I miss…

I miss being a stranger in new places

I miss being alone in a crowd

I miss beds that are too soft, too hard, never right

I miss dodgy lodges with flimsy doors

I miss cabbage on pizzas, and sugar in curries

I miss the post-long-haul-flight pimple that always appears on my left cheek, an inch from my ear lobe

I miss wasteful toiletries in tiny bottles

I miss food in tin foil

I miss the snore of that tired old lady

I miss the screams of the hungry baby

I miss knocking knees, fighting over handrests

I miss breakfasts alone

I miss the joy of finding a bidet when I expect only a roll

I miss drying my undies over shower cubicles

I miss the drags, the trips, the sips, the puffs

I miss making eye contact and exchanging smiles with people I will never meet again

I miss not being understood

I miss gesturing, only to be misunderstood

I miss being ignored in hip places

I miss being noticed while being stealthy 

I miss watching people as they watch me in crowded trains

I miss intimate confidences with people whose names I’ll never know

I miss saying I am too busy; not this time; may we please…

I miss so much of my life that doesn’t require being in one place

I miss being not responsible daily

I miss texting miss you

I miss receiving them too

I miss VFS visits

I miss going through security again because of that one tube that escaped the clear plastic

I miss Hatti Kappi, the elixir that says I have landed, or that I will flee

I miss me

I miss missing homemade idlis

I miss missing applying coconut oil on my hair before every shower

I miss missing hugs and kisses

I miss missing the bum hose

I miss missing the familiar

Even as I loved the unfamiliar

The side view photo alone is from Mathaf archives. The ones above are mine.

What’s worth paying for with your dreams?

I wrote this on 23 April 2014. It was in my drafts and for some reason I did not publish it then… never underestimate the power of manifestation.

Seventy seven pages of heartrending stories. Of physical and emotional abuse. Of women who were not allowed to visit their dying child or parent. Of unkept contracts and dreams that dissipate. Of a government that fails to recognise the distress of the victims. And worst of all, the inhumanity of our kind. The victims maybe known to you. The perpetrators could well be you, your family or friend. It is us.

The report Amnesty released in the wee hours today is not for the faint of heart. But keep in mind, they interviewed just 52 of tens of thousands of workers.

It was a bitter-sweet realisation to find one of my earlier blog posts quoted in the document. As is the wont of the self-obsessed, I managed to find myself in the throes of self-pity – a punch in the gut: “That’s all? That’s what you have to show?”

A lot of small realisations are coming together for me at this point. I am not really doing what I want to do. I am not telling the kind of stories I know best to recount. I am no longer the reporter of human interest stories that I aspired to be 20 years ago. I appease my guilt with an occasional post or a story; but I’ve moved too far from that sense of purpose I held dear.

The girl who sat wide-eyed listening to safe sex advice from mothers at a creche for children of sex workers is now wondering why she is now paralysed by the profitability concerns of her employer.

Where’s that person who spent hours outside a ward in Madras Children’s Hospital to meet two under-aged maids who were beaten and burnt brutally. What happened to the Qatar newbie who sneaked into the paediatric wing of Hamad Hospital to speak to a little boy who fell off a camel at the races? She is now burying her head in matters that she thought was the route to success and wealth.

How wrong I was in thinking that. How wrong. It’s the bloody revenues and budgets that have lost me sleep for months now*.

Regrets are useless. Reflection is useful. Is this who I wanted to be? Conceiving communication strategy for corporates I don’t care about and struggling to keep press releases clear of the one job that gives me some amount of joy and satisfaction?

But bills have to be paid, no? The household has to run, yes? Now, it’s time to choose what’s worth billing. And to learn to run with simplicity. End of the day, what could possibly be worth paying for with your dreams? The shiny red machine I drive? Working in a fancy glass tomb? Measuring up to other people’s standards of good living?

Tough decisions all around. Good ones as well, I hope.


*Which I hope to be rid of come May 1.


One part of Adel Abdessemed exhibit in Mathaf, in 2013

Satya Nadella is right. That’s how we think. We are wrong, we ought not to.

Hey, let’s all bash up Satya Nadella… but first, how many of you women demand equal pay or a well-deserved pay rise? How many of us speak about money and scales with our employers?

I work in a country where I pay a double penalty… first as an Asian passport holder, then as female professional. And truth be told I’ve never negotiated.

If it felt too low, I would just not take it; but didn’t try to argue or sell myself.

I would ask if there was disparity based on nationality. To this I’ve received all kinds of odd answers; from how a cup of coffee costs more in London than it does in Mumbai, hence salary would differ (hey, guess what, but we are paying bills in Doha!) to how Western education was more expensive that what I paid for.

This to an extent I would protest and speak against.

But I was and am too conscious about pulling out the gender-card. Should I draw attention to my sex and be seen as being overly sensitive? Should I remind them that I am a woman…? Should I just quietly take the deal before a man outspeaks me at the negotiation table and walks away with a few bucks more?

Ironically, I continue to feel that a good employer will be fair (karma?) and recognise what I bring to the table… And every time I signed on the dotted line, I did believe that it was so. This rationalisation ringing in my head: When they see my work they will give me more.

And it has happened. It also hasn’t.

My male colleagues were different. They asked, and they got. During appraisals, between appraisals, with a second offer in hand, without a second offer in hand… They continued asking even when they didn’t get it.

I rarely saw this amongst women. Not my peers, not the ones who reported to me.

So when Satya Nadella put his geeky feet in his mouth, was he merely describing the best of us? Maybe the best of his female staff didn’t ask, and were slavishly grateful for the ‘recognition’ that came their way, all the same. So he thinks, that’s the way it should be.