A Lesson in English a.k.a. don’t mess with an English major


I’ve been working as a freelance editor and proofreader for the noteworthy freelancing website Upwork since July and I will now be deactivating my account.

It was truly a wonderful experience while it lasted, working odd transcription jobs here and there to supplement my current income. I got myself enough to buy my very own Samson Meteor mic to record better quality songs which I will love and cherish for eternity and nobody can take that experience away from me.

But I just got ‘fired’ from a job that has left a very lasting and bad impression on me. At least I’ve gotten an anecdote out of this whole ordeal, one that has taught me to never underestimate the power of ignorance especially when it comes to the English language. I guess this is a way for me to vent. For the sake of protecting my client’s identity, I will rename him Mr. Taco Bell. So here it goes:

It all began last Sunday when Mr. Taco Bell, after a month’s absence, informed me that he now had new work for me. I was simply ecstatic. Not that my current job at a very well established publishing house isn’t good enough – I actually cannot believe how lucky I am to be doing something I genuinely enjoy – but, you know, millennials. We like to earn money and find ways to retire early, am I right or what?

So, here’s how Mr. Taco Bell phrased his offer:

Dear Echo,

I hope you’ve been doing well. Congrats on your first experience at one of my many chain fast food joints. I know, the tacos are shit small.

I have new work for you, if you’re interested.

  1. Chopping up fresh ingredients for our delicious tacos and assembling the tacos for delivery.
  2. Quality control of said tacos for utmost quality of quality-ness.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Kind regards,
Mr. Taco Bell

Obviously, Mr. Taco Bell didn’t offer me those specific tasks to perform but the content of the tasks does not matter. I want you to keep this part in mind:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

My response, being eager to work again and earn extra cash, was that I chose to do 1 and 2. Simple, right?

So, I picked 5 different tacos and I chopped up all the ingredients for the 5 tacos as well as assembled all of the tacos and plated them up and made the hell sure that they were of the utmost quality of quality-ness. I sent the 5 delicious tacos Mr. Taco Bell’s way and asked him how much I could charge him for the two tasks.

I was adamant in getting this clarified because in the past he’d only asked me to do task no. 2, quality control, and I knew that rate very well but I didn’t know what the rate for task no. 1 was. His swift response was utter confusion. Huh after huh after huh, he finally said, “You realize one freelancer won’t be doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?” Does that baffle you, dear reader? Because it sure as hell baffled me. But wait a minute, Mr. Taco Bell. Didn’t you just give me the choice of doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Also, isn’t that the reason why this messaging thread is called, “Task no. 1 and task no. 2”, as opposed to all the previous messaging threads that were called, “Task no. 2”? (Upwork has a chatbox in which clients and freelancers can either text or voice chat or video chat. Mr. Taco Bell and I text) I was really finding it difficult to try to make Mr. Taco Bell see my point. It almost felt as though he was scrambling for excuses not to pay me for doing both the tasks which infuriated me to hell and back.

All this back and forth of confusion and feeling like a headless chicken took place just this past week. That is, until today, when I decided to put my foot down and get to the bottom of it.

Mr. Taco Bell mentions that the rate of payment of task no. 1 is the same as that of task no. 2. My response, as any normal person’s response would be, was to repeat myself for the hundredth time: “So that means I can charge you the same for task no. 1 & 2, right?” Finally, I get a semblance of an answer, but not the one I was hoping for: “What do you mean?” he says. “I never told you to do both task no. 1 & 2.”

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Uh uh, Mr. Taco Bell, you ain’t doing me like that. Not today.

I rummage through our chat and directly quoted him thus:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

I thought if he saw his exact words, quoted and everything, that the whole confusion would be done away with and we could both skip happily away into the sunset and continue working on them delicious tacos. I was dead wrong.

He repeated himself. Literally, he said, “Yeah, I asked you if you could do 1 and/or 2, that doesn’t mean I wanted you to do both.” And that, dear readers, is when the record stopped playing and that god awful record scratch noise echoed in my head.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

The whole world came to a screeching halt as his words rang in my ears. I finally understood what had happened. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was in the right all along and that I was some money hungry freelancer who wanted to get paid for work she wasn’t asked to do and which, therefore, was null and void. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was completely innocent and I was the culprit trying to twist his words and change her stance. Mr. Taco Bell thought he knew the English language very well and thought he, presumably not a student of English literature, could one up me, a student of English literature.

I told him, “If you wanted me to work on just one of the tasks, you should have said ‘1 or 2’. ‘And/or’ implies that I have the choice to pick one or both.” andor.PNG

We argue back and forth about this terminology when he finally utters the words, “You are an English major, I would hope you would know better in this profession.” Okay, so, you’re telling me, that I – an English literature major with a clean track record on this website and working with you, Mr. Taco Bell – am in the wrong and you – a non-English literature major who always makes the mistake of assigning me work that I have already done – are in the right? Well – excuse my French – fuck me!

Avoiding the subject entirely, Mr. Taco Bell asks, “Remember the bonus I gave you last month?” I said yes. He says, “Did you say thank you?” I thought, hang on, what are you implying. I said yes. And showed him the receipts, thank you. He continues, “Then I can’t believe you would accuse me of avoiding to pay you…” Now, I really thought someone was pranking me. It clearly must be the language gods playing a big joke on me for being so annoyed by people who say “should of” instead of “should have”. I explained that that was not the issue at all and that I never doubted him and bla bla all the while biting my tongue wishing it was socially acceptable in a business setting to say things like, “bitch, are you out yo mind?” Or, “U wot m8?”

In the end, Mr. Taco Bell agrees to pay me the amount due but not before writing a very saucy message, which I didn’t bother to fully read. I’m not wasting my eyes on your words if you can’t even English, m8. The gist of it was that:

  1. One person cannot be assigned both task no. 1 and task no. 2 because it may result in a biased piece of work. A freelancer who chops up and assembles one taco may be biased towards the quality of his/her taco as he/she is the creator of said taco.And,
  2. If I would have just told Mr. Taco Bell that I had done both tasks of assembling tacos and quality control of said tacos, he would have said sorry for the confusion, clarified me on the subject, and moved on.

He then told me he could not work with me again as this experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

I wrote him a short and sweet message thanking him for the payment and subsequently defended myself thus:

  1. I did not know this was the case as you had never mentioned it to me before, my dearest Mr. Taco Bell.
  2. In fact, I did tell you I had done both tasks. Remember the agreement? Or how about that time I asked you what I could charge you considering that I had done both task no. 1 and task no. 2? Or maybe that time after you tried to mansplain mathematics to me – an individual whose favorite subject in high school was maths and who was selected to participate in a maths competition in the 10th grade – and I said, “Please, sir. Let us not stray away from the issue; that I did both task no. 1 and task no. 2 (see the correct usage of ‘and’, and how I didn’t say ‘and/or’).” Not once did you, Mr. Taco Bell, get off your high horse and correct me when I was begging you for your correction and clarification.

I found myself about to write more and more saucily. But I refrained as that would have been a very petty road upon which I would bump into Mr. Taco Bell, and I think that sort are best to avoid in life. I only hope, and I genuinely hope, that somebody corrects you one day, Mr. Taco Bell, and you do not respond with the ignorance which you chose to smother yourself in today.

And that’s that chapter of my life.

I am by no means a grammar nazi. Context is something that matters to me. I understand many people don’t speak English as their first language and that some people may not have known about certain grammar rules or word spellings or certain diction, etc, and so I excuse you when you make a mistake but I will also try to correct you and hope that you can be your best self or close to your best self one day. Or, I would hope that the human spirit of perseverance were burning bright enough in you that you would find ways to correct your mistakes like, I dunno, maybe Google?

People learn the things they learn to either grow for themselves or help others, or both (<– a situation where the use of and/or would have been correct). When I come across a peer or friend or family member who uses a certain phrase or word incorrectly, and that I know certainly that it is incorrect because I have learned it somewhere, then – if I’m up for it – I will not hesitate to tell you how to do it right. Nor should you hesitate to tell me if I’m doing something wrong. Mistakes are the most potent things that help you learn; without mistakes you cannot learn. And that is a philosophy that I hold dearly to my heart.

I don’t hesitate when my mother asks me if a simple text message she is sending that’s been written in English is correct or not. Even if it really irks me.

I didn’t hesitate when that one Manipuri politician and I got into a debate over Facebook about the many tenses of the verb ‘to write’ and I totally pwned his ass while family and friends watched. I wish I still had a screenshot of it. That was a glorious day.

It’s one thing to write something incorrectly, it’s another when you write it incorrectly, somebody lets you know of it, and absolutely refuse to acknowledge that maybe what you’ve written is incorrect. If you don’t want to hear it from me, fine. But at least, at the very least, give yourself some wiggle room because we’re not all perfect, and look it up yourself. We are in a generation where information is so readily available. Literally, all it takes is a single swipe and a few taps and you’re there.

I just cannot understand how people can still be ignorant about certain topics that they can easily un-ignorify themselves from. It baffles me.

The English language is great. But it will also be the death of me. Don’t be surprised if one day you find me dead from a heart attack because I’d come across an image with the two deadliest words in the English language: should of.



Tell me if I remember.

Is it still as beautiful as it was eighteen years ago?

Are there still meadows and are the meadows still green?

Does the terrace still embrace our old heart where the evenings were endless and the nights were warm?

Can you see my shadow as it pushes itself along on a set of training wheels?

Tell me if I remember your sun-kissed faces.

Do your piazzas have room for a small body grown? A pair of feet to twirl around for good luck?

Is it still warm when it’s cold?

Will dinner be waiting on Christmas day? And maybe some poorly hidden presents we feigned surprise for?

Will we dance away the nights in a long conga line under the soft glow of yellow lights and a few stolen kisses?

Will they remember us for the things we did or the journeys we could undertake?

Will the journeys still be long and tiring and sweet?

I was rummaging through some old writings of mine this evening and I found this little gem reminiscing what few memories I have of my time in Milan when I was a wee toddler. Sometimes, short-lined poetry just isn’t enough and you want to write long-ass sentences.


Let’s GO!

Around the time it was announced that Pokemon Go was released in Australia – those lucky bastards – my hype levels were spiking up and down like a two-year-old waking up from its slumber to cause havoc until it has to give in to the black unconsciousness and shoot right back up until you slowly give in to the existential darkness of the reality that is this screaming, tasmanian devil of a rotten thing and then sweet, sweet bliss when it passes out and you have that one moment of relief before the cycle repeats itself. I kid you not. Between an android tablet with a completely trashed camera and a Windows phone, my hype was a roller-coaster of a thing. For days, I would see screenshots on Facebook from various friends acquaintances saying shit like, “I caught a Bulbasaur on my balcony!” or “Team Mystic!” during which I simultaneously hyped for what could be and de-hyped because Windows phone. I quickly searched for a petition for the development of Pokemon Go on the Windows OS and shared it on my social media, of course. And then occasionally google search “pokemon go on windows phone” to find a list of various petitions and rage-inducing looks-like-you’re-not-going-to-be-as-happy-as-all-these-people-haha articles which, as you’d expect, I would search for just before going to bed at the break of dawn to remind myself yet again how dark this world is.

But all this nonsense aside, I discovered that I did not actually need a camera to play the game, that that was just a silly little feature you could use to screenshot a Diglett on top of your crotch, or an Ekans on top of your crotch, or a Weedle on top of your crotch. You get the idea. I got the game and there I was, right at the cusp of putting on my imaginary cap and slinging on my imaginary bag that somehow can carry the weight of 350 items and 250 Pokemon all encapsulated in their own individual Pokeballs, no sweat. And like a first-time lazy player, I used my incense up on the first try, contemplated going for a walk then decided nah it’s too late for that.

The first outing was grueling. I workout at home. In this Delhi heat, there is no way I’m willingly stepping out for more than 30 minutes just to run around because it’s “good for my health”. So adding Pokemon Go to my workout schedule was definitely physically hard on me but wayyy more fun than deadlifting in a small room that’s about to turn into a Korean spa any time you breathe out. And we humans breathe, a lot. After that first walk around the neighborhood parks, a total of one hour, I would reach home with a pulsating headache that made me feel like my heart was in my throat telling me that this is what I get for playing Pokemon Go. I remember that first day so clearly. It took me about 4-5 hours to make the world stop moving around me and stand up without feeling like my knees would buckle beneath me.

Now before you accuse me of being weak for nearly shitting my pants after one hour outside, let me tell you, I sweat A LOT. An unusual amount for a girl, let alone a human. I sweat more than most men if you want to understand this in stereotypical terms. The term “sweat like a pig” was invented as a foreshadowing of my coming to this earth. So, if you want to feel my pain, multiply the amount of time I spend outside by 2 to 1,000,000 and you’ll get there eventually. When I woke up the next morning, my legs felt like they were lightly slapped throughout the night by entities the size of underwear gnomes like a bajillion times.

After a few more days of going out hunting for Pokemon, the headache subsided, my legs felt like they could walk 500 miles and 500 more and never so much as tremble, and I thought: this is a great time to be alive. Come Saturday, my cousins and I went to a huge park that has a bunch of deer and is appropriately named Deer Park and we caught ourselves a bunch of Horsea and I overheard this conversation, “Poliwag evolves into Poliwhirl, then?” “Uhh, I think it’s Politoed” and nearly died inside because it’s Poliwrath, you silly, silly boys! I mean, it’s both but Poliwrath is the OG. Silly, silly boys. Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t be this proud about that fact considering I’m 22 and those boys were probably still teenagers and they wouldn’t know any better anyhow. Oh well.


See. Deer.

To this day, about two weeks into playing the game, I have walked more than I have this entire year. I feel more fit. My legs feel like they could run across water. I can go out for a long time and come back and still accompany my parents to a brisk walk around the apartment complex. Life is great.


(Was that the worst segue into self-promotion you’ve ever witness or what?)

So there you have it! That’s about all I can say about this lovely game so far. I hope to be very ripped by the end of this. And I hope people will understand how the times that we live in with 24-hour media coverage and the need to sensationalize are most probably affecting their perception of ordinary things like this game and I’m sure a lot of other things. Don’t adopt Newt Gingrich’s ‘feelings’ policy for facts. Never forget that facts are right at your disposal and never be too lazy to check for bullshit. Because that shit stinks.

Peace. Let’s GO!


Veng Tieng


After some five years, my mother and I decided to go home to spend the new year. Of course, the term ‘home’ here is one I use with a pinch of salt. I don’t think I have a home per se, except for the one where my bed and my blanket and my adorable stuffed monkey await. The ‘home’ I speak of here is called Sielmat, where both my sets of grandparents live literally across the street (in this case a field) from each other.

As the years go by, I feel the weight of this term ‘home’ slowly anchor me to something somewhat tangible. I’ve spent literally (yes, that’s how you use that word) all my life traveling from place to place, setting up a home in one place only to take things down and move out within three to four years and start anew. So, as a third culture kid, my best bet at defining ‘home’ would be to look at my parents and their home.

My mother and I left Delhi for Imphal via Guwahati on the 28th of December 2015. I was grumpy as a result of last minute packing and my mother’s flustered state. She’ll never admit to this but she’s quite a weary as well as wary traveler; dearest mother, just calm down. I get even more grumpy when she asks where to go next when the simplest thing to do is look up at the signs. Seriously, to anyone who struggles with traveling in the metro or an airport or a transportation station of any sort, look at the damn signs! As a result of all of this, I become concerned for her wondering how the hell she’d ever travel by herself. It didn’t help that when we got the tickets our seats were scattered and my stress meter most definitely spiked up when the tag on my mother’s hand luggage did not get stamped at the security check-in and I sat watching people boarding the flight for what felt like an eternity till she finally showed up.

Normally, traveling for me – especially in an airport – is a breeze. I’ve been traveling alone ever since I started college from Delhi to Hanoi and back for summer and winter holidays. Until one horrible experience where the kid next to me was masturbating in the dark as I watched 47 Ronen – thanks for ruining that movie for me, kid – eventually leaning in and saying something utterly creepy. I switched seats. Moral of the story: don’t let a creepy kid ruin a good movie for you, watch 47 Ronen again anyway. It did not help that as I waited in Bangkok to catch the next flight to Hanoi that a group of assholes did absolutely nothing to help a lady worker struggle to open a gate due to her short height. Literally there was a guy stood right next to her doing absolutely nothing but watch this poor lady, not to mention the rest of the men and women assholes doing absolutely nothing but gawk at her. I mean I can’t stop repeating ‘absolutely nothing’ because that’s just what it was. Infuriated by my dwindling hope for humanity, I went up and unlocked the gate for the woman. Moral of the story: don’t let all the assholes stop you from helping someone in need. By the time I boarded the flight I couldn’t be bothered with the creepy old man staring at me two seats away because I was two hours away from passing out on my bed at home in Hanoi. My father was waiting for me at the airport in Hanoi no longer greeting me with the embarrassing moonwalk he attempted the last time I came on vacation, his face hardened with concern for me. As we stood waiting for my luggage to arrive in baggage claim I told him about the last wave of shit I waded through on my journey and he said, “Where’s this guy? Let’s go stand next to him and stare him down.” Moral of the story: have a kick ass father.

By now you can probably deduce that the scattered seats really bothered me. There I was sitting not in the aisle seat or the window seat but the middle seat potentially next to two creepy people. I can say now that I’m better equipped to handle things in case of a creep-ergency but thankfully it was not needed. When we landed in Guwahati we happened to pick up my cousin Obed which was a pleasant surprise.


One of my biggest struggles upon arrival was time management. It wasn’t the kind where you sit down to study at 1:00pm, look at the time five minutes later, and realize it’s already 7:00pm wondering what the hell you’ve been doing for six hours. My problem was quite the opposite.

If you’re a night owl like I am and you’d like to change that habit to integrate yourself better into a society where time progresses from morning to night instead of afternoon to dawn, I suggest you immerse yourself in a place where everyone, and I mean everyone, wakes up bright and early. There I was going to bed at 11 pm when I’d usually go to bed at 4/5 am and wake up at 8:30 am when I’d usually wake up at 12 pm. Side note: even though the latter sounds horrible, really think about it. Is it better to sleep for 9.5 hours or 7/8 hours? (The answer is the second one so all you kids and night owls tell your parents/yourself your lifestyle is completely rational)

I had one constant in-town contact during my stay with whom I confided my struggle. Jonathan told me he never woke up before 9:30 am. Blasphemous, right? I resolved to follow his sound advice but by the end of my stay, I decided to stick with 8 am.

However, the real problem was not deciding when to sleep and wake up, but what to do in the hours between waking up and going to bed. Miles away from the city where you spend all your conscious hours watching movie after movie, YouTube video after YouTube video, or simply attached to an electronic device of some sort, you literally just sit in the sun and that’s about it. So time, taken as a relative and subjective phenomenon, moves slower.

Those initial days were the slowest I think I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’d wake up, brush my teeth and wash my face, then have breakfast, then sweep and mop the house, then eat lunch, then sit in the sun for however long was needed (two to three hours oh what fun), then have tea and snacks, then play some guitar, then eat dinner, then sit by a heat source, then calculate how many more hours until bed time, then sit for eternity because time now is subjective and eternity can exist in this sense, then go to bed. Rinse and repeat.

You need a packed and busy schedule if you’d like to feel like your life is actually progressing. You sort of wish chores upon yourself just to feel like you’re spending your time somewhat reasonably. That’s why when Jonathan asked me to join the picnic excursion that was happening the next day, I went along.


The last time I was in Manipur, I was about to finish high school. We didn’t stay long enough for me to socialize i.e. I was still a damn awkward teenager so I didn’t bother socializing with anyone.  And before this, the gap was about three years entering my initial years of teenage awkwardism still not bothering to remember people. So if you add that all up, really the last time I would have properly remembered anyone would have been 8 years prior to our visit; 8 years to completely forget everyone except for immediate family.

So there I was on the day of the picnic, not knowing anyone except Jonathan and my cousins, not remembering anyone and time decided to stand still to let that awkwardness set in a little bit longer. At one point, I was really tempted to make up some lame excuse and go home but I persevered and it turned out to be a really lovely day. If there’s one thing that social settings have taught me it’s that all awkward situations sort themselves out by the end if you’re willing to change your attitude to be more open to the experience. Works every single time. And it also helps to smile and laugh.

We went to Khuga Dam and spent the day listening to music under the warmth of the winter sun. When it was dinner time, we threw our disposable plates into a bonfire, a satisfying end of the day for the pyromaniac residing deep within my soul.

There was so much handshaking and re-introductions – because I’d probably met all these people before – that all I could simply do was smile and nod and answer honestly, “ka hriet ta naw”. I just don’t know you, sorry.

Side-thought: If you’re the type of person that thinks all dogs are scary and out to get you, you should definitely visit Sielmat or the North-East in general. I was in awe at all the beautiful and well-tempered and human-friendly doggies. I mean, friendly is one thing but to have friendly AND healthy-looking, shiny-coated, handsome pups everywhere? That’s a miracle. A doggy miracle.


And then there was the earthquake.

On the 4th of January 2016, around 4:30 in the morning, we were woken up by an earthquake that at first reminded me of one of the scariest train-ride slumbers I ever experienced in Vietnam from Hanoi to Sapa. As if my body was sending a warning to my unconscious state, I was at the brink of waking up well before the earthquake had even started. I shook my mom awake with a “Mama! Earthquake!” then proceeded onto running out of the house with my hands in the air. No, but really, all earthquakes remind me of that one scene in Freaky Friday where Lindsay Lohan’s little brother pranks his grandfather at breakfast, shaking the table as if to simulate an eathquake upon which the old man shouts “EARTHQUAKE!” and promptly runs out of the house.

I was quick to try and the open the door and get to open air but for some reason, the lock wouldn’t give in easily so my mom beckoned me to her side on the bed and we held onto each other until the tremors had passed.

The thing you gotta understand is that a) these damn earthquakes will not stop following me, and b) these houses are not built to withstand earthquakes like the buildings in Japan are. So after surviving the March 2011 tremors in Tokyo and being extremely impressed that nothing broke in our house, you can understand if I go straight into panic-mode when I’m in a country that’s not Japan and whose houses could potentially break with even a magnitude 5 earthquake. So, EXCUSE ME little nieces who made fun of me screaming for my mom in the middle of the night during a scary ass natural disaster.


I have come to the conclusion that I am an ambivert. I can handle the social aspect of life and I can also be happy by myself. If ever I find myself in an uncomfortable social situation or there are just too many damn people around, I will quietly slip away and watch some birds, wander about and such. It began when in my final year in college, I decided I couldn’t handle the monotony of following the crowd that I walked past it all and enjoyed solitude instead. It was this wanderlust that sped up the time.

I began to ask my little nieces to go on walks with me. It started with a walk across the field and back and by the end of the trip we’d wander down the river into the wilderness and up a mountain. I had a camera with me as an excuse to go exploring. Everywhere we went I’d take pictures and videos that I told myself I’d edit later into something epic (still yet to do).

My three nieces and I usually started down the set of steps that lead you to Dan Veng, right outside a school. Then we’d be met by a Y-intersection, though it was rather a trident-intersection. We managed to explore all three paths; one went up to New Sielmat, the middle towards a river path that’s slowly drying up, and the last one further into Dan Veng. Usually we’d follow the last path back up and out via the set of steps behind the EFCI church or continue further in and follow another river path back up and out into the wilderness around the entrance to Prayer Mountain. Then before heading home, we’d make a quick visit to the cemetery where my nieces would gather fallen flowers and place them onto their respective grandmother’s and grandfather’s graves. What can I say? Winter is a wonderful time to go walking and exploring, especially for me i.e. a person who’s already sweating in mid-Spring.

There I was in my favorite terrain. How can you not love the mountains? There’s so much beauty to witness and adventuring to do. It so happened that I woke up looking forward to walking and exploring with my nieces and time was no longer slow. I wished there was more daylight because nights felt subzero and all you’d ever want to do is sit by a fire.

By the end of our two-week stay, there wasn’t enough time left to see everything that I wanted to or could have seen. I was just warming up to the place. It takes me a loooong time to get used to something or someone enough to open up. But, as if time and space were telling me it was time to go, I developed a small case of food poisoning on the day we departed. It really didn’t help that the in-flight dinner looked like the most appetizing airplane meal I’d ever seen.


So, what is home?

I’ve yet to understand that term. It confuses me as much as my identity does. I’m Indian, yet not in the sense an outsider would understand the term. I’m Hmar, yet not completely attached to the traditions and customs that go with the tribe. ‘I’m an international kid’ is honestly the most sense I can make of my identity. I may have Indianness coursing through my blood and muscles but my mind is a mix of everything that sometimes is in denial of that very Indianness. Whatever it may be, that is why defining home is such a confusing and complicated subject to me.

I’m not black and white, I’m grey. I can’t ever look at something with concrete certainty when there are so many other factors and exceptions to consider. And that’s why home to me is whatever you make of where you are. By the end of our stay at my parents’ hometown, the place and the people started to bury themselves into my soul and I could see myself slowly integrating into it. The same way that when I watch a YouTube video or a vlog about Japan I feel an aching inside me and a yearning to walk the streets of Tokyo at night like my brother and I used to. The same way that when I think of the best street food I end up reminiscing about Hanoi – and incidentally how I never got food poisoning from eating street food over there. The same way that our Indian Ocean view from our apartment in Maputo has burrowed deep into my dreams as a recurring motif I greet every now and then. The same way that when I step out of the house, I can’t wait to crash onto my tiny mattress on the floor, pass out, and wake up again with a wanderlust to go out and get absorbed by the world again.


Adventures in Haldiram’s Conspiracies

It was at the eve of my 22nd birthday when my father and I decided to take a half-day trip to some remote part of Delhi where we found ourselves lost in a conspiracy.

A Haldiram’s conspiracy.

It started as a simple text message from the university I applied to telling me to pick up some books at one of its regional centres. I got the message at night on the 14th so the 15th was out of the question. On the 16th we went to a wedding. So it had to be on the 17th if we didn’t wish to rush it on the last date which would be the 18th.

The thing is, there’s a centre some minutes away from home but just as I realized the centre I filled in on the online form was somewhere out there I’d never been to, it was already too late to correct it to the former. We were bound to this adventure. Regardless of the numerous emails I had sent to request a change in regional centre –

a change
that could be made so damn easily
with a flick of the wrist,
a click of the button,
a change in a list

– we had no choice but to venture on.

While my music was playing on the car radio and my father and I sat in silent anticipation, I held his phone, Google Maps at the ready in GPS mode. My phone battery was already at the brink of death so there I was, sat with my father’s phone, its on/off button behaving as unpredictably as the other devices that experience similar distress under my father’s compulsive fingers. There’s his current phone, there’s the ‘clock’ button on his car radio, there’s the TV remote, there’s the cursor button on his laptop, and the mouse on the desktop. Despite having pointed out this clear-cut pattern in my father’s button-destructing ways, our journey was not as predictable but one as erratic and confusing as pure chance and luck would have it.

Now, I consider myself a very good navigator. My father and I navigated the heck out of the streets of Tokyo during those early days when we didn’t have GPS on our phones but only a printed sheet off of Google Maps and some location circled in pen with the route highlighted in yellow. And I missed a few turns. Every time it seemed like the turn was in a few metres, there it went. And the damn distances on the phone, you just can’t calculate how far you actually are from where you’re going. I blame my father’s 1G internet connection. Please someone do something about this 1G nonsense, thank you.

Before we reached the destination marked on the phone, my father – having probably been disappointed by the various GPS turn mishaps I failed to announce on time and also being an older male who can’t seem to trust the perfectly good instinctual sense of direction of a younger female – had to first ask a streetside cobbler where the centre was. The cobbler pointed straight towards the main road, which we had now left to join a smaller inner road, and said it will be next to a Haldiram’s. For those of you who don’t know, Haldiram’s is the name of a food company and restaurant that sells various assortments of Indian sweets, snacks and ice-creams and so on.

So of course my father had to go towards the main road. Of course. I suggested rather irritably that we should check out the spot on the GPS first before making such hasty decisions so we did that. There was nothing there. I’d be lying if I said ‘literally’ but since the dictionary definition of ‘literally’ has been changed to something horrible that has led to the unfortunate dismay of millions of clear-headed individuals face-palming across the universe, there was literally nothing there.

Case in point.

Case in point.

Again, we asked around as to the whereabouts of this invisible structure and again we got the same response: down the main road next to a Haldiram’s.

We drove around the area for a little while, even asking some college students – there were a few universities here – where this centre was. And where the heck this Haldiram’s was too. No one knew. Of course.

We then decided that the smart thing to do next was to check out the exact address on the website and type in that exact address in the GPS. It said the location was yet another 7 km away. So we drove on.

My father and I are pretty chill individuals. He doesn’t say much or react much but I can say certainly for myself that when life puts me in a tough spot, I try to see the things around me that are going right. And wouldn’t you know it, we drove by Tughlakabad fort and, though it was only the outer walls we saw, it’s still pretty splendid seeing something a part of a lifetime of centuries ago when the country’s going for a ‘out with the old, in with the new’ kinda look.

A couple of minutes later, we reached an up-and-coming landscape. On the right, there were houses and buildings that looked as if they belonged somewhere in the 90s while on the left there were grand glass buildings hosting various high-end car dealerships. I wish I could rant on and on about the stark contrast of such an image and its symbolic connection to the state of the country, just like the fact that the higher ups all ride in cars out of olde Bollywood movies instead of sleek and shiny Transformers cars, I won’t. That’s all.

There we were, famished with only water to drink. My father spotted a vendor selling drinks and chips and the like. He bought us the fizziest fucking drinks I’ve ever had and asked the vendor where in the heck this invisible centre was. Turns out we were already there.

I got my books and my father and I got to explore a part of Delhi we’d never been in.

The mystery was not over yet though. I told my father after we typed in the new location, if there’s a Haldiram’s next to the centre I will be damn amused. He chuckled. I continued, “Seriously, I bet it’s a conspiracy amongst everyone who lives back there. I bet what they do when someone’s looking for a building that doesn’t exist there any more that they tell you it’s next to the Haldiram’s down the road and then mutter under their breath seven kilometres away. I bet that’s what they do.”

And as we made out for the journey back home, there, just a few buildings away from the centre, was a massive structure with a red sign right on top that read: Haldiram’s.


Loving and Updating

So here we are, celebrating love one step at a time.

Congratulations to The US of A – and let’s not forget Ireland – for same love.

I apologize for lack of activities on this blog lately. I’ve just been sorting through some feelings and other nonsense, too uninspired to write.

But I have been utterly inspired to paint and painted I have.

I’ve decided to take a hiatus on Justice June. The laziness and procrastination got the best of me and I feel slightly bad though on the flipside I will admit to being flaky when it comes to promising art. Before I started the Star Wars portrait series, I solemnly swore never to promise anything and then 2 lovely weeks of Star Wars passed by and I thought, “Hey, you can do this. Let’s stretch it out for a month!” And then it all just fell apart.

And now it’s nearing the end of June and I’m still very much unsure whether I want to take Justice June over to July and finish up the month.

For now, painting, just painting, is enough.



Water Lady

Water Lady


Mohawk – hair-flipping self-portrait (not a painting)

Wildling Fire - Tormund Giantsbane aka the greatest ginger god of them all

Wildling Fire – Tormund Giantsbane aka the greatest ginger god of them all

Colored - interestingly enough I was painting this in the midst of all the marriage equality excitement yesterday

Colored – interestingly enough I was painting this in the midst of all the marriage equality excitement yesterday

In other news, exam results are out and I can proudly say that I have graduated with honors in English and that I did pretty good this semester.

The whole excitement of graduation has got me missing a few people and even though I loathed college, I think I loved it too.

Onto the next chapter.

And a musical parting gift:

I messed up the first line but in my defense, the batteries I had charged the previous night were completely dead when I put them in the camera, thus began a tedious journey of dying camera and cutoff recordings for the next 3 hours.


You’re so lucky

I’ve been thinking about luck lately and have come to the conclusion that Lady Luck is a jerk.

I’ve considered my brother lucky for many years now. He’s the only one who’s ever won anything in a lottery. Try as the rest of us might, we never get our names called out for some breakfast coupon or an LCD TV or whatever.

I feel as an anti-social person as well that my brother is way luckier than I am. He’s at least had a normal adolescence with friends, parties, drinking, girls and the like. And here I am with my messy hair, sloppy clothes and a pillow to hug, watching the season finale of Once Upon a Time.

But you know what I realized the other day? My brother IS lucky; good luck and bad. In the course of a week he’s managed to lose a client’s check, lose his phone on the road and cracked his scooter helmet visor. Not to mention his first own laptop breaking in a matter of months, having his Nokia phone graduation gift pick-pocketed in the metro and general clumsiness. Oh and his bed collapsed yesterday while he was trying to get comfy with a bowl of hot noodles. There was noodles everywhere.

He’s the type of person that you say, “This is why we can’t have nice things,” to.

Then on the other hand there’s me. Now, I’ve been luckier in the department of material things not melting in my hands. Every time I’ve dropped my phone in water, it’s come back miraculously to life (except one time but that doesn’t count :P). I’ve had my first laptop, this one I’m typing in, kept well and treated it like it deserves to be treated. I hope it loves me as much as I love it. And I’ve hardly ever lost things in school.

But there’s one department I’m lacking in. And that is with my words.

How ironic is it that an English major would fumble her words as much as I have?

My friend and I got into a mini-feud with one of our classmate’s because of the way I phrased something. I got a comment saying that I’ve contradicted myself in my writing (though that was the person misreading what I’d written). When I accuse someone of something they immediately take to the defensive of something that is entirely out of my point and I end up thinking to myself, “Did I sound like I meant that?”

I think my problem is that I get to the point too quickly. It’s true, I’d rather say all my peace in one go than write 1000 words explaining myself. And I rely heavily on induction which I’ve come to realize not many people are good at. I could use one word, say “bad” and I could imply from that “dire, evil, rotten, spoiled, the opposite of perfection which is reality” and all that someone would get from that is “evil”. Even just now I rasped at a kid and she laughed and I thought, “Wow, this is what kids are into?” not realizing that she’s an actual child and not a 50-year-old intellectual human. I need to stop thinking that people think like me.

In my first exam which was on Modernism I completely confused Robin Hood’s Sherwood to Nottingham and I may or may not have implied someone’s death who did not actually die in the novel. Gahd why?!

And just now I fucked up. I accused someone of plagiarizing an artwork and spent the past hour trying to find the source. I should have done the research before pointing fingers and now I feel like a complete ass. But I know that I saw it somewhere and it’s killing my brain because I’m stranded in the middle of this thin thin wire between the truth and a lie. I even did a thorough image search of this artwork and did not come to the original but interestingly enough I did find pieces of the components in the artwork. And yet the thing about this is that many people do photo-manipulations but are not technically plagiarizing because they’ve given credit. (Though I should say, credit was not given to the originals in this case)

Thus I conclude Lady Luck plays a hand in everything. It’s just my luck that everything I say gets misconstrued. Though I’ve noticed that’s not the case with my poetry. Maybe I should stick to that…