Being underdressed for an occasion…

Between being overdressed and underdressed for an occasion, I unhesitatingly always choose the latter. Of course, this owes itself primarily to my penchant for being bone lazy and not having the wherewithal to coordinate outfit to shoes to bag to make up to jewellery to hair and all the infinite things that some people manage to do so very well, that when they finally do step out, with their hair immaculately coiffed and their outfit colour tone coded to their shoes and hand bags, they manage to make most folk in their immediate vicinity look like grubby little root vegetables just pulled out of the soil.

The other day I went for an event where I was part of the audience. Now being part of the audience is a good thing. You can fall off to sleep, if you are careful enough to keep your snoring under permissible decibel limits and not drool on the shoulder of the unfortunate seated next to you. If you are lucky enough to bag seats far away from the stage, you might just be able to catch up with your sleep deficit with none the wiser. Also, if you are someone like me, who needs a pitch dark, sound proofed room, to be able to slide into slumber land, you can catch up on your correspondence or on long neglected friendships through convenient instant messaging services which were created just for times like this when you are trapped in an audience where you must spend a couple of hours, and cannot slink off midway, being land locked by grim looking pensioners who might probably squeal murder if your stilettos made contact with their toes. The best part of being part of the audience is you don’t have to be bothered about what you are wearing as long as you don’t offend sensitivities, or risk being hauled off to the locker for being an assault on public aesthetics. The second is debatable though, given some things people wear in public, which include short kurtis with skin coloured jeggings, which in the bright, unforgiving light of day, can make people with sensitive dispositions need to be led away to a quiet corner, where they can have their nervous breakdowns without an audience.

I was in the audience, dressed, in acceptable public mode in long cotton kurta and leggings, having ditched the jeans in my token attempt at formality. I was in the minority of one. The women around me were resplendent in silks and nets and brocade and zari and gota kinaraas and latkans on the backs of their very seductive blouses. I felt completely at home. I’ve been known to do this before. I’ve worn a cotton chikan salwar kameez to a wedding at a five star hotel, a pair of jeans and an embroidered kurti to a family wedding. And trousers and a brocade jacket to another very formal do. I’ve also put myself into a fancy saree with the works if I felt up to it, but those occasions are few and far between and very often comfort and laziness scores over my willingness to truss myself up into formal wear.

I realise I sometime embarrass the child when he decrees he will decide what I will wear, and picks out outfits he considers suitable wear, when we have to step out together. Sometimes I even listen to what he suggests, and he must have a good eye before the ensemble has always drawn compliments. Luckily, I am in a profession where I have complete leeway to dress as I please and be considered eccentric and pretend I bring more to the table than mere appearance and get away with it. Sometimes I think I could do the Helena Bonham Carter look in the Harry Potter books and get away with it if I write a grim enough book to match.

As I see it, heaven would be when I could make public appearances in track pants and fluffy bunny slippers. In fact, I think one of the primary reasons for me becoming a recluse is the infinite boriyat of spit polishing oneself for public consumption. There was something in that pyjama suit evening wear trend that I completely got, but before I could put it to test in my social life, it fizzled out. I don’t think the mater would be quite forgiving of that one though, however indulgently she may smile when I resolutely pull on jeans for formal events. There is dressing down and there is dressing down. And I’m not going to risk dressing down so much that I get a dressing down that would puncture my eardrums.


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So, I have lost a few kilos..

It hasn’t been from any effort in terms of cutting out the calorific stuff, or working out to sweat the calories off or getting on a new fab diet that would attack the cellulite in my subcutaneous with sickle and get me thigh gap. No. It has just been plain exam stress and the swearing off from Nutella and alcohol. Also, putting the child on a healthy, junk food free diet, has resulted in no junk in the house, which in turn leads me to not snack at regular intervals on wafers and chocolates and the like, but instead finds me grazing the premises for fruit and nut, and not the variety that comes bunged into a chocolate. It is not a diet and exercise plan I recommend. It makes you irritable and leads to much sobbing in the bathroom, especially when you have offspring like mine who piles on more stress than is advisable to implode prescribed number of fat cells per day.

God knows, once the examinations are done with, I will breathe easy, inhale deeply and promptly pile on the lost kilos in the span of a few days, but until then let me wallow in the hitherto never experienced before vanity of needing a belt to hold the pants up at waist level.

The loss of weight has been greeted with varied reactions from most. Some sidle up to me, and ask me, in quiet composed tones, more suited for condolence meetings, whether I’ve been diagnosed with some wasting disease. Others ask me if it true that I have lost weight and if I reply with a perhaps, because god knows I haven’t weighed myself, and am just doing my judgement based on the loops in belt and foundation garments that I go one further up in, they refuse to accept my answer at face value and demand to know in glorious detail who my dietitian is and what my diet plan is. I should pack the offspring off to their homes for a week in answer. It would serve them right for being so mistrustful of an honest reply. 

The most interesting response is, of course, from the mater. She, through the distorted lens of maternal affection, sees me at stick insect levels, tut tuts about imaginary skeletal bones showing through my skin, and insists on rustling up delicacies she knows I can’t resist and must eat at levels that make me wish I was a cow with four stomachs to accommodate them all, and to be able to masticate the extra ingested at leisure.

I’m not holding my breath about staying svelte for too long, but I’m enjoying the brief break from being, errm, haalthy, as they euphemistically put it. Now if only I could figure out how to be wealthy and wise with it, life would really be good.

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CSAAM 2014.

Kiran Manral:

It is April again, it is time for CSA Month.

Originally posted on CSA Awareness Month:

Dear Friends,

It is that time of the year again. To poke the dragon. That time of the year when we, a team of people, gear up and talk about that topic which is taboo but which should not be; that topic which is only whispered about, hastily, fearfully, but about which we should be making a loud, deafening din; that topic which many people believe to be an urban legend but is a frightening reality on a depressingly large scale . ‘That topic’ is Child Sexual Abuse.

April 2014 is around the corner, and we are ready to spread the word in our fourth year of CSAAM. Once again, just as we have been doing for the last three years, we talk across social media, via Facebook, twitter and blogs about the menace that is CSA . All through the month of April.

This menace must stop spreading. Children…

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Happy birthday Daddy

It is your birthday today, Daddy. You would have been 75 years old if you had still been around. As it happened, you saw only 42 of your birthdays, and then we played out our lives without you in them, I am 42 today, Daddy. I was a child when you died. It feels strange, being at the exact age you were, when they brought your body in, discoloured and bruised, the indignity of death robbing you of the vitality that was your trademark.

If your presence filled a room while you were alive, it was your absence that filled it now, now that you were gone. How does one cope with the grief of losing a parent in one’s childhood? One doesn’t. It is always a phantom limb, the pain unbearable, the dreams that the doorbell rings and you stand there, at the door, older, greyer, bent and with your arms opened in a wide hug into which I would run and be safe forever. You never rang that doorbell, daddy. I never stopped waiting for you to do so.

I grew up. I fell in love. I got married. I had a child. My life went on. You loomed behind my shoulder, watching me, at times proud, at times disapproving. It has been an honest life, it has been a tough one. At times I wonder if the struggle would have been different had you been around to buffer me from it. Would I have been the same person, or would I have been someone completely different, someone I wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with if placed in the same room.

Happy birthday Daddy, wherever you are. You have always been missed. You will always be missed.

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Interview with Shrey, the author of Saltwater, plus a giveaway

When I was asked to be part of Shrey’s launch of his debut book Saltwater, to be honest, I wondered what it was all about. The cover seemed to be ladlit. The premise seemed debauched enough. But the book, when I read it, just blew me away. And honestly, I am too stolidly built to be blown away that easily. If you’ve ever read Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hugh Selby Jr, this is our equivalent, albeit from the other side of the class divide.

So here is a photograph from the launch event:



And here is a short interview with Shrey about the book, the writing process and why writing chooses the writer rather than the other way around.

1] Beginning with the obvious one, what made you write this book?

I believe writing chooses you rather than the other way around. I have always written, it is my way to make sense of the world. The peeling away of the randomness to find underlying patterns. It took some timely encouragement and a leap of faith to believe this writing could lead to an actual book.

Saltwater was inevitable. I believe it just HAD to be written, a representation of the chaos of youth in brutal, honest terms. The world itself is compelling – with all of its rules and insecurities, and the cause-and-effect relationships that govern its narrative.

There have been books before Saltwater that cover the desolation of growing up in an otherwise benign environment – I think the genre is categorised as ‘Blank Coming Of Age’…

These are books I have loved very much. None however spoke of an Indian experience, and yet, I was taken aback at the similarities that were easily visible to me.

This increasing similarity to a “western” growing up experience, with all of it’s good and bad, is one of the things we are going to have to grapple with…

2] The book is very dark, unrelenting and disturbing. Did you feel there were places you consciously held back from getting grimmer?

From the beginning I was extremely clear on how I wanted Saltwater to end.

I had to be very careful in the construction and order in which the scenes are assembled – to get the mood exactly right, to pull the reader into the head space of Rish, the protagonist.

Saltwater gets trippy and out-of-control, but I don’t think any of the events are terribly implausible in the context of its larger world.

There were a lot of pretty good scenes that got left at the editing table for many reasons – but I didn’t consciously hold back from going to specific places, just because they might be difficult to palate.

3] What is it about the protagonists of the book, why are they so purposeless? Would you call them the lost generation?

Rish, the protagonist is purposeless, and I think he struggles with it through the novel. Other significant characters move through the book with purpose – even if their short term goals do not satisfy our, or even Rish’s scrutiny.

Perhaps the millennials are a lost generation; they are definitely a generation in transit.

They can afford to find their own purpose, as opposed to having a purpose defined externally, through society or whatever… This is, of course, the ideal scenario.

However sometimes it takes some time to find that reason, find that purpose, some may never even find it at all. Is that better or worse than chasing goals which aren’t yours? I am not sure.

4] How long was this book in writing?

The book took me the best part of 2 years to write and edit into a complete draft.

There were extended editing sessions with my agents and then subsequently with Penguin. Everyone was great though – despite the edgy content, the book went through without a single cut.

5] Who are the authors, the books you turn to over and over again? Have any of them been inspirations for this book?

I was 14 when I read The Great Gatsby. It completely blew me away; it is when I decided that writing a novel is going to be a life goal. I still re-read it, and the words have that same electricity every time. That power has not faded for the better part of a century.

I also love Bret Easton Ellis, his early work is a huge influence on my writing. I like a lot of American writers in general, now that I think about it. Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski are other favorites I revisit a lot.

6] What are you working on now?

I am working on a second novel for Penguin though it is still a little early to discuss any details. It is a departure from Saltwater.

I am also working on a few smaller projects. I guess a bit of a palate cleanser when the novels get too heavy. It is liberating to stop digging inside psyches, which is essentially what attracts me to the Novel as a medium; it’s good to just forget all that and simply chase the awesome.

Finally, if you want to read an extract from the book, go here.

I have an extra copy of Saltwater with me, which I’m going to send out to the most interesting answer to the question “Which novel would you call your coming of age novel and why?” Only India addresses please, as usual. Contest ends end of March. Shrey will select the winner, and I have no role to play in the selection, as always.

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The Reluctant Detective is on offer at

Rs 101.65 for Kindle and Rs 125 for paperback. So if you haven’t bought it yet, this could be a good opportunity. Buy it here.

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And please ignore the lipstick…

…I have decided henceforth neon is not my colour…

What women want

Posted by Team burrp! on March 7, 2014 in b! buzz · 0 Comments

Women make up close to 50 per cent of the total voting population in India. burrp! asked a few them across Mumbai and Delhi what changes they would like to see happen for women in India.

According to the latest report by World Economic Forum, India stands among one of the worst countries for women. We spoke to few women in Mumbai and Delhi across professions to find out what transformations they would like to see in their cities to take us up a few notches and make this a better place for women.

Anahita N Dhondy, Chef @ Soda Bottle Openerwala
“As an Indian woman one change that I would like to see is more women coming to power, more women being on top in different fields, more women being the drivers of change and definitely more women chef’s taking over kitchens. It would be a dream to someday see an all-women kitchen in my city.”

Anahita N Dhondy

Dr Aanchal Khurana, Skydiving Expert
“I would like to change the stereotypical image of women in the society. We need to make a change within ourselves, in our attitude, and be the only ones who set the limits on what we can achieve. To quote Michael Jackson’s Man in the mirror, ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to make a change.”

Dr. Aanchal Khurana

Neeti Palta, Stand Up Comedian
“The change that I want to see is women’s attitude towards other women. So come on mommies, raise your boys to be gentlemen. Raise your daughters as equals. Mothers have more power than anyone realises. After all, who else do we blame for all our issues once we grow up?”

Neeti Palta

Amrita Rana, Entrepreneur @ Life Ki Recipe
“The attitude of women needs to change to bring about any change in India. They shouldn’t think twice about shouting, screaming or getting attention if they feel someone acting odd, trying to grope them or brush past them. I wish we could empower women to call attention to, rather than be ashamed of the situation.”

Amrita Rana

Kiran Manral, Author
“Firstly, there should be better sanitation for women. The public toilets that we have in cities are few and even those in most cases are filthy. A number of villages have no proper sanitation facilities at all. Secondly, we should raise our sons to be more gender sensitive. They should treat women as equals not because they have to but because they believe it for themselves.”

Kiran Manral

Reema Prasanna, Digital Marketing Specialist
“I believe that given the current crime rate, girls should be taught basic self defence for free as part of our education system. Besides giving women access to aids like pepper spray, they need to be educated on how and when to use it, for it to be effective.”

Reema Prasanna

Meghna Dukle Pandit, Fashion Designer
“A change that I would like to see is better sanitation system for women. Given that we pay our taxes, we should have dedicated mobile toilets just for women, which should be cleaned regularly and maintained. In a city like Mumbai where working women travel continuously it becomes really difficult to use any of the available public toilets.”

Meghna Dukle Pandit

While we would also like to see better sanitation options for women in the city, we also think that educating women on their rights as well as their responsibilities is equally important. For example, empowering women to take on traditionally male roles in the city, like driving cabs can only be an improvement, if they consistently drive more responsibly than other drivers on the street. If you have a comment, suggestion or a view that you’d like to share, leave a comment or tweet to us on @burrp_mumbai, @burrp_delhi and hashtag #womensday

With inputs from Shirin Mehrotra, Ayushi Arora and Tanya Gupta

See the original here

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