Saturday, October 13, 2012
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
Sunday, April 29, 2012
I have been fortunate to visit a lot of places across India. Every place, I’d like to believe, has left an impact on me and made me a better person in some way or the other. I have no qualms over admitting that I get overwhelmed easily. Birds flying in the ‘V’ formation at twilight, lush green trees that line the roadsides, butterflies, or even the rustling of dry leaves under my feet can bring tears to my eyes. But my strongest reaction is to water—be it a lake, river, sea or ocean—I end up contributing my two drops by shedding a couple of tears or more.
Even before I left for Varanasi with my friends earlier this month, I was certain that I would cry uncontrollably and had warned them in advance lest they be alarmed in the middle of the river. Varanasi is not conventionally a destination that a trio of 27-28 year-olds choose as a getaway for an extended weekend. But when have we stuck to convention. Sangeeta had her heart set on buying her wedding sari from Benaras and her college friend Simrita and I, her colleague, bitching partner and shopping guru (Sangeeta dare you question this :P) took less than a second to jump at the proposal to accompany her to the holy city.
As is my wont, even before our train tickets were confirmed, I had troubled a lot of people on Twitter collecting information on what should be on our must-do list. My file, with the mail from Varun (@varungrover), our tickets and the train schedules was ready 3 days before we were to leave. Most of the people I told about our trip did not understand why we were going to another city to buy just a sari. As I understand, the trip was more than just to buy the sari. The idea is to make a celebration and an event out of every small and big thing that will lead to Sangeeta’s wedding. I think this is one of the main reasons why I like Sangeeta. She celebrates life to the maximum. A kindred soul.
The trip was everything I had imagined and more. I’m essentially against the practice of eating. I think chewing is an exercise and spending time on eating or thinking about eating is time thoroughly wasted. But surprise, surprise. We ate really amazing food. And I relished each and every bite. I have never been more excited about poori and kadu subzi in my life before. The jalebis were awesome, and even South Indian food—vada sambar and curd rice—tasted better in Varanasi. We had samosas and bhaaji at Banaras Hindu University and paan from Godhuliya. The chai and the khaari that we had at the roadside stall were akin to attaining nirvana. And trust me, I’m not exaggerating at all. The experience was truly divine.
Considering we were in the holiest of Hindu cities we did our share of temple visits. Each temple had a story to tell. The whole city is full of mythological anecdotes, historical events, delicious delicacies and fragrances that can transport you to heaven with every breath (and no, I’m not talking about bhaang, gaanja etc.). The temples were clean and crowded. A lot of people in Delhi had warned us that the city is very dirty but either we were wearing rose coloured glasses or the city had been cleaned just to welcome us because we really thought that it was very clean especially if one takes into account the number of people who come there everyday.
We visited Sarnath and just the thought that I was walking on the ground where the great emperor Ashoka had once walked excited me enough to repeat this several times to my friends. Fortunately, Sangeeta and Simrita are history experts and I had two very knowledgeable guides who managed to shut me up by talking about the history of the place and the facts that historians have deduced by studying the architectural ruins.
The highlight of the trip was the friendly nature of the people. Everyone we met liked to talk. They spoke volumes but the proverbial ‘mithaas’ in their voice managed to melt all of us. Be it the cab driver, the boatman, the autorickshaw driver, the shop keepers or the waiters that served us. Being a Gulzar fan I was thrilled to meet his doppelganger just weeks after meeting the real genius poet. Sangeeta bought her wedding sari from the shop called Rozy Silk and the shopkeeper was christened Gulzar Uncle within 5 minutes of stepping in his shop. I can speak for all of us when I say we have never had more fun shopping.
Pic courtsey: Sunaina Das
It was on Gulzar uncle’s suggestion that we decided to attend the world famous Ganga aarti on board a boat. I’m glad we met Gulzar Uncle and listened to what he said. The boat ride was the best decision we took. Words can do no justice for what we experienced in those 2-3 hours on the boat. The expanse of the river, the lights from the lamps, the sound of the holy chants and the aarti, the devotion of people in other boats, ensured that there was not a dry eye on our boat. It was the first time that I spoke to my mother from the middle of a river. She told me that I was the first one from the immediate family to have visited Kaashi. She also emphasised that being a Hindu, it was one of the most sacred places to be visited in a lifetime. Just after keeping the phone down I looked at the river and took a deep breath. It was a moment that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I was going through a mix of emotions—I was happy to be experiencing it, I was missing loved ones, I was remembering people who were no longer living or were not in my life, I was mentally taking notes so as to describe the moment to the people who would come into my life later, I was thanking the almighty for saving my mother’s life, I was asking Him for more blessings—I was quiet while doing all of this. Only a continuous stream of tears adorned my face. I’m sure my friends appreciated this silence from my end. This was the longest I was silent throughout the 3-day long trip.
The trip was special because I started to like Sangeeta and her younger sister, Sunaina (Pinky), even more. I bonded really well with Simrita and hopefully have found a travelling partner in her. I felt grown-up (in a good way) checking out and settling the bill of the hotel. I bought my first Banarasi Sari. I enjoyed food after a long time. I loved interacting with the good, warm and down to earth people of Varanasi.
I cannot wait to go back again!
Friday, March 16, 2012
The transition, not as smooth as I would have liked
One day she was answering my questions,
Looking after me like I was still a child,
And fighting with the world one person at a time
Defending my every whim, my mother
The very next, on a hospital bed
She was looking at me for answers
Fighting for every breath,
And completely dependent on me,
Consulting me on matters of life and death, my daughter
The switch, sudden as lightning
Made me want to shout at the One controlling the world
Yet I’ve never been more at a loss for words
And completely caught up with all that had to be done
Surrounded by faces suddenly I was all alone
A year, long and arduous as it was
Survivors, brave and strong
We made it through the turbulent waters
And we smile, our broken yet wide, proud smiles
There are tears as well, of triumph over cancer
Back to the routine, boring and mundane
She again is the mother with the final word
I’m once again the daughter with whims and wishes
And we fight, talk, laugh, share
All the while being grateful for each day we have
Monday, March 05, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
With the first coffee cups of the day in our hands, I started telling Sangeeta in painful details about how Oprah and SRK were amongst my favourite people in the world and how they had taught me different but equally important life lessons. I did not say it to her then and might not appreciate her to her face as long as we are friends but Sangeeta is a patient girl. She listened to me go on and on. I hope all this praise and me calling her patient is true and she was not in fact revising one of her favourite books in her head while nodding politely at me.
Just as I was about to begin a new and long story about how I’m super intelligent because I’ve been gifted with enough sense to know that I should be learning from legends like Oprah, Kasturi came to my desk and announced that there was a meeting which I had to attend. Flabbergasted at being denied the joy of enriching Sangeeta’s life with my tales some more I just about managed to hide my anger. Reminding myself that work comes first I picked up my blue pen, phone and letter pad and walked like a hero to the small conference room.
I was sure that everyone, well there were 5 people in the meeting room, was up to something as the meeting seemed without an agenda and all I did for the next 3 hours was look at my watch and shout at everyone in the room. When I came out of the room my friends gushed and told me I had missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Oprah had come to office and had brought rajma chawal with her for everyone. As is my wont, my eyes welled up and tears started flowing in a bid to match the volume of water in the Indian Ocean. However, someone shouted at me and asked me to stop as Ranjan sir was just entering our department. The way my tear ducts stopped working abruptly was so mechanical that it was comical.
Heartbroken at not meeting Oprah and missing out on rajma chawal I sulked all day while everyone around me spoke about how nice she was. I sat in my corner and cursed the man who took me for the meeting. Time had decided to follow in the footsteps of a snail and all I wanted to do was go home and howl sad songs into the pillow. I picked up my laptop bag which suddenly weighed heavier than usual and started climbing down the stairs. If things weren’t already bad, just as I stretched my arm to open my car door, a man pulled me into a big car and we were out of the office campus before I could say, ‘SRK’.
Not one to surrender easily, I struggled a bit but was soon distracted by the awesome interiors of the car. The man who had pulled me in smiled at me and I blushed. It was my latest TV crush—Darren Criss who plays the role of Blaine Anderson in Glee. He told me that he was just escorting me to the place where I was to spend the rest of the evening and would not be able to spend time with me even though he wanted to. I sighed and before I could protest the car stopped and I was being pulled out by Gail (Oprah’s best friend). She hugged me and told me that since I was unable to meet Oprah at office I was to be one of the audience members for her talk show.
I was taken to a beautiful green room and dressed in a beautiful black dress. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt a twinge of sadness. This pretty and fated to sit in the audience, life was just unfair. There was an announcement and I was ushered to the studio. The sight of the cream sofa and Oprah looking stunning in red distracted me enough to miss a big picture of me, yes the narcissistic me, on the screen behind her. I saw her coming towards me and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow! She is amazing. She greets everyone in the audience individually.’ Just as this thought tried to make a home in the corners of my brain, Oprah held my hand and said in her inimitable style, ‘Priyanka Khot, welcome to the best hour of your life and stop crying!’ Never in my wildest dream had I imagined that I would disobey Oprah but there I was crying in a fashion that would give even Smriti ‘Tulsi’ Irani of the Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi fame a run for her money.
After drinking several glasses of water and being hugged my Oprah for several minutes I regained composure and sat down on the sofa where Tom Cruise had once jumped. We spoke about books. She asked me for a book recommendation and in my trademark style I decided to tell her peripheral details as well. I told her that my friend Sangeeta had recommended a book called, The Palace of Illusions to me and I absolutely loved the book and think Oprah should read it too. At this point there was a collective sigh of exasperation from the audience. It was their way of telling me that I had crossed the line by recommending a book to the reading queen—Oprah.
Oprah and I both ignored the audience. She in fact said, ‘Speaking of Sangeeta...’ and pointed to the screen where a slideshow of my photographs (mostly self-portraits) had been running till now. Viola! Sangeeta appeared on the screen with her big beautiful smile intact. She said, ‘Dekha! Huhuhuhahaaaa! Kar diya na surprise. She then turned her attention to Oprah and decided to tell everyone how SRK was my other favourite person and I believed that I had learned a lot from both Oprah and SRK. Sangeeta conveyed her bewilderment perfectly, saying, ‘But you know what, although Priyanka truly believes that a hug from both or either one of you will solve all her troubles, for some reason she never wants to meet SRK.’
Just as Sangeeta finished pronouncing the last syllable of her monologue, I saw the audience going into a state of frenzy from the corner of my eye. Then the title track of Kal Ho Na Ho started playing and I began to cry once again. Oprah took me by my shoulders and turned me around while I refused to lift my head up. I tried to drown my sobs into my palms. That was the best moment of my life. While he was hugging me and telling me to look at him, Oprah was shouting to the audience, ‘Here is the man who has a bigger fan following than Tom Cruise. Here is the man who can dance with women without any music. Here is SRKKKKKKKKKKKK!”
A big smile on my face, tears flowing as freely as the water of Niagara Falls, thanking Sangeeta in my heart for letting my secret out, I was hugging SRK and Oprah.
Just then, my mom decided to wake me up. HOW RUDE!
Friday, January 20, 2012