The things we wear and the way they wear us

It was a little past three and like always I had come downstairs with a friend for coffee to the kiosk, adjoining the smoking zone. The beverage along with the condescension of the fashion faux pas of men and women gathered on the opposite, had grown into a sort of a little sport at this time of the day. There’s a faint line between being observational and judgmental and I was way past that. Now don’t ask me who made me this high priest of fashion in the ten kilometre radius, I can’t come up with anything better than “myself”.
He shouldn’t be wearing such shirts, with lungi checks. The heroes from that era are either worm chow or onscreen grandpas.”
“Unless he’s playing a school PT master in a play at workplace, he’s got no business wearing those thick white sports shoes with formals.”
“He’s wearing a black strap watch with tan brown leather shoes.”
 -the nuggets of thought just float around.

Coming to think if it, I’ve been doing this for a while now; playing this sport. But I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t come from a space of elitist entitlement as much as from one of cultivated awareness. Agreed I’m an extremely sarcastic creature by nature, but over the years I’ve come to respect and regard the clothes and accessories as being a representative extension of a state of mind. A navy blue for a sunny mood, robin blue for depth of character, floral patterns on a holiday mood,polka dots to party. Thick checks when chirpy, negligible ones to mean business and a sharp fit for a solid first impression. These are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years from people I looked  up to and the deeper end of my learning curve. It’s not robust rocket science perse, but colours, lights and predispositions interact in a predictable manner to create an impression or an illusion of it at the very least in a certain direction.

I’ve seen many turn up to an event in obnoxious clothes— even the ones who swear by the sanctity of forks and knives at dinner tables and the ones who wait for months together for a specific car color  —without an iota of understanding about the appropriateness. Picture this- a dark-thick guy in a wine red shirt with disco ball depictions and embellished cuffs at a brightly lit wedding gala. Or another one at the same event, in a half sleeve T shirt with multicoloured horizontal lines running across and sandals from village movies about misogyny. While the formers subtle as a sledge hammer, the latter’s a slacker with indifference to his image from a mental menopause. While the first guy should’ve toned it down a lot, the latter should’ve dialled up a lot. The former’s clothes belong in a tribal mating ceremony, the latter’s dressed up for a casual zoo visit with an utter lack of interest. The sad part is both are nice guys with a decent amount of self awareness. Both use overpriced grooming products and get haircuts, the price of a flight ticket. But they’re somehow utterly naive when it comes to the fact that their outfits talk for them and also about them. And so do their watches that resemble lunch boxes with a golden dial.

Clothes exhibit one’s age. personality, grace(or the lack of it).maturity.depth of character and artistic preferences. At times from the foreground and at times from the background, their role keeps changing from one phase of life to another. In our teens and early twenties, anything that was in vogue would’ve caught our attention. We were gullible clean slates who would dress up in a way to highlight our clothes to draw attention to ourselves. Our personalities were at a formative state and it was safe to tow the wagon. So anything that caught attention worked for us- from vibrant colours, loud checks, hooded shirts to even comic print T shirts. These things were making our identity and an easily digestible ersatz persona from the foreground, as the real us lurked back in the background.
But with time, as we age and the personality assumes a vivid shape and form, we pick clothes that would highlight us and remain an ambient amplifier in the background. Flamboyance paves way for laid back charm. Trends get replaced with personal statements. Aesthetics comes before appeal. The equation with the wardrobe changes from us being the soda to the single malt, over time.

Not just clothes, everything including accessories like watches go through a similar tangent. The toyish looking G shocks digitals pave way for Citizen metal straps, which wither away into Seiko leather straps with a minimalist old school appeal. Even the art one consumes changes. Character driven stories begin to appeal to the sensibility over plot driven ones. Rhythm and beats become incessant noise, the heart craves for soothing melodies with specific emphasis on lyrical value. Personal conversations become more and more precious as generic discussion become passe. The proverbial boy has become the man and these things punctuate his transition.


Size of a man’s imagination

Freshly ejected from a sea of body fluid,
Becoming undetached umbilically,
When it’s the size of a button mushroom,
He’ll look at all of you as his mother.
Give him some time to learn.
Learn language from sounds,
Feelings from touch.

In his third multiple of five,
When puberty begins to confront,
From places hitherto Sun hidden,
He would’nt look at all of you as his mother.
When it’s about the size of a puppy’s tail.
Give him some time to learn.
Learn expletives from language,
Female from male.

In his fourth multiple of five,
When it’s about the length of his palm,
Disobedient like a boisterous labrador,
He would look at all of you as his lovers.
The Sun rises from his navel,
And sets between his legs.
Give him some time to learn,
Learn to lech from look,
Stimulate from touch.

Between the fifth and eighth mutliple of five,
When it’s become a domestic appliance,
From the cool gadget it once you used to be,
Fatigued from myriad experiences,
He would look at only one of you as his wife.

Batting is still fun, but the strike rate isn’t there.
He now knows love from lust,
Insecurities from trust.

After his thirteenth multiple of five,
That is if he’s still around.
When it’s hung, shrunk and vestigial almost,
He would look at all of you as his daughter.
The game has become passe,
His upkeep has watered his impulses.
He’s collecting epiphanies from experiences,
Nostalgia from memories.

From a button mushroom,
To a puppy’s tail,
To palm length,
To a docile appliance
And being hung and shrunk,
It’s after all, not that hard to size up-
A man’s imagination.



On being a global individual with a local identity


I’m in a certain frame of mind at the fag end of a work day. Standing in my terrace, head’s imploding with epiphanies as waves of cold night zephyrs keep hitting against the chest. Rocketman is playing in my ears. The line “I’m not the man they think I’m at home. Oh no no no…..” play over and over, in my head. Probably because I’m living away come from home, in a new city and could use the comforts of a set of lyrical nails running over the itches of home sickness. But why was I listening to Elton John and not a familiar earworm like Tanhayee, when grappling with solitude? That’s because this song plays over an episode end of Californication, where Hank feels alone and apart from his loved ones. I simply loved Californication and maybe even ended biting up into its aura more than I could chew. As a result,I not just love Hank now, but look up to him to an extent of imitation. Scratch that, internalisation.
That’s probably why I had subconsciously come to outgrow(temporarily) the emotional referencing to Dil Chahta Hai, in a situation like this. Fake and not organic some might argue, such conscious mapping of outbursts to cultural intake. But when common parlance, cuisines and wardrobe can be susceptible to such influence, this doesn’t seem far fledged. Agreed they’re epidermal strokes, at a hardware level. Apples and oranges. An Indian in a Zara sipping a Glenlivet on the rocks is still an Indian, largely. But someone, who summons the spirits of a 1970’s composition of  a British meth addict, to address his state of mind in a dingy Indian lane that resembles a dust bowl and smells like feet, after a vernacular conversation with someone close, is a creature of some transnational complexity. It’s not good or bad, organic or fake. It’s just a lot of upkeep, to keep one’s core individuality from getting coloured in a crisis of such myriad choices.

Let’s now try and deconstruct something very basic, like the perception or the idea of an attractive woman and it’s systematic shift in shape and size at the hands of time and trends.

Take the times of my great grandfather, a little more than a century before. He would have assessed his wife’s appearance in comparison, to the few hundred women past their puberty in his side of the town and behaved with her in a manner that was debonair back then. Naively walked a certain way while she looked, talked a certain way, looked a certain way and smelt a certain way even, based on the collective input of men he looked up to with envy. Cinema was yet to spill over to the streets. Televisions didn’t exist. Phones were a Victorian luxury.

My grandfather’s time coincided with the advent of films into lives and popular culture in this part of the world. Singing men with shoulder length tresses were sex sirens. Railways made hitherto unconnected frontiers, affable. By the time of his wedding, the sample space to yardstick his wife would’ve grown from just the immediate routes his cycle could take him, to the adjoining towns the bus went.

By the time my parents got married, cinema had married into politics; indelibly trickling into day to day life; with tickets and votes flying congruently. Men not just had women from their vicinity to check out, but from other states and ethnicity as well. The sample pool to yardstick one’s partner had grown in size. So earlier, if a guy in Chengalpet was just exposed to women from his area, to base his attraction for a woman who gave him that funny feeling just above his navel. He now, not only had women fraternity from uptown Chennai, but from Kerala, Andhra,Karnataka, Delhi and Bombay to form a collective sample to fashion his attraction for the opposite sex along with the gyrating sirens who toyed with him from the silver screen confines. He was spoilt for choice.

Coming to think of it, I feel I would’ve been better off born a few decades earlier. Because the speed at which the world’s spinning, I just can’t keep up with, without constantly stumbling upon or spilling over, with little time for picking up or cleaning up after. I occasionally flatter myself to be this analog guy in a digital world, but that’s just euphemism for inability to cope up with the multitude of apps and networking fads that keep mushrooming every fortnight to render me a dinosaur. And let me not even begin about how screwed up it is to just find a woman attractive. Every happening place I’m in on a Saturday night, I’ve got women- indigenous and foreign. Then I’ve got actresses and models photo-bombing into my life from their carefully curated Instagram accounts. Almost each one of them looks positively minted out of gyms, hazelnut coated with absolutely no human flaw to relate to or notice, occasionally talking ironical stuff like “the joy of accepting one’s self” with surgically corrected faces. So I just can’t make up my mind on a  girl’s desirability without ruminating briefly on the images of Priyanka Chopra, Ileana, Eva Mendes, Sonam Kapoor, Trisha. an ex girlfriend, Jessica Biel and a colleague. Leave alone love, I can’t afford lust at first sight. There are so many facial symmetries, so  many complexions and so many body types to cross reference to find a middle point of personal taste at even such a very shallow level. I’m not just spoilt for choices, but spoilt somehow by them.

Ten years before, hunger would’ve had a simple fix- to eat. Now, the buck doesn’t stop there, it extends to “what to eat” and culminates in “where to eat”. It’s a beautiful time to live in. No two ways there. Don’t let my dogged pragmatism suggest otherwise. The idea of being a global village isn’t anymore an Utopian aspiration, it’s a tangible reality. I’m a cab ride away from Mexican food. And possibly, Tesla away from Mars. My only concern is, how does one continue to remain peaceful and rooted while walking facewards, into an avalanche of options. At any given point, there’s endless content to consume, endless news to take in, endless information to process and endless possibilities to a stimulate a experience with the intellect,mind and appetite continuing to remain finite concepts.

Our core personality is an extension of our predispositions, school of thoughts, likes, dislikes and inspirations that we pick along the way. This part responds to stimuli in an indelible manner. A stain once left here, remains forever. That’s why we’re consciously molded by the society to be receptive to a certain thoughts and wary to some. This part’s the sanctum sanctorum of our being, the anchor that keeps our shit together through thick and thin.

Then comes the external personality. The one that we project to the world around. This makes instant impressions, not indelibly though. This place is the combined colour of recent experiences and influences, that managed to leave a mark beyond the momentary. So it trips on Woody Allen during misanthropic phases, listens to Rahman to cheer up, wears monochromatic pastal shades to imitate David Duchovny, keeps a stuble to appear deep and commemorates a cold night with the occasional Marlboro. It then trips upon another set of personas, another season, another flavour and it becomes their collage.

The core personality doesn’t let in things that easily. In fact it shuts itself down after a point, to remain predictable and rigid. What it however takes in are strong influences along the way, that question its very fabric of being or the ones that make a convincing argument for an alternate course. The external personality is a naive and boisterous entity in comparison. Its impressionable and responds to what’s loudest, latest and relevant and assumes an accommodating form to stay relevant to a particular state of mind or a season.

The external personality is the one that’s not only just flamboyant, but more accessible from a surface level to an individual. So it barely comes as a surprise when over time, one mistakes it to be his core personality and starts making consequential decisions from here. Unlike the core, the external personality is a finite-brittle space, that tends to clog beyond a point, when confronted by a barrage of stimuli. And at this juncture, when it doesn’t know where to draw the line, come the treacherous roads to identity crisis and insecurities.

While it’s wonderful to soak in the endless possibilities that today’s world has got to offer, it becomes a responsibility in equal parts to choose as to what to let in and what to surface graze,  as these seemingly innocuous experiences go on to endow us with some sensibilities that stay with us for time to come. With habits, cultures, practices and influences from every nook and corner of the world making a steady influx into our living rooms, we’re going to remain inevitable global individuals. Knowing an indulgence from immersion; imitation from immersion and inspiration from imitation would go a long way to allow one to have his voice, amidst the cacophony.































global, stay local. English.
Not so bad to listen to english songs, inspirations good. That can  scale up, imitation not.
Nothing wrong.
















Crazy stupid thing called love

To some the destination, 
To some the vehicle.
To some the reason to live,
To some the reason to quit.
To some an obsession,
To some absolution.

To some a blind religion,
To some a ponzi scheme.
Where some broken hearts get fixed,
While some good ones get broken.

To some an autumnal zephyr,
To some a ruthless storm.
To some, a blissful blindness,
To some, an impending eye opener.

The thing that renders tectonic plates maternal,
Making countries out of land masses,
Idols out of stones,
And memories out of wrappers.



Wonder Woman

I’m not sure, but I guess it was sometime in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century; feminism wasn’t a fad or even an afterthought for that matter. The country was preoccupied with a different ism.  It eventually went on to get its independence, but women like my grandmother didn’t get theirs from the excuse for farm animals that their husbands were. Irrespective of flags, their lives continued to be at half mast. Like a delicate doll dealt from one monkey to another, my grandma was short-sold in the marital market by her father(of sixteen children) to a man with an attention span of a three year old in a candy shop, who went on to give her four children. Those times, even if a marriage wasn’t made in the heaven exactly, it was meant to last for a lifetime. The painful idealization, vanilla mythology and the Chinese whispering septuagenarians, ensured that a woman endured,even if she didn’t enjoy. So even before my grandma could come to terms with her womanhood, motherhood had confronted her with a child per limb with a man who had abandoned boat.

Carrying way more than her shoulder could bear, with no real help in vicinity than concerned elders and ancient places of worship, anyone’s mind would’ve scurried to a drastic way out of the purgatory life had become. But not my grandma’s. Whatever doesn’t break one, makes them stronger. She became a stronger person who learnt to make lemonade out of the limes thrown at her. She singlehandedly went on to raise her boys into decent men, who would never be how her husband was to her and them, to their wives and children. Not a remarkable feat normally, but from where she got it done and how she did it, it’s an incredible journey of a single woman through an uphill path strewn with insult, taunt and chauvinism in every twist and turn. By the time my generation had begun, she had mentally turned into this zen like war veteran, wary of the crowd of ersatz relatives and acquaintances that had conspicuously bulged in size. Most of these anecdote sharing well wishers in attendance at the peak, were somehow coincidentally absent at the foothills. Her wounds had healed. But she had hardened from within. She could forgive, but never really get to forget.

Pride gushes through the nostalgic arteries every time I reminisce of my childhood that eventually became hers too- growing up to her gibberish, sleeping next to her, calling her fat, the jawarsi payasam, being fed while watching TV, those few fables that were on infinite loop, the solicitous commentary during movies, the hush hush manner in which she kept helping others. And almost forgot those clumsy diabetic break-ins to the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat sweets. My house might be under constant CCTV surveillance with a guard on the gate now, but somehow life felt the safest with a fat old woman overseeing it.

We see the sun rise from our sides of the sky, to kiss the morning sky saffron. Some of us from the sea, some from a sea of buildings and those with the jogging pants, through a bunch trees in a park. Although an epic event for a planet to find compassion in a distant star, the everydayness lets it remain slighted. All of us have such Suns in our lives, who shine on us while we continue to take them for granted, till an eclipse comes to wake us. My grandma was one such Sun from a early horizon. She will continue to be a part of my life as a deity. As a guardian angel. My family’s very own iron lady.

Bitching about erstwhile friends

“So he called you too I suppose.”, sipping on my coffee.
“No, he took the FB route with me.”, he chuckled with sarcasm.

5.01 pm

We both usually convene at this time of the day mostly to exchange what we’ve come to call as “scoops”, a hall-pass we had issued ourselves to rant and condescend about friends, family and acquaintances with lesser guilt and greater fun. So today’s top item on the agenda involved the frivolous attempts of a common friend…errr scratch that, acquaintance at mobilizing crowds to make his rather pointless wedding a crowded affair. Suffocate with quantity for a lack of quality seemed to be his maxim.

“Saw the girl? She looks like my clean shaven version from long hair days when I was malnourished”
“That’s shallow…” pauses for a brief moment, “Have you seen him?”
“Yeah. Yeah. He’s got a face his mother can only like and all, but he could’ve done better with due respect to the woman in question. More power to feminism.”
“I beg to differ. We’ve taken him with us several times to only look better, remember!”
“Fine, they’re made for each other. Don’t rub it in my face.”

“Anyways the repelling physical chemistry apart, wasn’t he coming out of another case of unrequited romance, how could he jump boats so soon?”

“When you’ve been doing nothing but mooning over a girl for over twenty months from the Teflon coated friend zone she’d put you in, from where the only action you got involved innocent finger touches while passing sugar at coffee shops, it’s relatively easy to move on.”
“Not to mention the several suggestive SMSes that were too riddled with typos and questionable grammar to make any sense of. God how many emojis does he use, like some school kid high on candy.”

“But I’m sure the girl knew at some point knew that he was trying to be more than just a friend.”
“Probably mixing bad English with worser metaphors was not such a good idea after all.”

“Yeah if those painfully lengthy abstract conversations didn’t give away, the dogged effort he put into buying those expensive run of the mills gifts sure should’ve, unless she was emotionally dyslexic.”

“Ya, who gets a stuffed teddy bear inches taller than you to only be your friend, Santa Fucking Claus?”

“I know. It’s almost rude to see a guy trip, fall and falter from one grand effort to another from your balcony, without throwing him the ropes or asking him to stop trying,”

“Some people probably enjoy watching others taking efforts for them, it validates them.”
“Or our friend was the clumsiest man at proposing to women..” gasping for breath “He could easily drive a forthcoming woman to trauma, arranged marriage or celibacy by just hitting on her.”

“That’s heavily judgmental dude.”
“Right. You’re the one to talk”

“Btw, Jessica Pearson is the most celestial looking person I’ve come across.”
“How about commas, full stops or fucking context while waltzing into random topics!”

“Fuck you.”

“Anyways, you’re going right?”
“120 dishes, 50 starters, several desserts, open bar and….”
“…And the chance of getting immortalized in a picture with the gaudily dressed couple.”
“No thanks.”

“We used to be like brothers once, sharing everything than our boxers. What happened?”
“Maturity happened. We grew up and he grew apart.”

“Agreed we’re not in the same city anymore. But couldn’t he at least invite you over phone. What happened to the good ‘old  pre-Zuckerbergian social relic called courtesy?”

“I suppose you stop expecting such niceties from a guy who majored in finance to only conduct a wedding, the price of a beach villa with a girl he knew for lesser time than the pimple on his forehead, while continuing to service the mortgage on his existing residential property.”


” You’re in talking terms with him?”
“No. But I wished him over phone.”
“Why? You could’ve sent an offline message.”
“Its okay. It’s not like am a bigger person and all, but he’s still a part of our lives.”
“If not as a friend, as a running joke during coffee breaks like now.”

“So are we getting front row seats to the shindig or do we wait for the highlights to come on FB to condescend further.”


“You’re Satan.”

“Don’t get patronizing. Later.”



Families that stay together

As a loner, I’ve always reveled in the tranquility between the four walls of my bedroom- the smell of the convertible on the right corner that has almost been spiritual, Simba(the stuffed tiger) that has come to sort of become a muse and the creaking door that has shielded me from world outside. These are the insignificant scaffolding that’ve held my world together, for no matter how a day panned out, they’ve often than not tuned me back to equilibrium. To me this room had more memories than bricks behind it and I was dog territorial about this space. For this was the same room I used to sleep during the last days of my grandma. This is where I made love the first time. This was where I always came looking for solace, introspection; every time I burnt a bridge, felt lost or just needed perspective. In short, this dark of the house was the mirror to my soul.

My parents would occasionally ask to me sleep in their room along with them and like most grown men I would dole out these self righteous excuses involving “the want of privacy” or “I’m old to sleep with my parents” every time to just stay back at my room. It wasn’t just that I had outgrown the charm of snuggling in the mini-bed under my parent’s bed once in a while, with time I had somehow outgrown the experience of spending time with them.
I didn’t realize that every time I turned them down, I was taking their love for granted because it was available in such abundance at free of cost for me to overlook.

There was a time in my life, after a showdowns everytime,  dad would suggest that I got out of the house in a not so calm fashion. Truth be told, it took an asshole of my magnitude to bring that out of an otherwise peace loving man. I was never quite the model offspring and had dedicated a good amount of my post teen years to reminding my parents about the flip side to procreation. He obviously didn’t mean it— I hoped every time I was told to leave the house —for these were everyday occurrences under a roof housing an aging father, a son at the brink of his manhood and their combined egos, the size of a meteor. It’s not till when the frequency of these outbursts increased, that I began looking at these as more than just domestic outbursts. When the same words kept repeating, I could get a sense of where they were coming from. It was never a question of whether he loved me or not, he obviously did. But the fatigue of resigning to the fact that he couldn’t get me to do things differently was starting to show, along with his anxiety for my ability to take care of myself. The very everydayness that was supposed to cement most  families together, was forming fissures in between.

Our cat and mouse dynamic was fast turning into an uglier beast of indifference. We needed some sort of an intervention. Probably, separation. Some objective distance to stop taking each other for granted and cultivate some respect back. Obviously, the proximity wasn’t helping.

It was around this time that I was on my notice period and look out for my next job, when an exciting profile came my way from Bangalore. And it didn’t take me long to decide. And before my parents could come to terms, I had already relocated. And like that, I was in a new city for the first time away from home. And my parents were away from me for the first time . This was the reality check I needed. Privacy and “me time” were scattered at every step, every nook and every corner. It was like life decided to make a dear wish into a bad joke by giving it in abundance, till a point it almost became a curse. I learnt that charm of being alone was a thing of relative appeal. My “me time” worked only with togetherness, not in isolation. Without the togetherness, it just felt like a king in a marooned kingdom .

A few hours of shopping for home appliances did what a lifetime of delicious home made meals, ironed clothes, a comfortable home and selfless parenting couldn’t. It made me realize the value of my parents for the very first time in life. I knew what I had had. The cushions around me that had always protected me, were suddenly not there. There was no one to take for granted. Every phone call from home became important. Dad seemed to miss me and I could feel his respect. It was strange that my conversations with my mom over phone were longer now than the ones we had at home. My sister and I were the closest that we had been in a long time.

Maybe  every family is only a hiccup of a circumstance away from closeness.

This time when I was home, mom and dad’s faces lit up. It was late in the night when my bus had come. They were well past their bed time, but they were so overwhelmed.We spoke for a while before the two of them hit the bed. It’s not like I had energy to pull an all nighter either. I went to my room by instinct. I was in my sanctuary after a month. But it didn’t feel the same. On second thought, I went to my parent’s, pulled out the mini-bed from under theirs and assumed the “run over frog on a highway” pose to sleep. It felt peaceful. Being with them was positively better than “me time”.Those few minutes before sleep that day were among the most precious ones in my life. That moment life had come a full circle.I can’t make blanket statement on behalf of other families, but it looks like some some good old distance brought mine together, closer than before.