A Spring-Summer Connection #2

Continuing on from where I left off, the story takes a turn late one evening. My friend was over to stay the night, and we had rented a bunch of movies from Blockbuster. There were Doritos and salsa, and it was a Friday night.

My landlord was off out with two of his work colleagues, since he hadn’t had a weekend off in a while. He wasn’t particularly chummy with the two of them, but felt obliged to go nevertheless. This wasn’t a figment of my imagination: he actually said all this to me before leaving to go clubbing that evening.

They returned pretty late, and my friend and I were just finishing Six Days, Seven Nights and were having a conversation about Anne Heche’s lifestyle choices. (I was 16, and this was my first experience with homosexuality. I was baffled at the time.)

My landlord walked in, and was a little cheesed off to see me still awake. I found out much later that he was upset with my presence because he was quite protective of me. My friend, of course, was thrilled to see him, and immediately went into starstruck mode. He hinted heavily about me heading off to bed, but she was having none of it. And because this was England, and no one forced anyone to do squat no matter what the age difference. *cough* stupid Indian mentality *cough*

The next thing I knew, his friends had pulled, and under my astonished gaze these three men brought in two girls. Well, one girl, who was from our sixth form college and who my friend instantly recognised, and an older lady. And by ‘older lady’, I mean she was at least 50. They were all drunk, including my landlord, although he was not on a happy high.

Now if you do the math like do, you will notice that there were three blokes and two ladies. My brain seized up at that point, and I wanted to bolt. My friend hung on to my hand tightly and compelled me to sit back down again. Apparently, she couldn’t stay back if I decided to go up to bed, and she oh so desperately wanted to witness this crazy comedy.

I should perhaps mention that my friend is an Arab Muslim, and lived a rather sheltered existence. Tipsy ladies coming in on the arms of drunk men they met the same night was not an experience either of us had ever encountered. She was mesmerised, and I was bemused.

The sofas were ranged around the sitting room walls, and these folk were sitting on the largest one. My friend and I were sitting on the two-seater opposite the television, and one of the girls squeezed in with us. My landlord, the host, was sitting primly on the last sofa at the far end of the room. He was not pleased about this arrangement.

Soon, someone suggested that they would like some water. So he got up to get some, glaring meaningfully at me. I had no clue what he was trying to communicate in this non-verbal way, so I merely shook my head to indicate I didn’t want any.

He went out of the room for approximately two seconds, when he charged back in again with glasses of water, slopping messily on the carpet. He then offered the room a cup of tea. Again, I shook my head. The others heartily welcomed this offer. Again, he stormed out of the room, only to charge back in two seconds later. This time, though, he came in to ask for my help.

This night was proving to be very confusing for me on many levels, and this uncharacteristic request to help with tea was the final straw. I couldn’t very well say no, as he phrased the request in such a way that if I had refused, it would have looked like I was being an awful hostess.

Another bit of back story here: I couldn’t make tea to save my life at the time. I didn’t even drink the stuff, and I followed him confused to the kitchen. And then he admits that it was a gambit to get me out of the room, because he was very uncomfortable with me being there with those men and women. Just as I was incredulously about to ask why, my friend came barrelling into the kitchen. And my landlord promptly clammed up. He handed us four cups of tea, and marched ahead of us back into the living room.

In our absence, the men and women had taken the opportunity to rearrange the seating plan. The large sofa was now occupied by one canoodling couple, and the two-seater my friend and I were on had the second giggling duo. The sofa my landlord was originally sitting on had two spots free. I made a beeline for one of those, as I assumed he would do the gentlemanly thing and let my friend and I sit together on it, and he would take the remaining seat on the large unit. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

My friend was forced to take the seat next to one of the couples, and she sat squished into the corner, trying her best not to come into physical contact with either of them and their flailing limbs. (They were still clothed, just very actively embracing.)

For the first time that eventful evening, I saw my landlord relax. He slumped into the sofa a little, and I ended up being pressed into his side. (The other side was taken up by magazines and other paraphernalia, which I couldn’t shift for the love of anything.)

I remember that he smelled of his leather jacket, the styling cream in his hair, the faint sheen of perspiration, and his perfume. And my heart started beating wildly in my chest. It was so exciting and unprecedented. What was happening?!

A Spring-Summer Connection #1

Between 1999 and 2001, I did my A-level at a sixth form college in England. I stayed as a paying guest in three homes during my two year stint there, and the subject of this series of posts was the owner of the second house.

To begin, when I moved into the spare bedroom, he owned the house with his then girlfriend. They were both 28 to my 16, and I instantly bonded with her. Then, about a month in, they broke up and she moved out. To say I was discombobulated was an understatement. Here I was, a young female teen staring at the prospect of sharing a house with a young adult man. I am Indian, my parents are Indian; this sort of thing is way outside the comfort zone of our culture. However, the lady convinced me to stay, and I convinced my parents. And so I stayed till the end of the first year.

I barely even communicated with this man, because I was more comfortable with his girlfriend. But slowly, over time, we started talking. And then we got really close, and he started confiding in me. We spent hours talking about stuff, and I was enthralled by the fact that an older person found me interesting.

At first, I was completely oblivious to the fact that he was a male, as such. I was a completely innocent airhead, and it never occurred to me in the slightest that this gorgeous man (hooboy was he gorgeous) would ever be interested in me. I was very wrong.

I wasn’t attracted to him at the time, but my best friend couldn’t get enough of him. He was physically stunning, so she used to come over to gape at him. He resented her presence, and never spent much time with me when she was around. I, once again, was completely oblivious to his obvious dislike, which I can now see in retrospect.

In spite of having friends, I spent long evenings on my own at home. He was there a lot of the time, and we ended up chatting through the night, into the early hours of the morning. I started to get an inkling of that he may feel somewhat differently towards me than I had previously imagined.

And it was hilariously confirmed when he came home drunk one night. But that story is another post! Stay tuned.

Office Woes #8: Low Budget Horror

Back in 2014, the office was undergoing expansion. The only trouble was that the expansion was separated from the existing workspace by a thin ply. We could hear the incessant sounds of workmen and their tools, and it was distracting, but it paled in comparison for what came next: the paint.

We were about 40 people in the office at that point, and I was fortunate enough to be seated at the opposite end of this assault on our sense of smell. All I remember was a mildly offensive stench, occasionally wafting over to my seat. I detest the smells of anything “chemical”, for the lack of a better explanation, like petrol, nail varnish, paint, and glue, to name a few. In fact, those sorts of smells are one of my migraine triggers.

It didn’t occur to me that the people sitting closer to the Veil of Stench were rather badly off. And I was thus surprised to see a flurry of company-wide emails at first pleading for a solution, and then threatening consequences such as a walk out, a vomit session, and, in one particularly funny email, a fainting spell.

The operations team swung into action, and came up with several solutions. I use the term “solutions” very kindly, because this is what they thought would combat the appalling, faint-inducing stench:

  • Placing halved lemons in a bowl atop each table
  • Lighting candles (not scented, mind you, just the ordinary white ones) sitting dangerously in glass bowls on the floor
  • Placing quartered onions next to the lit candles
  • Emptying countless cans of air freshener in various fragrances (citrus, pine, lavender, etc.) all together
  • Turning the A/C on full blast, and cracking open a window

I didn’t have much to do at the time, so I watched these measures in bemused silence. Our office looked like the sound stage for a low-budget horror movie. Here is some photographic evidence:

Foolproof solution against paint fumes. Office ke fundey.

A post shared by Karishma Sundaram (@krishsundaram) on

We slowly got over the hilarity of it all, and went back to work. Although the expressions of a few people, who had come in that day for interviews, were absolutely priceless.

MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) Related Scam

A few days ago, I was scammed. Here is how:

I am in the process of registering a company, and my aunt and I are the directors. We had applied for Director Identification Numbers (DIN) as is mandated, and had received the confirmation by email some time ago.

On 16th August, my aunt received a VPP (Value Payable Post) package, with what appeared to be documents or a booklet inside. She was asked to pay Rs. 1000/- for it – Rs. 950/- is the value of the booklet, and Rs. 50/- is the postage. She refused, since she was not expecting a delivery of any sort. We spoke about it, but since she was not aware that it had her DIN on it, we assumed it was a random scam.

I received the package today. I saw that my DIN was printed on the shipping label, and I assumed it was from the MCA. I paid the Rs. 1000/-, again assuming this was valid and important documentation. I then called the CA firm who is handling the registration in a panic, wondering if my aunt should have accepted her package too. The CA was surprised to hear of this parcel, and said that one copy between the both of us should suffice. Fair enough.

When we opened the parcel, we found poorly photocopied booklets which, yes, were relevant to a new director, but were easily (and freely) available online. My mother smelled a rat, and we Googled it. Of course, this turned out to be a scam.

She then rang the local (Matunga East) post office in order to try and halt the transaction. We were prepared to lose the money, but very loth to have a scammer win the day. Unfortunately, since 4 or 5 hours had passed since I accepted the package, the post office manager did not have the authority to halt the transaction. He, in all fairness, tried speaking to one of the officers, but they proclaimed inability to do anything. Apparently the transaction is instantaneous. The only advice they could proffer is that we shouldn’t have accepted the package at all.

In spite of being suspicious of any and all unsolicited material, calls and the like, I was taken in. The package looked very much like a kit printed by a government organisation, in terms of quality and so on. Even after my aunt’s experience of the day before, I was still taken in.

Things I learned:
– I didn’t know that DIN information, along with names and addresses are publicly available. I do now.
– Never ever pay for anything you haven’t ordered. I already knew this, but official-looking stuff fooled me.
– The method of transmission (Speed Post) is not fraudulent, so I was lulled into a false sense of security. If it had been a courier, I would have slammed the door on the guy’s face.
– The amount is priced just right. A higher price would have thrown up a red flag. A small amount doesn’t mean I should have accepted its legitimacy without question.

I hope no one else falls into this trap. We are not bemoaning the loss of money, but the fact that a scammer won this round. Please share this post to spread awareness. Thank you.

PS: If anyone knows of a way to put a final stop to this, I would be very happy to help in any way. I detest cheats in all forms and shapes.

Address printed on the label: “Surya Publication Level 5, Tower C, 3C Green Boulevard, Sector 62, NODIA [sic] – 201 307. If undelivered, please return to address: Plot 64 (Ground Floor), Surya Nagar, BBSR – 751003”

Say Cherry

One weekend afternoon, mum and I were chatting in the living room, while dad was on his laptop in the bedroom. We start feeling a bit hungry, so she gets a plate of cherries from the kitchen. On the way back to the living room:

Mom to dad: “Can I give you a plate of cherries? They’re nicely ripe and beautifully chilled.”
Dad: “No.”
Mom: “Get lost.”

She comes back to the living, and less than five minutes later:

Dad: “What are you guys eating?”
Mom: “Cherries! I asked you!”
Dad: “Show me.”
Mom, holding up a single cherry: “Here. See. Look. Observe. Don’t eat. Only see.” And dissolves into giggles.

My silly parents.

Will You Marry Me?

I was speaking to a friend about the current turmoil in my life, and he very astutely surmised that, in my mind, I was still in my relationship. My mother also made an observation to much the same effect. And the fact is, they are both right.

I am not prone to living in a dream world, as my feet are very firmly planted on the ground. I am fully aware that I am technically single, however I choose to think of this weird paradigm as not being over the relationship yet.

And of course there is a reason – isn’t there always? – which roots this whole confusion in emotion, romance, nostalgia, and love.

Way back in 2012, just after we had declared our love for each other, my French student and I were perched on my bed, snuggling. We were talking, as new couples are apt to, about everything and nothing. There were lots of little kisses, smiles, and soft touches and hugs. It was wonderful.

Bearing in mind that we didn’t take long to fall in love, nor to say it to each other, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we were already talking about marriage and children. He was in the process of getting a divorce, but I was unmarried. Also, he was just over 30 and I was 2 years away from that milestone. We weren’t getting younger, and were eager to get started on a new life together as soon as possible. Life had not been kind to either of us, and the gratitude of having found each was overwhelming.

So, we snuggled and talked about settling down together; having kids, making meals together, decorating our house when we had one, and so on. And there was much delicious pleasure in building these castles in air. Suddenly, he turns to me and actually asks:

“Will you marry me?”

I was so stunned. In spite of our conversation, an actual, honest-to-God proposal is still a momentous occasion. I blushed (*groan* really) and stammered out an affirmative. And then he says:

“No. I mean, marry me now. Forget that I haven’t got a divorce – that’s a paper confirmation of the situation. Forget the rituals, the people, and priest. Will you take me as your husband from this day forth?”

I stared at him, at this wonderful man I had known for a few months. He wasn’t perfect, but he made me feel safe, loved, secure, protected, confident, and so much more. He would be there by my side always, and I would love him till the end of my days. So I said:

“Yes. I do.”

And so I do. I love him. I will always love him. Always.

Fixer Upper

You know those stories where people have misunderstandings or near misses, like lost letters, and make massive assumptions as a result? I watched/read several of those kind of stories and I hated them. I hated the time that was wasted by not being together. I hated the gulf that separates people, two or more, because it was fuelled by ego and misunderstanding. There is no cure for an ego, but misunderstanding is easily resolved by communication.

Then there is this overwhelming fear of looking back on my life and experiencing regret. Regret that I didn’t try to build bridges, or fix that broken bond sooner. My rule for when I am angry with someone is: if that person were to stop existing tomorrow, how would I feel about being angry with them today? And more often than not, my temper cools and I realise that I wouldn’t want to end any relationship on an angry note.

These two factors are the primary reasons for me always being the first to make up with someone. I always reach out first. I always apologise first. I don’t care about the power factor of waiting for someone else to make the first move, because I got over my insecurities a long time ago. The maximum risk I take is being shot down. That means the worst thing I have to deal with is to learn that I valued a relationship more than the other person.

I always make the first move. Always. There have been no exceptions. In fact, I have brought warring family members together too. It is just part of my character now, even though at one point they were deliberate decisions.

But now, I have made the grand gestures, and I can’t any more. Not because I don’t want to, but it is no longer up to me. I am out of moves. All I can do is hope.