#A2Z Challenge: Q is for the Queens of Hearts and Diamonds

Dear Queens of Hearts and Diamonds

I don’t know if you remember what Shri Shri Eagles sang a few years ago in a feted piece called “Desperado” which must be required listening in all syllabi for all courses in all universities in all worlds.

“Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

She’ll beat you if she’s able

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet”

Like with most lyrics to meaningful songs, I can understand whatever my pea-sized brain can accommodate. I don’t know why Clapton did not shoot the deputy or how Alanis Morissette managed to define a zeitgeist in “Ironic”, for most part, by not being, in fact, “Ironic.”

I have my guesses who this Queen of Diamonds might be.

  1. She could be the one who Billy Joel talks about in that mind-bender of his, “She is always a woman to me” because does n’t he say, “She can kill with a smile.” Or that thing about carelessly cutting you and watching you while you bleed.
  2. She could be the bitch. Or the sinner. Or the saint or nothin’ in between that Meredith Brooks croons about.
  3. One of the girls who is running the world, as Beyonce pointed out helpfully.
  4. Or, anyone of the girls who just wanna have fun, as Cyndi Lauper said. When the working day is done. They just wanna.

This Queen of Hearts though, who is she? Is she the one who does not dress up pretty but is the best 4’o clock friend? Who says it as it is, without any eyelashes batting? The one who laughs off many transgressions because she is cool with all that? The one who silently aspires to be loved, but till her turn comes, just indiscriminately sacrifices? The one who will wait till the last train of the day pulls in?

The question is why one or the other? Why not one today and the other tomorrow? Why not both on the same day? Why a queen, anyway? Why not the knave? It is the luck of the draw, is n’t it? Let it be drawn, thy destiny for today.


Blouse of Cards

Q is for Queen of Hearts


#A2Z Challenge: P is for Parlour Ladies

Dear Parlour ladies and gentlemen,

We need to talk. It’s not you, it’s me. I am breaking up with you. And like most socially awkward break-up ceremonies, I am doing it through passive-aggressive communication.

What happens in eyebrows, stays in eyebrows

Why is it that my decision to thread my eyebrows metamorphoses into a treatise on my skin? And, that, all my needs in the “beauty and prettification” department always end with how urgently I need a facial, a scrub or a bleach with titanium dust. I have even been asked to do a “back facial” because of that spare face I carry around in my back.

I avoid all questions about when I last did what, and how my skin is in advanced stages of disrepair, but the probing continues unabated. I hate that I am an object of your daily sales target. I can see your sorority pointing fingers at me, skin shaming through the bentonite-clay mudpack in your fingers. Please do my eyebrows, and leave my natural ugliness be. Just for today.

Lets hair it out

“Need to cut my hair”.

“It’s oily, flaky, scaly, lumpy, sticky and kind of big for your head. You put the dread in dreadlocks.”

“So, now what?”

“We will try what we can do, with condescension. You will need to spend large amounts of money here (hear of our hairy loyalty programme?) because we will sandwich the only necessary service you need with one prep-on, two add-ons, one follow-on and a few follow-throughs. I will be mumbling a lot of stuff, which I may or may not immediately start drawing on a whiteboard that they have put here for NO reason. Also, you will buy at least one leave-in hair product as a cardinal rule. Cool?”

“No. Are you crazy!? I admit my hair is frizzy and untamed, and this is an outright Hair Rights violation.”

Can you please stop setting me on fire?

One reason this relationship has been choppy is that immolation is never good for love. As it is, all pilgrimages to the parlour entail just a wee bit of heartlessness. Wincing, yelping and straight-out bawling. And then to make matters worse, the temperature control on that wax bucket is just supernatural. As in, it is always supernaturally burning hot! One of my secret peeves is I hate to be burnt, skin-first. Then I spend the whole day lurking around gardens, looking to steal aloe-vera leaves to treat the burns. I know what you will say now. No, thank you, I do not want to try lasering my hair follicles off.

I will probably show up again, like everyone else, forgiving all your judgments.


No, I was born this way.

P is for Parlor

#A2ZChallenge: O is for Odisha

Dear Odisha,

(referring to Odisha, the state where Devdutt Pattanaik, Sona Mohapatra and Biswa Kalyan Rath are from, and Odia/ Odia are the people and the language, no other epithet needed, thank you)

You have brought me so much joy. I am an Odia, loud and proud. I have lived through

  1. the age of being an Oriya, with an R, not a D
  2. being often mistook as an “Oorian”, the indigenous species found in Oooria, wherever that planet is
  3. asked if the per capita income of Odisha is one elaichi banana or less (so, no Snapchat or Snapdeal)
  4. mutual awkwardness precipitated by Odias unexpectedly breaking into Odia in a non-designated area (anywhere outside Odisha)

I have taken that all in my stride, not raging on Twitter and having a good laugh on the side. At this point, my mitochondria could not be more Odia-loving.


The food, the banter, the idioms, the match-making industry, the card games. The not-addressing the elephant-in-the-room family socials. The constant chatter where no is listening to anyone, yet every story is being liberally embellished with superhero exploits (I bought a Merc at the nearby petrol bunk for a song; every leaf of this spinach is fused with extra Vitamin-K; I told him to go and he went away).

We have a word for pointlessly hanging around near a paan-shop, making time-wastage an art form so highly ordained, it had to be christened. Its called “Khatti.” Or if you have reached the highest level of time annihilation, then “Gulli Khatti”. People in Odisha do not lose their way or wander, they just show up at the town square for “Gulli Khatti.” Whatsapp cousin-groups and office sutta breaks aspire to be “Gulli Khatti” in their quest for the next completely useless nugget of information.

Odia cuisine

Odia cuisine is basically an anthology of love-poems for onions and potatoes. “The onion must be fried just so, sizzling when water droplets are sprinkled over it, maybe once maybe twice, to become an indescribable brown, which, whilst only fleetingly sticking with the bottom of the pan, must doubly discharge its duties of olfactory and chemistry, by respectively giving off the signal of the right level of caramelization and separating oil on the side, to finally submit that they are ready for holy matrimony or canonization tomatoes or dry spices.” No, no, not matrimony or priesthood.

Yup, it’s a tantalizing dance. And here is how an Odia lunch might be described, “and potatoes to go with it.”. Every stir fry, every fish curry, every egg masala must be accompanied with the trusted potato, or as the status indicates, the father of the bride.

Odia speak

But the accent. Or is it, Ah! the accent. I have a story to tell the veracity of which could not be determined. In a large gathering of 200 people, one very senior Odia leader (not me, am just peasantry and anyway this is made up) introduced another very senior American overlord in a by-the-numbers corporate town-hall meeting, saying, “I would like to introduce to you this very impotent person, with who we have discussed many impotent items.” There is a fine line between impotent and important, and boy did we come all guns blazing on it that day.

It would have been an ordinary story till the senior American overlord’s expression gave it away. He looked like “now everyone knows, dagnabbit!”

They said it was just a mid-eastern twang, and that he needed more meat in his meat and potatoes.


A glorious country is ours

O is for Odia

#A2Z Challenge: N is for Nivin Pauly

Dear Nivin Pauly

I have an imaginary Malayalee friend. He imagines he is Malayalee, but he is also, in fact, imaginary. Apart from passing up no opportunity to make “coke-cock” jokes and lamenting the declining authenticity of Kerala cuisine adaptations (including stuff he makes himself), he has done little else. First, he failed me on Dulquer Salmaan, and then on Nivin Pauly. So, this friend is a “dharti pe bojh”, loosely translated as “a waste of gravity.”

I did not get the Nivin Pauly memo or see the t-shirts. Some of your movies are blowing it out of the water. They have unthinkably futuristic elements – a script (!), living-breathing main leads, well-defined characters other than the central acts, nuance and an effective level of unpredictability.

Premam is for the everyday

I see women depicted as tea-drinking, impromptu-dancing, track-pants wearing, sometimes grimacing, often meandering, but never-porcelain characters. I see men doing their goofy and grown-up thing, being epiphanic and egg-headed as life’s prescription is. Premam, prima facie, looks like any of the prosaic “love stories” where an extremely good looking man goes through a sliding door of love interests, only to end up with Deepika Padukone or the closest match. No siree, though. Premam is, first of all, not a labels movie. It is at once a buddy movie, resplendent with nods to the force our friends are, often taking in all the shards of a broken heart. It is a nimble movie about love’s rite of passage. That it will only come to us when it has to, when we least expect it. Every person’s story.

I almost expected to see cathartic breakdowns, melodramatic paeans to the grieving heart, a lot of literal face-palming, and shade-throwing by family and friends. I did n’t.  What I saw instead were lilted men and women, being funny, hopeful, disillusioned, spontaneous and restive, through more directorial and storytelling prestidigitation than I have seen in a long time.

Good and good hair days

There is a product description for good looks, and it differs from household to household. In Bangalore Days, you were the pastoral-loving, guileless brother whose to-do list did not include “be that hot guy in this movie”. However, that was irrelevant – the turns your seemingly stereotypical character took made it winning. Again, no thundering, chest thumping and million glares were involved. Having said that. Having said that. You score in the looks department, and bonus points for the facial hair. The reigning kind of beard, Idris Alba called, and he said, “Smooth. Bro. Smooth.”

Also, Hey Jude?

You are making a movie called “Hey Jude”. Named after one of The Beatles’ more complex and experimental beauties,  it is said to have been written by Paul McCartney to cheer up John Lennon’s five-year old son, when his parents were divorcing (aching heart anyone?).

When you tweet describing this movie as “a wonderful tale of love, self-discovery, healing and transformation”, you already win. It’s a tweet that is a microcosm of all the movies you have been making. The hot mess our lives are, told to us, by handsome men in beards and women who could n’t be bothered by their mascara game. Bring it on. All of it. We want to walk away with our faith confirmed in real people, their imperfections, their lessons, sparkling comic moments and their courage.


Hey Jude Jude

#A2ZChallenge: M is for Marie Kondo

Dear Marie Kondo,

I am a fan. Since being introduced to you by a friend, I have read of you, read you, watched your videos and simultaneously slipped into a reverie of being in a decluttered, cherry-blossomed Japan too.

And when you say that tidying up is life-changing, dear God, you are not fooling around! At first, I was tentative, but then as I folded away t-shirts and socks and gave away magenta ribbons, I was inexorably drawn to the prescient value of what you preach.

“Ms Kondo delivers her tidy manifesto like a kind of Zen nanny, both hortatory and animistic.”, says the New York Times. I could n’t have said it better. In fact, I COULD NOT even have said it because “animistic”. Also, “hortatory”. (Times why you do this to me?)

Anyhoo, I thought I was an “organization” all-star person till you happened.

KonMari, that’s Japanese, not Hindi

What if we liked less stuff? And where is minimalism a well-understood concept? Nowhere, that’s where. I have in one day shopped for

  1. A charpoy (since it was collapsible, it was collapsed immediately upon purchase, how it stays till today)
  2. An automated garden sprinkler (for a large garden comprising four pots of coriander and basil)
  3. A German mop operated over the Internet (this one though)
  4. An annual subscription to badyogi.com (which requires me to attend a retreat in Auckland first)
  5. A Zara scarf on discount (which is hideous on the inside and the outside)
  6. A clicker for dog training (for a fully trained dog, who just shook his head in resignation)
  7. Any Fisher-Price/ ethically responsible toy which my child rejected straight-away for an old bucket
  8. Top hits of Mithun da you missed (the real gem in this disastrous list so far)

When I started journaling (buying a spanking spiral notepad, because the few million I had stashed fell short), then I saw the destructive pattern. And I turned to KonMari, your patented take-no-prisoners cleaning-up diktat. “Unless something sparks joy, it has no place in your home or your life.”


This is the spring cleaning that I am used to – selling three things online every year, giving Kamala amma clothes apologetically and sending the rest to my mother. You put the focus back on just how much accumulation mankind can do, left undeterred. Me, as Exhibit A.

It starts with letting go of (or responsibly donating) your less loved wardrobe items, kitchen pans, bath salts, free ketchup sachets, the ugly stuffed-toy pangolin in the living room. You have helped clients go lighter by over a million individual things! It also goes onto relationships that are unnecessary and exhausting. I knew you were the true apostle of organization when a client wrote in that she got a divorce, as part of her tidying-up quest.

And ah the ritual. The act of saying thank you to that thing you bought and used little or sparingly, and then bidding adieu. When I first said goodbye to my origami papers, it felt mildly crazy. Now, it’s like a one-armed bro hug.

I wonder though how that client said bye to the husband. “Hey you were good and kind and a husband. Our paths must separate now. I must declutter of you. Thank you. Here is your copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and also, my forwarding address. Long live and prosper.”


Recovering Clutterbug


#A2ZChallenge: L is for Lizard

Dear Lizards of the world, or at least the ones in my house

Ok. I cannot be writing to you because we are not on talking terms. So, I will just write these completely unorthodox verses with no pentameter of any sort, iambic or otherwise. As an ode to our long-standing stand-off.

There was once a lady, who does not have a name

Mainly because she is of dubitable fame

She is intensely scared of reptiles to the point of turning blue

“Such irrational fears”, her mother (and now her daughter) often rue


However, in that class of animals too, she had her special few

Crocodiles and gators only live in the waters she knew

Snakes and boas and their ilk too had shown little interest so far

They were busy scaring people in planes, raising the bar

Turtles were almost non-reptilian, and borderline cute, in appearance

So, then, to her, they were of minimal consequence


Then along came the lizards, also called the common house gecko

Everyday, she prayed to God, chanting, “Bahut darr lagta hai mere ko.

Let this day too pass, without a sighting of your mini Komodo dragons.”

Alas, yet, out they would be, in splendor and all aboard the bandwagons.


In corners, in shelves, up in the lofts, behind the chairs

Solo, orchestra, ensemble, operatic and often in pairs

Spotted, corrugated, young, intrepid, as many options as online retail

But consistently with four legs and a blood-curdling on-again, off-again tail


As ironic as life can be, to her too, they took a special shine

Seeking her out, showing their love through many a sign

Either sneaking up, or dropping off from a suitable trigonometrical height

To land on her hand or arm, or head, at all times of day or night


No broom worked, nary garlic nor baking soda, cider vinegar nor egg-shells

Could break these mighty gecko-ey, lizard-y, T-rexy, slimy spells

One day, came the grand-nephew of the Piped Piper of Hamelin, with his résumé

But the compensation plan and health insurance did not work out, to her dismay


To this day, she yells, standing atop furniture and the heads, shoulders and toes of whoever is close

Her children tell her about the lizards’ ecological balance, but all they hear is “Ewww, Gross!!!”




#A2ZChallenge: K is for K

Dear K

You remember what happened with Pluto in 2006? Gus has still not gotten over it.

There Pluto was, minding its business rotating on an axis, playing ice-ice baby, when it was demoted to “dwarf planet”. By one diabolical International Astronomical Union (IAU). If I did n’t know better, I would say “so caricaturish that Inspector Pradyuman might have come up with this.” #LifeLongCIDFan #BreakThatDoorDaya

Don’t let that happen to you. K, you are a competent alphabet. You don’t have the joie-de-vivre of Q and you don’t have the hipster quality of Z. But hey, you score me 5 on Scrabble (just by yourself), and that is one point more than Y. So, you are in the prime of your career, prospects wise. And as we speak, scientists are discovering three new German/ Finnish words starting with K that mean something dope (am talking to you, Fernwah). If the stars are aligned, a Hollywood celebrity has set out to sea to adopt a child, he who shall be named with a K.

Time was, it was K for Cat, sorry C for CAT

The final frontier is still the “who are you for?” It was always C is for Cat. However, several cats now come with a K note address. Whether Krazy Kat or KitKat or Kat, of long-form Katrina Kaif. If you are clever, you can see what the C team is doing. By snagging the symbolic victories, they are holding onto “C is for Cat” in toddler books. Go for the jugular, K. Get the Dr Suess book title changed to Kat in the Hat. K is for Katniss. Every kool kat is a k-cat. C, see you are losing the plot.

The K Mojo, not to be confused with just KJo

You have an X factor going for you.

  • Most people want to say OK, but they just say ‘K instead. No accident. Mojo.
  • Good stuff is named starting with you, Kermit the frog; Kebabs; King Julien (no one calls him Julien); Kangana; Kanan Gill; Keyser Soze; Kite Runner – I want to say Kardashians but let’s say Kate Middleton or Kylie Minogue and be done with it
  • Krispy Kreme is such an homage to you; not one but two alphabet usurps back-to-back. Take that C.
  • K-K-K is for k-k-k Kiran, not for anything else.

Here’s looking at you, Kid

You should settle for nothing less than every third food/drink restaurant/ restrobar/ café to be named a K. I am sure Café Coffee Day is jaded enough to switch to Kappy Kafi Day. Newer places could just be prefixed and suffixed with Kuisine or Khef or Kook. Check Webster once for the kook part though. I think you could boldly go where any C creature has been.

Ask for some barter, stand some ground, let some sand slip. For instance, you could cede Cale leaves and Caran Johar but stay firm for Konkana SenSharma and Kabootar Ja Ja Ja. Grey areas such as Cauvery and Kaveri can remain, they have got other issues right now. Ask if you can have cauliflower, Casablanca and Clooney, George transferred to K domain.

Is Ekta Kapoor still steady with you, btw? That might be Complex and Complicated, CC to C: you can keep both these words.


Your time has kome.