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Pandol hopping brigade.

Better late than…

We are getting  late – I complained.
Coming , came N’s reply from closed doors.
After grumbling, cursing and cajoling, finally we rang our friend A’s door bell at 6 45. A opened his door drapped in a towel, M , whom N was supposed to help wear a saree  was nowhere to be seen. So much for me being late!

After discussing sacred geometry, playing board (bored) games on memes, dogs health, my health, M deciding against the saree as it was too hot, it was 8.15 by the time we set out. The four of  us, N a deeply spiritual seeker , M a Polish Bollywood aspirant, A the Bong lens artist and finally me- an undecided agnostic – all dressed in traditional best to go for the ‘Pujo’ experience.

Food calling

A half hour later , N and me reached the venue before the others as we were on a bike. The pandol was located in the defunct hotel that somehow still gave out it’s lawns on rent. Then we had to decide- either wait for A and M or proceed to the  venue for the deities darshan. We decided on something better – check out the food stalls.

How can a roll cost 300 bucks? A fumed as his  Bong nostrils inflamed.
A Coke is 50 for a small bottle – N chimed in.
Why did yoh guys get late ? I quizzed M
‘I stopped to dance as Ranveer Singhs was rapping on thr road!!’ M replied in excitement. Even we had passed by the Bollywood star perform for the T shirt brand. He endorsed.  Should I tell M he was ad-libbing ? But then why burst her bubble – I decided to keep quiet.

A was still undecided on what to eat – a Kosha  mongshoor  or a mutton biryani  and M was going gaga on trying out Bengali sweets. I knew I had to stay far from these becuase of my health issues – Let’s go for the darshan, I told N. We left A and N at the food counter and made our way.

Selfies vs serenity.

‘People rush here only to click selfies?’ M asked looking at the crowds  a tad sad. ‘That’s what counts today’, A countered, cynicism dripping from his tongue. As he spoke, Celebs and top cops  got to get onto a dias skipping the ques and got private darshans.  A’ s point was valid as couples and families  rushed to click, pose and post on social media. Just like me

But I did not agree with him. A minute before they could join us, N and me were sitting down on chairs and looking at the deities,  letting the aura and good vibes envelop us. That feeling of serenity,  it still does not take away the feeling of peace one can chose to exprenice like N or the random conversation I enjoyed with an elderly Bong gentleman who liked my pictures and made me click some from his camera , also the conversations he kept having with me in Bengali.

Bollywood vs beach.

After the Darshan there was a live orchestra  playing – the singers were good, but the show was ticketed. We decided to go to the beach instead. The half moon kissed waves kept us company as we, avoided the malishwallahs and tea vendors , made conversations with a random stranger who clicked our pics. M made a video for her You tube channel, I had her click pics for my Hinge profile – she made me dance , I obliged, at the end even other onlookers clapped . All of us had a good laugh.

The discussions on gods and glorified functions carried on right through. ‘It is what you choose to see’ N said as her parting shot to A – who was still hungry but stubbornly refused to eat as we left.

On our way back, we passed a couple of small pandols.  N made me stop. I sat on the bike when she went for a Darshan. Outside women in their finest were dancing without a care ,everyone was happy. No one cared about selfies. A lady in her 50’s was showing some smart dance moves. A smile rose on many a face. A perfect end to a a good pandol hopping.

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Bent at the knees

a year gone by!

I know we have not been posting for a few days now. I have been traveling on other assignments & that took up time. But today a year’s up – a year of writing, of pure joy & telling stories the way we like it. And today i thought of writing on my old man itself – hence the title – Bent at the knees. Meanwhile season’s greetings & enjoy reading!

I looked at the watch – 9.20 am – shouted, Dad, hurry up!

Am ready – pat came his reply.

Dad’s reply surprised me. Post-surgery, he used to take his time and then some. Bottom line – i wasn’t ready for him being ready. I had just fired a warning shot- it backfired. This time he got ready real-quick for his dentist appointment. Now I wasn’t ready. I jumped into the shower. There i heard him say – I’m going. You come.

And that’s how it rolls – i want to be on time, blame the old man for making me late. In the end, its mostly the other way around!

Catching up.

Quickly i showered, dressed & headed out of the building. Dad was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, the dentist’s clinic was down the road, very close to our home. I knew he would be walking ahead towards the clinic. In order to reach him, I began walking briskly.

While I walked, I thought of my planned trip out of the city. I had to leave the next day. It was dad’s dentist appointment because of which I had postponed it. The same one he had left for without me.

Pre & post surgery effects.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Before the surgery, dad couldn’t walk long distances, had to sit down & rest at short intervals. The surgery had worked wonders & he walked without stopping. He only needed help while climbing steps. Somehow, he had picked up pace & was nowhere to be seen. I have mixed feelings about this. I really quickened my steps.

At the corner right outside the society gates, I finally saw him. I shouted – Dad! The veggie vendor at the curb, the lady shopping stared at me – in salt-pepper beard, bloated paunch, long hair-shouting Daddy! Daddy!

After three full throated calls he turns, sees me & smiles. I run up to him.

Earlier I couldn’t walk so much, dad admits.

Well done! I compliment dad – knowing that was exactly what he wanted to hear. His smile grew wider. There is still that ease between us. It surfaces very rarely – but its there.

Recollecting pet peeves & old habits.

Now I just am scared of climbing steps – his steps slow down. After that statement he slowed down. He spotted a middle-aged shopkeeper at the chemist shop. He waved, the man waved back seated on a chair. I have seen the man sit on the chair & watch videos on his mobile all day. The shop was mostly run now by his young son.

You know I used to trek hills each day – dad surprises me with that statement. We had reached the market square,. i saw my regular vegetable vendor – the old lady squatted & lost in thought. I wave- didn’t catch her eye. Quickly I put my hand down & tell dad –  

You would get up at 4am to do that each morning.

All those habits is what’s helping me now – he beams.

I agree. His walk though has really slowed. I ponder whether I should get a rickshaw. The distance is barely 20 meters. Still.

Of sudden stops & hollow promises.

We heard a commotion – looked sideways. A fruitwalla had caught a rat in a trap. The road side vendor were playing silling games. He was scaring the other hawkers by taking it close to their face & running behind them. I watched in awe as the fit agile hawkers dodged him across the busy streets. I felt jealous at their agility, vowed to get in shape. Somehow the promise rang hollow even before i could finish making it.

I forgot my health issues as Dad just stopped abruptly. He reached out and held my hand. A rickshaw slowed down next to us. I put my hand out to stop it. He immediately pulled my hand down.

It’s just gas -, he said sheepishly. As I smiled the rickshaw guy grunted & zoomed away.

I laughed, he joined me. We walked slow, our knees in solidarity with the gas.

Of fitness methods back in the day.

Before you were born, I used to walk with your mom to the market – he commented about walking long distances from the house. To save money–, he admitted, –and that helped us stay fit.

I thought of all the money I have spent on gym memberships & online fitness classes. And still am in the shape I am in.  This man at 83 bounces back from spine surgery with just gas trouble – wow.

Bent at the knees.

Photo by Kseniya Budko on Pexels.com

We are here, he pointed to the dentist’s clinic. I moved ahead of him, did the one thing for which he needed me. Helped him climb that one step up to be on the marble floor leading inside the clinic.

We walk into the clinic. The young dentist comes out, says hello & shakes my hand.

will it take time? Not at all – he says.

Dad walks in with confidence. The dentist closes the door, draws the curtain. As i sit down, i find myself panting. Also my knees are hurting. My mind rushes back to the thought of dad at my age. He was already a father of three kids, plus a full time job. Still he found time for his walks each morning.

As i sat there, i rubbed my knees thinking of the times ahead. For dad, for me. I sat there resting, watching the road. As i waited for dad to get back. not sure who would be accompanying whom.

Post credit – Soni Anthony.

Photo credits – Pexels.com, Soni Anthony.

The boys club@16

Lukha – Call Colly.

Me – He’s not going to come. 

Lukha- You call him – He will come

I couldn’t see the logic in Lukha’s statement. Russ & Chris looked at me as I made the call expecting Colly to not pick up. To my surprise Colly answered…

Colly – Where are you, baba?

Me – Come down.

Colly -Down where?

Me – Under your building.

Colly – (Split second pause later) – Okay.  

The question now was where do we hang? 

Me – I’m hungry. 

Lukha gives me the ‘when are you not hungry’ look. 

Russ: I must go home – they must be waiting. 

Russ settled down the earliest –from school to now – the one love story that lasted. One wifey and 2 adorable daughters all staying near Ashok Nagar – close to the fish market, where Mamta Bar was located – before it became Mamta Bar & Restaurant. 

Me – Lets go to Mamta. 

Lukha: I’m not going to Mamta, man.  

Me: Wtf? What’s wrong with it? 

Lukha: Too dingy.

Me: I heard they renewed the place

Russ & Chris nod their head. Lukha not impressed. 

Russ plays problem solver – Lets go to Sneha. 

All agreed. The four of us take off on three 2 wheelers – 1 Splendor, I Scooty & 1 Bajaj electric – ignore school building, ignore Udupi, ignore Dr Allan’s dispensary, ignore cold storage. Till we cross Sunny stores which was earlier Sunny video parlour – our source for porn VHS tapes, a couple of shops next to it was the first Mahesh tutorials and the last shops belonged to Sneha Bar – the trio forming a unique educative course set in themselves. Lukha had reached Sneha before us & told –

Lukha – They have only table. 

Me – So we can adjust nah – four to a table. 

Chris – Colly is also there – all of us on one table, no chance. 

The half glass of Sneha’s main door reflected our current state. Gone were the 13-year-old ‘28-inch waists running through a full one-hour footsie match, the waists that could pile up 5 to a rickshaw paying extra charge on drunken nights. Now I stared at lots of salt & pepper hair (or lack of), laugh lined eyes and 45-year-old paunches. Bottom line – Chris was right. 

From there we went to pick up Colly. We passed by Ratna stores – a new super market. I wondered what happened to Mary’s grocery shop, which they ran from the backyard of their house, where they kept a pet parrot. One of my school mates had gone there and asked in all innocence (not!) ‘How much for the parrot?’

Me – Then where? 

Lukha: Lets go to Puja. 

And we were back, just like that, one impromptu Diwali holiday, near the old digs – the boys meeting again – 5 of us – the maximum in attendance in a long time. Some were missing, still a good quorum to have.  Tables were joined, the boys club@16 was in session. 

Colly: Are we having beer or whisky? 

I knew how this was to turn out. Early college days was always London Pilsner – then the old monk fever got us. On special occasions, we tasted someone’s dads left over Bonnies’ Scot whisky – I remember puking my guts out. Second half of the nineties saw Bacardi & Smirnoff enter our lives; we remained off-on lovers right till our 30’s. Then the pay packets got better – boys turned men and settled down. Old Monks and meetings got rarer, the bachelors, Lukha & me did Jägermeister’s & shots – while the others had babies, brought houses and matured to whisky – the Blenders kind. A couple of them migrated to Caucasian continents and single malts. In the end whisky won – as today. The first order read: 

2 quarters blenders, 2 Sodas, 2 Bisleri, 1 salted fresh lime soda {that came last on the table!}, 

1 Chicken chilly, 1 veg hara-bhara kabab. 

Lukha: anything else? 

The married ones were on the phone either speaking or texting in politically correct tones with their better halves on their inability to communicate for the next couple of hours. Taking their last-minute instructions from the other end with dead pan expressions, they nodded and agreed to suggestions and orders in ways which would put a United Nations diplomat to shame. 

By the time they hung up, drinks had arrived – phones went on silent and the yapping began. Started with school mates now turned coaching genius to pros and cons on Christianity to Kantara to tunnel hopping in Vietnam. The conversation kept flowing till the snacks got over and Lukha asked the manager –

Lukha – Veg main kya hai? 

Manager – Paneer? 

Lukha – Paneer nahi.

Manager – Chinese 

Lukha – No

Chris – That’s 90 percent of the veg menu now gone!! 

Amidst laughter we compromise on a mushroom chilly dish. Lukha tells us of a Veg Soya prepared in chicken chilly sauce at Sneha’s. As the drinks got drained, a group selfie was taken, the interest in selfies was discussed, (including my leaning to Insta!). Chris threatens to call across time-zones to friends in other continents peacefully in bed. On other days there would be many enthusiasts, but that night everyone wasn’t enthu about it. 

We called it a night at a decent hour by our standards in the end discussing Rishi Sonak, pros and cons of turning Republican v/s pros and cons of Covid vaccine. Till a pony tailed manager came to give us the bill. We recognised him – a familiar face right from the time we had started coming there in our 30’s. Lukha greeted him as we left 

Lukha – Arrey baal badaya – mast lag raha hai 

Manager (smiles) – Kuch toh change chahiye sir. 

‘Something has to change’, the manager’s words stayed with me after we had said our goodbyes. As I was returning home, I knew that somethings will change and yet nothing would change. Looking forward to the next boy’s club@16 meet.

The walk around the hills.

They kept walking in circles. In the distance far away was the hill.  He pointed and asked

He : Have you climbed the hill?

Yes, she nods

He (though he knows the answer) With another?

Her nod is a perfect head-bob ‘1-2, 1-2’. Then she continues without him asking

She: He left me alone there. I waited for him, but he kept running up and down, never staying.

He: And then?

She: I came down the hill.

They kept walking making chatter about sweet and sour yesterdays. After a point she asked

She: Have you ever?

He: Sometimes she would land first, then find out, Im still chasing butterflies in the foothills refusing to come up. Sometimes I would reach up before she had said it was okay and find myself alone.

He  (laughs.) : I’m better off chasing butterflies.

She walked faster. He had no choice but to follow. A question popped out of his mouth before he could even realise it –

He: Would you climb the hill again?

She shakes her head – No.

In my ways he knew that would be her answer. They walked closer, he kept talking – something or the other. To make her forget the hill. So he could forget it as well.

After a while she had to return home. She drew away , looked at him-

She: Where will you go?

He laughed. That was the only way he knew to answer questions he didn’t have answer to. She laughed with him. They embraced and left their seperate ways.

On the way he thought of her, their walk. He took out his phone , sent her a text – ‘we should walk together again’.

Friday clubbing conversations – Never say never.

7.00: me – Have N confirmed ?
7.00: H- She’s not called
7.01: me – I haven’t slept well the past two nights .
7.01: H – I hear you

7.30: me – Its still raining
7.30: H – I sent her a message. Others also have not confirmed
7.30: me – I think the plan will be canned.
7.30 H – Never say never. 

8:07: me – Going to eat something, you?
8.07: H – Already did, long  back
8.07: me – Fu@#*r

9.09: me – Sleeping early, have an early start tomorrow.
9.10: H – What times the flight ?
9.10: me- Early morning , also got to run an errand before.
9.11: H – Better get some shut eye.
9.12: me – Cool.

6 minutes later
9.18: H – N messaged,  everyone’s coming.
9.18: me – Give me 5 to get ready!


Messages in cabs
Me – I’m going dancing
F – You were not well right
Me – That was yesterday 
M – And now?
Me – Now I came to Bandra !!

Dance table conversation
Me after a round of loosening limbs catch sight of H.
Me – Get up n dance baba, why are sitting down?
H – Just taking it all in, chilling…..
I nodded, turn away to N , whisper in her ear and go back to dancing. 10 minutes later I sideglance towards H. Still sitting down at the empty table , looking bored and irritated.  Except now there is a double vodka lemon next to him. I return to dancing.
Exactly 19 minutes later
Can we join?
A couple of girls ask H if they can join the dance train he’s running through the place.
H responds –  Don’t just sit there – dance !!



Another dance table conversation

Me – She’s hot !
H – But she’s with another guy.
Me – Hmmn – he looks a little like me.
H – He’s fitter, full hair and younger.
Me – Ga@#d*

An  hour later-the Dj is on fire -they are playing Dire straits, Modern Talking and Bee Gees.
P – We have not jived na ?
Me – what I do cannot be called jive 
P – Oh please !
Me – Ok let’s go
9 minutes later
P – You were right
I shrug. Case closed


The end
‘Thank you and good night, this is DJ Max , you have been a great audience’.

Last drinks chugged, mobiles- bags picked up along with a few side glances stolen.  Then we head out with tired feet and content souls. It’s pouring outside. Uber, ola , autos booked, hugs all around, one by one the group dissappears. Till it’s just me, H and P.
P – We should do this again
Me – Sure
H – How ? Next week you not here , nor is N or the rest of the gang.
Me – Never say never.

A heart to heart conversation.

I am sitting in a veranda overlooking a forest. Not any forest, but one located in the heart of a Tony neighbourhood in Bombay. This post is not about the forest. It is about the heart – or rather what the heart says to me right now.  

In the vista before me, I witness a spectrum of emotions unfold – hunger, fear, deceit, love & anger. It is one swooping piece of art work, one giant canvas that is tied together with strings. They are knotted and attached to a beating heart – mine.

It may be because I watched a pair of parakeets struggle to hold onto a branch for some privacy, or the old Parsi couple one floor above us, that never tire out of fighting with each other raised arms & voices et all. It may also be the beautiful book I am reading, ‘Heart, a history’ by Sandeep Jauhar.

A big bob cat attempts a climb up an Ashoka tree as I recollect my date from last night. The last dredges of my coffee hit me bitter-sweet. R, my friend whose house I am a guest at, is busy with his daily grind, a major part of it includes taking care of an aging parent. In a while we will share pun filled jokes & make fun of each-other’s lives, an activity we both enjoy. Such activities make me feel lighter. Of late, that has been rare to find.

The heart heaves…

My heart heaves – just like the 55-year home nurse who travels for 5 hours each day back & forth to reach R’s house & help him care for his parent. From knowing that I will be starting a new venture in writing, that I will have to find a balance again. Also, that I would have to not go on dates for some time again.

I feel the forest grow within me – the branches enter at different nodes, intertwine making me one more extension of them. On them swing bobcats, parakeets & R hanging onto each other’s limbs at different points. They hold onto each other in desperation as elements float around them – sleep medication, train passes, rotting carcass, sexual grunts. And above all is the Thump-thump sound. When we listen closer as one collective, we hear –

So what?

So what?

So what?

Musings of a confused soul.

Its been about 5 months from when i last wrote. It took a long time to come to terms that i am a writer. And yet for varied reasons that did not happen. Now i begin again. This is a free write session – and it stems from confusion and turmoil. Hope the writing untangles my confused soul- as it does most times.

The drudgery of routine.

If only I could make time to write down a few words everyday – the problem is the daily routine. Food, wash, clean, stuff, keep & repeat. This is what happens when you have been on the road too long.  when you say writing can wait. and now I am at one place again – brimming to start. But that will have to wait – there’s garbage to take out. Till her thought pops up. I saw her Insta post – Did she write a love poem?

Me in love? Nah!

I’m not in love. I love her – sure but am not in love. She’s not my type (Read fat & sad) anyways. Even though I am a convicted man (matter on appeal!), without any real attachments, overweight, suffer from a heart condition, live from favour to favour, always looking for the next gig, next job fix. Yeah sure – she’s the defective piece.

Helps & unhelpful landlady.

Almost 9ish. The help comes in by 10 am. She should be coming earlier. This house is pathetic, its unclean & uncool – a 12th floor apartment in a far- flung suburb. Except a few security guards & couple of neighbours, I don’t know anyone here. Maybe that’s exactly what I need. That’s what will get me writing again. I have not written in months. No, the small thoughts & odd poems don’t count. This place is exactly what I need. Still, it’s far.

Do i belong?

What happened to me? When did I become such a busy body? Travel cities, stay in unknown dorms, interview strangers, comfortable sharing my past with absolute strangers? Why am I doing this? I should contact K soon. He will know about the job opening. But then what about the shift to Goa like P suggested. The south of Goa is good – not many people, especially near the border. P spoke about building an outhouse where I could stay. That would be good. Even though I cannot stand P!

Need to get back to exercise – went for a walk yesterday. It’s really hot though. This place is as good as any across the state. There’s a heat wave across the country. I did start cooking, although that was a disaster. While straining the rice, I had left it unattended. The clips holding the vessel slipped & the rice fell into the sink! Salvaged what I could. I should call N to learn how to strain it properly. But then who leaves their kitchen so bare! So, what if they have shifted? She took all the utensils away. Like there are no utensils to buy in Goa. Anyways this will be just another short stint.

Unpaid passions & much needed partnerships.

Should begin writing fast- so many things to be done. S should be getting back to town. There is a load of work to do. I have to tell him that I will be working fixed hours now. Also ask him for money. Hope he hasn’t spent it all on his vacation.

Wonder what do I begin writing about? The artist interviews, research the pandemic, places that I visited, or just start afresh. There’s so much else too that I should look at – pending work, possible job offers (so what if I cannot take them, would be good to know what’s out there), my money situation – have to pay attention to it all. But I do know that I have to write – have got to get up each day & put pen to paper.

I want people to leave me alone. Still have the freedom to call them. Hopefully this will be the last week that I get out. After this I should not be going out much. I should put my profile up on Bumble. God no – I’m one confused soul!

My fitness dream

My fitness levels

I had become unfit – horribly so. Especially post Covid. My strength was sapped, neither motivation nor desire to do much. I lazed in bed all day watching weird web series & eating. A lot of eating. Junk, fast food, sweets even ice-creams (a complete no-no for covid). Now, having broken my new year resolution in record time, i was stuck. My fitness dream was fast becoming just that. A dream.

Now the weight showed, I felt bloated & unhealthy. But that didn’t stop me. Till i realised something else. I had stopped writing. And thats when i decided –

Seeking help

I need to do something man, i told H over the phone.

Dai! H admonished me. I heard him, made the right noises before i hung up. I closed my eyes. What H said made sense. I needed to do something – but how? The watch-eat-sleep-repeat vortex had consumed me.

My eyes shut; i imagined an eagle circling the skies. It soared around refusing to land. Scared that once it sits, it may not fly again. I had to make a move.  

Of move-making

Get fit

Should get new clothes–, H heard me out as i reached out to him again, –that will break the jinx, i said barely convinced myself.

Without judging me, H told me where to get them from. F street –  despite the pandemic, it was open. Old city, old school, narrow by lanes – in that it was another narrow lane – very risqué, dangerous. Hence, very alive. Just what i needed.  

I didn’t waste time, got into a train. I continued talking to H, he had given me directions. Soon i found myself in the narrow lane. There i found this clothes cart. Something H has spoken about. Or maybe not. Who cares? Here i was, in this narrow lane, at the cart with clothes. and right ahead stood my –

My Doppelganger

Photo by Emre Can Acer on Pexels.com

A young man stood there – side parting hair, t-shirt, gold chain, brown skin. Bling, glib, smooth talking. Mr Snake-oil. 25 years ago, I knew someone else exactly like him. Me.

I smiled at him. He nodded, asked me what i wanted. I eyed the goods – white shirts & denim jeans. Not exactly fitness clothes. Still, i didn’t want to argue. Not now, not with him or H.  

Confession – there was another reason i didn’t move away. In a day was M’s birthday. M was my ex. Maybe we would meet. Even though i had to steer clear of her. But that’s not how it works.

Anything in size 40? I asked.

You need a 44 – he said without missing a beat.  

You sure? I wanted to ask. But i didn’t ask. Because i didn’t want to know.

You won’t get that size easily–, he confided, -this is a young man’s market. I looked around; people milling around, all in T’s, caps-denims, showing muscles, vigour. Most were young, most were men. and yes – most were fit.

I know just the  place, he said as i turned to leave.

Take me there & i will give you 200 to just do that, I cracked a one-liner. He heard me, laughed, said – wait a while. So, i did. I hope he hadn’t taken that line seriously of

My false promises

I watched Mr. Snake-oil at work. He kept directing customers to a particular shop called Reliance. He never sold anything himself. Still a lot of stuffed white envelopes came his way. He nodded at the men who got it to him before pocketing it. The men were all wearing a white t’s-denims & caps. On their T-shirt was the alphabet R.

I was getting hungry, restless. I wanted to sit down. no chance on that busy street. So, i waited. Even though I didn’t really want to.

Follow me, he abruptly said. Then he got up, began walking away. I had no choice but to follow. His shop was left just like that, unattended. But i knew just like him – nothing would be missing.

We entered narrow lanes, funny shops with fuzzy names. They all seemed to be selling whites & denims.  Till we reached the corner. And there it was.

Now the corner wasn’t so narrow. A wide highway ran next to it. At the curb was the building. Its name board caught the winter sun & shone – Reliance.

Oh, oh! it’s closed. The moment for a major ….

Face Palm moment

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Mr Snake-oil’s words shook me. looked closely at the shut shutters. Dejected I turned to go. Wordlessly we walked back to the narrow lane. To a tea-shop. He ordered tea. I drank, he didn’t. He didn’t disturb me as i took my first sip. Then he said –

The 200 you promised.

I looked up. He was smiling.

Yeah right – I didn’t smile. Then i finished my tea, got up to leave.

You said it not me, he chided me. I shook my head. Turned to walk away cursing him, cursing Reliance, cursing….

My fitness dream.

Cursing the dark, i opened my eyes. In my room the darkness refused to die. But i knew it was over. In the distance my laptop lay shut.  

Write fit!

The morning sun rose as i finished writing this piece, . In my fitness dream, i did pay Mr Snake-oil. Not just two hundred but three hundred. Because now i had written. All thanks to him. And thanks to my fitness dream.

Post credits – Soni Anthony. Photo credits – Pexels.com, Soni Anthony.

New year new plans

November – journey begins

All the planning was about this journey through the length breadth of the country . Two months of bus, train, cars and what have you journeys to conduct in person interviews with artists across the land wow . Really looking forward to this and cannot wait to show the new year plans unfold. Until…

December end,

Last two months on the road – people & places, sights & souls. All that i could imagine and so much more.  . I travelled, saw, met, learnt, did everything that could possibly be done by me to be happy. Feeling blessed. And then…

Jan beginning

Happy new year!

Was at a special place with special people to bring in the new year I had all these big plans for new year’s, both personally and professionally.  There is a new blog in the offing (keep you posted), a new pet care venture in invested in, plus looking for freelance writing gigs again. Plus would be shifting houses and plan to date again.  going to start being out there again. Mu tickets to get back to my city are confirmed. Wishing me all the luck. Yet…

Jan 8th .

I’m in my room  it’s the third day after travel  The folks are out  u haven’t written a word or transcribed any of the work I did last year. No, i have not spoken to anyone for new work either. All I have been doing is gorging on food  and binge watching stuff on Netflix.

Because i got Covid .

Not to worry I’m fine. I got the report yesterday. This is my third time- asymptomatic – been there done that kind of feeling. 

I still got a smile on my face. Still feeling blessed. I know the best of plans can be sidelined. And am okay with it. Another one of life lessons. The fact is that i. Am writing this blog again and thats good reason for the smile. I know one thing – if I’m writing, it’s all good. Everything will come back in line. It’s all good.

Once again a happy new year folks and hope to read write love and be loved all over again this year!!

Blog post & photo credits – Soni Anthony.

7 rules of CHANGE.

This is about pocket change. But it is also about change. Looking at change through lessons on pocket change. Hence named – 7 rules of pocket change.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels.com

Me – How much?

Fruit seller (FS) – 25

Me – 20

FS – 25

We locked eyes. like stubborn lovers, neither budged.

Me – last 22.

FS (sighs)- 23 & it’s yours.

I won. I extracted my wallet to give him 22 bucks which I knew he would accept despite his protests. I searched in my wallet – came up with a 50. SHIT. 

I hand over the money. He looked at it, said –

FS – change nahi hai.

Now he had the upper hand. He took my 50 & handed back 27. He won. And that is the first rule –

Rule no 1: CHANGE always – or someone else will have the upper hand.

ready for change.

Buying small stuff for home early morning is always a pain. Just as I would be getting out of the house the requests would fly –

Get milk

Apples for dad

Get curds!

Early morning, vendors like brisk business, no room for negotiations. So, I would round off the amount to the nearest ten digit. Example –

Me – How much for the eggs?

Eggs guy – 67 for 6

Me –(in best no-nonsense voice) 12 for 120. I don’t have change.

Take it or leave it. I would put my carry bag forward. Nine times out of 10 he would give in.

Rule No 2:  Say NO CHANGE to make others see your way.

Photo by Denniz Futalan on Pexels.com

She – Use G-pay.

She – my regular veggie vendor was at least 70 years old. I was shopping for tomatoes. It came to 18 rupees for half a kg. Of course at 7.30 am she didn’t have change. But what surprised me more would be evident when i said –

Me – You have G-pay?

She showed me her QR code, hidden behind the pumpkins. Phrases like data protection, privacy violation, support local- pay cash flew around in my head. Reality – she had google pay. I did not.

ME – All these app companies are not good.

She – It’s great! They solve this CHANGE problem once & for all.

I bent lower to get closer, intimidatingly so & lowered my voice;

ME – Today they have your change. Tomorrow they sell your veggies.

I heard the gears turn in her brain- stop -CLICK. Her eyes shine.

ME – Will come back later, saying that I begin to leave.

Wait, she stopped me. Retrieved a small purse from within her blouse. Threw me a dirty look & gave me change. PHEW!

NO 3: Beware of applications that can change you.

As a child, mom would often send me out to run errands at the local grocery store owned by a Marwari guy. She would give me a 100 with strict instructions to get the exact change back.

But if bought goods worth 48 and gave him a 50 rupee, I would expect 2 rupees back. The thrifty shopkeeper instead of handing me change we would give me candy worth 2 bucks. Now which kid in his right mind would refuse candy?

I’d go back home & show mom the candy. She isn’t so thrilled, but what can she do? Later after lunch she would give me the candy. Shopkeeper happy, me happy. Which brings us to –

No 4 – When people expect CHANGE it’s an opportunity.

Photo by Sharath G. on Pexels.com

Auto-rickshaw guy – Don’t have change for his.

ME – Your fare is 300. I am giving you 500. That’s more than half your bill.

I stood my ground. He sighs, mutters stuff – finally reaches for his wallet & extracts change. So again –

No 5 – You get CHANGE only if you bring value to the table. ‘

As a kid I was never given pocket money. I would end up stealing change. I had turned pinching change from my mom’s till or Dad wallet into an art form. I would leave the big notes only pocket the change. This went on for some time. In a while I had enough change & got greedy. Now I wanted it converted to a 10 rupee note.

I asked another known crime master – my elder brother. Without exchanging a word, he knew this was a secret deal, no parents involved. On the house terrace, I handed over 10 rupees worth of change. He handed over cash – one 5 rupee, & two 2-rupee notes – added up to 9.

Me – Where’s one rupee?

Bro – Commission.

5 Slaps 3 blows 1 continuous wail & 1 irate dad later – change gone; money gone in exchange for a sound thrashing plus being branded a thief. Hard lesson but has to be said

No6 – CHANGE has to come the right way

I was at a sandwich guy near the bank. A little girl with her mother were about to enter it when the mother stopped & turned to the daughter. As mother & daughter were wearing masks, I could only see the eyes & hear the angry voice of the mother. I only caught the end portion which sounded like –

Mother – Grhgo!!! ## Go! @#$#& !!! WHY you brought it !!@@##% GET IT %@&#!!!

Mother entered bank leaving the little girl outside. Then in noticed the transparent plastic bag in her hand. She looked around before heading towards the same sandwich guy where I was standing. The man was busy on the phone. I saw the contents of the bag – Change – loads of it. All 5- & 10-rupee coins. \

In all probability her mother had asked her to change the coins outside the bank. She twiddles her feet – looks at me, I pretend to not notice. She peered at the sandwich fellow still busy on the phone. She felt conscious – clutched her coin, & ran back into the bank. At that minute the sandwich fellow (SF)turns –

Me – That small girl was waiting for you.

Sandwich fellow (SF) see the girl disappear into the bank.

Sf – What? Did she need a sandwich?

Me – She had change in her hands, wanted it exchanged.

SF smiled, shrugged.

Me – How much?

SF – 90.

I extract my wallet. I have 1 hundred & then all five hundred. I know if I give him 500, he will give me change. I’m good for that. I hand it over

SF – Don’t have change?

All I had to say was a simple NO. Instead, I said –

Me – I have. But if I give you, I don’t have any left. Don’t you have any change.

SF (lies easy)- Sorry sir, what to do? No change.

And that was that. that’s when it hit me –

No 7: Sometimes it’s better to wait for change.

Blog Post – Soni Anthony.

Photo credit – Pexels.com, CanvaPro, Soni Anthony.