9500 Days of Living

I missed it but yesterday I completed 9500 days on this Earth. I’m pretty psyched about 10,000 days, which I think will be 18th January 2019. I have only a year and three months to go for that, and I want to commemorate it with something special. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them. Till now I am toying with the idea of flying out to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.

You’d think 10,000 was just as arbitrary a number as 365 to mark your age although 365 isn’t really that arbitrary considering we are trapped in this eternal merry go round around the sun which doesn’t make sense unless you keep count of the number of revolutions. But 10,000 days is just as non-arbitrary because the average life span of humans today is a little less than 30,000 days so on January 18th I would have lived around one third my allotted life (hopefully it will be a little less than one third because I really hope to cross 100 years – 40,000 days would be nice).

Anyway, today is 9501. And the same drudgery continues.


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Cleared Prelims…Again

I don’t really have much motivation to write this post, but I felt that in the interest of continuity on this blog chronicling my UPSC journey, I should put it out there. I have cleared the Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2017, which means I should be in full throttle for the mains in October, but that’s not happening. After four years of studying for this exam my drive is low, and it is only through sheer, dogged perseverance that I make it through each day with a little bit of studying under my belt.

The Detailed Application Form for the Main Exam was released recently. Last year I filled it up with great attention to detail while this year it seems nothing more than a chore to get over with. I feel it’s so ironic how time and again I am reminded of the truth of that folk wisdom to “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it all.” Last year my friend Smriti and I joked about how we wanted to appear for the exam again just so we can fill out the DAF again properly. Neither of us was happy with the way we had filled it out. And so here I am a year later, sat on my ass with my wish granted, only I would just as soon be happy to not have had my wish granted. Because that would mean I cleared the exam last year. But oh well.

Yesterday was a Sunday, and like most Sundays in my life it was completely wasted. It’s my sister’s friend’s birthday sometime this week, and my sister is making her an elaborate gift which is a model aeroplane made out of cardboard. My sister got herself a hot glue gun from another friend and my mother, my sister and I spent all evening gluing together the aeroplane. Of course, we got so excited about the glue gun that after we were done with the plane we began gluing together everything else in sight. My mother especially was very funny, brandishing the glue gun around purposefully and every so often asking us, “Do you have anything broken that needs to be fixed? Because I can glue it together with the glue gun.”

Yes mother, my broken life needs to be fixed. Although I don’t think a glue gun is going to help. But it did make me laugh yesterday, so maybe it helped a little bit.


PS – So excited about the total solar eclipse today!

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The Ridiculous Lengths I Go to For My Hair

Chances are, if you can eat it, I’ve put it in my hair at least once. My parents joke that all I need is some salt and I could probably cook an omelette in my hair. A bit harsh, but not far off from the truth. As a matter of fact I’ve put olive oil, eggs and onions on my hair on various occasions, so they make a reasonable point. I have also put mayonnaise (surprisingly moisturizing) and beer (very drying) in my hair on separate occasions as well.

Nowadays I don’t experiment much, but I still have a daily routine that is a true testament to my commitment to my hair. My hair sadly, does not show the health and vitality commensurate to the efforts I put into it, but never mind. My hair is like my own exotic pet animal or an expensive sports car – takes up way too much time to maintain and is not really worth the effort, except that it totally is worth all that effort and then some.

  1. Every morning I drink a glass of water from a copper vessel because I read on the internet that ingesting water than has marinated in a copper vessel for eight hours helps arrest graying of hair.
  2. After that I drink a full glass of wheatgrass juice because I read on the internet that Ann Wigmore, the original proponent of the virtues of wheatgrass, experienced her gray hair turning dark again at the ripe age of 50 after many years of consuming wheatgrass juice. As you can probably deduce, some of my jet black hair is turning wheat I mean white and that gives me a major complex.
  3. After my glass of wheatgrass juice I eat seven almonds that were soaked overnight in water. My mother insists I have them because they are good for the brain and will help me study for my exam and all that jazz. I have them because I read on the Internet – yeah right as if you don’t spend your every waking moment on the Internet – that they contain an enzyme called Catalase that prevents build up of hydrogen peroxide in your hair, which is the number one culprit in causing hair to turn gray.
  4. I shampoo my hair only once a week. I don’t shampoo with regular shampoo. Instead I use a potent powder mix with Shikakai as the main ingredient. After I have rinsed my hair with the concoction, my hair feels like straw but I read on the Internet that regular shampoo causes hair to turn gray so what choice do I have really?
  5. The rest of the week I keep my hair well oiled. One, because south Indian women do the same and they have naturally jet black hair well into old age when they have no need for said hair colour. And two because of my straw situation, and also because I go to the gym everyday, it’s easier to maintain my hair all week long if they are oiled than if they are not oiled.
  6. Once a week, the day before I am to wash my hair with aforementioned potent powder, I grate an onion, squeeze the juice out of the pulp and put it on my scalp. My sister refuses to speak to me all day on that day because the smell emanating from me is so upsetting.
  7. Once or twice a week, I also make sure to drink tender coconut water. One because I like it but mostly because two, I read on you know where that tender coconut water helps cool down your body from the inside thus preventing your natural body heat from burning up your hair internally and reducing it to the unfortunate ashen colour that is so unappealing on 25 year olds.
  8. At night when I am to go to bed, I also drink a spoonful of blackstrap molasses in a glassful of water. The Internet told me it darkens hair overtime. And fills you up with so much energy. After a month of consuming it I am convinced my black hair is getting blacker. It is the gray that is stubbornly refusing to change appearances.

I’m sort of disappointed with this list. Until I jotted it all down I was under the impression I do crazy things for my hair but all this reads quite normal actually. Now if you will excuse me today is my onion grating and juice applying day.



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25 Years and My Life is Still, Trying to Get Up that Great Big Hill of Hope…

When I was younger, like a lot of other younger people, I assumed that life beyond 25 was not worth living. To be accurate, I believed life peaked at 17 (I was fed a lot of American teenage drama by hegemonising American TV shows) and plateaued for a while, and then it kind of ended for all practical purposes at 25.

I imagined I would have achieved all my life’s ambitions by that point – I would speak at least four more foreign languages, I would have won the Booker Prize and become the youngest person in the world ever to do so, I would have achieved first rank in the civil services in my maiden attempt at age 21…

Well I’m 25 now and none of those things have happened to me and now I find that I am 25 for barely two more months after which point I will turn 26. I feel weird about it. A part of me is ready to embrace it with equanimity. Another part of me wants to run back in time into the safe haven of my mother’s arms. (that sounded Oedipus-y)

But the reason I don’t mind 26 so much is because my life up till now has been pretty non phenomenal. I’m hoping almost anything that happens to me from this point forward will be more exciting than what I’ve already been through in life, which is not much. Highlights include fracturing my collar bone at age 6, getting chicken pox at age 8, getting mumps at age 11, and getting a badly botched up permanent tattoo by an amateur at age 21.

And then all of my 20s were devoted to studying for the civil services. And I mean all. I did little else except study for glory in this damned exam that no one in this world even cares about or knows that it exists, unless they are a middle class Indian with class aspirations of climbing the social ladder. And yet I have, for all intents and purposes, devoted my life to clearing it. A big part of my existential crisis stems from the uneasy feeling that I am engaged in a pointless struggle of making it my life’s sole mission to ace an exam that is kind of quite irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.  I hope there is a reason to this nonsensical rhyme.

My advice to get through this all, for anyone else experiencing a similar quarter life crisis, is to keep reminding oneself that Angelina Jolie is 40 years old. 40 years old. Now that’s effing old. If she can get to 40 and live with it – and happily by all accounts – then so can I live with being 26.

But before I get to being 26, I still have two months of being 25 to revel in.

I wanted to commemorate that with something that won’t hold true in two months’ time. Something that applies to me only by virtue of being 25 and will cease to be relevant at age 26. I wracked my brains hard, and came up with a brilliant, brilliant answer.

The 4 Non Blondes.

They were a one hit wonder in the 1990s and boy what a song to be a one-hit wonder with. If you know What’s Up from the show Sense8 then I want nothing to do with you. If you haven’t heard it before, I am attaching the video to this blog post.

I think it is a brilliant fit for me because it sits so well with me being 25, as well as with me having devoted a greater part of my valuable youth to a cause that seems to have no end in sight. The first lines of the song sum it up nicely –

25 years and my life is still / Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / For a destination

And so I cry sometimes / When I’m lying in bed / Just to get it all out / What’s in my head / And I am feeling a little peculiar / And so I wake in the morning / And I step outside / And I take a deep breath / And I get real high / And I scream at the top of my lungs / What’s going on?

And that is why, I hereby officially dedicate this song to myself, to remind myself that struggle is a universal human experience, and also that any kind of struggle can be tinged with a touch of romantic despair, if only you can find the perfect band to serenade said experience with the perfect song.




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Rula ke Gaya Sapna Mera

I promise this is the last time I allow myself to wallow in self pity. But in my defence, the final civil services result has been declared this week, and that is as good a time as any to ponder over the what ifs.

Anyway, about a week ago, I was watching Raina Beeti Jaye with my family and my sister per usual made a cutting remark about how I’ve been failing this exam year after year (I might have provoked her by saying something caustic myself, I admit). So well that remark really stung so I holed myself up in my room and had a good cry and my mother came and consoled me and then I felt better and came out of my room to resume watching aforementioned program. And the point of this innocuous ranting is that this song came on the TV just then –

Vijayanthimala was crying in it about how her dream betrayed her, and I was like, I know the feels. Ten years ago I was convinced that UPSC would have a red carpet laid out for me to walk into the civil services as and when I felt like it. Ten years later I am wiser and humbler, and no longer think this exam my birthright, but I also don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t achieve my dream. If it’s one thing all this has taught me, it is this – Perseverance, sheer dogged mind numbing perseverance, is the key. Another vicious cycle of year long anxiety begins. Bracing myself for the roller coaster.


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Two Slaps on the Face of Repeat Civil Services Aspirants

I shall make this short because I am behind schedule on my padhai, and appear to be blogging more than studying these days which is not good so close to prelims. Anyway…

The first slap was smacked right across my face figuratively speaking by Pratap Bhanu Mehta and company; specifically, the editors of the book Rethinking Public Institutions in India. I was perusing the book’s introduction section on the internet, debating whether to buy it as it may prove useful in my optional subject, political science. Then I came across one line which made me decide quite firmly against buying this book no matter what, and the line was as follows-

Changes in the design of official recruitment policies have led to an apparent reduction in the quality of entrants to the IAS, perhaps the result of an increase in the maximum age and number of attempts needed to pass the exam.

As a 25 year old candidate, preparing for her fourth attempt at the civil services exam, benefiting, so to speak, from both the higher age limit and the increased number of attempts, you can imagine how much this sentence stung. Thanks ever so much, Devesh Kapur, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Milan Vaishnav. Just the dose of encouragement I needed. For the record, if the quality of the new crop of civil servants is not always up to the mark, I blame the filter that sifts them through, not the candidates themselves.

The second slap was less stinging, and to be honest was less a slap and more like a wry commentary from the universe at my bemusing situation. Rumours are afloat that UPSC plans to make public the marks of unsuccessful candidates in the civil services exam so that the deserving ones can procure employment elsewhere on the strength of their marks. I shared this information with my father and he voiced my thoughts exactly-

“So what does this mean? You get to boast to potential employers that look how brilliant I am–I only failed by 10 marks, or I only failed by 5 marks, is that it?”

“Yup, it’s a travesty.”





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On the Difference Between Men and Women

Youtube’s comment sections drives you to the edge of insanity for myriad reasons, but chief among them is the blatant ignorance that is masqueraded so proudly as “my personal opinion to be honest”.

So I was on Youtube sometime last month, wasting away the one limited life I have per usual, when one commentator pointed out a valid fact-

Yes, sorry but it is just nature, men tend to be stronger both physically and mentally, I know there are exceptions and the people who have excelled or done anything great deserve recognition and respect, but the general trend still is the general trend, so I will ask you: Why do you think we got the traditional roles of men working and women in the house?

The answer is simple, it got naturally stablished, it is not like men just decided to do it and women just decided to do what they were told to, people were happy back then and I won’t deny there was certainly some domestic abuse, but that model was natural and society progressed in that way, it it just natural to have those views.

So in conclusion I can tell you that men tend to be stronger and while exceptions exists that is the truth.

To which I replied thusly-

The stark contrast between the duties of men and women was definitely “naturally” established in ancient times. But it is wrong to conclude that the difference between men and women is therefore “natural”. The actual difference between any oppressor and subjugated is of TECHNOLOGY.

All of history is witness to the fact that the conqueror possessed better technology than the conquered, be it guns, biological weapons, ships etc. Once the other side got hold of same or better technology, the difference vanished. Today women have access to various technology like contraceptives, abortion, tampons, etc. which nullifies historical disadvantage, and renders them equal to men in all respects.

Except I don’t think he noticed or cared about my reply, but I feel that it’s terribly important that the world should know my opinion on the matter, and youtube flotsam is not a promising place for my opinions, so I have transferred said opinion to my blog. Yes yes I realize the irony of demolishing other people’s opinions only to voice my own, but…my blog, so deal with it.

Under that same video, but in a different comment, another enlightened soul took the pains to point out that-

Technology only does so much, and women in war are proven to not be as effective as men. Women in construction and other jobs as such still have a harder time simply because of nature. Physical strength tends to give advantage in many activities. I disagree that physical strength is irrelevant in work and war.

Which is again pretty valid. I did not bother replying to this particular comment on that video, but if I was going to, I would make the following three points-

  1. I question if prowess in war and fighting is something that anybody should even aspire to anymore, be it man or woman or anybody. 
  2. If brute physical strength is still a criteria in deciding success in any activity, that only means it is a failure of technology, not final proof of women’s inferiority.
  3. Brute physical strength continues to be valued in various activities like sports or war because it historically evolved that way. If nimbleness, dexterity, light-footedness or flexibility had been valued historically, women would clearly be enjoying the ‘physical advantage’ right now. Nothing is inherently inferior to something else, but thinking and valuing it as such makes it so.


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