Infinite Heart

When I was twelve I fell in love with Amanda. She played basketball, had a chic (for the ‘90s) ‘mushroom’ haircut, and the widest, most gleeful smile. Stricken by indecision even then, I faithfully divided my affection between three others—Joyce, Feli, and someone whose name, decades on, utterly fails me. I wasn’t alone on this tender tour de force. At my convent school in Shillong, girls had crushes on other girls (usually their seniors) all the time. Continue reading “Infinite Heart”

The Gift of Stories

I heard my first stories from a woman who couldn’t read or write.

A small, stout lady with a soft, full moon face ringed by silver tresses. Dark once, always worn in a bun, fat, plump, perched on the back of her head like a dinner roll. The colour of her hair might be the only thing that’s changed dramatically over the years; her face, as far as I can remember, has always been intensely lined. A coastal shelf of experience.

Continue reading “The Gift of Stories”

Journey From the Hills

It began with a bookshelf.

An ordinary bookshelf made of dark wood, devoid of elegant carvings or an elaborately decorated plinth. In my mind it looms far above me. Although, I suspect, if I stood before it now, it would appear quite normal, perhaps even a tad small. Like walking into a house from childhood, and discovering the rooms aren’t as large as you’d always imagined, the ceiling not as high.

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‘Amby’ memories

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet” ― Robert Browning

With the news that Hindustan Motors (HM) has suspended production of the Ambassador, India heaved a collective nostalgic sigh. After all, this mightily rotund tank of a car has been around forever (1957 is forever), taking up much space on our mostly narrow, potholed roads. And for those of us old enough to remember our pre-liberalisation days, the beloved ‘Amby’ is slotted with Things From Childhood — NP chewing gum, Chitrahaar, Disney Hour, VHS Tapes, Tinkle comics, Bournvita, Thums Up. Items endowed with mystical weight, bearing the insignia of youth, of sepia-tinted memory, of simpler, more innocent times. Naturally, we feel a tug of loss.

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About to embark on second edits for Seahorse, a commissioned essay for HarperCollins, a potential conference trip to…wait for it…Slovenia in August, and a reading at the London Short Story Festival next month. But before that a little travel and respite this last week of May.

We Need New Names

Our ‘celebrations’ need new names.

Ideal, of course, if, to begin with, we had no occasion to carve out a ‘women’s’ day. But if celebrate we must, let’s do so with quiet rebellion. And an all-embracing  sans souci–ness that topples the mightily narrow definitive constraints of the event.

I invite you to throw it open. Continue reading “We Need New Names”

Putting People in a Box

Years ago, when I moved to Delhi from Shillong to study and consequently work there, I had little notion of being a ‘Northeasterner.’ Until, of course, I was repeatedly reminded – by the couple who refused to rent me a flat in East of Kailash, by the lady who didn’t want me to move into her barsati in Defence Colony. Through these experiences I realized that, after a while, there is a real danger of relinquishing the possibility to imagine ourselves beyond categories. We simply accept to align with certain identities – ‘us’ as outsiders, ‘them’ as locals – using a language that is distinctly polarised. Continue reading “Putting People in a Box”

The Place I Cannot Call Home

I left Delhi because X, my then boyfriend, and I were beaten up in Lado Sarai.

Only a handful of people know this, but there, I’ve said it. I never thought I would, but I have.

It’s been almost five years, and I can still remember the woman’s face. The woman who grabbed me by my hair, took off her slipper and beat me with it all across my back, my face, my legs. She was tall and strong and wearing a dark blue salwar.

In my head she is always wearing a dark blue salwar. She was much too strong for me to wrestle out of her grasp.

Continue reading “The Place I Cannot Call Home”