Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Just as I was beginning to get comfortable with Mumbai, its time for me to leave. And suddenly, I don’t think I’m too comfortable with that.
What was it that I used to say about Mumbai?
Noisy, crowded, polluted…???
And yet I can’t shake off the first surge of something exhilarating that I had smelled in this air when I had first walked out of Dadar station on 16 July. Something other than the smoke and dampness in the surrounding had caught with me and it’s as if I can feel it in my senses all over again. It smelled like freedom, a heady sense of purpose, and a spirit so like me that I could never walk away from, despite the city’s many vices.
Gosh, I’m surprising myself!
And yet, having said all that, I still have no reason not to go back to my precious Goa… as always!
But I know I’ll be back – back to explore Mumbai as Mumbai is, back to the gallis and locals, markets and malls, to the crowds where you can be invisible and not worry about being judged, to a life which knows not the snails pace, to never ending opportunities, undying spirit and most importantly – the freedom!
I know I’ll be back, to that part of me which is sure to bring me back!
This one is to all my new friends – Charlette, Sarita, Mandar, Mahesh, Pradeep, Megha, Hetal, Dinesh.
And of course – Atya and Gaurav…
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The author’s view could be debatable, I don’t know. But it struck a chord – do read till the end.
I’m free. I’m out of prison; my wife has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. I have no fixed timetable for work; I have no problem meeting new people. I’m rich, famous, and if Esther really has left me, I’ll soon find someone to replace her. I’m free, independent.
But, what is freedom?
I’ve spend a large part of my life enslaved to one thing or another so I should know the meaning of the word. Ever since I was a child I have fought to make freedom my most precious commodity. I fought with my parents who wanted me to be an engineer not a writer. I fought with the other boys at school who immediately honed in on me as the butt of their cruel jokes; and only after much blood had flowed from my nose and theirs, only after many afternoons where I had to hide my scars from my mother – because it was up to me not her to solve my problems – did I manage to show them that I could take a thrashing without bursting into tears. I fought to get a job to support myself and went to work as a delivery man for a hardware store, so as to be free from that old line in the family blackmail: ‘we’ll give you money but you have to do this, this and this.’
I fought – although without success – for the girl I was in love with when I was an adolescent, and who loved me too; she left me in the end because her parents convinced her that I had no future.
I fought against the hostile world of journalism – my next job – where my first boss kept me hanging around for three whole hours and only deigned to take any notice of me when I started to tear up the book he was reading: he looked at me in surprise and thought that here was someone who was capable of persevering and confronting the enemy, essential qualities for a good reporter. I fought for the socialist ideal, went to prison, came out and went on fighting feeling like a working-class hero – until, that is, I heard Beatles and decided that rock music is much more fun than Marx. I fought for the love of my first, second and third wives. I fought to find courage to leave my first, second and third wives, because the love I felt for them hadn’t lasted and I needed to move on, until I found the person who had been put in this world to find me – and she was none of those three.
I fought for the courage to leave my job on the newspaper and launch myself into the adventure of writing a book, knowing full well that no one in my country could make a living as a writer. I gave up after a year, after writing more than a thousand pages – pages of such genius that even I couldn’t understand them.
While I was fighting I heard other people speaking in the name of freedom, and the more they defended this unique right, the more enslaved they seemed to be to their parent’s wishes, to a marriage in which they had promised to stay with other person ‘for the rest of their lives’, to the bathroom scales, to their diet, to half-finished projects, to lovers to whom they were incapable of saying ‘No’ or ‘It’s over’, to weekends where they were obliged to have lunch with people they didn’t even like. Slaves to luxury, to the appearance of luxury, to the appearance of the appearance of luxury. Slaves to a life they had not chosen, but which they had decided to live because someone had managed to convince them that it was all for the best. And so their identical days and nights passed, days and nights when adventure was just a word in a book or an image on the television that was always on, and whenever a door opened they would say:
‘I’m not interested; I’m not in the mood.’
How could they possibly know if they were in the mood or not if they had never tried? But there was no point in asking; the truth was they were afraid of any change that would upset the world they had grown used to.
The inspector says I’m free. I am free now and I was free in the prison too, because freedom continues to be thing I prize the most in the world. Of course this has led me to drink wines I did not like, to do things I should not have done or would not do again; it has left scars on my body and on my soul, it has meant hurting certain people, although I have since asked their forgiveness, when I realised that I could do absolutely anything except force another person to follow me in my madness, in my lust for life. I don’t regret the painful times; I bear my scars as if they were medals. I know that freedom has a high price, as high as that of slavery; the only difference is that you pay with pleasure and a smile, even when that smile is dimmed by tears.
Friday, September 4, 2009
It was almost as if I was waiting for Anant-chaturdashi to write about the Ganesh festival of Mumbai. I had heard tales of this day from my cousins and many friends. It’s the D-day for the Ganesh festivities here – the 11th day where most Ganesh idols are collectively immersed on the Mumbai coastline. The sight is a one to watch!
The final aarti takes place and the processions start in the early afternoon. These processions are very similar to a typical Hindi film wedding barat only minus the designer dresses and jewellery. People dance, play numerous instruments, the most popular being the dhol, around the idol. And the idol, magnificent and standing tall and towering is taken in pick up trucks moving at snails pace. I dint have to go far to see it. Just sitting in my aunt’s living room window was enough to provide a wide view of numerous such barats.
Expectedly, it’s also a day of the worst traffic jams in the city. My cousin took his bike to work today, skipping the company bus. He said it would be easier for him to navigate through traffic and hopefully that way he’ll be able to make it back home before dawn. And even as he stepped out of the door, he left dire warning ringing in my ear to study in the morning and not to leave much for the evening. I took him very seriously – after Gokulashtami, I would have been a fool not to do so.
And so, I spent the better part of my evening sitting in the window watching people covered in gulaal dancing to the tuneless beat of the drums. I tried very hard to try to decipher one of them and I think it was ‘Mungda’… but I can’t be sure. Well, as long as they don’t play stupid Bollywood songs on the loudspeakers, I knew I would be just fine.
When I was in Pune a couple of years back for my studies, I would run back home during Ganesh celebrations. Every street would be blocked by pujas being performed where cars should be running, loudspeakers blaring all over the place and rangolis decorating the sidewalks leaving no place for pedestrians. And as an art lover I have to say this – it would be heart breaking to walk over somebody else’s beautiful hard work.
In Pune, there is a Ganesh temple at every nook and corner, 2 of them were just outside the hostel where I stayed, separated approximately by 10 metres. And it meant that every month for Sankashti and Ekadashi, nobody slept peacefully in the hostel. There would always be a fierce competition between the two groups to demonstrate who owned the loudest music system. It would reach such unbearable decibels that we would go complain to the rector and she would go scream herself hoarse at them and the music would be lowered to a respected volume. But after half an hour, we would be back to square one. By the end of the day, the rector would be too tired to do anything and we would get an earful if we even uttered a C of complaints.
Au contraire, in Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in peace. Every house brings its own Ganesh idol and private celebrations go on all over the state. At my natives, Chaturthi means delicious smells of various delicacies wafting through the house, family members all sitting together for the aarti with taal, decorating the makhaí(the place where the idol is placed), drawing beautiful rangolis, collecting durva(the three leaved green grass specially offered to Ganapti) and many such small and wonderful rituals right from the day when the idol is brought in to the day we sadly bade him goodbye. It’s the time for family members to get together and have fun. After spending the entire day would be spent in preparations, all us cousins would then sit and play card late into the night.
Ah! Good old memories…
I never thought I’d miss this festival until I actually had to miss it. This is the first time I’m spending Chaturthi away from home.
Anyway, I’m not a very religious person and my knowledge of festivals and rituals is extremely limited. But I always thought faith was a very private thing. And festivals were only an excuse to celebrate it, bringing happiness and abundance in life. Really is that what festivals are meant for nowadays?
At my mum’s ancestral house, we have the same idol that we worship year after year. A few years back, I had asked my uncle, why is it that we don’t immerse the idol in the well like everybody else? And he had told me that a great deal of effort is involved in digging wells and such other wells, or streams, ponds and lakes are a source of clean drinking and irrigation water; and so it would be a shameful act to pollute them plaster of Paris statutes or even block them with clay idols.
Such is the kind of respect I learned not only for our festivals but also for the life sustaining nature from an early age. So it kills me to see that people cannot apply the same simple principles everywhere.
The festival spirit in people here is tremendous, but so is the disregard for others convenience. And nobody thinks about the kind of pressure we put on our environment. Sure, the energy and the mood they bring in is incredible but so is the level of noise and air pollution. And what happens to the ecosystem when these ‘Plaster of Paris’ idols are immersed in our seas? And what when broken parts of these idols of faith are washed off to the shore where they are cruelly left to rot along with other garbage and debris?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against festivals; I’m just against the way they are being celebrated.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Lets see, we all hear about DDLJ and 'Sholay', but who really talks about ‘Dor’ or a very sweet personal favourite named ‘Socha na tha’? We all hear about ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’ and ‘Shantaram’ but I’m probably the only one who’ll mention ‘Eat Cake’!
‘Eat Cake’ is one very lovely book I had once read – about 2-3 years back. It’s not a literary genius and doesn’t have a very brilliant plot, nor is it a heart wrenching drama. It’s a very simple book about a simple housewife who tries to pull her family out of a financial crisis with the help of her cakes.
Even as a young girl, this lady develops a close bond with baking, especially cakes. And her love for those cakes is brought out in almost every page of the book. Her life, her dreams, her problems too are described with the help of the many cakes she regularly bakes. Every layer, every scent, every flavour has its own meaning. And it leaves you craving for a cake of your own, even though her family really wishes she would stop baking them on a daily basis.
It even finishes with 2 lovely recipes for cakes in the end.
This book without doubt is meant for a foodie – one who can appreciate the writer’s and the protagonist’s cake fetish. And I enjoyed it for that, it’s still on my mind after so many years and I wanted to make a little mention about it here.
Of course, I should also mention that the book I had read was an abridged version – part of the RD special editions – which meant that the story was over within 100 pages, and I sincerely don’t think that the book had any more to offer. But if you’re looking for something light to take you away from stress, here’s a cute next-door story for a pleasant evening read.
Go… Eat Cake!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Forget slums and the stench
Forget the sheer size and the volume
Forget pollution and the smoke, the dust…
I might get used to them. But the one thing about Mumbai that I might never adjust to is the constant level of noise, the relentless activity, steady undying commotion in high decibels.
I am such a silence loving person that Mumbai literally gets on to my nerves.
Currently I’m sitting in my aunt’s one-bedroom ground floor flat in Andheri (E) trying to get on with my Financial Management Foreign Exchange problems, while a huge, loud Ganesh procession is passing by blocking the traffic, so that all I can concentrate on is the drums, tashe, loudspeaker-ed Marathi songs coupled with the blaring horns of the traffic while the Dollars, Pounds and Yen on my notebook do a well choreographed Tandav Nrutya in front of my eyes.
Yes, it’s a festival of a lot of joy, exuberance and splendour. There’s absolutely no way you can escape the energy. But why-oh-why do we need to turn it into a freaking carnival?
The same was with 'Gokulashtami' a week back. Just outside on the street on the morning of 14th August, I was greeted with a huge road block as I walked back home from my classes. The traffic had been diverted and a huge pillar was being lifted supporting a horizontal rope tied between two tall buildings on which was dangling a small earthen pot i.e. ofcourse the prized Dahi-Handi. I hurried inside expecting the worst and it came… sooner than I had anticipated. 10 minutes later, the loudspeakers started with ‘Dhan Te Nan – Ta na na na…’
20 minutes later – (Song: Singh is King)
It has reached an unbearable pitch, and I can already feel the old migraine kicking up.
12 noon – (Song: My Desi girl.)
I can hear my brain pounding against the walls of my skull, synchronising a nice background beat to go with the music while I wholeheartedly prayed the Desi guys to get on with the Dahi Handi.
By 2 pm – (Song: And we twist)
I’m twisting and turning in bed trying to drift into oblivion with pillow over my head, buried deep inside the blanket.
By 4 pm – My brain is numb, and my ears seem to be revolting. I have two large cotton balls stuffed in them with no use, and I have tears in my eyes. I mean who plays ‘Main talli ho gayi’ on Gokulashtami?
6 pm – Finally the Govinda team arrives to break the handi and claim the prize and I silently begin the countdown. (Song – Govinda aala re aala)
8 pm – Suddenly everything goes quiet. Have I gone deaf?
But no, the handi is down, the team has claimed their prize and the crowd slowly disperses. I have tears in my eyes again… this time of happiness!
I had immensely enjoyed the festival of Gokulashtami before this, but this year was a totally new experience – different and in no ways pleasant. If the Dahi Handi fod was scheduled so late then what inspired the need to play Bollywood songs throughout the day? Who had asked for such atrocious free entertainment? Is it just me who cannot understand the public mortification of our festivals?
But ofcourse with Ganesh Chaturthi coming up, I knew this was just the beginning.
To be contd…
Sunday, August 23, 2009
A little late with the film review but Mumbai was closed last weekend with the H1N1 scare and so I finally watched the movie I had impatiently waited for this weekend.
Four stars ****
Guddu - Innocent, naïve, an NGO worker with a stammer who gets his girlfriend pregnant... absolutely cute!
Portrayal by Shahid – m - m - mindblowing!
Charlie – A petty gangster, who lisps his way into your mind and fuzzes it completely! Reciprocal of Guddu...
Portrayal by Shahid – Abfolutely Fexy!
Sweety - Naughty knows no boundaries, not just a hapless lady love but a fierce feline who completes the movie.
Portrayal by PC – very convincing, I can’t think of a better person to play the role!
Other sundry characters are cast so well, it gives you an idea of how seriously Vishal Bharadwaj takes his movies. Out of them, the most memorable are Amol Gupte as the callous communal leader/politician Bhope and Chandan Roy Sanyal and Charlie’s half-boss, half-best friend Mikhail.
About the plot – The first half is impeccable. It’s full of rib-tickling dark humour and the story unwinds beautifully, comfortably flitting in and out of the lives of the two brothers who have wilfully separated, until fate collides their lives and turns it into an upside down roller coaster ride. But the first half builds a momentum the second half can’t quite keep up with. At times it loses its ground and drops its pace as the plot gets thicker and a bit confusing. It shocks and baffles you and you really need to keep track of who’s who and who’s killing who. But just when you start to feel apprehensive that it’s going to wander off track, it slams on the accelerator back again. The full on gang wars and violence can get a bit extreme but doesn’t go overboard. And the end wraps up the loose strings nicely, it’s predictable but fitting and thankfully doesn’t get too clichéd.
The film is extremely creative and fresh! Dialogues and sequences are mind-blowingly original and the humour cracks you up. After beautifully portrayed ‘Omkara’ I had high hopes from this one and it did not disappoint me. I’m one of those who watch max 2-3 movies in the theatres every year, ‘cos I simply hate wasting my money and patience on mediocre movies, but ‘Kaminey’ was definitely worth putting in my annual list! I don’t know how much the masses will like it (my own aunt and cousin didn’t have anything much to say about it) but I know it is one of the better movies I had seen in the recent times. And after a long time, it gave me somebody to swoon over – Shahid! His ‘Charlie’ is going to stay with me for a while and has set a benchmark that is going to be hard to compete with in the future, especially for him!
Friday, August 14, 2009
But the pothole I’m talking about is a little different, the one I had anticipated, foreseen and yet I inadvertently managed to get myself into it. And now I’ve fallen so deep, all I can see is the muddy claustrophobic space engulfing me and the murky grey clouds obscuring the distant blue sky, waiting no doubt, to pour insult on injury. How did I get here, I ask myself… when did I sink so deep?
I had read somewhere a while ago, “There comes a time in almost every man’s life when he tries to run away from life. The trick is to know when to stop running and how to get yourself back!”
And as the sky starts to pour and the space around me closes in, I finally know it's time for me to stop running. As to how to get myself back up, I’m working on it!
I’M WORKING ON IT!
The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
But I have promises to keep,
And Miles to go before I sleep...
Miles to go before I sleep !!!
- Robert Frost
Dedicated to my repeated CA final fiasco…
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
“Oh my god Sharvani, you look so thin!” I hear the umpteenth time.
And quite uncharacteristically, I roll my eyes, make an exasperated noise and march out of the group leaving everybody to stare at my retreating back.
Outside, I sit alone on the veranda wall, fuming. I was already in a foul mood, but had been dragged to the house-warming party of a relative by my ever-insistent parents. And now, whatever little mood I had left for the party had evaporated with that last statement.
Yes, I’m accustomed to it by now, but it still is quite grating to hear it everywhere I go.
I’m thin – so what?
Some clarifications –
· Being thin does not mean I don’t eat enough; I’m just genetically built that way. I’m NOT a believer of size zero to starve myself for fashion. So leave me alone!
· Thin does not necessarily equal fragile. On the contrary, I’m one of the most energetic of my lot. I’m strong and I have great stamina. In my trekking group, I know how it feels to be one of the first to climb an arduous mountain and then watch others who are left behind huffing and puffing.
· Being thin also does not mean I’m weak. I boast a strong nervous system. Proof? I've never had a major sickness, I don’t remember the last time I had visited a doctor and definitely don’t remember the last time I had taken any medications except a few antibiotics for a wisdom tooth pulled out.
And people, it certainly means that I don’t have to watch my diet, constantly counting my calorie intake. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I can finish that entire chocolate brownie when many have to satisfy themselves with a tinsie little bite.
And as a added bonus, my mum’s cooking is one of the healthiest in the world. And I’m grateful to the healthy eating habits that my parents have inculcated in me right from my childhood. So there’s no way I’m going to put on weight, try as I might.
So there! I’m proud of being thin. I don’t need to be told that I look like a combination of a hanger and a stick insect, which FYI I don’t. I don’t like to be greeted with a ‘Have you lost even more weight?’ I’m perfectly happy with a ‘Hi, how you doing?’ and I’m tired of the constant sermons of what I should or shouldn’t wear and how much I should or shouldn’t eat.
Those who flaunt my category or those who parade in the other extreme (always carrying a few extra pounds on their conscience), know that we don’t want that look from you, even if all you want to do is show you care. Because all that we’re thinking while pretending to listen to your ‘you’re-too-thin’ gospels is… Just. Get. Off. My. Back.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I'm in a huge auditorium, conducting a symphony orchestra. I'm waving my arms delicately the baton in one hand and smile on my face, urging the tired and yawning band to play the one last piece for me.
The melody goes – and I sing along silently…
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday,
Happy Birthday to me!
The music stops. I turn around and take a bow. When I straighten up, I realise that the entire auditorium is empty.
I woke up with the same sick, empty sensation deep inside me. I try to shake it away but it doesn’t go. I don’t know why, but I dread my Birthdays, not because of the prospect of getting a year older but something inexplicably seems missing.
A Void – that always puzzles me. How? Why? Can anybody explain?
Monday, August 10, 2009
Scrap – swoosh – thump…
A pause to wipe the trail of sweat off the brow…
Again, scrap – swoosh – thump…
I check my watch, I still have another half an hour before dad comes out and I see the incredulous look on his face, the pride in his eyes.
And I get back to work.
20 minutes later I’m done. I look back at the stretch of the driveway that I’ve just shovelled clean – a feat that took me nearly 45 minutes, something I’m sure dad would have done in 15 minutes but nevertheless it was worth it. I look back up at the sky; it looks like its frozen solid, an ominous sign. “Oh god, please hold it for another hour!” I say looking at the occasional snowflake falling from the sky.
A quick check of the watch – 5 minutes. I rush back into the garage and fling the shovel aside, strip off my dad’s oversized and heavy gumboots and run upstairs.
5 minutes later, I walk back down in the kitchen where dad is sitting at the table, a half finished cup of chai and a newspaper open in front of him.
“… worst snowstorm in a decade…(sigh)… god only knows what’s waiting for me on the front walk.”
“Well, its hardly snowing anymore… you should get it done with” mum replied with a peek out the window.
Dad gets up and leaves. I take his place at the table trying not to smile but fail miserably.
“What are you so happy about?”
“Nothing!” I hide my face behind the glass of milk.
“Chitra…” I hear dad call out 2 minutes later, “Did u ask anyone to shovel the driveway this morning?”
“What?” Mum screams back, “I didn’t ask anyone…” but stops abruptly at the look on my face.
“Did you do it?” She asks me sceptically.
I grin from ear to ear in response and rush outside.
“Dad, I did it!” I say breathlessly while accidentally spraying him with snow as I come to a stop on the frozen lawn.
“Oh… well, thanks beta! But why did you do it?”
“It was a surprise for you.” I’m still grinning.
“But look at your hands…” he says as he pulls my palm closer to his eye, “they’re all sore. IT’S NOT A GIRL’S JOB, BETA!”
The words reverberate in the cold wind, chilling it instantly. No, he didn’t just say that.
“Mein kar lunga…” (I’ll do it next time) he finished heedlessly.
I feel like someone just dunked a bucketful of icy cold water on me, freezing me to the spot. Even my foolish smile froze halfway, uncertain.
And suddenly I’m 5 again, eagerly opening my birthday present. But instead of the video game I had asked for, out comes a very frilly, very pink, very blonde stupid doll.
And I’m 9 years old; my mum is telling me off for having an argument with the arts teacher.
“You need to respect you elders!”
“But he treats us like shit…”
“Don’t you use that language with me. It doesn’t suit girls to behave like this!”
Last summer – My dad drags me back home because I had been “…playing football with a bunch of boys”, while my older brother Nitin sniggers from across the yard with his friends.
“When will you behave like a girl?”
Two weeks back – I wistfully watch my friends sign up for the overnight astronomy trip.
“But its astronomy,” I had tried to reason; “it has to be done at night. Besides, you’re allowing Nitin bhaiya to go for his 3 days Tennis camp.”
“I said no overnight trip, that’s it! And Nitin is a boy, it is different…”
But I had already left the room.
And I’m 12, still frozen on the porch, watching my dad pull out on the recently shovelled, slightly slippery driveway… the injustice still rankling in my ears,
“… IT’S NOT A GIRL’S JOB, BETA!”
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Familiar? Very familiar… in my small town school of Goa itself, 2 boys have committed suicide in the last 5 years. And not a day goes by when you don’t hear about it from someone or read it in the newspapers.
Expectations – the word itself has become a taboo, like a naked steel blade hanging inches over your neck, perennially reminding you of the price you’ll pay for failure. And not just any failure, a failure combined with guilt of breaking your parent’s heart!
And academics isn’t the only issue here…
No – it’s the clothes you wear, the friends you have, the time you come home…
It’s the career you choose, why commerce? Why not Science?
Creative arts? That's so risky... do you think it's easy? Just do MBA!
It’s the person you choose for your life… she’s from the other cast???
Why do you want to adopt? I only want biological grandchildren.
Maybe I’m biased. But at 23, I still find it very exhausting to try and keep up with my parent’s outlook. Being a fiercely independent individual is like a curse.
Let’s just go back a few months, when pressure started building on me, it took its toll. I would burst out at every opportunity, blaming my parents and the world around for their over-expectations. I have a few friends who do the same.
My mum asked me, “You say we expect too much! But is it wrong for us to want to see our kids succeed and do well in life?” I understand it's normal for parents to expect from kids, a person to expect from spouse, a friend from another friend. But how much is too much? When does it stop being caring and start coming in way of relations? Don’t we need to keep a track of that as well??
Up until a few years ago, any expectations from my parents were only a chance for me to prove that I was the best daughter in the world. No matter what they put on my shoulders, I deftly carried it through. I was always a brilliant kid and the expectations only kept mounting.
But ever since I got into CA, any expectations began to be a burden, a put-down. I couldn’t understand, was it because of the already demanding profession or was it that I just grew out of the age where I would do anything to please Mommy and Daddy.
I’m not used to disappointing my parents, but lately that’s all that I seemed to be doing. And I always carried a façade of superficial strength, and that started breaking through too. For me, it feels like I have reached the ‘crossroads’ where its more important for me to find myself apart from them, but how do I explain it? I’ve come so far walking on a path somebody else showed me, that lately all I do is look back and wonder. And I’m confused, because I do not know if there’s a path left to choose from here or even the courage to do so.
I don’t know when its time for me to live for myself… whether that means anything at all?
The Monk who sold his Ferrari states, ‘The secret to happiness is simple. Find out what you truly love to do and then direct all your energies towards doing it’. Personally, I’ve always believed in it. But I also know that freedom of choice isn’t an easy virtue. There’s always the fear of breaking someone’s heart when you make the detour on their path of expectations; but an even bigger fear of losing yourself if you keep riding along.
You’ll always have the world telling you what’s best for you, your parents included. But finally it comes down to the choices we make…. the choices that define us… the choices that make or break us - the choice to take a stand or commit suicide, the choice to believe in yourself and surge ahead or quietly follow somebody else’s footsteps. Finally it does come down to this… whether or not we have the courage to break through expectations, whether or not you have the courage to define yourself!
Link to the short-story by Chetan Bhagat 'The Cut Off' : http://www.hindustantimes.com/thecutoff
Monday, July 20, 2009
What is this book? I look down at the first page by Aravind Adiga and look up to stare outside the grilled window of the almost empty compartment of the Mandovi Express at 8.30am on 16 July. I feel more apprehensive about the book than of the 13 hour journey and what lay beyond. The only other person in the compartment is my dad, silently reading the newspaper. The train starts to pull of Margao station and I look back down at page number 1.
This was my second journey in less than two weeks, this time in train. Why do I make such a big deal about journeys like these? Well, I think I better explain that first.
I come from a family who doesn’t believe in traveling much. Ever since my childhood, all my journeys were restricted to going over to various relatives or trips to various temples to pray to a variety of gods. I, on the other hand, am a person who loves traveling for experience sake, to see different places and enjoy different weathers. So traveling anywhere is a big deal for me. So when I was packing my bags to go to the most hustling bustling city of the country for a course of 3 months, I couldn’t help but write about it.
I begin the journey with 3 heavy bags (courtesy the books), my dad and the White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I normally prefer traveling alone, or doing pretty much anything by my own – not just because it gives me the freedom, but also because I stand responsible. With my dad, I become a complacent 5 year old, oblivious and feigning deaf to everything, mostly because he takes care of everything and well, it avoids arguments.
But not always – a tip to those who don’t travel trains regularly, make sure you check your tickets thoroughly for every little detail. Our TC pointed out that our ticket showed two female passengers as opposed to one male and one female. For not being watchful, dad got an earful from the TC and I got an earful from Dad. What could I say? What can a complacent 5 year old say anyway?
We reach Sawantwadi and that’s when ‘The Talker’ walks in with his wife. ‘The Talker’ is a big, burly, almost albino fair guy in safari suit and big fat gold rings on his many fingers.
“Hya aajkalchya traininch kai khara nai. Tumhala saangto, magachya veli asach station var eka chorala pakadla me, an don kanpatat lagavli tyacha. Asa tirmirla, pani marlyavar shudhit aala”
I hide my grin, pretend I’m not interested, and edge towards the window, while he immediately starts talking to my dad. I think this is an appropriate time for me to mention that I’m enochlophobic (phobia of crowds), not literally so, but pretty much. Being comfortable in large social circles and striking conversations with strangers doesn’t come to me naturally. The more the space around me fills up with people, the more an unexplained loneliness presses down at my windpipe. But I don’t want to get into that right now.
I bury my head once again into the book. The white tiger has reached Fourth Morning, I flip through the pages and see that his story is spread through Seven days – his story about the transformation from being a half-baked son of a poor rickshaw driver to murderer to a Banglore entrepreneur.
Meanwhile, ‘The Talker’ is rattling off from across the seat. I can hear snatches of the conversation – about the 15 lakh bungalow he recently built in Sawantwadi – servant who stole 20 crates of mangoes from his farm – his business in Mumbai – and mentioning slyly that he is nephew of a famous Mumbai politician. On that last one, I try to catch his tone – bluff, boast or a subtle hint dropped to show who you’d be dealing with?
Suddenly I catch my name and realize that dad told him about my trip to Mumbai to attend CA classes.
“Baby,” I flinched as he addressed me thus, “Be careful in Mumbai… stay away from strangers… blah… blah…”
I wonder why it is that people who blurt out their ‘Janam kundali’ and financial history to complete strangers in the middle of a train compartment without even asking their name are the first ones to give advise about being safe in an unfamiliar place.
I just nod awkwardly at the end of the sermon to show I understood.
By 4, we had crossed Roha and I had reached the end of the book. My verdict of ‘The White Tiger’ – boring, the kind of book to be read by people studying literature… or those who have a 13 hour train journey with nothing else to do.
The rest of the journey passed pretty much uneventfully, with me staring out of the window this time, at the mountains decorated by streams and waterfalls, with occasional showers adding to the whole beauty; paused only by many ridiculously long, dimly lit tunnels. But if we were traveling by Konkan railways that connected Goa, Mumbai and other coastal areas, than why were we passing mostly through mountains and tunnels? I felt like a 5 year old again wondering that. Probably should catch hold of an atlas!
Anyway, fast forward to 9.45pm, Dadar station, Mumbai!
What happens next – keep reading!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The first book ‘Twilight’ is a love story with a difference. You see, one of the characters is a vampire. It’s set in the rainiest town of Forks in US, where Bella must move even though she hates it there. What she never expected was something that would be waiting there for her for almost a century, something that perhaps she had been waiting for too.
It is author Stephenie Meyer’s debut novel, and she does a wonderful work. What I liked the most about the book has to be the amazing characterization of Isabella ‘Bella’ Swan and Edward Cullen, the way these have been intricately defined and the delicate way their love story is woven leaves you absolutely spellbound. Of course, I’m sure you have to possess a little romantic trait to agree with me. I didn’t like the ending much, simply because it continues in a sequel ‘New Moon’, sot that I have to get my hands on that next. But either way, you have my full recommendation for it.
I then followed it with the movie version and was a little disappointed, mostly because of my unusually high expectations. Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen failed to leave the same impact as the book. He along with Kristen Stewart who plays Bella has a long way to go as actors. But the movie has its moments. The desperate search of Bella to find Edward’s truth and Edward’s soul-searching are portrayed well and their moments of togetherness are shot beautifully. But seriously, read the book first.
The next book I read was ‘The Kite Runner’. I had been meaning to get my hands on this book for a while. And now I don’t have good enough words to describe how good it is. It’s a man’s journey living through a vile of guilt and trying to earn his father’s love, to finally finding the courage to search for redemption. It’s set in an Afghanistan that no one remembers anymore, and the transformation of this land of culture and peace to the hellhole of Taliban breaks your heart. It’s a unique story and yet so familiar that you can easily connect to it. Read it!
A special mention to my favourite quote in the book:
‘I remembered something I had read somewhere a long time ago: That’s how children deal with terror. They fall asleep.’
I just felt that was something true with almost everyone, not just children – a retreat where we all escape trying to turn our woes into a bad dream that we’ll be able to forget next morning.
Anyway, my next stop: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Every day as our lives get more hectic, the fine lines that separate the different parts of the day grow increasingly blurred. Mornings merge into afternoons into evenings and we barely stop to notice. Shadows sway as the sun moves across the sky and we ignore their beauty. So, lets pause. Lets take a moment and cherish the uniqueness that every moment of every part of the day brings with it.
- Advert of CCD's latest line of beverages dedicated to each mood of the day! I just thought it was very beautiful.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
It took me two whole minutes to digest the shock. Which abysmally foolish person reserves a single sleeper for two people, even if one of them is a child? They’re the ones who need a more comfortable setting. Suddenly the 14 hours seemed monumental. How was I supposed to get through the night in this situation?
"Yeh bhi aapke saath hai?" (Is she with you too?) I ask pointing at the child, just to confirm.
"Haan! Ek raat ki hi to baat hai" (Yes! Its just about one night, anyway!) Comes the reply.
‘It seems like there was no way out of it’, I think. I timidly get on the berth and make myself room in one corner wishing time to run faster. It was ok till we were in the city and the lights were on. I concentrated on the rains and the sights outside the window. But as soon as the lights went out, the woman started with her bedtime routines. She fed the child, gave her water and some medicine and then started taking off the child’s clothes.
I wanted to vaporize on the spot. She coolly then changed her into pyjamas, tied a scarf on her head and then pulled a sweater over her.
"Woh baarish mein bheegh gayi thi na, to thoda bukhaar hai." (She got wet in the rains, so has a slight fever!)
By now, I was beginning to feel like I too was coming down with something!
She then puts the child to sleep who comfortably takes up more than half of the space. Unable to take it any more, I ask her where I was supposed to sleep.
“We’ll adjust somehow. She has fever and even I have a sprain in my leg. But what can we do now?”
I ask her why she dint book the entire berth for herself in that case.
“But this is our seat! Why dint you go to your berth when you had the chance?’
I don’t understand her, “This is my berth!” I tell her.
“Nahi! Yeh 4 number hai. Aapka to 3 number hai na?” (No! this is berth number 4, and you had berth number 3)
“This is berth 3 and 4.” I try to tell her.
“Don’t eat my head. This is number 4, I know it!”
I understood by now that the idiotic woman dint realise how the double sleeper system works and she actually had the nerve to think that she was doing me a huge favour. I could already imagine her complaining to her relatives the day after about some girl who captured her seat. Definitely, Fools are god’s way to remind us to be thankful for our intelligence.
I knew there was pretty much nothing I could do then, at least till the bus reached Karwar where the last of the passengers embark. By the time we got there the woman had already asked me a number of times if it was possible to shift to a different berth. You wait, I kept thinking, I’m not too thrilled about sharing this one with you and your fidgety grand daughter anyway. So after it reached Karwar, I asked the conductor if there was any empty seat explaining him the entire situation.
It took me a while to convince him, but thankfully there was a double sleeper empty and ultimately I ended up sleeping comfortably on the entire berth alone for the rest of the night.
I kept thinking; there are some memories that want to make you experience travel alone. I remember one of two times, when I had great company, people who made the journey not only easy but worthwhile. But then, life’s nothing without the spice of a few hiccups here and there, right? And these three hours made up for more than my share of hiccups! All in all, I’ve discovered that travel stories are always great fun. Whatever the experience, good or bad, you are either left with a great memory or at the very least you can always flashback and have a great laugh.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I’ve always been a nature person. I can get myself lost when I’m out in the wild. Normally, when I’m with my friends or cousins, I talk a lot. Not that I’m a chatterbox, but I contribute, or at the very least I’m listening raptly. But when we go on picnics or trekking, I go mute. I’m hardly aware of anything around me except the view, the sounds, and the very freshness that nature provides. I take a deep breath and all life woes disappear. It's like my entire system undergoes the shut down and restart procedure.
My friends call me ‘weird’ and ‘mental’ when they are out with me. They never understand what happens to me. And I don’t blame them because I do weird stuff. I wander off alone, climb trees and rocks, jump in water, play with grasshoppers and snails…the list is endless. And I love doing it; it's a part of me that even I can’t explain.
When I was in Pune for two years, I practically hated that city. Every time I would long to come back home. For quite some time I thought that I was homesick, yet I knew I enjoyed the freedom. But one day, travelling back to Goa in bus, I looked out of the window and saw the lush green fields in the early morning dew just beyond Pernem and I realised that this is what I’d been missing in the city. In Goa, all you need to do is drive out 2-3 kms and you are out of the city, you can go for a walk without worrying about crowds or pollution something that the metros could never provide.
This weekend too I was amid nature again, spending two days at my mum’s native village… enjoying the rains, clicking photographs and plucking lemons with my aunts.
Ever since I was a kid, nature’s been an intricate part of my life. I spent all my summer vacations at my natives with my cousins playing outdoor games in mud. In scjool too, i would wait to sign up for nature camps and overnight treks. And as years have passed, my love for nature has only increased.
Sometimes when I think if I had not gone after a secure life and wandered around to search my true calling, I would probably end up in the wild, surviving thick jungles and climbing tall mountains, painting white waterfalls or photographing tiger cubs and rescuing king cobras. There’s something about it that’s more wonderful than love, more mysterious than death, more innocent than a child and more adventurous than life. And it never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I think… if there’s anything in this world worth living for, it's this… NATURE.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Here’s how bored I was sometime in April that I actually wrote this:
I have a shocking revelation to make!
Two years after the film released with ultimate hype and shocking reviews, I watched ‘Saawariya’ on TV. I had refrained from doing so after the dire warnings of my many friends. But you see, I was bored, nobody was home, and it was the only other thing running on TV besides ‘Beauty and the Geeks’. Every other channel ran re-runs of soaps, news and advertisements.
But that’s not the shocking revelation. The shocking revelation is that, I LIKED THE MOVIE.
I had nothing to lose when I sat down to watch the movie and I had no expectations whatsoever. The movie promises everything that the reviews had revealed. Frames bathed in eternal blues and blacks, streets and streets that lead to nowhere, houses and houses where no one lives, the river which is smaller than an average drainage seems to be there only to justify the curvy bridge that centres the story. Sonam Kapoor laughs where she should be crying and cries where she should be laughing. The film reveals nothing in terms of the era, the time, the place…just goes on eternally dreamlike, unlike one of those magnificent Shakespeare plays that capture your imagination breaking the boundaries of the four corners of the stage on which it is presented. And mind you, even they give you the era and the place. Maybe if Saawariya had been a play, it would have been better accepted. Is that what Sanjay Leela Bhansali was trying to do perhaps? Capture the essence of theatre on screen? Backfired, dint it?
Wait, I think I was trying to tell why I liked the movie. As I already said, I wasn’t expecting much. And maybe therefore I looked beyond the obvious to try to figure out Bhansali’s intentions behind making a bizarre movie like this. So what I saw was its perfect frames, it felt like canvas after canvas of lifelike paintings put together on reel. The story of a boy, who falls for that sad b’ful face and tries to be her prince charming, and the girl who waits for her man, which even in this day and age does happen. I liked it for its melodious music, and Ranbir Kapoor for his shockingly expressive eyes. And lastly for the ending with the perfect dilemma, to choose between a love that took an eternity to materialise or the one that waited on just to make you smile. It felt like what a girl like her would ordinarily do. I can understand the outrage at seeing Ranbir’s heart break and the lack of logic behind her actions, but ever heard of the phrase ‘Love is blind’???
Maybe that’s why Bhansali portrayed it without an age and time or a definite backdrop, perhaps he was trying to show that it could happen anywhere, anytime?
The film is like abstract art worthy of Picasso, it could mean different things to different people, sometimes left with no meaning at all. And whatever it meant to Bhansali, it seems like it at least touched one bored heart!
Sunday, May 3, 2009
My cousin Veena, a fresh unemployed MBA (like many others) was reading through RD Feb 09 edition while I browsed through the March one. After a while, we switched, she in particular showing me a wonderful ad about domestic Valentine Holiday packages by Thomas Cook with a twinkle in her eye. No doubt she was missing her boyfriend who lives a thousand kms away.
In reply, I turned a few pages of the RD I was holding and passed it to her with a somber expression. She took one look at the article I was pointing at and gave me a look that plainly wished me a very painful injury. It was ‘Recession Wisdom’ stressing to “…save more, spend less, diversify your investments, and AVOID BUYING THINGS YOU CAN’T AFFORD.”
P.S. Veena would probably like me to tell you that as I absent mindedly got up to go to the kitchen laughing my head off at her expression; I hit myself hard on the centre table. :(
Friday, May 1, 2009
Every morning, a Lion awakens knowing it has to outrun the slowest Gazelle or starve to death.
It doesn't matter if you are the Lion or the Gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you'd better be running!
Friday, April 24, 2009
I say, everything! Whether you like your name or not, it is what you are going to be remembered as for ever… even when you have a name like ‘Sharvani’ which people remember for it's unusual or not at all.
I’ve always had problems with my name for the kind of confusion it created, whether it was the way that it was spelled or pronounced. If I bother to count, I’ll have a hundred different versions of both. Every time I get introduced to a new person, I always have to encounter a ‘Huh??’ two or three times.
And the disaster of it when it gets mispronounced... especially when my name would get announced during a prize distribution, or some competitions, it would be embarrassing. I mean you can hardly get up from your seat and scream back at the announcer the correct pronunciation of your name. Same goes for the spelling… Of all the certificates I’ve collected till date, only about five have my name correctly spelled. You add ‘Binge’ instead of ‘Pinge’ as the surname, and the picture is complete.
But why go too far? Even half of my friends still don’t know how to say it correctly, and I’ve learned to live with it slowly. I guess that’s how the pet name ‘Sim’ came.
When I was 15, a net friend decided to start calling me Sim since he said it would be simple and easier to type. When I told my friends about it, they all loved it. And it stayed with me for quite some time. Quite a lot of my friends in Pune still remember me as Sim.
Mind you that’s not the only one! For two years that I stayed in Pune, all my hostel mates called me ‘Sheru’. And if you think that’s funny, imagine how it would sound when my roomy Kala would call out to me from the mess on the ground floor so that I could hear it on my third floor room as – Shae – rooooooo…
She is another one with a lot of name trouble. Kala means Art, but judging by the spelling, many would call her ‘Kaalaa’ as in Black. Once she filled up a form for MCA admission, entering her name as ‘Kala Parmeswaran’, she doesn’t have a surname. When the admission list came out, Kala came back saying that her name was nowhere on it. Later she found out that the university thought that there was a mistake in the name, that perhaps the surname was written first, and so it was changed accordingly. Imagine her shock when she saw that her name was up on the admission list as ‘Parmeswaran Kale’ in the Male section.
My neighbour Sharwari is another one who shares all the name problems that trouble me. And to add to the confusion, we have similar landline numbers, with only one digit different than the other, so that we always got calls from people looking for Sharwari and vice versa. When our mobiles came, that problem reduced but now those people who know us both have our numbers saved one after the other and the confusion continues. People always ask if we are related and how it is that we share such a similar name. I tell them that even though they sound almost the same, both names have very different meanings. Sharvani means Durga, a Hindu goddess while Sharwari means Night.
There’s an interesting story behind how I was named too. My grandmother was overtly superstitious about girls name starting with sh – the reason behind Shilpa, Shivangi, Sharvani and Sheetal in my family. But she didn’t readily come up with mine. When my folks were taking 15-day-old me to my Mum’s village for the naming ceremony, they stopped by at a temple on the way. It was the temple of Devi Sharvani, and two days later I was named after her.
Earlier I would always ask mum why she let grandma pick such a tedious name for me. But over the years I’ve grown fond of it. It’s unusual, beautiful and no one else has a name like it. I’ve only met two other Sharvani till date, one who was named after me and another, a student from one of the camps I had organised. But other than that, when anyone around is talking about a Sharvani, I know it could only mean me!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I talk to myself for hours,
Rehearse lines I’m going to say when I’m anxious,
Enact dialogues from movies when no one is watching,
Stare at myself and do eerie faces standing in front of the mirror,
And do bizarre dance moves while I’m doing chores.
Sometimes I feel I’m losing it…
I sit in one place staring in space without noticing how the time flies.
On bike, I sometimes get so lost in thoughts; I lose complete sense of direction and end up going somewhere without any idea of how I got there.
I get stuck with a song in my head and just like an old record stuck in an even older record player, it keeps playing the same line over and over again.
At times, I even space out and don’t realise that people are talking to me.
Sometimes I feel I’m completely off my rocker…
But when I see others being just as ludicrous, I feel I’m not so wacky after all. I’m just another normal human being with just another average Monkey Mind.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
When the market started tumbling, she said, “You already have a camera. So when I get my first pay check, I’ll buy a superb lens for your camera.”
When the situation got worst, she again reconsidered, “When I get my first pay check, I’ll instead buy you a 1 TB hard disk!
Recently out of the business school with no placement, she finally reflected and said, “When I get my first pay check, I will definitely payback the money I borrowed from you!”
Sunday, April 12, 2009
With the heat reaching dangerous mercurial levels, it was getting impossible to sleep, study or even stay in my room.
“Why don’t you sit and study in our room?” Mum suggested, “and you can come sleep there too till the end of summer”
Since theirs is the only room with air-conditioning, the suggestion was good.
“Well, I don’t mind studying there with the AC full on, but I cant sleep there please.”
And I really can’t. When people say ‘There’s no place like Home’, I simultaneously believe that ‘There’s no place like my Room’. Just the way you can never find comfort in someone else’s home, I somehow never find peace anywhere else other than my own room.
“Tuza apla kahitarich!” Mum exclaimed.
Roughly translated, it means ‘That’s ridiculous of you!’ I don’t know how she can say that; she never sleeps soundly other than in her own bed.
“I guess it's just the genes…” I muttered to myself.
So after a month of badgering Dad, we finally set to remove it last Saturday. After sweating our tees off for an hour, we got it down and sat to think about its replacement. I was all in to buy a new one.
“No”, dad said, “ceiling fan prices are unnecessarily hiked in summer. We’ll buy one when monsoon hits and prices drop”
“Yeah”, Mum, “when we’ll have absolutely no use left for it!”
I love it when my mum gets sarcastic, I feel that and the raw sense of humour is something I’ve inherited from her.
Dad: Why don’t we just shift the fan from our room to hers?
Mum: And then what are we going to do?
Dad: We sleep in the AC. We hardly use the fan.
Mum: And what about during the day?
Dad: When do we ever shut ourselves in our room the way they do?
‘They’ means my bro and me. ‘Hey, that’s universal Adolescence Syndrome, not something unique to us’ I wanted to say. (And even though I’m not technically an adolescent, I guess I get counted in since I’m still staying with my parents). But instead I slowly back out of the room lest I get dragged into the row.
Finally I hear Dad say, “Her need is greater than our, she’s studying!”
Final weapon – case won!
Trust my parents to belittle everything else in front of my exams. But their 2000’s fan is fitted in my room and I’m happy.
But calamity strikes. At 4am next morning, power shuts down. Sweating profusely and cursing the electricity department we pace around the house trying to find some spot where it could be a bit cooler but without any luck. Dad calls up the department and they say, ‘we’re having some problem with the transformer and we’re trying to fix it. It’ll be done soon, don’t worry’. What it actually meant was, “The transformer has blasted beyond repair – we don’t have a spare transformer to replace it… so we’re calling every other electricity department in Goa to look for a spare – we also suspect that there’s some trouble with the wiring and we have no idea where the fault lies – so don’t expect the power to restore at all today – and oh, this might continue for the next four days.” All thanks to our government’s faulty management and ingenious (?) underground cabling plan.
But that’s another story, something you can follow up in the local newspaper if you care. But finally a spare 220-MWs transformer is fitted and the lights were back at 7 in the evening. But we are warned that it might be unable to take the load so it's just temporary adjustment until a bigger 400-MWs transformer is fitted. So naturally the AC starts giving problems and my folks have to spend the night in the living room.
“This is the reason why we have a ceiling fan in every room, just in case of emergency” Mum says.
Next day as the power shuts down again, I pack up my books and rush to Janaki’s rather than getting cooked up in the heat and my parents get ready to go shopping – for a new ceiling fan.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
A married couple in their early 60s was out celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic little restaurant.
Suddenly, a tiny yet beautiful fairy appeared on their table and said, "For being such an exemplary married couple and for being faithful to each other for all this time, I will grant you each a wish."
"Ooh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband" said the wife.The fairy moved her magic stick and abracadabra! ... two tickets for the new QM2 luxury liner appeared in her hands.
Now it was the husbands turn. He thought for a moment and said, "Well .. this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this only occurs once in a lifetime, so, I'm sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me".
The wife, and the fairy, were deeply disappointed ... but a wish is a wish. So the fairy made a circle with her magic stick and ... abracadabra!
The husband became 92 years old.
The moral of this story:
Men might be ungrateful idiots, but fairies are...
Monday, March 9, 2009
It was almost after 2 years that we were planning a trip together, all of us cousins, thanks to Chinmay. It was going to be a fun, trekking cum river rafting experience. And it was lots of fun; exhausting, muscle-cramping, sweat-drenching, moral-breaking, pain-in-the-ass kind of mind-blowing fun. 30 kilometres on foot, 9 kilometres in water and approx 300 kilometres in vehicle covered in 2 days has to be ground breaking stuff.
DAY 1 – 28 February 2009: Trek till Kumbharwada, stay at Dandeli
9.00am: Pitch report: Pleasant morning, clear skies, temperature about 30D Celsius – perfect day for adventure! A group of 15 adventure enthusiasts ready to start off. Food – check, water bottles – check, camera – check, asthma patient carrying her precautionary medicines? – Check!
As we started walking from our base, we had a wonderful view of the fields and the village life around us as we slowly progressed towards the towering Western Ghats. The plan was to walk through the jungle and the mountains onto the Deccan plateau on the other side of the Ghats towards Dandeli, the destination for river rafting.
9.15am: Evidently the first ever climb decided to test our stamina and determination. The steep ascent left us pink faced and gasping for breathes. Personally, I was panting like I had just conquered Mt. Everest and my head was spinning. Every breath was sharp in the chest and I was all ready to give up. Among the 15 climbers, I was one of the few who had quite a bit of trekking experience and had boasted liberally of my earlier expeditions. But the very first climb had left me ashen faced and I could feel that my reputation as a trekker was coming crashing around my ears. Sure, I had not done much in the past year and turned into a couch potato, but I had always boasted a strong stamina. But this time, my body was revolting and I had to take notice of the fact that I was perhaps taking myself for granted. Immediately resolving to work harder when I got home, I concentrated on getting there alive with everyone else.
11.00am: After completing the gruelling climb and pushing the first mountain behind us, we took a break for breakfast. Thankfully, we were carrying a lot of water and food with us, and we happily ate our way through Methi parathas and garlic, groundnut chutney
11.20am: After the 20-minute break, everybody was back on their feet, geared up for the second mountain. But being past the initial hump and full of the delicious parathas, we completed this one after much less effort and in much less time.
12.30pm: We reached Kundan; a small village perched on the mountain with straw humps, mud houses and cattle grazing in the dry fields. We also passed a bunch of school kids in blue and white uniform playing outside the recently painted pink school compound walls. There was a tap just outside the village premises where we filled up out bottles once again.
1.00pm: Reaching Kundan meant that the mountain and the steep climbs were over. But it also meant another thing which we learned as we saw what was happening up there. They were building the tar road up to the village and that would mean that the next 19 kilometres till Kumbharwada were on hot mix. Worrying about our joints and knees was pointless, we had come this far and we unanimously agreed to go on.
2.00pm: Approx 5 kilometres into the journey from Kundan, we took another halt near a dried up spring. We quickly took off our shoes and socks and dipped our sore feet and aching toes in the stagnant water for some relief, before settling down for some lunch. By now, the water supply was beginning to run out, although food was plenty. We ate more parathas with mango pickle and bread with cheese and tomatoes and then some chicku.
2.20pm: 20 minutes later, we grudgingly put on our shoes again and started to walk. It quickly dawned upon us that once we had gotten ourselves into it, there was no way out except to keep walking. The jeep that had left for Dandeli with Vandana and Radha (a cousin and her 3 month baby) along with 3 older folks was coming back to collect the 15 of us in Kumbharwada. There was no way to call it up to us as the entire stretch was through thick jungle and there was not a soul in sight, except a few PWD workers and although all 15 of us carried our mobiles, not a single one showed any network. The only way to any communication was from Kumbharwada, 13 kilometres away.
5.00pm: Walking, halting, cursing the shoes, nursing the swollen toes and ankles, all that I could think of was the kilometres left to cover. We were out of water by now and our feet were screaming in protest. And although the scenery around kept changing from tall mountains to thick forests, beautiful springs with small bridges, who in the ruddy hell really had the patience for sightseeing? We passed a majestic dam under construction and also heard some animals move in the dark canopy of the forest. But all that occupied the brain was the time ticking away as we had to somehow make it to Kumbharwada before nightfall.
7.00pm: Kumbharwada! Never thought I’d get there alive. Dragging my feet, somehow trying to summon all the energy and determination from the unlikeliest of the places, I had made it; we all had made it! Every single one of the 15 weary and distended faces was lit up with smiles of relief. We gratefully drank the water from the first general store we came across and got into the Trax waiting for us that took us straight to Dandeli.
8.00pm: We checked into the hotel – got out for dinner – Ravenous, we ate whatever was put in front of us – got back – had steaming hot shower – covered our feet with pain relief sprays and ointments – and dropped off to sleep instantly.
DAY 2 – 1 March 2009: Rafting in Kali River and back to Netravali.
8.00am: When the alarm rang somewhere in the vicinity, I opened up my puffy eyes, grabbed my mobile, turned it off, rolled over and slept again.
9.00am: Someone shook me awake. We had to be at the Jungle Lodges and Resorts by 10.30am, ready for rafting. I staggered to my feet, feeling other blurred shapes emerging out of the blankets. I went through my morning routines with my eyes only half open, and threw on some clothes from the bag.
11.00am: Jungle River Lodges and Resorts!
As the name suggests this place is in the middle of the forest, on the banks of Kali River. Very spacious and comfortable, it’s quite peaceful and the perfect getaway from the strenuous city life. Small cabins and tents are separated by strings of hammocks hanging from trees and the front yard has two tires strung by ropes where we tried a few tricks before it was time to go.
From 11.30am – 3.00pm: As we were being taken to the location of rafting in jeeps bearing ‘Government of Karnataka’ on their bonnets, we had a perfect view of the Kali River. The River with its water volume and considerable width looks slightly intimidating. Although having done rafting there earlier with friends in April 2008, I knew exactly what to expect, but it was fun to watch the other apprehensive faces, especially of those who did not know swimming. Rafting at Dandeli is perfect for amateurs; it's neither too arduous but not any less exciting. For those who have at least done boating earlier, you will find that rafting is not much different, except for the rapids. Just a few instructions beforehand provided by the excellent instructors there and you are set to go. 9 kilometres of sheer fun covered in a little less than 2 hours by the end of which you are only left wishing for more! What more do I say in words? It's something you need to go and try for yourself to know… So do it! And oh, carry lots of sun block!
3.30pm: All too soon we were back in Dandeli, packing, ready to go. We had a hurried lunch, checked out of the Hotel and split in two groups. Those who were going back to Pune and Sangli would be taking a bus directly from Dandeli and the rest from Goa were to return to Netravali. We said good-bye to each other and were back in the Trax enroute to Netravali via Karwar, all the way singing Nursery Rhymes for the benefit of the 3-month-old Radha! :)
At the end of everything, for those willing to try this out, I’ll let you in on some general advice. It will be best to avoid trekking the entire 30 Km as the 19 Km tar road is not meant for trekking after all. Instead you could leave early from Netravali and aim at getting to Kundan before 12 noon and you will be able to catch the only bus that leaves from there and reach Dandeli in less than 2 hours. That way, if you are not willing to stay overnight, you could do rafting in the afternoon and catch a bus in the evening back to Goa. Just make a point to check the Bus Schedule before you leave though!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Actually I haven’t! As a feminist, it becomes a hard and fast rule not to think too sympathetically about any guy. And it becomes difficult to do that when we (girls) think that we are constantly undermined in a male-dominated society.
"Unfriendly world... you girls are worst at this!" and we launched in a typical cross gender argument.
P: Girls are conservative... more than necessary
Me: Yes, but like I said there's a reason behind it
P: Which frankly I don’t accept
Me: And you never will until you step in our shoes!
Before you start to think that this is just another long article about the customary boys’ v/s girls’ war, stop! This blog isn’t about that; nor it is a lecture on feminism, it’s about the story that he told me to prove his point.
P: Did I tell you the story about the girl I once met in train?
Me: No, the last time I heard of a girl someone met on the train, was a few years back. And she turned out to be God!
P: What are you talking about?
Me: One Night at the Call Centre by Chetan Bhagat
P: well, this is different. Do u want to hear it?
Me: yes, please!
And so the story began:
Having spent Diwali at my native Kolhapur, I was returning to Mumbai in the Konkankanya Express. As expected the train was jam-packed and after making my way through hundreds of people and thousands of bags, I reached my seat, which was mercifully empty. I heard the last announcement and train started slowly. Appreciating Indian Railway for being on time, I silently thanked Lalu for doing a good job.
Me: I don’t think Lalu alone is responsible for a good system!
P: Is that the point of this discussion?
Me: Sorry, please continue!
Once settled, I took a good look around the compartment. Although my seat was empty, there were around 10 people, plus 2 cranky babies in the compartment meant for 8. Few passengers tried to make casual conversation to guarantee that I had a confirmed ticket, since many of them were on the waiting list and they wanted to secure seats if others didn’t turn up. I also had a little chat with group of four young gutakha-chewing work-searching close-to-illiterate boys from UP, who had general class tickets and wanted few berths to sleep on rotation basis, few already preparing to sleep on the floor. Meanwhile I searched for my earphones, silently wished them good luck and started my favourite classical rock while sipping through a cup of lukewarm, stale and sugary coffee.
An hour later, train pulled up at Miraj, last major station and the already crowded train braced itself to accommodate a few hundred more. It was almost midnight and I was planning to sleep. I had the lower berth and I politely requested others to move up to their respective berths. One fellow showed signs of sitting at the corner of my berth as I slept. I showed signs of ‘I have no problem with that’. I lay down on my seat using my bag as a pillow as few more people rushed into the compartment. One of them was young slim girl checking her ticket against the seat numbers. I was thinking, ‘not a bad company, she definitely looks more civilian than most on the train’. She made way through the crowd and came directly towards my seat.
Me: wow! Looks like your lucky day.
P: Not much…
I was expecting her to tell one of the UP boys to get down. But instead she rounded on me and said in an unusually stern voice, “This is my seat, you go find some other place". Everybody in the vicinity, including a 2-year-old baby turned to look at me. If I was surprised, it was nothing compared to the looks of shock I received from my fellow passengers; they thought I had lied about my confirmed ticket.
Thinking there was mistake, and hoping against hope that it was not mine, I started searching for my ticket. After couple of seconds of nervous fumbling I extracted it from my pocket. Till then several other ticket holders had asked a group of boys and others to vacate their seat. The compartment now contained as many standing as sitting, and the girl in front was furiously tapping her feet expecting me to hurry up and move from her seat. I checked my seat number twice on the berth and ticket – confirmed bogie with other passengers – the date was correct – I even recollected and confirmed the train name. Ensuring I had the correct ticket I demanded to see hers. But she only barked at me in reply, "Koi natak nahi chalega, nikalo yahan se."
By then it had become a matter of interest to everybody in the compartment.
P: After all one young good-looking girl was in crisis. And every Tom, Dick and Harry would play hero for the Damsel-in-Distress.
Me: Normal male tendency!
P: (*an angry smiley*)
Furious, I tried hard to keep my cool. I insisted again to check her ticket, but she refused point-blank and demanded mine instead. Resigned, I produced my ticket and had it examined by every head in the compartment, irrespective of whether or not they could read. Having her doubts cleared, she gave the ticket back to me with an inscrutable expression. And just when I thought I had won my case, she dumped her bag on my berth and settled down saying, “wait for TC to come.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, “Fine! We’ll see…” I thought as I too sat down.
The next few minutes passed in total silence. I could sense many eyes watching us earnestly. I glanced around at the girl to see that she sat clutching her ticket. I wanted to check it, but couldn’t see how I could do it without attracting her wrath again. I knew that it was impossible for a computerized reservation system to issue the same ticket to two different people. Wanting to know more I decided to start somewhere. So I asked her if she had checked the Date. She looked at it and… there it was, the long pause I had expected to see earlier!
Me: Oh shit! Don’t tell me…
P: Yeah… dumb ass!
She looked confused and asked the date. I said, "It is 3rd, but your ticket should show 2nd November as you boarded at 11:55pm". She verified it again... and there was a longer pause this time. I knew what had happened but trying hard to hide an evil grin, I put up a fake inquisitive glare and continued to look at her. After a couple more minutes of silence she finally said, ”Travel agent ne galat date daal di" That was the first normal sentence she had said all night. I was so angry I wanted to lash out at her for ruining my sleep and embarrassing me in front of everyone, but something stopped me from asking her to shoo off from the place.
Me: Yeah, it’s called attraction! Hehehe…
P: It’s called chivalry!
Me: Sure! ;) So what happened to her?
First, she was embarrassed although she never admitted her fault. She requested me to leave a corner of my berth for her to sit. She checked the entire bogie for better place, obviously without any luck. Now she was nice to me and a little too sweet for someone who looked like she could have murdered me earlier. She was nervous, as she had to sit the whole night and also a little worried since there were so many people lying on the floor, she couldn’t keep her legs where they wouldn’t touch anybody else. Now she was the one without a ticket and a fresh ticket and fine combined would cost 850 bucks and she wasn’t carrying even half of the amount. She tried calling her parents for help, but her battery conked off. I felt bit sad for her, but I remembered her attitude and decided keep quiet.
Me: And that is called chivalry?
Anyways ... the night didn’t turn out that bad for her. TC was nice and helpful – he collected fine of Rs. 850 – others pitched in – she got a valid ticket – then used my cell to call her parents and received few during night – boys made place for her on the floor and also put papers below for her to sit. Early morning at 5, I asked her to sleep on my berth and I moved to the door to enjoy the cool air and the spectacular green Sahyadris in soft light. Later as the train emptied, she moved to the top berth where she slept till 10am and I sat on mine reading a half-finished book. When the train reached the Dadar station we both got off, she briskly said ‘Thanks’ and we departed.
Me: How gallant of you!
P: can you believe her? She never once apologized! And she was super cold till the end like it was my fault that she had the wrong ticket!
Me: well, Albus Dumbledore said that people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right!
P: Do you ever stop quoting?
Me: No, I don’t!
P: Anyways, the point is, I think I would have felt better if she was polite right from the start. I can imagine problems with a girl's security in a crowded train, but not everybody is a jerk! In fact the uncultured illiterate boys helped her the most.
Me: well, maybe she had some bad experience earlier. This kind of attitude could be fueled by a number of occurrences!
P: Yes, maybe! But does that mean that you start taking it out on everyone you meet?
Me: Ok, I agree with you. So she did behave foolishly, and totally inappropriate. But it’s not right to generalize about the entire gender on the basis of one or a few incidences, just like you said! Accepted, its not right on our part to prejudice against all men, so I hope you will not carry the grudge against all girls either. Lets call it a truce!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Thats life, shaken but not stirred!
Monday, February 16, 2009
So naturally I figured that my posts should explode with energy and excitement because there seems to be none in my present living condition. My daily routine goes roughly like this; I get up by 11 am, read the newspaper (which means to say that I religiously follow the comic strips and the TV guide and scan roughly through the headlines and the sports page), force down some breakfast (my hunger senses take longer to wake than I do) study, gulp down lunch (because I had a late breakfast), play Age of Empires and curse furiously under my breath because I always lose the Wonder Race, study some more, scream that m starving at 6pm sharp (my hunger senses are most active at this time) , study some more, watch boring Marathi TV serials with my Mum or by-heart my favourite dialogues from the movies stored on the computer, study more, eat dinner and then when the entire world drifts in slumber I’m wide awake. I read, write, study, and scavenge food from refrigerator till sleep catches up with me around 3 in the morning! Next day I again get up at 11, eat, study, play, eat, study, watch TV, do TP (Time Pass for those unfamiliar) on computer, eat, study, eat, study and sleep! And the day after that I again get up at 11, eat, study, play, eat, study, watch TV, do TP on computer, eat, study, eat, study and sleep!
Results: my laziness bug is more prominent than ever, my eating habits are absurdly bizarre; at times I hog, hog and hog some more, other times, I go in the fasting mode (which has nothing to do with spirituality) sometimes I study sincerely, sometimes I sit with the book in my hand while my head goes on the world tour. I don’t remember the last time I had exercise and definitely don’t see when I did something fun!
But on the plus side, I’m sms’ing more, I’m calling people I hadn’t spoken to in months, pampering myself with face masks and hot oil head massages and not complaining about being too busy. I’m even taking bath twice a day just to have something to do with my time. It’s only been 15 days spent in my study jail and already feels like an eternity!
For those who have not understood what I’m on about or where the girl who spent hours online has disappeared to, here's the update: due to inability to clear my CA Final exam answered in November 08, I’m again on a study break, slogging for the next attempt due in June 09. And I have no Internet at home!
So there! My next post is up and I sincerely don’t know whom John Barger was kidding? Going through what I’ve written again, I feel my post sounds every bit as depressing and sad as my life right now! Of course, I’ll be delighted to know if someone disagrees!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Ok so I've done it, I just lost my third mobile :(
What’s it with me and them? I’m not a careless person, I never lose anything, I’ve never lost anything important in my life... I have a classic condition of hoarding! I keep even the tiniest of scraps of papers, and receipts, and chits and all sorts of rubbish. If u went through my desk, you'll find receipts of dance class I attended 2 years ago, a broken watch, small notepads filled with all the important, not-so-important and even useless stuff. I even have the eye prescription cards of all the years, the very first dating back to 1997, sim cards of all my previous mobiles numbers and all the college and exam ids till date, even broken key chains kept for reasons I do not remember. I store everything, so much that every once in a while I have to throw out a bucket full of junk after scrutinising every little scrap. So what exactly is it with these mobiles? Why don’t they want to last with me??
Year 2004, Nokia 3310, phone number 9890389015, that’s the first cell phone that I lost... actually not lost, stolen!! Stolen from my bag, through the zip, from the bench behind, while I was sitting in the class completing my assignment. I was already having a bad day, and I called my mum before the class started, came back in, kept the cell in my bag, zipped it shut, and sat down to finish my homework. There were very few people sitting in the class. Suddenly I felt my bag move a bit, and I turned around... nothing. The girl sitting behind me was furiously writing away something, and everything was calm. A little suspicious but thinking I must have imagined it, I turned back to my work, and the bag moved again... okay there was no mistaking it this time. I looked back and the girl behind was still pretending like she did nothing. Out of caution I checked my bag and BINGO... no cell! Just like that, within a matter of 5 minutes! And then what followed next was a big drama which included the girl sitting behind me, a couple of friends, the accounts professor who ran the academy and a chase around the building! I’ll spare you the ugly details; it's too much for me to recite anyways. But the end result: she got away n I didn’t get my cell back, but not before the whole academy came to know what had happened! Hats off to her for managing to pull it off and vanish my cell with all the watchdogs I had planted around her.
If you thought that was the worst…. Wait! The worst is yet to come and it wasn’t the drama, nor the fact that I had to threaten and search that girl in vain and not even that I actually screamed myself hoarse at the professor for being unhelpful…. not the worst ever trip to the police station. NO, the worst thing about this entire episode was the fact that it was 10th august 2004...
And next day 11th august……………, was my 18th birthday!
2007 - The next silly adventure... Nokia 1100, number 9423882682. This time I went a little further; stolen once, now it had to be something different! So my mobile this time did the disappearing act with the entire purse... and of course with everything contained in it, money, passbook, driving license, credit card, election card, my glasses... Ouch!! It still hurts to remember!!
It so happened that I was dropping off my brother to his tuitions, and in the hurry, instead of my usual habit of putting the purse in the boot of my bike I gave it to him to hold while I was riding. Once there, he took off leaving my purse on the back seat and I absent-mindedly drove away. 5 minutes later I was at the petrol pump looking for my purse to fill up the tank! “Shit, my bro took it with him...” was the first thought! Another 5 minutes later standing outside his tuitions looking at his puzzled face,”Damn... this is not happening to me" was the second thought. Two more rounds of the area, asking a million people on the way and an empty fuel tank later, I was forced to conclude that it was gone. He left it on the seat as he got down and it fell somewhere on the way! Of course this is all assumption because neither of us really have a clue of what happened to it!
Ok, so the first two times I could pin it on somebody else, like ''come on, I couldn’t really have prevented it from getting stolen that way, and plus I did everything I could to get it back, its just tough luck! Could happen to anybody!" and everybody nodded sympathetically. The second time it went something like, "I don’t know where my brother keeps his head, must have seen some girl and forgot all about the bag" Yeah, that earned me quite a few laughs. But the third time there was no ignoring it, the fact was staring me in my face and I had to mutely accept it!
Year 2009, another Nokia 1100 (won’t give the number this time, I’m still using it). Two week ago, travelling home with my friend Janaki, in her car, I answered my dad's call, telling him I would be home soon. And that’s the last I remember of that cell. What happened next is quite a mystery. We got down just outside my house, went to a cyber café in the neighbourhood, sat there for an hour, and I walked home where my mum was waiting for me with her hands on her hips asking where I was and why I wasn’t answering my phone. One quick search of the bag and I there I was thinking "Oh no, not again!" I ran back to the cafe where Janaki was still sitting and we searched the cyber cafe, we searched the car... but was I really expecting it to turn up??
So, standing with Janaki I was pondering, reminiscing the last two events like they just happened yesterday..... 'Cant believe how much trouble a little rectangular piece of metal and plastic can cause, not to mention all the running around I will have to do to block the card, get my number back and then to figure all the contacts I had to retrieve them!'
And Janaki was asking..... "Again? Sharvani, isn’t this like the third phone??"
"Yes, thanks for reminding, I had almost forgotten!!"