How to be fashionably lazy between jobs

Since it has been the full-gestation-period-of-a-human-being (plus a couple of weeks) since my last post here, it’s only fair to come back with a super-kickass, uber-awesome post about how I’ve been living it up these past 10 months. Only fair.

Unfortunately, my life has had only the blink-and-you’ll-miss her appearances by a certain (I find her very elusive) Lady Fairness of Justicevilleshire..and those few cursory appearances by Her Highness have instilled within me a deep and very profound need to never go out of my way to make something appear fair. So I don’t ever go out of my way to make something seem fair. It’s positively non-Libran of me. Either that..or I really have nothing overly-exciting to bring to the table here..which could possibly justify my long hiatus from my own blog.

Where have I been these past few months? I didn’t really go gallivanting to the ends of the world in these months. I did, however, travel to Assam and Meghalaya and had the most amazing few days when I stayed at a farm in the middle of nowhere.

Nor did I do/indulge in any new and challenging activities..like feed sharks or get scuba-certified. The closest I came to learning anything new and helpful (like a foreign language) was downloading an app on my phone called Duolingo. I did, however, learn to make sushi. Besides that, I pretty much just lazed around, worked when I needed to, ate a lot of Nutella and french fries and sushi, along with a healthy dose of bacon.

Sushi..sushi!!

Sushi..sushi!!

I traveled to Bombay a couple of times and Pune and Chennai once each. I finally got some pictures with my best friend of 14 years (we had 1 picture together..until this month)..so I pretty much went crazy making picture collages of us -

Only the glitter's missing

Only the glitter’s missing

I made friends with a lot of dogs.

Meeting Bruno for the 1st time

Meeting Bruno for the 1st time

I took a lot of pictures..and posed for even more. I read a fair bit, sketched a little, watched a lot of TV shows and shopped for clothes, shoes, books, art supplies and cute little Tintin-themed strips of band-aid.

And yes..this month, I quit my job. I got offered a couple of jobs that I hadn’t applied for (I’m too lazy to apply for jobs the 1st month of my sabbatical). Well..we’ll see about it soon. Work and stuff.

That’s me..the 1st day after I quit my job. Sketching in my Doodle pad..watching Audrey Hepburn having Breakfast at Tiffany’s -

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I’ve watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s about a million and ten times (at least). I often wonder about what I find most engrossing about this iconic opening scene -

Is it AH’s incomparable screen presence? I’ve seen all of her movies (multiple times) and nothing seems to ever come close to this. Not Sabrina. Not My Fair Lady. Not The Children’s Hour or The Nun’s Story. Not even A Roman Holiday..for which she won an Academy Award..and pretty much did the near-impossible act of out-“actoring” Gregory Peck.

Is it Hubert Givenchy’s brilliance coming through that stunning black dress? True, this dress set trends for the next half a century and is arguably the most famous black dress in the history of couture. But Givenchy has given us plenty of jaw-droppingly-stunning moments dressing AH. I mean..the white gown from Sabrina consistently ranks as the most beautiful dresses in cinema. Then there’s the darling red dress (even though we only see it as a black dress on screen) Sabrina wears – I mean..just look at how smitten both Linus and David are!!

Is it the simple..almost mundane breakfast of coffee and croissant that resonates with me? Let’s face it..for all my fancy hangups at odd times, I have a full breakfast spread complete with pancakes and waffles with 4 different kinds of syrups and sauces, 5 types of eggs, bacon, 22 types of ham and an equal number of cheeses, 18 different kinds of cereal da da da..well..almost never. A cup of coffee and a croissant are just so identifiable. So..normal.

Or is it the idea of a place in the world where life’s troubles and sadness..the blues and the mean reds..can vanish for a little while as you sip your coffee and bite on your perfectly-buttered croissant? I don’t quite know yet.

And then I listen to ‘Moon River’..the beautifully haunting lyrics by Johnny Mercer set to Henry Mancini’s nostalgia-inducing tune..and I can’t help feeling that beyond AH’s aura and Givenchy’s exquisite fashion creations and the perfectly-buttered croissant for breakfast..is the music. The words. Simple. Evocative. The kind of stuff that can totally lead you off on a tangent while you’re trying to earnestly explain your actions for the past few months (especially since they didn’t involve anything earth-shatteringly interesting). I’ll get down to it as soon as I’ve finished humming the bridge, I promise.

“Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way

Two drifters, off to see the world, there’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river and me”

Did I say I also sketched? Maybe this is what I meant -

Ezio, from Assassin's Creed

Ezio, from Assassin’s Creed

Or this -

Sokka, from Avatar the Last Airbender

Sokka, from Avatar the Last Airbender

There was also a birthday card that was deemed too risqué for social media -

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 Beyond this, life goes on. Time to start working on the novel now.

Because I am a material girl..kind-of sort-of

Pretty things make me happy. They really do. Whether it’s sparkly shoes or LBDs or LWDs or a great pair of skinny jeans or accessories or beautiful Little Mermaid duvet or a perfectly drawn sketch. Or a Norman Rockwell painting. Or Harper Seven Beckham. Seriously, that child is so pretty!!

Which is why, when I laid out a bunch of delightfully delicate little souvenirs that I bought from my recent trip to Malaysia and Hong Kong, I wasn’t surprised to find that my bed filled up with them as quickly as my heart filled with happiness.

Take the Snoopy nail clippers I picked up at a small store in Langkawi..

Red and white Snoopy nail clippers. I love me my Peanuts merchandise!!

Red and white Snoopy nail clippers. I love me my Peanuts merchandise!!

Aren’t they precious!! Now, anything to do with Peanuts is going to make a happy child anyway..but these clippers, with their functionality and actual usefulness, seem as fabulous as I’m sure Snoopy believes he is, as a WW I Flying Ace battling his arch enemy The Red Baron. “Curse you, Red Baron”.

Taking on the Red Baron..fabulously

Taking on the Red Baron..fabulously

Next to Snoopy, on my bed, was a lot of Disney stuff. My beautiful Disney necklace, which I like to proclaim truly may be the key to happiness (as corny as it sounds)..

The key to Happiness

The key to Happiness

Minnie Mouse came in two different avatars: yellow, bookish and polka-dotted (as a bookmark) and outright nerdy with glasses (as a pin)..

Minnie's two avatars

Minnie’s two avatars

..and she keeps great company to my other bookmarks (like the yellow ladybug, pictured above) and these ladies)..

They're not ladybugs..but they sure look pretty

They’re not ladybugs..but they sure look pretty

There were luggage tags that featured the lovely Ariel. There was also a stern-looking Lisa Simpson USB drive. And the sunlight hit my new pink gym watch and my what-others-called-Cinderella-slippers-but-I-won’t-because-Cinderella-is-pretty-much-my-least-favourite-Disney-princess-and-so-rather-irreverently-I-might-just-call-them-Lucy (shoes), just perfectly. Like it does all pretty things..

Pink by Domo

Pink by Domo

Lucy

Lucy

All pretty things make me happy. Take pretty food for instance. How is one supposed to not feel deliriously wonderful when there’s a plateful of this in front of you? Photograph courtesy Vikram Viswanath

Yum. Full stop.

Yum. Full stop.

All of this makes it seem like I’m a materialistic little nugget (or does food not qualify?). Well, I am..but only because. Because. Because. I don’t know. Pretty things make me happy. Period.

Sure, I could write about the overwhelming beauty of nature and post a picture of a double rainbow or a frozen lake or some beautiful autumn foliage. All things that’re extremely pretty and make me quite happy..sure. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel it’s alright to sit back and gaze with wonder at something more tangible. Something you can touch and feel against your skin. Something that cost you money, perhaps. But was worth it. Like your shoe collection. Or a box of Miss Dior perfumes. Or those skinny jeans I was talking about. It’s alright to feel happy because of pretty, material things. You’ve earned them.

To be enamoured by a tattooed bisexual hacker

I need Lisbeth Salander. I’m on Book 2 of the Millenium trilogy (most people know it as the ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ book series). It’s taken a while (partly because I was on my self-bestowed exile from all things literary); but as expected, I’ve reached the stage when I start to believe a fictional character could materialize into reality and take on a very important role in my life.

Growing up, I did that with many different characters: I wanted Huck Finn for a friend, I wanted TO BE Nancy Drew..

The first Nancy Drew mystery I ever read

The first Nancy Drew mystery I ever read

And I so wanted to hang out with any of the Famous Five (but I was always partial to Julian) and have stories read out to me by the dad from ‘When Daddy Was a Little Boy’..

Daddy reading bedtime stories to his little girl

Daddy reading bedtime stories to his little girl

Little Daddy..throwing his beloved ball under the car

Little Daddy..throwing his beloved ball under the car

I wondered what a quiet hand-gestures-only conversation with Chief Bromden would be like, I wanted to suffer with Kira and figure out the winter-time mystery of the ducks at Central Park for Holden Caulfield. I wished to work with Dominique Francon and Howard Roark, go traipsing through the snow with Jo March and speak cockney with Eliza Dolittle. I yearned to find and be with a man like Aragorn and conspire with Natasha Hyatt (that devilishly beautiful fiend from ‘The Basic Eight’).

The Basic Eight: Heathers, for the 21st century

The Basic Eight: Croquet & Heathers, for the 21st century

At various points in my life, each of these characters came by and played their predefined roles in a variety of interesting little skits in my head. But Lisbesth Salander is different.

Never before had I fancied a brilliant computer hacker with a photographic memory and a violent past, for a friend or a confidante. But I need someone like Salander in my life right now. There’s been too much brutality recently: on the news (what with the Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro) and in PS3 games (the Origami Killer from ‘Heavy Rain’). I need someone like Salander to kick ass and avenge everything wrong done to her. I realized I’d been rooting for her despite her maniacal ways. Maybe even because of them. I need someone like Salander (small, frail, awkward) to overcome her obstacles. Oh..and there’s also a project at work where I could use her hacking skills. Then of course, if I was in possession of her skills, I might as well hack into some fraudulent multi-billionaire’s accounts and keep a few million dollars for myself. And the work project could wait.

Until then, I’ll just turn the pages and continue reading. Go Lisbeth!!

12.40 am. Can't put the book down. Except to post this :P

12.40 am. Can’t put the book down. Except to post this :P

Getting over 2012, seven months later

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I could pretend that it hasn’t been nearly 2 years since I wrote anything on my blog. I could pretend that in those 2 years, my life didn’t nearly turn upside down. And I could pretend to be exactly the same person I was on August 26 2011, the last time I wrote a post (read, Dissecting “A” at http://transiberian.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/dissecting-a/). Or well, quite simply, I could tell the truth.

After all, taking up a new job, changing fields (from criminology to travel & community management), moving to a new city (Mumbai to Bangalore), making new friends, living with people I didn’t know until I met them at the new job..is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no reason to lie. And oh yes..I was dumped unceremoniously by someone I’d been with for 6 years. Phew. Typing that felt good. Now let’s move on.

To say that 2012 was a crazy year for me..would be as huge an understatement as saying, “Nutella tastes nice” or “Burberry makes nice clothes”..both of which are true in that they positively reaffirm the winning aspects of Nutella and Burberry, but “nice” isn’t the word you’d use to describe the flavourful chocolate-hazelnutty brilliance of Nutella or the tartan genius of Burberry..and surely, while “crazy” as an adjective is nowhere as diffidently vanilla as “nice”, I still believe my year 2012 deserves a more befitting adjective to describe it.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any that does. To begin with, it was a year of many firsts for me: my first time snorkeling, the first grasshopper I ever chewed on (and loved the taste and crunch of). Cue picture, courtesy Richa Devi:

Me. Eating grasshoppers. Yum. The grasshoppers. Not me.

Me. Eating grasshoppers. Yum. The grasshoppers. Not me.

My first trip with just friends that wasn’t a weekend camping trip. Until then, every major trip I’d been on, within India or abroad, was with either family or my boyfriend. It was 8 1/2 days of utter joy and adventure in Thailand:

Sun and a lotta fun in Thailand

Sun and a lotta fun in Thailand

2012 was also the first year that I got a gorgeous themed birthday cake (big <3 and kisses for Vikram Viswanath, who arranged for it):

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My super delicious and awesomely cool LOTR birthday cake. There was Gandalf. There was Bilbo. Even the ring was there (Bilbo’s holding it). The hobbit and the wizard sit just outside BB’s hobbit hole..it was freaking awesome!!

And also the first year I had a proper 7 course birthday dinner at a restaurant (Caperberry) known for its experimentation with molecular gastronomy:

Caperberry collage

So much yum and posh at Caperberry <3

Aaaand..it was the first complete calender year I paid rent entirely with my own money. Nothing much to hoot about, but it’ll do.

Then again, it was also my first time being dumped. Yikes. THAT was not pleasant. On hindsight, though, that’s not what bugs me most about last year. Being broken up with sucks, sure, especially that first time. And especially after 6 years of being together. But what sucked even more for me, was realizing that 2012 was the first year I did not do things that I really cared about. The first in over-25 years, that I didn’t sketch a thing. Sure, I doodled lots of my usual cross-legged-well-dressed-wide-eyed-and-pretty-looking-down-at-the-world-and-everyone-in-it girls, on practically everything from notepads to tissues to post-its, but that’s not the same.

I drew something like this one:

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Or this one:

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Or like any one of these:

Collage

That’s also not saying that I’m any good at sketching..but I’ve managed to churn out some not-too-shabby drawings since I was a toddler (with my most recent non-doodles on display here: http://transiberian.wordpress.com/my-artwork/). Note: I realize I’m pimping, but it’s MY blog after all and since I haven’t been here for long, I may also have forgotten blog-writer etiquette..so bear with me.

What made 2012 worse, though, was that it was the first year (since 1988, when I first started reading independently as a 3 year old) that I did not finish reading a single book. Cue gasp. 

For anyone who knows me, it’s easy to understand why not managing to complete reading even one book the entire year would constitute a much greater inadequacy on my part than failing to hang on to the man my parents were already envisioning as their future son-in-law: the good looking PhD/post doctoral research fellow at one of the world’s top 10 universities, that I’d been dating for over 6 years. For the uninitiated, the book thing is sacrilege. My books are, quite literally, my most prized material possessions. From the numerous paperbacks I bought over the years (some for under 30 rupees) to the illustrated, nearly-75-year old paperback copy of the ‘Pygmalion’ to the hard-bound-in-24 carat-gold copy of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ to of course, the 50th anniversary edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that I bought on a sun-drenched English afternoon for what cost half my monthly rent in pounds (!!), these books represent everything I love and admire in life. Buying books, collecting them, reading and re-reading them to the point that the line between reality and fiction does sometimes appear blurred and yet you continue reading because after all, THIS is what it’s all about. This is where you differ from those who do not read. Those who do not enjoy reading. Your books will come to your rescue, so that just when you think that your own life is strangely similar to that of Sonya from Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, you will snap back to reality and realize that no, in fact, it is not. That there is a marked difference between a girl living in 19th century czarist Russia (tied to a man who believes he has committed the perfect murder) and a small, slight girl living in 21st century India, seems laughably obvious to others. But it’s normal to get sucked into an alternate reality while you’re reading a particularly gripping book, and believe that fictional, meticulously created world to be yours. And you revel in the fact that you can tiptoe so dangerously close to another world and yet not teeter over. For that, is what your books give you. Knowledge (of the difference between the 2 worlds), imagination (to picture yourself in that world or transform your reality to match the fictional one) and the choice (to not go unraveling into a make-believe world). You juxtapose the 2 worlds perfectly. And you remain sane. Waiting to take up the next book on your list.

There. My love affair with books has been long. And thoroughly splendid. To not have read any book for all of 2012 is something that makes me cringe, while saying out loud. Or while writing it. Or even thinking in my own head. Compared to that, being dumped by a so-called “catch” doesn’t seem all that disappointing. And in a clear case of no-sour-grapes-at-all, I say to the widely acknowledged eligible bachelor I was seeing for so long, “Sir, my angst over losing you was true. And it lasted for a few good months (no point denying that). But like the typical has-been starlet that captures the audience’s attention for approximately the time it takes for a new sensation to spring up in her place, only for both of them to slowly fade away from public memory to be replaced by still newer, fresher, even-more-easily-replaceable-by-other starlets, your presence in my life slowly but surely faded away until now, a year later, you are (in the words made famous by Gotye) just ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ {for those who, for unimaginable reasons, have never heard of the song, (OR FOR MY PARENTS) here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY}. And no, there won’t be a sad, broken-hearted rendition of it, sung by me”. 

Because you see, the people in your life come and go. Friends, co-workers, teachers, bosses, maids, nannies, neighbours. For the important ones, you wish to stay in touch with them for as long as can be. But for the super-important ones, the ones that you feel you cannot do without (or you don’t want to do without), you bring to their lives something so quintessentially YOU, something so meaningful that they, in turn, want to never voluntarily vanish from your lives. They, in turn, strive to bring their best and most adorable selves to the relationship. And so the equilibrium is maintained. Everyone’s happy. These are the ones that matter. All the others, they can always be replaced by books.

My current book nook. This is 1/200th of my actual book collection (which is still back home)..but until I find a place of my own, that massive set is staying put with my parents.

My current book nook. This is 1/200th of my actual book collection (which is still back home)..but until I find a place of my own, that massive set is staying put with my parents.

Dissecting “A”

Its amusing how the 2 “A”s that’ve been bombarding us on television for the past week and more are so distinct from each other..and yet similar in their capacity to generate mass appeal. The Anna rhetoric and all the confounding media and popular scrutiny it has conjured up is wisely (and thankfully, even for me as the author of this post) NOT the protagonist of this here post. Its the “other” A, that’s been doing the rounds and obsessively developing a following that’s a tad freakish (to say the least). 

The new Airtel advertisement. I mostly always find myself completely disenchanted by popular phenomena..but I found myself unable to stop thinking about this ad in particular and what it signifies. A. I hum it quite a lot, which is great for the brand because clearly that’s the plan..to get people humming the song and talking about it etc. B. I feel so deviously sarcastic and jaded with it, that its starting to get amusing now. Not, I presume, the right attitude for a post on something that has become so sensationally popular. But well..we can’t all like the same things (thank goodness for that!!)

So we roll over to channel after channel with the same song being played out and a bunch of delightfully happy youngsters parade their youth (in all its brash un-craven glory) before us. They sing, they dance, they swear foul words at each other, they bail each other out from jail time, copy in exams and generally do things that – apparently – most youngsters do nowadays. Have always been doing (something that I realized  in a rather alarming manner, when I realized that even people in their 30s were addicted to this song and dance routine). How splendid for them all!! How even more splendid for those who conceived this idea!! To have these kids narrate experiences that’re supposedly “typical” of one’s college years. Nostalgic much?

Yeah..I don’t think so. I’m nearly 27 years old (which makes me roughly 7-10 years older than the generation being portrayed in the ad) and yet a few years younger to a large group of people who’re devouring the ad as if it has the capacity to turn back time and return them to their youth.

I don’t understand it. Was I the only one who went to college and never got arrested and had to be bailed out? Was I the only one who abhorred copying during examinations (was infact so single-minded and focused while writing my exams, that copying never even figured anywhere on the mind’s horizon)? Was I the only one who spent 5 awesome years in college learning wonderful things about Psychology and Philosophy and French and actually reveled in being a good student? It can’t have been..because I made friends for life, in college. They’re few (unlike the kids in the ad whose brains are getting fried trying to remember the names of all their “friends”..those poor kids)..but they’re my “friends”. Not acquaintances. But friends.

We spent our years in college laughing and quoting P.G. Wodehouse, studying Freud and Kant and gathering knowledge about everything from rock and roll to world history and fashion to French dinner etiquette. We learnt our wines and our French verb conjugations. We spent our time listening to the genius that are The Beatles and Oasis and Don Mclean and Simon & Garfunkel and Pink Floyd etc. We watched Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn and we tap danced to drunken glory on a terrace garden.  We watched movies and tried to come up with our own casting couches for when we’d be old and rich and turning Mario Puzo’s ‘Fools Die’ into a movie. We discussed the songs and poetry of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas respectively. We read everything from Ayn Rand to Thomas Harris and we discussed Objectivism and psychopathy with equal madness (I say “madness” because there was frenzied life and purpose to those discussions). We didn’t ever have to be bailed from the gaol and we didn’t waste precious time trying to remember the names of people who didn’t matter to us. If we didn’t remember their names, they probably weren’t important enough..and they were NOT our friends. 

I realize we were soaked in nostalgia for an entirely different time..and things are very different for youngsters nowadays. But I can’t help but think..didn’t others (besides my few friends) from my generation not have a college experience anything like mine? Were things really so different outside of my pretty pink bubble? Was the bubble really so impenetrable..both ways? Have things really changed so much and so drastically in the 6 years that I’ve left college? Its scary in a way because it makes me seem much more weird than I like to believe I am (and I do believe I’m quite tremendously weird!!).

We often think of ourselves as products of our generation..and then something comes along (quite naturally) and it points out (quite harshly) that you’re not!! That you’re not and cannot be typecast into this generation or that. That you as a person cannot align yourself with either this or that point of view. Its amusing yes..but not overly so. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I really don’t.

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 4..the end)

I’ve been in love with Roger Federer since Wimbledon 2004, a year after he won his 1st major and 2 Grand Slam finals later (both of which I didn’t support him at). Everything that I loved and admired about Steffi is inherent in Federer’s game and nature too. From their single-handed backhands to their “cool-almost-dismissive-of-their-opponents” gait on court to their enviable always-sweat-free look to their lovely families, there seems to be an uncanny similarity between them. I was happy with my Federer worshiping (although I wouldn’t lie about the heartache he sometimes causes within me). Federer is the perfect man, a real version of Ayn Rand’s “man as he ought to be” aka Howard Roark. His genius doesn’t need further explaining. I was fine with all of it until Wednesday last week. 

After winning the 1st two sets against Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Federer lost the quarterfinal match in a fashion that I wouldn’t have been able to withstand. I went off to sleep after he lost his serve in the 3rd set. It was just past 7 or 8pm Indian time..too early to call it a night. I huffed a bit, annoyed at Federer for having lost the momentum that he’d clearly gained by winning a near-perfect tiebreak in the previous set. I dozed off believing he would win. I woke up 2 hours later, crying hysterically. I didn’t know why I was crying. I hadn’t dreamed any unpleasant dreams or thought of anything particularly sad. I was alarmed and confused. I sat in front of my laptop and I saw a message my close friend had sent me a while ago, while I was asleep: “he lost”. 

Many have tried to analyze the fall of the game’s most graceful player, in the past week alone. Some even seem to think that their tennis-viewing days are numbered, if Federer retires soon or keeps losing in earlier rounds. I tried to bypass all the discussion and argument. I even watched the men’s final without even a modicum of bitter feelings towards either Djokovic or Nadal (an accomplishment for me).

Competition is the essence of all sport, but some people transcend competition. Their perfection surpasses their sporting adversaries and then vies with little 9 year old hearts and wiser 26 year old ones to allow them to be worshiped for more than their art. They ought to be worshiped for their being. They DO. But more importantly, they ARE. Perfect specimens in a flawed world.

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 3)

Her art (she was often referred to as a ballerina on court) was tennis. I never aspired to be a tennis player. Among the many sports which I’m terrible at, tennis would rank right up there with beach volleyball as a sport where I’ve been at the venue and held the equipment, but never attempted to play (I’ve been on tennis courts and beaches and I’ve held a tennis racquet and a volleyball!!). But my love and respect and admiration for Steffi went beyond her game. I admired her as a person.

While in college, my best and I would have long discussions about how artists, their work and their personal lives, should be kept separate. How its only their art and the pleasure and satisfaction you derive from it that matters. We were very philosophical about it all. But the fact remains that some people go beyond your self-created barrier around their art and suck you into their personal world of perfection in such an astonishing way that you don’t resist. You don’t want to resist. You revel in the idea that perfection like that exists. That there are humans who’re brilliant at what they do, geniuses even, and are also good people. Call it pessimism or cynicism about the world we live in, but this perfection belongs to a rare species. They don’t come around too easy. Steffi Graf is one such specimen (I use the word with utmost reverence).

Over 17 years have passed by. I’m now in my mid-20s..no longer the blue-eyed child of my youth, inquisitive and precocious. Books and music and movies still mean the same to me as they did in 1994, in fact they mean a lot more. My guest list for the greatest celebrity after-party is still leaning heavily toward musicians and writers (albeit with a few more researchers and a much-wider variety of artists). It is their art that beckons me. It is their art that soothes me and astounds me. But 17 years after Steffi Graf changed something in my DNA, another person comes along and does the same. He tweaks it a little further.

To be continued..

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 2)

The people we love and respect portray the things we love and admire. I love my music and I love my books and I love my movies. If a genie granted me the wish to meet any 5 or 10 famous people alive or dead, my guest list would consist almost entirely of musicians and authors. Add Sigmund Freud and Winona Ryder to it. Sure I like their work. I believe most of them are brilliant (Ayn Rand, Tolkien, Lennon, Noel Gallagher, J.D. Salinger). Most of them, their works, have affected me in ways which are difficult to describe. Some carry you through your childhood (Enid Blyton, Mark Twain, Charles Schultz) while others do so through your teens (Simon & Garfunkel, Ken Kesey, the poetry of Don Mclean, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and David Gilmour). Some usher you into the stark unforgiving world of adults with gruesome force (Thomas Harris did so with ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Arthur Miller did the same with the ‘The Crucible’ and ‘All my Sons’) while sowing the seeds of what you wanna be whereas others sow seeds that are far more whimsical and urge you to do and experience newer things (Bill Bryson, Kerouac).

In all the fuss and fury that is “adolescent hero-worship” or “lifelong respect and admiration”, the bottom line always remains: it is their works which touch you, your minds and hearts. I believe that Tolkien’s body of work is the greatest piece of art ever created. I still keep with me the NY Times article about Salinger’s death because I felt the pain of losing the man who created one of my favourite literary figures. I obsessively wished that Oasis would get back together after the band split, and I even-more-obsessively watch and follow every movie and/ or public appearance of Winona Ryder. I do it all because I love them, as artists.

But Steffi was different.

To be continued..

My love affair with a genius..or two (Part 1)

The summer of ’94. A 9 year old kid. A blistering evening in June. That’s all I really recall about one of Steffi Graf’s worst losses, that in the semifinals of the French Open in 1994 to Mary Pierce. As a 9 year old me trembled and looked on at the post-match interviews etc., I felt anger (as much as a docile 9 year old can). I couldn’t understand how Steffi, who I’d worshiped for over 3 years, could lose in the semis to a then-little-known Pierce. She had been on a Grand Slam winning streak. She’d won the 4 majors in a row for the 2nd time in her career by winning the Australian Open earlier that year (she’d demolished Sanchez Vicario something like 6-1, 6-2 in the finals). She was playing splendidly, finally seeming to be rid of the guilt of having been the reason Monica Seles had been out of the game for over a year. She’d played with the burden for too long, now it was time for her to bask in good health and form and reap the rewards as always. The shock of her loss to Pierce shook my little 9 year old soul pretty hard. But I had hope. There was Wimbledonto to look forward to.

Steffi had won 5 of the last 6 Wimbledon titles and she was aiming for a 4th consecutive Championship that year. Everything was set for her to win it and restore order back in my distraught reel of sporting heroes (the protagonist and star of which was Steffi, ofcourse). I was raring to go too, having flushed out all the post-French Open unpleasantaries out of my head (which included a Sportstar spread on eventual winner Sanchez Vicario, dubbing her as “bunny” or “rabbit” for her scurrying skills. Ugh!! I would never again want a cuddly bunny, real or otherwise).

She lost. In the 1st round. On a court that is now dubbed “Champions Graveyard” aka Court No.2 (for the insane number of champions who’ve lost while playing on the court). What was a 5 time defending champion and world no.1 and top seed doing playing on anything other than Centre Court, I was too young to ponder over. But play she did..on that Court. Lose she did..to Lori McNeil.

Something in me changed that day. I’d never cried for or over or about a person I didn’t know personally. I’d never felt an overarching distress to read the newspapers the next day or watch the sports news etc. Nothing made sense to me. I didn’t know what went wrong with the one person I looked up to. Sportswriters and analysts debated whether that loss signified the end of the Graf-era. I remember articles littered with insights about her loss of interest in the game and how the great Steffi Graf now had things beyond tennis vying for her attention (men, fashion, music and movie stars etc. were quoted), how the competitive juices were just not flowing in her anymore with Seles out of the tennis circuit and Steffi clearly having established her supremacy with no visible challenger to her until then, how we might just be in line to witness a very premature retirement from tennis at age 25. Everyone seemed to agree that the losses were blimps on what can now arguably be termed the greatest tennis career ever. Everyone seemed to agree on another point: whether Graf needed tennis or not, the game needed her. I was dissatisfied with the explanations. They didn’t seem right enough.

To be continued..