The girl who needs a grocery buying guide

Something strange happened one weekend.
I woke up at 8am!
On weekends that’s considered as dawn.
Feeling bright and energetic I jumped out of bed without so much as a yawn.

The joy of a weekend is to have bit of a lie-in without the shrill of an alarm.
I made myself a cup of tea and enjoyed the morning calm.
Deciding to use this time productively I left to run a few errands.
Having ignored my house I decided to make amends.

I’m blessed to have a helper and a cook who are indispensable.
They’re my lifeline and like family. They’re loyal and competent.
By design or by habit the task of buying groceries is left in their trusted hands.
But seeing the supermarket I,spontaneously, thought of doing it myself, so in I went.

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My senses groggy. My voice disembodied. I walked down the aisles, slightly lost.
The fresh colours and smells of fruits is what I love the most.
Other shoppers included either very old people shuffling along,
Or early-risers, swimmers, hipsters tying up their dogs or parking their bike.
And of course super sporty Amazonian women returning from their run or hike.

I started adding tomatoes, blueberries etc in my trolley.
Whilst admiring their bodies fit for haute couture.
Making lists of what I’d like eat during the week and feeling jolly.
Buying vegetables is a bit like buying furniture, it’s very mature.

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I came home and dropped my bags on the floor.
The rumbling in my stomach was turning into a roar.
Tired but happy about the chores being completed.
Even if the money in my wallet had rapidly depleted.

The aforementioned cook and helper arrive.
What follows is a humiliating, dressing down that lasts half an hour.
My effort ignored, my morning turned sour.
The critical cook shreds me to pieces and exposes my inexperience.
So much so for my lets-do-this-grocery-shopping-more -often drive.

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She starts with ” if you buy vegetables, your bank balance will come down by half”.
Why I asked with trepidation masked by a loud laugh.
She bemoans the pitfalls of career women and lifestyles she deems wild.
Expecting a rebuke I braced myself like an erroneous child.

She said: Tomatoes from the fresh market are 14$. You paid 26$.
Oh is all I said and smiled sheepishly.
She said: Why did you buy an eggplant. We already had one.
I professed a false love for eggplant and contemplated an escape. Perhaps head to the gym for a run.

She said: Why did you buy three packets of Okra? Two are enough for you.
I shifted my weight from one foot to another. Feeling small and stupid. I still do.
What are these? She points to the small packets of green stuff I’d thrown in randomly.
Finally! I have an answer for this one. I glibly assured her it’s Coriander for chutney .
It’s Pudina (mint leaves) she says in a half mocking half disapproving tone.
My confidence quickly dissipating as she continued to drone.

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She then coaches me on cooking and domesticity and how it would make a man happy.
Here it comes, the ultimate blow.
Because of course not having a man is the all-time low.
At this point my helper, who’s always been in my corner, comes to my defense.
She pipes in saying my purchases are organic and therefore more healthy.

They’re imported from Australia or New Zealand she shouts over the hoovering.
Feeling bad for me as I’ve been put through the ringer.
So? I’m going to be boiling and cooking them anyway, dismisses my cook.
Unless you want to use these imported tomatoes for salads or sandwiches? She asks.
Part question, part threat. Not exactly the menu I had in mind. No, is all I could whimper.

Some might question my wisdom for tolerating a feisty cook bordering on insolence.
In a world full of robotic, indifferent people, she’s right and she cares.
I hang my head in shame. In silence.
My helper, gives me a reassuring smile, indicating what “I can say to save ya”.
How quickly success turns to failure.

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Role reversal

This September I was informed that I would be making my annual trip to Cannes via London. To meet the higher echelons in the head office. Seizing this opportunity I asked my parents if they would like to join me in London. My parents, and father in particular, has always had a deep-seated desire to visit London. The history and the availability of curry being the top two reasons. Vegetarians are very pragmatic about their holiday destinations.

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I warned them about the infamous English weather. But that was insignificant, as long as I was going to be in London it would be the best time to visit. Although I’ve visited London quite a few times, I’m by no means a local. But at 70 it’s more of an emotional support they seek rather than a physical or financial one. Sorry MasterCard.
Weather warnings forgotten, plans were made rapidly.

I trawled through my cupboards for winter wear for my mother. I bought age-appropriate sweaters and T-shirts for my father. After his retirement, his wardrobe is restricted to exercise clothes, traditional kurtas and a few (but not forgotten) safari suits. Adding to this neatly pressed, starched, and crisp pile of clothes were the T-shirts I’ve passed on to him. Gifts from business partners. So, he naively adversities Comedy Central or Radio One with clever by-lines and zany collegiate appeal!

We had swung into action. Shopping-check. Tickets-check. Hotel booking check. Visas-check. Forex- check. My family undeterred even as the rupee plummeted 1 GBP= 100 INR.

Packing-There were various facets to this packing, starting with food packing. Vegetarians are also a tad paranoid.
Surprisingly, they also packed tea bags! I pointed to them that we’re going to the land of tea lovers but they weren’t going to settle for Bergamot Earl Grey or a mild English Breakfast. They need a stronger brew, a proper builders tea.

Being a seasoned traveller, I shared my tips and checklist before they boarded their flight. Cross-body handbags, adapters, international roaming on their phones, to tag their luggage for easy identification etc. The trip hadn’t even started but I could feel the beginnings of anxiety.

So here we were, smiling and hugging at London Heathrow. We made our way to the waiting car as they relaxed and silently approved the perks of my business travel. The hotel apartment had proficiently kept a welcome message addressed to my father and he took out his little Nokia phone to capture the screen. He’s not on any social media so clearly this was for his own private memory.

After a power nap we made our way to Liberty and thus began a holiday full of discoveries. I saw a side to my father I didn’t know existed. After shopping we had almost joined the throngs of people on Oxford street but he wanted to retrace his steps so we could get a picture outside Liberty. I now know who to thank for my limitless capacity to pose for pictures.

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Over dinner, I realized that my mostly teetotaller father quite enjoys a glass of wine (or three). I was thrilled. I was having a larky dinner with my parents. I could show them new things whilst they happily embraced each experience. I felt a new emotion, a sense of wonder. You can spend your life with people, with the tinnitus of familiarity and then one day in a strange land, you see them in a new light.

As I gathered our coats and searched for our keys, I overheard my father tell my mom that they should go to a traditional British pub next door. Wow, will wonders ever cease?

The rest of the trip saw us trundling together. I was their map and their go-to App. All pre-holiday worries gone as they expertly hopped off and hopped on.

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One night, I had a severe stomach ache and had to wake my parents because I had stupidly forgotten my medicines.Except that incident the trip was a roaring success. Right through the seven days I had three overriding thoughts:

1) When your family is with you in a foreign land, it ceases to be one.

2) Your parents are perhaps cooler than you think or imagine.

3) The roles were reversed. When I visit them in India, I automatically lapse into the I’m-your-daughter-and-therefore-in-your-care mode.
Now, I was the parent. The one in control. The one in charge. Protecting them in the tube stations and from the marching pedestrians. Guarding them against pickpockets and the world at large.

The end of the holiday arrived all too quickly. I put them in a cab and off they went to Paris. Even though I’m not a mother, I felt a longing. As if I was seeing them off for a summer camp. Pushing these thoughts aside, I got into back- to- business avatar and returned to the apartment to finish my packing for Cannes.

There it lay , innocently, a small bag in my suitcase with some medicines and a handwritten note from my father describing the different uses and doses.

With tears stinging my eyes I realised, I was wrong. They’d been parents all along.

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The religious rookie

Yet another year of celebrating Diwali alone.
Hearing about the festivities back home I can’t help but feel forlorn.
Remembering the softly glowing lamps and fireworks dotting the night sky.
Feeling very feminine in our traditional clothes, I wonder why.
Boxes of calorie-laden sweets laid along with my favourite savouries.
Rooting for friends trying their luck at card parties.

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At dusk we used to gather for the Laxmi Puja as silence fell.
The money on the plate was for us, we could tell.
I’d help my father arrange the offerings of fruits and holy water.
The nip in the air heralding winter as the days got shorter.

Now in my apartment in Hong Kong feeling absurd and solitary.
Banishing all thoughts of being a little phoney.
I decided to venture into this uncharted territory.
Starting with an abridged version of praying to the goddess of wealth.
Not because I don’t need to pray for wealth, god-knows it’s quite the contrary.

I don’t go to temples. I don’t fast.
If there was a competition for devout, pious girls, I’d come last.
Keen on trying, yet, embarrassed of failing.
I told myself it would be smooth sailing.
The only one judging would be the lord himself,
So even if others accuse me of not being very traditional.
His love is thankfully unconditional.

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Dressed in my new Salwar Kameez I stood in front of my temple.
Nothing grand but a simple shelf of an IKEA cupboard.
I stood there in silence wondering what’s next?
No chants, verses that can roll off my lips.
I wondered if I should ring my mother for tips.

The self-recrimination! Stop worrying I wanted to shout.
Seeming inadequate and shallow, I urged myself to just pray.
The way I usually do. Have a conversation.
Pour your heart out. All the fears and the doubts.

But then this was no ordinary day, it was Diwali.
I was advised to search Youtube for artis.
That seems fake. It’s not a performance but a prayer.Don’t you agree?
So I lit some incense sticks which filled my apartment with their assuring scents.
Jasmine and Cinnamon, these were money well spent.
Sadly I can’t read Sanskrit and can’t carry a tune if my life depended on it.
I closed my eyes for the task and urged my mind to commit.

Om Jai Jagdish I started feebly, but at least I was trying.
The words flowing, like muscle memory, somewhat shakily I started to sing.
Maybe not in the correct order.
But miraculously one word followed the other.

My hands circling the small idols and some gold jewelry, my only treasure.
I could feel the Gods smiling. I had made the effort even if it was half-measure.
When I finished I could feel a presence and a sense of wonder.
I opened my eyes with a sense of disbelief to what had just transpired.
I felt calm, at peace and inspired.

We don’t need faith that binds us but blinds us.
To an extent that we forget to love, help and heal.
We lay too much importance on traditions and customs.
Instead let’s try to make someone smile and provide a meal.

Majority or minority. Sectarian conflicts. The constant strife.
Rioting over land to build a mosque or a temple.
Don’t all religions teach us to respect and be gentle?
God, in my expatriate experience, can have a space-saving shelf life.

Let’s keep it simple. To right the wrong.
End the evil in us and try something new.
Believe. Be good. Be true .

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I’m in a relationship!

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Now that I have your attention, let me explain..
The object of my affection is something really mundane.
It’s my apartment. Warm, bright and bathed in a yellow hue.
Everyone who’s walked in has unequivocally said..it’s so you!

My tumultuous affair started a few months ago.
Worth every bit of my time and pride for sure.
The minute I set my eyes, I was in love full throttle.
Not exactly a celebration but it did call for the opening of a champagne bottle.

It gives the solitude I seek, even though it overlooks a road.
I’ve spent several soporific Sundays being in a couch potato mode.
The calmness in my heart out-shouts everything else.
To curl up with a book or watch something on the TV that makes no sense.

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An open kitchen, a bar stocked with all the alcohol that can be had.
It would be the ultimate spinster pad.
A movie star living room and the room which inspired this writing, my study.
A monochromatic bathroom and a bedroom which is earthy.
Adding little touches to compensate for the minus.
A refuge or respite with something to do.
I often catch myself saying to no one in particular..I love you.

The house is always on my mind.
I walk in every evening and thank the god above for this find.
What can I do to make it better? Sometimes wishing I were a housewife.
Should I buy the wall art now or save it for later?
Let the space fill out naturally, let the walls chronicle my life.

Not willing to rest till it’s functional, tidy and shiny again.
Not a speck of dust. Clean, wash, wipe without complain.
Till I’m exhausted. Till I’m sane.

I wish we could love each other unconditionally like this.
Give every relationship all your love and attention. Be respectful and willing.
The only expectation is for you to welcome me, protect me and keep me safe.
When things don’t go as planned, the disappointment might be crippling.
Nonetheless I’d walk gratefully into your arms at the end of the day.
It’s bound by paperwork and lease terms but in my heart I’m here to stay.

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Table for one

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Those who bravely walk into restaurants and enjoy a meal alone.
Wouldn’t relate to this being lonely, moan.
If you, my dear reader, dread asking for a table for one.
Read on for it turned out to be fun!

Untidy and still in uniform ,I’d holler at my mom or sisters to give me company.
Don’t eat alone was my only rule.
They’d fill my plate with food and I’d fill them with stories from school.
In college, I’d head to my friend’s place after tuition. Hot summer afternoons in May.
Food was forgotten as we danced to Spice Girls and welcoming VJ Trey.

The hostel canteen was an escape.
The idiocy and the I Love You’s etched on wooden desks.
Cramming for an exam and buried in our book.
Students bonded over a common cause, change the unimaginative cook.

Rotis hardened like pappads and pappads softened with moisture like rotis.
The management found this canteen camaraderie incorrigible and naughty.
Food was barely touched as it was labelled by one and all as inedible.
We would find street vendors with food was more dependable.

On holidays, I’ve had solo lunches overlooking the Sydney harbour.
Quietly devoured croissants staring at the Eiffel tower.
But that was different with people milling around me.
Couples, friends and colleagues. Exchanging smiles, numbers and a story.

Travelling on business isn’t woefully lonely either.
Diaries pencilled with client lunches and dinners with friends.
When that isn’t an option, one can opt for room service luxury.
I had progressed to having breakfast alone.
Hiding behind a newspaper or busying myself with the blinking Blackberry.
Feeling very corporate, with my Earl Grey tea and eggs. I was finally on the mend.

But all that changed when I recently travelled on work to Tokyo.
No colleagues, clients or cronies to rely on. It was a dinner from hell!
Don’t worry I will tell you more…

It was a Friday evening and I didn’t want to be indoors.
Such a vibrant city and plenty to see.
Grabbing a map, I went exploring the hills of Roppongi.
Not believing my luck when I read about a vegetarian sushi bar, which I finally found.
I walked into this small, upscale, fine dining restaurant.
With its hushed tones and dim lights making me want to turn around.
Heels clicking across the floor, I chided myself for drawing attention by not changing my shoes.
God help me, my nightmare was coming true.

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Too dark to pull out a novel and no window seats to distract myself with the humdrum of city life.
Facing the inscrutable Japanese chef and glancing surreptitiously at the other couple.
Is it my imagination or was it disdain from his sophisticated wife?
Though tempted, I didn’t use my phone as an escort.
Having learned from bitter experience data roaming means trouble.

Being Friday night, my email alerts had ebbed.
Oh wait, here comes the chef with a basket of veggies and explains the menu.
Thankful for a chance at conversation I ordered a variety of rolls.
Having worked up an appetite I wolfed them down in ten minutes as if that was my goal!
It’s sushi, you can’t not eat it at one go, can you?

No flirty bartenders, no chatty waiters and no allies. That only happens in a movie.
Alas, my date with myself was far from groovy.
I sat there deliberately taking small sips of my non-alcoholic drink.
Wishing for a familiar face by my side.
In hindsight, a glass of wine would have calmed my nerves and I wouldn’t want to hide.

Minutes passed and I started to relax.
Looking around more confidently I made eye contact, not at all shy.
The 8-10 characters in an almost play-like setting, wore a similar expression.
A mixture of admiration and idle curiosity.
Focusing on me instead of their date, I wonder why?

Because I wasn’t togged up for dinner to remain unseen by their partners.
There was also, perhaps,envy.
To them I was bold and carefree so I reasoned it wasn’t pity.
Paying the bill, I smiled and promised to return the next time I’m here.
Feeling triumphant on conquering my fear.
And ready to soldier through others,I disappeared into the city.

Nostalgia

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I’m reading a book but my mind is drifting to other places instead.
A lilting music drifts up to my window, some where there’s a piano being played.
Making me miss someone or something.
Triggers that lead to this reminiscing.

Music
My dad’s unwavering interest in radio, AIR belting out 1960’s songs
I wonder how my parents make-up for that lost sound?
My sister who introduced me to cassettes.
Kishore Kumar, RD Burman, Apache Indian and Take That.
The first dance with a boy, childishly romantic, except…
I was so graceless and inept.
I feel a melancholy steal upon me when I hear music coming from a distance.
As if there’s a party being held or dancing couples sighted.
And somehow I wasn’t invited.

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Mangoes
Raw, spicy and laced with salt, I love them to a fault.
Huddled together, skinny legs dangling from the ledge of a wall.
Scraped knees and bruised hands, legendary were our falls.
Dusting ourselves after plucking them from a tree.
In those days, best things in life were indeed free.
Escaping our neighbours watchful eye we made sure we didn’t get caught.
Devouring them in small tangy bites and the rest to be pickled just like we were taught.

Monsoons – I have a love-hate relationship with this season. Love the rains because the memories are irreplaceable.

Playing outdoors with my friends but ‘get in NOW’ my mom would hiss.
Walking on wet sand as the cute guy I had a crush on took my hand in his.
Watching raindrops chase each other on window panes.
The warmth of friends over a cup of tea and now with a more sophisticated drink.
Rains will never lose their magic I think.

Hate the rains because the memories are unforgettable.

New pencil box and satchels, shiny text books and crisp paper.
Ironing the uniform and sharpening of pencils, as the shavings, like rain, collected into little pools.
But none of the newness could wash away the fact.
It was the end of holidays and the beginning of school.

Riding my bike aimlessly on my birthday, my sister had left for Bombay.
Blinking my tears and masking my pain.
The gods cried with me I thought, in the form of rain.
The teenage heartache while breaking up with the guy I’d dated and kissed.
My first love, my friend, you will always be missed.

Trains
The slightly tense atmosphere on the arrival of the ticket collector.
The bored announcements on the PA system and the negotiations with the coolies.
Vendors selling wooden birds, bright and colourful, to kids covered in woollies.
Station master, jumbo junctions and waiting rooms used during some malfunction.
The mad dash to re- fill water bottles and greasy savouries at every major station.
Sharing food and stories, trains are a true symbol of an integrated nation.
The fight for the lower berth, usually beaten by my sister, I’d perch on the top with a sigh.
Bryan Adams crooning in my walkman while I remained mesmerized by fireflies.
Snaking its way into an unknown terrain, the interminable journeys driving you insane.
In this jet-setting life, how I long for the alchemy in a journey by train.

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Nostalgia leaves me with a sense of loss.
Daydreaming about a future, filled with hope.
Memory and hope both time bound and equally dangerous.
Too much of either can be a curse.
But how do we decide what’s worse?

Who knows, 5 years from now I’ll hear another piano.
I’ll remember a younger me typing on this couch.
Memories, old and new.
So many and yet so few.
You might ask why I write my private memories here.
I fear if I don’t record these today, they’d disappear.

HOW R U. GOT COLD. CONTACT AT CONVENIENCE.

This is the text I received from my father. For those of you wondering why daddy dearest sounds so brusque it’s simply because texting to him is a modified version of the telegram. He continues to be frugal with words as if every letter is charged.

It would appear that technology and warmth can’t be juxtaposed. I send my father a text saying I’ve landed in Hong Kong and ask him to wish me luck because I start a new job from tomorrow. His response is GOOD. SLEEP WELL. FACE CHALLENGES FROM TOMORROW.
His fixation for uppercase beats me. Maybe it’s him trying to be VERY clear. I imagine his tired eyes scanning his small screen, not so smart phone and all’s forgiven.

I sometimes marvel at his single minded-ness. It wouldn’t surprise me if he makes bullet-points about the topics to be discussed during our weekly Sunday calls (no mid-week calls unless it’s an emergency). Although there is usually a pattern .Get information on my health, awkwardly inquire about my happiness, quiz me about work and an inquisition on my savings (and the lack thereof). What quickly follows is a lecture on how I squander it away before the phone is handed to my mom for peace talks.

His clarity in thought makes me wonder just how many words, texts, calls and years I have wasted on small talk. I reason by saying it’s the price of popularity.
Yet, I look at my dad sending letters and postcards to his retired friends , receiving calendars which are probably meant as corporate gifts and I have to respect how they actually took time out to keep in touch. We,the instant-gratification loving Gen Y with our synthetic SMS’es, hashtag tweets, Insta love on instagram and Facebook likes and pokes are plain lazy. The world is getting smaller but the distance between us is increasing. I’ve been toying with a social experiment of removing my birthday from my Facebook profile. Would people remember without a reminder?

Not too long ago, I tried to teach my parents the joys of Skype. Much excitement ensued before the video call except for a tiny technicality, they forgot to put on their webcam! When they figured it out, I had a better view of the wall than them. The maiden call was going swimmingly but after the basic pleasantries were exchanged my dad wanted to hang-up. I reiterated it’s free but that didn’t change his mind. He says he doesn’t understand the Skype revenue model. Admittedly neither do I.

I realize that I’m heading in the same direction. I shy away from leaving voice messages and blithely ignore the marvels of modern-day technology like voice memos and audio notes, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In school, after spending the day together, my friend would ring me and we would chat for hours as if we hadn’t met in years
In college my friends and I would discuss every boy, every dream and any remote possibility of how our lives could change
When I reached my 20’s I was full of existential angst
I wanted to be anyone but me and live anywhere but here

Then we grew up and couldn’t ignore the gradual changes as technology seeped into our lives. Staying in-touch meant texting, g talking, what’s app’ing, BBM’ing and on very rare occasions, a phone call. The call is usually to make a plan. I can’t remember the last time I got a call when a person just wanted to ..talk.

With more number of years under our belt, are fewer words spoken?
With the customary ping of ‘let’s catch-up’ just how many promises are broken?
Technology is efficient but it’s also crippling our communication skill
My father is a man of few words with an old-fashioned way of expressing them
But I treasure his messages because not too far from now I too will feel like an ossified fossil

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Pain patterns

I got inked in 2010
Three hours with the needle dangerously close to my ears
I tried to distract myself as my eyes welled up with tears

When we were younger it seemed like pain was involuntary.

Vaccinations and school bullies. Exams and puberty.
I was burnt, bruised and attacked by a dog. The scars are worn proudly and the horrors are now my favourite anecdotes
These incidents were innocent. Unintentional and accidental.

As we grow older, somehow, pain becomes voluntary.

Botox, liposuction and laser treatments.
Peel-off masks and piercings. Diets and high heels.
Hair which is ruthlessly straightened
Hearts which are recklessly broken
Facebook updates from shiny people on fancy holidays when in fact their life is a mess
The pressure of living a lie, the pretense, but to who do we confess?

Why do we sign-up for these? What happened to wiser with age? Are we getting sagacious or more supportive of pain?

Despite the agony previously endured, we forget.
Two tattoos and two years later I thought I was ready for a tattoo triumph
I thought I knew the drill but still…
Nothing prepares you for pain. It will hurt. Every time.

We accept pain. When I started my session I had to bite my lips and clench my fists
But after a while, ignoring my artist’s merciless style I was oddly okay.
We control. We cope.

Later I met my friends for a drink. Though I worried about the crowded bar and my exposed back
It turned out to be a fun night as I was fenced by my friends
We seek our safe place and are blessed with people who protect us
No one comes near, till we’re safe to go out again without fear.

With time, the burning gave way to a dull ache. Then it was reduced to a nagging discomfort
Finally it stopped hurting. Eventually it was erased from my mind.

Before life turns into a bore it sets new hurdles, failures, obstacles and more
So it begins, grit your teeth and bear
God knows we all have our share
As the adage says, no pain no gain
The punishment and the reward
The mermaid reminds me they’re the same

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Time travel with Tommy Girl

Anyone who knows me remotely will know my love for perfumes
Little bottles in 50 and 100 ml
Making the days tolerable
and nights that promise.. oh well

I recently bought a perfume because it reminds me of a special person
Thinking I’ll buy it for old time’s sake
Yet, it stood unopened in my cabinet
Was I saving it for a special occasion or avoiding reminiscing about a carefree past?

I finally wore it on a Friday thinking it would lift my spirits higher
Dressed to the nines in a lipstick, a shade darker
I set-off for lunch with the ladies
Feeling fashionable much like Sarah Jessica Parker

With that weekend-is-here feeling and a skip in my step
although in high heels it quickly changes to a wince
I felt the pangs of memories
and they haven’t left me since

Images of a tiny apartment in Bombay
Chatting endlessly and watching night turn to day
With my flat mate and best friend forever
Pay cheque to pay cheque making us stronger in our endeavour

Saving for the much-needed vodka and Sprite
Despite the rising rent and bills, things were always right
Life was bright and full of colour
even if we had to rent an air conditioner to fight the summer
Pizzas and strawberry ice-cream only on a special Sunday
The humour in the survival stories of Bombay

It would be party-central on weekends
Top off-the-charts nights as the floor cushions were cleared for the dance floor
We danced and crooned much to our neighbours curiosity
We were ambitious, independent and happy

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This perfume was discovered by her, or was it me?
There was no you nor I, you see
As we both dashed to work; the fragrance would be wafting in the house
and linger in the evening making me wonder just how much did you douse?

I chanced upon our pictures
Nostalgia hitting me as I stared at the photo of our room with its curtains and fixtures
It will be your birthday soon and I want to celebrate you
Sorry I couldn’t hold your hand when you got your first tattoo

I miss you
I miss me with you
I punched your number from memory – ready to dial
Despite the melancholy that Tommy Girl has triggered, I smile

Tyranny of language

My daily life; one day a slight variation of the other
I drown the voices around by being on the phone or listening to a song
on my train commute and trips to the grocery store
It’s often been lonesome in Hong Kong

To be isolated when others talk in Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay and Tagalog
I miss having a dialogue
No sharing of dreams, stories, the highs and lows
It saves me the time from small chat and the socializing trouble
Left to my own devices I live my life in a bubble

Lately, I’ve had this thought
What if we didn’t understand each other?
Left to our own interpretations, would the world be better?
Would we believe in the good?
Is it really important to be understood?

The white noise and angry words hurled in a train
The man begging, the litany that must speak of pain
Comments on branded bags, jewelry, social status and if you’re rich or poor
Judgments that fall on unknowing and uncaring ears is a blessing for sure

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So what if the norm was to change
No riposte nor retort exchanged
If you didn’t know what’s being told
Would it be liberating or leave you cold
All the remarks you’d miss
Perhaps ignorance is bliss

It does get frustrating at times
Often so helpless it could be a crime
But I stopped being sentimental
To escape from the anguish
I’m freed from the tyranny of language