Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ordinary love stories

in a day or so, i will leave bombay for a longlongtime. i wrote ordinary love stories in tribute to andre jordan, one for every friend who came to bid me fare-thee-well. and they wrote some back for me.

stories i wrote...

for Nash
I have fallen head over heels in love with a curly-haired designer named Nash. He smells of Adobe suites and cat hair.

For three weeks now I have sat in his apartment, watching him doodle naked women on his Mac, hoping he will laugh at one of my jokes. But Nash only stares at his Mac and softly bobs his curly hair to an old song on the radio.

Then yesterday as I was playing with his cat as a cheap substitute for his love [even though I am allergic], I began to sneeze uncontrollably. I sneezed thirteen times in five minutes. At last Nash looked up at me from his Mac and laughed and laughed and laughed, while I plastered a heartbroken smile across my face.

for Diti
I have fallen head over heels in love with a tattooed photographer named Diti. She smells of Nikon lenses and crochet thread.

For a week now, she has been teaching me photography on the new camera I bought just to earn her approval. Last night as I struggled over my aperture and shutter speed ratio, it became disastrously obvious to me she had no idea what our photography classes meant to me.

I take picture after picture of Diti, telling her I want to learn how to take portraits. But Diti only takes pictures of cats and chai cups and human pyramids. When will you take my picture Diti, I often sob into my pillow. But Diti’s camera never turns my way.

for Veena
I have fallen head over heels in love with a dramatic editor named Veena. She smells of fixed comma splices and Bollywood item numbers.

In my dreams, I write the most perfect prose to prove my love to her. I write poems about music and romance and impeccable grammar to show her how I care. When I wake, though, I have to look up each word in the dictionary to make sure I spell it right. I’m not even sure of the difference between “who” and “whom”.

Veena deserves to be with someone who knows the difference between “who” and “whom”. And so I sleep alone at night with nothing by my bedside but a cold-hearted dictionary that knows all the spellings. That bastard.

for Parag
I had fallen head over heels in love with a Gujarati businessman named Parag. He smelled of broken grammar and unaccounted money.

Every time we talked, I would try to understand his garbled words, but find myself weeping with frustration. His love notes gave me headaches and we stopped talking on the phone a long time ago. I wanted to believe he loved me like I loved him, but he was so unclear, I could never be sure.

Two years later, walking past a familiar street, I saw Parag with another girl. Together, they were painting a mural on a wall that left no need for words at all. Oh how I cursed all my fancy words and wished I could quietly paint instead.

for Milann
I have fallen head over heels in love with an eccentric filmmaker named Milann. She smells of Final Cut Pro and authentic pasta.

Every week I write silly little scripts to impress Milann, but she is never impressed. “Too linear,” she will always say, “and your characters have no depth.” I turn away disappointed and try again.

Then the other day, for the first time, Milann came to me with a script. “The character is based on you,” she explained, when I looked at her, confused. The character had no depth at all, and then I knew why she would never love me.

for Isaaco
I have fallen head over heels in love with an unusually tall Italian named Isaaco. He smells of coffee beans and Milan Kundera novels.

It is silly and futile this love of mine. You see, Isaaco has a stiff neck so he cannot look down. And he is so tall, he has never even seen me. He spends his days watching the sky and meeting only other tall girls while I skulk around his ankles. I have tried everything—wearing heels, stretching my legs, hanging upside down. But I am never tall enough for Isaaco to notice me.

Then one day I bought a ladder and stood on it all day until he came around. He entered the room screaming in delight. “My stiff neck is cured! All I want to do is look at the earth and talk to short people!”

Oh, I sighed. I was quite enjoying my new ladder.

for Ravi
I have fallen head over heels in love with an interiors designer named Ravi. He smells of hair product and magazine paper.

Every time Ravi comes around, I frantically clean up my house, laying out my most beautiful things, hoping he will approve and fall maddeningly in love with me and my refined taste. But my house is never beautiful enough, and I know Ravi will never love me in it.

One day I asked him to take me shopping to help me buy new things for my house. As we walked past shelf after shelf of expensive, lovely things, I saw Ravi’s eyes light up. He looked at the lamps with such love in his eyes, and had an impassioned conversation with the handsome salesman about curtain rods. I cannot compete with these salesman who know so much about curtain rods, I thought, and so I hung my head in shame and walked back alone to my ugly house.

for Dheeraj
I have fallen head over heels in love with a complicated copywriter named Dheeraj. He smells of Marlboros and unwashed jeans.

Every year for the last twelve years, I have made one sincere effort after another to get Dheeraj to fall in love with me. One year I took him on an all expenses paid trip to the beach, another I bought him new clothes, and another I showed up at his doorstep with my heart in a brown paper bag. But every year I was out-performed by someone else vying for his attention.

This year at last there was no other girl to compete against. I showed up at his doorstep, clutching at my eager, trembling heart. When he opened the door, we looked at each other for a moment and burst out laughing at the very idea. The last twelve years suddenly made perfect sense.

for Yogesh
I have fallen head over heels in love with a financial wiz named Yogesh. He smells of stocks, bonds, and other things I don’t understand.

I often ask Yogesh to explain these things to me, but he dismisses me with a wave of his hand. I feel stupid and hang my head in shame and walk away. I am not smart enough for Yogesh, I think.

As I walk out, gloomy and embarrassed, behind my back Yogesh hangs his head low as well. How should he tell me he barely understands these things himself. How can he tell me his true loves are cooking and photography and laughing very loudly at silly things. How will I ever know the real Yogesh? How will we ever figure it out?

for Vikram
I have fallen head over heels in love with a highbrow editor named Vikram [it’s a real name]. He smells of superiority and newspaper ink.

I read every newspaper before going to meet Vikram the day I had decided to tell him how I feel. First, I’d dazzle him with my knowledge of world affairs, then amuse him with witty jokes about politicians, and end with a serious discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict. That should do it, I thought.

When I walked in the door, Vikram was eating peanuts, playing a silly video game while listening to loud Bollywood music. I was so not prepared for this.

for Arunima
I have fallen hesd over heels in love with a banker named Arunima. She smells of check books and expensive perfume.

I can’t go through this again, I decide, and set her up with Yogesh. They will live happily ever after while I slowly age beyond my years.

stories they wrote...

by nash
I have fallen head over heels in love with a very negative girl called Tanushri. Tanu for short. She smells of typewriter ink and panic.

I often think of ringing her bell and professing my love in a some kind of silent slutty song but I always get confused about which train to take. People tell me different things and all this confusion has led me nowhere near Nerul (or Neral?).

The other night however I found a mean_ass bass player. I know how she adores him. and he me. He decides to float me across the Thane creek on his double bass and then lay the foundation for my love. My (other) the weather man friend selects a day for optimum winds and minimum tide.

We drown but reach. Wet and irritable, I feel love and empathy. I am greeted by three dogs at the door, they lick and bark and piss lovingly.
Meanwhile, Tanu is on her way, her flight irritatingly on time...

by ravi
I have fallen head over heels in love with this girl called tanushri. She smells like pages of old books do & wriggles her nose to the taste of red wine. Her pretty long fingers fascinate me, they’re the kind of fingers you’d want to be strangled with, if you’d like to be strangled that is.

She sits amidst her mount of books, immersed in poetry and verse; legs crossed, hands playing with her toe rings. I try very hard to sneak into her world, buying books, pretending to understand poetry so she’d like me. But she sees through me. Always does. I think she doesn’t like my hair. Why god why? Why me?

Then one day I put a photo of mine between pages, hoping she’d find it and start thinking about me, notice my waxed hair I styled to impress her, only her. Maybe she’d dream of me, and wake up wanting to like me.

Years pass with me fighting for her attention.

Then one day, I go wear her favorite pair of socks. She stared in horror at my feet, shrieking how her tiny feet would never ever again fit into those socks again. Crying she vowed never to speak to me again & she never did. Sigh, I wish she’d had strangled me with those pretty fingers instead.

by dheeraj
I have fallen head over heels in love for the 12th time with a girl named Tanu. She smells of Buddha and Apple products. And of all that was good about yesterday.
The first time i came to her with a broken heart and told her i loved her, she introduced me to Rushdie, Rand, Marquez and Kundera. I packed my bags with the words and left. Leaving her weeping on the floor.
The second time i knocked on her door, she made music with her bangles. In the morning, i left. And never heard them again.
The third time i confessed, she showed me pictures of her feet and the ones in her head. I took the albums and i left.
Ashamed, the fourth time, i whispered it into her book, and left it in her bag. She left the book halfway and never heard it. So i left.
The fifth time, i sent another boy to tell her that i love her. He took my words and left.
The sixth time I came to her door, the boy told me she doesn't love me anymore.
The seventh time I fell in love, she didn't believe me.
The eight time i fell in love, her true love sat beside her, and an estranged friend beside me.
The ninth time i fell in love, she was lying curled up in her bed. With a half-empty bucket of salt water and a weeping mother beside her.
The tenth time i fell in love, she screamed at me like she always did. In a fit of rage, i turned and left.
The eleventh time i fell in love, she showed me her doodles. She showed me a hot-air balloon as free as the sky that desperately wished to find its way back to land. I decided to only love her between the white, empty walls of my room and left.
The twelve-th time i feel in love with the girl named Tanu, she showed me her Buddha flags and designer dreams and love-stories she'd written to ten ordinary people. She put a pipe right through my heart and squeezed twelve years of emotions into my frail, struggling heart. Until it burst.
She picked up her overflowing bags, took twelve years worth of love, and left.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

twitter stories

so it's pretty well known i deeply love and revel in the twitter format. one of the things i love most about it is how a tweet is a perfect little jewel, small and perfect by itself. but sometimes, once in a while, there is a story behind the story that's worth telling. so sometimes, with some tweets, i'll do that here. with no capital letters of course.

last night at 2 am, citibank and ICICI sharing a chai in IDBI. in bombay at night, the ATM security guards take over the economy.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

milann, divya, and i took a late night drive around bandra, listening to the fantastic new verve album that just begs to be listened to in a car at night with a light rain and the windows down. preferably on carter road around 3 am when it's heavenly-ly empty of show-offy bikers and cops. the next morning, i was to find out whether my education loan had been sanctioned or not and, if so, how much. some new RBI policy had been recently instituted that had made things a tad uncertain, and the economy was on my mind. to top it all, my bank had been annoying me by briefly "losing" a bunch of my money in an old account that was supposed to be closed, and blaming "the bandra branch". as if the other branch is another bank altogether. argh. why can't they all just get along, i was wondering, clenched.

the lit up ATM pods at the end of carter road are like floating islands of light in the otherwise dark, empty city. and inside these pools of light sit night security guards, slumped over asleep in uncomfortable chairs or sipping chai, staring mad-eyed out at the city streets. it's a cold, lonely job and i often wonder what they think about, alone, night after night, like birds perched in glass cages, full of fluttering currency notes they are separated from by the flimsiest of plastic walls.

that night, perhaps it was the rain and the new chill in the air, because the guards wanted company, and all the banks were sitting together, two or three green-brown clothed men with chais and smiles, sharing an ATM vestibule. who cared what ICICI thought of Citibank or what IDBI's interest rate was. it was raining, they had light, and a chai. i smiled. the economy was in good hands tonight.

the next morning, i was told my loan had been approved. and i'm off to oxford in sepetember. thank you security guard chai-drinking men for the good energies i know you've been unconsciously spreading.

psst: this active twitter screenshot has been taken using robin sloan's awesome blackbird pie.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

new site

jasmine tea
moonpeak cafe
mcleod ganj
red moleskine
now on

Sunday, April 18, 2010


new camera, new pictures, new stories, new template! is growing up.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

my blue box

my cupboard was turning into a cubist nightmare... i needed more space!

one day, walking down the road, i saw this stack of boxes just as a ray of sun slanted down upon them

inside the shop were many little gems

so i paid 1400 rupees to buy mr. tarzan star

with a secret unicorn inside for extra luck

some turquoise paint, which for some strange reason looks blue in all these pictures. turquoise can be a shy color.

i got paint on the railway budget

and on rohit bal's heart attack (hope he's doing well)

and then i was done!

here's a random picture of the buddha on my (now entirely different shade of) blue box

more photo-stories over at!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


i've been writing more around/about/for my dinky pictures than anything else these days
have always enjoyed the interplay of words and visuals
and for some reason always found words flow easier with a visual starting point.
so instead of fighting it or analyzing it or trying ambitious doomed experiments, i started a silly blog a while ago to record the silly pictures i take with my cell phone cam like all of the rest of us
but maybe the words aren't all gone
scrolling through the image titles it struck me
there might be a poem hidden in this seemingly random presence of words

Sunday, March 14, 2010

lines and dots

i always thought of indian tattoos as random (but so pretty) designs
made with aesthetic considerations, not emotional ones
certainly not as over-thought-through as western tattooing has become
today people would look at you funny if you said you wanted a tattoo just because it "looks pretty"
but tribal tattoo art is often made with just that one basic purpose, and what's wrong with that?

but yesterday yashoda, our vegetable seller, showed me a different aspect of tribal tattooing

this is yashoda's fore arm with one of her many, many tattoos. the top most pattern with the lines and dots is my favorite and i intended to get it someday
and yesterday i loved it more when she told me it was in fact not lines and dots
but stick figures of girls holding hands
representing her childhood spent playing with her girlfriends

indian tattoos, i realized, tell a story too
there on yashoda's body are symbols of her childhood, flowers representing her village--her home, and later her husband's name and a bindi showing her married life. the two stick figures below in this picture i believe are her two children.

i hope to get these tattoos someday, in this indian style with the greenish ink and thick, rough needles so looked down upon by western tattooing. yashoda apparently got these from a woman sitting outside a railway station once for three rupees each! of course, the likelihood of me allowing a three rupee needle in my arm is zero. hopefully someday one of our "professional" tattoo artists will take up the cause of reviving and mainstreaming indian tattoo art. i don't know why it hasn't happened already.

p.s. for some really beautiful pictures of tribal tattoos from kutch, do visit one of my favorite new flickr streams, "the meanest indian", and this set of tribal tattoos. the clothes, the tattoos, the silver... gorgeous!