My Chottu,

Sweet desire, called up, to say that I need to let go of you. I’m holding on too tight. You know how good I am at letting go. Not!

This is fourth time in the past twelve days, where I have woken up completely out of breath. Gasping for air, I quickly grab the oxygen can next to the bed. Panting, I make a call to the one who keeps saving me. It’s 5.55 a.m here and unearthly hour, there. ‘You have an infection, go to the loo and try to take out the mucus.’ I quickly apply some Vick’s, grab the toothbrush and go at it, back and forth movements till I start coughing. It’s quite poetic, a dog howls infront of our house, like it did a day before you passed away.

While I cough incessantly and the boy watches, (thank God for Whattsapp video) Bhaskarji rushes up, from the kitchen. The boy instructs, ‘sip on hot water, very slowly and then take a steam.’ Bhaskarji does the needful. I’ve survived another day.

You’re missing me, na? I can feel you calling me, I can feel it in my bones, ‘Diya, mera gheeya, please aaja!’ Not now, darling, not now! Just wait a little. I have to somehow muster up my strength and do something very important before that.


Dear Love

I miss her so much, I can’t sleep. It’s hard to believe no one will ever say, ‘I love you the same.’ Maybe we will be united sooner than I know.

Running a temperature and the body hurts. I have caught something, hope it’s not the virus. Firstly, because there were people at mom’s bhog who might have caught something from me ( that’s of I have something) and secondly, I got to have my own back.

The boy who saved me yet again, calls repeatedly to check on my wellbeing. ‘Have this medicine, do this, do that’ he instructs. SC comes out when she hears his voice…someone knows how to soothe her nerves..someone who has never left her side, through loss, depression, heartbreak, despite SB’s tongue and inspite of SC’s silences. ‘Renew your passport and just come, here, otherwise you’ll loose your mind.’ he tells her, always wanting to protect her from the darkness within.


Dear Love,

Somehow I got my shit together and went on the attack. Our poor mother must be turning in her grave. ‘Oh just shut up, yaar’, she would have said hearing us go at it. But I ain’t in the mood to take it lying down.

A friend was kind enough to get Mom’s prescriptions checked from a GP. I heaved a sigh of relief when he said, under the circumstances anybody would have recommended keeping her home. If she would have passed away in Apollo last year, I would have been mentally prepared. Or so I think. Just suddenly fever one day and death the next day…I just can’t wrap my head around it.

But I think she knew. She was tired and the way she would tell the one who has saved me many times ( and is trying really hard to save me from myself, even now) to take care of me, again and again, I should have known. ‘Tu meri Beti ka Dhyan rakhna. Rakhegana?’, she would ask him each time, she was in his arms. There are two men she loved, besides my Dad and Bhaskarji-one who took care of her in the hospital and the other who thankfully came for her cremation. She asked for him, many times, all these years.

I think somewhere, I had an inkling too. I kept saying since December, ‘I can’t travel because something doesn’t feel right’. I kept telling her family and friends, too. She was left with nothing to give. So nobody came…neither friends nor family, she had showered love, affection and gifts on. I think it broke her, a little. Not the meds, not the longest period of illness, just the lack of affection, she had been accustomed to her entire life. Unlike me, she loved people and she loved being loved. As long as she had her entourage, her people, affection she would recover. But irrespective of how much I tried, I never did manage to fill that void. There are people she asked for till the end. But such is life.

Anyway, since everybody else is too busy, plotting what not, one decided to have a drink with the help. So our Mummy’s Bhaskarji ( I hope she is not yelling out for him from up there) the Nursing maid and I, said cheers, remembered our mother and drank to her. Bhaskarji toasted, ‘ Mataji ke liye.Ab mujhe kaun subah, shyam bolayga?’ It was quite sweet. The three people who were there with her, drinking in memory of her, definitely is a moment, she would have appreciated.

How it goes

Dear Love,

I hope you’re happy now. You have your mum with you. She always did love you more than me, I hope she is happy, too. I tried as much as I could to be you, I hope she thought it was good enough.

Last night I woke up, unable to breathe and with a pounding in my chest, not wanting to go on. Wanting to be with you both, more desperately than you can imagine. But as soon as I went downstairs, I heard the same jargon over and over again. ‘ Jab Diya maregee to…from natural or unnatural causes’.’ After hearing it for fourteen years and especially over the past six days, something inside me just snapped. The only person who never stood for this madness, is gone.

‘Ab to hum bilkul bhi nahin marenge!’ SB told SC. ‘ You wait, let me handle them and then you come out. Cry later, grieve later. I got to first keep us alive!’ Then I did something, I normally never do. I ordered plenty of meds and took them to ensure, I would be fine. I wish I could be with you guys right now…I wish I could sit by the side of the Dal and cry, the way I did when GD left. I wish I could sit there and pray for Mom, the way I have for you a zillion times. I wish I had a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. But right now, I just have myself, unwell and more broken than ever, with people wishing me to be dead.

But I will be damned, if I let anyone convince me that I need to apologise for being a woman. I will be damned if I let anyone convince me, to crawl up in a corner and die. I will be damned if I allow anyone to tell me to shift to another city, so that they can get complete possession. I thought it was yours and I wouldn’t have gotten it any case. So, I thought let it happen, why should I stop it? But this incessant need to have me dead…I will be damned if the number of drinks two men consume, will become the deciding factor, of what happens to my mother’s memory.

God knows, I need to keep it together because this shit just got real!

Last moments

Answers! Would the guilt ever leave me…Ofcourse not. I was 9 years when my mother burnt herself and the first thing my Nani said to me was, ‘ Take care of your brother’. I tried and he died and then I was supposed to take care of his mom for him and she’s dead, too. So what will I do with all those feelings, I don’t know.

If you have ever lost anyone, please never ever go through the footage, of their passing. It’s by far the most painful thing you will have to do. So, why am I torturing myself. Well, one because I am a masochist, two I have a father who is an alcoholic ( which makes me the adult in the family), three I am unfortunately their only child!

Now, if you’ve always been the only child, you learn to navigate this world. You know how to deal with the sharks, that descend. But one is a bum and I was never supposed to get any of it. So, while you are supposed to be grieving in peace- there’s back and forth questioning, messaging, audio recording and what not! What all this world is capable off, I’m just realising.

In the past six days, I have been made to feel like crap. Ajeeb he ye duniya, ajeeb! One is usually, in fight and flight mode. My heart is not in the state to fight. I have a feeling, it is going to just give up, on me. All my excuses, for living are gone in any case.


It took me 11 years to get over the guilt of not being there by my brother’s side. This one is another ball game.

Someone asked me, yesterday, was she on a ventilator? It sent my entire mind for a toss. Over and over again, I look at the video recordings. Trying to figure out what to do. What did I not do? What could I have done? Is there something? Was there something?

Did I miss something in a panic? Was she supposed to go on a ventilator? Why did the doctor not tell me? He told me she had one cardiac arrest and then another! Why did the Dr not tell me? What was I supposed to do in that case? I go through her reports again and again? Three hospitalisations in nine months, I frantically start looking at all the reports, all the tests.

Apollo, Sukhda, Ganga Ram, all of them. Did I abandon her at the last minute? What did I do? What did I not do? Should I have done something else? There are no answers! I can’t find any! So many years, so many hospitalisations, I did not leave her side. Did I abandon her at the last minute?


‘ I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel like I can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. ‘

I still can’t manage to switch off the light. But I cling to the shawl, that smells of her and snooze. I sleep in another room, assuming I will feel better when I wake. But I feel worse. No one is yelling. It’s so quiet….it’s deafening.

This a level of loneliness, which is way beyond I have experienced , aur tanhai dost nahin lagti. My dad thankfully, has constant company and so does Bhaskarji, as mum’s nursing maid is with us. I was hoping the birds would keep me some. But turns out, I don’t make very pleasant company right now. Somebody said to me, ‘Now you must come to our house, you’ve gotten free, now.’ I tell her, ‘my mother wasn’t a burden on me.’. I always, always did and went where I had to go and never for one minute thought that I should stop my myself, as I never wanted to resent her. After all, we had a pact. She was supposed to live, for as long as I would.

She promised me…she promised me and broke her promises, as usual.

4 days

Ever since I was little, I thought I was prepared for my mum’s death. She was suicidal and in and out of hospitals, my entire life. After my brother’s passing, I would ask her again and again, ‘Mom when you die, what do you want me to do?’. I was asked to make her wear a particular suit and make her wear the first earrings my father gave her and a funeral, the kind that everyone has- with the wood, the shawls and the akhand path.

One’s not big on rituals. I don’t follow a religion , therefore I have no fucking clue, what the hell am I supposed to do. Other than the akhand path, we did manage everything else. Knowing her, she would have wanted it humungous.

Unfortunately, very few people turned up. Even the one’s who had been coming all these days, didn’t. But fortunately, they all prayed for her, thought of her and sent the nicest messages. Though, I didn’t organise it properly, I hope she looks down and knows what’s in my heart. I hear you can’t hide behind your specs, from everyone.

4 days

Ever since I was little, I thought I was prepared for my mum’s death. She was suicidal and in and out of hospitals, my entire life. After my brother’s passing, I would ask her again and again, ‘Mom when you die, what do you want me to do?’. I was asked to make her wear a particular suit and make her wear the first earrings my father gave her and a funeral, the kind that everyone has- with the wood, the shawls and the akhand path.

One’s not big on rituals. I don’t follow a religion , therefore I have no fucking clue, what the hell am I supposed to do. Other than the akhand path, we did manage everything else. Knowing her, she would have wanted it humungous.

Unfortunately, very few people turned up. Even the one’s who had been coming all these days, didn’t. But fortunately, they all prayed for her, thought of her and sent the nicest messages. Though, I didn’t organise it properly, I hope she looks down and knows what’s in my heart. I hear you can’t hide behind your specs, from everyone.

Kaisa lagta he

Kuch ajeeb sa sanata he.

Do din guzaar gayee, kissi ne awaaz nahin lagayee.

Ansu jaise mere aankhon me tham se gaye he.

Sirf mera takiya, comode, nalka, aur woh jisse mere aanso ghabrate nahin he, mere dar ki awaaz sunte he.

‘Shayaad mene yeh kiya hota, Shayaad mene woh kiya hota.’ sab waqt dimaag mein ghumta he. ‘Hyper kyuun ho rahee ho?Kyaa hua he?’ Woh puchte he. ‘ Meri Ma mar gayee he!’mera chilane ka man karta he. ‘Abhi mujhe bohat kuch karna he, yahaan koi nahin he!’ bol ke mein tal deti hu.

Pehli baar akelapan kat ta he. Koi coronavirus ke mahul mein, haath pakadne wallah hota. Kissi ki goud mein sar rakh kar, ghanto mein roti. Raat ko zorse kas kar pakadta. Ek raat mein jaise mera bistara, bada hogaya he aur andhera, zyaada gehra.

Kal raat mere pita, sharab ke nashe mein dudh, meri maut pe har waqt ki tarah discussion kar rahe the. Yeh ghar ka kyaa hoga, mere marne pe jisko diya jaygaya, usse bata rahe the.Ajeeb he yeh khandarat, abhi bhi, unhe ghar lagta he. Hum to pehle hi awaara the, ab to purre hi beghar ho chuke he.

Meri MA

Kuch ajeeb si natkhat he woh

Kabhi muskarati he, kabhi ruuth jati he

Kabhi cupboard ke upar, bacho ke saath

Khel te hue

Tokri mein chupp jati.

Sara din Bhaskarji, Bhaskarji kehte hue chilati he.

Mar musibat, dafa ho ja, aur kabhi galiyoon se bhi mujhe bulati he.

Par phir, diya oh diya, diya mera gheeya, I love you, Tu meri Jaan he, Tu mera imaan he, Bol kar mujhe har dafa manati he.

Ma jaisi kabhi nahin thi, alag jo thi

Na usse auro ki tarah pyaar karna aata tha

Aur na jeena.

Chotdi uski MA thi aur uske bete ke baad, me.

Param, uska ek lota pyaar.

Akhir chote ladke pasand karna humari khandani reet he.

Bhagaya tha usne apne pati ko,

Jo har dafa usse dekh kar boltatha

‘Fasa liya, fasa liya, mujhe tumhari Ma, ne!’

Aur me kehti ‘Kismat bana di meri Ma, ne!’

Par jab pyaar aata to kehte-‘ Queen of J&K he meri biwi, koi usse tang mat karo! Khyaal rakho sabh meri biwi ka!’

Ajeeb he ye ishq, na khush reh sakte the ek dusre ke saath

Aur na ek dusre ke bina.

Forbidden Fruit

The Coronavirus or the Covid-19, is playing havoc in all our lives. Shoots have gotten cancelled, workshop and classes, too! The only work people want me to do right now, is cover the protests, which I don’t want to risk. I have a sick parent in the house, anything I carry, will be passed on to her.

A person who spends as much time as I do alone, should be absolutely okay with social distancing. But no! My Daddy is right, ‘Jo tumhe mana karo , woh to karna he hai. Kucch bolna he nahin chahiye tumhe!’ Each time I hear something on the radio, I’m itching to meet anyone. I call up a friend, whose doggy is unwell. ‘I’m dying to meet someone, anyone and everyone should meet me, right now! I tell her. ‘It’s become like the forbidden fruit, for you, right?’. ‘Yup’, I say as she declines.

Right then my phone rings. ‘Aas pas dekh ke nahin chalati he. Saath me hu mein tere itni der se!’, yells my married, lawyer, gym friend, as he pulls close to my car. I’m so lost, all the time, with the head up in the clouds, I just don’t notice anything. ‘What are we all going to do, the gym is also closed?’ he asks. You may assume from this conversation that we are fitness freaks, who are such regulars at the gym, we can’t imagine not working out for a single day. Balls! I took an annual subscription, and haven’t attended sixty days in the past twelve months. As for him, he’s a very busy lawyer, with two kids and an active social life. But I guess we all hate restrictions!

After deciding we are all going to catch up soon ( which we’re not going to do), I drive back home. The Mother who is already frail. starts throwing up and as we all try to make her feel better, time flies. ‘Not worth the risk’, I remind myself. So, the next few weeks are going to be spent, having endless nocturnal conversations- with the one who can talk endlessly and listens to me, limitlessly. And ofcourse my friend Ocean, who is usually high enough, to not understand half of the shit that comes out of my mouth. If I get too bored, the books, the music and the Rabbit are there to keep me company, as usual.

Women’s Day 2020

This year, an ode to the rebels and the broken hearted. To the one’s who have a loud mouth, a sharp tongue and vagina made of steel. To the one’s who weep, to the one’s who have lost and to the one’s who will rise, yet again! We women were born to go down in ashes and rise, again and again.

2002 and 2020

Since the mother’s nursing attendant has fallen ill and gone on vacation, I have been unable to go, anywhere, today. I call them my baby practice days, when the attendant is unavailable…diaper changing and feeding… how much we become like babies when we grow old. Anyhow, the baby is asleep but there’s only one thing on my mind.

Watching a documentary on YouTube about the Gujarat riots and the similarities are uncanny. The next thing we know, the PM will go on a Yatra around Delhi, trying to convince all of us, about the Gaurav of our shehr. Watch it, you’ll get a shiver down your spine! Specially the similarities-the targeting of opposition leaders, by killing them as in the case of Ehsan Jafri and the one in Delhi through accusations ( Your guess is as good as mine, as far as that is concerned). The compliance of the police force, the role of the Bajrang Dal. Arson, seems to be there modus operandi.

On Oct 29, 2002- The EC called it an extraordinary situation that 2,24,000 Muslims had gone missing from the voter’s list and that 1,76,000 would vote from their new addresses, within the state and within the neighbouring state. ‘Sonia ayege to Muslim, ka raj ayega!’ says one bhakt in the documentary.

‘ Build your temples, have your mosque

But don’t shed our blood for it.

If a Muslim God doesn’t place in your temple

If the Hindu God doesn’t reside on your mosques.

Then why have a religion that preaches murder

You can take away Allah and Ishwar but don’t shed our blood for it.

You can have Ram and Babar but don’t shed our blood for it.’

Ae Watan, Mere Watan Aabad Rahe Tu

While driving back from Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, yesterday this song just started playing. ‘Ae watan mere watan aabad rahe tu,’ and I sobbed like a child. The horror, the destruction, the stories, the hate, of the past week, just filled my heart with hopelessness and shame. How evil are all of us?

Being hypersensitive is a bane, cooped up in bed today, with high fever. My body and mind revolting against what I saw or was going to see again. I went to the riot affected areas, idealistically hoping to engage is some confidence building. Got off at Aggarwal Sweets and found a boy clad in saffron. ‘Aap ko kyaa lagta he, Sir, yeh Hindustan sabh ke liye he ke nahin?’ Ti which he replied, ‘ Mujhe nahin pata kiss ke liye he,’ parked his cart on the side and went to tell on me, to a group of men. Two of them approached me. Before they could ask my name, I just started telling him about my photography project, ‘meri gaadee dekho’, I flashed my id, from a distance, with the magic words on it, but didn’t show it to them. ‘You don’t know them. They hurt our women that’s why we attacked them. They burnt all our cars. You will be cut into pieces if you go there’ they said, while showing me some pictures of women in saris, who had been mutilated.

To be honest, I was terrified. I was by myself as usual and this horrified me. I excused myself and told them I will go and verify. But one of them decided to take me around. He rode his scooter next to my car, which has all these wonderful stickers and stopped infront of each and every burnt vehicle claiming the Muslims had done it. When we reached the outside the main gate, where the Sikkim police battalion was, I asked him for an interview. Repeatedly, I had asked him, before that why the police didn’t help the Hindus who were being troubled by the Muslims? He kept lying and dodging and I kept giving him the benefit of doubt because I knew my view, could be biased in this case. A Muslim man halted and identified his vehicle, saying he had been stopped by the mob. After a while, he was shooed away by this man. He asked me to turn back from a particular spot, claiming it wasn’t safe for me.

I’ve heard this in Kashmir, many times. So off I went and there it was, a saffron flag and the Indian flag, flying high on top of a burnt vehicle. I went towards the area, where he claimed, people would chop me into pieces and parked my car. ‘Mene suna he, Hindu aurto ko mar rahe aap, yahaan par’ I asked the crowd that had gathered around my vehicle. They were aghast at the accusation and took me to at least forty homes in that locality. I knocked on their door and asked, ‘ is everyone safe?’ ‘Has anyone tried to harm you?’ No they said , one after the other.

Went to Chandbagh and heard, stories after stories of destruction and hate. Shops and shrines had been burnt down. Someone with an angry Hunamanji poster on his scooter was following me, I recorded him and split.

Returned to the locality again and saw, a forensic team working infront of Tahir Hussain’s house, to investigate the murder of Ankit Sharma. Totally polarised, people looked at each other, suspiciously. There seemed to be no ray of hope here. Even I couldn’t find a silver lining. While walking, I lectured a group of men. ‘ Not every place can be turned into Shaheen Bagh. It requires, patience and lots of hard work to ensure it doesn’t turn violent. You should have known better.’ ‘Ma’am they were burning our homes, we had to pelt stones to save ourselves.’ ‘You didn’t have to resort to this!’, I said as stormed away.

These are terrible times. Everyone is suspicious of each other and having a confusing name like mine, doesn’t help. But somehow I manage to meet people. Day before yesterday, I tried to look for a T-shirt online that would ascertain my parents Sikhi. I wanted to go out for relief distribution and not being able to speak more than a few sentences of punjabi, doesn’t help. ‘How should I navigate these spaces, without offending anyone?’, I thought to myself. I looked for a T-shirt with a khanda, never did manage to order it because the mind revolted against resorting to this, for now. But did manage to find the most hateful piece of retailing. A brand called Swadesia on Amazon, is selling T-shirt’s with these slogans- ‘Mandir Wahin Banayenge.’ ‘Main bhi Chowkidar’ ‘Bohat Hua samaan tumhari aisi ki taisi’. Hanumanji jaise cute se bhagwaan ko kyaa banadiya inhone? The God’s of all the religions must be wondering what humans are upto. Spoiling their names.

Spoiling their name, reminds me of my friend who comes from an illustrious background. Over many decades, I have heard her spew venom, repeatedly towards a particular minority. But her actions over the past week have shocked me more than, when I was asked to go to Pakistan, by her sister. It’s disheartening what this evil man (Mr Modi) has done. He’s turned everyone into monsters, all of us. I’ll have to work really hard to not mistrust all Hindus. Hinduism is a great religion but at the moment I am not a fan of it’s followers or of any religion’s! But I have to work on my prejudice and meet people and tell stories off Hindu men and women, who are kind and courageous, helping to restore this city.