November 23, 2019

To a grandfather far far away

Happy birthday, thatha :’) I still miss you oh-so-much that it hurts!

You were the magical presence in the lives of your three granddaughters, transforming every second into a learning experience, taking us to museums and book stores and showering us with knowledge in every form and kind.

I aspire to be as inspiring as you were to us to one another person in life. You were a self-made man always finding the next-best thing to make your family’s life better. You made such a difference to each one of us! We have in us your quest for knowledge, your passion for travel and your insatiable love for life. In many ways, you live on through the three of us. But sometimes, it’s just not enough. I wish we could see you, that you could see us and how our lives have unfolded. But that’s just me being selfish, I suppose. You were in way too much pain and it was time. But the truth is — it is never possible to let you go!

Thank you for elevating our humble existence into that of superstars. We always knew how cherished we were thanks to your abundant love. You always had our back and that was precious to our growing selves.

I sorely miss all the silly games, the countless talks, the way you wanted me to pat your head so you could fall asleep. A day doesn’t go by without me thinking of you with a pang. Why isn’t science advancing fast enough to find a way to communicate with those who have moved on?

I still remember how I wept and wept and couldn’t stop crying when I watched Cosmos and Interstellar. Movies for some, but meaning-making gospels for me! Finally, through these films, I could be at peace with the fact that people don’t die and disappear. And that there was always the hope that they’d end up on a parallel plane of existence. Someday, I hope to find you there :’)

Why am I writing into some internet void which you may/may not have access to? Maybe I want to shout out from the rooftops that I have (you still are and always will be!) the best grandfather in the world! Or maybe it is a desperation to immortalize you; if not on earth, then in an over saturated world wide web. Or probably it is a silly hope that you can access anything on that parallel plane of existence, who knows?!

Wherever you are, I hope there are plenty of newspapers and books to read, delightful “titbits” of information to cut out from those papers and share with us, lots of fascinating things to discover and make you shed your happy tears/aananda kanneer. On some level, I also wish there were annoying sitcoms playing in some heavenly TV that will prompt you to do your impromptu dance. I miss even your mockery!

Thank you, thatha, for being you. You’ll always be my inspiration for life! :’)

I hope you always watch over your three Tirupathi laddoos! ❤

November 13, 2019

Karma and I: the story of our fickle relationship

Karma often looks like this in my head
Meet Karma! She often looks like this in my head. She may bear resemblance to Komolika from Kasauti Zindagi Ka. But this was purely incidental and unitentional

If Karma* is real, then I am God. 
Or at least, her left-hand neighbour. 

Once in a while, during Deepavali or Pongal, we exchange sweets. And I feel all-powerful to have consumed that 2 cm X 2 cm of kaju katli* God-ness (terrible pun, intended!) But then again, its effects wear off with all the Tums/Digenes/Pudin haras*/Deepavali legiyams* I am forced to take after all the hogging. 

Karma never favours me. She hoodwinks me, eludes me and hatches all kinds of adverbial getaway plots from me. Last I heard, the city of Mumbai is planning on creating a new escape room on this theme and hopes for big bucks.

This relationship with Karma began way back when I was a kid. I would get caught the one time I stole a sharpener from a friend's house while all my friends flicked things left right and centre without anyone even throwing them a sideways glance. After being made to stand in front of the 3681 idols in the house and "God-promising" never to do it again, I resigned to the fact that this was life moulding me to be good.

Throughout childhood all my crimes and misdemeanours got caught by the radars and somewhere Woody Allen must have been a happy man at all the free publicity I offered in the Indian region (of course with the Cigarette smoking is injurious to health warning!)

And so I grew up as an awkward straight-shooter who only attempts balloon shooting at fairs and the Marina beach. Also, to further underline what a seedhi-saadhi ladki* I was, I absolved myself of all sense of style and always chose to wear clothes that drove the attention away from me. 

I worked really hard at everything I did, from love (burnt my hands) to make a toast (burnt it) to my career (often prone to spontaneous combustion). And all along Karma decided to be a mean girl and go all "Oh-em-gee! SHE will never be in our gang!"

But as Anderson had us believe, many of the ugly ducklings do grow up into swans. And by some miraculous miscalculation of the aforementioned Karma, I turned out just fine in the looks and love department. Word is out that she still regrets that drunken lapse.

But time and again, to overcompensate for that misjudgement, she often drops awkward situations, complicated plot twists and impossible realities on my lap. These are often a career, scheduling, maid, career, travel, career, customer care, career-related issue. How do I know that this is her doing? She never forgets to add a menacing laugh track as the background music to these occurrences.

People call her many names, but there is also a whole clan who believes in her goodness. They often tut-tut and tell me she'll come around and shower me with everything I ever wanted. But we all know how high school bullies turned out!

Being the South Indian that I am, I continue to believe what Rajnikanth once said in his gorgeously thick Tamil accent - "the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer." 

And so, I have forever given up on Karma, blocking her from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, WhatsApp... you get the drift! Even if she tries to reach out to me, landing on my doorstep, I am pretty sure my Google Home would warn me of her arrival and I don't have to exchange pretend pleasantries.

* Karma: fate
* kaju katli: A sweet made out of cashews
* Pudin haras: A tablet for digestion
* Deepavali legiyams: A homemade digestive paste often made around Deepavali
* seedhi-saadhi ladki: simple straightforward girl

September 16, 2019

An open letter to everybody who has a problem with my career

To whomsoever it may concern,
I am not a label you can stick to your box file.
I am not an acrobat walking a tightrope.
Meandering, unusual and uncategorised,
I am that candidate you dislike,
Who doesn’t tick your boxes,
The outlier who scares your system,
An enigma you question the sanity of.

For I am not a straight path;
I am but the ebb and flow of life
Walking lanes none else dared
Trying things out for just a lark.

For sometimes it is in those gap months,
In those miserable failures of side projects and attempted glories
That you learn that a career is not something you can craft.
That learning and experience comes in more ways than one
And that two months or two years at a job is not the criteria
But how much you gave and created
And how much you evolved in all that, that matters.
And sometimes life catches up with problems and pressures,
And yes, you buckle to balance, support, reconfigure, sustain;
Sometimes you stay still to simply survive, not thrive.

Don’t look at my two-pager with scepticism!
It hardly tells you the tumultuous tales
Of eating or watching films for a living
Defining the future of work, life or learning.
Cruising lives with fictional characters
And willing designs to manifest on paper,
Or how I gathered stories like flowers
from the thousand dreamers I met.

Talk to me about my life.
Don’t force fit my journey into 500-word cover letters
Of repeated same-olds
But ask me to brew you some magic
Put me to work and test my mettle.
Let not my growth be defined
by little check boxes of closeted thought
Let not my life and future be determined
by myopic visions and words like compliance and certifications.

And not just me,
But look at people as people, not job-fulfillers.
Jump into their shoes and grow up with them
Through careers that spanned
many hats, many places, many masters.
Forget the format
And understand that it is the journey that matters
And never a piece of paper.
A career is what a person shapes out of a potter’s wheel
And before you master a piece of art,
There will always be plenty of broken clay.
But oh what a fascinating collage even they make!

Originally published at

July 03, 2019


The reel plays over and over again inside my head. It has psychedelic colours. And they all form patterns. They are abstract to everyone else who sees it. To me, they make shapes I know.

Maybe the palmist was right. The time is not yet right.

Things won't happen. Plans won't take off. But it'll be better than last year. Definitely better, he said.

It is.

But today, I want to see if I can stretch. I can't wait. A year is too long. I want to make my hand extend to reach the treetop. There is a small little box there. It has a tiny wing. I want that wing.

With that wing, I can hold light in my palms.

With that light, I can finally learn to breathe.
© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall