21st Feb: My Best Friend’s Birthday And More

21st of February. I have never seen someone so excited about birthdays. My best friend, born in February, has this excitement that lasts for the whole month. And not like she is into extravagant things of splurging money into lavish parties and shopping all the time. Very small things are enough to make her happy: eating her favourite pani-puri, going on a long drive, watching movies/cricket match, and playing silly games. Her spirit to cherish every single moment as it came, is incredible. “This is the third time in this week you are eating paani-puri, you will fall sick!” “Shut up, it is my Birthday month!” she would hush me up. 


Not just her own birthday, she remains perennially excited all year, about all birthdays of loved ones. It so happens that she has a huge family and a long list of friends, so it keeps going on. Almost like a project, she makes a list of things that could be done: surprise party, theme dressing, favourite food, etc. Everyone who has known her closely can boast of handmade gifts presented by her. She will paint, make videos-photo collages-cards-origami, and none of it would be anything like you would have ever seen. You see the gift and you know that it was made out of sheer talent and pure love.

You would hold it in your hand and wonder, wow, what have I done to deserve this? But she hated writing. So she would get everything ready and then I would help her with the words. In most cases, she didn’t have to explain much. I would look at the thing and know exactly what she wants to express out of it. I would irritate her by saying things right in her mind before she could say them. This was obviously not because I am a sorcerer or anything. It was because of the bond we shared. 

On my 21st birthday, she gifts me a card, which she nervously apologises about. I am sorry I could not do more. She was sick during that period. So this card had a string-pulled curtain made out of a piece of transparent georgette cloth. When I pulled that curtain, I saw a young lady standing confidently on stage. I looked at her. And she said, “Time to open the curtains and come out in the world? Don’t you think, Aarti?”

We have been friends since the 6th grade so you can imagine the number of surprises and gifts we would have given each other. For her 22nd birthday though, I was completely confused. What is it that I haven’t done already? But she did not give me the opportunity to anything. She did not see her 22nd birthday. I tried to write this note in the tone that: “She was, she used to..” But that was somehow awkward. The truth is that she is. And she will stay.  Anything that I ever do well, whether it is my writing, singing, reading, or my humour; everything was first discovered by her. 

So what could be done for her birthday now? We could be there and mourn. But there is a designated death anniversary for it, isn’t it? “Prioritize people, it’s my birthday!” I imagine her voice in my head. However I would love to just be under my blanket and not do a thing, that very thing would be an antithesis to her birthday. We decided not to. Just like her, we made a list instead.

Since 5 years, we have celebrated her birthday like a carnival. Her family (even extended) and closest friends, all of us come together and do things that would make her happy. Just bizarre, crazy, fun ideas! I guess it was the second year where we themed a carnival as ‘Do something you have never done before’. Her life was the perfect example of that. That was the first time I tried stand-up comedy. It was apparently a hit and a great attempt. But I would have never done it if it were not for her birthday.

Her parents spend the most part of her birthday, every year in serving and giving their time to people in need (which they do during the year too). With that, they also make some significant changes in their regular lives: treating their employees for a feast, and cleaning up some piled up mess in the house, whatever works.  They have to be the bravest parents you’d ever know.

If she were here today, I think she would have been a beautiful 27-year-old, free-spirited, maybe travelling the world, doing things for people who need her help, learning new things and adding new skills to her hat. She has to constantly redefine herself, be new every day. And that’s how we try to do too.  It is like a great anchor to spend the day like she would have liked us to because our ways would clearly be no good.

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My Eternal Hate For Maths And New Love For Finance

I can’t remember the exact year when I gave up on Maths. It has to be some time during high school but I can’t figure what grade. This was perhaps the time when I had started to feel like Math was a monster that was trying to suffocate me by dumping my head into plastic and not letting go. That’s it. Death by Maths.
 
I still remember my 10th grade, how my best friend used to sit with me and explain different theories, formulas and problem sums. She used to be gentle (unlike the ruthless Math teachers at school) and caring. I would understand exactly everything she explained. However, while solving the same problem sums in the examination hall, the formulas would begin dancing in front of me, finally jumbling up into an unsolvable mystery.
 
Despite my hatred for Math, it so happens that a hell lot of my closest friends are math geniuses. I don’t know if this is a case of opposite’s attract but we tolerate each other quite well. And to make it clear, I am not talking about regular people who can do math well, just people who love numbers as much as I love words. No, these are math-maniacs, math-freaks. My boyfriend is the kind of a guy (apart from being a chartered accountant and a consultant to EY) you throw a phone number at, and then meet him after 10 days, ask him that number and he will tell you the same, extracting it merely from his memory. He is utterly good at the number game, and apart from his unhealthy obsession for branded watches, I find his thriftiness almost sexy. It baffles me, yes, but this is also subject of deep admiration. Just like he admires my way with words. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we make a good couple (7 years, going strong).
 

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Why You Should Cook as An International Student

Why You Should Cook as An International Student
What is the most primary change that has happened to me after coming to London? From not cooking ever (with no interest or intention) to cooking every day, every single meal, I have come a long way. If you have known me remotely, you know that so far in my life I have spent my life (so far) avoiding the kitchen. At parties, my friends used to also joke that while our other female friends would comfortably go and check out what’s happening in the kitchen, I would comfortably make interesting conversations with the men and kids in the room.

 

A very dear friend who lives alone had once told me, “For a house to be full of life, the kitchen must be working.” Although I did understand what he meant, I was to realize its true meaning a few years later. As far as I remember, kitchen and make-up were never my things. While the latter remains true even now, especially when you are an international student, far away from the comforts of home, I soon realized cooking is not just a way to save money and survive but it can also be a great creative outlet. Notwithstanding that cooking is a life skill that everyone should know.

Not Bragging

 

Working on (intense) academic essays needs a lot of academic reading, and you can’t do it all day unless you plan to go nuts. You need a balance. Hence, it is always a work in progress. On the other side, even your Twitter profile (2 likes, 1 retweet) gets more hits than your job applications. Indeed.com (one of the biggest job portals in London) says 47% of the job applicants don’t get a reply before three weeks, 37% get a reply within a week and only 4% hear back within a day. Nevertheless, there are ways you can follow-up with them. Still, however great I think of myself, I may as well be in the first category. So that is work in progress there.

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London: Where Your Judgements Don’t Matter

London: Where Your Judgements Don’t Matter
I had read 500 blogs about London before coming to the United Kingdom:
  • How to dress in London?
  • How friendly are British people?
  • Where to shop for clothes/shoes/jackets in London?
  • Free things to do in London.
  • How to live on a budget in London?
  • Things to know about the London Tube.
  • Top Five Things About British Etiquette

One of the Biggest and Oldest Stations

It’s been around two months now and I have learnt that London doesn’t give a damn. At any given point in time, you are your worst judge. Other people don’t care half as much. Before I left India, I anyway told myself that this year I will keep my judgements aside (even if they seem right). And I realize that not making strong conclusions/stereotypes makes life a bit more interesting. It gives a chance for life to surprise you.

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The London Reader: Part 1

The London Reader: Part 1
I have been a reader for years and London seems to be full of readers. Reading, for me, is both, a refuge and a battlefield. It’s been over a month since I have shifted to the United Kingdom for my Masters. It takes me 30 minutes to reach London and a total of 1.5 hours to reach to my university. In that sense, I thought it would be interesting to write this note, sharing my experience here as a reader. This one is not about the libraries and bookshops of London because that deserves a separate blog. This one is more about reading while commuting.
In my first few days in London, I was pleasantly surprised by looking at the number of diverse readers I would see everywhere around me- people reading physical books, kindle, newspapers, magazines- what not. In the train/tube, on the roads, in restaurants, everywhere. On the other hand, I wasn’t very comfortable yet. When you are new to a place, you are constantly vigilant. I didn’t want to miss a turn or miss a stop or being taken advantage of. There was so much to see, so much to observe. Now, after a month, I see myself reading everywhere! I carry two bags, coffee mug in one hand and my book/kindle in another. And that too in the most uncomfortable seating or standing position.
The underground tube in London makes itself more conducive to reading because there is no network or wifi down there. Also, listening to music or watching videos is inadvisable (in London, headphones in someone’s ears has a special meaning. It means don’t talk to me.) because the tube is too loud already. In such a situation, you can choose to stare at some spare space (because you can’t stare at people, that’s too rude) or you can choose to read.

Reading in the London Underground Tube

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The Open Mic Comedy Scene in Ahmedabad Needs Real Audience

The Open Mic Comedy Scene in Ahmedabad Needs Real Audience

Comedy is the only performance oriented art form where you can be noticed on the basis of your content irrespective of what body type, caste, gender, nationality, race, profession and sexual orientation you are from. Although mentally I kept contemplating about standup comedy since 2016, I tried it for the first time only in January 2018. The show was at a generous person’s drawing room and organized by the new but sassy Mahila Manch. 

Today, I am a part of this vibrant group that focuses on doing comedy about important themes in the Indian society such as body shaming, politics, gender, marriages, alcohol, singlehood and much more. I am exactly 12 performances old. Even with my limited experience, I can easily say that the open-mic comedy scene in Ahmedabad needs more audience.

Of course, there are other issues too:

  • lack of economic/free spaces that allow comedy
  • one or two common locations
  • fewer groups that don’t screen your content
  • lesser female comics in the circuit
  • dispersed social media/whatsapp groups for newbies
  • not enough good content and formats (more could be done)
  • lack of accessible training and mentorship

An open-mic is a place where comics go to try out their new jokes infront of a relatively smaller audience set (25-50) so when they go on a big stage, they are more confident. National and international comedy stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Hasan Minaj, Vir Das, Ali Wong, Aditi Mittal, (long list follows….), had once performed in front of a smaller audience. Continue reading “The Open Mic Comedy Scene in Ahmedabad Needs Real Audience”

Funny Short Stories: The Solution

A few days back, I was at a friend’s place, sitting on the swing outside, doing my writing. The surroundings here are very green. I saw a couple (college-going) write right in front of me, outside the wall of the house. The girl was sitting on her activa and the guy was standing facing her. I assumed they were a couple because of their body language, having some fun conversation, laughing; I don’t know- the glow of new love?
 
They stood in a way that one of the trees at my friend’s place, slightly blocked them from me, I could see more of the girl and less of the boy. I was working and I usually mind my own business. This one moment, the girl made an eye-contact with me. She got up almost immediately and shifted to the boy’s activa. Now, I couldn’t see less of the girl, more of the boy. Soon, they got slightly intimate, perhaps a kiss? Could not see fully, just assumed. I decided to not say anything or see anything more. I focused on my laptop screen. In a minute, I heard a shout from the house opposite. “Jata raho ahi thi!” (Leave this place at once.) This is a 25-ish boy living across.

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