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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I've been doing a writing thing with this person, we'll call him K.

We also don't know if he wants to be identified here yet, hence, we'll assign him a name conducive to me.

K's a rather gifted writer himself. He's criminally talented and, if anything, puts the fear of God in me when we do our thing.

What's the thing, you ask?


K and I have been writing 'newsletters' to each other for a bit now. It's not been a month, and honestly, if something like this lasts a month, I'd consider sending these to a publisher. K, if you're reading this, I'll split profits, I swear.

I'd tell you more but it's so incredibly personal that I also don't want to share this with anyone.

I don't know if he'll feel violated or what but this has been raw, intimate, and every bit wholesome.

For over a month, I'd been in my bed, sulking and playing silly games. Somehow, this exercise is the only thing I look forward to in my day and our writing routine has set me back to some disciplined life. Where I know, I have to write by a certain hour.

Years ago, I recall, someone close to me at the time had said, how I made him want to be a better man.

I'm finally able to pay that compliment back and take it forward. K, makes me want to be a better person, a better writer, and certainly someone who feels motivated enough to do something, anything.

I have been seeing people around me who have absolutely given up and then there are those who are struggling. To be able to have some discipline in writing and then keeping it up, it truly takes a person to do that.

Because I've neglected this page and I don't want to, here's one whole letter that I wrote. Feel free to skim, skip, or ignore.



You inserted new in the newsletter today. I was under the impression only Sanjay Dutt attended Sanawar. Saif, to my mind, studied in the UK. 

I've heard of the school, mildly brushed shoulders with someone who attended it, at an internship years ago. It's something about these kids who have attended fancy schools, be it residential or day boarding. They'll always make it a point to remind you about it. A lot like people who are either on specific diets such as Keto or Vegan or those who'd always remind you of how privileged and hashtag blessed they are viz a vis showing their material goods in multiplicities. 

On a side note, I've been curious about whether you attended a fancy or a regular school? Feel free to ignore it. It borders on the personal. Or consider this like letters to the editor. Maybe we should introduce a format for one on one questions? One or two a week? 

Outside of my interpersonal connections in the city with people who attended such schools, I've noted this trend on dating apps at large. Men as old as 30 and above would write "Lawrence School..." in their bio and affiliations, making you wonder if they peaked at 8 when their parents decided to invest an FD worth of amount in their primary and secondary education. Specifically with Doon and Sanawar. 

Maybe I've told you this before, maybe never, or maybe in passing, I hated my time in school with a fervour. Only second to my last job, a terrible stint in PR which has driven me to a point where I don't know how to emerge out of. Atleast in school, my refuge was the library or the goal that I'd crack the best liberal arts college in Delhi or some, but now, there's seemingly nothing. 

For the most part, there was a sense of reverse bullying in my school. If you had new books to class, you'd be considered an outcast for most reasons. Same with listening to music that most kids didn't. I have a few friends from school who were similarly wired, into reading and writing regardless of their background but it wasn't a pleasant ride. 

I attended a school that nobody's ever heard of, barring those who attended it and their parents who pushed their kids in. We had most kids from underprivileged backgrounds in the class. The idea was for everyone to seamlessly blend in and not know the backgrounds, something most public schools, atleast back in the day failed in delivering. Their parents couldn't afford to buy books, pay fees, or buy the uniform and they depended on the parents of those who could sponsor that for the most part. Our fee was affordable, possibly the cheapest in the city for a Convent and it harboured on a sense of community giving. Keeping that merriment strong, we didn't have a canteen so everyone could be equal, without kids feeling left out of eating goodies or whatever else school canteens serve.

My first few trips to the DU campuses in Delhi to secure admission were marked with doing a thorough audit of canteens just so I could feel like how kids my age felt. Inside a canteen

In the first year of my undergraduate classes, I never carried a tiffin and ate at the Café daily. 
(yep, one of the two colleges with the café and not canteen. You can roll your eyes here.) 

It was an experience to see what it's like having an outlet to feed yourself if you're hungry beyond the tiffin you carry. I got bored soon but that 1 year made up for 14 years of canteen fomo. 

During the Masters, it was pretty much the first time I came across 'canteen' in the real sense of things. We had a standard fixed menu, nothing fancy, like my undergraduate college café where we could pick from 12 kinds of hot beverages including Kashmiri Qawha, and be spoilt to pick from Sausage Rolls or Keema Samosa during assembly (yep, we also had assembly). By the third year, my pretentious ass was surviving on a croissant, a cup of coffee for breakfast, and then some Mac 'n' Cheese with Garlic Bread post music rehearsals in the evening, if I felt particularly ravenous. 

The Masters' college had a rustic canteen. They made cheap Biryani with watered-down Raita. At rupees 30, the entire university thought that our canteen did the best rendition of Chicken Biryani among all colleges on campus. Other than Biryani, they did samosas in the evening and eggs in the day. That's it. Not a third thing. If you were lucky, samosas would be replaced with Bread Pakoras and Biryani with Chole Bhature. Only if you were lucky, maybe once a month on a Saturday. The food was edible at best, on a good day. On other days, we relied on our tiffins and samosas to shove our emotions down after four hours of world cinema in a classroom smelling of feet. They had no coffee, no Diet Coke, no five kinds of chips including expensive Cheese Balls or cheap Fun Flips. It was as basic as the canteen at the National Archives, one of the worst in the city if you were to ask me. 

We would step out for tea between double lectures, and smoke in the canteen, despite the large no smoking inside canteen banner. That's something that'll always remind me of Post Graduation. The canteen was a space so dingy and dark, one would never imagine that we would spend hours after classes, laying down on the narrow benches and staring at the ceiling. The other day you wrote a beautiful account of growing up. I had my fair share of instances that I can use to point of how I turned from a dreamy teenager into a hardened adult. The most I remember are instances of that take a dive through to the runaway of flights of fancy, the canteen. 

That canteen has seen a lot of episodes. Some critical, some forgettable. I've cried my heart out atleast a dozen times in two years, shot my films, written scripts, rehearsed, studied, smoked, conceptualized theatre, theory, and enjoyed some of the best and the worst times of my life in that tiny cramped space with a tube light and a few fans. The last I visited during a research trip, the canteen had been broken down and a shanty had come up in its place. The menu had changed, slightly. Samosas still the same. Of all things, I was particularly bummed about the gravel in place of the room which saw me turn from a snooty uptight girl from a fancy college to someone who was now well versed in the fine art of navigating the streets. That stint taught me a lot of valuable lessons, all of which were recounted and invested in long term memories in that canteen.  

An instance I can never forget is that time I texted my best friend in the day, on how I wanted an Arrabiata, an omelette and then some brownies and he responded with, "in your dreams". I had bunked college that day and was coming in to submit an assignment just after lunch. When I reached the college, he asked me to meet him in the canteen, ten minutes before class and I was surprised with a plate of pasta in Arrabiata, a cheese omelette, and a brownie. 

Right after my text, he took a rickshaw till the nearest market, picked the raw ingredients for the pasta, and on his way out, stopped at the nearest bakery for a quick takeaway of brownie. He's a fabulous cook and whipped the pasta in the canteen kitchen and requested the canteen guy to make an omelette with the cheese he had bought. Essentially nailing it to the T, because he knew how badly I missed my 'fancy college café'. Episodes like these, make you believe in the kindness of the world. Then there's that of strangers on the internet, aka Tinder dates. 

The PUA bit is something that bothered me a lot, on how could I not see it during the evening. Between our one phone conversation and that one meet-up, all his stories were inconsistent and wobbly. During drinks, he pulled a few funny stunts, some of them far too outgoing while the rest, little hard to believe. Standard Hollywood bar caricature-like, and I was flabbergasted. I think I'm better prepared to take on a situation like that today, but when you go through something like that for the first time, it's different than a cinematic interpretation of watching or reading in a book. It did as much as alert me that something was amiss but I wish I had the foresight to slap the guy then and there. 

When I called him out on his bullshit during our subsequent texts over the next week, he casually blamed me for overthinking. He went as far as texting for a few long months despite radio silence and even returned to wish 'Happy New Year' two months later. You'd think the uncle writing to you to marry the kid after clearing your exams would be cool but I have a PUA's text calling me "Einstein". 

K-1, A-1. 


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