What’s in your pockets?

With only thirty minutes left to the day, exhausted, I’ve decided to write you a detailed description of the contents of my pockets.

In my left pant pocket, there are receipts from Starbucks; I drank Americano with honey and almond milk during the day. A Tall Blonde Latte made with almond milk in the evening. There was an egg and sausage wrap involved.

The shirt pocket has my lunch receipt from work. Fish, jerk chicken and daal, if you were curious. Can’t complain, right?

Back pants pockets are reserved for my phone and wallet — only while standing or on the move, never sitting down. On digging further I recovered lint, cat hair and a cineplex ticket.

The small pocket intended for watches has loose change comprising of 3 quarters, a loonie and a dime.

Bet you didn’t notice I went to the movie alone.

Addicted to software updates

Is that even a thing? For the sake of conversation, let’s make some wild assumptions. Are you with me? Let’s go!

I get a dopamine rush at the sight of an “Update” button on the App Store. I love having every single piece of software operating in the latest version; be it a MacBook Pro, the iPhone or my Apple Watch.

Like your average nerd, I am enrolled in every single beta programme out there, taking first dibs at the latest and greatest stuff one could imagine in their wildest dreams.

Just thinking about what I’m going to be doing minutes after finishing this nugget is making me ticklish. I bet we are not on the same page right now.

This year, on Christmas, when Hyundai announced a software update for my car; bringing Apple Car Play to the 2016 Sonata, I was stoked. Santa must be impressed with my behaviour, I concluded.

But there have been instances when my addiction got the best of me. Like the time I was out on a Tinder date; I updated a girl’s phone while she was away to the bathroom. Only to be caught red-handed minutes later, as she stood behind my back, in shock, while I updated half-a-dozen apps on her phone. Don’t even get me started on her firmware. In my defence, she was away for a long time, and I got lonely.

Word of advice to girls on Tinder: Please add “Don’t update my phone while I’m trying to take a massive dump!” to your bio to avoid any further confusion or take a knee and get left swiped.


Smell good

I was born on tropical land, inherited Aryan genetics, consumed lassi and butter chicken for breakfast (go figure), bathed with a bucket of cold “tanki” water, spoke a smoothie of Hindi, Punjabi and English, slept by the water-cooler and drove an LML Vespa.

Yep, childhood was great! “Ballin,” is how any person in my immediate surrounding would describe the predicament. I live in Canada now, eh.

There was only one snafu. My armpits reeked of goat breath all through childhood. Don’t ask me what happened when I was left alone by a cage full of pretentious goats. The only grooming products available to me, all thanks to my mom, were Vaseline, talcum powder and coconut oil.

One morning, I concocted those ingredients into a super formula, putting any reputed apothecary to shame! Little had I known what would be in store for me that afternoon in math’s class. The layers peeled off like potato chips. The teacher wasn’t impressed at my attempt to sneak snacks, in class, under my armpits.

That was a turning point. Like a character defining moment in a John Grism novel. Embarrassed and impressed with myself, I decided to find a better way. On my ride back home, that evening, I decided to stop by the neighbourhood general store.

We didn’t have Harrods.

The counter was so high I could barely see over and above. Boy, was I short back then. With both hands on the edge of this counter as mentioned above, I pulled myself up on my toes and looked over to the store clerk.

“Yes, what would like beta (clerk refers to me lovingly as a son)?”

“Do you have something to treat smelly armpits?”

He appeared puzzled at first but then got up and went towards the back of the store where they keep all the shaving gear. He returned minutes later holding a white bottle, over his head, as if it were a trophy. He placed it on the counter inches from my nose. It was beautiful. I knew I was in love with a bottle of Old Spice.

I’ve never had to sneak chips under my armpits ever since.

The desk

Working from a café, on your laptop, is a trifle at best and a trek if you’re carrying a laptop bag. A coffee shop, in my mind, is suitable for meetings, quick last-minute edits, chatting and “coffee” but the absolute worst for doing focused work.

“Oh, look! There’s Paul at the coffee shop working on his laptop. Boy does he look engrossed. He must be very productive getting all his shit done,” said no person, ever.

This segues into why one should fashion their own Batcave. Or the close cousin, a desk in mom’s basement. A creative space (doesn’t mean artsy-fartsy, bruh!) equipped with all the bells and whistles turns me on. Like, a lot. It’s frightening.

Allow me to explain. A corner of your house or studio or mom’s basement, away from all the distractions is a space littered with natural light, decked with a loveseat or bed, to take power naps. Heck, throw in a bookshelf and hang art on the wall.

And now the workstation.

Imagine a desk, preferably white and standing. Large enough for your imagination and small enough to fit in a downtown shoebox apartment.

Besides your laptop, secondary monitor (only for high rollers) and speakers, the desk should have sufficient room to spread two books, a notepad, a coffee mug, a pair of wireless headphones, reading glasses, and your phone.

The only thing left to do now is to finish this rant. Run along now. Shoo!

Naked ankles

It’s been half a decade. And I can’t seem to stop. I’m finally coming out and saying it. Ready? Naked ankles are my weakness. Folding my pant cuffs, revealing the hairy flesh underneath, is a habit I picked up from GQ. Shameless plug alert. I wrote for GQ. So when I say GQ was my bible you know, I have a biased opinion.

On any typical evening, I’d lay back in my brown bean bag, beer in hand, with an issue of GQ — scrutinising the flood of ads, semi-nude photography, drool over things I couldn’t afford and study the informative articles and giggle baloney banana over the cheeky columns.

I can trace back to the first time I folded my pant cuffs. I felt liberated, free and sexy. Like the time you pooped, for the first time, without your pants and underwear hanging around your ankles.


Sure, GQ had influenced my style and taste, but one can’t forgive the sultry Indian summers for partly being responsible — giving “wind in my hair” an entirely new meaning, eh?

To my fellow Canadians, the habit appears a little odd in – 30-degree temperature. I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint hearted.

“You keeping your ankles warm?”

Something I regularly hear from near and dear ones — who worry about my health and are a bit confused about my sexuality. You know who you are. I love you too.

Hey! I don’t see anybody rallying behind Sally. Sally who? She’s a basic bitch, sporting a skirt ten inches above the knees. Are we neighbouring in sexism territory, yet?

Moving along now. The fact of the matter is, I don’t mind the attention. Yeah, a whore for all the eyes. So what? I catch girls (even men, sheesh!) staring down my pants all the time.

Now I know what it’s like to have a revealing pair.

Vanilla bean yoghurt

Perched on my living room couch, a tub of vanilla bean yoghurt in hand, I realised how much my mid-day snacking habits have changed. I’m turning thirty-something this year. Geez! Has it been that long?

There was a time, and I kid you not, when slices of bread, pan-fried in butter, and a cup of hot milk was my go-to evening snack. Just good old white bread.

None of the bloated “millennial loaf” bullshit — no traces of gluten-free, non-GMO or hints of digestive seeds, which make one shit as if they were an ice-cream dispenser, were found.

Devoid of the Whole Foods luxury, back in India, we had good old “real” local bakeries. There was one in the market down the street from our place.

The bakery was always warm, smelled of freshly baked bread (duh!), hot potato patties, ketchup, water on bricks, biscuits in a gazillion varieties, flour and the smelly kids who’d stop by after school, still in their uniforms, for the hot patties and bottle of Thums Up.

How much I loved Thums Up. Oh, boy.

At the hint my mother planning a visit I’d run out the main door and position myself at the gate and look busy (as if expecting a package from the bank). Who was I fooling with the mustard-stained wife-beater top, torn shorts and flip-flops?

Not mom.

On arriving at the bakery in question, I’d point at goods in the glass cases and turn to mom for approval. “Mum! Let’s take some cookies with the chocolate in the middle, please.”

The gentleman behind the counter, sporting handlebar moustaches, on getting a nod from mom, placed a dozen cookies in a brown paper bag and handed it over to me with a big smile on his face.

Proud of my little victory, I’d carry the bag of cookies home as if it were a trophy I’d won for scoring well in art class. Yep, art class. I’d always run up ahead of mom and sneak two biscuits in my shorts.

They had pockets!

The lonely nose hair

Tell me you haven’t looked someone in the eye, noticed a single strand of hair poking out of their nose, and been a) sick to your stomach or b) made attempts to stare without getting caught or c) imagined not one but a hair flower. Nose hair extensions, anyone?

I don’t like to stick my nose in other people’s business but to let one’s hair down shouldn’t be taken literally. Sure, one could argue the merits of nose hair – they’re the first line of defence against bacteria and smelly farts.

By that token, the renegade strand dangling dangerously out of one’s nostrils echoes Tom Hanks (remember Apollo?) trying to save humanity from extinction.

It’s worse when the person in question appears well-groomed from afar and, BAM! You’re in for a rude shock once you lock square with them. Maintaining eye-contact at this point induces deep psychological, character and personality changing pain. Why do I suddenly feel the urge to clean my nose?

To be fair, in my mind’s eye, I see nostrils flaring, large volumes of air moving in and out of the nasal cavity (like Bullet trains from a tunnel) while a fruit fly is trying to escape the gravitational pull of the black holes. Yes, two of em.

Shaving your face? Doing your upper-lip? Scrutinizing the pores on your chin, post bath? Do humanity, or the likes of me, a favour and get a little tweezer action up them nostrils.

Give Tom Hank’s some respect, please.

Elevator pitch

In the nooks and crannies of a corporate workplace lurks awkward silence, small-talk (also the bane of my existence) and the half-ass smirk/smile one is subjected to while crossing paths in (carefully designed — very — narrow) corridors.

If you already haven’t pieced it together, the writer of this nugget works a corporate job. Nothing fancy about that, one would conclude. The struggle and temptation to make conversation ensue moments into your ride up the elevator.

Oh, look! There’s Timothy from accounting! You lock eyes, and just before you launch into a smile, he looks away. Sheesh, buddy! I thought we had a moment last week at the water cooler. I had to bear witness to your struggle of preparing an instant espresso, the whole 25 seconds of it.

Only inches away you spot the girl who farted in your cubicle while you had stepped away to meet Timothy in accounting — to confront him about his behaviour this morning. Your flatulence has gone a long way, madam.

And what about the over-friendly folk who can’t seem to take a hint — not sure when they’re going to bring up the Linkedin request they’ve sent you. Ah, no thank you. In this sea of pretence, one is expected to get their work done, on time.

Working from home, then?

Landing into bed

When you’re a morning person like myself, you commence your evening descent by 9 pm. Here’s how I mastered the art of landing into bed, turbulence free.

Taking off, early, is all about planning your night before. Daily rituals, people. I’d be a terrible Batman if you know what I mean.

As one nears towards the end of the night, take your foot off the gas and let your engines cool. I begin by eating the last meal by 7 pm, leaving room for a cup of tea. Coffee helps me wake up while tea relaxes my nerves.

I flood the room with Spotify tunes, read an article (on an arbitrary topic) and fool around in Photoshop (never Sketch). Minutes later I feel calm. With time the routine manifests into an autopilot response.

I switch into uniform, comprising of loose clothes (or was it “lose”) and rinse my eyes with cold water. Your final boarding call entails a cup of tea, bedside and any last-minute phone check-in on social media.

Time to join your doppelganger at the sink, young man.

Back? Once you’ve taxied off the runway (navigated back from the kitchen where you went to drop off the mug), you arrive at your gate (the bed). With the lights and screens off you’ve arrived at your final destination.

Sweet dreams, captain.

Brushing with your doppelgänger

I stepped up to the sink and there he was. The guy in the mirror. My doppelgänger. One wouldn’t describe their reflection as another being. Heck, I just did. Some might call this behaviour narcissistic. Let them.

And just like that I was able to write words and put a sentence together. Call this heroic or just an attempt to pat me on the back for starting to write for the millionth time.

Where were we? Right.

There I was, in the bathroom, holding my toothbrush in one hand and the faucet handle in the other. I turned the handle to hot and placed the bristles of my brush at the foot of the waterfall.

“You can soften the bristles if your gums feel sensitive,” my dentist added after finishing the seasonal cleaning job. Ah, the memory of being at the dentist. Don’t know why I get flashbacks every time I commence the process of brushing.

I lifted the brush and pressed my thumb against the bristles. Satisfied with the tenderness, I reached for the paste. This is no ordinary tube, honey. “DANT KANTI” is an ayurvedic paste I had flown in from the holy land — India.

Thanks, dad.

I squeezed out the magic formula onto my brush and paused to stare at it through my doppelganger’s eyes. Bit of a staring contest going on over here. I might as well be on a podium. Participation certificate, here we go.

The smell of this paste can only be compared to the likes of a trip to the Good Earth store at Khan Market. Oh, how much I love saying, “I told you so.”

A kick of dopamine (imagine SuperMario coin sound) later my pupils look dilated. Wow, seriously! Never imagined brushing was a sensual experience till I wrote about it.

I began with the right side of my mouth and slowly worked all the way around, applying a thin layer of paste across my teeth and gums. Building up a lather is nothing short of foreplay. The gentle art has taken me years of practice.

And now, repeat for the inside of your teeth. Don’t tell me you never tried this? Seriously? Get some tongue action in there. Careful not to trigger your gag reflex. Unless that’s your happy place (clears throat). Let the excess foam drip from your chin. Yeah! Just like that.

About thirty-five seconds later I stare back at my doppelganger with a big smile on my face. Satisfied with my work, I put the brush away. Only after rinsing it. I’m no animal, mister.

I prefer to rinse my mouth with warm water and gently dab my face with a towel (as if my chin was a breast full of milk). And it doesn’t end there. No — this isn’t amateur night.

I conclude my performance by flossing stubborn corners and rinsing off the debris with mouthwash. Carpe-fucking-diem baby! And, yes, I am single. Would you believe it even if I told you?

Her Secret


“Why am I not surprised?” I said unperturbed by Andrea’s confession. “Did you and Jean hookup on a web cam?”

“Ha! You’re so funny, Dr. Hon!”

Andrea appeared amused. But I’m sure it was the wine.

“How did the two of you meet? Jean propose…”—”…did he?” I pressed.

“Okay, but tell me about the porn episode.”

“It was around the time I had wrapped my contract with Vanity Fair. I got a call from some ‘Ex’ ‘Vivid’ guys from LA.”

Andrea was up in her seat, waving both arms up in the air, animating her words.

“They wanted a brunette for an episode depicting a broker and buyer.”

“Like a house listing scene?” I asked.

“But I wasn’t interested becoming a…”—”so I declined.”

I knew, all along, Jean had his friend Vinny, an income tax lawyer from Vancouver, make the call. Vinny and Jean work together with clients in Asia.

Andrea was street smart, well spoken and one of the better writers I knew. But not for Jean, a hard-nosed negotiator, who reads people to the bone. She was an easy target and the love of his life.

Hell, no one could beat those odds.

Here’s the catch. You never know what Jean is going to do next. He’s serious about his work. But, this is his way out.

And, as you heard our conversation, he hasn’t told Andrea the truth, yet.

“Look at the time, it’s quarter past midnight.” I say it sounding like her annoyed older brother, “Let’s wrap up for the night.”

“You can either take the guest room upstairs or I can call you an Uber.”

“No! But you haven’t finished your story yet,” Andrea cribbed, “It’s the long weekend.”

Taking Flight


A WestJet flight descends from above and disappears into a concrete jungle. With it, recessing any solipsistic remoteness the city nurtured during day time.

Laying on a pool chair on my patio, washed in the evening hues, I was an audience to the view. Andrea nursed her sixth glass of Cabernet.

“Feeling fucking nostalgic,” I said.

She tilted her head towards me, lowered her chin and nodded. Without trying, she recoiled in one of her typical perched-on-a-Bauhaus-table-seducing-a-leather-bag poses. A handbag worth a year’s rent — a downtown apartment with parking and British neighbours.

Modelling for high-end fashion labels was everything Andrea didn’t want. A realisation she had early on in her short-lived career in fashion. And without ever speaking a word, we had come to an agreement — living out of a bag is impractical. Where’s the pretentious painting you bought at last year’s auction going to hang?

On a flight to Bali, Jean told me how our struggle was similar. A decade ago, we had moved to this city, not known a soul and pieced together our life like a Boeing’s engineer. One wing at a time.

We also learned the meticulous nuances of flight. From take off to roughing it out in turbulence, mastering the nimble art of kissing the tarmac. Landing at our destination was inevitable.

“I think it was a thousand rejection letters,” Andrea reminiscing her days living out of a loft. She shared it with 9 people and two dogs, meant for a family of 4.

Andrea had moved here with her then longtime boyfriend whom she left for an American guy. She was looking to score her first modelling gig. I brought only the essentials. A wireless Harmon Kardon speaker set, my MacBook and one thousand dollars. The path to becoming a writer seemed long and entertaining.

Unfettered by rejection, we kept moving forward. But people in Toronto were looking for very specific things. Doing our share of odd jobs we promised ourselves to not quit no matter the circumstances.

“Andrea is a resilient tank. I admire that about her.” Jean said taking a shot of whisky as he reclined in his first-class seat, all thanks to ‘clients’.

“Did Jean tell you about the time I got an offer for doing porn?” Andrea asked with eyes larger than usual.