Anniversary Edition

It’s been nine years since I began this blog. The start of it coincided with the end of many constants in life and this which was just supposed to be a blog about encounters with interesting women, somehow turned into, like most of my work, a self-centred project. A lot more personal…a little whiney, sometimes full of rage, at times appreciative but mostly flawed, real and in your face.

Many a times, over the course of these years, one has been reproached for over sharing, ‘not everything needs to be written’, I’m told. Well, if I wrote everything about my life, some people would get into serious trouble, so no, one does withhold a lot, covers many things with the same fresh cream and puts the same kind of cherry on top, the world uses to cover its bullshit. But mostly, it’s done, so that my cynical mouth doesn’t taint other people’s perfectly crafted worlds. Plus, someday my babies will read this. I don’t want them to have as skewed a view of the world as I. Hopefully, they’ll think everything is all sunshine and rainbows.

Yet, one attempts at keeping it as real, as one can, which then invariably displays my privileges and my eccentricities. Honestly, other than hiding things that aren’t mine to tell, one tries (and fails) at hiding about love. Samjhdar ko ishara kafi he? Nothing much can be said about unrequited love, other than it’s value lies in not acquiring, I guess. Plus, everyone I love is tattoed on my body (other than mum because for the past two years I’ve been going back and forth with the design). Don’t worry about who occupies my heart or for that matter who keeps me entertained in life; in my case, nothing leads to anything. This, sums up all I hide from you, my few and treasured readers; I suspect, most of you are only family, ex lovers and friends, worried the crazy lady will end up writing something she shouldn’t. Wellllll……..just pulling your leg!

So, stop getting enraged, not everything is about you …it’s about me! ( self centred, much?) It’s hilarious and infuriating: I’ll be writing about fifty year old superstars or commenting about a news item and someone will get pissed with me thinking I’m taking a personal jibe at them about matters one isn’t even aware off. Property rights are shrugged under the carpet with, ‘no, no, why do you write like this? Of course we appreciate what we’re being given.’ Everything is hunky dory, let’s continue to live in an era Before Christ and pretend we have no issues, since being treated like second class citizens is better than spoiling the family name.

Plus, the whole talk about smoking and lovers, in a society that represses women’s sexuality and asks them to pretend to be holier than thou, doesn’t sit well, with most people, so there’s invariably a lot of personal taunting. I forget a number of people in Kashmir, also sometimes go through what I write, which I get to know, when I meet them. The pictures of protests are frowned upon, the reactions to Kashmir ( I’ll write about this) harsh but even harsher surprisingly, is the reaction to mental health issues. The most unlikely people, who have seen parents suffering from mental health problems , people with degrees in psychology, have turned around and told me, ‘this is bs. Therapists just try to swindle your money.’ So, my conclusion is- it is so much easier to post about all the problems in the world other than your own, to speak about what makes you sound smart but never really say what makes you look vulnerable and to stand up for everyone, other than yourself!

But, one treads on, not as a feminist, an activist, philanthropist, not as anything that makes me belong to any group of people, known for their good deeds. You know, one has an aversion to the herd and the herd’s always disliked me in equal measures. Like Javed Akhtar said, ‘ jab tak mujhe sab criticize kar rahe he (Muslim/hindu/ liberal/conservative) tab tak theek he. Jab ek bolne lage ka yeh theek he, tab ghabrane ki baat he!’ I concur.

One treads alone as an individual, hoping it will be enough for some masochistic, lost, teenager (out there and within) overwhelmed with life. One’s just taking space on the web, stealing a little bit of your time and attention by following her heart and writing what is on her mind. Read, discard, criticize or ignore that’s upto you. Being…..that’s upto me!

Lockdown in Kashmir

Protests against the revocation of article 370, were organised in New Delhi by the Left, on the 5th of August. Article 370 was sprung on the people, revoked by the BJP government, just the way demonisation was unceremoniously sprung on the whole of India. This decision taken in haste has already lead to deaths in the Valley.
From unofficial sources, news is spreading ( since all official means have been shut down) that the Rashtriya Rifles are present on the streets of Kashmir. JKP can’t be seen anywhere. Rumour has it, that in Noorbagh area people tried to break the curfew. The locals only became aware of the revocation, when the announcement was made in certain masjids. Cable, mobile, even landlines are snagged. A doctor has confirmed three to four deaths and apparently there is stone pelting taking place, in certain parts.
Meanwhile, protests take place in different parts of the world against the revocation. In the University of Dhaka, the students carried on a protest, a US based Muslim organisation is going to organise a protest, too. Whereas Pakistan has tried to get the support of Turkey and Malaysia. Even in India, various organisations are dissenting against the move.
On the flip side, news is filtering in that most people in Ladakh, have welcomed the move to bifurcate the state and turn Ladakh into a Ut According to them- Ladakh was being given step motherly treatment. The funds that were supposed to be given to Ladakh, were being given to Kashmir. Educational institutes, funds, jobs were being given to Jammu and Kashmir and basically development would take place after Ladakh, would be totally integrated into India.

Kashmir Under Siege- Revocation of Article 370 and 35A

In July when I visited Gurez, there was something off about the way people were speaking. The them versus us, drawing room conversation that one tries to not get agitated by, in Delhi, I was suddenly hearing in what I thought was the Kashmir Valley. Up until now, it was but I’ve been replaying that over and over in my head today and now I have my doubts. ‘Madam hum Kashmiri nahin he! Madam Kashmirio se hum ache he. Madam humari bhasha alag he! Madam hum Hindustani he!’ The Shina speaking Dards of Gurez told me all this. I assumed that because the person I banged into was a Bhakt, a member of the BJP, that’s the reason, I was hearing all this. ‘Humme Ladakh ke saath aane chahiye!’ I discarded as just regular conversation, as I do all the hate mongering that comes out of the mouths of some relatives based in Jammu.

The past week, we all knew something terrible was going to happen- the revocation of the articles was an agenda, we all suspected that would happen but the downgrading of a state to, make it into a UT, has taken everybody by surprise. But we can trust the Modi-Shah duo, drunk in their supreme power, to not treat Kashmiris like people. After all they didn’t spare their own Hindu brethren during demonitisation, or like many of us suspect, earlier this year, too!

So while the rest of India screams, ‘Hail Hitler!’, the few of us in the crowd, just hang our heads, yet again, in shame, For going back on India’s word by not including or even consulting the Kashmiris, for making a mockery of democracy and most of all for spreading fear amongst the people of Kashmir, the yatries, the casual workers and the press. ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ they yell deliriously, while a four year old, sits locked up in her house in Kashmir, wondering when she will go to school? where should she play and a few months into the lockdown what should she eat?


Wake up with a startle. Another night goes by listening to nonsensical, drunken chatter. Of course that shoots up the BP, again, of course that plays on my mind, in a loop.

Half an hour later, another desperate message from a distraught sibling whose lost ‘her life’. About a week ago, I saw the same hopelessness on a close relative’s face and a loneliness that eventually, finds a permanence in the heart.

We’ve been conditioned to loose our parents. Though, terribly scary it’s the law of the jungle , where the old is to give way to the new. We’ve seen our friends, colleagues, even our parents, go through it. Knowing that we are going to, never mitigates the pain I’m sure, even if your parent has been suffering from a prolonged illness, even if you live far from them, even if you dislike most things about them. I assume, each time you get into trouble, you wish they were around, to advice you, scold you and coax you to do things, their way.

But when you loose a sibling, you loose your partner in crime, your secret keeper, your confidant, your backing, your closest friend, your confession box, the one person you can discuss all personal issues with…without the fear of being judged. You loose your childhood diary, the person who will remember things about you, even you’ve forgotten; the person who has faced the same insanity, known the same loss. You loose the one person who you can yell at, who will still look at you the way no one else ever will, like your there’s, like they get you, forever.

For me there is no greater loss and no one luckier than the one feels that excruciating pain. In a world, where there are so many who are estranged from there’s, to have shared that bond with your’s, however short lived, is priceless and so worth the pain.

‘I don’t know how to move on,’ flashes on my screen. ‘It will take a long time’, I find myself typing. ‘Forever’, I find myself thinking.

And so it goes

‘Don’t take this lightly beta, you could have died,’ says the gentlemen checking my blood pressure. ‘Khudd Khushi kyaa dukhon ka Hal Banti Maut Ke Khudd So Jhamele The!’, murmurs SB to herself. This line always pops up in her head when someone talks about death.

On Monday, I drove myself to the hospital, with Mr B, the help by my side, who had serious doubts on my driving abilities, at the time. In the twenty minutes I was there, the BP came down from 200 to 160 so quickly, they said the cause was extreme stress. So of course I went out with my buddies the next day to avoid the cause of that stress. But a few days later, one was still flushed and breathless.

The sphygmomanometer shows 160/110 on both the arms. Then begins the coaxing. Both SB and SC hate medication. SB is convinced her body can heal itself, SC on the other hand is absolutely terrified, haunted by memories of a time when her Mother was addicted to cough syrups. After a few minutes of being told of horrible cases of people dying on treadmills and cars, kidney failure, blindness, heart failure and what not, I give in.

Pop a pill, rest as I have been advised to and go to the one place that can calm me down- Zorba the Buddha. Though, one has been asked to do Yoga, one just wants to return to a familiar space. The lady in white, greets me with such warmth, half of the stress disappears. A few minutes of Gibberish, yelling and dancing, all the shit starts to come out. I rush to the loo and I start to throw up- food, mucus and blood. Freshen up and then start to move the belly. The last time one did this was the year the brother passed, it was the same year the lady in white moved to Goa.

Psychosomatic, that’s what I think most illnesses are. Especially, in the case of someone whose mind is like a raging bull and a heart that hasn’t reached even double digits, yet. Hypersensitivity, an astrologer told my Dad once, is my bane. Bane or not, one needs to get back to the spiritual practice.


As I get ready to celebrate the fifth year of a 100 pieces of me, life has gotten miraculously, better. This, ladies and gents is the year of the rising, till of course one is reduced to dust yet again and has to reset, one more time.

One is unusually obsessed with the recording of one’s journey not just because of the narcissism (though there is plenty of that) but thanks to the really bad memory- one tends to forget things almost as soon as one does them. When I fade into oblivion, there should be a part of me somewhere, this may turn out to be the only part. Janaab, jab itni pleasant personality ho, to log aapko yaad rakhege, yeh sochna to zara bevakufi he. Plus, I don’t have the whole nine yards, right?

So, thank you for indulging my repetitive thoughts and arbitrary monologues, which make no difference to any one’s existence, other than mine. I know I don’t bring anything to the table, the Photography average, the writing even worse but it satiates the curiosity of the people who know me or apparently want to. About revealing, one can just say, everything is a projection, of course this is too.

 Time on the road

Time flies by when there’s a lot to do. Unfortunately, one hasn’t been able to get down to sharing as much as one wanted to in the anniversary edition but the celebrations can continue. What’s stopping  me, right?

So what did I learn from my wanderings? If you know me, I am not the least bit interested in facts and figures, every extrinsic journey is in a way an intrinsic one, just a way in which I watch myself unfold and as I do, I become aware of just how little I know. But the peeling of the onion is a beautifully joyous and painful experience.

My time spent on the road is like my favourite song-‘Dhoop ki naseeb me dhoop mein liya he dum…chandani mile to hum chandani mein so liye….Dil pe aasra kiye hum to bus yunheen jiye, ek kadam pe has diye, ek kadam pe ro diye!’.

The road is a great teacher, it tests you and scares you. It makes you forget the consequence of time and makes you aware of the fragility of your existence. At the same it shows you the majesty of nature, of mind over matter and the glory of human achievement. Each hill, every mountain, each sunrise and every sunset makes you feel miniscule and irrelevant. Nature doesn’t need us, in fact it’s better off without us! Each road and every bridge makes you bow to the men who have travelled before you, for the ones who create the foundation, lay the gravel or build the piers. Man’s exploratary nature never ceases.

Though there are hardly any roads less travelled anymore, there are still plenty with potholes and there’s no dearth of adventure if you spend your life celebrating your existence. On the road, you are awed and grateful, you smile more and love easily. Every beautiful stranger makes your heart skip a beat, more words are spoken through silences and there is an urgency with which you want to open yourself up to everything and everybody. On the road you hope more and want less!

On the road you leave behind greed and are greeted by wonderment, you become a seeker and then a believer and then a seeker and it goes on and on. The end becomes the beginning and the beginning becomes the end and then it starts all over again. Each dawn brings with it the desire to move forward, just a little bit more. The chains of attachments, of love and family all start to break as you become aware for just a fraction of a second, of the potential of your own spirit.

On the road words loose their significance, actions become important but its the intention behind those actions that you become acutely aware of. The basic animal instinct, that raw power in the gut that directs us takes a hold over the mind. Fleeting thoughts, disappear into the clouds and teardrops into the rain.  The solitude makes you feel peaceful, detached and just a little bit wonkier than you are! After all, if you start to see the creator in the creation, you must be losing your mind!


A few days ago I wrote a post against religion. The one I critiqued most harshly was the one I was born into-Sikhism. Between being born into something and being a follower of it, there’s a world of difference. This Rolling Stone gathers no moss so has special preference. But over the past year I have developed a deep suspicion of one particular path. Its a prejudice one is incredibly ashamed off, a motivating factor which lead to my 54 days on the road. My next blog was supposed to be about my experience with Hinduism but before I get into that just a couple of thoughts.

The ‘Baladkaari Baba’, as ABP news has been calling him, or the self proclaimed spiritual guru, of the Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim ‘Insan’,  has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of raping two of his followers. The two Sadhvis have fought a long drawn battle that has lasted over 15 years. I think practically everyone in this country has been glued to the idiot box for the past few days (including  I who can only watch the news once in a few days, that also only at night because I have not been able to desensitise myself from what happens. I find myself yelling at the television or feeling absolutely low). The CBI which has been called the ‘caged parrot’ of political parties by the Supreme Court, has for once done all the correct things, which has lead to the fall of a spiritual guru, who has millions of ‘premis’.

This case has been an eye opener for me on various levels. While I was on the road I realised that Sikhism seemed comparitively liberal and open a religion, due to the lack of numbers. Where the numbers were high, like in Punjab where the majority is of Sikhs, casteism was highly dominant. This case unfortunately affirms that fleeting thought.  My Dad very recently told me, that his Grandfather, was ‘an Akali’ and  was jailed a number of times not because of the Freedom Struggle but due to the Singh Sabha Movement. The movement started in 1873 was  for the revival of the Sikh faith. In 1920, the historical Gurudwaras were freed from the hold of Mahants who were keeping ‘the lower castes’ out. Though, the movement was a success, it seems a revival is required. More than a hundred years later, it seems that the Sikhs have gone against the teachings of their Gurus and forgotten that, ‘there is no caste system. We are all born equal and everyone is allowed into the Gurudwaras.’ This, entire escapade of people going crazy enough to chop off their balls for some one like Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim, is as much a failure of the state as it is the failure of all Sikhs. And Yes, that crazy assed, bling loving, castarating, rapist was born into a Sikh family! Shit! That’s why I say that being born into and a being a follower are totally different things.

Madam aap ka dharam kyaa he?

It’s been over two weeks since I’ve been back and of course there are million things to do. My mind is totally scattered, which was something I was partially expecting and dreading. When one spends almost two months barely having any conversations, just lost in one’s own world, assimilation into what should be but isn’t one’s natural state is hard. Naturally, man is a social animal, this woman on the other hand, has to try really hard to mingle with others and the time away has made me revert to a lone wolf. In a couple of months I will relearn the rules of the game.


Last evening, I sat down with the videos as last. There’s so much to go through… Wooh! I also said I would share my experience, which I was too busy to write down. So, before another month passes by and I look at you blankly when you question me about the trip, let me tell you a little about it.  Again and again, I’m asked why, so let me start from the beginning.


A series of things triggered this. Last year, I decided I either wanted to go abroad for a Master’s degree in photography or I wanted to travel like crazy for the next two years. Call it a fear of what is coming, meaning a commitment, or knowing that I will have to start behaving like a grown up, someday! Shittt! Anyhow, someone from my gym, went on a trip from Delhi to Rameswaram, last year. It took him a month and he did over 7,000 kms. Rajat was sweet enough, to tell me about it and I was really inspired to travel through the subcontinent by myself.  Then, there was the crappy talk which I heard from my well off, well-educated friends about how ‘Hindustan hummara he’, ‘How do you like Kashmiris etc?’. With all the lynching and lack of empathy I saw around…the growing audacity of people, officials asking -why have I been given a lower caste Muslim name etc, I started feeling rather frustrated. Over the past year, I have also found myself becoming awfully suspicious of the majority. Its terrible, I feel ashamed and I don’t like being like that.  After all, most of my sisters are married to men who follow Hinduism, which means most of my nieces and nephews are going to grow up following that path. Even if they are ‘bin pende de lotte’ like me, neither their first, nor their last names make any reference to their Mothers. As is the case, with my Muslim bhabhi or Christian bhabi or Bengali Bhabi or South Indian bhabi, whose children are known by the Father’s names and follow the Father’s religion. So, the entire concept of  carrying a map which states, India belongs to everybody stemmed from the need to know, if the entire country had gone nuts like the RSS. I am pleased to tell you, thank the Lord, No!


‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Oh Shakespeare, did you get that wrong? Over here everything, is in the name. The religion, the caste, the creed and the gender (unless you are Sikh- Prabhjeet and Guneet could be male or female) is determined through the name, in a fraction of a second. Mine, thankfully is a bit confusing. Saadiya, is an Islamic name and Kochars are Hindu Punjabis or Sikhs.  Its my valid assumption that I am the only Saadiya Kochar you will find. So, when the Father starts to panic about the Islamophobia, these days and asks me to change my name, do you blame me when I retort, ‘If you had chopped off your hair during the riots or Mom had left you and gone to the neighbour’s house, I would have contemplated it. But since you didn’t teach us by example to be fearful don’t expect me to do that?’.  Why am I fussing over my name, you may think?  Well, it is the beauty of my existence that by design, I can’t be labelled. You can’t begin to imagine how entertaining it is, for someone like me to travel through the length and breadth of a country, where everybody who meets me is absolutely convinced that my Muslim Mother has married a Sikh man and my name is a logical conclusion of that union! What a lovely story that would make! It would be a story similar to the photographer Ram Rahman’s, whose mother Indrani was a classical dancer, the Father Habib Rahman an architect and his maternal grandfather, North Indian and Maternal grandmother, American. But alas! we have different stories to tell and this ain’t mine!


So much for first impressions! Moving around with that map was like opening up a can of worms. Either the first or the second question asked by the majority of the people I met, was ‘aap ka dharam kyaa he’? What is my religion? ‘Nothing’, doesn’t cut it, my friend, trust me I tried. So, the next reply, was ‘my parents follow Sikhism’. Then, they would look at me rather suspiciously and ask, ‘are you married?’.’No’. If I had a Sikh husband, it would put their imaginations to rest but I managed to puzzle them, a great deal. Just because I don’t follow a particular religion, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. When I left from Delhi, the departure was as dramatic, as I can be. I was convinced I wasn’t coming back in one piece. My entire life, I’ve looked at the Creator as this worthy opponent who keeps winning the game. More often than not I have had a love-hate relationship with him. But after my brother’s departure, I’ve found myself softening. This time when I left, I made a deal with him. If I was totally and completely convinced he existed I would never, ever apologise to somebody for not taking good enough care of him. A load is off! When you spend days on the road and you see one accident after the other, when you’re saved by a fraction of a second a number of times, when people appear from nowhere to help you, you tend to start believing everything is by design.


Having said that, I have also become more vehemently opposed to organised religion. We have mangled, twisted and turned, our religious practices to suit  our convenience. I’m sure our prophets turn in their graves thinking about what we are doing.


I am not talking about going to the synagogue. That is a big thing. Leave all that to fools. There are many. And they also need some kind of engagement, occupation;those synagogues and churches, and temples provide it. But to you existence, nothing but existence, is the only temple. Nothing but life is the only God I teach. Respect your life you will start respecting life in others.-Osho.


I present to you a case against a few religions. The one on Hinduism will be another post. Lets start with the ones my parents follow.

Sikhism– There are a number of things I like about Sikhs, not because of anything my parents have said or taught me. But due to my exposure to dire circumstances, I’ve seen many Sikh organisations go out of their way to help people. The langar halls are famous for not discriminating and you will hardly ever see a Sikh begging. Plus, Sikhs are not interested in converting anyone. What I like the most, is that it is a martial race. During this trip, one illiterate Sikh man asked me about my religion, barring him no Sikh, I met anywhere in India, asked me this question. Other than the Gurudwara in Kashmir, no one was interested in knowing my name. In Patna Sahib, where singles are not given a room, they made an exception for me because of the stickers on my car. When I saw, a lady in a Burkha, coming out the Yatri Niwaas, I gave a thumbs up to the ancestor who chose to convert. Having said all that. Sikhs, are only 1.72 % of the total population in India and approximately 0.39% of the World. More than 76% of the total population live in Punjab where they form a majority. We may project ourselves as being incredibly liberal but we need to ask the families of the Hindus who were killed during the militancy in Punjab?  Lets ask Lala Jagat Narain’s family what they think about Sikhs? You may argue those were different circumstances, to me it seems like a majority flexing its muscles.


The reason we ( I include myself, since everyone will argue that I am one), are open to other people could also be because practically, we don’t have a choice! Look at like this, if you are Hindu and you don’t like the followers of other religions, in most states of India, you can afford to not work with them, live with them, have anything to do with them. But if you are a Sikh, living outside of Punjab or Canada, do you really have the luxury of hating other people? Of course not! For the sake of practicality, you can’t. That doesn’t make us any better than you! As far as being open to other religions, I don’t mean to disrespect the dead, but like the rest of my family my Naani, was perpetually worried that I would marry a Muslim man. It was my favourite retort, whenever she asked me when was I going to get married. My answer was always, ‘when you get me married to a Muslim man I will.’ Having said that the last thing, she said to me was, ‘Tune musalmaan naal vyaa karna he tu kar le.’ to which I replied, ‘hunn menu kuddi naal karna he!’. Thankfully, the family has evolved a great deal in the past decade and now I have a Muslim sister-in-law. My parents have also changed with time and my Dad says, ‘find someone who prays five times a day, he’ll be a nice person’! I just nod my head.


Sikhs, will not tell you this openly but in the smaller Gurudwaras in Kashmir, there are discussions about, ‘Ae Muslmaan saadi kudiyaa bhaga rahe!’. I once witnessed a woman crying in a Gurudwara, because her daughter had eloped with a Muslim classmate. So, some Sikhs are  also worried about ‘love jihaad’. We are going to hold on to what Aurangzeb did to Guru Tegh Bahadur in 1675 or the martyrdom of the Char Sahibzade in 1705 till kingdom comes but we don’t feel any grievance about the 1984 riots? How logical!  I have to wonder, how or why we don’t throw such a terrible fit when the girls or the boys find spouses from the majority? After all, idol worship is banned in Sikhism, discrimination based on caste is banned. I would assume in theory we should be throwing a larger fit about the other union. But everything is about convenience. Another, point which is not my own but my friend’s – We treat the Granth Sahib, like a person. I don’t- it lies over my bed, with the Bible, the Quran and the Bhagvat Gita. I can understand bowing down, in front of it out of respect for the ones who have departed. But really a book needs to be woken up, put to bed and fanned? Are we not treating it like an idol, then, a manifestation? We are not supposed to be discussing our caste, hence, the Singhs and the Kaurs are supposed to be used instead of our last names. Most of us don’t do that.  I can assure you, we are as ignorant and as arrogant as anybody else when it comes to this. Since my Mother’s side as well my Dad’s side both belong to the same caste, which is of the traders, for the longest time,  we didn’t grow up with a reference to our caste. Till my cousin’s who apparently belonged to a higher caste, due to union of the Mother and Father made references to their higher status. Oh, my Lord, I feel bad for the Gurus when I hear this . Do you know there are a few Gurudwaras in Punjab, where people who apparently belong to lower castes are not allowed? I was made aware of not being a Jat Sikh, when I was seeing a Sardar boy. I was quite blissfully unaware of the significance of it. I can go and on but lets move to the one, everybody thinks I have maximum affinity towards.


Islam- There are many similarities between Islam and Sikhism, therefore, the religion doesn’t seem alien to me. I don’t remember when and where I heard the Azaan, for the first time but it has always left a very deep impression on me. I have a natural affinity to martial races so I can understand standing up for what you think is correct. I love the languages associated with Islam- Persian and Arabic. I am fascinated by the architecture and the music, by how strict and systematic the religion is and by the namaaz. Its like doing yoga five times a day. Even the concept of sacrifice I get, sorry PETA, I think it was a great practise to teach a human being detachment and courage. Though, it has lost its relevance because its been twisted around for the sake of convenience. Since, Muslim women who choose the Hijab are constantly under fire by the western world these days, I will refrain from commenting on it. But I will say one thing-the hijab according to Islam is supposed to be for a man as well as for a woman. So, the one time I get angry about the hijaab is when I see a woman absolutely covered and her husband walking around in shorts or recently in Kerala, where a boy was taking a picture with these two girls, who I couldn’t differentiate between, due to their niqab and the boy who had accompanied them was happily taking selfies with them. They just seemed so uncomfortable, it made me uneasy. Most of the times, a number of Muslim women will tell you, that they have chosen it and we have no business of deciding what they can or can not wear.


There is just so much Islamphobia, I am not getting into a detailed criticism of Islam. But there are a couple of things that have personally affected me. Of course I have been called a kafir in Kashmir, on a few occasions (twice in 10 years is not bad) but I am not very affected by it because ‘bin pende da lotta, na ithe da na utthe da‘. People get damn pissed, they should definitely stop saying it and above all thinking it. This really gets my goat Just because I can chant, ‘la illah ha illah’, which to me means means’ there is only one God’, (like ik om kar) to you it may mean ‘there is no other God worthy of worship other than Allah’, does not mean that I’m open to the idea of being converted.  It’s not funny, when Muslim men I meet comment, that ‘its easy for a Muslim man to marry you because you will not have to change your name’ or ‘for a nikaah you just have to add Muhammadur rusoolallah’ . Some of these are men who don’t follow their religion. They drink, don’t go to the mosque on a Friday, they eat whatever is served to them-jatka or halal. My God it makes me mad. I recently gave a Muslim man a reason for not converting which left him tongue-tied. ‘My ancestors chose Sikhism, yours were probably forcefully converted…so out of courage and fear which one do you think I’m going to choose?’ He’s never passed any comments on what my religion is, after that.


This whole thing about ‘sajda’, confuses me. I have a Muslim assistant who will never miss his Friday prayer, will keep all the Rozas, is very particular about what he eats (he only consumes halal), who has never had a sip of alcohol. Yet, when he goes to the gurudwara, church or temple with me, will bow down out of respect, not because he believes it  is God. A number of Muslims will tell you Islam doesn’t allow this. In contrast, I have a friend, who doesn’t keep the rozas, follows the teachings of various spiritual groups, is a lot like me, yet when he goes to places of worship, stands in a corner because Islam doesn’t allow ‘prostration’. But if you follow the teachings of anything other than Islam, is that not actual submission? I get really confused by this behaviour.


Christianity-I grew up saying, ‘our Father in heaven holy be your name, kingdom come will be done’, because I studied in a convent school. Most of my aunts have a cross at home, a lot of us have the bible. Forgiveness, modesty, charity… there are so many wonderful things christianity teaches. But I really don’t get the part about Jesus being God’s son. If he was… so are we. Humans tend to elevate others to a God like stature because then we don’t have to raise ourselves to a level that God intends us to be. According to me, he was a teacher , like any of our Gurus or Prophets. Even the Christians are fascinated with converting others. Let people be! Plus, in my opinion, if you have an unwanted child, who you are terrible to, that makes you a sinner. By using birth control you don’t become one. Sexual abstinence, too has lost its significance in todays and age.



In any case the men in my life, have been categorically told-I can marry anyone who belongs to any religion, though I would prefer  someone who belongs to a martial race, as long as I get to choose the first or last name of the children. So, don’t be surprised if my child, like my dog, is called Raahat Kochar, Noor Kochar, Hillary Kochar, Satinder D’sillva or Jaswinder Khan and of course I ain’t changing my name for anybody!

54 Days Later

On the 1st of August, I returned to Delhi…to the same chaos, the same streets and the same spot on my flyover (the only thing I looked forward to). A little had changed, or perhaps a lot-the dargah I love had been partially demolished, the relationship with the Father had become strained and the Mother looked like she had aged a couple of years. I on the other hand felt a mix of pride, shock and betrayal. Why, the latter you may ask? When I left a part of me thought I wouldn’t return! As soon as I reached Greater Noida, I was so overwhelmed I sobbed like a child.

Another year has gone by and this is the Anniversary Edition. I want to thank everyone who checks out the blog and by that I mean-the men I have dated, the ones who want to date me or the women who want to make sure I don’t go after their men. Kidding! But just incase, this is a notification- it requires a gigantic effort to seduce someone’s man/woman and I am too damn lazy to do it.  Enough of my sarcasm, on a serious note, this year’s edition will be about surprise, surprise, my days on the road.

The 53rd Day-Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

a 100 pieces of me

53rd day in Kashmir.


Pakistan slogans in Kashmir 2016

53rd day on the Kadals.


Calling the CRPF for engagement, Kashmir Unrest 2016

Calling the CRPF for engagement.


The older children try to entice the CRFP, while P.K. watches them. P.K is a 5 year old boy, who engages in this activity because he wants 'freedom'. Ask him what his name is and he says 'Mera naan Burhan he.'

The older children try to entice the CRFP, while P.K. watches them. P.K is a 5 year old boy, who engages in this activity because he wants ‘freedom’. Ask him what his name is and he says ‘Mera naam Burhan he.’


53rd day of Unrest in Kashmir

53rd day on the Kadal.


Saadiya Kochar

53rd Day of Unrest in Kashmir.


a 100 pieces of me

The forces make their way back to the area.


Saadiya Kochar

A boy checks on the lane behind me to ensure, I don’t get hurt.


53rd day of unrest in Kashmir

Removing the Blockage


Pellet guns kashmir

The Chase


Pellet injuries

The Search


Kashmir 2016

An older man takes me to his house to show me the wreckage after a nocturnal search. Damaged windows, appliances and a stench so terrible, that from the moment i stepped in, I had a hard time controlling the cough.


saadiya kochar, pellet guns kashmir

‘Aa maar hume pellet’, yell the boys, while the one with an already existing injury, advances forward.


a 100 pieces of me

Kaini Kadal-‘Non-lethal’ methods of crowd control. While the boys yell out ‘kalia, kokur-ch%#dh’ as insults, the armed personnel retort with ‘CRPF ki aulado’.


Saadiya Kochar

‘Tu police walli he’, asks this boy, incredibly agitated by me. ‘Na’. ‘Phir itna jigra kaise he?’


Retreating the boys run inside the smaller lanes and the armed personnel begin pelting stones.

Retreating the boys run inside the smaller lanes and the armed personnel begin pelting stones.

A couple of boys move towards the Karan Nagar side.

A couple of boys move towards the Karan Nagar side.


Karan Nagar

Stone Pelting in Karan Nagar


Habba kadal stone pelting

After the crowd has dispersed, on their evening rounds the JK police pelts stones on a house. A girl screams from the adjoining house,’ Ma’am when you go back, please tell them we are not terrorists but freedom fighters, like Gandhiji.’


After spending an entire day, watching what they called 'chua-billi ka khel', I head back. As I do, the armed personnel try to remove the blockage.

After spending an entire day, watching what they called ‘chua-billi ka khel’, I head back. As I do, the armed personnel try to remove the blockage.

‘It has happened and it goes on happening and it will happen again if nothing happens to stop it.

The innocent know nothing because they are too innocent.

The poor do not notice because they are too poor.

And the rich do not notice because they are too rich.

The stupid shrug their shoulders because they are too stupid.

And the clever shrug their shoulders because they are too clever.

The young do not care because they are too young.

And the old do not care because they are too old.

That is why nothing happens to stop it.

And that is why it has happened and goes on happening and will happen again.-Erich Fried.


Ji khabar aee he…pathrav ho raha he Keni Kadal me,’ says the voice on the phone. It’s 10 a.m on the 30th of August, the 53rd day of Unrest and I have decided to miss my flight. The government has lifted the curfew but the shops are shut and according to the calendar the women are supposed to gather at the crossings.
Though, there  are autos on the road, not a single one is willing to take me there. A little further away from the Police station, a ‘kani jung’, has been dispersed and the CRPF are searching for the protestors. I wait a while and then ask a passerby how to get to Kaini Kadal. He’s kind enough to walk with me. ‘Aap akele na ghumme yahaan. Aadmi ke saath chale. Haalat kharaab he,’ he says concerned about my well-being. ‘Aadmi kyaa karega? ‘, I ask him. ‘You could get lost, it’s best to be with a man who can guide you. I will take you till there but be careful.’ We walk for a bit, people ask him who I am and where he’s taking me. ‘She’s just a lost tourist’, he replies in spite of knowing, otherwise.
We reach the area, which is close to Habba Kadal and Karan Nagar. As we reach the bridge, he stops next to a few boys and says, ‘Ye aa gayaa aap ka Kaini Kadal. Khudda Hafiz.’ Since there faces aren’t covered, it takes me a minute to realise that I’m standing in between the protestors.’Aap uss taraf jao. Photo nahin kheechna, yahaan se,’ says a ten-year old boy. I walk across the road towards the CRPF. Now I’m on the Habba Kadal, side and there seems to be an entire battalion there-rakshak cars, police vehicles, Jk Police and the CRPF. ‘So many for a handful of children’, I think to myself. I walk around and wait…I wait and wait. It’s around 11.30 in the morning. The ex assistant calls to ask if I’ve found my way and to call as soon as I reach the hotel. The forces ask me where I am from. ‘Delhi’. ‘ Where is the rest of your team?’, they ask. ‘ I’m alone.’ ‘Darti nahin ho, kyaa?‘ they ask in disbelief.  ‘Kyun aap nahin darte?’,  is my only retort to the silly question. Everyone feels scared, whether they admit it or not!
I sit down on the steps of one of the closed shops. A middle aged Kashmiri man joins me. ‘ Chotti yahaan mat beth. Humare ghar chal. Chai pi.’ Kashmiri hospitality at its best. I politely decline the offer. After the basic introductions, we sit around chatting about the state of affairs. ‘Tu jis cheez ki wait kar rahi he, voh jaise he ye gadiyaan jangee tabhi hogi.’, he informs me about the impending circumstances. A family cautiouly steps out from the house, opposite to where I have unceremoniouly parked myself. ‘ Please come to our house, incase you need anything. Bathroom, jana hoga to, aa jana. Just because the circumstances are such doesn’t mean we have forgotten how to take care of our guests.’
 Slowly the Rakshak cars and seventy percent of the troops head back to the camp for lunch. As they make their way back, one asks me to come along. ‘ Madam, chalie khaana khaeye.’ I decline the offer, though in retrospect I think it would have been an experience breaking bread with the men, who spend their lives trying to protect us.
 If you’ve never been to Kashmir, you can’t imagine what a sight a woman wearing cameras around her neck, sitting alone on the steps of downtown is. By the time the Zuhar Namaaz is over and the troops have left, it has been mentioned in the Masjid and half of the locality comes to check me out. I meet all kinds-the kind ones, the hospitable ones, the agitated ones, the curious ones and the suspecting ones and I am truly intimidated.
In between all this, I am handed a cup of tea and roti by the family. The usual questions  ‘Where? Why? How? Saadiya what?’ The standard reply- ‘Kochar..I’m  not Muslim. I’m a Sardarni!’. Nowhere, do I  ascertain my Sikhi more than in Kashmir only due to the unfair advantage my first name grants me. A loudmouth starts to articulate his displeasure with me in English and some of the sceptics cheer at his fluency.  ‘I don’t appreciate your tone’, is all I say when he begins to ask me for my I.D. ‘Don’t stammer…don’t stammer!’ I tell myself. Right on cue, an older gentleman appears and asks me to come to his house. ‘Kal se press valon ko phone kar raha hu. Koi nahin aaya.‘ Thankfully, the ex assistant calls. ‘Someone wants to take me to their house. I’m going, ‘ I tell him. ‘Let me speak to them’, he says panicking. ‘ Please take care of her,’ he tells the boy who escorts me. ‘Don’t worry she is our sister,’he replies.
Off I go, through the lanes with a small group into a house. As soon as I enter I can’t stop coughing. There are broken appliances and clothes on the floor. ‘They came to search for our sons, saying they are pelting stones. When they couldn’t find them, they broke everything. I don’the know why the SHO is targeting  just my family. The Jk Police tortures us more than the CRPF,’he claims. A few short interviews later there’s a panic.  ‘Police..police!’ yells someone outside and a member of the group runs down with my bag. I run after him but I am blocked. Within a few minutes, my bag is returned and there are no cops.
I am escorted back to the Kadal ( bridge)  where I wait in anticipation. A five year old boy in a green shirt, glides towards it and starts to block the road. ‘Wo aa gaya P.K. Iska bhai 10 saal ka he aur jail me he. Iss ko bhi le ke gaye the station. Chaud diya,’ an adolescent informs me. ‘Ask him what his name is?’ I call P.K and ask him what his name is. ‘Mera naam Burhan he!’, he says. ‘Humare naam roshan karega!’, smiles the adolescent proudly.
And then suddenly everything starts moving at a crazy pace. They appear from nowhere…5 year old..10 year old.. .15 year old…20 year old boys. They all seem unfamiliar. ‘Jo jahaan ka hota voh wahan par nahin karta, protest’. They block the roads and then the younger ones run across the bridge to entice the CRPF and sure enough they appear. Fully covered in front of fearless, abusive children.
There are various groups divided between Habba Kadal, Kaini Kadal and Karan Nagar-each only a kilometer away from one another. I glide between both the Locals and the armed personnel..arousing the suspicion of both. By the end of the day, the boys have had enough of me. One of them sends me off to sit with the ladies under the bridge. They fuss over me. Thankfully my phone doesn’t quit ringing and I hand it to them to answer and inform people of my whereabouts. It’s just a precautionary measure.
The boy in the red mask appears without his mask. He enquiries from the ladies (in Kashmiri) if I have been taking pictures from that particular spot…have I been asking them any questions about the boys. They reply to the negative. Then he begins to question me…ultimately he gets agitated. ‘Tu police walli he kyaa?’ I nod. ‘To phir itna jigara kese he?’ ‘Sardar hu iss liye!’ But he’s unconvinced. My meekness doesn’t help so I do what I do best- Behave like a drama queen- ‘Ye le mere I’d.  Mere ghar ka pata he, agar police walli nikli ghar me aa ke maryo mujhe.’ That’s too much for him to hear. ‘Do you think I want to hurt you? Nobody will say anything to you but go away now. Stop taking pictures. Enough.’ Actually, after spending a day there, I have had my fill!

52nd Day-Normalcy between pellet injuries and kani jungs.




An ambulance makes its way through the kani jung.


Clashes in Batamaloo

Clashes in Batamaloo


Boys against the force

Boys against the force


52nd day- Clashes in Batamaloo

52nd day- Clashes in Batamaloo


One of the most volatile localities in Srinagar.


‘Behanji aap me dimaag nahin he. Jao yahaan se.’- I get yelled at


Mr T came over this morning. This was his first visit, so over a cup of tea we discussed the ‘haalat‘ and how stubborn I am to be stepping out by myself. ‘ Where can I take you, today?’ he asked. ‘SMHS’, I replied. So off we went in an auto to the hospital, where I was threatened on my last visit. I didn’t want to go there alone, to be honest-so I was glad for the company. We took the back entrance, to avoid any unnecessary attention. Before we could enter the building, I heard a familiar voice, ‘Kesi hain aap?’. There stood the lady who forbade me to enter the wards, on my last visit. With her arm stretched out, she gave me the sweetest smile. I shook her hand hoping we wouldn’t be stopped again. It was my lucky day.

Considering that there are talks of replacing the pellet gun, it’s shocking that even now fifty-one days later, the situation at SMHS, is still grim. The papers claim that there are a fresh round of pellet injuries and more than thirty people have been hit by the pellet in their eyes. We enter the ophthalmology ward and from little children to young boys can be seen wearing those dreadful black glasses, masking their eye injuries. I keep my head bowed, my eyes to the floor and my head covered. T does the talking. When they ask him where I’m from in Kashmiri, he just replies ‘Times Of India’. They leave me alone but continue to question him. For about ten minutes we move from bed to bed as quickly as we can, barely interacting with the subjects and leave.

Injured children and injured adults.

Injured children and injured adults.


A child tries to sleep through his pellet injury.

A child tries to sleep through his pellet injury.

I come back to the hotel and he leaves, saying he will call if anything happens. A little while later, I go back to SMHS. This time to see what is happening on the volunteer front. By the time I reach it’s lunch time and all the organisations that had been there over a month ago, are still there providing-food, medicines and water . I speak to a few people who say, it’s still quite terrible. A lot more people have been admitted in the past week and everyday it seems someone passes away.

On the way back, I’m dropped off by a very friendly twenty four year old auto driver, from Safa Kadal. ‘The CRPF uses us as human shields in our area. I leave the house early in the morning because I’m tired of being confined. You all keep saying that the Hurriyat pays these boys to stir trouble. Do you know it’s the opposition parties that pay their people money to stir trouble? They all just want money and power. The only person who gets into trouble is the sixteen-year old boy, who doesn’t belong to any party. The ones who are affiliated  even if they are caught are set free in just a few days . We have a jail, we have our own law and yet the boys are sent to Tihar. Punish us if we are guilty but first at least file a case and prove that a person is, don’t just keep him in lockup for years! ‘

After his passionate monologue, all I can say is ‘may God make your tomorrow better than your yesterday.’ Get dropped and I’m informed by my people that there’s trouble in Batamaloo. As soon as I reach there, I find Mr T and a few other members of the fraternity. T is taken aback. ‘ How did you get to know’, he asks. ‘I have my sources, T’, I reply grinning sheepishly. There are stones on the street but no boys and no JKP around. Within ten minutes they start trickling in. As soon as I start taking pictures they ask, ‘Apne boyfriend ko dikhaee gee?’ In no other part of Srinagar, has any stone pelter done this but these guys love me. ‘Ye dekho madam, aap kehti he bacche he. Suno inki bate,’ the armed personnel are pissed. T is embarrassed by their behaviour, ‘you stay back’.

Maybe I am too close or they are way too agitated but for the first time in nine years the stones touch my body. I suffer absolutely no injury, one fall on my foot…the other hits my leg, gently and one whisks past me, twenty inches away from the head. The only reason it bothers me is because I can’t figure out if it is accidental or intentional. One of them eventually yells out ‘Behenji aap me dimaag nahin he. Jao yahaan se.’ Since T has left, the SHO is yelling and so are they, I decide to split.


51st Day-Rain, Rain Go Away.


51st Day Of Unrest In The Valley

51 days after Burhan Wani was killed.

51 days after Burhan Wani was killed.


Boulevard Road On The 51st Day Of Unrest In The Valley

Boulevard Road On The 51st Day Of Unrest In The Valley

On a rainy day, through a quiet city a woman in red walks around with a bag on her back, occasionally closing her eyes to feel the rain drops on her face. She opens them just as quickly because her heart pounds in her chest. As she does this continually, for a few minutes she feels her self float above to get a bird’s-eye view of the poetic scene. ‘If only it weren’t this tragic!’, she thinks to herself as she meanders through the familiar terrain.

Madam, bade dino baad aee he!’, says the security personnel. I’m a bit taken aback but it is their job to notice people like me. I chit-chat with them as I take shelter from the rain. ‘We were sent to Amarnath for a little bit but I’ve just been here ever since.’ ‘Do you think the situation will change around Eid?’, I ask him. ‘Never know with these people…do you know they don’t think of themselves as Indians?’ He’s aghast. ‘I know they don’t!’ That’s my exit. ‘You can’t force them to’, I say as I walk away. A few years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead chatting with an uniformed man. A few years ago, I wasn’t disrespected by random strangers as I walked around, Srinagar either. In a volatile situation like this-tact is of prime importance and not being a prisoner of your own opinions, is another.

I make my way to the ex assistant’s house where I’m covered in a blanket and fed by his family. People keep walking in and out. There are chickens, kittens and little children in the background. ‘You shouldn’t have come to Kashmir. We worry about your safety. Haalat pehle jese nahin he. Rising Kashmir ki reporter se bhi badtameeze ki he.‘ They show me an article which states that a female reporter was verbally assaulted by the security personnel. I try to change the topic. ‘If the shutdown continues, how will people survive?’ I ask them. ‘ In Kashmir we are always prepared. We keep enough ration in our houses and everybody helps each other out.’ replies my ex assistant’s father. ‘This time around they have to resolve the issue…too many people have been killed. ‘ ‘ Many were killed earlier too and yet it returned towards partial normalcy.’ I reply. ‘ This time it won’t! Go to any area, speak to anyone we all want the same thing.’

An auto drops me in front of the hotel. I cross the road to speak to some fruit vendors. As I do so, my friend Ocean calls. While I chat with him I take a shot of a passerby. The minute I finish my conversation, I am face to face with a cop. ‘Are you a tourist?’ asks the Jk police man politely. ‘No’, I reply. ‘ Then what are you trying to do?’ ‘Nothing,’ I reply. A few customary questions later, I have a question of my own for him. ‘ Sir, why the questioning? There is no curfew today.’ ‘ First we need to know where you’re from. If you’re a local-which you are not, which organisation do you belong to? For all we know you could be from the Millat. If you’re an outsider we need to ensure your safety and inform you to not trust anyone. These days you don’t get to know who is who,’ he replies.

51 days later, there's partial normalcy in the Valley.

51 days later, there’s partial normalcy in the Valley.

The conversation continues and I am given an insight into the lives of the Jk Police. He shows me an identity card with his photograph on it but it states that he works in a pharmacy. ‘This is for our safety…when we return to our districts we pretend to be someone else. Do you know if I walked into a local hospital, the doctors  will not treat me because I am from JKP? We are sitting over here to protect the fruit vendors, so that no one harasses them. But your people can also write that we don’t allow them to work or that we take money from them. ‘ ‘Why the resentment towards the media?’ I ask. ‘Your profession demands that you should be impartial and fair. Show both sides equally but you all don’t do that. Especially, the Kashmiri press always wants to portray us as the bad guys, even when we are trying to help they misconstrue entire episodes. You know all five fingers are not the same. Some uniformed man could be rude to you that doesn’t mean that you will generalise and think we are all the same. Carry on with your work.’ Though, he’s polite and we’ll spoken he seems a bit weary of me. He takes my number and I give it to him knowing not doing so will just arouse his suspicion.

The common man who tries to survive through it all.

The common man who tries to survive through it all.

 The fruit vendors sit at the crossing outside my hotel window. I see them bustling with energy despite the present circumstance. One agrees to chat with me. ‘For the past few days we have resumed work. We leave our houses at 5.30 in the morning, so that we don’t get into any trouble. The only people who don’t want azaadi are the 5% of the rich, who have houses outside Kashmir. The rest 95% want freedom!’ he states.

A couple of hours later, I receive a message from the cop, asking if I need any help. ‘No thank you,’ I reply politely. My natural instincts forbid me to trust, in haste.



The 50th Day

50th day of unrest in Kashmir.

                   Since there was a call to march to Badami Bagh, the area was cordoned.




Lal Chowk on the 50th day of the unrest of 2016.

                                               Lal Chowk on the 50th day of the unrest of 2016.



50 days of unrest in the Valley.

             50 days of unrest in the Valley.


A Rajasthani man busy with his occupation while most parts of the city are under curfew.

A Rajasthani man- busy with his occupation while most parts of the city are under curfew.


 I wake up with a tremour. The fear of flying coupled with a general anxiety about visiting the Valley at this time (after last month’s you blame me?) makes me incredibly nervous. The cab is a little late…the parents are awake and for the first time in a long time, the entire entourage (parents, the help and the dog) come outside to bid me adieu. My hands start to tremble in the cab. ‘It’s a sign…my final goodbye’. ‘Madam T3 jana he?’ asks the cab driver. ‘Haan’. And of course that’s not where I’m supposed to go! Get dropped at T3 and as I get off the cab, I realize I’m at the wrong terminal. Hail another cab…reach the airport, on time thankfully and just keep walking around in a daze. I just can’t seem to calm the nerves. One of my greatest fears in life is…fear. It’s a vicious circle, the minute I start feeling afraid, I become so nervous about the fact that I’m scared that I start behaving incongruous. Trip a few times and only after I buy a few books do I calm down. A few more faux pas later,  I am convinced the universe is giving me a sign but I have already boarded the flight. 

After visiting Kashmir continually for the past nine years, you would expect more from me, as I would from myself. But over the course of the past year, one has witnessed the growing suspicion towards the Non-Muslim in the Valley. Plus, I’m arriving all alone fifty days after Burhan Wani was killed. So it ain’t going to be a walk in the park. Anyway, share a cab and land up at the same hotel where I stayed last time. After all, I need to be near trouble. 

Check in and an hour later I step out into a mild drizzle. The weather is perfect for a nice walk. Though, there’s a lot more vehicular movement most areas are cordoned. It’s an odd mix of normalcy and captivity. Walk towards Yaseen Malik’s territory and get into an argument with an armed personnel. He tries to flex his muscles and I try to pretend I ain’t scared of nobody. We argue for a few minutes and then his companions break up the party. ‘Madam aap aage jaa ke kaam karo.’ I try again and succeed. In the corner sit two men at work. I chat with the Rajasthani workers who have been working in Srinagar for the past sixteen years. ‘ Hume koi kuch nahin kehta yahan par. December tak rahte he. Phir March me vaapis aate hein.’ 

Take a quick glance at Lal Chowk, which looks as deserted as it did last month and start to make my way towards Badami Bagh. The Joint Resistance leadership was supposed to walk towards the 14 core of the Indian Army at Badami Bagh and though, it’s a little late, I want to go there to see what’s up. Autumn is almost here, the weather is beautiful and without the conflict it would be the perfect place to live. The light drizzle turns into a mild shower and I hail an auto. The movement of traffic is restricted but there are a lot more people around this time. A few pictures here and a few pictures there and I ready to go back. ‘Madam kaun se channel see he aap?’asks the auto driver. I inform him that I am a free lancer. ‘Humari awaaz pohachti he ke nahin?’. ‘Yes, people know what Kashmiris want,’ I tell him. 

By this time we have reached my destination but he wants to chat. So  while it rains we have a heart to heart sitting in an auto parked outside my hotel. This forty year old auto driver, from the territory of the Mirwaiz has completed Msc. Four of his friends have been missing for over a decade and he himself was imprisoned for a few. ‘Unhone itna mara poocha militant he, mene bola hu,’he confesses. ‘We just want our freedom because we were free in the first place. Both Pakistan and India just want our land and they don’t care about the people. But at least Pakistan doesn’t torture the people of Azad Kashmir. I leave my house at six a.m so that I can earn some money. What can I say to you? Look at our people. Madam is saying the people who were killed didn’t step out to buy milk and toffee. NC, tortured us for many years but I never felt as bad as when I read this. This is the worst kind of betrayal.’ We eventually say goodbye.

I come back to my room and wonder why I was palpitating. That’s till, the announcements, the whistling, the yelling and the hum kya chahte begin. So for now, the light remains on the entire night.







Solo Date #10- Nehru Planetarium

Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi

Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi

I’m sure I must have visited the Nehru Planetarium as a child, on the usual school trip but I don’t recollect it.  Have I found the second most romantic place in Delhi, after my flyover? Hell Yeah! It’s also the perfect place to take yourself out on a Sunday afternoon before you head out for the evening. That’s exactly what I did.


Caught the 3 p.m show at the planetarium, that was once the official residence of Jawaharlal Nehru. Forty minutes in a darkened auditorium, looking at projections of galaxies merging into one- one devouring the other, the planets and their moons-juxtaposed with the screeches of little children. If you don’t want the disturbance, visit on a weekday.


The place was packed… in fact the 250 seating capacity was full to the brim, for the four p.m show. The exhibition area, the bookstore and the souvenir shop are soon to be upgraded.

Address– Teen Murti House,

                   Teen Murti Marg

                    New Delhi

 Nearest Metro– Race course (Yellow Line)

Show Timings– English-11.30 a.m and 3 p.m

                                Hindi- 1.30 p.m and 4.00 p.m


Solo Date #9-Raj Ghat

Raj Ghat on Independence Day

Raj Ghat on Independence Day

It’s a long weekend and one is fortunately compelled to stay in Delhi. I spend Saturday with the mother and the Sunday being pampered by one of my favourite girl friends. It’s a post birthday celebration and I wake up feeling slightly hung over ( after only two pints of beer) on Independence day.


After catching glimpses of Karma on the tele, I head off to Raj Ghat, the place where the Father of the Nation- Mahatma Gandhi, was cremated. It’s a large expanse of land and I am surprised to see the number of visitors. Foreign tourists with their guides, little children with their kites and the couples hiding from prying eyes…all seem to be enjoying the sunny afternoon.


 I hand over my sandals to the men who are there to take care of them and tip toe my way to the black marble that marks the spot where Bappu was cremated in January 1948. The burning flame reminds me of his words, ‘ truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.’ The solemn moment is invaded by the perpetual insistence of the photographer, to get a picture taken. Right next to Gandhi’s memorial is the Epson picture mate, from which the print promptly appears.


Address- Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Ring Road. New Delhi-110006.

No Entry Fee

Timings-6a.m-6 p.m

What has missed you wasn’t supposed to reach you!

I’ve always felt like an anachronism…when I was younger due to my forwardness and as I age in my backwardness. These day I  find myself wishing for things that are  passé…handwritten letters, a walk in the park, friendships that stand the test of time, a slow quiet  life and a love that can make me stay. 

Fifteen years ago, being me was an act of rebellion- the clothing, the tatoos, the sullen attitude made me an oddity…it seems these days it’s the norm. Now, I find myself in the company of an entire generation like myself- self centered, commitement phobic, adrenaline junkies. The difference being I’m rapidly advancing towards forty and they are just hitting their twenties. 

‘Why don’t you meet my friend Jaswinder?’ asks my happily  married (touch wood)  friend as she struggles with her life these days. ‘Do you not like your friend?Why would you want him to meet me?’I ask. ‘Shut up! Why not?What is wrong with you? You need someone who understands the situation at home. You know love doesn’t happen in a day!’she says. ‘Ya, ya I’ll think about it,’ I reply rolling my eyes. ( I don’t know shit about love, I think to myself)’I know you won’t!’she says thoroughly exasperated. 

Once in a blue… blue moon, I meet a woman who balances marriage, ambition and motherhood in a way that makes me want to dip my little toe in the water. But I ain’t no superwoman, just a mere hybrid who has a woman’s body  with an ego of a man. Plus, one’s a coward,  one can’t take a leap of faith….one can only go down yelling and crying. 

Yesterday, I saw a photograph someone from my previous life had shared on Facebook. A memory from  eight years ago. A picture of me with my favourite boys. Sometimes, a happy picture can make you so sad…not just because it reminds you of the people who are no longer in your life but because it makes you realize that you will never be that girl. ‘She’s gone but she use to be mine.’ Sometimes, I wish I could be that girl from eight years ago- for just a day. Erase the past two years and start with a heart that was full of hope and a little bit of love. 

3 Years Later




AUGUST 2013. When I started this blog, it was the beginning of the end of a era. What was conceived as a platform where I would occasionally document the lives of the women I met, became an emotional support system- a form of release. I don’t think that amongst the zillion things that are posted on the web everyday, this blog holds any significance to any one other than myself and the creeps who want to search about masturbation.

For me it has become what my camera is- a protective shield. A means through which I interact with the world and at the same time, something I hide behind. Whether, it continues to grow (or not) I’m intensely grateful for being able to share pieces of me.


Zeenat and Muskaan

We Turned Two!

Muskaan and Zeenat are 12 year old twin girls who reside in Dallupura village, which lies on the border of Noida and falls under the Kondli constituency. Muskaan wants to grow up to be a doctor and Zeenat wants to become a policewoman. “Next year we will be older and will keep the Rozas, like our Mother”, says Zeenat.  

”Zeenat troubles me more because she’s younger. She speaks more and I study more,” Muskaan says rather timidly.In response, Zeenat giggles uncontrollably.

“Who loves Mom more” I ask? “Mein”, they both yell out.