Conversations at Kabi

I entrust my feet, and half of my newly-waxed legs into very warm, swirling waters : Heaven with a pinch (the temperature being just a little over perfect). They settle in nicely, my feet, leaving me to savour the ambience this sensory experience is creating. I am already praying, may this last for the rest of the day, when the pedicurist, a stranger, albeit a gentle one, asks me in hushed whispers, “Is okay naa Madam?”

“yes, yes!” I mouth, even as my mind says, ‘shush! let me be, o let me live gently for this one hour of complete unadulterated bliss- using my legs as a means for salvation and a route to higher thinking.’

On cue, Parmod, as this no-longer stranger, calls himself, lets me be for the rest of the pedicuring hour. But does the world let me be? Nah, not a chance!

I pick up my juicy novel, written by a friend, no less, and recommence Paula’s journey, when I overhear snippets of a conversation, that cannot be ignored.

“Arrey, vohi toh, she thinks she’s some angel dropped straight out of heaven,”


“Yes, that’s what I’m saying yaar, she’s not blameless. I’m sure she’s had it out with others as well. That guy is loaded, why would she….”

Interruption from the other side.

My side is going, “haan, haan, right, right. Husband hai aakhir!” (after all he’s her husband!)

Dialogue pause.
“Ok, so then you dole out advice naa, don’t tell me all this.”


“Ok, so then you tell her naa. I can’t. I won’t. Mujhse toh nahin bola jaayega.” (I won’t be able to spell it out).

A long dialogue ensues ostensibly from the other side. 

“Ok. Theek hai, we’ll catch up tonight at Meena’s, but careful what you say in front of the others haan. Sound sympathetic, abhi toh, you sound like quite a bitch!!”

Titter, titter. Some more laughter, the other side must’ve taken this ‘critique’ well. The laughter I hear is clearly fake and to appease. I can’t suppress a giggle myself.

In the meantime, my legs are being well soaped, lathered and massaged. I remember where I am, and gleefully return to the savouring.

Just as I re-settle myself in the sofa, I hear a young child yelling,

“No, no, don’t cut my hair, nooooo!” Chilled to the bones, I turn back sharply: a little fella is being harassed by three adults. The helpless mother repeatedly asks her son, and not a daughter, which is made clear by her sermon – “If you don’t let bhaiya cut off your locks, you will be girl, not bwoy! Kaatney do, see good man, gentle man, hair uncle.” Hairy uncle would’ve been closer to the truth- the man had hair plentiful.
crying haircut

I get the gender bias, and it irks me. The kid would not stop protesting, and my gentle pedicurist begins cruelly grinning at the little fella’s plight, urging at me to join him. Why must they bring the kid here, I am thinking. The locks could just as easily have been chopped off at home, and the day’s job would’ve been done. But style is something else- his 3 year old mop had to be styled. Good lord!

I sit there wondering how to smother them all. I decide against doling out advice. Who was I to tell them anything, although they were in a public space, destroying my peace of mind- and ruining the hour that I had culled out of a very busy schedule. No problem. Aaaargh!

I try the novel again, hoping to restore some inner balance via Padma’s story. The mobile rings. I ignore it, till I note the face displaying, <maa>. Panic. I had forgotten to check in with my mother. I decide to shut the quiet novel, and speak to maa.

“Hello dear, are you okay, you sound tired?” and I haven’t spoken a word yet. See, this is it, mothers always know.

“No maa, I’m fine, energetic, bursting with kind thoughts,” I sarcastically mouth. It’s lost on her.

“Ah nice! I just thought you sounded tired.”

“No maa, am not. You slept well? Have you eaten?”

“Yes shona, I have slept very well, I have eaten well. I’m having a good time with my great grandson.” Music. If mother happy, child happy. No complaints.

“That’s great maa. Chalo, I’ll…..” And am interrupted.

“So what time are you leaving tomorrow?”

“At night.”

“Hehehe, I know that, what time dear?”

“11ish I guess. Not sure. Tomorrow is too far away for me to ponder upon time or any other such related philosophies,” I sardonically say, since I hear the little fella screeching, under the shine of the murderous scissor dangling from the expert hands of the petrified male hairdresser! Should I be seeing some humour in this, I wonder.
Apparently my mother does :

“Hehehe, you are so funny Reena. Okay then, I’ll let you work.”

“Yes maa, am very busy right now, I’ll call you tomorrow with my exact time of departure,” and I disconnect. I’m irritable, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? Maa was sweet, but not enough to take my mind off the little fella who’s high-pitches are spreading like dark ink in Kabi. I’m certain every employee is cursing their owner for not putting her foot down on small people being disbarred from entering Kabi.

How long does it take for such a small head to be styled? Gosh!

“Madam, chai, coffee, kuchh?”

“Nahin, thank you!” Go away. Leave me alone. Everyone out of Kabi

No one moves. The music plays, a song by Linkin Park, I woefully

Everything you say to me Takes me one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break”

How appropriate is that! I let out a laugh, much to the pedicurist’s consternation. I look away. I open the novel. An immediate
interruption, as if I am being watched, and the minute I decide to
read, the novel’s opening switches on the interruption switch :

“Kaunsa nail colour, dekhiye naa.” says dear Parmod. (which nail varnish would you like, please choose.)

What!? I had missed the massage, I had missed the deeply pleasant
feel of my muscles being made to relax. I would have to pay
anyway, NOooo!

Now I am faced with the tough choice of nail varnish- colours galore, and none that I like. Life is filled with sudden anguish.

I choose a deep purple, reflecting my irritation, and ask him to use a silver one to finish off, what I consider a stylish look. I don’t really care anymore. Actually, I’m okay now. I’m done. I decide to return another day, when my weary feet ache and I can’t deny them any longer, and I will have prayed to the Lords above, to grant me a day of pedicure minus interruptions. I will reject my mobile, discarding it in a bin at home, and will come unarmed, and re-enter Kabi, with an
open mind- one that will cherish any and every experience.
Amen to that.

My feet look as rested, as my mind is restless. I am seated in front of a mirror now, and wondering when I grew this old. Suddenly I am

“Pressure theek hai?”

Ah! My shoulders are being massaged. I didn’t know they did a
shoulder press after a pedicure. This morning isn’t over yet, and it might still be salvaged after all. This is divine. But I can’t peel
my eyes away from the vision of me, and I shudder. I am aged. I am
ancient. The journey downhill hath begun. The day is a seesaw between joy and agony. I will survive yet.
And then I hear someone say, “Okay, happy now? Dekho, kitna good bwoy ho tum. Ab Lollipop milega!” (see, what a good boy you are, now you will receive a lollipop!)

The little fella, in the meantime, has been styled and is about to be rewarded for having yelled his lungs out for the better part of my
time in the beauty parlour. Seesaw is stuck downhill. God save our
kids from us parents! I cast a last forlorn look at the mirror,
before paying my bill, and quite automatically thank the receptionist for ‘an awesome experience!” when I am asked, “How was it Madam,
happy, satisfied?” How can you spoil someone else’s day by speaking
the ugly (pun intended) truth about yours? You just mutter, and leave.

There is no ‘comments notebook’ otherwise I could’ve possibly put
down my mean thoughts.




Hudson upon the Hudson

Giant barge sliding by,

Leafless trees bid spring,

An ungloomy farewell. IMG_1101

Winter reflects its glacial face,

In the Hudson,

IMG_1100A Gull rides stilted,

its slowness,

Even as the river displays

Fractions of gray sky,

Lazy waters scroll by.

A mother, her daughter,

Observe, smile, giggle,

Contrasting the solemn geography.

Selfies feigning to mimic,

True photography.


A row of crows lined up,

On an old forgotten

Bungalow’s rooftop.


Torrential rains, dripping chimneys,

The duo’s cosy airbnb,

Gazebos galore,

Church steeples of lore,

Grass both green and brown. IMG_1088.jpg

A discreet native pub,

Sizzlers with Beer,

Surprises with local cheer.


Hudson by the Hudson

Displays stillness in winter,

A perfect getaway,

The routine splinter,

An imagery’s mosaic,

Drawing a collage eclectic,

Befitting the holiday album.

A Forever Mid-Lifer

“Yes, I’d love some.” Said the fifty-something. She looked all right, quite stuffed actually but did not refuse the offering. This yes was to a kulfi, the quintessential feel-good Indian ice cream, which is unrefusable. You get it! I do.

Hang on, these didn’t look like friends- they were way too young. She stood out, although in a nice, nice way. I was curious and more. You would be too, undoubtedly. What was this group? I shifted my stool closer to theirs, in, what I considered, a subtle attempt to eavesdrop. “Tch, tch”, my mom would’ve said, “not good habit beta!” But I am a writer, I making a living out of eavesdropping, and honestly, what else would I do? This is something I’m adept at – it’s ‘The Art of listening without’. Have you tried it- and not got caught? So far i’ve been getting away, but i’m sure you’ve tried it and everyone knew you were eavesdropping. Now, what i’ve done is cultivated this, and boy, am i good at it! I’m around if ever you wanna take this up a notch.

Crowd listeners


I’m a mid-lifer – you know in my mid-thirties, and have already tried my luck, or hand, if you will, at various professions. You might ask, what they were, now that I have taken up property in the land of ‘all ears’. The thing is, baking, singing, writing screenplays, managing a day-care centre- all of this had an expiry date, apart from the singing, which I still do, for friends and at private gatherings. You may’ve heard me and not known it’s me.

  • The day-care Centre was a disaster from the word go. The little ones bawled, and I would read on, unperturbed. Within a week, two sets of parents removed their kids, and I was left with only 8 kids, who made their way to a ‘more caring environment’. I have to admit, I wasn’t heartbroken.
  • Screenplays : i cannot write fiction. After two rejections, I could tell this was a cul-de-sac. I turned around.
  • I found my calling pretty soon thereafter. I realized that my ears could become my ears, and vice versa, without much ado. It was like someone created a new being, with a brand new set of twin organs. I thought it a brilliant idea to cash in on this hitherto undiscovered talent. I am learning much, about so much.


So you know how vital the respect factor is- like it’s imperative to lead a life with a decent level of self-esteem.

I could write a thesis on How to Forge Ahead with or without Talent. I don’t think it’s difficult to build talent, once you decide what your calling should be (so it’s mostly minus genius, and one teaches oneself anything one puts one’s mind to, clever eh!?)

Look at me, here I am, in a café,  tuning in to a conversation, because as i see it,  these are young folk eating out of the hand of a lady who’s got what it takes. The Mid-lifer is saying something about feeling free, letting go, about being in the moment – all stuff  open to misinterpretation, isn’t it!? Were I twenty-something, I would relate this advice to prohibited stuff. Your guess is as good as mine.

The young audience is agape. It’s a hip group, yet listening with rapt attention. I have observed (very often, especially when i speak 😉 listening skills are on the wane, but this one’s got it right. I am getting drawn in too. That’s what’s transpiring, am forgetting to take notes, mental or otherwise, to put to good use, to tweak and twist in my next article.

She has their respect, that she clearly does. You would too, were you here by my side, eavesdropping. I’ve heard enough; now those notes.

  • Don’t worry about success (when did I last hear that!)

(Luckily she stopped at that!)

  • Pay attention to details….God lies in the details, in the small stuff. People might say, don’t sweat the small stuff, I would say, sweat it. Be courteous; be attentive to the small people- coz they go on to become the Big People.
  • Small gestures for your own – folk that matter to you- like making an impromptu call, writing a letter (who does either anymore?), drop in on neighbours with a dish, or without.
  • CODE Word : JLT – just like that : talking about yourself and your life- engaging a person, communicating one way or another- ‘hey what’s on your mind, you’ve got that look? Share.’ You talk, they talk. That’s how it works.
  • Change a routine week- doing date nights just like that, driving off. A lot of ‘Just Like That’s’ become the foundation for healthy, long-lasting relationships. Makes sense.
  • Money is not God, but pretty close to One. Don’t misuse it, don’t abuse it- never take it for granted. If it comes easy- it goes easy. Ask the businessman, ask the 9-5 posh MNC gentleman, ask the guy on the street. Today : it comes, and it goes, in the blink of an eye.
  • Get the money-earning out of the way.

How’d it go with your Education? Mine was sad: tests, sorry results. Exams : sadder results, and i managed to scrape through. But i’m smart, and i know it. It’s my home that made me believe in myself, in my capabilities, in me. The school- college routine was mandatory, and in a worldly sense, we must all adhere to the routine. I’m sure you’ve been there, done that, right? I still don’t know how it helped, but i enjoyed the peer interaction, and it made the burden of the years of getting ‘educated’ , bearable.

You can forego it for the nextgen- home-school the kids. Tough call? Yes. You can do far better if you’re ready to listen, and to give of yourself; yep, tis hard work but the rewards, if you’re that kinda person, are astounding, and deeply satisfying. But hey, an international school will do just as well, if you’re busy chasing the big bucks! (Sarcasm? Think so.)

  • Education : lifelong

Borrowing money : a no-no.

  • Look ahead, always.
  • If you are constantly saying sorry, there is something amiss. You need to Forgive Yourself for your mistakes…and there’ll be more. But you know what to do – move on, rectify, forgive, learn, move on.
  • Low self-esteem : sagging confidence makes you are more likely to commit either the same errors, or similar ones. It’s an awfully sticky cycle. Go overhaul or get a new cycle, or perhaps something on four wheels
  • Laughter is king. Laugh a little everyday, and carry the mirth of it with you as baggage, nothing else.
  • Laughter




I had heard enough for one day. She wasn’t delivering a sermon, because all of the above was injected with a number of jokes about one or the other, and how obsessed one moron was with money- or the girl keen on repeating mistakes with her boyfriend etc. It was all very congenial, but it got me thinking. I went home and thought I’d start afresh.

This lady and her ‘friends’ got me thinking.


But before leaving the arena, I asked the pretty lady at the bar what that was about, and a large grin appeared on her face. This was a teacher at the nearby college, and arrived once a week, with a group of students to refresh it all. It was clearly working!


Now I’m kicked. What did I really, really want? Well, money for one, plentiful.

To : travel, travel, travel and photograph every nook, every corner of planet Earth.

No marriage, no kids, no routine.

There have been solitary evenings, when I’ve nursed many a foamy beer, but not nearly enough.

  • Discipline : YES!
  • Love food so: cookery classes/girlfriend? Nah. Just the classes.
  • Love photography : classes and save the planet from mobile photography. Do the real thing. Yay!
  • Document my travels : Journal writing cannot be learnt, so perhaps find a girlfriend? Find myself a Ghost writer? Be the ghost myself? Friend in need- Jumbo writes well, can ask him. What would you have me do? What would you do?

So just write, and we’ll see. Pass it around for feedback, go easy on self-critique, and receive in abundance.

It all ties in nicely. This way I can remain a permanent mid-lifer. The secret, I reckon, lies in being a learner forever.

images-12 copy

I turn to the Mid-Lifer in my head. I see her agog with a joie de vivre, despite the aging bones, and a sagging chin. Her attitude, that’s just it. Embracing the moment, and being gleeful in the small joys that life throws up, every now and then.

I think my Mid-lifer journey’s begun. What about yours? Go for it.

I begin by interacting with strangers, and they begin poker-faced, and then warm up, and we end up laughing uproariously about this and that. It’s perfect. Try it, worst case scenario, you’ll be seen as queer, and that’s good, anything other than normal is brilliant!

….. a podcaster is what I shall be for now!


It’s overrated, said a friend,

I do what I do,

When I want to.

No one cares if I live or die,

So honestly, tie me down if you will,

I’m ready for the kill.

Bring it on – I’m dependable,

Nigh ready to sell my soul,

For bondage.

It’s highly addictive,

Said another,

I can’t be bothered,

Trying to be this or that,

Get tied down to a city rat.

Making babies, changing diapers.

Leave me be to tread my own,

Even alone.

I’m addicted- to my freedom.
It’s what it is, for the haves

And the have-nots,

I love my freedom, I love it not.

The sun’s free to rise, to set,

The waves on the moon do rest,

Is the flower free to bloom when it will?

Is the body free to move at will?

The chains of freedom present

A weave of a choice heavy,

Responsibility, culpability,

One way or another,

Add to that, answerability.
So free or not, it’s a choice,

Designed to conceal a hidden format.

Freedom’s overrated my friend,

It’s not a song, tis not a ramble,

Tis a melody all your own,

Intricate or simple, must you hone alone.

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes


An eye here, and an eye there,

A thousand eyes, an eye upon eye,

The mindful eye, observing,

Night's vision

Ingesting whispers,

Eschewing murmurs,

Slicing darkness,

Peeling the shroud,

Sweeping the dust-laden

Prairies of my soul.

The thousand-eyed night,

Undoes the concealed,

Spills every thrill.

No secret lies safe,

Unlocked, exposed, unraveled,

Interspaces of night and day.

Bright, lithe wanderers,

In & out, steadily about.

Yet daylight’s arrival,

Doth steals its march,

Thousand Eyes must rest at last.





A Cold Companion


Forlorn, solitary, empty.

Staring me down, as I sat there,

All my truths to bare.


Up early, today was the day,

A promise to myself made.

A belief aglow, if only I let it flow.

Doubt at my door, stands steadfast,

Unflinching, unasked.

My aching heart, tears cease not,

The pen calls out, as it aught.

Long awaited this morning slot.

Screen, cursor a-blinking,

an enticing corral,

My ruptured heart, craves its Zen.

Carpe Diem, my mind cries,

Seize the day, says the twitching hand.

Dams shatter, throbbing fingers twinge,

A deluge unhinge.

Processor processed, machine absorbs-

precious outpourings on blank white pages,

heartbeats morph, anguish depletes,

Raw clamors cease, mind now at ease.

Elixir, a book within a book

So I finished Elixir, the debut novel by Sinjini Sengupta. I did not finish it at one go, and I’d like to confess, I was floating away in my first attempt; the writing was languorous and soporific, despite Manisha’s hard trials at work, both inside her being, and outside of it.  Amit’s strange and insensitive conduct also got to me. Lost, are we? Well these are the two main characters in Sengupta’s ELIXIR, an interesting read to boot, and one that cast a spell of sorts on me- however during my second inning.

Is it truly possible to live a life parallely- i.e, can you actually step into another full-blown existence, even as you are trying to do justice to the one that you had been born into? Is it truly even conceivable? Well, Sengupta does a fine job of pushing the suspension-of- belief envelope, that anything is possible once you taste of it-and discard that voice that repeatedly says, nah, not possible! You embrace it head-on. I am a believer of parallel existences, have always been, so I was good from the word go.

The first half of Sinjini’s debut novel is a bit like Bangla poetry, it whets your appetite. You need to put it away to fully savour what she is trying to build your literary and hungry mind up to. Once you’ve gotten over that ‘hump’ , if I may call it that, you are onto something rather magnetic- you inch along, then you are on a ride that has you by the….stirrups. You want to live Manisha’s parallel life with her- it’s beautiful, riddled with watery drops of romance, and perfumes and love and all that makes life a living heaven. But you return to Manisha’s ‘real world’, the one she must tackle, along with interacting with her blameless husband, who knows no better, boil tea in her kitchen, peek into her fridge, and mix with her professional colleagues. Well what do you know, Moni, as her father lovingly calls her, is quite the gal! She takes it all on, begrudgingly, but not all the time. She knows she wants out- she doesn’t want to re-enter the real world, but who’s going to buy her tale, definitely not the very worldly Amit. He’s befuddled, and he strikes out, using psychiatric means too.

What we have here is a novel with a stark message. Is the message obvious? To me it was. And the distinction lies in the fact that I know I am being made aware that I am also living parallel lives perhaps, but not with dissonance, which allows me to survive each day. Sinjini is telling the reader that it’s perfectly natural to live thus- and it’s a possibility, a real one and infinite possibilities of such like exist. I believe her. I also believed Richard Bach in his novel named ONE, when he and his wife travelled through different dimensions of existence. So why can Manisha, creature hacked by Sinjini’s mind, not do likewise? Sure can too.

Sinjini’s flair for poetic prose, her deep relationship with rain-water is superbly harvested in this novel. I could almost hear Robindro Shongeet playing in the background- no, not almost, I did hear it. My parallel life peeps into this one, and vice versa as I put away Elixir, and sip from a glass of cold water, to suppress the rising heat. Also, i might have failed to mention the fact that this was a screenplay, that Sengupta has deftly ‘rewritten’ as a full novel, no mean task this. I, even as i enjoy the art of writing, would not attempt such like. More power to Sinjini Sengupta and her fertile, creative mind!

Alsotft unit new