“What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”

We’ve frequented this particular coffee shop for Sunday breakfast for as long as I can remember. Possibly even longer than that, considering Ma and Papa have been regulars here ever since they got married. The scrambled eggs on toast may have gradually shrunk over the decades, but my family’s loyalty to the establishment remains unchanged. The waiter uncle knows us all very well, although only by face. Ma says he will occasionally ask where I’ve gone off, even though I moved cities a more than a little while ago.

Within my lifetime, the coffee shop has switched locales once. The prehistoric building where it originally existed had to be razed down to make way for a shiny, chrome monstrosity of a metro station. The new space retains all the familiar showrunners, old framed paintings, and formica-topped furniture.

It’s almost clockwork. We don’t bother with menus anymore. Any attempts at experimentation are thrown to the wind the minute we seat ourselves at a table. Waiter uncle recites our order back to us before we can get one word out, and we often have food on our tables because any one of us has the opportunity to start bickering about something inconsequential.

Ma will always ask for one extra chutney. Papa will always ask for two extra spoons, because he’s a proponent of the performance art piece of eating masala dosa with anything but his hands in public. My brother and I are usually occupied with dividing up cutlets between the four of us depending upon who’s suffering is highest at the moment. With everyone’s assortment of breakfast dishes, the ancient salt and pepper shakers, and one wobbly bottle of mineral water cramming the tiny table already, there’s no more room left for coffee cups.
(Concerning the bottle: “Hot or cold?” Waiter uncle will ask. After several moments of deliberation, Papa will always say “Warm” in the most deadpan tone I’ve ever heard.)

The coffees always come last.

Nalku hot. Or mooru hot ondu cold. Ondu swalpa strong. Never tea. Not sure why. It may have to do with the simple, unquestionable logic of not going and ordering tea at an establishment with “Coffee” in its name.
The coffees arrive. No one takes any extra sugar, except my brother, from time to time. My mother will have downed the searing hot cuppa before I can get a full sentence out about the current goings on in the world, or even just my world. My father takes his time with his coffee. Despite the compact nature of the cup, designed to only hold about seven-and-a-half sips of liquid, he’s only ever halfway through it when he loses complete interest. To this day, I can barely remember any instance of him finishing his own cup of coffee.
Instead, the half-empty/half-full cup, without fail, is pushed towards my quietly waiting mother, who then finishes the remaining coffee in one fell gulp. This happens every time, even (or perhaps especially) if they’ve been quarrelling bitterly about something right before the coffees are brought to the table.

I have to wonder how long in the three-decades-and-then-some, that they’ve been coming to this joint, did they take to develop this near-perfectly choreographed coffee-sharing routine. It’s like second nature to them.
A familiar feeling hits: one of being let in on a secret, or noticing something that’s in plain sight that no one seems to have acknowledged yet. A rare bird hidden in the foliage, a wink meant only for me, fingers intertwined in the darkness of a movie theatre, elaborate coffee-sharing routines. I enjoy this immensely, even if I’m not directly involved in the interaction.

I start to say something about it, but have to stop myself from pointing it out to them, because it feels so ethereal that acknowledging it will make it disappear forever.
So we finish our coffees, pay our bills, and go.

It’s weird.

(Note: I did write this when I was 23. I just found it scribbled in a notebook I happened to just be flipping through, and I thought I’d put it up here. The poetry is shitty, but the sentiment still stands.)


For the first eighteen years of my life
The only haircuts I ever got were either



(somehow non-veg?)

And all I ever remember wanting
Was not to always look like a fat
curly-haired boy.

I am now 23
My hair is longer
And there is
NOTHING I’d like more
than to crop my hair all the way
down to my scalp.

A kiwi fruit, if you will.



A-P-P-L-E apple, B-A-L-L ball

Every summer before the new school year started, Dada would always sit and meticulously cover all my textbooks and notebooks in brown paper. It was like watching a master craftsman at work. I had little else to do, apart from stick on the labels once he was done and engage in the kind of pointless conversation that could only seem thoroughly fascinating to 4-year olds.

He would also share cups of tea with me. Specifically, he did this thing where he would pour out some tea for me on a saucer and drink the rest of his tea from the cup. I’m not some “Chai is an emotion” snob, but for some reason, this particular memory is one of the strongest ones I have of spending time with my granddad.

Between sharing cups of tea and wrapping the books for my first year of school, he decided to teach me the spellings of a few words. Perhaps to impress all my nursery class teachers, or maybe gain the upper hand over all my other potential preschooler classmates.

Two words, specifically: “Apple” and “Ball”.

I felt like I’d been let in on some glorious secret knowledge that I was previously too young to possess, and the soundtrack for the rest of the summer before school began just became an endless loop of “A-P-P-L-E apple, B-A-L-L ball”.


Dada died sometime in the past month. Apparently, unbearable grief is one of the only things that will get me to smash keys to cough up some semblance of a blog post now.

As usual, I received the news immediately after I sent a particularly awkward and ill-timed text about there being bugs crawling around in my jar of dal on the family Whatsapp group. A minute later I received a text from my brother saying that Dada had passed away and he was on the way to the hospital now.
Cue big fat tears and ugly sobbing.
When I think about it in retrospect, apart from the fact that Dada had just kicked it, a significant part of the crying was due to my impeccable ability to always text the (embarrassingly) wrong thing at the wrong time.

I did throw the dal away, if anyone’s asking.


Dada had become frighteningly frail towards the end. He was all skin and bone, he could barely sit up or walk around, and he had begun to forget the names and faces of close family and friends altogether. Senile dementia, they call it.

By the time he began to get this way, I was away at university and rarely came home for visits. Part of me wanted to go see him, but another minuscule but significant part of me was afraid to do so.
What if he didn’t remember me?

He did remember me, by the way.

The first time I’d visited him after everything, he had no problem calling me by my name and asking how my classes were going. He could never remember what I was studying, exactly. To cut him some slack, nobody ever did. I wonder whether I had any idea either.


I flew back home some days after I received the news. I hugged my grandmother the first time I visited my grandparents’ house after he’d passed, and it still startles me how small and fragile she felt. A quarter of a century later, I somehow expected that my grandmother would still remain the strong, scary, looming figure who was always around to give me a vicious ear-twisting for the various shenanigans I had pulled. Right now, she feels like a delicate glass sculpture that might shatter even at the touch of a feather.

Dada’s cot lies empty inside the house. All of his books are neatly packed away in the shelves, gathering dust because no one used to read them apart from him. He was always, always around at home whenever I visited. Right now, his nagging absence in the house is unbearable.


“If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.”

I’m glad Dada isn’t suffering anymore. I’m sure heaven is full of dogs that he can feed and carrom tournaments where he can assert his brutal dominance over the other geriatrics and such.

But I’m not okay. It’s been over a month since Dada passed and I’m still not okay. The list of things I wanted to talk about with him is long and will forever remain in stasis, and I’ll probably regret this for the rest of my life.

You don’t really ever ask to be handed grief. It shows up unannounced one day, like a bad cold.
Everyone in the family seems to be handling it spectacularly. I have not seen one tear shed in the time that I’ve been around here, but I’m sure everyone’s got their own undisclosed coping mechanisms. I know I have mine.

Just like with any other sickness, I’m mostly certain that I’ll recover from this unfortunate bout of grief eventually, and I’ll just have to bide my time until that happens. But fuck, I haaate the way it just sits inside my chest like a dead weight.

More splendid than ever.

My friend is not an early riser; receiving texts from her before 9 am in the morning usually indicates that something’s slightly amiss.

“You know Linney? The cat?”

“She’s no more. I cried like a bitch full morning.”

Linney, the cat in question, was the most eloquent orange cat to grace Instagram. Her human, the illustrator @lucyknisley, made several comics of her adventures. She put a comic out this morning, solemnly letting us know that Linney had been put to sleep.

I shared some semblance of kinship with Linney too; the comics about her always made me happy. After reading this one, I wanted nothing but to curl up and cry.

A comedian who I once looked up to, pre-cancel culture, said something that will stick with me forever:

Nothing good ends well. It’s like if you buy a puppy and bring it home to your family and you say, “Hey look, everyone, we’re all gonna cry soon. Look what I brought home. I brought home us crying in a few years. Countdown to sorrow with a puppy.”

I often wonder what I’ll be doing when the call comes. It happened once before; I was in college, and my mum called to tell me that one of my cats was gravely ill with kidney damage. I remember it clear as day (probably because I ended up blogging about it). My cat survived the ordeal (the vet called it a miracle), but those few days were hell.

One day, another one of my cats got out of the house and disappeared. I was sick and in the hospital at the time, and when my mum came to see me, she told me about it and began to sob so violently, like she’d lost one of her children.

It’s the same, though.

That cat came back the next morning, unscathed, and received an earful from my mum. The dogs (almost) never cause trouble of this sort, probably because they’re smarter.

Do offices grant compassionate leave for the death of a pet? They’re loved ones too, right?

It’s been nearly a year since I moved away from home; from family and love and support and everything. I tell myself that I moved away for various reasons, which largely orbit the main one: that I was a wee fledgling and needed to learn the ways of this cruel and uncaring world. I wonder now whether I moved away largely because I was running away from this very world instead. Because everything and everyone I knew was changing — decaying, growing old, growing apart, moving away, moving closer to home — and having to come to terms with all of that, all at once, scared me so much that I decided to plonk myself in a completely unknown arena, replete with novel anxieties and with zero support.

I said earlier that I wonder what I’ll be doing when that call comes. And this isn’t something I only thought up because it might be blogworthy; I genuinely do imagine wildly vivid scenarios where I’m drowning in piles and piles of work, when suddenly someone from home calls to tell me that one of the critters has kicked it. I can’t seem seem to imagine anything beyond that point, for reasons unknown to me. If the passing of a cat I’m only acquainted with through comic strips makes me curl up and cry, I can’t fathom what pain the passing of one of my own will inflict – on me, on my mum, on the rest of my family, including the other animals.
And I know it’s coming. Despite all my measures, I doubt I’ll ever be ready.

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes strip I read long ago. It’s a little different, because it begins with the drawing of a beautiful dead bird. Calvin and Hobbes come across it and start to ponder about life and death. At the end, Calvin says, “I suppose it will all make sense when we grow up.”

I’m still waiting.

Notorious M.U.M

My mother is not particularly fussy about the food she eats. Her dietary demands are few, and can be mostly summed up by one question:
“Mishti kichu aache naki?”

Or the much blander English translation: “Is there anything sweet?”

Rarely is the answer in the negative.

So it’s no surprise that my post-lunch chocolate foraging has yielded satisfactory results this afternoon. It looks as if I’ve stuck gold; gold being a large, thick bar of chocolate that obviously needs to be thunked against the dining table a couple of times before I’m able to break off some bits for myself. As I reach for the wrapped bar, mentally prepare myself for the whole process, I find that it’s lighter—waaaaay lighter—than the conventional thick bar of chocolate.

Sure enough, the “bar of chocolate” I hold in my hand is one remarkable Thomas Crown Affair-level forgery. More than two-thirds of the chocolate is missing, but the bar has been unwrapped and then wrapped again and sealed with surgical precision. It looks good as new, but the deception falls apart when you pick it up. My entry-level detective skills lead me to conclude that this is the handiwork of my mother (my brother wouldn’t have left any evidence of the chocolate being there, and my father doesn’t care for chocolate).

It’s nothing novel. My mum has been wrapping things for me for ages.

I’ve always had a peculiar affinity for shiny things. I’ve been told I was notorious as a child for stealing and hiding away peoples’ keys. My kleptomania began to increase, but promptly came to a halt when my grandma found some shiny rings I’d pocketed and beat the devil out of me, and I decided that my obsession needed to remain legal. Eventually, I discovered other shiny things that didn’t cause me to go grand theft klepto, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

My family and I were at a Bata showroom sometime around Christmas, years ago. Most stores often have festive Christmas decorations up that time of year, and that particular Bata store simply did not hold back. There were snowflakes, bells and wreaths hanging from the ceiling, gigantic thermocol cutouts of Santa and his various reindeer adorned the windows, and there was a festively decorated Christmas tree by the billing counter, complete with boxes neatly wrapped in glittery wrapping paper, done up beautifully with ribbons and bows.

The sensory overload broke my 4-year-old brain. There was glitter, everywhere.

I was particularly taken up with the presents. I grabbed at the boxes, and my mum had to physically restrain me and explain to me that there was nothing in them. She slowly realised that it made no difference to me whether there were actually presents in the boxes or not.

I needed the shiny.

This ordeal ended in tragedy for me, of course. I had made a scene at Bata, and it was all for naught. I left the store sans empty gift-wrapped boxes.

Days after my meltdown, my mum returned from work one evening and handed me a bunch of small, oddly shaped objects. I couldn’t tell what they were because they were covered in shiny wrapping paper. Before I could tear open the so-called presents, Ma quickly explained that there was nothing of value in the presents, they were just balls of dressing and bottlecaps. The hospital she worked at also took Christmas very seriously and the staff would make decorations out of some of the salvageable waste.

She made some extra DIY baubles for me.

By the time I recover from Ma’s chocolate deception, she has found me preparing myself to smash the remaining chocolate to bits and asks me to thunk off a little for her as well. It’s probably the least I could do, all things considered. We don’t even live in the same house anymore, but Ma is still leaving dummy presents around the house for her kleptomaniac daughter to find. Perhaps not by choice, but I suppose old habits die hard.

Say cheesesteak and die.

The mind often wanders. Far enough that you conjure up these novel, wacky things to worry yourself to death over.

Food that you are probably better off not ordering on a first date, for example. You are slightly shocked and also impressed at the lofty heights that your paranoia has soared to in order to come up with these things, only to have your momentary elation quashed by a simple Google search, which leads you to at least eighty million odd results consisting of numerous lists of foods you shouldn’t order on a first date. Buzzfeed, Cosmo – even Readers Digest has beat you to it.

Every single one of these lists preach the same things over and over again like a stuck record.
Don’t eat beans. Obvious reasons.
Don’t eat spaghetti and meatballs. Too messy.
Don’t eat garlic or fish. Bad breath.
Don’t eat spicy food. It will make your eyes water, your body produce ungodly amounts of sweat and ruin the makeup that you have applied with seasoned calligrapher-level precision.

Don’t eat anything at all. Or better still: Don’t date, sit in and eat whatever the fuck your heart desires.

The one thing that I’m unlikely to ever order again, whether on a first date or otherwise, is the Philly cheesesteak you get at The Place Formerly Known As Smally’s on Church Street. I’m not sure what was running through my mind when I decided to order the thing, but I remember being extremely hungry and I’d just watched that Bon Appetit video where that cute guy eats a dozen cheesesteaks within half a day and reviews them. I could gone with literally anything else indicated on the menu, but once I spotted the words “Philly” and “Cheesesteak” and “Chicken/Beef”, I was all but hooked.

There’s a simple rule of thumb to be followed here: Unless you’re feeling extra adventurous – like tandoori mayonnaise levels of adventurous – don’t bother ordering Philly cheesesteaks so far outside of Philadelphia. Feel free to insert any city and city-specific food item combination here, and the rule rings true. Well, most of the time.

It’s not as if the sandwich itself is terrible, because it really isn’t. It is a hefty sandwich that could cause serious damage if you lobbed it at someone’s head, it is filled to bursting with meat and sauce, and it comes with fries too.
That’s the thing: It’s probably too good. One cheesesteak is about two hearty meals’ worth of food. About a third of the way through, I was already full. Halfway to the finish line, I felt like I’d eaten a lifetime’s worth of really-far-removed-from-Philly Philly cheesesteak, and I was tired. My jaw hurt from all the chewing.
And all those damn fries.

And it is quite messy. Eating the thing is more performance art than anything, and by the time I was done, I looked like Daenerys Targaryen after she ate that whole horse heart from an early Game of Thrones episode. I had sauce dripping down both my wrists, my face was covered in orange gunk and breadcrumbs. I wasn’t on a date at the time, and the restaurant was practically empty. At the very least, I put on a great show for the servers and the one guy quietly sitting and poring over receipts in a corner.

And no, despite my best efforts, I did not finish off that behemoth. Someday I’ll try again perhaps, when the cheesesteak is indeed Philly.

Memo random

Dear me from the past,

You (and your dance teacher)
will be pleased as punch to learn
that your hair grows out in the future
by leaps and bounds.




No more playing the demon to be slain
In all those Bharatanatyam recitals;
The male with the drawn-on
Clark Gable ‘stache.

Which is a damn shame
because you stopped dancing
a long, long time ago.


Dear me from the past,

The boys really do stop
trying to push pencils and coins
into your hair.
As a matter of fact
some dudes now claim
that your curls are suddenly

Can you belieeeve?


Dear me from the past,

That repulsive fucking man
and his repulsive fucking hands
at that repulsive fucking birthday party
Never mind.
That memory never really fades.
Not even a decade of trying to forget
does any good
I’m sorry.

The repulsive fucking man kicked the bucket
Fucking finally.
Not that it does much in the way of therapy.



Dear me from the past,

Everything dumb
that you’re into now
is suddenly going to be super cool
in a couple of years.
You’ll see.

People unironically
loooove Naruto
(which finally ended, by the way).

But it’s okay. Everything’s peachy.


Your hair is doing okay.

And you’re doing okay too.

Blackest eyes

Dida shows me grainy, sepia-tinted pictures of my mother as a kid. Fifty years on, very little has changed about her appearance. The very same cropped haircut that she sports now, fewer wrinkles, eyes thickly outlined with kajal and a scowl that frightens me to this day.
In the rest of the pictures, Ma and her siblings all sport the raccoony kajal-lined eyes as if they’re some goth punk band that started out really early in life.

The kajal (or kohl, or kajol, or surma, what have you) seems to be a constant in every baby photo that this family has amassed. But it is a common sight throughout the country: A large number of babies casually sport the omnipresent kaala teeka (literally “black dot”) on their temples. They say the dot wards off any drishti, ie, all manner of evil eye curses anyone might cast on the poor babies.
If only the parents of the princess in Sleeping Beauty had any of the foresight my Dida does.

Some parents go all out and put kajal dots all over their kids’ faces. One on the forehead, one on the chin and one on each cheek. I like to think that perhaps these children grow up to be exceptionally lucky and gifted, but I lack enough proof to back my claim.

All the girls in school were doing it. Obviously, I had to too. Ah, to be young and fall prey to the trappings of peer pressure.

Wearing kajal, I mean.
A few especially ballsy high school girls also carried around small tubes of fruity, glittery pink lip gloss that they’d keep applying through the day. As an unspoken “Fuck you” to the school uniform in all its badge, tie and skirt-length-no-more-than-an-inch-above-the-knee glory.
And what if they got caught with the raccoon eyes? “Didn’t sleep last night ma’am, dark circles.”
A few especially snarky teachers would quip back saying things like “Oh if only you paid as much attention to your studies as you did to your makeup”. Kajal application takes all of half a minute, ma’am. Thirty seconds of staring at quadratic equations is not going to help me top the class in math.

As an impressionable thirteen year old, I was absolutely awestruck. I wanted in on this silent rebellion and ended up buying my first stick of kajal back then. On the first day that I wore it to school, an older girl in my school van who previously didn’t give two shits whether or not I was alive, suddenly took one look at me and said, “You’re wearing kajal no? Niiice.”

Haven’t looked back since.

The forever-shocked saucer-eyes and the dark circles that I inherited from my father, paired with the copious amounts of kajal I draw on everyday makes my eyes look like they’ve descended into the pits of hell. But I quite love the aesthetic (College student who can’t remember what 7 hours of sleep felt like anymore).

I don’t know that I’ll ever stop wearing kajal. It has become such an integral, indispensable part of me now. God forbid, if I ever were to step out without the black soot under my eyes, I would constantly have to fend off questions such as “Are you sick?” and “Were you crying?” all day long. A highly enterprising friend of mine claims that she stopped wearing kajal to work for a couple of days so that she looked ill enough to be granted sick leave. I’m certain she pulled it off.
I intend to try the same shtick as soon as I find employment.

Cetirizine, your fever’s gripped me again

In Bangla culture, sneezing is considered a terrible omen, especially when you’re about to embark on some long journey or start an important task. Growing up, I remember often having delayed leaving for wedding receptions and parties (much to the chagrin of the family elders) with the help of a series of appropriately-timed sneezes.
Ma also tells anyone who cares enough to ask about my “condition” that the first thing I did when I was born was sneeze.
Which explains a LOT about how my life has been going thus far.

Doctors and textbooks call it allergic rhinitis. I call it a major pain in my backside. It is also called hay fever, except instead of only in the blessed springtime, when most of the plants are participating in a massive orgy and and just filling the atmosphere with their disgusting pollen, I have hay fever throughout the whole damn year.
Dust, the cold, spores, dander, cheap perfume, even really strong dark chocolate – you name it, and in all likelihood it will probably give me a sneezing fit.

There are tons of medications one can take to calm their allergies, Cetirizine being the patron saint of these. I’ve known Cetirizine for practically my whole life, right from when it entered my life as a delicious, kid-friendly, honey-coloured syrup, to when it eventually evolved into a small, oblong, adult-appropriate tablet.
I wish I could say Cet and I are still friends, but I stopped taking it a long time ago because it made me doze off during morning lectures in school. As I write this, I am now realising that I have Cetirizine to blame for my stunning lack of mathematics skills, but I’d be damned if those 8 am maths classes didn’t give me some of the best sleep of my life.

The possession of a seemingly asinine affliction, paired with a fast internet connection leads to the gathering of rather useless factoids about said affliction. These may someday come in handy at a quiz, or perhaps impress folks at a really boring party, but really serve no purpose other than to occupy space on Wikipedia and in the recesses of my mind.
Other sneezeheads like me may or may not know this, but the act of wiping upwards of our endlessly runny noses with our hands has an official name and even its own Wikipedia article. The allergic salute is the “characteristic and sometimes habitual gesture of wiping and/or rubbing the nose in an upwards or transverse manner with the fingers, palm, or back of the hand”.
If you do the salute long and often enough, it leaves a permanent crease across the middle of your nose, giving your face the toad-like demeanour it so desperately needs. I know this because Personal Experience™.

In East Asian culture however (and as portrayed in countless shoujo manga), sneezes usually mean that someone somewhere is talking about you in that very moment. If you sneeze once, it means good things are being said, two sneezes mean they’re bitching about you, three sneezes mean they’re madly in love with you, and four sneezes in a row and above means you have allergic rhinitis.
Or a cold. Whichever.

Allergies really only exist because of a immune system that is constantly on overdrive, recognising any small, harmless particle as a threat to the body and deploying the entire cavalry to obliterate something as pithy as a pollen grain. Imagine an innocent, overenthusiastic puppy dog that keeps yapping away at everyone who drops by your house to say hi. Except the puppy is your immune system and the passersby are things you’re allergic to.

The one advantage to having allergic rhinitis is that you look maaad stoned all the time (Eyes red and swollen, super groggy et cetera), which is especially useful when you are actually stoned because you can blame the allergies. This also comes in handy when you’re starting to cry in public when zindagi is especially jhandwa. Blame your allergies!

Extremely convenient.


Eulogy for a Cactus.

My cactus bit the dust today.
My silver torch went out today, at long last, if you will.
I found her keeled over in the balcony this morning, in a puddle of ooze of her own making. I’ll admit, I’m surprised she stuck it out for this long. How long is 4 years in cactus years?

I put on my yellow gloves and dig her remains out of her pot. The fungus that eventually got her made its way up through the roots and turned the insides to mush. While I was away at university for the past two years, someone crammed her pot full of rich, fertile, water-retentive garden soil, and had also decided to water her ever so lovingly. For a plant that thrives on neglect for the most part, this was likely the proverbial last nail in the coffin.
Talk about murdering someone with kindness. (Insert CSI Miami “YEAHH” sound effect here.)

She was never destined to be the most aesthetically appealing succulent you’d ever set your eyes on. She was lumpy, forever lilting to one side and had these spiky white and golden hairs sticking out of the top of her head, like some demented grandmother. She was also missing a chunk of flesh on one side, but it had healed over for the most part, leaving this gnarly looking scar.
Grandma Cactus had clearly been through some shit in her time.

When I’d first discovered her in the nursery, she was in the corner of the all the cacti for sale, looming protectively over the prickly babies like a watchful nanny, quiet and resolute.
I couldn’t not take her home after that.
She leaves behind a large family of cacti, all of whom have long since surpassed her in height.

I hope succulent heaven is as beautiful as I have imagined it to be in my Pinterest cactus garden idea-inspired mind. I hope they only have the highest quality well-aerated garden soil with the white perlite pellets, and I hope root rot and mealybugs are non-existent there.

Rest in peace, Grandma Cactus. I wish I could have taken better care of you.