Think of S. Think of S’s mother. Think of S’s mother’s gaajar ka halwa. Focus on the gaajar ka halwa. Realise that a year has gone by since you last had some. Miss it. Crave it. Realise that it is the only form in which you consume carrots. Remember that carrots are rich in Vitamin A. Wonder how you’ve survived a year without Vitamin A. Resolve to procure some gaajar ka halwa to fulfil your body’s Vitamin A requirements. Wonder why you think of such stupid reasons to have gaajar ka halwa. Wonder why you need any reason to have gaajar ka halwa. Resolve to have gaajar ka halwa. Now.

Be an idiot. Ignore the sweetshop on the next block. Choose to make it yourself. At home. Alone.

Look for recipes online. Dismiss the one that fast-tracks the process by employing a pressure cooker. Scoff at the suggestion to use condensed milk. Decide to start from scratch.

Buy half a kilo of carrots. Marvel at how cheap they are. Wonder why you haven’t cooked gaajar ka halwa before. Cradle five carrots, each as long as your forearm, in your forearms, and hum lullabies as you walk home.

Wash carrots. Drop one in sink. Wash carrots. Drop one in sink. Wash carrots one by one.

Peel carrots. Hey, this is easy! Wonder why mother rarely accedes to requests for gaajar ka halwa.

Chop carrots into pieces as long, as grater is wide. Commence grating first piece. Keep grating. Continue grating. Glance at clock. Note that ten minutes have passed. Notice that only half the carrot piece has been grated. Note that twenty-four pieces remain. Realise why mother rarely accedes to requests for gaajar ka halwa.

Accidentally grate fingers against grater. Drop carrot. Cry out in pain. Stick fingertips in mouth. Repeat until most of your dermis and all of your epidermis have been similarly processed.

Grate grate grate. Become aware of stinging pain that started off from fingertips, camped in joints, migrated up phalanges and finally settled in knuckles. Wipe palms on boxers and check if titanium knuckles have been invented. Ponder about what would happen if you bunged all carrots in mixer and gave it a spin. Realise you would end up with carrot juice. Resume grating.

Resume acquaintance with pain, which has now garbed itself in guise of ache and crept up to biceps which, after eight months of living incognito in gym, have chosen this moment to announce their existence. Attempt to dry palm on soaked vest and Google average waiting period of Zonal Hand Transplantation Program.

Turn grater around, scrape carrot towards you instead, and manage to stab yourself in stomach. Imagine tomorrow’s headlines:

Authorities broke into the house of a deranged young doctor after neighbours reported his screams of ‘S’s MOTHER IS MA ANNAPURNA’, ‘WORSHIP WOMEN WHO COOK’ and ‘CAPITALISM RULES!’ The police have registered a case of attempted suicide as the victim was found impaled on a carrot stick, which he had evidently tried to insert directly into his intestines via his belly button.

As paramedics provided first aid, the victim allegedly overheard a policewoman say that she might take the grated carrot home to make a salad. Psychiatrists opined that this may have caused the victim to jump out of the stretcher, tackle the policewoman and knock her out cold.

The authorities have additionally charged the victim with assaulting a public servant.

Finish grating carrots. Admire an hour’s worth of labour. Consider cryopreserving few strands to show off to great-grandchildren. Wonder whether some can be embedded in glass paperweight to place on mantelpiece. Begin transferring strands that had fallen on kitchen counter or floor into dustbin. Pause. Laugh dementedly. Add to heap.

Slap some ghee in saucepan. Melt it. Fling in copious amounts of raisins, and indiscriminately chopped cashews and almonds, to at least increase, if not double bulk of dish. Fry until raisins resemble cataractous lenses and other two look like they hiked mountain but forgot sunscreen.

Dunk in some more ghee, because this is dish for Gods. Add carrots, and mix until shoulder dislocates. Wonder what average global temperatures were before you started cooking. Wonder if sweat is chef’s secret ingredient. Wonder if carrots should be sizzling, roasting or frying. Look at saucepan, and recoil with horror at modest lump of carrot mush trying to hide in corner. Read Wikepedia article which informs you that carrots are 88% water. Fling phone away.

Add milk. Be grateful that you didn’t have to buy cow and milk it. Let it condense. Bury it all under heaps of sugar, because Indian dessert is essentially sweetened cholesterol.

Peel few pods of cardamom with your toes because fingers are on sick leave. Pound them in mortar with pestle between your teeth because you can’t make fist anymore. Add along with fried dry fruits. Mix well. Call your mum. Tell her you love her. Pass out.


Halwa is…perfect. Cool. Put in freezer. Have one teaspoon a day and give thanks that your fingers, after months of daily physiotherapy, are beginning to regain motor function.

Buy gun to shoot people who want to taste some of your preciousssss. Gollum gollum.

Think of S. Think of S’s mother. Think of how long it’s been since she’s had a chance to make you gaajar ka halwa

* * *











The End


Neil Gaiman’s parents had no rules for what he couldn’t read. Mine did – my mum made me swear I’d never read Sidney Sheldon (still haven’t, mother promise). No smut for her son, she decided. But no other books were banned. Thus it came to be that a still single-digit-year-old me bounded into a library and borrowed Kane and Abel, in which a teenager with a single nipple makes love to a fellow immigrant in a boat on a ship (don’t ask). Only after seventeen Russian soldiers have raped his sister in a Polish forest.
Why did I attain puberty before the rest of my generation? Jeffrey Archer.


I commuted to secondary school in a van driven by a wily fellow we shall call Raghavan (because that was his name). As a fifth-grader, I was the youngest in the Maruti Omni, while the oldest was a venerable tenth-grader named Siddharth (also his real name), who, Praise the Lord, had a girlfriend. And a big mouth that explained in some detail what he did with her wished to do to her (while Raghavan the Randy leered lasciviously in the rear-view mirror). These soliloquys, which we followed with slavering tongues, were sometimes interrupted by another boy my age who, one evening, glanced out his window into an adjacent apartment and observed a couple align themselves horizontally, for the purpose of sharing body heat in Bombay’s harsh and arctic winters.


On the coffee table lay a Reader’s Digest with a cover story titled ’17 Reasons To Have SEX When You’re Not Fighting Cancer/Dying In A Plane Crash/Climbing Everest’. By then, I knew, or thought I knew, and smartass that I was, sidled up to my mum with a coy smile and asked, ‘what does that word mean?’

My mum, well-versed with my smartassedness, countered with ‘what do you think it means?’

I was struck dumb. I knew. She knew I knew. But I couldn’t admit that I knew she knew I knew.

So fourteen years later, here we are. As per official records, I still don’t know.


Ask any 90’s kid about his then favourite Hollywood film and he may name anything from Tomorrow Never Dies to Toy Story, but the one true answer is American Pie.

My eyes (and other parts of me) will never forget the afternoon I (first) watched the scene in Ghost in which Demi Moore, her shirt unbuttoned, her hands glutinous with clay, messes with a pottery wheel and Patrick Swayze, shirtless and sculpted, spoons in and touches her fingers and hands and arms and my father walked in.


I tagged along with my mum to watch a movie called Bollywood Calling. At one point, it became apparent that two of the characters were going to get hot-and-heavy/down-and-dirty/pick-your-euphemism. My mum stood up and said:

‘I’m going to the loo.’


‘Come with me.’


‘Come with me to the loo.’


‘You don’t have to come in. Just wait outside.’


‘For my safety. I’m scared.’

We were in a multiplex. I was ten.


You could always rely on MSN Hotmail (now Outlook) to cram your inbox with emails inviting you to claim the Krakozhian lottery you’d won (and didn’t even remember signing up for; silly boy), by simply providing your credit card number, or petitions to contribute a not insignificant fraction of your life’s savings to the Cartographical Society of the Bermuda Triangle, or some such worthy cause.

Because I didn’t know better (and often still don’t), I clicked on one such link, which revealed a helpfully illustrative photograph of what a man and a woman can do if they bump into each other (literally) and happen to have no clothes on (for videos, visit downloadfreevirus.com).


As you can see, I have spent several years acquiring scientific information from all the right sources. Someday, if I have a daughter, I will teach her that sanitary napkins are a sort of adult diaper for lazy women, a yeast infection is when mould grows on bread, and water-based lubricants are always available at the nearest gas station.

You can never start too late, no? I’ll wait until she’s sampled a spoonful of syphilis, a cupful of chlamydia or a gallon or two of gonorrhoea. And presented me with seventeen or eighteen grandchildren. Preferably before she’s sixteen.

I’ve got nothing to worry about.

* * *


Dear BJP governments,

Ban beef. The cow is my mother and I am a calf. Ban eggs, and proclaim to the malnourished children of Madhya Pradesh: ‘Let them eat (eggless) cake!’ Ban Maggi, because why should only the poor kids starve? Ban non-veg, because Maneka Gandhi likes animals. Ban alcohol, because couples can always celebrate a night out with a peg or two of jaljeera.

Ban couples, because all Indians are my brothers and sisters. Ban sex, because we were all born by binary fission. Ban consenting intercourse; we must Make In India, not Make Love In India. Ban the HIV control program, because AIDS is not in our culture but can be cured by pranayam.

Ban porn, because it is a poor substitute for the Kama Sutra which you so widely promote. Ban Fifty Shades of Grey, because in our country, men don’t dominate women at all. Ban sex toys. Who said the majority religion worships one of its Gods in the form of a giant p***s?

Ban words like p***s, b****t and v****a from television. Only perverts’ bodies have these organs. Ban the members of the Censor Board, because its chairperson is competent enough to preserve Indian values through nationalist songs like khadaa hai, khadaa hai, khadaa hai and le lo, le lo mera. Ban intellectual film-makers since nothing of substance has been produced since Gajendra Chauhan was awarded the FTII chairmanship in honour of his method-acting in Khuli Khidki (1989).

Ban stand-up comedy, or Subramaniam Swamy will feel insecure. Ban Gmail. We can always communicate with each other via mann ki baat. Ban privacy. Didn’t we vote for har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi? Ban freedom of the press. Why uncover scams when you can just Vyap’em up?

Ban all-night events in Bombay, because ghar wapsi is also important. I’m sorry, please also ban Bombay Jayashri, Bombay Dyeing and the Bombay blood group. Ban bikinis in Goa, because atithi devo bhava and what if our phoren didis get sunburnt? Ban your parent organisation; wearing shorts is not in our culture. Ban Baba Ramdev, because how will Indian women be able to resist throwing themselves at that half-undressed paragon of Indian masculinity?

Ban Aarey Milk Colony. Who needs clean air when we can all move into an air-conditioned Metro and never leave? Ban sustainable cities. Who wants town-planning if we can all have free WiFi? Ban NGO’s, because the only place for Greenpeace is in pulao.

Ban the Ganga, because she is a woman whose purity is questionable. Ban Uma Bharti. She represented Khajuraho for a decade and did nothing about the obscenity in its temples. Ban hamburgers, dachshunds and kindergarten, because Smriti Irani does not approve of German. Ban Smriti Irani, because she must be from Iran. Ban Paresh Rawal, for Oh My God!

Ban Jodhaa Akbar, because Love Jihad. Ban onion imports, because they’re Pakistani spies. Ban HAL Tejas, because who needs an indigenously developed aircraft when we can wing it by Pushpak Vimaan?

Ban Teesta Setalvad, because you don’t like her. Ban Arnab Goswami, because I don’t like him. Ban Ram Gopal Varma, because nobody likes him.

Ban terrorism, because clearly, banning solves everything.

And then, if you can, ban bans.

* * *


My camera is an extension of my ocular tissue.

I click photographs not to capture a memorable moment but to make a moment memorable.

If I stumble upon a deserted beach with only the thunder of the tide in my ears and the last golden rays of sunset in my eyes and have the sea breeze rustle through my hair and scrunch the fine white sand under my toes…I will order everyone to say CHEESE!

Before immortalising a beautiful landscape, I will plant the nearest available human with the corniest possible smile,  front and center.

A spell to capture distant objects: Abracadabra willy-nilly-zoom!

At social gatherings, I click countless pictures of the same people wearing the same clothes posing in the same manner with the same smiles, because practice makes perfect.

May I never commit the sacrilege of capturing people as they are in life. The only candid snaps I take are those that can embarrass you.

I will click a thousand portraits of each of my friends with the background out of focus. These will be their profile pics for the rest of their lives.

A friend who carries my tripod is a friend indeed.

On Saturday nights, my camera automatically clicks random pics of my friends and I bleary-eyed, drunk or passed out. On Sunday morning, I will tag everybody whose elbow, knee or little finger is visible in any of these keepers.

Once I get committed/engaged/married, my profile pic cannot feature anyone apart from me and my beloved, or we will both die.

I judge a photograph by its Facebook worthiness, and the number of likes and comments it garners.

I will capture red roses, white roses, pink roses and a touch-me-not (because I’m versatile) from my phone camera and superscribe *Insert Your Name* Photography on every photo in a nice conspicuous font.

I will click photos of photos.

I solemnly swear that the photographs I click will make you look flawless, wholly flawless and nothing but flawless, so help me God.

Give me Photoshop and I will give you perfection.

Sepia is my birthright and I shall use it.

Instagram is my country and all Instagrammers are my brothers and sisters. I love my profile and am proud of its rich and varied filters. I shall always strive to look worthy of it. I shall give my portraits, couplies and all usies the Lux effect and post-produce everyone as a courtesy. To my Instagram and my peeps, I pledge my devotion. In their well-seeming and popularity alone lies my happiness.

I spare myself the effort of thinking up appropriate captions for photos because they’re all #instagood #picsoftheday #withmybestie #friendforever #iloveher.

If at first you can’t converse, Snapchat.

I take screenshots of Snapchats and share them, because #privacywatsdat #swag #yolo #otherwordsthatmeannothingreally #plus #termsthatmakesensetonobodybutyou.

God couldn’t provide a sun at night, hence He gave me Flash. I must honour Him by clicking selfies in the dark.

Red-eye or not, here I come.

* * *


Doctors love the rains. We really do.

Mosquitoes succumb to the romance in the air and give everyone love bites. Mad dogs become madder with lust and plant their lips on the nearest available shin. Delirious rats cannot contain themselves or their urine and pee into the same rainwater in which tiny tots splash and sail their little paper boats that should all be christened HMS Leptospira.

Simple-minded humans venture out to welcome the first showers and sniffle their way back into sore throats that descend upon your OPD where you perform a cursory respiratory examination and here take these pills thrice a day, before or after meals, oh after, how much after, immediately, can I have them with my evening tea, well not that late, well why didn’t you say so in the first place and my auntie says ginger tea is good for my throat ache, sure and drink plenty of hot water too, oh but I can’t swallow hot liquids doctor they make my throat ache and have I told you about this throat ache I have…

Reformed alcoholics who’ve been scrupulously abstinent since four in the morning knock down a gallon of Old Monk tipple or two just to celebrate the charming weather Kashmir has been having lately which sends their livers into jaundiced euphoria and fills their pancreas(es?) with happiness sufficient to burst which they do that causes them to cough up only so much blood all over your new lab coat that you have to dash to the blood bank just four times per patient per hour while all the dysenteries, pneumonias and heart attacks are considerate enough to wait and present at a more convenient hour like what else but four in the morning.

Youngsters with IQ’s equal to the level of the human pyramid they fell off times ten present on Janmashtami with screams that can be heard only within the subcontinent and a pathological smorgasbord of fractures and dislocations the solicitous orthopaedic resident would like to manage by sending everyone with fewer than five bones broken at a less than ninety degree angle home with a couple of Crocins and advice to follow-up only when the deformity is permanent or he has graduated, whichever is later.

Not more than a score or two inebriated motorists celebrate the monsoon with a midnight drive that degenerates into the Mumbai Suburban lets-find-the-coefficient-of-friction Grand Prix on slippery flyovers that fling their cars down an imaginary off-ramp terminating right at the Trauma Ward where an intern such as yours truly is simply pining to ferry a trolley heaped with flesh and gristle on an endless circuit between CT and USG which ceases pretty soon really because yet another Schumacher thought he’s steering Aladdin’s carpet.

Serious cases sport an extradural, subarachnoid, intraparenchymal or juxta-bumpy-arterial-road-al haemorrhage in their skulls which delight require the trauma registrar to rouse the neurosurgery houseman who has been spending only every other night on-call so that he can perform what is just his seventh craniotomy of the day even though all he really wants to do is slip Mr. Blood-in-my-brain a hammer and chisel and ask him to help himself, go on.

Good days are when it pours enough to flood all the roads around your hospital and makes it inaccessible to both those living and those just about.

You gotta love the rains. Damn them.

* * *