Friday 21 September 2018


At a Blank Noise silent walk a few years ago, we strolled down the Carter Road promenade holding placards making statements about street sexual harassment. (I forget what my placard said.)

As we walked, I noticed something… different about the way the evening walkers looked at me. About halfway through, I got it. When we walk in public places, we unconsciously meet eyes, signalling the way we pass each other; that wasn’t happening. Every eye I passed was looking at my chest.

That’s the closest I’ve got to experiencing what itfeels like to walk our streets as a woman.

Thursday 20 September 2018


“Where’s today’s 100?”
“But I wrote a piece today! Stayed up all night to do it!”
“So, that’s like you did a formal event today, so no workout?”
“Yeah, I mean this was strenuous. The recording file got corrupted, and I had to struggle through my notes. And you know how bad my handwriting is.”
“Okay, so how many words did you write?”
“Poor baby. Was it tough?”
“Struggled right through. Maybe I was sleepy. But I had committed to have it ready.”
“So you can’t write smooth and fast? You’re out of shape? More riyaaz, perhaps?”
“FUCK. Fine.”

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Ad habits

Spending years as an advertising copywriter teaches you good things. To understand your reader, the better to persuade her. To accept you are the interruption, not the reason she is reading; you had better work hard to hold her attention. And brevity (see previous sentence). To rejoice in the huge difference art direction can make; to collaborate, not just hand over lines when you’re done. Bad things? You — or at least I — become a slave to the brief, immobilised without one. Where is the background information? Life experience? Shudder. What am I selling? My thoughts? Why would anyone want that?

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Heal thyself

I gave you unsolicited advice yesterday. Write, I said. Write even when you don’t think anyone could possibly be interested in what you have to say. Put it on Facebook, and persevere even if it seems like no one’s reading. It’s exercise, I said; do it like you do your workout, not to show off how fit you are, not because you have a trek or half-marathon coming up, not with any other reason but to stay in shape for its own sake. Write fifty words, a hundred perhaps, before you do the rest of your day. No cheat days.

Saturday 8 September 2018


I've posted this poem before, but I feel like posting it again because it now has an even more special meaning for me.

I first read it in a new year card from Vikram Doctor (who isn't on any social media).

Doccy and I were colleagues at the start of our advertising careers. He had PG digs near office, and I crashed there often when we both had worked super-late. He introduced me to much classical music I'd never heard before, particularly opera (knowing I loved musical theatre, he cannily started by lending me his tape of Phantom of the Opera) and poetry I hadn't read.

Doccy was also the first gay man who came out to me, some years later, when we were no longer colleagues. I was a bit surprised — he didn't fit my mental stereotype of how gay men behaved; I even remember letting him know that a woman friend of mine had a thing for him — but our having being good friends for some time then, my respect for his brains and sensitivity, all these made me question my own biases, and really, it didn't take much longer than that particular conversation for me to see how wrong I was. (The only delicate part was that I had to tell that woman friend that this was something that wasn't gonna happen, and why.)

We've stayed friends for more than two decades. Not close, talk-every-day friends (I increasingly suspect I'm too emotionally stunted and/or self-centred to properly nurture such friendships), but when we talk or meet, it's as if the long gaps don't matter. He described it better in a warm, sensitive email he wrote me when John died; he told me the story of someone else he knew who had lost a loved one who had lived with a similar disabilities, which he segued into with this: "It was, I guess, one of those semi-work friendships, when you can get close but don't really keep in touch after your workplaces diverge, and yet that basic connection isn't lost and you can always catch up every couple of years or so (not unlike you and me!)"

Doccy isn't just the writer with a cult following — particularly when he writes about food! — who many of you read. He is also someone who has made time from his day job to work tirelessly for LGBTQIA causes, though you won't often see his name in bold print.

When the news came out the other day about the Supreme Court judgement on reading down Section 377, I remembered him first, even before I remembered the favourite aunt who I'm reasonably sure was gay, but never out. And I remembered this poem.


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
(Why the poet's name isn't mentioned.)