Tag Archives: chennai

Sunday Breakfast at the Mess

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.” 

Back in the day, when I was just another student at architecture school, I used to love Sunday mornings. Apart from the fact that they were filled with endless possibilities, the doom of a Monday deadline at least a whole evening of procrastination away, nothing could quite compare to waking up and enjoying the feeling of nowhere to go as you sank your body deeper into the pillow and mattress while birds chattered somewhere in the distance. And it was always made better by Sunday breakfast at the mess.

Now, I have to say, food at the mess was not always good. But I enjoyed Sunday mornings in particular because it was dosa day. Not just any dosa day, but dosa-with-creamy-potato-masala-and-peanut-chutney day. Sometimes, I would wait for all week for Sunday morning to arrive because of the lingering taste of these crispy pancakes made with wonderful rice and lentil batter that fermented so well it exploded with bubbles when poured on a hot stove. That, and Oh Lord, the potato masala… Creamy, yummy potatoes with undertones of onion, ginger and chilies, cooked until they turned to butter in your mouth. And the peanut chutney: gritty, rich old peanut chutney to balance the zing of the potato masala. There was something so homely in those meals, that as I washed it all down with piping hot filter coffee served in a stainless steel tumbler, I never felt I was far away from home or family. Oh, how I loved Sunday breakfast.

One such Sunday morning, my friend H woke me up and together we ambled along to grab the last of the dosas before the mess closed before lunch, but not before we stopped by K’s bed and asked if she was going to join us. She muttered something from under her pillow before we walked off; it wasn’t unusual for K to miss breakfast anyway.

I spent the rest of morning working on some drawings to the happy feeling of doa-potato-peanut-filter coffee in my belly. And then lunchtime arrived, and H came by to get me again. This time we went straight to K, still sound asleep in her bed, and shook her until we got a satisfactory answer from her.

“I’ll join you in fifteen minutes.”

Fifteen minutes later, at the mess, H and I sat in front of our plates as the stray grains of rice and dal on our fingers and empty plates dried up. Still no sign of K. They literally had to kick us out of the mess to close the doors in preparation of dinner, and we went straight back to K, still no farther from her bed than she was when we left her. It was 2.30pm now. H was furious.

“Well, if that’s where you like to stay, that’s where you’ll stay!” she announced. K remained silent. H grabbed a piece of rope to be used in an architectural model, and playfully began to bind K’s hands and feet to the bed. K’s protests, though feeble for her well-rested state, fell on deaf ears. And I had turned into the mob, laughing along with H as I pinned K’s hands and feet to the frame. After the work was done, H stepped back and took a picture for posterity.

“Guys, let me go.”

“You aren’t going to achieve anything by starving yourself”, said H.

“What are you going to achieve by tying me to my bed?!”

“It’s a punishment.”

“Guys”, K was so soft spoken, her sternness came as a surprise.

“Alright, but you have to promise not to skip your meals like this.”

“Ok, I promise”, she said, rather quarter-heartedly as we began to untie her.

After she had brushed her teeth, she went straight to her shelf and picked up a bag of spicy crisps and chomped away as H and I looked on in slight disgust.

“Is that your ‘breakfast’?” H asked with air quotes. K flashed a mouthful smile at us in response.

“I give up! I can’t make this girl eat her meals properly anymore. K, your mother will hear of this soon”, threatened H.

K switched on her computer as she turned to us “They gave up on me long ago!”

On hindsight, I suppose K was never attached to food emotionally the way H and I were.


The Day My Body Stopped Being Mine

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.” 


47D was always the last route you wanted to take to get back to the university. It was notorious for pickpockets, lechers, molesters, and smelly people in general. But I was hard-pressed for choices at 8pm in the night, especially since curfew was in 40 minutes. When the bus in question stalled in front of me, I deliberated for a moment before the whirr of the engine forced me to clamber in without a second thought.

I glimpsed his face, this boy of not more than 16, and a gnawing intuition of destiny dawned on me. I shrugged it off. What part in my destiny could this scrawny youngster play?

I handed the money for my ticket to a fellow passenger to pass it on to the conductor and waited for my ticket and change to be passed back, a ritual common in crowded buses in Chennai. There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned to face this youngster again who handed me my ticket and change. “Thanks”, I said, and smiled politely. He regarded me with the black pupils that swam in the yellows of his eyes; chin tilted inwards as he nodded in response.

It wasn’t a long ride back to the university. But in the next three minutes, I found him inching closer to me, hand slightly raised away from his hip in the hope that the next bump the bus drove over would send it flying toward my crotch. I had a package in my hand, thankfully, that I instantly shoved in front of my zipper to discourage the young man from thinking I was just another naïve bus rider. I don’t know if he got the message or not, but the bus was nearing my stop, and I moved closer to the exit, glad that I didn’t have to deal anymore with this sort of behavior.

But the universe had other things planned for me. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu happened to be passing by, and the police were in the process of closing all intersections to clear traffic for the grand entourage to pass through. Sadly enough, the bus couldn’t make it to the other side of the intersection before my stop, and we were stuck there, waiting in traffic for the good part of twenty minutes, a golden window of opportunity for my molester to push through the crowd and position himself right behind me, where he proceeded to push his stiffened masculinity against my backside.

I froze. I was frightened. This was the first time I was being attacked so blatantly and I stood there, waiting to see if somebody would come to my rescue and pull this creep off my back. I had, until then, only dealt with lechers and oglers, this was something entirely new to me. I looked around outside the bus. I couldn’t jump off just yet, some traffic was still finding its way to the intersection. I wanted to yell the words, “GET AWAY!”, but my tongue was stuck at the back of my throat, and I don’t know how long I stood there while he pushed and dug, but it seemed like hours.

And then, finally, I decided enough was enough. I jumped off the bus and began to walk back to the university, but not before I shot a dirty look in the direction of the bus as the yellows receded into an indifferent crowd. I hurried along, half-walking, half-running, still worried about the curfew. I was inside the university when I bumped into my good friend CB. She looked at my face and asked me if I was alright, and I stopped in my tracks and burst into tears. She put her arm around me while I choked and sobbed the story of my first molester as the hostel gates closed behind us.

What To Do When Perverts Come Knocking at Your Dormitory Door (Or Window)

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)”. Here goes!


I have so many wonderful stories from my 5 years as an undergraduate student in a girls’ hostel in Chennai, India. There was hardly ever a dreary moment. Gossip abounded because some women were always trying to steal other women’s money, or books, or food… or sometimes underwear. Sometimes they were just trying to get in another person’s underwear. There were women of every kind in my hostel: different shapes, sizes, colors. You didn’t have to do much to watch drama unfold over something as trivial as a misplaced toothbrush.

But some of the best stories I have are of perverts hiding in the bushes trying to sneak a peek of the ladies through their window. It didn’t take much to get the female student body to unite over a matter as ‘serious’ as this.

Here’s what to do when on a perv-alert in the dormitory:

STEP 1: Determine the distance between yourself and said pervert. Continue to Step 2 if the lecherous bastard is at least 20 feet away from your window on the other side of the fence or compound wall. If, however, the monster is right outside your window, call the warden. If, God forbid, he’s knocking on your door, stay calm and CALL THE POLICE.

STEP 2: If you have ascertained a safe enough distance between yourself and the pervert, keep a watchful, but discreet, eye on the creep. You may skip to Step 8 if he walks away within five minutes. In the event that he stays put, move on the Step 3. If he comes back again, or begins to issue projectiles (not the kind explained in Step 2a below), skip to Step 4.

STEP 2a: If, while keeping any eye on above-mentioned pervert, his hands begin to stray to unmentionable regions, do not panic. STARE HARDER. If it doesn’t shame the bastard into stopping, and you think you may be seconds away from watching him spurt his sap, call out to friends at the top of your voice until Pervy Numbnuts gets the message. You may even point and laugh if it so pleases you. If he walks off with his shame tucked in his pants and his tail between his legs, skip to Step 8. If you, and your out-of-breath friends, have just witnessed the gut-churning scene of his ugly climax, say a quick prayer for the wasted sperm, and you may proceed to Step 3. NOTE: Remember to always keep puke receptacles handy.

STEP 3: Turn off the lights. This is usually the most effective step to drive away unwanted perverts. You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. Also, it is highly likely the jerk thinks you’ve been enjoying the show until now. You really don’t want that.

Now, if all goes well and Creepy Boy doesn’t come back to his point of surveillance, go ahead and skip to Step 8. But if he comes back within the space of 24 hours, or tries to bombard your room with projectiles like stones, mud, foreign objects, etc., continue to Step 4.

STEP 4: If you’ve come as far as this step, you’re pretty much at war with Horny Man now. Get a good glimpse of your perpetrator, run to the intercom and call out to your homeys to join you in battle. Get the Warden involved too, even if it’s 2am in the morning. Chances are this is the most action she’s seen in a long, long time.

STEP 5: Split your army into teams: Frontline assaults, surveillance, yell team and runners are a few good examples. Instruct frontline assaults team to arm themselves with the heaviest and sharpest objects they can find, Surveillance to position themselves on the terrace watches, Yell team to convey the message the old fashioned way, and Runners to… well… run. Because the chances are Douchebag wasn’t thinking too clearly before arriving without reinforcements.

STEP 6: Do whatever it takes to nail the bastard, even if it means jumping the gate. Oh, and yes, if you live in a ‘gated community’, you may need to use the choicest words to wake the watchman up. In all probability, his blissful snoring is the only thing lying between you and your visions of kicking Mr. Perverson in his nuts. If after all this you manage to nab him, continue to Step 7, and if not, skip to Step 8.

STEP 7: If you’ve come this far… congratulations! Now leave your perpetrator’s fate to the Executive Warden or the Vice Chancellor. But it is always better to forgive. Only, memorize his face like a road map before you do that, and watch him whimper every time you bump into him on campus.

STEP 8: Now go to sleep. If he comes back within the space of 24 hours… lather, rinse, repeat. But don’t sacrifice your sleep.

At the end of the day, this exercise is futile because somebody in the future will probably accuse you of having enticed him… like the boy who genuinely cried wolf, but nobody cared because the boy who cried wolf when there was none ruined it for him… only the second boy is fictional.

But I digress. Just have fun, and treasure the mental image of hockey stick-wielding women rolling up their sleeves and crying out slogans, because maybe you’ll never see quite something like that again.

The Importance of Being Ear-nested.

One week into the new year, and the only thing that seems blogworthy to me this week is the latest fashion fad in Chennai that is catching on like a forest on fire.

Earmuffs. Continue reading