Mum-occupied in one of her favourite activities- flipping through magazines.
Four feet seven inches of cuteness, ferocity and kindness wrapped into one. Pinky aka, My Kashmiri Apple, Pupee, Baby aka Amma, and I at Kasbah. No wonder, I am so fascinated by cuteness, grew up around too much of it! This much cuteness, should be a punishable offence.

Stepping into the last month of the year with a little hope and faith in the future. This is me…just telling myself that, hoping I’ll feel like it. Fake it…till you make it. The past two years have been trying, so has the past week but one will hopefully bounce back, with a ferocity that is genetic. You should have met what (not who but what) I came out of…on her worst days, she was the wildest thing, you could have laid eyes on! I pale in comparison and how…not as nice ( opposite of it actually), not as pretty ( my Kashmiri apple..I used to call her that…was too cute) and not as ferocious, either. Sometimes, I am saddened by how little of that people remember, I guess like my brother’s memories, her escapades too shall disappear with me. What she did for others, everyone remembers, which is lovely but what made her so unique, is albeit a distant memory!

A few things popped up, today. Someone shared a meme, about mums and then there was news of someone passing away…which made me touchy because, well, somethings remind me of my mom, plus, like they say, one thinks too much and feels too much, which sometimes, also means one ends up saying too much which I guess, I shouldn’t. Having a few of those days, when I have had to filter my impulses, hide and delete them, knowing there’s no point in reacting! Have to learn to keep my feelings and words in check! Someone, should pack me off to Kashmir every two months, to calm down! Unfortunately, I am here and all the gorgeousness of the autumn there!

Death-Ashes to ashes, baby, dust to dust. I’ll be forgotten in two hours but the rest of you, too shall become someone, somebody knew. Remembered, once in a while by someone who loved you. Hmmm, or if you have a traumatic ending like I hope to have, you might become an example. Aise karoge to uss ki tarah banjoge! Dude, in a world full of nice be the freaking aberration!- Saadiyaism, I should term my nonsense, utterances !

My ideal, death scenario- dying in car, on an open highway, with the wind blowing through my hair…hopefully, fingers crossed, in Kashmir. About me, they shall say-‘Aaj tak kissi di gal nahi, sunni iss kuddi ne! Hun dekho aee ki hogaya!’ Here’s hoping, one remains a cocky little shit, till one’s dying day! That’s something to look forward to!

Happy Diwali


Happy Diwali Pinky, my Kashmiri Apple! I know you prefer these terms of endearment, complimenting your cute looks to Amma. I was standing outside the house yesterday, checking out your floor- where the renovation is being completed and one of the neighbours said to me-‘ Every time I see you standing outside, I think to myself- she looks just like her mother.’ Aww, ‘andhera kumbh gera’ looks like you! It maybe because I was wearing one of our twinning outfits ( you thought I was being silly buying the same outfits for us but I think they look sweet. I’ll make sure my babies and I wear identical outfits on Diwali). I miss you so much!When someone blesses me or compliments any of SC’s qualities, I miss you terribly. ‘ My Amma, was like that and so much more!’ I think to myself. How sweet you were! They tell me, I hide a heart like yours behind walls of wrath, they have no clue how loving and forgiving you were!

If you were here, you would have looked at how much of an asshole, I’m behaving like and would have yelled, ‘Diyaaa stop behaving like a bitch!’ and we would have burst into peels of laughter. Now, I get angry, write trash in a fit of anger (because I don’t know what else to do) and a couple of hours later think, ‘Wow! My mum would be so disappointed in me, right now!’ then I change the settings, so that, I don’t forget my weakest moments. Hopefully, they’ll make me stronger, someday. If you were here, to everything that was happening your reply would have been ‘let it be’. But I’m yet to take a dip in the Sarovar and ask God to help me control my fury, like you. How violent and uncontrollable you were, uff, you were scary as hell, before that! It seems like, I have replaced all emotions with anger-sadness, fear, anxiety, pain…my one stop solution, is to blow off the handle. I better learn to control this excessive passion, that we all seem to suffer from before I adopt any babies because no one should be exposed to this. ‘Be a monster and then learn to control it. That’s where real strength comes from!’ says JP. Well, I don’t need to try being one but I got to learn how to control it, soon.

It’s about how hard you can get hit


As one struggles with one’s sanity, one tries to deconstruct your life and find inspiration from it. I go through prescriptions and photographs to try to figure out the best way to save myself. I ain’t going down without a fight, for sure! These pictures were taken at your worst, I wonder who shot them and why? The first one was of course after the self immolation, the breasts and arm were burnt! I think it was Ashwini bhaiya, who operated upon you, in Kolmet. I remember for a long time ( was it for a year or two?) that you couldn’t wear a top because you were so itchy! The rest of course look like your Corex and medicine induced states. With Dustu’s cards asking you to stop downing that God forsaken cough syrup, I also found Dr Kothari’s prescriptions. I wish I could say, it’s very different from my shrink’s prescription! My mother…my self, haan!

They try to convince me and other people of course, that you were absolutely fine as long as everybody else was taking care of you and somehow murderous me, went and killed you! The shrink tells me, a pill will make the antisocial me, better, meaning nicer, I’m assuming. I’ll probably stop slam dunking people, if I just take some tablet. Miraculously, I will forget being accused of murdering you, ah even better murdering your son ( I keep thanking God I was with GD that night) of eloping, of everybody I know being called, of my love life being discussed as if it was something that was ongoing and even imaginary extra marital affairs being made up ( strategically, just so that I wouldn’t work in a particular area), of my work and my intelligence being mocked…of even my previous landlady in Kashmir being called up to discuss how I wasn’t making your relative a Director and probably it will be some Kashmiri boy….of being alienated…all of this as I was grappling with loosing you and trying to make sense of my existence. ‘ Let it be. Don’t think about it. How does it make a difference to your life?’ well wishers ask me.’ I would have, if it didn’t seem all too familiar and above all misogynistic to the freaking core of it!

So, instead of talking to people I keep to myself mostly, make sure no one knows who I meet ( otherwise they too will be called…of course the Wall and S are exceptions because the won’t flip sides) and if people do ungli, which they can’t help themselves from doing….I just return the favour. You know I’m too lazy to go on the offensive but people sometimes mistake me for you…they assume I have your tolerance level…But sau sanahar ki aur ek lauhar ki!I give it back and they get another round of ammunition. The mature thing to do would be to not react I know…ideally be like you…but If I’m going to go into to the Chakarvyuh and the exit has been blocked, I ain’t going down quietly, that’s for sure. Especially because someday this is going to be a lesson for my daughter- from your life she will learn perseverance and kindness but from mine, it will be this- In the worst of circumstances, even at your frailest moment…even if you have do it by yourself…we try to peg the patriarchy…win or loose…we fight irrespective of how powerful the opponent! We face our internal demons and hero up.

P. S- In case there’s any confusion, the term ‘peg the patriarchy’ isn’t being used here as a sexual term, it isn’t the same as a particular sexual act known as pegging. ‘ Matatas, who coined and trademarked this term, calls it a ‘ metaphor for ‘ subverting a system that requires subservience, within a gender binary !’

A year and a half later

Dear Amma,

Yesterday, you popped up on my FB wall, Amma, as it’s been a year and a half since you passed. Each time I write Amma, I can see you face squirming…how you hated being addressed as such! It was mom, high tea, diamonds, Kaaashmir and what not for you! You were always too fancy dudette and I was too desi.

Time passes, like it does. Your nighties smell less of you and more of me, now. I haven’t been able to get a tattoo due to Covid, so you know how clingy SC gets. Those Marks and Spenser, nightgowns are bakwaas, by the way, they’ve completely lost their shape. I always told you, a local tailor constructs better garments than these chains but you thought I was a miser ( which I am but still). No wonder, people would look at us and go, ‘hai yeh aapki beti he?’

That reminds me, turns out that becoming a particular version of you, is my deepest fear. I find myself fighting with people and more often than not, yelling-‘I’m not my mother! Don’t try, the crap you tried on her!’ Also, surprise, surprise, the less in control of one’s life one feels, the more aggressive one gets. Oh I’m so lovely, these days! You were so gentle, my tongue would have embarrassed you . Though, my fit throwing would have seemed familiar. Remember how I was between fourteen to sixteen? Well, I’m not as bad…I don’t run out of the house at 2 a.m and keep walking around to calm down but uff, the wrath! They say, it’s been accumulated over a long period and especially after loosing you and going through the lovely experience of feeling cornered and alone…when I was already vulnerable, has tipped off my mental balance. Maybe it has or maybe I’m just plain nuts and of course totally misanthropic.

Good choice on the boy…I should have listened to you. You always knew better than I, who was good for me. Ever since, you’ve gone he frets over me like a mother hen. You shouldn’t have asked him to promise you, that he’ll take care of me. He actually came down to ensure, that I wasn’t going completely bonkers. Sat around ( watching a silly series with me) gave me pep talks ( you need to channel the anger constructively) and pampered me silly ( we went out ever single night). Poor guy, seemed a bit scandalised by your man. But you know how that plays out better than anyone else.

Nevertheless, life is the way, it is, circular. As I grow older, I understand you more. Honestly, I never understood why you were so paranoid? Why you would tell the domestic help ‘ if anyone calls just tell them I’m sleeping’. Why did you become addicted to Corex ( oh, I found the sweetest cards your son made for you. ‘Mummy please stop drinking Corex!. They’re heartbreaking!) Why did you prefer the company of kids and animals? As I delve deeper into my own psyche and try to confront my shadows, I’ve had to re-examine you and your life as well.

I forgave you a long time ago but now I truly empathise with you and two of my brothers. Respect! I’ve been in your shoes for a year and a half and I’m like ‘ Oh sweet mother of God!’ But you all are too nice and I’m a loose freaking canon with nada to loose…no boyfriend or husband who can be manipulated, no extended family and whatever can be said to my friends and acquaintances has already been said and done. Advantages of being bad, baby you already have a particular reputation and once it all goes to hell, you don’t fear no one! You should have tried it, it might have saved you from the electric shocks. Actually, that is something that can be pulled on me, as well ( maybe I should reconsider marriage, just to ensure they don’t get me institutionalised). You were someone who blinded everyone with her goodness and her light, so you needed to be controlled but in my case there’s more to be gained materialistically. After all, since you were a woman as soon as your Father passed away, you were forced to sign away all your rights to his property and when your mum passed away, since you and and one of sisters weren’t ’ mentally stable’ , you were not given even a piece of her clothing, forget anything else. For now I have God in my corner, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived the past eighteen months. Let’s see, how long he protects me.

Happy Mother’s Day


Happy Mother’s Day my darling Pinky. Thank you for living life according to your own rules, for being a total bad ass, yet the gentlest soul and most of all irrespective of how sick you were, for making us feel like we were important and loved. Thank you for the last few years of your life, they mean the most to me! For your hugs and your warmth, I will always be grateful but most of all for your apology. I miss you.

Congratulations! Your niece just got married. People keep asking me to, as well, since I won’t need to call anyone and I keep saying lockdown or no lockdown, in any case no one is going to be invited for my wedding or my funeral, so I’m good, thanks!!

What else is new? Haan! So the architect uncle’s granddaughter, has also moved into uncle’s home. Now there’s uncle on the ground floor with his son, his grand daughter with her husband on the first floor and uncle’s daughter on the second floor with her husband. The uber cool tenant has moved to his father in law’s home in Goa. Why am I telling you this gossip? Your husband is soooo pissed with me! Lol! ‘ They are so lucky, there daughters have found such men’ he keeps telling me and he told them as well. I think it would be cool if more people were as open minded, daughters wouldn’t be thought of as a burden and parents who have only daughters, wouldn’t have to go through this pandemic alone. It amazes me how regressive, our society still is, where even the most educated women can’t digest this. As for me, Amma, can you imagine me waking up next to someone, each and every morning? Irrespective of whose house it is, I have books on my bed, there’s no place for anyone on it! I can continue to be your husband’s constant source of disappointment in life!

More good news! Your nephew’s had a baby. I didn’t know because I am not part of your families whattsapp group and on an individual basis I don’t ask one person about the other. So I was just chatting with the parjai and I said something about the population never reducing because people are busy making babies, during the lockdown and she went, ‘ ya that’s what we did!’ She’s too adorable, didn’t mind when I put both my feet in my mouth.

On a serious note, thank you for setting a good example by the way you lived. The other day, someone was saying, ‘we don’t understand why people don’t give anonymously!’ and I said ‘they shouldn’t!’ In fact I think they should tell everyone. If they scream about their wealths by purchasing the biggest cars and diamonds, to show people how much they have, this is something that they must tell someone to encourage more giving. Then I went on to give your example. Remember how Raj painji, always did a lot for people and she would take you to that place in Lajpat Nagar, where she distributed food packages to children. You saw that, learnt from her and imbibed that. I’m grateful to her for not keeping that a secret and for you to be open enough to learn that. Someday, there will be a private family foundation, hopefully sooner than later. You’ve left me more than I need. Promise, I’ll do something with it, that would have made you happy!



One loafed about yesterday, as I had to come to Noida later on, for a shift. Oiled my thinning, greying hair and thought of dragging myself to the parlour but you know it has to be my least favourite place in the world. Darling, you had some patience!

I wish I’d gotten off my ass, though. A friend recommended, I watch Mr Holmes but I wasn’t in the mood, so I chanced upon this series called Firefly Lane. Well, it seems our screwed up lives and choices, have been normalised greatly in the past few years by the entertainment industry! Watching it, broke my heart a little bit, if my blood pumping left atrium and right atrium can be called thus! The protagonist seemed all commitment phobic, scattered, incapable of real intimacy and with a tongue that spewed words, like this to a lover-‘ I never met my father, are you him?’ Does that sound familiar? Hmmm! And to top it goes from falling for much older men to a much younger one! Yup, I ain’t making this shit up, that’s part of the narrative!

So, of course one was hooked. The mother’s addiction, the love hate relationship shared by them, uff, what may seem like an exaggeration to many, is actually understating, sometimes. Very often, reality is stranger than fiction! Anyhow, what was supposed be a series about friendship, seemed to be a lot more than that. At one point, when the little boy’s had enough of her quills, I was literally yelling at the television- ‘ No, no no don’t listen to the words, look at her eyes!’, it was mental. Bhaskarji actually thought I’d lost it! He was just so sick of me, he was like go for work or ride a bike, get out!

Pinky, I’m learning to ride. There are a number of mother- daughter duos, who turn up for the workshops. If you were around, though, you would have never gone with me, instead, what a fit you would have thrown! Considering, how accident prone all of us are, you would have fretted, fumed and shown me those big puppy eyes, with tears in them and I would have had to succumb. But don’t worry, I’m like a scared little wuss on that thing, so I won’t do anything crazy, other, than using this as my pick up line, ‘come on baby, let me take you for a ride!’ Greece two, hangover! I never got my cool rider, might as well find a way, to make out on a bike before I die!



Happy holi Pinky! Dhum macha rahee ke nahin? Ever since you’ve passed over to the other side, I’ve decided to celebrate everything with aplomb. How much you missed celebrations! I wish we would have quit behaving like the world has come to an end and shared the enthusiasm you had on your ‘high days’, your joie de vivre.

Unfortunately, holi can’t be big this year, due to the pandemic but let this thing get over and we’re going to paaarrtyyyy, baby! New trip in life is, mauj kar! That’s what I tell myself all the time, ‘enjoy! Life ain’t going to get any easier, so you make hay while the sun shines!’ The self hypnosis is helping me deal with the breaking into cold sweat in the middle of the night, the anxiety which has now started giving me palpitations, the absolute paralysing fear that grips my heart about the future. I know, I need help but one is not open to the idea of a conversation. If I go to a shrink, it just might trigger something else, all together, which one is not emotionally equipped to handle right, now. So, for now, it’s mauj kar, which kind of works.

A year gone and a lifetime left

My mother, my self.


I get messages from people all the time, telling me how loving and giving you were. You my darling, were one of the kindest people I’ve met in my life. For you giving may have been a barter, too but in return for only love. That’s admirable but completely naive.I wish sometimes, my bitterness would have rubbed off a little on you but we are all the way we are. We don’t change too much as we age. I though, have become a bigger monster , in the past year. The part which is a little like you, is tucked away, properly and the one that helps me survive, roaring all the time. ‘Tu nahi to koi aur sahi, koi aur nahi to koi aur sahi!’ is no longer just for men, it’s my general attitude towards everything, these days. I’m sure, it would have pissed you off, as much as it does people. But I have no intentions, of unintentionally dying as lonely as you did. So I’ve made a conscious choice, to, avoid any attachments.

What a year, it’s been my darling! But before one starts to wallow in self pity, it’s been a terrible year for everyone. You on the other hand must be upto no good, I’m sure. You’re gregariousness mixed with your naughtiness must be getting you into trouble, whichever side you must have popped up on!

Pop up in your husband’s dreams too and scare him a bit, tonight. I love how you all have decided that, I somehow will manage, everything, without for a minute thinking, what will happen to me. The mess, I will manage, somehow, I’ll sort it all out. But each time life is going to get tougher, one of you ups and leaves. Well, sorry, too bad, ain’t happening this time around! So, you better ask him to stall any exit strategy.

Valentines Day


Sitting at the airport, heading back to Delhi. I don’t like going back to that house, which is supposed to be ‘home’, there’s an eerie silence, in it. God, how much you used to scream, we only realize now, that you’re not there! It’s a pity, I don’t have anyone to buy flowers for, from your son’s side this Valentine’s Day. No reminders to write, ‘ I love you the most, Mom’ from him. Anyhow, hope the ass is telling you, himself.

Her life gets me through some nights

A prescription from 1998. The earlier ones from Dr Kothari, I think, must have got misplaced when we moved homes.

Some nights I struggle, more than others and then the life of the woman, who bore me flashes through my semi sleep state. The ego reminds me to not become a foregone conclusion and these prescriptions save me from myself.

Though her official name was Deepika Kochar, all the prescriptions before I started taking her (much later) to the doctors were made in the name of Neera (which is her nick name). My aunt, who was a like a mother to my mum, used to take her to see the all the doctors, when we were little.

The suicide attempt after I was born should have been a red flag. Postmartem depression is a real thing. Each time I would ask my mum what brought it on, she would reply, ‘your grandfather went on a holiday and came back with gifts for his other grandchildren but nothing for you! I could bear how badly he treated me but I couldn’t take it when he treated you the same way!’ Needless to say, our relationship with our grandfather remained the same out entire lives, he never brought us anything or spoke much to us and though I will always regret not knowing my grandmother better, I have no such feelings for the one, who threw my mum out of the house. My parents moved into a rented apartment and that’s where my brother was born. A few years after my brother’s birth, there was another one. About the self immolation, all she would say, ‘ Your father and I were fighting and I was getting too agitated. I spilt perfume on myself and set myself on fire.’ I remember returning from a relative’s house and the help showing the nine year old me, my mother’s burnt clothes. ‘ Yeh dekh tumhari mummy ne kyaa kara!’

I grew up disliking my mother. The father, I adored till the first time, I saw him beating her and then went on to take out his frustrations on me. The only one who I considered home and family, growing up was my brother, much like the protagonist from Dear Zindagi. The mother was too different from everybody else for me to have any understanding of where she was coming from. People, didn’t make it easy either. Everybody those days, would talk about her- my father, his family, even her own family, up until her stroke. Though, I was always asked to take care of my brother and her, nobody told me that her behaviour was driven by her disease and that she required love. My own loneliness, my own struggles with my dark side, with my sexuality made me empathise with her, too late in life. But I think she lived as long as she did, inspite of all her attempts and illnesses because I was supposed to mend my relationship with her. That went on to help in saving me, from my own self.
Mum’s addiction to Corex went on for a long time. Every year, she would be hospitalised.
I hate when people blame my brother’s death for her depression and my father’s alcoholism. Though, it’s very convenient, it’s an absolute lie. It also mitigates, and disrespects all of my mother’s struggles with her own demons. My Ma, was born a fighter, if you ever saw her throwing a fit or in a hospital, scratching, biting and abusing two, three people at the same time (who were trying to hold her down) you would know, where I get my fighting spirit from. She was a terribly sensitive, sensuous, flawed woman who could only be controlled with love and was way ahead of her times. Though, being her child was never easy, it required for me to mother her, it was an absolute privilege knowing her. She is one of the rare people I know, who actually got better with age, less temperamental, more loving and truly apologetic for what she made us go through as kids. The only reason, I managed to forgive her is because she reciprocated my efforts with so much love, that the last few years of her life became her swan song, to me.

A letter from the Vale


There’s a power cut, I lie in a dark room thinking about you. Thankfully, the bed is warm and the phone charged enough, for now. There’s a possibility the flight might get cancelled tomorrow, as there are predictions of snow fall. Normally, I would only be too happy to be here but this is the first Diwali Dad will be spending without you and I don’t want him to be alone. What will happen, let’s wait and watch.

Otherwise, how am I looking from that vantage point? Better, na? Strangely, I feel more driven and focused, in totality. Extremely melancholic, since yesterday, though. But that’s my mind…you know how it is. One day, it’s up dancing in the skies and then suddenly it’s down in the dumps. It may be because of all the lovers I saw in the park, autumn or just diwali. Who knows, what happens to me?

It’s a pity we didn’t celebrate Diwali, enough, after Dustu passed away. Sporadically, once in a while, we would make a half hearted attempt. Dad would just come up with something or the other. We didn’t realize, we would eventually loose each other, too. I wish now, we would have. Pieces of us, do drift away when our loved ones pass away.

But sometimes, we forget there are people around who are alive, who are there. Family members, who need us. You know how he gets, though. Even now, he refuses to go anywhere. I keep trying to drag him out of the house for a meal or a movie. But like he never went out with us, he still refuses to go anywhere with me. That factory building was and is still his real home.

Don’t worry about me, the Mother Hen, fusses and fumes, over the phone all the time. ‘ Jama Masjid mat jao. Ye mat karo. Woh mat karo! Davaee khao!’ He goes on. ‘ Baap ban rahaa he? ‘ doesn’t work on him. The most obnoxious things I am capable of saying, make him laugh and it drives me nuts!

Remember how you would insist that only he can handle me (like I am a piece of hot coal, the handling of which requires expertise). I think that’s because he’s upfront and easy. Once I was very upset, I was having one of those days, with GD or it was later ( I remember if was many years ago) I said to him ‘ I know I’m a very difficult woman to be around!’ and he said, ‘No, aisa nahin he. Mene dekha he aapko..,you only get angry when people lie or say no. Aap ko lagna chahiye dusra insaan koshish kar raha he, phir aap kuch bhi maaf kar deti ho!’ His opinion is biased, growing up he took care of a lot of injured animals, I’m like one of those for him, an injured animal he needs to heal.

He watches the coming and going of various men, with a quiet amusement, though. Not that there have been any in the past six years. But you know, the occasional friend, who will assume, the feelings they have for me are more than platonic. But the way, I’ve been the past couple of weeks, this boy I’ve had a crush on, that worries him, I know. ‘I’m a grown up, I know what I am doing’, I reassure him. But he happens to be the only person, who knows how easily I get swayed.




You popped up on fb wall, early in the morning. Your most loved picture from 2016, the platform reminded me. It would have been nice, if I would have posted all our pictures together, every week, I would get a reminder. That would have been sweet but each time, I posted a picture, you would fall ill. Then like an 80 year old woman, I would stand over you, read some Islamic prayer, ‘I seek refuge from bad vibes’. How much you would yell at me for being so superstitious? The argument would with, ‘Am I your baby or are you my baby?’ and you in the cutest way, anyone can reply would say, ‘ I’m your baby!’

Baby reminds me, your original Mother Hen, your sister is missing you, lots. She saw my DP, in the morning and sent a message that if you were alive, she would have asked you to grow up. So, much for wishful thinking. That’s why we liked them young, we never want to grow up! The classic Peter Pan syndrome.

Though, we hardly speak there’s a part of me, that feels terrible for her. This much loss, no one should have to suffer. One after the other, watching people die. Loosing Dustu and you, has shaken me to the core, imagine going through this, repeatedly. Uff, Khudda Reham kare sab ke dilo pe. It’s a pity, things ended the way they did between us. There should have been a natural transference of feelings, which usually happens, in such cases. But in our case, your loss has just driven a terrible wedge. Time heals everything, they say. Here’s hoping! I guess, with time my anger also, will transform into all that I keep avoiding feeling and I’ll stop being angry, with everyone including, myself. But maturity level to hamara, kamaal ka he, so you never know.

Anyway, I’ve been unable to sleep for days, now. Something, is really bothering me, I just can’t put my finger on it. You have any clue? Something you can see from your vantage point? I just want to hold you so tight and sleep right now. How I wish, I could hear the words, ‘ Hai, hai chipkoo!’again.

Ma’s birthday

How rapidly things change! Within fourteen years, one’s lost three family members. First Dustu, then Raahat, now Mom and one’s left with just the one, who is hell bent on drinking himself to death. The one whose left, said to me, today, he thinks I’m strong enough to take it. Apparently, my tongue fools everyone that I can take all of it, without cracking.

Strength! What is it? ‘ You’re so brave, so strong,’ SB hears this, all the time. ‘Sher aaya, Sher!’, the men in the house chant in unison as I walk down the stairs ( I ain’t making it up). SC looks at SB, quizzically, ‘Are they talking about US?’ ‘Yup, that’s because I’m in charge!’ she replies. ‘Why don’t you start playing the song from, Gully Boy, when I come downstairs?’ SB asks them, cheekily. The Sher notices the excessive drinking, that makes her the natural enemy.

SC retreats back in to her shell. After the events of the past month, she knows she’s too much like her mum, to be able to survive the world, in one piece. The other day, while chatting with an acquaintance at half twelve, she realised going forward, the dominant personality will have to be the more aggressive one. ‘You care too much about what people think about you!’ says the acquaintance. ‘ People have been talking about me, since I was nine! But I do feel terribly hurt when they choose your weakest moments to wag their tongues knowing fully well that you are vulnerable in that moment. Next time, I will expect it.’ she replies. There won’t be any ‘Et Tu Brute’, moments!

‘This is all your fault!’, SB tells SC. ‘Have you not learnt, anything?’ ‘I don’t want to be a machine like you, always analysing.’ snaps back SC, knowing fully well, it’s a long way home. She just wants her lah, lah, land…her spot on the side of the Boulevard, a tazbi in one hand, staring into nothingness, away from prying eyes. But at the moment paradise is too far away.


So she dressed up like this on Karva Chauth, deeply unhappy that she couldn’t fast. Due to her medication she wasn’t allowed to.

I kept the first Roza, of my life, today. At last! I’d been saying for over a decade, it seems like a fascinating process to put your body and mind through. So, this year, since Mum’s just gone and I am home bound, I thought I would try keeping them for two days before her birthday. I don’t know how people fast for such an extended period of time?

Mama’s Muse

So while she was my muse when I became a photographer, I’d been her’s my entire life. I had to pose for my Ma whether or not I liked it. Sometimes, I got slapped too, for not posing, hence so many crying photos from my teenage years. Before you start feeling sorry for me, trust me I was ten times more difficult, then. Those were the only times, my dad would step in to pacify the situation.

I never said she wasn’t flawed but she could melt your heart with her charm. My Amma, could abuse like a madam in a brothel, in fact my Dad never used bad language infront of us. My mum had a sailor’s mouth and very few motherly habits. She woke up late, didn’t let us play, I don’t recall her fussing over me, when I sick ( atleast not after I became a teenager) . In fact each time, I was sick, she would pick up a fight and not speak to me. But she loved in her own, unique way. Obsessively, possessively and immaturely! How I would love to hear, ‘ Diya, you bitch…whore….mar ja musebat!’, just one more time. Funnily enough, at fourteen I was dragged to a family counsellor who suggested I shouldn’t allow either of my parents to hit me. I came back home and told my mom. Got nicely whacked, again.

All those stories, that make me a great patient for a shrink, suddenly don’t seem so bad. One suddenly misses all the yelling and the drama. The silence is deafening. Thankfully, I came to peace with all that she did, when she was alive. I hope she’s at peace with all that I did!

September 2017

Growing up I was my mum’s muse. She loved making pictures. When I was younger I loved it but as I grew older, it didn’t always please me.

Though, when I started making pictures of her, she never really did mind, irrespective off where she was and how she looked. The DSLR made her self conscious, so I ended up making most of her pictures in her later years from my phone. I think she visited a hospital, at least once every year or once every two years.

It’s ironic and I am so grateful that she passed away at home.Though, forever I will wonder, how and why? With no specific disease and suddenly…having seen her husband and not a stranger for the last time! My grandmother passed away like that, she took one look at her husband, said, ‘tussi aa gaye ho!’ and crossed over to the other side.

The Wall

Happy birthday! Thank you for taking such good care of my mum, in the hospital and at home. She loved the crystal pieces , you bought for her. She loved you and GD a lot. I know she made you promise, that you would take care of me. I think she had a premonition, it would get this bad.

She must be heaving a sigh of relief, seeing you and my bua, fussing over me, like mother hens. For checking up on me every single day (for the past month) , reading the fatiha for my mum’s soul, for watching me break down in pieces, yet letting me be and for saving my life again, thank you. You have literally saved my life more times, than I count, now. Sometimes, I think, if anybody, anybody, saw me as weak and broken as you have seen me, I would have gotten royally screwed.

Thanks for being so good to SC and somehow, miraculously knowing how to deal with SB. That makes you a rarity. Thank you, for never wanting to win my trust. For saying, ‘I know you can’t trust anyone, it’s ok. No problem.’ For explaining this to another man, how should I thank you?

While people have tried to be my kandha ( especially now, when I am vulnerable) you are my wall. Someone who stands between me and the world, while I cry, scream, panic and sort myself out behind the bricks, that act as protection. For letting me be, for letting me weep, for keeping me sane and more than that for keeping me alive, thank you.

P.S- Yeh sabh padke zyaada hava mein udna ka nahin, he mamu and I know you find SB hilarious but don’t you laugh like a jackass, mein tenu paan deyanga!

KASHMIR- the famous saga (2)

In most of my pictures from Kashmir, you’ll find me dressed in a four hundred rupee phiran, with a cap on my head and filthy shoes. The girl in dirty shoes was produced by this beautiful, stylish, woman is hard to believe. The epitome of elegance.

I rejected my femininity, quite forcefully, after a certain age. I most definitely rejected the clothes, my mom made me wear. I went from wearing the shortest clothes, to wearing anything that made me blend in, it made life easier and with time the job too. This was all to my mother’s dismay. She liked nothing better than seeing me, all dolled up.

Kashmir- the famous saga.

Sometime after this trip, to Kashmir, Mum lost herself, somewhere either extrinsic or intrinsic. I don’t know, if it was due to the amount people talked about it ( which even I heard) or because she had begun to slip into her darkness. But her inability to handle the way everyone spoke about her- her family, her husband’s family, neighbours, friends, didn’t help.

I remember hearing so much about her clothes, her behaviour that not only did I end up resenting her but also the rest of the world. My dad says, I changed drastically, after mum fell ill. I don’t know, I only remember this misanthropic version of myself. But when I look at these pictures, I realize how difficult it must have been to be overly sensitive and to hear such sharp criticism, on every aspect of your personality. For the longest time, till her son’s death, she was the original, rebel. Though, the household revolved around her, completely, by many she was considered the wasteful, good for nothing woman, who was a cause of her husband’s misery.

Her son’s death redeemed her of her apparent sins. I’m so glad she didn’t die with that tag, most people having forgotten that version of her.

For the love of cake

After I think the age of seven or eight, my relationship with my Mum became strained. I’d grown up, I could figure out what was happening around me and she was beginning to fall ill. The colour of my skin, also became quite troublesome for her as I grew older.

Hailing from a Sikh family, I was expected to be white, as milk and my skin and hair, have a life and mood of their own. Girgit ki tarha rang badalta he. Depending on how long I have been out in the sun, whether my eyebrows are done or not ( unlike my mother, I hate going to the salon) and if I’ve gotten enough sleep or not, I turn from wheatish to chocolate brown. So from 7-8 to 15-16, I was a chocolate brown colour, to my poor mother’s horror. She had to hear plenty from her family and I had to hear plenty from my brother and mum, ‘kali, Kali’ they would chant.

It’s only when I grew up, that I realised she didn’t know any better. I still have more than enough relatives, even friends, who look at their white skin, the way my mum would look at hers and think it’s an achievement. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up with a complex about it but I wish it wasn’t an issue. I wish we won’t have wasted time on so many trivial things.

Cuteness Personified

The cuteness quotient in 26 Hemkunt, has reduced to zilch, as the baby has transformed into something else. They say your loved ones turn into stars, I think our baby has turned into a rainbow or a butterfly.

The Beauty

Like I have SB and SC, two extremely stark personalities, my mum too, had many, many shades. Though, her darkness was all encompassing- with suicide attempts, violent behaviour and addictions always at the fore, her brighter side- the upswing, was what most people remember her by.

That’s a successful life, to not be flawless, to be quite imperfect actually but to love, so cheerfully and fully that the flaws seem inconsequential. If you ever want to know, how it feels to be loved wholeheartedly, obsessively and imperfectly, you had to be loved by my mum. Her love was full of sunshine and rainbows, with little dances and lots of kisses. If she loved you once, she would love you always!

There’s a song by Sheryl Crow, ‘are you strong enough to be my man?’. At the worst times of my life, I have listened to that on repeat (yeah, yeah, I kept believing in Prince Charming till I turned 35. Someone said something about finding a soul mate today and I said-‘ Mine’s committed suicide. He took one look at me and thought, ‘God, am I going to be stuck with this?’ Trust me on an incorrigible romantic fed on story after after story of family members, eloping, that’s the only thought that works) an umpteen number of times.

I suddenly remembered that song, today, when I was looking at mum’s pictures. It takes a special kind of man, to deal with a woman so full of spunk. I wish her companion would have been that for her but we all have our limitations. What she really needed she never got but surprisingly though it diminished her, it never did mitigate her love.

The calm before the storm

My Amma, had a very tumultuous existence. In the beginning there were a few happy years, though I was too young, I don’t recall them. I think like me, she was born with a void inside, that she kept trying to fill- with family, friends, medicinal drugs but she never could. Though, she smiled a lot, her eyes always wandered away, from people, like she wasn’t there, like she was meant to be somewhere else.

Prayers for me and you

When the heart hurts pray. Pray for your heart to survive the pain. Pray for the one who has departed. Pray that the one who has departed is happy wherever she is. Pray for the world to heal. Pray for all the other people who are in pain, may God relieve them. Pray for everyone you have ever loved, may God protect them in these trying times.

If you are a spiritual being, there’s an interesting app, I’ve been using Meditation +. There’s of course the Chaupai Sahab, which makes you feel stronger, during your trying times. But collective praying, in a jamat, is a powerful tool. In the times of social distancing, video calls, help. My Sufi friends were nice enough, to do a couple of sessions with me of the zikr on whattsapp and the ex assistant reads the Fatiha for mum. I try to follow, along.

These are troubling times, physically and emotionally for all of us. For some of us, it feels like the world has come to an end and this is when we have to remind ourselves, that, we are very lucky, to have all these luxuries. It’s not necessary that our heart will agree with all that our mind knows. It will want to wallow longer, get lost in despair, want someone’s hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, it will want to be ungrateful and childish. That’s when prayer helps, fake it( positivity, gratitude etc) till you make it. Sometimes working on the outside, helps to change the inside.


There’s a story, I heard about an experiment that was done with rice. Somebody took three bags of rice and started saying nice things to the first bag, nothing to the second bag and bad things to the third one. The bag to which good things were said, lasted longest and so on and so forth. You get the gist. Humans, animals and plants are like that. You can alter anybody’s behaviour by what you say to them, consistently. Words are very powerful.

With overly sensitive people, such as my mum, the change, was very dramatic. This understanding played a large part in altering our relationship, made us closer in her latter years.

Someone said something, about that to me today,’ how little it takes to actually please you, most people just miss it because you scare them away, with all your yelling’ that I realised, this trait of mine is so much like my Amma’s. How fierce, she was, when we were little! Though she was a hoarder, she loved things but nothing pleased her more than a smile or a kiss.

I remained locked up in a room today, trying to calm myself down. The praying, the books, the instrument calmed down my nerves and so the BP, was comparatively normal. My mum would gulp down bottle after bottle of cough syrup and lock herself up in a room, where there was no ventilation, to get away from the games people played. But I promised myself, I wouldn’t turn into that version of her. Plus, though she had a terrible temper, there wasn’t a vindictive bone in her body. I thankfully, have SB to count on.

The retreat in my case is usually a preparation period. The sharpening of the saw- cry, introspect, pray, talk to only those who can have a positive and healing impact on your existence. All of us thankfully, have a few people like that. In any case, this lockdown is a gift, from the Universe, to us and Mother Nature to heal ourselves, to understand that everything we need is within us.

P-S- The last person my mom saw, before she passed away, was my dad. A picture is worth a thousand words! No guesses about how in love she was with him.

2 weeks later

My Chottu

It’s been two weeks since you left. Your pink shawl smells of me and not of you, anymore. The blue and white frock, still carries your fragrance…a mix of dettol and talcum powder. At last I could get myself to go through you stuff. I don’t know if it was the process of trying to give some of your stuff away or being taken to the same hospital and spending two hours in the same ICU, where you passed away, that gave me some closure.

I think the whole episode, of my discomfort and the abnormality with my ECG was only, so that I could spend a couple of hours, reliving the day you left me. I don’t think that day will stop haunting me, but for now, my heart feels a little at ease. I looked at a video of your’s where you were dancing and I laughed so hard…only you and your son could make me burst, into those kinds of peels of laughter. It should be a sin, to be so damn cute!

Hope you’re having a good time. I’m not having, such a great one, without you. Remember, the first thing I used to do, when I would return home, would yell for Dusty ( when he was alive)..’Dustu bhaiya’ and he would walk down from the second floor, smiling like a jackass, thrilled to bits he was so important. Since, you shifted to the drawing room, if I entered the house and even if I went to the loo without meeting you, you would get so upset. The first thing I had to do was, come in, say ‘hi my chotte, I love you’ and plant a kiss on you. That would thrill you to bits and you always gave me the sweetest smile and would say, ‘ I love you the same’. I hate entering the house…it reminds me no one will ever, look at me and smile like that again.

P.S- Look at this photo, reminds me of what the lady at the parlour said,’ yeh aap ki mummy he, itni gori he yeh to!’ How amused I was and how offended you were.


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.

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.

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.