Monday, 8 December 2008

An Award and a Tag of 150!

After the shocking and sad turn of events in Mumbai, I have been off blogging, not to mention my laptop has crashed and I have a deadline looming!

I was just blog-hoping and realized that Sindhu just gave me this award. My first ever! And here I was cribbing to God, asking him what will it take to get me one (I was thinking of presenting him with under-the-table-dealings of 100 crates of HAW). Thanks sistah! You rock!



I had to follow these rules if I had to accept them!

Put the logo on your blog
Link the person who awarded it to you
Link the bloggers you are about to honour

And ones that are going to be honored are


TD

Moai

Curious

Vrij



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I stumbled upon this tag from Chandni's blog. Its a fun list of 150 things you have done before you turned 30. I have mine marked out in bold. And I still have 5 more years to work on rest of the list. I tag Curious, Sindhu, TD, God, Vrij, Rags and Moai to do this list :)



01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink

02. Swam with dolphins

03. Climbed a mountain (Okay.. only half.. does that count?)

04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive

05. Been inside the Great Pyramid

06. Held a tarantula

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone

08. Said “I love you” and meant it

09. Hugged a tree (When I was in school)

10. Bungee jumped

11. Visited Paris (It didn’t live up to my expectations :( )

12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise (When I used to study for my exams!)

14. Seen the Northern Lights

15. Gone to a huge sports game

16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa

17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables (When I was small, we had a kitchen garden in our home)

18. Touched an iceberg

19. Slept under the stars

20. Changed a baby’s diaper (Was scared of the wailing baby but still managed!)

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon

22. Watched a meteor shower

23. Gotten drunk on champagne

24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (Happened when someone farted)

27. Had a food fight (We were happy and drunk and the rest is history :D)

28. Bet on a winning horse

29. Asked out a stranger

30. Had a snowball fight (On facebook!)

31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb

33. Seen a total eclipse (On TV)

34. Ridden a roller coaster (A tame version in Appu Ghar)

35. Hit a home run

36. Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking (this – I am an expert at!)

37. Adopted an accent for an entire day

38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (I do quite often)

39. Had two hard drives for your computer (Recently)

40. Visited all 50 states

41. Taken care of someone who was drunk (Again – very recently)

42. Had amazing friends (*Touchwood*)

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country (Just 5 days back!)

44. Watched whales

45. Stolen a sign

46. Backpacked in Europe (An experience which changed my life)

47. Taken a road-trip

48. Gone rock climbing

49. Taken a midnight walk on the beach

50. Gone sky diving

51. Visited Ireland

52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them

54. Visited Japan

55. Milked a cow

56. Alphabetized your CDs

57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke

59. Lounged around in bed all day (My favourite pastime)

60. Played touch football

61. Gone scuba diving

62. Kissed in the rain

63. Played in the mud

64. Played in the rain (When I was younger)

65. Gone to a drive-in theatre

66. Visited the Great Wall of China

67. Started a business

68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken

69. Toured ancient sites (In India and Europe)

70. Taken a martial arts class (To scare away all the lecherous men in Blue line buses)

71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight

72. Gotten married

73. Been in a movie (An ad film for a class assignment)

74. Crashed a party

75. Gotten divorced

76. Gone without food for 5 days

77. Made cookies from scratch

78. Won first prize in a costume contest

79. Ridden a gondola in Venice

80. Gotten a tattoo (one of those stick on ones which we used to get with bubblegum)

81. Rafted the Snake River

82. Been on a television news program as an “expert”

83. Gotten flowers for no reason

84. Performed on stage (In school :) )

85. Been to Las Vegas

86. Recorded music

87. Eaten Shark

88. Kissed on the first date

89. Gone to Thailand

90. Bought a house

91. Been in a combat zone (When doing a story)

92. Buried one/both of your parents

93. Been on a cruise ship

94. Spoken more than one language fluently (Hindi and English)

95. Performed in Rocky Horror

96. Raised children

97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour

98. Passed out cold

99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country

100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (Am doing it right now!)

101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge

102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking with the windows open

103. Had plastic surgery

104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. Wrote articles for a large publication (as a journalist)

106. Lost over 100 pounds

107. Held someone while they were having a flashback

108. Piloted an airplane

109. Touched a stingray

110. Broken someone’s heart (A couple of them along the way…)

111. Helped an animal give birth

112. Won money on a TV game show

113. Broken a bone

114. Gone on an African photo safari

115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears

116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol

117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild

118. Ridden a horse (In Mussoorie and Shimla)

119. Had major surgery

120. Had a snake as a pet

121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

122. Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period (After I did my last assignment)

123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. States

124. Visited all 7 continents

125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days

126. Eaten kangaroo meat

127. Eaten sushi (Two weeks back)

128. Had your picture in the newspaper (only my name)

129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about

130. Gone back to school (I am doing it right now)

131. Parasailed

132. Touched a cockroach (in our bathroom - I had to kill the poor bastard *evil laugh*)

133. Eaten fried green tomatoes

134. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey

135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (Lots actually)

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

137. Skipped all your school reunions

138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language (With a foreigner I had a crush on ;) )

139. Been elected to public office

140. Written your own computer language

141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream (Always do!)

142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care

143. Built your own PC from parts

144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you

145. Had a booth at a street fair

146. Dyed your hair (Red. Yes you read that right R-E-D but it wasn’t permanent colour and wouldn’t show on my black mane :( )

147. Been a DJ

148. Shaved your head

149. Caused a car accident (When I was learning to drive)

150. Saved someone’s life


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Updated: Mumbai bleeds again...

as does my heart as I sit in a far away land watching things unfold.




Update (27th Nov):

A cousin was in Taj Hotel and has managed to get out alive. A friend was in Mumabi and he's fine. The worrying thing is a we can't contact another friend and she has been with me in school since we were three years old. No news is good news - I keep telling myself. Everyone please pray.

Mumbai bloggers - TD, Malini, Pesh & PBH, Maxx, Punky - anyone please let me know if they are okay.

Images on a TV screen flick in front of me as I see people dying, blood, gore, bombs going off, grenade attacks, random gun fire shots, bodies, buildings going up in flames. This is not Iraq, not even Afghanistan, not even closer home - Kashmir. This is Mumbai. The financial capital of India. A throbbing metropolis. A safe city in a democratic nation. Not a city in a war zone. But it has turned into one in the past 24 hours.


Update (28 Nov):

Its not 24 or 30, its 48 hours. Of carnage. Of bloodshed. Of death. Of gloom. Of despair. We have managed to contact my friend. She is fine. But for some the news is bad as fellow blogger Chandni tells about her friend's father.

Update (29 Nov):

From 48, it has become 62. 62 bloodly hours of hell. Almost 200 dead and 300 injured and plans to blow up the Taj, making it India's 9/11.

Since words fail me, I bring these images of the last three days. A mumbai based blogger Arun Shanbhag captures the ordeal of three days through his lens (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3).

Update (30 Nov.):

This account by AP sums it up.

Here are pictures, courtsey TD's blog.

For live coverage watch here.

Monday, 17 November 2008

A Quirky Tag

Tagged by the God, this Goddess couldn't refuse and here goes my list of eccentricities.

1. I love doing dishes. I think when I will be on my death bed and someone will say there are dishes to do, I'll just get up and do it! No seriously, I would until they sparkle and shine.

Now that I think of it, I like doing dishes and I want to marry a chef because I hate cooking, maybe in my past like I worked in a restaurant or a tavern...and then I ran away with the chef and got married? Hmmm... could be possible. What do you guys think?

2. I fold my clothes a certain way. The sleeves have to be tucked into the inside folds and the clothes have to make a proper rectangle. And if you take a peek in my cupboard and my clothes aren't folded this way, you can tell I am really stressed out.

3. I don’t like anything which is too sweet so eating mithai with namkeen is perfectly acceptable to me just like the other day I had samosa with panjeeri (yum!) and chocolates with chips (absolutely yum!).

4. I can be shy and brash and then shy again in a span of 5 minutes and can make people around me comfortable and embarrassed and then comfortable again without batting an eyelid.

These are the only weird things I am revealing about myself.... stick around and you might find more ;)

Cheers!!

P.S: I went for a day trip to a beautiful town in northern England. A travel post comes up soon!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

My life since the past few weeks!



Assignment deadlines and a new found addiction to oreos!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Waltz

The waltz begins again
Even before the last dance has ended
A step forward
A step backward

Sometimes in tandem
Sometimes not
At times fumbling and hesitant
At others confident and sure

She looks at him
And all the old fears rush back
As she maintains composure
There is a torrent inside

The struggles have begun
She is torn inside
And she can walk away
She assures herself

She sees the signs
The pattern starts to repeat
Will she dance again
Will she be free

And the waltz begins again
Even before the last dance has ended
A step forward
A step backward

P.S: Wishing everyone A very happy and properous Diwali

P.P.S: God... I'll do the tag after this post...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Birthday and Anniversary

I just realized it was my blog's third birthday on 11th. And with each passing year I wonder how long will I last. Will I get bored and pack up and leave? As of now.. it hasn't happened.

On Friday, I will complete my one month anniversary of coming to the University. I have not only survived but have graduated to kneading dough and making pananthas to making paneer ki subzi. And I have started calling my apartment (notice the my) my home. Someone calls and I go like, "Oh! I am walking to my home" or "I'll be home this evening" or something like that. You get the point....

It seems a lot of things happen in October for me... I wonder why!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Girl Bonding, Brollies, Jane Austen, Sabzis and Studies

Amidst classes, presentations, seminars, books, cooking and socializing, I bring the latest updates...

Having flatmates from different countries means, we have interesting cultural exchanges, different eating habits and different languages. Over the last few weeks we have gone from saying polite Hellos and Goodbyes in the hallways to mid night chats, cute men-boys spotting at the uni to making plans for travelling in the Christmas break! I, for one, have had problems with catty women, bimbos etc. and for the first time I have actually bonded with women.

And I have also found that when it rains and the shoes and jeans get wet, never keep down the umbrella to the side and roll up the jeans. Because gales in this part of the world with take away your beloved umbrella and you will be running half a kilometer to catch it, wearing a coat and carrying a huge rucksack and generally making a fool of yourself. Eventually the wind will put down the brolly in the middle of a traffic intersection, bringing the traffic to a halt and you will then retrive the offending object while mumbling sorry.

Another day when I can hear the chilly wind beating the windows, happy that I am inside the warm apartment, I will envision myself to be a chef. And will makes aloo-beans, mixed vegetable, dal, rice and whip up a yummy raita. I will eat like a glutton and then proceed to fall asleep!

While we are at the topic of chilly winds and gales, I always get reminded to English classics whenever I think of gales, moors, rolling green fields, rain and elegant ladies. I have got hooked onto this Drama called 'Lost in Austen'. Its about a young Londoner swapping places with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. The purists would probably baulk at it but I find the series very creative, witty and funny. Its interesting how you anticipate something and the complete opposite happens and all the characters in the book are doing what they are not supposed to do! In case you can access it online, do watch it here.

While I entertain myself watching the above, I notice a whole stack of books and notes in front of me but I am uninspired to read until the deadline looms in front of me. In which case, I will be up the whole night trying to study. Looking at other students in the class who have come fresh from under graduate studies and who take copious notes in the class, I wonder if I have missed out on some important bits. It would be also interesting to note how they would behave like scared lambs, quite unsure of themselves. And it reminds me of how I was at that age. And that's when I begin to feel old!

More updates will happen as days go by.... Till then... Cheers!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tagged for twenty

Heylo everyone! I've finally moved to my university and have been meeting people from across the globe which is so exiciting!! After shmoozing with all the new people and trying Irish céilidh dance, Salsa and other new things, I am back on blogosphere..

I got tagged by Sindhu and here goes my twenty-

1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?
I would be shocked at first and then I would walk away and never forgive that person

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
Win a booker prize for a novel which I write

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
Right now... no one's

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Travel across the world, invest some, give some to my family, buy all the creature comforts that I can... :)

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
Ooh... Maybe...

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
This one is a no-brainer... being loved is a blessing...

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
Depends which alter ego of mine takes over - the practical one or the romantic one...

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
Wait for him to break with his current girl friend and make my move (nah! just kidding)
I'll keep it platonic...

9. If you like to act with someone, who will it be? your gf/bf or an actress/actor?
An actor.. for sure...

10. What takes you down the fastest?Turn off?
Smoking, Lying, Cheating, Showing-off

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?
Journalist, Writer,Photographer, Wife, Mother

12. What’s your fear?
Dying at a young age

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Sweet, dreamer and a romatic.. Am I right, Sindhu? :)

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?
I don't mind being either...

15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Stop the annoying alarm clock!

16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Of course

17. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?
I don't think I can fall in love with two people at the same time... Though I have no idea what I would do...

18. Would you forgive and forget, no matter how horrible a thing someone has done?
No...never

19. Do you prefer being single or having a relationship?
I see the perks of both.. I can't decide one

20. List 6 people to tag

I think almost everyone I know is tagged, but if you are not then I tag you

Also I tag

Moai
TD
Niceguy

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Landed in London and finding India here...

A quick post to let you know that I have landed in London. It was sooo cold yesterday (almost like winters) but I decided to 'brave' the rain and chilly wind to meet a couple of friends for a Friday night dinner, learnt a bit of Spanish, taught a bit of Hindi, was promptly treated to Indian food and passed by a gay bar which was playing the song 'main talli ho gayi'!

Update (8th Sept)
The weekend was spent eating spicy South Indian food and discovering kaantey wali lichees from Africa and spending a lovely afternoon catching an exhibition on old Ramayana manuscripts which were discovered by Prince of Mewar followed by hogging mexican food at Giraffe.

I'll update more as the first few weeks go by...

Till then, cheers!!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Baby, I am on fire!!

So today was the first day I actually cooked! I made rice for the first time and no it didn't get burnt. I totally rock or what!

Being a closet feminist I have this great fear that for the rest of my life I'll have to thanklessly cook not just for myself but for a future husband and kids (Hint: Any chefs out there? Maybe I can marry you). I don't want to get stuck in the cycle I was hoping to delay my foray into the kitchen as much as possible but well I had to do it someday. And today it was.

Anyway, the date for leaving is coming closer. Its exactly a week now. And like all desis my suitcases are full of things like pressure cooker (of which I am intensely afraid of) , masalas and ladoos (which my cousin made for me).

And my ex-colleagues who very sweetly gave me a farewell party and loads of gifts like an ipod Nano and a beautiful wrist watch which shows dual time and the support staff gave me a wonderful parker pen.

And no, the gifts don't stop there. My friends gave me a gorgeous blue top and a collage of our photographs.

And my shiny new laptop is waiting for me in London.

And i'll update this post as more things happen.

Till then adios!

Update (Sept 3, 9.00 A.M): Leaving in 24 hours :O

Friday, 22 August 2008

Peak Into My Head

I stumbled upon the Visual DNA site after a long time and I decided to do this for a lark! If you were to peak into my head, you would probably find this :)


Youniverse Mind TestYouniverse Mind Test



It has been ages since we all tagged each other. So I tag

TD
Sindhu
Curious
Vrij

Go ahead, do the tag and then tag four more people...

Friday, 8 August 2008

Endings and New Beginings

So, today was my last day of work. It feels like a chapter which has been closed.

It's weird to say your goodbyes, put your stuff in a box (that's three years of your life) and walk out of the office teary-eyed. I can't imagine myself getting emotional and crying because I always prided myself to be one of those people who think with their head and not their heart.

The last few days have been like this - close a bank account here, a phone connection there...

Then sign the lease contract for the apartment at the University, send some documents for my course work etc.

So there are endings and new beginings and life continues...

P.S: For the first time in this season the monsoon has shown its full glory in Delhi. I am loving it.... :)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Down The Memory Lane Again

I was reading about the French revolution recently. The gore and the bloodshed which ensued as people were slaughtered by the guillotine. Suddenly my memories flew back to 7th grade English literature class.

Circa 1994

I remember reading a classic called ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ which was about a brave Englishman who saved the French aristocrats from the guillotine.

I remember that when the rest of the class was on 3rd chapter, I had finished reading the entire book. The intrigue, the hidden identity of the hero and the French spies filled the mind of an 11 year old girl and she couldn’t stop turning pages until she had read the story to its end.

I remember visualizing the foggy shores of Dover and cliffs of Calais, the English channel, green and beautiful Richmond and the various characters in the book.

Fast forward to 2003

I was 20 years old, crossing the English channel for my first ever trip to Europe. I could barely contain my excitement as one night I would be going from Dover and reaching Calais from there in a few hours.

I must confess that it was a bit of a let down, and all because of the modern marvels of the world. When my coach reached Dover, we were loaded onto an under water train and after a while we alighted at the Calais train station. I didn’t see the foggy shores of Dover or the cliffs of Calais, only the modern structures of the train station and the train underneath the water.

Hopefully, this time around, as I go for an year, I will try travelling by the more traditional method – a steamer and hopefully it won’t be a let down!


Catch the e-book here. Though nothing beats reading an actual book whose pages you can turn.

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In a completely unrelated incident, I spent the weekend in dusty heartlands of Uttar Pradesh and forgot to pick up my stock of sweet cigarettes. Does anyone know where can I buy them in Delhi?

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Also has anyone ever visited Khurja? I was blown away by the amazing pottery and ceramic work (again)! I could have bought everything but one thing caught my eye - a boat shaped tea cup. It was innovatively carved and I absolutely had to buy it and I will definitely take it saat samunder paar with me :)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Random funny incident of the day

I was going to Gurgaon for work and I stopped to ask a thulla (police man) for directions.

Me: XYZ constructions kahan chal rahe hain?

Thulla (Very eager to help a journalist): Madam, yeh Erection (Eriksson) ki building key samney Contraction (Construction) chal raha hai.

Me (Ready to burst into peals of laughter): Thank you

Monday, 28 July 2008

In a Banana Republic...

... this will happen one day after this has happened.

Update: And this will happen a day later.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Random Stuff

I came across this cool word-cloud thingie called Wordle from Annie Mole's blog :D

So I decided to share it with you all...




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In other news, I came across a news article on the BBC website saying that Banksy's identity has been revealed. You are probably wondering who is this. This is a guy who is a 'grafiti artist' alternatively called a 'guerrilla artist' and his art has been termed as 'vandalism'. You can see it popping across countries leaving a social or political message. His claim to fame- being anonymous while he goes about doing his thing!





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While on the topic of public spaces and guerrila art, the lastest is that 'guerrilla gardeners' are weeding out wild foliage in concrete jungles. While we are at it, it would be crazy and fun if someone does this at the Delhi metro or a Mumbai train station!

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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Untitled

Oh Mother! Look I killed my brother
You taught me this
When I was born
You said he was the enemy
And now they tell me – he was my friend

The hatred you taught me
And the colours – saffron and green
You said they were meant to be apart

I did it in Ayodhya
And in Bhagalpur
I went to Ghodhra
While passing through Mumbai
I did it in Benaras and Jaipur too

And now we point fingers at each other
And kill each other without blinking an eye
Oh Mother! Is this all you could teach me?

History books say we fought against each other centuries ago
But together 60 years ago
And now we are fighting against each other again
History repeats itself – some admonish me
History teaches – others say

But isn’t it a losing battle
Eye for eye makes us blind, Gandhi said
Oh Mother! Aren’t we blind enough already?

Are you waiting for the day, when in darkness we can’t see
Will you be filled with glee
Or will you be angst ridden
Are you waiting for us to learn another lesson
Or have we come too far already

--------------------------

Update

There are many people who we interact with, who don't just keep the prejudices in their hearts but systematically spread them too. Only if they were given the power to see what lies on the other side, were given unbiased information, they would be able to decide what they want to believe in and discard propaganda.

A movement called 'anti-tags' stems from that idea. It is anti-communalism, anti-extremism and anti-polarization and pro-information. Some might also call it secular, liberal or even pseudo-secular-liberal. It believes tags don't matter because it just wants to be the bridge that closes the gap between the 'real' and the 'assumed'.

How Can You Help?

Tell us your story. Did you face communal backlash? Did an incident change you? What do you think of propaganda in media and politics? How is it ruining our social fabric?Share it on 'anti-tags'. Age no bar, gender no bar, religion no bar, caste no bar. Leave you name or send it anonymously. Our email is antiDOTtagsATgmailDOTcom

Link: http://anti-tags.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Delhi - A Page From My Diary

In a state of disrupted, chaotic order I am still living out of a suitcase. As I travel from the western part of city to my office in the shiny new metro for a couple of days, I thought of writing this ode for a bustling, throbbing, eclectic city I love.


From a height I observe the city, abrupt lines and jagged edges flouting the
symmetry associated with a city seen from the top - rooftops of congested micro
cities, homes and offices, slums and villages - decaying, putrefying structures
and people in lifeless motion, almost cataleptic. And then suddenly, the vision
gets broken by shiny new malls and movie halls in unexpected places. The pattern
repeats for a while as the train jerks to a stop at each station, a mass of
people moving in and out. The uneven rooftops give way to green foliage, a
labyrinth of flyovers, roads, traffic signals and car crawling to their
destination.

And in that closed box, I notice furtive glances
until there is nothing left to look at as eyes move from random images –
advertisements, maps, the LED board displaying station names, people, coming
back to staring vacantly in space.

I hear voices murmuring,
inaudible collective sounds at first and then singling out. There are strains -
of languages Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Hindi and English, old Hindi film songs, stock
prices, exam results, sweet nothings.

Dampness hangs in the air, fragrance of flowery perfumes mixing with the sweat, a potent mixture pervades as empty spaces fill with people until there is nothing left to fill, nothing left to pervade.

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Updated: I love the song 'Dilli Bas' sung by Rabbi Shergill and dedicated to my city Delhi. Check out the lyrics here. I don't know where can I listen to it online :

Friday, 13 June 2008

Have You...

...ever felt sad and happy at the same time?
Excited and nervous at the same time?
Joyful and anxious at the same time?
Felt over the moon and yet wanted the earth to open up and swallow you?
That you want to stay and you want to go?
And you want to be anchored and want to fly away?
Yet everything feels like it's happening in slow motion and yet very fast?

I am feeling all that and more!

-------

I've quit my job. Yes, the one I really love. I still have two months to go. I want to be here forever and I know it's time to move on. The three years I spent here, as a rookie reporter and slowly evolving into an experienced one, the amazing people I met and the interesting experiences I had - It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride. I travelled across the country, went to places you probably haven’t heard of, did some good stories, and got a peek into lives of people who opened their hearts and homes for me. I have grown as a person and as a journalist. This looks like my swan song but I hope it’s not.

And now you may be wondering what’s next for me. Well, I am moving not just to another country but another continent. I have decided to take an year off to study and have been offered a scholarship. And I couldn’t resist the offer. So basically, my life is in transition, with all the travelling since the last two months and living out of suitcases which got packed before it was time to unpack. And now I have to pack my bags to go off a longer period of time.


I am scared of leaving this security blanket of my home and my job and explore new avenues.
And yet there is this another voice in my head which tells me this is a good thing. I am confident one moment and lost in another. I want time to stand still and I want it to move. I want to savour every moment and I want to taste what’s next. I am eager and I am restrained. I am a contradiction or maybe just torn between the past, the present and the future. I take each moment with a steady calmness, and in the next, there are butterflies in my stomach. I could go on and on about how I feel but I don't think I should. So I'll just say - Wish me luck, everyone!

-------
And in a update on my travel diaries-

An almost 60-day travel is coming to an end. And I have been surprised at myself. And have learnt again – never say never.

Because you never thought that smiles exchanged would turn into glances exchanged and a language barrier wouldn’t deter in conveying what words could say because your eyes will do the talking. And that you will sit diagonally cross the table and use a translator for a conversation and your eyes would meet for a brief minute and everyone else on the table would be laughing at the casual banter and you would know those words were not said in jest. Working will be easier and you will stop missing home and wish you had a few or a lot more days of travel. But like all good things, this will come to an end. And your eyes will meet for the last time and it would be a bittersweet end. You won't forget the memories but will move on.

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Friday, 30 May 2008

India Travel Diaries: Random Travel Tales

After the previous post, I have been meaning to give an update of the latest travel tales but the grueling schedule has kept me from doing so. Travelling from MP-Delhi-Bihar-Delhi-AP-Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi (excluding all the towns and the villages I went to) for 45 days makes you realize how much you can really miss home. And it’s still not over!

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Because when you bump into walls, tables and beds in different hotel rooms, purple bruises pop up. And then you fall down the stairs and you knee gets injured and you hobble around with purple bruise and a swollen knee.

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And then you come home to sleep in your own bed, wake up in the middle of the night and see the door is open and think someone has entered your hotel room and you need to scream and call the reception. Then realization strikes you that you are in your own home.
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And then you ask to eat karela, tinda, lauki, tori and salivate at the thought of eating kichdi. Since you are home for a day or two, you can’t eat it all. So when you go to your next destination and stay in a fancy hotel and your colleagues go out to eat super specialty Far East Asian cuisine, you politely refuse and order kichdi for room service and it tastes like heaven.

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In the middle of it all, in an obscure village in Bihar, the drunk ex-sarpanch and his cronies will threaten you and the current sarpanch will jump to help you and tell you to register a police case. So yeah, you start getting visions of you getting killed in a local village-politics war and the fact no one will come to know about it. And before that happens, you will have to think quickly on your feet, diffuse the situation, work quickly and get out of there alive!

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The condition of the roads will be terrible, as if no roads exist in that particular district of Bihar. The potholes are mini craters and travelling for an hour and a half (one side) every day would mean that 1. Your food gets churned (and digested?) really fast 2. You get a full body massage 3. You intestines jump up to meet the brain, the pancreas gets lodged in the liver, the spleen decides to switch over and go to the other side of the body. So for the first time, you take a day’s rest before moving to the next destination.

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In MP, you will go to a village where all the curious kids will surround you. And to beat the heat, you will stand under a mango tree laden with raw, green mangoes. Of course the kids will jump up and pluck the raw mangoes and eat them nonchalantly. Then they will ask you to eat, you will refuse but their bright smiles will melt you. The sour taste will hit you hard, really hard. And they will grin and laugh at you and you will join them and have a good laugh at yourself.
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While in a village in AP, tribal men with spears will surround you and you will think that since you are pint sized and don’t have much meat, you wont make a nice meal for them. Since you can’t speak their language, you will have no way of communicating that thought. They will peak into your car and when you get down, follow you. That’s when you will spot your translator at distance and wave frantically at him. He will then come and tell you that these are village guards and messengers. It’s their job to know about any new ‘happening’ in the village. Then they will pose for your camera, get their pictures taken and you will shyly join them for a photo, inwardly relieved that you are not their dinner for the day.

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Of course you will also get to touch a real tortoise and fishes and goats and cows and new born calves respectively in all the states. By day 40, the smell of cow dung won’t make you crinkle up your nose. In fact you won’t even notice the smell.

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In the midst of this, bird shit will fall on your notebook. Which will be an ice-breaker for village kids in AP. Through sign language, they will produce water and a cloth to wipe it away. And in broken English-Telgu, they’ll tell you it’s a sign of good luck.

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And in all the villages, the village elders will ask your age and wonder why you are not married as yet. Then they will be scandalized that you travel and work with men. And that you belong to a mixed caste. And they will nod wisely and say, “Yeh sab Dilli may hota hai.” It’s a very foreign concept for them.

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You will meet a girl, the first from her village, to go and study MCA and with dreams of working in the IT industry. You will go to another village where a 20 year old girl is a mother of a one year old child. And in another, she is in a ghoonghat which covers her face and neck and she won’t talk to you at all.

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While in Mumbai traveling in front of a slum, a child will suddenly jump in front of your car, the driver will slam the brakes, while the child will grab a pigeon and put it in his shirt. The driver will turn back to you and say, “He will go home and cook this.” you are not sure if you should believe him.

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I still have a few more days of travel. More travel diaries might pop up if something interesting happens. Meanwhile, there has been a development on a personal-professional front. Pray that things fall in place for me while I keep my fingers crossed.

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Monday, 5 May 2008

Madhya Pradesh Diaries - II

One day we ask a villager why he wants to buy a colour television, his first, in the 45 years of his life. He replies with all seriousness, “Because my wife told me too.” All the men – different strata, culture, society, country - errupt into a laughter, their private joke of hen pecked husbands and nagging wives.

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Yet another day, a woman separating chaff from wheat calls a child to sit next to her as we film her activities. The man standing next to me says, “ These women. They have no sense. Uski photo keech rahe hai aur who bacchey ko bula rahi hai….” He suddenly stops as he realizes I am standing next to him.


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Another day. We meet a farmer who earns about $3 a day to feed his family of eight. He rues why he toils so hard to grow wheat if the government is filling its buffer stock, when he has to eat two meals a day because he can’t afford three. His eyes heavy with emotion, helplessness, he turns to ask, “Main yeh dharti kyu cheerta hoon? Sirf isliye ki bebas reh saku?”. At first I am moved and then a thought crosses my mind, if his dialogue is a story set for us journalists. The cynic in me peeps out and I feel ashamed.

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A man in starch white kurta payajama stands in the middle of a field, the hot winds - loo hits us but there is a smile on his face. His 82 acre land produces so much of wheat, gram, pluses and soybean that he will earn millions when he sells his stock. The land, which he stands on, is worth billions.


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While in Bhopal one day, staying in my fancy 5 hotel, travelling in the stuffy official car to all the villages, I desire to break free. As I hop into an auto rickshaw outside the hotel, the manager spots me and asks “Madam why did you walk till the gate? We could have called the auto inside.” He tells me it’s a regular thing. I am amazed they do that here. The fancy hotel in the city is not like the ones in Delhi.

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I go to the Old Market in the city. It is like walking in the bylanes of Old Delhi, men with skull caps and women in burkha mill around. I am an anomaly there, an outsider. But I enjoy it. And there is a Jama Masjid and a chor bazaar just like Delhi. I am homesick again.

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As the heat rises from the earth, bare trees spead their branches, like arms raised towards the sky, a plea for the sun to stop beating down so mercilessly, for rain gods to pour down.

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After a tiring day, I recline in the seat of my car, I look outside and find electricity transmission lines running along, the cables playing a game, meeting at the poles - coming together, falling apart, almost teasing each other and playing catch. It reminds me of my childhood - watching the electicity poles, the sugar cane fields, sitting in the backseat, staring at the horizon as both merge into one another, while going to visit my grandmother in dusty heartlands of Uttar Pradesh.

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On the highway, I pass by a school building under construction. Th name of the school - Campion School. If the school authorities meant to write 'champion' then I am really worried what the childen will learn in a school whose name is spelt wongly. If it isn't, then I am worried that the name of the school has no meaning. And then I wonder why I worry so much!

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Madhya Pradesh Diaries

As I travel through dusty heartland of Rural central India, the landscape bathes in the summer sun and blue sky. The wheat which has become yellow golden, the green sugarcane fighting the sunrays, becoming yellow, the trees stark, stripped of their leaves, brown bark, yellow dust swirling upto the branches. And then suddenly, a green palm tree, which has survived the harsh environs.

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I meet some farmers, bodies darkened, hands callused, their sweat and grime in my hand- the golden wheat, which is on my table every night because of them. I can see the elements have worn them out, weathered faces, hard luck, dependence on the climate, they still welcome me warmly.

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At 41 degrees temperature, as they harvest the grain, suddenly one farmers pipes up, telling his ghoonghat clad wife, "Look how smart this city girl is, she even talks to men. You should learn something from her." And they break in peals of laughter.

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In another village, we ask if the women go shopping. No, the reply. Not even saris? No. House hold items? No. Anything? They shake their heads and say, "But they are not the decision makers, madam. They stay at home look after everything here."

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Another evening, there is a wedding in the village. Suddenly, our arrival means, the bride and the groom are relegated to the sidelines. We are the new celebrities and we have to make polite conversation with the thousands of guests present there. The women are in another corner, in their bright colourful saris. I walk upto them and take a picture from a digital camera. They shyly come forward to see it. And then there is a stampede to get their pictures clicked - from the old grandmother to the 6 year old girl!

Later, the village sarpanch and elders sit around me at 1.00, I chew on my batley (a local delicacy) and drink the purest aam panna, I have ever had. And in that night, as I am thousands of kilometers away from home, under a star studded sky, discussing politics, wheat prices, inflation and culture with them, they are in awe of me. "Aap itni door yahan baithi ho, koi darr nahi lag raha, ghar sey itni door?" I shake my head, "Its my job."

And then one of the farmers sings this song, inspired by his land-

Chali rey chali,
Kisan ki lali,
Bhariya rang ki chunariya,
Oodh kar chali,
Kisan ki lali,
Khet khaliyaon ko chali...

As I leave, the moon spreads its light, the cool breeze envelopes me, the darkness hides the starkness of the farmland. I trudge back to the hotel in the city at 5.00 A.M

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Halfway through my trip, I am suddenly homesick. A person who is ever ready for the new adventures and quests, I am suddenly missing my home, my room, my bed. It's strange. Or maybe its because I am working with the
ogre.

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For the Nth time I am really irritated. yet another person had taken me to be a tourist guide. Yes, I work with foreigners. No, I am not a guide. I am a journalist. I wish someone would ban that RIN/Surf ad with the girl-tourist guide!

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One summer evening, my driver Khan Sa'ab, a frail old man touching seventy, turns to me and speaks to me in perfect English, "You are a great lady." Why, I ask. I have never seen a woman go so deep in the country side. And that too, to tell the story of our farmers. Who really cares about them? I tell him, "I hope, I can change that a little bit."

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This diary (blog post) will be updated in the coming weeks as I travel more. Stay tuned and keep checking back here!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Signs of Times Gone By...

I am an eager beaver when it comes to clicking pictures especially those with atrocious spellings and language. I thought I should share some master pieces with you all :D


Exhibit no. 1











So are you ready to do some 'traking'?




Exhibit no. 2














Go ahead.. buy a 'Freeze' and freeze your brain it. And don't forget to buy the 'Entena' coz how else will you watch TV?


Exhibit no. 3













Kyun bhai.. garam freeze...err...fridge ki bhi chocolates hoti hain kya?



Exhibit no. 4










Saavdhan from what???




Exhibit no. 5
Presenting pièce de résistance














Go ahead... Buy that helicopter you always dreamt of!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Where Are We Heading

Where are we going wrong as a society when 8 year olds plan to stab their teacher without realizing the effects or the enormity of their plan?

In another case,
16 year olds, in a pre meditated plan, attack a fellow school student so that they can upload a video of it on a popular video sharing site. (Video Here)

Instead of bully-like behaviour, these are cases of
mob mentality. Earlier, we saw this behaviour during wars, riots, unrest or a similar situation but not where children or youngsters were involved.

Now in a changing world, we are seeing cases, unusual scenarios where slightest of provocation are triggering off events. These are alarming cases of herd mentality, cases of assumed power over the victim and with no signs of remorse.

It’s a very scary place to be right now. As we become developed, are these indicators of eroding human values? Or are these societal issues of the developed world? Or there are deeper reflections of images influenced by the media? Whatever the answer may be, as a society, we need to check such behavioral indicators.

Because, I think, it won’t take long for others to replicate it. Like school shootings in US, incidents like
Gurgaon school shoot out have started to haunt India. Is this the future staring at us?

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Cross posted at C-Splash (a citizen journalism initiative)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

And So It Happened: The Epilogue



For chapter three, read here

Epilogue

She never went back to Delhi. Instead she made a choice, first of many, and made the city of dreams her home. With his support, she went back to study. Later, she wrote a book called ‘Lady Of The Night’- a chronicle of her past life. It helped her find a closure. An added bonus was that the book went on to become a bestseller. The media followed her, the activists made her their poster girl. She was suddenly the depraved-girl-turned-righteous.

Now, she works and vigourously fights for the rights of women.Sometimes when the fast pace of city life gets to her, she comes back to the village and can be seen sitting under the tall trees watching the sunset or taking a walk on the beach with him.

He went to complete the business deal he had left in the middle. It made him the second richest youngest man. He had no desire to be the first because he finally realized that his race was against him, not someone else. As she had said once, he chose to make a decision. It was led by his heart. And that’s when he decided to buy a house in the quaint little village of Kelve. He can be often seen fishing by the sea. But mostly, he takes a canvas and paints as the curious village children come up to him and chat with him.

When it becomes too quiet, he goes to the city. There he can be seen catching up with her in one of the restaurants and cafes which dot the city. Though he still avoids going to Nariman Point.

And so it happened, when two tortured and agonized souls met each other, they found a purpose, a meaning and maybe they found themselves.

If you ever happen to visit Kelve, you might see them. You could probably go upto them and say Hello. Maybe they'll tell you what's happening in their life right now. I am sure it would be interesting.


THE END



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Friday, 4 April 2008

And So It Happened: Chapter 3

For chapter two, read here.

Chapter 3


“You need a room, sir?”

“Yes. One.” he said.

After checking into their room, she stepped out. Never had she been allowed to venture out like this. The fresh air, salty sea breeze, birds chirping, tall eucalyptus trees. They went and sat by the sea. She had never seen a beach before. It was like a dream.

Gingerly she put her feet in the water, feeling the sand on the soles of her feet. She closed her eyes and waved her arms pretending to be like the seagulls which were flying above her. She giggled with joy as he sat watching her.

Later as she came back and sat next to him, he said, “You know earlier… we were talking… I hope you didn’t mind me asking…about it…”

She shook her head.

He lit up another cigarette

“But I don’t understand. Why can’t you choose. You know...to walk away?”

“Why can’t you?” she countered his question.

“Well… that’s the only thing I know. How to make money. What will I do?” he said almost wistfully.

“Yeah… that’s the only thing I know,” she repeated but spoke for herself too. Words which had involuntarily forced out of somewhere deep inside.

As the evening rays of the sun melted into the sea, the hours dissolved into one another, the horizon turned shades of orange and cobalt, they had let down the guard a little bit.


Soon it was time for dinner.

The next day they explored the area a little bit. The wind played with her hair as he caught a whiff of her perfume. Touching her arm, he indicated he wanted to sit down on the rocks.

“Doesn’t it look beautiful!” She pointed out to the boats dotting the sea. “Maybe it’s the fishermen.”

“Hmmm,” he grunted.

Maybe he doesn’t want to talk. She sat quietly.

“Tell me if you were not making money what would you? In your heart, what do you dream of doing?” she asked, childlike, trying to ignore his indifference.
“I would be a painter,” he said dreamily looking at the wide expanse of the sea.

“I wish I had the power to change,” he added as an afterthought.

“Maybe you do”

“Hmmm”

“Maybe you can try…”

He shrugged his shoulders.

A gentle breeze enveloped them.

“What would you do?” he asked her.

“Oh…a million things,” she said slowly, sighing, resigning to her fate.

He stole a glance at her. And put his arms around her shoulders pulling her close to him. She didn’t resist.

“Maybe you can try…,” he said.

Meri line mujhi ko wapas..

They looked at each other and broke into a smile at their private joke.

The fact that they were strangers carrying no burden of a personal relationship with each other made it easier to talk. At that point of time they didn’t figure it out.

The sound of waves, laughter of children playing football in a distance, they became acutely aware of the noise and then all sounds blocked out and they were alone in this world, in a prison of their thoughts and actions

Maybe I should have run away when I had my chance. Six years back. When my greed started enveloping me. When my body was been bartered.

Both got lost in their thoughts again. Neither realizing that sometimes silence speaks more than words. The silence is the sound of soul - healing - with the thoughts which reverberate inside, when one reflects on the actions, choices.

Another day has passed. Its time for both of them to go back to their old life.

That night wrapped in a blanket of darkness, she turns to him and says, “Thank you”

“For what?” he asks her, puzzled.

“Nothing. Everything” she answers cryptically.

“No. I should thank you instead,” he says firmly, softly.


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To be continued...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

And So It Happened: Chapter 2

For chapter one read here

Chapter 2

The city road took them to NH 8. Another round of silence ensued. Each lost in thoughts. Both wanting to get away from it all. Soon the concrete jungle gave way to the Sahyadri mountain range.

She remembers hypnotically staring, noticing a pattern on the road, of sunrays passing through the leaves, bringing a translucent quality to them, the fog in a distance dissipating and reappearing. Everything becoming clear and then blurred.

He remembers ten years back, a group of college friends, in a car. The song playing I want to break free. Incessant chatter, all bantering and agreeing they wanted to break free, none knowing that they were already free.

He remembers the taste of first killing at the stock market. The compulsion. The addiction. The phenomenal rise. The Midas touch. Turning everything he touched into gold. And now an emptiness. A sense of worthlessness. How did I get here?

“Did you say something?,” she asked.

He shook his head, “No”.

“Why did you start this… this…line of work?,” he unexpectedly asked her.

Taken aback, as no one had bothered to ask before, she shrugged her shoulders. Then she mumbled something under her breath. “Millions of women are forced into it. I am just another one.”

A truck passed by, and her voice got lost.

He just heard the words, “Millions…forced….another one”

“So you didn’t have a choice?”

“Choice, huh? That’s a joke. Choice is when you can decide whether you want to do something or whether you have to do something,” bitterness crept in her voice.

“It’s a decision you make with your head or your heart. Its something you don’t compromise on,” she stopped abruptly. An outburst could cause her problems. If he gave a bad feedback, it could jeopardize getting good clients in the future.

He had touched a raw nerve. At ten years of age, orphaned, she went to live with her Uncle. He sold her. So you see - this girl of twenty one years of age - didn't know anything about choices.

Roads became narrower. Signboards whizzing past her. Dahisar-Thane-Palghar-Saphale-Edwan-Kelve.

After about four hours, the scenery changed as she noticed huts, chickens, cows, women carrying straw baskets on their heads, children playing and men rushing off to catch fish in the little rivers and inlets. I wish I could trade my life with them.

He turned into a dirt lane. They drove for another fifteen minutes and reached a quaint village, untouched by modern life. At the end of the village lay a small resort and by it - the Arabian Sea. Some enterprising fellow had built it by the water’s edge.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

And So It Happened: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

It was a sultry summer morning as he stood in the balcony, with his back to the Mumbai skyline. His open shirt caressed by the breeze, as he obsessively smoked. Through the glass doors separating the room with the terrace, his eyes took in her gentle sinuous curves, her delicate nose, her luscious lips.

Why was she in his bed, in his hotel suite. The simple answer was he was rich and he could buy anything, even a companion. The answer which wasn’t obvious but hung there like the heavy air of smoke was loneliness - gnawing him. That’s what he felt but he didn’t know it. And he didn’t like coming back to an empty room. That’s why she was there.

His eyes had an inscrutable expression, the hard lines on his face masked his loneliness. With a sigh, unconsciously he snuffed out the cigarette and walked inside. Waking her up by nuzzling her bare neck and her shoulders, he waited as she stirred and opened her eyes, smiling at him.

“Good morning, princess,” he drawled.

“Good morning,” she replied, her sleep filled eyes looking at him. He wanted to lean forward and kiss her but with a tinge of sadness remembered that wasn’t part of the deal.

Later, they sat having their breakfast in silence. She was trained not to speak until spoken to but the stillness made her restless.

“So you have a meeting this morning?” she asked.

“Hmmm… I cancelled it.”

She faintly nodded her and didn’t ask for an explanation.

“Do you sometimes feel that nothing makes sense? That you have everything and still nothing? That you are in a prison?”

She didn’t answer. She understood they were rhetorical questions and that he wanted to continue talking. She had met his kind before too. Only they were much older than him. He looked like he was in his late twenties.

“There is void, a gaping hole and I don’t know what to fill it with.”

That’s your soul dying. She wanted to say. But she bit her lip. What would he know about it anyway? Her’s had died inch-by-inch, man-by-man. She knew what an empty soul meant. She wanted to scorn him, but his sad eyes and her paycheck, which she was to receive after three days, strained her to keep those thoughts in check.


“For once, I don’t want the money, the riches, the fame. I want to be the man on the street – who has his daily struggles.”

He was running his hands through his hair, sitting cross legged on the bed.

“Let’s get out of here,” suddenly he said.

”But where?” she looked at him uncertainly.

“I don’t know. Wherever the road takes us.”

The morning rays of sun were becoming stronger, the sky in colours of marigold and cerulean turning into sunflower yellow and lighter hues of blue. Somewhere in the background she could hear honking cars and temple bells.


To be continued...




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This is the first part of a fiction story with a four part series. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

In The World of Enid Blyton

At age four, I remember a light green hard bound book with dog eared pages and a colourful pciture on the cover, thrust in my hands. I remember Noddy, whose blue cap and red shorts remain etched in my mind even now after twenty years. Noddy and his friends- who fascinated me. I was in another world as words and pictures weaved magic.

I was then introduced to the Magic Faraway Tree – Jo, Bessie, Fanny and their magical friends Moon face, Silky and Saucepan man. A world where children had amazing adventures in the woods where an old enchanted tree stood and spoke an English which was so different from mine. Who would say words like smashing, golly and gosh.

I read about boarding school travails in the Malory Towers series and saw Darryl Rivers grow into a young woman. I drew parallels of my classmates with Gwendoline, Alicia and the rest of the gang. I heard about fascinating sports like lacrosse and mid night feasts of cakes. Even now, Darryl reminds me of my elder sister – short tempered, intelligent and caring. I always identified with her younger sister Felicity.

Then came the Five Find Outers - Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets and Famous Five George, Dick, Julian, Anne and Timmy, followed by Secret Seven. Their mysteries in small English villages, where they travelled on cycles, ate hot scones and jacket potato and drank tea with cream and ginger ale. They found thieves in caravans, lived in cottages, went to fairs, encountered gypsies, and went for camping trips and found adventures in caves, highlands and moors. A world so removed from mine.

Enid Blyton’s books have been such an important part of my early years, memories of hot summer days, my nose buried in reading, visualizing their adventures, living them through those words. I absolutely devoured all the Blyton books I could lay hands on – school library and the local library near home unaware that in Britain these books were in a midst of debate – depicting middle class England and being politically incorrect.

And now Disney has recycled the ‘Famous Five’ and put the characters in a new setting with multi ethnic identities. The characters are now not in idyllic England instead they are in sunny California, they eat pizza, guzzle coke and use laptops and mobile phones. The Enid Blyton loyalists and ardent fans like me will scream blue murder. My favourite books and characters are been given a face lift I don’t want. I wish instead of repackaging the classic and giving a generation leap (à la saas-bahu serials!) they could have started a new series.

I came across some interesting view points in British and Scottish media. The opinion column of Scotsman says-
“In an act of sheer literary vandalism, Disney – who else? – has stripped the very heart out of Enid Blyton's adventures and characters and in their place offered up a pale imitation of Scooby-Doo.”

While Times opinion column says-
“What are we doing to these well-loved characters?... Our longest waiting lists were for the Famous Five books.” Funnily enough, it goes on to add an ‘immigrant’ angle. While the regular news story is more ‘politically correct’.

While everyone has been harping about adding an Anglo-Indian character in the new series no one has analyzed why such a character has been introduced. I believe it shows the cultural influence of India and growth of its soft powers. I also think Chorion and Disney are trying to appeal to a wider audience – a large chunk of which may be South Asian or Indian.

Here’s hoping Jyoti and her gang don’t stray too far from the original! I wouldn’t want Enid Blyton turning in her grave.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Reflections

As I was travelling through rural interiors of India in the past few weeks for work, long hours of travel kept me busy with musings and thoughts. Suddenly these words came in my head and kept rolling about.

J'étais enchainée,
Et maintenant je suis libre...

Translation
I was enchained,
And now I am free...

I had written these words
some time ago – unfinished thoughts in an unfinished, cryptic poem. Inspired by the vast expanse of green fields of paddy, golden yellow fields of wheat and sunflower, the blue sky turning shades of orange, pink and cobalt I really wondered if I was enchained and whether I am free now.

J'étais enchainée,
Et maintenant je suis libre...
I thought so
As I lay in my bed on a hot summer night

But what are chains
Are they not meant to be broken
If they are
Would I be free

Oh! But what if it’s not a chain
It never crossed my mind
What I thought were shackles
Were maybe meant to liberate me

What if they weren’t
How am I to know
What lies on the other side
Can I find without going too far

What irony awaits me
Is it that what binds me
Tries to set me free
Or what sets me free, brings me back

Another summer is upon me,
And I wonder if
J'étais enchainée,
Et maintenant je suis libre...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Tagged for Eights'

I was just blog hopping and noticed that Vrij tagged me. So here goes my list of eight :)

Eight things I am passionate about


Reading
Travelling
Photography
Writing
Music
Social Issues
Chocolate
Good Food

Eight things I want to do before I die

Travel around the country and the world... Go back to Spain for a longer period of time
Read as many books as I can
Continue learning French and then learn Spanish
Try as many cuisines as I can... Given the fact I am a vegetarian and my options get halved
Work to uplift the social status of women
Learn pottery
Learn martial arts
Buy Vincent van Gogh's art and hang it in my living room

Eight things I say often

Bloodly Mofo
Oh F&*%
Aisa Kya?
Aur Bata...
S&*(% Man!!
Hey Bhagwan
Abey Saaley...
Really??

Eight books I’ve read recently

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseni)
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseni)
Greatest Works of Anton Chekhov (Anton Chekhov)
The Witch of Portobello (Paulo Coelho)
Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)
Black Friday (S Hussain Zaidi)
Japan (Yamaguchi Hiroichi)
Radiant Himalayas (R C Naithani)

Eight songs I could listen to, over and over

Inside out (Bryan Adams)
I am ready (Bryan Adams)
I don't wanna miss a thing (Aerosmith)
Kuch iss tarah (Atif Aslam)
I am like a bird (Nelly Furtado)
Bulla ki jaana (Rabbi Shergill)
Chiquitita (ABBA)

I believe I can fly (R Kelley)

Eight things that attracts me to my close friends

Loyalty
A fair attitude
Having no airs or graces
Accepting each other as we are
Zest for life
Ability to be grounded when required
Intelligent Conversation
Common love of music/books/theatre/travel/films/activism

People I think should do this tag

Sumit
Moai
TiM
Pramod
Prasad
Curious
Rags

Kamesh (Maybe the tag with get you back to active blogging :P)


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Anti Tags has been updated. Do drop in there and leave your comments.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Indian Students Unsafe in US?

According to a survey, 53% of all students in US universities are of Asian origin. Out of which about 80,000 are Indian students and there has been a gradual increase in the figures since the last decade.

Recent news reports seem to indicate that an increasing number of Indian students are becoming targets of violent crimes in a country which was touted to be a safe haven. Why is this happening?

Dr Akkaldelvi Srinivas is the latest to join the list. In fact, he is the fourth Indian student to meet a violent end in the US in the past three months. Isn’t that alarming?

Is it a systematic hate wave? Are people feeling threatened of Indian taking their jobs? Is it the recession? Why are South East Asians not targeted?

Sitting in the other side of the world I can’t analyze or understand this. My blog seems to get a lot of hits from the US. Can anyone shed some light on what they feel? Why are Indian students becoming targets of crimes?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A Bollywood Musical And Bad Auto Rickshaw Karma

Well today morning I sat like a princess, surrounded by two tigers on my either sides and Shahrukh Khan staring at me and smiling away. I looked around and found Sania Mirza, Vidya Balan and Rani Mukherjee too. Two photos of Godess Durga flapped around as the wind caught them. And in a gold framed mirror, I saw my reflection. The side windows, framed with painted yellow and red flowers, the black vinyl upholstering with gold speckles completed the look. After a few minutes a Bollywood song started to play. And I felt like I was starring in my very own Bollywood musical. The only element missing were my latkas and jhatkas - the dance moves :)

This brings me to a conclusion that travelling in the kitschy-est ever auto rickshaw will let your fertile imagination go wild and it will all seem so surreal, even for a veteran auto rickshaw commuter like me that a grin would be plastered on my face through out the ride!


Hopefully this would also be a sign for uplifting of my bad-auto-rickshaw-karma (BARK) which has been following me continuously.

A few days ago an auto (auto rickshaw is too long to type and henceforth will be called auto) decided to strand me at the Safdarjung Flyover, the driver saying he had run out of gas. As soon as I got down and paid the fare, he *&%$#@#* sped away. Just because he wanted to avoid the traffic jam ahead! About fifteen autos I flagged down after that refused to go that way. And since
that incident, travelling in buses is the last option.

Yesterday morning Mr. Murphy decided to pay me a visit as I was sitting in an auto, getting late to work. Then suddenly, auto’s second gear broke and since I had already reached Lutyens’ Delhi (where chances of finding an empty auto are very slim), I had no option but to get to office in that auto while the driver drove in the first gear, testing both my patience and safety standards .

The story does not end here. While coming back in the evening, I had to first haggle with the auto wallah for the fare and half way through, his auto sputtered and died. I had to walk almost a kilometer to find another one.


This morning, it looks like my bollywood auto broke the jinx. Here’s optimistically wondering this is the end of BARK.

More auto tales here.

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Meanwhile, do check out a social movement called Anti-Tags and leave your feedback there.


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Update (Feb 28): This racism incident in South Africa is my WTF moment of the day. Check out the video here.


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Update 2 (Mar 1): Blank Noise has a meeting today in New Delhi. Check out the details here. Be there!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Social Changed Called Anti-Tags

It was the year 2004. I had just enrolled in a post graduate programme in Journalism. At first when I came to know that a classmate of mine was from Kashmir, I was curious.

Because I, having lived in a big metropolis like New Delhi, had never 'encountered' someone from the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir till then. The only thing I knew was what I read in the newspapers or saw on news channels – that Kashmiri Muslims hated India, wanted to be part of the 'enemy' state and were behind most terror attacks.

So basically I was looking for a classmate who would be a devil incarnate. Instead I found a young man who had the same dreams as me, the same ambitions and a will to live a 'normal' life.

I was generally told that the old stereotype holds true - all Muslims hate Hindus and want to 'take over' my beloved country, are radical, multiply rapidly and forcibly convert everyone to Islam. Instead I found a person, who was apprehensive of me because I was the larger majority who thought like this! Me? I would never harm an insect let alone think of harming someone.

He seemed quite defensive in the beginning and I took an instant dislike to him. Our interactions were limited only to professional discussions. With time, I felt he started becoming less defensive and I failed to spot horns on his head.

The uneasiness gave way to exchange of ideas and passionate discussions and debates as the walls and the barriers started to melt away. I realized that this person was neither a fanatic nor believed in multiplying and taking over the country. He just wanted to be a treated as a citizen and a part of the country.

In this case, a healthy interaction ensued and our mindsets started to change. We were able to identify truth from make believe stories and were able to overcome the fear of the unknown. We necessarily do not agree on everything and our political and socio political ideas sometimes differ, after all we are distinct individuals, we have changed. The journey has been eventful and interesting.

And I came to the conclusion that we build up prejudices largely because of two reasons. The first is the fear of the unknown. The second is the subtle and overt propaganda spread by people around us, the media and politics.

There are many people who we interact with, who don't just keep the prejudices in their hearts but systematically spread them too. Only if they were given the power to see what lies on the other side, were given unbiased information, they would be able to decide what they want to believe in and discard propaganda.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt there was a need to bridge the gap between the 'real' and the 'assumed'. Thus, a germ of an idea started in my head. This idea is now being put into paper (actually virtual paper).

Words like secularism, polarization, communalism, terrorism are bandied about. But what do they really mean? How does it affect the people when they are given a certain tag? Why should they be given a tag? Why should we have notions without really seeing for ourselves what the truth is?

The movement 'anti-tags' stems from that idea. We are anti-communalism, anti-extremism and anti-polarization and pro-information. Some might also call us secular, liberal or even pseudo-secular-liberal. As I said, tags don't matter.

Check out a social movement called
Anti-Tags here.

Tell us your story. Did you face communal backlash? Did an incident change you? What do you think of propaganda in media and politics? How is it ruining our social fabric? Share it on Anti-Tags.

Age no bar, gender no bar, religion no bar, caste no bar. Leave you name or send it anonymously. Our email is anti.tagsATgmailDOTcom

Cross posted on
Anti-Tags