Paranoid Android

This happened last evening: I’m standing outside office on the dark lonely but traffucked street that runs by Alliance Francaise, trying to hail an auto. I see a guy in a white maruti 800, yawning and at the same time, driving towards the pavement. Everyone has had a long day, I think to myself. 

Next minute I see the car next to me. There’s a bearded guy in a black tee waving frantically asking me to get in. WTF. My god, the guy’s grinning AND waving. *blink blink* WTF. It’s strange the ways your brains has all these thoughts buzzing around for that fraction of a second: I could get a lift till the signal. OMG, what am I thinking. That guy could be a rapist. Why is he so persistent.

Then it strikes me. That’s my friend, Nakul. Absolute horror to serendipity in 30 seconds. 

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Standing on that stretch of the road always leaves me afraid, vulnerable and defensive. I don’t want to stand too close to the edge of the pavement while I’m hailing a rickshaw because I don’t want a guy on a bike to grab my boobs or mow me down while he attempts to beat the traffic by driving ON the pavement. I shouldn’t be distracted by my phone while I hold my bags close so that nobody has easy access to my body parts. And god forbid, somebody tries grabbing the phone while I’m busy ensuring I stay aloof and my body, defensible.

Nakul makes for a good anti-climax, a friend remarked.

Yup, that. I don’t like being on my guard all the time. I don’t want to think the worst of every man who passes by. It also makes me very angry- when these very real fears are dismissed as paranoia, the workings of an overactive imagination, when good intentions are almost always overshadowed by the what-if. On my worst days, I wish upon them nothing more than what I go through: why must I alone be full of fear, be up for grabs every time I’m out in public. Y'know, I just want to hail an auto-rickshaw and go home. Why must something as mundane as that be so hard, so agonizing?

Everything it seems I likes a little bit stronger

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My weekends have gotten even more precious ever since I started working with Janaagraha a year ago. We work on 2 Saturdays in a month and 3, if it’s that dastardly month with 5 weekends packed in. Where these 5 weekends would once be a cause for celebration, it’s now the most stressful part of my life. Distressing even. Or at least enough to send me into paroxysms of anxiety (when do I do my grocery shopping, laundry, meet Dee for dinner) making lists of all the things I’m missing out on(mostly sleep and lazy brunches and too much mimosa) till it finally all comes to a head.

The long weekend had finally kicked in. It started with the most lofty of ambitions: a drive to Koramangala to dig into pillowy idlis at Kamath, some baking - perhaps an apple downside upside down cake, a movie, a quick detour to the Department of Horticulture to pick up some dirt, gardening, beer with friends. A little loving, a little exploring, a little excitement, a little adventure, a perfect weekend plan.

On Saturday, I bolted awake at 4.30 am - I had an interview with BBC Radio at 5.30 am. The alarm hadn’t gone off (In my head, I played out an entire “what if my body hadn’t bolted itself awake?” scenario), the cabbie hadn’t called, I didn’t have the cabbie’s number. After much hand-wringing, waking up cab companies at 5 am and other such unkindly acts at unearthly hours I made my way to the Hyatt on M G Road.

The sun hadn’t come up, Bangalore was lovely, dark and a few potholes deep. Kate and Mark at the BBC were kind to offer me a couple of coffees and let me by myself - talking politics, potholes and portmanteau words (Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood!)

Later in the afternoon, seven of us sat crouched around a long wooden table at a smoky pub and talked about work, mutual friends, our lives that were and what we wanted our lives to be. We drank mugs of Apple Ale, and then another, and then another.

This was a different time with pitch perfect timing, we didn’t have somewhere else to go or anyone else to be. A raucous afternoon, a subdued evening - Our voices hoarse with laughter and chatter, our minds emptied. This is what tumblers of good ale, plates of simple delicious food and a heart full of warm friendships brings.

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Monday would have made Sunday proud. Maybe it was the puddles of rain from the previous night or the indecisive temperatures - one minute a chilly wind blowing and the next, shafts of piercing sunlight or the bacchanalian excesses of the days before. Or maybe we just needed a lazy quiet morning. There was no fervour for a holiday gained, no time for elaborate plans and escapes. We stayed put. In bed, draped on the couch.

We ordered in Chinese food. Kitschy, junk, takeaway in little paper boxes accompanied by sauces with no names. Chilli chicken, Schezwan noodles, Kung Pao Chicken. What’s a holiday without a drink? We resurrected leftover wine, a few days away from vinegar, as Sangria with a dash of star anise, shavings of orange rind, splashes of OJ, leftover watermelon cubes and diced apples.

Outside, the rain splashed, the autorickshaw stand stood framed in the sodium yellow of the streetlights, the train station buzzed with activity. Inside we licked the chilli sauce from our forks and sunk further into our torpor.