Friday, May 28, 2010

Bus (read: ‘enough’ in Hindi) of this ride – Part I

I share more than this bus and my company with the forty people riding with me to office. Codes, bugs, metrics, time-sheets, MIS, so on and so forth; an endless list of things which keeps the subconscious mind occupied and the conscious one worried. Some of them have immersed themselves in the morning newspaper, but they seem more worried of the headlines that await them in office. Others have plugged their ears with music but still can’t bury the grinding sound of back breaking work and unsociable working hours. There are still others, who with closed eyes, try to catch up on lost sleep, but their minds are in overdrive trying to make sense of a life being spent in chasing dreams and finding realities. Left are a few, like me, who have stopped fretting about the present or the future and enjoy reminiscing about the wonderful days gone by.
I have had better bus rides, almost daily, with more cheerful bunch of people, ten fifteen years back. Being in school was a wonderful experience and our bus ride to school was no different. Every morning catching the school bus was the only end to which all our means were directed, as if it were the last bus to the holy city. It was mom who used to start with the rituals early in the day – “get up fast or you will miss your bus” which was followed a little later by “how much time do you need to finish brushing your teeth” but not ending with “you need to dress up fast or have you finally decided to miss your bus today”. Sometimes even dad used to join the party with his chosen ones – “that is not your father’s bus which would wait for you until you finish fine tuning your hair”.
It would be around quarter to seven, when all would be said and done, and we would be ushered out of the house. I had two options for my bus-stop. I could either take to the left of my house, towards the first bus stop or towards my right which would fall second in line on the bus route. I invariably used to choose the left one, for it ensured that I almost always had a good view (read: window seat) from the bus. My brother would always take to the right; though he was in a different school, he followed the same logic as above. Brothers! We had so much in common. Though being in different schools also ensured that neither of us was able to report back to the parents about what the other one did at the bus-stop. The bus-stop was a good distance away from our house (good we didn’t have a house pick-up then) so on the way I would call upon my friends from their houses. Even at their places you would end up witnessing the same morning madness and sometimes a lot more.
Once at the bus-stop, we used to first make sure the coast was clear i.e. we have seen our parents leave by to office. Not because we were up to something sinister but just that we might get beaten up for something silly. From here it was a fifteen minute wait until the bus showed up. Sometimes or often or always we used to end up starting a game of football. No dislike for cricket though; only because it was difficult to carry around an invisible thing as a cricket bat. But later on we could manage cricket as well because the guy managing the shop opposite to the bus-stop agreed to safe-keep a bat for us. Also with cricket there was the problem with toss, which we have managed with all things under the sun having two faces: match boxes, toffee wrappers, bottle caps, playing cards and so on. We used to play football with small plastic or rubber balls which had no complain lying discreetly in a corner of the schoolbag. Again it was two pairs of stones at opposite ends which used to serve as goals, which was arranged without much sweat and the ball put into motion. It was not easy though, to keep away from coming under somebody’s scooter or car (which did happen twice over, luckily not me) and at the same time making sure one scored a goal or saved one and also to catch sight of the bus at a fair distance so that one can sober up fast enough not to catch the eye of the teachers in the bus. If that were to happen, you were sure that your account for the day gets opened in the bus, provided the parents have not done that already. It used to be a high energy game because we needed a result in fifteen or so minutes. I always tried to make sure to be on the same side with my good friend (he goes by the name Aji from now on) so as not to end up with lot of cuts and bruises, a price often paid for playing on tarred roads. Aji was one who used to take his football seriously, at least the shorter version, and with his built and tricks we used to more or less end up winning the game. There rarely used to be arguments on the field because we used to dictate the terms and the kids knew better that any smartness on their part would be dealt with appropriately.
Once inside the bus, the rush was to look for the window seat. Later on, when we graduated to the senior class, there were always two seats left for us: one for me and another for Aji. No one in their right mind dared to occupy those seats. Then one day a loony kid got us into trouble; we found him sitting on our seat. He was a new kid, who joined from a different school and was therefore not aware of our position in the pecking order. Ignorance can be tolerated but arrogance was to be crushed in the bud. But there is nothing that, a few tight smacks, a pull or two of the hairs and generous bumps on the back, can’t set straight. But our victory was short lived. The very next day he brought his mother along and pointed us out to her when we entered the bus. She smacked us black and blue and the kids in the bus enjoyed every moment of it. We reclined to the last row of the bus, for that day and many more days to come. We were just happy that the proceeding happened inside the bus and we were spared the ignominy of the whole locality knowing about it; we had a reputation to worry about. Also the news did not reach home because we were sure that if it did it would have brought the devil out of our parents.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Ahem... pigeons laid eggs outside my department in padova.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Time Traveller's Wife: Do Watch

The title of the movie is a little misgiving, for it is not a sci-fi movie, and might raise doubts in the minds of the viewers, who would otherwise enjoy a simple and warm love story. I went for it because of Eric Bana; a charming fellow, I think the next Richard Gere. Eric is a time traveller, by a genetic disorder and travels through time without his own volition. And it happens to him anywhere; without caution. He meets his future wife, played by Rachel McAdams (from the acclaimed ‘The Notebook’), when she’s just 6 years old and he goes back to her again and again. She starts to love him until they eventually meet in real.

The only problem in their love is Eric’s sudden disappearances. For once he’s there and then he’s not. He has no control over where he goes or what time period he goes to. To make matters worse when he travels his clothes get left behind and he has to then steal clothes, from wherever he lands, before he gets noticed. Rachel on her part is keen to continue in the relationship even with all the shortcomings that comes with the constant disappearance of the person you love; sometime two weeks at a stretch. Eventually they get married and look forward to having a baby; which unfortunately is suffering from the same disorder and starts travelling from the womb, leading to multiple miscarriages. A disheartened Eric gets a vasectomy done because of the fear of a similar vagabond life for the baby. Not undone by this betrayal Rachel gets pregnant when once Eric comes to visit her from the past. One day Eric meets his daughter, in the future, and then comforts Rachel that this time they are going to have the baby and that it’s a girl. The story takes a turn when Eric, from the future, lands in the house with a bullet wound, where the present day Eric and Rachel are shocked to see him. I am not going to give out the completely story to spoil it for the people who would want to watch it.

If you try to analyse the movie, through the microscope of time travelling technicalities, there might be a lot of shortcomings wriggling about. But then as I said in the beginning, it’s not a sci-fi movie. It’s a love story under difficult circumstances and how it is not confined to the boundaries of time; rather permeates it and brings to the fore a kind of love which overlooks human frailties and weaknesses. I think it’s surreal to know your future partner from when you are a child and the sense of really spending a complete life time with him or her.

Again, coming back to the title, I would say it would have been unfair if the title was just ‘The Time Traveller’, for I think it’s not the time traveller but the wife who comes about having supernatural abilities of accepting someone with such a failing, without guilt or reproach. As much as the movie is about Eric’s disappearances, so it is about Rachel’s sense of unvarying love; Eric fights to gain control over his disability but Rachel is at peace with the uncertainty and finally Eric’s aversion about himself reflects in his unwillingness for a similar child but Rachel’s finds no qualms in expecting the baby for the same reasons she accepted her man. Great performance by both the actors, though Eric looked a little restrained. He is surely bound for the Oscars and she the next Julia Roberts. Maybe I would not have registered such strong emotions from this movie if I were not married. So rightly named, ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’. Do watch.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

Every Creek, river, pond in Padova has ducks. I wonder if government decided to let them live there just like that or added them for ambience. But it is a delight to watch them swim and fly. Yeah they fly so gracefully. If I was a duck, I would have wanted to be here because, I am sure ducks here dont end up being Mandarin duck, Chettinadu duck, or Tharavu varatharachathu. So, it's nice to be a duck in Padova. I am not saying people here wont eat ducks but they don't lift them from ponds like we do in our places. I remember how my cousins enjoyed doing that. And the pic below is ducks in India-( Delhi) many I am sure are no more.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Road Rage: a bump on the road or more than that?

Year - 1988, Place – Patiala; a city in the northern state of Punjab. BJP MP and cricket star Navjot Singh Sidhu gets into a dispute with 65-year- old Gurnam Singh over a parking space. Sidhu and his friend then thrash Gurnam on the road until he dies.

This road incident neither covered on the front pages nor extensively debated on prime time, results from a human behaviour which all us have either witnessed or have been directly indulged in. Though it appears to be an event of violence out of personal vendetta, deeper analysis reveal it to be an act of freak violence termed as 'Road Rage’.  

Road Rage has conventionally meant aggressive or physical conflicts arising on the road between motorists. This conventional definition has often misled us to believe that only aggressive behaviour is road rage and other subtle and instinctive actions like honking and flashing lights excessively, gestures such as “showing the finger", shouting obscenities or threats, cutting others off in a lane, excessive braking, tailgating etc are all natural extensions of the driving process. This strange behaviour has often been met with indifference from people because of its representation as just a minor irritant even though it eventually manifests in the most violent and lethal form.

Lalit Kumar, a Sales Professional, who spends almost six hours on the road every day, says that a vehicle for him is a means of power and speed. The moment he feels himself losing control he promptly asserts himself on the road. He reveals that often he assigns an imaginary space around his motor vehicle as belonging to him and if that space is breached by others he feels violated. Psychologists have revealed that it's not often the damage to a vehicle that irks a driver rather it is the violation of this imaginary territorial space that creates a sense of powerlessness and defeat which leads to road rage.

Dhanya Chaudary, though not often on the wheels herself, admits, “We never learn to swear until we start driving.” Actions like swearing and showing the finger give motorists a means to break the shackles of helplessness and provide an opening to let the steam out. She, travels by company provided bus to office, has another interesting take on the subject. She feels that we tend to think about issues and frustrations back at home and office while driving and then at the slightest provocation resort to road rage. Quite often these thought processes tend to divert our attention from the road and a momentary lapse leads to a bump or a graze with other vehicles. Then, instead of accepting our mistake and apologizing, we tend to carry forward our frustration into actions of road rage. Lack of time or hurrying to reach our destination is another widely accepted reason which leads people to lose self-control and act offensively.

Pankaj Sachdev, Sub-Inspector (Traffic), on the other hand feels that it's the external factors that are to be blamed more than human feelings. Growing number of vehicles, narrow and pitiful conditions on the roads, traffic congestion, weather, pollution and noise levels are the primary reasons that lead to road rage. He opines that our feelings, however subconscious, get triggered by these factors and waits at a conscious level to assert itself at the slightest provocation. Road rage should not be confused with accidents. Accidents on road are generally attributed to losing control of one’s vehicle, which then leads to the mishaps. Road rage on the other hand has more to do with losing control of one’s emotions, which leads to erratic actions and in some cases might cause accidents. Though not all acts of road rage lead to accidents they build up a cauldron of negative energy in people, which is perpetually boiling, and ready to spill over on fellow motorists.

In India there is limited of no data on road rage as it is not officially recognized as a problem and any such incidents are usually bracketed as accidents or physical conflicts on road. But in western countries there is sufficient data gathered to prove that road rage is indeed a problem which needs deeper analysis and attention. A survey, administered by Response Insurance in U.S, revealed that 34 percent of drivers say they honk their horn at the aggressor, 27 percent yell, 19 percent give the finger back, 17 percent flash their headlights, and 7 percent mimic the initial aggressive driving behavior. Two percent of drivers admit to trying to run the aggressor off the road. When it comes to aggressive responses, men are more likely than women to do so (54% vs. 46%), as are drivers age 18-24 (67%) versus drivers 65 and older (30%). Drivers with children are more likely to respond aggressively (59%) versus those without children (45%), and cell phone users (59%) versus those who do not use a cell phone while driving (39%).

Driving on the road is not a competitive sport to be won. It's just a means of reaching from point A to point B. Also while driving don't consider your vehicle as an extension of yourself but just as a tool to get a job done. There are a lot of other little things which when followed can prevent road rage. Detach yourself from all problems in life while you are driving. With driving itself becoming a problem nowadays you don't want to multiply your woes. Instead listen to relaxing music while driving, maybe instrumentals like flute or harp, but avoid hard metal or rock bands. These usually tend to excite people and might prove counterproductive. Always try to give yourself plenty of time to get to where you're going, particularly keeping in mind traffic congestions. People always try to make up lost time, on other activities, by driving fast, leading to carelessness on the road. Respect your time on the road and allocate it the time it requires. Another strategy is to accept that you're running late, inform the other party expecting you that you will be late and that you can't do anything about it. One other major irritant on the road is ‘honking’. Sound the horn judiciously, only as a means of signaling to a fellow driver rather than to get the better off him. Nothing frustrates a person more than the indiscriminate use of the horn by a motorist behind him but the same person becomes so indifferent to the woes of the drivers in front of him when he has a free go at his own horn. Nobody wants to spend his/her whole day on the road and you don’t have any special reason to let the horn speak for your frustration. One another problem specific to Indian drivers is that they try to gain advantage, in a confrontation situation on the road, by making the first offensive move, even when one is clearly at fault; this does not always work to your benefit. Being apologetic or saying 'sorry' when you err goes a long way in preventing a confrontation, be it off the road or on the road. Last but not the least, follow traffic rules meticulously and encourage others to do so.

Driving is no more a pleasure or stress buster as it was earlier, but a chore that people desperately try to avoid, all because of the deplorable conditions on the road and the attitude of people using it. Who knows the next time you are scouting for parking in a mall or a movie hall and somebody might cut you to it. Then it is advisable that you keep your cool and not be aggressive because if the other person turns out to be a Navjot Singh Sidhu then you may have to pay with your life for that parking space. Unfortunately Gurnam Singh never saw it coming.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Marriage matters- Journey to the altar part 7

I wanted a break. Marriage was frightening. But now it hurt my pride to be rejected twice. The old feminist sprang up. I knew ‘Who’ had second thoughts once; but he was more committed when he came back. He wanted to keep his word this time and make up for his misjudgment earlier. I personally felt his father was impulsive and anyways I am not going to be with the in-laws forever but nevertheless how dare they thought they could reject me? The thought irritated me. But frankly I had not expected a Bollywood melodrama. I had friends teasing me for lunch and dinner at the cafeteria unaware of the catastrophe and I managed to dine wearing a plastic smile. “Don’t say things like call wedding off because if I lose you now, I am sure I won’t get you back”, ‘Who’ said. “And why is that?”, I asked. “Because any guy can marry you but no one could accept and love me the way you do”, ‘Who’ was never insecure before because he had never let anyone get so close to him. I felt it took him a lot of courage to phrase those words and I don’t believe he was being mushy in a tragedy. But I am a loser and I admit I had second thoughts; I liked being tragedy queen and suddenly could not reciprocate except to console ‘Who’. God sends angels in time of crisis and I firmly believed in it. Else why would a guy who slept at office, with a spare tooth brush enter the drama at this point? Our celebrated wedding site proclaimed him the manager of the wedding affair. Little did he know he would manage more mess than he had imagined. This was ‘bhai’ – ‘Who’s BHAI.

My equations with him were so-so until then, but the whole turn of events had upset him. The rebel he is and having his own issues with his father he decided this situation required a revolution. I had lost hopes but that evening was the longest evening of my life when I had a series of conference on phone planning strategies for my wedding. It was now war and not love, but I agree “Everything is fair in Love and War”.

Technically bhai could be an atheist for I have not heard him say anything about faith in god. He decided the wedding would happen and in my church because their dad had already called it off so technically it could not happen at their place. His logistics were clear. Reprint cards and pre-pone the wedding. Their parents would not be informed and to ensure they never reach Kerala the first step to be ensured was to cancel their existing train tickets.

I thought my mother would not relent to this but she did to my surprise and I realized her pride was as hurt as mine. I didn’t knew what to inform people about people around for the sudden change of dates and places. ‘Who’ informed his acquaintances that some relative of his has taken ill critically and therefore the wedding needed to be conducted before he passed away and I used the same alibi at the department. It was tough considering I was comparing for a conference and had to repeat the same lie to every person I met.
If things go as planned there would be two people from the bridegroom’s side ‘Who’ and ‘bhai’. A friend of mine said he could arrange a whole group to fake as my in-law’s side to trick the people. It sounded awkward but so did a two people bridegroom party. I imagined what would have happened if the situation had reversed – me all alone at my wedding. Tears welled up as I met ‘Who’ and ‘bhai’ at Cochin airport; they had come down to complete all the formalities for a wedding at the girl’s place. Wedding at short notice needed special requests from the church and I felt ashamed seeing my old mother repeat the same story to priests.

“Our life begins from here, we just got each other, remember that”, ‘Who’ said. “And never ever think of leaving me, I have left everyone for you”. I have heard women say such dialogues. It would have boosted my feminist ego to make a man do this for me but I was not happy hearing it. I felt crushed under the debt of love and respect. A part of mine changed forever.

Was this how life was going to be? I wished we still could have a happy ending. I could not smile but throughout he held my hand firmly and smiled as if he had the whole world with him.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Animals are beautiful people

I loved the background and the model :) thought of kissing him too, to see if he would turn into a prince. But, then 'Who' was next to me and I did not know where to throw him if this fellow really became a prince so I decided to keep a pic of the charming prince and carry on with 'Who'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some Nescafe stories

I cherish my childhood days the most. I didnt have much to do being confined to an apartment. Now when I watch children playing in parks and streets I realise I never had any of those luxuries. But it was strange that as kids we never demanded to be let out we were very obedient , my mom says. But within those four walls we had our imaginary world. I consider myself unfortunate as my memories of childhood were never mine. My memories were borrowed from my siblings. All my tales are their adventures. I was precociously mature and wanted to grow up soon. And in this stupid pursuit I failed to appreciate many beautiful moments where I should have just been a kid.

This is an all time favourite episode of my childhood memories. I call it the Nescafe war.

Mom like any other Indian woman had this strange habit of storing spices in bottles of nescafe, horlicks. She was a hoarder of bottles and plastic covers and still is. Dad a supporter in this movement would even bring bottles from office to encourage this maddness. I hope mom is not reading this else she would explain how all the pickles were stored and how many bottles travelled to my hostels.

That unfortuante day my sister decided to start a new hobby a collection of nescafe bottles. What could you expect from poor kids confined to four walls three months of summer vacation. I often found the hobbies of my siblings an insult to intellect and was busy reading a book. My brother was hardly 2 years then and he had problems with his speech. He usually never spoke much but that particular day he made and emphatic statement " I am starting nescafe bottle collection today". Thud!!!! " How can you, I just started it today , you copy cat?", yelled my sis. My brother looked too cute that you would give him anything he asked with that cute smile of his.

He found out that there were just two bottles with which my sister had begun her collection. I could not fathom what interest they had with junk so I continued reading. I could hear my collection, my collection being yelled and after sometime I heard a scream and mom came running from the kitchen.

My brother had long nails and was scared of a nailcutter. Mom could only cut his nails when he was asleep and it was due for quite some time. My brother scratched my sister to get those two bottles. It was a street fight kya family hai, I told myself.

"Why could you not control them , you are the big sister", mom yelled at me. I gave her the
" You- Talking- About- These-Mortals- To- Me look. My sister was screaming for the bottles with a bleeding face and my brother seemed pleased. Mom snatched both the bottles and cancelled the distributorship to nescafe bottles.

Now when I go home I see the same brother make coffee for the same sister who drinks it from a nescafe cup with the scar on her cheek. And I still smile reading my book - Kya nescafe din the

Bachpan bhi gaya , jawani bhi gayi ab jeene lage hai :)