and cries from the Taj in me,

The wretched 7/11 in me,

The pointless ‘Mumbai Bandhs’ in me,

The losing homes to floods in me,

The poverty of the slums in me,

The affluence of Bollywood in me,

The chor, the bazaar, and the Chor Bazaar in me,

The dhol-tasha of Ganeshotsav in me,

The sultry, impious Nav-ratris in me,

You bring out the “Spirit of Mumbai” in me.


You bring out the fearless Radha in me,

The staunchly devout Meera in me,

The emptiness of the day that follows Diwali in me,

And all of my nine Durgas in me.

You bring out the sweet pain of unrequited love in me,

The strongest lust for your flesh in me,

The unrealistic expectations of our future in me,

And our inevitable separation in me.


You bring out the six-yards and the dupattas in me,

The skinny jeans and the salwars in me,

The laaj, lajja and also the besharmi in me,

The “nahi, pehle meri baat sunn” in me,

The “sab theek ho jayega, yaar” in me,

The “aisa hota, toh kaisa hota?” in me,

The “arre samaaj ko maaro goli” in me,

The “I’m good; but not good enough for you” in me.


They say my name means ‘love’;

You bring out my name in me.


*This particular one is my (very rueful) adaptation of  Sandra Cisneros’s ‘You bring out the Mexican in me‘. Easily and non-exaggeratedly, this has been the most fun piece I’ve written in my entire life!

I’m getting there; almost

I'm getting there; almost


Everything happens for a reason.

I’ve spent the last three years telling myself that. Since I’m writing this in the last few hours of 2019, I can’t help but indulge in some retrospection. Life’s not been my friend every single day of the last decade, especially the last year. It was a full spectrum consisting of my highest highs and my lowest lows.

This decade gave me my first kiss, and also my first, devastating heartbreak. It gave me my first job, and then a second one. I made my life’s most expensive Android and Apple purchases (so far) and paid for it in full. Having spoken about these retail indulgences, I am also proud to say that I learned about and started practicing slow living.

I looked at things more closely and for longer, and saw things that we can only see when we slow down.

I learned about stillness. Being still is magical—it can take you to places within you and show you what sits at the root of your emotions. 

2019 was also a year of finding out what my real support-system looked like. When everything else failed, they cushioned me against the blows.

2019 was the year when I saw parts of me that only my current, beaten up version could see.

Travel did not happen to me this year, but a journey inwards did happen. I met with my best and my worst parts, and I accepted myself with every bit of myself.

I realised that having my two-year-old neighbour around was my therapy during times when I struggled to keep my spirits up. Now, I can clearly identify my emotional triggers and know exactly what I need to do to not make my demons feel unwelcomed. 2019 was a year of realising that I am the kind of person who lives in the extremes—one of those with-all-my-heart kinds.

I care, love, and also stop loving with all my heart.

2019 was a year of less reading and even lesser writing. But it was also a year of journaling. I got myself a five-year memory journal and I journaled daily. Even on days when life seemed as dull as an overcast sky, I’d pour myself dry on the pages of my journal.

2019 was also replete with emotionally, intellectually and politically stimulating conversations. It’s funny how steadily and profoundly I got sucked into understanding the nuances of fascism, communism, feminism, social privilege, and the lack of it. I even signed up for a Master’s program in Political Sciences.

2019 was a year of brunches and house parties. I’ve made peace with the fact that even though I’m 25, I feel too old to be “chilling” in overcrowded and painfully noisy clubs. If I can’t hear what the person across my table is speaking, I’m already regretting my decision of being at that terrible place.

2019 was the year of finally washing the taste of his name off my lips.

It was also the year of watching him get married and watch my friends go through heartbreaks. It was about hearing them out patiently and letting them grieve. It was about helping them without really helping them—by simply being by their side, by being completely present whenever they needed me. While some heartbreaks happened, 2019 also gave some of my friends their companions for life! 

2019 was the year when my parents barely bothered me with the big M word—marriage (thank God for that!). It was also the year when I decided that I really don’t care about it, and what I do care about is pursuing the one dream that keeps me hopeful and sane. It was also the year I noticed my parents grow old. The occasional blood tests, waking up in the middle of the night because the pain in their joints was unbearable, buying medicines for them—the tables have turned now.

2019 was also a year of muting certain noises. It was about setting and prioritizing boundaries. It was a year of realising that some social media influencers are less of influencers and more of influenza viruses, causing damage by attacking the minds of the masses. I learned that having a louder voice doesn’t really mean anything if you’re not saying things that need to be said.

I also learned that we need to think and question everything before we learn it—choose our heroes wisely and consciously select every piece of content we consume.

2019 was a year of taking action. I took four major decisions this year that forced me out of my comfort zone. It was a year of unlearning things and unf*cking myself—of going back to who I was before certain experiences happened to me. 

As the new decade begins, the answer to “what do I want to do with my life?” seems to be closer to me than ever before. I’ve decided that 2020 is going to be a year of being selfish—of putting my mental peace, my opinions, my dreams, and my plans before anybody else’s idea of what I should be doing at 26.

I discovered that my greatest strength is endurance, and my greatest fear is to be forgotten by those who are important to me.

You know what else I realised? I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if it wasn’t for the cumulative impact of everything that happened to me, the good and the bad, in all this time. I know that everything happens for a reason, and I have the strength to face it no matter how hard it gets.

Postcards from McLeodganj


Life has always surprised me with nuclear bombs when I was praying for some pretty fireworks.

I have always thought of myself as a “mountain-person” due to my tendency of getting bored of the beaches too soon and too easily. Ever since I discovered McLeodganj through Instagram, I have waited impatiently to gather the best company that I could and head over to the land that’s fondly called the ‘Little Lhasa of India’.  

Now McLeodganj is a good 10 hours away from Delhi if you’re taking the road. Add to it another 2 hours in the flight and 2 hours of waiting at the airport.

Now imagine doing all this on the second day of your period.

That’s right – just the day before my flight, aunt flo decided to pay a visit.

Last-minute disappointments in my life are just as regular as corporate slaves stabbing their keyboards in a Starbucks outlet.

Periods make me emotional with my hormones doing their own crazy dance and I didn’t want to be sullen and peevish while I was finally taking the trip that I’d been looking forward to for years now. After accepting the fact that there was nothing I could do about the situation, I prepped myself mentally and packed a good 30% of my luggage case with sanitary napkins.

Thankfully, the bus ride was extremely comfortable and things stayed in place without making me “go red” in shame (or horror).

I caught my first glimpse of the mountains at around 6:30 AM when a sharp turn of our bus woke me up while we were a couple minutes away from our destination. The snow-clad Himalayas seemed to have worn a golden hat with the sun slowly making is way above them.

Before this moment, I hadn’t been able to imagine what people exactly meant when they described an experience as ‘breathtaking’.

The sheer calm and simplicity of the place put me at ease in such a way that not even a single cramp could bother me. I, along with 3 other friends of mine, did quite a long but an easy trek all the way up to the Bhagsunag Waterfall, and then another one in Dainkund, Dalhousie two days later.

Stomach cramps after all that trekking? Nope. Much to my surprise, it was, in fact, a happy period!

When I was preparing for this trip, I did quite a lot of reading about the place’s culture and history. I’m geeky like that. I was looking forward to seeing monks strolling casually on the streets, visit beautiful monasteries, walk along the streets lined by the Deodar trees on both sides and hog on all the local delicacies that the place had to offer. Oh, and I wanted to collect pinecones, lots of them!


I did all of that and much more.

I’ve always found it difficult to reach out to people; even my own friends. I’m always afraid of “bothering others” with my “concerns”. What if people don’t get what I’m trying to say? Or worse, what if people think that my worries are pointless?

The thought of getting my fears and doubts invalidated by those I count on makes me feel like I’ve been kicked hard in my gut.

Hence, I always refrain from initiating conversations; the burden of keeping the conversation alive feels a bit too heavy to me.

Vicky, our cab driver who was introduced to us by our Airbnb host, turned out to be an easy-going and a very pleasant chap. I thought it would be rude to sit in the passenger’s seat with my earphones plugged in, so I sat there hoping that he doesn’t try to force any conversations.

He would occasionally point at a temple or an important building to tell us about its significance as briefly as he could. I liked how perfect the length of our conversations was.

It was as if we had some sort of a mutual agreement between us to give each other company without getting into each other’s space.

On our way back, we had to get down at a café which was a good 30-minute walk away from our Airbnb. The plan was to end our cab ride and get down at the café, and eventually walk our way back to our accommodation. Vicky being the sweet soul that he was told us that he had no trouble waiting for us.

Aap log akele andhere mein chalkar jaane se behtar hai ki mein ruk jaaun. Aadhe ghante ke liye toh ruk hi sakta hun” (I’d rather wait for you to come back than let you girls walk back in the dark. I can surely wait for half an hour.)

Was it normal for cab drivers to be this concerned?

My first thought was to find out what his motive for being so considerate was, but he had none.

When we booked another cab ride on our own, our Airbnb host went out of her way to ensure that the cab driver was a reliable person. Whether she did so out of genuine concern or as a precaution to avoid any possible trouble for her own sake is another topic altogether, but she did what she did and it made me realize that it’s possible for people to care for you irrespective of the duration of time that they’ve known you for. I’d been sceptical about her since the beginning, thanks to my never-trust-anyone policy. But unexpectedly, she turned out to be yet another pleasant acquaintance on the trip.

Wow! I’d never thought that it could be so easy to forge connections with strangers.


People here in McLeodganj seemed to trust each other a little too much. A tea-stall owner would leave his stall unattended without the fear of having people leave without paying; cab drivers would gladly let their fellow drivers take passengers instead of cutting each other’s throats for the sake of making as many bucks as they could; people were not worried about pick-pocketers even when the streets were at their busiest in the evenings; monks as young as 5 and 6 years old would walk on the streets without the fear of strangers bothering them.

We also saw a monk who walked in sports shoes, clicked tonnes of pictures using his smart-phone, and posed readily when I requested to click his picture.


What even was this place? Is it even safe to trust each other to this extent? Are people everywhere so easy-going?

People here lived from hand to mouth. They woke up, went out to earn their daily bread, came back to their families and took a good night’s rest before they could wake up and take on another day. People here worked hard, even those whose backs were bent from the burden of age. They would either play a musical instrument in a corner of the street or prepare a small quantity of eatables to sell.

People here refused to beg. No matter how tiny the earnings were, they would make sure that it came in exchange of hard work.


How did a tiny town of barely educated people understand the rules of life better than the “highly educated” metropolitan lot? This goes to show that ethics and education clearly are independent concepts.

This place had slowly started to feel like home. By the end of our trip, I realised that a sense of familiarity would accompany me whenever I walked on the streets.

I would smile at random strangers and they would smile back!

This was strange because hey, I’m not supposed to trust strangers and unfamiliar places right? I learnt that as a child and grew up practising that. Was it possible for connections to grow so deep so quickly?

As clichéd as it sounds, this trip turned out to be way more than what we’d expected it to be. It taught me how gorgeous people can be if I just let myself see them for what they are without constantly judging them in my head.

It taught me how beautiful our own kind is.

McLeodganj, you definitely have my heart!

‘twas Nice to Meet You!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If morning moods could be classified into types, I would fall under the ‘grumpy riser’ group.

Out of all the things that I am, I am not a morning person. I hate the pressure that the world puts on you which demands you to be all fresh, energetic and gay as soon as your eyes catch the morning light.

My morning theme song, undoubtedly, is Bittersweet Symphony.

Goes without saying, this morning melancholy reaches new heights on Mondays. If Monday was a person, it would have been dead by now.

On one particular gloomy Monday morning, my brain decided that it was finally time to get out of slumber mode at 11 AM. 11-effing-AM! No points to guess what happened next –

I went back to sleep for 5 more minutes.

Yes, I can get quite shameless when I want to.

When mummy refused to end her very sarcastic “Why did you sleep at 3 AM last night? You should’ve stayed up for a bit longer na” lecture, I had no option but to get out of bed and hurry through my morning routine.

After a lot of contemplation, I finally decided to take a bath. Usually, that’s the first thing I skip when I’m running late for work. Or just running late for anything in general.

I don’t particularly enjoy taking a bath because unlike most people, I feel extremely sleepy after a shower instead of feeling as fresh as the girls from those sanitary napkin advertisements.

Me taking a bath may have made my mother a little happy, but to me, it just further delayed the rest of my schedule.

Knowing how bad my luck usually is, I was prepared for the worst, and worst is what life gave me. It hadn’t even been 2 minutes since I stepped out of the house when it started raining. 


Do you know what’s the worst part about taking the local bus? It’s watching people who came after you, leave before you. And I had to watch that for a good 20 minutes.

Can this life be any more unfair?

My daily commute to work involves me taking 2 buses. The first bus drops me at the highway, and the second one takes me further from there. If I’m feeling rich enough to spend 10 bucks more than what the bus ticket would cost me, I take one of those shared cabs.

Since I was already running super-late, I took the first option that I got. A kaali-peeli slowed down as soon as it got closer to the bus stop in the hopes of luring passengers to spend those extra 10 bucks. The driver was a middle-aged man with rugged skin which seemed to hide a lot of young hopes in its cracks, he sported a long beard and a white skull cap. There was another guy sitting in the passenger seat. I asked the driver whether he would take me to my destination. He agreed; so I got in.

The other guy got down just 2 minutes later and the driver politely asked me to sit ahead in the passenger seat which was now vacant.

I gave a surprised look and all the lessons I’d learnt by watching Crime Patrol instantly surfaced in my mind. But I’ve always loved passenger seats, mainly because I’ve grown to believe that I can never drive. Hence, sitting next to the driver was the closest I could get to driving. Without thinking much, I got out and took the seat. I continued to get grumpier with each time the driver stopped at the bus stops on the way to get more passengers. This guy was definitely not helping me with my whole running-late-scenario.

After 5 minutes of total silence, the driver decided to strike a conversation.

Now, I’ve always been a people-hater, and moreover, a people-who-force-me-to-talk-hater. I enjoy silence and I love not being disturbed more than anything else. I wasn’t reading or even listening to music while I was in the cab, which is why I thought it would be rude to end the conversation as soon as it started.

“Do you work or are you still studying?”

I work.


“My niece graduated this year and bagged a job at a bank two months ago. She got me a gift for Eid with her own money. I’m so proud of her!”

That’s nice.


“These days, it’s become so difficult even for educated people to find good jobs. These computers are replacing human beings which is why even educated people with degrees are running around in the search of jobs. God knows how tough is it going to be for our grandkids!”

That’s true.


“Do you take the cab regularly?”

Okay. Don’t answer that question. He could possibly be a kidnapper and is trying to wring information from me. But why would he want to kidnap me of all people? Do I look like a rich person when I take a bath?


“Umm…do you take the cab regularly?”

Not regularly; only sometimes.


“Be careful when you get into a cab. People can be dangerous; sometimes even passengers. Drivers, especially, are not always vigilant while driving. I watched a video on WhatsApp of an Ola cab ramming into the divider, the bonnet being torn into two halves.”

I was taken aback; pleasantly surprised actually. I was starting to sense safety in this guy’s words.

That’s horrible! I have always been terrified of driving. My father keeps telling me that I should get a bike, but I keep dismissing the idea. I think I can never feel confident enough to drive.


“Confidence comes with practise and experience. Also, one’s attitude while driving matters a lot. I have been driving this cab for 28 years now, but I still tell myself that I don’t know everything yet. This thought keeps me from getting too comfortable on the road and that’s why I’m always careful. When you get overconfident, you tend to get less cautious.”

That’s absolutely correct.


“Ask your father to buy you a car instead of a bike. That’s a safer option.”


I chuckled and asked him to pull up a few metres away as it was time for me to get down, and so he did. As I was just about to leave, he called out to me and said “I’m sorry I asked you to sit in the passenger seat. I only did so because I didn’t want you to get uncomfortable if any male passenger(s) boarded the cab. Have a nice day!”

With that kind statement and a smile, he left to take care of the rest of his day.

I have always used public transport all my life, I take myself to movies and sit alone in a café every once in a while. But I’m never open to encouraging conversations from strangers. I used to be a very talkative child, that’s what my parents tell me. I don’t know when and why did I stop being an active participant in conversations.

I wonder how many memories I must have stopped from happening only because I was building these high walls around me.

Most people are kind, they’re gorgeous. It’s amazing to see how much our kind is like us.

I didn’t ask the cab driver what his name was, but it did not matter. I had a great Monday and he definitely had a part to play in it.

Tram-ed in Amsterdam!



On the night before my flight, the nerves kicked in hard enough for me to question my decision. The conference was over and I was supposed to head to Amsterdam with Pearl on the next morning.

Was I ready to take this trip without having my parents around? I am not particularly the kind of person who scares easy; or so I told myself until this trip.

Who plans a trip to Europe one day before the flight is scheduled to leave?

Knowing that I at least have a friend who’ll be my company for the next 3 days helped a lot.

I woke up early on the big day, made sure I’d not left anything behind in the hotel room, had the last breakfast with my office folks, and got into the cab which would take us to the Frankfurt airport. We were to take a train ride to Amsterdam because we were running on a tight budget due to the trip being a total last moment plan. I should also mention that we had to choose the option of changing 5 trains along the course of a 6-hour long journey. Although the option of taking a direct 3-hour long train journey was available, we decided against it because of a bunch of reasons.

Talk about cost saving!

But then travelling by the Eurail is an experience in itself, and I grabbed it option with both my hands.

I still had three hours until we took our first train and the thoughts in my head were not being my friend. Unlike a lot of people I know, I hadn’t travelled much as a kid with my family. My folks are not much into exploring new places and all that jazz. So this trip was overwhelming for me. I was getting to a point where I started calculating how much a last-minute flight back to Bombay would cost me.

Shuddering at the frightening cost, I decided to stop thinking. 

I tend to overthink a lot, and honestly, all that overthinking hasn’t really turned me into the best decision-maker yet. So why bother, I thought to myself.

On reaching the airport, we discovered that we were at the wrong place.

Our first train was supposed to leave from Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof and due to some confusion, we reached the Frankfurt Airport instead. That was, luckily, only a 15-minute train ride away. We took around 30 minutes or so to figure how to buy a train ticket before we finally got onto the train.

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I’ve always been one of those people who stay composed when uncertainty strikes. But being lost at a crazy, crowded airport in an unknown country made me lose my control and panic.

We finally managed to reach Frankfurt (Main) Hbf. But that was still not the beginning of our train-ride-saga.

We’ve checked the indicator, our train is in our sight, we’re getting our tickets out of our bags, and we realize we don’t have our train tickets with us.


So here’s what happened – we printed a copy of the document we got on email on booking our tickets, which, unfortunately, was not the actual ticket; it was just a confirmation. The attachment that came along with that email was the real deal. Now, the email clearly mentioned that carrying a hard copy of the ticket was mandatory. Both Pearl and I freaked out. For some reason, Pearl thought that she should go around and look around the station for a place from where we could get a printout.

I really couldn’t understand why would she think of doing that. Did she assume that Frankfurt (Main) Hbf was like Andheri station with print and photocopy centres lining the streets around it?

But I stopped myself from stopping her because she was genuinely trying while I had almost given up in my head. After exploring the very few options that we had, we did not manage to find any solution.

I was considering faking an illness if in case the TC came asking for our ticket copy; because pulling an Aishwarya-Ajay Devgan from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would be too weird for two girls, nahi?

An old and a very polite German couple helped us with some basic knowledge about travelling by Eurail. The kind man told us that they had been to India a few years ago and that he’d learnt the only single Hindi sentence he knows in Agra, which he shared with me and Pearl as a piece of advice.

The train journey was one hell of a ride! We had to run from one platform to the other, at times in as short as a 3-minute period, with one bag on our shoulders, and one dragging along behind us. 

I have always had trouble asking for help. I believe that I can do whatever it is that I need to do if I manage to give it an extra try after I have reached my breaking point. So, I refused to ask for help when I was carrying a suitcase that weighed 22 kilos up along the stairs to get onto the platform.

It so turned out that people there, and these were strangers mind you, were always willing to help even if I didn’t ask for it.

Just like everyone else, I too was conditioned to believe that white people, by default, feel prejudice towards brown-skinned people. Surprisingly, I was amazed to see how nobody really cared about that!

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This very eventful, yet a very tiring train journey, ended with us calling it a night after hogging on a defrosted and reheated pizza, and a (really bad) glass of rum at our hostel. Our very friendly receptionist, Simon – an ex-casino worker from Paris turned into a receptionist in Amsterdam, made sure that we were comfortable in the hostel, gave us a free box of Pringles when no one was looking, and some free advice on sightseeing in Amsterdam; all thanks to Pearl’s socializing skills!


We began our first morning in Amsterdam with a bang. Literally.

The bang came on the left side of my forehead, from a moving tram.

I’m too used to Mumbai locals announcing their arrival at the platform with a deafening noise. As opposed to that, this tram was so silent that I did not realize that it was approaching the platform while I casually stepped RIGHT. ON. THE. TRACK.

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The last thing I remember before getting hit on my head and falling back on the platform was Pearl’s cry – ‘NEHAAAAA’, which sounded very similar to how Tulsi Virani screamed ‘MIHIIIIIRRRRR’ on seeing his dead body (during his first death).

The tram driver yelled at me for not being attentive while the thud was still ringing loud and clear in my ears, recovering from the trauma, attempting to stand up, and trying really hard to not laugh. He said he was going to take me to the hospital and only agreed to let me go when I pleaded in front of him to leave me alone.

I don’t think I could’ve given Pearl a better start to the trip!

The rest of the trip was a splendid example of teamwork.

I went to the Heineken brewery with Pearl because she really wanted to see that place.

Pearl accompanied me to the Van Gogh museum, even though she had no clue about who this person was, only because I was dying to go there. It’s a different story that Pearl coolly waited in the lobby and made her credit card payments while I got too emotional and sobbed silently after I’d gone through Van Gogh’s entire life put on display there.

I agreed to walk inside one of those “coffee shops” to ask for “stuff” (which we eventually didn’t try because we didn’t know how to ask for it) only because Pearl said, “Chal, let’s do this!”.

And Pearl agreed to have a Butter Chicken meal in Amsterdam (#sorrynotsorry) only because I was craving for Indian food after an entire week of eating bland European steaks. Yes, I’m very Indian that way!

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This trip was crazy – that’s the long and short of it.

I had a very petite girl help me with carrying my bag up along the stairs.

I had an old gentleman help me get my humongous bag inside the train after watching me struggle when the train was just about to leave.

I received genuine smiles from strangers at the metro and railway stations.

We got picked to be photographed from a crowd of at least a 100 people waiting in the queue right outside the Heineken brewery.

We shared our room with 3 unknown people and got along well enough to click a selfie and appreciate the moment.

The Westerners are very helpful and considerate, unlike what we’re taught to believe by the “cultured” gurus and demigods in India.

We both managed to successfully complete this trip without letting any of those mishaps ruin our moods. No matter how hungry we got, we would gladly survive on hot dogs and burgers without complaining, because…well…budget!

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Oh, did I mention that I also managed to faint on our flight back home? And that the air hostess thought that I was sleeping while I was in fact, unconscious the whole time? 

Yep. I did manage to end the trip with a bang as well.

This trip was a learning experience in so many ways! We learnt how to ask for help, how to navigate in an unknown land, how to look after your travel companion and make adjustments for them.


But the lesson that has stayed with me was the one that that old German gentleman had shared with us on the train –

Shaadi mat karna

Word! Haha.

6 Morning Habits of Moderately Successful People


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash


Every morning, we all get the same old –

“Wake up! It’s 9 AM, and you’re still sleeping like a log! When I was your age, I would…”.

Or if you’re a girl, you most likely get –

“Wake up! It’s 9 AM, and you’re still sleeping like a log! When we get you married, your in-laws are going to laugh at me and say that your mother hasn’t taught you well”.

Our morning routine is said to be a stepping stone to the overall success we can possibly achieve throughout the day. And, our mothers just want to ensure that all the unexplainable agony that they’ve gone through to birth sloth-like humans like ourselves does not go to waste by us wasting 50% of our time away in a state of slumber.

Now we can’t turn ourselves into perfectly disciplined individuals overnight, but we can definitely do what’s within our capacity to be (at least) moderately successful. So here are 6 morning habits of people like you and me, that make us what we are (read: hopeless)


Every morning essentially begins on the preceding night. Have copious amounts of alcohol on that night in the hope of washing away your boredom and frustration. This ensures that there’s no way that you’re going to be able to wake up in time to reach work on time, on the next morning.



Even though you know that you probably have hideous amounts of alcohol flowing in your veins, you’re still sane enough to realize that a single alarm is not going to be enough to convince you that it’s time to wake up. Hence, set multiple alarms, I’d suggest 5 (at least), that ring at equal intervals of time. This will allow you the freedom as well as the satisfaction to snooze away your grogginess.



Laughing is known to increase infection-fighting antibodies, thereby increasing our immunity and resistance to diseases. It also releases endorphins A.K.A. the feel-good hormones which make you feel happy from within.

So, laugh at yourself, your job, your salary, your bank balance, your receding hairline, your increasing waistline, and the general lack of everything in your life. Let’s see if those endorphins can make you happy after all that.



Asking questions is always productive. It can either give you the answers that you have been struggling to find, or it can leave you utterly confused and disoriented. The two most important questions that can truly change your outlook towards life are:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. What am I looking forward to today?

If the answer to both these questions is “nothing”, then congratulations, my friend – you know you’re adulting!



You’ve snoozed the alarm 5 times before waking up, you’ve had a good laugh at how hopeless your life is, and you’ve looked within to gain some life-changing insight and perspective. While doing all that, your sleep-deprived brain has forgotten to remind you that unlike the unemployed lot, you have a job and you can’t afford to lose that at the cost of your sleep. So, get the hell out of your bed and head to work!



To err is human, and to forgive…is also human, actually. It’s okay if you are pathetically late to work today. Promise yourself that starting today, you will sleep on time, wake up on time the next day, save the question-answer session for the weekends, not make tea/coffee the first thing that enters your digestive tract, hit the gym for at least an hour, get to work on time and make your mother believe that there’s still some hope. We can always be good tomorrow, right?


P.S.: Adopt this routine at your own risk.

P.P.S.: Don’t tell your mom that I taught you all this (please!).

“Save it for The Weekend!”


The universe is broadly divided into 3 types of people:

  1. Those who work from Monday to Friday
  2. Those who work from Monday to Saturday
  3. Those who are paying for the sins committed in their past lives by getting their weekly off(s) on weekdays

No matter which one of these types one belongs to, any added holiday closer to the weekend reaffirms our faith in the secret power of wishful thinking. Now since India is such a salad bowl of cultures and religions, there’s never a scarcity of festivals A.K.A., public holidays. For everyone who belongs to the bored working class category, every festival means just one thing – a holiday!

We don’t care if Ram and Sita returned home after 14 long years of vanvaas and an adventurous Sri Lanka tour, we don’t care if Mahishasura was killed by Kali after a 9-day long gory duel, we really don’t give two hoots about our country celebrating its 70th year of being free from the British rule – just give us the damn holiday already!

Our generation is so hopeless that no matter how well-paying or interesting our jobs are, we will still pine for the days when we are away from our work desks.

“I’m planning to start reading this book over the weekend.”

“I think I’ll wake up a little early and go for a run on the weekend.”

“Oh, this one’s going to be a long weekend right? I think I’ll finally take my bicycle out for a ride.”

We know very well that activities such as reading a book, running and cycling are not banned on weekdays and that it’s absolutely possible to easily squeeze these into our daily routine. But we being the cranky, cribbing and lethargic souls that we are, we will always find an excuse to slyly slide things over to the weekend. 

Our generation knows nothing about celebrating the monotony of our routine; we only live for the weekends.

As a kid, I learnt quite a lot about the significance of a majority of Indian festivals through my school teachers. A lot of our post-holiday essays would revolve around learning about and writing the story that marked the importance of a certain festival for which we were getting an extra leave.

Why did we forget these stories?

Why were we so ecstatic about celebrating 1000 weeks of DDLJ (which by the way, I find to be ultra-long-maxi-level shitty) and were we not so bothered about celebrating 121 years of our victory at the Battle of Saragarhi? (Please go and read about this battle if you’re hearing about it for the first time!)

All our long weekends in the summer are reserved for trips to the hill stations, those in the monsoons are reserved for treks, and the ones in the winters are reserved for Goa. If nothing else works, there’s always the option of driving to Lonavala!

The travel industry is booming left, right, and centre – thanks to the ever-increasing number of “nomads” who always claim to bitten by the (hashtag) travel bug and smitten by (hashtag) wanderlust. This lot is completely diluting the essence of festive holidays. E-magazines have started fueling this show by publishing a list of all the long weekends panning across the year well in advance, with pre-planned mini-itineraries.

We may not know which day of the week will our birthday be falling on in 2018 but we know the order and the count of all the long weekends in 2018 by heart! (there are 16 this year, by the way.)

I may be sounding like a grandma right now but I really do think that we need to look beyond this self-created hullabaloo (and eventual disappointment) around holidays, and maybe spend at least a third of our time and energy on getting to know about the reason that made a certain day a public holiday.

It’s fun to get bhaang-ed at Holi parties and dance your heart out to ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holaaay‘ (God save us from the calamity that Anu Malik’s voice is!) with all that dirty colour on the face, which by the way, still makes us look at least three times prettier than how we look after getting off the Virar local on a weekday.

It’s also nice to get out of the city to unwind and get a dose of nature, God knows we all need it AND deserve it after all those long hours of commuting to work and back, and chasing deadlines like a cat chases a mouse.

I do understand that planning trips with just a handful of leaves available for the whole year is not an easy business, so weekends are our only hope. I also get that not all of us want to know or care about knowing what our festivals stand for. But I also think that it’s essential for us to be aware of and also respect the importance of noteworthy events from the past that still stand tall and strong in the history. Maybe Ram, Sita, Kali, Narasimha, and the likes were fictional characters, so I guess it’s okay for one to not believe in their stories. But why should that stop us from reading the story anyway and simply carry the essence of it with us? All these stories teach us lessons in some way or the other, after all.

I sometimes worry about the generations that will follow ours – how shallow and muddled is their recollection of our cultural and historic events going to be?

Will they ever know the joy of bathing before sunrise on the first day of Diwali?

Will they ever express gratitude and gather with their beloved to break bread on Thanksgiving? And will they do that because they genuinely understand the importance of doing this or only because Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler did so in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.? (For that matter, will they even watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?)

Will they ever stand in the never-ending queues for the bhog at the temples?

I really hope that the answer to all these questions is a good and a strong ‘yes’.