Thursday, September 21, 2017

Moving and Packing

28th Feb 2017: It was the last day at my previous job. I left my earlier organization after almost 10 years. I brought home three small cardboard boxes. 10 years, packed in three boxes. I was not allowed to bring back few things from office which I thought I own. Like the awards, my campaigns won. In fact, I have not even opened those three boxes since. And, I thought I would need those items.

29th Aug 2017: We were packing (movers and packers were doing their job, quickly and impersonally) for our impending move to Chennai. Leaving Mumbai, was a tough decision. But it was made with due diligence many many months ago. The entire household stuff we took along fitted in 47 boxes - big and small. Interestingly, we left lot of stuff behind. More importantly, we packed a small handbag, which carried all things very precious to us. We didn't want to lose any of these things, so we wanted to take that small bag along with us, in person, rather than transporting it. These things were precious, not necessarily, because of its monetary value. Some items hold immense emotional value for us. Like the customized wrappers of the chocolates, we distributed on our son's birth or a letter written by a friend years ago.

As I was going through the motions, during that hectic period of moving and packing, my thoughts were all over the place. I was little sad, because I was leaving the city that has given me so much (Read here). I was happy, because after 5 months of intense travelling and staying in hotels, finally I would get to spend more time with my family and my son. I was apprehensive, because I still don't feel comfortable with culture of the new city and the organization. It will take a long time to get acclimatized to it. After all, as you grow older, your adaptability goes down.

But then your acceptance goes up, as you grow older. You become more patient with things and people. You take lot of bullshit in your stride, relatively easily. You become more aware of what you truly value. There was immense learning in this entire exercise of moving and packing. I thought I must put it down in writing. Here are some lessons:

1. You never truly own anything. Things are ephemeral. What holds value for you today, may not be that important, when the context changes.

2. Loss of things don't hurt that much. What hurts you most is loss of people whose company you truly value.

3. You can plan your life to the last detail, but you still can't control the results.

4. Invest in experiences and create memories, rather than buying things. Those fridge magnets, from your past holidays, are far more important than that costly microwave oven.

5. Let go of the excess baggage. Moving and packing takes an emotional toll on you. But then there is nothing a chilled beer can't fix.

It has been 20 days since we moved to Chennai. I am sure eventually, we will settle here as well. We will find things we love to do. We will make new friends. We will explore new places. We will buy more things. But I will never be in my 20's again. Mumbai, will always remain my pehla pyaar, my first love.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hide & Seek : Revelation


Few weeks back, I was having breakfast, in a restaurant, at the hotel I was staying in. I saw two kids playing hide and seek there. One of them had parked himself behind a column to hide from the seeker. I could sense the thrill of hiding and getting found out. 

I could remember my childhood days, when we also used to play the game of hide and seek, now and then. The 'hider' was very empowered, while job of the 'seeker' was at times frustrating. 

As I kept watching those kids, having a mouthful of pongal, a morbid thought crossed my mind. What if the seeker stops looking for the hider?

There would be no thrill in the game and in fact the seeker would be far more empowered. The hider would lose interest eventually and move away. It was a moment of reflection, a moment of revelation. That scene at the restaurant and the morbid thought has kept me haunted since.

Imagine a life, where you stop seeking! Won't you be more empowered? I know, it is simple to say and very difficult to practice. Also human race has progressed, because it looked for answers to its questions, sought solutions to its problems and seeks to do so even today. So can we really stop seeking?

But look around yourself. Somewhere we lost the ability to seek the right things. I feel happy one day, and down in the dumps the next. What brings about such extreme highs and lows? Are we looking for wrong things or are we looking too hard? Can we keep seeking, but stop expecting? Is it possible?

Stephen Hawking, the well renowned physicist, once said in an interview, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."

In this statement, he clearly differentiates between what he seeks and what he expects. His journey to unravel the universe and its mysteries has nothing to do with his expectations. Has he actualised the Geeta Saar in its most literal sense?

Another way to look at this issue is from human relationships point of view. I used to care for and do things for certain people, when they neither asked for it nor deserved it. They used this weakness of mine, without me realising it. I was like that 'seeker' who was looking for an acknowledgement. Then after a catastrophic incident few months back, when one of those beneficiaries (of my care and goodwill) questioned my motives, I realised my folly. I severed all ties from that individual, stopped seeking any acknowledgment from that person or anyone in my life like that. I have been in a happier space since then.

Don't fall in love with the idea that you are a giver. There is a supreme being who enables you to do so. Don't make idols of people who inspired you sometime in past. Everyone falls. Expect them to. Stop helping those who don't believe in hard work and learning. Those nincompoops will come back and bite you. In your butt. Stop being a seeker and feel more empowered.

But trust people. Even if you are betrayed, trust them. That's what keeps the humanity going. Keep your family and friends close. They are your ultimate support system. Seek the power to withstand all the tribulations from the inside of your mind.

'Hide and Seek' is a silly game anyways. Try 'Snakes and Ladders' instead! It always keeps you in play, despite the bites.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

When you have to pee...

The seat belt sign is switched on and the plane is being prepared for landing. At that precise moment, you get an urge to pee. Does it happen often with you? Do you take the risk to walk up to that claustrophobic washroom and relieve yourself?

After a hard day's work, you get into your bed, covered in a cozy blanket. As you wait for sleep to engulf you, you feel a stirring down there. Do you get out of the bed immediately or do you hold your bladder unsuccessfully for that urge to subside?

It is a holiday, and you are watching a movie in a multiplex, when the Pee-Force strikes you. Would you answer nature's call or would you squirm in your seat because you don't want to miss that pelvic move which Katrina is about to make?

You are in your appraisal and your boss has just completed a discussion on your areas of improvement and failures for the year. Now, he intends to go to the next part (he has been forced by HR to complete that part), where he has to state your key achievements and discuss your strengths. At that moment, you realize that you have had too much water during the appraisal. Would you risk excusing yourself at that moment?

There are always circumstances compelling enough, when you don't listen to your body, but to your heart. 

But then there are situations when you have to pee, you must pee.

If you are on your first date and 'the other' is talking animatedly with you, at that moment, if you have to pee, you must pee. Otherwise, your facial contortions will send a wrong message or may indicate that you are not interested. Instead, find a really cool way to excuse yourself at that moment. Maybe, you should come back with an earbud and announce loudly - "I am all ears"

If you are texting with your wife on a Friday evening, and she asks a really tough question like, "When will you come home?" At that moment, if you have to pee, you must pee. Otherwise you would, under pressure, send an inane reply, like, "Soon!" Instead, wait for a moment, find the nearest urinal and while taking a piss think of a creative way to tell her that you are going out for drinks with your colleagues. In fact ask her to join you. Don't forget to mention the fact, that the girl in your office, whom she hates, is also going to come.

If you are driving through a jungle on a moonless night... Now, would you really do that? I doubt. 

Just mind your Pee's & Q's always. 

Now, I have to pee, so I must pee.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Songs of Life


I watched a film called "Meri Pyaari Bindu" last month. It is a rom-com and a badly made one. But there was a concept in the film, which stayed back in my mind. The lead couple has a playlist of certain songs which define their relationship. These are not necessarily good songs, or even their favorites. But songs that trigger memories. I had written about instances or memories that define strong relationships in this post. I felt like revisiting the theme, but from the perspective of songs.

So here is a list of songs (not in a chronological order) and the memories they bring alive even today. They are not necessarily great songs. But definitely associated with strong memories. 

Kullu & Manali Trips

Summer vacations were always fun. I used to love even the holidays' homework that came along with them. Making charts and scrapbooks was more a pain for my mother, rather than for me. I remember this particular stretch of three years, when my father took us all to Kullu & Manali for few days. Yes! same holiday destination, every year for three years. Of course, each time the group we went along with, was different. And each time we discovered something new. 

On one of these trips, I listened to the songs of film Mohra on loop in our car. And sang along loudly as well. The songs were risqué and had double meaning lyrics. But at that time, I didn't understand all that. Whenever I listen to these songs even today, the memories of those Kullu Manali trips, come gushing back. So here is the most played song of the album and most probably your favorite too, if you have grown up in that decade. Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast!!!


Cable TV

Do you remember the days, when you had to wait for Wednesdays or Sundays to watch your favorite film songs on Doordarshan? Rangoli and Chitrahaar must be getting all the TV ratings in those days. With advent of cable TV, all that changed for ever. Songs were now available on tap. There were umpteen countdown shows. And one song ruled the charts for many many months, in nascent years of cable TV. This song was part of a film (Hum Aapke Hain Kaun) that brought families back to cinema halls. So while this song has several associations for me, the strongest one is 24 X 7 TV channels. Go ahead and listen to Didi Tera Devar Deewana...


Antakshari

Antakshari is a game played in Indian subcontinent. The word itself is concatenation of two Hindi words - Ant (End) and Akshar (Letter). It is a game where people / teams have to sing songs starting with last letter of the song or verse sung by previous person / team. I am sure you have several memories of those school trips, college excursions, parties, family functions etc. where you played this game. Some people like me, sing really cheesy songs like "Bharo Maang Meri Bharo"or "Ki Ki Ki Mohabbat Ki Ki" which people remember for their sheer stupidity. But this one Antakshari changed the way Antakshari was played for ever. The moment some one sings the song "Aaja Aayi Baahar, " inadvertently you would guess the next set of songs till you reach "Kaate Nahi Kat te yeh din yeh raat". Watch this Antakshari to know why 😼 from the film 'Maine Pyar Kiya'.

My break-up song

It is the song associated with one of the saddest phases of my life. My girlfriend at that time, left India for ever, to settle in a cooler country. I was so much in love with her, that I listened to sad songs whole day long, and kept thinking about her. I didn't want to get distracted. I wanted to wallow in the pain caused by this heart break and her memories. And then this song came along (Mitran di Chatri By Babbu Maan). The lyrics felt so apt at that point of time. The song literally talked about a girl going abroad. Irony. Listen to my heartbreak song. In hindsight, it sounds funny. And I found love again. Many times over. 


Wife & Me

We were seeing each other for a year, before we got married. And I still clearly remember the first film we watched together - 'Welcome.' It was December of 2007. It is one of the funniest films we have seen together. It was an exciting date. We laughed a lot that day. And there was this one particular song in the film which my wife took a fancy to. I am not sure what she liked in it, the video, or the lyrics, or the fact that my wife is as tall as me. She looks even taller when she wears heels. The song alluded to the height of the girl. There is a sense of mischief in the song. So every time, I listen to this song, I think of my wife and that first film we watched together. 




There are several other songs and several related memories. Do you have a playlist too?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Self Respect

People have agendas and motives. There is no doubt about that. I have one. And you have one. But having an agenda isn't such a bad thing after all. A relationship - of any kind - must have an agenda. That will keep it exciting for both people involved in it. 

In fact, both entities in a relationship should have a motive to stay invested in the relationship. A relationship, where only one person has a goal to achieve, will eventually die down. It is not sustainable. And before you jump to any conclusion, let me also clarify what I mean by an agenda / motive here. It is not about some selfish need only. 

The motive could be as simple as, putting a smile on your partner's face. Every time. Every day. Simple. Yet profound. 

Also I am not only talking about personal relationships. The motive could be reading different books and sharing your knowledge with each other. Imagine, if only one person reads books and other doesn't. Eventually, that relationship will wither away.

So the problem is not that people have agendas. Problem is when people are not transparent about their motives. Problem is when people are in a relationship only to fulfill their motives with no intention to help fulfill the motives of 'the Other' in the same relationship. Such people are vicious and if you have to maintain your self respect, you should end that relationship at the earliest. I am no expert in relationships neither I am a philosopher to tell you what are the signs which will help you identify such people. 

Also, sometimes, you could be at fault in not understanding the other person or his / her motives. That shouldn't be a reason to end the relationship. You should be fully sure, that you have made all efforts to unearth the agenda of 'the Other' and you have given 'the Other' also full chance to understand yours. People are complex but motives are generally simple. So talk, discuss, ask questions. Do everything which will help understand each other better. But define a point in your mind, after which you will know whether it is working or not. 

Recently, I left a job. I moved cities. My equation with few people changed. I was no longer a colleague to someone. I was no longer a boss to someone. I was no longer physically close to some one else. It is a kind of hot cauldron situation in relationships. People who were associated with you for a motive which was purely work related, will drift away. There is no point holding on to that relationship. It also helped me identify those people, whose motives were earlier not clear to me. Maintaining a relationship with them felt tiring. And stressful. All of a sudden people will not get your jokes or they will have an excuse to explain their changed behavior. Let them be. That will help you maintain your sanity and self respect. You can not let your self worth be decided by those people, who never had the integrity which any relationship should have. 

I moved from a city, I loved, after 12 years. I changed a job after 10 years. And change brings with it pain. It brings with it a sense of reflection of past. This change isn't going to be as simple as changing a job or a city. This will bring with it demise of some friendships, which I valued. Simply because, I stopped serving a purpose for 'the Other' now. It is time to re-calibrate and move on, rather than holding on to someone for whom you are no longer useful. 

Change also brings with it freshness, new people and new opportunities. Focus on that. If a relationship makes you feel tired, let it go. 

On a lighter note, there are few things which are always reassuring. People who bonded with you over drinks and alcohol are very transparent about their agendas. Either their agenda to be with you is drinking, which is really a good thing. As it is highly sustainable till the time either of you damage your liver permanently. Or their agenda is obvious due to drinking. So you can always count on such friends. 

You can also count on those relationships, where swear words and profanities are used without inhibitions. You both have gone through pressure situations together in past and survived. 

So if you want to stay happy and maintain your self respect in this world full of turncoats, pick up a drink and shout Cheers Bhenc**d!!!

# for non Indian readers - Bhenc**d ~ Sisterf****r


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z : Zebra / Jebra

My mother-in-law pronounces Z / Za as J / Ja. I always have fun with this fact, at her expense of course. When she comes to our place, I often ask her, what would she like to eat. And I wait for her to say Pijja (Pizza), for cheap laughs. Now she knows my routine, so she doesn't respond. She is one spoil sport.

In fact, every time I see a Zebra Crossing, I ask her to tell me what it is. Some times she obliges me, by blurting out Jebra crossing and I laugh out loud. But over the years, she has become conscious and thus Zindagi became Jeevan (Life) and Pizza became pata nahi (I don't know). My wife thinks I deliberately needle her. But she doesn't know, that such linguistic jokes have always been source of cheap laughs for me. I remember the time, when my younger brother had to write an essay on "My Mother" in school. In that essay, he was supposed to write one line that went like, "My mother runs the house very wisely" . Instead he wrote, "My mother runs in the house very wisely." For many years, I kept pulling his leg for this hilarious error. 

My own writing isn't that great. And when I read my old posts and mails, I cringe at the mistakes I had made. 

Coming back to my mother-in-law's pronunciation issue, let me give one clarification here. If a person, in India, has not learned Urdu or English, they will pronounce Z / Za as J / Ja. Because in Sanskrit and Hindi there is no letter Z / Za. 

Therefore I promise to my wife through this post today, that I will not crack jokes on her mother's pronunciation anymore. But that doesn't mean I will score her high on cooking. You can't have it all. Haha.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y : Yumdude

Yumdude is my handle / user name on Zomato. 

For the uninitiated, Zomato is a leading food ordering, restaurant search and review app in India. They are present in other countries too.

For the ones, who are not aware of Indian mythology, Yama is God of Death and Doot means messenger. Yamdoot is Yama's Messenger and my handle is a play on that. I thought I was being original and relevant while keeping this name. But, to my disappointment, much later, after I made this handle, I discovered a T - Shirts brand called Yum Dude and Snapdeal did a campaign with a character called Yam Dude. Huh! One can never be sure in today's world. And I think being original is going to be increasingly difficult.

If I haven't lost you already, let me tell you that this post is not about originality or Zomato handles. I am a foodie and I wanted to document my love for food in some way. I have done almost 100 restaurant reviews under this handle and I feel my journey has just begun.

They say a Punjabi's adventure gets over at the last Sher-e-Punjab Dhabha on his journey. I don't know if that is true, because I enjoy all kind of cuisines. When I eat somewhere, I don't add ketchup or salt / pepper to what is served. I love to eat food the way the cook wants it to be eaten. I had heard somewhere, this is a respectful thing to do for your host or chef. Over the years, due to this habit of mine, I developed a taste for different cuisines. Yes, some foods are still off the table, like pungent smelling foods. I won't ever have reptiles and insects. I will never fall for the fad of eating live food. But I mostly try everything otherwise.

I can't name my favorite food, but I have a weakness for sweets. I remember every time my school results would come, I would ask my mother to buy a Bengali sweet called Chena Murki (made with Sugar & Cottage Cheese). So this sweet reminds me of success. 

Whenever I smell, a mixture of flour, ghee and sugar being roasted, I get reminded of my grand-mother, who used to prepare delicious Pinnis. No one can cook Makki ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag better than my mother. I think every proud Punjabi son thinks the same about his mother. But the memory associated with this food is so strong, that every time I go home, I know my mother will cook it for me. And I think I get a dopamine hit in anticipation, before I even reach home.

While I enjoy all my fine dining experiences, if I have to choose my best food moments, they are not related to a very costly restaurant or any complex dish. Chena Murki, Pinnis and Makki ki Roti with Saag will be at the top always. And there are few places / food moments which are etched in my memory very strongly. 

Once during our school vacations, my father took us to a trip to Kullu and Manali. A long stretch of the journey was along the river Beas. Beas had gushing ice cold water. We sat at one such spot and got some mangoes chilled in that water and then we ate them by the side of the road on the banks of the river.

On yet another trip to Manikaran Sahib, we had a breakfast of hot stuffed parathas with butter and really sweet tea at a road side dhabha. Cheap, yes. But at that time, it was the most heavenly food.

There was a shop near my home that served Chhole Bhature. I used to go there often, but my favorite part was when the cook used to keep two fresh pieces of paneer on the plate. That was like a reward for eating there.

I discovered cheesecake very late in life. I was on my honeymoon, and we were shopping in Kuala Lumpur and we saw a cheescake shop. I had never tried it before. And when, I had the first bite, I knew Chena Murki and Pinni had a strong competition. After that I tried cheesecakes everywhere. But I got my best experience at the Cheesecake Factory Dubai Mall. This is what I had there. If food can kill, this is the way I would like to die. Tell me your food story.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X : Xeroxed

During my engineering, I was the class batch topper. In fact, I think I used to get highest ever scores in the history of that course. I completed my engineering on a scholarship and swept all possible awards at the convocation. Well, generally I am not that immodest. But this post required this introduction, I believe. 

Every time, semester exams neared, the demand for my class notes increased exponentially. My notes were xeroxed multiple times. My close friends would photocopy my original notes and give them back to me, so that I can also prepare for my exams.  And then copies were made from these copies and distributed further. I have heard stories that xerox copies of my notes and project work were kept at the photocopier's shop itself (near Gate No. 3 of our university) and people just used to go there and get a copy for themselves. As if this was not enough, the enterprising shopkeeper used to save a copy of my main projects, to reproduce and distribute next year for my juniors, of course at a price. I came to know about this, when after many years of completion of my engineering, I went to that shop for getting xerox of some documents. That fellow not only recognized me, but also showed me copies of my projects, I had done years ago.

What I used to find amusing was that the people who attended regular classes or those who missed few, will also get my complete notes xeroxed. For all the subjects. They used to spend more money, on getting photocopies of my notes, than buying actual books and studying properly. In fact I didn't use to study my own notes that much before exams, because I never took down complete notes. I only wrote those things which I found important. My writing was not that great. For newbies, it wasn't that legible too. I used to write in corners or margins, and not at all in a linear fashion. There were lots of doodles and arrows in my notes. I don't know how did my classmates study from it. I would not have topped the class, by studying my own notes. So, what were they trying to achieve. I followed three key mantras, which always helped me in studies. 

1. I was highly attentive in class. The objective was to study as less as possible, post classes or during exams, so that I can watch all the movies I want to, in my free time and also party with all my friends anytime. So, I used to ask lot of questions in the class and get all my concepts cleared there and then. So during exams, I studied only for few hours late in the night or early in the morning.

2. I used to read from books rather than only notes during exams. During the semester also, if something is unclear, I would refer books.

3. I never used to refer to anyone else's notes. 😼

During third year of my engineering, I participated in lot of debating and speaking competitions, so I used to travel to other universities across India. At that time, I missed few classes. So I decided to get someone else's notes xeroxed. I came to know, that when I used to miss classes, people used to get MT's notes xeroxed. So I borrowed her notes for the missed classes. Her handwriting was beautiful. She used to write everything, that professors spoke or wrote on the board. In fact she had learnt basic shorthand, to ensure that she doesn't miss even a single nuance. I used to wonder why she was lower on the pecking order than me, when it came to getting class notes xeroxed. The answers were pretty obvious. People were lazy. My notes could be read faster. They were able to complete the syllabus on time. If they wrote only the important points that I used to note down, in their exams, they tended to score higher. This is my interpretation. Thankfully, most of these engineers, never practiced and went on to do an MBA or Sales. Otherwise, my xeroxed notes, would have been held responsible for the collapsing bridges.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W : Wikipedia

What is the role you play in your spouse's life? 

Apart from being a nice, reliable and a loving partner, of course!

Some people have good culinary skills, so they are also in-house chefs. Some are great singers or dancers. They can entertain. And then some are like me. Those who don't possess any extraordinary skills. To make a marriage work, you can't just be a nice, reliable and a loving partner. There has to be something more. So, I am happy to report that I am Wikipedia to my wife. Yes, that is my skill.

She has the latest smart phone with best possible 4g data pack. She knows how to google. But every time, she has a doubt or a query, even on the subjects which are not my expertise, she will ask a question to me. And she expects every time that I should have a ready answer. And it doesn't end there. She is an expert in five Why's business excellence process. Once I answer the first question to the best of my ability, she will always ask a follow-up question, and this process continues. Not till, she knows everything, but till I exhaust all explanations and answers I have. 
She reminds me of Paresh Rawal's character from the film Judai at times. Notice in the picture that strategic question mark formed by a strand of his hair. You need to watch some scenes from this movie to know what I mean. 

But I think this is her way to show her love for me and make me feel that I am worthy of something. I came to know recently, that Pluto is no more a planet. Now, we can't even trust our school's science education. I wish she doesn't come to know about it. I don't have any idea how to go about explaining this to her.

So if you are married and have no skills, join a cooking class today and bake her a cake. That sounds easy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V : VCR and Video Tapes

Do you remember those heady days of Video Cassette Recorder (and Player) fondly called VCR? 

Do you remember those nights when you would rent few Video Tapes together, hook up the VCR to TV and watch back to back movies?

Do you remember those days, when going to cinema halls was not a good experience and satellite television had not arrived in India?

Well, I remember those days growing up. VCR at home was my early education in watching movies. I fell in love with films since then. I am a total film buff today because of it.

We used to stay in a joint family. There was one color TV and one VCR bought by one of my uncles. Normally, all elders would watch movies in the night. But evenings were when I used to mess with it. Sometimes even late nights, doing movie marathons. And do remember I must have been 9 years to 13 years old in this period. I am sure I will not let my child get access to such things early in life. But with internet so deeply entwined with our lives today, I think I would be fighting a losing battle. 

I don't think anybody had heard about parental control then. I don't think anyone realized in those innocent times, that how films can impact kids' psyche. Even for elders, especially women of the house, VCR was a fun thing, thought to be harmless for everyone. Going to cinema halls was considered bad but VCR was okay. Mostly, we would watch popular Bollywood movies or I would rent animation films from the neighborhood shop. 

Sometimes we used to watch marriage videos of recent marriages or videos of other family functions. And I used to feel embarrassed watching them. They were funny though, with cameraman mixing his random special effects when the aunt from neighborhood had just put food in her mouth. Or his credits slates at the start accompanied with popular Hindi songs. It was fun in a way. Now the wedding videos have become much more professional and, I feel, impersonal too. Though tacky in production, those wedding videos of our elders were more honest. Now I am digressing.

So there were these two video tapes lying at our home. They were not rented but owned. Not many people have seen these films or heard about them.

First one was Bhavani Junction, a revenge drama, wherein a husband is after his wife's rapists and killers. The rape sequence and violence in film was graphic in nature. And I had seen this film before even getting into my teens. Not once, but many times over. As the tape was always at home.

Can you imagine how it would have impacted me? I can't really say today.

Then there was another film called Do Anjaane, which was about infidelity and greed for money, leading to a murder. A kid watching such stuff, multiple times, would turn out to be damaged goods. I think I turned out fine by God's grace.

Satellite television and emergence of multiplexes killed the VCR. The content is so easily available today through on demand video. The entire process of going to a video rental shop and spending time to search for a particular video tape and bring it home, had a sense of adventure about it. If the video was risqué, the thrill was a notch higher. Now can Amazon Prime or Netflix or anything else live up to that!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U : Usha Madam

I last met Usha Madam at my grandfather's funeral, a little over two years ago. I had seen her after almost a decade that day. She looked shorter and older than before. She looked weak and frail. It is not like that she was ever young. Right from my childhood, I have always remembered her having grey hair. But as she met me that day, her eyes lit up. Her smile brightened my day. She feels very proud of me. I am her most favorite student ever. She wasn't my school teacher. She used to stay in our neighborhood and my parents used to send me to her place to study and learn things. I used to spend few hours daily at her place till I reached 5th standard. She was my first teacher in that sense. I attribute a lot of my core values and qualities to my parents'upbringing and Usha Madam's teachings. 

Yes, engineering corrupted me to an extent in my adult life. It made me more practical. But those lessons, in her home, somewhere are still deeply entrenched in my value system.

Apart from teaching various subjects, she used to talk about religion and spirituality. I used to accompany her to some satsangs (religious congregations) as a kid. I remember her taking me to a bank branch and helped me open our first savings accounts. That was the most exciting thing as a child to graduate from a piggy bank to actual bank branch. In those days, it was an amazing experience, when branches were not digitized. Even as a kid, she never used to patronize me. I owe a lot to her. I remember a very interesting incident fondly.

One day, I was upset or angry about something. She gave me an exercise to make sentences using few words. Some words that I remember she gave me were - cow, glasses and milk. There were 10 - 15 such words. In form of a protest, I randomly decided to use the word ''Red"in each sentence, even if it didn't make practical sense. This was my form of rebellion against something, I don't remember now. So my sentences went something like this: 

The red cow crossed the road.

She looked ugly in red glasses.

The red milk was tasty.

and so on...

I was sure she will scold me. But she didn't. She told me that even when I was angry, I was careful to construct the sentences properly and also didn't make any spelling errors. I think my anger melted away at that time.

Now how many of us can claim to have such wonderful teachers in life. I met few more in school later. I fondly remember Anupinder Sir. Will talk about him in some other post.

When I was blessed with a baby boy recently, she called me to wish. She had never called me in last so many years. I hope Meharaj also finds a good teacher in life.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T : Trains

Low cost airlines changed forever, how middle class Indians used to travel. 

I took my first flight ever in 2005. SpiceJet, Mumbai - Delhi with a stop-over at Ahmedabad. I remember nothing else of it. I remember then taking a bus from Delhi airport to ISBT to catch a ST bus to Ludhiana. That bus journey like always, took me through several cities over 6-7 hours. Sights. Sounds. Smells. Flights sound boring. 

Trains and buses have a certain romanticism associated to them. If time was not an issue, I would always prefer a train journey over a flight. If I remember correctly, I have traveled only 5 times on train since my first flight. 

I would have never known Upma / Vada (south Indian delicacies), if it was not a standard breakfast in trains. Trains help us connect with and know about diverse cultures of India. 

As a young boy, I used to get thrilled by getting down on station platforms on the way to a far flung destination. So for a long time, when I had never actually visited Baroda or Surat, I knew these towns by their stations. I always thought Shreekhand (sweet food item from Gujarat) was something special to these places. I always used to tell friends that I have been to Surat and Baroda and other such places, because I had set foot on their train platforms. Though never actually visited many of them, till recently.

I have traveled in sleeper class, in general compartments and in AC compartments. In the same train, people behave differently in these different compartments. Once traveling from Ambala to Lucknow, I had to sleep on train floor using newspapers as my sheet, among shoes of other travelers. It was a sleeper class, so people adjusted. This wouldn't have been possible in AC section. Sitting by the loo on your bag, in general compartment, where there were no reserved seats, made me value the physical space we are privileged to have in our lives. Every time you travel in AC compartment, there will always be two - three groups drinking liquor in cahoots with the TC and pantry boys who serve best snacks for them.

Train travel definitely adds to your world view and perspective. I will always remember one particular journey. We were returning from Ujjain after winning a national debating competition. Being winners, many people approached us and we made lot of friends in those three days. Few girls from Jammu, gave our team of two boys, special attention. Incidentally, we all were traveling back to our homes in Jammu Tawi express. It was a fun journey back, with all of us playing games and talking about stuff in general. I made friends with S. (Never asked her last name). We talked about changing India and things like that. Young, idealistic and idle minds. It was supposed to be a one day journey from Ujjain to Ludhiana,but things were to go wrong. The entire northern India grid failure happened on that eventful day of 2001. Our electric train got stranded in middle of nowhere. With no mobile phones then, communication was not like today's. We waited for 8 hours in that godforsaken place. The friendships strengthened.  Next day early morning, around 4 am, we reached Ludhiana. S and her friends were in deep sleep. We were not sure, about saying goodbye to them, after waking them up. We never did. I often wonder, what would have they felt about it. We had exchanged our email ids. After many months she wrote me a mail and I replied back. But then, in rush of life, we never communicated again. Train rides provide that calmness, that time to build bonds. 

If you are in chaos, take some time off and hop on a train.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

S : Story

I had attended a writing workshop last year in June. One of the first exercises in it was to describe my first relationship. It was a tricky exercise for two reasons. One, my first relationship was very painful and I am very sensitive about sharing details of the same. Second, I didn't want to talk about real locations and people at all. So I decided to take the core element of that relationship and changed everything around it and weaved a fictional story. That exercise helped me in a therapeutic way. So whether my quality of writing was good or bad, it didn't matter. 

As the theme for my April Blogging Challenge was to right anecdotes from my life, I think this post will qualify, given the context above. The story I wrote then is reproduced below.

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Story - The Minor Glitch

Anuj was a young dashing guy. He had an athletic body and girls in his class swooned over him. He was very sensitive and intelligent too. He cared for his friends and family and was a class topper.

Saakshi had recently moved to his neighbourhood. They both started interacting at a birthday party, where both were invited. While Anuj was popular in his neighbourhood, Saakshi had a strange effect on him. He was just enamoured by her beauty. Saakshi was fully aware about this effect she had on him.

One day she invited him over to her home. They both were eating nachos, when she kept her hand on his thigh. He trembled with excitement. She had charmed him and was controlling his senses. They both got into a sexual relationship and started meeting regularly. For a while, Anuj enjoyed it. He had fallen in love with Saakshi. But they never said it to each other.

Whenever they met the only thing on their minds was lust.

Initially Saakshi was aggressive in bed. Gradually Anuj in his bid to impress her, started getting rough. Saakshi didn’t like this reversal of roles.

She had chosen Anuj as she thought she can dominate him and exploit him. He was a young guy studying in 9th grade, while she had just completed her graduation. What she was doing was illegal anyways.

With Anuj getting aggressive, she wanted a way out. One day she told Anuj, that he is a very dirty person and she can’t carry on with this abusive relationship. She made Anuj feel guilty about something he didn’t really understand at that age.

Today, Anuj is a successful entrepreneur and runs a million dollars business. But he still feels that he was responsible for abusing Saakshi. He hasn’t married till date.

****

Friday, April 21, 2017

R : Robbed

Money makes the world go round. We all knew this, in a way or other even when we were kids. Yes, our interpretation of the same, or the value we associate with money kept changing as we grew older. As we earn more, it seems we tend to cling to it with higher intensity. Money has always been important for me too, but to get a unique experience or to go through some emotion which I have never felt before has always been more important than money. Some of the best experiences I had in life were free. Like sleeping under the winter sun on the roof of my house. I haven't been able to replicate that experience, in last 15 years, since I started earning. Then there are some really great experiences where I didn't care about money and splurged it, rather than clinging to it. Like my foreign holidays, that have always been hedonistic and heady.

There have been times, when people took money from me with no intention to repay. I still gave them the necessary help when they needed the most. Because for me relationships were more important than moolah at that time. Sometimes, when I gave money to acquaintances, despite multiple follow-ups I never got it back. But I never stopped trusting people. Because it is not the money, but trust in humanity that makes the world go round. 

I remember an incident around 8 - 9 years ago, when I was at Delhi Airport and a guy came up to me - a complete stranger - and told me a story of how he needed to reach some place urgently and he didn't have any money. He asked me to buy him a ticket and also asked for my bank account number, so that he could send me the money back once he reached his destination. I found his story genuine and gave him money. And, guess what, he actually sent it back. Isn't it an amazing thing? He didn't really need to do it. But he was a good guy. 

I don't remember his name or face. 
But only his act. 
You can't put value to goodness.

But still there is one minor incident related to money, which I always feel bad about. I must have been 7 or 8 years old then. My uncle gave me a Rs 10 note and sent me on an errand. I had to buy curd from a nearby shop. I bought the curd for Rs. 5 and shopkeeper returned the balance Rs. 5. It was a decent amount in late 80s, for a kid. A twenty something boy approached me and told me that to avoid losing money, I should keep it in my handkerchief. He helped me with it. I held that handkerchief tightly in my hand. When I reached home, there was no Rs. 5 note in the hanky. That bugger had robbed me in the broad daylight. I never felt bad about losing that money. I felt bad because he took me for a ride. 

I don't remember his name or face either.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q : Queue Story

The queues in India are never ending. And they are also melting pot of cultures and opinions. 

And then there is a queue for everything. To eat, there is a queue at restaurants. To shit and pee there is a queue at public toilets. You have to queue up to get into a bus or even get out of it. There is a queue at departmental stores on Republic Day Sale. As if all Indians only buy when there is a good bargain. I hope you get the drift. In India, for any damn thing, you have to queue up.

Then demonetization created new kind of queues, few months back. Political queues. Many politicians queued up to sympathize with people who queued up outside ATMs. Politicians for the first time in queuing history of India, realized that queues can kill. People didn't die of heat when they queued up to see Shahrukh Khan on his birthday outside his house. They didn't feel any pain when they queued up outside two wheeler dealerships on 31st March to get hold of phased-out polluting BS III bikes. But you are supposed to hate ATM queues. Right?

There are also people who queue up without any reason. The plane has just landed. Everyone will get to get off. They will have to wait for their bags to arrive on the belt anyways. But they can't wait, even if the plane doors are still closed. They just queue up in the aisles. Every landing in India, looks like an emergency one.  The same thing happens during boarding, as if plane will leave without them. Is it the insecurity of being left behind?

Another thing about Indian queues which is highly deplorable is the distance between two people in the queue. People don't have any sense of space. Bloody hell, they will just ass-grind you, if it was legal in India. You can smell that onion, the guy behind you had for lunch. You can feel the sweat on his arms when he tries to push the queue. Burps and farts in heat are worse than sulfuric acid. Manners? Zilch. 

Also most of the queues in India are segregated based on gender. Do they realize unisex queues would have been so much more interesting? Girls always make better conversations. They don't sweat as much and I think they don't burp or fart too. They run away from onions. I know I am exaggerating, but you get my point. Right?

I have had my share of queue experiences as well. Some scary. Some hilarious. Some helpful. Some kind of sad. But largely in India. And there was this one in London too. The racist one. I reproduce some of  my queue experiences below.

The Heathrow Queue: December 2011. I landed at the London Heathrow Airport. I got out to catch a bus. I queued up at the ticket window. By Indian standards it was not a queue. There was a cute couple ahead of me. And there were these three guys - those hippie types - behind me. But then it wasn't my day. I wear a turban and I am not a Muslim. These guys breached the space between me and them. (I mean in India people can even straddle against each other in a queue, but here this act of theirs reeked of hatred). They started abusing me. I faced racist jibes within an hour of landing. I decided to take the underground instead and left from there.

The Friendly Queue: Sometime in 2005. I was in Delhi for a B-School admission process. And we were in a queue for entry into a GD room. I met YA for the first time there. She was right behind me. She is one of the most beautiful (read hottest) girls I know. We got talking. She came to know that I have already secured admission for MBA in 5 other B-Schools. While drinking water from a bottle, she was trying to convince me to not participate in this process and mar other people's chances. She was doing it in a cute way. And this all happened within like 5 minutes of us meeting for the first time. When I joined the B-School of my choice, I discovered she was in my class. Over next two years, we became best buddies. And we are even today. This is one of my best queue memories.

Beat' em Up: Sometime in 1995. I was in a queue to get a movie ticket for Trimurti (A Hindi film that tanked big time). Remember there were no multiplexes and bookmyshow like apps then. The line was not moving ahead. I decided to get out of the queue. I approached few ladies in the other queue. While they were being sweet to me and helping me to get a ticket from their queue, the burly security guard, came with a large danda (wooden stick) and hit me. I never understood why. I didn't break the queue technically. Did I talk to his daughter by mistake? But I watched that film. Women are sweet that way!!!

200 Rs. Off: I love talking to people. Two weeks ago, I went grocery shopping. There was a huge and slow moving queue at the billing counter. There were three ladies in front of me and as I started getting bored, I started chatting with them. General stuff. After about 20 minutes, we were still at the same spot. They were being nice to me and told that since I had a smaller basket, I can get my billing done before them. I denied. I know for a fact that no one likes to wait in queues. I thanked them anyways. Few minutes passed, and then they told me that there is an offer, where you can show an SMS code and get Rs 200 off on the bill. I told them that I deleted that message in the morning, not knowing I will be shopping today. One of them said that she had an extra phone and insisted that I use the extra code. They got me a Rs 200 discount. Yippee. It is not the amount which matters. Their gesture did. People are nice in general. But queues in India bring the worst out in us. Still, if you have a knack for talking and decent sense of humor, it can be an enriching experience too at times.

It is time to close this post, as lot of other things are queued up for the day, which I need to complete. See you tomorrow with an R post.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P : Perfect Response

There are times in life, when saying a lot means nothing. And then there are occasions, when a right combination of words or for that matter a single word said in the right context, can leave a lasting impact.

A tough situation emerges at your work place and your boss tells in the team meeting that he trusts you to do it. It does a lot of good for your confidence.

When a lover makes a grave mistake, but calls his / her partner and says a heartfelt sorry, the pain, the hurt just evaporates. There is no need for explanations. Sometimes even words are not required. A warm hug is the perfect response.

You haven't talked to a friend for ages. And you conclude that things will never be the same again. After months, she calls you and says a hello in her trademark way. What happens? It seems that you never stopped talking over the months of silence.

A perfect response doesn't require much if your heart is in the right place and you don't have any malicious intent. 

VG used to report to me. I had a boss who insisted on being called by his first name. But VG would always address him as Sir. He was not able to adjust to this first name culture. After months of failure to convert VG into a non-Sir calling junior, one day VG and my boss, perchance were travelling in the same car. 

My boss asked VG, "Why do you keep calling me Sir? Had we met in a non-office setup then what would you have called me?" 

VG replied, "Uncle"."

You can imagine the silence in the car thereafter. The subject of calling people by their first names was never broached again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O : Oh Brother!

My younger brother is the only sibling I have. He has grown into a man who isn't game for an adventure. He likes to live a routine, steady life. Given my lifestyle, I also find it strange that his social circle is very limited and he doesn't drink at all. Nothing wrong with all this. To each his own. But what is surprising is, that he wasn't always like this. His childhood (about first 8 - 10 years of life) was much more adventurous than mine. He was naughtier than me. My mother tells me, that people in the neighborhood knew him very well, while I was a shy child, always at home, around my mother.

I think education, schooling and all the conditioning by adults changed him over the years. The same stimuli had an opposite effect on me. Does that mean, we both were conformists or rebels? I can't really conclude. But what I can surely say is that education in India curbs natural instincts of the kids. So when I thought of writing this post about my brother, I wanted to talk about two incidents that could have turned tragic, but now seem hilarious to all of us in the family.

He was always outside home, as a child, and he used to trust strangers. One afternoon, he was sitting right outside the street-facing door of our old house. A man came to him and asked him for directions to some place. My enthusiastic brother actually took him along to show the place. As soon as they reached little further from home, the man tried to put my brother in a sack. A neighborhood aunt, saw him, recognized my brother and at right moment appeared as his savior and shouted at the man. The novice kidnapper ran away. 

My mother says, that had I been in the place of my brother, the neighbor wouldn't have recognized me or saved me. Do you see the contradiction here? Because my brother trusted everyone, the aunt helped. But it was his trust in a stranger that actually put him in trouble. I think these kind of incidents kills the spirit of a child.

Once my brother was on the roof. My uncle (chacha) saw him throwing buckets of water from behind a pedestal fan. When my uncle saw him doing this silly thing, he scolded my brother. He scolded, because he didn't want my brother to get an electric shock. When he asked my brother the reason for doing this, he innocently replied that he was trying to make a cooler out of the fan. It sounds funny, but as a kid this was his path to discover something related to the science behind it. The elders in their aim to protect the child curbed his instincts.

These are just two examples, how children are expected to behave in certain way. As if there is only one right way to raise a child. As a new parent, I will keep these thoughts in mind, and figure out ways to protect my child and yet let him dream, discover and fly.


Monday, April 17, 2017

N : Nagpur

If Ludhiana taught me the value of home, and if Lucknow gave me survival instinct, and Mumbai gave me wings to fly, then I often wonder about role of Nagpur in my life.

Why Nagpur? 

I have been to several cities of India, but there are only five cities where I have stayed and lived like a local. I have already written stories about Ludhiana in this challenge, and posts specifically on Lucknow and Mumbai. I have not seen or lived in Chennai enough to write about it yet. But, Nagpur is one of the cities I never mentioned. It was the place where I did my first job ever. Before getting transferred to Lucknow, I was there for 6 months. So it is kind of a milestone city for me. 

Let me recall the things I tried there for the first time:

1. I worked on a shop floor of a tractor assembly line. I was a blue collared worker for the first time, with a dungaree on me and greased hands. It was a tough manual job, but we slept well.

2. It was the first time in my life, I shared a rundown apartment with six other boys, who didn't know each other. Packed like sardines, learning to manage with limited resources. As there was a Tamilian, I also learnt few words in Tamil. 

In the middle of one night, I woke up to answer nature's call. I realised someone was in the toilet. But then to my shock, MV (the Tamilian) was in the bathroom, taking a leak. I got so pissed off (pun not intended), but he said he was under pressure and toilet was not vacant. For next few days I only know, how I took a shower in that bathroom.

3. I received my first salary in Nagpur. It was a meagre amount, but no salary after that has made me that happy. We all went to the ICICI ATM nearby. That was the first time we used ATM (year 2002). We spent that money eating out in a good restaurant and buying stuff for family members. 

4. There was this bet gone wrong, where I ended up kissing a guy for the first and the last time. SC will remember that. Well technically it wasn't a kiss, just a brush of lips. But we both being straight, it was kind of embarrassing. The bet was to take Parle G biscuits from his mouth without using hands. SC and I are best of friends today. But we never kissed again. Thankfully. 

5. But above all, I made non Punjabi friends in my life for the first time. Rajasthani, Tamilian, Maharashtrians. I got introduced to foods and cultures of India, unknown to me before that. And I relished that experience.

There is lot of other stuff that happened in Nagpur, not necessarily the firsts. But I would like to remember Nagpur as the city of firsts. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

M : MUMBHAI - 4

In 2005, when I was doing my MBA and was new to life in Mumbai, I had discovered those sounds of Mumbai, that defined this city for me. I had written, MUMBHAI then. 

Then the dance bars got closed and Mumbai went under floods the same year. That triggered another thought and another post MUMBHAI - 2

I moved to central suburbs from western suburbs in 2007. The change of one's address in Mumbai, changes the way you live. This led to MUMBHAI - 3. As, I am currently undergoing a transition and will be moving out of Mumbai to Chennai this year, I thought of revisiting this theme and important part of my life.

---

Mumbai has given me more than I deserved. I made a life, a career and a home with my wife here. I earned few really close friends. There is so much to thank Mumbai for. For the friends it gave me, for the lessons it taught me both in good and bad times, for the man it made out of me. Mumbai doesn't hold back. It allows you to live a hedonistic lifestyle and get all material happiness if you work hard. But it pushes you down and pins you to the ground, in equal measure. Mumbai makes you live with extremities. Mumbai makes you learn to move on. Mumbai makes you learn value of the space. Your space and others'space. Mumbai can be kind, like how it came together in 2005 floods. And it can be equally ruthless, as at times it tries to kill your soul. I remember the incident, murder at 9:20, I wrote about. So Mumbai is what you want it to be for you. Mumbai is not just a city, but an alive and growing organism, which has the ability to consume you, feed on you.

I will always remember Mumbai for three key life events - 

2008: I got married in Ludhiana. I brought my wife to Mumbai, immediately after. She helped me remain steady in the chaos that this city is and stood by me when I needed her the most. I don't drive. So when we bought our first car, she was the one who was always game to take me for a drive. Some of our best moments together were those post midnight drives for an ice-cream, listening to music in our car. We explored the city together, its restaurants, its concerts and plays. If not for her, I would have just known Mumbai for its multiplexes and bars. Without her, I wouldn't have survived this city.

2014: We bought our own apartment in Mumbai. A matchbox sized one. But our own place. People say, financially it doesn't make sense. But let me tell you for some damn reason, last 3 years have been most comfortable and happiest. Your own home does that to you. Celebrating festivals have a meaning again. Buying a home in Mumbai means, that you are more privileged than many staying in slums or on streets. Gratitude is something which you can never have enough of. I know how difficult it is going to be emotionally, moving to Chennai. 

2016: We became parents. Mumbai has now a cosmic connection with us. Even if we leave Mumbai, it is always going to be my son's birth place. A city which has accepted me with open arms, and gave us our most precious gift, Meharaj. 

Sometimes, I crib about infrastructure here, the potholes and such other things. But then, this city gives you something, which no other city in India can give you. Wings to Fly.

Friday, April 14, 2017

L : Lucknow

There was a toss up between Ludhiana and Lucknow, while writing this post. 

Ludhiana, where I spent first 22 years of my life and where I keep going back for few weeks every year. Barring 2016, I have been to Ludhiana every year since I left my home there. But most of the posts in this April Challenge have been about stories from Ludhiana, so I chose Lucknow for this post.

I had spent a year and a half in Lucknow from January 2003 to June 2004. Though half of that time I had spent travelling to smaller towns of Uttar Pradesh. Long time back, I had written a post about my time in U.P. It was a strange land and an even stranger time for me. (You can read that post here.) I bet lot has changed in last 12 years. I have been there for work several times since then, but never felt that sense of belonging.

My time in Lucknow was very different than any other phase of my life. The four L's that define this phase are:

Loneliness - This was one of the most difficult times of my life. For a long time, I had no friends in Lucknow. It was only time in my adult life when I wasn't in a steady relationship with any girl. The long distance relationships rarely work. And that was a time, when mobile connectivity was still not like it is today. It was a struggle for very long, staying in a very small room where the bathroom was in the landlord's garage. Also I had to travel to mofussil towns and I witnessed things which I wasn't mentally ready for. I used to stay in really shabby hotels. There was no one to talk to. Later I discovered company of NS. He was 11 years senior to me. Never a colleague, always a friend. He had a house with garden and a balcony. I was truly myself with him. Almost every other night, I was sitting in his balcony drinking a beer and singing songs off key and out of tune. He was a good listener and that helped. I learned to enjoy my own company during this period. I think I was a good company to myself. Till date, I need some alone time to keep my sanity.

LML - As it was my first job, my father had gifted me a LML bike. I think having a bike helped a lot. It gave me mobility literally and metaphorically. The moment I used to mount it, I used to forget everything that was wrong. That bike took me to places, I wouldn't have gone to other wise. The streets of Aminabad and the roads of Chinhat (a tehsil in Lucknow). But the most important memory associated with LML is actually not a memory. I had an alcohol induced black-out after the Fish in the Pond incident. I was so drunk that when DS offered to drop me home, I declined. He told me later, that after 'Fish in the Pond' loop, I had moved to another one. I kept saying in Hindi (roughly translated here in English) "I will drive, It is my bike." He actually took a risk and rode pillion. I dropped him at his place. I think I created some ruckus there. Then I came back to my place that night. It sounds scary, but I remember nothing of it. But I am a wise man. Few months later, I decided to stop drinking  riding bikes. I never bought another bike and I never drive anything on my own, until necessary. So no drunk driving is my motto of life. Over the years though, my drinking has reduced too. It is a good thing for life and health, but very bad if you want newer memories. 

Love for Movies -  I used to watch lot of movies in Ludhiana too, in cinema halls. But very few middle class families used to go there. In Lucknow every class of people used to go to movies. And people used to love movies. They used to dance in the aisles, when songs played and I fell in love with movies there all over again and with this side of Lucknow. They appreciated cinema. Movies were my crutch to overcome loneliness. 

Once NS and I went for a Shahrukh Khan film. I think it was Kal Ho Naa Ho, but can't be sure. It had just released, and we could only get tickets of the stall and not of more privileged balcony seats. So when NS was about to sit, he realized that his seat was smeared with "Paan Peek" (Spit / Saliva that gets accumulated in your mouth when you chew Paan or Betel leaves with lot of condiments in it). By the way, Paan and related stories about that red spit seen in every nook and corner of Lucknow can have a post of its own dedicated to it. So NS was in two minds, whether to sit and watch movie ignoring the disgusting nature of the entire scenario or to go back home. We arranged for a newspaper to cover the seat so that he can sit without trouble. I am sure he was squirming throughout. 

Love for Food - No post on Lucknow can be complete without mentioning food. Lucknow is a food paradise. Due to loneliness, I discovered love of my own company. I learned to go on bike rides alone. I learned to watch movies alone and I still enjoy that. I also learned to eat alone. My favorites were well known Tundey Ke Kebaab in Aminabad and Prakash ki Falooda Kulfi. I liked Biryani at Dastarkhwaan. There was a small outlet in Dainik Bhaskar Chowk. His Boti Kebaab and Rumaali Roti were yum too. The food really kept my soul nourished. Even today, I like eating out a lot and I have been able to develop taste for multiple cuisines because of my stint in Lucknow. 

Lucknow taught me to appreciate other cultures. It taught me to adapt and adjust. It taught me lot about Life. 



Thursday, April 13, 2017

K : Kipps Bakery

Once upon a time, there were no coffee shops, or many places to hangout for school going kids, in Ludhiana. In fact, the pocket money was never enough to go to such places. 

But there was this one small bakery, near our school, which seemed to be everyone's favorite. It had some seating space as well. (If you go to this place today, it is not recognizable. It has changed with times and is now very grand). So we often used to go there to have our fill of puffs and pastries after the school. As we learnt the art of bunking classes, even during the school. Kipps Bakery had something for everyone.

I don't remember the timeline clearly, but P was in 11th or 12th standard and she was my house captain. She used to wear spectacles and I think she is the sole reason, that I always end up liking girls who wear spectacles more than others. Poor eyesight seems to turn me on. I had a huge crush on P. I don't think she even knew me. Or she would have ever noticed me. She bumped into me once and I felt a pain. I think it was in my heart or may be some part else. She said sorry, and moved on. That is the only interaction I ever had with her. She used to participate in everything - sports, speaking competitions etc. I used to collect each piece of poster, paper or any substance on which her name used to appear. Then I used to fold it diligently as if I was an origami expert, to ensure I could only see her name and nothing else on that paper and used to keep such papers in my geometry box.

It was sports day. She was wearing our house color shirt. Yellow. She looked more beautiful than ever before. She just had completed a race. I felt my heart sinking. I decided to tell my inner feelings to someone. So I slipped out of the school along with a friend of mine. We went to Kipps Bakery. As we sat across the table, I told my friend about my feelings for P. Before my friend could advise me on anything, I felt a strong hand on my neck holding me and a booming voice piercing through my ears. "You are too young for all this stuff. P is like your elder sister. Stay away from her or you will get a beating. You are just in 7th standard." 

He was P's classmate. May be he liked P too. But seemingly he had better chances to win her over. He was her age and in her class too. I was 5 years younger than P. My face went red with pain. I realized that day that just like exams, debates and ownership of latest video games, love is a competition too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J : Joy

A thing of beauty is a joy forever - A line from poem 'Endymion' by John Keats

We named our son, Meharaj. Meharaj means the Blessing of God. And he truly is. Now he is almost 4 months old. He is our first child. He was born on 21st December 2016 in the afternoon. When the nurse informed me about his arrival, I was pleased. Very pleased. Few minutes later, I was allowed into NICU to see him. He was very weak, born a month earlier than due date. But life was kicking inside him. My eyes welled up at that moment, seeing him. Life, in its most vulnerable form, but at its most resilient was in front of me. And I was tearing up. 

Two days later, when doctors allowed us to hold him and he was out of NICU, I held him in my arms. That was pure bliss, pure joy. I can't describe that joy in words. What I described above, the hours and days before I held him, were moments of pleasure. The pleasure of knowledge that I am a father now. The pleasure, that I brought him to the world. But when I held him in my arms, the 'I' melted away. He wasn't the only one born that day, the father in me was too.

I think that is the difference between pleasure and the joy. Pleasure is for the body, for the 'I'. Drinking gives pleasure, but it is the company of friends that gives joy. Making love to a girl gives pleasure, but getting unconditional love from someone is joy. 

Every time, I hold Meharaj in my arms, I know there is nothing better in life. I love him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I : Instant

Prologue

Life is all about memories. At the end, that bank of memories is the most prized thing you truly own. Some memories you want to hide in the deepest recesses of your brain, so that you don't have to face them ever again. And then there are happy memories, which bring a smile to your face even in the toughest times. Those memories give you strength.

And then there are memories of the third kind, that instant, that precise moment of time, when you know, something changed for ever. You can be with a person for a lifetime and build several memories with him or her, but when you close your eyes and think deep about that person, it is always that one instant that flashes before your eyes. That instant is the strongest memory, you have about that person. The reasons could be many. That instant may have strengthened or weakened your relationship. That instant may define the nature of your relationship the best. Or may be that instant defines the way you have perceived that person for ever.Whatever is the reason, there is always that one instant.

Shoes

AM has been my friend for more than 18 years now. We have had several moments where we laughed together, played pranks, drank together, partied together, went on holidays and so on. All my engineering friends, including him, used to call me CD.

One day after a party, almost 14 years ago, few friends of mine decided to drop me home. We all were drunk. AM was part of that group. My parents, shockingly, discovered that day, about my experiments with alcohol. This was not supposed to happen. But my response time was obviously slow. I got frightened seeing my father, and headed straight to my bedroom and plonked myself on the bed. All other friends also got scared and didn't enter the house. AM, drunk himself, entered my room and started straightening me up and was about to remove my shoes, when my mother realized that he is drunk too. She ordered him to leave immediately and told him that she will remove my shoes. She also threatened him that she will call his father the next day. AM said, "CD is my friend. Shoes toh main hi utaarunga" (CD is my friend. I will only remove his shoes)

This instant, defines him and strength of our friendship. 

White Face

We were on this infamous Goa trip. One night SS passed out after drinking a lot. We friends were sharing the room. One guy, took out talcum powder and smeared his face white. In the middle of night around 3 am, SS wakes up and goes to the washroom. He comes out after sometime, kind of disappointed, his face still white with that talcum powder. He chooses to wake me up at that ungodly hour to make a confession. "CD I think I have puked on my own face."

This instant, he trusted me, when he felt most sad. And more importantly, he emerged as the proverbial joker in our pack.

Bus Rides

Delhi to Ludhiana (The Long Night) - Two beautiful girls entered our bus in Delhi. One of them looked familiar. I was with one of my university mates. We were coming back from Gwalior, after some college competition. After the dinner halt at Panipat, the familiar looking girl, comes up to me and calls me by my name. I didn't recognize her at first. Then, as we get talking, R turned out to be my schoolmate. We had never talked much before. She was a medical student, coming back from Manipal for her vacation. For rest of the ride, we both kept talking and shared notes about the years gone by. Those days there were no mobile phones. So no numbers were exchanged. As we reached Ludhiana, due to some communication gap, her father waited outside the bus stop, while we disembarked outside railway station. Then started the struggle to locate him and unite them. Mind it, no mobile phones. Few policemen found our movement suspect and they didn't believe our story and thought we were doing something shady. Then they helped us locate her father. I never met R again in person. After many years, we found each other on internet. We talk / chat on phone often. And I believe are good friends, despite the tyranny of distance between us. But that bus ride defines the contours of our friendship. 

Chandigarh to Ludhiana (The Last Date) - V was my girlfriend for the longest time. We had been seeing each other for years. We didn't know at the start of that date, that it would be the last one. We spent our day in Chandigarh watching a film and eating out. We did some shopping too. As we took the bus back to Ludhiana, we made out in the bus. It was an exciting thing for young, reckless people like us to do. Love was in the air. As we bid goodbye to each other that day, we never knew we will not meet each other in person ever again. Love is unpredictable and one shouldn't take anything for granted were the lessons that instant taught me years after that moment had passed.

Epilogue

When I look back at all my relationships, I can think of that specific instant for each of them, which defines them. For the other person, I may not be that important. Or the other one, may define the same relationship or me by something else, some other instant, some other moment in time. It all sounds surreal. But if you think of some one in your life, but can't recall that one instant or strong memory that defines your relation, chances are that it is not yet an important relationship. Think about it.