Monday, October 5, 2015

Pickle and the Post

*Cross posted from my FB page here*

I am cleaning up my room after about a year and find an old envelope. I'm about to throw it away when Pickle, my 5 year old wanders in aimlessly.
'You want this?'
'What it is?' He asks curiously. Then, as he realizes what the object is, his face changes. His eyes almost well up in tears of gratitude as he says 'THANK you Mummy.'
He then grabs the envelope from me and runs out screaming 'Papad! I got a POST!'
Soon his twin is in the room demanding his own 'Post' which luckily, I manage to source. They start to make their own special letters.
Pickle knows exactly what he wants to make. He comes up to me and confides.
'Mama, I'm making a letter for you. It will say
I love you forever I like you for always As Long as I'm living My Mommy You'll Be.'
I'm very touched by his plagiarism. I say 'That's great, beta.'
'Can you give me a Paper?'
'Okay.' I hand him a sheet of paper.
'How do you write I love you forever?'
I can see where this is going. 'Why don't you find that book, baby, and you can copy the words from there?'
'No.' He is firm on this point. 'This is not a copy.'
'Okay. Fine.' I sigh. 'Write 'I' and then 'L-O-V-E'
Five minutes later, I'm encouraging the little boy 'Well, you wrote the spelling of Ever very nicely? ...Just that you got both the E's and the R backwards...but that's okay, that's okay...' ( Papad cackles meanly in the background as he writes his own much shorter letter to his friend Uday)
After about ten minutes and two sheets of paper and much erasing, Pickle and I have only done about half of the poem and now I'm the one who's welling up in tears.
I suggest tentatively. 'Pickle? Why don't you guys go and watch a little TV now, and you can do this later...'
Almost before I've finished, the twins are out the door, unable to believe their good luck, Pickle having immediately and unceremoniously dropped his love letter to me, like a hot potato. It flutters to the floor and lies there sadly.
I lean back onto my pillow and sigh happily. Pickle pokes his head into my room and says 'Sorry I left your door open Ma' and smiles sweetly and then slams it shut.
I close my eyes, once again, so incredibly thankful for that wonderful invention called television.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wonderboxx: September

So the nice folks at Wonderboxx have decided to send me - or rather, my kids - more boxes for review after the last time I wrote about them. Which is very nice because overall, it's a great concept and I really like the fact that the kids have something to look forward to which doesn't involve staring at a screen all the time.

The Wonderboxx is an innovative kind of monthly box that enables kids to learn as they play - each box is based on a particular theme, and contains a carefully selected set of items, which lets kids create things with their own hands. The Wonderboxx people said they'd like to send me two boxes each month, which I thought would work great - one for the 8 year old and one for the 5 year old twins! Sounds good in theory, right? Except that naturally, the twins had a meltdown at having to share their box. Still, I braved it valiantly, telling myself that this way they will learn to share, which is always such an important thing.

The theme for the younger kids' box (The Kiddos box, meant for 3-5 year olds) for September is Super Seasons.

The twins, once they stopped crying about who would get to grab what item in the box, started to play - there was a game that involved players picking up cards and guessing items suitable for a particular season ( e.g. scarves, boots for winter versus shorts for summer) - they were not too enthralled by this and it didn't hold their attention much.

Then there was a 3D tree which Papad picked up and tried to make. I sat down with him and told him how he was supposed to glue the sides of the tree together so that we would get four sides, one for each of the seasons. He resented my approach, which was to read the instructions and try to follow them and he snatched them away and ran into his room. He emerged a while later, proudly carrying four separate sheets of A4 paper on which he had stuck different sides of the tree. He seemed very happy with this and said he would take it to Show & Tell. I was like, whatever, dude. Have it your way. The important thing was he thought of a way to use it himself, which was nice.

The Seasons box contained a bunch of other things, including an Seasons-Wardrobe where characters have to be dressed appropriately for each season; an Activity booklet and a Storybook - the Activity booklet is something that Pickle seemed to find interesting because he started colouring in it - he couldn't play the word games, which is where Peanut took over and started to fill it all up. The storybook is one which we haven't read at bedtime yet. I have fast discovered that as far as the Wonderboxx for younger kids goes, it really does require a fair bit of parental involvement. I've also discovered in the process my own short fuse and lack of patience with my own kids when we're making something and I think this is a major flaw that I should work on. I really admire playschool teachers and in fact, all teachers of small kids for their patience. They should all get double or triple of their salaries and if I were in charge of this decision, I'd do it right now.

Peanut on the other hand, is frankly delighted with her box - the theme for her box (called the Ginomo set, meant for kids over 5 years)  this month was Air & Wind.

It came with  kits to make all sorts of little projects - so far, she's read all the instructions herself and made a windmill and well thingy, a balloon-powered little car, a pretty little fan, and basically enjoyed every aspect of the box thoroughly and is already waiting for the October one. Here's what she wrote on her own blog about it -


Ok so here is the next blog as I said. So the thing is that a few months ago mom got me and Pickle Papad a wonder boxx. The truth is that we all love it. Of course any child would love it. My theme was light tales. Inside the wonder boxx there were ever so many things! I made a kilidoscope followed with a monster projecter box. There was a free torch, Tape and glue. Pickle Papad and me were delighted to here that if mom reviewed the wonder boxx then we would get 2 free each year!!! So mom said Yes and yesterday morning we got 2 new wonder boxes. Pickle papad were sharing 1 so I got the other. This wonder boxx theme was Air and Wind. I made a windmill and a magic fan plus a balloon car. I really enjoyed myself. Pickle papads theme was Seasons. They made a season tree. I am looking forward to next month cause we will get another wonder boxx soon. I don't care what theme I am going to get, cause what I really care about is the wonder boxx.

PS Mom has told me to write this so that she can copy half of  this on her wonder boxx review!!!  


The last line there in the PS - she means I had told her to write this so that it would make up half of my own review but she clearly got a little confused. Still, that helped. 

Some pictures of the stuff she made. 

The little car powered by the balloon you can see in the picture. She'd blow up the balloon, attach the pipe to the back of the car and watch in delight as the car went a little way away as the balloon slowly deflated.

The above is the windmill she created. There's a little bucket that rises up and down from the well to drive home the concept of how wind energy can be harnessed.

The above is a fan that she made. The little strings are attached to a paper pipe and the fan obediently opens and closes as you push the pipe up or down over the straw.

Oh, yeah - and as you can see below - we actually went and used the recipe in the 'Cooking With Kids' section in the newsletter that comes with the boxes, and made Peanut Butter and Chocolate and Oatmeal Cookies - I put in too much milk and therefore they didn't really set properly but the twins loved them anyway! 

Thanks Wonderboxx folks, and keep them coming. One suggestion since I know you'll be reading this - can you look at creating a box which actually helps kids learn about, label and most importantly figure out how to handle their feelings and emotions? It's a little abstract as a concept but I'm sure you guys can figure it out. If it's not already in your pipeline of product ideas, please do consider putting it there! 

And readers - you can subscribe to your Wonderboxx here.

P.S - the Wonderboxx folks have told me that there's already a box planned in the next couple of months on the theme of feelings. Mind-readers, they are, or just good at their research! 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hey Peanut!

Hello Kid,

So basically it's Daughter's Day and I thought of writing on my blog after quite a break, just to let you know you're an A-okay type of kid. Ha ha. Kidding. You're the best, Peanut. Let me tell you why:

- You're the first born and therefore you're always going to be special. And that's that. No matter how much you think your brothers get favoured - for both me and your dad, it's you all the way. ( Can you please remind me to take this post down when your brothers get on the internet?)

- Oh yeah, that reminds me. Till now, these Dear Peanut kind of posts were meant to be futuristic 'some day she will grow up and read this' types. But now you're already online, and we've even got you your own private blog. Isn't that awesome? For posterity, here's one of your first posts on this public blog, describing our family in a post aptly titled ''Welcome to the Madhouse''

Anyone wants to have a visit anywhere??? If yes then do not pick us!!! Even though we have a great number of mattresses I will have to introduce the MADHOUSE! First I will begin with Dad. Dad is ok type. But he is crazy about food especially Pharatas. He is always with Papa ji. Next is mum. She is good at teaching Zumba but beware she does have her limits! After Mum is ME! As you might see I am pretty impatient with my brothers especially Papadi chatu. I get along with Pickle alright. I am a bit fussy on food like Mister Dadulal Sharma. As for the DTTT They are gigantic fusspots on TV, Clothes and shoes. Those 2 should be warriors. As for K didi she must be pleased with god for giving her such a voice. She mostly goes like this "Onushka cupboard sae nickle jaw. Pickle jaldi khana khaw. Papad aapka school ka  kitab yaha kyu gira he? Isko jaldi sae uthaov" After her is A aunty she cooks food for us. But she also enjoys screaming as much as K didi. Next comes L didi. She is mostly very quiet but I think she keeps a record how much everyone in the family eats.  Last but not the least is Papa ji who I think is the best of the lot. And now I just introduced you to the MADHOUSE!!!

PS Next blog is going to be awesome so do not miss it!!!

- Nicely done, Peanut. I like your PS, it's a teaser to keep your audience hooked. Anyway, so I was saying that you're turning out to be a very talented, amazing kind of support - there are many times that I ask you to help with your brother's homework and it's great to see the way in which you patiently (hahahahahaha) explain stuff to them until they hit you and all of you come crying to me as a reminder that I can't quite abdicate all responsibility on this front to you.

- Abdicate. That reminds me. Thanks a lot for teaching Pickle and Papad all sorts of words. It's thanks to you that they've started telling me things like ''It's too Complicated.'' For your information, Pickle even told me indignantly yesterday ''I DIDN'T put sketchpen marks in that storybook. You can check my BLOG if you want''. I asked him if he even knew what a blog is, and he said 'Yes, it's something you made for Peanut on the computer.' Close enough. But the point is, you're a sharp cookie and it's making your twin brothers pretty sharp too. Could I perhaps take this opportunity to request you to make fewer Potty Jokes?

- Jokes. You love jokes. You love riddles. It's amazing how much you love jokes, even if you don't understand them. You've been telling us (repeatedly) a few of the same ones, and the good news is now you actually have started understanding them. Some of your gems:

Peanut: Where does a mouse go when it's lost its tail?
Me: I Dunno.
Peanut: A retail store. Hahahahahaha.
Me: That's great. But why's that funny?
Peanut:I Dunno. That's what it said in the joke book.


Peanut: Why did the man throw the clock out of the window?
Me: To see time fly.
Peanut (shocked): Yeah. (Recovers) Hahahahahahaha.
Me: Okay, but why is that funny?
Peanut: Because (mumble mumble) Okay, but Mum, here's another joke...


Peanut: Which is the biggest letter in the alphabet?
Me: Dunno.
Peanut: The letter C.
Me: Eh? Why?
Peanut: It said because it contains the most water.
Me: (Realization dawns). Aaah. Okay. (Suspicious) Do you understand this riddle?
Peanut: Yeah because if you turn the C a bit then it becomes THIS shape (Makes a U-shape with her hand) and then you can pour water into it. (Beams)
Me: Uhhh...that's the letter U you just made, Peanut.
Peanut: So? (Realization dawns) ...Okay, so what does this riddle mean?

- I could go on, of course, but I really think I should stop here. The only last thing I'd like to do is share with the world your congratulatory email to Rinky about her marriage. I know you loved her and that she told you she'd come back ( she shouldn't have done that), but it's also not right to expect her to keep a promise never to marry. I know you understand that already and just hope you won't mind too much that I'm doing this but it really is too hilarious. Sorry, but I already put it up on Facebook and everyone says it's the cutest hate mail they've ever seen. By the way, I LOVE the colours you've used, you're a lot more creative with your emails than I am!

- I could resist - just went quickly through the blog archives and found this post from 3 years ago. Even back then, you were clearly smarter than me! Here's you solving the biggest question on my mind!

.....And these are only a few of the reasons that you're the most amazing daughter ever! I mean, of course -you're A-okay, kid.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

How to use Real Life to write Novels on Relationships.

(This article was written for The full piece is here)

A few years ago, I thought of myself as a writer of humorous fiction. But now, three books down, it’s clear that the central theme of my writing is, and will continue to be, relationships in contemporary urban India.

I’ve looked at the first bumpy years of marriage, mid-life crises and divorce, and the struggles of a young woman with all her relationships  – family, friends, love and her own self. And all of this has involved getting in deep and sometimes dirty into real-life relationships around me. Here are the methods that helped me in my writing. Each of these has also, to my delight, added back to my life.

Paying attention to livingEach of us has a wonderful story to tell. The emotions and experiences that we go through are both similar and vastly different from each other’s. My first book was largely autobiographical, but even with subsequent fiction-writing, I found, and continue to find, inspiration in the events in my own life as well as of those around me. And this is what I believe makes for the all-important factors of relevance and relatability.

As a writer, this is incredibly liberating, almost therapeutic, because I’m able to make sense even of failed personal relationships through the power and structure of storytelling. Even when I’m going through a rough patch, it helps to treat it as potential material.

(Read it all here)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Wonderboxx is here!

It seems to be the age of boxes delivered to your doorstep. I've just read about a pamper-yourself box ( a monthly subscription full of goodies for you) and such-like things. Another friend had talked about a similar concept to me last year, and I politely nodded along, wondering what the world is coming to. But then I'm not really into pampering myself with beauty products ( Show me a surprise chocolate-box and you might have yourself a customer, though!)

So when the folks at WonderBoxx reached out to me asking if they could send me a box for review, I was about to tell them they were barking up the wrong girl, until I realized this is something for kids. A surprise box based on a learning theme, delivered to your doorstep each month.

Wokay, I told them, I'll give it a go. Except that, they would have to send me three. I wasn't going to risk my kids getting into a fist fight with just one box landing up at our doorstep.

No probs, they said. Then they asked me to choose the boxes.

Cool, I said. And promptly forgot.

After a few reminders from them, I told them I have an 8-year old and 2 5-year-olds and assumed they'd do the needful.

They politely informed me that there are various themes and I'd have to choose one for the kids.

I hastily looked through the website link they sent me. Looked interesting. I chose 'Light & Shadow' for Peanut, and one 'Nature' and one 'Space' themed box for Pickle-Papad. I had a slight feeling of impending doom about the twins, because I knew they'd both want to grab the Space theme.

Wokay, they said ( I'm paraphrasing here, you do realize that) and then I promptly forgot about this again.

The boxes arrived and were left untouched for a couple of days because I assumed they were for Vijay and he assumed they were for me. The book was launching and I was busy with all that. It was only after some incessant prodding from the kids about what was in the boxes did I suddenly remember that it was probably the Wonderboxxes.

'It's something for you guys!' I magnanimously revealed.

You should have seen the kids. It was like Christmas had come early for them. With squeals of delight, they ran off to fetch the boxes.

The boxes are large and when the wrapping paper is removed, you see some earthy-brown-cardboard designs. They were labelled with the appropriate themes and I recalled with some difficulty who was to get what. Peanut took hers and went off to the sofa while Pickle (the sharper of the two in such matters) grabbed the Space one and poor hapless Papad was left with no choice but to accept the remaining Nature Box.

The kids opened the boxes and started cooing with surprise. I leaned over interestedly - this stuff looked pretty good. There were neat little packages and packets of things - Peanut had a lamp-making set, a projector box kit, some sheets of paper, a book on Light, a Sundial, Shadow Puppets, a Kaleidoscope maker and...


Pickle scrambled around in his box and also found amongst the goodies there the same thing - 'I gotta TORCH too!'

Papad hopefully opened up his box and rummaged through it frantically. And kept looking. And then his little face crumpled. 'No TORCH for me?'

Damn. Damn. Damn. I immediately jumped upon Papad's box and picked up two little packets. 'Seeds? Tomato AND Sunflower? Anyone got that in their boxes? Papad is so LUCKY.'

Pickle and Peanut were quick to catch on. 'So lucky, so lucky.' They muttered insincerely. Papad beamed and all three were once again engrossed in their boxes.

Pickle's Space box included stuff like the Solar System, Moon and Star stickers, a book called 'What is the moon?' and so on. Papad's Nature box, apart from the seeds, had two little plastic pots and a packet of soil, a Nature book, Animal masks and figurine-making sets  - all the boxes had various other little things, including sketchpens, gluesticks, tapes and so on.

The kids sat and played with their stuff for a long time until I told them it was bed-time. They started packing up their stuff and putting the things away. All except little Papad who sat and struggled with the animal masks.

The idea that I gathered from observing these boxes is that the Wonderboxx folks are encouraging as much hands-on and experiential learning as possible. It was all quite charming and it struck me that these would actually make for great gifts - they were at least useful. I realized also that especially for the younger age group, this would require a fair amount of parental help. By the time I finished with this realization, I saw my youngest son beaming up at me, eyes twinkling through the holes in his brand new Lion mask.

'You made that yourself?'

'Yups' said the little one.

I was mighty impressed.

I was even further impressed to discover, days later that Madam Peanut had constructed herself a Kaleidoscope. It was nicely done, and there were quite a few pretty patterns to explore in there. She even took it proactively to school for show and tell, and when I asked her about the reaction of her classmates, she summed it up as 'They thought it was SO COOL.'

I just asked Peanut to describe her Wonderboxx in three words. She has chosen.

'Exciting.' ( I was a little disappointed at this, was hoping for an even bigger word that ended with 'lous' but had to make do with this)

The only thing I felt could have been done differently about the boxes is that some of the material is a little delicate - I broke one or two of the elements while trying to force them in place. A disclaimer here, of course: I'm an A-grade Clumsy Oaf as far as these things are concerned. I also ended up feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of things to do, but this is again a function of three kids swarming all over the place with their new-found material - I was thinking it might be smarter for me to subscribe for just one box a month and deal with the consequences later ( Note: the boxes are a little pricey at about 1499 MRP as per the label, although I haven't actually tried buying them online yet so I'm not sure of the exact deal. Still a lot cheaper than some of the rubbish options out there for our kids, I think. I still haven't bothered to find out about the 'Furby' which Peanut insists is a must-have for all kids these days. Yeah right.)

In short, I thought these make for great learning boxes for kids. They also do tend to serve as a reminder that I could do a lot more with my kids. Especially since there are three of them, they tend to happily spend their time with each other, and my one-on-one time with them is highly rare.

But yesterday, Papad and I went and messily planted some Tomatoes and Sunflower Seeds. He just came in and said 'Hey! We forgotted to water the SEEDs'. And then ran off importantly to fetch his watering can.

Can't wait to see how they actually grow. And I'm not talking about the Tomatoes here. I'm talking about the little P's.

Thanks to the nice folks at Wonderboxx. I think they're onto something very nice indeed. Check them out at and their Facebook page here.

P.S - an update. Papad was not happy at not being able to make anything much from the crafts portion of his 'Nature' Wonderboxx, and came up to me saying 'I'm useless!' which broke my heart and made me wonder where he learned that phrase from. I think the Wonderboxx folks could perhaps make the stuff for 3-5 year olds a bit simpler in some of the boxes, and ensure each box results in some clear successes for the kids without making it too easy for them. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Come and see me this Friday?

Join me and Anoop Johnson, co-founder of Indiblogger, as we happily launch my brand new book 'There's Something About You' and the Harpers-Indiblogger '10 Love Stories' ( the book that I mentored and wrote the foreword for!)

On August 7 (Friday)
Costa Coffee, South Ex, Delhi.
6.30 p.m. onwards.

Come, come, it's books and coffee after all! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chapter 1: Trish

‘Lift, please. Hold ... HOLD!’
Trish reached the elevator just as the doors were closing and,
in her desperation, did something she normally never would have done – she thrust one thick denim-clad thigh through the doors, causing them to open again, revealing several faces inside the lift with expressions varying from mild surprise to studied innocence. A few people stepped aside to make way for Trish and she squeezed her heavy frame, still panting, into the already crowded lift.
Trish tried not to meet anyone’s eyes as she stepped on multiple sets of toes. She directed a ‘Sorry, sorry!’ towards the floor. She gave up trying to reach the back of the lift, where she would have felt more comfortable. Inwardly, she was seething at this typical rudeness of the corporate crowd in this building. These people had seen her running towards them. The polite thing would have been for someone to reach out and press the button to keep the lift waiting for her. Instead, they appeared to have reached some unspoken collective decision to pretend they had all suddenly lost their respective visions and therefore couldn’t see Trish, all seventy kilograms of her, with her curly hair and dark-rimmed glasses, hurtling towards them.
She felt breathless and dizzy now. She had known it would happen. She closed her eyes and waited for it to pass. Trish hated being in crowded lifts. Thankfully, the lift opened on the second floor and four people stepped out, squeezing past Trish, who tried to make herself smaller. She took a couple of awkward steps back, stepping on three more sets of toes in the process, and finally settled into a much more comfortable position at the back of the lift. She had thought at one point that she had a fear of enclosed spaces, but then had noticed she felt this way in the lift only when there were other people around. She hadn’t delved further into it; Trish didn’t believe in overthinking her feelings.
It helped her to distract herself by discreetly observing the other folks in the lift, and this was partly why she liked to stand at the back. She usually started with the shoes, to see whether she was dealing with a brightly insecure pink-strapped high-heeled junior management professional or a suave, egoistic boss in his smooth, polished-by-someone-else-of-course, stylish, formal shoes. The next clues were the legs and what covered them. Trish noticed that the shape a woman’s ankles was a good indicator as to whether she had yet tried the latest in fitness, whether it was Pilates, kickboxing, power yoga or a healthy combination of all three. It was easier to figure this out in the skirts and annoyingly named ‘jeggings’ that were so fashionable these days. Formal pants made it tougher. With men, Trish would have to shift her glance upward, past the crotch – quickly past the crotch! – to check for signs of the potbelly. The potbelly was pretty much a ubiquitous phenomenon amongst these relatively upper-class men in the corporate world. The men didn’t seem to really know how to work it off, except the select few who clearly went to the gym with religious fervour. Women who, by virtue of crossing thirty, had entered the state of motherhood recently still carried the signs in the belly region. The bright, insecure twenty-somethings, of course, had the tiniest, flattest tummies possible.
Trish made all these observations without judgement. She herself had given up on seeing her toes ages ago. Her weight problem had bothered her a little when she was younger, but now, at twenty-eight, she didn’t think she needed to meet anyone else’s standards. Her loose, dull, shapeless kurtas hid her shape fairly well, although they added to the bulk.
The lift cleared out further by the time it reached the seventh floor. They were now heading straight for the top floor – the tenth – and there were only two other people in the lift, a man and a woman, both from her own office. All three of them exchanged brief smiles and went on to studiously ignore each other. After a second, Trish glanced up again at their faces. The rise of the smartphone and the zombie-like downward gaze of smartphone owners made it easier for her to study faces these days. She thought her female colleague from the marketing department had partied too hard the previous night, given the tell-tale dark circles under her eyes. She was probably uploading selfies right now. The admin dude on the other hand looked like he might have got lucky last night. Maybe he was texting his wife or girlfriend or whoever right now to tell her – or him – how much he had enjoyed it. That had to be it, she thought. No one could look so happy on a Monday morning, especially not an admin guy. Unfortunately, he looked up at exactly this point to see Trish staring at his face. She blushed. ‘Bloody lift, so slow, making us late. It’s already ten. Ridiculous.’
He looked like he felt compelled to say something. ‘Yes. Very slow lift.’

Trish shifted her weight from one foot to the other and went on: ‘And the stupid new swipe card system. If you miss ten o’clock even by a minute, it marks you late. Wonder which idiot came up with it.’
The marketing girl looked up at them now with some interest, while the admin guy froze, appearing affronted. Too late, Trish realized that it was this fellow, Rajiv or Ravi or whatever his name was, who had been lauded for implementing the new swipe-to-enter technology at the last monthly HR announcements meeting – a mind-numbing function where Trish usually zoned out. Well, this was awkward.
The lift door opened. Trish abandoned all pretense of courtesy. Despite the fact that she was farthest from the door, she was the first one to get out of the lift.


Trish waited at the coffee machine while three girls in front of her discussed, in great detail, the movies they had watched over the weekend, all of which had apparently been ‘total bore, yaar’. Who were all these bubble-headed pretty young things flooding the office these days, anyway?
Trish figured Akshay had something to do with this. The new boss had arrived on the scene several months ago and had proceeded to throw himself into the heart of the business. Apparently, this didn’t include content creation, which was Trish’s function. She was the only one of his direct subordinates whom he hadn’t bothered to spend any time with. No formal induction session, not even a subsequent review. Which, frankly, suited her just fine – she had already slotted him in as an egoistic slime-ball. Plus, he looked really young, perhaps just a couple of years older than her. This stung her slightly. She had risen to the position of content head after slaving away for years, but Akshay was clearly a corporate dynamo, considering he was already a vice-president.
He was the most visibly successful boss she had ever had: sharply dressed, gel-haired, clean-shaven, fair-skinned, gym- fit and eloquent, amongst other various vaguely annoying qualities. Bloody show-off. She frowned as she made her way to her desk, holding the hot paper cup gingerly out in front of her. She sat down, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her coffee smelt delicious. A gentle wisp of steam wafted up to tickle her nostrils as she slowly lifted the cup to her lips for the first glorious sip of the day.
‘Trish, can I see you in my office, please?’
Her head snapped up, the coffee halfway to her lips. It had been more a command than a question. Akshay was standing right in front of her desk, one hand resting on the edge of her cubicle. Considering that he barely ever spoke to her, why on earth did he want to see her, of all people, first thing on a busy Monday morning?
‘Um, okay, be right there,’ she managed to get out. As if she had a choice in the matter. He looked suave as always, and having him in such close proximity made her feel grubbier and even dowdier than usual. She found herself wishing she hadn’t worn this old brown kurta again today, comfortable as it was.
‘All right.’ He glanced down towards her desk and added, ‘You might want to...’
She looked down and saw that the coffee was trickling down one side of the cup on to her desk and the papers on it. She hadn’t realized she had been squeezing it so hard. She shifted her grip slightly and managed to get some of the liquid on her fingers. Ouch, it was hot. Where were the tissues? Oh, there. Good. By the time she stemmed the flow and placed numerous tissues around the slightly deformed cup of steaming liquid and looked up, Akshay had disappeared.
With her usual vague sense of skepticism mingled now with an uneasy curiosity as to what this was all about, Trish made her way to her boss’s office.

‘Ah, come in, Trish,’ Akshay called out as Trish opened the door. She found herself feeling a little irritated by this. He had just invited her into his office but was now acting as though she were asking for his permission to enter. Bah. Idiot MBA-type.
She went over and sat down on one of the chairs in front of his desk. She hadn’t been in here in ages. The previous boss, Sunil, had been fuzzy-headed but inclusive, prone to calling in people for random brainstorming sessions about various business problems that he seemed unable to solve himself. Trish had often taken part in those sessions which were painfully unproductive but usually involved a round of freshly ordered doughnuts. Sunil had been the grey-haired, mild, absent- minded variety, more suited to being a professor than a business head, but he had been fundamentally a nice person, and at least had the decency to look way older than his team.
Akshay was now staring with a frown at some random sheets of paper. A glistening white bone-china cup, half filled with what looked like green tea, was on the desk in front of him. Green tea! And bone china cups! What luxury the top brass in this office enjoyed. Oh well. Trish told herself that she still liked her own low-pressure job. She had been the content head for two years already. With each new website that the business added, she got an additional content writer to report to her. So she now had a team of four young people. She had carefully chosen folks who weren’t overly enthusiastic in the interviews. Stability, she decided, was the quality she was looking for. People needed to be steady and not rushing off with ambitious dreams every couple of years. Look at her. A total of seven years in this company now, straight out of college, obediently moving from the print department to the new-fangled Internet department five years ago. Sure, some people would have expected her to have a more senior position after all this time, but Trish was satisfied. Content with content, she quipped to herself with an inward smile.
Akshay looked up at Trish, his face impassive. ‘So.’
Trish cleared her throat, unsure of what the response to that one was supposed to be. Akshay didn’t seem to expect a response though, because he went on.
‘I noticed, Trish, that you’ve come in late several days last month.’
Was that seriously an attendance sheet that he had printed out in his hands? Trish felt the colour rise to her cheeks. She could make out what seemed to be people’s names in the rows, each followed by a series of numbers. Her mind raced. Maybe it was the admin dude who had gleefully brought Akshay the printout. She tried to stay calm. It wouldn’t do to turn into a tomato in front of Mr Perfect. But it was a biological trait she couldn’t control, this colouring of her cheeks when she felt bothered or embarrassed. She was both insulted and caught off guard. She was a senior manager – well, relatively senior, anyway, and had been with the company for so long – how could he—
‘You’re a senior manager – relatively senior, anyway,’ Akshay went on. What, he was reading her mind now? ‘It wouldn’t do to set the wrong example for your team and other young people in the office, right?’ He leaned back and she noticed for the first time how dark and curly the hair on his forearms were, even the ones on his wrists. It gave her a bizarre sense of satisfaction to know that there was something imperfect about him. She swallowed and then found her voice.
‘Akshay.’ She spoke deliberately, refusing to call him Sir like the others. ‘I’ve been here for years. I’ve delivered on every single deadline and project that we’ve got going on, whether it’s involved staying late or working over weekends. And I must tell you, I’ve never been called in for a discussion about coming in late.’ She was watching his face closely and noticed something change in his expression. She went on. ‘Is there something else you mean to tell me?’
‘Well, Trish,’ Akshay hesitated only a moment before adopting the smarmy, soothing tone she had distrusted from the beginning. ‘Your contribution has of course always been valued here. You’ve been with the company for ... seven years now? Commendable!’ His smile looked more like a smirk to her. ‘Not feeling any seven-year itch or anything?’
She sat stiffly at the edge of her seat. What was he on about? The smile dropped off his face. ‘Look. I need to bring you on board with some of the new thinking we’re instilling here. The business is in trouble and even though the last two quarters have shown some recovery’ – the last two quarters since he’d been around of course – ‘we’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve been thinking of rationalizing the structure and we’ve all got to be ready to go with the flow – or find something more suitable.’
Wait, was that a warning? Trish willed herself to stay neutral. ‘Could you be more specific?’
Akshay’s eloquence came from his ability to spin a yarn around the simplest facts, but even he seemed to struggle a little with the next words. ‘It’s like this, Trish. You must be aware that we’re starting a new fashion-and-lifestyle vertical next month?’

She had heard vague rumours about this a couple of months ago, but had no idea that it was actually planned so soon. She had been waiting for a project brief on this. It had sounded interesting and her assumption had been that, as content head, she would be pulled in naturally for something like this.
‘I, um, yes, but ... next month?’ She stopped and bit her lip as the implication sank in for her. She had been sidelined.
‘We felt...’ Akshay hesitated for a second. Trish wasn’t sure who the ‘we’ was here. ‘We felt that something like this needs a vibrant new team of fresh, young people – that’s why all the design graduates have been hired.’
Ah. That explained the pretty young things floating about in their six-inch heels. Wow. A whole new content department had been set up right under her nose and Trish hadn’t even seen it. How blind of her. Her approach of keeping her head down and just delivering on her existing projects had done her in.
‘As we’re shifting resources to the new avenues of growth, we’re having serious thoughts about the current structure and whether indeed we’re justified in paying out salaries to people who aren’t directly contributing to the topline.’ He went on to use a few more big words, but Trish was barely able to register what he was saying because her mind was racing. She did catch the word ‘rationalization’ being used more than once as he droned on.
Oh, she knew where this was headed. She could finally see the writing on the wall although it was too late now. She hadn’t demanded raises like the others, even though she was underpaid given her seniority. She hadn’t been proactive in asking for new responsibilities, preferring to stay out of people’s way; she had set up systems and trained her team well to function independently – in short, making herself redundant. She was dimly aware that Akshay was offering her the option of a month’s pay for immediate termination or two months’ pay for one more month’s work. Her cheeks felt hot. Staying wasn’t even an option as far as she was concerned. She couldn’t bear to be here a moment longer.
‘Trish? Are we on the same page?’
Twenty-eight years old. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt like crying. She wasn’t usually much of a crier. She certainly wasn’t about to cry now. Still, it was through strangely bright eyes that she now looked straight into the face of her smarmy, so-successful boss. She raised her hand and pointed at the attendance sheet on the desk, with its neat rows and columns and names and numbers. She tried to keep her voice steady as she said, ‘Are you on that page, Akshay?’
He froze for a second and then glanced at the sheet before looking up at her with a confused frown.
‘Didn’t think so.’ She shook her head from side to side slowly and added, more firmly. ‘No. We’re not on the same page, and we never will be.’
Without another word, she stood up. A part of her badly wanted to tell him that his hairy wrists were terribly unattractive, but she wasn’t sure she had it in her to say anything more at this point. She quickly turned, left the room and walked back to her desk, trying to maintain a steady pace.
Her coffee lay there, looking forlorn. It had gone all cold in the blast of the air-conditioning. Trish took a small sip from it – it was horrible. She tossed it angrily into her dustbin.
And then, slowly and methodically, she began to clear out her desk. 

Buy 'There's Something About You' on Amazon here and Flipkart here