Category Archives: Personal

20 on 40

40

I turned 40 on April 17. It’s customary for people to look back on their lives when they reach this milestone. To this end, I will contribute my two bits.

1. I have a paunch. I have had it for a couple of years, but turning 40 has made me relaxed about it. I can rid of it in a month with an exercise schedule suggested by Pinterest that doesn’t even require you to leave the house. So what if I am hefty, I can become lean again, can’t I?

2. My wardrobe is better. Looking back at my 20s, I realise that I used to dress flamboyantly and often made wrong choices in picking up clothes. Today, I am more sober and I know how to impress. I have become better at deciding what to wear when. So what if finding a store that stocks my sizes is becoming increasingly difficult? I am better turned out for a little extra effort. And, what’s more I have nice shoes and am good at picking out the right socks.

3. I have a daughter. This one was a nightmare as I was determined to have a child before reaching 40. My daughter is five already. That’s five more than the age difference between by dad and I, but I happy about this aspect of my life. There are so many responsibilities that comes with being a father and I think I have not fared so badly till now.

4. I think things through before I act. I am not as impulsive as I was in my teens. That  may seem obvious, but taking spur of the moment decisions and going along with the flow are qualities that I no longer have. I am a lot calmer and sit and decide on pros and cons of an issue before going ahead. I may be more of a disrupter and thinker than I ever was.

5. I get less angry. During my early 20s, I went through a face when I was angry at everyone and everything. I rarely get angry with anyone, including my wife, these days. That helpless rage doesn’t attack me as often as it used to.

6. I am normal on social media. About a decade ago, when I first opened my account on Facebook, I was so over-enthusiastic about it, that I often made comments that embarrassed my friends. I even got into a fight my ex-girlfriend over a comment I left on her wall. Now, I am much, much more circumspect.

7. I am more sociable. I now know how to do small talk. I can flirt without offending the fairer sex. I can ask good questions and am adept at listening and responding warmly. I didn’t have all these qualities before, but having had many years to become good at it, I can finally say these skills are now part of my repository.

8. I am careful about what I eat. I just don’t hog anything is that is available. I don’t risk eating in roadside shops that look I an invitation to cholera. I am not that broke anymore.

9. I drink less. Back in college, I used to imbibe on a regular basis. Now, drinking is for special and social occasions. I don’t ever wake up with a hangover anymore. And, I remember everything that happened the previous night. I know where I am waking up to as well.

10. I am saving money. I have a lot more to achieve, but I am slowly getting there. Getting a house of my own seems a more achievable thing than it ever was. I have learnt from making bad financial decisions in the past and am not likely to repeat them in the future.

11. My birthday is not a big deal anymore. I celebrated turning 40 by having a quiet dinner with my wife and sharing sweets with people I knew. I don’t think I want to blow candles anymore and that is alright by me. I am now used to wishing my daughter on her birthday. It is still a big deal for her.

12. Many in the earlier generations are dying. Just a month ago, my wife lost her grandmother. We are now in a phase where we are attending as many funerals as weddings. The funerals are almost a social gathering as the people who died have led full lives.

13. I have cholesterol. A regular check-up showed that my cholesterol was off the charts. But happily, I can now have fish, something I have always craved for. Given that my friends are going through many health problems, serious ones, I am grateful my issues are limited.

14. I know many divorcees. Many friends of mine have divorced, with a few of them even going on to remarry. I sincerely hope they have, at least now, found everlasting happiness in their partners. I guess I married late, but it sure looks like I am in a steady boat.

15. A bald head is forecast. I have already lost much hair. My forehead line is inching upwards surely and slowly. But that is just a ‘different’ look these days. I no longer worry about it. I know some people even find this attractive.

16. I am better informed. I am a journalist and that dreadful feeling you get when you have woken up late to a serious issue is not there as often as it used to be. I get most of my news on the go as do a lot of people. I can also talk about most issues in an informed way.

17. I have to acknowledge that I really can’t learn any new skills. Chances of that happening are slim. While I can play chess (I learned young), my ambition to be good at crosswords and quizzes will probably remain unfulfilled. So I have learned to be happy even if my learning curve has plateaued.

18. I don’t have to act wise anymore. It can be reasonably assumed that I have acquired some wisdom and when young people look up to you, they may not be entirely wrong all the time.

19. Turning 40 need not bring about a midlife crisis. There is also a slim chance you might have already passed it. On the contrary, it may be years before you get one. Don’t get depressed thinking that 40 is a mad number for you.

20. There are limits to which you can push you body. For instance, I have had a neck ache for the last one week as I am sitting in front of the comp for far too long. I realise I should have had enough rest and you should be sure you do.

Strong and shaping me

A few years ago, I met a girl in my office. She was interning and I was heading the desk. She was smart, good with language, had a terrific sense of humour, and was pretty. She was in her early twenties. Because she was proficient and had a degree in journalism, my boss asked her to join the desk as a trainee. I used to talk to her a lot and not always about work.

Soon, I learned that she had a boyfriend. When I teased her about that, she would say that they were “on a break” like in the series, Friends, in which Ross and Rachel go on a break from their romantic relationship to preserve their friendship.

In the months that followed, we kept in touch and I would often ask her about her boyfriend. I realised it was an on-again-off again relationship that my friend didn’t want to take forward even though they had been intimate.

During the time she was there, she even started an affair with a married man not knowing he was married. Somehow, the winds had shifted around her foundation.

Why do I tell you this story? This is the template on which women often base their relationships. They may not marry men with whom they once were in love with . Or were intimate with. The modern woman craves for more.

Parents have little choice other than marrying their daughter to the man of her choice. My friend married a guy of her choice in a way they wanted to. The parents had no other option other than to bless the couple.

The latest trend is that women look all things their parents traditionally looked in a prospective groom and much more. My friend chose a guy who was close to her in age, dark and handsome, and was attuned to her temperament. Like the movie, O Kadhal Kanmani, my friend moved in with her boyfriend much before marriage. That she was bold enough to do that is a testimonial to her courage and others like her. She also waited, like many others like her, for her to be mature enough to live with her partner forever. But she made the choice to tie the knot mostly on her own.

The modern woman especially in cities doesn’t vote lest the government take over her duties..

There are 497 million women in India, which is 48% of the total population, according to the latest Census data. At least a few million must be calling the shots despite making bad decisions. This only makes them stronger.

My friend married and was divorced within a few months, much to my shock and dismay. From being an example to girls her age, she had, in a way, become a fallen angel.

I had a close friend in college while doing my bachelor’s degree in Nagercoil. She was romantically interested in me and I was not particularly keen. My friends used to tease me about her for hours together even as I tried to keep a straight face. I think I did underestimate her quite a bit. Recently, I saw her on social media and she was in the US happily married. She had made it in life in way I never would have imagined. She was sweet the same way she was in college. We were polite with each other and moved on.

Again, that is an example of a woman putting the pedal down on what she wanted. Even while coming from an ordinary family in Nagercoil, my friend had landed a life she most craved for. Well, time to say, congrats.

Nowadays, I shamelessly watch Romedy Now. I can’t say I hate all the movies. Some are particularly good and soul satisfying. I wish they served more of that fare.

I think of these friends while watching TV or taking a bath. They creep into my thoughts unbidden and stay there for an uncomfortable time. As much as I admire their roller-coaster of lives, it feels unseemly to be thinking about them, now that I am a husband and father. I mean for this post to be a tribute for all the strong women I have met in my life.

My mother was one. Soon after the birth of my brother, my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to cure. My mom didn’t have much to hang on to. Her relationship with my dad, especially in the last few years of her life, was hard on her and him. Yet, she remained tough till her last breath. She died when she was 39. I don’t want to end this post without a mention of her. She was probably the strongest woman I know. She made sure that my brother and I turned out alright. My early childhood is strewn with happy incidents, which she stage managed. I do wish she was still around. She would have guided me in all my relationships with women, who were just like her. RIP, mom.

Ooty- Part IV

Coldness and its various forms. It is different in Ooty compared to Chennai. Even when it’s raining, Chennai is humid this time of the year. Chennaites like the rain. People in Ooty don’t. When they say that the weather is pleasant, they mean one thing in Ooty and another in Chennai.

Chennaites yearn for freedomooty from humidity and here in Ooty we yearn for the sun.

I had the occasion to be in Chennai recently. It’s raining out there. But still it is quite humid. Ooty is cold and I need a sweater, which is unthinkable in Chennai. May be in Decemeber I will need one especially if it is late in the night, when I like riding my bike.

But people can be cold in Chennai. They are all warm in Ooty.

It’s a nice place to live in and I am having fun.

Ooty – Part III

There is a stream at the back of our house in Ooty. The backdoor opens to it. A stream, which not long before, was made of clear water. It is now a drain. Thankfully it doesn’t smell too bad though it looks like it has things floating on it.

When I light up my first cigarette of the day, I open the backdoor, watch the stream and the buildings looking on to it. It is cold and I am thankful of what I am smoking; though it is killing me slowly.

I wake up late and make my way to the Internet café. After a cup of coffee, I am refreshed and soon begin to read, and with some difficulty, write. I am so grateful that the café is so close to my home though I spend a fortune on it. We haven’t hooked up the computer or the TV.

Our house is close to Ooty’s nerve centre, Charing Cross. We went shopping yesterday. We picked a sweater, a woolen cloth cap and a pair of gloves.

My wife is into pizzas. So we went to Dominos two days ago. We have also been to Subway. We are slowly ticking restaurants off our list. The good thing about chains is that you get what you expect.

I am thinking of looking around Ooty on Sunday. May be I will have more to write.

Ooty-Part II

The cold is getting to me. It can be depressing. But I fight valiantly. Writing on the blog, tweeting and reading keep me going.

There are sparrows in Ooty. Most of the sparrows in Chennai are dead and that city is trying hard to bring back the once common bird. The increasing number of cell phone towers is the reason for the birds to die. In Ooty, you can wake up to the morning call of the birds. The roads are home to goats too. I haven’t seen any such thing in Chennai.

Many theaters have been closed in town over the last few years. Only one is still open. So that is a dampener. We, in fact, live near the old Alankar Theater. However, Ganapathy Theaters fight against closure deserves a pat in the back. When we arrived in town two weeks ago, they were screening Kakkamuttai, which has worn the heart of critics. Now they are showing Papanasam, which was the first movie I caught in this hill station.  But the audio is horrible.

They are many messes in and around home. Harini Mess seems to be the best and most recommended. But they function only during peak hours. Coffee and tea in Gramathu Kadai (Village Shop) is pretty good. In fact, tea is good across town because it is cultivated here.

Higginbotham is the biggest bookstore in town. I bought two books and magazines. I am planning to review at least one book. My wife gifted the other book to her collegue’s wife.

I often get the feeling that I am far from home, while this is my new home. I also am surprised when I hear Tamil spoken on the street. It feels like they speak my native tongue in a strange country. This is, however, not true. Ooty is only three hours from Coimbatore and isn’t really a strange land. I have no clue why I feel i am in alien territory. I guess I will get used to Ooty being my new home.

More later. Thanks for reading.

Ooty – Part 1

ooty

It is cold. So cold it freezes my feet when I try to sleep. The locals are used to it. But coming from hot Chennai, I need that extra woolen blanket. Dhenuka loves the cold. So do I. I pull my feet inside and go into a womblike position to sleep.

I haven’t been to the botanical garden. Not even to the lake. This is a not a tour of the town. Just an excuse to let friends and family know that I have moved here. Also, this is an excuse to revive my blog after years of idling.

I have been to the municipal market. It is huge considering that the town is so small. You get all sorts of stuff. So Dhenuka and I go belt hunting. Both of us have lost weight. But no luck. They don’t have our sizes. I make a mental note to buy one in Coimbatore, which is three hours away.

It is gonna get colder. I look to the winter with dread. In October and November, it rains cats and dogs. And it gets colder in December. During the first trip here – when we were house hunting – it was raining non-stop. After moving our stuff into a house in Glenfield, the rains have stopped. The sun came out, at first without effect and then slowly it got warmer. I still wear a sweater. I haven’t worn one in a long time. So I admire my visage every time I leave home.

You can’t see that many people without sweaters, mufflers, shawls and blazers. In Dhenuka’s college, which is half-an-hour away, students are required to wear blazers in addition to their ID cards.

The house has two bedrooms. We have dumped all our clothes in one and are sleeping in the other. We have access to hot water, which is a boon. We haven’t unpacked completely and haven’t started cooking. I like eating out, so it is cool.

Our house is surrounded by joints – from non-veg messes to Jain food to the usual multi-cuisine affair. We are broke and happier for it.

I will write more when I get the time.

Diary notes

I greeted the rains on Saturday night with an invective. “Oh, shit! It’s raining,” I said as the steady sheet of water poured. I had just swung open the door of the Internet café near home when the rain caught me off guard. For a moment I was joyous. Rains surely meant that I would see some respite from the heat. Then the surprise gave way to the realization that I would not be able to walk the few metres home and to bed. Not for the season’s first time the rain had played spoilsport with my simple plan to get home to food and bed. Continue reading