Mar 25, 2011

The "What Will People Say" Syndrome !

There is this strange syndrome we Indians seem to be afflicted with, and it’s known as the “What will People Say” syndrome. This syndrome afflicts people of all ages and sex but the biggest causality is the Indian woman. The one sentence that the Indian woman fears the most after the much dreaded “Please Adjust” is “What will People Say “. Their whole lives are governed by this statement. Want to stay out and party all night?” Oh No! What will people say” Feel like giving your husband a hug in Public – “Che Che What will people say!” Don’t want to get married? “Oh No! What will people say ! “

I wonder if we realize how much we let this syndrome rules our lives! Our behavior and actions are not a result of what we actually want to do but are molded by our fear of how they will be interpreted by society. This mentality of worrying about what people will say is made worse by the fact that we Indians are by far the most inquisitive and interfering people I have ever come across. In other countries people don’t give a damn if you are single, married or living in, straight or gay, have kids or don’t have kids. Not so in our country! People will not only pry out every intimate juicy detail of your life, they will give you free advice and then make all the information fodder for gossip! Since our society spends half the time meddling in others affairs and the other half gossiping about it, it makes us even more conscious of doing anything without first thinking about “What people will say !”

Thankfully my family is not afflicted with this syndrome and lets me live my life the way I want but our “well wishers” can’t seem to get over our bohemian attitude! Once a neighbor asked my mother, “Aapki daughter akele rehti hai aapko dar nahi lagta log kya Kahenge” (your daughter stays alone aren’t you worried about what will people say!) My mother tartly retorted “kahenge ki inhone apni beti ko kitna independent banaya hai !) (People will say look how independent their daughter is!)

“What will People say” has seeped so much into our mindset that we unconsciously do only the things that society wants or expects us to do. Restrictions are imposed on women after marriage (what they can wear, if they can work or not etc etc) simply became now society expects them to behave in a certain manner! Parents are more concerned about their girls getting married “at the correct age” not because they want them to find a life partner but because people will talk if the girl is unmarried. I know couples who’ve had kids because people expect you to have kids after 1-2 years of marriage. Otherwise they start asking questions. Somehow I always thought you have kids because you want to and not because society wants you to procreate!

On a serious note, I have seen so many examples of the “what will people say” syndrome ruin lives or thwart dreams. A lot of women don’t walk out of unhappy or abusive marriages not because they are scared of staying alone and starting their lives over but because they are terrified of the social stigma they will face. Women don’t mind if their kids grow up in abusive families but they don’t go for a divorce simple because “the flak my child will have to face once people find out he comes from a broken home”. I wonder if this same society of wagging tongues will actually come and help when the woman is going through torture. Or Take the case of a girl who still hasn’t found a husband. She may be perfectly happy working and living with her parents while she waits to meet the right guy but society literally makes her life hell with their persistent questions till she marries the first guy that comes along through sheer frustration ! I have even seen examples of midle aged females living alone who dont encourage their male cousins or friends to visit them for fear of what people will say !

The biggest irony is that we are worried about what people will say but don’t realize that the same “People” will talk whatever we do. Either way It’s a lose – lose situation. It’s like this very famous story of the Old Man, young boy and the donkey. What we do can never please everyone so we might as well as do what we want !

 I am not suggesting that we defy social norms and live a sort of anarchical existence. Our social dictates as well as fear of social pressure does keep us in check and prevents us from unethical and unacceptable behavior or actions. But I wonder how many people think about what “People will say” when they are breaking rules, littering the roads or even misbehaving with females, asking for dowry etc?

What really surprises me is why we let society overpower us so much. Don’t we have our own sense of right or wrong that we have to look for society’s approval each time? Why can’t we listen to our inner voice and do what we really want to do! It takes a lot of courage to defy society and live the kind of life you want. Ask any woman (or even man for that matter) who have decided to go off the beaten track. But it’s high time we stop being a puppet in the hands of “People” and learn to live our lives the way we want!

Mar 18, 2011

Is Discipline a Forgotten Word ?

The recent Tsunami in Japan really shook me up. Watching the tsunami ravage a land that I have such good memories of was very distressing and painful. But amidst all the disaster what really struck me was the orderly and organized way things are still functioning in Japan. There was no mayhem and no lawlessness in the aftermath of this tragedy. I read a few articles including this one about the dignified way the Japanese people are conducting themselves. Even Vishnu Som of NDTV, said in one of his news reports that he was amazed at how stoic and calm the Japanese were in the face of this tragedy. If we had a situation like this here, there was bound to be some looting and fighting over the rations handed over at the evacuation camps. In case of Japan, food was scarce, so was water but there was no scrambling and no pushing or shoving. People were disciplined and calm; standing patiently in serpentine queues waiting for their turn. Even in big cities like Tokyo that faced a scarcity of food, there was no chaos. A friend in Tokyo sent me a email in which he wrote : “Few shops have food today. There are long queues of people waiting to buy water or necessary food items but everybody is waiting patiently in lines and only taking what they really need.”
 I am not really surprised! I have worked with the Japanese people long enough to understand the way their mind works. Values and ethics are too deeply ingrained in them and Honor is extremely important. The feeling that if you do something wrong, you disgrace your family and your nation is very strong. I think the main reason for this is that Japan is a homogenous society. It is not a melting pot of diverse religions and cultures and languages. So unity and national pride that they feel is tremendous. They also have a tremendous Sense of responsibility and accountability towards the nation and society. There is a strong sense of community and team work and they always put” We” before” I”. They are also extremely disciplined people.
I have had so many firsthand experiences of the Japanese sense of discipline and honesty. The Japanese trains during rush hour are extremely crowded, so much so that they need “pushers” to push people inside so the automatic doors can close. But while waiting for trains, not one person steps out of line. People queue up and wait patiently for passengers to get down before they board. Now compare this with getting in and out of Metro trains in Delhi. I was trying to get off at the Rajiv Chowk Metro station once and there was such a rush of people trying to get in that I was pushed back and hit the door on the other end of the compartment. Can you believe it !
 In Japan rules are meant to be adhered to and the fact that they can break the rules doesn’t even occur to the Japanese. There is no “chalta hai” attitude there. In all my years in Japan, I have never seen anyone jump red lights, break queues or jaywalk.
Once in Tokyo, I dropped a billfold filled with cash in front of the bank ATM. I was extremely worried and was not really expecting to get it back. But nevertheless I went to the police station and found that someone had already deposited my wallet there. I told my Japanese friend how nice it was that someone returned the money to the police station. She looked at me as if I was crazy and said well what else could he do? The money wasn’t his?
 Japan is definitely not crime free. They have their share of crime but by large the people are honest. I Never have to worry about security and safety while in Japan. And you can be dead sure you won’t be cheated by anyone there.
The Japanese society is certainly not perfect. Homogenous culture is also perhaps a reason why Japan is such a closed society and they find it so difficult to deal with or open up to foreigners. Japanese Society has its pitfalls, some of them very serious ones but I have to give them this, they are the most ethical and disciplined race I have ever met. And I honestly believe that you can only behave in such a dignified manner in the face of tragedy if you have been practicing ethics and discipline in your day to day life.
 I sometimes wonder why so few of us in India are conscientious. Aren’t all of us taught ethics and moral values when we are kids? And god knows we have enough national pride stuffed down our throats!
Then why are so many of us so uncouth and undisciplined and dishonest? Why can’t we even do the basic things like standing in queues and not jumping red lights? Why can’t we be a bit more considerate towards others and why do we always put “I” before “We” in India ? Is it because we’re so overpopulated, is it the economic disparity? Or have we simply forgotten what ethics and discipline is all about?
 I’d be interested to know what you think!

(Note – This post is in no way trying to belittle Indian society or praise the Japanese society to high heaven. I have simply pointed out a few issues that I have noticed. I am an Indian and I love my country very dearly. But that will not stop me from discussing the things that I don’t like! )

Mar 17, 2011

Meeting Bond Saheb !

I have been a bad girl! I promised to do a Blog Marathon this month, wrote faithfully for 11 days and then promptly disappeared! My sincere apologies but I was really and truly hard pressed for time and didn’t want to write half hearted posts just for the heck of writing. It’s more important to write posts worth reading rather than just mindless blabber is it not! Any how now that I have apologized (and hope to be forgiven :) ) let me tell me you what I have been up to. I went to the Penguin Spring Fever Festival on Sunday and Met Ruskin Bond! If you have been reading me for a while you will know that for me Ruskin Bond equals God. I don’t think a greater fan ever lived than me! I have all his books and have read each one of them countless times. The kind of life I would love to lead is the kind of life he is leading right now; tucked away among the mountains, doing what he loves to do best– Writing.
So when I found out that Penguin India was organizing a conversation between Vishal Bhardwaj and Ruskin Bond on the last day of their spring fever fest I knew I simply had to be there! I badgered the poor lady at Penguin for invites till she finally sent me a few. I then badgered my friend M to accompany me. She was not too keen to dislodge herself from in front of her TV on a Sunday but I got my way by bribing her with dinner at the American Diner after the show.
The program was at habitat center, a place that I really love for its architecture and ambiance. We reached there around 5 pm and started browsing the books Penguin had displayed. I was looking around idly when I spotted a man standing in a corner, talking to someone. Suddenly with a jolt I realized that it was Ruskin Bond. I was so excited that I could only pull at my friends sleeve and point excitedly in his direction. M asked me why don’t I go and talk to him. But I didn’t want to barge in a private conversation so I just stood where I was. I am really weird that way. Someone else would have run to meet her idol and here I was standing and gaping but too shy to go and talk to him. M was well aware of my obsession with Ruskin Bond so she literally dragged me to him. By that time he had already started walking away. I was about to turn away disappointed when M ran after him shouting Mr. Bond Mr. Bond. He turned around and smiled and M literally pushed me forward. He signed a few books for me and I finally got a chance to talk with my idol. There was still an hour for the program to begin and there were very few people about so we could chat undisturbed. He is such a sweet and gentle soul! So quiet and unassuming! This was my second interaction with Ruskin Bond and once again I was left enchanted. M who hadn’t met him before is now totally under his spell! Finally he went back inside and I walked back in a trance.
Vishal Bhardwaj and Ruskin Bond walked in around 7 to a rousing applause and strains of what else but the Daaaarling song! The conversation between them was moderated by Mahmood Farooqui the Co-Writer of Peepli live. They mostly spoke about adapting stories from movies as two of Vishal’s movies are based on stories by Ruskin Bond (Blue Umbrella and off course Saat Khoon Maaf).The original story Susanna’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond is actually a light hearted short story. Once Vishal Bhardwaj decided to make a movie out of it Bond Saheb (As he referred to Ruskin Bond!) had to re write it into a novella form. Finally Vishal made it into something as dark and sinister as Saat Khoon Maaf. I feel the original story is much more interesting (But then I am more of a reader and a movie buff!)
Ruskin Bond also spoke about creative writing for a bit and I hung on to each word!
After the program we watched a bit of the Quawalli organized by Penguin and then went to the American Diner where to show our happiness for a evening well spent we downed 3 tequilas one after the other. So on Sunday night, if you saw a two supposedly dignified young ladies sitting in a corner of American Diner downing tequilas and talking giddily you know who they were!!

Leaving you with a few snaps we clicked that day from our mobiles (not very good quality I am afraid!)

Mar 11, 2011

of this and that ! (NaBloPoMo Post #11)

I almost gave up on the NaBloPoMo today as I am really not feeling well. I am down with severe bronchitis that has me coughing and wheezing like an old woman. All I have been doing since yeserday is lying in bed, sucking cough drops and catching up on my reading. But a promise is a promise and when I promise to blog everyday, blog every day I will! It’s just that today I really can’t muster up enough energy to think of an interesting topic! So I guess I’ll just ramble on a bit!
I just finished reading Three cups of Tea - an incredible story about a man determination to built schools in improvised regions of Pakistan. Also finished Urban Shots that has some very interesting and well written short stories. Am about to start on Gurcharan Das’ The difficulty of being good. One good thing about being unwell is that one gets time to start reading through that pile of unread books gathering dust on the book shelf ! Off course very disturbing news today is about the earthquake and Tsunami that has hit Northern shore of Japan. Thankfully everyone I know in Japan is safe but watching all the news clippings really shook me up ! But there is no other country in this world that is better prepared for disasters than Japan. Right from building earthquake resistant buildings, to having excellent contingency plans to training and educated their people; they manage to do everything perfectly and with war like precision. They key is Preparedness and that is where Japan truly excels. I have experienced first hand during my visits to Japan how much stress that country lays on safety and disaster Prevention. Today’s earthquake was 8.9 on the Richter scale and yet all the causalities that are being reported are due to the Tsunami and not the earthquake ! Can you imagine what would happen if an earthquake of that magnitude hits any of the Indian cities?
Have a good weekend everyone while I go back to my cough drops and books !

Mar 10, 2011

Thursday Challenge# 2 (NaBloPoMo #10)

The theme for this thursday is "MANY" (Candies, Crowd, Paperclips, Coins, Collections,...)

My picture today shows prayer wheels from a buddhist temple in Japan. All buddhist temples have prayer wheels but I was amazed that this temple had so many and that too so colorful ! (click to enlarge the pic)
Even yesterdays pic was about Japan. Yeah I know I really miss that place !

Mar 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #11 (NaBloPoMo Post #9)

Kamakura Buddha - Japan (Click to enlarge)

Mar 8, 2011

Same Story - Different Endings (NaBloPoMo Post #8)

Story 1
Reema sat on the bed crying. Manish stood next to her trembling with rage. The belt was still in his hand. “So you want to go to see your parents. How dare you” He said. “But it’s my brother’s marriage” she spluttered.” I have to attend it”. “You leave this house and I’ll break your legs” he thundered.
After he left Reema tried to pull herself together. Her son and her daughter stood by the door, fear written large on their faces. She got up and went to the kitchen. She could feel the servants’ eyes on her, filled with pity. She drank some water, came back to her room, locked herself in the bathroom and dialed her mother’s number from her mobile. “Mummy” she sobbed as soon as she heard her mother’s voice, “they are not letting me come for Ashu’s marriage! Mummy Mummy, he hit me again today” There was silence and shock on the other side. Then - “What to do beta. If it’s not in your fate to attend your brother’s marriage so be it. You belong to that house now, you have to listen to what they say “. Stunned Reema couldn’t find words to say anything. Her parents had directly and indirectly told her many times to bear her lot. “After all we are a well known family in Amritsar. What will happen to our status if you come back home to us! How will we show our face in society?” “Is your status more important than my life” Reema had wanted to scream. But had kept quiet.
So the years rolled by. The domestic violence ceased when her parents threatened to complain to the police but the mental torture continued. Reema's parents were not unduly concerned. After all he was not beating up their daughter. She was well fed and cared for, what else did she want ?Reema was not allowed to visit her parents, call them even, she could not step out of the house alone and was taunted about everything she did. Reema often thought of breaking free, of running away. Even if she couldn’t go back to her parents she could always move in with one of her friends till she found a job. She was a trained teacher and it wouldn’t be difficult to find a job for herself. But Reema couldn’t will herself to leave. She was terrified of what society would say and what her poor parents would have to go through. And she didn’t want her kids to grow up without a father. Whatever sort of father he was, at least there was a male presence in the house. So Reema continued to adjust and accommodate, resigned to her fate.

Today, she is a broken woman. In her youth she was controlled by her husband, in her old age she is controlled by her son, who having seen women so ill treated in his house, assumes that this is the right way to treat women. He has no respect for his mother let alone his wife. Reema has no confidence, no self respect and no money to her name. Her daughter was married off as soon as she completed her BA into a rich business class family. She was told the same thing as Reema was – that getting married into a status family should be enough to keep her happy. Sometimes Reema wonders if her and her children’s life would have taken a different turn had she dared to assert her rights.

  Story 2
Veena sat huddled near the charpoy, her body wracked with sobs. Her arms hurt and welts were appearing where Suresh, her husband had hit her. Blood oozed out from her cut lip. Her two daughters, Kavita, six and Savita all of three sat whimpering nearby. Veena waited till Suresh had left the room and then slowly got up and gathered her crying daughters in her arms, trying to soothe them. Her mind went back to the reason for this recent beating. She had plucked up enough courage to say that she wanted Kavita to go to school. Admittedly it was hardly a school, just a few rooms with a tumbledown roof and two teachers, but at least her daughter had a chance of education there, better than sweeping floors and washing utensils. Suresh had refused pointblank and told her that if she wanted her daughter to do something, she better take her to work with her and get her started on some menial task. “That way she can bring in some money. If you couldn’t have given me a son, at least make sure these daughters of yours bring in some money to pay for their keep.”He had said.
This was not Veena’s first beating. The reasons may have been different, but the anger was always quick to come. Anything from delay in bringing tea, to refusal to satisfy his demands in bed were reasons for a beating. Till now she had submitted to them mutely. She had tried revolting, even gone to her parents but they had told her pointblank that they couldn’t help her, her brother too had refused to let her come back, worried about supporting her and her two daughters.” Your life is with your husband now “they had told her categorically and dismissed her pleas for help.
As she sat trying to comfort her daughters, Veena decided that she had to give her daughters a chance to lead better lives. She wanted to give them a chance to grow up in a happy peaceful environment, away from this hell. “My life might be finished, but theirs is just beginning” She thought resolutely. So that night, once her husband had passed out in a drunken stupor, Veena gathered the meager savings that she had hid from him, took her two daughters by their hand and fled home. She reached the station and took the first train leaving. It was going to Chandigarh. She reached Chandigarh at 6 in the morning, shivering equally from fear and the cold. She left the station with her daughters in tow and went to the first residential colony she could see and started asking for work. None came her way. Night fell and she bought some roti and sabzi from a local shop and fed her kids. That nights all three of them sat huddled under the shutters of the closed shops. The next morning she got talking to a few riskshaw wallahs who told her the best place for the homeless was the local Gurudwara. So that is where she went. They ate at the gurudwara and at night slept in the long hall meant for the homeless. During the day she walked all over the city looking for work. On the third day, a local dhabha hired her to wash their dirty utensils and sweep the shop every morning. After she got her first salary, Veena shifted to a small room that was more like a thatched hut. It was far from her place of work but it was cheap. Every day she brought her daughters to work and they played near her while she washed other people’s dirty utensils. Finally after a few months when she had some money saved, she took Kavita to the government school and got her admitted there.
A few years passed and Savita joined her sister in the school. Veena continued working at the Dhabha, but the job was tiring and back breaking. Now that she was more confident of her bearings, she stated looking for an easier job. A teacher at the school her daughters went to told her that a private school nearby needed an ayah for the small kids. She applied and was accepted. Now she had a full time job with benefits and finished work the same time as her daughters finished school. She took up extra work of repairing clothes in the evenings. Her first customers were the teachers in her school. The years rolled by. The daughters finished school and entered a vocational school. Kavita chose to learn nursing and Savita to learn dress making.

Now Veena is retired. She owns small two bedroom room house in mohali, a small town near chandigarh. Kavita is a nurse in PGI .Savita stitches clothes from home and one day plans to open her own tailoring shop. Veena is content with the way things have turned out.

These two stories are based on true incidents. Be it an urban educated women or a rural uneducated one, emancipation of women can only work if she herself gathers the courage to stand up and fight for her rights. Sometimes all that is needed is courage to take that first small step.

Today is Womens day - We dont need appreciation mails from people thanking us for the work we do and the sacrifices we make. What we need is equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedom.

Mar 7, 2011

Cricket Mania ! (NaBloPoMo Post #7)

Eyes fixed ahead,
Tightly clenched hands
You watch it run by run
Ball by ball
Shouting, cheering, jeering,
and snarling
When we mention
your obsessive absurdity
bored, we squirm and fidget
As we curse your affinity
To the game of cricket!

Written for Three word wednesday. (Prompts - Affinity,Mention,Fidget)

Mar 6, 2011

Frozen Lake - A Haiku (NaBloPoMo #6)

I walk on the frozen lake
watching the birds fly forlornly
In search of some fish

Written for Haiku Heights -Prompt Cold)

Mar 5, 2011

Add some tang to your life ! (NaBloPoMo Post #5)

I decided to make Pasta for dinner today. I boiled up some pasta, sautéed some vegetables and then tossed the two together. Finally I added some garnishing. But I was not too happy with the result. It was same old boring pasta with a lot of vegetables in it ! Then I added some of this.

And the result was some yummy tangy tongue tickling pasta ! All it required was some tang to turn a boring pasta dish into something that tasted so divine!
That’s what happens with life isn’t it ! We lead boring routine, predictable lives, and after a while nothing seems fresh and exciting!.Sometimes we need to add tang to our lives by shaking things up a bit! It needn’t be something as drastic as changing your job or going backpacking across the world ! All we need to do is make some simple changes. Here are a few things I do to bring the zing back into my life !
1) Change is always good !
It could be something as simple as changing your hairstyle, revamping your wardrobe, or simply changing the way furniture is arranged in your house.

2) Try something different !
How about going to the see a play instead of catching a movie ! How about trying Mexican or Lebanese food rather than the same old Thai or Chinese that you eat whenever you go out ! Bored of jogging everyday? how about learning pilates instead, or something as simple as swimming for that matter !

3) Learn something new
It could be anything, cooking, pottery, painting, gardening, or learning a new language. Learning something new stimulates the mind and you end up meeting a lot of new and interesting people too !

4) Spontaneity is the spice of life !
Do on-the-spur things. Predictable is boring and spontaneity sure adds spice to life! Do something totally unplanned! Just pick up those car keys and go for a long drive, Pack a overnight bag and just take off for a weekend holiday !

5) Take up a challenge

It could be anything, blogging everyday for a month, taking part in a debate, signing up for a marathon !
So what are you going to do to make your life tangy !

Mar 4, 2011

Ladka Bikau Hai ! (NaBloPoMo Post # 4)

So on the way home from work, I was sitting in the cab quietly minding my own business while the guy next to me was regaling everyone else with the marriage proposals he is getting.
“ Ek ladki to Lucknow ki hai, uske father railways mein hain acchi khaasi kamayi hai, doosri delhi mein naukri karti hai, software engineer hai, uski bhi salary achi hai, onsite bhi ja kar aayi hai, paisa to kamaya hoga, ek aur hai jo teacher hai lekin father ki property bahut hai Bareilly mein”
(One girl lives in Lucknow, her dad is in the railways, he must be earning really well, the other girl is a software engineer, she earns well, has been to onsite so must be having quite a bit stashed away, the third one is just a teacher but her dad has a lot of property in Bareilly)
What shocked me was that he was only concerned about the financial status of the Girls family. It was as if he was not talking about marriage but a business deal.Then came the biggest shock, he said
 “Haan Haan shaadi to wahin karenge jahan paisa jyada milenga”
(Ya ya, I am going to marry in the family that gives me the most money)
So finally my feminist self couldn’t take it anymore and I retorted –
“phir to aisa karo ek board laga lo apne ghar ke saamne jis pe likha ho Ladka Bikayu hai !” (So why don’t you just put a board in front of your house that says Boy for Sale!)
But seriously, this guy is an educated software engineer! Isn’t education doing anything to change our mentality?
I wish I had a begging bowl for each and every male out there who thinks like this!

Mar 3, 2011

The “Wallahs” of our country! (NaBloPoMo Post #3)

There is one thing in India that we don’t find in any other country. And no, I don’t mean the heat and dust, the pollution or the corruption :) I am talking about the various vendors that roam the streets selling everything under the sun! I call them the “wallahs” of our country, since we simply name them by affixing “wallah” to whatever they are selling! For example doodh-wallah, Sabzi-wallah etc etc. :D
I don’t think we realize it, but they are an indispensable part of our life. Our morning starts with the Doodh-wallah ringing our bell with fresh milk in huge steel vessels or dolchis as they are called. (Well now things are modernized in most parts of the country and these fellows are replaced by the more modern Doodhwallahs who brings our milk in tetra packs along with our eggs and bread). They are followed by the Sabzi-wallahs. They come calling early in the morning bringing fresh vegetables on a thela (cart), loudly proclaiming how red their tomatoes are, how crisp their cabbage is and how fresh their ladyfinger is at the top of their lungs. They are a boon for those of us who rarely have time to go out vegetable shopping during the week and only realize we are in trouble when we start cooking in the morning and realize that we are out of onions or potatoes or ginger! A quick shout to the sabzi wallah and we can buy whatever we want right at our doorstep while still in our pajamas! It’s so much better than getting packaged vegetables from the supermarket. After all buying vegetables loses most of its fun without the bargaining and the supermarket doesn’t give us free dhaniya and mirchi, does it! Once the Sabzi-wallahs leave, the Nariyal-Paniwallah comes to stand just outside the park, strategically placing himself in the path of all the joggers who are bound to be thirsty when they leave the park after their morning exercise! Next comes the Istri-wallah. So convenient to get our clothes ironed! All we have to do is tie them up in a bundle and hand it to the fellow and we get them back stiffly starched and ironed by the end of the day!All through the day comes a procession of these people. The Fruit wallah, jhadu wallah (he sells everything from mops to dusters to brooms), the chaku-tez-karane wallah - he will sharpen your kitchen knives till they are razor sharp! And how about the kabadi wallah that comes every weekend! These are the guys who buy our old junk and recycle it. What a novel way to dispose of our newspapers, old boxes, utensils, buckets and even electronic items! Imagine getting rid of our useless items and getting paid for it too!
Besides these roaming salesmen on bicycles, I don’t think any other country has the variety of small shops that repair anything from torn shoe straps to electric kettles. Sole’s come off your shoe? Not to worry, just walk over to the nearest mochi sitting under the tree and get it repaired! Handle broken off your pan! No problem! just take it to the guy repairing utensils and he will fix it in a jiffy! Not only do these people make our lives very convenient they are also very inexpensive. I remember in Tokyo the strap of my otherwise perfectly all right handbag broke and when I went to a shop to get it repaired, (it took me two days of search on the Internet and a lot of asking around before I could find a shop that repairs leather items); the cost of stitching the strap was more than the cost of my pure leather bag!
How about the various food vendors that we see everywhere. The chaiwallahs who do a brisk business throughout the year, the nimboopani and juice wallahs that appear every summer, the moongfali and popcorn wallah that come every winter and the Bhutta (corn)wallahs that turn up as soon as the rains start ! And my all time favorite the Chaat wallahs. Ahh the joy of gorging on golgappas and telling the chaatwallah “Bhaiya thoda aur teekha banana” or “bhaiya thodi imli daalana !
So tell me do you deal with these “wallahs” every day and which one do you like the most?

Mar 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #10 (NaBloPoMo Post#2)

Delhi Haat (Click to enlarge)

Mar 1, 2011

The Power Of faith (NaBloPoMo Post # 1)


Tomorrow is Shivratri, Lord Shiva’s birthday and somehow I always associate Lord Shiva with Peace, serenity, solitude, mountains and snow. That is why I am so fond of going to Kedarnath. I find the scenic beauty as well as the spiritual grandeur of that place unparalleled to anywhere else. I have blogged about my visit to Kedarnath here and here.
Whenever I think of Kedarnath, I am reminded of a certain old gentleman we met when we went there a few years back. We were a group of around 10 people, all of us in our 20s and 30s except one old gentleman who was then in his late 70s. He was the uncle of our friend ‘S’ and soon we had all started calling him Uncle. He had a round and cheerful face and was very sprightly inspite of his age. He was filled with incredible enthusiasm and zest for life. All through the journey he regaled us with countless stories about Shanti Niketan where he had spent most of his life. Inspite of the huge age difference between us, we were really having fun with him. We reached Rishikesh late evening and decided to make the night halt there. After dinner we were all sitting in the guest house lawn talking when uncle suddenly fainted. One moment he was walking towards us and the other he had collapsed on the grass. Fortunately there was a clinic nearby and we could get a doctor quickly. The problem was low blood sugar and uncle revived after he was given some sugar water and sweets. In no time he had regained his cheerfulness and had dismissed the whole incident laughingly.
The next day we reached Gaurikund, the last stop before the climb to the temple starts. The previous day’s incident was still fresh in our minds and we asked uncle if he was sure he wanted to climb up till the temple as it is at a very high altitude. “Off course I will come” he said. “How can I go back without darshan when I am so close to my destination? “. He seemed unperturbed when we pointed out the health risks to him. A few of us brave souls decided to climb up the 17 kms till the temple. The rest decided to go by Ponies. Except uncle, he wanted to walk with us. We looked at him as if he was crazy and in one voice told him to get atop a pony. He refused. He said he was confident he could make it walking and there was no way he was going to the temple of Mahadev sitting on a poor animal’s back. No amount of pleading and argument worked. He was adamant. He told us that we were too pessimistic and that he was sure nothing would happen to him. He looked so determined and had so much faith that he would reach the temple safely that we all reluctantly agreed although deep in our hearts we were very apprehensive. The first few kms passed easily, we climbed at a steady pace, laughing and making jokes. But as the climb grew steeper, the air became thinner and the weather became more and more unpredictable till it finally started to rain. Breathless, tired and cold we were all feeling out of sorts. All, except Uncle. He was as cheerful as ever and told us not to concentrate on the negatives but enjoy the scenic beauty around us and think about the wonderful temple we were about to visit. We were amazed by his attitude. Here he was, nearly three times our age, frail and definitely not in the best of health yet he was walking undaunted, almost without any worry. We could see he was tired and panting with exertion, but the smile never left his lips and when he was not chanting mantras and singing bhajans he was pointing at the rare flowers on the path or at the snow peaks with child like delight and enthusiasm.
By the time we reached the half way mark almost all of us had given up and decided to cover the rest of the distance on ponies. We tried to persuade uncle to take a pony as well. He waved us on cheerfully and told us not to worry, “Mahadev will take care of me”.  S decided to walk with Uncle. The rest of us found ponies for ourselves. Finally we reached the small guesthouse we had booked near the temple, tired but ecstatic at having made it. Now we all waited anxiously for uncle and S to make their way to the top. We were quite worried and wondered how uncle was faring and what S would do if uncle collapsed on the way .They appeared after 2-3 hrs, S looked exhausted and barely in a state to talk. He simply collapsed in a chair. But what shocked us was uncle. We were prepared to meet a very tired if not sick uncle and had even discussed what to do in case we faced a medical problem. Uncle was undoubtedly tired, but his humor and enthusiasm were intact. Not once did he complain of the bad weather, or of the difficult climb, or of his aching joints. In fact he broke into a Bhajan as soon as he saw us, he was so happy and filled with devotion. S later told us that even he had started to feel the strain at the end of the journey and thought that he couldn’t make the last 2-3 kms. It was uncle, himself tired and worn out who had edged him on, motivating him!

We were amazed. So frail of body yet so strong in faith Uncle had managed to achieve the impossible. I don’t know how he did it, was it his unwavering faith, his willpower or simply the power of positive thinking? What do YOU think?

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