Oh to pack my bags and leave again...

Yes my bags are packed and I am ready to leave for Calcutta. Ten days of lolling around. I am so excited.

This is exactly the kind of life I want to lead. Pack my bags every week. Last week this time I was leaving for Palampur and Mc Cleodganj. It was an amazing trip. I can still feel the cold mountain air. Actually I was working on a story and stayed at a tea plantation for a day in Palampur. It was beautiful, the snowcapped Dhauladhars, the gurgling brook in the valley...that reminded me of Tennyson's Brook...you know that poem with the refrain 'Men may come and men may go but I go on forever'.

There was yummy homecooked food rustled up by the cooks at the estate. They were such people. Sarwan and Dharmo. They belonged to the local tribes -- the Gaddis and Dhogries. They reminded me of the good old servants who take care of you and make you feel cherished. Sarwan's gajar ka halwa was one of the best things I had on the trip.

The highlight however was my walk back to my cottage at night from the lounge area which housed a television. It was a Sunday night and I was desperate enough for Desperate Housewives to stay back in the lounge at 10 pm. The whole place was eerily silent by then. Everybody had gone to sleep. Now leopards are commonly seen prowling around the estate. All I could do was sit with an irregular heart beat and check my watch every 5 minutes to see whether it was 11 yet and when the soap would end. It was that bad. I was shit scared. Further the owner had showed me photographs of the British planters who owned the estate in the 1800s. And a picture of the planter's wife who had died here during the devastating earthquake of 1905. I kept looking at the glass doors thinking that any moment I would see a face staring at me. And I swear when I swtiched off the lights of the room and ventured out, I heard a rustling in the tea bushes. That was it. I ran for my life and for the shelter of my cottage.

It did not end there. You see I am rather a coward. I just couldn't go to sleep. I called up E who thought it was adventurous and sounded fun. "It must be good for newly weds. Roam around in the morning and have sex in the evening when there is nothing else to do," she mused. Even trying to read an MB didn't help.

Next morning I set out for Mc Cleodganj where I had spinach and potato momos for Rs 2 each (they were delicious especially as it was drizzling with a cold wind blowing. A monk called Tenzing egged me on saying they were the best momos to be sold there), listened to the Dalai Lama and couldn't make out anything of his Tibetan chants, saw nice looking firangs most of whom seemed like they needed a bad bath, searched for a monk I knew at the Namgyal Monastery but was told to look at the archives so didn't bother, bargained with a ruddy faced Tibetan junk jewellery seller who didn't relent much, sat down in a cafe and enjoyed piping hot coffee with macaroni and walked down to the St John's Church in the Wilderness (where Lord Elgin is buried) and thought I would get raped and thrown down the forest (it was that deserted, on top of which it was a dark and windy day). I did as much as I could do in a day before I set out for Delhi in the evening.

Now I have made some more plans. This time it goes like this: six months of the year I can spend in Goa, from October to April. The rest of the year in Mc Cleodganj.

Now I have to figure out some way to do this.



A pair of huge scissors. That's what I wanted to carry to work today. As usual I forgot. Damn.

For the past two weeks I have been getting bombed by water balloons. It's been happening in a particular alley that leads to my home and which I cannot avoid out of the necessity of reaching home. Some kids have been having the time of their lives. And I have been telling myself everyday that the next time it happens I am going to ring the bell of that particular house and threaten them. Somehow I never seem to have the time to catch up with them.

Yesterday evening I was about 3 yards from home when these gang of young guys on bikes passed by and hit me real hard with balloons. I was on the phone and couldn't do a thing except shout fuckers. And pray really hard that their balls off.

Why can't people let others be? So I have had my share of enjoying Holi and I so do not want to play around. Is that too much to ask? It's like a menace which is out of my hands.

Hence the scissors. I have made up my mind. Whoever happens to throw colours on me, risks getting his locks chopped off. That's a deal.

On second thoughts, maybe I will carry the small scissors lying in my office drawer on the way back.


How many times must a man look up/ Before he can see the sky?

It was my once-a-week home dusting spree yesterday night. And as it happens when you come across photo albums, you rifle through them and feel happy in the warmth of the past.

I have two albums of my childhood with me here in Delhi-- one with pictures shot in Oman and the other in Thailand. Just before this I had come upon something that was written by someone who will always be special in my life, regardless of how complicated he is. I was feeling blue and wondering how things never turn out the way you want them to. A look, however, at those photos of me in my baby clothes posing with my mom, dad and bro put a smile on my face.

Memories kept flitting in as I turned the pages of the album. Dresses which I had a thing for as an 8-year-old -- a sky blue nightie that made me feel like a queen, an orange and brown checked dress which gave me an Alice-like feeling because that was the time around which I watched Alice in Wonderland (I even remember Alice's face right now. Amazing really, given that my memory quite fails me at times, especially when I want to recall the faces of old schoolmates), a frothy lacy pink concoction of a dress that I would always be made to wear for school functions. Maybe dresses fascinated me because I was perpetually in jeans or trousers, often my brother's hand-me-downs. Which is why I guess I am so fond of skirts now.

Photographs of my mother and father - then in their 40s and 30s (they had me pretty late) - my mother young and beautiful with her fair lovely complexion and my father in contrast really dark and robust with the same thinning hair I have seen since I can remember. It was a standing joke then. My bro and me wondering aloud in front of him whether his head ever brimmed with hair. "Yes once upon a time when I was really young," he would say. But then we would come across his black-and white pix and bawl because dad never really had much hair on his pate.

Photographs of dinners organised by my mother. It was a party-like atmosphere in Oman when Indians, Germans, Iranians and Pakistanis would throw parties very often to escape boredom. Mother says there was not much to do. But I was well entertained with what we did - go for long drives, spend time by the sea, climb mountains, or go shopping in supermarkets to stock up the larder. My personal favourite past time though was sitting in front of the telly and gorging on my quota of cheese balls, 7up can watching Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny. And even though I studied there till I was 8 years old, I am surprised to say that I have no memories of studying. Not one! That feels nice.

As for the Thaliand photos, they had the complete feel-good look. The brilliant blue skies, the clean waters, the long stretches of beaches, my mother in her yellow silk sari, me in my polka dotted yellow frock with my four front teeth missing, my father who had developed a good paunch by then and my brother a long and lanky teenager who looked distinctly disgruntled with life at times...

Now I see how things have become. My parents have aged. My mom's skin,which was once flawless and glowing, has developed pigmentation, while my father has become very thin. My brother wants to marry someone whom my parents don't like. There's kind of a cold war going on between them as a result. So when I say this that the time I spent reminiscing made me feel good, I mean that it made all the difference to my ageing 25-year-old heart.


Things as they are

1. It was two full hours of being soaked in soap water that did it. Nowmy beloved mobile is lying with its maker. Literally so. The service centre guy keeps telling me every day to call up the next day. So I have become a dedicated caller to the Samsung service centre. The chances of it coming back to life however seems pretty bleak. For the time being colleague SB has bailed me out by lending me her spare but stylish Nokia. But the few days that I had to spend in the absence of my phone made life hell. I was even paranoid about getting into our office lift, which if you are ever unfortunate to get into, is guaranteed to make you sweat. Well, whenever I happened to be alone stepping into it, with the doors closing in upon me, I would send a silent prayer up.

2. Have you ever come across a Rs 1-lakh coffeetable book? I did. Ritu Beri just launched hers. And as she announced the price of 'Firefly', her book, the entire room fell silent. And beat this: A limited 100 editions of it are being sold from the Louis Vuitton's flagship store in Paris. Yes, as la di la as it gets. Only its preview and 'informal' launch was by the hammy Akshay Kumar. Quiet an unusual 'friendship' we have there. When a journalist asked them about their friendship, Ritu hemmed and hawed and passed it on to Akshay. "Oh we just met through a common friend last year," said the actor who tried his best to be standoffish.

Ritu's faux pas at the event went somewhat like this. The shutterbugs were as usual crowding around Ritu, Akshay, when Ritu made an appeal to them to disperse and allow the event to start. She said: "I know it's your honour to be here but please wait for some time. I want to get started with the event."

3. She: "Age doesn't matter. Does it?" He: "It does, between the legs". She can't stop laughing.

This is an excerpt of the conversation between Bipasha Basu and Amar Singh. A hot Bipasha with an even hotter boyfriend calling someone like Amar Singh 'sweetie'. Indeed a sorry state of affairs.

4. This is for all those of you who think I have a real cool job. There are times when I am made to feel oh so sorry. Like when I went to interview the Bombay Rockers at Elevate recently. I was called at 10.30 pm. They made me wait till 1 am. I should have walked out, but the thought of walking out on a story kept me sticking to the turf.

When Thomas Sardorf and Navtej Singh Rehal (the two guys of Rockers) walked in with their producer Janus, 10 minutes after 1, I was seething. To the point that I bit out: "How can you guys be so unprofessional?" Mr Producer was clearly taken aback at being told so. His excuse was he had not been told about the interview. Liar. The PR guy had it from me though he tried to appease me by saying sorry a thousand times and ensuring me of getting interviews with them the next time. "I don't think I want to meet them again. Even film stars have never made me wait so long!" was my indignant outburst. But really, at the end of such along day when I snuggled into bed, I never felt more blessed.

5. A funny incident. I was at the place of a model, AW, shooting her wardrobe. She got a call on her landline. "No my parents are not home.You cannot contact them. You want a contact number? Why, will you call them up in Australia?" Suddenly I heard her shouting sternly into the phone, "Phone rakkho! Phone rakkho!" She resumed her conversation again. After hanging up, she looked at me and explained, "These bank people I tell you! This person who called up asked in a very timid voice, 'Ma'am are you asking me to hang up?'"

6. If it goes on any longer, I will probably hallucinate. I swear I will. As much Obelix craves his daily dose of boar meat, Jughead dreams of Pop Tate meals, I want my chicken. The other day, three friends of mine and I went for a Chinese dinner. While two of them hogged on their chicken manchurian, me and the other girl feasted on veg manchurian. One of the chicken hoggers said: "I don't think I was meant to die eating chicken."


7. The other day my parents called. This is what they had to say: "Mamma if you want to stay single all your life, there's no problem. We will come and stay with you there."