Thursday, May 24, 2012

Missing but not A.W.O.L!!

Trying to pack seven years of your life into two suitcases of fifty pounds each isn’t simple. I could have tried to sneak stuff into my husband’s suitcases, like any other typical female who’s shopped way too much than she should have, but then he’s trying to fit eight years of life into two suitcases himself. Why didn’t we ship some stuff? See, I like to shop pretty often, petty day-to-day household things too - so I like to buy relatively inexpensive stuff that I can discard in about 6 months and buy something new all over again in a new color or the then in-thing, guilt free! So if I should go in for shipping, shouldn’t the cost of the items warrant the shipping cost? Plus if I am travelling back home, it doesn’t make sense to pay in dollars for some of the stuff that you bought in rupees! Well, that and something that my ex-manager said once in response to an employee’s concern that the organization wasn’t paying for shipping costs - “You came with two suitcases, you leave with two. Anything beyond, is up to you!”. Honestly, I agree!

But beyond all the weight and the number of suitcases, there’s so much I want to take back with me. If only it were tangible, this I would have happily paid for. The first snow of the season that covers everything with the sheer veneer of white, shimmering in the moonlight. The feeling of uninterrupted soaring when cruising on an empty highway with the black asphalt stretching out miles and miles ahead of me. The magical color changing of the maple leaves, creating sights that I thought existed only in artists’ imaginations. The ‘me’ time that I have grown to cherish through the years - having the time to do what the heart desired. Cheering my heart out for my cricket team that I will always hold close to my heart. People at work with whom personal and professional lives ended up criss-crossing leading to some beautiful friendships that I would treasure! The immeasurable moments and memories that I have accumulated over the years with friends who grew to be family. The moment when I fell in love with writing all over again, blogging and the whole obsession that completely took over me - thanks to my virtual friends from the blogging world and the friends I made due to shared passion for common interests. And so much more. Infinite. And to each and every person who has contributed in it, I pass on my sincere gratitude.

And there’s so much that I look forward to and have missed. The feeling of being engulfed by family - something I have been yearning for. The mingling of tastes and smells when surrounded by a deluge of street food. The fragrance of soil during the first rain of the season. Mom’s cooking. The feeling of safety in numbers at Bandra station, even at midnight. I love crowds. Always have, always will. Not unruly ones. But people milling about, some walking briskly to work, some lost in their own world, the gossip, the camaraderie, the hurried conversations, eccentricities, exasperations, everything. The sounds and noises at all times of the day and night, noises that fade into the background and yet would always be there - a silent indicator of life close by.
The knowledge that I would be both amazed and shocked at the rapid pace of commercial progress and inflation. The chance to meet up with close friends with whom its been ages since we’ve met, yet never grown apart. The chance to try out something new without the worry of work visas. The sense of belonging, the comfort in knowing that my citizenship can never be revoked. And so much more. Infinite again.

Yet, I know deep in my heart that I am also going to repel certain aspects like the general public’s attitude towards civic values, the immense traffic and mob-crowds but I shall manage and do the best I can. Its a big decision and a big change. It could be the best decision of our lives, or it may cause us to rethink our plans. But then life’s too short to worry about what lies ahead. Life’s also prone to change in the blink of an eye. Maybe I’ll go globe trotting before I decide to stay put. Sometimes I wonder, would it be more fun with lesser choices so it’s not that confusing? If we wish for and get a world that’s like the best of both (or more) worlds. But then, where’s the fun in that? Anyway, its all still too volatile right now. For now, am completely content, at peace and really looking forward to just being back in India. Back home.

And so, I leave with guarded enthusiasm, with hopes of exploring new avenues and charting unfamiliar territories. With a promise to not give up what I love doing. Is it the end of an era or a new beginning? Here’s to dreams and desires. To contemplating new opportunities. To life.

And to those who I have loved interacting with, through Kaleidoscope, I would probably be out of pocket for a while, living the life of an ‘internet-ascetic’ as I lose connectivity with the world wide web initially. If I don't respond to your comments, don't let that stop you. Now you know why. And rest assured I will most definitely respond! Soon! Until then, take care!

I would love to hear your views!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A date, a wedding and a baby

A wedding invitation part of the Vodafone Indiblogger contest
One balmy Wednesday evening
Queenstown, Singapore

So, should I tell my folks to go ahead and talk to your parents about fixing a date?” Viren asked Sia. Sia demurely nodded. She had been talking to Viren on and off for the past three months. Viren’s parents had approached Sia’s with the proposal and it was now up to them to either take it forward or call it off. All this was very new to Sia, who had heard a lot about how arranged marriages went, but for her, this was the first guy she was considering. Viren had said that he had been through three such meetings before, but it hadn’t worked out and he known that in the first couple of meetings itself. They had started off awkwardly, but through these months, they had become more understanding of each other.

After a lot of to and fro between both sets of parents, their wedding date was set to be four months out, the venue decided as Mumbai, India - the hometown of the bride. Preparations were on in full intensity, there was so much to be done. Right from the hall decorations to food caterers, from the groom’s suit to the bridal wear, cosmetics and jewelry to party favors, everything was looked at in minute detail, options analyzed, every detail shredded, every alternative considered. There was an electricity in the air.

9330 miles away
Minneapolis, USA

A wedding ritual part of the Vodafone Indiblogger contestHurry up Amma! We’re getting late. The wedding would be starting any minute.” yelled Nisha at the top of her voice, standing by the wooden banister, looking up the stairs.
In a minute. You go ahead. I’ll join you” her mother answered back.
Nisha tossed a look at her father, who shrugged as if to say “as usual” and then walked into the living room. Her maternal grandma sat all dressed up, waiting. It was Anu Akka’s marriage today and Nisha had been looking forward to this for a long time. The two were maternal cousins 
but had been as close as sisters since birth. There was also an ulterior motive behind Nisha’s eagerness around Anu’s wedding. Anu, the elder one, out of the way, would pave the road for Nisha’s own wedding which she was earnestly looking forward to, considering she had already decided who the groom would be.

Nisha’s mom came down the stairs, looking beautiful in a traditional turquoise silk sari, her heels going clickety-clack, her hair braided, full of jasmine flowers that Nisha could smell a mile away.
You’re not the bride Ma. No one’s going to be looking at you. You know, they wont even see you.” Nisha said.
So what? I can still look good, after all it is a wedding in our family.” countered her mom.
Nisha rolled her eyes and shook her head. There was no point in trying to make Amma understand.
The wedding decor was exquisite. Hundreds of people, mostly relatives and close friends were mingling about. Mom was excited beyond means, its not everyday that you get to see your cousins and relatives all at once. Anu Akka looked beautiful, very much the blushing bride. Grandma couldn’t stop praising her. Nisha sat admiring everyone’s clothes, make up and hairstyles. They sat painstakingly through all the rituals that seemed endless to Nisha, but there was an aura about the event that kept her entranced. Towards the end of the wedding, Grandma murmured “O Rama, everything went well. Only Nisha’s wedding is left now. Once that’s also over, then I can go to Rameshwaram and even to God’s abode in peace.” Amma shushed her.

4000 miles away
Bristol, United Kingdom

Its a boy! Its a boy!” said Arun’s mom, standing outside the maternity ward, hardly able to contain her excitement.
Can I see him? Where is he? Why can’t I see him?” asked Arun, impatiently.
Wait, let me ask the nurse to bring him here.” said his mom.
How’s Richa doing? Is she alright? Can’t I see her?” He asked.
Arun’s father went to beckon the nurse over. She had been swaddling the baby in blankets, keeping him warm. Richa had been slipping in and out of consciousness and the nurse was trying her best to keep the baby well fed and comfortable until Richa could take over. Arun could see her now walking towards him, the baby in her arms. His paternal instincts took over and tears flooded his eyes, his chest swelling with pride and fatherly love. He wiped them with the sleeve of his shirt, and instinctively his hands went out, wanting to cuddle the baby.
A baby being born; part of the Vodafone Indiblogger contest
Even if fictional, these three events represent true happenings across the world. The globe is shrinking by the minute, distances minimized to such an extent that the advent of technology today proves the saying right ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’. No longer does distance stop people from achieving their goals or realizing their dreams. The world has traversed a long way from 3 ½” floppy disks to CDs, DVDs, pen drives, bulky 500 GB hard drives to 1.5 Terabyte flash drives. The internet has taken the world by storm. Physical friendships and relationships have been outnumbered by online ones. We have more friends and contacts on Facebook than we meet in a day in real life. Grandparents watch their grandchildren grow up, via Skype. New businesses are built and orders placed at a click of a button in the comfort of a home. The physical trials and tribulations of standing in long queues to get grocery shopping done on a sweaty Saturday afternoon get replaced by placing bulk orders online on swanky websites featuring photographs of mustard seeds and coriander leaves while travelling in an air-conditioned car. One no longer has to be physically present for interviews! Email, telephonic calls and Skype interviews rule the job sphere today. No more tagging along bulky books on trips. Bored on a flight? Read a book or watch a movie on your big screen cell phone. Email has revolutionized the planet. And with an app now being available for literally anything and everything that you want to do, not having a smart phone is not a smart decision. Be it navigating roads or even capturing the speed of a cricket ball through a Speedometer app, people live a good portion of their lives through the cell phone today. Sure, there might be evil threads too but for the most part, the world wide web takes everyone under its wing! From news sites to movie tickets, buying art online to transacting money, from text chat to video Skype calling - internet is and will be fun on the mobile! Had it been a made-made construction, how could it not have made it to the seven wonders of the world then?

If someone had told my octogenarian grandfather in his prime, that one day people living in two opposite sides of the globe would be able to talk to each other, much less see each other via something called a cell phone or online chat services, he would have thought it was crazy. But then people thought Einstein was crazy too. And yet, internet and technology continue to advance by leaps and bounds. It is almost a mandate then, that new products have to be internet compatible. The latest cameras have wireless connectivity to Internet by which you can upload pictures and share them with social networking sites and such. Cellphone and internet provider companies also come up with value added services to promote their business. The ZooZoo commercials by Vodafone were one such example, where promotion products like T-Shirts, coffee mugs and caps sold like hot cakes.

I spend 1/3rd of my day online, browsing websites, news articles, blogs, Facebook, typing up stuff on Google docs and wonder how I survived before I had internet. But then ignorance is bliss. With every new demand in the internet space, techie companies come up with new concepts. Today its the Cloud, tomorrow it will be something else!

So is it surprising then, that even though 8000 miles away, Nisha and her family, especially her grandma who couldn’t stop describing the wedding in minute detail to anyone who cared enough to listen, could still witness Anu’s wedding being held in Chennai via live-stream as clearly as if they were attending it physically? 4000 miles away, Arun could see his newborn son? And sitting 7000 miles apart, Viren and Sia made the best decision of their lives online? And to top it off, their entire wedding purchase was done through wedding websites? The day isn’t far away when we would be transacting our entire life’s activities online saving tons and tons of paper even though ironically, we gobble up electricity, and yet that would be the day, the tree huggers would thank us from the bottom of their hearts!

The internet rocks; part of the Vodafone Indiblogger contest
PS: Updated 9 hours ago via mobile. Just kidding!!

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is it me?

The sounds of the hospital where many a baby cry,
Sat the recently wed man and his lovely bride shy,
Soon to be parents, no bounds to their joy,
Mother watching me, on the screen enjoy,
He wanted a boy, alas, he could only abide by,
From him an unhappy gasp, from her a contented sigh
Her fingers on the ultrasound, “Beautiful, isn’t she?”
I wonder, is he the one miserable, or maybe, is it me?

Brother plays with a plane, I ask to share,
Turning a deaf ear to me, he takes it to the air,
Sobbing I run to Father, he asks ‘Why do you care..
Why don’t you play with Barbie and braid her hair’,
Mother stands afar, gazing mutely somewhere,
I dream, wish and pray for once, that life be fair,
Even at this tender age, as I am all of three,
I wonder, is he the one unjust, or maybe, is it me?

‘Mother, I want to be a pilot’, I happily announced
‘Did I hear you right or you just mispronounced’,
Father slapped me hard and all but pounced
‘You’ll do as I say or I’ll have you renounced,
How could you even think you could have denounced’,
Brother jumped into the fray, and I was severely trounced,
‘You will have to marry, how dare you disagree’, says he,
I wonder, is he the one unreasonable, or maybe, is it me?

Armed with dreams of love and understanding,
I marry into a family of Father’s choosing,
Wondering if its an end or a new beginning,
I see the continuance of my old self, always abiding
A whole new generation, yet behavior unchanging
He too wants a son, his attitude ever demanding
‘Girls and dogs not allowed’ sounds like his decree,
I wonder, is he the one overpowering, or maybe, is it me?

The sounds of the hospital where many a baby cry,
I shoot looks of despair at my husband, the bad guy,
Conspiring with the doctor, as I meet his eye
‘I told you, if a girl, you’ll have to bid goodbye’
Teardrops run down my cheeks, I choke and wish to die
From me an unhappy gasp, from him a contented sigh
With the passing of time, no longer exists she,
I wonder, is the whole world heartless, or maybe, is it me?

Note: On Mother's Day, this is my first feeble attempt at fictional poetry - because every mother is born a girl. Written in response to a writeup suggestion on the topic "Is it me?" by a fellow blogger BK at and in support of Save a Girl Child. I would love to wish all mothers a very happy Mother's Day except - every day is your day. Love you Mom!

I would love to hear your views!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why I feel sorry for Aamir's latest

Like many others, I watched the much awaited show Satyameva Jayate this weekend (albeit, a little delayed - on the internet). Aamir Khan, the perfectionist, had obviously been gearing up for a big-bang first episode release, judging by the promos and the PR work done for the show. And so, saddled with a huge set of expectations, I sat down this morning to catch up on what everyone was already going ga-ga about on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe that’s what I shouldn’t have done. The higher the expectations the more difficult it gets to realize those. And even though the show left me teary eyed once or twice, at the end of it, I was left thinking. And I’ll be honest, a little let down too. Before you start throwing tomatoes and rotten eggs at me, hear me out.

1. I’ll admit that I was a little shocked seeing the blotches of red across the map of India reach frightening levels but how many of us - bloggers, readers, writers, professionals, intellectuals and their spouses were not already aware of female foeticide being rampant in the country?

2. How many of us haven’t heard of, or read about, or seen on TV cases of female abuse? If you pick up any national newspaper, you will find horrifying accounts of such incidents buried in the inner pages, tiny sections of the newspaper that apparently don't warrant more coverage or space.

3. I honestly commend the effort (or as Twitter has been calling it - the movement). But how many of you think baby Afreen’s father or baby Falak’s killer, after watching the show, is going to say - Oh my God, what did I do? I pledge to never kill my baby again if it turns out to be a girl.

4. How many of you think that desperate-for-a-grandson-so-he-can-carry-forward-the-line-of-descent mothers-in-law and fathers-in-laws would change their mindsets that they have been carrying around for decades, after watching a 90 minute show?

5. How many of you think Ameesha’s (the first mother that they had on the show) orthopedic-surgeon husband or vice-principal mother-in-law or professor father-in-law would repent their decisions? So, some of his patients might stop going to the surgeon, some students might leave - but is that the only fallout we need to see? Does that really address the issue at hand?

6. Per the show, after the sting operation (that identified 100+ doctors who were in the profession of performing sex-selective abortions) was aired on TV, Prime minister Manmohan Singh had announced that strict action would be taken. Apparently, so had president Pratibha Patil too. And yet, nothing happened. As the journalists put it, cases have been passed around from court to court, at times issuing arrest warrants for the noble courageous journalists too. So why do we think that Aamir Khan writing a letter to Rajasthan’s Chief Minister would make a difference? Yes, I agree that peoples’ power is a whole different force to contend with, and if that happens, I will be the first to eat my words. 
That being said, the effort and the amount of research done is commendable. I'll continue to watch and support the effort and do my bit where I can, how much ever I can. Even if it can transform 1% of the population, I'm all for it.

We are two sisters - never once have I heard the words “If only you were a boy..” or “If only I had a son..” muttered in our household, nor have I ever gotten the feeling that I am anything less. I still fondly recollect my father running behind me trying to teach me how to ride a bike. Not once have I felt that I was not good enough. Our parents and our extended family have loved us for who we are, two individuals.

The show also exhibited statistics which proved that this issue is deeply rooted in the educated class too and not just in the villages/illiterate sections as per common perception, so was awareness ever an issue? If not, then what new does this show bring to the table? We are at this point today, because the wrong-doers, people who support the practice by action or inaction, the male chauvinists, know that they can do so and get away with it. As Dr.Bedi said in the show, what the situation needs in order to change, is a major edict re-write. Eve-teasing was recently declared as an arrest-able offense. Make sex-selective abortions a criminal offense too with significant jail time and disbarrment. Revoke licenses. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes simply spreading awareness is not enough. Unless and until judicial systems support the peoples' fight and go hand in hand, we will not see change. At the end of the day, it all boils down to mindset. So if one’s cognition does not change by observing the world around you, then we are left with no option but to hammer the idea in - possibly by force, if that’s what it takes. Make an example of the doctors, throw them in Tihar, let them fight it out. Better yet, why single out just the doctors? Throw in their partners in crime too - the family members who paid to get the procedure done. You’re right Dr. Bedi, I agree!

PS: The viewpoint above is solely mine, but I am open to discussions and constructive criticism.  

Amended: The title of the post has been renamed from "Why Aamir's latest fails to impress me" to "Why I feel sorry for Aamir's latest". My viewpoint is not so much a question of the show's importance, as much as it is about its effectiveness (big picture). I feel sorry that unless and until there are legal repercussions, unless and until the penal system is revamped to also support 'the movement', the end goal will not be met.

I would love to hear your views!
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