Raksha Bandhan

I studied in a co-ed school. A large chunk of the crowd believed that a girl and a guy could never be just friends (yeah, we’re all idiots in school). Also, girls (and boys) believed that by the mere virtue of a thread tied on their wrists, boys became their brothers and hence couldn’t ask them out. So there were best of friends tying rakhis on their best guy friends’ wrists and there were the hot chics, carrying the thread, threatening to take away a guy’s right to admire them and love them like Rahul loves K k k k kiran. Of course, the overly cheesy emotional adverts by greeting card companies don’t exactly make the festival very exciting to me. But I like the history behind it, and I love how every raksha bandhan, somehow every brother gets protective of the sister, despite the fact that he spends the rest of the 364 days irritating the hell out of her!

Well, there are many stories behind this tradition, some related to Lord Indra, some to Krishna and Draupadi. All the stories essentially talk about a bond, a bandhan. With the silk thread, the sister gives the brother her good wishes, her blessings which act as his strength and the brother promises to protect the sister from all evils.

Cute, no? I think so too. However, I do wonder, what happens if you don’t have a brother? Who, then, will protect you from all evils? I don’t have a brother. I am one of two sisters and the elder one. To me, Raksha Bandhan was about tying the Rakhi to my cousin brothers, who in turn gave me presents. I didn’t care if they protected me or not, but as long as there were presents wrapped in shiny papers, I was happy. Then I started growing up. As the eldest of all the cousins from both maternal and paternal sides, I thought it was my duty to stand up for the younger cousins and fight their battles for them. So, if they had trouble in school, I’d merrily sort it out. If there were mean girls troubling my sister, I went straight to the girls and jhapped them. And then, I thought, I offer ‘raksha’ so to speak, why the hell won’t my cousins tie me a rakhi? Why should the brother be the only one to get the honour? My mom bought my theory. From that day on, me and my sister tied a rakhi to each other. Of course, we also gift each other things. It started with a pen that we wanted to writing pads that we need for the unit tests that happened around the same time as rakhi. Until recently it went to buying nice dinners for each other… And this year, my sister is away.

I have been one of the girls from my school, yes. I have tied rakhis to numerous guys. I don’t even know where they are or what they do, but at that point they were my friends and well, rakhi was something that was celebrated quite enthusiastically in school. But now, all that matters is the promise that the rakhi stands for. The festival is now all about pampering your siblings. And the promise has changed too. My sister is an independent, intelligent woman who lives all by herself in a different country, a different culture. She doesn’t need me to protect her. But I can promise her this. When she needs to rave, I’ll be here.

When she wants to rant, I’ll be here.

If she needs to splurge, I’ll hand her my credit card.

If she needs advice, I’ll do what I can and point her in the right direction.

If she wants comfort, I’ll bake for her my coconut cupcakes.

If she needs a jolt, I’ll give her the kick on the backside.

If she needs encouragement, I’ll be the hand that pushes her.

And on a day when nothing makes her laugh, I’ll be the goofy older sister and I’ll do anything to get those dimples to appear on her cheeks.

Because that’s what sisters do.

Some Observations About Relationships On & Off Twitter

I joined Twitter on 14th September 2008. I didn’t really think much of it. I randomly saw these messages from people. I stayed away.

‘Razzdino is now following you on twitter’

Suddenly, amongst those unknown people I was following, there was a face I knew. I started having twitter conversations and sort of started liking the platform. Soon enough, I found a few interesting people to follow.
I took my time to get to know the platform, which is how it should always be. In the last one year or so, I have got to know a lot of people, made some lovely friends. There’s always a flipside to it.

When you follow someone on twitter, you know the intimate details of their life. It’s almost like you peep into their heads. Yes, you know what they eat, who they hate, which film they’re watching. You know every bit about their life as long as they’re tweeting. You end up having random conversations at odd times too. However, in the offline world, you don’t get access to such details about a person and at such regular intervals unless you literally live with the person.

You love the conversations, you love reading their updates, so obviously, the next thing you do is add these people on facebook and on gtalk. No harm done. You’ve never met them, but you do feel a connection. But what happens when you meet them offline?

I have met almost a couple of hundred people off twitter. I think I have observed enough to say this. When people who follow each other online meet offline, they end up interacting like they know each other for eons. We all have masks online, so when these two people’s online masks do not match their real-life masks, it ends up making things awkward.

Some people are just as loud-mouthed as they are on twitter, some people are as quiet as they are active on twitter, some people are far cooler in real life than they appear on twitter and vice-versa. Meeting people offline can shatter your pre-conceived notions and bajao your expectations. I agree with Bombay Addict when he says, ‘I think at some point we start expecting people to behave in a certain way. I think those expectations become a burden. I’m ok with imperfect people. I like imperfect people. They’re like me. I don’t think I can live up to anyone’s expectations and I don’t think I want to. I will be inconsistent.

How many of us have the maturity to say this, least of all implement it? I don’t. But I am inconsistent, which brings me to my next point.

When you’re friends with someone via twitter, especially when the friendship came about quite quickly, there’s an immense pressure to be something you’re not. Friendships should evolve over a long period of time. The time gives you a chance to know the person for who they are, for the flaws that they have. It took me a long time to understand this that on twitter, you tend to share, reply politely and be the warmest person ever. There are chances that you’re not like that at all in the offline world. But someone who has managed to be friends with you via twitter, will always expect the niceties out of you. It’s not their fault. They’ve never seen your flaws.

I’ve had people throw tantrums because I had the time to attend tweetups but I didn’t have the time to socialize with them. This person had made friends with me via twitter and within a matter of weeks, she had decided that I was her best friend. When this tantrum was thrown my way in real life, obviously, I reacted the way I would in real life. She couldn’t relate to it because she didn’t know I had the ‘mind your own business’ side to me. Back then, I fumed. I really didn’t know why a person would expect me to be their best friend. Now, after the detox, I understand. She saw what I showed her and she wanted to continue to see that.

It is important to understand that relationships on twitter, however rosy they might seem, are relationships based on online personas. If you want them to be real, take it slow. I have a bunch of friends whom I have followed for years, I met them a few times and our friendship evolved slowly and steadily. These friends have lasted. Because we took our time.

Too close, too soon does NOT work.

Judaai Is Not The End of Pyaar

My dad’s friends’ love stories always amuse me. Some of them started dating whilst in college and stuck to their relationship even as they travelled to different cities to pursue their careers, post grad degrees and all that. ‘They didn’t even have telephones back then, letters were their only hope,’ says Dad. ‘Besides, breaking up was not an option for them. They had decided already that this person was their life partner. They did what they had to and made it work!’ And mind you. There were no mobile phones, no pagers, and no email back in their day. ‘People didn’t even have telephones, you had to go to the neighbours’ if you wanted to make a call’ Dad tells me.

Next morning my phone goes frantic. SOS messages. ‘I think I am getting dumped,’ one message says.
‘She’s moving to UK, I am breaking up!’ another message says. Wow! Last night’s gyaan is totally out of date, I tell myself as I get out of bed. Most of my friends, me included, strongly believe that long distance relationships are just not worth the effort.

‘My girlfriend went to Singapore for her masters and within 3 months all I had left was astronomical phone bills, crazy amount of time wasted on the computer, cartloads of angst and a dysfunctional relationship,’ says Mr. J. Add to it, facebook made it prominent that his girl was busy but with parties and fun outings. ‘If a guy flirted with my girl when she was here in Mumbai, I wouldn’t give a damn but a picture with a guy randomly putting his arm around her on facebook pisses me off now that she’s so far away!’ he adds. They finally broke it off because their relationship started becoming a liability.

‘There’s no point of being in it if everything about your relationship bothers you. Not having your guy around to hug you, to tell you it’ll be alright is just not cool. I miss him, but I don’t miss the online fights. I’m glad it’s over,’ says Mr. J’s girlfriend.

Kinda paints a bleak picture about long distance, doesn’t it? As Ashish Chand accurately puts it, for many people a long distance relationship is the kiss of death. Ashish firmly believes that they can work, however, this is conditional. ‘If you’ve just met someone and the relationship goes long distance, it’s going to fail. At this stage you crave for each other. You want to be physically close. But if you’ve gotten over the clingy phase, there is hope in spite of the distance,’ he explains.

Poo, a self-confessed commitment phobic agrees with Ashish and thinks that long distance relationships just get a lot of bad PR, ‘Long distance isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. If you are someone who values your space, it can be a boon.’

Of course, Poo firmly believes that in addition to constantly reassuring your partner of your love, you have to have mutual trust and the ability to be very open with your partner (which is where the Js failed) ‘With email, chat, skype and other such tech innovations, long distance is definitely possible!’

But what happens when you’ve had a bad day and all you want is a hug from your partner or when you miss them so bad, you can’t take it?

‘It takes a lot of time and patience,’ says RV who believes that one has to invest a lot of time and emotion to make up for time apart. Much like V had to.

‘Knowing that the long distance was only for a couple of months, made it easy. I missed him like crazy at times. Sometimes, it got so bad I almost thought of ending it, but then I’d remind myself of the big picture. You love this person enough to want to be with them? Then the long distance is just a hurdle you have to cross…’ says V. She is now married to the guy, so yeah, she crossed the hurdle.

If your partner is in the same country as you at least you are in the same time zone. Honey had to battle a transatlantic time-zone war to keep her relationship going. This essentially meant that when she slept, her guy was awake and vice-versa. ‘We both were sure we wanted it to work. Ending it was not an option.  We web-cammed, shared filmy music, shayari and photographs to reassure each other. If you want to make it work, you can,’ she explains. She also thinks that observing her parents, who shared a LDR for a while, has taught her that the distance can actually work in the favour of the relationship. It can make you independent, strong and it can teach you the value of the much spoken about ‘space’ between couples. ‘It is not for the weak hearted, though. You will spend a lot of time away from your partner and that takes strength,’ she warns.

In conclusion, if you really love this person and the idea of long distance is bogging you down, think again. Give it a shot, it’s worth it. And finally, based on the yapping I did on twitter, here are three things you should focus on.

1.    Be strong. Remind yourself of the big picture and be ready to do what it takes to make it work.

2.    Keep communication channels open. This will reduce misunderstandings and reassure your partner of your sincerity

3.    Use technology. Skype, email, IM etc are free. They will reduce your phone bills!
And yeah, good luck, I say!

PS: SMSers I hope you guys give it a shot. This one’s for you

Bonds and Memories

Day 13&14, Tuesday 1st&2nd October, 2009

I am sorry. I just can’t fit these two days in a blog post. It’s just so close to my heart, this trip. The story of these two days will be something me and Nani will pakao our grandkids with. Be it the Jurassic Park ride, or missing Ross Geller while reading dinosaur labels. Be it taking mad pictures next to the Cat in the Hat or be it getting drenched on the Popeye ride. Be it being kissed by Chip and Dale or be it riding on a Disney train to Mickey Mouse’s house. Be it taking a flight into Neverland or be it discovering a small small world or be it riding the Carousel of Progress. All these things are meant to be treasured in my heart, I wish I could write about it all but I can’t.

Another reason why I can’t write is that we never got to relish the after taste of the trip. Nani had really bad breakouts all over her body and soon, we discovered a bedbug infestation in Nani’s room. Hell followed. Her roommate wanted to leave the house, the lease was on her name, we found out the landlord was being chased by the FBI and then I wanted to leave the house. We had to wash and clean everything, our luggage, books, clothes, sheets. We had to bake all the books. (I know I love baking, but I never thought I would bake books, damn you, bed bugs!)We had to hunt for a house. And it was hell. My little sister was bitten up, her school had started, she didn’t have a home. And the big sister in me obviously was very very upset. Of course, Moody, NewYorker and Roger were constantly trying to tell me it will be okay and I knew it would be okay. Maybe I was overreacting, maybe I was being obsessive, but the truth is, I haven’t been this disturbed for eons.

We finally did find Nani another place. Everything is ok now as I gear up for my New York trip. But I do wake up at night and see Nani sleeping peacefully despite the red spots on her face, and I get teary eyed (yeah yeah very Nirupa Roy-esque I know!) Why should she suffer?

Disneyland was lovely and strengthened our sisters’ bond, true, but the bed bug issue and the entire upheaval made me realise that joy might bring you closer, but a crisis will test that closeness and strengthen the bond. It’s like the heat-test iron goes through to strengthen it.

Childhood Dreams: Priceless!

Day 12, Wednesday 30th September, 2009

The beach can only entertain you so much. There has to be something more done. Now, Disneyland is something we’ve been wanting to do, bachpan se and the cheapest deal also was going to cost us a bundle. It’s at times like these that I wish I’d chosen a profession that was far more lucrative than writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a writer. I love it, but it isn’t the place to be if you want to shower expensive holidays and gifts on yourself or others. However, i have done some chindigiri in my last job and I do have a little bit saved up for a rainy day.

That rainy day, I decided, was here. If the money you save doesn’t come handy in giving you some joy, what’s the use? I thought about the joy it would be to see Disney World with Nani, I thought about that chance to be two little girls we used to be again and I thought about all those dream plans of visiting Disneyland that we’d made as 15 and 11 yr olds. Well, quite like a dudette in a Master Card ad, I realised that I would have many opportunities to make money and fatten my bank balance (yeah, I’m being ambitious) but this chance to bring alive a childhood dream, it wasn’t coming back. So, I made a call and booked my tickets. Two days to Orlando, one day in Disney’s Magic Kingdom and another in Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure.

Meanwhile, we discovered that all the inhabitants of the house had been bitten by something. Me and Nani’s roommate not so much, but Nani and the roommate’s friend were really bitten up. We figured the fat cat had got in some ticks and hence the house was fumigated with a flea spray.

We tucked ourselves in at midnight to the excitement of an early morning trip to Orlando. I don’t know about Nani, but I felt the same excitement I’d feel the night before a school picnic to Esselworld. H how I missed feeling this excited! I knew  that the next two days were going to be $ well spent…

You, Me, Hum, Tum, Majja

Day 11, Tuesday 29th September, 2009

The fat cat stared me in my face. I woke expecting the purring to be the dainty Mulayam, but here was Tipper, in all his magnificence, staring me in the face to let him out. Damn, I should have been up two hours ago to make it on time for the walk. Dang. It was too sunny to go out now. So I busied myself with the writing. I was lagging behind in doing my daily posts to the blog and I was fast forgetting little things and what they made me think. Sometimes, I long for a Dictaphone. It’d be nice to record all my crazy ideas (yes, I love all my ideas)

The plan was to get a sushi take-out. But we decided to cook instead. On the menu: Chicken tandoori with boiled veggies and whole wheat bread. I had to make sure my sister was getting good nutrition while I was around.

And then something made me go yaay! Nani replied to me on twitter. She had finally started writing her blog. I have been after her forever to start writing a blog. I think she’s a fantastic writer, has an amazing sense of humor and a keen insight into human behaviour. And yeah, her theories can really get you thinking. I felt she had to write a blog. So, finally a brief twitter campaign later, Nani started her own blog (you can read it here).
I thought to myself, ‘Now I can read all about Nani’s life when I go back to Mumbai,’ and that’s it. The mood swung right back to the dumps.

Don’t get me wrong, I long to go home to my family, my home and my life, but the thought of that life with Nani so far away is a little overwhelming. Yes, I am missing my mom and dad and grandparents. I am missing PiWi, Snehu and I am missing the brother, the better friend and their idiosyncrasies. But then I start each day with Nani and end it with Nani. Yeah, call me an obsessive sister if you must, but I love falling asleep to random jabber with Nanchan and I love waking up a little annoyed with the mad songs she sets on her cellphone alarm. I guess, Mom and Dad will kick me on my backside, but yeah, Nani is like the missing jigsaw puzzle to my life.

I have said this before, but before she came into my life, I remember it being dull. At four, I threw a tantrum and acted up on the sibling rivalry, but Nani is the best thing that ever happened to me. And Mom and Dad, thank you ever so much. I feel grateful for the family we are and frankly, I love all the madness, highs and lows of being us.

I love it and if I had to, I’d do it all over again. Maybe, I’ll cut the sibling rivalry and useless rebellion out. Nah, throw it in. I think it strengthened our bond!

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Day 9, Sunday 27th September, 2009

Sundays are meant to be lazy. But today was going to be anything but lazy. We woke up and wished each other happy Dussra. “Arey yesterday papa said na, it was Navami? Today is Dussra. Let’s be veg!” Yes, my brilliant idea.
So no eggs, just some sev and a slice of bread. My mom and my uncle (mom’s brother) love this combo. And me and Nani, like we always do, have inherited a taste for it too. A soft slice of fresh bread with the crunchy sev can create magic. And suddenly we realised, yesterday, when Papa told us it was Navami, it was already tomorrow in India. Complex? Yeah that’s why we got confused. It was still Navami and we were just starting on it. No point celebrating Dussra a day in advance now, is there? I was mortified though. My family prides on telling the world what tithi falls when and I actually ended up celebrating Dussra a day in advance? Bad Shakti, very bad Shakti!

Anyway, too proud to go non-veg we stuck to our (vegetarian) guns. Veg biryani and dal fry. Fail again. I might be a good baker, but when it comes to Indian food, I pretty much suck. The dal was ‘fikki’ and the biryani was, well just about edible. “3 hours! We took 3 hours to make this!” Nani yelled at me. “Your gas stove took one hour to heat up, meri galti nai hai ok!”

Yeah, friction and all. Obviously, right after lunch, we thought was a good time to get some Starbucks into us. A delightful treat we allow ourselves everyday (yeah I’m obsessed!)
While walked on the beach, for the first time, truly carefree, Nani made a random comment. “You think I also look a little broader than usual?”
“No. Wait, what do u mean also?”
“You’re looking a little, umm, chubby. Maybe, it’s just water retention.” It was too late!
I was counting all the bagels, cream cheese and muffins and trying to figure out if they had indeed made themselves at home on my thighs or hips. This observation was done by careful inspecting my own reflection in every passing store window.
“No don’t worry, it’s all recent weight, it will come off quickly.”

I was full psyched out (Pannu, I saw you roll your eyes!) I made Nani walk an extra 20 minutes. In that extra walking we discovered a spot. A little rock thingy by the beach made for an ideal seat to rest our tired arses. Random conversation followed. This is what I love about my time with Nani, we never run out of things to talk about. Lifestyle, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Kotler, parents, music, Mumbai, Mulayam, we can go on forever.

While Nani jabbered with her classmate who called, I wondered, do we have so much to talk about because we spent these last 21 years together? Do we have these common grounds because we live in the same house, see (almost) the same films, television etc.

And then the super fertile mind went in the alert zone. If the above hypotheses were true, would that change now that she was living in the US? I know she loves the US, and I know that she might be away for two-three years easily. Will we drift apart? *Gulp*

Yes, true, I lived away from home for a year and a half and we sisters only grew closer, but this time it was different. She was a student back then. Both of us had enough time on our hands to chat, email and talk. When I go back, I’ll be back to working full on (I can’t help it, ok?) and she will be slogging her arse (I love the way the Brits say it :P) off to make a kickass portfolio during her time at the school. Will we find the time to keep the bond as strong?

When we walked back, I walked a little faster to kick some fat off (God bless Nani’s metabolism) and I got busy wondering. But every 3 minutes, I would stop and look behind, to check if Nani was there. I don’t know why, but I found some lame symbolism in this stopping and looking. I told myself rather, I promised myself that I would make the effort. I would make sure I made that extra effort to look behind every once in a while to make sure my kid sister was ok. And one day, I would find her back again in the same city if not the same house, sharing quality time yet again. Until then, I can always visit Miami, you don’t mind na, Nani?