(Published on International Women’s Day on Women’s Web)

Pink streamers welcome me, red roses decorate my desk, I get ushered in like a princess. No, dear, it’s not my birthday. It’s Women’s Day and I belong to the lucky 1 percent of the female population that gets treated like a queen.
So, as a part of the Women’s Week, we had a session over tea with the CEO. There was a nice little pep talk, screening of some wonderfully inspirational videos and an urge to participate and make the whole discussion livelier. The event was proceeding fine, in the sense that no one knew what to say to most of the things. And some were trying to pitch in with their stories. I, of course, kept mum throughout because, well, I am always the life of the party, you know.
I mean, we all know what gender equality is about. The topic is now kind of stale, isn’t it? What else can you add to it?
And then when there was too much quiet and the CEO was like, it’s getting too uncomfy and I am the only one speaking, one of the women saved everyone else’s neck by dishing out some sort of platitude relating to multitasking women, the hard journey of balancing, blah blah blah. And then emerged a question – why don’t we see more women in higher positions despite there being so much brouhaha over women empowerment and shizz like that. (She might have worded the question differently, but this was primarily the essence.) Of course, the answer went like things are changing but the changes cannot be overnight; they will be gradual and happen over time. Und so weiter.  
Then, someone shared a story about a girl fresh out of college who opted to take up sales and told the zonal manager that she had no problem touring outlets with salesmen; she had a scooty and had no qualms about being surrounded by males and stuff like that. Everyone lauded the girl’s grit and the anecdote was heard in good cheer. Of course, me being me could only think of one thing.
Why does this story get attention?Why is the story of a woman raising her voice and charging into a male stronghold such a novel prospect even today? It should be passé by now, shouldn’t it? After all, it has been more than a decade since 8 March, 1917 when women first got enfranchisement in Russia and the International Women’s Day was born. But the struggle for recognition hasn’t ceased yet. It has only changed form and geography.  
Why does a girl need to be all rowdy and cut-throat to be able to storm into a male bastion? Why don’t we accept an ‘un’extraordinary woman in a male domain? Why does a woman have to be just the best to reach the levels that are otherwise crowded with hoity-toity but lazy unremarkable men?
And how come it doesn’t work the other way round? We don’t have soft-spoken men staying away from scary jobs just because they are so. We still have words like ‘manned’ for patrolling and not ‘womanned’. We still have men expecting women to be fiery, as if women can be either fiery or dumb, as if those in between don’t deserve shit.
Men of all types will be accepted but women? Aah well, women need to move through fire and brimstone to deserve the respect of the ‘naturally-competent’ men. 
Why don’t we talk about women who let go of emotionally manipulative men as brave? Why don’t we talk about women who battle inferior treatment from other women as brave? Why do we attribute every bad-tempered woman as someone who must be PMSing?
Do you know the saddest thing about this whole thing?
It’s that the issues today are still seen as women-centric and not people-centric. The fact that women’s day still has to be celebrated to remind the world that there is a species they might have overlooked on 364 days of the year is probably a thought worth giving.

Received Special Mention on the #GetFitWithFlipkart Contest

#TheFitIndiaMovement #GettingFitWithFlipkart

“Alexa! How do I look?”
“Alexa! What do you think love is?”
“Alexa! Play ‘Thunderclouds’…”
“Alexa! Paint me like one of your French girls…”

Image result for virtual assistant

I have started using my Amazon Echo voice as not just a virtual assistant, but also a companion who listens to me without any emotional investment. I know it sounds terribly lonely of me but I can assure you, it’s not the ‘Her’ case. It is just…a whole lot of fun.
The other day, my mom kept complaining that she is not walking enough and how much she wants to be fit again and the entire story starting with- “I used to be stick-thin like you before I got married…”
And then it struck me what her new year gift could be. You see, flowers and cards are passe. She has gotten too many of them from too many people. And chocolates? Well, I had rather not, because they actually turn out to be pseudo gifts when I end up devouring them all. So, this time, I got my mom a fitness band. First-class. Such health-consciousness, much wow.
You know the best thing about smart devices? Well, they are smart. Duh.
But seriously, I like the way they give you prompts. It’s so familiar and kinda sweet.
A few months ago, my friends gifted me a beautiful silver-bracelet-watch. But when I turned up wearing it on my right hand the next day, they staggered.
“I have never seen you reach any place on time. And yet, you choose to wear two watches!”
Well, I couldn’t possibly give up wearing my favorite MiBand 3, could I? And so, yes, strange and funny as it sounds, you will find both my wrists adorned with watches- one is the pretty silver showy one and the other is the ruddy practical one- my fitness band. It has almost become a habit to check how many hours of sleep I got the previous day because trust me, it is always a revelation. You might think you slept for eight hours because you went to bed at 12 and woke up at 8, but it is somehow never that. And I am not just talking about the variations of sleep- deep, not so deep and light; it’s the actual number of hours that you don’t realize you spend surfing your phone or just thinking and idly staring up into the ceiling before actually falling asleep. And let’s be honest, don’t you get that thrill of accomplishment when you feel your smart watch vibrate and tell you that you have finished your quota of steps for the day? It even shows a cute badge of honor that I totally gush over.

Image result for smart homes images

Smart devices have infiltrated our lives in ways some of us (who are not Luddites) really appreciate. Smart home, smartwearables, smart camera, smart lights, voice recognition, fingerprint locks, these are actually pretty cool. And the gadgets go beyond coolness now. They are handy, sophisticated and they make life simpler and infinitely more fun. For those of us who spend more time looking at some sort of screen or other, these fitness gadgets are more than blessings. They are the need of the day, hour and minute as they push us to improve our stiff postures, change our sedentary lifestyles and move our asses from the uber-comfy couches and do something worthwhile with our hands and feet.
What with all sorts of neoteric movements doing the rounds, I think the most important movement has escaped publicity that it deserved. Yes, I am talking about the Eat India Movement.
Lol, I am kidding, duh.
Of course, I meant the Fit India Movement.
A truckload of thanks to Flipkart for spearheading this frightfully important movement because this is one revolution that can actually unite people in ways unimaginable.
#GetFitWithFlipkart #SmartHomeRevolution


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

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?