Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Your Love Is A Slow, Sweet Poison

Your love — it comes to me like a slow, sweet poison,
Creeping under my skin, latching itself to my bones — light, unseen,
Smoothing me with its luscious, bittersweet kiss of melancholia,
Ruffling me with liquid desire — the highs of first love, feverish and pristine.

Your love — it gives me away, bit by bit, unravelling the yarn of my existence.
Set to motion, my longings run asunder, from my soul to meet your body in midsummer.
Call you repeatedly. Kiss you in dark alleyways. What's to hold me back?
The air between us is made of fireflies, blazing with our locked lips, fulfilled then, now unremembered.

Your love— it is a potent drug; it has me living on the edge of reason,
And off your caresses, your tender words, your signatures on my body’s blank canvas.
It is a white onion, peeling away its stinging layers to reveal nothing but itself,
While undressing me slowly, stripping me of all that was mine, in a state of tingling otherness.

Your love — its first rain on me was an unexpected shower in midsummer.
The taste of it was everlasting, dripping like honey, unctuous to my quivering mouth.
It lay me gently on a bed of thorns, hooked on a feeling, wrapped up in my own arbitrary nothings.
Your love — it came to me like a slow, sweet poison; its perfume still clings to my fingers, to my black shroud.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Let's Redefine Manners

“Now sweetheart, let’s revise this. What will you say to every one of your guests as they leave?”
“Thank you for coming. I really enjoyed your company.”
“Good girl.”
“But dad…”
“No buts.”
“It’s my birthday party. Why do I have to invite the entire neighbourhood? I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have fun with the Mathur brats. They’ll mess up my toys any chance they get.”
“It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to be polite to our guests. Now let’s do this again. This time, do it with a smile.”

I gave him a forced smile and then stretched it all the way to stress upon the fact that it’s mighty fake.

My dad, as we were growing up, always told us how important it was to keep up appearances, maintain relationships, avoid slander at any cost and always be accommodating and respectful.

It is an important time-honoured lesson to teach your kids as they’re growing up. Manners are of utmost significance. They’re a mirror to good upbringing. They’re the one thing that you can depend on to bail you out of most social crises you encounter in your adult life — and, mind you, there’ll be situations aplenty where they’d give you a fighting chance to win.

As Indians, as an inherent part of our culture, we’re just taught to suck it up and be respectful. To mince our words. To open our houses to uninvited guests. To share our small plate of food. To never say ‘No’ to elders, and if it’s absolutely necessary, to soft-cushion the impact of it. To run errands against our will for the pados waali aunty, even though our schedules may be running as crazy as that of a political candidate during elections.

I have grown up keeping this valued, sometimes stifling, lesson in the back of my mind. And it is only now, as an adult raising a child of my own in the big city, that I have to say with gloomy realization: It is time to toss this universally accepted, age-old attachment to manners in the trash.

It’s not because I think my parents were wrong. It’s just that I don’t necessarily think that manners are awfully significant in today’s context. My parents lived in quaint townships most of their lives, with their own circle of people who’d be ready to bail them out of life-altering emergencies (or help them babysit while they enjoy a movie date). They had job security for life, a good work-life balance with no tweets to answer and no self-perceived social media pressures, giving them enough time in hand to volunteer for charity work, social obligations and cultural events. More importantly, getting from point A to B in the towns we lived never took more than fifteen minutes, unless we were visiting another city. Time hardly came into the equation when we had to step out of the house. The only thing that we had to worry about was to be fashionably late cos getting held up by traffic was a rarity.

We had house-parties over the weekend spent playing dark room and Pictionary with our friends, while our parents swayed to the sound of oldies, roaring laughter emerging from the living room as we tried to keep as quiet and still as possible, in the backdrop of large, lavish spreads of home-cooked buffets and shandies. You get the picture. Of course, come Monday and our dads would be dutifully back to their eight-to-five jobs and our mums would be back to their gruelling groundhog days of clearing the aftermath of hosting parties and making mundane life happy and easy for us — while also finding enough breathing space to gossip about Mr.Sharma’s sleazy drunken comment and Mrs. Roy scandalously “smoking with the men”.

What a wonderful, upbeat thing it was to grow in a small township. No wonder we have such good manners.

Cut to today. You live in a big city. You’re a parent who’s constantly racing against time to get your kid to school punctually. You hop on in the elevator of your high-rise building and some random guy holds it up cos his wife’s probably forgotten to pack pickles in his lunch box and she is sorting the choicest ones for him as her morning endearment to him…while we continue to wait. Another girl, probably an alien, is new to the concept of ‘no-network in elevators’ and starts to get really nasal and high-pitched with her Helloooos (which briefly takes you back to Adele’s version of it). When you finally make it to the bottom, as the doors open, anxious disaster survivors (I can only assume) are storming in before you can get out. You fight the urge to tread on their feet with your pointy heels. Anyway, you head out and the first thing you’re greeted by to start your conceivably uneventful commute is a giant stash of dog poop parked right in your walkway. Suddenly, the day is not so uneventful. Now, you’re an avatar in a game involving jumping over puddles, suspicious piles of gunk and in-your-face garbage dumps. As a mandatory Monsoon-level skill in Mumbai, you’re also required to twirl with your kid in your arms to avoid speeding car splashes over your kid’s crisp, clean uniform. You save your hot breath of fire, your choicest cuss words, for His Highness the rickshaw driver who averts his face like an angry wife on hearing where you’d like him to take you. But since you’re taught some restraint on your part, you start with basic manners 101, notching it up to kind pleas, and then in vain you try to reason with him. But hey, how do you even reason with a guy playing deaf? So out comes a stream of words you’d heard through your school cafeteria and road rages for his benefit.

Anyway, you drop your kid to school. Of course, you have been delayed by unforeseen forces and your caffeine urge is now soaring to the skies. So you think, what the hell, I’ll stop for some coffee. Your local barista comes immediately to mind with his “come hither” expressions. You get there, heaving and expectant, but what do you see? There’s a huge line. But you try to empathize. I mean you’re part of the crowd, right? People need coffee to get their motors up and running. So you stand in the queue. When you’re one person away from the counter, the young boy in front of you decides he can’t tear himself away from early morning social media traffic even to place his order. Come on, he’s very important in the virtual world unlike you. So he continues tapping away and smirking to himself. The seemingly miffed barista, who may just wind up accidentally spitting in your coffee instead of his, tries to rush with his order with pointed questions. You’re a well-mannered person. So you look the other way and give the boy a break. But the person behind you is now persistently nudging you to move further, constantly shoving you with their leather bag. Apparently, now it’s your fault that the line is not moving. You give them a nasty stare and a bonus grunt and continue on the journey to chase your golden caramel latte.

Phew…You’ve dropped your kid to school, against all odds, you've had a great cup of coffee, and now you’re back home. You've got that “what do I do next” sort of vibe going on. You gobble down your breakfast cereal with vitamins. And just when you’re settling down to use your precious me-time to do your own work, the bell rings. It’s the neighbour. Well, of course. You’re a stay-at-home mom and you can spare some time for chai and gossip. You nod curtly through the conversations and give monosyllabic answers. Not hint enough. So then you say you really should be getting back to work. “What work?” “Oh, the writing.” “How do you find time for hobbies,” comes the curious afterthought. You explain how it’s not a hobby and that it really is your work. “Well, so are you paid for it?” You’re not one to exaggerate so you’re forced to tell them you’re not. And suddenly, even though, your neighbour’s giving you a pitiful look of understanding, you’re really, really angry. But thankfully, good manners come to the rescue. You bite your lip and shrug your shoulders.

Now here’s the thing. I want my kid to be well-behaved. I do think it is important to reward kindness with gracious words, love with affectionate smiles and thoughtfulness with gratitude. I want them to follow the manual of good upbringing as we did. But I'm not a big fan of it. I don’t hold good manners above keeping your level of sanity or holding your ground. I don’t want them growing up to accept things and keep silent in good manners. I don’t want them to say they’re OK when they clearly aren't.

I don’t want them to be afraid of saying ‘No’ in the guise of not wanting to hurt sentiments, especially when it is imperative to say it. When manners come in the way of honesty, I think in the long run, it’s better to say bitter truths rather than not saying anything at all. Manners may be necessary in a lot of contexts, probably in also learning the art of shaping words that cannot be taken back, but I don’t think they’re the primal end we should be striving for in our kids for this time and age that comes with its own quirky stress inducers and self-proclaimed achievement indices.

So, kids of this generation, here’s a new clause to the manners lesson you have learned in school and at home. Good manners breed good manners. Most of the time. But watch out for assholery and douchebaggery. If you find them, f*** good manners.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Dodging the Creative Leech In A Digital Age

As an eighth grader, I hated writing essays, especially the ones that asked me to expound on an archaic social theory or convention, chock full of bizarre ideas, that seem as superfluous in present age as dial-up Internet access. Every take-home essay assignment on a Friday sat sulking in the nook of my study until it was stared at, shoved back under, and hastily brought back to surface on a Sunday evening. That’s when the bells of despair rang and the essay topic was clumsily moulded into a perfectly acceptable five-paragraph structure of cliches, paraphrases and cataclysmic arguments, unfortunately the tepid force of it all failing to rustle even a leaf in the world of literary debates. I didn't see the point of that whole ritual of forced writing. My English teacher, whom I both admired and avoided, rarely marked my assignments with anything other than “Good effort”, “Can do better” or “Work harder”.

And one uninspired weekend, I thought instead of fuming up my brain cells in the pressure cooker of my mind, I’d climb out of my languid mental landscape and find “inspiration” elsewhere. Since it was the pre-internet era, inspiration didn't come easy. I’d have to wear sneakers. I went to a senior’s house who was a Whiz at organizing ideas and making her words seem important and clever. I asked her for her thoughts on the subject of Capitalism vs Socialism. And help she did! She taught me how to draw up a convincing argument, cited examples from the Bible, quoted verses even. It was the best essay I had ever produced, the metaphors so far-reaching and profound. I was pretty damn proud of my work. Of course, it didn’t occur to my underfed ego that it was my friend’s work. Pfff! She didn’t actually sit through the pain of composing the essay, right? She just gave me a nudge, so to speak. I chartered that damn path on my own. I submitted my essay with a word of note to the teacher saying that I’d put my heart and soul into this one. As I anxiously waited for my essay to come back, after daydreaming at length about wide appreciation and applause, somewhere I found in myself a scratchy realization. I asked myself, “Would I have co-related examples from the Bible to socialism on my own?” “Is that what I really thought? Socialism trumps capitalism?” I warded off these as writer’s remorse and continued basking in the pre-glow of anticipatory fame. Like a delicate bowel that reveals itself one way or another, my moral compass soon rose above my delusions. My essay was returned ungraded with the hissing words, “See Me!”. I knew only too well the indictment that I was up against but had little to prepare for in my defence. The teacher called me to her office, gave me tea and biscuits and I sat there mindlessly, tracing jagged speed bumpers out of cookie crumbs to intercept the zipping motion of my honour.

I don’t recall what I felt at the time or each time when someone looked at my work and said it lacked originality except a jarring pang of shame. I have to say that as a writer who loves reading and one who is rather easily-impressed, I find it difficult to block out the beauty of words that threaten to cling to me with a permanent sticking charm, impossible to unfasten. Maybe some of these words found their way back into form in my writing. If done deliberately, with bonus adjectives and adverbs to masquerade as my own. Maybe, sometimes I had no damn clue what to say and in the process of working out how to get my factory up and running, I looked at what other people have already said, and it was funny how much their thoughts resonated with what I wanted to say. And I couldn't help myself but cloak their words in a new robe. Anyway, with so many people writing these days, the odds of two people saying the same thing had to be in my favour right? I turned to my non-judgemental search engine for an answer. A renowned linguist had already put that theory to test. So get this. Each time you use a word from an existing string of words already written by an author, the odds drop by a fairly large number. So the chances that two people would have unknowingly used the exact string of eight-nine words in a sentence (well unless it’s a popular saying) are fairly low, if not none. Put those words from the two sentences in a similar context, in a similar format and you really are pushing your luck there. If caught, the only thing that’d get you out of that one are the widely-underrated quotation marks. In their absence, you may try the words, “Wow, what an uncanny coincidence!”

I started getting my writings published several years ago. In my writing stint with a magazine, I was given a starting prompt, guidelines on how to cite sources of my findings, quote important people, gather data, ask questions… My first writing test involved, as one of the five key skills I was expected to be armed with, looking at a passage and paraphrasing it. It made me think, “ So what I am really doing is borrowing words from various intellectual pools and structuring them.” I felt a little cheated, kind of like being stripped off my own creative capacity. And that river of reinvented and recycled thoughts continued to pull me under when I started writing for myself. Instead of sitting and staring at my blank screen, I opened another tab. It was intoxicating.

Until one day, I just stopped. It wasn't because my moral compass was pointing due North. I found myself getting confused and intimidated by other people’s writing. Instead, I read books, enjoying the light breeziness of flowery prose in that moment without highlighting them for days when I run short of inspiration. I sat in a quaint, no-wifi cafe with my laptop, with only dull murmurs and the smell of hazelnut latte as my creative fuel, staring at my blank screen, not knowing which direction I’d run in my labyrinth of thoughts, whether I’d move ever at all. I rose to the challenge of finding myself in my words, even though they were not half as alluring as those of my writer idols.

Sometimes on Medium, I stumble upon a story or a poem like mine and I wonder, “How did that ever happen?” What are the chances that two obscure unconnected writers would find the same, seemingly original idea to write about nearly around the same time, especially when the inception of the idea is not based on the current state of affairs? It is then that I think there are greater cosmic forces at work. The world around us is both our writing pad and our writing prompt. And we’re probably connected in more ways than the wide tangles of the internet. For me, as someone who has previously stolen other people’s thoughts to define my own, there is but one thing that defines the delicate line between plagiarism and originality.

It is the scathing voice you hear after you have finished publishing your work.

Well, here’s to hoping that in the wide world of me-toos and already-done-thats, one day, my own work will shine through. Untainted.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Leaves Of A Fall

Photo Courtesy: Daddy Dearest
A balmy rustling within my cold heart.
The red and yellow leaves of a fall painting me in an undulating gloom,
flowering where once grew pink roses in full bloom.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Dreaded Dhokla Chronicles

One of the ambiguous pleasures of being a mum to a morning-school going toddler is having to fix her breakfast tiffin. I don't necessarily think that going to the kitchen the first thing in the morning before even addressing my camel breath is a mood-kill. I love cooking, so in a way being Ambrosia-like even at seven am gives me joy at some masochistic level. But get this. It was Thursday. Which spells the dreaded words D-H-O-K-L-A on her weekly menu. Nahin!!! Ye dhoka hai. 
Like Seriously...what's your secret?

For those of you who've never gone for high tea in an Indian household or have managed to overlook the savouries in a desi mithai shop or still haven't found their calling to take the great Indian train yatra to just about anywhere in India, let me paint you a picture. Dhoklas are light, airy, yellow savoury cakes made out of chickpea flour and semolina. Spiced with a bit of chilli, tempered with popping mustard seeds and curry leaves, garnished with coconut, soaking in a bit of sugar syrup for a mysterious angle, they're the most irresistible of street snacks.

Since even the street-corner chai waala seems to serve these airy delights with a breeze (pun not intended), I thought it only makes sense to open my somewhat-deft hands to them - well the pressure of cracking them seemed immense considering it now featured in my kid's weekly menu. Peer pressure in a nutshell y'all.

Let me just say that I've had my fingers burned, literally and figuratively, in the quest of making my Gujarati sistas proud (or just have me sit at their table.)

The curtain raiser to every one of my dhokla attempts started with my house-help talking about magic spells and secret ingredients (Did anyone whisper Eno?) and swishing of wands - aka - whipping spoons. I thought to myself, "Hmm...there's too much dependency on voodoo going on for a savoury delight that's as ubiquitous as the "I've got kids" hairdo at school drop-off." But whatever. I did everything diligently, with my nimbu mirchi on the side, and a prayer in my mind. Alas, it didn't rise. The first time. Or the second. Or even the third. I had to get my house-help to do it and it rose to the rooftops, like a surgically-enhanced bosom, shining in all its sun-kissed, velvety sheen.

I don't get it. Am I not giving it enough space? Is my dhokla relationship crumbling under the weight of pressure? Am I the cursed one?

Making instant dhoklas in the kitchen has been like living  in my own self-raised hell, for reasons I can't even begin to understand. But today something had changed. You see I put the dhoklas in the steamer and went to get dressed and just out of the blue, I got a strong whiff of smoke. I raced back to the kitchen waiting for a brand new disaster to greet me this morning. I opened the steamer.  Et voila! Amidst the mist of smoke, I could see the dhokla batter revealing itself to have risen perfectly! Tears of joy stream down my eyes as I attempt to unveil the pillowy magic on my plate. But no....wait! Let me do the tempering first. In a ruse to add the Jamnagar to  my nerve-jamming production, I temper it with mustard seeds and curry leaves and decorate it with coconut strands. 

I do a flip like the way the cooks on Masterchef do it, in my head the tense drumbeat ushering in uptempo flute-cello in the background. 

Wait, change that to an anti-climax music score. It was stuck. Even though it was perfect and airy outside, it was all gooey and mushy on the inside, much like me on Dhokla Thursdays.

With quivering lips, I gather it all up in crumbs and stuff it in Saanvi's tiffin. It's a gloomy Thursday. We're walking down to the rickshaw and I ask Saanvi to watch out for fresh dog-poo on the side, before staring at it for a good twenty seconds to appreciate the uncanny resemblance of it to her dabba contents.

Well, as Matt Preston would say, it's the taste that counts :).

Have any memorable cooking disasters to share? Nothing to be ashamed of, people!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

We Have A Map Of The Piano

When it comes to music, I think all of us have a map in our hearts of plucking the songs that speak to us and the ones we send back into planet oblivion. For some people, it’s about the bass or the guitar strings that make the heartbeat of the song. Others look for the help of words to define the soundtrack to whatever marks the theme of their lives — the rush of new love or heartbreak, prosperity or decline, melancholy or exhilaration, death or life. Music sometimes finds its way to trace our roots, our lineage, our individuality and sometimes it is just a bump on a long road to getting to our identity — as something we’d never confess in public to have liked. (Grand Confession: I am still rooting for Dido’s come-back.)

And yet, when I think of what defines my carefully-curated, indispensable playlist , one that I've been listening to for what seems like an eternity, I'm stumped. There was a time when I ditched it for months at a stretch, living off borrowed music from my husband and friends, well until I heard something as shadowy as Muse’s Starlight play in a cafe at sunset which made me go, “Wow…I do miss my playlist.” My collection of music is eclectic, mostly R&B, indie, Sufi songs, electronic and alternative rock. These songs have been transferred from desktops to laptops to phone memory, synced to death… Jogging without my playlist is an ordeal, an uphill climb.

As an experiment, I decided to go without it for a while, opening my ears to new artists, unexplored roads and shoreless depths of sounds and moods. As a result, I watched my playlist grow and expand, ushering in new artists I’d never heard before like Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, Sona Mohapatra, Gurdas Maan…

But it goes without saying that my old playlist had already grown on me and could not be done away with.

Regardless of what’s mainstream or crowd-pulling, we all go through our own evolution in music. There are your all-time go-to jams and there is that music we grow out of — you know the kind you played to insanity in the backdrop of Math sessions and midnight conversations and that, perhaps, are definitive of a phase that you've let go. There is that music that profiles you. “Babe, don’t mind me saying this but your songs…they’re just so angry! Are you going through something?” Then, there are songs that you hate just cos you’re forced to listen to them with family and friends and every time you hear them, you wince a little. (I don’t think I can ever hear a Boney M song without pulling a face.) And then let’s not forget there are those songs and artists that you ignored on principle. But you end up accidentally hearing them on the radio and you can’t help but sing them in the shower, being sucked into the quicksand of their rage and popularity. [ “Is it too late now to say sorry?”]

I like the idea of having a constant playlist — of course it’s one that I’d never play at a party or in any gathering, for I know nobody would understand it. These songs probably didn't enjoy the same glory that songs today attract. Playlists today have a shorter shelf-life I think. If you get to hear that one song fresh out of the studio, chances are that you’ll join the millions of people screaming from the rooftops about it, share videos on social media… They’ll make for water-cooler conversations. They’ll pass through several filters, including the most-popular feminist filter, before it gets ingrained into pop culture. You’ll hear that one song in everybody’s playlist along with the noise surrounding it, until everyone tires of it and it vanishes altogether to be replaced by another scintillating chart buster.

My playlist, however, is in a fairly equitable ratio of greatest hits and obscure songs, equal parts hippy-happy and permission-to-bawl-your-eyes-out gloomy. I have no clue how I arrived at it and from where I hand-picked these songs. Maybe I didn't pick these songs after all. Their ratings picked it. Maybe, I hopped from one artist to the other with Amazon’s “You may also like….”. It’s also possible that I added some songs that I heard on my favourite shows as a way to retain their best moments with me. (Case in point: Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill.) Perhaps I read a reference to a song in a novel and wanted to listen to it and it just stuck. Maybe, one day, I was on my way back home waiting in the bus-shelter for the rain to stop when a cute guy came by, smiled at me, and stood close enough for me to vaguely make out the words of the song playing on his Ipod. And it became a part of my playlist. It may as well have been made up of some of those songs that got circulated at the office. (Did someone say American Pie?)
There is no way of knowing what really makes up our playlists. But the taste of it, perhaps in all its nostalgia, is so sweet that there’s no running away from it. I may ignore them for a while in a ruse to class up my taste in music, to find the same rush and familiarity in new artists, but every time I come back to it, I fall in love all over again.

It goes without saying that we all have a map of the piano and nobody can take it away from us.

Do you update your playlist occasionally? Or do you take comfort in listening to the same songs over and over again? Can you figure out which songs make you tick instantly? I'd love to hear from you, readers.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Dear Diary - Where Have You Gone?

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea cozy.” 

With these first words of my favourite novel, I Capture the Castle, unlike any first words that I’d previously read — well, I should say at the time I read mostly heavy classics — I found a brand new meaning to literature. I stumbled upon it pretty late though. I guess most people I know had read it in their teens but I devoured it as an adult on my bus journeys to my third job at a corporate IT giant of a firm. I read it every morning. And then before bedtime. And then again with breakfast. It was an unstoppable urge to go back to Cassandra’s private journal with her whispering by your side, pouring her heart out in witty observations about her peculiar family but shrewdly reserving her own feelings to herself. Cassandra, the protagonist of the book, comes of age in this medium through her extraordinarily real, matter-of-fact voice. She brings beauty through her blithe words to mostly decrepit, decayed surroundings. And poverty. The novel is achingly poignant. It gives you a sense of the romance that is to unfold — and to get complex —  with the narrator falling deep into the thick of things by getting her own feelings intertwined in unrequited love.

It was something about the way Dodie Smith threw together a conventional story shuffled in bits of Cassandra’s written journal and her narration that gave it such an endearing appeal for me. Reading I Capture the Castle renewed a sporadic, heavily-inspired relationship with writing. Back then, I was not in the least pressed with work and I thought it’d be a good way to explore my own voice by keeping a journal. If nothing of consequence happened during the day, as is the norm with people in nine-to-five jobs, I’d sit outside, a small girl in the open, vast campus of Infosys and write my reflections on strangers —  characterizing maybe a bit too artificially their restrained smiles, grey suits and forced conversations. Going through my old journal now, ten years later, gives me the sense that I'm trespassing. Reading somebody else’s voice. Somebody who badly needs — how do I put it delicately — a chill pill. I get the sense that my cynicism, my cruel generalizations, my rushed-up feelings of false despair with humanity were meant for an audience. “What am I doing here? In this well of grey shirts casting a dark shadow on blank faces”, read my journal on a mid-March afternoon. I can only assume that I wrote these patchy, vague sentences to add a touch of poeticism but here’s the bummer. They didn't give me any insight on my life. They seemed to me scraps of writing borrowed from Ayn Rand, Franz Kafka, Kate Chopin and Emily Bronte but for the life of me, I couldn't place any fitting tragedies or massive heartbreaks at the time that would cause such a stir in feelings.

It kind of brings me right to the start. When I was a teen, I had one of those cute, pink electronic journals with icons and word limits. The idea was merely to summarize the occurrences of a day in sparse words and move forward to the next. For that reason, reading it later would probably be like wandering through a cryptic maze. I had to name-code everything — my crush at the time, close friends, arch enemies… I recall coming home and diving straight into it with a cup of tea and french fries, typing furiously 500 well-meaning characters, cataloguing my dog days almost as enthusiastically as my eventful ones. I kept it hidden for the longest time and when I moved back to India, it got shuffled among other life-altering possessions so it got left behind. I was all nerves for the longest time. What if someone read it? What if they figured out who my crush was and told him how psychotic I was to go on and on about his glasses and faded blue jeans? Well, I'm sure on reading it now, it wouldn't be half as scandalous as I made it out to be then. In fact, there’s a good chance that it’d seem trivial with its half-hearted Haiku of birds on window perches or dull rainy days or war logs with acne. It was a huge loss nevertheless for it seems to me that it has eroded away that significant period of adolescence, which unfortunately, can now only be salvaged in sudden bursts of memories.

I sometimes wonder what made me keep a diary then and what’s stopping me from keeping one now? It’d be great to start one today as it’ll exercise my writing muscles better. But it seems like such a redundant occupation. A bad investment of time. I mean I have a blog. Why would I pour myself out on pages that are not meant for a wide audience, right? In times when everything from no make-up selfies to reclusive vacation mornings are meant for wide screening, what purpose would a modest diary with a lock serve? Do I write it with half an eye on future prospects or do I share excerpts from it as I go along?

The beauty of keeping a diary seems lost on me today. Probably, it just seems like too much effort with other literary ambitions emerging to take their stake on my time. Even if I keep one, I think it’s going to be incredibly hard to write one without visualizing an imaginary audience for it in the future. Barring my teen diary that I have little reflection of, I think I've always written for someone — life lessons for the next gen, love letters to my future spouse, career advice for people in large firms, menstrual sanity guidelines for working women…

Even so, in the months to come, I'm going to take on the more complicated experiment of writing for nobody but myself. I am going to write one as a way of arresting memories, instead of resorting to photographs that seem far too posy to speak to me. I am going to write one as a way of finding myself. I am going to write a diary to the point of futility about observations to life as it happens. Hopefully, I’ll learn to tune out of myself and capture the colour of rain on cobbled lanes instead or document every little innocent remark my daughter and her friends make, like the time she told me how I should order food at a restaurant. (“Mommy, if it had a face, don’t eat it.”)

“Dear Diary, I don’t know what happened there. But I'm going to make up for lost time.”

Did you keep a diary as a teen? Do you think of your blog as a diary? I'd love to hear from you, readers.