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