Unusual friendships/relationships

Friendships…. how did yours start? Do you remember? Any special stories? Did friends turn into significant others?

Friends are the families we choose for ourselves and as far as I’m concerned, some friends of mine are more family than family will ever be. This post today, is about some of them and the story of jab we met.

Some friends, I’ve had since I was in rompers…. these include my cousins, people in my building, friends I went to school with. Some, I met in the various classes my mom had enrolled me in. There were music classes, drawing classes, coaching classes. Sab jagah padhaai likhaai aur kaam kam hota tha, baatein zyaada hoti thi. My mom used to be hairaan pareshaan – I’d drag home friends from every place for chai naashta. I used to talk to people I barely knew on the phone for hours together.

I was always over enthusiastic about meeting new people – no, I haven’t been an anti social cynic all my life. In my younger days, I used to be the life of every party. I’d have anecdotes to share, advice to offer and I was a cheerleader. If you got a bad grade, if the girl/boy you liked did not like you back, all you had to do was talk to me and life would seem brighter, if only for the brief time you were with me. This was partly because I used to be the new kid in class almost every year. Between kindergarten and second grade, I’d already changed 6 schools and I went to 3 different colleges before my education was complete. So needs must. After spending the first few months in brand new schools eating my lunch alone, I realized I’d have to fix the situation myself. So I started insinuating myself into groups. I became a people pleaser. I’d model my behavior on the people I wanted to hang out with including mimicking their speaking styles and in some cases, even their handwriting. I wasn’t doing this on purpose. It just seemed easier to get people to like me if I was more like them.

This was brought to my attention at the age of 15 by someone I thought I was good friends with. She probably did not harbor very friendly feelings towards me and one day in a scathing diatribe she told me I was the most shallow person she’d met. I was friends with her because it was convenient for me to be. She was the first and only person who pointed out that when I was with her, I spoke like her and my handwriting had also started to look like hers. However, when I was in a larger group she did not get as much of my attention. What she said, while extremely uncomfortable, was also true. So, I’d like to think I became a less shallow person after this incident. Unfortunately, this girl, Deepika, however no longer wanted to be friends with me. I’d say I was heartbroken, but a month later, I’d moved to a different city and made other friends, so yes she was right, she wasn’t as close a friend as I thought she was. She was a good friend to hang out with during English tuitions.

However, this post is not about broken friendships. It’s about how some of my strongest friendships have come from some of the weirdest situations. Not all of the people I mention here are friends with me now. Some, I’ve lost touch with since the non social media world that I inhabited growing up, meant that people would fall by the wayside when they’d leave town or your school or college. However, these friendships, for the duration they lasted, were intense affairs. There were late night conversations, extremely long letters exchanged, fleeting phone calls when we could find the time and money.  So here’s my toast to friends old and new. Some, I’ve been lucky enough to hold on to. Some, I’ve parted ways with less than amicably but that does not take away from the fact that there are times I miss them intensely.


1. Bhalachandra – I was in 12th grade, in Pune, in coaching classes for my H.S.C exams. There was a boy in my class. We used to wait at the same bus stop every day after class to take the bus home. This guy was a dead ringer for a senior of mine from school called Firdaus Bharucha. Firdaus used to be the class clown and a really good debater. He and I had partnered in a some debate competitions where we represented our school successfully and in school fun fairs etc. I left Bombay after my 10th grade and despite having spent over a year in Pune, I missed Bombay and my friends terribly. Looking at this boy at the bus stop would bring back memories of time spent with Firdaus and so on a couple of occasions I smiled at this boy. I think he thought I was a crank and soon I realized he’d make a pointed effort to look in a direction away from me so as to avoid my gaze. One day, halfway through the summer coaching session, I gathered the courage to walk up to this kid and explain to him why I was staring at him intently. He wouldn’t believe me until I showed him a picture of Firdaus’s. What followed was a friendship and a pen pal relationship that I maintained for quite a few years. Bhalachandra was from Jalgaon and after the summer coaching session, he went back home to Jalgaon. He was from a Marathi medium school and Marathi was not my strong suit then so we’d write to each other in Hindi. Eventually I lost touch with Bhalachandra, so no more friendship with Firdaus or his look alike, for me  😦

2. Binu: This one has a happy ending. B.Sc 1st year, a new college again, no friends or acquaintances again. Most of the people from 12th grade had gone on to engineering and  medical schools or they chose to remain in the college where they did their 11 & 12th. I’d been extremely unhappy in the college I’d studied in, in my 11th and 12th grade so I changed colleges. On the first day, I was standing by myself when I noticed a group of 3 girls. It looked like they’d known each other forever. They had.. they’d gone to the same school since kindergarten. However, they looked like a group I wanted to be a part of. So I walked up to them, said I had no friends and asked if I could join their group. They all graciously agreed. What followed was 3 years of giggling, crushing over boys, studying together, loving Patrick Swayze (since the one time we had a sleepover, we watched Dirty Dancing). I’ve lost touch with the rest of the group but Binu is a BFF. She and I rarely meet, we don’t even call each other often but she’s truly the first person that comes to mind when I say BFF. What’s nice is our girls are friends – the kind that meet once a year, maybe, but pick up where they left off.

Karthik: I met him for the first time at the hospital. We were new to Pune. My dad’s college friend was visiting us and he had a nephew at the NDA (National Defence Academy), so that Sunday, dad, his friend and I went to the NDA to see the nephew. While there, dad remembered that another college friend of his had a nephew at the NDA too. After a few inquiries, we found out he (the nephew) was at the hospital since he had broken his leg. We visited him and dad casually asked him to visit us sometime. Little did dad know that one should invite an NDA cadet home for lunch very carefully. Once his leg mended, Karthik was home practically every Sunday. He and I became friends and then closer than friends. He became my de facto older brother. He’d tease me, offer advice, be unnecessarily protective at times. He’s in my life still and I’m grateful. I talked to him after a very long time last year and now we WhatsApp occasionally. He was another person whom I would write letters to regularly. Each letter would be 8-10 pages long and I’d pay additional postage to send them to him wherever he was posted and he’d do the same. I knew he was going to propose to the love of his life since he wrote to me he was going to ask her to be his wife. He’s a good person and life has taught me that they are hard to come by. I’m keeping this one.

Gunjan: This was a friend I made on a train. I was working and used to travel between Bombay and Pune regularly. One day on my way back from Bombay, I saw this guy in an IIM Calcutta t shirt traveling standing since he didn’t have a ticket. The TTR came and he fined this guy for travelling without a ticket and for 4 hours on the train, this guy stood. Eventually, when we were about to get down I asked him if it was his first time travelling without a ticket. When he said yes, I said “Next time station jaldi aana aur train mein window seat pakad lena. Then when the TTR comes, have him issue you a ticket. That’s how you do this.” He asked why he should take my expert advice and I told him he should because I traveled to Bombay twice a week at the very least.  A number of my trips were last minute ones with no ticket, hence my subject matter expertise. A fast and furious friendship followed. Dinners, late night coffees, phone calls, meeting when we could. We remained friends until about 2 years ago and then I was dealing with some major crap in my life and willfully shut a number of people out. He was one of them. He’s someone I miss, though. We had an easy, uncomplicated relationship, one that isn’t quite as easily replicated.

Tamri: She and I became friends in 2009 although she’d married my cousin in 1999. The cousin she married was not one I kept in touch with. Then circumstances conspired and I visited their house in 2009. I found my cousin had married way out of his league. Tamri’s smart, pretty, accomplished and she makes it all look like a cakewalk. What I love about her the most is the change she’s wrought in my cousin. Someone I wasn’t very fond of is now one of my favorite relatives ever. She’s helped me reconnect with my cousin and for that I will love her forever.

Sudha: I owe 100% credit for this relationship to my blog and for Sudha alone, I’m grateful I started this blog. She commented on one of my blog posts. I commented on several of hers. We became friends in the virtual world and then in the real world. To read how our first meeting went, click here. Sudha and I have met several times after that and I often come away with the feeling, I want to be like her. I’ll be the first person to tell you I do not like to emulate people. I’m not one for role models either but Sudha makes me want to be like her. Someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be half the person and the personality she is.

Rakesh: Even by my standards, this friendship had the weirdest start and again I owe Sudha thanks for this one. I posted this post of hers on my Facebook page publicly since I fell in love with the song. A friend of my cousin’s (the very same cousin married to Tamri mentioned above) saw the post, fell in love with the song, then discovered Coke Studio Pakistan and fell in love with it, in turn and he and I became friends on Facebook. This is purely a musical friendship. Every time he discovers good music, especially from the Indian subcontinent, he sends it my way and every time I come across good music, I send it his way. And so we bond over something that knows no boundaries.

So there you have it. These are some of my most treasured friends and I met them all in fairly one off circumstances. I’d love to hear your stories. What are some of the unusual friendships you’ve ever struck? Do share…….









Transformation – Part 2

Have you ever wished for something all your life? It could be anything, small or big, doesn’t matter? Have you??

Have you found/experienced/enjoyed/achieved it yet? How did it feel? Did the actual getting of said wish match your lifelong anticipation of it??

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live in a library.. I’m crazy about books and no, I don’t mean uplifting Pulitzer Prize winning or Booker Mann winning stuff? I can read anything, even the newspaper that’s used to serve bhel** in, in India.

I come by this trait genetically. There’s a very popular story in our family about my dad. My grandma sent him to the local grocery store to buy salt. It was a 10 minute errand but it was over an hour and my dad had not come back. Worried, my grandma sent her oldest son to look for him. When my dad’s older brother arrived at the store he found my father engrossed in an article in the newspaper that the storekeeper had packed the salt in. Much yelling and lectures later, my dad came home with the salt.

I’m a little like my dad. I read everything. Billboards, magazines, books, newspapers – my appetite is voracious. All I ever wanted was to live in a library, preferably the one in Alexandria. If I couldn’t have that, I’d settle for the local one.

I was the only student in my class that not only read the library book assigned to me but I also read those assigned to my friends. I volunteered to do book reports for my brother if he brought me back the books I wanted to read from his school library.  I am over 40 now and have been reading for over 37 years of my life. My appetite for books does not abate, though.

Since living in a library seemed to be unachievable (it has been, so far. I haven’t given up hope, yet) the next best thing was to have a library at home.

My parents were more than obliging. While we didn’t have the real estate for a proper library, I never lacked for books. My dad traveled extensively for work and every time he came home, he’d come with a book or three. Not just that, every book would have an inscription on the first page – a short message and the date he bought the book. My mother made room for all the books my dad bought me, my brother and for himself, no matter how cramped our living space. Sometimes, the books would occupy a nice bookshelf. Other times, they’d be in a trunk, that, with some cushions on top would serve as a diwan*.

My mother donated, got rid of stuff all the time. She had to, we moved houses every year thanks to my dad’s job. I once counted how many houses I have lived in, in my lifetime. At last count, it was 25 and I have lived in only 7 different residences post marriage. So, in the 23 years before I got married, we lived in 18 different houses. No matter what she tossed or donated, she would lug the books from house to house and city to city.

The need for a room dedicated to books never went away. It was on my wishlist, something I’d think about before I fell asleep at night.

Recently, events unfolded in such a fashion that I finally had the opportunity to create a small scale version of my vision. You’ll gain insight into how this came about if you read my previous post. Given this opportunity, I finally made the effort to get the library I have always wanted.

The DH and I went to IKEA this past weekend and after browsing some and talking to a helpful store associate three, placed orders for a number of things. Everything got delivered today and I present to you, my slice of heaven



Today, I finally saw a life long dream come to life. It’s a scaled down version, no doubt, still it’s my dream and it came true after 37 years of waiting and after a dozen years of buying this house. I couldn’t be happier.

As we stacked books in the shelves today, I realized the daughter has more books than the husband and I put together. This gives me hope, that this space will see use even when I’m no longer around.

Here’s to a life long dream being fulfilled. Cheers to you all, from where else but the new library where I’m ensconced in one of the comfortable reading chairs.

*Diwan – a small, narrow seating area typically improvised using some trunks and colorful cushions and sheets on top.

**Bhel – an extremely popular street food in India.




Transformation Part 1


I have been a list maker all my life. Vain, in love with my own handwriting, picky about the pens I used, I’d write lists just because I loved to write with a crisp ball point pen on a clean sheet of paper. Even more, I loved crossing off things on my list. Without fail, the first thing on my list of things to do would be “Make list” that I’d gleefully cross off first.

The list making habit continues to this day. I make lists for work, grocery lists and lists of all the major things I want to do in a year. I don’t always have a pen and pad handy to write said lists, a lot of the list making happens on the phone, but more often than not, the list, the one for major projects, is in my head.

This year, long before the year had started I knew I’d have to do something special for the daughter. She’s going to be a teenager soon and I didn’t want to give her a phone or an electronic device to mark the occasion. We wanted to take a vacation around her birthday but my father-in-law’s sudden passing last year right before her birthday meant the DH would be in India for his first death anniversary.

After a lot of thinking, I promised her that for her birthday, I’d gift her an experience – either we’d do something brand new that she’d thoroughly enjoy or we’d do something for her that she’d able to enjoy for years to come.

I racked my brains for quite a while and eventually settled on giving her a new bedroom for her birthday.

In the past year we’ve been house hunting with zero success. I wanted to move the daughter to a different school which would necessitate moving closer to the school I wanted her to attend. However, as adamant as I have been about wanting her to change schools, the father and daughter have been even more adamant about not changing either house or school. Sometime in April, I gave up on the idea of moving house.

Since we are in this house until the daughter graduates high school, I put together a list of things I wanted changed around the house. None of these things was earth-shatteringly expensive though they were important since this house is now 13 years old and some things have to be fixed, rectified etc. But they were bound to be time consuming so we kept procrastinating. Finally, I decided, no more procrastination. So the list making began.

On this list were the following major items to do during the summer.

Fix the speaker systems – 2 years ago the DH got a surround sound speaker system and for some reason, a year ago, they stopped working. All it required was a call to audio store. The guy came out and within the hour he’d fixed the issue. Small thing but took us over a year to get to it.

Next on the list was getting a vegetable bed in the backyard and a couple of dogwood and/or magnolia trees. I have given up on the vegetable bed idea for this year. It requires a professional and the guy we trust to do it is booked solid this summer. So, the vegetable bed will have to wait until he has time. Meanwhile, the DD and I planted a few vegetables in pots and we have one pepper, a few sugar snap peas and maybe we’ll get some tomatoes, if we are lucky. The trees, I’m planning to plant in the next couple of weeks.




Work on the daughter’s science fair – This is a work in progress. I came up with the idea and the broad plan on how to do it, she’s working on the details. This will need a separate post that I will publish when the project is complete.

Work on a side golu – This, too, I’m keeping under wraps for now. If it pans out the way I want it to, I will need a separate post for this one as well.

I have always wanted a formal study. I want wall to wall bookshelves, comfortable reading chairs and said shelves stuffed to the gills with books. Somehow, the one thing I have wanted has never come to pass. Lack of time, patience, organization and yes, money, too has prevented me from getting one room in the house that’s 100% the way I want it to be.

Since I decided to give the daughter a new bedroom for her birthday 2 months from now, I decided, now was the time to also get the study I want.

Thus began what has been the most intensive project so far. First we had to move the daughter out of the room she was in. This is because the room we use as an office room now (the word use is misleading. We have a desk there and we go into the room when we need to print something once every 3-4 weeks. Otherwise, the room sits unused and has been that way since we moved into this house.) has a bigger closet. The daughter is growing up as are the number of her clothes. Soon, she will have an array of accessories and makeup, I can already see the signs so she needed a closet that could hold all her clothes and serve as an area to get dressed. The office room has a walk in closet that would fit the bill. When moving the daughter’s furniture out of her room, she decided that she didn’t want a bunk bed anymore. So we disassembled the bunk bed and donated the top half. We also got rid of the desk in the office room since it was over 10 years old and it hadn’t been assembled right by moi in the first place so it used to shake and wobble with every slight breeze.

Then came the task of converting what was the old office room into a room fit for a soon to be teen. All the stuff in the office room closet which included wires and routers, modems and manuals for appliances and devices we no longer own and/or use more than anything else was sorted through – some of it was recycled, some donated and the rest trashed.

Then came the task of doing something with the walls of the new bedroom. Investments were made in some good stencils, acrylic paints and some foam brushes, Thus began the painstaking task of stenciling the daughter’s man-chaha design onto the walls. 2 days of stenciling later, the room was halfway complete.

We now needed to get her a nightstand, one that would fit her radio, her phone and the 50,000 things she surrounds herself with before she sleeps. We did not want an ordinary nightstand in black or brown. A lot of window shopping later, we realized the stores did not carry quite what we wanted.

There was an old, small bookshelf made of pressed board that was in the office room closet. It held long forgotten books and scrap papers all of which were recycled. I was getting ready to donate the bookshelf as well, when the daughter said she wouldn’t mind using that as a nightstand as long as we could paint it a shade she liked. The idea would have worked too but the shelf was so small that it was impossible to fit the daughter’s radio and phone on top of the thing, never mind everything else. I kept thinking how I could re purpose the bookshelf so it could be used as a nightstand. As luck would have it, I was taking out trash when I saw a shelf from another bookshelf that I have wanted to toss now for some time. This shelf was used in the prayer room, I had placed it beneath the shelf that housed all my gods and I would draw rangoli on it. Over a period of time, it had acquired a number of small burn marks thanks to the incense sticks falling on to it or burnt matchsticks being placed on it. It was a rectangular shelf so I took it to the daughter’s room and placed it on top of the small bookcase to see if it would work as a nightstand.

The board that has now been re purposed as the top pf the nightstand was a fixture in the prayer room

It works perfectly. A little more money spent on spray paint and wood glue and we had a brand new nightstand next to the daughter’s bed. What’s more, it’s even her favorite shade.

All that remains to be done is to get the daughter’s closet organized. This too requires professionals and the way things are working out, we will only be able to get to this by the end of this year. For now, her clothes are in the closet and she’s using a chest of drawers that we used as a changing table when she was a baby for odds and ends. I will update you all when the closet is done and post pictures too. For now, here’s a look at the daughter’s new room.

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As for the other transformations – the trees, the new study, the daughter’s closet etc. stay tuned and watch this space. I will be posting updates as things unfold.

Summer’s back

If you know me you know that I’m not a fan of summer. I love the rains, the grey, gloomy days. I love it when my city turns dark at 3.00 in the afternoon and as long as school doesn’t close, I love snow days too. Another reason I’m not a big fan of summer in PDX is I’m rarely here for it.

Generally, around this time of the year I’m planning a trip to India. So I spend much of June in a frenzy of shopping, organizing and packing. By the time I come back in late August, fall weather has  debuted already. The nights are chillier, the days are losing their fiery glow and most of the blooming season is done.

Only my hardy roses continue to bloom until late October. Also, the DH is so busy playing golf, tennis and cricket that he has no time to take care of either home or yard. By the time I get back from India the grass is weed ridden if not dead, every plant besides the roses is on its last legs and I spend the remainder of summer vacation and the weekends after school opens just cleaning up the mess.

This year, I’m staying put in PDX so I have ample opportunity to see what summer has on offer. Thus far, other than one heat wave where we had scorching temperatures, the weather has been perfect. DD and I have added a number of plants to the backyard – a couple of foxgloves, canna lilies, dahlia, lavender and a really fragrant button rose. We also set up a tiny vegetable corner on a table that I was getting ready to throw out. This includes peppermint, Serrano peppers, sugar snap pea and a tomato plant. These plants are all tiny and are still struggling to find their roots but my roses, hydrangea and my lilies have been bountiful.

It makes my heart happy to water the yard everyday and to see the buds open. It pleases me even more to see the bees, dragonflies and butterflies visit. We even have a somewhat regular hummingbird come see us every so often. In fact the foxgloves were planted especially for the hummingbird since they like tubular flowers. While the foxgloves haven’t flowered spectacularly yet I’m hopeful they will do so next year thereby causing the hummingbird to bring his friends over as well.

I’ve always been told that people who visit PDX in the summer love it so much that they decide to relocate here. The charms of a Portland summer were lost on me for all these years. This year, though, I admit, Portland summers are second to none. My favorite place to hang out this summer has been the backyard, often with a good book and a good glass of wine. However I’m perfectly content to just sit and watch the bees and the butterflies flit about, to enjoy the mild fragrance of roses that the breeze brings my way.

I have often also been told that I find happiness in the smallest, most fleeting things. I have been asked to hold out for bigger, better things. I find though that bigger, better things rarely satisfy as much as a breezy evening watching nature put on a sparkling display.


More Instagram inspiration

What do you do if you have an hour or so of free time, a number of sharpies (permanent markers) on hand and a few old, boring coffee cups?

If you are anything like me and spend a lot of time browsing Instagram videos, here’s what you do. Take the plain old boring coffee mugs, aur toot pado mugs par (go beserk with the sharpies.) When you are done, bake the mugs in an oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your boring old mugs are boring no more. Draw, write, put down your life philosophy… you are limited only by your imagination. Easy enough to do with kids, it’s plenty entertaining for adults, as well.

I am looking forward to having a cup of coffee in my new (old) coffee cup.