Monday, January 29, 2007

Of Idli Sambhar and North Indian Lungis

I don't know whether to call it his good luck or my bad luck. I happened to have taken a ride in an auto rickshaw, with a driver who perhaps had an opinion on everything you can find in a dictionary and more, and who made sure he expressed it. It's an excerpt from our conversation . Actually can't call it a conversation because it was him who was doing all the talking. Circa 2002, in the garden city, on one of my trips from the railway station to my destination

Opinionated Driver OD: Where are you from??
Harrassed passenger ie ME: Mumbai
OD: Are you north indian?
ME: No, why do you ask?
OD: From who are you then?
ME: What???
OD: I mean which caste you from?
ME: (thinking wt shd I say to shut him up..decide 2 stay silent)
OD: I hate North Indians.
ME: Hmmmm
OD: They spoiling my city. All shopping mall opening. Shopper stop is killing the lungi. No one wearing kannada outfits.
ME: (trying to act deaf)
OD: My son too forcing me to buy jeans. I told him no. It is not our dress.
ME: Why is that? In Mumbai, everyone wears whatever he wants.
OD: This is not Mumbai. Even no one eats the idli sambhar these days. All hotels give so much punjabi food and puris. Dosas are so tough to find.
ME: Why are you telling me all this?
OD: What are you here for?
ME: Have to meet someone.
OD: Whare are you staying?
ME: With the ppl who i'm gonna meet
OD: I have a house. They have increased tax rates.I'm looking for a tenant. Do you want to stay?
ME: (I'll have to be bitten by a mad dog for that. Yeah kiss me ass)!
OD: It's in Jayanagar. 4th Block. Very good area. The CM has his old house next to mine.
ME: ( your CM will have to be really old then, git)
OD: It has a new shopping mall. Very popular area.
ME: ( what abt the lungi culture, hypocrite)I'm here for a few days, I'll manage.
OD: The Congress government was good. BJP are all money minded. They spoiling my city.
ME: (hello, tht's democracy for you)
OD: They're gonna be voted out next time. The flyover on bannerghatta road has taken so long now. So much traffic.
ME: Ok, take a left. Stop right there.
OD: You wanted to go to BTM na?
ME: Oh, I have to meet another friend first. Just remembered.


I paid him whatever the meter showed. I swear I could hear him whispering to himself, bloody north indian. If only I could take him for a ride in Mumbai!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tip-Top

Being a food-lover, dining out is a very essential and indispensable part of my routine. I have tried out a variety of restaurants, different, in terms of factors like cuisines, ambience, pricing and customer satisfaction. Of them I have had some fantastic experiences and some forgettable ones too. But of all what I remember, most of them are related to the bit where the meal is over.

Given tips is a very debateable practice. I have on numerous occasions persisted with my dad on not giving tips, especially when the food is not up to the expectation or the service has been poor. He insists that atleast a 5% tip is a must give no matter what. His reasoning being that the if the food is not great, then the waiter is not the person to be blamed and if the service is not great, then consider it as an appreciation of the delectable food. He, nonetheless, fails to answer when neither criterion is met.

On one instance, my friend ended up giving the waiter a Rs.40 tip. The meal came to around Rs.300 so the radical show of generousity definitely got me thinking. Later on asking her, she told me that she did so because she found the waiter to be really cute!! I never thought about that aspect of fine dining till then.

Personally, I am a person who strongly believes in consumer satisfaction and in case, I don’t get what I pay for, the eatery can forget it shares of tips. I particularly loathe the idea of giving a tip for two reasons, when the food sucks, or when the waiter is in an unusual hurry! It’s my way of showing them that, “You didn’t get it right this time on!”

There are also other factors that may put me off, over-friendly staff being one of them. While at a lounge, I recollect the manager joining us on our table late at night, and giving us a lecture about the ill-effects of excessive Schezwan sauce and his tiffs with hot-shot customers and journalists. Uninvited and unwanted!

There are other instances, where in, the order is not taken until a million other options (obviously, of a greater price) are suggested and exhaustively discussed without your asking for it. It’s manageable and needed to a small extent but then some people just don’t know where to a draw a line.

To conclude, for me, the amount of the tip is not as big a question as, to tip or not to tip is!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Finding Neverland

“Woaaaaaaaahhhhhhh” I hear a loud roar. And guess what, it sounds like me! That’s not all. There’s also a tingling sensation in my belly. I’m free falling. I never reach ground zero though. It’s like a video being played in a loop. Before you start wondering what I’m exactly doing here, it is simply a description of one of my recurrent dreams.

One of my last few blogs was on insomnia. This one is in the backdrop of the opposite state, the state of being completely cut of from the real world, in the deepest of sleeps.

Dreams are a completely inexplicable phenomenon. I have had my rendezvous with them more than once for sure. What’s shocking is over the past few months, I actually recollect bits and pieces of what I have dreamt very often, and I can’t help but feel amused at the haphazard and illogical nature of each one of them.

Like in one of my dreams some time last month, I saw this long corridor with a number of identical straw doors, leading to a series of stairs carved in rock, which open at a mountain peak. I never opened any of the doors but ran up and down the stairs for god knows how long getting something like water from the peak.

It is amazing the potential to which your brain can fantasize and create a completely exotic and unknown world before your eyes. It has places which you have never visited before, with known or unknown faces, sometimes even creatures, and with actions that deny logic and reasoning in every which way. For instance, I happened to have fought with a lion in a posh lobby, later realising that I myself was in the body of another lion. Freaked me out completely!

I really don’t think dreams come true, but sometimes there is a sense of deja-vu attached to things you do. In another of those senseless dreams, I remember having to fill in my name in some form innumerable times and while filling in the form for a driving school afterwards, I realise that the surroundings looked extraordinarily familiar for a place I haven’t seen before.

All in all, each dream is so different, some unique, others bizarre, some scary while others comical. I have come to realise that dreams depict the magnificent pool of boundless creativity we all have been gifted. The only problem is we don't know how to exploit its untapped potential, when we are in our complete senses- one of the questions that has often come to my minds during the times when I have been completely jobless.

It is worthy mentioning a line from the book The Dream Game in this regard, "That which the dream shows is the shadow of such wisdom as exists in man, even if during his waking state he may know nothing about it...We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourselves." Strange but true!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Excuse Me

It happens so often that while walking down the railway platform, you unintentionally bump into someone. Not many of us will be surprised if we hear “Andha hai kya. Dekh nahin sakta.” The only feeling we have then is that of indifference.

Mumbaikars have time and again been glorified as the people with a welcoming attitude and a never-say-die spirit. This has been exemplified after catastrophes, both natural and man-made. Take for instance, the floods which have become frequent visitors of the city and the terrorist attacks on civilians which have been giving the former close competition. Hats off to the resilience of the city!

All said and done, I see that Mumbaikars chiefly lack in one aspect, that’s giving respect to their fellow residents. Not one person hesitates to take out their daily frustrations on a stranger by passing boorish statements and giving discourteous replies. Is it that the unity and deference come only at times of adversity, to be lost again, in the daily taxing routines??

Having stayed abroad for a large chunk of my life, I admire the fact that people there do not forget the basic courtesy in communication. I don’t say one must follow protocol but then the basic ‘tehzeeb’ is indispensable. The word, which has its roots in Urdu, implies a combination of politeness and courtesy. These are two departments where the Mumbaikar significantly lags. It’s sad that the entire hullabaloo surrounding the debate that Mumbai is the rudest city in India is not a fragment of someone’s imagination and is more than justified.

At this point I recollect this habit of mine when I was new to the city, where I actually used to give directions to rickshaw drivers with a “Bhaisahab, left leejiye.” I was laughed at by my friends then, and now, in order to not stand out among my peers, I guess I have completely given up on it. The metamorphosis has been so drastic that I actually laugh at one of my other friends when he ordered his dinner at a dhabba by saying “Bhaisahab, hum khaane ka order place karna chahenge.”

I know it’s hypocrisy on my behalf to be writing this article having mentioned that I myself have become a part of the rude bandwagon, but then somewhere on the inside, I still displease it and may be this blog is a reminder to me that I’m going down the wrong lane.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stranded Insomniac

I guess it's the initial excitement of having my own blog once again that is causing me to put up stuff so random so often. This blog comes during one such phase.

It is about "void"- the feeling of "nothing"ness. It's something which I just haven't found any valid justification for but it yet happens quite often. It isn't deja vu.

Take for instance last night. I was working on this idea of mine. Looking all over the net, magazines, newspapers and everything else I could think off. I couldn't channelize my thought-process to actually come up with something worthwhile. I spent 5 whole hours doing this.

I give up all hope and go to bed. That's when stuff starts flowing in, as if a river of thoughts blocked by a dam of confusion had finally broken it's way through. When I'm shit weary, wanting to just shut my mind off and retire, my sub-conscious mind is adamant on not switching off. This goes on till about 5 am in the morning. I'm half-asleep, half-thinking, not knowing what's going on in there, but yet realising that it's just another episode of involuntary brainstorming!

The worst part, or let me call it, the icing on the cake from a sadist''s point of view, is that when I wake up, I'm still in the same state as I was when I had just gone to bed. Add to it, a terrible hangover from not having slept properly. Insomnia isn't something I'm new too, but then I generally make the most of my creativity during those times. Yesterday was just one hell of an unpromising night. I felt like Frodo did in the last few stages of his journey to Mount Doom (LOTR followers should know) but I missed a Sam who would help me get through. Eeks, I guess the hangover's doing the talking now.

Okies, I vow not to come up with an entry so boring in the near future. That's of course, assuming that I don't go through this phase of "nothing"ness during that time. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Can we help you?

I recently happened to visit a MTNL QCSC. Ironically, QCSC expands to Quick Customer Service Centre. I had to submit an application for a new telephone connection.Being a government office I was expecting some delay in proceedings. What followed was to become a real test of my patience.

I walked in and stood at the assigned counter. Seeing only 3-4 people I was hopeful it'll not be a very time consuming. I heard a lady seated behind me scream "Dikhta nahin hai peeche line hai. Line mein aa." I stared down the corridor to see the line stretching to some 20 people. I myself being a person who hates intruders in a queue, obliged by taking one of the seats at the end.

On my left was a man, who reminded me of Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Not that I am condescending toward those who cannot afford grooming themselves, but then when you are getting yourself a plan of Rs.2000 a month for unlimited calling, I doubt you can't afford the little bit for yourself. Seemingly unkempt and shabby hair, stained cream shirt and to top it all, smelling drunk from top to bottom. He kept staring at me as if I was wearing Eskimo clothes.

After 15 minutes or so of making me feel terribly conscious of my appearance, he asked me, "Aapko English aati hai?" I nodded. "Mujhe yeah form bharke denge." I was very hesitant in helping this person out as I got terrible vibes from him. I pointed it out to him that behind the form, there was a form in Hindi too for people like him. I was more than pleased to inform him that he needed original documents to go with it, which he didn't have. He was on his way back home and my wait eased out a bit.

In the meanwhile I realised I had moved only 4 seat to the left. Approximating the time it'll take to reach the counter, I could have actually made hi-hello conversations with every person in the line.

An uneventful hour went by and I was almost at the counter. Like a warrior on the brink of victory, I finally moved to the person sitting there and handover the form. He tells me I had to get the form checked at the other counter. If only I had a sledgehammer I would have loved to smash it on his face. I coaxed him into accepting my form pointing out there were no mistakes whatsoever. He said "badde sahab se baat karo."

Almost certain that I'll have to bribe the person in case I wanted to skip the monotonous process of waiting again, I decided I'll go ahead and meet him. After showing him the papers, to my surprise, he actually stamped them for me and asked me to go back to the counter. What a respite!! If I had to again stand in the queue I would have never finished the procedure before office hours end.

I go back to Table No.8. The man just couldn't stop pissing me off. He told me he has to go on a tea-break. Another delay of 20 minutes. I could see him standing there and gossiping with the Mrs.Dikshits and Mrs.Kales of the office but he wouldn't come back and resume his work. I was beginning to get the feeling I should have consulted an astrologer before leaving home. Shortly past his resuming work, he gave me the news that the network was down and I'll have to wait. Yeah, right, that's news. What had I been doing all this while then?!

It took about a quarter of an hour for the system to come back on the net and finally my form was accepted. It should have been a 10 minutes formality from there on but no, our dear friend refused to type at more than 2 mpw (note that typing speed is generally measured in words per min i.e. wpm). It took me almost half an hour to get the receipt. I didn't want to say this, but out of courtesy, I told a rude thank you and walked off.

The very next moment, there was a "CLOSED" tag on the counter with some 15 people still waiting for their turns. I wondered, may be the stars were with me!!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Homecoming

As the cuckoo sings
I awaken from my slumber
With a delicate yawn
I remember
It’s time to go home
The place where I belong

I soar with aplomb
On my chariots
Of dull azure and sapphire clouds
Taking the path of the wind
I speed away
With gusto and zing

I can see my destination
A concrete jungle
A treasure-trove of colours
With pockets of emerald
Bordered with sand
Bustling with life

The waves welcoming me
With their gushing applause
While the land looks at me
With eager eyes
Asking me the reason
For my delayed arrival

Justified is its question
But so is my reason
I tell it that there are changes
Brought about in my life
By its inhabitants
That are far beyond my control

Better late than never
Is the reply
As I begin my descent
Soaking the warmth
Shadowing the landscape
Inspecting parched patches

I guess its time
To announce my arrival
I throw sparkling pearls from my purse
Knocking thunderously
On the door
Of my destination

The earth greets me with its pleasing fragrance
The leaves flutter with joy
Animals leave their dwelling
Streams come back to life
I’ve been anticipated and missed
Of that I’m aware

I’m the rain
I’m the rain
My life begins in the heavens
It ends in the drains
Yet I continue to serve selflessly
As life itself is my second name

Blame it on the Shadows

The gleaming moon and the sparkling stars
Enlighten the path to a million worlds
But wonder if they would serve the cause
Without the blanket of the dusky clouds

It’s often said that the Sun will rise
Bringing a ray of hope in the darkest of times
The King of Stars will lose its splendour
Unless it vanquishes those obscure hours.

Evil spirits loom large in the shadowy times
The nights are blamed for being on their side
Courage and resilience would have been a thing of the past
Had man not faced the ominous hours.

Darkness is not concealed in the night
It is in our hearts and minds
Once there is radiance in the soul
The night will never be baselessly blamed for our woes.

The Great Sindhi Weddings

I was unfortunate to have attended not one, not two but four weddings in my community, in a span of 2 weeks, some of close relatives and the others of the superficially close ones! The more I see them, the more I'm shocked at the extravagance.

I fear that the all the glitter and gold will leave me blind one day. Hold on, did I say gold? Naah, the wannabe aristocrats say it with diamonds. Jewellery no longer can be tagged as earrings, necklaces, bangles...they should be renamed as chandeliers, dog straps and handcuffs. I guess the whole thing will weigh more than the super-figure conscious girls themselves.

Forget jewellery, the clothing itself is so heavy that I sometimes wonder why wear the jewellery and add to you burden. At times you really can't make out who the bride is. Thanks to them being the centre of attraction, and being given the excessive limelight that you are not mistaken.

One particularly hilarious experience is the photographers asking the couple to pose in some very cheesy positions. Don't get me wrong on that, but they'll be like, hold her hand like this, look into her eyes, blah , blah, etc ,etc. . Are these snaps meant to be pleasant reminiscences or pictures for the upcoming wedding calender 2007?!

I can go on and on about the materialistic value that is attached to these marriages. The more surprising aspect is I really can't call them neither arrange nor love marriages. My second cousin aged 18 was the bride in one of these marriages. I thought when we banned child marriages, it was majorly for the uneducated masses because they didn't know the detrimental effects it can have, but here I see a girl from an educated background being married off before even she gets hold of her life.

I just said that I was not going to discuss materialism attached to the marriages but if I don't mention this, I doubt the blog is going to be complete. I remember one of our relatives who came to give in the card for the wedding saying "100 crore ki party hai. " I first thought the cocktail party which was one of the gazillion pre- and post- marriage functions was worth 100 crores. Vanity at its peak! But then, I find out that "party" meant the inlaws, "100 crores" was a superlative estimate of their net value. This explains why I can't tag a lot of marriages as arranged or love marriages, they're business contracts!!!

I don't have anything against our weddings. If you have it, you are definitely free to flaunt it. Nonetheless, when I see the amount of street children barely getting a meal a day, or say the no. of people suffering at the hands of calamities, I wonder if it would be wiser to be a little philanthropic with the expenditure and contribute to charity! Weddings happen once in a life time, but then if we can attach a greater meaning to them than just restricting them to mere platforms for showing off, they'll be a lot more memorable, for greater no. of people than just the couple!!