Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dadi ka achaar







These are my grandma'a home-made pickle. Meri dadi ka achaar. She is responsible for the annual supply of pickle in our house. Luckily this time, I was sitting beside her and watched the whole process. Though it seemed very easy, I know that if I would have been in her place, I couldn't have done it alone. She is an expert of making pickles of Mangoes and chilies. Hats off to her patience and energy! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blissful

















Above are some of the pictures that I keep ogling at from the moment they were shown to me. How wonderful clouds look outside a flying plane! They keep calling to us and seem to be within our reach. But alas! I cannot open the doors of a 885km/hr flying machine and shake hands with these amazing nature gifts! I don’t want to land up in jail!

And my compliment goes to the following person who allowed me to share them on my blog. Thanks Saurabh!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My dear woman, speak-up!



This blog is an entry for Ring the Bell contest presented by Breakthrough and IndiBlogger. For more information on this topic, refer to www.bellbajao.org/

****************************************************************

This incident happened 2 years back in Hyderabad. It was a working day. I was standing outside a mall waiting for my friend. The area was over-crowded. There was a bus-stand nearby. Commuters were jostling for space at each and every corner. I looked at my watch. It was 10.30am. My friend was late and I texted her to come faster. She replied that she would be there in another ten minutes. Suddenly a group of young men arrived on their bikes. They stopped a few distance away from me and I instinctively moved away from there to another place. Soon they were laughing and chatting loudly. Two of them started smoking. That smell itself was too much to bear, let alone high levels of smoke coming out of vehicles on the highway. I started coughing loudly and that brought me to their attention. Openly pointing at me, they started laughing more loudly.

Idiots.

I was just deciding to go to another place when I saw my friend getting down from a city bus. Thank god! She came quickly, breathless and sweaty under the hot sun and smiled. We entered the mall and started exploring the place. We had just gone a few steps further when one of those men whom I had seen earlier approached us.

“Excuse me?” he asked, pointing at me.

“What?” I asked politely.

In a few minutes, he explained to us his predicament. He wanted our help. He said that his sister wanted to come out of a nearby coaching institute due to an emergency at home but couldn’t. Boys were not allowed to go inside. So he wanted one of us to accompany him, act like his sister and get his own sister out of a class by asking the concerned faculty’s permission. 

As if we were going to! My friend looked at me and understood by my expression that we were both thinking the same thing- this man was downright lying.

“Why don’t you ask any older women out here? That would be more helpful to your sister” my friend challenged him

“No, I cannot convince them. I have already tried. So, please one of you accompany me” he asked beseechingly.

“Sorry, we can’t! We are busy at the moment” I said and we turned away.

He left too. I was a bit surprised at the turn of events. Now when I thought closely, I realised that he was the same person who had smoked earlier and laughed at me. I conveyed every bit of this information to my friend who listened with narrowed eyes.

“Do you think he followed us?” she asked and started scanning the mall.

We were climbing steps to reach the third floor. As soon as she uttered those words, I turned back to check whether we were indeed being followed. And my heart missed a beat. There they were alright, the group of those men. Now they were openly watching us. And that stupid cock-and-bull story teller was also with them. They were total five in number. 

Feeling a bit scared, I turned to my friend. After telling her everything, she seemed more relaxed than me. 

“They just might be kidding around for a stupid bet or something” she said and dragged me inside a shop. We purchased some dress materials and got out after 25 minutes. We did some more shopping in other shops. Two hours had nearly gone. We had three large plastic bags with us by now. As soon as we started walking, someone pushed me from behind. I fell on my two inches heels and one of the plastic bags split open. 

“Sorry....sorry”.

It was the same man. His friends were with him eyeing the pair of us. Becoming self-conscious, I quickly got up and started collecting my things. Those idiots just stared and refused to help us. My friend became furious.

“Why did you push her?” she demanded.

I didn’t” he replied and smiled more menacingly. 

I had enough of that rubbish. I started walking away and my friend joined me. At the cash counter, we stood in a queue to pay for our purchases. When I looked to my left, there was a couple standing in another queue. The wife looked very young but her face showed a different story. Her eyes were puffy and had deep dark circles under them. Her one side of lip was swollen which her maroon lipstick couldn’t hide. She was thin, unhappy and looked very ill. She was constantly looking down as if she wished nothing more than to go deep underground and hide herself inside forever. Her healthy husband stood in front of her looking as if he ate her share of food as well, which probably he did. He looked happy. 

The face of that women ignited flames of fury in me. I wanted to go towards her, console her and take her to a cafe to let her eat whatever she wanted. But I couldn’t. Her scary husband was standing there, looking like he would knock down a couple of wrestlers if he wanted. God, this was so unfair. My hands were totally tied up but my heart wanted to free itself and help the needy woman. Suddenly, there was a familiar loud laughter from somewhere behind our queue. I looked back. They were there, no surprise in it at all. They were standing at a distance waiting at the entrance for who knows what. Or maybe we knew.

My mind started to clear a bit.  Maybe after looking at the woman, I had realised that anybody could be in her place. Any women, I included, if I cease to speak up or take timely action against injustice. If I don’t stand up for myself, tomorrow maybe, god forbid, I too could land up in her place. The thought itself made me angrier. In that instant, I had made up my mind. I promised myself to speak up.

I walked my way out of the queue. My friend followed me, a bit surprised at my behaviour. I came directly in front of the group. They hadn’t expected that. They thought we could be easily scared off and wouldn’t dare to cross their paths. The presence of so many crowds around us gave me more courage.

“Why are you following us?” I demanded looking directly in the eyes of the story maker.

I am not” he replied getting a bit surprised at my loud voice.

“Yes, you are” I accused them all looking at each and every one in turn.

Two of them started staring at the ground. The story-teller looked at the crowd. People were now beginning to hear us. He didn’t want to get cornered. He started to move away.

Bad move.

“Now where are you going? Back to your SISTER?”I shouted.

Everybody in the vicinity stopped. They stared in my direction. 

Please stop shouting!” he whispered.

“And you stop following! Or I will call the police” I said in a determined tone.

Those words made one of them laugh weakly. Next second, I had removed one of my heel sandals and pointed it directly at the stupid fellow.  

“Why are you laughing? Is this some circus going on, you think?” I demanded while blood rushed to my forehead.

Ghar main maa behen nahi hai kya? Hamme kyun follow kar rahe ho?” my friend spoke on my behalf!  

A security guard rushed on the spot. Some of the women from the crowd came to us and started abusing those men in different languages. Some older folks arrived and tried splitting up the argument. But there was no need of splitting. Those men wanted to get out from there as soon as possible. They just couldn’t because of the surrounding women of all age group that had cornered them. Hey! That was a scene indeed. In all the mess, I remembered something else. I went to the nearest cafe and ordered some pastries and parcelled some cakes. I rushed with the food items towards the queue. The woman was still standing there and her husband was nowhere to be seen. He must have gone towards the crowd around those men. It was providing a lot of entertainment to everybody, no doubt! I was lucky. I went directly towards her.

Hey hi” I said cheerfully.

She looked up with timid eyes.

“I am selling these cakes as free samples to people” I said and forced the cake box directly in her bag.

“No, don’t! I don’t want...” she hesitated.

“It’s absolutely free of cost. You can taste it at home...but these pastries you have got to taste now....please I insist” I said and took her hand and placed the pastry in her palm. 

She hesitated again. To make her feel comfortable, I started eating mine and encouraged her to do the same. She took a bite, scanning the room for her husband at the same time. When the coast seemed clear, she started eating fast, smiling at me. I felt instantly satisfied and a bit...rebellious. My cell phone vibrated. It was mum! 

“Hello! Mummy....you won’t believe what happened today.....”












     


Monday, May 13, 2013

The day I started reading





I call it my punar janam aka re-birth the day I was introduced to the beautiful world of books. I don’t know what heaven looks like but this world is truly my paradise. The smell of fresh new pages of a book and the sound it makes when I flip through it is the most exciting thing to do. And there will be never an end to it. Thanks a million to the brilliant authors who come to my rescue whenever I need them. They drop surprises and keep me engaged till the last read of their novels. They take me to an altogether different world from Earth, a place where I can let my imagination fly with each line and build my own judgements and likes. 



I was in 8th std when my tuition teacher presented a novel titled On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett. I took the book obediently not knowing that my world is about to change. And then I started reading and couldn’t keep the book down. With the turn of each page, my curiosity increased ten-fold. It was with a slight regret that I returned the novel back to my teacher. I wanted it to be with me forever. The pang in my heart must have shown in my face because the next moment my father asked me why I looked so unhappy. I told him the reason. Later in the evening, while going down the beach, my father halted the car opposite a city library. I had never stepped my foot inside it before and didn’t know what was inside. He quickly held my hand and we walked towards it. As I entered, my joy knew no bounds. Wherever I looked, at each and every corner, there were only books! Books of every imaginable cover illustrations and different colours. I was astonished at the volumes of pages lying just a few feet away ready to be taken and read instantly. And there was a sale of popular books where most of the crowd was seen. After 20 minutes, as I got out of the library, I had my very own copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. As I held the book, the cover page of the famous novel by J.K.Rowling, gleamed red under the sparkling sun with Harry Potter standing at platform Nine and Three-Quarters. 

I bought the third part of the series and used to read till the middle of night. I was so hell bent on knowing what’s going to happen next, that I wouldn’t keep the book down. That experience stopped when my mother scolded me after noticing that my eyes had started watering lately. After two months of this incident, I got my first brand new specks! Mean while I got to know more advantages of books. As my family used to travel a lot which mainly included visiting grandparents in Uttar Pradesh and going to Shirdhi in Maharashtra, I had my novels as my best buddies with me all the time. They never left me. I kept them with me while eating, sitting and sleeping. I had them with me no matter where I was, whether I was sleeping in a train or staring out of a moving bus. When I had my 12th std board exams closer, I was busy finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me a while to finish it considering the amount of pages it contained (and don’t worry, I passed my 12th board exams with decent marks). 

Next was the mania of Lord of the Rings series. My graduation days were superb. As I was a day’s scholar, I used to read about Frodo Baggins and Sam mandatorily in my college bus everyday in the morning for an hour. My classmates bunked classes for celebrating some friend’s birthday or watching movies on Friday. I bunked classes for finishing Twilight. In that series, I least loved the second part-New Moon. How can Edward dare to leave Bella like that and go away for her own good? That was rubbish! I wanted to throw that book on Edward Cullen’s face in reality. When Breaking Dawn released, I had a semester exam going on in my final year. I had bought the book and used to make deals with myself while studying. I used to finish 4 topics of the syllabus and then read 10 pages of the novel and vice-versa. Finally one day, one of my relatives cracked. She was with me in the market when I was buying Pride and Prejudice and she couldn’t help it any longer and burst out.

Why are you purchasing it? Is it in your engineering syllabus?” she asked bluntly.

No”, I replied and stretched my hand to pay the money to the seller.

“Then why are you wasting your time and money over all these?” she asked, trying to fathom the mystery behind this madness.

I like reading them”, I said.

And what good is it going to do? After you read them, it becomes useless. Then what would you do?” she kept on her ranting. 

But I couldn’t concentrate further. The moment she had said ‘useless’, I forgot all my manners and patience. How dare she say like that about my books? My books? It seemed as if somebody had practically slapped me. I felt so insulted.

I collect them so that my kids can read them in future and then my grandkids”, I said coolly.

“And that too free of cost! Wouldn’t that be great for them? ”, I added.

That shocked her. Her eyes became round with astonishment at my words. 

As I finished graduating with 78% in B.Tech, I was proud of something else-my personal library. By then I had a huge collection of novels by well-known authors and my favourite writers. My favourite novels so far are by Enid Blyton (Famous Five and Secret Seven series), J.K.Rowling (Harry Potter series), Vir Sanghvi(Rude Food), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight series), Jane Austen (Mansfield Park), Chetan Bhagat (Five Point Someone, 3 mistakes of my life, Revolution 2020, What young India wants), Amish Tripathi (Shiva trilogy), Shobhaa De (Speedpost and Shobhaa at Sixty), Ashok Banker (The Iron Bra and Ten Dead Admen), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), Jacquelin Singh (Uncle’s concubine), A.P.J.Abdul Kalam (Wings Of Fire), Dilip Prabhavalkar (Bokya Satbande series), R.K.Narayan (Malgudi Days and The Guide), Yann Martel (Life of Pi), J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the rings) and Nicholas Sparks (A walk to remember, Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song and The Notebook). And the list keeps increasing every month as soon as a promising writer ventures out in the market. Nothing in the universe can compare the peace and happiness a fresh story can provide. God is really great. He always listens to prayers of readers and grants their wishes in the form of excellent writers of the century. Bless them! Without them, life would have been so boring! But right now it’s a wonderful place to live in because there is always a novel waiting beside me to be picked up. Cheers to life!!

Another Journey



It was 7.45pm. Bangalore was getting washed in the heavy rain. Moreover, nature was also busy playing tricks with the clouds above the airport. The Strong winds and thunderous lightning were the chief entertainers that night. But as the bus came to a halt beside the plane, nobody wanted to come out of the cosy vehicle. All knew that they would get drenched in a second outside. But what choice did we have? One by one everyone started boarding the flight. When my turn came, I quickly jumped out of the bus and ran towards it. My specks and hair got maximum of the rain water. But I felt instantly comfortable once I reached my seat. It was just behind an emergency exit window.

The scheduled departure was at 8.15pm. But due to bad weather conditions, without any announcement, it was crystal clear that the flight will be delayed. I opened my bag and took out Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. I started reading it while some passengers had still not settled. A few around me were making room for their cabin luggage in the racks and some others were calling air-hostesses. Almost everyone had the same question to ask them-when will the flight take off.
We haven’t got the clearance yet” an air-hostess announced.

Some started grumbling loudly at the inconvenience. Meanwhile another air-hostess came towards the seats after mine. 

As you are sitting next to the emergency exit window, I would like to brief you up about some instructions” she said rapidly in a clear voice just like a news anchor announcing some breaking news.

Huh?” a women replied helplessly while trying to hold on to her struggling baby at the same time.

“In times of any emergency, are you willing to help us?” the air-hostess asked again.

What could the passengers do? They nodded and looked at her while she demonstrated how to open the window during an emergency. 

After she left, a man turned towards his neighbour with disbelief eyes.

Take-off kiya nahi aur emergency ki baat kar rahe hain.....” he grumbled.

It was 8.30pm now. Still no hopes of take-off seemed near. The rain continued to play its tricks outside. The whole run-way had gotten drenched by that time. Suddenly an official boarded the flight and started counting the passengers. Following him, another air-hostess started counting too. That was quite hilarious. Later we came to know that it seemed to them that extra passengers had boarded the flight. And hence there was no clearance and that’s why the delay. 

That was unbelievable! How was that possible, I couldn‘t understand. After so much checking and security, how come extra passengers could be there in the flight? This thought reminded me of Home Alone-Lost in New York. In the movie, the kid had boarded the wrong flight and ended up in New York. 

Suddenly a woman started talking on her cell-phone very loudly. Passengers in the last seats as well could hear her too. And that was saying something as she was sitting near the front seats. She was giving instructions to her junior for the last 10 minutes as to how to speak to a client. And then she instructed that junior to repeat again whatever she had said so far. That was it. I could not take it any longer. I went back to my novel. The starting itself was quite interesting. The story had just captured my attention when the captain announced to put on the seat belt and be ready for the take-off. The lights were dimmed after a while. I switched on the reading light. Outside the window, I could still see thundering clouds roaring loudly in the night sky. The flight started to move, first slowly and then picked up speed. It zoomed past the city and went up still till I could no longer see the city lights. A time came when I could look out from the window and see the thundering clouds below us! What a wonderful sight it was! I wished I had my camera with me to capture the moment.


When we were at a safe height, meal was announced. Two air-hostesses pushed the food trolley. That time the meal consisted of Jeera rice, Dal, Mutter Paneer and Methi roti. I ordered none. Call it a coincidence but I was going to eat Mutter Paneer at home! The only question was when the flight will reach Delhi. The time was passing slowly. I started feeling sleepy but didn’t want to close my eyes. The darkness outside was cut off by the bright city lights of Delhi at 11pm. We landed around 11.15pm. But see our fate; we had landed at the international runway! Till our flight reached slowly to the domestic one, 10 minutes more had gone. The only entertainment left was to see the various flights stationed outside in an ordered manner. I saw a lot of different planes standing at one side. Some had their engines open. There was a British Airways and another foreign one that I couldn’t see properly in the semi-darkness. Now I was slightly feeling hungrier. By the time I finally checked out after taking my luggage, it was close to 11.45pm. The familiar Delhi breeze was most welcoming. Finally I was home. The journey had ended.....or had it just begun?!!