Friday, November 21, 2008

Melancholy in Mumbai

I have written about Mumbai on previous occasions, I have compared my hometown with the city, I have argued about which is the better city of the two to live in, I have expressed my opinion about the Anti-North Indian sentiments brewing in the city.

But now, I have relaxed. I no longer feel anxious, feel alien. I feel comfortable. I have realised there is no point in debating Mumbai - Delhi anymore. Each city has a character, a personality, a spirit of its own, and a place of its own in my heart. I have realised there is no longer any point in fighting the daily travel rigour, the pollution, the crowd, the dirt, the stink of fish... It is all a part of me now. I am immune.

In fact I have grown comfortable here. No matter what, it is my city now. It has started to feel familiar. The sights and sounds and smells. The people, the streets, the food... the beaches and the skies. The humid weather and the joke of a winter season. I feel comforted, travelling on the same roads, day in and day out... everything now seems part of my routine. I have started to recognise people and places. Roads and buildings. I have started making associations with them all at some or the other level, good or bad. I have started to enjoy being part of the hustle-bustle. I feel lost when I am away. I never thought I would feel this way but I miss Mumbai when I am not there.

I love the anonymity of the place. I am alone, independent. And I love it. I feel like dancing in the rains forever. I feel like walking the streets alone at night. I see the sun setting over the horizon, and I feel like entering into the ocean, into the welcoming arms of the waves, to be carried over to the horizon, and set with the sun into the sea.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I think, therefore I have a headache!

Many people who know me have told me that I think too much. Especially worry about the future. What will happen, to whom, how... these are questions which are forever haunting me.
But the one question which troubles me the most is... What is the point of my existence?

Now I know all this sounds mighty philosophical, but this a serious question which I think of every now and then, and after much thinking, come to the same conclusion: that I have no idea.

Let me explain in detail my thoughts. (Now that is another thing people say that I do too much... explain in details...far too many details... so bear with me please! :))

The one thing I fear the most is death. I just cannot accept that we all have to die one day. Why do we have to? Why cant we keep living forever? Why cant we have the option to choose? I know people say that after a certain age, when you are too old and sick, you dont feel like living.
Or when everyone you know or care about is gone, there is no point in living. Something tells me that I would want to live forveer, no matter how old or lonely I am. I may be wrong, but that is how I feel right now, and what gives me nightmares is the thought that in a few decades (if I am lucky) I will cease to live. Forced to stop existing. Thanks to our bodies which start malfunctioning and finally give up. All my thoughts and abilities... the power of my mind, gone down the drain because of shut down of my bodily functions. It is not fair. Why can we not continue to exist even if our bodies wither away?

Now I know religious peoeple would like to tap on my shoulder right now and say " but we do exist after death, our soul exists. It is written in the Gita and many more religious books."
The trouble is, I am not a religious person at all. I do not believe in heaven and hell, and life after death. People who believe in this, lead happy lives, for they know they have something to look forward to after life. But this non-believer in me, has no such options to fall back upon, and thus leads a depressed life.

Anyway, to hell with death, I do not think I can help it, so I will have to deal with it when it happens. Now to the more important question. What are we doing here, on this earth? I mean I know about the Big Bang theory and all. But WHY exactly that happened, and what was there before it, and who created the universe etc. are questions which haunt me all the time. And I feel afarid that I dont know anything. The whole questions of my existence, how and why I am here, has no reason. How the earth was created is fine, but why was it created, why is there life, and why is there death? What is the whole point of all this? I wish I knew. That would help to quell me fears and unease a lot. Again, I do not believe in God, so I cant say " Everything was created by God. We take birth, live and die because God wants it." I swear, belief in God is helpful, it explains so many things. If something good happens, God did it. If something bad happens, God did it. Believers always have God to fall back upon, and to complain, and explain everything that goes on. But again, what about a non-believer like me? How am I to explain why everthing is like it is? Living with this mystery is getting more and more difficult everyday.

I hope I am not offending believers in God. Its not that I am an Atheist. My parents are very much believers. But I have always been a non-believer. Not that I am stubborn that I do not want to believe, but that I dont believe in what anyone says till I can see it or experience it for myself. And frankly I have not been able to ascertain that God exists, so the ambiguity remains. Until some turning point in life comes, and something happens which proves to me that God exists, I woudl be more that happy to believe. And it would be a bonus if that belief would also explain all the questions I have. But until then, I am clueless.

Anyway, even if I let the question of why we are here take rest, I have another thing that bothers me. For whatever reasons the Earth was created, and life happened as we know it. And death happens because of biologically ageing bodies finally shutting down. All scientific explanation. Ok I am fine with it. So people are born, and people die, and there is nothing anyone can do about it, not even question it or figure out why, but just accept it. Done, I accept it. But my problem is, if we HAVEto be born, and we HAVE to die, then there SHOULD be a point to it all. I mean, if we are mere blips in time, miniscule creatures compared to the vast universe and the unknown, why live and die like insects? Why not live a life worth living? Even if they are dead now, people still remember Einstein, Shakespeare... or even Aristotle, Socrates or Plato. These poeple's bodies have been dead for years, centuries, but they continue to exist in this world because of the life they lived, and the difference they created.

Agar jeena marna hi hai, to keede makode ki tarah kyun jiyo? Jiyo to aisi zindagi jiyo, aise kaam karo, ki duniya hamesha yaad rakhe. Sirf aisi zindagi hi zindagi hai, warna nahi hai.

That is what I was thinking the other day. Live a life worth living. Dont just exist, and fade away. When I die, my loved ones will grieve and think of me when I am gone. But after they are gone, no one will know I ever existed. I dont want to fade away like that. I want to live forever. If not physically, then I want to live in the minds of the human race, for as long as it exists. If I can do that, then this whole thing, of being born and living and then dying, makes any sense.

But how does one do something like that? Not everyone is Einstein. But how do we know who is, and who is not? There are some poeple who have obvious talents, and do well. And there are others who dont know they have it in them, they never try, and it dies with them. Do I, Aditi Varma, have something more important to do, than eat, sleep, go to work, do household chores everyday? Maybe I do, maybe I dont. I will have to find out. And if I am capable of doing really worthwhile stuff, than exist like insects, then I will have to figure that out. If you ask me what is it that I can do which will make me immortal in the eyes of the world, and I dont have an answer. Why? Because I never have it a serious thought until recently. We all might have that 'something' in us, but we are so caught up in the daily rut of life, that we never get a chance, rather take out time, to figure it out. I seriously hope that after thinking so much, and discussing so much, I really do end up figuring out what is MY purpose of being here. And I hope after reading this long rambling post, you start thinking too.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Short Sighted!

I work in sales, and travel every day, visiting stores, to check how they are doing. Everyday I see various sights, meet various people, hear various conversations... and some stay on. Such was one of the encounters I had, which I wanna share with you all.

Yesterday I was at a store, talking to my retailer, when a family walked in. A man dressed in white safari suit, a lady (looked like his wife), in a brown salwar suit, complete with jewellery and sindoor, along with a baby girl, also dressed up for the occasion. The occasion? Probably to buy a new cell phone. Along with them was also a heavily built man in black sunglasses. Only after a while, when he did not remove them did I realise that he was blind.

I stood at a distance, observing the family. The little girl was running around, her daddy taking care of her. Mom was trying to keep an eye on the husband and kid, as well as look at the various models the retailer was showing them. Who was he "showing" them to? The blind man. Though I could not figure out what was the relationship of that man with the family, I did realise he was someone important. He was the one who got them here, and HE was going to buy 2 cellphones. One for himself, one for them. And he was the one taking in all information about every feature of the cell phone.

Mind you, that guy knew everything there is to know about cellphones. He was touching the dummy and figuring out every inch of the phone with his fingers. He was asking questions incessantly, and I could see the look of surprise on the retailer's face too. "I want camera.. how many mega pixels is in this phone?" I wondered what he wanted a camera for, and immediately admonished myself for being such a bitch. So what if he cannot see, that doesn't mean he cannot buy a camera phone. He was a demanding customer, he wanted to make sure he is buying the best only. He must have spent about 1/2 hour, carefully examining all the models before finally making his decision.

One of the phones cost Rs. 1515. He deftly reached into his pocket, removed his wallet, took out exactly 3 500 rupee notes, touched them to make sure that they were right. From another pocket he took out a ten rupee note and a 5 rupee coin, again confirming with his fingers that they were the right notes and coins. And so, without any help from his family, he confidently paid for his phone.. "Yeh lo bhaiya, mere 1515 rupaye." Impressed, the retailer pocketed the money and handed out the bill, which the man examined again with his fingers, then he neatly folded it and put it in his pocket. And then with a smile on his face, he beckoned the rest of the family to leave. They took his hand and helped him climb the stairs, and they were gone.

Having observed this meticulous exercise of purchasing a feature-laden cellphone, ensuring every part of the phone, charger etc. is fine, and tendering exact change, all of this WITHOUT any help from anyone, I realised that while that man was blind, it is I who was short sighted.

It is so easy for us to feel pity for physically handicapped people, without ever understanding what they go through, and most importantly, without understanding what they are capable of. Disability in itself is a derogatory term... In my experience, these people are anything but disabled! They might not possess some things we take for granted, like eyesight or a limb, but DISABLED they certainly are not. Do not assume they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Everyone deserves a life of dignity. Let us give them that. Not pity or sympathy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finally, It was Delhi's turn...

I was happily watching "Journey to the centre of the Earth" with 3 D goggles on my face, in a suburban theatre with Rohit, when I got the sms from my brother.. "Serial bomb blasts in Delhi. Fuck."

Short and simple, yet conveying the terror and grief that engulfed me in that moment. My mother was calling me a few minutes before I saw the sms, and I thought I'll call her later. How I regretted my decision at that time. As if God answered my prayers, right that moment the movie had its interval and I rushed out to speak to my family. Network was jammed so I could not talk immediately, but ultimately I did, and I am relieved to know all in my family are OK. I quickly smsed all my friends. Some had not even heard of the blast yet! Thankfully all those I know, they and their families are OK.

But that still doesn't mean all is OK. It pains me to think about those families who did not escape unhurt. Who suffered injuries or death. Who died for nothing. Innocent people and children, paying with their lives, for someone else's whims or frustrations.

Who is to blame? I tried to blame the Delhi Police. After all, did they not know that Delhi was the most obvious target after so many cities? Did they learn nothing from all the previous blasts? Delhi blasts happened in the most populous markets ... GK, CP...How could the perpetrators get away, yet again?

But then I realised, there is no point in blaming anyone. I guess it is unfair to expect anyone to control such a huge population with the available resources.

But that doesn't change the fact that many people have suffered today, like so many in the past, and I dread to think about, like many in the future. I am not a pessimist, but there really seems like there is no end to this madness. Madness it really is... what are these people trying to achieve, or trying to prove, by killing thousands of innocent people, I fail to understand.

I am not biased against any particular culture or religion, but fact is that most terrorist activities stem from fanatic religious beliefs. And such incidents make me hate the whole concept of religion. If this is what following a religion means... to kill innocent people, then thank you so much I am not interested, I am happy being the atheist I am. I shudder to think which city will be targetted next...

Anyway, my prayers are there with those who have suffered today, my heart aches for them all. I really hope this madness comes to an end, that someone puts some sense into these people's minds. But I guess expecting something like this is expecting utopia. Nevertheless I sincerely hope such crimes against humanity come to an end, and we can find other ways to sort out our differences.

They say Mumbai's next. I dunno how to react. People tell me to be careful. But how to be careful? I work in Sales, I need to travel by train, to save time and money. Most of my stores are in malls. Trains and malls are favourite targets for terrorists. But what to do? I cannot sit at home to protect myself, all my life! I don't wanna die prematurely, but I cant stop working either. People say that after the blasts, Mumbaikars get back to their lives immediately. Some say that's the spirit of the city, while some call it apathy. I think its just a lack of alternative. Bomb blasts or not, life goes on, and we have to move on. And we do. There is no choice here.
So even though I admit I am scared for my life living in Mumbai, I will continue to live my life to the fullest... I guess there is no better way to face death, than with a full life!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oops! We are alive today!

I guess by now most of us have read about the experiment conducted at CERN on 10th September 2008: The Large Hadron Collider, underneath the Franco-Swiss border. For those who neither read papers or watch news too much (like me), you can find detailed information at

Now of what I heard, over 60 Indian scientists are there at CERN, an active part of the experiment. An equally large number of scientists have worked on the software and hardware required. It is indeed a moment of great pride whenever I hear of our fellow Indians doing so well in all fields of work, and making all of us proud.

And then there are those who don't make me feel proud. While a sizeable chunk of our brainiest people were helping setup the experiment, which I believe will help do a lot of good to mankind (read cancer cure, lowering pollution and global warming etc.), there are other fellow Indians who have seized the opportunity to give their vishesh tippani.... By claiming that this experiment will end the world and all of us will cease to live as on 11th Septmeber. It is 9/11 attack of its own kind.

As usual the news channels had a party with such a situation. Every Hindi News channel showcased the grief of people, emanating from the fear of being dead by the end of the day. They did not spare even little kids, who were clearly looking terrified at the thought of the world coming to a sudden end. I am pretty sure people have filled each other's minds with ideas like "It is your sins which have lead you to die a terrible death like this, the world coming to an end is all your fault..." And what is saddest is that the media is enjoying its moment of glory at the cost of other people's misery. We expect them to be educated and aware of the situation, to know the facts and tell people there is no danger arising from this experiment to mankind now or in the future. Thousands of scientists around the world have confirmed it is a harmless activity, in fact it will be one of the biggest achievements in the history of man, and solve eternal questions, for which man has spent centuries looking for an answer. Surely such a multitude of wise people would not take lightly the effects of such an experiments, especially if there were ill effects. Dont we trust these poeople to think for mankind, and not take rash decisions justto fulfil some whims? I guess many of us dont, and hence all the circus around this experiment, which has just begun.

I wonder what will happen when something concrete does arise out of this activity. But until then, all you astrologers and gurus, with your ominous predictions about the future of the world (which no one knows except you), just sit back and relax... The time has not come... yet!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The pleasures of bargaining!

Last weekend I went grocery shopping to Spencer's. After buying a week's worth of rations and veggies, I realised we were still short of potatoes and tomatoes, staple food items at our place. So on my way back, I stopped at the local sabziwalla to check out his produce.

Now there are 2 reasons why I do not buy from the local sabziwalla usually.

1. I feel supermarkets buy good and hygenic foodstuff, while the local guy's veggies are dirty and rotten many times.
2. Supermarkets are able to give a larger variety at a better price usually, thanks to bulk purchase.

But at times when the supermarts are out of something, I have no way out, but to go to the local guy. Now at the supermarket, one cannot bargain. I dont usually bargain with the sabziwalla either, cuz I think "What does a few rupees here or there matter to me?" But this time, after being looted last time by paying 5 bucks for a measly little bunch of coriander, I was ready for some mandavli. I took out all the change I had in my wallet (Rs. 14.50), and marched down to the sabziwalla. I chose 1/2 kg each of tomatoes and potatoes, and after paying 12 bucks for them, I was eyeing some lemons. He was selling them at Re 1 apiece. Not only did I make him give me 3 lemons, I also took a handful of good green chillies for free!

And then I walked home, with my head held high, for I managed to weasel out 50p and 5 free chillies from the sabzi guy. Serves him right for giving me the rotten coriander for 5 bucks!! :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Corridor of Life

This is an idea I have had in my mind for months. In fact it was born in one of the boring classes of 6th term at IIMA, where I was trying to keep myself busy to stay awake, and ended up with a rough sketch of my concept of "Life is like a Corridor!" Read on!

Life is like a long corridor full of doors. What lies behind the doors is... life as we know it.

There are doors of relationships, that you enter when you enter relationships. Some doors you open automatically, for relationships you enter automatically, like when you are born, you are a son or daughter. Some doors open up only at certain times, like doors for mothers or fathers. Some doors may not open for someone at all, like door of husband or wife, or sibling.

There are doors of age, of your being. Like when you are born, you enter the door of childhood. But soon you exit it and enter the door to youth. And then middle age, and if you are lucky, old age! These doors are enterd chronologically, and once exited, cannot be visited again. However, doors like those of marriage, parenthood etc can be visited again and again!

There are doors of events, namely birth, marriage and death. Some doors one has to enter, like birth or death; while other doors are optional, like the door of marriage or love or even parenthood.

There are doors of experience, like the door you enter when you first experience making love. Doors which lead you to violence. Doors which lead you to ecstacy. Doors for both good and bad, good and evil, happiness and sadness. These are doors which all of us enter at some point in life, some of us enter more then others. Some get out, some stay behind. Sometimes we enter of our own free will, sometimes someone leads us to it. We can enter multiple doors at the same time, like being in different places at the same time. That is, having many emtions, experiences, and situations at the same time.

The corridor starts with the door of birth, which you may only exit, to move on in life, but you cant enter again in that lifetime. The corridor finishes with the last door of death. Wherever we are, when time comes we need to enter this door, and we cannot exit it. There may be times in life when we are unable to exit the door of birth, and exit staright to death, like an abortion or miscarriage or still - born situation. And sometimes we visit teh door of death, but not quite enter it, when we have near death experiences.

Having said about all the doors, I believe onec the death door is entered, there is no going back. However, some people have the faith that the death door connects to the birth door, it takes time to reach there, but you do. And for some, there is a door beyond death - Nirvana.

I dont know how well I have been able to elucidate my idea, if I have made any sense to you. As far as I am concerned, I have been through many doors, and waiting for many of them to enter. Of course there are doors I would like to enter, but will have to. And I will, when time comes.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

While we are at it... can I tell you one more??

This was about a year ago when I was on my way to Delhi from Mumbai. Was travelling alone, decided to fly. Was sitting at the airport, when a huge African man came and sat next to me.

For quite some time he was busy on his laptop. And I was busy reading the newspaper. Typically I am a person who is ery fond of interacting with people from differentcultures, especially foreigners. But this guy looked so formidable, I kept my distance. I had no previous experience in interacting with Africans.

Then suddenly this guy turned to look at me and said Hi. I greeted him back. And then, you guessed it right, the weird conversation started.

WG: Hello
Me: hi!
WG: I am xyz (it was a very very weird name, something I could not pronounce, and I dont remember now!)
Me: I am Aditi.
WG: So where r u going?
Me: Im off to Delhi.
WG: oh (with a disappointed look) im going to bangalore.
Me: ok..
WG: So what do you do?
Me: I am a student, just graduated from MBA school, about to start working.
WG: ok where did you study?
Me: In Ahmedabad.
WG: I go there for work. I am from xyz (i do not remember which country he was from in Africa..) I come to India frequently for work. Every month. We deal in tiles and cement work etc. There are many companies in Gujarat with whom we work.
Me: ok thats nice.
(For some reason he gave me the creeps, so I started to feel uncomfortable... trying to smile while looking out for another empty seat..)
WG:Hmmm.... So.. Aditi... are you married?
Me: (I was right! What a jerk!) What? N... no.. Im not... Uh... Why? (I was taken aback, a little embarassed and worried where the hell such a question come from?)
WG: Just like that (with a grin... a nasty grin at that!)...
So why dont you give me your number?
Me: Uh I dont have a mumbai number...
WG: then take down my number... why dont u give me a call when you are back? We should meet up....
(I just did not know what to do. I just took his no. And suddenly, thank god, they announced the departure of his flight!)
WG: Oh I have to go... Seeya Aditi!! (Wink and smile)
Me: (looking shocked! but happy to see him go) Bye!

Gosh! I felt so weird! I am sure that if that guy had tried to shake hands or somethin I would have shouted for security... that guy had me freaked out!!
I am not someone who usually has prejudices about how people from a certain culture behave. In fact I have usually seen foreigner tourists as warm and friendly, and much more open about chatting up all kinds of people without hangups.
But frankly this guy's behaviour... the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice, was definitely inappropriate. This experience will now make me think twice before I talk to a single foreigner guy again!

What? Is it like "Meet the creep" month or somethin??

Close to the experience I mentioned in the last post, I had a brush with another weirdo while travelling in Mumbai. (Mental note to self: Must check on my "weirdo attractor".)

I had been doing store visits on the central railway line in Mumbai. Finally ended a long day, travelling all the way from Malad to Thane. Was walking towards the platform, when one guy ( Middle aged, well dressed, with a briefcase in hand, well spoken) walking next to me asked me "Excuse me madam, do you know where XYZ college is?"
I nodded, "No, I have no clue." He added, "Oh, ok. What about college ABC?" I said, "I do not belong to this area. I dont know anything."

Weird Guy (WG): Oh ok. You see, I take interviews for campus recruitments, and I wanted to visit these colleges for the same.
Me: ok.
WG: Waise are you working or a student?
Me: I am working.
WG: ok. I thought you were a student, That's why I asked you. Where do you work?
Me: I work with Airtel.
WG: Ok. Are you an MBA??
ME: Yeah
WG: from where?
Me: from IIMA.
WG: oh that's great. Even I will be going to IIMCal for interviews.
Me: (with mock enthu) Great!
(Although the guy looks decent, his chipku behaviour is pissing me off. All this while I am trying to walk away as fast as possible, but the crowd around me does not let me lose this guy. He keeps up and continues).
WG: So how much experience do you have?
Me: 1 year with Airtel.
WG: And before that?
Me: Nothin substatial before it.
WG: By the way my name is so-n-so, I work for XYZ company. We are into blah blah blah...."
(I was not even listening to him, I dont remember what he said, I was not even looking at him. But you think that made him stop?)
WG: So what is your name?
Me: I am Aditi. (It just did not strike me to give a random name.)
WG: ok Aditi. So what did you do before MBA?
ME: I did Business Economics from Delhi University.
(By that time we had reached teh platform.)
WG: So you wanna sit and talk for a while?
(Now this is where I became very uncomfortable. I somehow managed to say...)
Me: No I am in a hurry to get back home, it's getting late. I've to go.
(Phew! there! Its over now! Go!)
WG: Where are you going?
Me: Im going to sion station. (Should I have lied?)
WG: Where do you live?
Me: Bandra. (I should have lied!!)
WG: Ok I live in santacruz. Seems like we are taking the same train. How about we sit together and discuss.
Me: (Exasperated, but still not aggressive/rude enough): I am sorry but I will be travelling by the ladies coach. So I am going that side now. Bye.
(Take that you creep... thank god you cannot follow me to the ladies compartment!!)
WG: (crestfallen) Ok, then let us meet at Sion station, we will catch up there for a few minutes and then we can leave.
Me: Sure. Bye.

And with that, without bothering to get a reply, or looking back, I turned and walked towards the ladies compartment area. I boarded the train, kept worrying about meeting up that guy at Sion station. Sure it was possible to lose him in all teh crowd... maybe I would be lucky to be able to miss bumping into him. But what if .... Forget it, I am never lucky!!

And so I got down at one station before Bandra. Sure it took me a little longer (and more money) to get back home, I was relieved I did not have to meet that guy again. I just did not have the courage to tell hime off. Not being able to be rude to someone like this, not being able to lie and ending up revealing real facts about myself... a big weakness I have to work upon.

Mental reminder to mind: Get rid of the Weirdo Attractor.. whatever it is!!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Random conversation with a taxi driver...

She was trying to hail an auto to Malad station. She came back from work and at 7:30 pm, was standing on Link Road, looking out for empty autos coming her way. She was standing there till almost 8 o'clock, but no auto-wala was ready to take her to the station.

"These bloody auto walas... one day I will complain to the authorities... what do they think of themselves??"

But she waited and waited and waited. One by one, autos came, asked her destination, nodded disapproval, and rode on. One by one, people around her got rides, till she was the only on left on the road. Rejected, she contemplated giving up and going back home, when she saw a cab.

"Taxi hi sahi... thode extra paise lagenge, but there is a higher chance of getting a ride..."

She waved to the taxiwala, who imediately stopped, and without asking her destination, opened the door with a smile and beckoned her to get in. With a sigh of relief, she sat in the cab and shut the door, and with it, the noisy world outside.

And immediately on an impulse she blurted out "Thanks god bhaiya aap ruk gaye, else I would keep standing forever! I have been waiting for over half an hour now... not a single auto wala wants to go to Malad station. Its so unfair!!"

And he replied "Yes maam, I looked at you and I knew you had been waiting for long. The tired and dejected look on your face... I had to stop and take you wherever you want to go.."

She was grateful... aakhir aajkal aise log kahan milte hain??
"Thank you bhaiya! After a long day at work, I am so tired. Standing on the road waiting..."

"I understand Madam... waise where do you work?"

"Umm.. I am with Airtel."

"Oh Airtel! Even I have Airtel only. 2 connections.."
And he proudly pulled out 2 cellphones out of his front pocket.

"Achchha achchha..." She nodded politely and rested her head on the top of the seat, and closed her eyes for a moment, hoping he doesn't start off with complaints about Airtel. She had had enough during the day at office! Thankfully he did not! He peppily talked about his connections and his calls to all his khandaan, and then started drumming his fingers on the steering wheel to the tune of some song unknown to her.

"Waise madam my name is Ram, and this is my number. Do call me whenever you need to go to the Airport or something. Just call me anytime and Ill be there. There is a couple in your building only who often call me when they need a taxi. Very nice people. South Indians."

With that he rattled off 2 numbers and asked her to save them on her cell. He wanted her number but she refused, saying she will call him. He ensured she saved them... he looked back and patiently dictated the information, and she had no choice but to save them on her phone.

The cab snaked its way thru the tiny gullies which lead to Malad station. She sat there, looking at the streets and the grimy children running around, the throngs of people milling about, the lights and sounds and things all around.

Those days the hottest topic of conversation in all of Mumbai were the anti-North Indian remarks of Raj Thakeray, which led to violence in some parts of the city, especially damaging and burning of taxis and beating up their drivers.

She was thinking about the same, when suddenly out of a whim she asked him "Bhaiya, did you have to face any violence because of all this marathi manoos campaign?"

"No madam, my gaadi is from this area only, the riots were in Dadar area. Anyway thanks to god I have been spared any such violence."

"Waise aap kahan se hain?"

"Hum UP se hain!"

"Achchha.... main bhi UP se hoon.. I mean parents and all wahan se hain, but I have lived all my life in Delhi"

"Woh to madam I heard your sweet voice and language and I knew you had to be from UP".

She smiled, not knowing how else to react.

And he continued.

"Waise hum UP se hain, but I gt married to a Marathi woman. You know that jewellery store on S.V. Road? Well I used to work there, and she also joined. We fell in love and though our parents did not agree, we got married. You see I am a brahmin, and she is not. Now we have a son too..."


She politely nodded towards him, hoping the conversation comes to an end, when he piped up..

"Waise madam how come you are in Mumbai?"

"I got a job here."

"Oh ok, yeah most people come here because of job. Me too."


"So do you like Mumbai??

"Yeah I do. I love the life and spirit of Mumbai. Although travelling is a nightmare, I enjoy travelling in local trains and and glad everyone here goes by meter, even the short distances, mostly. And what I love the most is that women are a lot safer here than in Delhi."

"Yes maam that is true. But you know madam there are 'that type' of people here too. They do not respect women. But then what to do... there are 'bad character women' also na. The foreigners always ask for them, they are usually available in Bandra."

She stared at him in bewilderment... Why was he talking about all this? Anyway..

"And madam, there was this foreigner once who took me to bandra and asked me to get a girl for him. I met this woman, who said her 'budget' was Rs. 10000. I told her I will get her more. I told the guy the price was 20000. He agreed. I dont know why though... she was not even that beauiful, compared to you she was not..."

This statement kinda made her feel weird, but she had no option than to let him finish...

"And then that woman gave me 8000 rupees for getting her a client!"

She had reached Malad station but she needed to get to the other end. And on the way were streets littered with a million sabziwalas and a billion people standing around examining the vegetables and fruits with disdain and haggling angrily with the vendors.

'Oh damn... reaching the mall will take me another 5 minutes... which means another 5 minutes of this bizarre conversation!! God save me!'

She was the kind of girl who could not ask the driver to shut up, she was far too polite to behave like that. Though she knew that soon, if things dont improve, she will have to resort to that kind of behaviour. She hoped she did not have to to.

"Wow" she said, in a bored tone, hoping he gets the hint. He did not.

"Waise madam, how old are you? I mean you look young, but I think you are about 24 or so.."

"Ummm.. yeah whatever. Something like that. Though people think I am a mother of 3 kids.."

" No way, you are far too young and pretty.. with a clear and fair skin like yours, how can someone say that?? You are married?"

'What is it to you?' she thought. She was glad they had reached the other end of the station.

"No I am engaged to be married. Anyway just stop here I need to get out..."
She thought mentioning her engagement will shut him up. It did not.

"Waise madam, do you work on saturdays and sundays as well?"

This question intrigued her... As she started to get out, she answered "No, why?"

"I was thinking, maybe this weekend I could take you out to the movies at Inorbit Mall..."

This was too much!! Asking her out for a movie? How could he, even so after telling her about his wife and son??

"I am sorry I cannot go out anywhere. Now if you would kindly tell me how much is the fare I would like to pay and leave, I am getting late."

This abrupt turn in the conversation did nothing to faze the driver. She handed out a 100 rupee note, saying she had either this or 6 rupees in coins. He told her teh fare was 30 rupees, but for her, the ride was free!

FREE RIDE!! No way... god knows whats is going on in his mind... she thought.

"Nahi bhaiya... aap please 30 rupaye le lo... mujhe free achchha nahi lagta."

"No madam I cannot take money from you, you are special, this time its free for you. Ill take money next time.

Yeah right, like there is going to be a next time... she thought to herself.

After a lot of argument, she finally succeeded in paying him 6 rupees, and rushed out of the cab and ran towards the mall., never once looking back for the fear of the taxi wala saying something more... She had had enough for the day.

She went inside and ran to the shop she wanted to go to... and only when she was alone did she relax. She shopped and when she was done, she peeped outside, happy to see there was no taxi in sight. She quickly hailed an auto, hoping he doesnt turn up again to try to drop her back or anything. And finally she got home, and the first thing she did was erase the entry from her contact list called "Ram taxi driver".

Friday, April 25, 2008

No, I've not been to Goa!

Last week I was told by my boss that I have to attend a Sales and Marketing Convention orgnised by the company.... in Goa! I have never visited Goa, though I have been dying to go for ages, so this news had me staring at him, dumbfounded with happiness, shaking his hand, barely listening to him giving out other details of the convention... I WAS FINALLY GOING TO GOA! That too company paid travel and hotel stay! A Free Trip! Can something be better than this?

Well to tell you the truth, a lot has been better than this.

I was so excited last Thursday, packing my stuff, taking clothes and accessories 'one requires at the beach!' I told my family, and they were so happy for me. Told my best friends, and they were jealous! Bragged about it to Rohit also, who had gone for a similar business convention to Goa last year only, without me ofcourse. I was on the top of the world, and I was all gung-ho when I reached the station that night.

And that is when it started. I came to know that we were boarding an unscheduled train to Goa. Which means no water or food or facilities provided during the journey, which itself is unpredictable, as unscheduled trains have no fixed timings, since other trains are given priority at signals. We boarded, not sure when we will reach Goa.

We woke up early Friday morning when some vendors came in selling breakfast. We managed to eat something in the morning, after being hungry all night, barely surviving on the few bottles of water and packets of chips we managed to buy from some station. We arrived in Goa 2 hours late, and in the scorching heat, made our way to the hotel in a thankfully AC bus. When we reached the hotel, more disappointment was to follow.

The hotel was recently taken over, the staff was on strike. The rooms were unkempt and stuffy and smelly, the AC did not work in our room, the plumbing was disastrous, there was no water provided, and forget about the toiletries and snacks freebies. An unresponsive room service, and PATHETIC FOOD, ruined our afternoon. Tired from the long journey and unrelenting heat, we slept till evening, when we went out and roamed around on a boring and empty beach in one corner of south Goa, which might as well have been any beach in Mumbai... you would not know the difference. It just did not FEEL like Goa.

After a terrible dinner that night, we woke up early Saturday morning to a worst breakfast, and managed to start the convention by 9 am. While the presentations and activities planned were interesting and gave lots of learning, the experience was a disaster. 200 people crammed in a hall, where the ACs were not working, and for 8 hours, we sat there, breaking only for an unexciting lunch, in the sweltering heat with not even cold water available to drink. We could not be gladder when the convention ended, halfway through people had lost all interest thanks to the insufferable environment.

That evening was the only silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud, when the hotel had prepared some entertainment. We were all given sea shell necklaces and straw hats, a face painter and a music band provided some entertainment. We retired late after a forgettable dinner, and Sunday afternoon, we were chucked out without being given lunch. Hungry and hot, we reached the railway station only to realise the train has been delayed. We finally had food in the railway station restaurant, which actually served worse food than the hotel, which I did not think was possible. After forcing ourselves to eat to stay alive, we sat in the sweltering heat for 5 hours before the train arrived, and again ran around every stop, trying to buy dinner.

None of us could be happier when we reached home on Monday afternoon, tired and hot and hungry. It was one of the worst trips ever, be it the travel arrangements, the hotel facilities or the weather. I appreciate my colleagues from HR, they tried hard to make the trip work, but frankly none of us were sad to end the disastrous trip.

And thus, since i did not experience the fun, the sun, the sands, the festivities, the awesome hotels, the food, the firangis, the feni, the ferry rides, the booze, the markets, the water sports etc., just like everything they did in Dil Chahta Hai, I still consider myself as someone who has NEVER been to Goa. Better think this way, than have the worst trip be the memory of my first trip to Magical Goa! I hope I get to go to Goa soon, and have a completely different and truly memorable experience!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Last evening I found a huge horrible lizard in the loo, and ever since that discovery, I refused to go, until the maid came in the morning and confirmed the loo is lizard free. Although I locked up the slimy creature in the loo, I could hardly sleep all night for the fear it will somehow escape and run towards me! I got up in the middle of the night, shut every door and window to stop any lizards from coming. Not that an army was waiting to enter my room, but I always feel that all the lizards are out to get me whenever I see one.

I hate these reptilian monsters... Yeah you are damn right they are like monsters to me. Though you can make me watch as many Nat Geo series on reptiles, if I see one in front of me, I am either repulsed or scared out of my wits. God only knows why he made such creatures, like lizards and cockroaches and frogs. (I know there is a scientific reason for the existence of every creature, the food chain etc etc... as you know this is a rhetoric question, just a crib!)

Speaking of frogs, they are pretty harmless and not so ugly looking but they still freaked me out. At the IIMA campus, my room was next to a small bog which filled with water during monsoons, and as you can imagine, became a haven for these ribbitting creatures. Paro, my neighbour, would remember the umpteen number of times we girls living in the basement floor chucked out frogs out of our rooms. Rather Paro chucked them out for us. She was our knight in shining armour... rescuing us from the ambush of roaches and lizards and croaky toads, without a hint of fear on her face.

I must admit it was only after I started staying at my dorm in IIMA that I managed to be somehow tolerable of these creatures, especially lizards, who coexisted with us in our bedrroms and bathrooms peacefully. I am kinda intolerant of them now as I sleep on the floor, and I dream of these creatures crawling all over me. It has happened a few times with me at home. Whenever I sleep in my parents' room when guests are sleeping in mine, I sleep on the mattress on the floor, and invariably im woken up by a cockroach climbing up my leg.. Eeeeks!

Back at home I always had my doggie Tiffany, who loved to hunt those unfortunate lizards who dared to leave the security of high walls and crawl on the floors. I mean seriously, night or day, anytime you say "chhipkali" and Tiffany would rise and run around the house, scanning the walls for any sign of these disgusting things, and if she managed to find one on the floor, the poor thing was killed in a matter of seconds. Mind you my dog was very intelligent. She really understood the meaning of words. Like when u said chhipkali she looked at the walls, when you said chuha she scanned the floor's nooks and crannies, and when you said kabootar, she would look outside the window and scare them away with her barking! She also knew doggie, billi, bhains (she really hated buffalos, would bark her head off at them, but did not care much for cows... maybe she was racist?) But Tiffany was a brave dog. She killed more than half a dozen lizards, and more than a dozen mice in her lifetime. However there was only one skeleton in her closet - she used to get smacked by cats on her nose... even kittens. Cats were her nemesis, and no matter how much she pretended to scare them to impress us, we all knew in hearts of our hearts that Tiffany is no match for a cat. Any cat.

Anyway back to lizards... I dont know why I am scared of them so much. I guess it runs in my family. I remember, about 15 years or so ago, when all of us cousins used to visit grandparents in Calcutta. I remember that day when all my cousins and aunts were in his room, playing scrabble and chatting away at night, when suddenly my cousin shrieked... there was a lizard in the room! Everyone started to scramble, while we little kids all aged 6 and below, were quite unsure of what was happening. My elder sisters and aunts, all cowards, ran to the other corner of the room, huddled together, shivering with fear. And then, the heroine rose to the occasion. Rather she was forced to. They gave a a long jhaadu and made me stand on the corner of the bed next to the lizard and shoo it out of the room. Can you imagine? In a room full of adult women, a small 6 year old girl was shooing away the lizard!! I certainly felt important and brave that time, but not so much right now. I guess even I am turning into a scaredy cat when it comes to reptiles and insects. The only creatures I am not afraid of are ticks.. I used to search my doggie's coat for ticks all the time and they are teh only insects I have been able to hold and kill. Otherwise even the smallest of these things makes me cry out loud!

Anyway I think I have rambled on enough for this random post, will rush to get ready for office now, please pray for me that the lizard is not waiting for me in a corner in there, poised to attack me! Cuz of all the people in the world, I don't want to become lucky by having a lizard fall on my head or anywhere else for that matter!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hyper over Hyper Marts!!

I still remember the first time I entered HyperCity in Mumbai. It was my first day in the city and Rohit was showing me places where I could shop in Malad. It was the largest and the most comprehensive shopping mart I had ever seen. As you can probably understand from the pictures above, this place is HUGE and it stocks things from every nook and cranny of the world!

There is everything available that you might need, there is unmatched variety and quantity. Prices, though premium, are worth it. Everything is so well organised and packed... It feels like I am not in India but in some fancy hypermart abroad!

But while it is the largest hypermart in the country with goods and services satisfying almost all our requirements under one roof, it still misses the utility and charm of the nukkad grocery store.

Hypercity services the elite, and sometimes forgets to stock simpler goods and grands, like good ol' Charmis cream. It stocks state of the art age miracle and skin lightening creams, each costing minimum 300 for a little bottle, and of no use for someone like me.
It also does not give me the freedom to take a few leaves of dhaniya or kadi patta.. I have to buy the whole bunch or nothing.
The prices are HIGH... and there is no scope for haggling too!!
And it always takes me a lot of time to get the billing done. Not like your neighborhood store where you get instant and personalised attention and service..

So, great job done, with the immense space and variety and quantity, but let me tell you, this huge giant misses the little things that we love about our little stores and vegetable carts... Dont get me wrong, I think Hypercity is a great idea and a big help, but sometimes, even with its size, it fails to match up to our kirana stores... sounds unbelievable, but true. Isnt it?

Some new books and movies...

Hey there people!

Been busy with life, so did not post, though I have many drafts waiting to be finished.
But just to fill you in on a few books and movies I came across in the past 2 weeks..

The life of others - a german oscar winning movie - watched it alone on the theatre.. worth every penny you pay. great movie, story, acting... must watch.

4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days - a romanian movie on illegal abortions in late 1980's in romania. lots of hype about the title and story but an utter and complete disappointment. Dont bother watching, its a complete waste of time and money.

10000 BC: ok movie... historical facts are screwed, acting aint too great... but theek hai... not bad. but dont waste money on a theatre... watch it on DVD.

Th Appeal - book by John Grisham - on crossword bestselling list. His usual legal thriller, but not his best. Well worth the read though, for his fans.

The Japanese Wife - book by Kunal Basu - I had never heard of this guy till I saw the book on the bestseller list of crossword. its a compendium of 12 short stories, the first of which is Japanese wife. This one is also made into a movie by Aparna Sen. However, I was kind of disappointed by the writing style. the stories did not convince me, and i left the book in the middle. not worth the 400 bucks I spent on it.

Th girls of Riyadh - a book by Rajaa Alsanea - Now this was a book I really liked... a refreshingly new style of writing, I read the book almost nonstop. Very well written, gives great insight into the Saudi society... something I dint have much idea about. A must read, though I think it would appeal more to women than men, as it is narration of lives of four women friends.. a look at the society through the eyes of women.

I have many more things to share with you, will write LOTS of posts soon!!
Till then, take care!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Me Mumbaikar.. or not?

I know its a little too late to be writing about this, but as they say, better late than never.

I know this statement is a little drastic, but I do feel 'disappointed' in Mumbai. The city of dreams, where everyone has a real chance of not just surviving but flourishing. The magical city with the sparkling seas, the lively night life, the hustle-bustle of millions of people, the city which is full of life! The city which gave me a house, a job, a life, and made me its own. The same city which took just a second to make me feel like an unwanted outsider.

They say that immigrants ruin the city. They don't follow rules, they encroach upon land, they dirty the town. While I agree that the poor people who come without a place to live or a job to feed themselves, end up cluttering the city, usurping land and sanitation etc. But it is not just a Bihari or a UPite who would do that: any poor person who migrates to Mumbai will do that.

Sure they break traffic rules in Delhi, sure the law and order is not so great in Bihar, sure there are riots in UP. But that's there, not here. When people come here, they all mould themselves along the fabric of Mumbai! Initially there might be settling down pains, but sooner or later we all merge in! I know I did!

But it was appalling to see that 100% of the readers of a leading English daily newspaper opined that ALL NORTH INDIANS flout law and should be thrown out of Mumbai. I think its not the region of the person but the education or economic status which reflects in his behaviour.

I have not encroached any land, I do not flout traffic laws, I don't board trains or buses out of line, I do not dirty the streets. It is the poor and illiterate people who do that, and they could be from any where in the country! Are you trying to tell me that a poor South Indian with nothing, comes to Mumbai and lives in a legal shanty, knows all the rules, and never throws a scrap on the road? Are you trying to tell me that the Marathi Manoos is 'doodh ka dhula' perfect and clean? That it is a genetic problem with a North Indian? I am sorry I do not agree.

I know this all is the work of politicians who have nothing better to do, but what I do not like is the anti-social effect it has on the minds of the people in the city. I now many people who felt ostracised in south Indian cities, and stuck to their own peers, never mingling with the South Indians in the big software companies in Bangalore, as they were not "liked" much. Ditto for the Non-south Indians who dare to settle down in Chennai: almost everyone is fleeced by the Auto-walas, and is forced to not be able communicate as people there refuse to understand Hindi even if they do.

Cmon people, every one loves their city, and dislikes those who ruin it. But lets not make it a matter of national integration by pointing fingers at communities. Have we learnt nothing from our bloody past? Do we not know yet that we are first an Indian and then a Bihari or a Marathi? We should all take responsibility for the upkeep of our cities, as an Indian. I should be equally concerned with keeping Delhi as clean as I would keep Kolkata if am a Bengali. Why should there be a difference at all?? After all, if Delhi is my Janma Bhoomi, Mumbai is my Karma Bhoomi, and I am grateful to it for everything it has given to me. And I will do everything it takes to respect it and take care of it. And I think most people feel the same way.

Except for those of us who really do not care about rules and the environment. They will do as they please, wherever they are. So instead of pointing fingers at their region, lets do something about the problem. Like remove all illegal constructions. Let the people find a legal place to live. If they find one, good for everyone. If they don't, they will go back! Same goes for jobs and education. The only criteria should be merit. If you have it, you get the seat/post. Not because you are a Marathi or a UPite. Those who deserve the jobs/seats will stay, those who don't will leave! Traffic rules being flouted? I think the 'mamas' are doing a great job of taking care of that. Those who break the law, get fined. They get fined till they improve. Even if they dont, they at least pay! Same for people not respecting lines... Cmon Mumbai, you know you do not let a person enter a line from anywhere... even if someone does it, none of us allow him to right? We are Mumbaikars, proud of our city, and very well armed to take care of it too. So why complain and fight on stupid grounds with our fellow Indians? You got a problem, solve it. Work towards finding a solution. Its possible.

You would wonder why I care to write all this, as I am not suffering. Well I am. I feel bad that my community is being generalised. Its not fair. I feel bad when the auto wala gets hit by the mumbaiite's car, its the car's fault, his auto is ruined while nothing happens to the car, and he still gets 2 slaps and lots of gaalis for being a 'north Indian' and he is told to get lost; I feel scared that the kind of treatment north Indians sometimes get in south India, it will start happening here too. I feel guilty, amongst the Mumbaikars, while I walk the streets with them, guilty for things I have not even done, for I can see the silent anger in their eyes for all those who are not originally from here.

THROWING OUT ALL NORTH INDIANS FROM MUMBAI IS NOT THE SOLUTION. tomorrow someone will have a problem with the Marwaris.. without them do you think businesses will flourish? Gujaratis, without them there is no Stock exchange or Diamond Market. Remember, it is all of us together who make Mumbai what it is. Each of us have a role to play. We cant do without any community. We all have to learn to live in peace and work out problems instead of wasting time in pacing blames. We have to know the hidden agendas of politics and not be swayed by it. That's what I think the city is all about. Being truly united in its diversity. That's how I have always seen it, that's how I hope it will always be.

Cmon Mumbai, give me a reason to say 'Mi Mumbaikar" and be proud of it!

As for Jab We Met...

Listen up everyone, I just want to make clear that I have not seen Jab We Met. I know it is a great film, I know everyone has acted really well, I know the music is great. But I still have not watched the movie, nor do I ever intend to deliberately. Dont get me wrong, I do like some songs, and the story does not seem bad at all, and Shahid is a cutie... but for the LOVE OF GOD I CANNOT STAND KAREENA!! I HATE HER! I know she is perfect for that role, but its that kind of character that I hate! Like Kajol in Kabhi khushi kabhi gham.... non-stop blabbering at high pitch voice - its intolerable! I know in spite of Kareena and her horrible acting and the irritating character you all loved the movie... Heck some of the most serious and non-JWM kinda people have also seen the movie and loved it, which surprised me. But anyway to each his own. So folks, I just want you to know that there is nothing on this earth that can make me watch that wretched woman, and hence the movie, so quit telling me that its a great movie, and I am missing everything in my life by not watching it. Frankly my dearies, I don't care a damn! I don't know what all the hullabaloo is about, and don't wanna know either. I know you mean well but let's face it: I will never be able to appreciate what you do, thanks to Kareena. So let us let Jab We Met, as well as me, rest in peace!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I was watching television when I came across the news that an asteroid is posing possible collision danger to the earth. The asteroid was passing by around 27th January, and was thought to be a danger, till research confirmed that it will just pass by very closely, but not collide. Another asteroid, which was not in the way of earth, became a cause of concern, as there were chances that it would hit Mars on January 28th, and then be deflected towards us. Thankfully even that did not happen.

Sitting there watching this on TV suddenly made me realize that life is so short. One moment you are somewhere, doing something, and the next moment… an asteroid collides with the earth and all is over in a second. I immediately called up my mother and told her that I was disturbed by these possibilities of life coming to an end just like that. I did not want to die already, abhi toh maine apni zindagi shuru hi ki hai!!

And then I realized… we really take life for granted. We all have assumed that we will live till a ripe old age, and have all the time in the world to do and say things that are important. There is no hurry. But that is not true. Life is unpredictable. You never know which day is your last. I know all this is bookish, but I really felt that it is really important to live each day to the fullest, say and do everything that your heart desires, kya pata kal ho na ho!

And since then, I have tried to do and say everything now, to not fight or keep grudges… you never know, when you fight, those words may be the last the person hears from you. I wont say that I have managed to fulfill the destiny of each day that I have lived, but I try.

I was thinking, what would I do, if I came to know that in a while, the earth will come to an end??

If I had a week, I would pool in all my savings and go for a vacation to my dream destination with my near and dear ones.

If I had a day, I would try to go to Delhi and spend the day with my family and friends.

If I had an hour, I would spend it calling all my near and dear ones to say I love you, and eat lots of my favorite food!

And if I had only a minute, I would spend it in Rohit's arms… I want that lovely feeling to be my last living memory before I say goodbye!

What would you do?

Monday, January 14, 2008

On a recommendation spree... 2!

Last December I went home for the festive season. I reached Delhi on 22nd morning, and the first thing I did was to get tickets for the first available show for Taare Zameen Par. Ever since I came to know that Aamir Khan is making a movie, I had my mind set – no matter what the movies is about, I was definitely going to see it. Aamir is one of the few actors that I admire in the film industry: his acting skills, his perfectionist attitude… I am all for it! So I took my mother along and watched the movie. Here is my two cents!

To say that I liked the movie would be an understatement. The movie was excellently made, with amazing performances by every one of the actors. It is one of the most realistic movies I have seen in a long time, the last one being Khosla ka Ghosla, where every character looked like someone in your own family. Similarly, the house, the parents, the neighbourhood, the school… everything and everyone gave me a sense of Déjà vu. A feeling of ‘been there, done that’.

As every one would know by now, it is a story about a boy suffering from learning disabilities, and his struggle with the world. It is a sensitive tale where the parent-child relationship has been well explored. The interesting thing about the movie is that even if we have never been associated with anyone with learning disabilities, we can still relate to the characters. This is because the movie doesn’t just deal with learning disabilities – it deals with a lot more.

Be it the father who has mountains of expectations from his children, or the mother who has sacrificed everything to give her children the best they can get, or the older sibling who tops his class and is trying to deal with an errant failure of a younger sibling, or the child himself – fraught with the disability, the peer pressure, struggling against everyone. Forgetting deliberately to get our papers signed, bunking school, forging absent notes, taking surprise tests which we are bound to fail… All of us can see ourselves somewhere in the movie. The movie makes us see the mirror, which is a great job done. It helps the audience to identify with the movie, and accept it.

But this is also, in my opinion, one of the drawbacks of the movie…some people do not like to be shown a mirror. The fathers who felt ashamed of being insensitive towards their children’s struggles, the mothers who could not stop their children from being reprimanded by their husbands, the older siblings who felt frustrated on not being able to understand their sibling’s failure… many people told me that they have been in these situations, and watching the movie reminded them of their actions, and they felt uncomfortable. While some people realised their mistakes, accepted their faults, and began to look at the situation from a renewed point of view; others were too ashamed or too egoistic to accept the facts, and walked out of the movie, terming it as a “bad movie”.

So while this movie may have made some people realize and reform, those who chose to ignore the glaring truth: I hope that if not now, then maybe some day in the future, they will think about whatever little part of the movie they saw; and hopefully accept the message of the movie.

Which brings me to the question: what is the message of the movie really, if at all it has one? I think the movie does have a message, and the fantastic part is that it succeeds in imparting the message without exaggerating the sentiments or being preachy. As for the message, in my humble opinion, it is not “we should be sensitive towards disabled children” which is the only message. For me, the movie is about other important issues as well, which are being faced by today’s generation.

Some of Aamir’s dialogues: “In today’s world, there is too much competition. Everyone wants toppers in their homes. 95.5%, 95.6%... anything below that is like an abuse. Medicine, engineering, management… only these career paths are acceptable, there is no success anywhere else. Every child has his or her own abilities and pace of learning. But no, the parents do not understand that, and burden the tiny shoulders with the load of their own ambitions… and if the children are unable to fulfil their dreams, then all hell breaks loose. If you want to win races, breed race horses damnit, why produce kids??”

These statements sum up one of the most difficult problem a child faces today in the Indian society – that of choosing a path of education and career. We all have our talents and abilities and vocations; but for many of us, unfortunately, our parents have already charted the course of our student life and career, just the way they know exactly who would be the best life partner for us. Dare to defy them, face the music. After all they are our parents; it is our duty to quietly submit to their every whim and fancy. Of course, not all parents are competitive or dominating, and many kids today do not care two hoots about what the world expects them to do if they have found their calling in life. But for those who neither have the guts nor the resources to chase their dream, end up killing their desires and mechanically operate as per others’ wishes. And that is the worst thing one can do to a bright young child… kill his enthusiasm, his zest, his creativity, his individuality. If only the parents could respect the wishes of the child, especially if he is a slow learner or is trying to attempt something off-the-beaten-path, this world would be a happier place for youngsters.

In addition, I think this is a great movie for kids who are actually facing learning disability problems. Hopefully the next time we get up to shout at our child who has failed yet again on his test, we will pause to think for a moment and consider the possibility of the child having a genuine problem. For this movie clearly says that it is not a matter of humiliation if your child is a slow learner. We should understand the pain of the child and help him overcome the disability: many successful people have emerged victorious in their battle with dyslexia. It can happen to anyone, and if happens to someone you know, it is not the end of the world. Acceptance is the first step towards recovery.

Alas, change is awfully slow in our society. But it is great to see that there are people who are still trying, via all media, to deliver messages to the public. There is hope. I say, if even 1% of the parents and teachers, who are the prime sculptors of our personalities and lives, can understand the movie and change their own thinking, the movie is a success. For it is not the box office earnings that are important for a movie like this, but the change in the thinking of the society at large, which is the real success factor. So I completely agree with the people when they say that this movie should be made compulsory to be watched by every parent and teacher in this country. It is not a movie just for the kids. It is a movie for all to see, enjoy, and hopefully learn from. A must see, all you people!

Just one warning – apart from the wonderfully done locations, characterisation, music and cinematography, the movie is also very touching: the “hai na maa” and “taare zameen par” songs, the boy struggling at the hostel, Aamir dealing with the boy’s problem and his parents, the climax scene… they all are real tear jerkers, so dont forget to take a pack of tissues with you. I guarantee you'll need it ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On a recommendation spree!!

Hey there folks! Hows life treatin ya?

Well I know I have not been very active lately, but I am here to make up for it!
Here is my next update... I have seen and read and experienced a few things recently, would like to share my experiences and view with you about the same!

Book review - Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a novel based in the 1960's in Nigeria, when a civil war was waged, and a new state called Biafra was created, albeit only for a few years. The novel traces the life and times of the people before, during, and after the war. Though the characters are fictional, the situation is very real. The prosperity before the coup, the struggling years when Biafra was formed, and the bloody end to it all, when Biafra ceased to exist. The main characters, though fictional, are etched out in flesh so well, they are almost real. Maybe they are, for many people went through what they did during the 60's. Though the novel covers almost a decade, it details the situation and the Nigerian culture and its people well, without being boring or wordy.

Chimamanda is a young Nigerian woman, educated in USA, and has done a wonderful job with the book. Even though she was born much after the war, one can feel that she has done her home work of getting the facts correct. She has captured the experiences of her friends and family who went through the war times very well in her story. The flow of the book is smooth, it is very readable and quite unputdownable. Complex situations and emotions have been brought alive by using simple words. The story has everything: love, hatred, betrayal, violence, kindness... many a relationship has been explored in depth - mother-daughter, father-daughter, sisters, man-woman, servant-master... It is a pleasure to read about Africa, to learn about its culture and people. And somewhere, to think... this is so similar to my life, my city, my country, my people. The trials and tribulations, the way we live and eat, our joys and sorrows... you can relate to all of that and more in this book as if it were your own.

Hats off to Adichie, she deserved the award for this book. It will make many a people aware of the atrocities during war times, and help us understand and empathize with those struggling with the same today. In the past few months, I have come across many recommended books, but have not found the enchantment in them to keep me hooked on. This lady, sure is a magician, for she knows how to weave magic into words! A must read for all book lovers.

A day without my cell phone....

A couple of weeks ago, Rohit forgot his cell phone at home by mistake, and asked me to keep it with me so he could get important numbers if required. It was only then I realized how cell phones have become a necessity in our lives, compared to the rare luxury they used to be. Given that I take my cell phone with me even to the loo, I wondered how my life would be if I had to spend one whole day without it!

First of all, I would not be able to wake up on time: it’s the incessant ringing of my cell phone alarm, which jolts me out of my slumber every morning. And even though I keep putting it on snooze mode for an hour, without it getting up would be unthinkable.

If it’s not the alarm, what usually wakes me up is a call, from a friend, a colleague or family member. Most mornings, I wake up and call some friends, who are on their way to office, as that’s the only time of the day that they are free to talk. Without my cell, I wont be able to get my hands on the day’s gossip!

Once I am up, every other day there is something or the other that needs to be taken care of: pending errands, ordering water or gas, etc. How on earth will I manage to get all this done if I do not have my cell?

Off to office, but unable to take calls from clients or colleagues or bosses. Lunch in the mess is not good? Cannot order a pizza. Shopping after work for groceries? Cannot call the other flat mates to know what is to be bought. Any emergencies, good news, important decisions… I am unreachable. What misfortune!! My mom would have a panic attack if she were unable to reach me within 5 minutes of trying!

It is not that people around me do not have a phone that I can use. I also have a landline at home. It’s not just the mobility that I enjoy out of my phone… it is the address book that stores all the numbers which is of the greatest importance to me. Think about it. Before we had cell phones, we mostly remembered everyone’s landline numbers. Soon after we got cells, we stopped remembering details… hey one could always store phone numbers, birthday, email addresses and much more on the cell phone! So much so that I don’t even know my brother’s cell number, without my contacts list! Such dependency, not a great idea.

I shuddered when I realized: we have become such slaves to technology. Life comes to standstill without our cell phones. I still remember those days, when cell phones were huge, bulky things, costing a fortune, and very few enviable people could afford to buy them, and maintain them at the astronomical call rates. And then, the telecom boom happened, and now, every 5th person in India sports a cell phone! Which is good, most technological advances are good for business, people etc. But then the question is how much is good? Too much of anything is bad, right?

It’s the same old debate all over again… advances in technology, a bane or a boon? People cannot write letters anymore… when you can always send an email or SMS. Everyone is already talking about the death of English language with the advent of SMS lingo, which has started to reflect even in our exam papers! No need to remember numbers or special dates, a phone or computer or website will do it for you for free. People getting blisters, playing too much snake or typing too many SMS’s. Parents worrying about not having control over what their children are doing with cell phones…

Sure, cell phones are not that bad, in fact they are a very useful gadget! They can double up as a device to play music, games, and camera… and are of course, a great way to keep in touch with and ensure the well being of one’s family and friends. But even though having a cell phone makes life much simpler, it also makes it more impersonal, don’t you think? Being a self-confessed cell addict who cant live without it, I still end up thinking sometimes… ‘The times of simple MTNL landlines, those were the good ol’ days!’