Was it the wrong train?

Reading Couchpotato's post on train journeys just triggered off a whole lot of memories. Like when I was a child, I was fascinated by trains. There was a simple explanantion for this. I hadn't travel much within the country as a kid. It was always shuttling between Oman and Saltlake (that's where I live in Calcutta). And in between stopping over at places like Dubai, Muscat, Singapore... So I had never set foot on a train till I was really much older. As old as when I was in the Xth.

There is one train journey that at times I treasure. And often I loathe. This was during my post high school days, when I was relaxing doing nothing. I accompanied my brother for an exam of his to Delhi. The chaperon for the journey was my dad.

When I got into our compartment, I saw this trio of young guys seated opposite us. One of them, I noticed was very cute with nice sparkling eyes. As the train chugged out of the station, my dad and bro got into a conversation with our neighbours. They, it turned out, were doctors (a bonding thing immediately happened between my bro and them), who were going for the same exam. Slowly I came to the conclusion that the whole train was choc-a-bloc with young docs.

I was mum during the initial phase of the conversation. Soon cute guy SS started belting out jokes and riddles. I came up with an answer or two. Those were my first few words with him. But I enjoyed myself immensely during the course that we chatted. It was a bit intellectual and at the same time very funky. It was special. I liked SS a lot. He was funny. Next I saw him in Delhi at the exam venue for a second or two.

But I knew he was working with a hospital in Calcutta. Several months later on an impulse, I walked in one day with my friend into the hospital campus (this damn thing called impulse has always landed me in trouble). We asked about him. They told us his room was locked. Still we climbed up and while we were locating his room, the door to the next room opened and SS stepped out. I made an about turn and ran down the stairs leaving my friend behind. My heart was beating so fast, I couldn't hear anything above it. I can still feel it. The embarrassment.

I had walked out to the road, when I saw my friend coming down followed by SS. While I blushed and blushed (I have never blushed ever before like I did then), he kept saying, "I can't believe you are here!"

I went out on dates with him. In between he would leave for Shimla, his home. And come back with gifts and stories of how he had told his mom about me. That kind of did it. And the day that put an end it to all was when he kissed me. I felt repulsed. Because he was so desperate to get me into bed. I told him I never wanted to see him again. I stopped taking his calls. He landed up in college and I made my friends ward him off. He followed my friend (the one with whom I had gone to his hospital the first time) one day to the British Council Library. I was horrified to see him. He tried to placate me and finally he said it. He flung it in my face: "It was you who came to me first." And even though it was true, that one line made me feel so small.

He walked out dramatically throwing a parting shot. "You'll never get a guy like me."

I didn't regret the meeting on the train. I regret what happened later. I wanted to be just friends with him. But I guess it sounded unbelievable. And since then I have been always very careful of never making the first move.

This was a long detour. But damn it, it feels cathartic.

The next journey that is stuck to my memory like it happened yesterday was on the way from Delhi to Bombay. I travelled on unreserved tickets with friends. This was while I was studying in Delhi, and three of us (including S) made a plan to go to Bombay for the New Year's. So there we were shifting from one compartment to other lugging our huge rucksacks along. Till we got one seat in a compartment crammed with kids. They looked like dolls arranged in a row in the middle bunk. One of them was this chubby little girl. She kept pointing at us and going into fits of giggles. I guess we did look funny. Seated in one row on the upper bunk at the side.

A station or two later, some cops strolled in and sat in the bunk beneath ours. It was cramped up there, so I couldn't resist dangling my legs. One of the cops got up and said something. I thought he wanted us to move, but then I realised he was offering us another seat in the next compartment. K told me the one on which we had planted ourselves was theirs. "And have you noticed the man in chains with them?" she asked. I was stunned. "Really?" I said and peeked. I saw this thin dark handcuffed man. He looked up at the same time. I drew back hastily.

At night, I moved to the seat offered to us by the cops. I had dozed off when I was woken up by a cop. He patted me on the head and moved on. After some time, another cop came and wanted me to give him some space to sit. For the next few hours neither did he let me sleep nor stay quiet. He told me about the prisoner - a Chhota Shakeel guy who had been caught finally after being in the police records for a few murders. They were taking him to Gujarat.

Later in the night, I realised the cop was trying to act funny. It was a desperate attempt to rid myself of him. That I managed to do by saying I wanted to go to the loo. I just went and sat at the edge of another seat. It happened to be the one facing the prisoner. So all night long, I was trying to read a book in the dim lights, while he kept walking up and down, from the loo to his seat and back. And though he did not lech, he did keep looking at me curiously like I was the prisoner there. In the morning, he changed his pullover and washed his face, applied cream and brushed his hair very carefully. Then he got down at a station surrounded by his many chaperons.

Lesson learnt: Train neighbours are better left alone.

So now I always plug my walkman into my ears when I am on the move.


I am an actor, I am a star, and I even have my own car, and I'm hoping so much you'll say...

They said it anyway. That they love him. How many times did John Abraham hear the word sexy and hot at the photography exhibition yesterday? I lost count. From wee sized kids, powdery faced aunties and teenagers wearing itsy bitsy numbers to six footer men, all were drooling on him. And even though I didn't feel the thrill running down my spine (which happened when I saw Shah Rukh Khan for the first time), I have to say this that he is the nicest man I have ever met.

In fact, I have started to wonder whether he has an alter ego. You know what I mean? He is a hunk, doesn't drink, is a vegetarian, is honest, is very caring... The amusing thing is that even when he praises himself he is very matter-of-fact. Mamma's boy and daughter's dream in one package. It doesn't get better.

Not a single star has ever looked my way and cared about whether I have got my interview with him. John did. First of all I was tagging him like a shadow. At 10.30 at night I was seated right at the back of the room where he was being interviewed by the television channels. The moment I saw this editor of one of the newspapers which was sponsoring the event enter the room, I took it for granted that it was over. But then John happened to look at me. And he smiled and asked, "Where are you from?" Next he assured me that he would just get over and sit with me. "I am sorry for making you wait," he said. That is also something I have never heard any star say. I am touched.

There have been quite a few changes in my life of late. My parents left for Calcutta the day before I shifted along with S to our new apartment. In the beginning there were the predictable shifting blues (and I was missing my folks as well) but now it feels nice. Reaching office in 15 minutes and paying peanuts to the autowallah.

My face has gone through a few changes as well. I don't know how that sounds but seriously I think I looked like a puma cat a few days before. Now I look less like one.

First of all, I was licked by a cockroach or it might have been a spider. The right side of my face, a considerable part of it, had turned bright red. It seems aeons now that it has been there on my face. But it has grown tired of being there I guess. I am tired too, of peering at it day and night. If it wasn't enough, now I have a bright red round spot right on the bridge of my nose.

Three days ago I went for a fashion show. Certain scented candles caught my fancy. I started poking at the transparent wax with a plastic toothpick. Then I decorated them with rose petals while sipping on my glass of red wine. I felt very nice. That feeling of doing nothing is bliss. I could see tiny bubbles forming as the petals gradually sank into the wax. Next moment I heard a popping sound and felt a blob of searing something on my nose. Must have been the bloody wax. So when the fashion show started I was standing at the back pressing a block of ice on my nose. It was wrapped in a white hanky. And then to my dismay I looked to my left side and saw a few male models. One of them is somebody whom I interview often. Of course he was staring.

I guess it has to go down in my evergrowing list of embarrassing moments.


Message in a blog

My conversation with a subject:

Me: Could you tell me about the turning points in your life? (in a flirtatious tone cos he has quite a reputation as a lady lover;)

He: Why don't you come down and we can chat.

Me: Geographically not possible. I am in Delhi. (He is in Bombay)

He: Doesn't matter. You can come down with that Little Terrorist guy. (He meant Ashvin Kumar)

Me: Giggle giggle

He: At the age of 14, I got kissed. That was my first turning point. It happened to be a big disappointment. Because the girl who kissed me was a 16-year-old and was a first time kisser too. There was no music. No violins playing. After that I never kissed till I was much older.

I had to keep on laughing till my jaws ached while he guffawed at his own stories. (Painful)

He: Next when I was 16 years old, I was seduced by an older woman of 24 years. She told me she would teach me to please women, for what is most important to a woman is taken for granted by a man. For the next 9 months I was tutored in the art. One day she warned me not to fall in love with her because then I would be history. But of course I did fall in love with her. And even though she did not drop me like a hot potato she did disengage herself gradually. I have never looked back since.

Me: What about something in your career?

He: My whole life I have spent courting, chasing and pleasing a plethora of high achieving women. That's my career.

Me: (Gnashing teeth and laughing at the same time) No, I mean what about when you opened your first restaurant?

In that restaurant of his he had a fixed item that never changed. What was that? A board with the words: 'The management reserves the rights to kiss all pretty girls on the premises'.

I was dying to get off the hook. He wanted to go on. "Don't you want to know more about my life?" "Err...actually next time I can call you for more on your life. Bye..."

He: But you must seduce a 16-year-old. Catch them young between 15 and 21. You will be doing a service to other women out there.

Me: Sure the message will be passed on.


What's in a word?

We spoke too soon. On Saturday morning S and I got a rude shock. We went to sign the lease for our new apartment. I was supposed to rush for an interview with a fashion designer right after and he had called up to confirm the time and place. So I excused myself for a few seconds during which I absent-mindedly noticed the landlady showing S a room on her floor that was unoccupied. Even while I was busy noting down what Mr Designer was saying I kept thinking, Why the fuck is she showing a new room to S?

I finished my call just as she too was done. She led the way back to the drawing room. Where her son (this tall gangly guy with hair tied into a knot on the head), says S, was busy applying a face pack and peeking from the loo (it was right opposite to where S was seated). He also put on some music way too loud till his sister yelled and he relented to lower the volume.

Anyways, in between all these distractions I realised the landlady was saying that some guy working with a 5-star hotel had shifted his stuff into the apartment. So could we adjust and stay in a room on her floor, use the loo on the terrace and share her kitchen if at all we cooked? (The latter she was insistent about since she was under the impression that we never cooked).

I was dumbfounded as was S. One look at her face and I saw it had become very grim. I covered my face for a second. The landlady kept staring and saying, "You are like my daughter Simran. We will keep you like her." When we told her that we had irregular working hours, she said, "Of course you will not be using the kitchen at 2 in the morning will you?" Next we suggested that the guy was single and he could easily do with the room she was now offering us. "No actually the hotel is paying for the place through cheque." What was that supposed to mean?

Then she and her husband took us to the terrace to show us the loo. (I felt shrieking at her, "Well would you have let Simran go to a loo on the terrace of a house to shit or pee?") Was this happening? I was ready to cry right then. Here we had given notice to our present landlord and was ready mentally to live in the new house.

Not only had this woman duped us, she had dealt us an underhand blow. For money. She had never even bothered to call us and let us know about it. Damn it, she had given usher word that the apartment was ours for the taking.

So we left our prospective new place with no lease in hand, with no place to live in after the 15th of this month unless our present landlord was thoughtful enough.

Sunday morning: E left for Bombay. We dropped her, came back and went through the classifieds desperate for some ray of light. We went through some 5-6 shitty houses in a place which I had always thought to be shady. Depressed like hell, we landed in another area of the city and walked into some vague property dealer's office. After we trudged back and forth between the broker's office and some three other houses, I can say proudly that it's official. (Touche) We have a new house. And yes, this time we paid some money in advance right on the spot. We are gonna sign the lease today. So I will be a really (I mean really really) broke individual starting today.


There's nothing better than a great romance...to ruin a perfectly good friendship

This tagline of Lot Like Love doesn't make sense. For starters there
was never much romatic romance. Like the kind of romance that leaves you in a daze for days on row. And really Ashton Kutcher is too funny to be seriously romantic.

But it is a nice early morning watch before heading for work or when your flatmate (read: partner in watching mushy movies) is leaving for another city.

Between have been subject to a certain teenybopper's perfectly kittenish charms. I have been wondering aloud about it in front of her. But she has taken it in good humour excepting of course for some faux pouts. I guess that's what I like about her (no, not the pouts). But seriously when she started giggling and saying breathlessly to this filmmaker guy, "Oooh I love Johnny Depp!" I did a double take. That, she says is the perfect way to get a guy to open up (no puns intended).

On the parents' front, my mom and dad are interesting to watch (I had forgotten just how amusing it can be). They squabble all their waking hours. Like for example, when dad is relating a ghost story with added effects (the hushed voice, the killing pauses et al), my mom suddenly starts off on one of her matchmaking stories. A day back, he was getting started on one of his favourite ghost stories from college for E's benefit, when my mom popped in from the kitchen and suddenly asked me, "I haven't told you about this good looking guy who called in today to take a look at the flat, have I?" Now that couldn't have but snagged my attention. While my dad looked on with a helpless god-save-us kind of a look and kept shaking his head at the insensitiveness of his listeners.

But I could totally identify with poor dad. The same used to happen to me back home. Dinner time would see me all enthusiastic with my stock of the day's events, gabbling away (mom would often interrupt and ask me to breathe in between), when my bro would say just one line and grab all the attention. I would pout and pout and sulk and sulk and vow never to speak. This happened everyday.

Now I think I should have had what I have now. A blog.


'Meet me in the altar in your white dress'

My parents are here with an agenda. There are four points on this
agenda. a) To take me back to Calcutta, b) To pack me off to London from there, c) To meet this family friend whose son is of marriageable age in London, d) To see me married as fast as possible.

My thoughts on the above:
a) I have no objections to returning home except this that if I do,
either me or my parents will end up killing each other. Since the time they have landed in Delhi I have been fighting with them. And I don't mean to. It's just that I can't help it.

b) I would love to go to London. But it would mean being 'taken care' of by relatives. Really I couldn't think of anything worse.

c) This is the reason behind my parents' eagerness in sending me to
London. Considering the fact that I have turned down two eligible
bachelors in a matter of a few months, they are highly concerned. (My mom has been asking me with a very serious look, you know the puckered-brow type look, on her face, "Now why did you say no to the last guy? He was so good. Mamma you are so foolish.")

When I asked them what I should do in London, they gave me two options, "You can work or study. Do anything." Now that sounds tempting but not when I know the ulterior motive. And the mentioned family friend's son is somebody I have been seeing since I have been attending my cousin's birthday parties. We have never talked till now. He's ignored me. As for me, he's somebody who has never existed till now.

d) No objection again. "Do you want to get married at all?" asked ma yesterday with much revealed anxiety. Of course I do, but at my own sweet time.

If you notice, most of their arguments are for marriage. Frankly, now I am scared.

I need to cure me of my depression. So I am soaking my senses in
chocolate. No, not Ferrero Rochers or even Dairy Milks. I am reading 'Indulgence' by Paul Richardson. It is one man's selfless search for the best chocolate in the world. The summary led me on to read it. Here: "Everyone loves chocolate. From Willy Wonka to Ferrero Rocher, the Cadbury's Flake girl to the man from Milk Tray, it is embedded in our culture as perhaps no other food stuff. Depending on who you listen to, it either clogs up your arteries or reduces the risks of cancer; it is the bringer of acne or the 'Prozac of Candy'; it produces the same chemicals in your brain as when you fall in love."
Perhaps it will do the trick for you too.