#AmritsarDiaries 

I don’t think I will ever learn to lift my own bags. You may think 
it’s kinda royal and high maintenance of me but trust me, the only thing it is, is downright annoying. Lugging my only suitcase up and down two flights of stairs to reach platform no.3 seemed to summon up all the strength I had gleaned from the lassi and dal makhani we had had from Kesar da Dhaba the previous night. And that reminds me of our quest. The quest for the best lassi in town. In all of Amritsar, to be honest. 

On our very first day to the foundation school where we were supposed to impart ‘education’ and do something for the kids, I learnt a few things about a few people. First of all, our cabbie. Our cabbie was called Lucky. (Guess he wasn’t so lucky to have us, hee hee!). He looked like he had a couple of kine at his place, and had been fed on their fresh milk since boyhood.
And it turned out he did.
He also turned out to have an ambulance siren for a horn and a skull for a gear head.
Pretty badass, huh?
You wouldn’t say so if you saw him. He was so unfailingly polite and incredibly sweet that we liked him at the very outset. Gentle giant was what occurred to me when I saw him.

Then we met the kids at the school and I realized what love and fandom looked like. Primarily love. The kids loved me like no boyfriend ever had. They listened open-mouthed to whatever I had to teach and irrespective of whether they understood much of it, they asked me if I would come the next day. During recess, they would stare at me and whisper among themselves, shake my hand and beam a full set of 28 teeth at me. I had never felt fuller, happier, more loved. Oh yeah, one even tried to take my autograph. Quite an ego boost, I know 😉
Let me now come to the group of three people who I was clubbed with.

One of them was my bestie and roommate. I am calling her N. You know, the BFF kinda person? The one who you think might have been a lost sister at a kumbh mela? Who we strike an immediate companionship with? Who give us the feeling, ‘excuse me, I think we rock’? You know, those quotes about not meeting often and yet being besties somehow, because you start off from wherever you left last time and it seems like you never left? Yep, that’s her. From being the rock that absorbed my tears this entire year to being my official beauty expert, she is the elder sister I never had. Thank the HR for doing some things right 😉

The other one, P., was a bubbly perky ball of energy who looked like she was perpetually high. In all the good senses, you know. I knew her from before and I liked her. But there was something she said which touched me to the very core and told me that bro, you have struck gold in here. “Everyone deserves all the good things in life,” she told me on a shopping spree while we were buying Christmas gifts for the kids and I was like, bro, you are the perfect perfect Santa! And lo! She turned out to be THE SANTA. The most secretive Santa ever. Sending us cards and stuff through the hotel guys and we really DIDN’T EVEN KNOW. Till a few days later. Damn. Well, I guess I can safely use the word love for her.



The third member S., was a guy who looked like he would rather not have been clubbed with us because he hung out mostly with the mate from his alma mater and tried to vainly hide the annoyance on his face when I reached the reception a complete hour late on the very first day. Typical yours truly. But he won us over (or we won him over? Or it just seemed so?) with his droolworthy photography skills when he clicked brand new and very many display pictures of us without uttering a single complaint. Did I tell you that he shares with me the talent of falling asleep in the car at the drop of a hat? Well, he had me at SRK and sarsonkekhetwhen P. and I frolicked about among the mustard flowers and he let us play cliche and ultra-cheesy and mushy songs from DDLJ with nothing more than a smile on his face (which may have been a grimace of resignation but we will let that pass).

Not that it helped my timing much, because we made him wait almost everyday.
You see, time and I have never been on good terms. 
But music and I are. Only in the listening sense, you know. So, I somehow managed to convince my peers that my company was sufferable. I acted like the DJ and gave them a jukebox kinda feeling and suddenly all of us had songs we wanted to re-listen to. And share with each other. Share songs. That’s one step already in the friendship department. 
Add taking group classes, soaking in whatever sunlight that filtered through the fog at noon, taking the kids’ swings for ourselves, playing games we had last played, like, 12 years ago? and re-playing our school days; and soon we were thick enough to want to go out together. 


An unplanned walk in the night started us on the quest to find the best lassi in all of Amritsar. And Punjab. And the Punjab in Pakistan (as S. helpfully points out every time we stretch our itinerary to inhuman lengths). Of course, we sampled all the usual places like Brothers, Kesar, Qila Gobindgarh, and the rest of the places people recommend and even went to places that no one recommended. We asked Lucky, the cabbie, if he knew where we would find the best lassi. He mentioned the town hall and we took him to a dhaba just to ascertain which was better- the lassi at the town hall or at the dhaba we were at. Lucky ji though gave us a lovely reply. He had never had lassi outside his home. And well, what could compare with lassi from fresh milk from a cow in your backyard?
Well, I’m not sure if we discovered the best lassi in town, but we found something even better. We found each other and cheesy as it sounds, it is actually sweet. 
Because you see, memories with friends are different from memories with lovers. The latter may be too predictable, may hurt and cause pain, but the first ones are your bulwarks, your support systems and they tide you through the storms in your life.
Let the start of this year be given to friendship and all the good things that come with it!

I have always been enamored by the elements of the universe. The stars, the moon, the planets… I wondered a lot about writing a children’s rhyme about it. But then, rhyme is not really my thing, it turns out. So, here goes something, that I think is kind of my thing…

It was like someone had given the moon a voice in addition to craters.
She had started spewing nonsense stuff about how she wanted to look like the star,
how the star’s craters and wounds were better than her own,
how the star was luckier than her just because she could shoot.
She could shoot because she was that kind of a star.
The shooting kind.
The kind of star that could actually afford to scoot closer to him.
To the love of her life.

Image source : ebay
Even though she was badly battered, broken and bruised, she was getting nearer to him with each passing moment.
The moon wished on the star because she knew that the shooting kind of star could grant wishes.
The moon wished for eternal love.
She wished for the kind of love that would last.
The price of love was life.
So, the star shot to the earth.
And died in the arms of her love.
Whereas she, the ill-fated moon, stayed immobile and stationary.
As she was fated to stay forever.
Handicapped by the cruel forces of gravity.
Destined to stay away.
At that exact distance.
Pulling his seas towards her every now and then,
but never really coming closer.
The price of eternity was love.


Picture Credits : Sheetanshu Agarwal & Krishna Kumar




















I am coming from a far off place. A place called ‘Two Years Ago’ that I no longer recognize because it was so hideously expensive that I incurred a ginormous debt while in there. 
A debt, I had no idea, would cost me lakhs of heartbeats and millions of feelings. 
A debt where the currency was people and the interest went up with the rise in the moments we shared. 
I am coming from Two Years Ago, but at a very slow pace. 
A pace that is slower than time itself, because two years have happened and ended, and I am still there, making my sluggish way forward, trying to reach The Present.

Picture credits: Agrani Punj

Of course, once I do, I will earn all that stuff back, and try to repay the bankers who keep the memories locked in a special account of nostalgia and hurt and all things bittersweet.
Once I reach The Present, I will empty my life of all those events and conversations that make the walk to it so hard.

Once I reach The Present
I will not spend my nights awake in the classrooms with a motley assortment of people, who came together purely on a stroke of fate, like a package of assorted biscuits on Diwali.
I will not give in to midnight cravings that strike me like thunder and lose a major part of my savings in the night canteen or on sudden trips to Murthal/ India Gate/ Bangla Saheb.
I will not pretend to listen to lectures in class while doing what I do best in life (read daydreaming).

Picture credits: Pixcell, IIFT
I will not celebrate midnight birthdays on campus or spend sleepy-wakeful nights trying to mug up for exams.
I will not watch those puppies grow into mischievous dogs.
I will not click photographs every second day or dance unabashedly at atrium parties.
I will strip my life of all those things and rush to The Present.

Picture credits: Pixcell, IIFT

However…
On second thoughts…
Let me arrive late as usual.
And take my own sweet time to reach. For surely it hasn’t been so long since we were at Two Years Ago, has it?

One.
There was one moment when I wondered if I had done the right thing by filling the form. And there was another moment when I realized that one moment of hesitation was not worth it at all because of course, I had been right. There was only one word for it. Perfect.

Two.
Two cabs accommodating laughter and gossip, titbits and tales, texts and the people writing them. Two sauces – red and white, mingling with mouth-watering pasta and eye-watering jokes. With the two arguments over the double cheese pizza and the extra mayo-ed nachos. Two hundred party venues being looked into before homing in on one- the one with the best deal, the best time and of course, the best people.

Three.
Three a.m. meetings where brainstorms would occur at the speed of light and ideas would be debated with religious gusto. Three a.m. confession sessions at the Top of the World where intimacies invited confidences and secrets were traded in the hallowed institute of trade.

Four.
Four thousand emails skyrocketing into the inbox. Four hundred aspirants to be answered to. Four and twenty articles to be written. Four thousand messages to sift through and apprehensions, turmoils and uproars to be contained.    

Five.
Five people sitting side by side in guest lectures, noting down moments and their significance, noting the similar-sounding words like distinguished, esteemed, welcome, campus and leadership, but in essence recording mainly the five million expressions of the ones sitting right next and secretly laughing at their inane comments. Five people taking down notes and one clicking away the five pictures to go with them, but mainly just filing the pictures away in the memory cabinets for flicking through them some time in the future.

Six.
Six we were and six we are. I know that six is the devil’s number. And I think it fits us perfectly well. Because we are devilish. Devilishly good together.  
#ApnaKaumMediaKaum

(The above reference would only be clear when you have spent two years (or even one, for that matter) in the sacrosanct precincts of the Media Committee at IIFT and discovered a kind of religious fervor in the writing of a blog, the organizing of chat meets and of course, TEDx or even answering aspirant queries.)  
It is a brand new year and I was just thinking how to give a new start to this blog. But then I realized that my blog, much like my life, has been a series of fits and starts. Perhaps that is how it is supposed to be.
My writing has been pretty scattered the past year what with verses written on tissue papers, short stories noted on cellphone, and blog posts on the university website. As a result, this space got easily ignored. Now, as I begin the end of my journey at IIFT, I decided to bare my thoughts here on this old space of mine.  



Blood is made of a red substance; they call it haemoglobin.
But madness is made of a substance which they haven’t named yet.

It is made of songs sung tunelessly in the dark streets around Sanjay Van. 

It is made of dreadful PJs that emerge from minds that don’t know how to crack jokes because they haven’t learnt the art of laughter. 

It is made of steel. Steel bars of the benches where we sat for hours that disappeared in the web of time. 

It is made of power banks. Power banks that we snatched from each other because our phones were never fully charged. 

It is made of khakras and theplas that they brought every time they came from home. 

It is made of chairs where we sat and sipped bournvita. 

It is made of crumbs. Crumbs and remains of the rusk biscuits that accompanied the bournvita and the tea. 

It is made of chilli potatoes. Chilli potatoes and paneer tikkas that we ate at buffets where we gorged till food threatened to kill us. 

It is made of hands. Hands and legs which moved in every whichever way when we danced inebriated with laughter in the atrium. 

It is made of wings. The wings of wisdom that we saw everyday as we devoured the sunlight while walking towards the ice cream stall.
Our madness is made of a million things. Bits and pieces. Bits and pieces of rights and wrongs, dread and jubilation, thoughts and sensations. Some tiny and some long. Tiny moments snatched in an eye-roll and long hours spent studying presentations.

They say blood makes you related. 
But they don’t know that madness makes you family.