Sunday, January 31, 2010

The latest entrepreneurial endeavor in town…

…is feigning familiarity to siphon off some green bucks from unsuspecting people.

First the story:

Location: Pondy Bazaar, T Nagar
Time: 11:30 AM on a busy Sunday (a few weeks ago)
Charlatan: A well-aged, highly-decent looking, balding guy – medium height
Victim (potential): Yours truly…:p

Here’s what happened - I was in Pondy Bazaar, trying to locate Big Bazaar (don’t ask me why my friend and I chose that very landmark to meet up – that’s incidental).
So I, the epitome of a directionless body, was on the phone having the standard conversation “I am right near this guy selling flowers, are you on that the opposite side? Wait, are you on the left or right; no, no, I mean if you face the flower guy, then are you on the left or right; okay okay, I understand you have not spotted the flower guy yet! – Forget it, I’ll get where you are!”
To the flower guy: “Anna, Big Bazaar, where?”
(Did you just sneer and say “women!”? I don’t blame you just this one time :))

Out of the mass of people I was surrounded by (those who have been to this infamous place know what I am talking about; others please try to imagine a crowded place with only the space you occupy as that available for breathing – and yet I go there, but that’s a different story!) – I see this middle-aged guy waving at me – I ignore him.
And then he’s right in front of me, his hand extended out – “Remember Madam? Shankaran from the airport? Air India counter?”

I could not recall meeting this guy at all. But he looked so sincere, and being the fool that I am, I pretended I recognized him, “Oh, I see, Hello” (Big Blunder 01).
I am known to smile at random strangers (without any malicious intent, obviously :D), and I thought maybe this guy had helped me at the airport, you know, with my luggage sometime, or with an extra hand bag tag when I would have managed to lose mine after the security stamp, and we must have exchanged…errr…well, smiles!.

The man continued, “How are you Madam? I am here because of my foot injury – came to see the doctor”.

Emotional lightweight (me): “Oh, are you better now?” (Big Blunder 02)
Crook: “The doctor has asked for 1500 rupees, I have only 600”

Fused tubelight (me): (to myself) "Oh god, is he after money; do I really know him…am I carrying 900 bucks in cash…does he really need the money?" (faith in strangers dies hard – Big Blunder 03)

Crook: “Can you please lend me 900 rupees?”

Flickering bulb (me): (to myself) "He is only after money, Yuvika – Vish will be mad – get out of here!"
(to the man) “I am sorry, I am here to meet someone (can’t still admit, I don’t want to give him any money cos I don’t trust him) – where is Big Bazaar?"

Crook: “Right on the opposite side, but ma’am I need the money”

Enlightened being (me): “Thank you, I am sorry I don’t have money” (Delayed, but nevertheless finally, the great escape!)

And so I turned around and ran across the street at the fastest speed ever, with this man following me and shouting, “Madam 500 atleast”
What a sight it was! I did manage to get him off my trail and locate my friend – All’s well that ends well?

I tried putting the episode behind me, and didn’t tell anybody about it at the risk of worrying my folks.
And, I would have never blogged about this had I not met the same guy again outside Odyssey in Adyar. I was with my in-laws this time. He approached a relative with the same unassuming, genuine disposition, “Hello, Sir – Adi Narayanan from the airport – Air India counter!
He did not notice me. It was time to make amends. I told my uncle not to acknowledge the guy as he was a rogue. We did just that. We just ignored the guy, and after a minute or two he was gone.

Most of us have heard of such incidents, but when it comes to that moment, we are seldom mentally prepared to do what must be done. I thought it’d be a good idea to share this with you guys - not sure if this is happening in other cities as well…but Chennaites, beware and take care!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are our gods deaf?

I am hardly religious but at the same time neither I am an atheist. I believe in god – but the association of god with religion, traditions and superstitions is something I am really very wary of.
Okay, with this clarification out of the way now, let me proceed with what has been really pissing me off for some time now.

Blaring music on loud speakers at all odd hours of the day and night is very much a part of our being, in India. We consider it our birth right and our obligatory duty to broadcast our happiness, sorrow, loyalties, anything and everything at “high volume”. From the 'baraats' in the wedding season in the crowded residential streets to the DJ 'dandiya' nights in the neighborhood apartments, the first birthday celebration of the neighbor’s kid next door, and the 'jagaratas' and 'satsangs' in the community spaces – noise pollution is all pervasive. Cacophony has always been synonymous with celebration.

Most of us thanked god for small mercies when the Supreme Court of India passed the landmark judgment that took baby steps toward reducing or rather containing the clamor that the so called members of the various civilized and spiritual societies were creating. You can read the details here.
As any other rule, this too has not seen a complete and absolute implementation but at least in the National Capital territory and region, we have had some respite from the menace of “loud speakers”.

Cut to Chennai – T Nagar, to be precise – 5 in the morning - for more than a month now I continue to be rudely woken up by chants of 'sabiramalai' and 'aiyappa' coming from some small temple across the road.
Though I usually crib more than an average human being, I swear to god I really don’t mind the occasional ear-splitting music on a film star’s birthday, or a politician’s death anniversary or a festival - Silence can be deafening too – I need some din around to maintain my sanity levels (however low anybody might think those to be :p).

However, the last month and a half have been terrible and intolerable. In the name of God to disrupt an entire neighborhood is ostentatious.
Are our gods hard of hearing? Are they deaf? My god isn’t and I am sure yours is not too.
I would still make some concession had it been a 'kirtan' kind of a setup where people get together and recite prayers to their gods – you know at least they were devoted enough to do that – But no, here somebody is indecent enough to put recorded songs with tunes bordering on film music on a loud speaker before the sun even decides to rise – this is not a means to connect with god but a form of community entertainment.

As an obvious reaction, I asked my FIL to complain – register a formal police complaint – after all, this is an infringement of what is laid out in the rule book. Haa! Only if our judicial system was good enough - My FIL told me that they all have tried and given up – each time they get the same response – “Why do you want to get into all this, you are educated – why do you want to go against these fanatics who will do anything in the name of religion – your complaint will spark off a class and caste war (this will make a lot of sense to people who are aware of the caste politics in Tamil Nadu); just close your windows, put cotton in your ears and ignore – why should you get your hands dirty”.

And so we, the citizens of the largest democracy in the world, put cotton wool in our ears and shut our windows and eyes, lock our houses and tongues, and continue to live, seething inside … and blogging on cyber space in a vain attempt to compensate for the actions we never take and the compromises we make.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Of lives snuffed out at dawn…

Yet another 4th or 5th page newspaper story: “Ashamed of failure, 12-year old in Mumbai hangs himself”.
Sushant Patil is a perfect example of how today’s reality affects and victimizes children and teenagers in particular, denying them the blissful innocence, the carefree laughter, and the state of absolute happiness, which was once synonymous with childhood and youth. According to latest statistics, suicide is one of the three largest causes of death among the youth worldwide.

There are multiple reasons and sources that come together to form a complex network of issues surrounding the youngsters today.
The academic pressure, made worse by dad who wants you to get into IIT, by mom who dreams that you’ll a doctor, by the uncle who boasts about the salary his IIM son has been offered, by the aunt who is worried about what her daughter eats at MIT, and by the neighbor who is looking for an marriage alliance for his NRI son who by the way owns a “bungalow” in NYC.

Unfortunately, it is the bane of the middle class to uphold values of excellent educational background, financial stability, and social propriety coupled with the need to rise up the social ladder. So, in the name of doing the best for their children, your dad will take a bank loan, and your mom will pawn the family jewels so that you can study and finally achieve the dreams they once hoped for. And here is where the problem starts; the kids today have the burden of being successful come what may.

I wouldn’t blame parents alone – switch on the idiot box and every soap and advertisement talks about upward mobility. There’s a world out there to be bought - and there is no place for losers. The social pressure – the hottest pub in town and the coolest hang out zone, the newest car, the world class apartment, the funkiest gadget, the latest movie – all require you have your wallet loaded. Love is an expensive proposition too!
Failing an exam is hardly a failure, psychologists claim! Yes, but try explaining that to the kids and the parents of the kids who have not been able to “pass” the nursery admission interview at the best “international” school in the city!

My heart cringes in fear and hopelessness how problems of population, demand supply imbalance, inflation, media penetration, Internet boom, poverty, consumerism, the rat race to get at the top are compounding our lives. We all are spending our lives working towards a better tomorrow without realizing that tomorrow we will end up again sweating it out for a better day after!

I have met so many friends, colleagues, seniors, juniors, who identify with the following lyrics of a song from the Aamir Khan super hit – 3 Idiots. In the name of progress, we are manufacturing generations of people who are disgruntled, frustrated from within and very unhappy for the good times they lost on and the magical enchantment of childhood that they never experienced…
Give me some sunshine
Give me some rain
Give me another chance
I wanna grow up once again

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another year, another decade!

Welcome 2010!

Year beginnings are special – you have the opportunity (supposedly) to turn over a new leaf, start new ventures, and ofcourse make the infamous New Year resolutions.
It is miraculous how we human beings attach momentous significance to what could have been “just-another-day”, and is nothing but a fleeting moment in time.
No cynicism on the first day of the year, I rebuke myself. Apologies.

I start again; year beginnings are special. They offer you the much needed solace that there will be sunshine and hope and love, and things will change for the better, and if nothing works, this year will thankfully end soon :). I am guilty as most others of making resolutions, and breaking them. This time around my list remains largely similar to last year’s, which is available here, so not repeating myself. Controlling the temptations of the palate and tucking the tummy in remain priority. I would add being more regular at sketching to the list as well…and I am done.

What is really special about 2010 is that it also marks the end of a decade, which has been interestingly called 00’s (pronounced as oh oh’s) by an illustrious tweeter. And since all print and television media are overdoing the movies of the decade, the celebrities of the decade and the other blah-blah nonsense, I thought I’d put together my own list of Top 10 events, trends, milestones that have affected and moulded the person that happens to be me!

I remember making a diary entry on the eve of Jan 1st 2000, when the world was obsessed over the start of the millennium - I wish I had a snapshot of that, but this post is an ode to that!

And here I go (not necessarily in chronological order, most overlap);

I I grew up!
I know 10 years is a long time and you might just say high time; But sweet 16 sounded so much better. School and college years were fun. I miss the endless rides on my white Kinetic Honda with a helmet on (back then not only was I the only girl but the only person to wear a helmet in NCR – it was so embarrassing – thanks dad!), the DTC bus rides to college and everywhere else in the sweltering heat and the freezing temperatures, the endless giggles, and most importantly the friendships that last you your lifetime!

II I realized the double X chromosome makes me a potential victim.
Growing up also meant understanding the fact that in a place like Delhi you will be molested on public transport, ogled at by men your dad’s age, offered shady lifts by shadier strangers and faced with wearied parents concerned at the daily harassment and rape cases in the newspapers.
Thankfully, I also understood the need to fight back, to raise your voice, to hit them where it hurts the most, to be independent and mentally strong, and finally the need to realize you belong to the fairer sex and not the weaker one!

III Terrorism was not at the border – it had reached home.
9/11, 26/11, and the many bombings in Delhi, Hyderabad, and other cities over the past 10 years made terrorism a frightening recognizable reality that was not somewhere out there at the border, but closer home. The urgency to reach home after college as the borders were sealed post the parliament attack, the frantic calls to parents out on festive shopping after watching news on bomb blasts in Delhi on diwali eve, the list goes on.
We will never know what it is to live without fear.

IV Anytime, anywhere availability: Hello Cell Phones!
I need not write much on this. What started as a luxury status symbol, is now an every person’s necessity. I wonder how parents managed in earlier years without the option of keeping a tab of their kids’ whereabouts, or how friends found each other in a crowded mall, how lovers lived without smsing each other on the free plan and the million dollar question what did the now-telemarketers do for a living?

V The Corporate whirligig beckoned.
Life institutionalizes each one of us. Mine is no different a story. Five and a half years and still going on – I don’t mind the green bucks after all!

VI My cutie younger brother grew up too!
The house was a sadder place, the TV remote the least attractive, the computer not half as inviting, and the phone chatter hardly exciting without the constant interruption– Priyank moved out of town to join a college, and I became a lonely sibling :(.

VII Love happened...and the big fat Indian wedding followed.
…and the rest, as they say is history :p. Love you, Vish!

VIII 25 year of togetherness…
Mom and dad make the most beautiful and ageless couple ever – many many more loving anniversaries to come, touch wood!

IX Of the travelling tales…
I really enjoy visiting new places and doing a lot of sightseeing (and shopping) – the last 10 years have seen me doing a lot of travels – the short family vacations at Goa, Mumbai, Bangalore, Mysore, Nainital, Almora; the loving getaways at Phuket, Bangkok, San Francisco, Michigan, Memphis; the long stints combining work and pleasure at LA and Chicago; it has undoubtedly been a wonderful decade and I hope to do a lot more travelling these coming years too!

X The Internet boom and Social Networking
My first email ID was (don’t ask me why), which I checked once a week at the local Internet cafĂ© for 20 rupees an hour. Life’s changed since then. I check mail 150 times a day on broadband connection, I am on most social networking sites, I blog, and as Vish puts it “I have unnecessarily unleashed myself on the web.”
So be it, darling, I am loving it!


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