Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Book Lover's Narnia

The way to a woman's heart is through the bookstore.
Image Copyright: Pinterest.com
Melbourne, where I am currently based, is well-known for its Arts Precinct, a part of which also includes the Literary Arts. And when we think of literary festivals and fundraisers, how can books be far behind? So, when Sudha Ganapati of 'My Favourite Things' suggested Melbourne bookstores as a topic for a guest post, I couldn't resist! Sudha is a warm, friendly soul with a varied set of interests including and not limited to, travel, reading, music and photography. She also runs an online book club 'The Sunday Book Club'. Do hop over to her blog to read my post! You can find the link here.
I would love to hear your views!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Man or Material? Who to blame?

More than 5 years ago, horrified at watching the events unfold on US national television, I had penned a post on the Virginia Tech shootings and my despair at events back home. Click here to read it. Since then a lot has changed. The Bush administration made way for Obama, Osama Bin Laden was killed, India won the World Cup and more. But as far as massacres go, nope, nothing much seems to have changed. The world witnessed yet another horrific school shooting yesterday in the state of Connecticut. Click here to know more.

The Americans fought for and against gun control back then and they continue to do it now. A lot has been said about why guns shouldn’t be made available to civilians. Individuals on the other side of the line have also vehemently pushed for stricter controls but not a ban - quoting the need for self-defense, hunting , yada yada. So do we say the gun is to blame? Ban or control gun usage to civilians and the problem goes away? 

Some 6000+ odd miles away, on the other side of the globe, on the very same day, a man went ballistic and slashed 22 elementary school children with a knife. No gun. This was not the first instance. Earlier in 2010, another man did the same thing. And there have been more precedents. Click here to know more.

I am all for gun control. And then, I am all for knife control too. While we're at it, lets hide the garden rakes, tube lights and anything within sight which can be used as weapons of mass murder. Where does it stop? It pains me but it angers me more on how reckless men can go around murdering innocent children. Yes, with gun control, we definitely would be lowering the odds of this happening, lowering the easy availability of such weapons of mass destruction. But somehow I fear that it won’t stop it. 

While the psychology of the US school shooter is unknown, it is said that job losses and frustration over the same triggered the killings in China. Tolerance and patience levels within humans are falling at a very alarming rate. And that is why, simply blaming the material won’t work because its the man who ultimately pulled the trigger. 

Like in the case of suicide victims. Personally I frown upon people who take the step. But sitting here, its easy for me to pass judgement that they're taking the easy way out and leaving their families to bear the horror and face the truth and bleed for them. But I also accept that jumping from a 20 floor building is not easy. I wonder what kind of helplessness drives people to take that extreme step, what is they find beyond repair that they're ready to jump to their deaths or slit their wrists and die a slow painful death than face the problems? 

Somewhere a thread ties back to these people too. Mass murderers. In the shooting case, I wish there were counselors who had spotted the warning signs. Most times you would expect the parents to do that. But in this case, if the shooter shot his father first and then his mother and others - aided by his brother - then its obvious that something was wrong in the family and how could the warning signs have been heeded then? In the case of China slashing - the recent one and the ones before - frustrations on losing their jobs drove them to such despair. I just feel extremely saddened by the turn of events and that with every passing year, it only seems to be getting worse. It’s as if for every person, we need a counselor, a shoulder, a fallback mechanism. And we have too less of them. The thing is how do you identify what events warrant paying more attention to people’s behaviour and attitude? 


Live and Let Live; a message to the Connecticut shooters
Copyright: Woodenurecover.com
I would love to hear your views!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quirky Travels

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting an esteemed blogger, Rachna from Rachna Says. Apart from the fact that she’s smart, savvy and fun-loving, what I admire in her is that she isn't afraid to speak her mind; be it simply to share her thoughts on myriad experiences of life or to stand up against injustice, or even to take the first step in resolving a conflict. Her posts reflect this very nature of hers. Today she writes on some funny and interesting travel experiences, her observations about fellow Indians abroad and what it means to carry certain rituals back home!

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Travel tales and quirky incidents
Copyright: http://freedigitalphotos.net
I love traveling. I have done loads of solo traveling across India in my job in brand management. For a single girl, I traveled at odd hours and walked miles every day with my Sales Representatives traveling through Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Karnataka and Delhi. I loved exploring the cities in the bargain and have multiple tales from my journeys that I look back upon very fondly. The SR at Amritsar took me home where I witnessed some hearty Punjabi hospitality in the form of piping hot ‘Alu Parathas’ fed to me lovingly by his grandma. He also took me to Golden Temple and Jalianwala Baug, which was a surreal experience.  Punjabi men are the most chivalrous.  I regularly encountered men helping out with the luggage and then walking off not so much as waiting for a thank you. Their women love colors and make up. I once met a Distributor’s mother wearing a fluorescent green ‘Patiala’ with bright makeup in the day time. Ah, the delights of traveling!   

After marriage, I went to live in the US. My husband is the type who is permanently infected with the travel bug. He is your essential backpacker. But, I am the organized type. I can’t live in shoddy places or travel impromptu. I prefer well-planned outings. But this is not a travelogue. This is about my experiences while traveling and living abroad. Now, haven’t we heard time and time again about how Indians stare at foreigners? Yes, it can be quite irritating. I can’t imagine how exposed the white-skinned and black-skinned folks feel among the “staring” Indians. 

Now, as a culture, most Americans and Europeans smile at a person they see on the street and acknowledge you with a hello or some small talk. When I first went to live in the US, I was quite baffled when a burly man gave me a big smile and yelled, “How are you doing?” I smiled back very apprehensively. As you know, good Indian girls don’t smile at strange men ;-). My husband was quite amused, and he explained that it was part of cultural etiquette there. From then on, I took to it like fish to water; smiling and talking to everyone I met – in the supermarket checkout lines, on the streets, in the doctor’s clinic, at the book store etc. It is actually quite a lovely gesture. But I can only shiver to imagine the repercussions of doing it back home in India. 

Imagine me giving huge smiles to the watchman, plumber, electrician, driver and other helpers. For all you know, the neighbors’ antennas will go up, and some of them might come reporting to hubby. I may also end up giving wrong signals to our helpers who might take madam’s smiles a bit more seriously than required. Smiling or talking enterprisingly to your friends’ husbands will cause malicious rumors spreading like wild fire; and their wives cutting you off from their social circuits. And smiling at a total stranger, God forbid, can get good Indian girls abducted or much worse. So, you understand why we don’t smile at strangers or sometimes even people we see day in and day out. The funny part, coming back to my US stay, was that the Indians would be super enthusiastic yelling out their hellos to foreigners but with other Indians, we went back to our gloomy selves.

Now, let’s get back to the staring bit. Yes, we stare when we see white people. It is hard for most of us to comprehend how someone can look so ahem white. I mean do they bathe in Surf or Nirma? But guess what? Even browns get stared at!  I was subjected to loads of staring myself. A few years back when we visited the Netherlands, a country that is really unused to seeing browns, we had some rather hilarious experiences. Now, in the US, we lived in California, which is almost overtaken by Indians. We do everything there that we do in India including wearing Indian clothes.  You can gauge the comfort level of Indians there by the fact that I was greeted by a lady dressed in a nightgown in the laundry room. I came back complaining to my husband about her decency, when he patiently explained that “nightie” was a ‘dayee’ for many South Indians. Of course, I experienced that first hand when I came to live in Bangalore. Sorry for digressing, so I had carried a few salwars with me on the trip to the NL. I had even carried a sari on impulse. Every time I wore a salwar kameez and went out, I had a few people staring intently at me not even bothering to blink. I clearly remember one guy walking past and then retracing his steps to fall in line with me all the while staring at me with a smile. The bindi used to fascinate them a lot. For them, I was this exotic creature straight out of a museum walking on their streets. Besides they were quite simply baffled with browns. Now where have these people originated from, I could sort of hear them thinking. A few people tried speaking to me in Spanish too. A friend who had taken us around on some sightseeing was asked about the origin of ‘these’ exotic people. My husband certainly did not enjoy all the staring and pointedly told me not to wear salwars and stick to the basic western clothing. But, I did not find the staring offensive. It helps that Dutch men are really good-looking, and it was not derogatory; it was mostly out of curiosity. I actually loved my stay there. Most people were genuinely friendly and nice. And, I was not uncomfortable with the attention.

But when we lived in the Scotland, I recall an experience of once having a family having breakfast at our hotel. Their young son pointed a finger at me and yelled “Moslem.”  Yes, I remember wearing a salwar kameez. That unnerved me a bit. I turned around to see the family looking at me very oddly. I have generally found foreigners pretty well mannered, but these guys did not seem very friendly. The overall Scottish experience wasn't so bad. Scots are not as friendly as the other Europeans or Americans. And there was this stocky man at British immigration who was downright nasty. He kept me waiting in line even though I was traveling with a toddler. And, he exhibited the stiff upper lip attitude of the British while speaking to me. But before that in the flight from Bangalore to London, I had a wonderful young British man, who was seated with my son and me. He was getting back home from a vacation in India. He was gushing to me about the lovely time he had. He also helped me with Sid, playing games with him and teaching him how to color while I caught a nap. The flight was very pleasant because of his company. So, can we really slot people as nasty or good, starers or non-starers? To my mind, what makes a difference is our own exposure to all the amazing people and cultures that our wonderful world offers that offers us an insight to look beyond the obvious. The more we partake of the exposure, the more tolerant, friendly and worldly wise we become.

Does this deter me from traveling? Hell No! I love going to new places and meeting new people. I guess being aware of cultural quirks is helpful when traveling away from one’s country.  What have your experiences been?

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, December 3, 2012

IFW Edition 3: A Cruel Twist of Fate

What happens when an upcoming politician, who's all set to turn a minister finds out that his wife of 2 years was a patient at a mental health facility prior to their wedding? What happens when this politician’s wife chances upon a photograph depicting an illicit relationship between her husband and an unknown woman? With just a few days to go for their second anniversary and his swearing-in ceremony, what turn of events do these discoveries lead to?

Read my entry to the Indifiction Workshop’s third edition here. Conceptualized by two popular bloggers TF and C. Suresh, Indifiction is a workshop for writers interested in fiction. Every edition’s winners define the succeeding plot and judge the next edition’s entries. The winners of the previous round; Radha Sawana, Medha Kapoor and Leo would be judging this round. The plot has primarily been coined by Leo and can be accessed here

I would love to hear your views!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Don't Judge Me!

My fingers race across the keyboard as I type up an article about life insurance. To my left, two Australian students - a boy and a girl possibly in their early twenties discuss Financial Accounting going by the title of the books strewn out in front of them. Directly across from me at the table, sits an Asian man solving multiple choice questions in a textbook. I cannot make out if he’s Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean. The four of us are immersed in our work, the only sounds being the discussion of the students and a few sniffles every now and then from the Asian guy, none of which seem to disturb any of us. I notice an elderly heavyset shabbily dressed man sporting a long white beard make his way to our table. Seating himself at the head of the table, between me and the other Asian, he proceeds to spread out some newspapers and some papers from a bulging folder. Suddenly he mumbles something to me. Unable to hear him clearly, I ask him if he needs anything. He leans toward me conspiratorially, yet in a loud enough voice so everyone at the table can hear him says something to the effect of ‘That Asian man is sniffling. I hate people who sniffle. It seems to be a cultural thing.’ Suddenly, everyone at our table goes quiet. The man continues. ‘Asian countries seem to have a very high level of tolerance towards such unhygienic things. I know people spit, they trash the roads.’. I am not sure if the statement is directed towards me or if he thinks he can kill two birds with one stone. I recover from my dazed state to defend the Asian saying he might not be doing that intentionally, maybe he has an allergy or is catching a cold. Unfazed, the man continues with his rant. 

Chaos erupts as the Asian questions his reference to the word ‘culture’ and then launches an offensive attack picking on the man’s own sense of hygiene suggesting instead that he’s the one who smells and who should be taking a shower. He calls out the Aussie on his suspicion that his disgust seems to be stemming not from the sniffling but from something much more deep rooted than that. Swearwords are freely exchanged. I try to show my defiance against the Aussie too supporting the Asian man who seems well educated, who had been minding his own business, and was calm and composed up until then. I hate confrontations of any kind and I do my best to avoid them. Plus, I cannot deny the fact that at the end of the day, I am an outsider in this foreign land despite the fact that there are arguably more number of Asians residing here than Australians. Do these emotions make me weak and cause my defensive arguments to sound feeble to my own ears?

I am pleasantly surprised when I find the two Aussie students also supporting us, showing their repugnance at the Aussie man’s statements and summoning the library staff to get the man to leave their table. The Aussie finally resigning himself to the fact that he won’t find a supportive audience at our table moves elsewhere but not before he  points his finger at the Asian man yelling ‘You people come here to study and you rip our country off. I fought for my country. But what did you do!’. As he moves away he defends himself stating that he is not a racist and he doesn’t care about language or the color of one’s skin, but the damage has been done.  

Children teach us the way to acceptance and tolerance. Say No to Racism.
Image source: Front.Moveon. Org
The Aussie students try to comfort the Asian man and show their aversion towards such racist people. With his exit, there’s silence at our table again but a deep mental unrest too and the episode leaves me shaken to the core. I had heard of racism being rampant in Australia but this was the first time I was witnessing it.I think about the politically driven agendas back home too which provoke the masses to drive out all non-Maharashtrians from Maharashtra. We talk about racism being prevalent in foreign nations, but that isn’t this racism too? Be it domestic or international, how can we profess to be an intelligent race of people, how can be we evolve as a species if we cannot even be tolerant of other cultures?  One can learn a lot from the kids in the picture, don't you think? If you had been in my place, how vehemently would you have stood up against the unwarranted verbal attack?

I would love to hear your views!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A middle class muse on Bal Thackeray

I know Aditya Datey (who blogs at Ghaat Spaat)  from our days of proxies, lab assignments and typical college fun. He came off as a positive, confident guy, very clear about his views and opinions - no two ways about it, just as he is today. Which is why, even though I have stayed away from politics on my blog, I have no qualms about hosting his post as the first guest post on my blog. 

A lot has been said about Bal Thackeray depending on whose side you’re on. This post does not look to favour or disapprove of Bala Saheb in any way. Triggered by his demise, it is in essence, a common man’s musing on having grown up in the midst of Indian politics, bureaucracy and the big religion divide and what it means to him today. So without any further ado, here it is. 

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I am very late to all the opinion floatsam on Bal Thackeray, but the ocean is big and palghar cops have by now discovered that the internet has much more interesting stuff to offer.

So here are some points I ponder.

Godwin’s Law states ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving hitler approaches one.’ Bal Thackeray didn’t spend all his waking hours making 
comments on Hitler. But he did make comments professing his love for hitler's oratory, organization skills, artistry and about how india needs a benevolent dictator. Most have heard similar statements by at least one of our friends or family. But Thackeray is who's under discussion and uncle drinks anyway. So it dosent matter that politically, India has always been driven by personality cults pre and post independence. It dosen't matter that Thackeray's influence never extended beyond Mumbai. We can still ring the fascist alarm bells and let reductio ad hitlerum begin.

Do you remember reading The Godfather? What was your dominant feeling after? Awe and respect for the godfather or disgust at the mafias crimes? Compare that to your feelings about Thackeray. Vito Corleone is a much better analogy to Bal Thackeray.

Were you in Mumbai in 1993? If you are reading this, you were either in a muslim stronghold or a hindu stronghold or are incredibly lucky. Who started the riot is a chicken and egg question. Who attacked or protected your neighbourhood is not. If you haven’t seen a truck full of sword bearing men trying to make inroads into your locality and get beaten back by acid bulbs and tubelights, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yes, it was all terrible and wrong. But who watched your back?

Shiv Sena started out as a Congress pawn in the 60s. A hired gun that the Congress used to break the communist party's hold on the trade unions. Some pawns survive to reach the last square and become queens. Unlike chess, they also change colors. Like a Congress backed Bhindranwale who later changed colours. Like the US fed Taliban that turned against their former allies.

It must be an exaggeration if someone says there are regional and caste based blocs influencing all government job appointments. Meritocracy is right. Parochialism is wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. Or so I believe until I'm wronged. Or righted.

The bandh didn’t really matter to me. Neither do the elections. They have never. I am not the slumdweller whose home stands or gets bulldozed if this corporator wins or that. I am not the impoverished immigrant escaping the lawlessness of his hometown. I am not a daily wage worker.

My problems are of the urban rich. My activism is air conditioned. My indignance is well fed. My empathy is an ego massage. And my vote really just dilutes the votes of people whose lives depend on an election outcome.

Oo look..India won the test match....

I would love to hear your views!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Piracy or Not?

Flinging her shawl over the couch, Shalini plopped down in front of the television. Jatin was touring all weekend. All by herself, she had decided to simply waste the weekend catching up on senseless soaps, sitcoms and movies. It was nearing nine ‘o’ clock, time for her favourite soap. Pulling out a tub of ice cream from the fridge, she wondered if the big secret about the adopted child would be revealed today. The promos were being aired since a week ago. Suddenly, the world around her went pitch black. “Shit!” She exclaimed. “Another power cut! Perfect timing!” She spent the next hour fretting and fuming before she finally decided to hit the sack. 

The next morning, as usual, she met her school friend Pia in the bus and undoubtedly, conversation centered around the show Shalini had missed. Pia gave her a quick rundown and urged her to watch a re-run on the internet. 

“Youtube has it all! Don’t miss it!” said Pia, getting ready for her stop.
“You know Jatin doesn’t like piracy. We don’t download movies or even songs.” Shalini reasoned. 
“Its not like you’re downloading. Its just watching online.” Pia countered.
“Is there an official channel?” Shalini asked.
“Don’t you watch movie songs? Yes or No? Well, not all are on official channels!” Pia remarked.
Shalini was silent.
“Everybody uses Youtube! You don’t want to miss this one, trust me!” Pia said, disembarking.
Shalini sat thinking. She didn’t want to miss out on what was being touted as the most interesting episode of the show but she also didn’t want to abandon Jatin and his cause, which she truly believed in. What's your shade?
I would love to hear your views!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The case of the disappearing postcards

Passing by a rack of postcards in a souvenir shop, I cannot help feel saddened that just like so many others, these ‘postcards from paradise’, as a friend recently titled them, have also taken a hit by the rapid advancements of technology. Today, visual experiences are shared much more easily via e-mail, Facebook, Picasa, Google+, the latest to hit the market Instagram and the like. It’s definitely a no-brainer considering that cards cost money, as do stamps, add to it the effort to buy and post them and of course, the time they take to travel from source to destination. Even as many consider it plain inconvenient, there are enthusiastic travel buffs who still very much enjoy the practice. In trying to keep up with the pace of technology, I too have moved on to the electronic versions, but I must admit I miss the scribbling on the back, the personal messages which would accompany them. When souvenir shop owners also attest to dwindling sales, I cannot help but cogitate that someday, just like the floppy disks, these might phase out too.

Remember the last picture postcard you ever received? I honestly don’t. The first few I collected were sent by a maternal aunt of mine and I remember boxing them together with other knick-knacks like autograph books, photographs, color pens and key chains in my priceless collection. However, what I do remember from all those cards is being enchanted by and drawn to the glamorous sights and stunning spectacles from places beyond the world I lived in.

The one image that always comes to my mind is that of myriad hues of burning scarlets, bright oranges and vivid yellows on a picturesque fall season postcard which had me believing that it wasn't a place in actuality, just a figment of an over-imaginative artist’s imagination, of brush strokes running amok on his canvass until I witnessed such a paradise for real. So here’s a question for you. Is there one that you found particularly spectacular and awe-inspiring? What’s your image?
Note: A big Thank You to Abhijit S for the beautiful phrase 'Postcards from Paradise'. I couldn't resist incorporating it!

I would love to hear your views!

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Apple A Day

More like 7,382,846 Apples a day. The ones with a bite chewed off. Inclusives of iPhones, iPads, iPods in trams, trains, buses, shops, hotels, restaurants, libraries, on the road and wherever; looking at which iAmGettingAHeadache! OK, that was just a number I pulled out of a hat! Aren’t you glad that I have neither the time nor the inclination to actually count? But seriously, looking at the number of Apples in use here, Melbournians (immigrants included) seem to be a completely Apple-crazy populace!
A funny cartoon emphasizing the inane obsession behind buying an iPhone.
Copyright information as per the picture.
So much so, that the first week in the city, while paying for our new prepaid internet data card, we struck up a conversation with the Vodafone salesman, in an attempt to understand the infatuation. Imagine our surprise when his response stated it to be an attempt at mirroring the US. Again, only his personal opinion, not one that can be generalized, but even then - he went on to explain that the US TV commercials aired on Australian television, movies and even US periodicals like US Weekly, Entertainment, Vogue or the New Yorker always portray people using iPhones or in a broader sense of the term - Apple products. So according to him, it was simply another trend supporting the Ape-the-west syndrome. Duh! And I thought that only applies to developing nations in Asia! And let me tell you, having stayed a good seven years in Minnesota (again, not that it can be applied to the whole of THE United States of America, as Sridevi put it in English-Vinglish) that is so NOT the case. Americans seem to be a lot more open to cell-phone brands. Even brands like LG and Motorola find a whole lot of buyers!

Now I own my share of Apple products, but I am not an Apple-person AT ALL. I have my reasons, I talk more about the iPhone here, but hear me out!

1. Exclusive accessories. Other brands use the generic USB cable; no worries if you forget your charger on a trip.
2. No bluetooth. Cannot share files/songs with non-Apple users. Should I only befriend iPhone owners?
3. No basic Radio. I love the Indian FM channels! Sure, there are downloadable apps available, but they use internet data.
4. No emoticons available in either WhatsApp or SMSes. Those are fun!
5. Exclusive apps and file formats. Its difficult to transfer files/upload files to sites which require specific formats.
6. Don’t even get me started on the price. The higher the price is, the more novel a product is supposed to be?
7. iTunes dependant - can only sync with one library. Watch out before you delete a file from the library!!
8. Micro SIM - so in case of an emergency where my battery might be dead, I still cannot use my SIM with other phones. PS 25/01/2013: On a recent trip to NZ, a friend of ours who had been to NZ recently loaned us his prepaid SIM cards which we could use there. Guess, what normal SIMs! Won't work with iPhone!

I recently posted a status update on Facebook which read ‘In what seems to clearly be an iPhone crazy city, my dear little HTC feels like an outdated dinosaur!!!!’. The overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by iPhones did make me contemplate a switch to the league of iPhone lovers in the near/distant future, but with every passing day that I use my HTC, I feel my don’t-do-that resolve building!

I’ll be the first one to admit that by itself, the iPhone is a good product. But what sets it apart from other phones? I am sure iPhone lovers would be quick to defend my accusations, but lets be honest, isn’t it just one of THE MANY good phones in the market, not just THE good phone? If you ask me, one word for the iPhone - Overrated. There I’ve said it.

Let me end this note on a funny quote I found online.
I found it amusing that iPhone’s website demonstrates how it can help you find a Starbucks just about anywhere. We all know you don’t need to pay $600 for that kind of information. You just need to turn around. A Starbucks will be there.- Craig Wilson

Over to you, Apple lovers.


I would love to hear your views!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A dash of Melbourne

Right in the center of the Federation square, a few feet away from where I stand, an Australian free-lance artist juggles three fire-torches in the air, enthralling a multi-cultural audience comprising hugely of Aussie nationals and a whole bunch of Asians - mostly Chinese, Koreans and Indians. Every few minutes, there’s a spattering of jokes in his act, some lame, some witty. Across the street, teen kids dance to punk music as a crowd gathers to watch them. A few blocks away solo guitarists play their instruments and croon along. Along Swanston street, there’s a sprinkling of spray paint artists too - mesmerizing people with their skills. Armed with brochures and tourism pamphlets about the city and my newfound knowledge about the upcoming Arts festival, I attribute the presence of artists to the festival, but I soon learn from the locals that a lot of it is a common occurrence.  

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
There are hundreds of people walking the streets, people coming back from work, people walking to their shifts, some using the omnipresent public transport, some eating, gossiping, biding time. From Mumbai to Minneapolis to Melbourne (leaving aside the ones I have lived in for shorter durations), I have loved each and every city I have lived in for reasons I cannot even begin to list. Minnesota kindled in me the love of driving. Driving down those non-populated streets, long winding roads and open freeways with the wind on my face was always an adrenaline rush. I have since concluded that people who do not drive are definitely missing out on that one high! But a true Mumbaiite at heart, I have also always been a city girl. I have loved the feel of being one in the crowd, having your own unique pace and yet being one with the mass. And now, Melbourne has brought me back full circle. Not in a position to own a car right now, I whisper a silent Thank you for the myriad forms of public transport in Melbourne, be it the trams I have come to love in such a short period of time, the trains, the buses or variations of the said like the City Circle Tram. We talk about the upcoming Monorails and Metro rail in Mumbai, wonder if it would help with the ever booming population. Talking of population, did you know that India produces an Australia every year in terms of births? 

I grab a cup of coffee from a local Australian deli, there are scores of them - Aussies seem to be a patriotic lot, I don’t see many big brand names or store chains, local produce is well marketed. Passing by fast food restaurants, I notice Indians manning every other counter, sometimes successive ones too. Many more pass us by every few steps. My husband and I are astounded. Stretching our legs under a Subway awning, I strike up a conversation with the Aussie store manager of Subway while my husband chats away on a work call. I ask him about his experiences with Indian employees, I am curious. He tells me they make great employees because they are hard working and trustworthy. He tells me he would rather trust an Indian with money during an evening when he needs to step out rather than an Australian teenager or a European. We talk about the shifts they work, the fact that most are students but some are wives of working men too. He tells me about racist customers too, the feelings of anger that arise within them when they see hordes of Indians landing well-paying jobs in the city. He doesn’t try to justify their actions, he’s simply stating his experiences. I wonder if his words are sugar-coated because he’s talking to an Indian, but then he stumps me with a hard-fact, something that I also believe to be true. He tells me Indians majorly lack customer service as a skill and that it’s not an individual who’s at fault but the culture. He tells me he’s been to India and he’s learnt Indians do not believe that customers need to be pleased. If one isn’t the next would be, if he also isn’t, then there’s always another one in line. We chat some more, I thank him for his honesty and get back to walking and observing people around me.

On the train I observe Aussie women, who seem to be more aggressive and not particularly beautiful. Many have told me that Indian women symbolize beauty. I do agree to a large extent. There’s an earthy beauty, a  compassion in Indian women that I haven’t seen elsewhere, not that I am an expert on the multitude of cultures in the world. American women exude a sense of confidence that I have always admired. The Chinese women I see come across as dainty and refined, petite elegance. Every spoken sentence has the word ‘mate’ thrown in! Quite a few Aussie men, many more than usual, seem feminine. I reflect that Aussies don’t use the Golden words of Please, Thank You, Excuse Me and Sorry as much as Minnesotans did. Again, I cannot generalize Minnesotans to Americans, but having stayed in a quaint little Minnesota suburb for a good part of my life, I cannot help but compare the two. 

League teams play a cricket match on a sunny day at Fawkner Park, Melbourne.
Image credit: humeweekly.com.au
Flash-forward a few days. Jogging/walking along the trails of the Fawkner park we find dozens of men indulging in the one sport that the nation is famous for internationally, CRICKET! On about six of the eight grounds in the park, we see padded and gloved professional uniformed Aussie men along with an Indian/Pakistani or two in their midst enjoying the sport as typical white-hat umpires stand by observing. Now, these look more like the Australian players on television, the non-feminine kinds! On the sidelines, other men work at net practice or cheer their fellow mates on the ground. The atmosphere is rife with excitement and every few minutes we hear cheers and yells as someone is declared out. In the other two grounds, un-uniformed regular-wear tracksuit clad Indian/Pakistani men with unrequited love for cricket indulge themselves in an intense game. My husband is elated, he looks like he’s finally attained Nirvana. I strongly believe that if you put him on an island with cricket gear and just enough of them to play a game, he’ll gladly stay stranded. On the way to the city, the light towers of the Melbourne Cricket Ground - the famous MCG, loom high on our right. He can't wait to visit. 

Little penguins come waddling in at Penguin Island, Melbourne
Image credit: journals-worldnomads.com.au
Over the weekend, we pay a visit to the Melbourne visitor center and lap up information about the areas around Melbourne. Philip Island looks promising, we’re told that thousands of penguins waddle into the island every evening. So does Ocean Road, looking at the pictures I am already transported to a world of my dreams. We discuss some more and leave the place armed with more brochures. Through phone calls and Facebook, we find out about a couple of our friends in the vicinity. I learn about a long-lost relative of mine staying close by and I think of catching up! Around us, posters of the fast-approaching Melbourne cup are in full display; the Derby horse races which are touted to bring the nation to a stop! I chat with a dear friend of mine in Sydney and we make plans to meet sometime around the Australian Open. Back home, our families are eager to know how we’re managing and curious to learn more about the new continent. From hearsay, they’ve gathered that racism is rampant. We assure them that so far, we haven’t witnessed any such incidents. 

Outside, it rains a little and the sun plays a game of hide-n-seek with us. Spring is slowly giving way to summer, temperatures are on the rise. The cost of living in Australia is way more expensive than in US or India, we figure. We still have to find an apartment to move to, the company provided accommodation will last us a week more. Groceries to be purchased, internet, utilities to be set up. A regular member already at the city library, I apply to jobs and scout for apartments in parallel. Sure, moving entails a lot of work. But the promise of a land unseen, of new sights and experiences, new friends and acquaintances keeps us going. It’s already been a week and it feels like we landed just yesterday. The Hindu festivals are all lined up along with the Christian ones - Halloween’s just around the corner. My friend tells me New Year in Sydney is supposed to be magical. I sigh. There’s so much more of the world to be taken in, yet so less time!

Upon my arrival, a good friend of mine emailed me, suggesting that I pen a post titled ‘USA to AUS: Been there and beyond’. A little too early to do that, but, how could I resist? And hence, this post is simply a bowlful of my musings in this new foreign land, that for the next three months, I would call home. 
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Sunday, October 7, 2012

In the blink of an eye

Elated to announce that this post won the Gold Batom at the October 2012 BAT 32! 
This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 32; the thirty-second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is 'An Untold Story'
“Your name?”
“Yogesh Kamlakar”  
“Address? Phone number? Given to Constable Kadam?”
“Mmm.. Yes Sir, I don’t want any trouble Sir”.
“What did you see? State it clearly.” 
“He was speeding Sir. On his bike. Didn’t stop at the signal. Swerved. Got onto the footpath, hit the man. They started fighting Sir. That man tried to interrupt but .. ” He says, pointing to the injured man being tended to by medical personnel in the ambulance. 
“Who took out the hockey stick?”
“I don’t know Sir.” 
“If I find out you are lying, I’ll come after you. What about the tube light, where did that come from?”
“I really don’t know Sir, I told you whatever I know, please can I go?” 
“Hmm. You can go for now. We’ll call you if we need anything else.”

***

“Your name?”
“Geeta Iyer, I stay in that building. See that white tower? Up on the 15th floor. I saw everything and came running down when it happened. I saw it from the start itself when he.. ” Her glance falls on the blotched stains of red interspersed with broken glass and tree twigs all around her on the pavement and she inadvertently shudders. 
“Just answer my questions. No need to talk more than that.”
Silence. 
“Who started tahe fight?”
“Don’t know but the pedestrian was at fault. He walked into oncoming traffic. How can you blame that biker?” She says shaking her head, looking over at the ambulance, her face clearly displaying compassion for the good-looking man. 
“That’s the biker?”
“Then what? He’s the biker. Poor guy.”
“Then who are they?” Inspector Sinha asks pointing to the patchy white sheet covered twin bodies laid out neatly side by side on one end of the road. 
“That one is the man who walked into traffic. The other is the guy who tried to help the biker. Don’t blame the biker Sir, it wasn’t his fault.” 
“Hmm.”

***

“Your name?”
“Dr. Pradhan, MGM hospital. I have already supplied my credentials to the officer in charge.”
“What are your findings Doctor?”
“I cannot state with certainty yet, we will have to take him to the hospital. He needs to be checked out.”
“I am not talking about the one alive. He will live. And he will have to answer.”
“The biker died of blunt force trauma. “ Dr. Pradhan says pointing to the body on the left. 
“How do you know he’s the biker?” Inspector Sinha questions, curious if bodies could tell you that.
“That’s what your men told me. I assumed they found out about it from the people who saw it go down.” 
“Hmm. Please proceed”. Inspector Sinha says noncommittally. 
“Either from the hockey stick or from falling on the road. I found traces of cement and tar on his head wound but that could have been from the earlier scuffles too. Or from the fall, he wasn’t even wearing a helmet. Hard to tell yet.”
“Hmm. And the other?” Asks the Inspector. 
Several high pitched wails start out to his right, unnerving him momentarily. A quick glance confirms that its someone who knows at least one of the victims. Police personnel never brought the families to the crime scenes, there was too much gory stuff there to get over in a lifetime. Images of crime scenes could haunt them forever. Official procedures mandated that family be taken to the hospital. Which meant, someone here had to know the family to have called them. And he had to find out who that was.

“Stab wound to his chest. With a piece of glass. Some of it is still in him. He bled out almost instantly. Poor guy, caught in the middle of it. No wonder there aren’t any good samaritans left anymore” continues Dr. Pradhan as Inspector Sinha starts scratching his beard. A couple of constables try to console the stricken family members, a few more attempt to contain the spilling crowd. 
“I need to take the pedestrian to the hospital. I want to make sure he doesn’t have any concussions.” says Dr. Pradhan.
“I am not done with his statement yet.”
“You’ll have to do that at the hospital.”
Inspector Sinha waves an irritated hand at him. 

***

“Your name?”
“Mohan Dixit. I’m his brother” He says, amidst sniffles, pointing to the sheet on the right, unable to look, desperately trying to hold himself together. Daylight gives way to dusk. Sinha worries about the impending night, it would slow down the investigation. So far, after talking to eighteen different witnesses, they weren’t anywhere close to confirming which of the three was the biker, which one the pedestrian and which one the good samaritan. He offers Mohan a glass of water. 
“Is that his bike?” Sinha asks.
“No Sir, he didn’t have one.”
Well, Sinha thinks, that narrows it down a bit.  
“But he always travelled pillion with his friends. Sometimes they lent him his bike too, though Dad disapproved. I don’t know all of Manish’s friends Sir. I wish I knew, I wish..” His eyes are consumed by sadness as his body is racked by sobs. 
Sinha sighs. Back to square one. 
Mohan’s eyes fall on a broken part of a hockey stick lying to one side, the head of the stick now a dark reddish brown. His breath catches as Inspector Sinha senses the realization hitting Mohan. Dried blood.
“Is that? Is that how?.. I will not leave that sonofabitch alive, how did he..” yells Mohan, anger pulsating through his veins, his muscles bulging as he strides toward the ambulance. Sinha struggles to pull him back just as two more constables come in to help. 
“You have to calm down. We don’t know that he killed your brother. Let us do our job and we will find out and let you know. Contain yourself, don’t make me arrest you for assault. Your family has enough on their mind right now.” Warns Sinha. He understands the pain Mohan is going through. The depressed mind simply wants a physical entity to blame and in Mohan’s eyes the only survivor is to blame. But Sinha can’t let emotions distract him now. He has to be insensitive to do his job right. 

***

“Is the traffic police responsible for this mishap? Have they been lax in monitoring the traffic?” 
Media vans descend on the scene like a pack of vultures and quick-to-place-blame journalists shove microphones into the faces of those they identify as the top cops associated with the investigation and stricken onlookers. Photographers click pictures from various angles incessantly. It is going to be a long night, thinks Sinha, as he proceeds to talk to the next eyewitness on his list. He has always known that they are not dependable, but of a group of forty-three people who saw the whole thing go down, he hopes some of their stories would add up and help them construct a sequence of events. 

***

Its late into the night when Sinha and his men wind up from the crime scene and move to the hospital. Glass pieces, twigs, the hockey stick and other possible tools of destruction are carefully bagged to be preserved as evidence. The crowd has trickled down to nothing. The media has moved on to juicier pastures. Municipality sweepers are asked to remove the broken glass, tree twigs and wash the area down. A few constables stay behind to supervise the wrap up activities. Tomorrow it would be business as usual, the road as heavily populated as always, traffic just as jammed as ever.  Its 5AM by the time a vague picture starts forming and the police start building a chronology. 

In a brief time span of 15 minutes, a minor brush-off has occurred, two men have exchanged verbal vilifications, got into a fist fight and come to blows. Of a group of more than 43 men and women, just one single soul has attempted to break up the fight, getting embroiled in it himself. Sinha wishes more had intervened as a group and kept them apart. 

What really transpired between the men might forever remain an untold story, thinks Sinha, but his entire being screams that this was an event that could have been completely avoided. If only the men had chosen to step back from the brush off, if only they had decided to lodge an FIR with the police instead of trying to handle it themselves. It was yet another incident of road rage, adding to the recent statistics of road rages alarmingly on the rise, one that has ended in two casualties, a man severely scarred for life, witnesses left to deal with nightmares and horrid images of the fight, and heart-stricken families left to mourn their losses for a long time to come. Why have humans become so intolerant of each other, thinks Sinha, as he walks towards the lobby for a cup of coffee so he can keep going. Its going to be a long day. 
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: Gayathri Kannan, Participation Count: 03
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

India's Unreal Estate Market

The real estate market in India: Problems, prices and happenings.
Image credit: the-nri.com
From times when a roof over the head, schools in the vicinity and day-to-day services nearby were the main requirements, house hunters now look for much more in and around a house. And be it an international airport close by or the famed 'Bollywood sign', a lavish golf course or simply something up for re-development, real estate agents are never far behind in trying to pitch customers the house of their dreams. Simply put, the rules of the game have changed. To read the complete article, click here.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

IFW Edition 1: Lasting Impressions

You can’t be serious Meg!! How much do you even know the guy? I have heard people talk such nonsense before, but I hardly expected you to be a part of those who have lost their mind! You know better than anyone the perils of trusting someone online!” Rachel’s words of admonition kept ringing in Meghna’s ears. After all, whatever Rachel had said did have a modicum of truth to it. Here she was; an MBA graduate, the vice president of her company, reporting directly to the CEO and yet hopelessly falling head over heels in love with a dude she had met through an online game. Meghna had almost fallen victim once to the dangers that lurked behind the shadows of cyberspace but that had been years ago, when just as any adolescent teenager, she had been smitten by technology and chat rooms almost agreeing to meet a 36-year man posing as a 15-year old boy but thankfully her parents had found out in time.

In the years that had passed by, she had grown to be more mature, slowly winning back her parents’ confidence in her and her decisions. It wasn’t a surprise then that being single at 33, her parents weren’t too worried. They had faith in her judgement and held on to hope that in time, she would find her perfect match too. Meghna felt a pang of endearment in her heart, she had met many parents who would push their children to settle down soon rather than later and she thanked her stars that her parents were nothing like them. She wondered how they would react though if they knew who she was harboring romantic feelings for. She chuckled as the thought crossed her mind, even she didn’t know who really she was falling for.

The sharp raps against the door to her cabin jerked her out of her musings. Quickly minimizing the active window on her computer screen, she looked up to see Arup standing by, an apologetic look on his face. A wave of irritation took over her, she hated being troubled for petty IT infrastructure issues but Arup had this exasperating habit of running everything past her.

What?!” Meghna called out.
I .. I.. “Arup stammered. That was one more thing Meghna hated in this guy, the seemingly lack of confidence that showed up every time he talked to her. She had observed him unintentionally plenty of times, sometimes in the lobby or the hallways or conference rooms, talking to others of his own department and he always seemed to be completely in charge, knowing exactly what he was talking about. Yet, here he was, muttering indecipherable gibberish under his breath.
Speak up. How am I supposed to know what you want unless you talk clear and loud.” She said in a condescending tone.

Just as others in the organization, she knew a little about him through idle talk over coffee and lunch. When she had learnt that had earned his degree and IT qualifications through a correspondence course, she had made up her mind that he wasn’t intelligent or qualified enough. In her mind, only losers went the correspondence route. The fact that he had done that because he had had to give up his education to help his family during difficult times had no bearing in her mind. She overlooked the fact that despite those pressures, he had not thought twice about joining a company as an office boy slowly working his way upward, studying and working at the same time. In her mind, he was just not good enough. Despite her attempts to keep her personal opinions away from her professional ones, such misgivings in the back of her mind would creep their way into her attitude towards people.

Now she fretted and fumed, communicating her displeasure clearly as she signed the multiple approval forms required to purchase new servers and cloud space.
Why couldn’t you talk to Mr. Sharma for such things?” She asked him again.
Mr. Sharma is only allowed to approve up to a certain amount Ma’am. I could have split up the invoices into different quarters but then that would only slow down work. Plus it would add up installation charges because we would need someone to come in every time we need a machine set up. As we make the switch from the low capacity servers to the high capacity ones, we would need downtime too when no one can work. This way we would be saving on installation charges, avoid multiple downtimes and also have everything ready in time so work doesn’t get affected.

His clear explanation showed that he had thought this through, analyzed different possibilities sincerely and yet all Meghna did was mumble a ‘Hmm’ in response. Once Arup left with the signed approvals, she redirected her attention to the computer screen. Strider was still offline. As she sat twiddling her thumbs waiting for him to, she reflected on her addiction to ‘Thorvaders’, the medieval war game she had been hooked to since the past year.  It had started out as a way to pass her time, but in the recent couple of months she had not been able to stay away. Thorvaders was a massive multiplayer online role playing game based on a medieval warring era. Multiple clans fought against each other to win the title, each member playing out their designated roles and responsibilities, and the game required a lot of strategic thinking and intellect. Meghna had started out as just another newbie, learning the ropes as she worked as part of a team. But her aggressiveness and passion helped her climb the ranks and in a few months, she had clinched the role of a faction leader. In her new role, she had been required to interact quite a bit with the clan leader, a man who went by the name Strider.

From her first online interaction itself, she had been impressed by his clear concise thinking, his quick wit, his decision making abilities and the fact that he was ready to act as a sounding board for all his faction leaders. Sometimes she faced trouble even pitching her ideas to the CEO, yet here was someone she didn’t even know, willing to give her ideas a shot. She was positive that in real life, Strider would probably be a corporate hotshot too. Day by day, she got the feeling that of all the faction leaders, she was able to connect with him the best. Together they worked on new strategies and improvements, learning from their previous mistakes, recognizing key players and critical weakness in their opponents. Before she could realize, she had made Strider a part of her daily life and somewhere deep down, she hoped she was becoming a part of his. She wished she could meet him in person, get to know him more. A generally stable rooted person, this was all very exciting for her. There was a feeling of understanding, admiration and deep respect for this unseen man which she had never felt with anyone else before. Painfully aware that her infatuations were slowly giving way to romantic feelings, she wasn’t sure whether to act on it.

A metallic ping from the computer indicated that someone had come online. Her heartbeat accelerated as she saw that it was Strider. Not wanting to seem clingy, she waited for him to initiate the conversation. However her joy was short-lived as her phone rang, the shrill sound seeming jarring to her ears. The caller ID indicated Shree from the purchasing department.

Meghna here.
Hi Meghna. Shree here. I just received the approval forms for the invoices of those new servers...
Yes, is there anything else that you need?
Actually, there’s one form that you seem to have missed signing.
Did you not send that with Arup?
We did. Arup just got the whole binder back, one’s missing your signature. Do you want me to send it back?
I’ll be right there.” She sighed, ending the call. To and fro would cost more time, it would be easier to walk over and do what was needed. She hated re-work. Just like Strider did too, she thought, realizing that she wanted to get back online to talk to him. She decided to stop by Arup’s cube on the way to give him a piece of her mind. She had simply signed everything that he had put in front of her, skimming through the pages. It was his responsibility to double check the requirements of the purchasing department.

From a distance, she could see that Arup’s cube was empty. The blue screen of his computer was flickering. Not locking his computer while he was away was a security issue, but the breach hardly registered in her mind as she recognized the all too familiar images on the screen. The hutments, the tall brick walls, the heavy metal vested guards. Thorvaders!! Arup hardly seemed to be the kind of person who would be a part of such a strategic game. She wondered if he was the enemy or part of her clan, and if so, who would he be. Unable to resist, she peeked closer to the screen where his username would show. She gasped as she realized with a start, that it was none other than Strider. Questions clouded her mind, how was it even possible? How could meek, confused, unsure Arup be the confident, decisive, intelligent Strider she had been smitten with? Her mind refused to blend the two identities together as she struggled to grasp the reality of how she had completely misjudged someone based on her initial assessment without bothering to interact with him at a more molecular level or give him the time of day. Shame clouded her mind as she recollected snippets of information and advice that Strider, no scratch that, Arup had shared with her. She thought back of the umpteen decisions that they had agreed upon, how she had always appreciated him online yet had only thought of him in real as unworthy.

Mm .. Did you need anything?“ Arup’s voice brought her back to the present.
Is this? Do you?..” She wavered, unsure of what to say or do. “You play Thorvaders?
Arup shrugged. “You know about it? ” He asked, not waiting for an answer as he continued. “Its not the game I love so much as the experience, the expectations, the people, my team. Its a part of me.” Meghna stood rooted as she observed the usually shy flustered Arup transform into this passionate, sophisticated person. She noted the spark in his eyes that came from the mention of Thorvaders and she realized he was just like her. Passion brought out his confidence.

He blushed suddenly realizing he had spoken much more than he used to with this lady.
Did you need anything?” He asked again.
She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. An online personality couldn’t be so completely off compared to a real one could it? There’s only so much one can fake, like addresses and phone numbers, names and age. But a personality is something that you cannot invent. She had been completely wrong in judging him, she owed it to him to give him a fair chance.
Shree called from purchasing, I missed a signature somewhere.” She said.
Oh! I am sorry, I should have..” He started, as she interrupted him.
Don’t be, I could have checked too. Do you want to walk over to purchasing so we can double check everything that’s needed?” She asked softly.
Her soft demeanour must have stumbled him, she noted as she saw the surprise on his face. She had always been snobbish with him. Just like everything she had learned from Strider, this was a learning too. To not be too opinionated and quick in judging people, to give them a chance and to be fair.

As the sounds of their shoes clicked on the hallway in perfect symphony, she decided she might come clean with him one day. But for now, this was enough.


Note: The above piece is an entry to the Indifiction Workshop, a workshop for bloggers interested in writing fiction. The concept creators are two popular bloggers themselves, The Fool and C. Suresh. Every month would be a new plot, this month's plot credit goes to The Fool. The plot details can be found here. My workshop entry can also be accessed here. Proud to announce that this post, Lasting Impressions, was one of the three winners at the Indifiction workshop!

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Friday, September 21, 2012

A lesson in humility

We were in the same bus, albeit a few feet apart. The word 'Striyansathi' (ladies only) had been painted in red font, Marathi on the metal by my side. My husband had found it safer to sit somewhere he couldn't be ousted from, towards the back of the bus. Engrossed in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', I didn't initially notice the quite-along pregnant woman who stood a couple of seats ahead of me. She must have been standing for a while, because, when I glanced up, she was uncomfortably shifting her weight from one foot to the other. The left half of the bus was taken up by men and every 'reserved' seat was taken up by women. Not one soul stirred or offered her the seat. Ashamed, I finally signalled the conductor, asking him to beckon her over and stood up offering my seat. Imagine my consternation when a young lady standing next to me fought over my seat despite my open declaration that I was giving it up for the lady who was clearly struggling. I had to communicate to her in clear terms that I would willingly sit back down because I still had a ways to go. Grudgingly, she stepped aside for the lady and I walked back to where my husband sat, muttering under my breath. In the fight for equality and/or reservations, what makes us side-step humanity?

The second incident occured about a week later. On our way back from the Mount Mary Fair at Bandra, in the hullabaloo at the station, my relatives and I accidentally got into the handicapped compartment which was right next to the heavily crowded, elbow-jostling, packed womens' compartment. Despite our assurances that we would get down at the very next relatively quiet station and move to the ladies compartment, some of the folks in the handicapped compartment felt we were trying to occupy their seats and threatened to report it to the authorities. We tried to placate them, giving up our seats every time a 'special' individual got in, communicating through our actions that we weren't trying to take advantage. In the midst of the confusion, two young strapping lads probably in their late teens, looking hale and hearty walked up near where we sat and looked around. Their faces clearly registered surprise as they found no empty seats. Dejected, they continued to stand. A couple of us stood half-heartedly, unsure of whether they deserved to sit instead and worried at the same time about the threats from the others. As we looked on, a young girl joined the two and the three of them started animatedly talking in actions. Sign language, we realized with a start. Deaf or dumb. Maybe both. And then the three of them, turned to us, signing again. This time, they were stressing on us to sit back down, not wanting us to give up their seats for them. We tried to protest, but it was in vain. What is it that they read in our eyes? Was it pity or empathy, I wondered? I looked on amazed as the young teenagers stood strong on their feet, trading in their reservations to travel as a normal individual instead. 

What I witnessed that day felt humbling. Most of the time, we take so much for granted and fight over petty things, fume over unmet wants, never seem content with what we have, always striving for more which is not a bad thing in itself. It is important to be ambitious and have wants. But in contrast, lessons in humility are sometimes taught at the most unexpected phases in life, by the most unexpected people. 

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