Category Archives: Ramdom ramblings

This is where I ramble anything that comes to my mind – and who is to question me? Ha ha ha

A short story

THE ACTRESS

Raji took a deep breath outside Madam’s door. She knew Madam would chew her head off for bunking two days of work. But what could she do? How could she explain? She rang the bell.

Madam opened the door and glared at her.

“So you decided to grace us with your presence today huh?” She questioned as she stepped aside to allow Raji inside.

Raji just bowed her head and started to do her work. It was best not to talk now or give any excuses. Let Madam calm down.

While sweeping the living room she noticed Madam was watching herself on TV. She decided now was a good time…

“You look so beautiful in this serial madam. What lovely saris you wear and nice jewellery too.” She gushed.

Madam smiled slightly. But said nothing.

“Also such a tough role to act. I don’t know how you do it Madam! They should give you an award for this role.” Raji persisted.

“Actually…I’m getting an award for this. I got to know yesterday.” Madam said, grinning at last.

“Oh how nice Madam! You fully deserve it! I’m happy at least your life is going without problems…” Raji said in a voice choked with emotion. Tears welled her eyes and she dropped the broom to dab her eyes with her sari’s pallu.

“What happened…now?” Madam asked warily, though a little taken aback to see her tears.

“It’s my son… Madam, the naughty fellow was riding his cycle and showing some stunts, he fell down and got hurt so badly. So much blood! His friends came running to call me. I almost fainted when I saw all the blood.” Raji sniffled her way through the story.

“Oh dear….did you take him to the doctor.” Madam was immediately concerned

“Yes madam…I took an auto and rushed him to hospital. The first hospital I went, the watchman asked me if I had money to pay for the treatment…I said no…and he chased me away. Same story in the second one. In the third place they told me to deposit Rs. 5000. Where will I go for so much money madam?”

Madam was sitting up now, alert and horrified at the way she had been treated. “So what did you do?”

“What to do madam? I brought him home. Took him to our neighbourhood fellow. He just gave an injection and some yellow colour tablets. But my poor boy he cannot even get up and walk…” Raji broke down as she spoke.

“Oh no Raji! You must take the child to the hospital! I will give you the money…you take him right away… come later and finish the work.” Madam said and rushed into her room. She came back with Rs. 5000 and thrust it into Raji’s hands.

“Madam…how will I repay this…?” Raji muttered.

“Forget it. You don’t need to pay me back. Just get your child treated. Go now.” Madam said sternly.

Dabbing her eyes, Raji thanked Madam profusely. More tears welled up in her eyes as she praised madam’s kindness. Madam shushed her and sent her on her way.  Raji got out of the house, wiped her tears and hurried home.

On the way she saw her son cycling.

“Aye…you fool. Don’t be seen anywhere near my Madam’s house. I just told her that you had an accident and hurt your leg. Get out of here.” She yelled.

The boy scooted with his cycle.

As Raji entered her house, her mother-in-law looked up in surprise.

“What? Did Madam throw you out of the job?” She demanded

“Only your stupid son is capable of that. Getting drunk and beating up people at work and getting thrown into prison! No thought about the family and what we will eat and how we will manage…” Raji snapped at her.

“Now let me go bribe the cops and get him out of jail. Here’s some money, go buy some provisions and get some food ready.” Raji gave the surprised old woman a crisp 1000 Rupee note.

“Your Madam gave money to bail him out?” the old woman wondered

“Oh if I had told her he had got into a drunken fight again she would not have given me a single paisa! She would have lectured me about leaving him. Easy for her to say! What does she know how we live? I had to manage somehow.” Saying so, Raji rushed out towards the police station.

The Indian lecture culture

Being lectured. And lecturing. The two sides of a coin. We all hate being lectured to. Nothing more annoying than that really. On the other hand, we love lecblablablaturing. When we get the opportunity to lecture, we believe we are wisdom personified. We just go on and on. We don’t get (or maybe we choose to ignore) that the recipient of the lecture is getting pissed off.

I’m Indian and this article is from an Indian standpoint. I’m not sure at all that this applies to other nations. In India we grow up and age on a staple diet of lectures. Everyone thinks it’s their birthright to lecture us. We just don’t know the art of stating things smartly. We need to make everything sound like a lecture. It starts with our parents. They lecture us for everything. If you dig your nose you get a lecture. If you climb a slide backwards you get an earful. If you eat with both hands – God forbid – you’ll be lectured about the demerits of eating with your left hand, until your meal is digested and passed out of your system.

Then we start schooling. That’s really 12 years of unending lecture sessions. Every subject teacher thinks we all need a lecture on diverse topics ranging from tidiness, discipline, running in the corridors, doing homework, presenting work neatly, revising your lessons, handwriting, asking permission to use the toilet or to drink water, doing extra reading on the subjects we are learning, eating healthy food, coming to school on time, polishing your shoes, cutting your nails, how boys should have short hair and girls should have long hair and not the other way around, revising your answer paper before submitting it, how to avoid silly mistakes in exams…and so on. On any given day, teachers can find many exciting topics and they unleash a flurry of words on a captive audience of bored students. I’m sure they are well meaning talks, but the student’s space out and go about their business of drawing nasty cartoons of the teacher in their rough note. Not a word of what the teacher says registers in the mind. Which is a pity, really.

You’d think, we’d be done with lectures once we leave school. But no. It continues in college. Worse still, here even the teachers graduate to being called ‘lecturers’ and they live up to their name! College lectures cover pretty much the same topics as the school ones. Only they are longer and more intense.

hairpullYou graduate. Hurray! And you think you’re done with lectures. You’re about to get into the corporate world. You’re free to do what you like. Think what you like. You’re officially an adult – who earns. But the joke is on you my friend. Because the lectures now come from all your bosses down the line. They get nastier in fact as each one takes out their anger and frustrations on you. Tips on how to do the job right. Do’s and don’ts. Rights and wrongs. These days you get to attend concalls from clients abroad and you hear lectures in myriad accents – on interesting topics like how to plan your work better and meet your deadlines.

If some of you are smirking out there saying, you’re a home maker and these office politics don’t apply to you. Well, I have news for you! If you thought your mother was the lecture expert, your mother in law, takes over the mantle with aplomb and runs with it wholeheartedly. How to cook healthy meals, how to maintain a home, how to manage maids, how to bring up your kids…oh yes the list is endless.

Apart from these regulars, random people also lecture you:

The auto driver – if you dare to argue about the exorbitant fare he demands, he will lecture you on the rising cost of living.

The vegetable vendor – If you so much as raise your eyebrows upon reading the price tag on onions, the vendor will unleash upon you his theory of how the government deliberately hoards onions, increases prices and makes money on it.

The milk delivery man – If you go OMG about the milk prices – you will be subjected to the above mentioned onion like lecture on government atrocity.

The digital set top box repair guy – He will give you the works about how to use your remote and set top box right. So that it never breaks down and you never need his services ever again.

The family doctor – If you come down with the flu or something, then the trusted doctor will lecture you on how to take care of your health. What exercise to do, what vitamins to pop in so that you build better resistance.

Your friends – Oh yes. If you’re stuck with the wrong bunch of friends – they lecture too! If you don’t attend their parties. Or if you attend someone else’s parties. Or if you go off for a movie without them. Or you plan a trip with some other friends…then they give you an earful.

Your housemaid – The housemaid bunks work. It is her birthright. If you question her, she will lecture you about how you live in comfort and get running water in your taps. She has to pump water and carry them in pots and buckets to her home. This makes her sick. How dare you question her!blah_00033341

Your siblings and random cousins – If you forget to make those mandatory calls or write those emails updating them about your whereabouts…then you’ve had it!

Your yoga teacher or gym instructor – Oh boy! The lectures you get! Let’s not even get started on this…

All this while, mind you, the lecture from parents continue. In India, parents assume they need to keep teaching you to do things. Even if you are 60, your 90 year old mother will scold and lecture you on how to do things right.

The flip side?

By the time we are forty, we Indians are masters at giving lectures on any topic. And why not? We hear it every day from every possible source. So do lectures piss us off. Yes! Do we love to lecture. Yes! It’s a vicious circle. And we are well and truly trapped.

Note: Definition of lecture
– speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject
- a speech of warning or reproof as to conduct; a long, tedious reprimand. verb (used without object), lectured, lecturing.
- instruct by lectures.
- to rebuke or reprimand at some length

 

I’ve finally got it. I think.

You know what, I think I have finally got it. Yeah. This whole jamboree about life and purpose of life and so on. It hit me one day suddenly. What I think is – there is really no higher purpose in life. The point of life is to just be. Savor. Enjoy. And exit. It’s like a vacation. You go, you chill out and you leave. Period.

Now, how did I arrive at this profound thought you may ask. Well, just look at every other creation. They just are. They come to earth. Do what they are meant to do to maintain the circle of life and then they go. So basically, you procreate, enjoy and go. That’s it. There really is no higher purpose to be here. However, if you can lead a life that is useful to others, you get brownie points. If you believe in the Hindu theory of Karma – the brownie points help. It means that you either absolve yourself from another birth and find permanent residence in heaven or you’ve earned enough good karma to be reborn into a ‘good’ life. A chilled out life. The brownie points are also an investment into posterity. Which means your progeny will benefit immensely from all the good karma you have performed.  So that’s why you just need to be. And be good.

Now having arrived at this profound thought, I wonder what’s the point of all this power, wealth, working overtime, getting upset over no increments etc. Or what’s the point of making your children sacrifice their childhood so that they can study and earn enviable degrees and get fantastic jobs that pay them obscene amounts of money. You puff up your chest while they build large houses and own more cars than they can use. And then… the same angst. What’s the point of it all? Nothing. Really.

So the point I’m trying to make here is what you have in this life is really not important. What’s critical is what you leave behind. The memories people have of you. The positive after effects of your good karma. That’s what matters.

Ok chuck the good karma bit. Or the bit about doing good to others. How about you just be good to yourself? You respect yourself a little more and be aware of yourself and your actions. Now stop here a minute and check if you’re breathing ok while you’re reading this post. It’s amazing how many us hold our breath, or stop breathing, or breathe so shallow that we don’t send enough oxygen into the body. Every so often we need to focus on the breathing. Ok. I digress. Where was I? Ah yes… I was talking about being good to yourself. It’s alright to do that you know. Ummm…so what do I mean now? I mean, stop hurrying and eternally rushing to do things. Stop to smell the proverbial roses. To breathe. To hear the waves. To examine your thoughts. To exercise and feel your heart pumping more oxygen into you. To take care of yourself and eat food that’s right for you. To eat on time. To sleep on time. In short, all those things which we don’t think are significant. Before you run around in circles and try to fit ‘helping others’ or ‘social service’ into your already busy schedule – stop, breathe and help yourself. Be nice to your body. It’s the only one you will have in this life. I reckon, if each one of us focuses on being nice to ourselves, we’d be less stressed and we’d be nice to others anyway. This way the world will be a better place. More people will smile at each other. More people will remember us as the nice person who smiled a lot. Yeah. I can live with that. Or die with that, if you know what I mean.

Let me sum up all my rambling then. I think we all need to sit down and redefine the word ‘success’. Right now success is that elusive thing we run after. It’s like the horizon…we think its oh-so-reachable, and then we get to that point, only to find that we need to run some more to reach. And so on.  Success. Achievement. Victory. All these are subjective words. I think we need to understand them in terms of what they mean to us. Not something which compares us to others. I think more important words are contentment, respect and calmness. It’s more like, hey today I wrote a blog post. I haven’t done that in ages. That’s success to me. At my level. It makes me happy. Now, as soon as I post this, I will have a happy grin. That’s what its about, happiness in small things. And to just be, with no complicated, bigger purpose.

Ok…now breathe deeply,,,(ha! bet you were shallow breathing right now)

 

Dear Mr. Modi,

I voted. So I have earned the right to write this note to you. This evening is your big moment. You will be sworn in as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. What an honour that is! There’s a million people out there waiting with bated breath to see you take on that magic wand and wave it. The masses believe that the moment you wave that wand poverty will go away. Economic inequalities will evaporate.

The toothless old village bumpkin will smile. The village granny with thick, shell framed glasses will grin because she now has electricity. The home maker in a remote village in Andhra will cook happily because she now has water. The farmer in Punjab with sigh with delight as his motor chugs and water spouts into his yellow mustard fields. On a remote highway in Leh, the truck driver will smile because, hey, suddenly the driving conditions are so much better. The roads are good and well lit.

Ok so everyone is happy at grassroots level. Now let’s zoom into the city.

There are young women, wearing just whatever they like, fearlessly roaming the streets at 9 pm. There are no chain snatching incidents or even robberies. Everyone has jobs you see. Jobs that pay good enough. Also people have begun to respect law and order. Cops are no longer corrupt. They do not work in tandem with thieves any more. They cannot be bribed. Every crime is punished according to its gravity. For that matter no government official can be bribed any more. People fear law and order. Ah. How wonderful.

There are no city slums. There are just neat rows of lower middle class housing. They are not badly maintained, garbage strewn places, rather they are neat, dignified places to live. There is no garbage piled up on the roads. Your magic wand has made people act responsibly! They know their civic duties. People no longer treat the road as the dust bin. They neatly throw any kind of garbage into designated bins. (yes organic and non organic matter has separate bins). There is no pollution on the roads, no one honks, no one jumps the red light. Suddenly people have learnt the meaning of the word DISCIPLINE. Jeez what do you have in that magic wand! Oh wait, there’s more. No one spits, pisses or defecates in public places.

Tourists visiting our country are not harassed any more. They are treated with dignity and respect. There is no shady roadside character passing loud and lewd remarks on them anymore. They fear the law you see. And anyways there really are no more jobless people. Employment is rampant.

Which of course means that the population has been magically controlled. No one has more than two children. Government has enforced the one-child rule. There are many benefits and tax exemptions if you have just one child. There are heavy cash fines imposed on those who have their second child. And it just gets heavier as you have more children. To save the citizens all this trouble, in hospitals, they just operate and ensure that you cannot have more children.

It’s the golden era for India. Neat, clean, cultured India, that is once again proud of its heritage. We do not deface our monuments any more. No one scribbles “Rahul loves Paro” kind of things on the walls of Ellora caves any more. People understand that this is part of their culture. These historical monuments define who they were and who they are. Which idiot will then go and scribble on it?

Out past is protected. Our future is bright. What a fantastic magic wand you have Mr. Modi.

But wait. What is that you say? You have no such magic wand? How is that possible? We believe you do. That’s why we voted for you.

Damn!

Chickens, pigs…and who is the beast?

Yesterday dawned as a regular, peaceful Monday morning. I love the silence of the morning. It helps me think and I enjoy working alone in the kitchen at this time. At around 6:30 am I was busy chopping vegetables and getting stuff ready to pack lunch for my daughter’s school. Suddenly there arose a very unfamiliar and heart rending cry of a pig in agony. Unfamiliar, simply because there are no pigs in the area and no one generally goes around slaughtering pigs in my neighbourhood. I let the first series of cries pass thinking it’s someone driving past with an unhappy pig on board. About 10 minutes later another fearsome cry filled the air and it went on for some time. From then on, the morning was punctuated with cries of pigs at an incredible decibel level. I was now worried that the ground next door to my house was becoming a slaughter house of sorts. I switched off the gas stove and decided to run down and inspect. My watchman was there already peeping into the ground next door. And of course there was a nice gathering of gazers. I saw a little van standing at the entrance of the ground. Stuffed at the back of this van were several well fattened pigs. There were about 15 of them, so terrified, that they were climbing all over each other to try and get to a corner and hide. It was a sad sight. Even as I took this in, I saw a group of men drag a pig out of the ground. It was resisting hard and it was with great effort that this group of 6 odd men managed to push it forward. As they neared the tempo, in a well practiced routine, a couple of them grabbed the pigs’ ears, a couple grabbed his hind and front legs and the rest grabbed various parts of the pig’s anatomy. At this point the pig started screaming, naturally, fearing for his life. I watched with horror as they unceremoniously lifted the heavy pig and literally threw him into the tempo. I feared that the pig might have broken his leg – given his considerable weight and his heavy landing. His landing caused panic amongst the pigs in the tempo and there was a mad, worried, scramble as they tried to find secure spots within their confined space.

The men were breathing heavily from the effort and while they were getting their breath back, I asked them what exactly was happening. One man, who refused to meet my eye said, these pigs had escaped, so they had somehow managed to chase them into the ground, where they were able to corner them and throw a net around them. Now they were taking each trapped pig and depositing it in the van. I asked what exactly they proposed to do with the pigs. The men shuffled uncomfortably and one of them looked at the ground and said, “there is a place nearby where they rear pigs, we are taking them there.”

It sure did not look like that to me. I could guess that they were taking the pigs to the slaughter house and perhaps that was for the best since most might have many broken bones by now considering the way they were being mercilessly flung into the van.

The men proceeded to haul the last two pigs trapped in the net into the van. I watched with horror as the pigs were unceremoniously lifted and flung in. Then, mercifully, the last of them was shoved in and the van drove off. I was feeling giddy with the cries of the pig and my helplessness was making me angry. Why did I not do anything to save the pigs? What could I have done?

Then this morning I saw a truck full of chicken cages. You know, those really tiny cages into which they stuff at least 4 fully grown chickens. I often wondered how the poor chickens could survive this nightmarish journey. Wouldn’t they get crushed to death? I got my answer this morning. A man got on board the truck and opened the cage, obviously the chickens were dead. He just opened the cage and dropped them down on the floor. This really saddened me. This complete lack of dignity in death.

I believe every living creature deserves to live with dignity. Even if you are taking them to the slaughter house, till their very last breath they deserve to be happy. No living creature deserves to be treated the way I witnessed. Makes me wonder, who the real beast is.

 

 

RIP – the living dead

Elections are round the corner. Suddenly political posters are dotting the scenery here in Chennai. There’s one of the CM grinning with one son and then not to be outdone, there’s another one in a similar pose with his other son. Then there are posters with alliances. The people featured in these posters have their mug shots placed in order of hierarchy and importance. So if he is really important his chubby face (invariably all of them are well fed, not surprisingly I guess) grins down at you. Then there are other party cadres dotting the poster in order of importance. Some faces the size of a football and others the size of a tennis ball – as the case may be. Interesting this power play – even in posters.

I imagine what their lives must be like.

They have money. Which unfortunately they cannot happily spend. After all the tax paying middle class of India – will get annoyingly agitated if they find out what their money was used for. So they hoard the money in various banks across the globe. They drive around in rickety ambassador cars with Indian flag pasted on them – just in case you thought they were not patriotic. Mind it.

They travel in planes with Indian masses – when they can really afford private planes. But tsk tsk – again the public will question them.

They wear simple dhotis and khadi garments to prove to you that they care for India even at the grassroots level – just as that lion cloth wearing man instructed them to. (Er…what’s his name again…ah Gandhi!). They have to keep those Gucci shoes and Versace suits hidden in the closet and can only use them when they get a chance to go – on Government expense – to some foreign trip. Pity.

They can’t go to restaurants or to watch movies or to temples or go for a haircut…you get the drift… for fear that they will get rotten tomatoes or worse, bombs thrown at them. Oh yes, and they worry about their lives all the time. Terrorists, opposition party, the people AND their own family members are all out to get them. Darn it.

So yes, their personal lives are not doing too well either. The monsters they have sired and fed lovingly on greed, power and arrogance simply want them to die so that they can take over. Not to forget, the term sibling rivalry takes on mammoth proportions as they grow. Worse still, if they have sown their wild oats around, then there are kids coming out of the woodwork and demanding their share of the meat. What a bore.

They wake up each morning wondering how they can keep their stronghold on the power that’s draining them and the money that they cannot enjoy. The fear of losing it kills them each day. They cannot LIVE. And they are afraid to die. They are the living dead.

May at least their souls be allowed to rest in peace.

We are a family – dammit!

I have this super cool merchandise idea for Mr Karan Johar’s latest flick ‘We are a family’. A branded box of tissues.

No jokes. Considering the movie is so soppy! Half the members of the audience were sniffing and pretending they’ve suddenly developed a nasty cold. The other half were yawning or squirming in their seats or watching the others sob silently.

This very Indianised remake of Stepmom is not for the cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat types. You have a divorced couple – Kajol, Arjun Rampal and their 3 kids aged around 4, 8 and 13. Kajol is a supermom who manages all three kids brilliantly and singlehandedly. Plus I’m guessing she has some sort of career going in publishing because she has this lovely little house with a lovely little garden. Arjun Rampal is a bustling fashion photographer and is having a hot affair with a cool, happening designer…ta ta dai…Kareena Kapeer. And oh before I forget, the movie is of course set in San Francisco.

Kajol is starting to look old and certainly needs to do a crash course in understated acting. Arun Rampal is also ageing – albeit gracefully and still looks dishy. His restrained performance was a treat. Kareen looks good and surprise surprise… has handled the role with absolute panache. The three kids do a decent job of it – the youngest one is a natural and certainly gives heart tugging moments. Her obsession with fairies and tiaras and magic wands make you go awwwwwwwww right through.

So here’s the story. Supermom Kajol and the three kids do not like Kareena and want her out of their father’s life. Kareena tries hard to win them over – but no luck. But then supermom is diagnosed with Cervical Cancer and their lives turn topsy turvy. Arjun Rampal comes back to live with his family and eventually Kajol realizes that the kids will need a mom after she ‘goes’. So enter Kareena Kapoor into the home. Till this part the movie is fine.

Then the sop begins. The ‘I’m gonna die but I don’t wanna leave my world and go’ cloud hangs in the air. Everyone cries. Goodbyes go on and on. There are those give-this-family-jewellery-to-my-daughter-when-she-gets-married moments. And the she-will-be-the-most-beautiful-bride-in-the-world moments. And the I-will-be-a-star-in-the-sky moments. And the think-of-me-and-i-will-be-with-you-even-if-you-don’t-see-me moments.

In the end you just want to woman to go so that you can go home too. I wish they had cut down the sop and made the movie more crisp and understated. The happy pace of the first half is simply missing in the sobbing second half. And somewhere there the movie has gone wrong.

So my verdict is if you want to get rid of all the dust in the eye and clear your nose. Go for it.

Seeking – girlfriends!

Woman in mid-30’s seeks girlfriends. Preferably with young kids. Fair, dark, dusky…any complexion. Any caste or religion.

If you thought finding the right man was tough, well, try finding a girlfriend that you get along with. Or is it just me? Am I too weird to find friends?

It’s not like I don’t get along with people. I do. Or at least I try hard to.

At one time I decided I would join the group of mothers whose kids go for dance class with my daughter. So I went up to them and introduced myself. After pleasantries were exchanged they delved into the subject of school. Studies. Marks. Homework. Assignment. Test. Exams. Writing skills. Teachers. School politics. Extra curricular activities. And on and on. Until my mind boggled. By the end of it I felt mighty stressed! I felt inadequate – like I was not doing enough for the daughters’ academics. The fear of what-if-I-fail gripped me. It honestly took me a while to get that feeling out of my system. I do not believe in stressing myself or the child over her studies. And I do not believe that her marks define who she is. Apparently this group thought it did.  Now I stay away from the bunch. After a polite hello I slink away for a lonesome walk.

Then there was this group of mothers I met at a birthday party. It went well enough until the topic steered towards the child’s lunch box. We exchanged ‘what do you give them for lunch’ questions. I innocently mentioned my list – pasta, sandwiches, rotis, pulav…I noticed a silence in conversation while I rattled off and paused. They were all gawking at me like I was from outer space. ‘Why don’t you give sambar rice etc?’ asked one mom. I told her my daughter would never eat it because she did not like rice very much. ‘But what nutrition is there in all this.’ Asked another. I assured her that I buy only wheat pasta and organic at that. Then suddenly one of them was most interested. Presto! She pulled out a notepad and pen from her bag. ‘Give me the recipe ya.’ She urged, her pen ready to fly. The others soon followed suit – as the collective opinion was that my weird lunch items can be given on special days. Soon they were all in position to write and looking at me expectantly. It was my turn to gawk. Really! Imagine being ready with notepad and all that. I never do that – this writing down recipes from other mothers I mean. I believe that every child has his or her own taste. You cannot impose one’s likes and dislikes on the other. So why try? But apparently they did not think so. Was I wrong? Yet again I felt inadequate.

Then there are those incredibly charming kinds. They are so wonderfully sweet and innocent that I find it too stressful to make conversation. I mean I think I’m a normal woman. I swear. I joke. I bitch. I giggle. I guffaw. But the oh-so-sweet kinds would never do that. They will ask you over for tea and say such nice things about you. Compliment you on your drab outfit, your frizzed hair and what not. And you find it hard not just to accept those compliments but to graciously pass on some in return. But then you feel obliged to. So then you mutter some nice things. And then you start to feel suffocated. Just the strain of having to make that conversation is tiring. Oh yeah I have such friends. I hate myself for saying this, because they really are sweet– but I avoid them like the plague!

Then there are the whiners, the husband and mother-in-law bashers. They look like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Oh what would the world be without them? They cook, clean, wash, get their kids ready for school, make them study and do their homework. (Excuse me but don’t we all do that – some more, some less – but we all do it!) And the mother-in-law is most unappreciative. The husband is always supporting his mother. And on and on and on. Until I get most depressed. My point is no one’s life is perfect. We all have our issues. It’s the attitude with which we face them that matter. If I’m out with friends, I’d like to forget my troubles – not keep brooding and whining over it. I’m not saying these women are wrong…but I guess our chemistry just does not work.

Are there no women out there who don’t take their role as mothers, or wives, or home makers or daughters in law or themselves soooo seriously that they forget to enjoy it? Who can accept their flaws and laugh at them. Who can discuss their problems without whining? Who can move on in life and not dwell in the past? Who can have a good laugh and giggle over silly things. Who can drool over handsome men just for the heck of it! Who love window shopping more than shopping itself. Who love to laze around over a cup of tea…

Sigh. Woman where are you? If you are SHE, please get in touch with me please. I seek you. Desperately.

The cripple round the corner…

Just past our office building is this lane that links one main road to the city’s arterial road. The lane is bustling with two wheelers and pedestrians all day. And right there, at the corner where the lane connects to the main road, lives the cripple.

Let me pause here for a minute. In case you think this is going to be a tear jerker of a post…save those tears…

His home is a typical shanty – a little square box made up of various scrap materials ranging from cardboard, tin, aluminium, torn saris, jute sacks, plastic sacks and so on. But I wonder if he and his brood ever stay in that little box. Ah…his brood. You’ll find them spilling all around the place in various stages of nakedness – depending upon their age. The younger ones are usually as blissful as the day they were born. The slightly older ones in elastic-less chaddies. The even older ones in dirty, torn, oh-i-was-once-so-white, Rupa vests…and so on. They eat, play, hop, run, do cartwheels, crap, piss and sleep on the road. Turning into that lane is a nightmare for motorists as they have wean their way between the pedestrians who are in turn weaving their way around the kids spilling out at various points in the road.

Ok let’s forget motorists and pedestrians for a minute. Let’s look at the cripple. From what I can see his feet are lifeless. He drags them around with his upper torso. So then how did he produce such a brood of kids? I don’t have an answer really. Anyways, he’s always there on the road too. Looking busy. Doing nothing. Watching his battalion crap on the road and making full use of the facilities that the Chennai corporation has kindly provided.

His wife is a rather skinny lady who cooks, cleans, washes, and perhaps also bathes by the road. She looks bored and uninterested in her breed of kids. However she does seem to dutifully bear him one child every year (or more frequently if that’s possible). I think there are almost 10 already – though it’s hard to count with them drifting all over the place.

Apparently several attempts have been made to evacuate this chap. But no one seems to have succeeded. Grapevine has it that he has political clout and assures the ruling party all the votes in the region. But then governments come and go. Yet he remains. And he seems to do no work. So how does he feed his brood?

What really is his role and purpose in this world? What will his brood grow up to be? They will have no skills except being street smart. So I already know 10 goondas of gen next.  And well, if he is so powerful that no one can evacuate him, then why can’t he get himself a proper roof over his head? And maybe send his kids to school. Or at least stop producing more! He makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know where he fits in. He is not helpless, not poor…rather he’s  a sly survivor. What does one do with people like him? Do we laugh at him? Do we consider him a menace? Do we scorn him? Do we find ways to get him out of our society? Do we simply ignore him? Or, shudder, is there nothing we can do about him?

The great Indian traveller…

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go. The call Taxi is waiting outside the door (darn and his meter is ticking more and more). But I still need to pray and light the lamp…

Yeah, the era of middle class, past middle age Indians traveling abroad has blossomed. Whether the world is ready for them or not…they’re ready to take on the world for sure. They carry with them their quirks, their love for Indian food and the strong belief that they indeed are holier than thou.

Mom is back from her European sojourn as I had mentioned in my last post. And she is full of stories – not just of the wonderful sights she saw – but also of the Indian counterparts who travelled with her. From whatever she said, here’s my classification of the great Indian traveller:

Mr. I-know-it-all
He carries with him maps, literature, books and print outs of all the places you’re about to see. And he is very keen to show off his knowledge – even if you’re not really interested in hearing it. Most often he is annoyingly loud (yeah louder that your guide) and loves to dispute with the guide on the facts he/she is reeling out. If the guide wisely chooses to ignore him, he conducts a parallel guide style lecture. Love him, hate him, admire him…but somehow learn to tolerate him, if he’s there in your tour group!

Note: Imagine everyone’s irritation when their self proclaimed expert got himself lost in Vatican City and the entire bus load had to wait for an hour while they tried to locate him. Finally the bus left for sightseeing of Rome without him. They later found him looking lost in an art gallery, and brought him back to the hotel. Apparently the next day he got into the bus and apologized to the entire group and then whined that his wife was not talking to him!! (Not surprising eh?). The good news for the group was that he more or less kept to himself after that.

The food bazaar
“Ah…Indian food. Full of masala and spice. Not like the bland food these foreigners eat!” complain the food bazaar category. And…hold your breath…they carry food for the entire tour duration (15-20 days) with them!! So while you daintily munch your baguette, cheese and tomato sandwiches, they pull out piles of methi theplas, top it with spicy chilli pickle and gobble it all. They’re rather sweet though and have enough and more to generously offer all their co-passengers! Amusing, but not really annoying, this category of people are quite ok to travel with.

The fruit fanatics
Usually in package tours, you’re booked into neat hotels and breakfast in generally included in the tariff. A delightful spread of continental breakfast awaits you each morning. Starting from 20 varieties of breakfast cereals, all kinds of cakes, pancakes, eggs, crepes, fruit juices, fresh seasonal fruits…duh…but where do the fruits disappear each morning? The hotel staffs at each venue were left perplexed as their extensive fruit basket kept getting empty at the speed of light. What was happening of course was that amidst the great Indian contingent of travelers there was a group that bought bags with them into which they quickly loaded all the fruits. This was in addition to the heavy breakfast they all tucked in. The fruits were to be had ‘on the way’ or for lunch. So that, of course, they can save on the lunch and snacks fare. This behaviour was of course most embarrassing for the rest of the group – who were not pinching the fruits. Apparently the tour guide got complaints from the hotels and he had to tell the group not the pinch fruits. How embarrassing!

The compulsive kleptomaniac!
Ah but the fruit pinchers are not half as embarrassing as the compulsive kleptomaniacs! Mom was sitting next to an elderly lady – she guesstimated to be about 75 plus – now this lady had a weird habit of robbing stuff from all souvenir stores! While she also bought plenty of stuff, she always managed to stuff a few things into her bag when no one was watching. Mom caught her in the act at least four times and of course kept a good distance from her all through the trip. According to her the lady was living really dangerously. She never did get caught – but one dreads to think what would happen if the 75 year old did get caught stealing…

The hotel shampoo collectors
You guessed it. They take away all the shampoo, soaps, moisturizer…in short everything that’s complimentary at the hotel. Apparently they had dumped it all in their hand baggage and were asked to unload all of it at the airport – after a security check revealed liquids in their hand bags. Most embarrassing, if you ask me. But they of course were more angry than embarrassed!

Then there are the regular kind who will complain about everything from the weather to the food, to the clothes people wear…my point is, if you cannot enjoy anything other than your own streetscape why travel at all?

They say travel broadens your mind. And I shall end this post on that positive, hopeful note…