Sunday, August 28, 2011

Suffer The Idiots

The Ceat Tyre advertisement warning: “The streets are filled with idiots...” brought home the truth a couple of days back. I had a busy schedule, with a new assignment keeping me on the edge. So I wasn’t sitting so easy in the car as we drove out to work.


Barely fifty yards into the drive and the car screeched to a halt and my heart almost popped out of my mouth! We had barely missed a child of about three, who decided to cross the road on her own. Her parents, a young couple, stood by the road and called out to her but didn’t think it prudent to stop her physically. As if that was not enough, they had a younger one of about a year and a half, running along ahead of them in the middle of the road. I thought both of them would be shaken but was in for a surprise, when they stood there giving us the kind of dirty looks one could kill someone with. The kind that said, ‘Don’t you know there are unattended kids on the road?’


“There are Idiots on the road,” I muttered, “and they have to be out so early and in my way!”


When my heart slowly made its way back to where it belonged, I settled in, praised the driver for his quick reflexes and cautioned him to keep alert. Things went smoothly, we were on a stretch that does not have much traffic so early in the morning and I was thankful for that: It was premature. I lurched forward as the brakes hit the floorboard once again. Thankfully, I had on my lumbar support and cervical collar. Another “Idiot” had conveniently stopped his car in the middle of a turn around a traffic island, and was talking on his mobile phone. He was so engrossed in his conversation that he remained blissfully unaware of his foolish action and its potentially disastrous consequences. He did not hear the screech of brakes and neither did he notice the strike down dead looks we gave him, as we drove off. “Please God no more,” I pleaded as my heart took its time settling into a more comfortable rhythm.


I was shook up nice and proper and decided it would be better to close my eyes for a while and shut out the idiotic chaos. Before that, I gave the driver who was new, directions about the route he would take to my workplace. We would be getting into the rush hour traffic and I had some time for a bit of shuteye.


It was taking too long to reach my destination. Was the congestion heavier or was there a jam? I opened my eyes and looked out. There was no traffic jam; in fact, there was no familiar landmark either! Where were we? A wrong left turn and many other wrong right and left turns had brought us to unfamiliar territory. The driver sheepishly admitted we were lost and he had forgotten to get his mobile phone.


“As if the Idiots on the roads were not enough, I had to get one in the car too,” I muttered.

“Kya baat hai ma’am?” he asked.

“Kuch nahin,” was my deceptively sweet reply.


As he asked passers-by, autorickshaw drivers, cycle-rickshaw riders and whoever was kind enough to stop and give us directions (none of the cars stopped!) I searched for my mobile phone in every pocket in my handbag. It wasn’t there. Well, well there was another idiot in the car who had forgotten to carry her phone too.

Ah! Suffer the Idiots!



Glossary:

Kya baat hai ma'am........what is it ma'am or what's the matter

Kuch nahin........................Nothing (at all)

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.......

Hola! I'm back after one of those unscheduled breaks (from blogger) that keep happening despite my efforts at organisation and day agendas etc, etc!


The first thing that laid me low was a lesion in a lumbar disc, which I stupidly allowed to happen while I sat in an uncomfortable, unstable chair in a multiplex and refused to get up and leave because I was enjoying the movie so much (not to mention the money I'd paid) So bed rest it was....or so I thought!


The ongoing water situation (read: no water supply) which had started four days prior to my visit to the cinema hall, which the society supervisor had promised would get solved in three days, had not been fully resolved. However complaints and necessity moved the people in charge to buy huge quantities of water everyday. This came in water tankers and would then be pumped up to the overhead tanks. However they could not meet the desired level of need, so water was rationed and we had to be alert to fill up or then do without. Needless to say what happened to my back! The water situation continues, with hope gleaming on the horizon. A lot of drilling went on throughout last night...work is in progress, Hallelujah! I'm happy to report my back is doing better. I decided to leave everything on hold and fill water and rest...it worked!!!

(FYI our side of modern Gurgaon uses ground water. It seems that the original pump had not been drilled deep enough and in the eight years since then the water level had gone down)


I have also been on flood control duty...(hyperbole ha!) A few heavy showers during this period threatened to flood my dining room! The balcony onto which the room opens out to, was getting flooded as both the outlet drains were clogged. Thankfully one was cleared.


I was worried about my potted plants. Rationed water left none for them...but the rains obliged so far. Let's see how I manage to keep them alive and well.


I've visited a few blogs and will be reading the ones I've left. It's nice to be back.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Tryst With Destiny






"Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny. Now the time has come when we shall redeem our pledge - not wholly or in full measure - but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."


This is an excerpt from the famous Independence Day speech made by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at midnight, on 14th August 1947. Today we celebrate sixty-five years of Independence. We are a young nation.


I am a post Independence child and did not experience life in the British Raj. There were many interesting stories our parents and grandparents told us about those days and about the turmoil of the partition, which created another nation called Pakistan. However, I remember that Goa, a small state on the coast of the Arabian Sea, remained under Portuguese rule until 1961. Portugal held a handful of enclaves on the Indian subcontinent - the districts of Goa, Daman and Diu (now in the state of Gujarat) and Dadra and Nagar Haveli - collectively known as the Estado da ├Źndia. The armed action in December 1961, by the Indian government, ended in a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa! I was a small child and could only understand bits and pieces of the conversation around the dining table. However, I knew there was a battle going on because talk revolved around the safety of my uncle who was in the thick of it.



I woke up to a grey, wet Independence Day this morning. It rains practically every year on the early morning celebrations at the Red Fort, from where the Prime Minister addresses the nation. People in raincoats gathered despite the inclement weather, holding a thatch of umbrellas aloft, against the steady ‘showers of blessing’! Closer home, in our society block of apartments, the rain had thrown all the outdoor preparations for today’s celebrations into disarray. The organisers, comprising mainly women whose children would be performing, did the best of talking, discussing, laughing and worrying they could do, then decided to delay all celebrations until the rain stopped. As I write, it’s 11.00 am and the rain has ceased, I guess things will start moving now.



Today many challenges arise for our young nation, both internal and external. I will not go into these but express my wish and pray for her, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore:


Where The Mind Is Without Fear


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
.

Happy Independence Day!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

‘Real’ bros and ‘Rakhi’ bros!!






This year on the thirteenth of August, people in some states of India will be celebrating Raksha Bandhan. This festival celebrates the sister-brother relationship. The significance of the coloured and often embellished thread, which a sister ties around her brother’s wrist, is symbolic of his vows to protect her and help her if she needs his help, as long as he lives. In return the brother gives the sister gifts ; these could be gifts in cash or kind or both! The sister can demand for anything. This is an ancient custom and has its origins in Hindu mythology as well as in historical legends. Many stories have filtered down the ages but I find these two quite imaginative and interesting.


A legendary narrative about Alexander’s invasion of India in 326 BC, suggests that Roxana (or Roshanak) Alexander’s wife, sent a sacred thread to King Porus asking him not to harm her husband in combat. Porus, the Hindu ruler, who battled Alexander at the Hydaspes(Jhelum) river, honoured the request and tied the thread on his wrist as a reminder. When Porus met Alexander in battle, and overpowered him at one point, it is said that the sight of the rakhi (sacred thread) on his wrist prevented him from delivering the final blow. Of course, there is no historical record of this, but the battle ended in defeat for Porus. The legend might have been born out of the fact that Alexander did not kill Porus, instead he made him a Macedonian Satrap or viceroy.



Another well known story built around the rakhi thread is about Rani Karnavati, the Rajput queen of Chittor, a city in Rajasthan and Mughal Emperor Humayun. The Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah invaded Chittor. In order to save the kingdom, Rani Karnavati sent a rakhi to Humayun, with the request for help. Touched, the Emperor set off with his troops to defend Chittor. However, he arrived too late and Chittor had fallen. The queen along with 13,000 other women in the fortress, had committed Jauhar, preferring to kill themselves to avoid dishonour at the hands of the invading army. Humayun met Bahadur Shah sixty miles from Chittor and laid siege to his camp, blocking his return to Gujarat. Historical records and memoirs do not mention the Rakhi episode and some historians are sceptical about it, but it is mentioned in a mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account.



My experience of Raksha Bandhan, which is not celebrated in our family, resulted from group extortion plans in college...yes it was emotional blackmail. We were a group of four girls and I was the only one who didn’t observe this ritual, so my two brothers didn’t count in our scheme of things. Raani was the other one who had ‘real’ brothers. “Your bros are our bros,” we declared and that got us two rakhi brothers. Rita was the one who had a boy friend. He was an Iranian called Rada. The majority felt, by virtue of being our friend’s boy friend, Rada became our brother too! He didn’t have a chance against this bizarre argument! All three boys took it with good humour and as we loaded our pockets, theirs got lighter. They remained our ‘rakhi’ bros until we were in college. What had started as fun and games to collect some extra pocket money ended into a sister-brother bonding! It was amazing how a little bit of coloured thread could alter attitudes and bond strangers into a sacred relationship. However, that was then...years ago in a small, conservative city. Today would be a different story.


Rada and Rita broke up, Raani died and our group lost contact as each one moved away to different parts of the country. Every year I’m reminded of my rakhi virjis and the sweetness of a relationship that was beyond mere friendship and blood ties...


Glossary:

Raksha Bandhan.......raksha means to protect/protection. Bandhan means bond or ties

Rakhi..........sacred or holy threads, made of coloured fibre and embellished with beads, sequins etc. Some are quite big and cumbersome. Most people prefer the simple threads.

Rani.......Hindi word for Queen

Jauhar......... Mass suicide...ancient Indian tradition of honorary self immolation of women and subsequent march of men to the battle field (against any odds) to end their life with respect. It was followed by the Rajput clans in order to avoid capture and dishonour at the hands of their enemies. Such painful method (burning) was preferred over other ways like poisoning or hanging, because Muslim invaders buried the dead women instead of cremating them.(Wikipedia)


Virji...........'Vir' is one of the Punjabi words for brother. 'Ji' is suffixed as a sign of respect. I have added an 's' to make it plural and this is an anglicised way of speaking and not the Punjabi way of making plurals.


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Monday, August 8, 2011

My first award...


I received this award from Rachna. Thanks Rachna, I've never received an award and I'm thrilled. (In fact I don't even know from where one gets these awards on the blogoshere to present)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Traveller's travails

A visit to the Railway Museum revealed some gems of information, the best of course was that the trains in India in the early 1900's did not have ensuite toilets in the carriages, and one would have to wait for the next station to use the facilities. God help you if it were an emergency. And that brings me to the post for today...the result of one such emergency!

Following is an actual complaint made by Okhil Chandra Sen, in shall we say 'Hinglish.' It is hilarious in expression and language employed, but that was no impediment to the consequent, productive result.




Okhil Babu’s letter to the Railway Department (early 1900’s )


I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station. This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.”


Okhil Chandra Sen wrote this letter to the Sahibganj Divisional Railway Office in 1909. It is on display at the Railway Museum in New Delhi. It was also reproduced under the caption “Travellers’ Tales” in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Any guesses why this letter is of historic value?

It led to the introduction of TOILETS in Indian trains!!!!!!!!!


Three cheers for Okhil Babu......Hip..hip...hurray!



Glossary:

Lotah............a globular water container used in India, Myanmar etc.

Dhoti......it is a traditional garment worn by men in India and many other countries in the Asian sub-continent. It'sa rectanglar piece of unstitched cloth, wrapped around the waist and knotted. It covers the lower part of the body including the legs.

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