A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Of friends who’ve been family

Posted by Pepper on January 24, 2017

We landed in San Francisco on a cold, cold morning. We were going to be staying with a friend until we found an apartment of our own. As our shuttle drove us from the airport to the said friend’s house, I tried taking in the familiar sights. This was going to be home for some time now. How long, I wasn’t sure. I might as well warm up to this place as soon as I can, I told myself. But that freezing morning made it exceptionally hard to ‘warm up’ to it.

Let me tell you how apprehensive I had been by the idea of staying with a friend. She is a close friend of Mint and had generously offered to host us till we found a home. But my mind panicked by the thought. Would it be too intrusive? Would we be invading their space too much with all our luggage? Would they feel obliged to cook for us? I certainly didn’t want to eat all our meals at their place. I kept telling Mint we would insist on eating out.

The stay at the friend’s house turned to be delightful and I can’t be more grateful to them for opening up their home to us. Of course, I still didn’t want to overstay our welcome, so I would keep insisting to Mint to pick an apartment soon. But if you know him, you will know how difficult a task it is to make him choose.

We needed the apartment to be close to a BART station, since Mint works in the city. I wanted to make sure the apartment had a washer and dryer, plenty of natural light and central heating. And of course, we had a budget to adhere to. Given all our requirements and conditions, finding the right apartment wasn’t an easy task. Every evening we would spend hours visiting different apartment complexes and leasing offices.

Before I talk about our home, let me talk about our other friend who helped us by lending us her car. She was vacationing in India for a month and without a second thought, told us we could use her car in her absence. We knew it would take us a while to buy our own car, so having one handy as soon as we landed was nothing short of a blessing. Had she not lent us a car, we would have gone ahead and rented one on weekends and our search for an apartment would have been that much slower. Did I already mention I feel grateful for having such friends?

After almost 2 weeks of searching (both extensively and intensively), we finally zeroed in on an apartment. Now we had to go through the pains of finding appropriate furniture to buy. Most apartments in the US do not even come with light fixtures, so we needed to buy a ton of things before we could move in.

On hearing that we had found an apartment, another friend of Mint told us we could have ALL his furniture. He was moving to the city, to an apartment that was much smaller than his current 3 bedroom home. He didn’t know what to do with all the furniture he had. He didn’t care enough to sell it, even though that would have gotten him a good chunk of money.

We offered several times to pay for it, but he was adamant and said he only wanted to give it to us, not sell it to us. And just like that, we were all set to move in. He gave us his couch (all seats are recliners, we love how comfortable they are), the center table, a futon, a king sized bed, a side table for the bed and a 4 seater dining table.

We only had to pay the movers and managed to bring in all furniture in under $500 (And that too only because the pick up place was an hour away from us and because all the furniture had to be hauled up to our 3rd floor apartment). Once we had the furniture in place, we went on to personalize the house by adding bits and pieces to it. Here is a sneak peak. This is one side of our living room.

living room 1.jpg

Mint usually doesn’t like the idea of a table runner on the center table, but there were a few faint stains on it that we wanted to camouflage, so the runner was put. We’re still in the process of doing up our house, making changes and adding some personality to it. Once I think it is close to complete, I can probably put up some more pics.

The point of this post was to remark on our wonderful friendships. Right from offering us a home for our initial stay, to lending us a car, to generously gifting us with furniture, they’ve done it all. We can’t be more thankful.

Posted in Friends | 21 Comments »

On friendships

Posted by Pepper on January 30, 2016

I’ve never had too many friends in my life. I do have a lot of people I call my ‘hang out buddies’. But friends? I can say I have a total of 3 or maybe 4 real friends. And in all honesty, I have been quite content with this number. I know these are people I can count on. And I will not hesitate to rely on them. The rest of the hang out buddies, they may be willing to help me in times of need, but I am too hesitant to even ask them for help. It is a reflection of the equation I share with them. In my head, they’re good to just hang out and have fun with.

I’ve now reached a phase where I find myself wishing I had some good friends close to where we live. You see, while I do have a few good friends, I have nobody in close proximity to me. Not even my so called hang out buddies. All my friends (and even Mint’s for that matter) are scattered. Even the ones who are in the same city don’t really live close to us. So every time Mint and I have to meet our friends, we have to plan, coordinate, schedule and then travel a fair bit to meet them. While this isn’t too bad, it does make me miss the spontaneity of it all. Meeting a friend shouldn’t be a project. And that is what it has really turned into.

I miss the feeling of  having a friend over in the evening just to chat over a cup of coffee. I miss going to a friend’s place for an unplanned dinner. I miss the ability to step down for a night walk together. And most of all, I miss the support that comes with having friends in close proximity.

I’ve wondered if I have gone wrong somewhere. I live in an a very large apartment complex. Why have I not made any friends here so far? Almost everybody seems to have friends and support systems. I haven’t been able to figure where I went wrong. Maybe I suck at striking conversations with random strangers, especially without the ease of an opportune moment. But more than that, I think I haven’t really found too many like minded people.

There are the million kids, some in school, some in high school. They have their own groups and seem very happy playing chor police or football, depending on their age. Then there are the salwar kameez and sneaker clad aunties, taking walks in clusters. They seem to have formed solid friendships with each other. There are a few young parents too, watching over their kids in the evening. Now this group, I tell myself I can probably try tapping into.

But every time I have tried, I have faced rejection. The conversation wanders and invariably reaches a point where I feel judged for my choices. For marrying somebody from such a different community, for not having learnt his language yet (this one comes from people who belong to the same ‘different’ community), for not cooking myself on a daily basis, for not having had a child despite being married for so many years, for living in a nuclear set up and so far away from my inlaws. It just goes on. It makes me feel a strong disconnect. I feel like we belong to different worlds.

What makes it even sadder is that I do see some people who I suspect I will connect with. They look like us and I want to believe we will get along. Unfortunately like I mentioned, I really don’t excel at approaching people unless I find a suitable opportunity. And so far, I haven’t seen them show any inclination to talk or connect. So all I do is stand at a distance and wonder if we could have been friends.

I have a few friends who tell me having kids offers you a whole new avenue to make friends. It lets you connect with other parents and gives you a wider net. Chances of meeting like minded people is higher when you have a vast group to interact with. Maybe that is true to an extent. But on the other hand, I often see parents judging and being too critical of each other’s choices. So I wonder how it works. I think judgment is not conducive to friendship.

I don’t know what it is, but my theory is that it is much harder to make friends as we age. I also think, for a friendship to grow, you need to share some common experiences. That is probably why we make friends so easily in school. We are all in the same stage of life, studying the same subjects, hating and loving the same teachers, working on the same assignments. Even when we get to college. Other than the daily interaction, there is a certain sameness to our life that facilitates bonding.

As we grow though, the sameness gives way to differences. And when the core framework of our lives differs so greatly, we find it hard to fit in and align a piece that belongs to a different shape. And so we restrict our friendships to people with frameworks just like our own. Making friends is never as easy as it was. I think that is something I must accept.

Posted in Friends | 20 Comments »

Someday we’ll know

Posted by Pepper on January 9, 2016

Just a few hours ago, I was standing at the airport, holding her in an embrace. It was the moment. The moment I had pictured several times in my head over the past few months. Would I tear up? I hoped not. And I am proud to say, I did not, though I must admit I was pretty damn close.

Today is the day the BFF left for the US. In all likelihood, for good. I know how deeply this is going to impact my life. She is the closest friend I have had in my life. I have been unable to recreate the relationship I share with her with any of my other friends. Not having her around is a big loss for me. So much of our life depended on her and R. Our weekends will never be the same. I am beginning to wonder if we will ever be able to fill those gaps with other things. Or will we just learn to live with the gaps? I don’t really know.

There is so much I want to write about, but right now I feel a little paralysed. I need time. Time to accept that my life has changed. Maybe it will be as bright. I hope it will be. I know I will deal with whatever it is. But right now, I just need time.

Posted in Friends | 10 Comments »

Happy Week – Day 2

Posted by Pepper on March 20, 2015

I woke up to my phone buzzing one morning. It was a whatsapp message from P. I’m not sure how often I have mentioned P on this blog. We studied together in college, during which we practically lived in each other’s homes. We chose the same university for our Masters degree. We shared an apartment in good ol’ Leeds. Easy to guess that she is a close friend of mine.

Just a week or so before I woke up to her message, the two of us had met for coffee and spent some time discussing the perils of growing up. Life was so easy when we were in college. It was all about having fun. And now we were trapped in this adult world. In the midst of this discussion, we both realised that we hadn’t truly grown up. That would happen only when we had a baby. In our opinions, having a baby was like the final frontier of adulthood. That is when you would have to be responsible. We both agreed we were not ready for a baby and the responsibility it all came with. She most certainly wasn’t. She had been married for only a year or so.

Cut to that day. It was 7 am and I was just about waking up. I read her message in my half asleep state. “I want to share something with you”, it said. “Are you preggers?”, I jokingly asked. To my complete surprise, she said, “That’s what the home pregnancy test says. I’m so scared!”. That message made me jump out of bed.

We spoke on phone and I realised she was clearly not ready for the baby. I was so stumped myself, I didn’t know what to say. Accidental pregnancy, really? I almost wanted to ask her ‘how’, but I stopped myself in time. That entire day, I sang in my head, ‘Accident ho gaya, rabba rabba‘.

She told me she would get an appointment with the doctor and get back to me. The next evening, we were sure. The scans said she was 7 and a half weeks pregnant! I was the *first* and only person she had shared the news with until then. She was still to break the news to her parents, in-laws and friends. I was excited to know how they would all react. As expected, everybody was elated. Unfortunately, P herself continued to feel quite low and unsure of everything.

Every few weeks I would ask her if she felt more ready for the baby. To my surprise, she continued to say she wasn’t. Her pregnancy was progressing and I wondered how long it would take her to accept what was now inevitable. Although she become more receptive towards the end, a part of me still wondered how happy she was.

All of that changed the day the baby came. At the end of her labour, out came a beautiful baby boy! She told me she fell in love at that very moment and all her earlier apprehensions disappeared. I knew exactly what she meant when I held him in my arms. His beady eyes looked at me questioningly. I told him I will be sharing with him a lot of interesting and embarrassing stories about his mommy once he grows up. He could use them as tools to blackmail her.


With the proud parents on the day he was born. I kept admiring his head full of hair.


I guess it is a different feeling when a close friend of yours has a baby. Especially if the friend is someone you have childishly giggled with and foolishly played around and grown up with. This little bundle is a few weeks old now. I feel so connected with him, I believe he is mine. If only I wasn’t scared to hold him. Now, I sit in the centre of the bed and have somebody else place him on my lap. And oh sometimes, I even put a pillow beneath him. I’m terrified of holding him unless I am sitting. Sigh..


With his very besotted aunt..


When P came home one time, she placed the cute heart on our bed and just left him there. When I entered the room, I was startled to see a tiny, tiny little thing, fast asleep on the bed that looked so huge. That sight stirred something inside me. I keep thinking of that little thing arbitrarily placed there.

He makes me so happy. I have a hundred pictures of his on my phone. I zoom in to his face and replay his videos all the time. Sometimes I even call P just so I can hear him in the background. Little beam of sunshine, that’s what he is!

Posted in Friends, Happy Week | 16 Comments »

Mere yaar ki shaadi thi..

Posted by Pepper on December 10, 2014

The BFF’s wedding is an event that I have to record on the blog. She got married to R. The two of them had been in a relationship for the past 6 years or so. R, by the way, is her immediate neighbour. They have only a wall separating their homes. Literally! When I was visiting India in 2008, I saw her practically glued to her cell phone, talking to this guy, R. All day and all night. So I asked her if there was anything brewing or if she felt anything for him. Since she is my friend, she denied it vehemently, ofcourse. Mint coaxed her to admit it to us too, but she said we were imagining things. Alright then, we decided to let her be.

As expected, she finally did admit to us (and herself) after a few months. That they were a couple. Like we hadn’t guessed in all this time. She and R were of immense help to us when Mint and I got married. R went on to become a close friend of ours and the four of us hang out together all the time. Years passed and I started bugging them to get married. Yes, I am a very non interfering friend. Ahem. Besides that, the BFF would get bouts of anxiety herself and fake sob with complains like, ‘The whole world is married, I am the only one not married. Mera kya hoga..’.

She and R were in a comfortable spot. Since they were neighbours, both their parents were family friends. They lived next door to each other and had no trouble seeing each other. They had to make no arrangements to ‘meet each other’. It was going well, which is why R was always reluctant when we spoke about marriage. What is the point, he would ask? We practically live together even now. Quite a valid thought, but then the BFF, along with us kept highlighting the benefits of marriage and at one point he decided it was time to take the plunge.

They took a while to tell their respective parents about each other, but once they did, things moved at lightning speed. There was almost no drama, too bad. Mint and I were waiting with our bags of popcorn, but unfortunately we hardly found any entertainment. Such easy acceptance is boring! All they had to do was say it out aloud to the parents and watch everything unveil. Wedding dates were fixed, venues were booked and everything whizzed by. I am finally taking stock of all the happenings.

– A bunch of us girls kidnapped the BFF and drove to Lonavala, where we had rented a bungalow for her bachelorette party. I managed to get a ‘Bride to be’ sash and tiara for her from a party store in Bandra on the very last minute. A good buy, because we used those for a lot of fun pics.

– We played games like ‘flip the cup’ and ‘beer pong’, all of which are wasted on me. I cannot for the life of me indulge in any kind of binge drinking. I am the sole cause for making the team lose. It got so bad at one time, it was mutually decided that I should be lowered to the position of ‘kacha limbu’ (no, I really can’t translate or explain that) and should be allowed to play the games while consuming water instead of beer. And guess what? I *still* couldn’t compete. Bottom line – no bottoms up for me, ever. I can’t chug any liquid at high speed.

– Next up was the sangeet and dance party. It had a Bollywood them. I loved the BFF’s ‘fusion’ outfit for this one. Mint and I danced on, ‘Samne yeh kaun aaya dil main hui halchal‘. We barely had any time to rehearse and I was nervous as hell. Thankfully, it went okay. The moment it got done, we heaved a sigh of relief and geared up to enjoy the rest of the evening.

– The mehendi party happened on the terrace of their building. I ended up having the same amount of mehendi as I did on my own wedding! I didn’t intend having it that way. The lady doing it for me took the liberty herself, and when I glanced down, she had already begun and it was too late to change it. So there I was, having mehendi upto my elbows, almost. That was the side of the palms. For the back (or is it front?), I insisted on having not more than a small circular pattern, thassall.

– While the party was a lot of fun, I must also write about the catastrophic fight I had with the BFF on that day. At some point while the BFF was busy getting her mehendi done, I went looking for Mint. I found him with R and his family. They were laughing hard and seemed to be having a little party of their own. Turned out, they were fooling around, hatching plans of asking the BFF”s dad for dowry with the standard opening line of, ‘Hum aapse ek baat kehna toh bhool hi gaye’. The joking and laughing was making everybody keel over.

– I obviously joined hands and told them I was willing to partner with them in this prank. We started devising big plans and thought of big demands to make together. And all of it got punctured when the BFF realised I was a part of this seemingly horrific joke. She refused to talk to me. Infact, when she saw R talking to me, she refused to talk to him too. No amount of appealing or cajoling worked. She was really mad at me.

– She was that mad, she even refused to look into my eyes when I was smearing her face with turmeric paste the next day during the haldi ceremony. We made up finally later at night when she had showered and calmed down reasonably. I must say thank you to R for helping me with this, haha.

– The actual wedding was a long and tiring affair. Us, that is, the girl’s immediate family and close friends had to be at the wedding hall to welcome the boy’s side in the morning. From then on, there was some ceremony going on right until midnight. I felt really sorry for the BFF and R.

– Finally, in the midst of all the cheering and spraying of rice and flower petals, they were declared married! Since I was on the stage, I ended up having a lot of rice in my hair too. Those of you who asked me, now you know why you see rice grains in my hair in some of the photos.

– The reception was in the evening in an open lawn and with all the fairy lights, it looked lovely. When I saw them standing on the stage and greeting the guests, I smiled to myself. They had overcome a lot of apprehensions and mental hurdles to get to this stage, both literally and figuratively.

– Despite the fact that they were the ones going through all the ceremonies and rituals, we felt terribly exhausted too. Oh there was also some chaos, as there always is at such times. I realised my hair looked too oily and I had to rush to a salon to get a wash in between ceremonies. My sari wouldn’t come right. And so on..

– For those of you who wanted to see my outfits, here are the pics. I reused all the outfits from my own wedding, much to the BFF’s chagrin. She couldn’t believe I wasn’t buying anything new for her wedding. Well, I did want a chance to air out my very expensive wedding clothes and I convinced her I wouldn’t get a better opportunity than this.


The gorgeous BFF and R. I loved this outfit she wore during the sangeet party.


This outfit, an orange and gold corset and pink lehenge belongs to the BFF. She wore it  at the sangeet party during my wedding and I happened to borrow it for the sangeet party during her wedding. Life does come a full circle. For Mint, we chose a plain black shirt with trousers..

This outfit, an orange and gold corset and pink lehenga belongs to the BFF. She wore it at the sangeet party during my wedding and I happened to use it for the sangeet party for her wedding. Life does come a full circle. For Mint, we chose a plain black shirt with trousers..


Our outfits during the BFF's wedding ceremony. I am wearing the sari I wore for my own wedding ceremony. I *heart* it. Mint borrowed my dad's kurta.

Our outfits during the BFF’s wedding ceremony. I am wearing the sari I wore for my own wedding ceremony. I *heart* it. Mint borrowed my dad’s kurta.


The reception outfit is my favourite of the lot. My sister wore this during my sangeet party. I told you, 'reuse' was the manta.  We had paid the designer a bomb for this one and I am glad we could use it atleast twice..

The reception outfit is my favourite of the lot. It is a backless halter. My sister wore this during my sangeet party. I told you, ‘reuse’ was the mantra. We had paid the designer a bomb for this one and I am glad we could use it atleast twice.. PS – I am not sure why it looks so crumpled in the pic


Posted in Friends | 50 Comments »

This weekend..

Posted by Pepper on September 15, 2014

I made sure I do not rise very early. I belong to that unfortunate category of people who always end up waking up late on weekdays but are unable to sleep in on weekends and holidays. Thankfully, I managed to silence that very annoying, inbuilt alarm that is programmed to buzz only on weekend mornings. With no alarms ringing in my head this time, I treated myself to some delicious sleep.

I met two of my college pals after a gap of five and two years respectively. I must say, I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. With their very entertaining stories of being peed on by a dog, being lost and finally driving at a snail’s pace to follow a cycle rickshaw in the middle of the night, other tales of their drunken escapades, I had a hard time putting an end to my gushing laughter. Since the two of you keep reminding me of the fact that you read my blog, I’ll say it here. I had a terrific time with you girls and I am so very glad we did this.

I finally found a place that sells real sambar! I believe I have turned into a sambar snob and the sweet sambar served in most South Indian joints in Mumbai just doesn’t cut it for me. It screams ‘fake’. Mint’s colleague spoke about this tiny little shop run by a man from Madurai. His colleague was even nice enough to pack some idli sambar for us. I tasted it and it was pure love at first bite. This is what authentic sambar is all about. We dunked the idlis in a bowlful of hot sambar and consumed them at the speed of light. I think they got over too soon. So I am bugging Mint to take me there again. I. Can’t. Wait.

We went to see Mint’s classmate’s just born baby. This baby was by far the tiniest baby I have seen in my life. I have seen a handful of newborns and while all of them are very small, this particular baby was unbelievably small! You can imagine my terror when they asked me to hold him. I had to first sit down, cross my legs and then have somebody else place him on my lap. And then he opened one eye and let out a yawn. I couldn’t get over the cuteness of it all. Babies are always such a source of delight.

We met friends and dined at The British Brewing Company, popularly known as BBC. I am saying it here so that I do the good deed of letting all of you know how absolutely yummy their pita bread is. Well, I love most of their food. But the soft, warm pita bread they serve with the hummus is out of this world. If you are craving authentic pita bread like I was, this is the place to go.

We played Settlers. After dinner our friends came over to our place so that we could play for a few hours. Love for board games is common in our parts. These games are highly engaging and fun. Anyway, the sister and I abandoned the game midway by 1 am because we were too sleepy. The others continued to play till 2 am. Mint along with most of our friends usually continue playing through out the night. The sister and I always hit the bed sooner despite being showered by endless ‘gaalis‘ by our friends. This time was no different. After all, we had a reputation to uphold.

I took this pic just as we were setting up the game..


We made some holiday plans! Yes. Mint and I kept telling each other we were too broke to plan any kind of travel for a while. Because we still have to furnish the house and we have so many expenses lined up. But then the BFF gave us her old sofa. We decided to use it for a year or so atleast. This saved us some money. Since we had already budgeted for a new sofa, we realised we had that little x amount spare. Ofcourse, any spare funds are always diverted to travel. Travel is one of the few common interests Mint and I share. It is what makes both of us immensely happy. So I am glad we’re going. But with our life long debt because of the home we bought and our passion for travel, I don’t think we will ever save ANY money in our life.

We finally cleared up and set up our living room. I know in my previous post I said we would use this weekend to set up the entire house with the help of the BFF. But then our social life took over. Never mind. It’s a start and I am happy we have atleast one room in place now.

How was your weekend?

Posted in Friends, Slices of life | 10 Comments »

On friendships and marriage

Posted by Pepper on June 25, 2014

I had an argument with Mint yesterday. Since we’re in Chennai, he wanted to use the opportunity to catch up with one of his school friends. This was a friend I had never interacted with. They would be meeting after years. I was sure they were both looking forward to all the catching up. So when Mint suggested I accompany him, I outrightly refused. This got him mad. Why would I choose to stay home and get bored when there was an opportunity for me get out? Why was I being so difficult?

I tried explaining to him what I felt. This plan was made by Mint and his friend. How could Mint think of just tagging me along? How could he assume his friend would be as comfortable with me as he is with him? What if my presence interfered with the flow of their conversation? What if their long sought catch up session was filled with awkward moments? His friend might want to discuss somethings with Mint and why take for granted he may want to discuss those things with somebody he’s just met? Mint ofcourse, told me I was overthinking. “He’s my friend and he will be happy to meet my wife, okay?”, was all he kept saying.

This disagreement has been a recurrent theme in our lives. Mint asks me to accompany him when he goes to meet his friends. If I have my own plans, then well and good. I can carry on with those. But if I am choosing to stay home and feel bored and lonely, I might as well go with him even if it is an all boys outing. He explains, the ‘all boys’ outing is only a matter of coincidence because the boys are either single or their respective spouses are busy, and not because the boys want to catch up alone. Beside that, since I am good friends with the boys myself, what is to stop me from hanging out with them?

In such cases, I do agree with him. Many times, I find myself hanging out with a group of only boys, because they’re my friends too. I see my presence makes no difference to their talks. I always end up having a good time with them. Yet, something keeps nagging me and I can’t place it. When Mint asks me to accompany him when he is meeting a group of guys I don’t know, I put my foot down and refuse. Even if I am comfortable with an all boys scenario, I am not sure all of them will be comfortable with my presence.

Friendships are special. I believe we all have unique relationships with our friends. Just because I am married, I do not expect my friends to develop the same relationship with my partner. I have never subscribed to the “If you love me, you got to love my partner too” theory. It is probably why a lot of people fear losing their friends to this thing called marriage. I would never expect my friends to treat us as one single entity just because we are a couple.

Every now and then, I always make sure I get a chance to catch up with my friends alone, without my partner in tow. Similarly, I always encourage Mint to catch up with his friends without me (depending on my relationship with them), even if it comes at the cost of me spending a dull evening by myself.

Having said that, I know I border on the extreme. I know my vehement resistance when it comes to hanging out with Mint’s friends and vice versa has been uncalled for at times. Perhaps I try too hard to not come across as the ‘wife who never leaves her husband alone’. Perhaps I go the extra mile only to portray myself as the partner who believes in the concept of space and independence. Perhaps I need to loosen up. Because I might be missing out on some amazing friendships and fun times in the bargain. And I am sure they’re worth much more than the image I am trying to create for myself.

Posted in Friends | 34 Comments »

Making it special

Posted by Pepper on February 4, 2013

Of all things that feature in the ‘special’ list for couples, I would say the first home in which you start your life together is located somewhere at the top. It is of high sentimental value. For me, alteast. In this day and age, many of us are renting homes. Moving cities and changing locations and homes is not uncommon. The ‘first home’ stands out. And ofcourse, the first time you walk into that home as a couple is what memories are made of.

The first home I lived in with Mint was a tiny, hole in the wall studio apartment, in Cincinnati, Ohio. It contained a lot of old, unmatched furniture picked up from various friends who were moving out. In other words, it wasn’t spectacular. After that, we went on to move to a bigger home in California, which was cosy, which we loved.  But, this little studio was special. It was our first home. I remember the first time I walked in. It was the day I had landed in the US. We were tired, and had lugged our huge suitcases up the stairs all by ourselves. It had been a long journey for us, but now that I was so close to seeing my new home, I couldn’t wait. I remember feeling impatient as Mint fished for the keys. All I wanted to do was dash in and see the place.

The first thing I noticed was how clean the place was. Now, if you know Mint, you will know what an achievement this is for him. I could see the effort he had put into cleaning the place for me. Everything was in its rightful place. Most surfaces were shining. I think that is probably the only time I have seen Mint invest so much effort into cleaning.

My welcome gift was in the bathroom. I am nuts about a particular fragrance from Bath & Body Works. ‘Warm Vanilla Sugar’ is what drives me senses crazy. To my delight, the bathroom was full of this fragrance, in the form of body washes, shower gels, body lotions and creams, mists, perfumes. All of it was warm vanilla sugar. I wanted to jump straight into the bath tub.

And there was this one DVD that I had been looking for since forever. “If Only’. Have you seen that movie? It isn’t a very well known one. Anyway, I was a very happy girl that day. Obviously, that day has been etched in my memory.

The other day, my friend who is getting married, called me while I was at work. His marriage was in Pune, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend it. So he entrusted me with some responsibility. I had to enter his home, and decorate his bedroom for his new bride while he was away. I told him I would be happy to do it, and that I knew how important these small gestures were. The problem was, I would have only an hour to do this.

This was the plan. His uncle would enter the house and let me in. Exactly in an hour, my friend would be entering with his new wife, and in that time, I had to finish all that I wanted to do and make sure I exit the place. He told me this on Thursday night. The execution was to take place on Saturday. I thought I would have Friday evening after work to plan and get my act together. What do you know? Friday evening passed in a blink. Anyway, here were his specifications.

– He wanted flowers on the bed, in the shape of a heart. (Yes, cheeesy! But it is what he wanted for her, so well..)

– He wanted there to be red heart shaped balloons and candles.

– He wanted to make sure I don’t stick anything, anywhere.

I wanted to do this right. I knew years later, this day would form an integral part of their memories. I was worried though. I am not a creative person by any means. Neither did I have too much time on my hands. I looked online, but found nothing suitable. I did the next best thing after that, I buzzed every single person who was online on my Gtalk list, begging them for some ideas. Unfortunately, none of them were free to talk to me.

I realised I didn’t have enough time to ponder now. I had to get going, and manage by myself. So I started by going to the guy who sells flowers in my street. I had ordered a kg of assorted flower petals the previous evening. I was to pick it up today morning. When I went there,  guy looked at me blankly and said he didn’t have it with him now, because I had not paid an advance the previous evening, so the order was not confirmed. I panicked. Dude, I didn’t pay you an advance because you didn’t ask for one. Duh! Anyway, I told him to get me the flowers, at any cost in the next one hour. He took the ‘at any cost’ bit a too literally, but never mind.

I then went to a few stores and picked up some things – satin ribbons, crepe paper, scented candles, a pack of heart shaped balloons and most importantly, an air pump to inflate the balloons. Post that, I collected my flower petals and went back home.

Here is when the drama began. I tried inflating the balloons using the pump I had. It wouldn’t work. My arms hurt with the exercise. I was beginning to panic. After multiple unsuccessful attempts, I tried to ‘blow’ the balloons on my own. The next half an hour was spent with me holding a balloon close to my mouth and using all my energy to puff into the goddamn balloon. It didn’t work. Instead, I was left coughing and spluttering. I must have terrible lung capacity. My chest hurt. I gave up.

I realised, only a balloon seller could save me. But where would I find one at such short notice? I ran downstairs, hoping to find one. But ofcourse, nothing was to come easy. I spent almost an hour, running on the streets, asking store owners if they had seen a balloon seller around in the area. Who would have thought they could be so important?

After an hour when I finally spotted one, I jumped in joy. Literally. I ran up to him, and bought about 10 big heart shaped balloons. Talk about embarrassing? As I walked back home, I could feel a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me, as I carried back the balloons. Some kids even pointed at me excitedly. Perhaps they thought I was a balloon seller myself.

Anyway, I did it. There were other problems along the way. Lack of time being the biggest. I was given only 30 minutes to do his room, instead of the expected one hour. I was seen talking to myself, standing on a ladder, cutting and stapling crepe paper around the curtain rods, laying out the candles and flowers on the window sills, tying the balloons in different places, arranging the flowers on the bed. It resulted in an achy back, but I am hoping it made them smile. Because the first entry to your first home is always special.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the final outcome. Here are some I took while I was still working.

Room 1

Room 2

Room 3


Posted in Friends | 49 Comments »


Posted by Pepper on March 15, 2012

The word has a different meaning for different people. I use it rather sparingly. At one time, I would go a step ahead and say “I have only two friends”. The friends here, being the 2 BFFs. My relationship with them is what defined the word ‘friendship’ for me.  So I really didn’t think anybody else fit my idea of what I called ‘friend’.

I met BFF # 1 in school. A common love is what brought us together. We were in Std 9th. We would both sit on the last bench, hide our novels under our textbooks, alert each other if a teacher happened to pass by and generally have a good time. Soon we started meeting after school hours and became thick pals. We introduced our sisters, and from then on, we traveled all over Bombay with our little sisters in tow. So much so, that when we reached grade 10th, our parents were worried about the time we spent chit chatting with each other. We knew each other’s family really well, including our respective cousins, aunts, and other relatives. When after grade 10th we had to go to different colleges, we wondered how we would have the same amount of time for each other. But what do you know, we continued hanging out the same way. Till date, it hasn’t changed.

I met BFF # 2 in college. We lived really close to each other, and our regular commute by train is what really brought us close. Slowly, we started spending time in each other’s houses. Our families become friends thanks to us. We went to college together, studied together, did our projects together, hung out in the evening together and got acquainted with each other’s families. Before I knew it, she was elevated to ‘best friend’ status. At this point, I was confused.  BFF # 1 was still my BFF.  Can a person have two best friends? I didn’t think so. Eventually though, I convinced myself that it is really possible.

No other person came close to these two BFFs. Like I said, I started telling the world I had only 2 friends. The rest were my ‘hang out buddies’. Slowly, I started realising that my definition of the word ‘friend’ had to expand. There were a lot of folks who were more than mere hang out buddies. I then started including a handful of other people and called them ‘friend’.

Even so, I always thought I had very few friends. Maybe 6 or 7? I am very stingy and don’t use that word easily. The rest, still fell into the ‘hang out buddy’ category. Is it just me, or is it really hard to make true friends after a certain age? While you are younger, there is a certain innocence that facilitates bonding and friendship. Now, I am always conscious of what I speak. I make sure I maintain some distance, because adults don’t like others stepping into their personal territory. The limitations, boundaries and expected code of conduct make it extremely hard to cross a certain level. As I grow, the number of people I know and hang out with increases, but the number of friends I have remains constant.

Now when it is time for me to leave this place, I look back to think of the number of people I will miss. I did have quite a few ‘hang out buddies’, but *very* few ‘friends’. In fact, when I moved to the Bay Area from Ohio sometime in 2010, I will say I had no friend. Of course, I talk about my definition of ‘friend’. And then she came along. She left a comment on my blog one day, saying she was a lurker. I followed the link to her blog, and left another comment saying,  “Are you telling me we live in the same desi town? Aka the Bay Area..? Are you still here..? And you had the audacity to lurk on my blog? Come on out, I can do with some friends”. That was sometime in early 2011.

She sent me an email, and after a few months of coordination and planning, we finally had a chance to meet. I liked her almost instantly. She brought along one of her home baked goodies for us. It was some wonderful chocolate flavoured banana bread, along with a note that said “Cheers to a new friendship!”. Soon, we started chatting daily, and then moved to phone calls and meetings that got more regular as time went by. When I look back at the fun we’ve had in all this time, I smile.

I can without any hesitation, call her a ‘true friend’. She’s been there, all along. She’s that girl pal with who I would enjoy my Friday dates, hit the mall, demand one of her famous chocolate cakes, explore restaurants, snuggle up on her couch and watch tv. If she went to the farmers market and saw some interesting stuff, she’d pick it up for me too. She is the one I stayed with while Mint was away, and I would wake up to freshly made ginger tea every morning. Oh did I say her tea is to die for?

It felt like I have known her for ages. That is the impression I lived with. A few weeks ago, we were at a salon. I was getting my hair cut. The lady who was working on my hair asked us how long we’d known each other. I had not really thought about that. Before I could respond, she said “a little less than a year”. That was a revelation to me too! Less than a year? Really? And when I back tracked, I realised she was right. We met for the first time in April last year. Or was it May? We’ve sure come a long way, in such a short time. When I think of the friends I will miss, she features on the top . The Bay Area would never have been the same without her.

Posted in Friends | 6 Comments »

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