Scones and other bits of my childhood

I had a fairly happy childhood until it got to that point where I realized I will probably never get to taste scones. And then I lived unhappily ever after.

Because Enid Blyton turned my life upside down.

In her books, people led magical, adventurous lives, always doing things, solving mysteries, bringing bad people to books, rescuing life forms, but mostly packing tea or having tea and eating the most wondrous things. I didn’t particularly care for the sweets, although there was an array of them: the humbugs, bulls-eyes, liquorice candy, barley sugars, from the village shop that was the chief catalyst in most of the Secret Seven’s adventures. I was happy to chew on my Parle Poppins or my five paise orange kidney sweets although I did think liquorice might be a good thing to taste but was afraid it might contain liquor and one would have to be a certain age.

If they were not chewing candy, they were stuffing their face with eclairs, meringues, large slices of chocolate cake, tongue sandwiches, potted meat sandwiches, warm buttered scones, egg and lettuce sandwiches, pork pies, hard boiled eggs, jam tarts, gingerbread, ginger buns and then washing it all down with lemonade, ginger ale and oooh, ginger beer!

It was all too much to take but I made my peace by elimination.Eggs, tongues and meat held no excitement for me. I figured gingerbread was a medicinal bread you had if you were sick , along with haldi doodh, and shortbread biscuits were just leftover bread which was dried and broken into bits (like they do for dogs and fish). Meringue sounded like a cousin of tongue (perhaps an animal part I wasn’t aware of) and eclairs – well Cadbury’s was doing a good job of it, and we always got occasional eclairs as treats. (I had no idea at the time that they could be a giant, gooey mess, like a veritable chocolate volcano).

But she had me at scones! Scones I wanted. Scones took me to warm and fuzzy places. Scones made me feel sorry for myself whenever I had my idlis and molagapodi, even when I added a dollop of butter on my warm idlis and pretended they were scones.

Plus, Mr Twiddle had left an image of it which was indelible:

As he passed the cake-shop, a very nice smell of hot scones came out. Twiddle stopped and sniffed. “I think I’ll pop in and have a cup of hot coffee and a scone or two,” he thought. “I really didn’t have much breakfast”

So in he went and chose a table. Soon he was sipping a cup of coffee and eating a whole plate of  warm, buttered scones. Very nice, indeed!

Unlike the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Five Findouters’ teas, of which there were hardly any pictures, this one had a nice illustration that I could stare at. And sigh.

Around that time, my mother was taking baking lessons in the afterhours of her school teacher job. Every Saturday, she would return with baked goodies: coconut cookies, nankhatais, marble cake, sponge cake, pineapple upside down cake and even chocolate cake, exactly like Fatty’s mom used to make. I asked her when they would teach her scones and she gave me this “How greedy are you?” look.

It was clear that scones was not going to be a part of her repertoire. We couldn’t afford cookbooks and this was pre-internet days, so I was sure I couldn’t google the recipe. I blamed Enid Blyton for not having a recipe section in her books.Every time we went out to eat (which was rare), I would ask for scones and I would be offered an icecream cone. (Clearly I was even pronouncing it wrong, like ‘cones’). Scones were now the bane of my existence.

Soon youth and all the trappings of it obliterated the memory of scones. Or so I thought. Twenty years later, I was at Norwood Bungalow in Sri Lanka, writing a travel story about the  Ceylon Tea Trails. The menu for the high tea read: Scones with clotted cream and strawberry compote, lemon tarts, cucumber sandwiches ….”

Finally.

As I stared at the three-tier spread in front of me, I was awash with emotion. It was like they had packed my childhood and put it right there in front of me. I picked up a scone, like it were a jewel, and caressed it. It looked like muddy, dehydrated pao for the most part and tasted unspectacular. It wasn’t warm, like I thought it would be, but then we were in the hills, and the outside air was cold. I slit it gingerly, and dolloped butter on one half and the compote on the other, smiling and crying.

When I got back to Bombay, the first thing I did was look up the recipe. I told my son about this magical thing from my childhood that would melt in your mouth. My first attempt failed miserably; the scones were hard and un-photogenic. No amount of butter or jam could redeem them. I was despondent, but the child said we could pretend they were rock cakes.

And then Cupcake Jemma (a YouTube fairy) entered my life with a really simple recipe with flour, milk, baking powder, sugar and salt.

And my lovely friend Rebecca Vaz showed me how you could be really smart by cutting your scones into squares instead of circles so there’s absolutely no wastage.We made these in the mountains of Himachal, and added dollops of Bhuira Jams‘ Strawberry preserve and had a little picnic in the garden under the deodars.

The scones tasted exactly like my childhood.

 

 

(This piece first appeared in The Hindu here )

The kids are okay. The parents need some happiness shots.

I see them, sulking into the distance, or staring vacantly at the heap of energy that is their child in the pool. Sometimes I see them not even looking up once from their smartphones while the child is at play. Once in a while, I see them peering into a book, catching up on their reading, as their child builds sand castles, skates or free-plays in the park. They have this look of ‘why me?” that I cannot understand.

I used to see this at the Montessori when I went to drop Re. It was touch and go at the gate for some of them, while the child still wanted to wave a slow good bye, be held for just a little longer, be kissed just one more time. But no. They were in a rush to get to their offices and gyms and accomplish nobler tasks.

Why do parents look so grumpy? Why does it always appear that they want to fast-forward childhood? After all, they are young as long as the kids are young, aren’t they? How does growing up make anything easier? I know every child is work on loop, some more than the others, but then it’s not the neighbour’s child. It’s yours. And then one day you will say they shouldn’t have grown up so soon.

I have been a stay-at-home mother for four of Re’s almost six years and I know it’s hard. I know it’s several tasks on autopilot. I know that even if you have help, it doesn’t make it easier. I know that even if you have your mother around, there are still negotiations on a daily basis. I know that outsourcing is easier said than done. But still. When my child is out there, having fun, the least I can do is not look like I have been punished.

The strange part is, these are activities that the parent has clearly chosen for their child, whether it is a summer camp, or an activity class or a hobby class or whatever they call it these days. So why do parents look so miserable and bored when they accompany their children to these things, whether it’s swimming, dancing, skating, music or tennis? In all these years, I have rarely seen a parent who is there, in the moment (I go back to the power of now, I know) while their child is indulging in something he/she is having fun with. I see them taking photos, yes, but I rarely see undiluted joy or eagerness or even mild curiosity. And when I do, it is the most heartwarming sight.

Some look like they have been hit by a thundercloud. Some look like, “Let me just strike this off my list and get on to more, real stuff.” Some look like ‘Well, if I didn’t bring him here, I would have to figure out what to do with him.” Most look like they’d rather be some place else.

I know it’s that time of the year when school, the primary outsourcing model for all parents is closed or on the verge of closing (can’t factor in all the boards, so sorry, you IB fellows). Some of you may have planned your holidays or summer camps or ‘activities’, but most of you may be saddled with ‘what to do with the kids?” Every day, at the pool, I see mothers exchanging notes on where they want to ‘send their kids’. They look at me vacantly. It helps that they don’t know I’m going to write about them.

Of course you can take a vacation, but holidays are easier said than done, given that summers are often a bad time for travelling in India and how far ‘up north’ can you go really? And for how long? And not every one can afford foreign vacations.Two months is a long time (and that’s the average summer break a child gets in India, some get even more) And besides, when you work at an office, ‘privilege leave’ of a grand 21 days hardly seems like a privilege, given that most people have to break it up (for other, important causes like weddings, funerals) and spread it across the year. That means the best it can get is roughly two weeks. Parents who plan their lives better usually have longer holidays together. I didn’t realize my father was investing in us when he was taking us to all those far-out, obscure places every year. Now it all makes sense.

But this summer, I am going to try my hand at some magic. I am going to ask Re to make me a potion (by now, he has mastered the art of making potions from all the witches and dragons that are a part of his universe). The only difference is, it will be a potion of joy and happiness and will have no evil hidden inside. Then I am going to offer it to all the parents that accompany their kids to various activities in summer and say, “Drink up, and smile!”

Parenting lessons from burnt cookies

It has been one of those weeks when three generations were coexisting under one roof in my house – my mother, Re and I have been bonding and sharing space and food. Talk is a necessary byproduct of both.Yes, we have been talking a lot.

Grandparents are amazing things. When they walk in, parenting looks easier. My mother can access the parts of Re that I can’t. My father can be the crockey (a game he invented combining cricket and hockey) buddy I can’t.

And it’s often not because of what they do; it is their mere presence that seems to dilute the tedium of parenting. You perhaps realize that you were shaped by them, so it can’t get much worse. They also silently seem to applaud you for everything that you do, even the small things, so it seems worth the while (admit it, you are all looking for points!)

In the true spirit of our family, cooking (and eating) is what mostly brings us together. Every once in a while, my mother gets to watch me play mom and she is intrigued. While she was visiting last week, Re and I got down and dirty with a few baking expeditions (it somehow seemed like better weather for baking) and we made cookies and baked a cake. Unlike my mother who let me in at age eight, Re has been at it since age four.

The thing about baking is that even the most seasoned baker often waits with bated breath to see if the cake has risen. Even if you have a manual, you are never sure you will get it right, much like parenting. I have a few baking buddies. Some give me recipes, others give ideas. The ideas are far more valuable, much like they are in parenting. I have never taken to recipes.

Re stands in front of the oven asking me every microsecond, ‘Is it ready yet?” I have found a way around it. “When you smell the right smell, it’s ready!”

The other day, when it was cookie time, I handed Re the dough and asked him to roll his own cookies. What shape should it be, he asked.

It can be any shape you want, it’s your cookie, I replied.

We made assorted shapes together and no two cookies looked alike.

When we were done, he licked the cookie dough and declared, “Mmmmm, delicious!”

I know how to take a compliment and I egg him on. He has always been generous with compliments and never been hard to please in the culinary space. That somehow makes me want to try harder, however convoluted it might sound. We hungrily devour the entire tray of cookies, and don’t bother with any kind of decorum. (Not even taking the mandatory photo, hence can’t show you our excitingly imperfect cookies)

My mother watches this. She sighs. “You are so free with your child, I wish I had been like you. I was always so caught up with getting it right.”

I am glad she said it and I didn’t.

I remember when my mother let me in on her baking expeditions. There were too many boundaries.  All the cookies had to be the same size and shape, rolled not into a disc, but more of a tetrahedron, and my mother’s watchful eye often made me nervous. When we embellished it, the cherry had to be right at the centre. The baking tin had to be grease-proofed up to every micro square cm. Everything had to be mixed in geometric proportion.

Everyone loves the perfect cookie. But I have learnt that there is no such thing as a bad cookie. That even the hard ones can be redeemed with icecream or some such palliative. And even the really mushy ones have the power to put a smile on your face.  I learnt how not to judge a cookie by its cover. Burnt cookies are my best friends. I learnt that if the cake doesn’t rise, we can always have a crumble.

I see this whole attraction for wholeness and perfection among my students at too. At the school meals, every child wants the perfectly shaped pooris, omelettes, dosas. The rest are rejected. I look at the pile of broken bits and something shifts inside me. Give me the broken bits, I tell the person on duty.

I wanted my parents to understand my broken bits. They just pretended it didn’t exist. They were too focused on my perfections. I spent most of my youth nurturing my broken bits. I am still working on them, as I believe it is never too late. They will always have a special place in my heart. Re gets this, and I’m grateful.

Sometimes I feel like asking my mother for my childhood back. At other times, I am grateful to her for letting me grow up soon. I have significantly lowered the bar for Re, but in doing so, I have lowered the bar for myself too. I am allowed to have bad days and burnt cookies. I am allowed to bake cakes that don’t rise. Or make custard that doesn’t set.

I inherited my mother’s oven and a few of her baking tins. It was an equaliser between her and me. And when I baked my first date and walnut cake in 40 minutes including prep time, my mother asked in amazement, ‘How did you manage that?”

I knew we had made a fresh start.

 

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 15th December, 2014)

 

 

I found the me I lost on a train, but am still looking for malaiyo

photo

Last week, I took a train to Banaras to attend my first teachers’ conference. There is something about train trips that still makes me wildly excited as a child.  I had a skip in my step, I made lists. Lists are always a good sign for me.

Are you travelling alone, someone asked. Unable to contain my excitement at the impending deliciousness of aloneness, I said, “Yes, finally!”.

Being alone is one of the greatest luxuries you can expect after you have a child. Sometimes you get so overwhelmed with tasks on hand or just the autopilotness of your family life that the easiest thing to put on standby is you. The forgetting to love me in the remembering to love them.  I have been there. Yes, you do watch movies and go for pedicures or spa sessions, but it is not the same as going away somewhere, all by yourself.  .

It has been a week of aloneness. Of strange beds in new cities, new schedules, new food, new body clock, even new dreams. Have you noticed how your dreams change when you wear life lightly?

On my onward journey on the train, I had, for company, six children, two sets of parents (I remember thinking about the joy of numbers), one grumpy lady who eventually smiled (the things that extended time can do), and two chatty aunties sharing a berth which actually belonged to an army boy who was too well-mannered to tell them. As I watched assorted legs dangling from berths in front of my eyes, shrieking “mummy!”, “pappa!”, I suddenly missed Re’s voice, but not enough to long for him. This was about me. I was all set to enjoy me.

I slept like a baby, for 11 hours straight. I dived into two books, something that was very me and I hadn’t done it in a while. I started playing match-the-station-with-the-food game in my head.

 My father has etched indelible food memories of places in my head. The places didn’t mean anything without the food. It was always about Bhusaval’s perus or Ratlam’s puri bhaji or Allahabad’s samosas or Mathura’s pedhas or Agra’s pethas. I remember going through train stations and connecting them to memories of my childhood. We had done a huge number of train-trips back then thanks to his wanderlust. Journeys always meant trains. Trains always meant stories for later. No matter how rough the ride, we always had lovely stories to tell.  I made notes of things to tell my father. That’s how it’s supposed to be, right? Our children thinking of us because of things we shared with them, conversations we had with them, and before we knew it, we had fixed our imprints on them.

I gifted myself some small things that gave me big joys. Like watching the sun rise over the Ganga. Eating apple pie at Vatika café on the banks of the river at Assi ghat. Watching the evening aarti from a boat at Dashashwamedh ghat.  Sitting under a 100 year-old banyan tree and wondering how many people would it take for a hug. Spotting a pied kingfisher on my morning walk along the river at Rajghat.  Drinking kulladwali chai. Savouring  a moonlit vocal recital by Suchitra Gupta of the Banarasi gharana on the school lawns, with the scent of dhoop wafting away, awakening every pore in my mind. Going for a moonlit boat ride on the Ganga. Watching the moon smile over the bridge across the river and counting the doors as a train ran through it. Rounding it all off with a Banarasi paan on my last day.

But I returned wistfully, having missed the malaiyo, recommended strongly by my foodie friend in a manner that only one foodie can to another. I realized I was three weeks too early for it and the nip in the air was just not enough for its delicate form. This seasonal Varanasi milk-based dessert foam, full of airy goodness is a part soufflé- part cloud art form that is extremely tedious to make and has an extremely short shelf life. It breaks down at the onset of the first rays of the sun and hence should be had before the crack of dawn as it were.

I haven’t tasted it, but I get the sense that malaiyo doesn’t speak, it only whispers. And it’s exactly the kind of thing that gets shrouded amidst the flamboyant jalebis and the robust rabdis.  And then I realized. There’s a bit of malaiyo in each one of us. We all need to treat it gently, else we will fall apart too. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in just the right temperature at the right time of day in the right setting once in a while. We have all earned it.

I’m going back for my malaiyo. In the meantime, I am preserving my inner cloud, ever so gently. I owe it to me.

 

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on November 3, 2014)

How I found my piece of sky

This year, I turned 46. It’s a time when you know that there are more years behind you than in front of you. It’s when there are fewer years to get things right, but also fewer years to make mistakes. It’s also a time when your ‘some days’ are shrinking into oblivion right in front of your eyes.

In the eyes of the world, I had it all. But there was a deep sadness within. My life was like a timetable that I never really approved of. A logistical complexity, a trapeze act that I kept adding to instead of subtracting and I never understood why. I was so busy looking out that I didn’t have the time to look within.

I was also becoming the person I scoffed at. The person who got told by her child, ‘Don’t look at your phone mamma, look at me!”

And there was so much to look at. That impish grin, those bright shiny eyes, that crinkly nose, curls that never tired of defiance, a body that was in a constant state of dance.

There was always so much to talk about. But our conversations were getting shrink-wrapped into morning-at-the-bus stop and evening-in-the-car pockets. The rest of the day, we spent doing things that were mostly not us.

When it got to me, I put my thoughts out there. Of course social media lapped it up. There were likes, shares, retweets, followers, favourites, fame. But this was not the legacy I wanted to leave behind for my child. I wanted something more real, more tangible.

I wanted the moon. I wanted to be overwhelmed by the sun and the moon and the stars and the sky and clouds and trees and birds – all of it.

My grown-up mind could not process what was so evident to a just-turned-five year old.

The moon will come wherever we go mamma,” he told me one day on our ride back home, in which we often pretended we were being chased by the moon.

The rest was serendipity. A school on a hill. Trees to climb. Brooks to chase. Jhoolas off trees. Sounds of sitar and piano wafting through. Hidden paths. Open paths. Naked clouds. Zero network (the best bit). Children being children. Grown-ups being children.

REH

I wanted a piece of this sky. They wanted an English teacher. My timing was perfect.

Teaching? Are you sure? asked the outer circle.

Teaching! That’s so you! said the inner circle.

The thing is, I was scared as hell and that was reason enough to do it. Fear is fertile. Fear has velocity. I was a body in constant state of motion. I had zero acceleration.

A few months later, Re reminded me. “Let’s go to the up-of-the-mountain school mamma,” he said, in the midst of a pirouette. He needs more space to pirouette, I thought.

I never realised leaving would be so effortless. All that we needed fitted into five cartons. The cat didn’t want to miss out on life in the wilderness, so he came too.

What about the marriage? Won’t Re miss his father, they wanted to know. What I knew was that in our cocooned excesses, there was a kind of bankruptcy, a void that kept getting bigger the more time passed.

We were a weekend family then. We are a weekend family now. The only difference is, at least three of us are fully oxygenated for the week. The fourth comes up for air.

Re believes in magic wands and pixie dust. He believes all of us can turn into mermaids if we hold our legs together long enough. He believes that if you talk to the moon long enough, it will talk back to you.

It’s been over a month. Some days he returns home with a muddy moustache, leaves and twigs in his hair, a bruise well earned. Some evenings, we read aloud on the hill, wondering if there’s anything the wind cannot blow. He picks his favourite vanilla cream cloud to eat, and I know I’m leaving something behind. For him. For us. For our children’s children.

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 7th July, 2014)

 

Absolute imperfect: Why I’m like dad

IMG_1622.JPGA few weeks ago, I was bitten by wanderlust, a disease I have inherited from my father, and duly passed on to the son. Just the words “choo choo train” or “let’s pack a suitcase” is enough to send Re into a frenzy. So we took off to a Himalayan village under the pretext of watching documentaries for three days. Two trains later, we were at Kathgodam, filing into private taxis that would take us on the three-hour ride to Sonapani, our destination. As the signs for Ranikhet, Nainital, Corbett, Bhimtal and Almora flashed past, I had a sense of dejavu. I had been on the exact same road with my father over three decades ago. And almost in the tradition of my father, I was abandoning the known for the unknown. My father never told us where we were going. “You will see,” he would tell us. We would end up at Ramnagar or Kausani or Dhanolti or some such and my mother would always ask why we never went to Kulu-Manali or Darjeeling or at least some place people had heard of. My father would say, “Everybody goes to Darjeeling!”

I feel grateful to my father. For a childhood full of journeys, never mind if some of them never made it to the destinations. Our means were limited, but our hearts were full and our lungs always had more oxygen than they could handle. My father got off platforms and missed trains, he had a tough time keeping track of three children, he forgot to confirm reservations, he showed up at Lucknow in winter at 1 am without a hotel booking and didn’t blink an eyelid when the porter suggested a dormitory, he made us ride back from Dhanolti to Dehradun on a truck laden with peas, as we missed the only bus for the day (we ate a lot of peas on that ride). He lent money to a co-traveller in Pondicherry who pretended to be robbed even as my mother was muttering through her breath that he was faking it. He ended up broke at the end of that journey, still optimistic that the man who duped him would show up. We went without food on that train-trip and ate Horlicks.

In our quest to be the perfect parent, we often realise that it’s the imperfect one who leaves a mark. I always wished my dad could somewhat fit in, be like my friend’s dad, ask the right questions, nod at the right places. But secretly, I was happy that he allowed me to be the person I was trying to be. My father never read us books or told stories or gave us advice on money or careers. He took us to markets, nurseries, made us work in the garden, taught us bridge and cricket, travelled and trekked with us, and helped facilitate my life-long affair with food. He was hardly around at annual day functions; he couldn’t deal with the sham of small talk with other parents. I never missed him. He encouraged me to bunk school so we could watch test matches together. I was allowed to buy him ciggies from the local paan shop, till the paanwala and my mother collectively conspired not to sell cigarettes to a ten year-old.

He is 74 and mostly on a farm somewhere in Belgaum, hoping his green thumb will make him a millionaire. He is a maverick, but he is the maverick I aspire to be. He is the parent who set me free.

The perfect parent messes you up. I am still trying to outdo my mother. I can never be as non-controversial as her, never reach a state where I am blessed by an absolute lack of cynicism like her, never do things with the same consistency of purpose as her. She woke up early, kept a good house, baked, cooked, sewed, knitted, worked, was hugely respected by her students and colleagues, managed finances, did family, friends and synchronised her life beautifully and is the mascot for “nice”.

The thing about having a child is that it makes you love everything about you and hate it in equal measure.  I looked at parenting as my chance to redeem myself. The childhood I wished I had. The mother and father I wished mine had been. It was unfair and stupid of me and it took its toll on my sanity. But I couldn’t have been half the parent I am if my childhood had been any different. We end up who we are because we are more than what our parents made us out to be. And no one gets points for a bad childhood.

As I pointed the snow-capped peaks to Re from our cottage in Sonapani, he stood in attention and started singing the national anthem. My father would have so laughed out loud, I could almost hear him reverberate in the mountains. I felt grateful again.

Confessions of a not-so-dangerous mind

I just found this on my Facebook notes, and thought, why not put it out there? So here are 25 things in no particular order about me. Tell me yours.

1. I am a first-born. Not just at home, but in the entire khandaan. It sucks. I am tired of setting precedents. I don’t know how to undo my position in the family hierarchy.

2. I always stood first in my class (except in the ninth standard when a buxom girl called Urmi beat me by two marks). My building buddies secretly hated me for it. So did all my classmates. So did my cousins. And my siblings. “Why can’t you be like Lalli?” was the bane of my existence.

3. All I ever wanted when I was a little girl was to grow tall and acquire boobs and sit on the last bench (I thought the view was really nice). I never managed to graduate from the first bench till my tenth standard. I am still 5 feet 1” (the 1” doesn’t seem important anymore). I did get boobs eventually, but it took bloody long.

4. I have twin siblings. Boy-girl. I thought that made me cool. I don’t know any other boy-girl twin in the world. Except Angelina Jolie..(?!) But then, she doesn’t count, does she? Though, till I was six years old, they were at my grandma’s and I pretended my siblings didn’t exist.

5. I have one and a half dimples and a cleft on my chin. Funnily enough, that’s normally not the first thing people notice about me. May be it has to do with the fact that my siblings and my mother have better ones. Or that my hair is too distracting.

6. I used to eat slate pencils. Those white, slim ones with a dash of pastel colours? I tried chalk too, but it didn’t give me a kick.

7. I am a non smoker and a vegetarian, though I am still trying to go off leather. I tried smoking my dad’s ciggies when I was a kid and hated it. Years later, after a trek in Nepal and some rice wine, I tried smoking a local Nepalese cigarette. It gave me an immense urge to disengage my bowels and I felt all hollow inside. I never tried again.

8. I think I have a karmic connection with cats. I mean, I never felt they were pets, just that they are some superior beings you live with so that your fuckwitticisms stay in check, coz they are so bloody cool. I have lived with many… chinki, pushpi, kimi, kallu, simba, kuttu, tipu, chinka, lupooh, millie.. I now live with nadia and bravo and am still learning about cats.

9. I was a control freak. I still am. I always took charge of anything dad got home and insisted I allot stuff, as I knew best. I used to hoard scented erasers, pencils, stationery boxes, books, ribbons, comics. My brother hated me for this.

10. In class 4, I poked a boy named Nikhil in the eye to show him my pencil was sharper. My mother changed my school and put me in a girl’s convent as punishment. I never forgave her for that.

11. I bumped into Nikhil 13 years later, during my post-grad. He messed me up. I guess what goes around, comes around.

12. I never got the lead part in any school play, as I was too puny, and had no boobs. I actually played a south Indian boy wearing a mundu and no shirt in a play on national integration where my lines were, “idli-dosa”. I was the only girl who could take my shirt off at age 12 and still look like a boy, so I got the part, I guess. I was an extra in the volley-ball and kho-kho team and was terrified that I might have to play. I was grateful at least I stood first in class, else people would never know me.

13. I love dancing. Anytime. Anywhere. And my boy loves it too, coz he is always happy when he (or we) dance.

14. I often hang up on my mother when she can’t get to the point. I have an extremely low attention span. I hate talking on the phone. Even to those I love. My mother now makes notes before she calls me. Strangely, other people aren’t as insightful as her.

15. I wanted to be a vet, but they told me I would be buried in cows’ intestines. I wish I hadn’t listened to them.

16. Actually I could have done very well with anything predictive. Futurology stuff? I see things before they happen. I sense things about people. And I am usually right.

17. I think that the worst thing that could have happened to me has already happened to me. So I am fearless to a point that it scares me, and the people I love.

18. I grew up on radio. I woke up with ‘Sangeet Sarita’ and went to bed with ‘Bela ke phool’. Doesn’t ring a bell? Wrong generation.

19. My dad and I had a haircut at the same saloon till I was twelve.

20. I always thought my dad was cool because he smoked and was tall and thin.

21. I think politeness and courtesy are wasted on most people. When you don’t have anything to say to people, why bother? And I hate making small talk.

22. My threshold for a book is ten pages. For a movie or play, 20 minutes. For a human being, thirty seconds. For an animal, usually forever (unless it’s a pedigreed dog). For a job or relationship, six months. If it doesn’t work for me in this timeframe, I just let it go.

23. I am a foodie. I eat like a man and also swear like one. I also feel that this whole thing about ‘cooking for one person is so boring’ is all bollocks. I totally enjoy cooking for myself, and eating it all.

24. I can sing. Wonder what happened to that? I was somewhat of a crooner in school and college. The pictures are embarrassing, but yes, I can.

25. I love being alone. I actually lie to people to make ‘me time’. I can live in a mansion with no one around and still not feel lonely or afraid.