Sunday, September 28, 2008

Me, the Wife

Look at all the nice things the Guy has to say about being married to me!

Baring the Guy's Soul This Time...

I guess the Guy thought this tag was too frivolous to put up on his own blog, which is why he sent it to me. Here goes:

1. Guess the number of questions in this tag.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
That I can fullfil all my dreams.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
No one. Will find something better to do.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Return it to the actual owner – it couldn’t be mine!

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
I did.

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
One without the other is not much of a blessing.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
I normally wait 10-15 mins everyday, but can go a bit longer than that.

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
Nothing special.

9. If you’d like to act with someone, who will it be? Your GF/BF or an actress/actor?
An actor! (Isn’t it that anyone who acts is called an actor?)

10. What takes you down the fastest?
Lift. (Haven’t tried jumping out of the balcony but assume that will be faster!)

11. How do you see yourself in ten years' time?
Ten years (hope not more ) older than I am right now!

12. What’s your fear?
Failure. Discovering that I'm not really good at what I do and what I'd like to do. (Copying the same answer, but it’s true for me also.)

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
The perfect wife material (for me)!

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?
I am happy as I am.

15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Try to figure out if I can afford to sleep a bit more.

16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Depends on what I am expecting to get.

17. "If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?"
That sounds like what happens in movies, so I will wait for a couple of hours (till the climax)!

18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing someone has done?
Possible, if ‘forget’ happens first.

19. Do you prefer being single or having a relationship?
As I said in in 14 above. But I can’t say I prefer to be in any relationship than to be a single.

20. Write a message to people who send such tags.
Well, find something better to do!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Unexpected Pleasures

I have been watching a movie on TV that I found surprisingly interesting, given that I hadn't even considered watching it in the theatre - Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

I didn't catch the entire movie as I was talking to the Guy intermittently, but I found much of what I watched immensely entertaining. I enjoyed the stunt with the wax Superman. I also loved Lara Dutta's character - a spunky and sexually experienced female character who doesn't die or repent at the end! I loved the scene where Preity Zinta's character tells a suitor that she has had sex 11 times, in order to scare him off, and he responds, "I've only done it four times... I'll be jealous of you." Delicious!

Edited to add: Oh, but the absolute best part was when Preity Zinta's character says she hates salwar kameez and the guy answers, "I hope you won't mind me wearing them!"

Baring My Soul

... some of what there is of it, that is. I have been tagged by Aanchal.

First, the rules:
  1. People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.
  2. Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by and continue this game by sending it to other people.

Now, we start.

1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?

Shock, to start with. Then I would probably wonder what had gone wrong. I'm not sure if betrayal here means physical, but to me a betrayal would be if my partner was hiding from me something I ought to know. If I felt I could trust him after that, we would try to mend things. If I felt we didn't know each other well enough any more, I would move on.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?

One dream? To be able to sit at home and write - and hopefully, to be read.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?

Just one? On second thoughts, I'll just ignore them and move on.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?

See 2 above. I would also go travelling around the world with the Guy. And buy a better car.

5. Will you you fall in love with your best friend?

I did.

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?

I had always been eager to love. Being hurt over and over again took the shine off that. It was only after I found someone who loved me endlessly, unconditionally that I experienced the blissful blessedness of being truly loved.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?

What does this mean, really, "waiting for someone"? I don't think I'd ever really wait for anyone. I'd live my life as I can. I would stop myself from hoping and dreaming too much to avoid setting myself up for disappointment. Besides, if my love would rather be elsewhere, I'd try to be happy for him.

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?

Remain friends, if I can without hurting myself too much. If the pain is too great, I'd move away and try to forget him. If we stay friends and he later realises he would rather be with me, why not?

9. If you’d like to act with someone, who will it be? Your GF/BF or an actress/actor?

Not the Guy, definitely. It would be too distracting. Frankly, I'd be more concerned about my role and the story than about the other actors - it's a job, after all. You don't have to love your colleagues.

10. What takes you down the fastest?

Guilt. Things going badly at work.

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?

In the mirror? (I suppose they meant "how do you see yourself..." but hey, I'm answering what's asked.)

12. What’s your fear?

Failure. Discovering that I'm not really good at what I do and what I'd like to do.

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

From my limited interaction with Aanchal, I'd say she's warm and friendly.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?

Married but poor, of course. We can always make more money.

15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Wonder what time it is. Then I usually reach out for the phone to check. Actually, when the Guy is here, I just reach out for him, and it spoils the first few minutes of my day if he's not lying next to me. Most of the time, I just wait till I have enough energy to scream and call for him to come and cuddle me into a nice mood.

16. Would you give all in a relationship?

I wouldn't give anything. I have made that mistake and regretted it. I would just be myself.

17. "If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?"

Well, that was the original question. I'm changing it to "Which idiot asked that question?"

18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing someone has done?

Do I look that dumb?

19. Do you prefer being single or having a relationship?

Haven't I already answered this in 14 above?

20. List 6 people to tag.

Is this a question? Anyway, I tag the Guy, Banno, Grail, Emma, Pallavi and Cee Kay. I don't know how to make an offer they cannot refuse, so I'll just ask them politely.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Update on My "Surprise" Birthday Gift

The interest it generated was making the Guy nervous, hoping it would live up to the hype.

It finally arrived today. Here's a picture of the package nestling next to the flowers.

And when it opened, I found this.

I rang up the Guy to say they had made a mistake and sent a blank mug without including a message. He seemed strangely complacent.

Then he let me in on the secret. "Pour something hot into it."

Oooh, magic! I heated some water and poured it in. And there it was.

If you can't read it, the words say, "Here I am, right next to you."

I can't express my feelings better than to refer Banno's words: "Hope it is so nice that it does take you by surprise, even though you are expecting it."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Look What the Guy Got Me

...on my birthday.

Oh, and I took the picture on my cool new phone. (Heh!) My cup is full.

He also sent me a gift that I am yet to receive, of which a friend helpfully informed me when he (the friend) called to wish me. And when I said I hadn't received any, he blurted out, "Oh, sorry, it was meant to be a surprise."

I promised him I would be surprised.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Unmana as Creep Magnet

So here I am, peacably walking home again. In the less-frequented stretch just before my colony, a bike came at me from the wrong side. A common enough sight that I thought little of. The bike came close and I could see the man: strong build, trim beard. He looked at me and spat.

It hit my arm. I wiped it off and walked on for a few steps before pausing to look back. I was unafraid, because the gates were a few paces away, and I could run in and scream for the guards.

He was standing a distance away. I stood there, wanting to show that he hadn't scared me, and after a while he moved away.

I have no idea what irked him. I don't think I had seen him before, unless he was the same man on a bike I had passed on the road a short distance back. He was in my way, and I walked around him, there being no footpath to walk on. I was even dressed in salwar kameez - or perhaps he took offense at my bare arms.

If this - or the last incident - had happened when I was even a year younger, I would have been shaken for hours. I would have raved, probably cried. It must be a combination of my feminism and the stabilising presence of the Guy that I shrug and move on.

But I wonder how safe it is to continue to walk home at night?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Marriage

We're having a very interesting discussion over at Ultra Violet, taking off on my first post there. I put in my views on marriage - rather my disillusion with it as an institution, in spite of my complete satisfaction with my own version of it - and Falstaff, in particular, has some interesting things to say in reply. (I'm tickled pink, as I've been a fan of his blog for some time.)

Do read.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Another weekend gone. I'm counting in weekends, till the Guy is back. Because it's on weekends that I miss him most.

It's been easier than I'd feared. The weekdays haven't been so bad. In a way, I'm even enjoying it, the solitude that I had not had for so long. I have been contemplating instead of voicing my thoughts, something that used to be such a large part of my life, but being with the Guy seems almost the same as being alone. Almost, but not quite. Better, in most ways. Yet I needed the reminder of how it feels to be alone.

Sometimes I feel almost like a college kid whose parents are out of town. I read till early in the morning, have midnight feasts, play music loud. Not that I can't do any of this when the Guy is here, but in our tiny flat, you can't really play music and not disturb the other person, or leave the light on in the bedroom while you read... and you don't always have the taste for the same kind of music.

I even sat and watched Socha Na Tha again.

I find it amusing that people react with sympathy when I say I'm alone at home. The assumption seems to be that my mom or an in-law would come over. In all fairness, my mom was planning to come over, but she has a child - her nephew - to look after, and it was inconvenient to arrange alternatives, so we agreed she'd come later, when the Guy is here. We haven't seen each other in over a year, my mom and I. Yet I don't want her to come because she feels I need her, but to come when she wants to.

How can anyone imagine that the void the Guy left could be filled, even partly, by someone else? The only person who can conceivably come close to filling that void is - me. Anyone else in the house would probably make me miserable. I've always wanted my personal space, preferred - on the whole, though definitely not always - quiet and solitude to noise.

Another weekend gone, and I am not unhappy. Yet life seems slightly surreal, incomplete.

Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi... Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin, zindagi to nahi...

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Hyderabad, Ajmer, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and now Delhi....

How long, how far, will this go on before it ends?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Thought

I don't know what makes me more sad about this bit of news: that this is the idea people have of my beautiful homeland, or the suspicion that it is true.

Monday, September 08, 2008

An Adventure

I was walking home from office this evening, at some time past nine. A man ahead of me was acting a bit weird. He shouted to a boy on a cycle, calling him idiot and telling him to stop. I assumed he must have his reasons, and walked on. I tried to pass him once or twice, but he would suddenly move to the side, so I stepped back. Then he bumped into another man walking in the opposite direction, and while they both got their bearings I took the chance to move past him.

He began to apologise loudly. "Sorry, madam. Madam, it was not my intention..." and so on. I walked on, not bothering to look back, as he hadn't anything to apologize for and I suspected he was intoxicated.

But he kept on. Soon enough, he changed his tune, offering to accompany me home. All this was quite loud, because I was walking at least a few paces ahead of him. I walked on steadily, not wanting to risk a confrontation right there where the road wasn't well lit.

Then he said something to do with "moti" (fatty) - probably something like come here, though I don't really remember. He said it again.

By then we were near some shops and there were quite a few people around, including young people (which makes me feel much safer somehow). I suddenly stopped, turned around, and said roughly, "Kisse baat kar rahe ho tum?" (Who are you talking to?)

He looked frightened, shook his head and kept walking. I said it again, and swung the bag I was holding - it contained my lunchbox, and would have caused satisfactory damage if I had needed to make contact.

He ran.

I walked on. I saw him turn inside a gate nearby, and kept my eye on him while I walked. He didn't look back, and I walked on in peace.

For some time, I debated whether I should have hit him. Rather a moot point, for I doubt if I could have brought myself to do it. But after the first flush of anger subsided, I decided I had done enough for now.

And the over-a-kilometre-long walk didn't even tire me (as it usually does)! Maybe it was the excitement?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Notes on Rock On!!

The only thing that redeemed the movie was the music. It made me want to get up and jump (like the audience in the concerts in the movie), and I did sing along much of the time (I hope the loud music drowned my voice for the benefit of the rest of the audience). Okay, one other “thing” that wasn’t so bad was Farhan Akhtar. How can that guy have so much talent? He looked hot, he acted well, and he sings like a dream… And to top that he directs and writes as well.

Warning: major spoilers ahead. Do NOT read if you’re planning to watch it.

It was one of the most stereotypical-filmy movies I have seen recently. At every twist you could predict how it’s going to pan out. And the film’s treatment of female characters was horrible: it made me wonder if any of the director and writers have ever had any kind of normal relationship with any woman. All the women were caricatures, totally one-dimensional.

Aditya(played by Farhan Akhtar)’s wife Sakshi seems to have really nothing to do with her time. So after cribbing that her husband is too busy making money, and spending a lot of time sitting on her designer furniture in their awesome flat in her designer clothes, she accidentally meets KD(Purab) who used to be Aditya’s friend before she knew him(Aditya, of course). She finds her husband’s old photographs, which reveals to her that he was a romantic poet and cool rocker before he became a boring investment banker who earns pots of money (and she realises she knows little about her husband of four years). Oh, and he also had a girlfriend who was wrapped all over him in the video Sakshi found. (By the way, the cassette looked to me like an audio cassette, yet she watched the video in it… Did anyone else notice?)

Aditya, by the way, didn’t seem to talk to his wife much. I can’t blame him, seeing as she questioned him loudly and insistently about the apparent friend of his she accidently met while Aditya was taking a shower after a hard day. No wonder he’s not keen to divulge more details of his life to her, given her keen bloodhound instincts. But then she finds the photos and video, and her bloodhound instincts take over.

She goes to KD to find out more about her husband, and persuades him to find the other two band members and bring them along to the “surprise” birthday party she’s planning for her husband. Yeah, her idea of a surprise was getting a bunch of people her husband is obviously not keen on knowing any more, and springing them on him – along with a large horde of assorted extras – at the end of a hard working day (his, not hers). And she doesn’t get it when he doesn’t look pleased.

She has to follow it up by nagging him after the party on how he didn’t look comfortable with his old “friends” (two of them – the third, Joe played by Arjun Rampal, was too sensible to come). And she chooses that moment to tell him that she’s pregnant. And she chides him that his life is incomplete and he isn’t happy any more. But she doesn’t ask about the old girlfriend. Does it not occur to her that maybe his life is “incomplete” because she’s not around? Would she go fetch her too, in order to make Aditya happy?

So Aditya sleeps on the couch to escape her nagging, and gets up in the morning to find her gone “to her mom’s place to think”. And the first thing Aditya does is go meet her friend, the same one Sakshi discussed her marital troubles with. Why didn’t one of them marry Deepika instead, if she was so much easier to talk to? And of course, on Deepika’s counseling, Aditya realises where he was wrong and goes to hunt up his old friends. He calls Sakshi and leaves a voice message admitting she was right and asking her to come back.

And she comes back, that very day, while the band is practising in her and Aditya’s house. How’s that for fast? But I guess she had done all the thinking she could manage by that time. For the rest of the movie, she looks adoringly at Aditya with a sweet smile on her face. (I wonder why Aditya married her instead of say, adopting a pup.)

Not only is there no attempt to explain why Aditya and Sakshi got married, there’s no explanation of why Adi got together with his previous girlfriend, or why she married the weird-looking jerk from a competing band. There’s no explanation of why the four band members are friends. They only seem to be interested in making music together: and if it’s just that, why weren’t they more professional about it?

I think the movie would have made much more sense to me if they had given it a gay twist. Aditya and Joe were apparently the greatest friends among the four. Joe beats up aforesaid weird-looking rival band member when he "insults" Aditya. The band breaks up because of a fight between Aditya and Joe. Aditya is so shaken he goes off to Delhi and never talks to his girlfriend again. And Aditya is stuck in what seems to be a loveless marriage. While Joe feels suffocated in his home and spends most of his time strumming his guitar in his room while his wife runs a fish business to make ends meet (and of course, does all the cooking as well).

Then the band gets back together, and all four dudes seem happy. But at the Jhankar Beats type climax, Joe is on his way to join a job on the cruise, while the others are waiting for him at a rock competition – their big chance after they blew the first one ten years ago. KD insists the three of them get on stage, and they do, and as for some reason the VTV concert also airs on the radio in their taxi, Joe and his wife and son get to hear everything. And Aditya sings – in the rock competition, mind – the soft romantic number that Joe had written, all those years ago. He dedicates the song to Joe, and croons, “Tum ho to gata hai dil… tum ko hi mangti yeh zindagi”(My heart sings when you are here… my life asks for you).

Joe is obviously overcome with feeling, while his wife holds on tightly to his hand to prevent him from escaping. But before the song ends, he gets off the cab (where they are stuck in a convenient traffic jam – and why don’t movie characters ever leave for the airport or port safely on time, like the rest of us seem to do?), lifts his guitar case from the baggage rack, and walks off.

Meanwhile, on stage, the song ends, and KD follows it up with a solo on his drums, evidently feeling that he won’t let Aditya outfox him with his soft romantic number. And just as KD ends, in typical dramatic style, there is a guitar strumming, and the actors on stage look around to see where the sound is from, and Arjun Rampal walks on stage, guitar in hand, long hair flowing, looking extremely handsome.

And then they play Sindbad the Sailor, which I had been hoping would be a song they record for an animated movie, because I couldn’t imagine how else it would make any sense. Anyway, Adi and Joe sing together, faces close to each other’s, and I was hoping – hopelessly, of course – that they would kiss and make an end to it.

But after they were done with Sindbad the Sailor (how many songs did the competition folks allow them to sing, anyway?), Adi hands the mike to Joe because his wife and son have arrived backstage and Joe wins her over by singing a couple of lines of “Tum ho to…” (Do they really imagine women can be won over – and these were wives who were struggling with serious issues like not knowing what the husband was really like or thinking he’s withdrawn from and lying to her – by a mushy voicemail or song? Or are there women like that? Well, I’m sure there are, but it seemed to be more of a general statement – there was little attempt to define why they would be so amenable to being won over.)

As if all this wasn't enough drama, Rob has a brain tumour (which you suspect as soon as he says casually at mealtime that he has a headache) that he doesn’t tell his friends about, and even though he’s in hospital he leaves to go for the rock concert – and while he seems wobbly on his legs he seems to play alright. But then he didn’t have a girlfriend, and isn’t that an old Bollywood edict that any character who is single at the end should be killed off? Though I wonder how the band made any music later, seeing as he was the composer… But of course such details are irrelevant when you look at the three good-looking couples at the end of the movie, with an assorted bunch of cute kids that have popped up in addition to the ones that belong to Joe and Adi, engaged in a Dil Chahta Hai style picnic.

Happy Teachers' Day

To my mom, who read me fairy tales and told me stories.

To my dad, who awakened my curiosity and taught me to ask 'why'.

To MT sir, who said you should never blindly trust anyone: not your teacher, not your books.

To SP sir, who awakened magic in poetry and revealed the drama in plays.

To the Guy, who always challenges and questions me, forcing me to keep my wits sharpened.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Religion as Noise

It's that time of the year again. The line up of Hindu festivals has begun with Ganesh Puja and will go on through Navratri and Durga Puja and Diwali (forgive me if I missed any).

I was hoping to escape the frenzy this year, living in a colony that was otherwise extremely quiet and peaceful. But as I walked to my flat today, there was a bunch of boys playing loudly on the drum in the parking space of a nearby building. I pitied the people who lived right above. Thankfully, it didn't last very long and it is as quiet as usual now.

But I found myself wondering if they have colonies for atheists or non-practising believers or even practising believers who pray inside their homes and do not force their religion down other's throats - or ears.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How I Spent My Bonus Holiday

Continued from here

I had activities planned for Monday too, that I meant to cancel if I didn’t recover from my trip. But I felt okay, except for a slight backache, so I kept to my plan. First, I met a friend for lunch at Silk Route in Koregaon Park. She was someone I had worked with in my previous job, and we grabbed the chance to catch up. We had an enjoyable lunch in an empty restaurant – I had to remind myself that it was Monday, and the rest of the world was working. I had set up the date, but my friend insisted on paying the bill: a thoughtful gesture that caught me unawares. I promised to treat her another time to make up for it.

Then I visited the Guy’s mom and sister. They left for Gujarat yesterday along with little Elf, and I wanted to say bye. I spent a couple of hours there, then left for Vani’s.

With my several rickshaw rides, I found I was out of change when I reached Vani’s. I had nothing between a 500 rupee note and a ten rupee one. So I ran up to Vani’s, and as soon as she opened the door, asked, “Can you lend me fifty rupees?” She did, after she was done laughing at having to pay me for coming to her house.

Vani and I sat over our spreadsheets and documents for a couple of hours, sorting out the information of the new students we interviewed and deliberating on whom to take out of the majority that we hadn’t been sure of. We found that we had interviewed seventy new students. We would have to turn away many of them, but we managed to sort them out to our satisfaction.

I got home at around half past eight. As I walked from the gate to my flat, I felt something unfamiliar against my thighs. I was wearing cargoes with numerous pockets and had stuffed my essentials – phone, hanky, keys, wallet – in them, feeling very liberated all day at not carrying a bag. I felt the offending pocket and drew out a couple of notes – a fifty and a ten.

That minor goof aside, I had a very enjoyable day, as enjoyable as it could be without the Guy around.

Why I Haven't Been Posting Much

No, I haven’t been crying in bed because the Guy is away. I have, in fact, been busy. Too busy even through a three-day weekend to write here. (Why three-day weekend? One of the perks at my workplace is that we get a few American holidays, and 1st September is Labour Day in the USA.)

I went with Friends of Children to a town called Narayangaon. We sponsor a bunch of college students there, and there was a fee distribution planned as well as some new ones lined up to interview.

We started bright and early. I live the furthest away, so I was the first to leave home at 7 a.m. (Compared to my regular office timings, that felt like a little past midnight). There were eight of us in all: Vani and her mother, Aparna, Madhu – a new volunteer, Ajay – Vani’s driver, Sagar and Ramesh who were both FoC students and are now volunteers, and me.

I love the drive down. It was my third time in over a year and I looked out for familiar sights: a lovely lake nestling in a valley while we crossed in the road overhead, the hills in the distance, the vast expanse of green. The monsoons have been sparse this year, so it was less green than I remember from the first time.

We stopped for breakfast just before Narayangaon and stuffed ourselves with poha, missal pav, medu vada etc., knowing that lunch was likely to be late and inadequate. We had a long day ahead: about 60 kids to be interviewed, shortlisted from the list of about 150 that the teachers had sent us, and we faced the unenviable task of choosing 40-odd from them.

FoC has a symbiotic relationship with several schools and colleges in and around Narayangaon. Teachers vet the students and introduce them to us; visit their homes and make sure they need help; colleges lend us their facilities to use. We in turn try to provide students scholarships without which they might not be able to study.

We were given a large hall to use: bunches of students came in and sat on the floor, waiting to be called. We divided into teams and got to work, interviewing each student, trying to gauge whether we should sponsor them. A difficult task. Each student needed the money: that we were already sure of, as the teachers vouched for them. But we have limited funds, and want to make sure that we are actually making a difference in our students’ lives. So we asked them questions about their homes, their family incomes and their aims.

Some stories are heartbreaking. One girl’s father is ill and unable to work. Her brother runs a stationery shop to feed the family. The father often turns up drunk; generously paid for by his friends. The family have stopped buying him medicines because his drinking isn’t doing him any good. And this girl scored 90 percent in her 10th boards.

Yet we were extremely strict. I marked green on my spreadsheet only those who showed determination. One girl said she wants to get a job as soon as possible and support her father, who had done so much for her. There are girls – few, thankfully – who say they’re not sure whether their parents would let them study further or marry them off in a year or two. These we decided to reject. For others that we were not sure of, we postponed the decision, hoping to be able to take them if we didn’t overshoot our numbers.

We broke for a late lunch at around two, and sat on the concrete ground within the lawn, munching vada pav and bananas. Then we rushed back to work, to the kids who were still waiting and who had – unlike us – not had lunch.

We miraculously managed to wrap up at around 5.30: miraculously because at one point it looked like we had worked so long and the bunches of young people had not looked any smaller. But we were done, and by the time we had planned. The men went off to Sagar’s house for the night, and we women planned to stay in a hotel.

A teacher showed us the hostels, where FoC plans to have its next camp. (I’d gone to the last one for a day.) Then he guided us to our hotel and made sure we were comfortable before he left.

We were near the famous vineyards of Chateau Indage, and Aparna suggested going to their restaurant for dinner. So we had a bit of rest, accompanied Vani’s mom through her dinner so that she could go to bed at her regular hour, and set off with lots of jokes about what the teachers would say about our social work if they knew we were going to get drunk after hours: especially after the polite insistence of the guy who guided us to the hotel that we use the “family room” for dinner.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the evening as much as I had hoped. I began to feel ill. It had been a long tiring week, and vada pav didn’t seem to agree with me. I had very little dinner and longed to go home.

We had started dinner at eight, and by ten we were back in our rooms. I had a lime soda and lay quietly, too tired to talk. I felt much better next morning.

I got up before 7: I always find it difficult to sleep in a new place. The view from the balcony was lovely: green all around. Wary of awakening my roommates, I went down and walked a bit on the lawn, looking at the mist on the hills.

We went to the college raring to go, but had a long wait ahead. There was an intricate function, with lots of speeches in Marathi that I couldn’t get much of, a few smart speeches by the students, and one speech by Aparna – in Hindi, for a change. We all got flowers, by the way, red roses that were almost as large as cabbages. Amma got a shawl. My favourite part of the function was when Aparna related the story of a boy who had come to her asking for help with his studies. FoC helped him, and he did his B.Com. He never spoke up at meetings. Then he got a job and soon afterwards, came and handed over a cheque for a thousand rupees. At the next meeting, he stood up and spoke and encouraged the students to be confident. And that boy was Ramesh, who is now a volunteer and had come with us to Narayangaon. This little story is one reminder of why I love spending time with FoC.

It was nearly one when we started with our work. And there were over 200 students waiting. We broke into different teams, checking documents, dispensing advice, entering details, and – of course – giving away cheques. There were difficult moments when we had to turn away students because they didn’t have the right documents or because we discovered they were getting money from other sources – such as education loans. But by the end of the day, our work was done, and we were glad that we could go home.

Not so soon. Two of the teachers insisted that we visit their homes first. We had to drink sweet tea and down biscuits before we could leave town. And it rained. The kind of rain I’ve rarely seen in Poona. Large drops rushing down hard, so that my shoes got wet instantly where I’d kept them by the verandah. We started on our way: it was slow going at first, with low visibility and high traffic. We could see lightning in the distance. There was intermittent rain throughout our journey, and again when we reached Pune. The monsoon poured with all its fury.

It was past nine when I reached home. I spoke to the Guy for a bit and then went to bed with all the satisfaction of a day well spent.