Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Food for thought

Yesterday afternoon as the Aam Aadmi Party was showing an impressive lead in the Delhi Assembly election results, I walked to a roadside foodstall selling paratha and vegetable kebab at Barah Bais junction in Noida. I got one plate parceled for Rs 30. 

I walked home and opened the neatly packed parcel. There were two parathas, two kebabs and two types of chutney. The food was delicious and filling for a hungry stomach. 

There were some news websites and channels that displayed "how freebies won over real issues". Really? 
Aren't electricity and water or quality education and healthcare real issues?  These are what the citizens deserve for the taxes they pay. Call them freebies when parties offer free bicycles, laptops, television sets or saris. 

Yesterday if I had ordered food online, I may have got a less tasty fair for more cost with GST. Yes, I could afford it. But if I get an option to make my life easy, wouldn't I opt for it? 

Delhiites did the same. They opted for a government that shared their burden and made their life a bit easier.

Placing people and work over politics and hatred helped the party; not freebies.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A to Z challenge - W for Window sights

My first fascination in life. As a kid, during our rare family outings, my brother and I would fight for the window seat in the public transport bus. I would be super thrilled when I grab one (with no premium charge!).

Harsh wind beating against my face never bothered me. I would hold on to the narrow rod on the bus window and look at trees, shops, electric poles and people whizzing past as the bus gained speed. 

The fascination only grew with me. When I went home on my first vacation from Chennai where I started working, I was in the second class sleeper compartment of a train. It was April and scorching in Chennai. When I got up after a sleepless night in train, the window sights were so refreshing. The train had reached Palakkad. 

Lush green fields were running past and the whiff of fresh paddy was wafting across. The first feeling of homecoming came in through that open window of the train compartment.

Another instance I was traveling from Bangalore to Mangalore by Karwar Express. It was day train and I was in AC chair car. Tired after working late in the night, I dozed off in the train for a while. When I woke up, what I saw seemed a dream. Clouds descending on blue hills... 

Then it was the abundance of green fields in Punjab, the serenity of Uttarakhand or the stillness of Bihar villages... I make sure I don't sleep or read if the travel is day time 

The sights, sounds and light that seep in through any window bring along a unique feeling of life that goes on outside. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A to Z challenge - V for Vacation

Once upon a time, it was just the summer vacation. The hope that kept us going through every 10-month session in school. Back then parents never worried about children forgetting the lessons during vacation and hence didn't send us for tuitions to prepare us for the next academic year. 

We spent our time exploring nature and enjoying outdoor games through the day, and watching our fill of TV programs in the evenings. There was a pineapple jungle, a cashew forest and paddy fields to explore. There were mango trees all around to discover new tastes. There was a lilly pond from where we would return with huge bunches of waterlilly in our hands. There were narrow streams running through fields and coconut groves that had a particular variety of tiny fish that would leap up to the surface of water to gobble up the white frothy balls of our saliva we collect in mouth and spit out on to the water. 

After school, vacations shrunk. Life was more unpredictable after every sessions. After Bachelor's degree, there were uncertainties of what next. Still the vacation was well-spent. I had a bunch of  cousins and kids from the neighborhood for company. End of teens or early adulthood never prevented me from enjoying fun games with them, our most favourite being hide-and-seek and touching-the-tree game.

Then it was the short vacations between four semesters of post-graduation. I continued to indulge in my favourite games and chat sessions in the evenings. A half-wall was our meeting point. Plots of lands weren't divided by huge walls then. It was just the base of walls that divided the plots. One such base was our adda. 

We would also play the indoor game of king-queen-police-robber outdoors. During summers, raw mangoes, rose apples, custard apple, cashew fruit and sometimes jackfruit would add taste to our sessions. All fresh from our backyard.

In 2004, I started working. First in Chennai, later Bangalore and now Delhi. Thus, after student life, vacations meant home. The short trips with friends I count as a different holiday. Initially it was a week or 10 days I would get every 4 months or so. From Delhi, the frequency has reduced to twice a year -- of two weeks each. 

Whatever the duration is, vacations mean that whiff of fresh air, inhaling that aroma of fresh rain, enjoying whatever is left of the green environs and catching up with friends and family. Mostly, reliving those carefree days... 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A to Z challenge - U for Up in the Sky

For me, air travel is boring. The stillness you feel at a high altitude takes away all fun of a journey, I feel. But not just after take-off or before landing. And definitely not when you have clouds to fly alongside. The tales they script on the skies keep me engaged forever.

Here are some frames from the garden of clouds Up in the Sky, taken during a trip from New Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram. 

A to Z challenge - T for Tiger Hills

It was during our first trip to Darjeeling in West Bengal that I came across the word Tiger Hills. Sunrise at Tiger Hills was listed as must-watch in all prominent websites about Darjeeling. We didn't want to miss it either. 

The time four friends from South India chose to visit Darjeeling wasn't, however, the best. It was peak winter in January 2015 when we landed there. The minimum temperature was around 3 degrees Celsius. Jackets  and woollens from the South weren't sufficient for such harsh winter. Still we enjoyed the stay in the Hills, at an army guest house. 

The previous night of Tiger Hills visit, one among four of us withdrew. She declared that she wasn't coming with us for the early morning trip. We tried to coax her into it but she didn't budge. We had to leave the guest house at 4.30am. 

I was the one upbeat about it and had decided to go even if alone. Anyway, three of us started on time in the morning. Even with thick coats and boots, we were shivering. The moment we stepped out of the vehicle at the viewpoint, we realised that it wasn't going to be easy. 

Accompanied by two armymen, we positioned in a place that was already crowded. We had couple of cups of tea to warm ourselves, but to no avail. There was still 30-45 minutes before the sun to come out. And our bones were freezing. We tried to keep ourselves warm by rubbing our palms and staying close to each other. 

Cold pierced through my body. I felt my fingers and toes were falling off. The pain was increasing by the minute. We put up a real struggle to stay there. 

After a short wait that felt like ages, we heard the crowd exult. And we saw the tip of the snow peak turn into a sparkling golden spot. The first rays of sun had fallen on the top of the peak. The devout started chanting mantras praising the Sun God.

It appeared so surreal. We were in awe. The size of the golden cap of the peak started increasing with increasing glow. We didn't bat an eyelid as the sparkle turned brighter. 

Another expression of joy from the crowd signalled the sun rising from the other side. And the glow on the peak opposite grew. It was just breathtaking. We were speechless. Nature was at its best. None of our cameras captured the moment as our hearts did. 

When we descended the hill, still shivering, we were thrilled that we did it. Till date the same thrill remains. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A to Z challenge -- S for Sounds and Silence

I hit bed around 3.30am daily after working till 2am. The sounds that accompany me to the bed are of trucks rushing through the road nearby and the occasional chorus music of stray dogs.  

Around 6.30am, it will be the milkman calling out at my neighbour's gate and the thud of newspaper bundle that bangs against my door.

Sometime later will be the racket of children going to school and motors pumping water. Direct water is available only from 6 to 8 in the mornings and evenings. 

By 9am or so, it will be some construction work in the neighborhood -- drillingof walls, workers carrying some heavy material, breaking concrete, etc. I'll be lucky if I catch some sleep for three hours without any disturbance.

I start for work around 4.15pm. The rickshaw ride to metro station is with the accompaniment of incessant honking of vehicles. I look forward to the 8-minute journey by Metro that's less noisy. But then there will be a co-passenger who opts to watch a video without headphones or a bunch of college kids chattering away next to me. 

At the exit station, there are electric rickshaws vying for space. The rickshawallahs call out for people and once they get five passengers, it is the struggle to get out of the area. As one rickshaw is filled, others look to push their vehicle to the spot closer to the metro gate, banging against other vehicles in the process. And a heated exchange between the two rickshawallahs ensues.  

The 5-6 minute ride may take longer depending on the traffic. Other than Sundays, the erickshaw makes its way through a sea of vehicles, with the engine noise and honking reverberating in the air. 

At workplace, the chatter of colleagues, occasional burst of laughters, shouting across desks during peak hours, and what not. When I call it a day, my brain would be buzzing with all the sounds it had to process during the day. 

And I search for my silence...

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A to Z challenge - R for Rasgolla

I lived in Patparganj area in East Delhi for three months when I came to Delhi in June 2015. One evening with I was on way back from market, I saw a municipal van carrying garbage stopped on the roadside. 

Two street children were rummaging through the waste in the carrier van for edibles and recyclables. One of the boys exulted holding a pack he recovered from the garbage, "Rasgolla milaaaa... (I got Rasgolla)" and ran.

And the other boy started chasing him to snatch it from him. I froze on the road. Tears were unstoppable.

Rasgollas, a popular Indian sweet with its origin in eastern part of the country, would find its place in garbage van only when stale. I imagined how the little children (who were 7-10 years) would be relishing the stale Rasgollas. 

Buying them a fresh pack of Rasgollas wouldn't have solved the problem anyway. Helpless and ashamed, I continued my walk home, carrying a bagful of fresh vegetables and groceries I bought for the week.