Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eternal Lives

Last week when I went for work, office was abuzz with a news of disbelief and grief. A former colleague of ours, Allen J Mendonca, 49, passed away the previous night in his sleep.

I had never met Allen or heard about him before. But the kind of feeling my colleagues had for him surprised me. Their sad eyes looked through Allen’s pictures in Facebook and heaved a desperate sigh over the equally desperate comments his page carried that day.

I asked one of them: “Who is Allen?” He was taken aback that I didn’t know Allen but found a reason himself that it was just two years I’ve been in Bangalore. He told me: “Anybody who has lived in Bangalore for the past 10 years would definitely know Allen.”

Then he told me how as a reporter with our organization, Allen used to handle any subject under the sun with equal ease and his write-ups becoming better day by day. He told Allen could write anything from crime, politics, IT to sports and business. My other colleagues too shared their information on Allen to me: He even composed jingles, acted in plays, wrote movie reviews, composed and sang music, and played the guitar. He even starred in a film.

Still what prompted me to write this was the place he found in everybody’s heart even days after his demise. Nobody ceased talking about Allen, very often ending in philosophies of life... when I really felt bad that I’ve never met him or knew him when he was alive. But I discovered some people will never die.

Monday, July 13, 2009

India mocks at women

The struggle to introduce women’s reservation Bill is going on in Parliament. The fact that it is yet to be okayed does not evoke any surprise considering the facts of mounting atrocities against women in the country.

In a shocking judgment, the Supreme Court has held a rape victim as a “woman of easy virtues” and acquitted the accused.

Worse, the court said: “She appears to be a lady used to sexual intercourse and a dissolute lady. She had no objection in mixing and having free movement with any of her known persons, for enjoyment.”

The accused was convicted for rape and awarded 10 years jail by a sessions court in Guwahati.As a citizen, I had immense confidence in our judiciary. Now, as a woman, I don’t have it. I’m apprehensive about safety in my own country.

Women, be your own guard and judge...

A man who sells antique items on MG Road, Bangalore, had put up an offer last Sunday: A Radha free with every Krishna!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Reddy shocker

Can news about huge money be shocking? It was indeed to me, when news about a diamond-studded golden crown to Tirupati temple broke.

Janardhan Reddy, Karnataka’s tourism minister, donated the crown worth Rs 42 crore to Tirupati temple today. Apart from 70,000 diamonds weighing 4,000 carats embedded in it, the 2.5-foot, 20-kg crown has a huge 890-carat emerald engraved inside it which alone costs around Rs 10 crore!

The Reddy brothers, who are the mining barons of Karnataka, have made news on lavish spending even before. It was not more than a month ago that we were awed by the news of the Rs 20-crore wedding of health minister Sriramulu’s nephew. The story became the lead in one of the pages of our newspaper. The mammoth ceremony, attended by 40,000 people saw four helicopters ferrying VIPs from Bangalore to Bellary. The palace-like wedding arena was built on an 8-acre land. The wedding hall had 500 airconditioners and more than 200 chefs were at work to feed the gathering.

Right below the news item, we had carried another news which told the story of a daily-wage earner couple who were struggling to find Rs 1.5 lakh for the surgery of their one-year-old daughter whose leg was crushed by a lorry.

I found it really taxing to comprehend the big amounts the Bellary brothers lavished on a temple offering and the wedding of a family member. I would not even make a simple offering of Rs 10 at a temple. Not that I’m an atheist. I would rather give the money to an ailing old man or woman sitting in front of the temple, who lives at the mercy of devotees. I feel God will be pleased by that act than offering some flowers or a gold ornament for him. Of course, I will get flowers too from a kid who is forced to sell it at temple in the evenings to aid her education.

It is of course one’s own personal choice how they should spend their money. But I wish people would not be really insensitive to their surroundings too when they do so.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Never-dying words

Aami — that was how I came to know about Madhavi Kutty (Kamala Das and later Kamala Surayya), when Doordarshan was telecasting her ‘Balyakalasmaranakal’ as a serial. I still remember how I used to be glued to TV on Wednesdays to watch Aami’s story.

May be because the age gap between Aami and I was very less then, I could experience her pain, the happiness and curiosity as my own. Though a permanent bond with her was developed through her poem I studied in high school about her grandmother’s house.

Later during college days, especially after joining MCJ, I was more exposed to her literary works. Each of them of course, made the bond stronger. I discovered more of myself through her works. Even though I’m not a movie buff, I didn’t mind watching her works made into films a number of times, just adoring the bold female characters.

After two days of her death, after hours of her burial, I realize, every woman has an Aami in herself. Though very few realize it.

As meeting you in person still remains a dream, I thank you Aami, for all the courage you instilled in my mind, all the strength you gave me, all the love you portrayed and for helping me discover myself through your words... which will make you eternal in my mind...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Identity crisis

A few months ago, little Gunjan, who stays with her parents in the same apartment where my friend stays, was left heartbroken over a strange issue -- other kids of the same apartment did not let her play along with them as she did not know English!

The three-year-old's parents had migrated recently from a Maharashtrian village to the southern metro. She knew no languages other than Marathi. Later, I saw her eagerness to master the foreign language, which is no more foreign for many kids in the Indian metros.
The littile girl's plight made me take a trip down the memory lane when, as a kid, how I used to hide away from people who speak any language other than my mother tongue or just pass a shy smile on a face-to-face encounter with them.

Things did change when I was shifted to a convent in the city from the English medium school in my village, where speaking the language was never a necessity. The new school welcomed me with a 25-paise fine for each word I blurted out in any language other than English! It came as a rude shock to me as a fifth standard student, but had to slowly train my tongue to twist accordingly.

We used to find relief from the suffocating English environment secretly during recess time, carefully far from the ears of our class monitor who noted down the names to be fined. After the classes got over, the school bus took me to my mother tongue in the evenings. It was indeed, like my home, where I always found my mother's warmth. I could jump, scream and do whatever I want. No past participles, conjunctions or interjections would frown at me. I could express myself, upholding my identity.

Chirping it from a very young age, English has become the mother tongue for many of the metro kids. Some of them do not even know what mother tongue is, forget what theirs is! Neither do their parents find it important that their kids should learn their language.

English is their language, which they speak first, they converse later and in which they grow up finally. Many of them cannot claim to have a mother tongue as their parents speak different languages and they, themselves, born in yet another language region.

With all the goodness it offers, like a better living and job prospects, English in our country, is robbing kids of their birth right -- an identity.

Avenues to happiness

After days of hectic campaigning and hours of exit poll predictions, finally the world’s largest democracy made its voice loud and clear. And Congress-led UPA sounded its victory bugle.

As a major chunk of the population was enjoying the weekend, a hapless part of it that constituted journalists was sweating it out to make the victory more emphatic. As I stepped out early to office, not being much aware of a much long day at work ahead, I heard discussions on poll results on the roadside as well as inside the public transport bus.

Stories poured in with the post-mortem reports of poll results. Where it went wrong for BJP, where the Congress fared better, and of course the blame game of netas.

But for a change, we had a fun-filled day at office. Though all of us spend some good 12 hours or more at work, the mood was generally joyous with the editorial team in full strength.

Though we were exhausted when the day ended at 2 am and half an hour more wait for the cab, we found way to rejoice still by rushing to Empire (which is open through the night) to get an ice-cream to enliven our spirits.

And I discovered, politics too can give you avenues to happiness!

Friday, May 1, 2009

All in a day

I was on the 15-minute walk to bus stop on way to office in the afternoon. When I walked about 100 metres, I saw a kid who may not be more than 2 years old on a swing made of pieces of rope tied together with a cement sack as seat. His elder sister who may be around 5, was helping him swing fast and laugh loud. The sparkle of their laughter reflected on the eyes of their mom, a construction worker, who was working in a site nearby.

When I walked along the narrow street through a slum, there was a calf tied to a pole looking at its mother tied at the other side of the road with its curious eyes. There is a wet straight patch down its eyes which are keen on the mom who has a tired look on her face with milkman at work.

On walking further, I found a fragile middle-aged man in shabby clothing, cuddling a stray dog on his lap. He may not be more than a daily wage earner. His pale eyes were rich in love and care for the stray though.

I reached Ulsoor bus stop. The road was sizzling under the scorching sun. A man, whose both legs were immobile, was sitting on the road, looking for a chance to cross the road, with the help of his lean hands. At times he had to help his legs in position with his hands too. He didn't even have a piece of cloth on his hand to save him from the heat on the road. It took him some 5 minutes to cross the road. While finding his way through the footpath on the other side, I saw his head turning towards the colourful glass shelf of a restaurant.

All in a day... Felt overloaded with messages and reminders about blessings I have...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

There's indeed a silver lining

Best Air Force cadet of 65th course of National Defence Academy, Pune. Best in aerobatics of 134th Pilots Course of Air Force Academy, Secunderabad. Commissioned into the IAF as fighter pilot in 1984 in his early 20s. Had 700 hours of flying experience, including 500 hours of flying MiG-21.

The dreams of M P Anil Kumar, who passed out from Sainik School, Kazhakoottam, Thiruvananthapuram, crash-landed in 1988 when he met with a road accident at Pathankot that broke his cervical spine and left him paralyzed down the neck.

At 26, he was admitted to the Paraplegic Home in Pune. The accident could however paralyze only his body, not his spirits. After much efforts, he learned to write holding a pen in his mouth.

He started pouring out his mind through his mouth until it became legible. An essay he wrote, ‘Airborne to Chairborne’ won first place in a contest held by the Citizen magazine, a fortnightly which used to be distributed along with The Indian Express, Pune edition. The scanned copy of the mouth-written piece was published in 1993 Citizen annual number. The essay was included in the Maharashtra school syllabus from the academic year 1995-96.

Later he switched to using a computer and wrote umpteen articles for various newspapers and websites.

I may be one of the last persons to know about him. But I’m glad that I came to know about him a few weeks ago from a friend of mine who studied in Sainik School. Giving a google search for ‘Airborne to Chairborne’, I read the article of inspiration several times.

He stood as a mighty mountain in front of me and I felt reduced to mustard size with my trivial problems and a fully mobile body! Hats off to Anil Kumar, who wrote in his essay:

Believe it or not, every dark cloud has a silver lining. To surmount even seemingly insuperable obstacles, one has to muster the remnant faculties and shun the thought of disability and then canalise one's dormant energies purposefully and whole-heartedly. It isn't just physical ability and average intelligence but an insatiable appetite for success and an unflagging will power that would texture the warp and woof of the fabric called human destiny. Greater the difficulty, sweeter the victory.”

Monday, April 6, 2009

Beating the Blues

Amid all recession glooms and pink fears, I’m pampering myself as nobody else was willing to take up that role! And the ultimate act I did in that direction was getting a diamond ring for myself by paying more than half of my salary (after it was cut last month)!

Initially I didn’t find it rewarding. But slowly I realized, the act was worth it. This comes a month after I got a new cellphone as my oldie refused to work overtime :( and after I refuted the opinion of a friend of mine who had posted a blog on women shopping more to beat recession blues.

My friend wanted me to preserve the image of my priced recession possessions and I agreed. Photo credit goes to Ruth, my friend. :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Eating to live

Yesterday, there was a health check up camp in our office. All enthusiastic to avail of the benefits office provide for free, we all headed to the conference hall where it was being held. A team of dieticians from a star hospital in the city was present there. First they measured our height, then weight and noted them down against our names. We had an enlightening talk from the doctor who headed the team and got to know many ill-effects of late night eating and stuff like that.

The chief dietician who was present there was flooded with queries from my health-conscious colleagues and I waited for my turn. She calculated the body-mass index (BMI) and told each who had registered how far they can be gluttonous beings from now on.

I eagerly waited for my turn to get valuable advice from her, preparing myself to avoid the things she might ask me not to take, a bit scared after the facts presented by the doctor of all new sorts of cancer and other painful illnesses.

And my turn came. She calculated my BMI with my height (167 cm) and weight (51 kg) and told me as soon as I sat down in front of her: “No advice for you. Please go and eat whatever you want.” I was stunned.

She continued: “Your BMI is not there in our chart only. It should be minimum 19. You should have 65 kg corresponding to your height.”

I said: “But I would look so huge if I am 65 kg.”

She said, “Be at least 55 and try not to lose weight after that,” inviting a roar of laughter from my colleagues who got a chance to poke fun at me.

I was not disappointed, nor did I make any effort to put on weight in the 24 hours after that. I don’t live to eat, but eat to live. After all, only I had the privilege from among us to eat ‘whatever I want’ while many of them were asked to cut down on a number of yummies! :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pink Blues

Imagine you come in one hour early to office daily. You stay late in the night to finish works which even others were supposed to do. Everyday you would have swiped in more hours than you were supposed to work.

You finish your work early everyday and then help others in meeting their deadlines. You adhere strictly to all office guidelines and be a loyal servant of the company. At the peak of your career, you get an offer from a better company for a better pay package. You reject it citing loyalty to the company you are working for. You say you are quite comfortable in your present company. Virtually you expect them to take better care of you in the coming appraisal.

You are being good to all your colleagues and with the boss too. Even when you have to struggle to meet deadlines, you never miss a smile from your face, thinking that it may make your friends in office feel bad. Even after a long day, you go home contented that you did not make any mistake, did not hurt anybody and made full use of the time in office. Early mornings you cut a few hours of sleep and get up early to learn about a new project.

Days, months and years passed. A day as usual as any other day, you are called to the boss' cabin. You are welcomed by new smiles other than the boss' there. You find they were from the HR department of the head office when you get a pink slip in your hand. Hearing your fate, your colleagues, half of them who are still holding on to their job, are demoralized.

Then you realize... Sigh...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sniffer cops!

With all ill-effects it can bring, recession brought to us — those who work late into the night in Bangalore — one more woe: night-long cab rides. With the company resorting to drastic cost-cutting measures, including removing tubelights in the loo, many times people to all different routes were clubbed into a single cab.

When the situation got worse with the person who is dropped last getting a good two hours of ‘Bangalore darshan’, many lucky ones opted to bring own vehicles. People like me, who have no choice, remained crammed into a Sumo every night with some 10 others, equally hapless as me.

However, we utilize the opportunity to make it as interesting as possible. The hours in the cab turned out to be the best lighter moments we shared as colleagues. Our loud outbursts of laughter would have woken up at least one family every night.

Yesterday it was different when just two of us were there in the cab and the reason for laughter was provided by none other than a policeman on night patrol.

My colleague and I were in the cab other than a securityman and the driver. As our cab reached Cambridge Layout, we saw the road blocked by barricades and a policeman standing in the middle. He was inspecting a motorcyclist who was just ahead of us. We waited for our turn as policeman gestured to stop.

The driver turned back and said: “Madam, please take out your Press cards.”

Soon, both of us dug into our bags and held the Press card in our hand as we seldom get a chance to show that privilege to the world! The hidden ego of journalist murmured in mind: “Are you trying to act smart Mr policeman? See, we are licenced to travel any time in the night...”

I also thought, to the worst there must be some bomb alert in the city. Now the fellow will make us stand on the way at midnight until the whole cab is examined, we thought, least interested in wasting few more minutes of sleep.

The two-wheeler inspection was done and the cop asked our driver to take the vehicle forward and stop near him. He asked the driver to pul down the window. We were ready to wave our Press cards at him any moment.

The policeman came near the driver and asked him to blow on his face. The driver did and we were let away!!!

It took a few seconds for us to decipher what was happening. He was one of the IT city’s sniffer cops with an in-built alcohol detector! With no alcohol detector in hand, he put the driver to alcohol test with much ease!

We burst into laughter and wondered how the policeman would tackle the situation if somebody with a real bad breath was driving the vehicle. Would he be conscious when the next vehicle comes? ;P

Friday, March 20, 2009

Perverts of the highest degree

When Fritzl, who kept his daughter as a sex slave in a dungeon for 24 years, was brought before the law in April 2008, I wished the media hadn’t published it and it was the first and last incident of that genre that had happened in the whole world. The degree of the crime that led to the hapless daughter giving birth to her father’s seven children knew no bounds.

Even the thought about the 24 years of life of Elisabeth Fritzl in a concealed part of the basement of their family home in Amstetten in Austria was disturbing to the core. More thought about it have the potential to land you or me in front of a psychiatrist.

I wished media had never got the news because I feared it may negatively inspire many perverted minds and that it may disturb many girls who had never thought that such a thing can happen.

That was well, a year ago. Now we are all in an even more difficult situation where we have to digest the fact that this can happen anywhere, right under our nose, in our own country, where culture and tradition are held high.The ‘moron dad of Mumbai’ appeared in the front page of newspapers, making our hackles rise and at the same time, sending a chill down the spine. Where is this world heading for...

The 60-year-old dad was arrested on charges of sexually abusing his 21-year-old daughter for a period of nine years. The 47-year-old mother, who was abetting the crime, was also arrested. The father was led to the heinous act by another pervert, an astrologer, who told him that he can boost his business if he raped his daughter! Worst disturbing was the silence of the mother who was often witness to her daughter being raped by her husband.

The case was not a one off incident. It brought to light many similar crimes that happened in the rural areas of Thane. Many more ugly stories of fathers making their daughters pregnant and trying to get the foetus aborted came out.

Now I don’t have courage to think or wish that these were incidents confined to the borders of Mumbai, Thane or Austria. It would be happening anywhere and everywhere. Women should muster courage to spill the beans on such crimes, the worst of all crimes.

I hope no court in this world would even let these criminals see the horizon again. Even capital punishment would be less for these fathers, I feel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When I became a drop...

March 10. I saw the hand of a clock pointing to 3 in the morning after years. Didn't find it difficult to take bath in cold water at 4 as Kerala was sizzling in the summer sun and global warming effect being literally felt.

Was ready with all essential things to offer pongala to Attukal Devi by 5. While boarding a bus at 5.15 along with my aunts and cousin, I was thrilled as it was after five years that I got the opportunity to make the offering, being one among 25 lakh women who made Ananthapuri a boiling pot.

Chanting ‘Sarvamangala mangalye...’, we reached Statue junction where we alighted and headed to Gandhari Amman Kovil road. After finding a comfortable place near the temple, we went and bought bricks to make the hearth. Everything settled, we sat waiting for the muhurat of lighting of the pongala hearth in the Attukal Temple to light ours.

My cousin and I chanted Lalithasahasranama during the time. Sitting idle after the chanting made us sleepy. The muhurat for lighting the hearth was 10.30. We lit our hearths with the fire which was brought from temple and thus began our offering.

Unlike my earlier experiences when smoke made me cry all the time, I felt the divine blessings more this time. I was least affected by smoke and heat. A group of some 5-6 women of a family, who were sitting opposite to us were offering in 101 pots, heightened my devotion.

When rice began boiling in the earthen pots, jaggery was mixed with it symbolizing the win of good over evil. After the pongala was ready, we had idli, sambar and chutney offered by a family who stayed in a house on the same street.

Then began the wait for the nivedyam (offering of pongala to the goddess) which was scheduled for 2.45 pm. Soon after the nivedyam, we saw women flooding the streets with heavy bags of prasadam balanced on their head, with faces beaming with satisfaction.

I too joined the bunch on the way back, highly pleased with the opportunity that came my way to be a drop in the ocean of devotion.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An ode to 1100

On an off day, when you don’t have anything special to do, your phone goes out of order. That’s what happened to me on Friday, making me feel handicapped...

First I blamed the Vodafone network for not being able to make any calls or send any messages. Then I realized, my phone was unable to store charge. As soon as I took it out of the charger, it was draining out.

My Nokia 1100, was a priced procession for me, as it was the first asset which I could call my own... which was the first thing I bought after I got a job. And it was with me for the past four years. With tonnes of emotions attached to it, I could not believe that it was just ceasing to exist from my life.

It was not many days ago that I was boasting with my friends who sold off their old handsets for a paltry sum that my 1100 would fetch me a hundred dollars from the makers itself as I would be the only person who has used that model so long!

Anyway, I felt it was impossible to spend an evening alone in my PG without a phone in hand. I went out to get a new one, still clutching on to the 1100 in my hand, hoping it may ring once when I’m just entering the shop... Well, it didn’t.

I went inside the swanky Nokia showroom on CMH Road, just told the salesman what my friend asked me to buy, as I didn’t know anything more to ask for. He showed me some three models with the feature I wanted or rather,what my friend wanted — the facility to record interviews or somethign for a few hours.

I chose my next companion in just three minutes as I was going dizzy with the questions other customers were asking and the way they were explaining about the features they want. I didn’t have any clue about all those. Though there were hundreds of models of phones glittering in the stands, I didn’t dare go near them as I was at a loss what to ask about!

I just picked up one from the three he showed me that had sound recording facility and was at the billing counter. He told me it has all that I wanted, plus I can own a blue tooth besides all the 32 Colgate white I have! My new Nokia 7210 can click pictures too and entertain me with songs. What more I want! The salesman asked me whether I would like to test the phone with my SIM. I readily said ‘yes’ as I knew after going home, I won’t be able to do the process of opening the phone and putting the SIM in on my own! He did it for me and I made a test call too. I just ran out of the store in five minutes after paying the bill.

After I reached my room, I started mastering the new device by going through the users’ manual. I couldn’t read more than two pages before I fell asleep and I felt I’m getting more technically handicapped. I sprang from my bed when I heard a whole band playing from my phone. That was the new ringtone which I had to get used to soon. I tried reducing the volume, but failed. Finally managed to switch it off and sleep peacefully with my ever-dear 1100 beside me, silent.

Next morning, I had to copy the numbers in my old phone to the new one. I managed to put the SIM back to my old one and started checking for the numbers saved in it. To my surprise which soon gave way to sadness, a call came on my 1100. As it rang, I was looking at it in disbelief that it took me few minutes to act and attend the call.

May be my 1100 would have felt bad when I decided to abandon it for a swanky 7210...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yet another realization

When recession hit our organization, four of our colleagues were pink-slipped. Rest of us who were just lucky or lucky for now, felt bad. The rumours of a "second list soon and salary cuts" echoed in our minds, which stole a good amount of sleep away from us.

We explored all possibilities in case if we lose our job. One of my senior colleagues said he will join a taxi association as driver. I too shared views of beginning a catering unit or a Kerala mess, to be more safe as I don't know anything other than aviyal, theeyal, thoran, sambar or any other vegetarian mallu dish. Space is again a matter. I cannot afford a house for rent in Bangalore if I don't have salary. I pleaded with some of my colleagues who have own house here to allot a room for my cooking too, all in a lighter vein.

At times they warn me not to say bad things repeatedly like this... I told them this is the least effort from my side to make myself prepared for any eventualities. I informed my parents too "expect me home any time". I shared this too with my colleagues that it would be good if they inform me about the job loss at least a month in advance so that I can manage to get a ticket to Kerala without much difficulty! Forget about postponing the trip as it will be practically impossible to stay in Bangalore without salary.

All these happened in the previous few weeks. Suddenly I noticed. Though all are worried about the further adversities of recession, nobody is bothered about what happened to our already laid off colleagues...! Here, business is as usual. It is just a day when a person’s absence is taken as his or her weekly off or is on leave for a couple of days. We, in our organization, constitute a backward minority population in the country which has just one weekly off that can fall on any day of the week. People hardly notice their absence or pretend to be unaware of it.

A thought that send a mild tremor through my world... nobody is indispensable. My absence in my office can be just ignored as my presence...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Losing innocence or missing innocence?

Today morning while reading newspaper, my eyes were stuck on a story, first in disbelief which soon gave way to disturbing thoughts.

The story that appeared on the global page was about a British boy all of 13, became ‘proud’ father of a baby girl! The boy, Alfie Patten and his girlfriend Chantelle Steadman, 15, had a night of unprotected sex when he was 12 and is now keen to be a devoted and responsible father!

My neighbour kid back home — 8-year-old Ammu — recently expressed some doubts which made the whole area laugh. My amma had planted a hybrid pigmy plantain. Though the plantain tree was looking small, it was bearing fruits, a bunch as big as the tree itself.

Ammu was puzzled to see some saplings near the tree. She asked my amma whom she also calls amma: “Amma, this plantain has got kuttis (children)?”

Amma said “yes” which left Ammu totally disappointed.

A pall of gloom spread over her face and she said with all her innocence that began with a sigh: “Then somebody must have cheated it (plantain tree). Otherwise how can it have a kutti at this age”!!!

The same Ammu when she was just 5, left everyone dumbstruck when she revealed something to her mother.

Ammu: “Amma, you know why Sachin (who is another 6-year-old near our place) comes here everyday in his cycle?”

Her mom said: “No mole, you tell me...why?”

Ammu: “He is in love with me”!!!

Her shocked and surprised mom asked: “Is it, how do you know that?”

Ammu: “I have seen him glancing at me. He smiles also. But please don’t tell achan (father) about this. Anyway, I don’t like him.”

Ammu’s mom laughed when she shared it with us then. But I’m sure after reading today’s news she may not be able to take everything so light.

I wonder what impact do such stories make in the mind of children and their parents. Children will no longer confine themselves to the pupa of innocence and parents will no longer see their kids’ acts with the same secure feeling that ‘they are just kids’.

The present century had so far only stories about losing innocence early...but now there is no room for innocence in children. Whom to be blamed, what has to be done... elders are totally at a loss.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Life in a traffic jam

Yesterday morning I was on my way home from my friend’s place. The BMTC bus in which I was travelling, was struggling to make its way through the heavy peak-hour traffic.

When the bus reached somewhere near MG Road, the bus was caught in the same signal for the second time. I was sitting with glass panes of the window shut to escape from the dust and smoke.

Bored with the long wait, my eyes peeped through the glass. There was a car stuck near our bus. Inside the car there was something to make my wait worth it — a rarely noticed side of life in a metro.

A man, in executive dress who was at the wheels, hurriedly having his breakfast, packed in a steel carrier. As he stuffed his mouth with the delicacy packed for him, by may be his wife, the sight fed an equal amount of thought into my mind. There was no one else in the car.

He might have started his breakfast at the previous signal. This signal helped him finish it. He looked up and saw the light was still red. Then he took out his shoe polish from a case and started doing his shoes, which he would have completed at the next signal!

It made me think how the fast pace of life is eating into people’s lives. May be he will have to spend pretty long hours driving and waiting at signals than the time he can spend at home!

Researches have shown that the quality time a person spend with the family at dining table accounts to bonding among the members. May be such researches will never happen in future as the parameter will vanish and specimens too...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Learn responsibility from this home minister!

“You should take care of your children. What can we do if some goonda elements do it? We will investigate who made the girl and boy disembark from the bus and what their intention was. The father should be grateful that his daughter came back home safe.’’

This is not a statement from any ordinary person, but the honourable home minister of Karnataka V S Acharya, in response to an incident in which a Kerala MLA’s daughter was thrashed and abducted reportedly by Bajrang Dal men for talking to a ‘Muslim boy’ who is her friend’s brother!

The girl and the boy were taken to an unknown place by the goondas where she was asked not to move around or talk with a Muslim as she was a Hindu.

No home minister can be more irresponsible. Be it an ordinary girl, not an MLA’s daughter, what kind of security feeling is this minister instilling in the minds of people? The youngsters here are already under threat from the moral police who claim to protect the country’s culture. And ordinary citizen would wonder where the state is heading to.

Would the minister say the same if his daughter was abducted or thrashed in public? How can anybody feel safe when such a minister is holding the home portfolio? After a series of attacks on churches in the state that enraged the whole country, the same minister had said: “Why the fuss? Have there been any deaths? Not a single person is dead.’’

I think rather than asking the girl’s father to be grateful that his daughter came home safe, it would be better if the minister goes home safe before the public lose their patience.

Joy of small blessings

Today morning I was waiting at a bus stop, fighting the sun and the pollution caused by Namma Metro work, on way to my doctor. A granny who may be in her late 70s, in shabby clothes and carrying a polythene bag full of things, came to me and requested me to tell her when bus number 7D comes. I said OK.

After a wait of 10-15 minutes, the bus came, which I also had to board. When I told her the bus has come, her eyes, dull with tiredness and age, lit up. While struggling to reach the bus, she told me, smiling: “Thank you...God bless you, ma...”

I felt so happy, at the same time guilty too as I didn’t deserve such a blessing for a negligible thing. I too was to board the same bus. I didn’t take any effort to help her, but just uttered two words! So grateful for the blessing that spirited me up in the morning, I boarded the bus. I was satisfied that the granny had found a seat for herself.

I was standing holding on to a seat. Another old woman was standing in front of me, holding on to the same seat which I was holding to. I saw the contrast in our hands. Mine was healthy and strong enough to balance me in the moving bus while her wrinkled hands were struggling to keep her in balance. Every the bus stopped, she was looking around for a seat with her pale eyes.

Finally the woman who was sitting by my side got up. I could have sat there but wholeheartedly, I gave way for the granny to be seated... so greedy to grab a silent blessing from her too! My optimistic mind told me I got it...

I was on way for my regular check-up to my ayurvedic physician. As expected, the Saturday crowd there disappointed me. Grabbing a token with a number that told me the approximate hours I had to wait there, I got seated running my eyes through a couple of newspapers there and at times glancing at the digital display showing the token number.

After sometime, a woman (may be in her 40s) came to me and asked my token number. When I told her the number she asked me whether I can exchange my token with hers which was well after my number. She told me with worried eyes that her daughter had severe wheezing and could not wait for long and that she was in the car outside. I obliged and took the token from the thankful mother.

I felt so bad for her and imagined her daughter being helped by her dad to the consulting room when their turn came. I wondered whether the little girl will be able to walk and was really pained thinking about the anxious parents.

Finally their turn came. The mother looked out and gestured to her daughter and husband to come inside. I saw a cheerful 10-year-old girl running inside pleading with her mom not to go inside till she comes! She was hurrying up her dad who was walking behind her!

I was stunned, but the small blessings I received and the little girl who embarrassed my mind which was greedy for another blessing, put a smile in a corner of my lips...

Friday, February 6, 2009

N-test of a different kind

It is just crossing all limits. Pramod Mutalik, the chief of so-called Rashtriya Hindu Sena, and his men are dictating terms to people of Karnataka or rather testing their nerves.

After attacking women in a pub in the name of Indian culture, he now wants to put an end to Valentine's Day celebrations. He says Valentine's Day is an offshoot of Christian culture.. and not Indian! I wonder when Mutalik will demand the government ban Christmas celebrations too.

Mutalik, I hope you will at least try to understand that the crowd in Mangalore pub the day when your men unleashed a brutal attack on them, might have had girls who were Christians or Muslims or Jains too. The Indian culture that you are dying for is purely Hindu culture, right? How can you expect a girl from a different faith to follow Hindu culture?

At a meeting chaired by Mutalik in Bangalore on Wednesday (Feb 4), Sri Ram Sene decided to arrange marriage between dating couples. Sene's five teams will roam around Bangalore with a video camera and turmeric stub. Dating couples will be forced to wed on the spot and will be taken to a sub-registrar's office to solemnize the wedding, according to T S Vasanth Kumar Bhavani, Sene's Bangalore city president. He had the cheek to announce it amid roaring protests from all over against whatever they have done so far. I hope Mutalik will have an explanation where in Indian culture weddings were conducted by partymen rather than by the family of the couple.

Local goons in Mangalore have also issued threats to all young women to desist from wearing noodle straps and tight jeans or face action! Minister for woman and child development Renuka Chowdhury was right. Mutalik and his men are trying to Talibanize India. If he expects that girls would heed to his demands, he is mistaken. He should listen to protests echoing from every nook and corner of the country. Many girls who have never been to pubs have made up their mind to go there at least once. Many girls who were comfortable in long sleeved-dresses are now willing to wear noodle straps and tight jeans! So 'inspiring' were the speech of Mutalik and his men!

I think their brains should be made specimen for some research. It may give links to some creatures that existed before the Stone Age. Mutalik, do you use grinding stone instead of mixer or grinder in your home? Can you ensure that all your family members, including the youngest, have at least seen grinding stones? You cannot link all ancient traditions to culture. It depends on lifestyle.

It is not that all Hindus dress alike or all Christians dress alike. May be if you go to villages, you may find people wearing similar dress, irrespective of their religious or cultural background. Likewise in cities.

If you take the case of Muslims and Christians, they are organized religiously... children are given lessons right from a very young age at madrasas or Sunday schools. I bet there are many youngsters belonging to Hindu religion who don't know who is Rama or Karna. The number will only increase in the coming days.

I wish Mutalik had taken all these efforts and had this determination in curbing female foeticide or rape or dowry deaths or the other umpteen evils with which the society has got fed up. In a country where even two-year-old kids are being raped, I hope you will stand up and say with the same cheek you had while pronouncing punishment for noodle straps, that you will put an end to any one of these evils.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the name of lord

Hats off to you, dear Sri Ram Sene activists, for your ongoing efforts to preserve Indian culture.

Don’t bother about those who make a hue and cry over the issue. They just have the Lok Sabha elections in mind. Do you think that they really bother about the young women who were assaulted... err... taught culture... by your men in a pub in Mangalore last Saturday? I don’t think so.

You know, I heard some of these uncouth fellows venting their ire against your men, asking whether you will do this if the women in the pub were your mother or sister. How dare they say that! Why can’t you people just tell them that for you, mother or sister is not the issue, but the culture of India. I know even if it was your mother or sister, you would have pulled their dresses, hit them on their head and made them fall flat on their face. Nothing above culture. A person who uphold culture of the nation above anything else will not bother even if his wife is beaten up by his neighbour! I know you would certainly have garlanded the man for giving lessons to your wife on culture.

I heard your state convener Prasad Attavar saying, “We acted like brothers. Drinking by women is not Indian culture. It’ll morally degrade our society. Women are our mothers and they should behave like that.” Matru Devo Bhava... Gosh.... I got goose bumps. That means you treat all women like your mothers, right? I wonder whether you are a bachelor, Prasad. If so, you can expect a long queue of girls at your doorstep soon. After all, which girl will not love to marry this culture-conscious hero!

May be they don’t know that your mothers and sisters are beginning their days with Gayatri mantra, chanting couplets from the Upanishads and Vedas and drinking thulsithirth. I never meant the name of any serials.

And, I know they still dress like Sita and Draupadi. Showing belly button and covering breasts with a single cloth is also part of our rich culture. It would have been a feast for the eyes if all women were taught culture and made dress like that, isn’t it? I have always felt that whenever I read books interpreting the puranas. And, these westernized young women are walking around fully clad in jeans and T-shirts. How can they tarnish our culture like this!

And, I know though while in action you were jeans and pants, ( I know it is just for convenience )otherwise you always uphold our culture and wear only loin clothes. Even while wearing jeans, I know, you won’t wear Jockey or any other westernized cover underneath but only the ones worn by our great rishis. We don’t know any of our great kings who never drank. In fact, we uphold the culture by letting our men drink. Damn those guys who seek your apology, Prasad.

Hope you will continue with your efforts in preserving the culture of Ramjanmabhoomi.

Jai Sri Ram!

Learn from the Nature

DON'T GIVE UP: En route Mekedatu on April 9, 2008

Monday, January 26, 2009

R-Day essence

Today the maid in our PG wanted to know why my roommate was not going for work. My roommate explained to her that it is a holiday since it is Republic Day.

A woman in in her fifties, who had got her granddaughter also married and who still depends on us to know the time as she doesn’t know what the hands and numbers in a clock means, she didn’t understand what my friend told her.

She asked: “What is that?”

My friend explained: “It is a festival when our ministers hoist flag and cultural programmes are held...”

She asked again: “Is it Gandhi jhanda (flag)?”

My friend burst into laughter and said: “We have only one jhanda.”

She got confused and asked: “That was held recently, right? Just 4-5 months back?”

My friend who understood she was referring to Independence Day, told her: “We celebrate it twice a year.”

With a sigh, she said: “I don’t know why the government is giving holiday every now and then...” and carried on with her work.

We celebrated the 60th Republic Day. Anniversary of the day when our Constitution, with its preamble proclaiming the country to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, came into being.

For the salaried class, the joy of the day comes as a holiday. For many, it is a day to express their patriotism. For the government, it is a day to remember the nation's heroes. For people like this poor woman, it still means nothing.

After all, for those who don’t know what their fundamental rights are, who have never enjoyed the fruits of it, how does it matter that a Constitution does exist!

Jai Ho!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wheeeeeeee...... I’m at the wheels!

After 11 hours of driving classes in three months, a session by my friend and failing the licence test miserably once, I’m at the wheels now.

Yes, I got the licence to drive through Bangalore’s sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth, sometimes grumpy and always crowded roads. I don’t know how many Gods’ sleep was disturbed today morning by the screaming prayers from my over-beating heart.

Driving a car was my dream since childhood. I never had the courage to try my hands on a two-wheeler which can turn upside down in no time. I was confident that it would be difficult to do that with a car, which is firm on the land on four wheels, finding logic for my wish to master the vehicle!

But my first lessons at the driving school turned not my vehicle, but my dream upside down. With the instructor resembling a cruel school teacher with a cane who also pokes fun on his pupil, I made my mind: ‘I never want to drive a car. After all, keeping away from it will only add to my safety.’

Then came the thought of the amount I paid to the driving school to teach me and to get me a licence. Losing the money I could not afford to think, especially in this recession time.

Every time I called home, amma and my brother gave me confidence to complete the lessons . They asked me not to worry as I can practise later.

It was not that easy. Anybody can advise.

Forgetting to hold the clutch when I reach for the gear, steering on to footpath at times, forgetting to apply brake and a confused look no my face asking my instructor what to do when I find no space to wade through the traffic (with my leg still on accelerator!), never letting the car miss any potholes on the way (especially when my instructor warns one is ahead!), flying over bumps totally out of control..., and all ending up in wild yelling from the instructor who had scant respect for me — I thought licence test was the greatest ever test I was going to face.

First time I went to take the test some three weeks ago. The vehicle inspector with a single ear-ring, catty eyes and coloured hair came and sat near me. As my hands were trembling on the steering, he asked me to take a reverse, which I did. But all my efforts could not take the vehicle forward after that. The inspector said, “NEXT...” as I walked out embarrassed.

This time I was prepared for a failure, first time I was not. At least my ego was not. And, everything on the cute old yellow car went on smooth - reverse forward, turn, everything. When I came to know the result by evening, my joy knew no bounds that I thought of sharing it with you all.

Thanks for listening :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Maintain the rhythm

Yesterday was a hectic day for me, nothing to be blamed but my laziness. I got up late by around 9.30. By the time I finished breakfast and reading newspaper, it was 12. Though I knew I was getting late, I had to make a few phone calls. By the time the calls were over, it was 12.40. I had to cook my lunch, pack my dinner, take bath, get ready and start for work by 2 pm. Usual time is 2.30, but since I had to go to a studio to get the print of a photo which had long been in my pen-drive, I thought of starting early.

It was after the phone calls that thought of doing so many things in so little time suddenly grew heavy on my head. As pressure mounted, I was frenzied. I tried to cut vegetables fast. Usually I pay attention to the shape of the pieces but yesterday all that my knife generated were amorphous. Some pieces jumped off the board and I had to pick them up and victimize again.

I had to wash a few clothes too. Hurrying to the bathroom, I soaked the clothes in a strong detergent so that my job would be done soon. Twenty minutes later I realized that I had opened the hot-water tap to soak them. Result - my white dress emerging in myriad shades of all my other clothes.

In utter disappointment, I finished the washing job only to realize that my curry was burning in the stove. To prevent further damage, I had to remove the sabji to another tava and in the process I burned my finger too. Rushing for honey bottle to save my burn, I slipped and sprained my ankle, which required another two minutes of applying thailam.

I finally started at 2.30, now very less time for my extra work if I take a bus. I got into an auto, still panting. I was caught in the same signal thrice before finally making way through the mad traffic. I asked the auto driver to drop me right in front of the studio. I paid him and rushed inside. While entering the studio, I was searching for the pendrive in my bag so that my studio affair would not get delayed. To my shock, I realized I missed it somewhere.

I searched my bag, again and again but in vain. Along with the disappointment of losing my pendrive and tiredness after the melee, I entered office. A firing from my boss for my carelessness made the day complete.

End of the day, I realized even if time is too less, you should maintain the rhythm. May be some job would be unfinished, but whatever done will be error free.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do your bit

My previous post about education girls drew several queries, suggestions, apprehensions... that prompted me to elaborate on the issue.

I agree with the majority who opined that education cannot be the ultimate answer and that education should be a must for both boys and girls.

Education can only provide a platform for individuals to come up in life. It may not be the education that they receive in schools, but how they are equipped to face the challenges in life. Be it a vocation that they get trained in or their talents that are properly nourished.

Recently, I visited an NGO in Bangalore where they provide education to visually challenged children from poor economic backgrounds.
Mr Rakum, the founder who is also a karate expert, trains the students in karate and yoga along with providing regular education. They are given hands-on training in cooking, cleaning, washing and making pani puri and bhel puri as well. His whole idea is if the education they get there from kindergarten to post-graduation fails to earn them a job, they can rely on any of these extra activities to make a living. It sounded wonderful to me.

And, ensuring the well-being of women should of course, come from grass roots. Education is just one factor that will help women stand on their own feet. Many families are left in the dark just because the female member is not earning.

Take the example of alcoholic men (umpteen in Kerala, my native, where I lived till I completed my post-graduation) who are the only earning members in their family. Their families will have many stories to tell — a bright student who was pulled out of school and ended up as a labourer, an artist whose talents never saw light, a blessed singer who never recorded his/her voice... The future of the entire family would have been different if the wife was earning.

Veena (whom I had mentioned in my earlier post) could have given a better life to her child if she had a job. I understand personal loss can’t be compensated with education, but her pain would have been less if she could bring up her child on her own after her husband’s death.

Parents should feel the necessity to educate their girls. It would be of much help if the families become aware of the heinous crimes committed against women. If they are aware of it, of course, they will never want their daughter to pass through it.

I think it is of no use debating or researching on it. Let us be practical and achieve some results. If you can, pass on the message to at least two people who you know, be it your housemaid, the security at your apartment or your driver. If you can help at least two kids nurture their talents, our purpose is met.
Thank you all

I dedicate this post to my amma who never shared with me her dreams of marrying me off , instead who always told us (my brother and I) that making us stand on our own feet was her dream...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Educate them

In a charitable institution in Bangalore, 23-year-old Veena is taking care of her husband who is battling with advanced stage of penile cancer. Her husband is 45 years old. The couple has a 3-year-old kid who is being taken care of by Veena's parents. Veena used to work as ahousemaid to support her husband, a labourer. For her, the road ahead is a dark tunnel where no light is seen as of now, with doctors giving just days of survival chance for her husband.

Girija, whose family I knew in Kerala, had a different story. Her alcoholic husband once banged her head against the wall and she developed an internal injury which was unnoticed for many days. It later developed into a tumour, which was diagnosed at an advanced stage, paralysing her. She died months later, leaving behind a cute little daughter and husband who married another lady when Girija was still bed-ridden.

Recently, the news of a `modern Draupadi going to hiding' in a northern state hit headlines. Her husband had lost her in gambling! The poor woman, the mother of two kids, ran away from home to safeguard her dignity.

These did not happen in the 17th century. These are for the21st-century parents of girl children to read. Marrying your child off should not be your ultimate responsibility. Educate them and enable them to stand on their own feet first. They deserve much better than the dark lives mentioned above.

* Names have been changed

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Journey uphill


Recession and realization

Globalization, global warming and now, global economic recession.

For me, the last one was most thought-provoking. Well, it didn't provoke much thought when as a daily affair, I moved the stories of lay-off and bail-out to business desk from the global directory where I was working.

It made me think only after I got the recession pinch, when I heard that our company is also preparing the lay-off list. When it started as a rumour, we had a discussion during our tea-time, which we usually dedicate to recipes of new delicacies, experience with pets and moms sharing their little brats' latest misadventures. For once we shared our recession agony... which we had thought will never hit the editorial team. We shared our thoughts and finally arrived at a conclusion — that a recession was indeed essential for our country.

For all those who lived out of their means, for all those who used to spend uncontrollably during weekends just to kill time and to balance the huge economic disparity in our country, it was needed. Along with apologizing to all those who had to bear the brunt of recession by paying a heavy price, who may feel I'm insensitive, I think I'm right.

As a primary student, I remember going to school by public transport bus paying 40 paise. Many days when my amma gives me one rupee, my brother and I used to bring back the 20 paise balance after the to and fro journey. We never used to spend 10 paise on the much-tempting red apple candies unless amma allots it, may be once a week or so.

As a family which used to survive on a single income of my father who was a Central government employee, new dresses for us were a twice-a-year affair: when the school reopens and for Onam. And the joy the new dresses brought to us... I’ve never got it after I started buying clothes on my own, when my salary was three times my father’s salary after he completed some 30 years in office.

All my friends where children of government employees who lived a decent life, educating their children in convents, going for trips during holidays, eating out every weekends and what not.

The economic boom that we witnessed over the past 10-15 years nourished a negligible percentage of the country, making them grow like parasites on others who were pushed down under. People who got Rs 3,000 or Rs 5,000 per month felt they were nothing hearing the exponential salaries their not-so-brilliant peers got in IT companies. Forget the mental distress, the so-called economic boom brought with in an inlation that reached sky-high, making life unaffordable for them.

Less than 10 years ago, amma used to complain about price rise as rice was Rs 13 a kilogram and salt was Rs 3.50. I buy the same now for Rs 40 and Rs 10 respectively.

I feel lucky to have born then. If it was now, I would have never had new dresses even once a year, I would have never had a swing at home for every , may be I would have never continued my education after SSLC.

I realized it now, thanks to recession...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

One more new year rushing in just to fly away...