Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. I firmly beleive this. And I have often felt upset seeing some of my friends talk about killing animals as they are nuisance. What gives us legitimacy over such acts of perversion beats me. This is chotu and I dont know where he is. He was brought to the hostel by someone who saw him astray at the main gate of IIT. He used to suck my finger because he was just born and had no mother. I tried feeding him with a filler for few days and my friends shrieked seeing him suck my thumb. I am alive and to hell with animal haters.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Marriage matters- Journey to the altar part 6

Sorry people, we got carried away a little bit in this journey. Happens!! right? Then realised that we left behind a lot of friends who were following our journey closely. So here we come back again.

Everything was fine despite the lover’s quarrels and my bouts of depression. I woke up feeling depressive and blamed it on my PMS . The cards had been printed and mom had sent me a bundle to distribute to my friends and teachers. ‘Who’ had sent his share of cards too, insisting I distribute his cards along with mine to my guide and some friends. I smiled looking at his green card with silver embossing; royally done. “It’s my first wedding so let that be royal”, he had said. I was a bit nervous with the marriage taking place at his church.

We belonged to two denominations- ‘Who’ is a Syrian Orthodox and I Syrian Catholic. Technically we are all Christians and believe in the same God. But when it comes to marrying, churches get over protective and possessive. No church has ever explained to me if there are different tracks in heaven to mark one denomination superior to other. However mom was happy about ‘who’ being a Syrian Orthodox which meant I need not convert to his denomination.

I was however asked to go and collect a letter from an Orthodox church in Chennai which I dutifully did. The priest seemed too spirited to give me a dogmatic lecture on joining the new clan. I was fretting over not being able to use a veil for my wedding when ‘who’ called. To have the engagement in my church the groom’s people needed a letter from their church. We had just a week for engagement. His voice was wavering. He was weeping and kept blabbering “don’t leave me”. It took me some time to calm him over the phone. And to think of this was the same guy who had left me once. “Don’t hate me for this but I am told I am not a Syrian orthodox, I am a Malankara Orthodox”. This would look like just two words to many but to me the sky fell that instant.

Catholics pride themselves being the largest section of Christians. They differ from Protestants basically in three ways. 1)They follow a leader- Pope. 2)They believe in saints and have lots of them. 3)They have church practices and hierarchy outside bible.
‘Who’ and his denomination is a group that cannot be classified Catholics because they don’t follow the pope but they have a different leader in Antioch, a place in Turkey. But since they believe in similar practices and have common origins as Catholic church, marriages were possible between these groups initially. Like all political group a recent split within their church made our church cancel these mixed marriages.

I always asked ‘who’ about these stuffs and he assured me he was a Syrian Orthodox. But when I insisted to confirm he called up his dad’s place only to realise what he believed all these years was wrong. And now with cards printed he was hysteric that I would leave him under parental pressure.

The marriage was not impossible all I had to do was to convert to his side. But that would mean I won’t have the engagement at my place and all would know something was wrong. Moreover it would be breach of trust. ‘Who’ could not help yelling at his father who took the matter trivial and said if the girl has to come to our place let her convert.
My mother took it rather well and said let’s see how we can repair the damage. To top it all we were all in four cities and trying to sort things over phone.

Who’ decided to marry at my church to save my mother from embarrassment. She had already gone ahead and agreed for my wishes and ‘who’ felt his father was at wrong for repeatedly saying they were of a different denomination. What irked me most was how unaware they were of their own religion and if it meant nothing to them why were they furious and adamant about marrying from same community? Why did it boil down to the girl always? We take up new names; surnames sometimes even convert to a new religion because that’s what the society prescribes.

But here ‘Who’ had decided to turn tables. We were on voice conference with ‘who’s’ brother when mom called me up. She joined the voice conference and said “who’s dad had called now. He asked her what mom’s opinion was on calling of the wedding? He said he would not let the wedding happen.

Who ‘went silent? He once told me if he had to choose between me and his parents, he would leave both of us. I was angry at the vehemence of his parents who believed they could impose anything they wanted because they were the groom’s party.
“What do you plan to do?” asked mom.

For a moment I wished I was dreaming. I tore the first wedding card. I did not want this whole fuss, I could not dream of entering a new life, a new family in this chaos.
Are you planning to leave me? ‘Who’ asked. “I think we should call off the wedding and think and give some time”, I said.

Animals are beautiful people

This is an old pic captured by 'who' at Bannerghatta National park maybe 5 years ago. ' Who' seems too fascinated by big cats coz he believes he is one too. Well his zodiac sign is Leo and I think he makes up quite weird associations.But I think both the Leo's( The original in the wild and my pseudo big cat at home ) are cute :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Enchanted in Padovaland

I think I have got used to this place. Which means I don’t panick if I will miss my stop when I am in the bus. I don’t fear being lost or kidnapped and now I even can guide people who ask for direction at the bus stop. And the topper of all I- CAN- READ- MAPS. That reminds me some wise guy once said and even wrote a book on why women cannot read maps. I think the title of his books frightens women who have any plans of using a map.

I am writing this post under a lamp post in front of my university. The library was too cold and I thought I needed a little bit of the sun and a coffee so here I am. The pic you see above is my department.Looks like a museum though doesn’t it?

I just had a coffee. The standard one here is the espresso - very bitter but, wont let you sleep. My Italian friends believe milk in coffee is for the sick. I was enjoying the heating in the café but I had to move out because the couples on both my sides were smooching and pushing me out of my table so I chose the lamp post though there are couples smooching in front of me but they are not pushing me. I think the sun and this time has something to do with making couples crazy.

Had gone to an Indian birthday party yesterday. Was weird. We formed a rare bunch of researchers from Maths to pharmacology to oncology. Tasted Gruppa its an advanced version of wine a stronger member of the alcoholic family. Met a funny guy who brought his ex wife who was Russian and two kids to the party and kept introducing her as MY- EX- WIFE. I enjoyed the food listening to the men folk discuss about legalizing marital rape, synonyms for women in different languages, Pro BJP movements and IPL. We were jus three women but unlike what people say we did no bitching and it was a delight to see men gossip.

But of the lot I enjoyed my trip to Venice. Hmmm I did not find it romantic actually I really don’t know what one means by a romantic place . Romantic movie, poem, story I understand but place I don’t know.

I found the artists painitng sceneries on the pavement a very beautiful sight and also the boats and canals all around were beautiful.

Ok from bemused to enchanted is not bad a transformation eh ?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Island Below the star by James Ruford

A friend of mine asked me if there was anything on the blog for children. She liked the animal pics and thought few anecdotes put up were fit for children. So I thought why not put up few more anecdotes and poems. This is something I came across in between my literature review. After all we all love stories, don't we?

Long ago, on a tiny island in the South Pacific, there lived five brothers who loved adventure. The first , Hoku loved the sun, the moon and especially the stars. The second Na'ale, loved the sea. The third, Opua , loved clouds. The fourth, Makani, loved the wind and the fifth, tiny Manu, loved birds.

One Night Hoku told his brothers there was an island below a certain bright star, which he pointed out to them." Let us sail to it", he proposed. No one had ever gone so far before. Tiny Manu was the first to accept the proposal. But his brothers laughed and said such a dangerous trip would be out if the question for such a small boy.

The next morning Manu watched his brothers prepare for the great trip. Hoku dried fruit for them to eat. Na'ale made fish hooks and readied harpoons. Opua gathered rain water. Makani repaired the sails. After several weeks of preparation they were ready. The last night they had a great celebration and then set sail just before dawn.
Little Manu had sneaked aboard the canoe during the celebrations. He was not discovered until sunset of the first sailing day.After pretending to throw Manu overboard, the brothers accepted him and put him to work. Everyone had a job. Manu caught fish, Hoku used the sun, moon and bright stars to navigate. Na'ale used the rhythms of the ocean waves to keep the canoe on course.When the clouds covered the 'the heavenly map' Opua watched the clouds to predict storms. Makani 'disentangled the knotted winds'.

After several weeks at sail, Makani noticed a strange rush of warm air. The waves grew. A strange cloud appeared. Fearing rough weather, the brothers tied a safety rope to Manu. For five days and nights they struggled to survive the monstrous storm. After the storm passed the brothers realised that they had been blown off course. But Manu caught sight of a bird high , very high in the sky. Manu alone was able to see the direction the bird was flying. Hoku steered the canoe in what Manu told him was the direction of the bird's flight.
That night the brothers saw the bright star again. No one could sleep. The next morning they saw the island and a quiet bay for the canoe.At sunset they went ashore. That night they gave thanks for their safe journey to the island below the star.

This simple but gripping story of how Polynesian explorers discovered the Hawaiian islands 1500 years ago is told in a language worthy of a poet. It is a story of how a child can see something important that the much more experienced adults around him have missed.

(Extracted from Gareth B Mathews column of stories in Thinking Journal,2004)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Guinea pigs are not rabbits. Neither are they hamsters. I have had all of them as pets but the aversion guinea pigs have towards population control amazed me. We had a couple and before I could realise what was happening they were 11 of them. And things worsened to the extent that a new born guinea pig fell off through the grill in a stampede and got eaten by ants. Then mom decided we wont have any of them at home. Poor fellas were given to a convent nearby. Dad teased me saying they would be feasted by some nuns and priests which I refused to believe :(

Miss u guineas.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

One night at the airport

Mumbai International Airport: It was decided that one of us would have to bridge the distance between us until we start our lives together. And this was the start of it. I was in the airport before 5 pm for my 6.40 pm flight to Chennai. A little early by normal standards but way less than the two to three hour buffer that my father keeps while travelling. Then proceeded to do the formalities of check-in: one duffel bag to check-in and one knapsack as cabin baggage. Once through with the security check I took out ‘50 Great American Short Stories’ and started to read. It was 5.20 pm.

Air India Express (AIX) Flight - IX 206: It’s an hour and a half flight to Chennai but by the time I got into the flight I had spent almost the same amount of time in the airport. Once inside the plane it was the usual cacophony: cabin luggage not fitting the overheard lockers, people blocking the aisle and ‘you are on MY seat’ problems. But there was one other hitch; it seemed the air conditioning was not working and it was getting pretty hot inside. Frequent requests to the cabin crew, about air-conditioning, went unattended. When the doors closed and we started taxing towards the runway things became pretty unbearable. People started yelling for water bottles and the commotion took the shape of frenzy. The only response the crew gave was that things would become normal once the engines started. I thought that it was some sort of cost cutting initiative, to switch on the air-conditioning only after the plane is air-borne, and it made sense because of the increasing time between getting on-board, taxing to the runway and getting air-borne. Seeing the nonchalance of the cabin crew a few people went and started banging on the cockpit door. After sometime the captain, in a heavy Chinese accent, said that he would be taking the plane back to the parking bay to let the technicians have a look at the issue. This was by no means an end to the problem but just a hog wash, by an airline which did not do the basic pre-flight checks to see that the amenities were up and running. It was 08.00 pm.

Mumbai International Airport, again: We deplaned and were taken back to the airport. Once inside, an airline staff told us that we were to report at Gate 7. I thought it was our lucky day, to report to another gate so soon, thinking that we were going to step into another plane. But none of that happened, because we were told by another airline staffer at Gate 7 that the diagnosis of the problem is going to take some time and those who want to get refunds should come forward. This enraged a lot of passengers because if one wants to buy a ticket now, the price would be exponentially higher than the refund that one would get. We collectively decided that none of us want refunds but just need another flight to go to Chennai. The airline representative started the ‘we are speaking to the management’ sly and said that it would take some time for them to reach a decision. We were asked to move into the waiting area and than wait. It was 09.00 pm.

IPL & KFC: I was relieved to see that a lot of the eating joints in the lounge area were telecasting the IPL matches. I settled on one of the seats watching the DC and KKR match. Not knowing where my next meal would come from, though AIX gives you free in-flight meals we expected them first to give us a flight, I started scanning the options available: Pizza Hut, KFC, Noodles and Indian Paradise. I paid for and bought a veggie burger and fries from KFC. But as luck would have it and it was sure an unlucky day, even before I took a bite into the burger there was an announcement that the IX 206 passengers can have meals from Indian Paradise, courtesy AIX. No sooner than the announcement ended there was a multitude of hundred rushing to the Indian Paradise counter; to form a queue and being civilized be damned. I merrily munched on my burger, waiting for the queue to abate and then got hold of the free meal as well: one coleslaw sandwich, a small packet of potato chips, a bottle of water and a small tetra pack of mango juice. It was 10.30 pm.

Gate 4: With the tummy full and the IPL match coming to an end people remembered that they need to reach Chennai. We started looking around and were told that there would be flight leaving at 11 pm. The scene at Gate 4 was hysterical. There were four women, from our flight, holding the boarding gate shut, not allowing passengers from other flights, to go to their aircrafts. They were shouting that unless we get a flight to Chennai no other passenger would be allowed to board a flight. Crowding around them were the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnels, but doing nothing because they didn’t had a female member with them. Standing just behind them, in a corner, were the AIX staff, a man and a female, with a phone in their hand, claiming that they are trying to reach to their higher officials and that someone is on the way to resolve the impasse. Shouting on them were the male passengers from our flight, who were angry that the promised flight at 11 pm was nowhere to be seen. There was a lot of yelling happening, some choicest swearing and a few others were trying to lay their hands on the AIX staff. Yours truly also got into the melee and gave a piece of his mind to the AIX staff. Even after three hours of reporting the problem if no responsible AIX representative was available on the ground then it shows the indifference of the carrier. There was constant agitation from a group of people who were to report for an interview and others who were to attend a marriage the next day. It was 11.30 pm.

Trouble: Then around midnight another AIX staff arrived at the counter and he announced that the flying crew had exhausted their stipulated flying hours for the day and that fresh crew needs to be brought in, earlier than their roster, to attend to this situation. When he told that the new crew would only arrive by 2.30 am all hell broke loose. One burly man, with an innocent face, who was hitherto silent, cornered the AIX staff and started menacingly shoving him. The CISF personnels then leapt on him and there was a fist fight. The man took four CISF men in his arms, including their senior officer, and swayed them around without a sweat. Seeing this more CISF men, some with guns drawn, jumped in and brought him to the ground and started manhandling the guy. The onlookers, including yours truly, who couldn’t grasp the flash fight, then jumped in to separate the CISF men and the burly man. The man, was missing his shirt, had taken a few blows and showed bruises all over. An eerie silence filled the room signaling that the equation had changed suddenly. The CISF men, who were holding on to their nerves so far, grew belligerent now and all the unruly passengers abruptly calmed down. The CISF men wanted to arrest the man and teach him a lesson. But we bundled the man to a corner and kept him away from the force. It was 12.45 pm.

More trouble: A bald CISF man came and told me that I should watch out because I was the next one to be taken down. He then asked me my name which I dismissed with a shrug. The cloud of anxiety started looming over. The burly man was sitting in the waiting lounge and was attended by the other passengers. His injuries didn’t seem grave. With the fear of arrest looming over, other passengers took the guy and started to move him out of the airport exit. But because this was the international airport there was the extra layer of immigration check and even otherwise an airport is not like the bus station where one can come and go as willed. He was stopped and again surrounded by the CISF men. The other passengers then pleaded that it was just a ‘heat of the moment’ action by the person and they should let it go. But because one of their seniors had got the boot, the CISF were not ready to be easy on the guy; they wanted to teach him a hard lesson. So with no flight and no exit we were virtually stuck. And yours truly being marked out started to move away from the crowd and settled at a distance to start reading the book again. It was 1.45 am.

Finally, light, Eureka!: But my mind was not on the book and the adrenaline was pumping. So looking out for next options I came across a courteous AIX female staff, the same one from Gate 4, who was explaining some passengers that how things were not in her or her colleague’s hands and that one would not achieve anything by man handling them. She then offered to get us off loaded from the flight and advised us to take another flight to our destinations or whatever we wished to do. We leapt on the thin string that fate offered us and followed her. We gave back our boarding cards, gave the details of our checked-in baggage and got escorted towards the airport duty manager’s cabin. There we found that four other passengers from our flight had already taken the exit route but they were waiting for the bags to be brought back from the plane. The duty manager arrived and told us that it would take a little more time to retrieve our bags from the belly of the plane because it is a tedious and manual process to search for bags based on their tags. In the interim we were also told that the plane would leave at 2.30 am to Chennai so why retrieve the bags. But we just ignored it as one of their standard operating procedure (read: lying). Another 45 minutes wait and the bags arrived. There it was, the light at the end of the tunnel. It was 2.30 pm.

The Great Escape: A few more register entries and, after the endorsement from the duty manager that we opted to be offloaded because of delay in flight, we were out of the airport. But we still had to get a refund for our tickets. I got mine from so called up their toll free number and came to know that I need to get a form filled from the AIX ticketing counter about the off loading and their endorsement thereof. Went to the AIX ticketing counter and was told that it was not an AIX counter and that the only one is at Nariman Point. To top it there was no one you could reach to at AIX, on phone, at that time of the day. My frustration was reaching new heights but I reminded myself of the mess I was already in and therefore wanted nothing else but to reach Chennai somehow. I then hired a rick and made my way towards the Mumbai domestic airport. The AIX counter was closed as if they were most profitable company on the planet and were resting on their laurels when all others: Jet airways, Indigo, GoAir were burning their mid night oil. I was sure the ruckus today would be forgotten, like the hundreds before, and would do nothing to even ruffle the features of this sleeping giant. Luckily Spicejet had a Chennai flight at 6.10 am and I virtually grabbed it. As I entered the airport, I thanked the powers above to getting me out of the cauldron and wishing for a safe and easy flight ahead. But there was still two hours left for me to board my next flight, the second one in a single night, from the same city. It was 4.10 am.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bemused in Padovaland

It’s been a week since I landed in Padova. For those of you unaware of my recent stint , I just enticed the EU with my research abilities and here I am in Italy on the Erasmus Mundus fellowship for three months in Padova, which is in Venice !!!!!!!!

It is a very beautiful city, a place where one could pain landscapes, capture stills to heart’s content, go gaga over architecture , write a poem, listen to the harps and lyres and feast on delicacies. Though my friends here tell me Verona and Venica is the best.

I find the place cheerful except for the cold weather which, to my Italian friends is Spring time !!!! But, I cannot skip to skirts from thermal wear and I look like and Eskimo here. My work is running smooth which I am not gonna tell you. It is as confidential as the FBI. But on the social side I got no roomie and I don’t speak Italian. To make things worse I don’t drink so I cant enjoy being intoxicated. For the first time in life I am in an introspection mode.

I suddenly discovered how lucky I am in many ways. Luckier than Maria Luisa who starts from Verona at 6.30 am and rushes back home to her three kids and skips lunch to read as she has no time when she reaches home. I never had to struggle so hard to learn. I discover myself luckier than most Italians here who would die to learn English not knowing which cuts their access to half the world’s literature. I feel lucky to have a mom who taught me basics of survival artistically- yeah mom thanks for teaching me cooking could be fun. I feel lucky to have a obsessive planner husband with whom I fight consistently but whose foresight has always been a blessing. I feel lucky to have friends and so many of them that I had no place to hide when I was in the institute and here I have loads of time and loneliness without them.

Yet, nothing can suffice this loneliness , the beautiful sights, the tastiest pizza, yummiest gelatoes , chirping birds,pretty figurines or gondolina rides .

Being alone did teach me “ That when you gain a fistful you still lose a handful”.

Every pleasure of the new world that fills this heart to its brim evaporates into thin air reminding of the other.
Leaving within just the desire to belong to one of them for ever.
Yet I remain cursed dreaming lucidly sniffing the air of both and denied from being anywhere forever.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Met him outside St Antonio Basilica , Padova. Apparently his partner got jealous of all the attention he was getting from me and tried to bite me. Ain't he cute ??? I chisten sie Antonio :)