Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do more than liking this blog post

I don't know what to write. I don't know how to write. I don't know what I can say that has not been said before. When I was in Bombay last week I wanted to blog about the fabulous time I had with my old and new friends, my family, the food I ate, the lovely beach walks I took, the shopping I did. I wanted to talk about how wonderful it was to be back in India. How I feel so loved and cherished when I am there. How beautiful life is in Bombay. How I adore been back. 

However I could not get myself to do it. How can I be happy being in a country where life is not valued? Where a girl can get raped and subsequently die, while authorities merely give out politically correct statements? Where another girl is compelled to kill herself as she was humiliated by the police when she tried to lodge a complain against her rapists.

It's shameful. It's tragic. I feel defenseless when others criticize my nation, but what else can I expect them to do? A nation that can't protect it's people, is not a nation worth defending. 

There is anger, rage even. People are organizing protests and marches. There is lot cyber chatter. There is a lot of resentment. Voices are being raised. Everyone is appalled. It's justified and I perhaps have contributed to it.

We all want justice. We all want to see the bastards die. I know I do.

However, lets also spare a thought for families and friends of the victims. Imagine what they would going through. The parents of the two girls who would have raised them with love and pride. Who perhaps had lots of dreams for them. Whose biggest prayer to God would have been to keep their daughters healthy and happy. Now they have lost their daughters. And not by accident, but by evil intentions of cruel people. My heart goes out to them.

However I don't know what to do. Does the world need yet another blog, FB update, Twitter hash tag about this issue? May be it does.

The parents and family of the victims however need more. They need strength to survive, to fight. They need faith that justice will take place. They need assurance that Government will make the streets safer for women.

They need our prayers. A prayer for another has a lot of power. Don't underestimate it. So like me if you are struggling with 'What can I do?', close your eyes, join or raise your hands and pray to your God for the suffering families. It's the least we can do and it's power is much bigger than you can ever imagine. 

Instead of spending the few minutes commenting on this post or liking the various other updates, use the time to pray for the families the girls have left behind. They will value it a lot more than one more FB comment. 

Monday, December 24, 2012


Dhoop mein chav si
March ke mahino ki bahaar si
Dard mein marham si
Sardiyon mein kambal si

Thi tum aise meri zindagi mein
Hasa thi, sehala ti thi
Khoob mujhe behalati thi
Roothta tha, tum manati thi
Bin maangein, bahut kuch de jaati thi

Pur us samay mujhe chah thi
Khule aasman ki baahon ki
Rangeen raaton ki muskurahaton ki
Tumhari panahein lagti thi bandish
Tumse door rehne ki hoti thi khawish

Ab itni door ho tum mujhse
Ki fursat toh hain
Lekin usse bharne ka saamaan nahin
Haseen mehfilein toh hain
Pur unke ghazalon ki mujhe pehchan nahin

Umeed karta hoon tumhare lautne ki
Tumhari god mein sar rakhke letne ki
Tumhare hothon ko halke se choone ki
Tumhare haathon ko kaske pakadne ki

Himmat nagin hoti magar,
Tumhe bulane ki
Agar tum kar dogi inkaar
Toot jaaonga, bikhar jaaonga

Ab sirf is baat ka hai sahara
Ki shaayad kisi din tum ho jaaogi phir se meri
Aur mein tumhara

Tak tak hai intezaar
Aur abhi tumse hai bahut pyaar

Sunday, December 23, 2012

For Myself

I have been told that I have an NGO mentality (Non-Government/Voluntary/Charity Organization for the uninformed). I am much kinder and compassionate to others then I am to myself. I feel others pain to the extent it brings tears to my eyes. I go out of my way to make them feel better, to help them- in whatever little way I can. My phone is like Akhbar's Darbar, where no request went unheard. I reply to every SMS, I return every call, I answer to every ask- and some times when its not even asked.

These are unselfish deeds, but the slight selfish part to them is that they make me feel good. It gives me immense pleasure knowing that I have helped someone, given then something they enjoy, looked after them when they needed it, was the shoulder to cry on, or simply the ear to listen to. I am happy that I am the chosen one when someone is in need. I hardly ever expect anything in return. Its purely because I like to help people. If life were a 70s movie I would be the union leader who fights for the rights of the workers.

I never felt there is anything wrong in this, but this New Year I resolve to add one more person to the list- MYSELF.

  • I resolve to not to be as harsh on myself
  • I resolve to be kinder to myself
  • I resolve to let things go (this one will take a while) :)
  • I resolve to focus on myself
  • I resolve to live in the present
  • I resolve to surrender to God
  • I resolve to not control every aspect of my life
  • I resolve to look inwards
  • I resolve to improve myself
  • I resolve to heal myself
  • I resolve to spend time with myself
  • I resolve to feel happy by my myself
  • I resolve to simply be
For everyone who I love, I promise I will always be there for you. You know where to reach me and you know I will return your call/SMS/whatsapp/BBM/email/FB email.

I will give you what YOU SAY YOU NEED. Not what I THINK YOU NEED. (even though sometimes I know latter is right) ;)

Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world". I want to see a more peaceful world. I have always believed in the 'Live and Let Live' philosophy, which is only attainable when everyone is at peace with themselves.

I resolve to find at least some  of that inner peace- if Kung Fu Panda could do it, I think I have a chance too!

Happy New Year Folks!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I hold that summer in my heart

I hold that summer in my heart

The summer of love
The summer of innocence
The summer of joy
Of pure indulgence

The summer of youth
Of fun and laughter
Of frivolity and silliness
And all things that matter

The summer of friendships
Filled with lazy beach walks
Ice creams, carnivals
And long telephone talks
It was a happy time
With few worries on the way
Some crushes that crushed you
But just for a few days

It was easy to pick up the pieces
And cycle down the garden path
To stop and smell the roses
To hear the wind chimes dance

I hold that summer in my heart
When friends were close to touch
And spirits were high without the wine
And heart was joyful with so much

Sometimes even today
When I close my eyes tight
I feel that summer in my heart
And I know everything will be alright

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Khamakha ki zindagi

Khamakha ki zindagi

Jab chahe chalein aatein ho tum

Bina poochein, bina kahein

Khamakha ke bahane liye

Khamakha ki baatein banake 


Le aatein ho khushiyan saari 

Pyaar bharein din

Aur shaamein baharon wali

Khamakha ke sapney sajake

Khamakha ke vaadein liye


Tumhare jaane ke baad

Taak ti raheti hain yeh nazarein

 saanjo saverein raah tumhari

Aasoonon ke pardein mein

Dundhali ho jaati hain aankhein humari

Khamakha ka rona hai yeh

Khamakha ki aahein

Jab aana hoga aagoein

Humare bulane par kab aayein ho pehlein?

Umeed phir bhi kaayum humari 

Khamakha ki zidd hai yeh saari


Khamakha ka pagalpan hai

Khamakhein ke shikwe

Khamakha ka dard hai yeh

Aur khamakha ki uljhanein


Kyon ki bin tumharein 

Khamakha ka hai yeh jeena

Monday, September 24, 2012

The world view per 70s Indian cinema

Last weekend, I introduced Sanil to the wonderful world of 70s Indian cinema. We watched 'Amar Akhbar Anthony' together. At first he was rather disturbed, with the 3 brothers being separated and all. And he was extremely concerned what would happen to the little kids. I assured that it would all work out in the end. And it's only the first 15 minutes that's the sad bit. He did not seem convinced.

However once the movie was over, he had a big smile on his face. And he was thrilled about the fact that everyone was together and happy in the end. And all the bad guys went to jail. And everything was basically hunky-dory. Not only did he enjoy the movie, he was happy that it all worked out for everyone concerned.

But that is what 70s Indian cinema was about- happy endings (and not the Bangkok kind). And simple positive life lessons- good triumphs over evil. And good always has the same faces- Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Dharamendra, etc. And evil also has a stable cast of Ranjit, Pran, Ajit, etc.

You recognised who was good and who was evil from the onset. No surprises. You knew no matter how many bizarre twists and turns, it would all come together in the end. There was a perpetual sense of hope. And you never lost faith.

Even now in life I follow the lessons I learnt then. I can't let go of the firm belief that bad karma will always catch up with you. Because in the end of the 3 hour movie, even the supposedly inefficient police catches up with the bad guys. You simply can't escape!

The 70s value system also left me slightly idealistic. I say 'slightly' as I think we all have been corrupted to some extent by, for lack of a better term, 'modern society'.

 I still teach Sanil the value of every dollar ( with the rupee depreciation, 'a rupee' just would not cut it). The importance of sportsmanship over winning. The emphasis on hard work. The essence of friendship. And the most critical of them all 'mere paas ma hain' is always a trump card ;)

70s movies also boasted of simple story lines, in line with the simpler times. Eight out of ten movies protagonist separate, to be united. Sanil was rather fascinated with this. When I told him next we would watch 'Satte pe Satta' a story about seven brothers,  he very innocently asked "So all seven separate in the beginning, and meet in the end?". 

Even the love stories were simple and straight forward. When you love someone, you tell them- always through a song. And irrespective of what family, society, religion, think of it, you don't leave that person, ever. It was simple.

I ache for those simpler times. But I am happy I can still give Sanil a flavour of them through the fabulous world of 70s Indian cinema.

Now he wants to watch 'Sholay' but I have told that he needs to graduate to it. First he needs to pass 'Satte pe satta' and 'Do aur do paanch'. And if he get through, we can talk about the great 'Sholay'.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Two sides to every story

Two sides to every story

Vikram's version

Vikramaditya Chatwal. Vikram's liked the sound of his name when it was announced in the courtroom. But when it came to meeting a beautiful girl, especially one who was almost a decade younger than him, the name felt old, ancient even.

 But she didn't seemed to mind. In fact she did not mind anything about him- the extra pounds around his waist, his 70s music taste, his not-so-modern sense of fashion, his salt and pepper hair ( he preferred referring to his hair in that way, rather than the more honest 'grey hair'). She found it all sweet, alluring even.

It's not like it sounds. I know what you are thinking. I am sure terms like midlife crisis are crossing your mind. I know you will find it difficult to believe, but most of these things are not planned. They just happen. And you are powerless in the presence of the force of nature that we call fate.

Because it had to be fated. My meeting Sana. It was in the cards. And I was only playing the hand I was dealt.

I am not much of a reader. My wife Mishka is. Now, now don't jump to any conclusions. Am sure terms  like cheating a-hole are crossing your mind. But as I mentioned before, its not planned. It just happened. I beseech you to hear me out.

So as I was saying, I am not much of a reader. But for a certain case of mine, I needed to refer to this book called 'Not without my daughter', a true story about an American woman whose daughter was taken from her by her husband in Iran. I asked Mishka if she had read it, and her response was the usual eye roll which basically meant 'who hasn't', knowing fully well that I had not. I hated it when she acted like that. If you read books it does not give you a moral right of superiority over non-readers. But Mishka judged me for not being a reader. She never said so, but I knew she did.

But Mishka was a doer. She liked to take control of things. So she told me she will get me the book. And true to her word, in 2 days she passed me an old worn out copy of the book, "I had to get it from the second hand book store, as there were no new copies available at this time" she explained. I did not really mind, as it was merely a reference I needed. But when I started reading it, I was hooked. And the fact that it was a true story, made it even more appealing for me.

I was reading it one Saturday morning when Mishka was scheduled to teach her cooking class. I was glad she was further pursuing her passion for cooking, but having 5 chatty housewives at home on a Saturday morning, drove me up the wall.

So I took the book and left home to sit at my favourite cafe. A quiet  place, which was not very popular, and hence I liked it very much. I ordered my usual club sandwich and black coffee and I continued with my reading.

I looked up nearly half an hour later, to find a pretty young girl on the opposite table. Now usually I would ignore/ politely smile depending on how beautiful she was- forgive me, I am a man, somethings are just in our DNA. But with her I could not bear to look away. It's not like she was a stunning beauty, she was pretty enough for one to give a second glance, but it was because of her eyes. Yes I know you would think 'eyes' are so cliche. But she was crying, her big, beautiful, brown almond shaped eyes were moist with tears. And tears are my weakness. I cannot bear to see any girl cry. My friends tease me that I consider myself a knight in shinning armour out to rescue the damsels in distress- to be honest, I kinda do that, being a family and criminal lawyer. 

So back to that moment. The moment which if I would have let slide, my story would not be today what it is. But the moment did not simply pass. It was in that moment that I went up to her table, and asked her if she was OK. She looked up but hesitated slightly and then haltingly said "No I am not OK". 

Now I have not met many woman who admit such things honestly. Mishka had the annoying habit of always saying she was fine, when it was evident she was not. I was the expected to cajole information out of her and only after that could I console her. It gets rather tiring after a while.

So when this lovely girl opposite me with teary eyes admits to me that she is not OK, what else can I do, but sit down and ask her of she wanted to talk about it.

And that is how Sana entered my life. As I said. It was not planned. It simply happened.

Mishka's version

I always believed I was different. When I saw movies orTV soaps about adulterous affairs, I always blamed the husband, and not the 'other woman'. As he owes loyalty to his wife- she is just a stranger. A stranger with loose morals, but a stranger none the less. But like my mum used to say, it's easy to be idealistic when it's not your life.

We had been married three years. I met Vikram when I needed legal advice as my business was being sued. I can't say it was love at first sight, but I was a smitten-kitten. Vikram's was, actually still is, very handsome and exceedingly charming. So after a year of courtship, we got married. 

And after three years, he fell in love, again. Or may be it is for the first time. May be he never really loved me. Trip- my assistant and good friend (Tripti)- keeps reminding me to not dwell in self pity. She wants me divorce him on grounds of infidelity, take half of his property in alimony, and his future earnings in maintenance and take in a toy-boy for good measure. She even has a short-list ready. Now the thought does seem attractive, but at that point I was incapable of any action.

So I cried. A lot. I have not been much of a crier. I am the 'get off your ass and do something' kind of person. But I felt cheated! Yes I know I was cheated on. So it's right to feel cheated. But I felt cheated because the thought of separating came to me many times over the past few years, but I did not act on it. I persevered,as I believed marriage is for keeps. So I tried, till I guess I stopped trying. But went through the motions. So I felt cheated by fate  as fate intervened in his life and got him to leave. Why could something not have happened to me which made me leave?

All I was interested in knowing was WHY. Was she prettier than me? Younger? Heard she was. But that can't be the reason alone can it? Was she more interesting? More fun? Better in bed? What was the damn reason!? That's all what I wanted to know.

Trip advised me that obsessing about her won't get me anywhere. We always used 'her' and 'she' when we referred to her. Like taking her name would make her real. Except she was real. She was the real reason my husband was leaving me.

Vikram's version

Mishka wants to meet Sana. Seriously! I don't understand it. I have told her kindly, yet firmly that I could not continue living with her. I offered to pay her the rightful alimony and maintenance. All I wanted was a fuss-free divorce. It's ironic, being a family lawyer myself, I know there is nothing like a fuss-free divorce. It always gets messy as emotions are involved. But usually it's about the kid's custody the joint property, the monies. Never in my experience about the wife wanting to meet the girl. Sorry I cannot refer to Sana as the 'other woman'. 

Things had started to unravel slowly between Mishka and I, once the first year of marriage was over. May be even before that. You can never remember the exact time can you? Was it because we had different interests? She loved to read and I loved to hike. She never owned a pair of trainers till she met me. I barely managed to get her to walk to the cr park, let alone climb mountains. Or was it because I kept late hours? I had recently left a firm and was starting on my own, so what did she expect? I reach home everyday by 7 pm and we have the dinner that she had lovingly prepared  together? She was a wonderful cook. It's no wonder as she is the culinary business. But sometimes it felt like I was the one she experimented her new creations on, rather than the husband who simply wanted his favourite sabzi and dal for dinner. 

As I was saying, I don't know when things went sour. Actually they never really went sour. We did not argue or fight too much. But we stopped talking. We spoke to each other more in public, than we did when we were alone together. We drifted apart. I guess, it's the simplest way to explain it.

And Sana walked into my life like the proverbial breath of fresh air. She enjoyed listening to me, she liked sharing stories about herself. Enjoying someone's that too much to expect from the person you are sharing your life with? 

May be its because she is younger than I am, but Sana looks up to me. Not in an idolising way. Just in the simple way that my opinions matter to her. She wants to involve me in her decisions- big and small ones. It was all very new to me...and I realised I liked these feelings very much. Her vulnerability was attractive to me. I wanted to protect her from all the bad and evil things in the world.

We slowly gravitated towards each other.  And before I knew it, I had fallen for her. 

Coming back to the present...I don't know what to do with Mishka's insistence on meeting Sana. Sana says we should get it over and done with. I am still uncertain and frankly, rather apprehensive. 

Mishka's version

So finally Vikram got around to letting me meet with her. We are meeting next week at coffee shop, a neutral environment that no one feels threatened in. 

The day seemed to drag on. Tired of moping around the house, I decided to go to the mall. I am not really a mall kind of person, but that day I felt like being a in crowd of people so I can walk about aimlessly and not be alone.

And then I saw them. Vikram and Her. She was driving the car and he was siting in the passenger seat. She seemed like a pretty confident driver, and was driving slightly faster than the speed limit. They got pulled over by a traffic cop. I know it's silly, but I parked my car on the side, away from sight, and watched them. It was Vikram who got out of the car and apologised to the cop. He discreetly pulled out 200 rupees and handed in to the cop. They were then let go. 

It may seem like an ordinary scene to you all. But it shook me. If it were us, and I was driving, I would have managed it all on my own. I would have looked at any help from Vikram as an insult, like I am not capable of managing a situation. I don't know why, but I am sure that Sana was more than capable of managing too, but she preferred to let him do it. 

After that I could not help myself. Like a car crash that you can't look away from, I could not look away from them. I had to know what happened next. I followed their car, and finally walked behind them as they entered the mall.

Unlike us, they did not split and went different ways to do their own stuff and met 20 minutes before leaving the mall for a coffee. They walked together hand in hand, and stopped at various places, some which Vikram would have wanted- like the ice-cream stall where she did not even take an ice-cream. And some which were obviously what she liked, like the accessory store. Here he indulged her patiently, letting her try different earrings, keep them back, pick them up again. She sort his opinion for every little purchase and he was enjoying the process.

At the food court, he was the one who found the seat, made sure she was comfortable, asked her what she wanted and then got her all that, and more. She was enjoying the attention, but what amazed me more, was that he was loving giving it to her. 

And it then struck me. The plain truth. Vikram needed to be needed. And she enjoyed letting him feel needed. 

He wanted to take care of her. And I never let him take care of me. 

Vikram's version

I was surprised (and relieved) to get a call from Mishka saying she did not want to meet Sana anymore. She was willing to sign the divorce papers too.

I don't know what happened for her to change her mind, but I did not want to dwell on it.

I went over and told Sana the good news. When she rushed into my arms, her eyes brimming with tears, I held her tight. I wiped her tears, kissed her forehead lightly and promised to take care of her forever. She said she could not think of anything she could want more.

There are 2 sides to every story, but there usually is one truth. And here the truth was that Mishka never really needed Vikram. And Vikram  wanted to be with someone who did. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Top 10 reasons why I CANNOT live in Paris forever

1) I did not see ANY schools. Sanil will probably need to be a chef apprentice at 10

2) I can't have east access to idli/dosa/ chat and Hindi movies in cinema whenever I want

3) I would have to learn about fashion labels and become fashionable ( a pretty inconceivable feat for me)

4) I would be too faraway from Bombay

5) There is a strong probability that I would not survive a winter

6) I would get FAT with the excess carb and sugar intake

7) I would have to learn French beyond, Bonjour, Bon soir, cafe noizette, Oui, non, s'il vous plait, pardon, exucez-moi and c'est la vie

8) I would have to stop being terrified of stunning, slim, glamorous and proud women- which is 80% of the Parisienne female population

9) I would have to learn to live in tiny apartments and climb thousand steps everyday 

10) I would simply miss Asia far too much

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Top 10 reasons why I can live in Paris forever 

1) My hair will hardly ever be frizzy due to the low humidity. Think of the money I would save in hair products 

2) It is pretty much guaranteed that any half decent boulangerie will serve lovely croissants and pain  au chocolat

3) I could walk, walk and walk in a city steeped in history and beauty. Without sweating/fainting/dying of dehydration

4) I could sleep on the grass in jardins for 'quiet time'

5) I could wear scarves, boots and coats and look glam 

6) I could have a summer house in Nice

7) I could fly to London, Madrid or Rome on a whim

8) I could have a glass/bottle of Chablis and awesome cheese and not pay an arm and leg for it

9) Suave European men :)

10) It's Paris man! I would be living the dream!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

City Crush

City Crush

I am a city girl. I love going on holidays to small towns, beach resorts, mountains, but I need to live in a big city. I cannot imagine myself living in a small town. And it's strange because it's not that I love the fast life or night clubs or crowded streets for that matter. 

But still, I have to live in a big city. I love the feel, the vibe, the energy and the amazing variety of people one can meet. Life is never dull in a big city, there is always something at every turn which surprises you, shocks you even. I love these little surprises and the adventures they bring with them.

My favourite city is and will always be Bombay, or Mumbai as Sanil insist I call it ("because you are Indian and not British, you should use the Indian name"- as he explained sternly to me). I have written a few posts on Bombay- both in poem and prose- so I won't  dwell on that here. 

I remember a conversation with a friend many years ago where he explained how left a city he loved, for his girlfriend. I told him I could understand that it was a tough decision - choosing between a city and a girl, both of which you love. And then I added "The only difference is that girlfriend may leave, but the city will always be there!". He simply nodded in complete agreement. 

There are some cities I knew since I was little that I would LOVE. I had only read fiction novels based in these cities, but I just KNEW. One of those cities is New York. I read 'I'll take Manhattan' by Judith Krantz when I was 15. And I fell in love with Manhattan. I did not visit it until I was in my mid-20s. And it was like I was meant to be there. I could see myself living in Manhattan and loving it.

Then there are some cities which surprise you. I never wanted to visit Hong Kong. As I felt it would be like Bombay only with Chinese people. So why bother, when I have lived and loved the original. I know! Pre-conceived biased notions are not a good thing. But unfortunately, I have a few of them. 

However HK disarmed me. I forgot all about what I thought about it, and allowed it to introduce me to itself. Since my first visit I have been back a few times on both work and pleasure, and city grows more and more on me each time. I have not been to able to go over and say hello in the last few years, and need to change that soon. 
I believe that every city has a soul. A soul that makes it what it is. Cities breathe like you and I. They have suffered, they have cried and they have mourned. They have laughed, they have sung and they have celebrated. And it's because of all this, they have a history and they have memories. 

Another city I knew I would fall in love with is Paris. I know it's a cliche, who does not love Paris? But the connection I knew I would feel, am feeling it every minute of everyday that I am here. It's simply magical!

Am sure Paris remembers its plight during the two World Wars. Like New York who still fears that the Great Depression may pay a visit with every recession. Or Bombay which has given as 'dowry' in 1661 by the King of Portugal to King Charles II of England when he married the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza only to find itself now as nothing short of a Bollywood diva.  

Every building, nook and cranny  in every city has a story to tell. Stories of people who lived there, of cafes that were once the talk of the town, of movie theatres that have seen silent black and white films. 

Paris has romance in its soul. That's why even today it's called the city of love. Ambition finds itself as an integral part of New York's soul. And Bombay is like the beautiful but ageing prostitute with a heart of gold. 

When we each visit or stay in any city, we leave behind a part of our souls. Our histories and memories and those of the city become intertwined. Thats why I adore old cities. Can you imagine the number of people who have passed through these cities over the hundreds of years? The cities touched each one of their lives in different ways and the people made the history of the cities a little richer.

A city is capable of love. A city accepts you as you are. A city embraces your eccentricities and makes it it's own. That's how all big cities have a bohemian area which thrives on it's residents individualities. 

There is nothing better than walking through a city that's steeped in history. There is no better way to discover its secrets and enjoys its pleasures. I urge you all the walk the trails that many before you have walked, but trust me, what you will take out of it will be unique and special to you alone.

For now, I am continuing my Paris walks, drinking in every sight (along with an occasional glass of Chablis), savouring every experience (and not just the macaroons), and thoroughly enjoying every step along this walk.

It's great I have packed my pink Hush Puppies shoes.

Written on 30 July 
At Shakespeare and Company in Paris and the Paris Plages

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A short story by Seema Punwani


A short story by Seema Punwani

- "Rahul. Naam toh  suna hoga".

- "I am Maya"

- "If it were Simran, it would be so Dilwale Dulhaniya"

- "That would be possible, but you are 'Rahul' not 'Raj' from Dilwale Dulhaniya. You were quoting Dil Toh Pagal Hai, hence 'Maya' and not 'Simran'.

- "Damn! The line has worked every time before. And it's never been this complex!"

- "There is always a first time...'Rahul'. Don't take it so badly"

And that is how Anay and Mishka first met. 

- "So... is your name really Maya?"

- "If your name is really Rahul"

And with that Mishka smiled, tossed her head, turned and left. As Anay watched her go, he felt a strange sense of loss. But pursuing girls was not his style. They came to him. So he turned the other way and walked away too.

A few seconds later he turned, only to catch her look back too. She laughed out aloud, while holding her hair back from the breeze. She then winked at him, with a mischievous glint her her eye... And then...she was gone.

Anay felt his heart skip a beat and he ran to get her real name and number, only to have a red BEST bus zoom past him and stop him in his tracks. It was a 255. He will still remember the bus number many years later.

If this were any other love story, Mishka would be waiting at opposite side of the road, waiting for bus to pass. But this is not any other love story, so here Anay and Mishka met for the first time and parted ways too. It was 4 July 2008.

On her way home Mishka stopped at the vegetable stall at Juhu Church and picked up some coriander and lime. Tomorrows snack menu was wada pau, and she needed to go home and make a fresh pot of green chutney. Upon reaching home she debated between watching Grey's Anatomy or head to bed. Common sense prevailed and she went to sleep as she had to wake up at 5 am everyday.

Mishka ran a 'dabba' or tiffin service and the dabbawala was at her doorstep at 7am to pick up the 50 tiffin carriers that she prepared fresh each morning. Today's menu was chicken kheema, chapatis, raita, moong dal and wada pau for snack.

Mishka made the chutney first thing in the morning and added her own secret ingredient- peanuts. It is not a common found ingredient in green chutney, but it was her special touch. It added texture and gave the chutney a distinct 'Mishka flavor' as she liked to think of it.

Mishka's parents had named her Mythalie and her nickname became Mishti- which meant 'sweet' in Bengali. Mishka had spent her childhood years in Kolkatta and though neither of her parents were Bengalis, her mum was obsessed with all things 'bong'. And thus Mishti was what everyone called her.

When she was 18 and moved to Bombay to study, the first thing she did was to re-christen herself 'Mishka'. The name was inspired by her love for Russian literature. While other girls read Mills & Boons, Mishka re-read Anna Karenina for the umpteenth time. While other girls had their noses in crime fiction novels by Agatha Christie, Mishka could not put down her worn-out copy of Crime and Punishment.

Mishka studied Arts and Literature at Xavier's. It was an obvious choice and had received a nod of approval from both her parents. After graduation, it was expected of her to do her Masters and take up a respectable teaching job, followed by marrying a boy- need not be chosen by her parents, but should come from a 'cultured family' and should be a Chartered Accountant or Doctor or at least an Engineer. But Mishka had other plans for herself. She joined Dadar Catering College to learn professional cooking.

Mishka had to fly down to Kolkatta to console her mother and explain that it did not mean she hated her mum's food and it also did not mean her mum could not teach her to cook. 

After the initial shock and heart palpitations that Mishka gave her parents and family, everyone slowly settled down. And Mishka went on with her life. She was happiest when she was in the kitchen cooking, experimenting, tasting and feeding her friends her new creations.

After she finished catering school, Mishka took a loan from her dad and started her tiffin business. She dedicated it to her mum and called it 'Mishti's'. Within a year she had broken even, and within the following year she returned her dad's loan, with interest. By this time Mishka's mum had given up all hope of her marriage, and Mishka was left pretty much to her own devices

That day would have been an ordinary day, with everyday chores and humdrum routine. But that was not the case. It would be remembered as the day Anay and Mishka would curse each other for the rest of their lives.

Per normal, Mishka sent off the tiffins and left to buy the groceries for next days menu. Her phone was on silent so she did not notice the 12 missed calls from her assistant, Tripti. Upon reaching home a surprised Mishka called Trip ( as Tripti ordained she must be called. And well, Mishka always respected people who changed their names and insisted everyone call them that).

Trip picked up the phone with panic in her voice and told Mishka she was coming over as she could not explain what happened over the phone. Mishka was pacing up and down her balcony till Trip arrived anxiously wondering about what possibly could have happened. 

When the doorbell rang, Mishka nearly jumped out of her skin. She ran to open the door to see a rain-drenched Trip with an extremely worried expression. Mishka made her sit down and slowly Trip explained what happened.

One of Mishka's clients, a Ms. Kate D'costa, had called up Trip and informed her that her boss was going to sue 'Mishtis's' as despite giving strict instructions about his allergies, the food in the tiffin contained peanuts. 

Mishka then realized her mistake! She had one customer from an advertising agency whose PA had filled the registration form informing about his allergies. Mishka always prepared his tiffin separately from the rest as he was allergic to peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds- well all nuts actually- and shellfish also. However today as none of the items needed any of these ingredients, Mishka did not cook his meal separately. Except she forgot about the chutney!

The gentleman, named Anay Mathur, was now in the hospital because of Mishka's special touch of peanuts.

If this were any other love story, this day would be known as the day Anay would tell their grand kids  as 'the day when your grandmum nearly killed your grandad'. But this is not any other love story. So here this day will be known as the day when Anay was in hospital while Mishka met her future husband.

Trip assured her that the customer was out of danger, but her business could be in peril. As Mr. Anay Mathur was going to sue 'Mishtis's' for negligence.Trip advised Miskha to get legal advice at the earliest.

Mishka was not even sure where to begin! She has anticipated many things going wrong when running ones own business, but being sued was not one of them. She got in touch with Fixit. His name was actually Farhan, but since college days he was called Fixit as he fixed everyone's problems or at least introduced them to people who would do so.

And that is how Mishka met Vikramaditya Chatwal, Attorney at Law.

To say it was love at first sight, would be a lie. But to say Mishka was not smitten, would also be lying. When the very existence of what you have created with so much affection and passion is under threat, you naturally look to the person who is helping you save it as your messiah. And a wee bit of smitten-ness is only natural. 

Vikram did a great job of defending Mishka's interests, business interests strictly. To be honest, her family lawyer who had drafted her initial business contract had done a good job in CYA (covering your ass) or what's referred to as terms and conditions in legal language. They clearly stated that at any dietary specifications were limited to main food and could not be extended to accomplishments (in this case the chutney). This was drafted as most accompaniments tended to be store bought, and hence out of the business owner's control. The fact that the chutney was made by hand by Mishka herself was a small technicality that Vikram easily exploited.

Mishka did not need to meet Anay or even his lawyers for that matter. Vikram handled it all very admirably. For Mishka he was nothing short of her knight in shining armor. Handsome, charming and extremely attentive...what more could a girl ask for? And he was a lawyer! What more could the girl's mother ask for?

Within a year of wooing (on Vikram's part), swooning (on Mishka's part) and dating (naturally on both their parts), they got married. 

4 Dec 2011. Rustomji welcomed Mishka to Brittania. She was one of his favorite customers. Sorab the head waiter knew her order by heart. So Mishka settled comfortably at her table and started reading 'Persuasion'- it was the only Jane Austen she had surprisingly not read as yet. 

"Kem cho dikra", she heard Rustomji's loud voice yell. She looked up to see 'Rahul' standing 2 feet away from her. She still remembered him as 'Rahul' and thought about that day sometimes and wondered 'what if' to herself. 

It had been 3 years. She did not think he would remember. Little did she know that Anay remembered every little detail of that day very vividly. And he looked back at that day rather wistfully over the past years.

So when he saw her, his face broke out into a huge smile. He went up to her with a cheeky grin and said "Rahul. Naam toh  suna hoga". Mishka laughed out aloud, extended her hand and introduced herself as 'Maya'. 

Anay had imagined the scene when he would bump into Mishka countless times in his head, and in all those scenes, she was still his 'Maya'. He was thrilled that this was panning out just as he had imagined.

"Well this is just like 'Serendipity' with John Cusack and Diane Lane" said Anay.

"You are thinking of 'Must love dogs'. 'Serendipity' had Kate Beckinsale. I can see your movie references are still all messed up". She still had that mischievous glint in her eye, it had not faded one bit, thought Anay fondly.

"Well, I have never met anyone before who has done a PhD in movie lines" retorted Anay laughingly. "Mind of I sit down?"

She hesitated, but only slightly, before extending her hand to the chair next to her.

He sat down and contemplated deeply while reviewing the menu. "Berry pulao. That's the speciality here" advised Mishka.

"Oh I do know that, but I love their boti kebab as well".

"Why don't we order both and share?" suggested Mishka

"Excellent idea! But I won't share the caramel custard later", replied Anay, much to Mishka's amusement.

Suddenly looking up from the menu, Anay said, "You know what I hate"

"You mean besides girls who correct your movie reference pick-up lines?"

- "Yeah besides that. I hate that nowadays there is no mystery in meeting people. You know their life history down to the last meal they ate, all thanks to Facebook"

- "I know! It leaves no room for surprises!"

- "So what do you say, that for today, you be 'Maya' and let me be 'Rahul'"

-"I would really like that!"

With that 'Rahul' and 'Maya' settled into a comfortable conversation about everything under the sun, except telling each other their real names and professions.

After polishing off 2 caramel custards, each, the time had come to leave the cafe. Anay refused to let Mishka split the bill, and then they found themselves in the awkward moment, when neither wanted to leave, but they did not know how to ask the other to stay.

Anay looked up at the December sky and commented how it was his favorite time of the year. Mishka took the bait and complimented the beautiful breeze and suggested an after-lunch stroll. It was just what Anay was hoping for!

They walked towards Gateway of India and sat on the wall by the sea and played 'Spot the tourist'. Mishka explained that it was a game she and her friends had invented when they were in college and came here when they bunked their lectures. Gateway of India had hordes of visitors everyday. It attracted locals and tourists alike. 

Anay began, - "The family on your right, posing for the camera. Definitely out of towners"

- "Umm...good first attempt, but you got lucky. Camera is such an obvious clue!. The teenage couple feeding the pigeons- locals, but from the suburbs like Boravali or Vasai"

- "That is ridiculous! How can you possibly know something so specific?!?"

- "Cause they are too young to come to Bombay by themselves, and the way she has tied her hair in a braid, its obvious she is not from around here. Elementary my dear Watson"

- "So now you are quoting 'James Bond' to me?"

Mishka was about to yell 'No, Sherlock Holmes', but she saw Anay's cheeky grin and stopped herself while laughing out aloud.

Anay felt his heart skip a beat again, just like it had 3 years ago. Except this time he was not willing to let the moment pass. He took her hand and led her down the road. Mishka could not get herself to put a stop to this, even though she knew it was so wrong

They both needed their caffeine fix and went to Gaylords for coffee and cake. Mishka found herself telling him her childhood stories from Kolkatta and how now she could not consider any place other than Bombay home. Anay told her how he could see that. As she had no qualms about calling 'Calcutta' by its Indian name, but could get herself to call Bombay, Mumbai. 

Anay talked about how he grew up in America and never imagined he could live in India. And now he could not dream of a life anywhere else. Even though he travelled all over with his job from Budapest to Boston and Melbourne to Milan, Mumbai was still what he considered home. He explained that he came to the city after its rechristening, so calling it Mumbai is what felt right to him, not Bombay.

They went for a stroll to Marine Drive...still holding hands. By this time the sun was setting and it was the perfect time to sit down and look out into the Arabian sea. They sat quietly for what seemed like hours, their bodies closer, hands help tighter and Mishka's head on Anay's shoulder. She felt terribly guilty, however could not bear to let whatever was happening, and probably going to happen,stop. 

Anay could feel exactly what she was thinking. He did not want the evening to end either. But they could not sit like this forever, even though he did not want anything more.

He suggested having the famous sandwich ice-cream at Churchgate. Mishka's eye lit up and they walked towards the ice-cream stall. 

Anay had never seen anyone eat an ice-cream so sensuously. She removed the wrapper with utmost care, and slowly let her tongue caress the ice-cream. She then took a small lick, closed her eyes, and murmured 'ummm'. She then open her eyes to find Anay gaping at her with is jaw hanging. She should have been embarrassed, but for some reason she felt confident, almost brazen. And she simply continued savoring the ice-cream in the same way, while Anay struggled to look away while finishing off his ice-cream.

Short of nothing to say, he blurted, "This is just like the scene from 'For love or money' where Helen Slayter drinks water from the fountain and Michael J Fox can't stop staring". Mishka stopped eating, and shook her head slowly, "Well at least you got the actors right this time, but the movie you are thinking of is 'The secret of my success'".

"Well I give up! No more movie references. Ever."

"What would happen to all those pick-up lines then?" 

"I am hoping I never need to use them again", and with that he leaned forward and kissed her lips. He could taste the sweet strawberry, while she felt her lips feeling the chocolate. Suddenly she pushed him away and tried to move back. Anay pulled her towards him, held her from the waist and for the first time in his life begged..."Please stay". As she looked into his eyes she saw a fervent desire for her that she had never experienced before. She dropped her ice-cream to the floor and rushed into his arms. And stayed there for what felt like eternity.

As the stars came out in the sky, they continued their stroll. This time stopping every few minutes to kiss. And never once leaving each others hands.

They indulged in every cheesy cliche in the book, the Victoria ride, the late night strawberries and cream at 'Bachelors', the long drive back with Kishore Kumar and Lata songs on the radio. 

But the night had to end at sometime. 

Mishka  felt the need to be bound by their initial agreement and refused to let Anay drop her home. She got off at Bandra station, which meant she lived anywhere between Bandra and the end of the Western suburbs. Anay would have no way of finding out where.

Mishka entered her Juhu apartment close to midnight. She could not bear to think about the days events, as she knew she would break down into unending tears. In such cases, routine always helped. She decided to watch the Grey's Anatomy episode which had taped the previous night. And made a mental list of the next days menu. She reminded herself to not marinate the chicken afghani with egg, as one of her customers was allergic to egg. 

Which made her think of the last time she had forgotten a customer's allergies and it had lead to her meeting her now ex-husband Vikram. The problem with having a handsome, charming, extremely attentive lawyer as a husband is that there are many other smitten clients besides the wife.

If this were any other love story, Mishka would be calling Rustomji tomorrow to get Anay's number. 

But because this is NOT any other love story, Mishka shed a tear remembering how Anay slipped his wedding ring off his finger and hid it in his pocket, just before he had approached her table that afternoon. 

Parting note from the writer- There are many 'Rahul & Mayas' and 'Raj & Simrans'. But there are also many 'Anay & Mishkas'. Coz happy endings are not for everyone.