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.


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


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


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

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

One Night Stand

Actually I don’t know why call it one night stand coz you know you don’t just stand. That’s how it was the other night. And you people who had naughty thoughts while reading the line above, let me bring you to an anti-climax and tell the story from the beginning.

That evening as I entered the room, switched on the light, I saw the window wide open and some feathers on my bed. I looked up to see a pigeon couple perched on my fan and flapping their wings. As soon as they saw me, they decided that behaving like still life statues would make me think that they were not real. You know, we humans are not that stupid but are sometimes stupid enough to leave the window open.

I tired to shoo them out of the room but they started to dangerously fly around, hitting the blade of the fan, then sitting on one pelmet and then another. I envisioned bird feathers, blood and mangled bodies of bird on my new bed sheet and decided this strategy would not work.

After a while they decided (as you can see- all parties were thinking and strategizing) the pelmet was the safest spot in the room and stayed put there, not seeing the window across the room from which they could go outside. I hoped they would develop some sense and fly. But no!

Now this is the window where the cat loves to jump in and stay inside when it’s cold. Once it jumped straight onto my bed, right on top my blanket and I thought someone broke in and was trying to strangle me. I screamed with all my might and scared off the poor cat. Now every time it jumps in, it meows to let me know its come! Ok I am digressing and this is a story for another time.

So I got worried that the cat might see the open window and it would come in and find a lovely dinner waiting for it. So I closed the window and on grounds of sympathy decided to let the pigeons stay in. So yeah, basically I spent the night with pigeons in the rooms who first stood, then sat down and then slept. At some point in the night, it started unnerving me that I was sleeping in a room where some pigeons were right on top of my head and I, after watching too many horror films where crows start attacking humans, thought they would go crazy and start pecking at me while I sleep.
I have irrational fears sometimes.

I spend the rest of the night on the couch.


The pigeon couple was evicted the next morning, amidst much drama, and using weapons like a long handled mop and pointing out the exit. It seems they really like my room because today morning they were sitting by the window sill, hoping the window would be open. I have learnt my lessons well and that window has been permanently closed.

My human friends have told me that the warm tones of my room (orange, yellow and red) make it look very inviting but I didn’t think the animal kingdom also thinks the same because this brings the count of animal species to pay me a visit to four and still counting.

A lizard which has taken permanent residency, (this reminds me -
Sumit, how is your lizzy doing? Mine has decided to hibernate for the winters), seasonal insects, cat and a pigeon.

The snakes which live in the garden downstairs haven’t come as yet and so have the dogs who haven’t quite mastered the art of jumping like cats. Other feathered friends like owls, crows, sparrows, mynas, parrots and peacocks are also not invited inside because I think they look better on the trees outside rather than the pelmet inside.

For more pigeons stories in my home, read

Monday, 18 February 2008

Flowering Hope

Though it was a cold winter morning, the sun had chosen to shine that day. The fog started to clear and by afternoon, the small park had its first visitor almost after a month of cold, grey and gloomy winter.

The Neem tree spread its branches, and through the branches, the rays of the sun passed making the leaves looking translucent green. Underneath a man slept wearing a tattered blue sweater and grey trousers. He had a shock of white hair, a wrinkled face, and long gnarled fingers. His hand was placed over his eyes, maybe to block the light, as he napped.

At a distance a young father, held the hand of his son while his wife, a few steps behind, held a small baby girl in her arms.

As the two and a half year old boy passed by the flowerbeds, a riot of colours, waved for his attention. He left his father’s hand and ran to inspect them all.

And came back, out of breath saying, “Papa! Red, Yellow, Purple, Orange, so many!” The indulgent father smiled.

The roses, in different shades of pink, peach and red, the marigolds, a beautiful sunset orange, the purple chrysanthemums, the sunny yellow daises, all lovingly nurtured and cared for, by the gardener.

The little girl decided it was her turn to inspect the green grass and decided to crawl on it, all the while gurgling.

The boy, fascinated by the colours and the play of light on the petals, kept repeating the names, furrowing his brows asked, “Why don’t we have them at home?”

The father, seeing the interest of the boy, decided to ask the maali, the gardener about the flowers which could be planted in Spring.

Of course, he didn’t know how the man looked like. No one had ever bothered to find out whose green fingers had lovingly created the beauty they came to see, admired and left.

The young father called out in an uncertain voice to the man sleeping under the tree, “Maali? Aap maali hain? Are you the gardener?”

The man woke up with a start, “Haanji. Yes.”

Bade aachey phool hai. The flowers are very beautiful”.

Itney saare colours hain, ” piped a voice. It was the small boy, clutching the father’s leg, peeking from behind and looking at the man.

“I was thinking of planting some flowers for the Spring season... Which ones do you recommend?”

The gardener had an incomprehensible expression on his face while he was thinking. Someone is asking my opinion and appreciating my flowers too.

47 years of working here, he had grown old, giving his life to working in this park. Yet this was the first time someone had made a genuine effort to talk to him.

“Sirji, you can plant tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, irises…,” his voice trailing off.

The father nodded and thanked him.

After a while, as they were about to leave, the gardener came running and plucked out the most beautiful flower and handed it to the boy.

The boy shyly said, “Thank you, Uncle.” And waved him goodbye.

Of course they didn’t hear him say thank you under his breath or the lone tear in his eye, now streaming down his face.

* Fiction story inspired by observing a real life incident


On a completely different note, I found this fascinating Genographic Project. Someone please gift me a kit so I can find where my ancestors are from.