Curious Inkpot- Beyond a Blog

Stories from an Indian Millennial

कुछ शब्द बहुत दिनों से मन में घूमेर कर रहे थे, आपके साथ साझा कर रही हूँ...

कुछ आधा सा, कुछ अधूरा सा,
तुम्हारी आँखों में शायद?
पर मेरी आँखों में पूरा सा,

कभी आज़ाद पंछी सी उड़ान,
कभी बुदबुदाते शब्दों की लड़खड़ती ज़बान,

कह कर भी अनकहे सवालों सा,
उस ख़ामोशी में ढूँढते जवाबों सा,

पल में झील सी गहरायी,
पल में समुन्दर की अँगड़ायी,

किताब के पन्नों में छुपा, सूखा सा गुलाब
या बस कोई बिसरी सी याद,

कभी सुनी हुई कहानी,
कभी मीरा दीवानी,

कभी सब के जैसा,
कभी सब से अलग,

फिर भी है,
कुछ तुम में थोड़ा,
कुछ मुझमें शायद,
इश्क़ ।


We are in the month of reflection and redemption. It’s that time of year when a lot of us get into a pensive mood, thinking about things we could have done better and things we should start doing. This mood might be voluntary or forced upon us by the excess of ‘New Year Resolutions’ posts or annual appraisal cycle of corporate which adds little to our pockets but more to our mental stress. What should I say about new year resolutions? I think they are as overrated as Valentine’s Day. Largely engineered to increase the sale of gyms and other health centres with full paid and hardly attended memberships.
On days, I am not serial procrastinating, I believe today is the day to make the change because tomorrow never comes and certainly neither, new year. But if you are one of those to whom new year is the motivation to make amends and you are really determined to shake things around you. Let me give you my two cents on changes that may last longer.
Why? Well since everyone is pretending to be a travel blogger these days, what stops me from hopping on to the wagon of my choice! So here you go:

This year I am going to sweat out those extra kilos in the gym!
If you have been saying this to yourself, every time your dress’s zip gets stuck at a trial room or someone points at your every increasing belly, be warned. You know you haven’t been able to get yourself to do it since like years? So what is the guarantee it would happen now? Nor are we Kareena Kapoors, so the thrill of being spotted by paparazzi or getting to wear free or expensive sportswear is out of the question. Plus there is no dearth of larger clothes in the city malls and who doesn’t like the comfort of a loose pair of pajamas?
Since we have safely established that our motivation to change the ‘shape of you’ is extremely low. So what do we do? If you ask me, not that you have any choice now. I’d say have a real conversation with yourself, lower your pedestal and find something that suits you. Treadmill routines can be utterly boring and it won’t make us any less mortal in admitting that. So just like a well-stitched suit, find an exercise that motivates you, be it yoga, circuit training or simply running. Understand if you are a lone wolf or a group motivates you better. Powai has great green stretches and abundant gyms and classes. Explore, experiment and get on.

I am going to have a better work-life balance!
Well, we all mere mortals have been trying to achieve it but just like a carrot hanged in front of a donkey, it always eludes. With the new buzzword of work-life integration, we can only expect more work being integrated into our lives and rarely the vice versa. So what do we do? Well if you ask me, I would be running with double speed from such a lifestyle. But if you are someone who enjoys the adrenaline rush of closing a deal or the experiences that come with constant travelling, well you gotta plan your life better. I am sure most of you do that already. But if you haven’t started, the clock is ticking. After all, no one takes trophies to the grave but only memories. So they better be the best ones ;)

I am going to spend less time on mobile or TV!
In a world of endless scrolling and immense options to watch from, knowing when to stop is becoming increasingly difficult. But if you have been intending on doing it, let me help you with some suggestions. Use the technology against itself. These days there are free applications that will automatically shut the social media apps, once the predefined duration is over. You can even choose to block the apps for certain hours of the day or keep them relaxed on weekends. I personally have found them a great saviour. Go hit your play store and try one of them. If you are a couple, not watching Netflix during dinner time and instead opting for a chilled out conversation is a great pact you both can make together. The good old buddy system never goes out of fashion, even if it's for getting over TV addiction. The options are many. You just need to find what is really doable for you.

One last resolution. This may or may not be in your priority list right now. But it should be. It's a resolution that impacts beyond our personal lives.

Climate Change (Did you say boring…?)
Well, hopefully unlike trump we all are aware that climate change is real and happening. Every day we hear about Delhi but have you noticed the smog clouds that lately surround Powai from time to time? Do you know a 10% water cut in Mumbai has already started until next rains? Did you read that the 7 lakes of Mumbai are being monitored for water levels? Are you aware that Mumbai's garbage dumping grounds are already reaching their limits? The seasonal cycle is already going for a toss. So what can we really do on our own? An initiative to carpool within society or nearby people? Optimizing usage of water in daily activities? Saying no to straw by nariyal paniwala? Every small act when combined can create a huge impact.

So now that I have given you some unsolicited 'gyan', I hope you find it useful. I will see you in this new year, hopefully Instagramming a lot more workout photos or whatever is that you plan to kick-start or let go in the new year!

Ganpati celebrations mark the beginning of the festive season. We are already through with Navratri and just days away from Deepawali. As a little girl, I always looked forward to Navratri celebrations. It used to be one busy week, especially between Saptami to Navami. It would be as if the whole neighbourhood has suddenly woken up to my existence. There would be so many invites that I could literally use an appointment diary for those 3 days. For the uninitiated, this is the time when in some parts of the country, families host young girls for a meal and gifts as a ritual of ending fasting period. The house hopping with cousins and neighbourhood friends would start sharp at 8 am with multiple trips back home. As there was only so much of chole, puri and halwa plates that my little hands could accommodate. Back then I could never understand, why the people whom we were supposed to bow with Namaste and call uncles and aunties rest of the year, would be washing our feet and asking for our blessings. But the happy chatter with the gang and the joy of eating all the food would fade away any serious business. 

The real excitement, however, would start when it was finally time to count your earnings for the day and compare with rest of the cousins as to who got how much. That time, gifting 1-2 Rs was a norm and if someone gave in the denominations of 5 or 10 Rs or things like a pencil box, a mental note would be made to move them to the high priority for next year’s visits. If you could collect 50 rs (with a generous contribution from mom and dad), the next few weeks at the nearby candy store would be a breeze. But for the ‘good’ kids like me, it would be a question of how much to invest in the ‘gulluck’ and how much to spend on candies.

Sometimes, I feel that festivals from the eyes of kids are more colourful, vibrant and exciting. Some of my fondest festival memories are from childhood.

This is what Navratri has meant to me as I grew in the lovely little valley of Dehradun. Parents would be fasting for most of the 9 days. In the evening we would be treated with some yummy food, without having to undertake any sacrifice. The festivities would culminate by hosting young girls over a meal at the end of the fasting period. The idea of dandiya, garba and pujo pandal for me was confined to the ‘festivals’ chapter of social studies book and Bollywood with a special mention to the movie Devdas.

So it’s no surprise that my maiden Garba and Pujo visit happened here in Mumbai. I am still always amazed at the enthusiasm with which dance preparations begin weeks before the actual dandia season. Though traditional dancing is not my strongest asset, I at least visit the Pujo Pandal here in Powai, once during the celebrations. I’ll be honest, I do not understand very much of the Bengali traditions despite having at least one good bong connection throughout my life. I even had a namesake Bengali friend in school, whose father would wrongly pronounce her name as ‘shugondha’ until she told me that there is no ‘s’ in Bengali, it is always ‘sh’. She even taught me some survival sentences lest I ended up in Bengal someday. In fact, my ‘sweeter’ ego is definitely Bengali as the sound of Saundesh, Chaum Chaum and Kheer Kadam is like music to my ears.

So I visited the pandal this year too. It was quite busier than last year, maybe because it was the day of ‘Navami’. The statue of Devi maa was captivating as always, the environment outside electric and the chatter vibrant. After darshan, we quickly moved to the sweets counter ready to gulp down the festive sweets. But as the taste of overpriced, stale tasting roshogullas was about to put the damper, KK’s voice singing ‘Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai’ just salvaged the mood. The weather started to become cool and windy as if indicating the onset of the change in the season after Navratri. We decided to call it a night, with an intention to come back next year again, maybe not for the roshugullas but definitely for the sweetness of the festival.

This year I decided to give the yearly bonus to my cook who incidentally is a Bengali, earlier as I felt for her, ‘pujo’ would be her Diwali. The happiness on her face was priceless. I asked her if she was planning to visit the nearby pandal. She nodded in yes but I could see a sadness loom on her face. When I asked her, she reminiscently said, ‘Didi, it isn’t the same as back in my village near Kolkata. There the festivities are as big as during Ganpati here’. She missed home! Don’t we all, especially during the time of festivals? We all may have built our lives here. Might hold the dream jobs and dream cars but there is something in the spirit of festivals that they will subconsciously remind you of where the home is. It doesn’t matter if you come from a small village of Maharashtra or a small hamlet of Uttar Pradesh. It might be a small fading memory or pure missing. You will always be reminded of where you come from. For me, it has always been the festival of Deepawali. The years that I couldn’t go home for Diwali, I would always reminisce the lights on the porch, the rangoli making in the verandah and the simple joy of lighting every dark corner of the house with one diya at a time.

So if you know of anyone who isn’t going home this Diwali, invite them over or bring some sweets while coming back from home. If you are someone who isn’t going home, don’t be shy to knock on the nearby door and wish Happy Diwali! Who knows when new friendships are forged and bonds are further strengthened with these simple gestures. May this festive season lights not the just the deepest corners of your house but your hearts and minds too.

-Reproduced from my column in 'My Powai' magazine.

If you have enjoyed my writings, don't miss this most popular article.

I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. Follow my stories on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Ganpati festival is one which doesn’t need any calendar check. You know Ganesh Chaturthi is around the corner when you see big pandals being built up and your society’s WhatsApp group abuzz with the call for performers. It is also the time when social media is flooded with Ganpati visarjan photos from last year and eco-warriors more active than ever. Bappa came this year too in our Powai with all the fanfare that his devotees could bestow depending on their pockets or in case of mandal and societies with ‘voluntary’ donations. Just like the big fat Indian wedding, the celebrations for Ganpati are only becoming grander. Powai was decked up like a bride, the pooja pandals only bigger than last year and the dhol beats and firecrackers louder than ever. The size and grandeur of the Ganpati idol being synonymous with the size of the pocket. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-festive. Nor am I amongst those pseudo-liberals who are selective in their objection to celebrations. I adore festive seasons, Deepawali being my favourite. I also believe we should not only respect traditions but also treasure and enjoy them as it's these traditions only that make individuals, a community. But the problem starts when forgetting the very essence of these festivals we start adulterating them with new and modern ways without realising the adverse impact it is causing to our community and our environment.

With a 20% per cent official increase in pandal across only Mumbai, not to account for small-scale, unreported pandals, the situation only worsens. This year, not just Powai but other parts of Mumbai reported noisier celebrations than ever, despite a ban on DJs. Now, I personally don’t mind the sound of dhol beats. Call it my north Indian genes but it only increases the spirit of the festival. However, I wouldn’t want to have dhols blaring right through my ears for 3 hrs as I try to sleep at 11 pm. I am not writing this to mention my own plight but these have been the experiences of several people within our small community of Powai. Not to mention the firecrackers! Not only it pollutes air but creates noise pollution too. Couldn’t we be considerate to the old ones, the sick ones and the pets who are most frightened during these times? I could only imagine the horror of those who stay near the visarjan sites. Isn’t there a way we could integrate celebration and sensitivity at the same time? Maybe designate a time and open space for collective celebrations if at all fireworks need to be included? Can it be a good starting point?

In pre-independence era, A visiting Italian Sanskrit professor shared his account of Ganpati celebrations in Mumbai of 1885:‘I followed with the greatest curiosity crowds who carried in procession an infinite number of idols of the god Ganesh. Each little quarter of the town, each family with its adherents, each little street corner I may almost say, organizes a procession of its own, and the poorest may be seen carrying on a simple plank their little idol or of paper mâché... A crowd, more or less numerous, accompanies the idol, clapping hands and raises cries of joy, while a little orchestra generally precedes the idol.– Angelo de Gubernatis, Bombay Gazette (1886)[26][27] (Source: Wikipedia)

Could you feel the simplicity of celebrations back then? Yes, you can argue that we are more prosperous now. There is greater disposable income in every household. Then why not celebrations be grand? True! We should all be celebrating Bappa as we wish to. But today, after every celebration, It’s heartbreaking to see sites and images of damaged Plaster of Paris made statues of our beloved Ganpati. How could we do this to someone we love and worship? When the seas wash these statues back to shore, are they telling us something?

The great freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak, who revived this festival to fight the British Raj, surely wouldn’t have imagined that our society will get so insensitive in the name of celebrations. Earlier when we made Ganpati using soil or paper mache, it was understandable that as he came from nature, he was immersed in nature to be back again next year. It would have also been a medium to connect communities at least once every year and to worship God and nature together. After all, since time immemorial we have worshipped elements of nature as forms of God himself. But today pomp and show are increasingly replacing a well-thought tradition. Just imagine how much damage we are doing to the already fragile ecosystem of Powai Lake. Oh, are you thinking but the immersion happens in the artificial pond. Well as per media reports, the toxic and non-biodegradable residue is dumped back into the water bodies? Not sure if this year is going to be any different.

But the picture is not all dark and grey. We are increasingly coming across aware citizens who are opting for eco-friendly options. Even in our society, we organised a workshop of an eco-friendly Ganesha idol making for kids in a bid to create environmental awareness. Later, some parents opted to worship the naturally made Bappa rather than buying a POP-made idol. Some NGOs have also been creating awareness, conducting workshops and selling eco-friendly idols. But is this enough? Considering the damage we have already done to our water bodies and in our case, to Powai lake, isn’t it time we took collective actions? Can we all pledge to bring a nature made Ganpati next year? Maybe request and influence mandals across Powai and our residential societies to go for environment-friendly celebrations? Can we while planning the celebrations, be considerate of all forms of life? Yes maybe the idol would be a bit smaller and the sound of celebration a little lesser next time but the message would be much greater. Isn’t it only then, will we truly imbibe the spirit of ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः’?

-Reproduced from my column in 'My Powai' magazine.

If you have enjoyed my writings, don't miss this most popular article.

I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. Follow my stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

I was busy working on laptop when my phone buzzed. I looked at the phone’s screen. It was a message from one of the zillion WhatsApp groups I was part of. As some of us do, I ignored it. I was down writing two more lines when suddenly my phone started ringing with messages. Either there was a breaking news or someone’s birthday. Curious, I opened my WhatsApp. The messages were from one of the women groups of Powai. After a few scrolls down, I finally reached the origin of the buzz. Someone was looking for a Bai aka maid and had put in a description which read like this: ‘Urgent. Looking for a trustworthy, well-trained, punctual and reliable maid. Someone who is versatile and hygienic. She shouldn’t take unannounced leaves and should happily manage some odd jobs from time to time. Please help.’ As I scrolled down the chat, the reactions were mixed and many. Some ladies had thrown ‘I am also looking for one’ hat in the ring while some had responded with downright cynicism, discussing their own bai woes. A few women, however, had tried to help with numbers of bais, they knew. The thread had now become a conversation, the lady who asked the query, since being absent.

This is, however, not an uncommon event. The ‘Bai’ woes are regularly discussed on footsteps of yoga classes, during lunch with the ‘girls’, while watching over kids in the garden and since that doesn't satiate our frustration, over phone calls as well. Yesterday only, my mom called from Dehradun, telling me how her bai, whom she had tried to disband from the house, wasn’t letting anyone take the job in ‘her territory.’ The business of bais affects each and all of us.

The ‘bai’ is to us what HR is to office goers. No-one is happy with them, they think they run the house and when it comes to criticising their lack of response, the lines of seniority or class get blurred. In bringing women together, the topic of bai finds its only parallel with that of their mothers-in-law or daughters-in-law, depending on which side of the wrinkles you are on.

In fact, our relationship with our bais is a lot like a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship, except a way more complicated. When it comes to chores, the bais show the lousy behaviour of a ‘nayi bahu’ but the moment guests arrive, they suddenly turn the ‘saasu-maa’ mode on, leaving one high and dry. Despite your severe lack of liking towards them, you cannot just throw ‘I am having a bad day’ tantrum to your bai as you might to your husband. Unless of course, you want your bad day extended to next 48 hours. Your character and personal skills are judged not by the friends you keep but how long you can keep your bai.

But bais can be very resourceful too. In our gadget-addicted world where we know everything about our Facebook friends and nothing about ‘know thy neighbour’, bais bring the current affair that isn’t published in any newspaper. They keep you abreast with everything that you need or needn't know about your neighbour or someone within a 1-km range. From which didi has frequent guests, which didi is too demanding to which didi is going for a ‘phorein’ holiday, they keep you updated about everything! If you are wondering where they get their information from, try stepping out of your 700 sq ft world or whatever is that you afford and take a walk downstairs. You will find, various groups of bais, engaging in serious conversations, as they slowly rub the gutka masala on their palm and with the finesse of a professional, tuck it into a corner of their mouth. Gossips are exchanged and the reverse topic of ‘memsab woes’ are discussed. Fascinated with the idea of what exactly they discuss, I have even tried to pull a slow walk, just to eavesdrop, but to no avail. However, these women are not all talk and no work. You realise that only once in a while when one of your NRI relatives arrives and seeing the maid, gives a deep sigh saying, ‘I forget what it felt like to get your work done. Back in the US, it's all hands on for us.' Just like any Indian, you get defensive with ‘you know, you don’t need to clean every day there. Here in India, there is so much dust’ reply while secretly thanking the underdeveloped state of our country for the cheaper services.

My phone buzzed again. A lady replied to the one looking for a maid, 'I think you have just described the best bai in the world. Someone, we all dream to have one day. If you do find her, please send her across.’ This just reignited the chat conversations.

So does the best bai in the world really exists? Isn’t it like asking an employer, does the best employee in the world exists? Isn’t that an enigma? Those who might have the ideal one wouldn’t speak of it, afraid of being poached from and those who haven't found one, it's a hunt forever.This time my phone rang. A crackling voice came from the other end, ‘Didi, main aaj nai ayegi!’

-Reproduced from my column in 'My Powai' magazine.

If you have enjoyed my writings, don't miss this most popular article.

I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. Follow my stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Don't worry, I’m not going to talk about overpriced coffees or exquisite furniture of a cafe. I am discussing coffee shops and cafes today, more as a culture. Spending my first 5 years of independent life in a corporate, I was largely unaware of this culture thriving in Powai. Until of course I left my stable, fat paying, 9-5 job for a more entrepreneurial stint. A stunt, however, would be a more appropriate word for what I pulled off.

That’s when I started visiting cafes, either working from there or meeting people. I soon realized that these places are more than just for coffee or cakes. They have transformed into what we might call as co-working spaces. From freelancers to entrepreneurs, you will find a lot of people doing more than just sipping their coffee. Scenes of Investors conducting their meetings, discussing industry scenarios to entrepreneurs hard selling their ideas are quite common. Not a surprising fact, given after Bengaluru, the next start-ups idea or a copy of the idea is born in the very abode of our Powai. I too have met some really creative and enterprising people there. So if next time, you go to a cafe, you will find entrepreneurs and nerds tucked in various corners with their eyes glued to the laptop screen and ears plugged with music or tie-d professionals discussing numbers.

However, in a fresh change, even the corporates are now following the suit. They are increasingly moving from mundane office meeting rooms to lively halls of cafes. With an increase in the young millennial workforce, senior professionals are seeing cafes as an opportunity for informal interactions and bonding with their younger teammates. On one of the visits, I saw a big group of corporate kids sitting on a large table, spearheaded by their middle-aged boss. The boss, however, mistook the whole coffee shop to his conference room. Perturbed by his loud speech, I started looking around to see if I was the only one getting that complimentary lecture. At that moment, seeing the solo workers sitting quietly with their ears plugged, I realized the importance of carrying a pair of those noise cancelling ear phones.

So the experience is not always very pleasant for the rest of us. Though as the old guy was at least attempting to embrace the new ways of millennial, we should give him that. In ways, I think it represents the changing work culture in India.

Cafes are also the new ladies' kitty party place. Or is it called something else now? Well, apologies to the ladies, but with my small city upbringing, that's what we call the gathering of well-dressed women, chatting or playing games as part of their monthly meeting. However, the cafe version of Kitty is very different from what I have seen growing up. Spring rolls have been replaced with sponge cakes, chai with coffee, sarees with skirts and buns have given way to the perfect blow-dried hair. However, the only thing constant is gossip :D

Teenage has also seen an upgrade. Well, it's more of their pockets actually. Because frankly, teenage since time immemorial has been the age to do stupid stuff or share silly statuses on social media, to be embarrassed in later life. The upgrade on pocket-money however, is significant. I bet if someone could calculate, the teenage pocket-money must have increased more than the inflation rate of our country. I see teenagers frequently thronging these cafes. Something that would have been, once in a blue moon thing during my own teenage, which wasn’t that many years ago. I already feel like a dinosaur, seeing these teenagers posing for an Instagram worthy moment with their cuppa.

Just like in the case of adapting technology, the oldies often accompanying their young prodigies, are learning to order their perfect cup of coffee or trying a new cuisine. I see their sons and daughters patiently and happily explaining the intricacies and references of different dishes.

Thus, Cafés in ways are like mini urban India. They represent the change happening not just in Powai but pan urban India. The new ways of working are fusing in the olden era and lines of office and official are getting blurred. They are also the laboratories of how modern is adapting the traditional and old is storming with the new to form a different kind of culture.

So next time you go to grab your cup of coffee at a Cafe, you know a lot more is brewing there and not just coffee!

-Reproduced from my column in 'My Powai' magazine.

If you have enjoyed my writings, don't miss this most popular article.

I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. Follow my stories on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!