Drain Bamaged!!

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Category Archives: Life

The Repercussions

Part 2 of the previous post The Hand.

Fast forward a few years; another large family get-together; another time for fun and frolic. Enter The Hand and The Mouth. She immediately gets up from the circle in the pretext of a phone call. At that exact moment she sees her cousin get up too. They catch a fleeting glance. There is an unspoken mutual feeling of their reflex action. Why did they get up at the exact same time? They both didn’t know each other that well, they hardly get to meet one another but that momentary eye contact creates a bridge. They walk out quietly to the cool night breeze.

There was a sense of calm, peace in their silence. She broke the silence and asked “Have you had a terrible experience too?” Totally out of context for a spectator but it made perfect sense to her cousin.

“One experience?” spat her cousin, “Couple of times by each of them”.

“Arrgh, that’s dreadful”, she gasped. “I am sorry to hear that”

“My self-esteem was shattered even before it formed. I was barely 6. Too young to know what was happening but never too old to forget or overcome it. But do you look at the irony? They inflicted so much scare, and fear of men, and fear of relationships, and fear of sex in me but they are ‘happily’ married and ‘settled’ in life. They are the epitomes of ideal men in this society whereas me – people say I am a failure. My parents say I am a shame as I am unmarried, though I am doing well at work, – because marriage, even if turbulent, is the only gauge with which the society measures your accomplishments. I am not in a relationship even though I know the ‘Not All Men’ theory. Do you see how deeply ingrained the experiences were to form such a social phobia in me? And the best part, they don’t feel even the slightest of repercussions while I am intimidated for life and buried deep underground. And to top it off, people are so unfair to the victims if we speak out. If weak even once, keep suffering forever, get branded. Blame, name and shame the victims and the accused is never in the limelight.”

“Victim shaming is probably the main reason of people trying to cover up or not speak about their agony”

As an after-thought, I wonder how they would ever speak to their children about abuse without any guilt. Yes, they would have first-hand information of how to identify an abuser but at least when they have this conversation, will they realise?”

“They might get their spouses do the job perhaps.

“Hmmm”.

”Did you ever consider confronting them?”

“Yeah, it is ridiculous, isn’t it? We can happily go complain to our parents about strangers but when it is someone we know we somehow don’t bring it to the light. I don’t know if it is because of the self-doubt at that age or the trust on these known faces. I feel stupid when I think about it now.

But yes, I did consider confronting their parents, a few years later, when it all made sense to me but they being so protective and being the kind who turn a deaf ear to their children’s antics, I stopped myself. You know them too, what do you think they’d have done?”

“They would have asked you not to tarnish their beloved children’s names by spreading fake stories..”

“Exactly! And let’s say even if they had a slight sense that wasn’t blinded by the unbound love for their children, they would have just called me impertinent and broken me beyond repair right in front of the villains and later in private would have warned them of not repeating this. The accused would have just walked away with a warning but with an assurance that their parents will get their back, no matter what, and I would have had my belief in this system go to the dogs.”

She put her hand around her shoulder and they stared into the empty night.

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The Hand

“You have grown up so much”, said The Hand with a pat. The moment The Hand touched her shoulder, it gave her chills and revived forgotten memories from more than a decade ago. The Hand she shunned, the Hand she detested. The Hand that was skilled at finding an opportunistic moment or even creating one. The cruel Hand, the cunning Hand. The Hand that traversed and caressed her body slowly, when she was mere 10 years old, searching for her non-existent breasts. The Hand that wasn’t that old too, probably just exploring its own body when she had become an experimental piece. The undecided Hand that felt scared to reach inside her underwear and that had then proceeded towards her thighs momentarily, only to muster courage to go back in a few seconds later. The Hand’s finger hurt her and she experienced her first cramps. The Hand stroked, what looked like a bone with skin between its groin with its Other Hand. What had been a few minutes had felt like eternity for her, wanting to run away from this uncomfortable and suffocating moment. She wasn’t taught about such things at home or at school and hadn’t read any such story in her book collection. She did not know that saying ‘No’ might stop it or screaming for ‘Help’ might work. She did not know that confiding to a trusted elder would bring this to an end. She did even understand her own barrage of thoughts to put it into words to an elder. She only learnt that adults don’t understand hints – when the 2nd time they wanted to leave her alone with The Hand, she pleaded to The Hand’s mother to take her along but her grown up child was to teach the little girl how to wash clothes and do the dishes – which were important for a girl to learn during vacation. She spent the whole chilly evening outside, on the lawn, refusing to budge in only to be reprimanded by The Hand’s mother, later that night, for not helping out her dutiful child with any of the chores.

She couldn’t care less for the next morning she was leaving that house and that city. Luckily. She slept in peace, a little too soon.

Next morning, she had to go to everyone’s room and bid goodbye. She did not enter The Hand’s room; she just walked into the adjacent room.

“You never thanked me for taking you to the movies the other day”. The moment she opened her mouth to utter a word of thanks, The Mouth latched onto hers. It squished and squashed her tiny lips and tried pulling it off her face. She again could not comprehend to the happenings. Why was The Mouth trying to rip her face off? She had never seen her conservative parents kiss in front of her nor had seen any movies to understand that this horrible gesture was a kiss. For her a peck on the cheek was a kiss. All she knew was her lips hurt. The ordeal was over in a few seconds and she ran out of The Mouth’s room and the house and the lawn to the road. She would never set foot inside this horrid place ever again she swore. And she never did, ever.

She never met The Hand and The Mouth, ever too, until this day. All she could muster up to the The Hand’s question was a mere “Yes”, shrug The Hand off her back and walk away. How dare they speak to her? Do they even remember, in vivid details, the episodes she had encountered with them? Or was she one of their many adventures for them to remember? Thankfully, they weren’t interested in her anymore; she wasn’t a child anymore; she just hoped their children don’t turn out to be Paedophiles or even get abused as Karma works in a vicious circle.

Post Script:

This story doesn’t have any names for the characters as it could be any one of us. ‘She’ too is a generic usage – could easily be a ‘He’. If you were ever in the giving end, be ashamed and learn. If you were ever in the receiving end, speak up and stop it. We get to read terrible stories of rape and molestation and always fear about our children; but even small things like in this story could affect a child psychologically. ‘Mild’ abuses (if we could call them that) such as these are more prevalent around a child’s life and their scars could be deep.

Talk to your kids about Child Abuse; empower them to fight back and do the world some good by not just protecting them from abuse but by also raising them not be abusers. The second part could be the toughest; I haven’t crossed that bridge yet, so I don’t know how. Do tell me if you know.

Reach for the stars with feet on the ground

Have you slept under the sky, on hard-ground or on soft grass, counting stars, tracing constellations? Do you think of them as twinkling little stars, so tiny or get humbled by the thought that you are not even a speck of dust in this wide universe? They are probably bigger than our own sun and someone in that galaxy might not even see our sun as a twinkling star, let alone our planet and the microscopic us.

As a child, every time there was an electricity outage at night, I used to get out of the house and sleep in the open, on the terrace of my house. Thoughts moved from perceiving the stars as tiny sparkles to perceiving humankind so as I grew up. Yet I fail to understand why we, human beings, even while we know that just the known universe is enough to bring upon this realisation, think of no end of ourselves? Why do we fill ourselves up with so much ego? Why do we ooze out so much pride on materialistic things? Why do we fail to acknowledge this short beautiful life and all the lovely people? Why do we not spread love and only spew hatred and jealousy? Why can’t we take jokes on ourselves. Why can’t we laugh at our misdeeds and shortcomings? Why do we take this body so seriously when we all know that it is destined to rot?

We take pride in the new house we bought; show off our expensive watches; brag about our lives to everyone; hold dear all the prized, expensive possessions; think that there is no one as loving as our spouses, no kid as smart and as cute as ours. We always try to impress everyone around us by our goods and not by a good nature. We buy stuff just because our relatives/friends have them. We have reduced our lives to comparison. We measure our success with it. Our choices like vacation travel, cars, clothes etc are made to outsmart the peer group. We envy them when we can’t achieve what they have achieved and brag when we outwit. Isn’t life peaceful when the whole comparison goes out?

“My honeymoon location has to be more exotic than my cousin’s”. “My phone has to be better than my subordinate’s”. “Now that I am at on-site I am superior than folks back home”. “I am cool because none of my friends own a Ferrari but I do”.

We don’t realise that others either might not have favourable circumstances to buy something or might choose not to buy because there isn’t a necessity. We don’t comprehend that not everyone chooses to stay away from family. We don’t understand life is not just measured monetarily. We get judgemental and hate people who don’t perceive whatever we perceive as right or wrong. We scoff at people who don’t support our favourite political party, music band or even as trivial as clothing. We don’t understand the difference between a healthy argument and arrogance. We rush about our lives not minding that we share space with fellow living things. Our manners are dying. We gossip and back-bite. We fall for flattery. We push and shove in public transports, choke the earth with our choices, corrupt kids’ minds and teach them to value the finite things more than the infinite nature and boundless love. We are getting poor, not rich.

No, I don’t mean to say that we need to give up on life, on ambitions, on goals. I just say that there is a fine line between taking pride on what one has achieved and being egoistic about it. Sure you’ve hard-earned all the feathers on your cap but so have others. Even if you can’t appreciate them at least don’t degrade their efforts. Shun the ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and ‘Mine’. Grow your knowledge, improve your skills, perform better at work, chase your passion, win titles and awards, read more, build houses, buy jewellery, look your best, hit the gym, travel to different countries, conquer hearts but don’t take anything to your head. Work hard, strive harder, stay humble..

Dream Big and Reach for the Stars but plant your feet firmly on the ground.

First Night in Amsterdam

Did you, by any chance, click for the title? Then spoiler alert: the post is just about my first visit to Amsterdam, which, by chance, happened to be a night landing, 2 years ago. Nothing more! 😉

See Journée à Paris (A Day in Paris) for the account of the day! Evening and Night account follows –

The talented pilot touched down at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam braving the bad weather. It was way past 8 p.m. and the Hotel Address and the metro stop names were my only bet in this foreign land – all alone.

I waited forever for my bag to come on to the carousel and don’t think I am exaggerating but mine was the last one to come on, after a full 20 minutes. It was becoming dark fast, unlike the usual summer day in June that has sunlight till about 10-11 p.m., thanks to the rain and thunderstorm. My prolonged wait at the carousel eyeing each and every bag sparked a suspicion on me at the customs counter. As I collected my bag and walked past the desk towards the exit, a tall lady (Dutch are on an average the tallest people on the planet!) in uniform blocked me. She said she wanted to check my bag. Patiently and meticulously she unpacked everything. Clothes, shoes, toiletry kit and food! I had taken a couple of MTR ready to eat packs (Jeera Rice,Pongal and Upma) and she was keen to know what they were and why had I brought them along. I told her that it was my first time there and these food packets are a backup in case I don’t find anything vegetarian around. Her next question was why only 3 packs for a stay of 20 days? I told her that I thought I would find a veggie serving place in 2 days. She was again curious, and asked if my veg list included Fish. I said No. Then she asked if it included Cheese (She thought maybe I was a vegan, which I intend to become someday soon!) and I said yes. And my yes brought a big grin on her face and she bid me a goodbye saying “Ah good, you will enjoy the dutch cheese”.

The best thing about the Schipol Airport is that it has an integrated public transport system – right outside the arrivals, there are the Train and Bus Stations.

My hotel was 1 train stop and 2 metro stops away. Had I come during the day or had I known that Amsterdam is one of the safest places in the world, I would have hailed a taxi but unfortunately neither was the case. I was apprehensive and the night was falling dark and wet. So I trotted down to the train station and asked a fellow passenger if my pre-bought travel card (Known as OV-Chipkart) would work on the trains. He nodded affirmatively and I swiped it across the small machine on the platform and got onto the train.

In came the Ticket Checker and I showed him my card. He looked at me, then at my trolley then back at me.

“New to Amsterdam?”

“Yes”

“No Ticket?”

“I swiped this card at the platform.”

“My dear, this works only on Metros, Trams and Buses, not on Trains”

I gasped.

“But I understand that mistakes happen and you are new here. In the future, don’t travel without buying a ticket. For now I will let you go without a fine.”

“Thanks a lot Sir and I am sorry, I didn’t know”

“Hope you like Holland, Fijn Avond (Nice Evening)!”

And Yes, I liked Holland from that instant.

Another integrated station. I hopped off the train and went to the Metro Station. Now, I had a problem. I knew which Metro to take and where to get off but I did not realise that it was necessary to find out which direction too.

Metro 50 towards Station Gein or Metro 50 towards Station Sloterdijk?

I couldn’t find a metro route map immediately. So I asked a person next to me. He said take the platform on your right and he dashed off. I am seriously dyslexic when it comes to left and right. I can assure you that I always get it wrong, at all times, in all cases. But I was determined that this time I won’t get it wrong. I looked down at my hands and was perfectly sure which was the right platform, on the right.

Ten minutes later I was onboard. Mine was the 2nd stop from there. As the metro came to a halt at the next stop I was horrified. Of all the people in the world, I chose to ask a Right-Left dyslexic guy or did I mix-up yet again? Whatever was the case, I was going in the wrong direction. The route map inside the metro confirmed my fear.  By the time I could react to the revelation, the metro chugged off from that station. I got off at the next stop, heaved my 20 kg bag down the stairs and up the stairs to the opposite platform. It was quarter past nine and was getting darker. I had 4 stops to cover now. Plus, I just have a mental picture of the route from the Metro stop to the hotel. Darn, why did I not print out the google maps image. If it was in India, I could easily spot people on the roads to ask for directions when in doubt but here I don’t see anyone at all, the stop is deserted and I had growing doubts if the metro will ever come… There it is.

Again, my destination was also deserted. I got off and started walking very briskly towards the hotel. I could spot absolutely no visible living organism what-so-ever. I just hoped against all odds of my right-left problem that I’d make it without getting lost.

My pace quickened with each step. And an inherent fear of the implication of my recklessness stood before me. Why did I have to opt for a 6 p.m. flight and not an earlier one? Why did I not check for the weather forecast? Why did I even take a detour to Paris in the first place? No person on the Earth knew where I was right now. My phone’s dead and I was last seen with known faces over 20 hours back. Folks back home must have thought that I must have flunked on the bed by now, all exhausted. Because, you see, I don’t have this habit of calling up home once I go somewhere/ reach a destination. I have seen many people do so. They would have gone only a few blocks from their home and as the first thing would call up mom/ spouse/ boyfriend/ girlfriend saying, “Hey, I reached”. I never do that be it when within the city or when I go to Bangalore from Chennai.

So people back home will find it perfectly normal of not receiving a call and they themselves will conjure up all the usual (but practical 😉 ) excuses that I give them – I was tired, Battery drained, No local Sim, No Wi-Fi, above all – Why do you want me to call at unearthly hours? (I usually take the train to Bangalore that reaches at 4:30 a.m. – a perfect excuse for not calling. But basically I forget and that’s the only reason but that is not accepted by people and so I have to give other excuses.)

So, finding the Hotel in one piece was my only option. Walk straight, take the left at the Round-about Junction and then the first right. I did just that but all I could see on this road were apartments and a few shops (closed, of course. Shops in Amsterdam close down by 6 p.m. except on Thursdays when they are open till 9). And I could see a small horizontal stretch of darkness across the road caused by an overhead bridge’s shadow. My heart thumped in my mouth. I am shit-scared of the dark. I walked ahead and stopped just before the bridge. Looked around. No one around or beneath it. Coast is clear. But if I don’t find the hotel on this road then I don’t know if I can summon up the courage again and dare to walk through this stretch for a second time.

I reasoned out to myself that my lefts and rights were right (Fingers Crossed!) and I am on the right track. I can’t stop, I need to proceed. I obviously can’t spend the night on the road. I don’t have a choice. Fear only weakens. Face it and destroy it. Even if this is the wrong road, I at least can be sure that I tried. Trying and failing is better than not trying. Worse- not trying because of a small, insignificant fear. Even worse – fear of the mind ,not of any physical hazard. Shame on me!

In a fleeting reflex I ran straight ahead. In less than 10 seconds my bag and I were out of the shadow of the bridge and on my immediate left, nestled between the branches and trees stood a lonely, old board, “Hem Hotel, Amsterdam”.

I pushed my heart back to my chest.

11 Culture Shocks You Get Outside India

A few from my experiences!

  1. Pedestrians have the right of the way.

You don’t have to look (first to the left then to the right on a one-way street :P) while crossing the road. Even a Heavy Vehicle will wait for the pedestrian to cross the road. If you wait at the curb for the vehicle to pass by, the driver would stop in front of you and motion you to cross! Abiding the Signal and Lane rules go without saying.

Peak Hour Trafic

A glimpse of the peak hour traffic in Kuala Lumpur :O

  1. Slashed Sale prices are genuine.

When you see a 70% off on an apparel store window you can be rest assured that it is genuine, unlike our place where the sale price is same as the normal price! (My 10 Euro Zara dress stands testimony!)

SalePrice!

  1. Smile at the stranger!

You don’t have to know a person to pass on a smile or ‘Good Day’ or a ‘Happy Weekend’. You just realize how cheerful the outside world is. Men hold the door open for women. The public bus driver greets you as you board.

  1. Vegetarianism

Indians (Some groups) are probably the only people who don’t eat meat because of religion / sacred texts. Elsewhere vegetarianism/vegan-ism is by choice and not by birth.

  1. Vegans

Most people (like shopkeepers, waiters) don’t know the difference between Vegetarians and Vegans. As per them, both are the same – No Milk, No Cheese, No Ice-cream :O

  1. Force feeding meat / Respect for others

As with Indians, a non-vegetarian will usually try to feed meat to a vegetarian. They would come up with variety of reasons, black-mails and dares to make a non-eater eat. But this will never happen in when you step out of the country. People respect your choice of food and never will try to force their opinion/ food on you.

Here’s a good compilation of this: http://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/what-happens-with-vegans/

  1. Queue-ing Up

When you stand in a queue you don’t stick onto the person in front of you. There is at least one arm’s distance between 2 consecutive persons. Yeah, I know, for such a populous country as ours, this isn’t possible.

  1. Tea is without milk, coffee is in huge mugs.

Beer is the national drink! And in Amsterdam, dope is legal. Whatte place to be 🙂

 coffeemug

And that’s not even a large serving, that’s regular

  1. Infants are quiet!

Infants and toddlers in their prams stay quiet and cute. They don’t cry, shriek, yell, shout. How, just how?

10. You aren’t an Indian if you don’t eat spicy food!

People give me strange looks (and question my ethnicity!) when I avoid spicy food and when I say I can’t take the spice and burn, just like them!

11. Cities are Wheel-Chair Friendly.

Almost all buildings and footpaths have small ramps and are Wheel-Chair and Baby Pram / Stroller friendly. There runs a yellow protruding line, known as tactile tiles,  alongside curbs, bridges, metro stations to help the visually challenged find their way and not accidentally get on to the road. Really appreciate the thought behind these very essential yet simple ideas.

VisuallyChallenged Friendly

Visually Challenged Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

Puppy Loves and Broken Hearts

I propose the hero of this post to be a tall, lanky lad with a sharp brain, witty remarks, an eye for details yet oozing with oodles of innocence and child-like enthusiasm. A happy-go-lucky chap who believes in following his heart, who quit his boring desk job to learn and take up the career of his dreams, who believes in originality and individuality and who refuses to follow the rest and sees beyond the usual forte in his profession. A person with inspiring aspirations. A fit and handsome fella. A mamma’s boy. A fierce friend. Let’s put his age as 27 years but give him a salt and pepper look to match his different personality.

Oh my,my, when I read it again it looks like a matrimonial ad! Too good to be true. A very desirable profile. Our hero must be juggling girl friends! There comes his life’s only tragedy. How much ever he tries he either fails to impress girls or chooses a wrong one.

Episode 1:

After being a shy boy in school, he decides to become a cool dude in college. Cool dude = Having a girl friend! I am told that and I quote as with every college, either you don’t find a beautiful girl in the campus (I think this is a myth because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder; so can’t help it) or the one you like is taken. So before you approach a girl you need to do, what the corporates call as BGC, Back Ground Check.

When the Step 1: Finding the right person (indicative picture below) and Step 2: BGC is cleared, you move onto the next step of approaching her.

Minion

Picture Source: Internet, Random Site.

There’s a catch here too. Again am told that this is where friends play a crucial role of Setting Karna / Set Pandradhu. This is how the play is staged:

ACT 1:

Scene 1: Hero’s friend talks to the prospective Heroine about the hero who finds her interesting and would like to be friends with.

Scene 2: If the heroine likes the introduction, on her nod (of approval), hero emerges from behind, exchanges pleasantries.

Scene 3: Friend departs.

ACT 2:

Hero and Heroine hang out and try to find compatibility.

Looks like a variation of Speed Dating!

“Why ACT 1 at all?”, I ask. Apparently when it is to introduce someone else it is very easy (Daayein haat ka khel) but when it is for oneself it is nerve-breaking –

image

Picture Source: Internet, Random Site.

Translation: How do people propose, I hesitate / feel ashamed to ask the street hawker for an extra puri.

So armed with this formula our good guy helps his friends but has no luck in finding his dream girl. As the Valentine’s Day approaches, pressure increases and on the so-called Rose Day, he zeroes in on one girl. “Aww, what beauty, she is my angel”. He nudges his friends to go and 2 of them immediately get into the battle field. The play goes as scripted – They approach her, she sees him standing a few paces behind, she nods, hero arrives and they start chatting about Dadar locals, Anna’s idli and masala tea.

The next day is the Propose Day (Where do these college fellas come up with such weird days? Why not propose for more days on the Propose Day such as Propose-a-day Day, No-Ogling-at-Girls Day, No-Social-Networks Day, Dogs’ day, Clean-your-neighbourhood day, Ring-the-bell-next-door day, Mango-stealing day, Go-to-work-on-time day, Take-the-stairs day; add your own to it). He decides to ask her out. He musters courage and blurts out. She is taken aback and says , “I thought you just wanted to be friends, ” Hero’s mind-voice, “Zandu Dost Log, you screwed up the introduction yesterday”. “And moreover, I already have a long-time boyfriend. I’m sorry”.

His love bubble pops. First wicket down.

Episode 2:

As he raises his sad face and looks ahead, there, near the gate, another angel. Woah, it must be his lucky day. A second opportunity. The three of them run to the gate. The girl is in deep conversation with two other guys. So our boys wait for the coast to clear. But those 2 never seemed to leave. Slowly the 3 of them inched closer to eavesdrop. The illusion cleared; the mirage broke; the bubble burst – The 2 chappies were ‘setting’ her with their friend standing behind and they succeeded. The hero’s story ended even before it began!

Disheartened with back to back failures, the hero gives up on this exercise.

Episode 3:

A few years later, he sees his 3rd angel in a team across his bay at office. But with no college friends around for the ‘setting’, he has very little luck and courage in talking to her. And he had put his papers too, so he never took a step. A year after he resigned, he suddenly felt a (rare) courageous moment and regretted for not talking to her back then. Now with a revived energy and many bollywood movies’ lessons and songs running in his head off he goes to his old office. It’s deserted. He learns that most of the folks are holidaying in Goa. He walks past his team towards the adjoining bay. There again, many seats’re empty.

“These guys too have gone to Goa, is it?”

“Yes”

“What about the girl?”

“She, obviously, has gone!”

“Oh”, thinks our chap patting himself on his back, “a fun loving girl. Good choice.”

“Didn’t you know she’s getting married today?”

Bubble bursts! Again, the story ended even before it began!

Episode 4:

A few more years later, the fourth one. He’s crazy about this girl. He did not have so many butterflies in his stomach with his previous 3 crushes. She filled his heart with joy. His eyes lit up just with the sight of her. Her presence mesmerised him. He guarded her all through her short stint in India and followed her like the Hutch pug.

Once, after a hard day’s work, she dozed off in the taxi on the way back home. Our hero and his friend had gone to escort her home. After reaching, he didn’t have the heart to wake her up. He just sat next to her, with eyes glued, watching her sleep, oblivious to the taxi driver’s abuses and his friend’s filthy looks. Had his friend not woken her up, our chap (told with great conviction that he) would have bribed the taxi driver to stay put there till she woke up!

Mereko kya ho gaya rey, is this how it feels to be head-over-heels in love?”, he wonders.

But even with this strong emotion and the madness, this time he chooses to end the story himself. He doesn’t approach her at all. “Nahi bataega mein“. She is his model for his shoots. A Cleopatra from Brazil. He is contented with the photographs he clicks of her and buries his burning desire. And now, all day through he keeps humming,

“You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful, it’s true. I saw your face in a crowded place, And I don’t know what to do, ‘Cause I’ll never be with you.”   [YouTube Link to the song]

You see, with an international crush he can’t stick to bollywood songs anymore!

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this post are definitely not fictitious. If you find resemblance to any real person(s), then, ‘Bingo!’. If you haven’t then what name do you suggest for this good-calm fellow? I suggest a Sanskrit version of good & calm – Sushant!

Majhya Maitrinichi Mumbai! (My Friend’s Bombay)

If you ask Mumbaikars about Amchi Mumbai, you would get different views. A youngster would tell you about Hanging out at Marine Drive, Shopping at Colaba and Bandra, Sharukh Khan’s house at Bandstand, the Gorai Creek, the newly built Bandra-Worli Sea Link, numerous malls and would also boast of the 1st Starbucks Outlet in India!

A middle-aged or a senior person would talk about Siddhi Vinayak, Mahalaxmi, Haji Ali, the new Buddhist Pagoda or Mumbai being the Financial Capital of India, NSE, Nifty etc.

But when I told my friend that I want to visit Bombay, her version took me by surprise! She said, “There are so many places to eat, do come over!”

Vada Pav at Borivali , Pav Bhaji at Tardeo Sardar Hotel, Roadside Chat – Paani Puri & Sev Puri, Bhel Puri at Sonawala Building, Mongolian Pot Rice, Tapan Yakee sizzler & Chicken Wings at 5 Spice, Almost all dishes at Mainland China, Mom’s special – Kanda Poha, Prawns Masala, Fish Fry, Shrikhand Puri, and the list goes on!

Did I miss out the desserts? Joshi Budhakaka’s Halwa and Kaju Katli, Mom’s Carrot Halwa and the amazing Til ka Laddu, Chikku and Tender Coconut ice creams from Tender Fresh; phew I need a heavy dose of Digene after all these!

Turns out that each one of the items she recommended were utterly delicious; I can vouch for the ghaas-phoos(vegetarian, in her terms) and she would for the all the meat.

The entire trip turned out to be a walk through Dream Land –
With people coming to the airport at 4 a.m. for a flight that’s gonna land at 6.a.m, for you;
Spending an entire day in search of an out-of-market cheap phone’s battery,for you;
Making sure they mention ‘non-spicy’ to the waiter even when you forget, for you;
Taking the best efforts to make the stay comfortable, for you;
Parceling a box of yummy home-made Laddus, for you;
Keep you entertained in family functions so that you don’t get bored;
Each member of the family giving you a separate farewell gift (Apart from the Laddus!)!

One of the most memorable vacations ever, how I wish it’d been for longer; Oh, ye lovely folks, Thanks a bunch!

Journée à Paris (A Day in Paris)

Well, Parisssss! Famous for art, architecture, the language, fashion and pick pockets. Yes you read that right, everywhere people and boards warned me of keeping things safe, the city has some of the world’s best flickers! With a map photographed in the flight, a couple of places to visit marked I embarked on the Paris airport and muttered a silent prayer that I should get back home safe and sound.

I asked a lot of people around for directions to the Eiffel tower but each one had a different route or maybe I got them wrong because none of them spoke Anglais. Mostly people told me to take an RER and a few thought bus was better. You have variety of options – Metro, RER which is also a train, tram and bus. I first went to the bus stop but there wasn’t any bus for 15 min. So I walked back and opted for RER. The lady at the ticketing desk was rude and dint tell me to which station to get the tickets for as Eiffel doesn’t have direct connectivity from the airport. Then another lady told me to take the Paris ticket. 9.25 Euros. But no platform mentioned. I went into one and there was no one in the platform. So I exited (mind u it is all automated so I swiped in once and swiped out too). As I exited I saw the station master and he told me to go to platform 11. Now, my ticket was not allowing me to get in because I have completed my journey by entering and exiting a station! What do I do? I tried it again in the next gate, no luck.

Thennnn, there was a girl who was getting in with an extra-large bag. She swiped and as she was entering the bag got stuck. This gave me a brain wave. I popped in my ticket and I thought of entering along with her because the gate’s stuck. Tail gating, as we techies call it! The gate was closing already and the bag almost thro. I tagged along close by and I got thro. Voila! But, my bag pack got stuck midway. Oh dear. The guy behind me forced the gate open a bit and the bag came thru, Merci Monsieur! The train came immediately. I asked 2 girls standing near the door of it will go to the Eiffel and they said “hop in”. They took out a suburb map which had the route of all transportation in Paris. They told me it’ll take up to 45 min to reach and I’ll have to change the train mid way. They told me where to get off and which one to take next. So I looked thru the window anxiously as the train got crowded with each stop. I had taken out a few currency notes, the credit card and the camera and placed them safely in my jeans pockets. The passport and the wallet were wrapped in my sweater and placed in the bag. Changed train in Notre Dame. The tour Eiffel stop came and I alighted.

Now will the ticket which didn’t allow me to get in allow me to get out? I never thought of the implications of my actions, did I? How do I get out? What’ll I tell the non-English speaking station guy? I decided that I’ll try once and if unsuccessful go get another lowest value ticket for getting out or find the station master and ask him to let me out by telling my story of swiping out by mistake. But come on, I wasn’t cheating and I was just ignorant. So when I tried getting out, no Luck dint open the gates – technology works correctly, it sent a guy again! The one behind me swiped and asked me to get out with him quickly before it closed.  🙂

There I was straining my neck upwards to get the full view of the towering Eiffel. Looked close by but was a good half a km away. They girls on the train had already told me that if I wait for the lift to the top, it would take at least 2 hours as most people opt for it. The line was very long. On the right the queue for taking the stairs to the top had hardly a dozen people. I joined them as instructed by the girls before. They were saying that it might have 1000 steps. And I braved it and went ahead. 1 full ticket adult -10.5 Euros. Full ticket by itself means adult right, redundancy I thought. I did not count the number of steps and I was heaving when I reached the first level. Maybe there were 300 to level 1. The view was awesome. A guide was explaining the various buildings to a group of people and I was happy that I got to see most of the famous ones from there. I couldn’t see the Louvre though. After a few photographs I started climbing to level two. Another 300 perhaps. The view was again good. I regretted for not buying a bottle of water before entering the tower. I was panting. After a few min of rest I walked around the level and there was a restaurant. Great. Grabbed a large glass of coke and I was ready for the next and the final level. The tower top. As I showed the ticket for the next level the security told me that since I have got the full ticket I can take the elevator to the last level. The last level is not allowed by foot and people who don’t want to go to the last level get a half ticket. So, it wasn’t redundant, ara (Tamil word) ticket does not mean a child’s ticket after all 😉  Good.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

The view from the top was breathtaking. The river beside, chill air blowing thru your face and pictures being clicked all around. I spent some time and enjoyed the feeling and then descended, in the lift till the level 2 and stairs from then on. I need to Google the number of steps I took now 😉

View from the top

View from the top

The next most important place was Arc de Triomphe. The security at the tower gave me the directions and told me it would take 12 minutes to reach by walk and asked me not to take the bus if I wanted to look around Paris. I followed the route and saw some awe-inspiring buildings, picturesque locations and a variety of people. Japanese, Indians, Muslims with burqa (this gets a special mention because there was agitation a while ago about the ban on burqa in France), smokers at the road corners watching people go by, a caricature artist, boat cruisers, cyclists, skaters, many men in blazers, hot girls, souvenir shoppers, and road rules abiding drivers and pedestrians. I also saw many three-wheeled scooters which could attain good speed in a jiffy. I thought I covered more than 15 min and asked a police guy for directions again. He told me to proceed further. Another two min and still the arc was not in sight. I asked a lady again and she told me that it is pretty far still and asked me to take the metro and reach. I was a little skeptical, so far the route given by the Eiffel guy was right and so I felt it wouldn’t be so far from there. So I continued walking and in about 4 -5 min I saw the arc.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

It was like our India gate with sculptures of Greek gods. Was huge. And again you could climb to the top. I wasn’t very keen as the view from the top would mostly have only the roads around. 12 roads connecting and was one of the biggest in the world.

Got a picture clicked by a Tamil guy in front of it and looked around for the bus stop.  I knew that there was bus to the airport as this was the way to reach Eiffel if I had taken the bus. It was about 1 p.m. and I thought it was better to get back instead of wandering more. I asked for the bus stop. 10 min walk they told. As I was crossing the road, a Hindi speaking family came along. I asked them again for the way to the bus stop. They said that bus would take very long and it is better to take the train. On my suburb map they told me to first take a metro for 3 stops, a RER for the next 1 stop and again another RER for the airport. Even with all the changing I would reach in less than an hour they told. Also the station was right there. So I went down the stairs and reached the ticketing kiosk. It did not have an option to change the language to English as the one in the airport. I asked a gentleman in the next machine if he could help. He readily obliged but my credit card dint work. Again, this same card worked at the airport. The gentleman said he has extra tickets and he gave me one and he told me a different route which involved changing only one other RER. The ticket was valid till the airport. He refused to accept money from me for the ticket. He was like, just 2 Euros, forget it. Just! 140 rupees for me! He said he is from Belgium and runs a company in Paris. I swiped in and went along with him to the platform. We got down in the second station. He guided me to the next platform and left. I got my train to the airport in 4 min, timetable followed on dot. I recognized the next station as I had passed thru it earlier in the day. At that stop an announcement was made that from then on it will be a nonstop one to the last stop which is the airport. So I reached a little quicker and now again the way out was blocked. This time I dint know what the problem was; it worked right at Arc de Triomphe, dint it! But the impatient guy behind me swiped out and said tag along! Tail gating everywhere, thanks to people in a hurry to get out, worked to my advantage thrice!

It was 2 p.m. I had 3.45 hours left. I grabbed a sandwich and roamed around the duty-free shops. Went thru the security check and sat near the boarding gate at 3. Even though I was in early I dint regret it; maybe I would have been stuck at the station with the card not working and no one to help. It happens for good.

That’s another reason why this one’s so lengthy; I had nothing but time to write it out. The day had a bit more excitement than usual because the Paris tour was a planned detour. I was flying to Amsterdam for work for 2 weeks. There isn’t a direct flight from Bangalore and got to connect in Paris. Thursday 2 a.m. Bangalore, 8.35 a.m. Paris, 10.30 a.m. connecting flight to Amsterdam and landing at 12 noon. This is how my other colleagues went and I would too. But wait a minute, I am anyway not reporting to work on Thursday, then why reach early? Why not spend time in Paris? So I requested the office travel ticketing guy to book the connecting flight in the evening. Who knows, this might be my only chance in life, you never know. He obliged and that’s how I got to spend some time here. All alone though, without Ashok, in the city of romance. A solitary wanderer.

So far so good, I can pat myself on my back. But will my decision still be right in the end? From 4 it started raining heavily here and a flight got delayed. Now, will I reach Amsterdam on time? Will I reach the hotel correctly if it is late? I should have booked the 4 pm flight, goddamn at least here it was iconic structures that I visited and everyone knew the route but there no one would know the hotel and it’s going to be tough alone. Like an idiot I left the hotel’s number in my office pc. And no one’s at office. I was banking on only 1 thing, it doesn’t get dark in Amsterdam till 10 p.m. Please let that be true today. At 5 the rain stopped, the skies cleared. I was overjoyed but only to find that the storm has moved northward and that’s where I am headed. My flight, after boarding, got delayed by 45 min. So that means I’ll reach only at 7.45 and what if there aren’t many people at the station? I fear taking a cab at unknown places because we don’t know the route, all alone in an unknown place and the cabbie can take you anywhere. So it is safer to stick with public transports.

Another 15 min went searching for a free runway making the delay an hour. I got reassurance from a fellow passenger that it would be bright till 11 p.m. But the rain was bound north, the flight’s having a lot of turbulence and was shaking badly; even the stewards weren’t able to stand still. And if it’s raining in Amsterdam it’s bound to get dark. Again a silent prayer, I should reach safe and sound.

There ends the one-day story, length of maybe a week’s story! Signing off from Paris, see ya with the next update in Amsterdam. God save me! 🙂

Streaky Skidy Scooty !!

(P.S – [Pre.Script :P]  – I actually don’t remember when I wrote this out; fished it from my old pc and posted it! )

Scooty, First Love – This is how the vehicle was (is) advertised. And rightly so. It fascinates its owners but with no solid reason though! My White colour (yeah my MS Office default language is English UK)  10-year-old Scooty was one among them. Not great mileage, No great speed but yeah lots of fad and craze! Zooming off in the flyovers and Bend-Poduradhu in the street turnings/windings are my favourites (UK again!!)! My mother screams for the former and my sister for the latter! Nevertheless, one aspect of it is very bad – the vehicle skids, read it as always skids!

I would like to recount one adventure with my vehicle. I never have enough of this incident – Jee Nehi bhara!! I have included it in a 3rd person account (Autobiography of Spectacles) about it and have written a generic one (In Search of Humanity) too. Time for a first person account.

One fine day, morning 8 a.m. I went to drop my sister in college in Nungambakkam. The roads were void of traffic and I was over-speeding – the maximum a scooty can sustain! So was a guy ahead of me in a brand new Honda Activa. Aaah, overtaking is thrilling; I went on to overtake him. His ego hurt, in a couple of minutes he overtook me. It was my ego now. But due to the recent rains in Chennai, the road was pot-holed from there on and he applied the brakes all of a sudden. I had to follow suit else I would have hit his vehicle. The only difference in the outcome was that his vehicle slowed down and came out of the pot-holed road; mine skid along with me. I covered quite a distance, with the vehicle in a 90 degree position and my right side of the face rubbing against the road. The mistake was absolutely not on the vehicle but on me for throttling the vehicle to its maximum.

After that my memory fails me. I remember the details very vaguely. I guess I was crying for help for some time, then I was in a white ambassador, a lady was beside me – weeping, I reached home. Blurred images are what I can recollect.

My mother was alarmed to see me – Broken tooth, bloody face, dangling spectacles and a dazed look! The lady explained – I had fallen off near Gemini flyover with the vehicle on me and the helmet off my head. I was crying for help. But no one bothered. She then came and lifted me and cried for help. No response again. Then a person stopped his car, parked my scooty in the Income Tax Office nearby and brought me home. My house is at 5-8 minutes driving from the spot and I had told them the directions! But I don’t remember at all, strange! What more, sitting in the car I first called up my sister Suchi. This was the conversation (my sister recounted this)

“Such, any idea where I am?”

“Hey, what happened? Did you lose your way? Where are you?”

“That’s what even I want to know – where am I. Where are you?”

“Akka, you dropped me off in the college and you were on your way back home.”

“Oh is it? Ok I actually fell off my scooty and now someone is taking me home. Nugambakkam to Mylapore – I know the way. Thanks such”

“Hey wait wait, are you fine? Are you hurt?”

“I am absolutely fine, but I am worried about the vehicle, I don’t know where it is. There is a lady sitting beside me and weeping. I will reach home and call you, bye”

Suchi told me that I was speaking dazedly and the entire conversation was in Tulu. The next phone call was to Ashok. (I don’t remember this either)

“Ashok, are you free this morning?”

“Yeah, tell me”

“I met with an accident and am bleeding. I am on my way home. My mother will be shocked and sad so will you come with me to the hospital?”

“Hey, what are you saying? Are you serious? How are you coming? Where are you?”

“Don’t panic, I am alright. I am coming. You be there in my house, we will start immediately, bye”

Ashok then recounted that I was speaking very clearly as if I am planning an outing, not a hospital visit! He thought that I had sustained only minor scratches with the way I spoke! And that too, I spoke in English! Professionally!! Not in Tamil, the usual communication language between us!!!

I had fun listening to these 2 conversations being repeated to everyone by them!!

So back on track – After giving money to these 2 good-hearted people, my mother, Ashok and I rushed to the Royapettah Hospital. First I got the suturing done – a big one in the upper lip and a wee one in the chin. There was also a cut near the corner of the right eye but it dint need stitches. The doctor was worried about my memory loss for a short period of time. So I was sent to the neurologist. CT SCAN was prescribed and the report said that my memory was intact and so were my nerves, it was just the shock which caused this memory loss!

It was beyond lunch time and we sent my mother home as my sister dint have the house keys and my mother hadn’t eaten anything since morning. Entrusting me with Ashok she left.

We then consulted the dentist as the tooth was missing and the ENT Specialist as the right eye was completely red. Both confirmed that there are no internal injuries whatsoever! I had sustained only external facial injuries and a few scratches in the right leg and they would heel in a couple of weeks.

I came back home that evening fit as a fiddle but I was unable to speak because of the stitches. So what did I do immediately after coming home??? Wrote the entire episode in a piece of paper (that is just a form of a sentence, it wasn’t a piece of paper literally ;)) and for almost the next 7-10 days, I just thrust that paper to anyone who came to visit me. I wasn’t able to open my mouth. Food was converted into a liquid and sent in through a straw! But excitement tempted me to explain about the incident to the visitors in a way I could but was always cut short – “Heaven’s sake, can’t you keep your mouth shut at all?” everyone used to yell, including the visitors; I used to acknowledge with a lopsided smile, if one could call it a smile – a swollen face with white bandages and a broken tooth!! But Gosh, it is wonderful to annoy people!!

But at the end of the day, as my Team Lead, Kishore, always tells me, Lessons Learnt is what that counts:

  1. Speed Thrills but Kills!
  2. Helmet saved my head; if not for it the injuries would have been severe. Always wear a full helmet; mine was a head cum visor one. Had I put on a full one, I might have escaped unhurt.
  3. Belief in the Universe – Even the doctors were amazed and bewildered to know that I dint suffer any internal injury. They said – God Saved You! Also, my sister dint have a mobile then. She took my mother’s mobile with her that day as she had to co-ordinate the college culturals. And when I go to drop her, I don’t take the mobile either. That day, I took the mobile for ‘Just in Case’. The lady and the driver too were sent to help. The jigsaw was completed, the most astonishing way!  🙂

Home- Facts about Earth

I happened to watch a documentary called “Home” last week by the PRR Group (www.goodplanet.org). The 1 hr 33 min video spoke about the formation of the Earth, its life-sustaining capabilities, evolution of plant, animal and human life, its current state, exploitation etc. The movie appreciated the miracle of Life on Earth and emphasized the harmony between the planet and us – the Homo sapiens. Here’s an excerpt from the movie.

Faster & Faster –

It takes 100 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of potato; 4000 litres for a kg of rice; 13,000 litres for a kg of beef.

The Amazon Rain forests, the greatest reserve of oxygen, has reduced by 20% due to cattle ranches and soya beans farming. 95% of this goes towards feeding livestock and poultry. We are converting rainforests into meat.

In USA 3 million farmers produce enough to feed 2 billion people but the produce is transported to cattle farms as livestock feed. The cattle trample the land day in and day out and hence not a blade of grass grows there.

In Los Angeles the number of cars in a 1 km stretch is almost equal to the number of inhabitants.

Machines dig, rip the earth every day for energy.

Oil, pockets of sunlight, is the order of the day. Dubai is an outstanding example of what oil can’t do. Artificial islands were created; there are no farm lands but the country has the money to buy fresh food; the desert has no water but the money to exhaust vast amount of energy to desalinate sea water. There is endless sun, but no solar panels.

Borneo, one of the largest islands in the world and a major producer of palm oil, is said to disappear in 10 years.

Nigeria, the largest exporter of oil, has 70% of its population below poverty line. Most poor people live in resource rich nations.

3000 skyscrapers have been built in 20 years in Shanghai and hundreds more are under construction.

The necessity of paper has increased 5 fold in 50 years. Eucalyptus is the major ingredient in the paper pulp. It needs extreme amounts of water to grow and when deforested, nothing grows in that land for years because of the trees’ toxic content.

People of Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, took up deforestation to convert the wood to charcoal and export. Now only 2% of the forests are left. The rains have eroded the thousands of year old Humus in the sand the land is not suitable for agriculture.

In the last century half of the world’s marshes have drained; we know neither their richness nor their necessity.

Fishing has increased from 18 to 100 million metric tons since 1950. Most big fish have become extinct as they weren’t given time to reproduce.

40% of the Arctic Ice Cap’s thickness has been lost in 40 years. It could disappear in the year 2030; some say 2050.

The thin ice now no longer reflects the sun’s rays instead the water absorbs the carbon-dioxide. CO2 content is the maximum the Earth has seen in thousands of years.

Greenland has 20% of the planet’s fresh water in the form of ice. If it melts, fresh water will flow into the sea. Salt water would migrate into the ground water table. The ocean would increase by 7 metres and is a threat to low-lying areas like Maldives. There aren’t any industries in Greenland but our actions have repercussions on the whole world.

Coral reefs play a vital role in the Balance of Life on Earth but 30% of them have disappeared as they are extremely sensitive to the water temperature.

Mt. Kilimanjaro (does it ring a bell? The song in the movie Robot) has lost 80% of its glaciers. The Himalayan mountain range is the source of numerous rivers on which 2 billion people are dependent.

Las Vegas, once a desert, today a city, consumes the largest amount of water. On an average every person consumes 800-1000 litres of water per day.

Wild fires release large amounts of CO2. Permafrost, if disrupted, would release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere, more than what we could handle.

The Earth is the reflection of Human Behaviour. We have no more than 10 years to set things right; to restore the Life of Earth.

Molecule by molecule we have disrupted the Earth’s balance.

20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the resources.

The world spends 12 times more on military expenditure than on aid to developing countries.

5000 people a day die because of dirty drinking water.

1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water.

Nearly 1 billion people are going hungry.

Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or bio fuels.

40% of arable land has suffered damage.

13 millions of hectares of forest disappear every year.

1 mammal in 4, 1 bird in 8, 1 amphibian in 3 are threatened with extinction.

Species are dying out at a rhythm 1000 times faster than the natural rate.

3 quarters of the fishing grounds have been depleted, exhausted or in a dangerous decline.

The average temperature in the last 15 years has been the highest ever recorded.

There may be at least 20 million climate refuges by 2050.

It is too late to be a pessimist –

What is needed?

Natural parks.

Reforestation.

Selective Logging. (only 1 tree is cut per hectare and of different varieties)

Responsible Consumers.

Renewable Energy.

Mandatory Trade Rules; promote cottage industries.

Education & Awareness – inexhaustible resources.

If meat production doesn’t take away all the grains, it would be sufficient to feed the world.

Harmony between human and nature should no longer be an exception but a rule.

Measures taken –

Germany has set up solar panels for producing energy.

A prototype model has been set up where industries would release CO2 into the soil instead of the atmosphere. Whether this works, we would have to wait and watch.

Denmark produces 20% of its energy through Wind Farms.

USA, India, Germany, China and Spain are the largest investors in Renewable Energy.

Can humans not imitate plants and capture sun’s energy? If solar panels are set up in the vast expanse of the desert lands, the Sun can help produce energy in 1 hour what the world consumes in 1 year.

Costa Rica has cut down its expenditure on army and is promoting Eco-tourism.

Gabon does selective logging and gives time for the cut species to regenerate.

Countries are tapping into Geothermal and Wave energy.

What’s important is not what’s gone but what remains. We still have half of the world’s resources – forests, glaciers, lakes, rivers..

We have the power to change. What are we waiting for? It’s up to us to write what happens next – together.

Victory of a Woman

It was a Monday morning, yet our heroine got up in a palpable sense of excitement. Many of her all-time-firsts materialized that Monday – her first flight journey, her first step out of the stereotyped society, her first testimonial to the subdued women who don’t acknowledge their ability to multitask, her first self-satisfied smile that starts from the heart and travels to her lips en-route her eyes.

Our heroine doesn’t have a name. She could be Mala, Sheela, Aiysha, Sona or Diana. She is what you call a common (Wo)man. She represents the entire woman fraternity who makes the ride of Life easy and enjoyable but don’t have the privilege to enjoy hers. She is an ordinary middle class homemaker with a normal routine of cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, packing, getting the children ready to school and the oblivious last-minute rush. Being the second week of the month she has to also rush about to pay the electricity and telephone bills. Had she been able to afford a PC and Internet connection she could have avoided standing in the long queues. If she gets late to office half a day’s salary would go down the drain and she would never be able to excuse herself for this. The thought of crowded buses and trains give chills down her spine. Tormenting thoughts. She gobbles the leftover breakfast and pours a cup of coffee, prepared an hour ago, down her throat.

Looking for the man of the house?? The one who wears the pants?? Oh! He is busy in his office. All these are just household chores for him. The woman would/should/must be able to manage these. Why does he have to bother? How can he devote time to such petty things? When he comes back from office he wants coffee the next minute and doesn’t even bother to ask his wife if she had any. Even if he comes in early he would wait for her to come and prepare it. She isn’t expected to rest. And mind you, if she fails in any of the above tasks she would be deemed as incapable, a bad family woman and definitely not a good wife. Can she question the credibility of a good husband at this point of time? Of course not! This one remark will make people forget her strenuous lifestyle and earn the title of a bad wife straight away. So she learns to suppress her views and endure the pain. But how long?

She reaches the saturation point and questions herself. She reflects back on herself – What am I doing? What am I putting my talents into? Why am I leading a life of misery? Why am I not able to juggle between my interests and that of my family? I am a strong woman of great caliber. I would not let fate decide my destiny. I would not go where life takes me; I will lay my own roads.

Again a doubt creeps in her mind – I have been striving to succeed for years now but have never been able to strike the chord. How will this time be any better? What was that I lacked all along – was it the conviction to emerge out successful or was it that I quit when I could have won with another blow? It’s said – When you are the hardest hit, rest if you must but don’t you quit! As Arundati Roy has stated all through her book The God of Small Things, we have always worry about the Big God – the society, the family and the laid out rules but never about the Small God – we ourselves, the individual. The thoughts, the feelings of the Small God are suppressed in the fear of the Big God. But she decided that this time she wouldn’t let it happen. She would listen to her Small God come what may. She would put her foot down.

She goes to her husband and says, “I am leaving the town tomorrow on an important project assignment for 20 days. You will have to manage the kids and the house.” She knew after how much ordeal this opportunity materialized. All along she herself was apprehensive of taking up such assignments and the company too tossed of applications from ladies, especially married ones. Their justification being the woman would be thinking about her family back home more than the assigned work. Fighting for her right, her seniority and convincing the team that even she could perform on par with, if not outshine, her colleagues who have been taking up this project was no easy job. She had to first reassure herself which was the most difficult part and assure her team too. Half the stream was crossed. The other half was before her, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon with a newspaper in hand. He had a What-are-you-nuts look on his face. She dint flinch, she said that she is set to redefine her career. She knew that the easiest way of getting his nod was to kindle his ego. She remarked with an authoritative tone, “All you have to do is to take care of the children, cook, wash and clean the house. I have been doing this for years but I am not sure if you would be able to take up the reigns. Would you want to give it a try or should I..” She couldn’t complete her sentence. The husband forgot about the wife leaving the family for her job and retorted immediately, “The world will not stop rotating if you aren’t here. I will handle things better than you. The house will be in a better state when you return. Now go pack your bags right away.”

That Monday morning she broke free from her cocoon and fluttered about like a butterfly. Is it only that if you do something great you would be appreciated? Women from various strata would agree that proving their worth to the society itself is a magnum opus. Commanding the respect they deserve is itself a herculean task.

She made people realize that she possesses the inner strength that amazes men. She made her husband and children realize her selfless sacrifice and her team that women are capable of doing any job like Sudha Murthy who took up the job as the first lady floor engineer in Tata Steel. She was the Queen and Highness of her life. Her husband put his arm around her and whispered, “I am proud of you dear!”

Looking back on that day, she thought to herself, “You have definitely arrived”.

P.S: This essay was written as part of “Build-a-story” contest where the first and the last sentences were given and a story had to be built in-between.

The Land Of Snakes

South Karnataka (or South Canara) can be called the Land Of Snakes. Many snakes, poisonous and non-poisonous, keep roaming around the rural places without harming anyone. Snakes such as rat snakes run away at the sight of humans. One would think that with so many snakes around, death due to snake bite would be common; but that’s not the scenario at all. This place has a story behind it.

It is believed that once Sage Parashurama, angered by the kshatriyas, came in search of a place to do his Tapasya. Not finding any, he stood atop a mountain and threw his axe ahead into the sea. The entire area the axe covered became land and thus south Karnataka was born. All the snakes in the sea cried out due to the loss of their home. The sage blessed them and told them that in that region they will be worshiped and no one will harm them.

From then on people worship the Snake God with utmost reverence. Almost every Brahmin household has a small shrine, known as Naga Bana, dedicated to this God. When people’s prayers are answered, they do a thanksgiving to the lord and the ritual is known as Thanu. When some household don’t keep up their word and forget to offer the Thanu, the lord of snakes King Cobra will appear before the house in order to remind them. I have witnessed such an event at my neighbour’s place. My grandfather, a revered purohit, even used to bring home dead cobras that he found on his way and used to meticulously perform the last rite.

Hailing from such a place, I have a staunch belief in God and this one incident proved the God’s existence to me. I was 5 years old then. My aunt and I were sitting in the yard when a snake passed by. I exclaimed, “Aunt, Snake!” She casually retorted, “Might be a Rat snake”. But the moment she finished the sentence the snake stopped half way, turned towards us and raised its hood! We were dumbstruck. My aunt exclaimed in a terrified voice, “Kshamisi Nagaraja” (Pardon me Lord of Snakes). The cobra slid away into the woods.

This article first appeared in the New Indian Express. I felt like adding a Post Script to it and here it goes –

Rituals are to bring about a structured way to invoke the inner spark. They were formed with strong reasoning as to why they have to be followed. Nowadays, most traditions and rituals aren’t followed and those that are followed are blindly done. We will have to question ourselves as to – Why any ritual is being performed and does it hold good even today? Or do functions at least act as a gathering place where one can get to meet other, make merry and enjoy the food. If doesn’t hold any good or doesn’t create happiness, why bother with it at all? Deities and Idols are to help us concentrate the prayer on a single entity, it is up to the individual to choose this path or the no idol path; but I feel that there is definitely a Power that makes the world go round. Call it as you want – Love, Positive Vibrations, Good Thoughts, Doing Good without expectation or Desire, Evolution, or God! Scientists put out a Black Hole theory and said inside it and beyond it, human mind cannot conceive the sophisticated instruments cannot retrieve. The ancestors gave it a name! Only problem now is the abuse of it. Some believe in God , some believe in Human Beings; no one is correct and no one is wrong. (And some like me believe as per convenience!). Just, Live and Let Live.

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