Saturday, August 22, 2015

Little Nothings - I

A question mark floats around in her head languidly, unhurriedly. Unattached to any articulate thought. But still there. Breathing, swimming as do tiny fish on the ocean floor. It darts from one corner to another. Not thinking, not working - just a small burst of curiosity, of wonderment - just the feeling of a question.

The poor air conditioning of the hotel room swirls warm air around, and in Lila's head, spurts bursts of sunset-orange light around the hotel room. She puts on a thin robe over her nightdress, opens the sliding door to the balcony and sits in one of the plastic chairs facing the ocean. The clouds all look like question marks.


Note: Skipping past the apologies, the I'm-so-sorry-I-haven't-been-posting - it's been a phase where I haven't felt like writing. Every time the thought would occur to me, I'd feel like I'd overeaten and was being forced to eat some more. So I didn't. 

Now that little magic flakes of creativity have started a low buzzing in my head again, I'll write those thoughts here. As they are. Little to no editing. I'm going to try this out. Okay? Okay.

Cheers and ocean love from Greece (from Greece!),
The Cyniqueen

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


My life has been the most pleasant ordeal of dealing with thesis stress over the last few months. 

In this time I have surpassed my own prior levels of low self esteem, constantly in war with the dark, evil part of me that thrives on negative, self-deprecating thoughts and the positive, beamy part of me that radiates goodness and encouragement and tries to sprinkle my self esteem with tiny, but colourful rainbows with pots of feel-goodness at the end (read: writing encouraging messages on post-its and sticking them on the wall against which the study table rests. The evil part is such a little prick that it picked out a capital L on one of the post-its and thought 'Haha. Loser. Just like you!' And just like that, it hurled some rainbows from the Happy me into a burning, stinking pile of negativity, fanning the putrid flames).

It's not quite as bad as I just described. I'm not crying or hugging my knees and rocking back and forth or something. I just got carried away with the liberation of writing in a language I can properly express myself in after so long. 

Anyway, it HAS been rather cumbersome, boring and challenging at times, but I don't have to work much longer and I have already started my list of things to do after I'm done.

Since dealing with the stress has been my main activity (besides, of course, working on the damn thing), I thought I would, being the benevolent person that I am, share with you my favoured methods of coping with the horror.

Coping mechanism #1:

Procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate oh shit I have to submit in a month. Oh well. Procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate procrastinate

How do I manage to achieve such colossal levels of procrastination, you ask? Why I'll tell you: tumblr tumblr pinterest facebook blogger pinterest blogger facebook tumblr

Coping mechanism #2: The Pretend Mechanism:

*Play reggae music as you work, pretend you're on the beach.
*Pretend the stand fan whirring behind you is the sound of the waves.
*Pretend the murky cup of coffee is a glass of pina colada.
*Pretend that the healthy snack next to you (because you turn into a feeding monster when you work, so you have to eat stuff like cucumbers and puffed rice) is a plate of something seafoody.
*Pretend that the linoleum floor is actually cool sand.
*Marvel at the new personal levels of escapism you have just achieved.
*Burst into angry Ihateeverything tears.

(I didn't actually burst into tears, just sighed at the new levels of patheticalness).

Sometimes, well more often than not, I'm just sitting still, frustrated because my mind has switched off and refuses to give me any material to write about. So...

Things I do when I'm creatively blocked:

Stare out the window.
Stare at the floor.
Stare at my freaky pimple upon a pimple in the mirror.
Stare at the mirror. Not my reflection in the mirror. Just the mirror.
Stare at my notes.
Type inane things and then backspace like wheeeeeeeee.
Drink coffee.
Drink jasmine tea.
Drink buttermilk.
With salt, with mint, with mint and sugar.
Pace restlessly.
Sweep the floor like a maniac.
Open the window.
Close the window.
Fill ink in fountain pen.
Ask everyone I know how they're doing.

How's everyone doing?

The Cyniqueen

Friday, June 28, 2013

A tiny, irrevocable Statement of Truth

I started this blog one night in 2008 on a whim, because I was sick of studying and wanted to vent (five years later, I'm still studying, heh. That's a different story, though). I barely took it seriously until about three years ago.

After a longish spell of abandoning all types of writing last year, I've been prodding myself to write more consistently again. 
I'm perfectly clear about the aims of this blog: not self promotion, not the number of followers, but simply the pleasure of writing. The fact that it's online simply aids in putting a bit of pressure on me to keep at it. Because I can be incredibly lazy sometimes, even when it comes to doing the things I love. Maybe this happens with everyone, I dunno.

The fact that it's online makes me think that someone, somewhere, at some point of time might stumble upon my writing and so I have to try to write in the best way that I can. I keep honing my writing. Rewriting, double-checking several times over, which I know I would not have done otherwise. 
Besides, even when I do write things offline, I don't go shoving them under people's noses for feedback, you know? So putting them online is a good compromise, precisely because of the low readership and all. If someone does like something I've written and wants to say so, or has something to add, that's great. And if not, well, at least I have the feeling that someone might. And that eggs me on. Plus, there's the whole big blogging community, and if you're well connected, it can be a lot of fun. (Note: I'm horribly connected...but it's still fun).

Why a sudden introspection of this blog that I know barely has any regular readers? No, it's not some silly blog anniversary, I think those are corny. I hate to admit it, but a few weeks ago,I felt slightly dejected that I haven't been getting any sort of a response to anything I've written in a while (except for this one time I accidentally published a draft that was never meant to see the light of day or darkness of night. It was a very very bitter rant about the bad week I was having. K. got in touch immediately and then proceeded to send me many funny pictures so that by the end of it, I was struggling not to laugh out loud at the workplace).

I don't publicize the blog on Facebook or the internet in general, least of all because it's anonymous. Which I realize doesn't matter much. It's not like I'm dishing out scandalous details of my extremely eventful, fascinating life. I mean,I literally haven't spoken to anyone face to face but the cashiers at the supermarket all week. And the concierge of my building, because my kitchen counter sank last week when I put a pot full of potatoes on it. Sank, as in it is now uneven and if I spill some water on the stove, it trickles down to the back. Because my kitchen counter is slanting. And that, that was the most interesting thing to happen to me probably since spring started. It's because I'm writing my thesis though, not to worry. My dead social life will revive in precisely a month and a half. But I digress.

This blog is in need of a makeover, name and all, because as it was recently pointed out, I am the complete opposite of a cynic. I was a firm believer when I started out, but things have changed over the years. I also need some people who know about this stuff to help me out, but right now, I only have time for my thesis. And aimless day dreaming about visiting home. And all the people I will meet and the things I will eat. And the things I will eat. Did I mention the things I will eat?

Anyway, I suppose I wanted to put pen to paper ('fingers to keyboard' will never have the same charm, so shut up if you were going to correct me) and say it to myself: it's okay to want a little validation sometimes. Who doesn't?

Also, I disagree with the band of people who think that blogging is such a self involved and selfish thing to do, that people just do it to get attention, that they think it makes them feel smug in some way (said people were unaware that I blog). It's a mean outlook.

Aaanywhichway, to those who say these things, if you don't like blogging, then do stay away.

I am fully aware of the fact that my epic declaration will probably not garner so much as a cough in way of responses (which is okay, really), but here I am anyway. Very, um, determined. And strong. 

Determined and strong. Looking like this at everyone who happens to read this post:

'Choo lookin at?
Via Allie Brosh at this brilliant blog.

The Cyniqueen

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Being an Intern (The Flip Side)

If I hadn't finally, at 26, been a few months away from starting a career (that's right, 26 and starting a career. Not 'building upon' or 'improving' or 'progressing ahead on an already brilliantly successful path', but starting.), I would've called this blog 'The eternal Intern' - really, I would've.

I've done, let's just say, several internships. And lucky for you, I'm in a wisdom dispelling mood today. Now, I'm a sneaky little intern. I'm not going to tell you which thing I learnt or did or didn't do where. I'm not naming any places I worked (or might be working) at, on account of I don't want to discredit anyone and lose my own credibility with them. And respect and stuff. So. Here we go:

Things about being an intern that you should be aware of (the flip side):

Starting out at the very bottom
You will have to put your ego aside. And you will have to do this for many aspects of the job.In India, in a lot of places (especially government organisations) they have 'chaprasis' or 'peons': people whose job entails doing errands, making chai and serving it, carrying files and messages across and so on. This is not the case in Germany. Everyone does everything here. That's the official version.

So your position as an intern is very low. Imagine a deep, mouldy well with smelly fungus at the bottom and rainbow cakes on top. You live in the slimy fungus. Now, in some companies, a few rainbow cake crumbs might be scattered your way (good quality work assignments, new things to learn, etc) and sometimes, they literally send across internship caviar - this is usually when they're short of a colleague and so you have to do the job. Except you do it for free.

Just to clarify, I have never done an internship where I wasn't respected and the people weren't really nice. I'm only talking about this in terms of the sort of work you're given. Or not given, as the case may be.

Show me the moneh (or don't)
How shall I put this: you're literally not even going to be paid a cent. I have never been paid for doing an internship (although I have earned money for articles I've written while doing the internship, yay!). And it sucks. And it really makes me think about the way interns are sometimes exploited, where doing the internship as a part of a course is obligatory and you're doing a full time, unpaid internship. How is it fair if you have to pause your student job in lieu of an unpaid one?

When you have an interview for an internship, it's tricky bringing up the topic of payment. I've gotten used to asking it as a sort of customary question which is always answered negatively. Don't be surprised if the question is met with muffled laughter - it hasn't happened to me, but there was this one time I asked the question, I was answered with a "sorry, we don't pay interns" and I swear I almost heard laughter and this subtext: "bwahahahaha. Oh, honey. NO."

I've just remembered, I did once get a gigantic packet of toilet paper rolls at an internship because they had ordered too many. I genuinely thought that was awesome of the boss. Does that count as some form of payment?

No one has high expectations of you
Which is horrid when you first thing about it, but it's great because (a)you're starting with a clean slate and (b)you can ask for and will receive honest feedback without feeling bad about it because the whole point is that you're there to learn. Which makes me think that people are probably more careful when they start out, they try to do their jobs better, you know? Like how you drive more carefully when you've just got your licence and five years later you're swerving like it's the bat mobile and not the pot hole filled roads of India?

Your time is the least important in the entire organization
Not having anything to do while you'e an intern is arguably the very worst bit. I detest it. I mean truly, completely abhor. If it was a tangible thing, this waiting, I'd go find one of those clubs they show in prehistoric age cartoons and batter it and beat the crap out of it till it was no more.
But this is something that my experience as an intern has taught me - your time is less important than the lone office fly every one is trying to swat. And less important than the people trying to swat it. Less important than the boss who calls you into their office via telephone (via telephone, this bit is crucial to what follows) to DIAL NUMBERS for long distance calls they're making. This actually happened to me.

It's bad. But you just have to learn to deal with it. And while you're dealing, find ways to kill time while still managing to look busy (basic tip: don't surf cat memes with mouth half open). Step one while doing useless internet surfing at work? MUTE THAT COMPUTER. In fact, you know what? The very first thing you do when you start an internship? Mute that computer! You don't want to leave the sound on and then accidentally click on the video of the dog that laughs like a hyena. Or a Harlem shake video - imagine that blasting in your office space.
My point is, you're going to spend a lot of time doing nothing. A LOT. A lot, a lot.

I'm not going to finish this off by tying a pretty little bow around the whole thing and saying that oh, it's not that bad. You still meet new people and learn how not to be. You start forming your own professional network. Because you do. Of course you do. But I'm not spelling it out.

Because the good stuff spoils you and let's you think life's alright. The bad stuff, however, turns you into a tough mofo and lets you know that being a grown up is not easy.
Not easy, but still, it's good fun. You get full freedom to decide when to clean up the cat poop in the living room. And, no one forces you to eat your greens.

The Cyniqueen

P.S: Seriously though. It's pretty okay. Don't be afraid.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Again and again

What's with me and monsoon-sickness? I woke up today and with my eyes still shut against the noise of the world, I could tell that it was overcast outside (well, mostly because dazzling sunshine wasn't trying to rip my eyes open like it usually does. I have flimsy curtains). And for no reason, I thought of how it is when the monsoon finally starts one late evening and it's absolutely divine because the heavens have saved you from the scorching heat. And the lights go out of course, because that's what happens in Goa. It's a natural reaction to everything. 

So anyway, you don't care about the electricity cut because it's raining and it's finally cool now. You slap on some mosquito repellent (anyone else remember the sticky, goopy, thick, pistachio-coloured, strong smelling Odomos cream?) and get into bed, happily lulled to sleep with the rhythmic sound of the rain drumming on the roof.

Do you remember that feeling, when you wake up the next day and you've forgotten that the monsoon started, but then you feel the overcast darkness and hear the errant drops still falling softly from the leaves of trees? I didn't even know that this was a thing, that it was a real, legitimate feeling like the first day of school until I woke up today and felt it.

I must be homesick again, because every time that happens, I start dreaming of family weddings in minute detail. Cousins happily married in real life are made to go through the wedding ordeal all over again in my dream world, houses are exchanged (relatives from dad's side of the family get married in homes from mum's side of the family and vice versa). Last night, it was two cousins getting married at the same time. I guess it can't be anything but homesickness.

Or maybe it's just escapism? The last couple of weeks  have been tinged with an oozing guilt, leaking out of my mind. I still have some time to go before I submit this thesis, but sometimes I find myself thinking if I honestly need that second Master's degree. It's bollocks, actually, I'm just trying to avoid it all.

Started reading 'Autobiography of a Yogi' by Paramahansa Yogananda in an attempt to cleanse mind of bad thoughts. And because I need to read something before I sleep every night. I thought of re-reading Bridget Jones' Diary or The God of Small Things, but then I thought may be I need a dose of spirituality in these troubled mental times.

Also, I finished reading Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, my very first time reading him (brilliant, but not for me) and The Great Gatsby, which was also sort of okay.

Anyway, I have decided to work at home today, because it's raining so perfectly outside. And I'm wearing my tent like night gown and I don't want to change into decent day clothes accepted by society just yet.

I love wearing lazy clothes while I work, don't you? I love being a slob sometimes, I love it.

Raindrops and wisdom,
The Cyniqueen.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When it rains in Berlin

By Anomalily via Flickr

Something finally gives way. The panicked desperation for a delayed spring, still needing to wear earmuffs and thick gloves. Piles of old snow blankets, dirty and tinged with Berlin's black soil but determinedly solid, unrelenting, refusing to thaw. They cling still on tops of shrubs, collected in muddy heaps on sides of roads and sidewalks, on hidden corners of roofs and deserted patches of earth.
The sparrows still chirp, their loud cries defiant, shrill in the unseasonably crisp freeze at this time of the year.

Then, something breaks. You're too warm in that winter coat, so you switch back to your thinner jacket, still cautious, still painfully aware of Berlin's fickle weather swings.

But it stays that way. And then, out of nowhere, snow turns into rain. Not piddly no-drops like you're standing next to a fountain, but rain rain. Drops like spears, crashing on the perfectly smooth pallid roads, barraging on everyone, ratting out weak umbrellas.

You blink around and wait. For that muddy, earthy fragrance when the first drops of rain sizzle on the scorching, wrinkled, thirsty soil. For the wafting smells of hot fried bhaji, pakoras and samosas. For warm, roasted peanuts in newspaper cones. For signs of little stalls crowded with people, squinting at the rain, a rustic glass of hot cardamom chai in their cool hands, blowing on it to cool it down.

You wait for that squelch of shoes in the water rivulets born out of the downpour. For the splashes of water as people on two wheelers, late for work, irritated with errant raindrops sliding through their raincoats and wetting their backs, speed by, drenching hems of Kurtas and pants with muddy water.

It starts to rain harder. I wait for chaos. For street urchins and school children on their way home from school, jumping in puddles. For the loud croaks of hidden frogs. For the electricity cuts that don't happen.

Back in Berlin, the tram rattles to a stop and everyone gets in, irritably wiping the raindrops off their minds.

Because here, in this perfect world so far away from home, not a hair is out of place. Bright umbrellas have popped up everywhere, people scurry past me. No one's cooking food on the street, no crowds have huddled around rickety food and chai stalls and no one is cheerful at the spring that has brought warmth but rain instead of sunshine.

How could they be happy about it, how could they begin to understand, when they don't know what magic monsoon conceals in its muddy, splashing, trickling, cooling folds?


I wrote this on one of the first days of spring a couple of days back, when it felt like monsoon in Goa. In Berlin.

And this song kept playing in my head on loop all day. Sigh.

-The Cyniqueen

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A random list of miscellaneous things

Since I think I've sort of been bogging everyone down talking about the depressing winter that REFUSES to end, and also because it's been long since I've done one of these, I'm making a random list:


  • Snow and frosty cold in Berlin is a fuckillion times better than boiling heat in Pune or Goa.
  • I'm getting a lot of great practical experience in my new internship.
  • And it's in this lovely neighbourhood with just the right balance of diversity, coffee shops, cleanliness and quaintness. I've honestly never seen anything like it.
  • I scrubbed the floor of my tiny apartment last weekend and it is now back to a respectable standard of cleanliness. Before that, it was so dirty (oh god I can't believe I am typing this even as I type it) that I was too disgusted to exercise on it, because I sometimes do Surya Namaskar, where it's imperative to have a clean floor *hangs head down in shame. And then sees now sparkling floors and feels less bad.*
  • I don't posses the ability to pack light. Like if you took all my DNA, pried it apart or wrung it really hard to get every single essence of my traits (dormant and active), you would not find amidst the greasy juice, the trait of packing light. My bag which I carry to work (which is half an hour away from my place) hurts my shoulder because it weighs like 18 kilos. It seems that my prehistoric ancestor should not have survived on account of the giant dinosaur would have killed him if he insisted on carrying all his cave rocks and animal skin-skirts with him everywhere. But then again, I'm really good at raising each eyebrow in quick succession to a beat and it seems to me that evolution decided that the unibrowed Neanderthal should be allowed to pass on this miraculous talent to his progeny. (Okay, Neanderthals and dinosaurs didn't coexist, I'm aware. But two words: poetic license).
  • I love wearing kurtis in Berlin. Besides the fact that kurti and jeans is the most comfortable daily wear on the planet, it makes me feel very exotic. I can never, ever wear a bindi on a kurta here, though. Just, no.
  • For a while now, I have found this brand of ceylon-assam tea bags that taste like proper Indian chai. And then I found ginger tea bags, which is actually just ginger water. So I mixed both to make adrak chai (ginger tea). Didn't work.
  •  Not being able to talk to my family regularly sucks. Internet problems make Skype impossible at times. I love whatsapp though.
  • I had started reading Churchill's biography (because I like biographies) but last week, I officially and very guiltily abandoned it because it was too full of military, imperialistic jargon.
  • Once, when I was extremely distracted by my own thoughts,I walked into a wall. This happened in class. Embarrassing as it was, thankfully, it happened in Germany. If it was in class in India, I would have tots had a white chuna mask on my face to add to the mortification.
  • People sometimes leave garbage bags in the elevators in my building. I hope they crap their pants in public for every time they do this.

-The Cyniqueen