Saturday, August 22, 2009
There never seemed to be a need for the spoken word when dad and I were together. We could exchange a quick glance and empathise with each other when Mom was being overbearing. We could listen to Mehdi Hassan ghazals endlessly, Dad educating me on the nuances of the ghazal.
There were however two episodes in my life when our so called telepathy failed, creating a silence between us that was palpable with tension. One was when I chose not to take up medicine as a career and my father was hurt enough to say “You sabotaged me”. The second episode involved his choice of a groom for me and my feeling hurt that he had not considered my point of view while doing so. We made our peace after each of these episodes, again in an unspoken sort of way. My son, his first grandchild and the apple of his eye, mended the path for us, as only little children can do. My father found occasions to say “I am proud of you” which I took as his way of redemption. By finding happiness in my marriage to the groom of his choice I found a way of saying “All is forgiven”.
My annual trips to Bombay where my parents lived were always full of days planned with Mom as is mostly the case with mothers and married daughters. Dad was always around to take care of his grandchildren, whom he just adored. He was as connected to their childhood as he was to mine – aware of their friend’s names, their interests, their silly games. He would book tickets in advance for movies of their interest – Batman, Harry Potter, Stuart Little. But there was always a pall of gloom on the day of my return journey. It was always the same: he would not leave his room and when I mustered the courage to enter, I would find him seated on his chair staring into space with a sad expression on his face. I always got the feeling that he wasn’t sure if he was going to see us again.
The news of his having contracted cancer came as no surprise to him or to me. He had been losing weight and his pancreas had been malfunctioning for quite some time. He struggled with his chemotherapies with a lot of grit and stoic, taking all that the disease entails in his stride, not giving up hope. That year I was working in a new job and could not be with him as much as I, and I am sure he, would have liked. And that has been my biggest regret to date. Why did I not take a stand in time and be there for him, when he needed me? Why did I not sense his unspoken need for me? Having let him down will be one of the crosses I will have to bear for life.
I spoke to him 3 days before he expired to wish him for Holi. He asked me when I was coming. I said the earliest that I could make it was by the end of the month and he said that was too late. And true enough, it turned out to be too late. He had slipped into semi-coma the day after Holi, unaware of anybody’s presence around him.
I would like to think that he knew of my presence by his side even when he was in that state; that he lay there and blessed all his family, thinking of and blessing each one of us while he lay there motionless. Maybe I can even dare to hope that he forgave me for not living upto all his expectations.
I can never know for sure but I yearn for a message from him each moment, looking to connect with him in our very own “unspoken” manner.
But most of all I miss his hand on my head, a gesture that reaffirmed my belief in myself, a gesture that said “I will be there for you always, no matter what”.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Whenever people get impressed with our address, I do not know how to react. Am I to feel proud and wax eloquent about the place or should I just get them acquainted with the woes at ground level. Because one thing is for sure, the comments about the city are all to do with it's tall glass and chrome buildings.The unseen reality on the ground is a different story all together.Gurgaon is as distant from Singapore as a yak is from the streets of Delhi.
The city has grown vertically at such a fast pace that the infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with it. HUDA has been firefighting a losing battle ever since they opened their city to private builders. With fancy apartments and world-class condominiums comes a population that has experienced the best the world has to offer and their expectations from the city match the height of the towers they reside in.They choose to live in India but pretend to be living in New York!
Gurgaon also has the reputation of being the IT hub of the north and the call-centre capital of India.Which means that the local junta is an educated lot. But the way they drive their "Civics and Corollas" belies that. They drive like they know not what the red light stands for! Seriously Gurgaon could easily be the "chaotic traffic" capital of the country. Each driver drives at his own whim and fancy; choosing to ignore the traffic lights, the fellow drivers, the scarcely present traffic cop, the existence of footpaths, road dividers or even pedestrians.
My immediate concern is the traffic light right outside the gate of my apartment block. The apartments are on the "mall mile" of the city and hence prone to traffic snarls. U-turns at the traffic crossing were blocked by the authorities for better flow of traffic. Drivers had to take a u-turn a little further ahead. But as each driver drives and turns at his convenience, a few rule-breakers/ path-formers chose to go over the kerb and form a turning of their own. They became the trend-setters and it became the norm to drive over the kerb. Over time the kerb ceased to exist and there was a huge pothole due to frequent mauling by SUVs. Every kind of vehicle passed through that haloed pathway even though it's rear wheels threatened to get stuck in the, now huge, pothole. When the authorities placed huge concrete blocks to block the, now common pathway, the irate drivers formed another turning a little short of the previous turn. The situation is still the same.
Being a law-abiding and rule-following citizen I find myself in the minority when I choose to take the turn at the designated spot. I feel like a righteous "goody-2-shoes" who will not do any wrong. Why does following rules/ doing exactly what I am expected to do, make me feel like a loser? I would like to do more about this situation than just write a post on it. Would a human chain at the spot help change the rule-breaking habits of the people? I would really like inputs to tackle this situation.
Do people even realise that by harming public property, in this case the kerb, they are actually paying for it through the heightened taxes imposed by the government. Finally the buck always stops at the tax payer, the aam aadmi. Our short-sightedness will eventually be our undoing in all things. "Living for today" is the modern man's mantra and all our problems can be traced back to this root cause. Just think about it.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The other day I had a flat tyre and I took the car to a road-side "Painturewallah". It was extremely hot and I was not looking forward to the time I would have to spend in the heat while the car was being repaired. All of 5 minutes actually, 10 to the maximum. I looked at the young man working on my car. He seemed to be a teenager, probably my son's age. He was dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans which were completely black with grease. Obviously. I was being careful to not let any part of my clothing accidentally brush against him, lest it gets dirty.
And then the cruelty of my behaviour hit me. This guy was helping me do a job I was ill-equipped to handle myself. I had neither the strength nor the expertise to do the job I had entrusted him with. And yet I was looking at him disdainfully. Agreed his working conditions were pathetic and his overall appearance was filthy. But didn't the nature of his job require him to be that way. Why was I judging him by his appearance and not by his competence at his job?
We look down at people doing manual labour. They are the people consigned to the bottom of the heirarchy of workers. They are the ones with whom we haggle before paying them their due. We use phrases like,"Bhaiya, is kaam mein kya hai? Yeh toh koi bhi kar sakta hai"; "Itne se kaam ke itne paise?". It's like we are the experts at the job and not they.When you consider that these are also the people who are struggling to scrunge up one square meal a day,one really amazes at the strength they display in accomplishing their tasks which are physically demanding to say the least.
All of us living in our fancy homes and moving in our fancy vehicles cannot function for a day without the presence of these faceless people around us. And yet we do not value their work nor do we acknowledge the importance of their being. To us they are just the scum of the earth who are out to cheat and steal from us when our guards are down. To us they are the illegal encroachers of valuable urban space.To us they mean nothing as individuals.
Like the cart-horse Boxer in George Orwell's Animal Farm, these are the people who are happy doing their jobs, firm in their belief that one day their lot will improve. They are sure that all they need to do is work harder and harder for that to happen. And that's what they do.
Are we as convinced of our jobs as they are of theirs?
Saturday, April 11, 2009
It is at these times that you realize that India isn't really a nation of healthy people. There are very few people who are 60 or even 50 and not on medication of any kind. So they get ruled out as donors. A lot of the middle-aged people i.e. the 40+ group begins to complain of either hypertension or diabetes and you are lucky if you can get a donor in that age group. And the younger lot, i.e. the 18 and up, well very few of them are in the country, and those that are there may be unavailable to donate due to various reasons. The women are mostly anaemic. So inspite of a huge population India remains a country where the paucity of potential donors is huge.
We also happen to be a people living in the dark ages when it comes to our awareness about blood donation. We still have a lot of mind blocks- why should I, others will do it; it is for the rickshawallahs to do it; I may get infected with AIDS etc.; it may lead to weakness; it is time-consuming; it is painful!! Indifference is the biggest malaise of the nation presently, and indifference in this area is really costing us dear.
It was while I was going through the harrowing time of finding suitable donors for my patient did I resolve to become a regular donor myself. I have been able to donate blood thrice since then and would really like to see the Khoon Chooson Aandolan become the lifeline to all those in need of blood.
I am an ordinary lady. I don't consider myself very fit or very strong. I weigh 50kgs on a 5'3" frame. I have my frailties, my aches and pains. And if I can donate blood every 3 months and not be the lesser for it, I think anybody can. It is the easiest hospital experience ever. It is such a rare sight for hospital authorities to come across voluntary donors that they treat you as royalty when you walk in for that purpose.There is just one form you fill up where they want to know about your previous ailments, if any. Then they check your weight, height, blood pressure, blood group and Hb. In fact you can take it as a free medical check-up because they test your blood for various parameters and even mail you the reports if you ask them to. The entire experience may take maximum half an hour. The actual blood donation takes less than 5 minutes. And you also get free juice and a snack after the donation. All the times that I have donated I have really enjoyed the experience and come out feeling very altruistic. And I didn't have to spend a penny to get that feeling. I have probably saved somebody's life with something that I will not miss, for which I did not spend anything, that which I will be producing more of in a short time again. And once that is done I can go back and save somebody else's life again.
The way I see it - Nobody is a loser in this bargain. Everybody gains from the exercise!
So don't think about it too much. Just walk to the nearest hospital with a blood bank in your area and experience the life-altering miracle for yourself.
Spread the word. Be heard. Donate.
Monday, March 23, 2009
It has been more than a month since the last post. Just got lost in blogosphere. I am following a few blogs and the allotted time for blogging got taken up in reading what others are writing.Also changed my employment status from "not working, just a housewife" to working full-time. So a major chunk of the day now gets spent at the work place.
I have been thinking of the phrase "sab chalta hai" for quite some time. Have been meaning to write on it. Suddenly this phrase is everywhere- ya, well the phrase has been a big part of our Indian vocabulary for a long time. But with the media now lapping it up, suddenly everybody is talking about it.
We indians have been blessed with an accomodating nature. We have always been open to people visiting our lands(and then going on to colonise us, that is a different story). We have been open to testing the waters of foreign lands(and then opening indian grocery stores and dosa shacks there, that is our story).I think our "sab chalta hai" attitude really helped us in our endeavours back then. 'Coz it really must not have been easy when the "goras" looked down on us,the "bloody indians", in our own country. 'Coz it really must not have been easy working and holding our own in a foreign land where the weather as well as the general public was heartless and unforgiving. "Sab chalta hai", these days too shall pass. With this attitude driving us, we persevered. The tough times passed and the world recognised our worth. Mission Accomplished!
But now what. What are we doing with our "sab chalta hai" attitude? Is it really driving us to glory as it had once done or has it now become our bane? Have we taken our "sab chalta hai" too seriously and stopped complaining and fighting for what's right? Are we using "sab chalta hai" in the same manner that we use a cloth to blindfold us, to avoid the harsh realities outside? Hasn't "sab chalta hai" become a byword for not having to take a stand on unpleasant happenings? A phrase preceeding the action of looking away and walking off from whatever we are unwilling to take an action on!
The acts we are performing under the umbrella of "sab chalta hai" range from the inane to the serious. But they have one thing in common, they are collectively destroying our glorious nation!
Atithi Devo Bhave- But i must cheat, exploit and have my fill of the "gori-chamdi" tourist! "SAB CHALTA HAI"
Public property- Well i have paid for it so i can do as i please with it. Destroy it when i am angry and protesting, paste my posters on it , deface and dirty it- kuch nahin hota, knock off the pavement/lights when i am driving drunk- if i don't do it someone else will. "SAB CHALTA HAI"
Scams, bribes, cheatings- Whats the harm. Everybody is doing it. No point in being Raja Harishchandra in this era. "SAB CHALTA HAI"
Breaking every rule of every kind- Rules are meant for breaking. I know when i go abroad i will not break rules. I will get caught and fined exorbitantly. But in India- "SAB CHALTA HAI"
Taking law in our own hands- Murders,thrashings, rioting, goonda-gardi, defiling art, moral policing. Have to do it. Lending the police a hand. Police bechhari kya-kya karegi. "SAB CHALTA HAI"
Have we not let this "sab chalta hai" demon engulf us totally? What is it that will awaken us and take charge of our lives and our country once again? How many more Jessica Lals before the powerful learn to respect the law? How many more Aman Kachroos before the perpetrators of ragging see it as a friendly "breaking of ice" rather than as a means of sadistic pleasure? How many more BMW episodes before the drunk as well as the under-aged are scared to sit behind the wheel of a car? How many more Scarletts before we learn to treat tourists as guests to our country and not take advantage of them?
The "sab chalta hai" is no longer really working to our advantage. It has made us and our country a huge mass of inactivity. In the international community it has given us the label of "nothing works here".
Isn't it about time we shed this casual attitude to everything and made things work for us and for our country? We could start by concsiously voting out the bad elements and voting for some change in these general elections. Take charge, nahin toh "chaulbe na". Jai Ho!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It was Valentine's yesterday. Phew! Every year this phirang festival comes with a unique set of problems for indians. The indian junta gets divided over whether or not the day should be given its share of celebrations.
Every year, for the last 20 years the indian newspapers have been carrying articles on the origin of the festival. How the day is meant to be an innocent acknowledgement of love- love for your near and dear ones. But in India, up untill then, love was never innocent and acknowledgment of love more so. We indians believed in love being only of the legendary kind ( Shahjahan-Mumtaz Mahal, Heer-Ranjha etc), only of the earth-shaking kinds, not for all and sundry.It was a forbidden fruit not meant to be tasted by all, just a few lucky ones got a taste of it in their lifetimes.The others found a definition for love within the confines of their marriage. Acknowledgement of love happened i.e. if at all it did, only within the 4 walls of the house. In public places most couples got by using subtle symbolic gestures of love.
In this veiled scenario of love, "Valentine's Day" entered with it's ideas of PDA( public displays of affection), turning the indian notion of love on it's head. The "Youngistan" generation suddenly found itself liberated from the chains of undemonstrable love. They now felt free to practise on the streets, if only for a day, all that they had been watching in their beloved Hollywood movies. And that is when the "Bujurgs" in the indian population saw red (pun unintended!). Whoever had heard of or seen such blatant expression of love- gifts, flowers, teddies, dinners, kisses and what not. Was this really love- the enduring kind that they had seen in their day? Or was it just a generation revolting against it's tradition of unexpressive love? Or was it just some card/gift seller making a quick buck at our youngistan's expense?
In this milieu there were some youngsters who took to Valentine's in defiance of everything traditional, some others who took to it under peer pressure- hurriedly finding a valentine to gift a card to, some looked at it as an opportunity to win pleasurable favours from the opposite sex, some others were drawn to it because it made them feel very western celebrating a phirang festival. Whatever their reasons, the ultimate winner turned out to be the card/flower/gift seller/hotelier.In short the festival became a huge commercial success in India. Over time not only the young generation but even the middle-aged happily-married-for-ever-couples fell to its spell, vainly trying to a add a red spark to their dull grey married lives.
Well, does that mean there is more love in the air, in the streets, in the malls, in the houses, in the hearts of the indian people now? Whoever said that? From the looks of it, all that has happened is that there are fewer fights between couples on the 14th of February(it's definitely not cool to fight with your beau when he has just splurged his entire pocket money mid-month on gifts for you. The bickering can wait for the next day). The indian populace has fallen to the commercial spell of Valentine's lock, stock and barrel.
We indians celebrate festivals with a lot of fervour. We have festivals to celebrate every mood, every religion as well as state has its own calendar of festivals for the year. No other country takes as many public holidays to celebrate festivals as we indians do. It definitely says something about our vivacious nature that we take to a phirang festival and celebrate it with more gusto than them.
This cynic would like to pose a few questions though- (1) What is so unique about Valentine's, are not all our festivals about love? (2) If Valentine's is about celebrating love between a couple, how is it different from an anniversary? (3) I agree, the entire world is one and festivals need not be limited by borders, but are we really getting the essence of the festival? (4) Are we not just falling prey to the commercialisation of the festival, is'nt it just about spending money? (5) Is'nt Valentine's one of those festivals that lends itself better to a private celebration rather than a public one?
We can definitely discern and decide how we wish to celebrate our love or for that matter any of our festivals. We can either celebrate them in the proper manner that they were meant to be celebrated in or we can choose to eat off the hands of the commercial enterprises and make our celebrations a show of our money power. Jai Ho!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I was part of a course recently that spoke of completing with the people in your life for healthy relationships. Completions involve a complete owning up of all past hurts, negative feelings, disappointments etc vis-a-vis the same people. Is it really possible to live a life of such high integrity? Apart from the high risk of losing the love of your loved ones after owning up to all the negative thoughts that crossed your mind regarding them i think there lies the practical problem of mouthing completionns 24x7. So does it then not make us all hypocrites where we are mouthing platitudes of love but at the same time thinking negatively of our loved ones. Not a high state of being at all.
I have a healthy relationship with my mother-in-law, we don't get into each other's hair a lot, respect each other's privacy so to say. But if i were to admit to her that in the initial years of my marriage i found her a "Lalita Pawar", dreading her totally, i think it could be the end of our happily working relationship.I may be playing it safe by not completing with her on this count, but i think the philosophy to follow here should be "let sleeping dogs be". There has to be a limit to the extent to which you wish to complete with people, YOU have to draw a line on that. A very convenient state of being.
Purity of thought and feeling is a highly admirable quality, something that all of us should strive for. Once you attain control over your thoughts and feelings you come close to being a "Mahapurush". Noble thoughts will lead to noble deeds and that is when the dilemma ends for you. Jai Ho to that!
Friday, January 23, 2009
It has taken the weather 20 years to finally count me as a convert. I no longer dread the winters but kind of look forward to the warmth that they bring- cozy breakfasts in the kitchen, early dinners- mostly steaming soups, the variety of winter vegetables with which to juggle up a meal, the lazy afternoons in the sun, the smartness that scarfs and jackets and coats lend to the winter wardrobe. The promise of warmth generated after physical exercise woos you into keeping yourself active when feeling cold, in fact even going to the extent of taking up a sport.
Winter mornings were still spent indoors specially foggy mornings which were considered nothing short of the devil's veil ( not surprising since most murders in Bollywood mystery movies occur on a foggy or rainy night). It took a walk in the park on one such foggy morning for me to see the beauty that the fog embraces in its folds. Every sight had a mystery to it, clouded with a vagueness. People on the other side appeared as if they were there and yet not there, as if they were part of a painting, part of a photograph that had not developed clearly, had developed hazily. Like if you wanted to touch them you would have to move a lot of distance into nothingness to do that and even then they may not be for real. And it was humbling to realise that you may be appearing in the same manner to them. Trees enveloped by the fog with a flock of flying birds in the foreground. That was the sight that truly had me change the way i looked at foggy mornings, i could see them in a completely different light. I could see their beauty, something i had never seen because up untill then i had resisted being outdoors on foggy mornings. And it's a fact, anything you resist you can never grow to love.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I have discovered in my 42years of interaction with men that there are basically 2 types of married men- the first kind will give permission to their wives to work outside the house and feel generous about it. The second kind will not give permission to their wives to work outside the house and make their wives feel that they are being generous about it. The bottom line is that the wife has to take permission from her pati-parmeshwar and deal with her husband's generosity all her life. In the case of the women working outside the house they first have to make sure they are bringing back home a respectable amount of money i.e. respectable by the husband's point of view.She then has to pamper her husband's ego at every moment by making him feel magnanimous for letting her work.She then has to make sure that she gives him no reason to complain on account of her stepping out of the house- meals to be ready on time, menus to pamper the pati's taste buds, standards of the house maintenance to be perfect, larder+ fridge to be stocked at all times, children to be taken care of, homeworks and projects to be tackled on time, relatives and in-laws to be visited and corresponded with regularly etc.. The list is endless. Slip on any one of those and she may have to give up her "time-pass" job. She has to be superwoman to pack in all that into a day and still be smiling at the end of the day with energy for a session in bed if the need arises.If she finds the load too much and asks for help with the household chores, the permission for that would again depend on a million factors like how much is she bringing home, would the standards of the house drop or would the cooking be the same etc etc..
Well if she belongs to the category who has not been given permission to work outside the house she still has to do all those things but she has to do something more. She has to forget the hard work she put in to get that Master's degree and that that degree was the reason her husband married her. A wife with a Master's degree would be able to teach his children in a better way!
Does this sound like an analysis of men of the dark ages? Just look around you into the eyes of the women around. What hurts do u think are hidden behind those lashes? What secrets are those lashes covering up? Sorry if i sound cynical but if you come across a husband who does not fall into these two categories, who seems genuinely happy with a working wife and is in fact very encouraging of her to progress in her job- well that couple is doing a huge cover-up job. And if that is not the case and no skeletons come tumbling out of the cupboard then i think that particular husband is a rare specimen. He should in fact do something for the larger cause of humanity- donate his sperm samples to a sperm bank so that we can have more of his kind in the coming generations. The womenfolk of the future would definitely be grateful for that. A collective "JAI HO" for that.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Hi fellow bloggers, This is my first day at blogging. Emboldened my people's comments that i write well i have decided to try my hand at it, officially. More like make a ceremony of it. I am going to be writing on the times we live in, the way i see things. A lot that happens around me influences me, my opinions and i feel the need to air my views, make myself heard. Pretty hedonistic ( i looked in the dic'ary for that word and am not sure if i am using it correctly. It refers to behaviour that is motivated by the desire for pleasure). Since i will be writing with the sole aim of deriving pleasure from it without giving a thought to the hapless souls who will be reading it, i guess it does become a hedonistic activity on my part. Sorry folks.
Slumdog Millionaire has been all over the papers lately. The debate of India's underbelly being in full Oscar glare has come up again. First it were Indian directors doing it and now the foreign directors are also happy exposing , or can we say "espousing" it also. So much so that the author of the book on which the movie is based, Vikas Swarup's Q&A has had to defend his book saying that it is not " Poverty Porn". The Sunday Times of 18th Jan has an entire page devoted to writeups connected to the movie- "There's something about Mumbai", "From Bambai to Mumbai". There's even an article on Anil Kapoor donating the entire money he got for the movie to a social cause. What i found distressing was a writeup by a britisher Chris Way who regularly organises slum tours to Dharavi, Mumbai for his privileged friends back home. "Poverty Tourism"? It raises many q's in my mind. Are our lives up for show just coz we live differently? Taking it a little further then are the visits going to be reciprocated with invitations to come see how they live? If the tourists are taking back "admiration for the spirit of the people that live there" are they not commenting on the squalid living conditions? Is'nt their opinion of India being a dirty, filthy third world country only getting reiterated? What is it with we indians, we get all touchy about our underbellies being in full view? Is it the same as standing outside the Buckingham Palace and commenting on how the british royalty lives? Does "Poverty tourism" become okay if it brings in tourists and consequently cash which i believe is being used for community development projects? So in that sense then the movie becomes a huge ad for Mr. Chris Way's tourism venture. Does the tourist go back with a feeling of having been magnaminous?
In a country that has so much to offer a tourist culturally, architecturally and spiritually i am loathe if a westerner just sees its ugly sides and departs, charity or no charity!