Oct 30, 2014

A Start?

Hi. Mind if I join, as I noticed a free chair?
Help yourself, she mumbled, busy munching on her burger, simultaneously typing with one hand on her laptop and at the same time trying to sip her fruit juice while trying to find her ringing phone
Mustering courage, I chirped, you might drop the burger on your laptop.
A dimpled face with ocean blue eyes glared at me. As her golden hair fell across her face partially obscuring her and the Sun rays gleaming across her face, I nearly lost my breath.
With what seemed like ages, she grinned, moving her laptop to the adjoining chair and finished her lunch.
Thanks, she said as she picked up her stuff to leave. See you, tomorrow?

Oct 27, 2014

Swacch Bharat... Healthy Bharat

It all started off with the PM of India, Mr. Narendra Modi starting off a campaign to keep India clean. Clean India, and that will make a healthy India, was the simple message. A message that started off from the Ramparts of the Red Fort on his inaugural speech as the PM of India, a message that he carried on during his move to Rashtrapati Bhavan, following it himself, sending direct / indirect messages to various departments in the Ministries, that his penchant for cleanliness was not something of a flash in the pan.

Cleanliness is said, is next to Godliness. Old saying. The Father of the Indian Nation, Mahatma Gandhi too propagated it and lived by it. He knew very well, that being clean not only meant cleanliness of the self, but also of the surrounding areas within oneself.

We are all aware of the Plague that hit 20 years back in Surat. A plague that rocked the country like never before. A sickness that literally cast India as an untouchable. A disease that nearly knocked India in its guts. There have been enough discussions and articles on this, and I don’t plan to start another theory, as to what went wrong or how it could have been avoided, but a simple question does come. Did we ask for it?

As one reasearches the topic (and there is enough material on the web), one finds, that it was not the number of deaths that were caused by the plague that was an issue (It is reported at a number of places, that only 56 people died). It was the way it came about, the terrifying speed with which it created havoc and near calamities, the impact to society, business and economy as a whole (a loss of nearly $600 M + in 1994), and at the same time, the urgency and vigour with which it was cleaned and cleared

The cause if one looks at it, was simple. Cleanliness, the lack of it. The fact that the city was not amongst the best in the country in terms of good living conditions, the fact that urbanization in the need for the State’s / City’s development led to a situation where living conditions started moving South, the fact that poor living conditions also meant that interactions with infected animals (rats in this case), started becoming the norm, and before one could probably shout, Shiver Me Timbers, the rot had crept in.

Fast and swift action resulted in the infection being subdued within a week. Fast forward to 2014, Surat today is a bustling city, with not a trace of the near calamity that engulfed it 20 years ago. Yes, time flies, people forget, new generations arise, but history remains the same What contributed to ensuring that this was not repeated, was a drive by the citizens and residents of the place to ensure that the first time was the last time. After all, nearly 45% of the world’s diamond polishing takes place in Surat!

A huge push to ensure streets were cleared of garbage, rats were exterminated, sewers were cleared of all obstacles to ensure a free flowing drainage system, effectively minimizing the chances of diseases. A drive that pushed all across India, as this was a grim reminder of what could have been, but did not.

But hang on, if this started a drive, why is the PM reinforcing the message. Why has he started a momentum for all of India to follow? Did we not have a similar scare in Mumbai years ago, when the rain water filled up in the drains and spilled over onto the streets, where people could not walk without fear of being sucked into some open man hole. The reason for the overflow at that time, plastic bags!

Fact of the matter is, that we are back to the same causes that initiated the sickness years ago. It may not be that bad yet (else, half the country would have been dead by now), but the fact is, that we are still a long way before we reach our goal of cleanliness across the length and breadth of the country.

We do not think twice before we throw a wrapper of a chocolate on the street, into a drainage if possible. What will one do, we say, but then so do a thousand others. We insist on buying plastic bags when we go vegetable shopping, only to come home and throw the plastic bag into the bin. Could we not have taken that bag?

We will not hesitate to throw out the garbage on the street, as long as it does not sit in our kitchen waste. We cannot sit with the smell, and if it smells on the street, the down trodden are used to living in filth. We lose our temper on our children when they scratch our painted walls with a pencil, even taking upto an hour to ensure that the wall is cleaned properly and no stain mark remains, yet we have no hesitation in spitting Paan or any thing in our mouth on the wall of another.

The list can go on and on, it is never ending, but the issue remains. What will it take us to learn? Why can we not realize that the streets we dirty are nothing but an extension of where we live. One will not leave his house every time a street gets dirty, but why can some one not take the initiative to ensure that he or she will not litter? Why do we have to wait for some one else to commence, so we follow. Why can we not, LEAD?

Are we so stubborn and beyond redemption that unless we are fined, or unless we live in countries like Singapore, New Zealand, Norway, we will not contribute. We don’t utter a word if we are fined for littering, but quietly pay. Do we need to be reminded that we are dirty?

As we progress to do something that is so basic and something that should be inbuilt, I cannot but wonder. What went wrong? India was a clean country, centuries ago, what changed? It could be various factors, going from ruralization to urbanization and the price of the same, increasing populations leading to lack of space, but most important, what I do believe is “Lack of Basic Education”

No matter what one does, the  key factor to any kind of progress is Education or lack of it. This is not being educated in terms of having a Degree or Masters in Economics, but simple house hold education that every child should be a part of. Education that can only be provided by one’s parents. Education that comes from communities, schools, friends, from society as a whole, which if not, would be unfortunate.

That despite all our setbacks we still need to learn the hard way.
That something that should be part and parcel of our very nature, has to be taught to us by others.
That once bitten twice shy is not an adage that we follow.
That we never learn from History, and are condemned to repeat it.

Oct 24, 2014

A Story Untold

Staring wide eyed, looking at the far away clouds, and the cluster of trees, could not but wonder, how was this achieved?

Walked up, went through the plaques. Societies finest; Visionaries; Thinkers; Mayors; Governors; Bankers, the Dynasties who made it happen. A service to mankind. A gift from them to the future.

What I could not find was one dedication to the men who made this happen. Men, who broke their backs, their souls and many of course, their lives before this could be achieved. Not a commendation, not a mention.

A gift indeed. I walked away. Impressed, yet disillusioned.
A 100 Word short story written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Oct 11, 2014

The Dark Light

Opening the door in the unlit corridor, was momentarily blinded by the light sunshine rays gleaming in through the windows, lighting up the passage. Momentarily, my heart skipped a beat, my feet almost stone.

My very reason for existence, the cornerstone of my soul, the only thing that meant anything in life, all flashing before my eyes. Days, nights spent soaking myself in every conceivable sound known to man, this was the one place, where I was, Me!

I proposed, God disposed. The soul cried, the heart bled, but the mind ruled. Light was still under Dark.

Sep 27, 2014

Living Life: King Size

It was just another holiday! Of course, I did consider myself lucky, as it turned out to be the Second Holiday of the year for me. Having two holidays in a year... Have never had the luck before, and this second one almost became a no happener, but for some push from the group concerned.

Started off a break that the family was headed for. A Yes / No, maybe / cannot, possibly... and a host of other thoughts later, the verdict was yes. Where to? The Land of Palaces. Rajasthan!

Have wanted to go to Rajasthan for years, wanted to simply move around the state across all cities, going and seeing all the magnificent forts and palaces that the Rajput's and the warriors of yore built, many still standing till date, many still giving an awe inspiring look and feel when you see them towering majestically in the sky. This was not one of those grand visits, but still the same. The Place, Udaipur. The Venue - Devigarh.

Quite frankly had never heard of it, and had no clue as to where I was headed to. Had not been to Udaipur in decades, all that had seen of the venue was what I saw on the websites. Impressive, but then, still a slide show. What you see is NOT what you get.

Landing at Udaipur Airport was the first surprise. Not very big, but clean and efficient. Being used to the old Airports of Bombay (pre modernization), one would have imagined that a city Airport would have been worse. But was it nice to be proved wrong. A smooth sail through, coming out of the Airport, early in the morning and being greeted by some wonderful weather gave an indication of a pleasant holiday coming up.

Reaching early morning in any city has its advantage. You bypass traffic completely. What was also quite commendable was the quality of roads that one encountered. Yes, there were some bad patches, but seeing that the roads on small highways were of a better quality than what one was used to seeing in Bombay on the Intra city / state bridges / roads, one could for a moment think, you are not in India (not that Bombay is representative of what one should expect in India). A good 30 - 45 minutes later, reached Devigarh and as I entered, for a moment, actually did think. Am I in the right place.

Nothing untoward it, but walking into a Hotel that was once a Palace, for the first time, being dumbstruck for words is but a natural phenomenon. Big or small, a Palace is a Palace is a Palace. Walking up, soaking in the ambiance, I could not but help only wonder, what life, did the Kings of yore lead. Of course, with time and with modern amenities, the luxury today was probably two or three fold, however the fact also remains that the Maharajah's of yore, had access to luxuries, that today cannot even be thought of.

Whether it was the luxurious 50 Feet Huge Bedrooms, or the spacious Bathrooms, that many houses in Bombay would translate to a 1 BHK, whether it was the Marble Beds, or the scenic views overlooking the Mountains from atop a Hill, every element of the Palace Hotel was simply stunning. The spaciousness of the Hotel was simply impressive, and quite different from the usual Hotels that had been so used to living in, where rooms are crammed and floors filled with the maximum possible rooms, being in an environment where space was not considered to be premium, but more emphasis to comfort.

Taking a break there for a few days, was more like a breath of fresh air. Being in an environment, where a car horn was unheard of, nights were actually quiet, with no dobs barking or cows mooing early morning, where News Papers were meant to be read in the library, where lifts were put far away in corners, making people walk and climb nearly 50 sets of steps and getting a stark realization of how unfit we were, was a refresher in the busy life that we have all set ourselves in.

For sure, would have loved to stay there longer, had time and money permitted. No doubt living there was like an addiction and probably the more one stayed, would have been quite a challenge to come back to reality, but for sure, consider myself lucky to have had this opportunity to live life even for a few days. Undoubtedly, the Palace we stayed in was probably less luxurious than say the Lake Palace or Umaid Bhavan or the Mysore Palace, but one can only imagine what life Kings & Queens lived and more during times life was less complex. 

Moving out of Udaipur and back to normal life in polluted Bombay, one did feel the excitement of coming back home, but some where in the back of one's mind, the lingering thought remained. For those few days, Life, indeed was lived like a King.

Jul 16, 2014

A tendency to Hide...

Google Images
It starts off as a simple act that all of us have gone through / go through / will continue to go through. What is wrong with that, one would say? After all it is a natural tendency of a normal human being.

It is about Hiding. Leaving aside the fact about the word being a Verb or a Noun or can be used as an Adjective, simply speaking, it implies concealing something from sight. What one conceals from sight could vary. It could be a person, an object, a fact, a happening, or what ever...

Question that came to mind was why? It could be making ourselves scarce in a shopping mall, when we see some one who we simply don't want to meet or have the person know that we have seen them and don't want them to see us. It could be as simple as hiding something from some one. This could either be due to not wanting the other to know, or simply concealing it for what ever reason, good or bad.

The fact that hiding or concealing any thing, gives us more pressure, tension, sleepless nights, worries, becomes secondary in these cases. What takes importance all around is the fact that we need to conceal something. At any cost. Even when one looks at history, since time immemorial, concealing has been a habit. Initial thoughts were that one learns this from their peers, or family members, or friends, but when you see a one / two year old baby, hiding something with glee, and we find that extremely cute, one wonders. Where did the baby learn this from?

Where did it start? Probably from the Mother of all Mothers, Eve, who started it with eating the forbidden fruit without telling God. Call it concealing or hiding, one would say, it started from there. Ventured down millennium, through generations, small or large, good or bad, it continues unabated. And the way it goes, probably would go down future generations too.

I am not sure if this can ever be stopped, or would mankind ever reach a point where they would not hide / conceal any thing. Is it feasible? Is it possible? Is it sustainable? People would be exposed, there will be no secrets, every one will know the truth. It could spark fights, wars, but would it ever reach a point where people don't care any more.

The other extreme is Non Mankind. The one we call Animals. I am not sure if they hide anything. And if they do, what and where? Guess, we have a long way to go.

Jul 2, 2014

Rape... A Joke?

(c) D&G
It was the recent article in the Newspaper (as always). A woman accused a man of forcing himself upon her and had filed a Police Complaint. The person was accused of raping the woman, as he had had, physical relations with her for the last two years and now refused to marry her.

Another case was filed, where a woman complained about being raped by her friend, who had taken indecent photographs of her during their relationship, decided not to marry her and the woman termed it as Rape.

The question that I have is, Is this Rape? Now before I get lambasted for this supposedly Anti women comment, my question is simply based on the facts that are there on both these cases. Yes, I agree, that Rapes in India are becoming like the common cold, however there is an increasing if not an equal number of cases, mostly in the urban cities, where Rape cases reported are on the increase and an increasing number of them are being reported as women having relationships with men, who eventually turn back.

Fact also being of the recent question by the Supreme Court, whether a failed affair is a valid ground for Rape? The fact that the highest court in the land has raised this question, highlights the levels of low's that the system is being dragged into. Or the way it is being used?

For sure, India is probably among the top nations where Rapes seem to happen regularly (of course stats for other countries could be equally worse), however the fact does remain, that in our sincere earnestness to provide justice to the oppressed, is that justice also being misused?

There does exist an old saying, the Law is open to interpretation or There is a loophole in every rule, it is how people exploit these to their benefit. I am not debating or denying the fact that women are the oppressed lot in India, however a stark reality also is that many are now using this as a tool to get back at people.

Failed marriages, broken promises, relationships, are all becoming causes for complaints by women, many charging these as Rape. Some countries have even gone to the extent of increasing Sexual Harassment Laws to such an extent, that men are afraid of paying a lady a genuine complement, for fear of them being called Male predators

Many a time one hears of cases where women state that there are explicit photographs of theirs, that the men took of them, many who state that they entered into a physical relationship with some one, as there was a promise of rape and so on. Unfortunate that many men use these women as objects of leisure, but then, are these women too not to blame? Are they not aware that they are being used as pawns and not Queens?

As one goes through many a case, one finds these to be educated women, not the rural village women, but women, who are settled, have a good life, a family, and yet you see an increasing number falling to the guiles of men.

Am not running a morality debate or a contest here or stating that women are not being oppressed, but yes, as one hears more and more of such cases, where men are dragged into courts on grounds of disrobing a woman's modesty, one does wonder... Is this a power that is being misused? Is this power that has been given in excess?

The fortunate part is, that even though on the rise, is still miniscule compared to the real horrors, the only fear being, that at some point does not become a case of Cry Wolf.

Jun 6, 2014

A 5 Year Mela.. The Indian Election

Change, they say is inevitable. It has to happen, no matter what a person tries. There could be a change either through the standard generational process, where one generation retires and the next one take over, or it could be through usurping power, or through the power of the common man, who demands it.

My inference of course is to the last part, more so with the Indian Elections recently being completed. A process of voters selecting their candidates who they believe will work for them. A process that runs across the country, in the true sense, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, covering every state, city, town, village, district in the country. A process that spread across all religions, not having any preference for any caste, race or culture, old or young, simply that one was an Indian and was over 18 years of age. The number of people invited to this event: A Mind Boggling 800+ Million. An Event called, The Indian Election.

What is impressive, is that this event has taken place 16 times. Every 5 Years. Sixty Five Years in total. Without fail. Without major incidents. Never scrapped. With an average of nearly 50 Million new users exerting their voice every 5 years. A friend of mine compared it to the 12 Year Kumbh Mela, that too being of a huge magnitude, however that is confined to one area. The Election is an across the country run, the comes out with an outcome that may be expected or unexpected. It may show a continuance of the previous management or demand an outright change where in new leaders are sought and they bring in their theologies, their ideologies, their thoughts.

The current set of Elections proved just that. A Government in power for a decade, a party that ran the country for nearly Six of the 6.5 Decades of Independence, a Party that was considered to be the very basis of Indian Existence, a party that was well over a 100 years old, a Party that was the forefront in pushing for Indian Independence. Wiped Out!

The Media coined in different words of being Destroyed, Decimated, Obliterated and why not. For a party with such legacy, being whittled down to a state, where they could not even muster enough strength to challenge the new Government on their own, was a major change.

Leaders come and go, Governments get elected and also pulled down, but what is commendable about the Indian Election is the peaceful manner in which it is done. There are the usual incidents of reports of violence in some / many constituencies, but more and large, one sees a peaceful change and a mutual understanding between the outgoing and incoming parties. 

Leaders for all their fallacies, be it incompetency, ineptitude, arrogance and some times even indifference during their tenure in power, accept the voice of the people and rarely, if ever has one seen any Minister, or leader refusing to step down. The one time it did, the people of India simply responded in the next election. They voted the party out.

This in a country where more than 50% are illiterate, where nearly 70% live below the poverty line, these are the people who truly define change, these are the people bear the fruits of their decisions even if wrong for 5 years, but when they get a chance, they ensure they exercise it. On their own, through coercion, through manipulation, but done. Some where a lesson both in terms of Management of such a large event, to a lesson in understanding cooperation and coordination, where people from different walks of life, all come together for a uniform cause, to acceptance, that when people are not satisfied with your results, they will ensure they change. 

Either themselves, or the ones who run them. Mostly it is the latter.

May 25, 2014

Pedestrians.. And their Right of Way.

Image Courtsey Wikipedia
It was simply a crossing. A Pedestrian crossing to be precise. And of course, it was being used by the people it was meant for. The Pedestrians, the people who walk as opposed to the ones who were driving or were in a car / bus that was being driven by some one else. 

Now this is not a high handedness post against people who walk or a post praising the people who drive.. After all, the ones who drive too, have to walk some times and yes, they too need to cross the road. I mean, if John, Paul, George and Ringo crossed the road, why not you and me. 

Back to the post, issue being more of our wonderful pedestrians who consider crossing the road at any time their natural birth right without being stopped, challenged and is the responsibility of the car drivers to stop, even if it means that the traffic is on hold for 20 minutes, while people saunter across a street line of 10 - 20 meters to cross over. 

I remember during my College and initial working days, when I used to alight at Churchgate station and come out either on the Eros or the Fountain side, the entire bunch of people used to stand near the signal, with a traffic police man holding a rope to stop people from running across the street. Evenings, the same on the other side. 

What I could never stop wondering was, that there was a signal that provided the Walk / Stop Sign. Despite the sign, there was always a traffic cop standing holding up a rope to prevent the pedestrians crossing off the street when the cars were in motion. Same action when the signal turned Red. The cars had to be flagged to be stopped, else they would not. The Walk signal turns red, the pedestrians had to be stopped, else they would not! The question always was, why cant people follow rules? 

Going to Bombay to study, from a country where I had grown up and people followed such traffic rules, to see a case where there were none, was always a mystery. I also recall an article that had read long back, with an image to support. Comparison was between Bombay and Beijing, people crossing the road. Both Metropolitan cities, with millions residing in it. 

The comparative was that outside Bombay stations, two cops stood with a rope in hand, preventing people crossing, and yet people pushing the rope or getting down on the road. The Chinese version was a single lady cop standing at a crossing, without a rope, hands behind her back and not even looking at the crowd. Yet, not a single person broke out of line or dared to step on the road when the signal was Red. It was quite a funny comparison, but now when ever I recall that photo, cannot but think, that was probably reality.

The difference one may say could relate to the level of maturity and education that is passed in society from one generation to another, an impact of children seeing what their parents follow and ingrain within themselves, or simply due to fear of rules and penalties for non compliance. Of course, the other fallout also is in countries, where the Pedestrian is considered king and the fault no matter what remains of the driver.

In a place like Bombay, one can only imagine the wrath of the people who would break a persons car for no reason, for the slightest injury to a pedestrian, even if the pedestrian's fault, to a city where people know the cops will fine the driver if they are hit and they will get compensation. 

As I cross across inner lanes and even when driving across roundabouts where I have the full right of way and can drive at a full clip, I always meet Pedestrians, who either take it as their right of way, to walk across no matter if a car is coming down, to idiots (dominated by women), who are busy texting while crossing the street (one actually stood in the middle of the road), to a few who simply saunter across, as if a walk in the park, to those, who casually cross while chatting on the phone.

The combinations are many and yes, I too cross the road often, but then, I pride myself on following rules, following the signs, waiting until the light is green and wait my turn. Looking at the various species that are filled across, I wonder, am I doing something wrong?


May 18, 2014

Life and Boredom

It was the article in the local paper that caught attention. Teenager is no more. One more, damn hell, what is going on, was the first thought as I delved into the article.

As went through it turned out that a teenager had decided to end his life the reason given, he was bored with life and hence decided to end it. More over, he did not want his remains to be taken back home to his country. What a shocker of a start to a day.

With the limited information that could manage to get through the news, it did appear that a student who was appearing for his exams decided to end his life and wrote his final note on the School Exam Paper addressed to his parents. Why this was done, no one knows and probably being a private matter, should rest at that.

As I read the related Articles on the subject, could not but help wonder, is this the result of a society or the community going wrong some where? You have here a child who has access to probably every thing a child probably needs, access to a life and requirements, more probably than what his parents or their parents had, a life of ease and luxury, that was worked for by one's parents, but yet not enough.

The question can be multi fold. There have been numerous articles where students take their life every year, many due to pressures of studying, many due to peer pressure, many due to pressures of not being able to get a good college, or their girl friend leaving them, or the girl that they think they are in love with not accepting their love and getting married...... and.. and.. and... and... the list can be endless..

Question is, is life so cheap? Is life really meaningless that one can decide to end it simply due to a whim, or simply because it did not measure up to expectations? Is life so expected to be full of zest, that a little slackness ends up being a killer? Is life a comparative model that is measured on graphs in comparison with others? Has life really become a bore?

There are no doubt today a lot more pressures, a lot more challenges that what were there 100 years ago. Times no doubt have changed, cut throat competition more sharper than a razors edge, and the impact is there for all to see. Schools / Colleges are no longer guaranteed, parents are finding ways to survive better than their peers, parents make their children go through heaven and hell to ensure that they finish on the top of the lot to get the best in life, to be an all rounder, to be No. 1 in every thing in life, no matter the cost.

To this extent, one even sees Parents going the extra mile to ensure that their kids get the best. Be it education, clothes, lifestyle, cars, accessories, what ever, it has to be the best. One cannot be seen to be a shade lower than their peers, as per many a parent, it could scar their children psychologically!!

But at what cost? We see more and more children getting disillusioned with life, more children unable to meet the expectations set from them, more getting dragged into a lifestyle of comparisons and show biz, that ultimately leads to destruction. For sure there will be those who succeed, but then for every success, there are surely 100 failures which are never heard of. The ones we hear are where people have lost their lives, or given up and lost and at that moment, we all shed a tear of sorrow with a comment, Poor kid.

Question that comes is, what is needed to make life simple yet interesting. What is needed to make life less competitive? What is needed to make life, a means to live and not a means to run to reach to the end, only to find out that there is no one there, or we were actually pushed to reach there, at the needs of some one else. What is required to have children and most important parents understand, that life is for living? There is a reason why a child is born, the result of two people deciding to create / bring new life into the world.

Question that comes is, are parents, society bringing in new life to put them into challenges and into the rat race? Why not simply decide to leave life as is? Why make it so complicated that living itself becomes a burden. One does wonder.. We talk about leaving a better world to our children. But in a planet that is no better than before, a world filled to the brim with environmental disasters, are we also leaving them a life full of stress! What are they going to leave their children? Probably too far out to think!

May 16, 2014

A Kavi Sammelan

Seems to be a week of live performances! First the Gujarati Play, now the Mushaira. 

The start was simple. Got a call on the way home.. Have tickets for a Kavi Sammelan or a Mushaira as one would call it. Are you interested? What time, was the first question. 9 PM being the answer and the fact that I would have had to collect the tickets, plus that I was stuck in traffic at 8.15 PM, No, was the straight response. Kavi or Gayak Sammelan, not going. 

Reaching home in about 20 Min's, as I entered, found the time was at 10 PM. Wow! And oh yes, it includes Javed Akhtar, was the additional message. Since I had an hour or more, the no turned into a yes. Surely, some dedicated fans would have said yes even to a 15 minute notice, but have always felt, if last minute, don't break your head on it. 

Trying to find some companionship was the next challenge. There were extra Tickets, but no one from the group circle interested. Kavi Sammelan !! You mean those boring poets doing word combinations that no one understands. No way. Mushaira.. It will be a all out Pakistani Event.. .and what have you not. 

Ultimately, with no one willing, turned out to be a solo trip. The Venue was the Indian School in Dubai, the line up included a variety of Poets from India and Pakistan, with the main draw of the evening being Javed Akthar. The coverage was quite wide, with some veteran as well as young poets participating, with people coming in from India, Pakistan, Kuwait and including Canada. 

Of course, being a Mushaira on poetry and Ghazals, meant the entire evening would be in Urdu. With words sounding French, Greek and Latin, the question that came to mind, was, What the hell am I doing here? But then remembering what Gabbar Singh once said: Jo Dar Gaya, samjho Mar Gaya ringing in my ears, decided to go on. 

The first thing I realized on a live show was that TV Mushaira's and Live Shows are two different events. First and foremost is the feeling of being there. What it is, I cannot describe, but sitting in an auditorium, looking at 10 poets sitting up on the stage, each coming out with couplets, some rhyming, some not, but each one in perfect harmony, some sentences making perfect sense and putting you into a deep thought, some making no sense at all until you hear the next three lines, some called Ghazals, some called Nazm's or Najm's as they call it. 

At times you have no clue why the compere said, Kya Khub Kehney, or why he said, Bahut Khub, but as the evening progresses and you get into the flow, you realize what it means, and why it is said. Some where there is a flow, some where the compere acts as a guide, some where he simply repeats for the impact, at times you feel, he repeats to assist the poet of the lines, but all said and done, done in an effortless manner, without any pretensions. You realize as time goes by, the compere too is an accomplished poet, but the manner in which he guides the evenings and ensures that the right poet comes in one after the other, is an art in itself. 

The evening no doubt belonged to Javed Akhtar. Have always considered him to be arrogant and pretentious, but had no such feelings for his poetry. He showed why he is so respected in the industry when it comes to coming out with his songs, his Ghazals, his poems. Reciting a few of his Ghazals, with a rendition of his Najm Waqt Humara Hai, a perfect end to an evening. 

I would not say, I ended up any wiser on what Shayri and Ghazals were, but it for sure was an Eye Opener. A different world altogether of Poetry, that originated from our own country, a reminder of the glorious past that India was, and a tradition that was being kept alive. With more than a week gone by, I dont recall much of what was said, but for sure two poems or Ghazals, for ever remain in my mind. 

In footpathon ko itna mat ragadkar chalo....In footpathon ko itna mat ragadkar chalo....

Inpar mazdooron key sapney rehtey hain.

and what was even more true

Bete bhi aaj kal rukhsat ho jaatey hain...Bete bhi aaj kal rukhsat ho jaatey hain...
Sirf Betiyon ko hi paraya mat samjho.

Until my next tryst with Poetry.

May 8, 2014

A Gujarati Play

Image: Google
It was an Invite by the Community Group BBuzz to go and see a Gujarati Play. Organized through the Gujarati community and sponsored by the local Business houses, it was a welcome opportunity to do something different for the weekend.

Veran Vagde Ugya Phool... That was the name of the Play and though not quite sure, what it meant, the implication was that a flower grows even in a barren land. It was with this much of an understanding of what the Play meant, that I went to see the same. Now, not that I don't understand Gujarati, but then, would one ask some one at a play, what does it mean?

A long time since had gone to a live professional play, was looking forward to it. Come the day, the time,it seemed like minutes from the time the doors opened, that the entire Auditorium of about a 1000+ capacity was filled up. What was also interesting was the active participation of the young kids who attended, considering that this was advertised as a Social issue Play, and more so that it was on a weekend.

The backdrop of the Play was Surrogacy, or even a Womb for Rent. A wealthy couple in the US coming down to India as they had no kids. Different options considered, including adoption and of course going the surrogate way. Hard hitting at times, when the wife reiterates time and again of her anguish of being unable to bear a child. A mix couple where the Husband is a realist and accepts that fact that he cannot have children, and is willing to spend money as it is all looked at in $$'s and definitely cheaper in India,

Wanting to have a child at the earliest and in the shortest of time span, the couple are provided with a surrogate mother, who is uneducated, lacks manners in terms of meeting people, in terms of speaking and is married to a drunkard. Described as a good "candidate" who has the ability to carry a full term pregnancy, the play revolves around the life of the couple who spend the next nine months with the "Mother" who will bear their child.

An issue that exists in society all across, with many couples unable to bear children and the lengths that they go to have some one who will bear their name after they have long gone. There are various options, but the key message that I could gather were two:

The first was the acceptance from a society's point of view of a woman not being able to bear a child. It is always the fault of the girl, no matter that the fault was with the boy. With changing times, men are more acceptable to the fact that the fault lies with them, but does society forgive the woman? The mother of the boy in the play, would not resist passing a barb once in a while to her daughter in law for her inability to be a mother.

The very fact that the couple despite living in the US, chose to come back home to a remote location away from the prying eyes of all their relatives, to have a child out of Surrogacy, was proof enough, that though we live in modern times, we are still worried as to what Society will say.

The Second message as I saw and inferred from the play was the change in the attitude of the surrogate mother. Here was a woman, married to a drunkard, having delivered a child who did not survive (due to the drunkard's bad genes), a woman, who was in all terms uncouth with respect to manners, dressing, speaking, and even respecting elders.

The change that transforms this uneducated woman while living with an educated family, learning to dress, to speak, to walk was the second message that I could infer. Obviously eating proper food, getting a good place to stay, living with people who respected her, provided an environment that was different to reality. One could see as the play progressed, the woman changing and even wanting that new life.

Unfortunately, I could not go through to the end, but the message stayed far and long. The fact that we consider ourselves to be great, but are yet driven by society's norms and thoughts, their likes and dislikes is proof enough that though living in Unitary families, one cannot escape the surroundings around us. Cultures may have different levels of acceptance, but the Indian / Asian culture has traditionally frowned upon such choices and there seems to be no change in that thinking.

The second part about the woman bearing some one else's child inside her, getting a better life in the process, was a clear cut message that you are where you live, how you live and who you live with. Your entire demeanour is dependent on the society that you live in. Having good food / education / money, is a great contributor to the ultimate outcome of a persons personality. Yes, we do have our exceptions, who despite all of this turn out rotten, but the many that have turned as such, can at times be linked to the backgrounds in which they have grown up in / with.

Questions that did leave me thinking and unanswered yet:
- Is society so demanding that it expects no flaws in people?
- Are people who are born into bad surroundings and turn so. Is it their fault?
- The Surrogate mother who rents her womb. Is she serving society or doing a business?
- Does the saying the one who rears the child as against the one who bore the child is more important hold true? Who passes the values?
- The Surrogate mother.. After renting out a few children, if she has her own, will she have any attachments?
- Just because some one has the money, does it give the right to the person to do what they want and use the one's who need money! Is it moral?
- Are developing countries the dumping ground for such requirements and needs? Is that what they are worth?

I went in trying to see a play and have a relaxed evening.. I came out more confused and lost. I am not sure about you?

Some related links:

May 2, 2014

A Greek Odyssey - Feedback and Reviews

@ Dubai Apt. Hum to Chale Pardes
This post is courtesy the group members whose own views and experiences of the tour are listed below. I would like to thank the contributors for their views and letting me share their thoughts. 

A thank you note to Bhatia Buzz for the wonderful tour and the opportunity to meet one and all. Photographs used in this post have been sourced through some of the group members collections and including Bhatia Buzz.

@ Hotel. Chalo Bulawa Aaya Hai
I love nature and travelling to places with scenic views, pleasant weather.  My last travel in 2009 to Germany (Black Forest), where we got to travel the country side and also covering the the French (Strasbourg) and Swiss borders (Zurich & Schaffhausen), made me madly fall in love with Europe.

Since then, did not have much of an opportunity for a proper break, and longing for another one, an opportunity arose on finding out that Bhatia Buzz, our Community Group had organized a Tour to Greece. Jumping with joy led to an immediate decision of a break from work and go on this trip (as I wanted to see more of Europe), even if I had to go alone with the group. The decision slowly influenced my sister, my Sister In Law, my nephews and niece and my mom and finally they all joined me on this. I would have been happier had my children also joined me, but as they were fresh graduates with new jobs, could not come along but supported me wholeheartedly. 

Group @ Acropolis
As the date approached, the excitement too increased. Procedures got done with, a short briefing session before the tour, getting to know the people going on tour, the wait became shorter. Finally the day of travel arrived and headed off to the Airport at 2.30 am. Being a long day, full plans on catching up on some sleep on flight, however the weather decided to play spoil sport with some other plans in store. Thunder / Lightning decided to fall across, leading to our flight to Doha getting cancelled and also missing our connecting flight to Athens. What a start to our trip!!!

@ The Theatre
But in a way this gave us chance to familiarize with each other in the group as we had to wait for nearly 8 hours before we could get on another flight to Doha. With our tour leader managing to get us the Lounge Access, some members managed to get some sleep on the couches of the lounges. And I was actually envying people who were able to sleep so coolly. I can never get a proper sleep in uncomfortable situations, however tired I may be. Some of us kept on chatting with each other getting to know each other, how we are related or inter-related (full Bhatia community is related in some or the other way).  Thus we managed to pass our time and get on the plane by 11.30 am.  All of us were so excited to get on the plane finally and were hoping that next connecting flight for the day does not get missed. Thankfully that did not happen and we could catch that flight right in time.

Our Selfie Sparks
Finally after 5 hours we reached our final destination – Athens, Greece. What a relief! We got into our tour bus from the airport to check into the city hotel. It took 45 mins from airport to the hotel. On our way we enjoyed the scenery and as we neared the city, it took us a while to reach due to the heavy traffic on the roads. Though we all were very tired due to the flight delay and long travel, we did not want to waste rest of the day. 

The Quietest Kids every seen.
We came down soon after checking into our rooms to visit Greek tavern in Plaka area, an old Athens town, for dinner and to see folk dancing with music. The Greek vegetarian dinner was quite good and filling and the dances were a treat to watch, but due to a tiring journey and full earlier tiring week at work, was not able to enjoy this moment fully. Was feeling very sleepy and wanted to hit the bed as soon as possible.

Our Romantic Couple
Following a good night's rest, we started with our sight-seeing the next day feeling fresh as a flower. We had a beautiful tour guide with us, who seemed more of a history teacher than a tour guide. She kept on talking and explaining to us all about Greek history throughout the tour. Impressive but quite a few of us, I presume, did not quite understand.

The Girls are back in Town
I really enjoyed overall trip and the main thing was bonding with the group members. These four days, where we visited historical places, shopping, tasting Greek cuisine, sing along drives on the buses, the boat cruise, and the kids having a care free time, getting to know people, are some memories that simply cannot be described. 

Our Resident SRK
Work was forgotten, and was simply a go with the flow with every one else. I think this was one of the best phases of my life. I wouldn’t mind going on another trip along with the group. All the group members were very friendly, accommodating, sharing and caring. Yes I should put it down that since we had to cover maximum places in four days, there was not much  breathing space as we had to be on our toes from morning till evening. Physically there was no time to relax but beautiful place along with awesome company made this trip worth while. But hopefully my children will accompany me next time.

Our Smashing Tour Operators
Comments above courtesy Rita Babla

Apr 26, 2014

Greek Odyssey - Going Home

The view when flying out
Four days of bliss, fun and frolic, all coming to an end, it was time to go home. Mixed feelings one would say. A feeling of going home, happiness on one side, a feeling of not wanting to leave and continue the holiday yet for another few days.

Am sure that the feeling was mutual across the entire group of friends, relatives, who had all spent the last few days more as a family, than as friends. The visits to the Historical sites, the lunch / dinner meets, walking across hills to see some fabulous views, dancing across events, waiting for each other, getting lost, running across to find each other, the sing along drives, sharing jokes, walking foot in foot with each other on all events.

Heineken Bar @ Apt
The memories of Greece, as we all headed home, no doubt lingered in every one's mind. As we headed to the Airport doing the final rounds of the city, having our last looks, one could not but wonder of the civilizations that had been, that created such magnificence, such wonders that have survived the test of time. 

Surely there are many such wonders across the world, one would say, especially, if one looks at the Indian civilizations of yore, cultures that defined history, eras that set the trend of the future. What was wonderful about the country, was the care with which history was retained and maintained as opposed to many countries, where a complete lack of respect for the past has resulted in the degeneration of the present.

As one travels through the country, one cannot but wonder at the past gone by. Were the historical periods a good time to live in? Where only kings and royals had a life, and the rest lived in slavery or as commoners, making monuments a time one would prefer to today? Not that it is any different today (we are still slaves today, but just that we work for money). Would we trade our present lives to live in the past as we are today (not talking about past lives)

But yet, with the legacy left behind, the past appears so great in wisdom and vision that despite not having any kind of technology available, wonders have been created out of nothing, in the middle of no where, something that has not been able to be replicated till date and people who consider themselves scholars and learned giants, are yet to fathom out most of the mysteries that exist? How does one build symmetry without angles? How does one lift a 10 Ton Stone without cranes and yet place it in such harmony and position, that it survives centuries? Our buildings today, which are more modern do not survive beyond 50years !!!

Yet what was impressive was the way the past blending with the present. There are countries who have made a mess of their historical heritage, there are countries, who proudly preserve them, manage and maintain them for the generations to come to view the greatness of times. Modern Greece, filled with buildings (which incidentally was quite unique that it was flat and not filled with sky scrapers), the paved roads, the impact of modern day traditions of an open society, an economy gone bust due to its spending, surviving hand in hand with the past, most of it, also which is in the middle of the city. 

Pottery Making
Managing such history and ensuring it stays on for the generations to come, is not a small feat. What I do wonder is will we as the new intelligent civilization, the modern world, the intellectual ones, will we ever have any creations, that would be of such wonder? Would any of our creations be for any specific purpose, other than the fact of showing that we have the tallest building, the largest theme part, or the most expensive Hotel.

At the end, a wonderful trip, with a fabulous group, which as I mentioned on my first part was a community group tour. Getting a group of nearly 30 people, coordinating the event, ensuring all planned to the end, no mean feat. Of course one has tour guides and tour consultants, who manage the local parts, but then coordination too plays a major role.

All depends again, on whether one likes to have individual travels or group managed, but all one can do post a holiday, is just wonder, when is the next one again. Of course, the fun is also going through the photographs, and getting your album out. I am yet to do mine with nearly a month getting over. But there is hope..

The Group visiting Greece

PS: The Photographs on this post are just random snaps of the tour