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10 Instagram Hashtags You All Want To Be

April 15, 2014

Hashtag. A metadata symbol that was once used next to numbers is now a compulsory accessory for microblogging sites.

From #fitspo to #foodporn to #nofilter, Instagram has changed the definition of the humble hashtag, so much so that we use it in our regular speech now. What, only me? Oh.

While there are many out there who have no clue how to use the hashtag on social media sites (yes you over there hashtagging a photo of a tree with these: #best #friend #on #night #out #wearing #red #lips. Ahem! #DisgraceToSociety), there are others who use it very precisely (i.e. this guy).

Now, thanks to a very scientific research I conducted on my personal Instagram account, it was tedious indeed, here are 10 types of hashtags everyone with an Instagram account wants to be. Yes, ‘be’ – a noun. Even if you’re a grumpy banker who’s stuck in a cubicle for 60 hours/week; you still want to show your followers what a lush lie you live.

  1. Hashtag ‘I’m-up-before-the-sun’
    Waking up at the crack of dawn with a loud moan, putting on your runners and heading outdoors, just so you can Instagram a filter-free shot of the Big Yellow Guy. Because sunrises make you realise how lucky you are to be alive and start the day with a clean slate. Your followers don’t need to know that you’re sitting there with frown and a double-shot, double-cream latte in hand.

  2. Hashtag ‘selfie’
    The fact that Oxford Dictionary announced ‘selfie’ as the International Word of the Year in 2013 is enough to prove that not only our IQ levels are dropping dramatically, but also that Ellen DeGeneres is going to rule the world. There is a reason why Apple makes new iPhones every year; they need to keep improving the resolution of the ‘selfie’ camera. C’mon guys, our faces need to be less grainy, hulllooooo!
    Disclaimer: this is possibly the only selfie you’ll see from me, well, that’s what the caption of this photo says. Lies. There are about 10 more since, but this one holds close to my heart – it was the first selfie I ever took. Emotional stuff, y’guys.

  3. Hashtag ‘Smug-shot’
    … not to confuse with a ‘mug’ shot, but this is just a casual photo of one of my luxurious ‘work’ trips that I didn’t pay for, and I’m spending it by the pool, but for my editor ‘I’m working’. I’m sorry, but this is what travel journalism entails, sucks for you to be a lawyer. This hashtag is for those frequent travellers who will ensure they drop the ‘i’m-always-travelling’ bomb in your timeline by a city skyscrappers or a plane-wing-amidst-clouds photo.

  4. Hashtag ‘I-workout-bro’
    This breed of humans use Instagram as a convincing device to prove that living a healthy lifestyle is totes possible, as long as it has a nice filter through it. It will come at you in the form of really toned pair of legs, or those super cute ‘Instagrammable’ trainers that look unworn (and possibly are!).

  5. Hashtag ‘I-am-into-expensive-beauty-prods’
    … and my nails are always this well-manicured. Your followers need to know how you don’t have the money to buy yourself a decent meal, but you can fork out over $40 on an unreasonably expensive and unnecessary luxurious beauty item… because #Treatingyoself, yo!

  6. Hashtag ‘Blessed’
    That moment when you tell the world how lucky you are to be alive and be able to live in this glorious world. Even though, in reality, it may have taken you hours to get to this location for a photo and perhaps 10 different shots to perfect the angle of it; still… lucky!

  7. Hashtag ‘Fitspo’
    The 44 likes of your juice cleanse’s photo are making me green with envy; because you’re literally six likes away from getting those six-pack abs. I can’t even deal. I wish I had that #thighgap and #bikinibridge of yours, said no one ever!

  8. Hashtag ‘TBT’
    It’s a day dedicated to pictures taken a day before or earlier. Why? Because you want the world to see what a cute kid you were, so you wait for a Thursday (or #FlashbackFriday) and post a really old photo that would make everyone ‘awwww’. Or perhaps, the photo of your younger, thinner, much hotter self, because you don’t look like that anymore. Soz, old age!

  9. Hashtag ‘I’m-not-an-alcoholic’
    Your followers don’t need to know that you head straight from the gym to the bar. All they need to know is your life is amazing enough that allows you to bathe in champagne on a nightly basis. Alcoholic? Pfft.

  10. Hashtag ‘Motivation Quote’
    … also known as, words you never said but passionately want to believe in. Every few days, there will come a deep, philosophical quote from this account that will make you want to rethink your reason for existence. Or just slam the phone against the wall. Either.

The Boy Who Cried With Laughter

April 8, 2014

There once was a boy who loved to laugh.

He was a hard working guy with a good job, an enviable social life, a healthy family, but everyone knew him for his mirthfulness. He laughed when he was happy. He laughed when he was sad. The stressful times were dealt with a chuckle, as patronising as they may be, and so were those anxious days. A good belly laugh was the boy’s ironical version of crying ‘wolf’. People expected to see this chirpy side every time he set foot in public.

However, while they enjoyed his gleeful company, they questioned his joy: ‘How can you always be so happy?’

Was he playing a trick and fooling the ones around him with his selfless laughter, or was he really that happy? How can a laugh that pure and inundated not come straight-from-the-heart? Was he being dishonest to himself with this fake joy? Or was he just masking a deep, inferior pain?

Witnessing his chuckle was the kind you see in silent black and white movies from the ’50s, where you don’t understand why a fall down the stairs is funny, but you still join for a giggle. You do it with a sense of mystery and awe.

Was the boy really this happy all the time, was the pressing question…

He laughed when he got booted out of his job. The dream job that had him going swiftly on that ideal career path. He thought, jobs are part of your life, they are not the entirety of your life.

He smiled when he found out his mum had stage II blood cancer, because that was the only way he would be able to survive the emotional pain. Plus, his mother hated seeing him cry; he had to be strong, for her.

He had a falling out with two of his best friends, but he still kept laughing. He realised that it’s never easy to part ways with someone whose played such an important part in the majority of your life, but isn’t that what ‘growing up’ is about? After all, you can’t be young and stupid all your life. Someone always grows up, and the other one always moves on.

But then there was a day when all he wanted to do was be cynical, miserable, grumpy, whiney and everything the world didn’t expect him to be. He just wanted to be vulnerable, honest, raw and mask-free in front of the world, so they could stop taking advantage of his joyous personality. That was the day when he was tired of being a polished media version of what the world wanted him to be. He just wanted to express himself authentically, without any inhibitions. It was the day when he didn’t want to reach the peak of his happiness, instead he just wanted to crawl in a little cocoon of sadness and weep. Weep like a baby.

But it never happened.

Because, sometimes you just have to keep smiling, however unauthentic and fake it may be, because that alter ego version of you is what ultimately defines you.

It’s what ultimately defined the boy. He became known as the boy who cried with laughter, and never cried tears.

5 Lessons To Learn from Rom-Coms

April 1, 2014

Romantic-comedies is a genre in films that deserves to die in hell while sitting on a chair made of gold.

They are annoying, yet heart-warming. They make you believe in the universe’s ways of finding your soulmate while leaving you in a snotty, sniffling mess. They trick you into buying high-end designer clothes, while you continue live in your shoebox of an apartment. They teach you about the empowerment of having a vagina, while you’re still stuck on ‘why he didn’t call? Why doesn’t he like me?’.

See, absolute demons!

Rom-coms have the power to tap into our basic human desires to love and be loved; whether you’re a 15-year old teenager, a 40-year old single mum, or a man who watches the sap as a crash course to a woman’s crazy mind. You clever lot! 

Think about it, where would all the Katherine Heigls, Kate Hudsons, Jennifer Anistons and Drew Barrymores of Hollywood go, if we didn’t buy into the crap they sell about love, life, relationships and career.

They force us to get bikini waxes from incoherent Ukrainian women before the first date, just as much as they make us want to magically meet our versions of ‘the ones’ at the local coffee shop (trust me, I’ve been trying for this one; my baristas are cute Italians too. You’ll read about it here if I succeed).

From powerful careers, to perfect blow-dries, to a sassy gay bestie and a token dickhead; chick flicks have the power to make women around the world ooze out optimism, enough to make us sick to the stomach, laugh till the last breath and secretly cry, all at the same time.

Here are five lessons we must all learn from a rom-com… coming to a Netflix/theatre near you.

  1. Female writers/journalists/reporters first fail in love and then they fall in love.
    You have the job, you have the social life, you have the kick-arse wardrobe, but as per the rules, you have to fall in love with the biggest jerk of an asshat before you can meet your Prince Charming. And this offer is exclusively available for television reporters, newspaper columnists and magazine journalists. You cannot, absolutely cannot set sail on perfect shores right from the start because no other leading lady could do it, so how can you? Plus, you won’t be able to write about your unfortunate love life, if you don’t swim in the wrong end first. But once you’ve shed the tears and ‘learnt’ from the misfortunes of the break-up, you’re allowed to marry that dreamy bloke who, turns out, is your ridiculously good looking best guy friend from high school. Oh. 
    As seen in: Never Been Kissed, Bridget Jones Diary, Sleepless in Seattle, Going The Distance, The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory.
    Devil-wears-prada-gif
  2. Move to New York City if you’re serious about love.
    Despite the men to women ratio in NYC being completely against the favour of the ladies, chick flicks want us to believe that the Big Apple is the place where true, inconvenient, uncompromising and mad love can be found. Single and live anywhere else; you’re doomed! It could be the magic of the park or the optimistic bright hue of the cabs, but roms-coms see something in those five islands. Remember how Carrie finally found love after six season and two (awful) movies, and how Sally and Sara tested destiny with their serendipitous moments in Central Park. Apparently, this city narrates a better love story than what Paris, London, Los Angeles or Tokyo could ever tell. 
    As seen in:
    Serendipity, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, When Harry Met Sally, New Year’s Eve, 13 Going On 30, Bride Wars.
    SATC-NY-love
  3. Interrupting a wedding always works. Almost always.
    This is an easy one: be shameless, ruthless, heartless and stupid. Don’t stress if the love of your life is marrying someone else. Who cares about the wedding costs, presents, venue bookings and broken relationships to follow? Bring out your inner-Julia Roberts and kiss your goddam crush on the day of his wedding so he can toss his future family and marry you. Do check if you can borrow the ex-bride’s dress…
    As seen in: My Best Friend’s Wedding, Made Of Honor, The Sweetest Thing.
    Tom-Made-Honor
  4. The stud finishes last, the common man always win and the prostitutes are the nice guys.
    You won’t find love at the Christmas party because your dream man is actually that nerd from high school who always helped you with your homework. No, it’s not that bad boy with tattoos and piercings who your mum disapproved of, because he’s now serving time in jail. But say you’re in your 30s and still single, go for the tried-and-tested option, get yourself a prostitute or a gigolo, because roms-coms are proof that this breed of humans have a heart of gold and bodies of Greek Gods. Yes Channing, I am talking about you… say hi to your Tatum!
    As seen in: Pretty Woman, Magic Mike, Girl Next Door, Grease, A Walk To Remember, Legally Blonde, Love Actually.
    Pretty-woman-meme
  5. It’s time to farewell Matthew McConaughey’s pretty face from chick flicks.
    Ladies, let go, the man is gone. Our beloved Steve/Ben/Tripp/Finn ran for the hills when he got offered a role that didn’t just revolve around a wide-angle and a close-up of his washboard abs. Can you imagine the man getting an Academy Award for his pimp-tastic role and body in Magic Mike? Sigh! Adios, hottie.How-to-lose-a-guy-McC

Written In The Stars

March 28, 2014

Hello, my name is Shitika and I’m an Astrology-oholic.

It happened five years ago, when my best friend and I were trying to justify the adversity of our sleep-deprived lives and blame it onto an external force. Quite literally. It was pouring with rain at the time and we were on our third soy cappuccinos for the day (that I secretly hoped had alcohol in it to help me survive the rest of the week).

That was the moment when we decided to read astrologer Susan Miller’s essay-type report on our star signs on her website (those who follow this stuff would know who she is; she’s like the Freddie Mercury of astrology). Reading that 2000-word+ monthly report on the walkabouts of the stars, planets, the moon and the sun was like having a drug slowly injected in our veins. I was frantically nodding in awe and wonder, almost scared to see how much Susan knew about me. She was narrating my life, right back at me, and then saying, ‘look dear Scorpio, you will be alright. This month will end and you will survive’. The shit, it will be alright!

written-in-the-stars

 

Susan soon became my guiding angel. I waited for the first day of every month so I could read what the next 30 days would bring. Due to its length, I would also go back after a fortnight to revise her words of astrological wisdom. I then started marking dates in my diary for when would be the most ‘romantic day’, when I should expect to be ‘stressed’ and when the full and new moon were, so my sleeping pattern had something to rely on.

Half a decade later, I now have Susan’s app on my phone. I’ve gotten my family members, best friends, ex-lovers and editors addicted to Aunty Susan’s bread and butter. And I have someone to blame when I get a sore throat (‘Susan said I would get sick. Damn her!’)

About 70% of what Aunty Susan says about my sign, every month, comes true. A small preview – the month I decided to move to London, she said I should start looking for a new country code. The month I got a huge freelance gig and a major hike in Twitter followers, Aunty Susan said I would become ‘famous’ for a fortnight. She predicted an emotionally-challenging week for fellow-scorpions, and it was the month when I became a shameful sentimental mess, so much so that even I couldn’t stand me. Eugh!

Was all this happening to me merely because a woman sitting in America predicted so? Or was I forcing everything onto someone cosmically superior so I didn’t have to be accountable for my life?

My life’s become a cosmic mush where all the planets are drunk and they’re throwing up all over my pre-destined astronomical cycle. I am addicted to knowing what kind of person I am, what mood I’ll be in today and when I should buy a new piece of furniture, as per Neptune’s guidance. There are times when I want to go against the will of Mars and Mercury and RSVP no to parties I don’t want to attend – but Susan said I would meet my ‘someone special’ at a social gathering, so maybe I should go?

When I tell the cynics in my life about astrology and why I believe in it so profusely, they raise eyebrows, laugh at me and say, “nothing is destined, you make your own destiny”.

And this makes me wonder about destiny. Is everything really ‘written’ or do we create our own fate? If every kiss, every friendship, every failure and success were meant to happen, then wouldn’t our lives just be a monotonous prediction? If a lady from hippie-land tells me that I will fall in love on the next new moon and Jupiter’s retrograde will force me to exercise more, does that mean there are no surprises left in my life?

If every relationship you have, every freelance job you reject and every first date you go on is pre-ordered by the stars, then what happens when you miss a step? Does the cosmic buffet take away your pudding? Is there a calling from the sky, saying ‘Stop! Turn around, you idiot’. 

What if the mistakes we make, away from the universe’s allocated boundaries, is when life happens? If we didn’t venture off, would we still meet the people we are destined to meet? Would we still fall in love with the wrong people? Would we still have failed marriages?

If everything is written… then shouldn’t we be more prepared to handle the sad, unfortunate moments of our life?

I don’t know… I don’t have answers.

But, I do know that people come and go from our lives for a reason, the planets continue to revolve… and those who are ‘destined’ to be part of our cosmic cycle will always be in our lives… and perhaps, even in Aunty Susan’s monthly predictions.

For those keen on reading more about astrology… see my two favourite ladies: 
Susan Miller – astrologyzone.com
AstroTwins – astrostyle.com

Feelings, WTF?

March 24, 2014

First published on Birdee.

I met a boy. A boy who made me smile uncontrollably, my heart leap, and my stomach clench, for no apparent reason.

This feeling, as alien to me as those creatures in Independence Day, is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Just as Bob Marley would melodiously wonder, “Is this love that I’m feeling?” Surely not. I haven’t even been on a traditional date with this boy – you know the one: dinner, cheeky hand-holding and a goodnight kiss. But there have been many moments and conversations where we’ve been on intellectual and sexual fire, which is probably why I’ve come to the realisation that this isn’t lust anymore, and I’m in serious trouble.

For the past 24 years of my life – or at least since the day I figured out that boys made my nether region tingle – I’ve protected my heart in its cocoon. I was that girl in high school who intimidated the boys in her class with a very Destiny’s Child approach to life. Sing it with me: “I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings!

For all these years, proudly enough, I’ve always put my career and life’s priorities first, and catered to my heart and romantic feelings second. I thought I was too strong and independent to let a guy get beyond the ‘let me buy you lunch from the school canteen’ stage. And if I did feel someone crossing the emotional brick walls I had built for myself, I’d turn cold and make them repel me in some way or another. I was scared. I was terrified of feelings.

feelings

Throughout my 20s, I’ve kept my guard up with men because I felt I was too strong to be vulnerable to anyone else. Call it snobbery or a strong mind, but I have always been my most favourite person. How could I ever let a guy take over and ruin my relationship… with me? After all, you need to love yourself first before you let a guy love you, right? I considered it a weakness to fall for someone, because then I would have to invest in the relationship and abandon my feminist Beyoncé attitude. Never!

A Byron Bay psychic once told me, “Shitika, men see you as their mum. You are emitting this energy of ‘don’t come near me, or else’. Continue doing so and you’ll be alone”. Geez, thanks hippie lady! Deep down though, I truly was afraid.

And then – just as they always do – things changed.

This boy walked into my life and left an impact powerful enough to blow my mind. My heart is currently strapped into a ridiculous rollercoaster and I’m unable to rationalise my thoughts. I have let a boy affect me, and I’m scared to the bone of what this might be. I’m starting to think from my heart, and not my once-strong, independent head.

As I pen this, I realise that I sound like a 15 year-old girl stuck in a grown woman’s body. I find myself standing in front of the mirror, every single day, and wondering out loud, ‘what is wrong with you, Shitika? Can you stop being a cliché girl out of a Kate Hudson movie?’ I think it’s helping.

There isn’t much reciprocation from the boy’s end, and that’s OK, because this isn’t about him. This isn’t a narration of a potential heartbreak, this is about the emancipation of my heart. This is about me, and how this entire process of letting my guard down, after two decades, has left me with an open can of worms. I’m now excited by with what can come from me exposing this emotional side of myself.

I have had all these years to practice valuing and treasuring myself, and perhaps, it’s now time to let someone else share that job.

I’ve started to realise that the definition of ‘letting go’ isn’t fluttering around town in a red dress with flowers in my hair. I don’t need to be a result of that cookie-cutter image of a woman who loses her sense of self-worth and value when she starts falling for someone. I can continue to feel empowered and kick butt in all other aspects of my life, whilst letting this little feeling of vulnerability accompany me along my new ride.

And after all these years of being a cynic and cringing at couples melting in PDA, I wonder, will I finally be able to understand love? Will this crazy experience make things easier for boy #2 (if he does come along) to break through my weakened walls? Most importantly, will I be able to feel these feelings, again?

Surely, this isn’t what love feels like…. is it?

Shit.

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Date A Journalist

January 31, 2014

Someone very sexy once told me, ‘Journalism is a sexy profession’.

Indeed, it is.

We interview good looking people, we drink expensive champagne, we get to stay ‘two nights and three days’ in luxurious island resorts and we get it all for free. Sexy (and smug) on all grounds, damn straight!

While it’s bursting off its seams with sexiness, there’s also a very dangerous side to journalism that very few are aware of. Well, apart from all the sleepless nights from unforgiving deadlines that make them crazy delirious, there’s another alarming factor.

There are many reasons why journalists make the best partner one can ever have; but there are also reasons why they can be your absolute nightmare. Taking optimism by its balls, I’m here to talk you through – and warn you – of the latter.

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  1. They will make money off your life: Not the gold digger way, absolutely not. Sure they earn peanuts for 70-hour working weeks, but they’ll never date you for the money. If you do end up with someone who doesn’t write about finance or sports all day, aspects of your life will appear in a newspaper, magazine or website. Your height, profession or skin colour might be altered, otherwise it’s you. And on most occasions, you won’t be asked for permission, because they will counteract your argument by calling their article a piece of ‘fictional’ writing that’s ‘inspired by real events’. What, you think Bridget Jones was all pulled out of a donkey’s arse? Don’t stress though, this just means you are interesting enough to have left an impact in their life – congratulations!
  2. Deadlines > Sex: One pays and the other doesn’t (unless you’re Belle de Jour), need I say more? Pulling an all-nighter for a hot date with MS Word and an avalanche of scribbled paperwork is much more lucrative than a sweaty session on your black satin sheets. Because someone needs to pay for those sheets, and that free bottle of Moët from a press event, sitting on the kitchen cabinet will definitely not do that. Sorry, but not sorry.
  3. They are ridiculously observant: They know when you’re lying, when you’re speaking from your heart and when you’re goddam bored. They’re trained to sense the tone of an interviewee through the phone – they’re like guard dogs at an airport – so never think you’ve said or done something that’s gone under the table. Chances are, it’ll come back to haunt you about four months and 18 days later, with a proper reference to the original scenario. Plus, some journos even come with photographic memory – that’s a whole new level of freak show!
  4. They will remember your words: Whether you say it in writing or over the phone, journos don’t forget words. They will remember whatever you say – in lust or disgust – and remind you of it. They are programmed to remember events and interviews, so to do follow-up stories, and they are fast-learners (hence amazing at their job), so be careful with what comes out of your mouth around these fellas. And while you’re at it, know that they can manipulate the thesaurus a little too well; they will say words that mean one thing on face value and a crazy level of WTF when really read into.
  5. They will correct your grammar and spellings, all the time: A snobby trait that is really difficult to let go of – journalists are trained writers and English language is part of their DNA. Ensure your punctuations and spellings are under a vigil eye when you text or email them, because they will pick it within seconds, and won’t be afraid to correct you. On the flip side, they will be the first ones to notice if your vocabulary is better than theirs, and just quietly, that’s a big turn-on!
  6. They are social media addicts: Just like your spreadsheet dramas at midnight, being constantly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest is part of their job. Being a ‘social media expert’ does not equal ‘liking’ Mean Girls memes on Facebook (don’t ever say that to them, for the sake of your pretty nose). This job is rather tedious and stressful. If you don’t understand terms like SEO, boost post, organic reach and retweets – it’s best you stay shut, or walk away.
  7. They will be picky with the bar or restaurant you choose: Journos are a little bit smug when it comes to where you take them out, especially if you end up with a lifestyle or travel journalist. If you take them for a kebab at that corner shop or Starbucks for a coffee date (eeeek!), forget about date #2. You don’t have to go all Michelin star on them, but show that you made an effort in researching the venue; a quick search on Time Out is all they ask.
  8. They need their me-time: Due to all the small-talk with colleagues and clients at work events, journalists are suckers for moments of isolations. That much-needed time to clear their headspace and filter the army of thoughts doing the dance of agony. When they come back to the ‘real’ world, they want to be left alone, preferably by the beach or a lake, sans any technological device. This is their time to recharge and come back with more story ideas and intellectually stimulating conversations. No amount of cuddles or spooning can replace this.

If you can handle all this, in addition to the stained cups of tea, half-eaten pieces of toast, a big pile of books and magazines on their bedside table and more bad-hair days than good, then… call me!

Ha ha. Totally kidding.

Go find yourself a journalist; it’s a sexy profession aka they are sexy. A jackpot is staring at you in the face.

Rush Hour Crush

January 17, 2014

London Underground, where you are destined to either lose your wallet, your sanity or a heartbeat.

Millions of Londoners use this mode of public transport on a daily basis; while its day job is to help people commute, this fast, well-connected and foul-smelling service also plays cupid ever so often.

Monday, 6:40am

She sprinted towards the closing doors at a torturous pre-dawn hour.

Beep Beep Beep. Mind the Gap. Beep Beep Beep.

Phew, close.

With the newspaper stained with her lukewarm hazelnut latte and an outfit too bulky to move in, she questioned why she’d chosen London to serve as the geographic location for the next chapter of her life. Wearing clothes in this city is equivalent to partaking in Sumo wrestling with a ski gear on. This morning’s Alexander McQueen leather jacket was now kissed with little droplets of soy milk too. Brilliant!

She flipped the now-caffeinated pages of Metro to her favourite section of the newspaper; ‘Virgo’ read: “There may be an unexpected turn of events today; either at work or social life. Look for signs and you’ll find the key to what looks like a happily ever after”.

She sighed. Another rubbish vague reading; no one is as good as Susan Miller.

**Next station is Notting Hill Gate. Mind the gap.** 

The doors opened. He walked in with a beaming smile and her heart, subsequently, stopped beating.

Roughly 5″9, late-20s, deep brown eyes, great hair, perfect teeth, professionally dressed, well-cut suit, (thick) woollen tie, the shirt inside looked ironed, pants complemented the arse, polished Italian leather shoes.

The New Yorker and WSJ tucked in his lush laptop bag. All Apple devices in hand. A pair of Tom Ford reading glasses also peeping from his coat’s pocket.

A man with style, intellect and good taste, who isn’t afraid to smile at strangers pre-sunrise. Perfect doesn’t do justice.

She couldn’t stop staring at this human form of perfection. He noticed the stare and looked in her direction. Their eyes met, his smile grew a little wider and her lips bended the right way too. Those seductive eyes, that mischievous grin and that intriguing look made her want to rip his clothes off his, what seemed a looked-after, body. This was getting all too much for 6:54am.

She felt her cheeks turning beetroot red. “Must go holidaying with him to Croatia, this summer. Or maybe even Spain. Spain would be able to handle his sexiness. The kids should get his hair, and nose, that would be nice,” she thought.

His lips quivered and her lashes fluttered; it was lust at first sight. They maintained the stare long enough; he undressed her with his almond-shaped eyes and she let him. No grumpy school teacher or an underslept banker on that train could stop this ongoing eye seduction in carriage #3 of the Central Line.

**Next station is Queensway. Mind the gap.**

Newspapers ruffled, footsteps stomped around, commuters shuffled and the eye contact was lost. While she came to terms with the idea of how this beautiful being just took her ‘meh’ morning away, he took the leap out of the train.  She looked up in his direction for an approval but he was gone.

Shit. 

Her eyes danced around the compartment, only to find no recipient on the other end.

Shit.

She couldn’t stop thinking about that smile. It was shameful as to just how much importance she was giving to this nobody whose face made her heart sing like Norah Jones. She thought of how beautiful that crimpson-hued tie looked against his olive skin. His smile, oh that smile, she wondered how many hearts has it broken? Falling in love with strangers was her weakness, and she had let it happen once again. Will she ever learn to cocoon her heart? Surely a person gets a certain number of blind loves per lifetime, and this well-dressed-Notting-Hill bloke had, ‘in an unexpected turn of events’ ticked off another one for her.

Damn that horoscope. She had to track him down and have him in her life (or even her bed).

Tuesday, 6:40am

With a deep red lipstick nestled on her lips, freshly blow-dried hair bouncing behind her and a napkin, scribbled with her name and number, in hand, she hopped on the train.

Hopeful. Vulnerable. Happy.

Virgo said something insignificant about money and loan matters. She ignored it. Her eyes scanned through the page of the tabloid and there it was – in the Rush Hour Crush section, a declaration of lust, for Leah:

To the lady in the McQueen leather jacket on the Central line at 6.50am; Starbucks cup said ‘Leah’, you look like Kim Kardashian. We had a moment. I want to bound you, to me. Coffee with your Kanye?

“Coffee with your Kanye”she re-read. “A man with that face… that smile, that sense of style, calls himself ‘Kanye’.”

Stunned, disappointed and angry, Leah wiped her red pout with the napkin, tied her hair into a ponytail and typed into Google – How to not look like Kim Kardashian.

Pacman-love

What Tinder Taught Me In A Day

January 11, 2014

Unless you’re living under a rock or madly in love, you’d know what Tinder is. Or how the cool ones like to say, being Tinderized means.

For those completely unaware, Tinder is a dating app for your phone that is precisely the straight version of Grindr. Now imagine if Match.com and Candy Crush had a baby, with hotornot.com as the surrogate mum… that little rascal would be Tinder. What it does is, it picks up your location, takes information from your Facebook page (without spamming on the social networking site), creates a Tinder profile for you and then pulls together potential ‘matches’ from around you, based on your interests, mutual friends and ‘likes’ on Facebook.

So say you ‘like’ Alicia Keys, David Beckham and Grumpy Cat’s pages on Facebook and a certain ‘Simon’ who is located 6km away also happens to like those pages, Tinder will very skilfully ‘match’ you two. (Oh, how romantic, I think I need a second, sniff.) Then the fate of your future as Mrs. Simon you-won’t-know-his-last-name lies in the fact that you either swipe right with your thumb as a seal of ‘approval’ or left for a ‘rejection’. And this decision of which direction to let your thumb sway is solely based on four photographs and maybe, if you’re lucky, a little insight into his personality in the ‘about me’ section on the app. And after all this pining and drama, if with Papa Candy Crush‘s blessing, he also swipes ‘right’ on your profile, then Tinder’s job is done. Promotion guaranteed! You can now go chat up Simon, booze with him, play with him, run off to Vegas and have mini-Simons. Hurrah!

Tinder

This ridiculously vain and narcissistic match-making app has, apparently, created 500 million matches globally since 2010 – and that’s a shit ton of dates, if you ask me. I mean, how more unromantic, creepy, superficial and contrived do you have to be to get a vain approval from a stranger’s thumb. Surely, i’m better than what a fat thumb thinks of me. Or a skinny thumb, for that matter. Let’s not get personal here. Another sad thing is, think of all the mutual friends, bars, gyms and hobby classes that have now lost their jobs due to this new matchmaker in town. Oh, I feel for you Bar 100, the one on the corner of Creepy Avenue and Desperado Lane; times must be tough for you.

Now, from my criticism so far, a monkey could have guessed that I’m not a fan of Tinder. Overall, I’m very anti online dating – and I have my reasons, not worth sharing, for that. However, after a close friend gave me a little teaser of it over Skype (all the way from Bondi, with surfer boys on display), plus my added desire to find a man-heater in freeeezing London, I caved in.

Ha. Ha.

Brace yourself for what’s to follow.

My profile had four very tame, professional photos handpicked from my Facebook page and my ‘about me’ was short, simple and brutally honest:Journalist who is either giggling or eating cake right now. I was on it for about 15 minutes, this morning, giving my thumb a one-way workout to Bey’s classic – to the left, to the left. I soon got bored of rejecting and creeped out at the idea of finding out who my neighbours were; I logged off. A few hours later – *ping* – I had three messages on Facebook from absolute strangers… asking me out.

Umm, WHAT?

Call it the unfortunate uniqueness of my name in London or seriously praiseworthy stalking skills of these men, but somehow, they found my Facebook profile (that, according to Tinder, are kept private) and messaged me with a proposition. But of course, I come with proof; I’m a good journo – see the photo below with all three messages.

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Now, before you choke with laughter, like I did, let’s just talk about this for a second.

Is Tinder really what we do in real life, but on a microcosmic level? Do we really file people away in our mental folders on the basis of how attractive or unattractive they are in a split second? Their personalities, sense of humour, intellectual level, grammar (!!!) all just sit idle until date #2, or ever? What if I find someone on there who is less than a mile away? He could be watching me? Like Patrick-Bateman-type watching me? How are social security policies of any country allowing this?

Leave aside how they found me, the sheer coincidence of it all, or just my bad luck, I’m going to break it down – these three men today would have messaged me on the basis of the following:

  • I like her photos. Message. 
  • Boy, she eats cake! Message.
  • She’s a journalist. It’s a sexy profession. Message.
  • She laughs = could be mental, could be dumb. Dumb is good. Message. 
  • She can laugh and eat at the same time? Dream girl. Message.
  • I’m just a man slut who has a PhD in online stalking. Message. 

What was to follow was obvious…

**Account Deleted** 

Phew.

Now I need some cake, please.

How You Will Fall In Love With Paris

January 4, 2014

(…and exactly like the way you see it in the movies and/or read in English literature.)

OK. So. Let’s talk about how I fell in love.

It happened on my annual solo Christmas trip in 2013. If you’re special enough in my life, you’d know how much of a love-cynic I am. I’ve never fallen in it, I don’t understand it and, dare I say, I don’t quite believe in it. Rom-coms make me giggle, but leave me gagging; I’d rather watch Bruce Willis blow up Russian terrorists. So it’s fair to say that when this looming trip to Paris – the city of love – came around, I was nervous of what part of me it might awaken. Yikes! But, when it happened… swoon dot com, indeed.
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Paris is like a painting come to life, it makes you want to believe in love – especially if you’re me. Well, you can’t be me, but if you’re like me, get it? The low-lit street setting, the sparkle in the sky, the jazz echoing in the air: all of it can’t help but scream for you to love somebody. It’s like the city doesn’t understand any other emotion. And rightfully so, I fell deeply and madly in love with this intangible thing that’s known to engulf almost every living being that sets foot on its cobbled streets. So did I, fall crazily in love for Paris’ architecture, its snobby culture, its sophisticated monologue, its carbohydrates and sugar (sorry, PT), and its stylish inhabitants, starting from my co-passenger on the Eurostar, a French model. Calm down, boys.

Whilst I did hope for a certain ‘Raj’ to sit next to me on the Eurostar and unsolicitedly teach me all that I needed to know about love and lingerie [if you're Indian, you'd understand this DDLJ reference; tough luck if you aren't.], but instead I had a French model accompany me for the two hour train journey. Tres bien! More beautiful than words can describe, this babe of a woman was generous enough to draw up a custom-itinerary for me. But it were really her departing words that stuck by me, We’re not as rude as we’re made out to be, if you ever get lost, ask a Parisian on the street and they will help you, Don’t follow the cliche”. And so began my love affair with the city and its people. Right from the 86-year old florist who gave me a bunch of roses for free at the Sunday market, to the bouncer of a club who offered me his entire packet of hot French Fries while I waited an hour outside for my friends to join me. Yes, there’s a pattern of freebies from men here, but let’s not focus on that. Point is, French people are too lovely, and you shouldn’t go by the cliche of it being otherwise.

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There’s so much uninhibited happiness floating in this city, that even I couldn’t digest it all, and that’s saying something because if you’ve met me in person, you’d know my capacity to giggle and smile. The mystery behind all this glee proved itself to me when I decided to take a series of photographs around the city, based on my five (or less) minute chats with the humans around. Not dogs, just humans. My conversations with these strangers were mostly in broken English, some even silences, but comprehensive enough to tell you a story. And God, I love a good story. The album titled Parisian Stories can be found at this link - click through, it’ll make you smile, I promise you that.

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You will not be treated as a tourist here if you don’t want to be, especially if you’re travelling alone. However, it’s easy to be that awful tourist in Paris who lines up for hours at the Louvre to get a glimpse of Mona Lisa. It’s also easy to spend an entire day narrated exclusively by Lonely Planet and then head back to the hotel lobby at sundown to eat a boring ‘fish-of-the-day’ meal from the buffet. What’s challenging is to come to this city and treat it like you own it. Don’t walk around Paris with a backpack, sneakers and a paper map – because apart from looking like a wanker, it’s not how you will fall in love with Paris. If you really want to love Paris, don’t follow guide books, s’il vous plait! They’re horrid for asking you to line up at Notre Dame for hours. Don’t get carried away by boat tours at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, or let a man sketch you at the top of Montmartre. The only aspects in which you can be a cliche is when you wrap a scarf around your neck (if you’re a man reading this, good luck nailing the perfect wrap – no one wears a scarf better than French men. No one! ), light up a cigarette, dab a brightly-hued lipstick on your pucker and start walking. Be a cliche in having croissant for breakfast, macaron for lunch and Nutella crepe for dinner, every single day; let your tastebuds have a party and allow your metabolism to go take a hike.

In theory, Paris is every bit of a cliche it’s made out to be, be it in a Woody Allen movie or an Audrey Hepburn quote. But it’s really how you decide to let it unveil itself to you. If Paris was a girl, she’d be one donned in a lavender pink tulle dress, gliding along the isolated pebbled path by river Seine, barefoot, under a shower of shooting stars. She’d be that magical. No matter how anti-romance you are, don’t let its fairytale deter you, because this city has the power to make you understand ‘love’, and not like the way lovers do. Let the beauty of this city embrace you just like a marshmallow enveloped in the silkiness of a warm cup of hot chocolate and dance to the percussions of its breeze.

Go, fall in love.

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Reverse Homophobia

December 10, 2013

Have you ever been denied entry to a night club for “not looking gay”?
I have. Ha.
Let me tell you the story… promise, it’s fun.

GIRL-I-Wanna-take-you-to-the-gay-bar

My latest discovery in my new hometown is that, Monday nights mean nothing in London. Nothing at all. You will find just as many people going for after-work drinks on a Monday night as on a Friday. The city is crying out your name to claim your next hangover at the nearest pub.

… so I did. 

Last night, I went out with a few girl friends, as we decided to celebrate the joys of the holiday season and end-of-university-term. You see, after all the sleepless nights and hours spent on Photoshop, we figured it was our birth right to treat ourselves to a few cocktails. While the night was still young and we were five-too-many cocktails down, each, we ventured to a gay bar in Soho for a little boogie.

Now, the thing with gay bars is that they are bloody fun. Surely you’ve been to one? For those who haven’t – the music in gay bars takes you back to the ’90s, you’re surrounded by amazing dancers and there are no inhibitions on the dance floor. It’s like dancing in your living room with your best friends, except you’re in heels and a skanky dress.

With that in mind, and everyone’s wish to dance to Nicki Minaj, we went to G-A-Y (which Google tells me is UK’s number one gay bar). The bouncer checked all the girls’ IDs, looked at me and said,
“I can’t let you in, you don’t look gay”. I repeat, “you don’t look gay”

Errrr…. WHAT?

How does anyone look gay? Does it require for the person to have a tattoo of a penis/vagina inside a love heart on their face? Is there a club or a society that authorises someone’s homosexuality? No seriously, I want to know what he meant by that?

Now, I love me a good sausage, hence, i’m one hundred percent not gay. But how does that make me a threat in a gay bar, on a Monday night? Did I seem of the potential to pounce every dude inside the club? Or maybe they were recruiting lesbians-only for the single ladies inside? I actually don’t know because I WAS DENIED ENTRY.

Thanks to the double-tequila shot that was having a party in my brain, I didn’t punch his eyeballs out with an argument. But again, WTF!

This morning, I was trying to give a term to this discrimination and all I could come up with was – reverse homophobia. It’s the fear of a straight, single girl in a gay club.

I have to admit though, I’m a serious hater of homophobics. Hater! I never boil up until I meet someone who disses homosexuality and people’s right to love; the inner-Lara-Croft in me comes roaring out. Who makes these rules of who someone should love? Why does the society care if a man wants to wake up next to another man? It’s nobody’s business, really. So, this situation from last night made me a little happy that, for a change, straight people were being discriminated. But in this case, selfishly, I was being discriminated and that’s not OK.

Tell me Mr. Bouncer, how does me being straight ruin the anarchy of your club? No, please enlighten me, how are gay and lesbians meant to ‘look’? Is there a stereotype that we’re following here where certain attires, hairstyles and make-up techniques legitimates somebody’s choices in sexuality? With that in mind, only women in pants, a button-down shirt and cropped hair should be allowed to be tagged as lesbian, and a man with a pre-puberty voice, an amazing hairline and chinos should call himself gay. How about you take your conventional-thinking head out of your arse every now and then, Mr. Bouncer?

Damn you, seriously.

The only stereotype you should be allowed to have for a gay bar is rapping to Super Bass and doing the Single Ladies routine with a cute, topless gay dude who has a bow-tie around his neck.

My heart is broken. Thanks for shattering my dancing and singing dreams, you little shit.

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