Sunday, 30 June 2013

Just Be and Let (F)B

Many years back, CNN came out with a list of 12 predominant personality types on Facebook, a researched reminder of why some people can get on your nerves and how strangers can become the best of your friends. The fact that a whole study was carried out on FB goes to prove that one, FB is a phenomenon important enough for a respectable research to be carried out on and two, at least a couple of generations have to co-exist on FB for the research to chart out no less than a dozen personality types. So as of this minute, one, I am happy to be a member of this important phenomenon for many years now, and two, I feel one with the millions who are not robots, have cheap internet connectivity and friends enough to “be on FB” and hence a part of this research.  

Now, the 12 FB Personality Types listed by CNN were – The-Let-me-tell-you-every-detail-of-my-day-bore (self-explanatory), The Self-Promoter (holidays, poems, writings, causes), The Friend-Padder (add, poke, add and make friendship), The Town-Crier (I RIP 1st!), The TMIer (my sex life is yours etc), The Bad Grammarian (the ‘lemme fone ya’ variety), The Sympathy Baiter (I have a headache *sob sob*), The Lurker (evil intentions?), The Crank (spewing hate, only and everywhere), The Paparazzo (posts your party photos and his even more), The Obscurest (today’s update ‘if only …’) and The Chronic Inviter (games, quizzes, polls, more games). 

I have been a chronic FB updater, poster and poser for nearly 2 years now (my 400+ ‘friends’ will confirm that, even the ones who ‘un-friended’ me for this, my OCD). So much so, that when FB launched the ‘Promote’ button I realized that God and Zuckerberg were giving me another medium to reach the zenith of FB usage, which, clearly, I had not reached yet. Alas, if only it was free! So well, in the process of posting, sharing, uploading, liking and super liking, I came across every single type of personality mentioned in the list above. However, I also met (along with many others who messaged me their experiences for this article) a 13th FB Personality Type which is present on FB, equally interesting, but which finds no mention in the 12 well-researched ones above. I call this discovery the Neo-Narcissist. 

Poor dear Narcissus, I apologise! How we drag you into our lives and throw you around as an abuse for self-obsession (when it was simply self-love you suffered, and pray, what’s wrong with that?) Be happy now, albeit in your grave, for the new age Neo-Narcissist is here to take your place on social networking sites. You were only obsessed with your own reflection in the pond, Narcissus. This one here is obsessed with many others’ reflections too. But borrow your name I will, for what is found in Neo-Narcissists is an obsession with others’ selves only to validate their own righteous virtual existence – something like othering onto others the secret “crimes” of the self, and feeling exclusive in the meantime, all on FB that is. Now, these Neo-Narcissists are a mixture of all the above 12 types of personalities, of course, with a complete sense of denial or feigned ignorance of the same. Their claim to fame is them being the sole proprietors of The-Nth-Degree-of-Just-Right-FB-Usage. Let us see what it takes to maintain this halo, vis-à-vis the 12 types mentioned above.

In a Neo-Narcissist’s life daily detail sharing and self promotion happens, but with a selective VIP ‘customised’ audience (um, just give them a call?), the Crank-iness merges with the Obscure side of the personality sometimes to spew venom in a ‘guess who?’ format (obviously looking for eyes and ayes?), and Bad grammar comes in handy when combined with need to seek Sympathy about the “ma lyf’s borin bro!” Paparazzo and photos are around too (set for ‘public’ viewing often) but just the right number/week (what mathematical ability), and Lurkers most definitely they are, for how else will they know who not to be on FB, how not to post on FB, what not to share on FB and how to make their own thesis on ‘How to be a Responsible FB-er; A Study’ a best-seller as good as Chetan Bhagat’s? And then, as another day on FB draws to a close, thoughts about how all others remain irresponsibly networking social beings with no sense of private-public act as Brasso for shining the halo and making the Neo-Narcissists sleep the satisfied self-annointed sleep that optimum FB posting is made of.

And we need to get a life, even if it spells ‘lyf’! 

Here’s what I think. 

1. There are swarms of people on FB right this minute sharing parts of their lives with who they call their ‘friends’ and who they want to call their ‘friends’, and some others sitting around, watching, cringing and spoiling their health over them for doing that. Why? Strangers sometimes turn out to be the best of friends while those you thought were close to you sit grumbling like a steam engine at every updated profile picture of yours. Some of the best relationships are about to be formed, the happiest faces ready to be shared and the proudest moments rearing to seek attention! Why not? 

2. We carry banners and tattoos and attitude and ideas of freedom of expression, freedom to be, to say, to seek, to express and impress. Should the virtual world of FB not be included in the thought process? Is it too much to ask for, for something as casual and fun as dear old FB? It’s your account and your story-telling, and you should have the freedom to tell it your way. Isn’t it? Think, who is to decide how much is too much? Isn’t it a relative concept equally valid for depth of necklines, strictness of laws, what TV shows need to be banned and what traditions need to be rejected? What happened to the idea of Free Will? Or is it only government intervention on our right to use our fee wills which upsets? 

3. What about the role of perception and reception in all of this? For instance, is it possible that my humble holiday update is just that whereas it’s you who sees it as bragging? Or that Mr. X’s latest car photo is sharing of a hard-earned moment of joy whereas you judge it as classicism? Or the one sitting and sharing every minute of his life on FB is that introvert with no friends in real life but at least a few hundred on FB validating his life and his self for him? 

It’s time to call it a day! It’s time to take a break, not from FB but from judging the way others like to exist there, or on any other social networking media. Believing in ‘different strokes for different folks’ kills prejudice and gives you good health! And you know, while the person who got ‘like’d for updating his world on FB about how Oreos taste best when dunked in milk is sleeping a good sleep, the 13th FB Personality Type simply went to bed suffering from pointless indigestion!

In the meantime, check out this tee I got  - free size, for the price of free. FB is everywhere, and it will never fail to fascinate me!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Time(is)Now to see what Arnab Goswami needs

No, not a microphone!

Arnab Goswami is gifted. You see, he is that species of human kind which develops voice/sound amplifiers on its vocal chords resulting in thundery claps slaps, triggered especially on smelling a rat (smelling, since hearing one squeak is near impossible at his volumes). Goswami’s pharyx, larynx, sharynx combined can hold court sitting atop Qutub Minar, talking down to we the people somewhere on the ground where we belong (especially if we bribed our modem wala Rs. 100 to speed things up, etc). Of course, along with all-just-all politicians, bureaucrats, ministers and their families who he would gladly banish from the Republic of India just like Plato wished the poets away. Why do you look at me in pure disbelief? As if you do not know what's breaking the news these days! So, coming back to my point - Arnab Goswami does not need a microphone. Because Arnab Goswami is gifted.

What Arnab Goswami (AG) needs?

1. AG needs to meet Charlie Sheen. Just generally, and not because their favourite shared activity includes threatening-thrashing like teething toddlers! And then, who knows, ‘Anger Management 2’ might find a new hero, especially since Charlie has his real time anger to manage, while AG is usually flaunting his on his courageous panelists – suited booted and on prime time!

2. AG needs to stop using the words ‘scam’, ‘shame’ and ‘suspend’ in the same sentence, more than twice at least. Research shows the three appear, in exactly this order, at least 60 times every hour of Views Hour. English language is full of alternatives, especially when it comes to the letter ‘S’ (some done right are apparently even therapeutic). Fear predictability, AG. Dig those lexicons in the next commercial break and see the difference in your speech, if not your tone. And if Fortune wills it, it might better your waning TRP.

3. AG needs to do some volunteer work, in his free time that is. AG needs to teach Moral Science to the responsible, corruption-free citizens of tomorrow – in the neighbourhood Shishu Mandir. Why? Oh Lord, who better than Me Lord of Papers and Sources who knows what’s wrong with the world and right with himself, who can spell self-righteous in 56 different ways, point his finger in 65 different directions – all without ruffling even a hair on his head. Plus, he’ll be a great hit with the kids. All he’ll need to do is remove his suit and walk into class in his Superman outfit which he never removes from underneath. Isn’t that great?

Google image

4. AG needs to take on some endorsements, especially since the usual guys are in-and-out of jails and the advertising industry is suffering. While hair gel (please ignore the picture above) and neck ties have been offered to him already, access to a secret contract that I have a copy of right here tells me that a new brand of Chyawanprash is going to be launched – named ‘AG EnerG’. One spoon a day only can sky rocket your dreams of becoming the human microphone, or next-loudest-thing on TV - hands flying feet stomping, complete.

5. AG needs 3 things, combined, just before his show goes ‘on air’. A glass of lemonade (with real lemons please), a champi with Navratna Tel (thanda thanda cool cool!) and a sprinkle of Nycil, to prevent those bouts of sudden itch springing up in nooks and corners, making him sit as if suspended an inch above his seat and needlessly scratch all those papers in front of him. Only a suggestion, AG, and only because of so much heat!

6. AG needs to eat what Dilli loves to feed – no not butter chicken with butter naan and sirka pyaz. Dilli wants to send him a year’s supply of the "Chill Pill" yaar, absolutely free. Their only condition? That next time he sits on his throne, once, just once he should look at the camera and talk to them. He looks here and then he swivels around to look there and forgets to see the seer in the whole process – the India that is actually sitting at home, waiting to know who is being broken on the news!

7. Most importantly,

AG needs to ignore this post, 
It’s just a vent for hurt, no more. 
Last time I was on my flat's Level 3,  
I heard his voice booming out the TV, on Level G. 
I ran down screaming, please hold on for me, 
 But my decibels no match for my dear AG’s,
And on-and-on he went, orating without me. 
Sigh! Now that it’s off my chest, do tell me, 
Have you forgiven me this post, dear AG? 
Oh! It's not just me who wants to know, you see,
It's what ‘India wants to know', and right now, really!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Sometimes, we forget to tell our children ...

Generation Gap?

That though we prattle and play together what deserves reprimand today will not be postponed to tomorrow. Hitting, bullying, hurting another will get what it should, today. Not when you are older but exactly now, when you are old enough to be bad towards someone. In the hope that you will understand how the angry “Don’t you ever do that again!” was important today to prevent causing hurt from becoming a habit in the future.

We forget to tell our children …

That we see the hormonal roller coaster behind your adolescent mood and stubborn acne, and that we are there to help in this transition towards adulthood. Not just label you defiant in public, but remember our own time. That the reproductive system is biology and sexuality is a part of life. That menstruation is not a hush-hush stigma but science, even if those who call God their own consider it otherwise. That being a teenager is important, as important as it is fun. And that we won’t stand in your way as you learn and unlearn, but wait on the side so you know we are there, just in case.   

We forget to tell our children …

That our dreams about you do not dictate your future, but your dreams of the future are ours to dream. You go ahead and become what you want, and we’ll watch your back - ready with our ears, our hands and shoulders, whichever you may require. You figure life out, leave home, choose, do, lead - for today belongs to you. Not to our age-old myths, time-weathered ideas or unfounded fears. Feel free, and feel free to fail, for there’s always tomorrow and there’s always us. So, take it easy! 

We forget to tell our children …

That an over arching universal idea of ‘family values’ is pure rhetoric and stuff that class 4 school debates are made of. That family values mean what all the members of a family value, together, by a shared consensus. Not codes of conduct which have been passed down generations, as unquestioned vagaries struggling to fit into today’s context. Look around on your own, discern what it takes for the fittest to survive in the time we call 'now', find your principles your values your opinions, share them and let us rediscover what our family values, all over again!  

We forget to tell our children …

That we will never remind you of all that we did for you – like favours, or debts or burdens forever for your shoulders. We did what we could and best. Just as you will too one day, for your child. If we were to make a list, then perhaps we did not understand the meaning of what it is to be a mother to a child or a father to a child. Not everything is quantifiable. If it is, then perhaps it’s an expectancy from tomorrow. Let there be nothing expected by us from your side, except respect and love. And let us as parents understand how best to earn those two from you too.   

We forget to tell our children …

That you are more important to us, than the whole society and its many minds put together. Society did not give birth to you, and neither did it produce us. This relationship is personal, between you and us. That we will never make a spectacle of your follies or compare your scores with the neighbour. Just like we as parents will not excuse your misdeeds either. Perhaps find another way to communicate than to bring in the world as an example - to unlearn wrong, to forgive and finally move on towards a tomorrow where no mistakes are repeated. A promise between us, and one which does not require the society to watch over! 

And we forget to tell our children ...

That while we were born to be your parents and you our children, we should be the best of friends. That different times of growing up and different expiry dates do not mean understanding cannot be found. Tell them that generations are not born with permanent spaces in between. That bridges are possible, and necessary.

As I see these lines suddenly transform into a prayer, I make a promise to myself. I will remember to tell my child that his parents will forever strive to build that bridge and try meeting his newer-age stance at the Golden Mean. And for that, I will remember to ask him to teach us parents too as he learns from us. Only then, when we grow together will we remain riveted as one - a happy family, without any gaps between our ever-evolving minds.   


Monday, 24 June 2013

No one gives money for free to anyone

I love the advertisements that the government prints in the newspapers, or makes posters out of. Not the life-size-so-unlike-life ones of smiling faces, glowing halos and hands joined. Those seem fake - the flawless skin, the supplicant’s pose and the halo, all. I like those textual ones which can double up as moral science teachers. Like how a baby needs mother’s milk till 2 years, or how life without paying income tax is like a painting without colour. Plain in design and simple in both thought and language, these adverts seem to come from mills which haven’t seen too much technology as yet. No big words, no fancy graphics just ‘Last Date for Filing’, ‘Remember’ and ‘Beware’ always printed in bold to catch your sleepy minds unaware. Something almost endearing about them, as they instantly take me back a few decades to the ‘rukavat key liye khed hai’ chart paper used on DD once upon a time, every time they went figuring out why on air is no longer on air. 

Here’s an advertisement I spotted in TOI a few days back. 

Isn’t it sweet? Much to my husband’s amazement and my son’s fascination, I stuck it to my fridge and wondered why this one really impressed me. Apart from the fact that I can draw that graphic with my right hand, answer all the questions it pops at me and not find a single grammatical error, what caught my attention was the moral at the end of the story – 

‘Remember … no one gives money for free to anyone’

Indeed! How insightful! Just who in the RBI thought of this excellent quote? Look how true it is:

If there is one shop where the registers (and bells) don’t stop ringing, it’s the Department of Worship. I have seen many notes-worthy temples all across the country, only to wonder still – is God material crazy or does man know of no other way to please Him? Jewellery, gold bricks, silver ornaments, wads of cash, sheets costing lakhs, metric tons of ghee and milk or a meal-for-10000 on the house, these are just some of the goodies in God’s coffers. When it comes to the Divine’s pleasure man is oozing generosity and no, he’s not doing it for nothing! A wish list here, a marriage proposal there, an entrance exam round the corner, a property deal a week later; man needs God and certainly more than God needs the Usha fan spinning on His head, donated by the kirana shop man with his name rightfully printed on its blade, in bold red. 

No one gives money for free to anyone. Not even to God!

Wedding season, and out comes the packet of glittery envelopes that carry what we call Shagun – blessings in green for those tying the knot or their parents, whoever came first! We put inside what we got ourselves, or expect to get when our own Lucky gets married. So slip in a pink grand, a one rupee coin, tie the golden thread and don’t forget to cello tape it. While ‘congratulations’ is small case, make the from Mrs & Mr. bold and clear. Once done drinking, start eating. Fruit tikki mini-dosa chaat (slow down, have to have dinner too!) continental Indian Chinese halwa pudding ice cream chocolate sauce paan and there, paid Rs. 1001, ate 3001 calories, burped twice in the process, farted only once and we will surely have a better caterer for our Sunny’s wedding, ji, such quality is not becoming of our class at all. Burp!   

No one gives money for free to anyone. Not even on their grandest occasions!

Not even Diwali bonus to the maid, no! Sari or suit or money with fruit, in decreasing order of desirability, is given with much fanfare just so she knows you are the best memsahib she can get and remembers it until next Happy Diwali. You better not gossip about me, suna? But just generally speaking, did Mrs Sharma actually get the whole of her legs waxed? Let it be, sannu kee! So you like the sari or not? Colour looks good on you. No one can give a better one. I went myself to Tilak Nagar and got it for you. Will you just water the plants before you go? I know you are getting late but you see the gardener has not come today. Aur haan, just a cup of tea for me, please, the market was so tiring you know! When do you wear the sari to show me? Oh! Just take the dry clothes off the line as you leave, will you? Come in time tomorrow, please! 

No one gives money for free to anyone. Not even on Happy Diwali!

From the coin to the beggar in the name of charity to the minimum Rs. 5001 to the eunuch for a son’s birth, nothing is given for free. One for feeling like a do-gooder and ensuring a place in Heaven (which may have been bought in the 1st paragraph itself) and the other sum for ensuring the son gets home a better sum than the neighbour when he gets married (in the glittery envelope or on 4-wheels). Even neta ji knows that support may come for free but the vote mostly needs a little greenery! 

No one gives money for free to anyone. 

Perhaps Pappu’s Pappa wished for something too, 
When he got Pappu a Pajayrow, and a trip to Singapur. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

My face is attached, for your kind perusal

It’s a bad day. I just realized the mole on my nose is not perfectly centered. A case of Left-from-Centre mole! Can anything be worse than that? I’m finished, no not the glossy or matt variety. Finished as in ruined in a world that is spinning around prepositions and propositions to help us get beautiful – anywhere and everywhere, seriously (except in the head, which they say is what karma makes of it, and alcohol). Pure machinery work – elevation and suction, under, over and in between, tucking and lifting, plucking and squeezing, increasing more than decreasing. And then the ‘anti-‘ words that will help you defy the forces of nature and gravity alike, like ageing, sagging and some other '-ings'.  

WWW should read Women Wanting Wonders, the pretty kind. From advert banners on FB to blog posts on Indi, everything is reminding me of my age and stage and how I am ignoring my tomorrow. A schoolmarm with golden eye shadow and cherry lips (or vice versa was it) in my dreams imposingly telling me how I will wake up with the hidden pigmentation under my skin no longer hidden, how the skin around my eyes will form estuaries, how birds will make nests in my frizzy hair-in-humidity and how I am the sore thumb neem in an orchard of Christmas trees. I did click on a few links which were begging me to, only to find things like bigger the better, brighter the better, the more unrecognisable the person in the mirror the better! I imagined my lashes getting thick as the rainforests, got scared and did not click again!  

Truth be told. I did go for a facial once. Pre-bridal variety! With scrub in my eyes, nostrils blocked close with a fruity cream in semi-nude state of affairs, with dimmed lights and elevator music, and some kind of mechanical arm spraying rose water on my face, I was trying to “relax ma’am, for best face shine-up results”. Apart from having a hundred to-dos gnawing my insides, I could barely breathe or see, let alone keep sane enough to count down the 20 minutes of this beauteous relaxation to get over. And the free pedicure that ensued (it was a package deal, which means your wallet is still theirs!) told me forever that I have more tickle sensors on my feet than any primate alive, and hence the foot massage-n-more ended before it’s time. If I were to get ‘Survivor’ tattooed on my forehead, now you will know why.  

He had told me straight – I hope I won’t see a stranger walk up to the rajgaddis the night of our marriage. Since he had seen me from school, there wasn’t much I could hide or nip, paint or pout. We got married, the whole 7 merry-go-rounds, so I guess that went off fine. Until today, when a fellow blogger tagged me in a Beauty-ful post that began ‘How to …’! And that’s when my mole started screaming at me that it’s falling on to one side. And to top it all, Humpty Dumpty on You Tube suddenly made way for a certain brand of cosmetic clad women singing ‘Kiss kiss baby lips for lucky kiss…’ Divine intervention to make me pull up my socks and lift my face in time? Oh well, at least my son was jiving to the peppy tune and blowing kisses to the multi-coloured lips singing. Honestly, when Humpty Dumpty came back, he suddenly seemed a tad under-dressed for the sing-along sequence. Talk about the power of advertising!   

I am in awe of all those who write about the nitty-gritty to make us pretty-pretty. If I were asked to write on or advertise a beauty product, chances are, I would not be able to. The brand on the kohl pencil I use faded away a year back. The lip-sticks I have are bottomless cylinders of shades that shine on choice occasions. And I still don’t know how to pink-en my cheeks the right way, and always fear looking like a bag punched. Please, someone start a foundation course for foundations too, for more often than not the world is looking grey instead of the pearly peachy creamy white the expensive elixirs promise.  

Here’s me, when I last tried colour on my face. I do think I look quite pleased with the results. But what would I know? Perhaps a copy of ‘Beauty for Dummies’ will help. Till I get hold of one, my face is attached for your perusal. Now, bring in those ‘How to Wash Face the Beautiful Way' tags. I'm waiting!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

th-Inking about HPInk at IndiBlogger Meet

When I saw it for the first time, I thought it said ‘H PInk’,
Ideas of woman power and its cousins rushed in with just a blink.
And soon as I saw what it really was, my heart just skipped a beat,
Did it have to be technology for my 1st IndiBlogger Meet?
But another second went by, and there came a sigh of relief,
For the invitation card lovingly said ‘Welcome, with family!’

So with my two men in tow – one 2 one 32,
I entered the starry hotel, with curiosity and baby food.
I knew not names of bloggers, though some familiar seemed,
But every face only read – ‘Guess who, my dear newbie?’
Oh! Black shirts with the microphones must be the ‘Founding Fathers’,
And owners of the capital that got us all together!

And then began an afternoon as fun as fun can be,
There were jokes and surprise gifts, and 500 bucks for me.
My son just stood on the chair, when Old McDonald was sung,
Are those really the words, the tune, the animals, the sounds he had learnt?
I sat on the edge of my seat, as blogger introductions ensued,
Little did I know then they were meant for a 'chosen few’.

In came HPInkAdvantage, disappointment out it flew,
'What matters to you matters to us too’ - their motto rang true.
So we can print like never before, now and for the future too,
Print stickers, pictures, tags and letters, perhaps a book or two?
Close tight the ink bottle, dear writer, here's HPInk now,
Advantage is in its name itself, and Experience will tell you how!

  No words can say what joy I felt, when the Birthday Party began,
Blessed coincidence! What have we here, a theme that says ‘Little Man’.
Pretty prints from HPInk were to be used galore, 
To plan a party for a little boy, with muffins and balloons and more.
My little boy was our little man, with a wiser one behind,
Was really the only time a big black moustache I didn’t mind!

Some live to eat some eat to live, but food there has to be,
Plates to pick and things to eat, and a mob in gastric hurry.
As I downed the last morsel, I noticed my men all smiles,
I realised it was well worth it to have come so many miles.
I thanked dear Lord for IndiBlogger, but one thing I hoped to tell,
The ‘S’ on the black t-shirt should actually have been ‘M’!

It was a Saturday Experience-d, the warm and loving kind,
New friends, their blogs and technology, for me as well as mine.
We who wield the pen should know what elixir ink can be,
But the ‘tomorrow’ sitting in my lap sure knows HPInk it will be.
Thank you my friend for reading, with patience my silly rhyme,
And now I too sit dreaming, that the Printer would be mine! 

Monday, 17 June 2013

It's Raining, Frogs!

I woke up to the mating call. (Oh, not his, no! He could barely see his toothbrush that hour). I woke up to a mating call of an amphibious kind... 

Monsoons in Delhi are associated with certain images and ideas that refuse to leave me. Over the last 13 years here – as I went from 17 to 30, I have seen rivers flowing down flyovers and flyovers flowing down rivers, to join the sea at the next intersection and the Pacific Ocean at Dhaula Kuan. I have sat in rickshaws launching towards Arts Faculty sans any propellers, taking 30 minutes every 100 meters and 30 times the fare. A downpour always meant LSR hostellers in chappals and shorts, sitting licking ice lollies right when the class began, and till much later when Literature was back on the shelves. Wet umbrellas have served as handy missiles for bus misbehaviour en route India Gate – where more ice creams and splish-splashing awaited. Even going to the DU gardens, and guiltlessly disturbing the love-birds with our teasing ooos-n-coos. Then, one stage later, it was all about swiping the entry card to the HT Media building in time, even if it meant squeezing yourself from between the railing on the divider to cross the road – just so the Chandni Chowk kohlapuri remains dry and high away from the flooded underpass and its hanky seller. And now, real joy as a mother in seeing the joy that rain brings to my son’s being. One roll of thunder and windows are opened, doors unlocked and curtains drawn apart to see and be seen by the raindrops outside. To be one with the sight, the sound and the smell of monsoons! And later, to see him “helping” me clean the verandah with a wiper – cleaning it of all the baggage that the rain carried as it fell on our doorstep. 

And then Today happened after I heard the mating calls … 

Actually, he did. “Froggie mumma, froggie calling outside” and then I realized what the din was about. There must have been a dozen of them, although they sounded like 12000. The back lane, CPWD’s favourite dumping ground had drowned in the morning rains and in its place was a huge pool of floating swimming leaves, twigs and Mr. and Miss Frogs - totally abuzz, like a prom morning where every croak was either a pick-up line or a successful hurrah! Some were swimming like there’s no tomorrow, others just floating around with their limbs outstretched, letting the ripples made by others bob them around. Mr. Show-off sat on the parapet displaying his wares and Mr. Happy came out to show us an ear-to-ear grin. Least mindful of the light drizzle, we two too went ribbit croak ribbit ribbit at our little gate – celebrating this beautiful rainy morning with who-could-have-thought, little speckled Frogs all aglee where once there was a gutter in a bed of dry leaves.

Just Being plain lazy - in Froggy Land

Mr. Show-off - croaking the love song 

Mr. Happy, with an ear-to-ear smile for the Peeping Toms

 And as I sat cleaning his sandals of wet mud and wiping slush off his tiny legs, the inevitable happened. That which catches us small-towners by surprise, or every time it rains. Nostalgia! We get transported to those carefree hamlets we have left behind to get on with our lives in condominiums, corner offices and coffee shops. And I to those days full of gay abandon from my childhood, in Dehradun, when rain was not weather but an occasion. When the older children danced in the downpour and the younger ones tried to too, albeit in rain coats. Where we sailed down Rajpur Road in paper boats and soared high in the wind with plastic bags attached to strings. Where exposed ends of pants flapped on scooters like excited flags getting wet and shared auto rickshaws for 6 charitably carried 12, umbrellas included. Puddles and leaking bus stops, getting late for work or soaked socks never dampened the spirit, a spirit that only had one thing to say at the end of a very wet day – Some chai and pakoras, what say? 

Every city has a face, and every city has a face for a rainy day. And like they say, every frog has his day too. And today was mine – on Heaven No 7 and Cloud No 9, when it rained and rained frogs!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

I want to meet you, Rajiv Goswami

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past – Thomas Jefferson

And that is why I want to meet you, Rajiv Goswami. It is you who I would resurrect from the pages of History because with you I want to dream of a better future, rather than think of a historical past that consumed you. A past that refuses to go away shows its face in the present and will in the future too.

Why you?

Not just because you stood up for the idea of equal opportunity and fairness for millions of us others, no, not for that reason alone. I chose to speak to you and no other because the relevance of your ideas and your cause continues pertinent even today. I want to understand the courage behind the anger and the anger within the courage that made you immolate yourself while protesting against that 49.5%. 

It wasn’t just a figure for you, was it? The Commission recommended certain castes needed to be uplifted for poverty to go. Social and educational backwardness were to be removed – both caste-based handicaps, they wrote. Seats were to be reserved and quotas gifted to redress discrimination (gifted to redress discrimination?), based on 11 indicators (just another figure?) to determine backwardness!

I wonder.

At the magnitude of anger burning within you, when Meritorious Right was a like a dead man walking. Or what was on your mind the second you lit that match and set yourself ablaze. You must have seen it coming. All of it, in a flash. Seen how much more every job application will ask of you, now more than ever. How, perhaps, your queue at opportunity’s door will always move slower and grow longer, just like the unpaid bills at home. For you and for your kind! Did you know the deeper problems of the Report? We who came to our senses later read about politically compromised census data and lack of empirical basis to the estimation logic. And to think for a Report based on mere ‘estimation’ you set fuel to fire!

You were a leader, a formidable one. Of a formidable movement called the Anti-Reservation Movement! And your painful act of setting yourself on fire was emulated across the country. How powerful the belief in the cause of fairness must have been, and how strong the allegiance to you and to what should rightfully be one’s own – of complete strangers, with nothing in common except the very ‘General’.  And then you died. Just 3 decades of existence marred by deprivation, anger and fire.

But you live on.

Today, percentages are still being passed and debates raging after every vote. We stand further unequally divided – in opinion, in slices of opportunity and in shadow lines of caste, class and creed. A lot is being asked of us, we who were born into better socio-economic conditions, according to those ‘estimations’. Caste-based quotas are being used to do away with discrimination. I know you smile at the irony too, just like I do. Look close, the economically sound from lower sections are sitting in the reserved places, and economically unsound from the upper castes staring at closed windows and ‘no seats’. We learn about reserved seats lying vacant and we get angry. And then, of those chairs that got filled defying merit failing to deliver quality, and that adds to the anger. That word ‘Merit-based quota’ is stuff that dreams are made of – yours and mine and whoever we call ours! The real is all Anger.   

If you were around, you would have seen your fire burning within us right this minute. A little bit of you in so many of us. A frustration! Perhaps you are in a better place, where equality and freedom of opportunity mean just that - equality and freedom of opportunity. And what else is needed to feel, to do, to believe and to be? What else to remind us every day that we Are? 

And before you go, tell us if you know – for how long will the Future have to pay for the Past?

[This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda] 

Friday, 14 June 2013

In Defence of the English Language, and my Son

First, an un-quotable quote – 

‘I don’t understand why when it comes to speaking with waiters, dogs and children people insist on speaking in English.’

Tragically, offensive as this statement in Hindi directed at me was, I silently agreed with this observation. And then I wanted to ask myself why – why the offence taken then, and why this defence, now.

This article is not about why English as a language is important or mandatory (it is to me, truly, but I understand if it is not to you). This article is about why me and my husband, as parents, don’t mind a linguistic arrangement where our 2.3 year old speaks in this tongue and no other, with a fluency that made his doctor sit up and pronounce “genius” nearly a year back. I will defend the use of English as an everyday language in my life, as well as stand up for my toddler who for now knows no better since his parents don’t.

We all are born into a language. Apparently, we hear words even before we are born into them. And gradually, after we emerge, we move from monosyllables to twin words to a string of words defying syntax but communicating our baby needs to those around us nonetheless. In short, we hear what is predominantly spoken and learn it by way of nature and nurture. So our first words are picked up from our mother tongue. Now, mother tongue is not the language that a nation, a state or a community speaks in. It stands for that native language which is spoken at home, your home and mine separately, and passed on from one generation to the next, in our respective homes.      

Then, as we step into our schools promising a certain “medium”, we gather and learn threads of various other languages – sometimes willingly other times simply out of academic compulsions. So, we are, in a way, bred in multiple languages. Hindi period’s paryaywachi shabd make way for their English counterparts just 30 minutes and a bell ring later. The next day is Sanskrit and the ECA says pick between French, German or Spanish. And this being an example from just one school! Really speaking, we acquire multiple tongues and fluctuate between one which best fits the situation and the other which we are most comfortable communicating in. 

This has been my husband’s and my shared linguistic experience – bilingual family settings, the same school, similar medium of college teaching and then a shared predominant language going from courtship and love to wedding and now.  That being, English, and hence my oft-called angrez bachcha!

The colours of language

Now here’s what I think:

1. By no means is English as a language necessary, just like no other language is compulsory either. The only language essential is that which helps you to communicate, effectively, with those who you want to communicate with.  That is the primary purpose of the language you use. The point of the communication is to understand and get understood in return – be it at home or in the world outside. No matter what the language, what suits you best will express you the best too. And if you really think about it, the language you communicate in is the language you think in, be it Hindi, English, Japanese, Bengali or any other. The language you think in is your language, and it will come to your rescue in good times and bad.  Hence, an English-speaking house hold is just that, a household that thinks in English and speaks it too. No crime, no harm there, or so some of us believe!

2. English is no longer an exotic import. In 1913 it was, in 2013 it cannot be. It is neither the possession of a few, nor an asset if acquired. Speaking this language is also no longer to be seen as the colonial anglicization of an otherwise Indian mind. There are tens of languages being spoken in the country right this minute, including English, with most perhaps as ‘foreign’ to another’s mind as maybe Kannada is to a Punjabi or Andamanese to a Manipuri. And as I see it, even Mother Dairy and Safal are advertising in English. Turning for help to a cliché and calling it a link-language here, English for me connects me to the trending spinning world – the world my son was born into, and has to grow-up in.   

3. Fear that a child raised in a predominantly English speaking environment will not understand our family traditions and sanskars is unfounded. Really speaking, how many of us understand what our pandit ji says every passing Diwali puja, hawan or wedding ritual? To pass on family values and age-old traditions does not require age-old methods. It requires a language you trust fully for carrying the messages across to another generation. And that language can only be the language you assimilate and assess your thoughts in. Best expressed is best understood. Even the Bhagwad Gita is generous enough to give us a multi-lingual translation of each verse, helping spread our boundless traditional wisdom to shores far and sunder. Point is not to forget our roots or root languages, but to understand them better - even if that means through a different language system. For me and my family, that’s English!

I do agree. My son should know Hindi too, and not just Hindi but Punjabi too. For now, I can only promise that soon as his teething is over, his toilet training complete and his pronunciation of ‘Frog’ no more like a British ‘Fock’, we will introduce him to Hindi and much more. Until then, all I can say is, perhaps waiters, dogs and children are not as dumb as we like to believe. I think they are smart enough to know what language the world will be spinning around when their tomorrow comes. 

I should go. My son just asked me – ‘What are you thinking, mamma. Do you have an idea?’ and I need to think of the right answer, in English, of course!

[First published on CNN-IBN ]

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

From Behen ji to Beta ji - A Letter

Dear Beta,

I will call you beta, not because I am your mother’s age, but because the world calls me behen ji and I have no room for any more bhaiyas. Once upon a time, the usual UPpity politics and dreams of PM-ship, scams and shoes, mammoth memorials and money kept me so busy. Sometimes it was like making a row of 50 elephants with imported soil with my two bare hands. That busy I felt! Today, I am not so busy, but neither am I free. Because today I realize that every move of your government seems to be politically motivated to undermine me, and my party’s hard work. So much political motivation this state has never been seen before.    

Here I was, sitting on my humble stage and reading the copy of a newspaper reserved for me. Sitting and noting that “dirty politics” was being played over Sarabjit Singh’s death. That allegations and counter allegations are “unfortunate” and that we need to rise above politics and “unite as one party”. And there, in another corner nearby, dirty politics was being planned over my image itself. Even when I was openly and so bravely warning China against Ladakh incursions, asking them to take a few steps back “otherwise the result will not be good”, little did I realize that my own report card was being given grades ranging from D and F and worst of all C (is that the correct grading order?) by your party. I hereby rubbish all reports about certain Rs. 1400 crore being irregularly consumed during my regime, for memorials, parks and a few things here-and-there which not many know about. If you are someone's beta, I am a beti too, and as a beti of the soil, I dare anyone to dare me and prove me wrong. 

But damage had been done, and what was expected happened. One of my most favourite statues got damaged by miscreants, such boot polish you have put over minds that worshipped me once as their queen. As their very own jagat behenji! Those very brother log beheaded me, my statue of marble or something like that. What shame, the way you are promoting vandalism in the youth rather than starting some university with technical and vocational training for the unemployed. You went to Sydney to study environmental engineering and should know the value of good education. I am sure UPpity could do with another university giving out foreign degrees. But coming back to the point, I hope that one day the accused are brought to task and made to pay for 4 identical statues of mine, looking in 4 different directions, to be put in place of this one. And no, I don’t want my head stuck back on it. I want a new one, altogether. I demand all lost respect to be given back to me – new stone, new sculptor and perhaps I may even give him a new pose.  

Talking of respect, it seems that power has made you blind. Your party “goons” are openly disrespecting not just the opposition and the supremo that’s still me, but also Ambedkar ji. To celebrate his 122nd birthday I got hoardings installed in his park so that lakhs of people could come and pay their tribute to him. And here you dared to remove all the hoardings to serve your own political vendetta after so much night “drama”, despite my party workers having taken due permission (even though, when it comes to Ambedkar ji, and myself, I need no permission from anyone for anything) to install them. I am telling you, beta, you are “being watched and will be taken to task when my government comes back to power” one day. And tell your minister to not try teaching me about good language, haan! What does he mean by “restraint” over my language? Doesn’t he know where I come from restraints have to be broken to fly freely and equally?

And flying reminds me, yeh jo flyover you are building at Mall Avenue better not get built – not in 15 months, 15 years or ever. I am a self-made woman who rose from the lowly ashes and my house and party office cannot be subject to such ignominy without enraging my very insides. Do you know how much I spent on building my abode? And a puny Rs. 40 crore flyover is to pass near it and mar its magnificence? I heard you, beta, I heard you say nothing will come in the way of development and easing of traffic problems. But I can assure you that nothing will come in my party’s way either when one day this very flyover will be shifted to Vikramaditya Marg – every inch of its 650 meters – when I am back in power! And not just that! I will even broaden it to 25m from 15m. Dekhna tum log

And see, how I got busy with all things political and motivated and forgot the real reason why I write to you this day. Such is politics, so misleading. OK. Forget all that I just said! Suno, you are planning to open the doors of parks and memorials that I built to hold weddings for the poor, free of cost. Ok. I agree it’s a lot of prime land and not enough to build hospitals as you gathered, but what about the insult it will cause to the icons in whose name the memorials have been constructed? Not just an insult but a maha insult. Free of cost? What are you thinking? But you are a reasonable and well-educated young boy. So, at the cost of forgetting all the hurt I mentioned just now, I will request you to let me guide you how best to use the animals and Ashtdhatu trees installed in the park, about which you seem confused. My 60th birthday is a few years away, and I would like to hold my birthday party in the grandest of memorials and as usual in the grandest of ways. Arrey, ek minute, that will not be an insult to the memorials. See, I am a daughter of the same soil everyone knows that, and then I built them with so much cost and care. On top of that, I am ready to promise that after the party’s over, I will make sure I don’t leave them without added ornamentation or some sangmarmar statues of the national animal of India, Jumbo. Some newly discovered marble is coming in from Italy, which is bird-dropping-and-damage-resistant. Since some memorials look too bare and vast we can do with a few more statues. Perhaps, one of yours too, beta? Or would you share the note-d garland with me, please, on my day? Imagine what message it will send to Madam. I request you to let the memorials be shut till a certain distant January, and after that we’ll see what’s best for both you and me.       

Arrey haan, one more thing! Tell that minister of yours not to misguide young girls who recently got laptops from you. What does he mean by saying “become anything but don’t become aheM”? Shame! I’m the only woman of such substances around and such inspiration that one day I swear on this very soil I arose from … but let that be. Just keep the memorial gates locked, and in the mean time send a spare laptop my way, will you, beta?  

For always,
Behen ji

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Historia - Amer Fort, Jaipur

[My husband and I are what you call a “monumental-ly” crazy couple – rain, hail, sun or very hot sun, not much can deter us from visiting places of historical note when we have the time. Thus, soon as our son learnt to recognize us as his crazy parents, we wanted to introduce him to our shared historical hobby – to be one with history, capture it and immediately plan for the next weekend. “Historia” will be a series of informal articles on various forts, palaces and monuments we have visited over our years together. Our idea is to simply share our experience and knowledge of the place, pin-up some frames and sign-off with a few traveller tips. Bite-sized History, for quick and easy consumption!] 

Our first view of Amer was at the end of a long drive from New Delhi to Jaipur – thanks to a more-populated road we mistakenly took to enter the city. So our first glance of this marvellous fort was through windows of a car desperately trying to elbow its way to a hotel no one knew in this part of town. But whatever we saw of it was enough to make us come back to it right after a few hours of dumping our bags, force feeding the baby and putting on enough antiperspirant to last us the rest of the hot day. We barely made it! The ticket counter was clocking the last minute as our car zoomed up the steep hill and into the parking, when a charitable soul (read unauthorized guide) came to our rescue, rushed and bought the tickets, helped us tumble out of the car and into the fort and “guided” us with this-n-that, historically too, that is.

And we caught our breath only to lose it a minute later when we saw this majestic figure lazing around on the hill top. The Sun had just about set and camera ISO gradually increased, as we just stood there, taking in this symbol of Rajputana and Hindu friendship and enmity, and thanking our stars that our son was not old enough yet to ask us – How did they manage to roll those boulders up the hill once upon a time?

Amer Fort is located on the Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) of the same Aravalli range of hills as the Jaigarh Fort. The two are connected by a subterranean passage - an escape route in times of war for the royal family to shift to the more fortified Jaigarh Fort.

Built by Raja Man Singh I, the fort is divided into four main sections each with its own entry gate and courtyard and blends both Hindu and Rajput elements in its architecture. As you enter through the main gate, the first thing you notice is the vastness of the courtyard. The steep climb up to the fort does not prepare you for four full flat-lands (and a Mughal-style garden) for - Diwan-e-Aam or the "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas or the "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) and the Sukh Niwas. And our charitable-friend-the-guide said with a hint of pink on his cheeks that Sukh is pleasure, qualifying it quickly that it meant a place where when the winds blew over the water cascade it was as cool as pleasure can be made of in 50 degrees of heat. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace.

 The Jai Mandir is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are convex  and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use.

One of the very ornate gates

While we were busy admiring the aesthetic ambience of what seemed so formidable on the outside,  suddenly, somewhere in the middle of all this history, the Present made its presence felt. The moon rose – a faintly silver orb adorning a view we thought could not have been any more breathtaking. But we were wrong, by a huge margin! 

The city below, and the moon beyond

She walks in beauty

We were back, the next day itself, for the 7:00 pm sound and light show at Amer. Trudging uphill on uneven ground with a 12 kg baby in the arms is a feat only my husband could manage, and that’s what I kept telling him every time he huffed and puffed, just to ensure we reached our seats in time. And we did, and the trek was well worth it. The narrator’s voice (Amitabh Bachchan, I think) and the narration, the moon watching over and Amer shining in all its historical glory transposed us back, and so aesthetically, to where this magnificent palace came from.

Reflected -  in the Maota Lake on the front of the fort

Amer, in all its glory

Calling it a day was the last thing we wanted to do, especially with our boy who seemed to take the experience in with eyes and ears perpetually hungry for more. But after the famous lassi and onion kachoris of Jaipur entered our stomachs, bed beckoned with all its comforts. And only one thought remained - forget sun and sands and see the desert state by the moonlight. You will see so much more than the day has to show!        

Our top tips:

1. The fort and palace complex is well worth the steep climb up hill, but if you have babies to carry and elderly people in your group, take a car ride to the parking next to the fort. Even though a short climb is still involved, it will save you a lot of time, sweat and energy for site-seeing.
2. The place gets very crowded (and hot) as the day progresses. Best time to visit is 7:30 am to 12 noon. Our guide told us about elephant rides that carry tourists up to the fort. But of what we gathered from locals around, one look at the poor creatures and how they are treated will make you change your mind, as will the hefty price they charge.
3. The complex is huge, and has lots of details which you may not want to miss. Hire a guide, or grab one like we did, and chances are he'll double up as your location director and photographer too.
4. The monument seemed well-maintained and clean, despite its large size. However, portions of it seemed neglected. Toilet facilities are missing. 
5. The light and sound show is spectacular but if you are not a history buff, avoid. And if you are game for a play of aesthetics and history, do go, but carry a light woollen with you. It gets quite chilly. 
6. Harassing hawkers dot the place, and can smell an outsider from miles away. Beware and don't lose your cool. It's not something you want to lose in a hot place!  

Happy History Hopping!  

(For a closer look, just click on any picture for the whole series to unravel)

Friday, 7 June 2013

I swear iPotty. Marry me!

Toilets are important. Ask that bladder’s belly in the post-beer queue or the one running hysterically to hug the nearest tree. You can also ask the lady who swooshed past you in the ladies line and hopefully reached the destination point well-in-time. One of the loudest truths of life is that we all need a place to PnBe when nature calls. Gone are the days of gay abandon when relieving oneself was about walking behind the cave (if at all) and reaching back well in time for the bonfire, dinner and cave painting. From no hole to hole dug to humble hole to ceramic-n-steel to automatic, toilets have evolved just as their users have. 

And loo and behold, our companions in stress/distress recently made news, and how!   

News Number 1 (shun the pun): 

In a certain district in MP, future grooms are posing with toilets at their homes. Rule book says it doesn’t matter whether they stand next to it, sit on it or just point towards it with one hand, make a victory sign with the other and say cheese. Point is the picture, as evidence, ensures them registration at the mass marriage ceremony organized by the government in the district. That’s only one step done. Second, the toilet in all its photogenic glory helps them woo their ladies and make them skip to my ‘loo’, my darling! How? Jairam Ramesh rightly told us a little while back how providing a toilet to the women in the country will ensure them security, self-respect and confidence -  for every single woman out of the 60 per cent who don’t have access to one. So, what do we have? We have men going the extra tile to woo their life partners into their hygienic lives, thanks to an exemplary scheme by the district government towards providing basic sanitation facilities for women. A single photo ID of a man and a giant leap for womankind! 

News Number 2 (shun the pun still):

iPotty. I mean the gadget. You haven’t heard? It’s a training toilet for toddlers with an iPad dock attached. A 360 degrees rotating case which let’s your toddler switch from horizontal to vertical viewing. Complete with a clear screen protector for the gadget, in case of misfires and with a cover which converts it into a regular seat. (Yes! I’m still talking about the iPotty and not NASA’s latest space ship to the Sun.) So well, the iPotty keeps your children entertained till the pressure far exceeds holding capacity and they finally “go”. All the while, learning and unlearning with technology what perhaps no one could teach them at home anyway. Now, rumour has it that men-of-notes are wooing their ladies with the idea of an iPotty. How? Well, if you can afford and iPad today you surely can get an iPotty tomorrow, and if you are thinking what I’m thinking, it’s another way to tell your lady – ‘Hey hun! Our kid will be in good hands, er, seats. So have some with me, please?’ And the same rumour mill tells us about a sudden spurt in registration of marriages in a certain section of apple-shaped humanity. There, like they say, iApple a day will get a woman your way, and even keep that tiny bum poo-pooing away!

The iPotty

And this morning, as I come out after “getting fresh” fully, a new light has dawned upon my clean insides. That poor cartoonist who went to jail for depicting the Parliament as a WC made a huge mistake. What did he mean by comparing the country’s foremost symbol of respectability to a yellowing ‘Cera Vitreous’ kind of outdated toilet? Preposterous and utter balderdash, and extreme ignorance of the latest in toilet tech. The bio-toilet is where it’s at, now, cartoonist ji. Commode to bio-tank with decomposing bacteria to chlorine to what do we have as an output – only a little water and just a lot of gas! But of course, I am not suggesting anything here.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

To The Woman in the Mirror

Cochin, 2008

I saw you sitting with your back towards me in a busy eatery. I was on the table diagonally behind you. I saw your face in the ornate mirror in front of us, part of the decor. We both sat facing the same mirror. I saw your face, only when you removed your dupatta from it with your hands, to try and eat your dosa, then the noodles and then the Pepsi. For the rest of the time, I saw your lowered eyes listening to your husband and your head nodding, all under the green veil. Every time you heard him approach with a new delicacy for you, you moved your head away, pulled your veil down and froze, in that moment.

I know he was your husband, and you still froze. You refused to look at him, or show yourself to him. The mehendi on your hands and feet had faded. It had been a few weeks of marriage, I’m guessing. And you still froze when you heard his voice and looked away into nothingness when he spoke. Can it be a mark of respect, that emotion best conveyed eye-to-eye person-to-person when it shines from within? No, I think not! Was it fright, then? I can’t say! Or was it something in between the two, that not just me but you too fail to understand as you follow, or are made to?

I sat there wearing a tucked in tee with many Buddha faces and skinny jeans, enjoying my mouthfuls of food and easy banter with the two men in my life – my son and my husband. But every time the man in your life approached you with a new dish, I compulsively looked up from mine. At that brisk movement of your hand with 200 bangles quickly veiling your lovely face! I would look at the draped green head and shoulders in the mirror in front of me and wonder – why? It’s not pity I felt, no, but a lot of incomprehension. I thought veils were to protect women from strangers’ gaze. But yours was only to keep it hidden from your own man, and removed when you were alone in the middle of stranger men.

And then suddenly in such a moment of no-husband, you caught me looking straight into your eyes, which had caught mine in the shared mirror – staring rudely. And I caught the look of incomprehension in them too. For me and my kind! For my eyes which were stuck on everything to do with you. Or was it for my cropped hair, my clothes, my uncovered head or for how freely I had ruffled my husband’s hair? How he and I looked at each other and smiled every time our son burped? How we were man and wife! No veil, no secrecy, no external signs of matrimony and no added respectful reflexes? Sitting together, sharing food, drinks, laughter, looks, liberty, moments, memories, smiles and equality! 

I ask you - Are those things you don’t understand, or are those things you don’t want to understand? Or are those things you were never allowed to understand? You are perfect – for what they reared you to be. I can see that! I can see that in every movement of yours and every stop, in your laden hands and shuffling feet, your voice that is a whisper’s whisper and your eyes that hardly ever see. 

I wish I could know who you are. I wish I could spend that evening talking to you. I wish I could ask you if you ever swallowed your thoughts, your opinions, your ideas about yourself and replaced them with someone’s else’s, for someone else. I wanted to ask you if it was You and Your Face sitting under that veil that day, and every passing day, or was it someone else born out of 3 odd decades of bending backwards for the "given" and the taught?

A little bit of me in you, and a tiny bit of you in me. And a shared mirror!  

I felt very guilty. For the contrast that I saw, between your situation in life and mine. And then I breathed a silent thankful sigh, for the situation that is mine, only. As I write this, I pray to the power that made me free to make you free too. Soon, and not in another life, but in this one itself! 

And I just want to tell you, that I Respect You – not just the face I saw in the mirror but the stronger one hiding within you too. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Versatility of Government Drivers

You have to believe me when I say this – government drivers are heroes. I am still fresh as a wife to the workings of the government, but then it does not take a mountain climb worth of time to realize some types of super-skills when you see them. The following 1000 words are a tribute to government drivers in India. The roles they can play, are made to play and do indeed play can make the biggest poly-armed multi-avatar Gods re-examine their situation in the skies. Here are 6 of the more visible more typical roles:

1. Driver – Well, they are on the rolls for driving Sir’s car so car they have to drive. To office and back! Thereafter, after Sir’s quick shower and Madam’s make-up, they have to drive them to a certain party. (Such help they provide their Sirs in balancing work and play bless their souls!). As the clock strikes the 2 am hour, they hold the door open for a happy couple outside a starry hotel and again drive them back. And unless they are required to take another few minutes to help a toast-ed sir to bed, it’s good night till good morning at 9 am sharp, the next day! All this, in case they are not driving Sir’s family to Shimla for a quick getaway while his bosses are away on theirs! 

2. House-help-cum-Nanny – I know I know! House helps are almost always arranged even before the newly-in-coming family has seen the inside of their new homes post transfer. But if only those tender age workers could really handle everything, baba! Short of milk for tea? Send the driver to get it ASAP. Full cream, remind him. He got toned milk last time, that careless man! Surely, it’s not about the car always, for there are fans that need cleaning and curtain rods that need a scrub and fussy children who need a piggy-back, crying ones who need to see the red-beacon on or others who need to be taught the tricycle. Of course, getting their hair pulled and cheeks punched are just collaterals to the pleasures of serving their masters, unconditionally!

3. Shopping Assistant – Now, government drivers have a way about themselves which may confuse them with their Sirs’, in Sirs’ absence that is. So when one is assigned the very responsible job of reaching home in the afternoon from office and taking madam for shopping, the idea of at-your-service acquires gargantuan proportions. They will drive like there’s no tomorrow, park like it’s their daddy’s road (why make Madam walk long in the sun, so park right outside the shop door next to the 'No Parking' board) and keep on their toes, in case madam has any packets that her delicate hands cannot carry down the 3 steps and up into the car. The most heart-touching story is of a kind driver who went from North-west Delhi, crossed the Yamuna, entered UP from a South-West direction, zoomed into the tailor’s lane for the second time in the same day, just because the erring tailor had forgotten to put the cords in Madam’s salwars. And he was still in time for his son’s 4th birthday, cords duly delivered to Madam’s salwars eagerly waiting at home. In the mean time, the Sir just hitched a ride home from office with his neighbour.  

Google images

4. Mechanic – What use is a driver who cannot fix a broken-down car? What use, I tell you, if he cannot come over the weekend and take-and-drop the car with faulty AC for repairs at the service centre, wash clean the one standing at home and fix the alternator of the third one in the garage in the meantime? Saturday mornings are ideal times for denting-painting-fixing, as well as making sure the denter-painter-fixer at the workshop does not charge an extra dime after it’s done and the car is ready to be driven back, in time, for the picnic at Lodhi Gardens (of course, with food for the driver included!).

5. Coolie – Muscles or no muscles, every driver knows that at least once in his career he will have to carry 100 kg worth of luggage. Be it picking up Sir’s brother from the international arrivals, or Madam’s mother from the railway station, someone has to do the carrying of the bags and that someone has to be the one with the placard in his hands, right outside the exit gate or the train bogey, as the case may be! And not just carry, mind it, but load it in the car and unload it right till the guest room of Sir’s humble accommodation. Thank God for Roohafza and some namkeen on the side, after all, hard-work deserves a little treat, whether at 2 pm in the afternoon or 2 am at night! 

6. RSS Feed/News wire – Like hot news wires and super fast RSS feeds, drivers can fill you up on the latest, or the oldest, and make you well-informed on topics govern-mental. What do you do when you need to know what your senior’s home looks like? Or where your junior’s wife goes every afternoon? Who do you ask if Sir X is clean or Sir Y “eating money”? Or who is going where for a weekend getaway and who is planning an exclusive Class I party? Or who stole crockery from their favourite dhaba or whose son wanted motichoor laddoos at 12 am in the night? Go no further, just ask the man behind the wheel. Chances are he’ll know more than you can ever imagine, or handle, or hope, really! 

So there! Whether permanent, ad hoc or on contract, heroes they surely are. And the less permanent they are in the sarkari scheme of things the more malleable, ductile, tensile and tractile they are. Having a government driver is something like getting that extra paani the puchka-walla pours into your katori after the 20-ka-8 are finished – it’s free, it’s full of perks (meetha, teekha or simply mixed) and just the right way to down a top-class sarkari naukri.

First on CNN-IBN 

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