I didn’t quite expect another face at the door when I rang the bell. “Oh, here she is!” People were actually waiting for me to arrive home from a long day at work. I folded my hands into Namaste but couldn’t quite wipe the quizzed expression from my face. Twelve hours of grueling work, facing people, endless meetings and I come home to this! I looked around for mom to fill me in about the people swarming around me.

I noticed a middle aged couple and a young boy of about twelve. I could tell he was in as much discomfort as I was, with no choice of running out of the door, given the chance! I sat among them, looking for some familiar face to appear. “How old are you beta?” Now that definitely is a gunshot question, whether you are in your early twenties or beyond! I could just manage a smile. “When did you come? Beta, meet the Malhotras, they are relatives of your aunt Seema. They just dropped by to see us and meet you specially.” Now on that statement, one can’t really ask “Why do you want to meet me? Or what did I do to deserve this hijack?” Anyway, the sweets were served and the snacks and people started eating. I couldn’t decide when to break away to at least go and wash my face!

The lady had almost surrounded me with her questions while the man was busy talking to my father. I so wanted my mom’s assurance that this is going to end soon, and I could change into my nightclothes and sleep in my heavenly bed..how I longed that.

I ignored most of the words which fell on my ears but one visual caught my eye. It was a picture of a guy, not really a usual picture, but like the one where you pose and force out your most made-up smile. “You like him na…I knew it”, the lady said. What? This isn’t happening to me. It happens to a lot of people I know..but not to me..ever! Do my parents hate me so much as expecting me to marry a complete stranger. “You are so pretty, and tall and lovely hair…just right for my Naresh.” Ya sure…physical aspects decide everything.. after all its never my own life or my own decision for that matter. I felt claustrophobic, as if the room was closing in on me. No, I couldn’t cry because I wasn’t made of substance that snaps apart at each problem. And I couldn’t be rude to these strangers; they were in my house and in front of my parents. Neither could I be polite, as I didn’t know what to say at all. I couldn’t even manage a smile.

“We like your daughter. She’s beautiful. Naresh loves her picture anyway. Consider a yes from our side.” I have to speak now..now is the moment…why can’t I find any words? God..please help me! The lady took out a gold bracelet from her handbag and took my hand. “As I give this to you, I accept you as my daughter in-law”. “Please wait Mrs Malhotra, we really haven’t discussed this. We need to know our daughter’s opinion before we can commit.” I looked in my mom’s eyes and sensed the reassurance. She smiled at me. “But we as parents make this decision, why do you have to ask her.” “Because she’s our daughter and she has the right to live her life on her own terms.” And a self-assured smile took over my face.

Poosh had never been this crazy. He used to instantly start ahead of me and catch his favourite Frisbee. Ever since I had been twelve and ever since he was a puppy!

Poosh does not like strangers, and it’s an understatement if I say that he makes friends easily. But once he makes friends, they are the forever type of friends. I don’t know his favourite colour but I always assumed it would be orange because as a pup, he only attacked orange stuff – Orange slippers, orange doormats, orange Frisbees and so on.. So maybe it was orange, or just his teething phase, I don’t know. But according to the conclusion I drew, I got him an orange collar which suited perfectly with his silky short golden hair. No, I wasn’t going accessory shopping, but I made sure he had orange eating bowls, and an orange leash, although he took an offense if a leash was used when he was enjoying his freedom.

Somehow Poosh was never the pedigree eating, tail wagging, smiling dogs (look carefully if you haven’t seen dogs smile yet!) Poosh was the adventure minded, dal-chawal-roti eating, happy-go-lucky chap, who just happened to be in the right company! He ran to catch the frisbee, almost stopping in mid-air so as to pose for a typical ‘Kodak moment’. He loved children, he would want to surprise them by wagging and going near them, but eventually ended up scaring them. He would never even budge if a child pulled the hair out of his tail.

It wasn’t long ago Poosh was diagnosed with stomach infection. He no longer relished his dal and chawal, he no longer ran as fast as the wind, he no longer looked up at me to pester me for a long walk. All he did was sat in a corner on his orange rug. He didn’t even complain if we put the leash on him. His smile disappeared. The doctor said it was bad, I did not believe it. He said there was no scope for operation, and if they tried there would be a 50-50 chance of survival. I cried the whole night that day. My lovely little pal was suffering and I could not help him. I woke up at 1 am and sat till the morning caressing his fragile body. He didn’t cry in pain or make any noise, all he did was put his chin on my leg and his paw in my hand.

I sit beside the place he was buried, and the ground still feels warm there. I always take orange flowers to him, knowing he would like them. And I look in the park, when a dog catches a Frisbee, but not in the grand manner as Poosh did!

It was raining hard and heavy. But that did not deter me from choosing my Green cashmere coat and putting on my green pencil heel peep-toes with the beige chiffon dress. It was going to be a very special day and no weather could change that.

As I walked along the pavement to the Metro station, I cursed the rain in my undertones. Rains always brought with them additional traffic delays and jams, water logging and of course, the mud which could spoil my shoes!

As I snapped at the thought of getting late for my appointment with my manager, who was obviously going to announce my promotion and my new job responsibilities, my pace quickened. “Ouch…watch your step lady”, I almost fell when a man collided almost head-on. The impact pushed me away from the pavement and my foot turned around. I sensed a sprain and heard a crack. The sprain was ok, but what crack was that? I looked at my shoe and the heel was split into two. Wow..what a start to a very special day.

I had two options now – either to run home barefooted or to go around and find a cobbler to attach this dissected piece! Home was too far away, so I started to look for a cobbler. Don’t even begin to ask me if how I walked because I cannot explain it…oh the tripping…duhh!
I felt something grab my coat with muddy palms, nightmarish as it may sound, I turned to retort. My special green cashmere coat, for which I had been saving for years! “What the hell…” and I almost snapped when a little child’s eyes caught me. Abruptly, I was taken aback a bit. “What do you think you are doing spoiling my clothes with your dirty hands. As I clenched my orange umbrella with my hand, I felt the rain soaking him to the core, his clothes were tattered and torn, he was barefooted, and maybe I saw the tears mingling with the rain water, I am not so sure.

I bent down to his level and he said in a shaky voice “Someone pushed me and I was about to fall. I am sorry Miss”. My heart exploded with deepest regret. Here I am, worrying about my coat and the heel, and just look at this guy. What world am I residing in where reality has been diluted and selfish materialism rules? I took his tiny muddy palm and went to the nearby chai stall. It had an umbrella. We sat down on the small slab there. “Chai piyega?” I asked him. He nodded with approval. He drank his hot chai with almost a hurried eagerness. “Where is your home?” “I was with my mother, she is a beggar near the metro station. I was going to get some water for her.”

I asked him what else he wanted to eat and he ordered hot pakodas and bread. “Can I take some for my ma?” “Sure, why not” As he ate, I looked at him, and I looked towards the metro station – there were many people rushing like me and there were many beggars left at their fate, and the likes of me never even looked! “I think you should wear some shoes” I went and brought him some warm shoes from a nearby pavement. Delighted with his new belongings, he just looked at me and smiled.

As he turned around to go, I waited with a sigh, put my hand on his shoulder and said “wait”. I slithered away my coat and put it on him. “Its very cold out there”. He took his hand and with the mud stains on the coat now being washed with the rain, I could see the sadness wash away from his face. He turned around and ran away.

The telephone rang at its loudest. It couldn’t have been more obvious. Just out of the shower, I grabbed it with moist hands and pressed the call receive button. And the voice I heard was something I had heard many years ago. The voice with which I associated mixed feelings of profane sadness and intense familiarity.

I could sense the sadness and the hollow angst. I could sense that I had to be there with him, right then and right there. I canceled my entire schedule, still in disbelief that I had spoken to him, and in a manner which is almost alien to me now.

With my hair still dripping from the shower, I chose a subtle colour for the occasion. Beige would be appropriate. I adorned my dress and tied my hair in a bun, just a light touch of lip balm, and I was out. It was like I wasn’t directing myself in any way, I was being directed. Strangely, the feeling was not intimidating.

When I reached at his house, I could see people gathering around the entrance. Noone seemed to notice or recognize me but met my eyes as if sharing a conducive reassurance. Then I saw him, wrapped in a beige shawl with a white kurta pyjama. His body language was elusive as always, but his eyes looked lost. Just like his words when I had heard them on the phone. After having gone all the way to his house, I could somehow not take those last steps towards him. He saw me and we gazed at each other. The huge crowd had no relevance and the fog did not seem to disappear. Three years of being away, out of touch, out of each other’s lives. He came up to me and gave me a hug. Not knowing what to do, I hugged him back. I could not sense the tears but the pain was radiating from him.

He had always worshipped his mother. Being a single parent, she did all she could to raise him well. She had always met me with cheery praise for her son, and a warm heart with embracing kindness. She had never said a word of distraught in her entire life, and now, as I looked up at the crowd that had gathered, it was evident and symbolic of her loving nature. People poured in with flowers and grief. The house still seemed empty, inspite of over a hundred people in it. I hope no one noticed my moistened eyes, but he did.

The fights, the separation, all seemed to be forgotten to me now. The pain, the suffereing, the love and the care, nothing seemed to flicker now. It was just a numb moment, as he came by my side and held my hand. I could not react. But I held it, as I remembered what he had said to me n the phone – “it’s the weakest moment of my life, and I want my strongest friend to be with me..please come..dont say no!”

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When I saw this clutch for the first time, I was literally pressed for words... an impossible feat many would affirm. I was captured by its simplicity juxtaposed with its 50's glamour vibe. Marilyn Monroe anyone? The oh –so – fashionable Parisien would say 'tres chic' after a glance at this beauty while I, a mere mortal, still struggle to articulate my very strong feelings, bordering on hysteria for this one. How do you say - ' I want one too' in french? Maybe that will garb the note of urgency in my voice and the glazed look in my eyes. Then again, maybe not.

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Black textured leather feather-embellished sandals with a heel that measures approximately 4.5 inch, a strap across front with a tonal chain-link embellishment, a pointed toe, an exposed zip fastening at back with an oversized circular zip pull and a thin ankle strap.

Step into these Givenchy sandals to watch your style status soar. Keep the focus firmly on your feet by teaming these plush plume heels with a well-cut pencil dress like Julien Macdonald's gray peaked shoulder wool jersey mini dress. Weave a little chic into your cocktail look with Bottega Veneta's black intrecciato woven silk satin clutch.Trying to pull off an 80’s inspired look can be highly confounding primarily because there is a very thin line between being right on trend and looking like an extra from the ‘like a virgin’ Madonna video. If you’re aiming for the latter then all I can say is God be with you but to pull off the former, you need to swear by the two golden rules1. You should only sport this trend if you were too young to wear it the first time around. That is, for the ladies in their 40s and 50s, raiding your high school wardrobe may not be a very good idea.2. You should build the look around one key trend and try to keep the rest of your ensemble simple. For example, wearing an exaggerated shoulder dress with a bejeweled jacket, studded booties, ghetto gold and big hair is comparable to fashion suicide. (sample see below).

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Hopefully this will help you to channel your inner disco diva of the 80s with class and sophistication.

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Yes, Tania decided to get married. And how was she planning to tell me anyway? The phone call? So across all the legendary feelings of friendship and the foothold of trust, all I was going to get was a ring on my cellphone!

The sultry girl from Bhopal, whose personality did not scream “talk to me”, who was always in the subdued melancholy of her fulfilled life. Carrying a red jhola full of books and wearing the soft shade of pink kurti, she never wore heels and always had the lost look about her. It’s funny how sometimes we perceive a lost look as self assured or vice versa, I never had the inclination to start a conversation with her. Not that her silence posed a huge challenge, but I could never grasp anything in common to talk about.

Studying in Bangalore may leave you a bit lonesome in terms of language, but otherwise its bling all the way! I enjoyed the company of classmates, the group laughter, shrieks, the bunking and the fun! But altogether, I preferred being alone.

“Tania it is”, said my hostel warden as she picked up a chit of paper and handed me her name. I consciously tried not to shrug my shoulders or bring the “oh no” look on my face. I didn’t even turn and look around where she was. It was destiny. We were roommates.
Either throw your things around and keep them messy; or hate the ones who keep them messy – hostel life can put these two shades of lifestyle on you. I was certainly the second category, and I so dreaded if Tania was the first! But luckily, she wasn’t the first type. She spoke little. And ate even lesser – now that’s one thing that can make you conscious! Sometimes I wondered what bothered her so much and why was she so stuck up in life. I secretly love being judgmental, because for me it’s a game about proving to myself how things can change. How unpredictable life can get.

We would have never gotten across the ‘Hi’ and the ‘Bye’, but it so happened that she liked a guy….ding!! We opened up, eased up; we started talking about college, hostel, the classes and studies. First we discussed our careers, and then came the exchange of the notes, and then the eating together syndrome (oh...how I enjoyed that!) Then we discussed our lives, the people we like, the people we wished who liked us, the crushes, the cute lecturers, the sad ones too! The she told me that she liked him...a lot! More than the crushes, the cute guys and the hot ones! I knew it then, she had found him. No matter how much she said she needed time to think, and who would propose to whom, and the future blah blah ; I knew he was the one.

As I heard her speak after so many years about her wedding plans, and the dresses and the leave I had to take, and be by her side all the while…I felt happy. It’s like the moments in life when you have no doubts for your close ones and you wished they lives happily and got what they wanted! I felt it for her…couldn’t express it, but I could feel that she felt the same.
How ironical that I could understand when Tania found her ‘special one’, and haven’t been able to figure out mine just yet! “Of course I will be there, don’t worry. We will shop together for your wedding dress. And don’t buy atrocious shoes; wait for me to come there.”
Yeaa…good times ahead... But I haven’t a thing to wear. Oh no, have to start all over with my wardrobe…ummm….credit card?? :P

Planned to go home and take a break. But as flexible as work might get, it’s never flexible enough to guarantee peaceful breaks. The e-mail comes in, or the mobile, or the dreaded SMS. If you are sick , people don’t take your word for it. For once, let a person be! If you think I am wallowing in self pity, don’t tread that way, cause I aint…I am just here on my terrace, sipping my cup of hot coffee.

It’s about our boundaries. For once if I decide to switch off, I will. At the end of the day, everything comes down to your decisions. Try it once…switch off your laptop, your cellphone, even your doors and just go and sit on the terrace. Just look at the sun sink in the realms of another universe. Think about the last time you smelled a flower and how it felt. Have you ever planted a sapling and felt the cool, moist mud on your hands? Adjust your thinking to the pace that eases the strings of your thoughts. We all want to do this, but everything else seems to grab the first seat.

Call me a blatant extremist if you may and I won’t mind. But it’s a simple rule – if you don’t draw the boundaries, they will draw you! If work remains a part of life, its good ; else your life is a part of it. My coffee just got a bit cooler, and just the right time to sip it. But does everyone know the right time to sip theirs? Or one fine morning when you wake up with the greys and the sore muscles, you wish someone was around, or you wish you had finished your cup earlier?

We tend to plan out things at a level that is outrageous. Vehemently, can I ever say for certain how many puppies my dog is giving birth to? And how do I know if I am going to live the next years to see another solar eclipse…or should I save money all my life to go to that world tour when I don’t even know when will I have enough money or health for it! I am not preaching the “living on the edge” philosophy, although I am a big fan of it; but I am stressing on the fact that let time not pass away on its own. Notice how it twists and bends, and in turn, changes your life. Rather than the plaintiff fish in the ocean, who gets swayed away by the current, be the harpooning sword fish, which decides where it goes.

I don’t want to die thinking I missed out on a lot or maybe I should have done something and I didn’t, provided the opportunity of course! I don’t want to plan my finances..or marriage..or children. I know I want to be happy..and I will take handfuls of joy out of what life gives me. As I gulp down this coffee and look at the sky, the sun dwindling away, I tell myself how blissful and absolutely divine the experience is, not just of this sunset and the coffee, but the fact that I am enjoying what I have.

So all I can say is…if I need a break…I will cease it with both hands..I deserve it..and all I have to do is – shut off from the unnecessary shuttling of this world and delve in my own peace..and happiness! I know I have the courage and the audacity to do so.

Just finished reading “God of small things” for the millionth time today and experienced the same awe, respect and veneration for the author that is Arundhati Roy. Five years and many a reading later, I found myself transported to the lush greens of Kerala, felt the incessant rains tingling down my back, the political turmoil simmering in the background, the ideological clash of the bourgeois and the proletariat and the lost innocence of childhood. The sheer poetry of verse elucidated the grief of the story juxtaposed with ironic humour – an absolute delight.

Critics have repeatedly tried to compartmentalise Ms. Roy’s work under the ambit of ‘magical realism’. Even though its quite a compliment to be herded with literary giants such as Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ms. Roy has constantly been plagued by the reference of ‘enfant terrible’ of Indian literature due to her quite blatant political overtures, most noticeably the narmada bachao andolan and harsh criticism of capitalism and globalisation. While many a critic has termed her non-fiction works to be self indulgent and overly simplistic, I beg to differ. The works of Ms. Roy are evocative to the extent that they appeal to the deep seated conscience which we often unintentionally and otherwise wish to ignore. They point out the stark reality which is for all to see yet most turn a blind eye to it because it unnerves them, makes them uncomfortable. A couple of months back, she single headedly performed an impossible feat – she made the major political parties of the Indian Diaspora – be it leftist, rightist or opportunist stand up in unison in criticism of her views regarding the independence of Kashmir. Even though her views were endorsed by leading journalists like Vir Sanghvi and Jug Suraiya, Ms Roy bore the brunt of the political imbroglio.

Result – Its not fashionable to read or espouse Ms. Roy anymore, it is perceived as being politically incorrect. I choose to differ. While you may or may not choose to agree with her views, the courage and conviction of a woman who stands up for her beliefs and opinions, unfazed by criticism, vindication and personal attacks is praiseworthy. If criticising her just for the heck of it is being politically correct, I would be much obliged to be politically incorrect and rather proud of it if I may say so.


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