Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Red?

Was admiring these wild red flowers that a co-worker brought us today and wondered why does red signify love! Why not blue, white, yellow, pink, purple, and so on? Loads of beautiful colors in the world so why was red the chosen one?

Red also denotes blood, a warning or an error message in documentation, or is used as a sign of failing a test or exam when teachers use red pens to differentiate the grades. It also denotes the traffic signal or those signs on the highway signifying some danger ahead. There are also so many idioms or phrases associated with the color red such as "seeing red" or "red tape" or "receive a red card", so wonder why is red used in the context of love?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saas Bahu versus Sitcoms

Just a random thought. Wonder why saas bahu (MIL-DIL) serials are so popular in India? Why do we not have sitcoms such as Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and so on? Is it a reflection of our so called repressive culture and society that glorify medieval customs such as karva chauth with their portrayal and stereotyping of an ideal bahu? Are these serials also leading to an over active imagination where folks start taking these plots seriously and imagine they are victims of such behavior in their real lives too? Wonder if it is because of these soaps that I hear of incidents such as a mom-in-law chopping off her daughter-in-law's tresses while she is sleeping.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Am Crushed

I don't know why it took me this length of time to finally post something today. There have been loads of ideas, thoughts, madness floating around in my head but guess it will take some time to sort out my rambles and note it down. It's all become a blur inside but will hopefully post my numerous ramblings more often.

For now, what's keeping me super busy before and after work is my new obsession, my latest crush, the current love of my life. Since I do not own a space outside to do my own gardening and live in an apartment in one of our cramped, polluted Indian cities, I've been trying my hand at a little gardening in my tiny balcony.

Guess the older I grow, my thoughts seem to turn more to those idyllic childhood days living in the midst of nature where greenery was abundant. Winters meant a variety of flowers that chai memsahebs would painstakingly plant in front of their bungalows. Chrysanthemums, dahlias, phlox, pansies, zinnias, poppies, etc etc and of course your own home grown organic vegetables in the backyard. I remember the flower shows in February an annual event where everyone would compete with their best in all categories be it for the best bungalow with the best flower garden and vegetable garden, or for the flowers, non-flowering plants, vegetables, or even home grown produce. I would painstakingly prepare flower arrangements a week in advance to prepare for the children's section. Those days there were no smart phones, technology around so guess this was our way of entertainment and keeping ourselves busy. :)I remember my Dad spending hours in the garden tending to his prized garlic or papaya trees and Mom all excited about the strawberries and the flowers. Though I admit I am not yet a great gardener like my parents, I do try my best and guess will get there and hopefully I can afford a tiny garden someday. :) However, I do often wonder why I didn't inherit my parents fabulous gardening genes. :) For now, will post a few pics of my flowering plants that blossom now and then in my tiny, sunny balcony.

It was fascinating watching the progression of this hibiscus bud to a full grown flower over a period of 3 days and I did bore Ange and Serena for a while with daily posts till Angeli suggested that maybe I should start a joba blog. :D

I am also a little worried about going on vacation next month in case the maid or the watchman forgets to water them and have been looking at those automatic plant watering systems on Amazon and other sites though I am hopeful and sure they will be fine. Guess I've become a little protective and sometimes think to myself that now I know what it's like to have kids. These plants are like my kids and am going to miss them. I know this is not a good example and those who've been expecting us to produce kids the last few years will not be happy reading this comment, but well that's the closest I will ever get to having motherly feelings and I am perfectly fine with it, say what you may. :P Now I'd better scoot before my thoughts start flowing here faster than my ability to process them. ;)

The Art of Gifting

The most annoying thing to receiving a gift that is so horrendous that you cannot ever imagine giving anyone, is when someone asks you whether you liked the gift and you have to be so diplomatic and lie that you absolutely loved it though you HATE it and are cringing from inside. 

Even though they know that it is something worth not gifting and they absolutely would not use it in their own lives, they gift you anyway. In this case, it is not the thought that counts because they were not thinking of you at all. It was more of a chore and wondering what do I have in the midst of my existing gifts at home that I do not like and would like to discard because they do not want to make the effort and go and shop for you. It's that thoughtlessness that I do not appreciate but of course I would never show it upfront and still say it was lovely so guess that makes me a hypocrite, eh! And that's why I rant here. :P

I believe the value of a gift does not matter. It may be a flower or a plant but it has to be something worthwhile and not something that makes the receiver grimace. When you do know what a person likes, their hobbies, their preferences in music or books, the stuff they like to wear, the objects they like to collect or do up their homes with, and their personal tastes and preferences, then of course it is sacrilege giving them something that you would like to discard, a hand-me-down that you know they couldn't use and neither will you.

My first rule is never ever gift someone something that I would never use or care for. Second is never pass on gifts that I have received or do not like because who knows when that may come round. A boarding school pal received the same present that she had gifted someone on their birthday with the same wrapping paper intact. Another dear school pal of mine complained how she would constantly receive crappy gifts from a friend till her gift was gifted back to her through another friend who she had passed it onto. Sounds quite like the merry-go-round. :P 

If there is a budget crunch or you are in doubt as to the other person's tastes and preferences, I think saying it with flowers or a box of chocolates is always the best bet. When the maid gets me a flower in the morning I am happy, or someone gives me a small chocolate bar, that makes me happy. And if someone gives me a book or a CD based on my tastes, or even a small potted plant that makes my day because it shows that the person has taken the time to think of me. Oh yeah, simple things make me happy. I am even elated if someone sends me a mail or a letter remembering me and some nice nostalgic moments. Now that is being thoughtful.

As I reiterate, it's the thoughtfulness that matters and not the thoughtlessness. Wonder why most Indians still try to pass around useless gifts. If you have to gift, GIFT well. Again, I do not mean in terms of material wealth where you always need to buy a branded watch or perfume but can be something small but tasteful that shows the receiver you were thinking of them and they matter. And sorry, I would not like to list the thoughtless gifts I have received here. I think I've been diplomatic enough with this post. :D

PS: This post was written 4 years ago and I guess I have changed as a person with low tolerance towards crappy gifts. I have a school friend who still hasn't stopped with the passing around of hand me downs. When I was in college, she would give me the worst presents, which included a gold top, bathroom slippers that she later admitted she was passing on. Yeah, I've taken a lot of BS but that's changing and I'm beginning to stand up for myself. :D

Two decades after college, she visits my city and even though I repeatedly told her that not to give me clothes knowing my past experience, she insisted it was from a particular brand, spoke like it was gold she was gifting me, and gave me the worst shapeless shabby crumpled T-shirt I have ever seen. I figured out over the phone that she was trying to pass it on even before she reached India but she didn't heed my advice and gave it anyway. I posted it on various Whatsapp groups for my friends to decide and common referendum was I should return it so that's what I did. ;) 

And this is why I don't blindly follow brands or fashion

I just think if you are a good friend, you will make an effort to understand a person's choice and especially when you live in another country and haven't seen the other person in a really long time, clothes can be a big no-no coz of the fit, style, preference, and size. Even in brands, it's not like we all have the same taste. What I may like, somebody else may never wear. It all depends on our height, weight, and comfort with certain clothing. 

Well, I am happy with a bar of chocolate but when someone supposedly your friend gives you such a thoughtless gift and refuses to even listen to what you are saying, it just gives the impression that they don't really care about you. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Are Squeaky Clean Indians

A few days ago, after dining at the food court in Inorbit, I visit the washroom and find this beautiful well-dressed lady applying make-up. Her 2-3 year old daughter is whining in Punjabi that she wants to pee. The lady lifts her daughter and sets her over the wash basin right next to where I am washing my hands and tells her to pee. I am shocked and disgusted but control my anger and politely tell her that there are 10-12 loos that she can take her daughter to pee in. She angrily retorts that she is only a baby and how does it matter. I tell her she may be a baby in her eyes but it is unhygienic and definitely not the place. I really think a crash course on peeing etiquette for kids is required since such parents exist. She retorts angrily that she can do what she wants and her child's pee is pure as they drink milk only so what's the big fuss. I lose it and tell her that a 2-3 year olds piss may be pure and drinkable for her but definitely not for me. I have no intention of viewing kids pee, pure or not, over wash basins and as a parent she needs to teach her kid the right etiquette and manners. She gets offended and starts abusing me but I leave as my friends are waiting and don't bother to retort as a crowd joins in and takes over.

Well, that triggered off this post. :) We were taught in school that cleanliness is next to godliness. That euphemism cannot be lost in context of our squeaky clean nation! Cleanliness for us means treating any place outside our homes including shopping malls, movie halls, parks, roads as the great Indian dustbin. Cleanliness also means expecting others to clean up for us. After all, India is a nation of servants where the poor and underprivileged are expected to clear up for the rich folks.

We crib about the filth and tend to blame it on illiteracy and the poor. Are the educated and rich not contributing to the great Indian trash pile at all? We see trash everywhere, outside apartment complexes, flying out of building windows, car windows, and any other nook and crevice possible. Literate parents, when out in a public place, conveniently give up their snobbish spic and span avatar to don an ugly Indian avatar. Suddenly these perfect mommas forget all about their ‘class’ and ‘upbringing’ and encourage their kids to trash anywhere and everywhere. In malls, I've seen parents wipe their kids’ fingers or some other part of their anatomy and throw the tissue paper right there on the ground despite the presence of numerable bins placed at convenient locations. Where is literacy involved in this trashing? I recently saw this message on the Facebook page of one of the apartment complexes in town. A flat owner publicly requested parents to ensure that their kids do not pee on the lawns where people play games, stroll, or sit on the grass. Despite the washrooms being right next to the swimming pool, parents encourage their kids to leave their urinary signature in the pool instead of ensuring they inculcate good habits. Is this some kind of territory marking akin to the dogs?

I see our watchman trying his best to keep our building clean and clearing garbage every morning but who is there to help. Folks upstairs throw litter outside their windows not caring that there are people who live downstairs or that they are littering the garden. They don't care or take it for granted that others will clean up for them. One fine Saturday night I even saw a whiskey bottle hanging on the branches of the tree outside my window. Yes, we are very proud and clean Indians, aren't we?

Even our clean, green, manicured office environment is not spared. Hordes of empty tea and coffee cups, cigarette butts, and discarded snack packets are found lying everywhere regardless of the umpteen dustbins all over the campus. So who is to blame for all this litter? Do we still blame the poor for not clearing the trash we generate or do we inculcate clean habits of disposing of one's own trash?

Last night, we were at our friend's place and he was telling us how they have been trying to implement various green measures at his workplace, one of the world's premier IT company where the choicest of folks come from the best educational institutions. One of the green measures was to reduce wastage of natural resources by getting rid of paper cups and introducing ceramic mugs in the pantry for their employees use. Even then the logistics of it has been immense because people don't return those used mugs to its rightful place after using them. You can spy those mugs lying all across the campus from the car park to the lawns and almost every nook and cranny possible. It has turned out to be a gigantic logistics issue for the service staff to go and hunt all across their large sprawling campus for those tea and coffee mugs. It has even been found in people's homes and in the outside railing of an apartment complex.

All this trashing also makes me wonder if we are turning out to be a wasteful generation due to the use and throw policy prevalent these days. Earlier, things were built to last and you would see furniture and crockery being reused and passed down from one generation to the next.. The older generations believed in recycling whether it was those empty glass jars for pickles and jams, or the milk packets and newspapers, or old clothes that would be sewn as a patchwork quilt. Even the refrigerators and toasters and other appliances were built to last.

However, in these instant times, where new is better, we are quick to generate waste way more quickly than the previous generations. It is futile wondering what kind of planet we are leaving for future generations. Our planet has over 7 billion humans generating colossal amounts of garbage, exploiting the earth’s resources in numerous ways, and contributing to the extinction of several species. The harm being caused to our environment is simply unimaginable. We now live in a fast moving consumerist age where people dispose off gadgets faster than clothes or until the next version of that phone hits the market.

Is this craze for new justified? What exactly are we chasing? Do we really need that many gizmos in a lifetime? Isn't this a dangerous trend in terms of the colossal amount of waste? Well, guess that's a different topic for another day.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

How times have changed! When my Dad was posted in the tea gardens from the 70s till the early years after 2000, we would hear of several isolated incidents of tigers and leopards attacking people and cattle. They would be captured and handed over to forest officials instead of being killed. That is because most species were by then in the endangered category and many had reached a stage of extinction, so we were out to save whatever was left of our wildlife.

However, hunting was quite common in earlier times whether for sport or safety. I was home in July enroute to Assam and was going through my parents albums when I chanced upon this photograph of my granddad and his colleagues with a tiger.

My granddad at the centre with his co-workers

My granddad was the Manager of a tea garden called Narayanpur near Tezpur. My Mom's early childhood was spent mainly in the tea gardens. The later years she was sent off to Calcutta for her education where she lived in a big, fat joint family in New Alipore with loads of aunts, uncles and cousins. :) However, during the holidays, she would visit my grandparents in Assam.

This incident occurred before she moved to Calcutta. One afternoon, sometime in the late 1950's, my granddad came home for lunch and informed my grandmom that a tiger had been hiding in the tea bushes and had attacked a woman tea plucker biting off her hand. The woman was immediately transported to the nearest hospital and the other tea pluckers had gone off to their quarters early as it was too dangerous with the tiger still on the prowl somewhere in and around the tea bushes.

News had also spread like wildfire that the previous night the tiger had taken a few hens, goats, and other domestic animals from the living quarters. That was also the reason everyone suspected that the tiger may return any time and were frightened.

When dusk fell, my grandfather instructed the night chowkidar to check that all doors and windows were properly sealed and ensure that no one stepped out of the bungalow. After giving instructions, my grandfather got into the jeep and drove off in the darkness of the night.

It was a cold night and in Assam darkness descends even quicker during the winters. Those days there were no phones and my grandmom was extremely worried about my granddad's safety. She kept a vigil all night waiting for him to return. My Mom and her sisters all huddled up with my grandmom and wouldn't let her go anywhere out of fear. From the labour quarters which is at a distance, the sound of drums and tribal music could be heard rising eerily to a crescendo and fading out again. The labour quarters were made of mud and thatch roofs and were not very safe. The labourers lit a bonfire and there were festivities with song and dance not only because it was "Bada Din (Christmas)" but also to scare the tiger away with the sound of drumbeats.

My Mom doesn't remember when she fell asleep but she does remember waking up once in the night and seeing my grandmom chant prayers with these beads around her fingers. She went back to sleep and was woken again by the sound of voices. My granddad had returned and it was almost day break.

He narrated how he and Mr. Pandit spent the whole night in a machan built over a tree. They tied two goats and chickens to the bamboo sticks at the base of the machan to lure the tiger out of the jungle. The tiger got tempted and as soon as it appeared, they fired a couple of shots.

There was a lot of celebration and jubilation at the garden next morning. At 10 am, my granddad took my mom and her sisters to the office. The dead corpse of the tiger was placed right in front of the office and still looked scary. My Mom felt he may wake up any moment and attack again. She was frightened but also felt sorry for the tiger as she imagined that the tiger would be missed by his family members. This is one childhood memory that stayed with her and that is why she has kept this faded photograph for over 50 years.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chai Bagan Nostalgia

Whenever my parents visit, Joy and I look forward to the interesting conversations over mealtimes. Once they get started, dinner can go on upto 2 hours as it's so lovely listening to their anecdotes of the north east and the simplicity and warmth of the life they lived, that we forget the time. :) A life that I had the privilege of experiencing and am extremely grateful for, as today it's only the memories and a few photographs that remain.

After listening to a few of Dad's anecdotes about his life in the hills of Mizoram and Assam, Joy turns to me and wonders what will we reminisce about at their age. :) No answer. What do I reminisce about our existence in the city? Maybe an old restaurant, a mall, a movie hall? I have no clue but there is definitely something about living in small remote areas far away from civilization, something so enriching, so difficult to define.

Life in the Chai Bagan - One of the tea garden bungalows we lived in

What I miss most of my childhood is our mini-farm that were a part and parcel of tea garden living; the tiny zoo of cows, goats, ducks, chickens, dogs and even a talking mynah, growing your own organic vegetables and beautiful exotic plants and flowers. I remember vacation times when I would be home from boarding school, if it was not club day, mornings and evenings would be spent tending to the garden; helping the gardener or my Dad plant some vegetables or fruits, watering the plants, feeding the cows grass, or stirring cowfeed in a large aluminium pot placed over a wood fire in the shed outside. Yeah, I was and still am a village girl and though it's been several years since I did any of the above, I will always miss and cherish those days.

Dusky our precious lhasa apso after giving birth to 3 puppies

Living in the midst of nature in the 80s and with forests all around the chai bagan, it was but natural to spot abundance of wildlife. I remember as kids when on drives back from the clubs or when cycling around the tea garden jungles, we would sometimes spot deer, wild boars, elephants, and even tigers.

These were the things that I took for granted during my childhood and I definitely couldn't have visualized how my life would change and that in later years to see wildlife, I would need to visit wildlife sanctuaries.

The earliest memory I can recount is when I was around 6 or 7 years old. Some labourers found a couple of abandoned tiger cubs in the tea bushes and brought them over to Dad. Still have vivid memories of feeding those cubs tiny drops of milk with an ear drop syringe till the forest officials arrived to take them back to their habitat. And the train of elephants that would silently and mysteriously appear out of the darkness many a club night when returning home. Dad would quietly switch off the ignition and we would patiently wait for the herd to cross and then resume our journey back home.

Dad with a leopard cub rescued from the tea gardens and handed over to forest officials

An elephant cub pushing our gypsy with its trunk

The last time I remember spotting a tiger was in the late 90s when Dad was posted in a picturesque tea garden called Jainti in Dooars nestled in the midst of the Buxa Tiger Reserves and bordering the hills of Bhutan. We were returning from a barbecue at the nearby Karthik Club around 11 pm when Dad suddenly braked and the car screeched to a halt. A majestic tiger appeared out of the jungle staring at the headlights of the car dazed for a minute or so, and then sauntered off to the other side of the jungle.

I also remember Ranojit Uncle in the neighboring garden narrating this incident. He heard a rustling sound outside his window one night and got up and peered outside. All he could see was darkness and there seemed to be no lights on the lawn so he thought there was a power cut and went back to sleep. Next morning, they found the garden in disarray with plants and trees uprooted. After closer inspection, they find elephant footprints right on the flower beds outside the bedroom window. That's when he realizes that at night when he had woken up and couldn't see a thing, the elephant was standing right outside his window.

Anyways, today over lunch we were eating fish and my Mom wondered what my Dad's cats that grew up in a shoe box in our veranda would be eating since he is not there to give them lunch. Dad instantly started missing his cats and informed me sadly that one of his favorite cats who used to sleep on the flower pot was run over by a speeding car just two days before their trip to Hyderabad. What is it about the bonds that are created with animals? They are so special and so difficult to let go. Even I miss this little fellow. Had taken this pic just 3 weeks ago when I visited home en-route to Assam. Life is so unpredictable.

RIP dear beral

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Ode to Maggi

Been reading this article on the high levels of trans-fats Maggi contains and thinking that I should be so dead by now because I've probably eaten over 6000 packets of Maggi in this lifetime. Now why do I have this irrational fondness for Maggi? It's like a spell that has been woven around me and I am powerless to resist. No matter what substitutes or distractions there may be, my taste buds remain faithful to the aromas and flavor of Maggi.

Some addictions in life refuse to go away. In this world, we find it tough to let go of innumerable things. Your head says no, and you try your best to avoid such distracting temptations but then something arrives that sparks off memories of the old, and there you go back to square one because your heart refuses to listen to your head. You just want to ignore what the mind is telling you.

Well, I know I've gone off on another tangent but my relationship with Maggi is not very different. Though they claim to have introduced a new variety with no trans-fat, I still cling on to the old Maggi Masala. It's an addiction, a relationship, a temptation, a companion, just like a long-lasting commitment that you don't want to give up on or break.

It's hard to part ways when there are so many wonderful memories associated with Maggi. Memories of boarding school years in Darjeeling, where I first ate Maggi on those bitter cold nights sometime in the 80s. I was reading a special mid-year  issue of The Week where they mentioned that Maggi came to India in 1982, which was the exact year I was packed off to boarding school at the age of 5. Gosh, I am so so old. Trying to remember those days when we first learnt how to cook Maggi, managing to source hot water from somewhere, crushing the Maggi into bits and pieces inside the packet so that it cooks faster, emptying the contents into a mug, adding the masala, covering it with a piece of paper, and occasionally stirring it with a toothbrush end. Well, what can I say. :) I know that is weird to even think of the crazy stuff we did back then, but that was life for a few of us where we had to make the best use of the limited resources we had at our disposal. And the boarding food sure did suck! That's when Maggi was our savior and stepped in to save our hungry souls.

Even when travelling within and outside the country, whenever I developed unnatural cravings for familiar, comfort food, there was always Maggi to provide quick sustenance. Though there have been other substitutes such as Wai Wai and Ra Ra, it has been an on and off relationship based on the availability, quite unlike the Maggi bond. The bond with Maggi is that of a constant, faithful companion forever by my side providing me with so much comfort and nourishment whenever I need it. That's why on a Monday morning, I write this ode to Maggi, and whether it's good or bad for me, I really don't care. I will always love you, Maggi!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


As usual when I can't sleep at night, my mind starts wandering and varied thoughts flit through my mind. Some are regarding normal day to day routine activities that plague me especially regarding work; I think that's because the maximum time of our lives most of us do spend at work, like it or not. At times I think of my family and friends and each place that I've lived in or visited and the special memories associated with each person and place. Or at other times it can be an outrageous wishlist or fantasy.

Some thoughts are so weird that after they've crept into my head and I have had time to ponder and analyze it, I do wonder perplexed why I have such thoughts. :D Well, the intricacies of the working of our human minds will always remain a mystery, and no, am not sharing those thoughts here. :) Some thoughts are only for my journal and for a few close pals ears! :) One of my favorite lines from Desperate Housewives is about secrets. Keeping secrets is a lonely business. That's why we all search for someone to confide in: an ally who will understand, an advisor who we can trust, a friend who will never judge. And am glad to have my besties around to confide in whenever I need someone to talk to.

Well, this post is not about secrets but about last night's thought triggered off by a lovely conversation with a bestie of mine from Oz and a sweet letter that I received from a long-lost pal that made me go all weepy. Why is it that the older I grow, the more sentimental I get? The letter and the chat with my friend triggered off thoughts about relationships. Why do we humans say that we are in a relationship only when we are romantically involved with a person?

From the moment we are born or maybe even before birth in our mother's womb, we create bonds. At first the mother who gives birth to us, and then the dad who looks after us, then some of us have siblings. And then other family members ranging from aunts to uncles, grandparents, family friends, childhood friends, etc etc we create so many bonds.

Then we start going to school and college, and we create more bonds, with the friends we make at school, or it may be a favorite teacher who will always hold a special place in our lives even though we may move on in life to other roles. We start working and create more bonds with co-workers, with managers, some for a while, some long lasting, but each moment and stage of our life, relationships are formed, and some bonds may be broken or forgotten. Life is transient, ever changing as we move forward in the world we create for ourselves. And at each stage, our existing relationships evolve and may undergo changes, and new relationships may be forged with people who were strangers a while ago, or we may have known but yet not intimately known.

As humans there are so many bonds that we create in one lifetime. Yes, even with my maid Devi who's been a part of my life for around 9 years and who I consider family, or our building watchman Parso Ram who is an amazing man and someone I respect immensely. Considering he hasn't had much of an education, I admire his dedication and vision in educating his children and ensuring their future. Due to his focus on giving them a better life, the eldest daughter now works at Karvy, the younger one is doing her software engineering, and the son is still in school. And of course our ex-driver Sai who was with us before Joy learnt how to drive but is still a large part of our lives. With some folks, the bonds remain strong even though we may go down different life paths carved for us.

And then there are those bonds that we create which is difficult to explain. It may be a penfriend from a distant land who you have never met but they've always been a part of your lives as long as you can remember, that you never have that feeling that they don't belong. And in recent times the friends we've made over the internet. Some may be over chat rooms, blogger, or social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter and you hit it off instantly and create a bond deeper than we can ever imagine considering you were strangers a while ago. And you may never meet or meet a couple of times in this lifetime, but the bonds you create stay forever. Life is so unpredictable and so are the various relationships that we have in each stage of our life.

So that's why I wonder how can we confine relationships to one context only when each one is special. Why do we elevate only one to a heavenly status and ignore the others? Aren't we as humans involved in multiple relationships our whole lives?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

End of an Era - Encyclopaedia Britannica

Felt an inexplicable sense of loss reading an article that Encyclopedia Britannica was doing away with its print edition after 244 years. It played such a major role in my life that makes me feel a little sentimental at the old ways coming to an end, paving the way for the current digital age. For most of us and especially for me it was a boon as we didn't have access to the kind of technology and online resources that are available today as compared to the 80s and early 90s.

So when I read this news, I was transported back to the day that I received 20 hard bound copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the topics ranging alphabetically from A to Z. This was the most precious birthday present I received from my parents not only for the value but also because these books were my companions at an era when Google did not exist (apologies to Bing but an online search will always be termed in my brain as google). It was not only a useful source of information and inputs from around the world, but the primary use was helping me and my Dad solve the daily crosswords in The Telegraph.

The Encyclopedia Britannica brought back memories of a quieter, simpler life; a time that seems to be getting lost in the hustle bustle of the modern digital age. Reminds me of those numerous evenings spent solving crosswords and jumbles in the verandah of our sprawling tea garden bungalows. A time when life was so uncomplicated that little things would bring so much joy. Living away from civilization amidst the beauty of glorious nature in remote locations with no phones, internet and yet it was a
beautiful life. A luxury in today's fast-paced world.

Even though it's hard for me to let go of memories, I think it is definitely more practical to have eBooks and save on space when so much information is available online and for the important fact that it helps reduce wastage of paper. I know my mind is caught between the two worlds - the old with almost no access to technology, and the new crowded gizmo world, but it is truly the end of an era for the Encyclopedia Britannica printed books. And though I will miss the memories associated with it, it is time to move on.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Assault on Women - A Reflection of our Society?

The last few days my mind has been plagued with many thoughts and questions, but sadly there are no answers. The events of sexual assaults against women reported in the media are intensely gruesome and defy logic or explanation. To say the least, it is extremely disturbing to imagine the reality of the nation that we live in.

Are such acts the true reflection of the mindset of our extremely narrow-minded, frustrated, judgmental, and hypocritical society? What makes some men behave the way they do and commit such gruesome acts? Is this part of our 5000 year old culture where acts of intimidation through brute force against women seem to be the accepted norm just like the evil practice of dowry that exists even today? Though there have been many such incidents, what has been shocking are these two cases that have rocked our nation the last few days.

The first was the horrifying ordeal of two teenage school girls who were raped in broad daylight by 15 men. One of the guys threatened to drink poison if she didn't meet him so the girl in a state of panic took her cousin along and went to that designated spot. What followed was sheer trauma for those two helpless schoolkids. They were intercepted by a gang of men, dragged to a field and raped. Hearing the commotion, some men working in the fields nearby came to see what was happening. Instead of saving the girls, they too joined in the act. This was just so shocking that such animals exist in our society and my heart goes out to to those two young girls who had to undergo such trauma at the hands of these beasts. There are so many questions but so few answers as to why such acts happen. Did they deserve to be raped? Absolutely not. Did they ask for it? No. Then why did it occur? Maybe to satisfy some sadistic inner frustration of some men? Or could be some base animal instinct to subjugate and torture the girls? Or maybe a clash of some deep-rooted hypocritical morals that exist in our society? So many questions but barely any answers to find out the cause why this disgusting, shameful incident had to occur.

Then there was this other incident in Kolkata where a 37 year old lady was raped at gun point in a moving car and later dumped. When she went to report the incident, the cops made lewd remarks about her drinking and partying, one of the ministers questioned her character and the honorable CM saw a political conspiracy behind the rape. Ms. CM, you being a woman, what would have won you accolades would have been if you had addressed the issue in the right manner, visited the victim, heard her story and offered heartfelt empathy for the trauma she has undergone, promised all the help and support to nab the accused.

No one was blaming you, Ms. CM. We all know that this act was committed by some mentally sick men and all that we expected from you was support in ensuring speedy justice and punishing the wrong-doers. This was your chance to prove that safety of women in Kolkata was of paramount importance to you and if such acts occur, a quick and strong punishment will be delivered that would serve as a lesson to all men so that they never think of committing such an act ever.

This was also a chance for your administration to prove that women can come forward and report such crimes without fear of undergoing more trauma under the hands of the administration. I salute this lady because her fight is not only for the safety of women in Kolkata but for the nation at large.

I think what has been more disturbing is the mindset and attitude towards the rape victim where she is treated like a criminal for a crime that's been committed against her. So kudos to this brave lady for her courage in taking this fight forward despite the slander against her character and the accusations that have been thrown around. She is divorced with two teenage kids. So what? If someone is a divorcee, does it give men a license to rape her? She frequents pubs and drinks? Isn't this hypocritical? Men can frequent bars and if a woman wants to go out for a drink, she is automatically stereotyped as available. Did she deserve to be raped for visiting a pub? No. And as a friend of mine Serena pointed out, even if she did take a lift from these educated well-to-do men of Kolkata, does it give them the right to rape her at gun point and then dump her? Absolutely not. A rape is still a crime and it is shocking that this crime permeates through all sections of our society.

So question is wherein lies the problem? It's definitely not the woman coz as we have seen irrespective of the clothes a woman wears, her racial profile, looks, or class, she can still be a victim. Isn't the deep-rooted problem with the men who commit such acts of subjugation and terror against women? Who are these men? Why do they go around raping women? What pleasure do they derive from such a cruel act?

We need to delve into the psyche of these men and try to find out why they are the way they are? Is there something wrong with the conditioning of our society where Moms and sisters can be elevated to a goddess status untouched by sex and there lies the other world where every other woman is available in their eyes? Is it a problem with our movies, whether it is the regional movies or Bollywood, eve teasing has always been shown as cool and happening? Do you think the depiction of women in these movies could have led to this mindset? What is wrong with our censor board who approved the display of such violence against women in our movies but shy away from natural acts of love like a simple kiss preferring instead to show the union of two roses or an umbrella appearing from nowhere leaving it to the viewer's imagination.

So many questions but no easy answers. Isn't there an inherent problem in our society as denoted in our movies and lives? Is there some kind of conflict in people's minds that leads to such sexual crimes against women? Don't the laws need to be overhauled and made more stringent so that wrongdoers are given such hefty punishments that will deter others from committing such a crime? There are no words to describe such barbaric acts but don't we need to address these issues before it spreads even further? Any solutions to prevent such crimes and make this world a safer place for all women?

At the time of writing this blog, several other rape cases were reported in the media. A young girl in Noida, a widowed mother of two in West Bengal and several others. Mamata Banerjee continues to blame the opposition CPM for the other three cases reported as well.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What to Tweet, What not to Tweet! Who's the Twitter Police?

Who are all these people telling us what to tweet, what not to tweet? Who appointed them as the Twitter Police? Everyone and anyone is suddenly coming up with an article on the do's n don't of tweeting. I say BS.

If I want to talk about food, I will. I love those umpteen food pics posted by friends, family strangers n all my favorite TLC hosts be it Nigella, Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, and so on, I love them all. So who are these Twitter Police to dictate these terms and conditions and tell us not to post such pics? We've never had such rules and why now?

And yes, I do love to hear mundane stuff about people's lives like what they do, where they go, the movies they watch, the books they read, even inane stuff like killing mosquitoes at night. Yes, there are several tweets dedicated to mosquitoes and I love these updates coz it somehow makes them more human and realistic and I can relate and imagine the lives they lead. So when Denise Richards talks about her daughter getting the flu or Liz Hurley and Shane Warne flirt with each other for the umpteenth time on full Twitter view, or Piers Morgan and Lord Sugar have their usual spats, I feel an instant connection to whoever it is out there, whether I know them or not and it's a nice, warm feeling.

When a friend tweets that she's having a fruit salad for lunch, you get a peek into their lives and instantly feel like sharing your lunch though she lives halfway across the world. I love hearing about the challenges they face with their kids, schoolwork et al, the weather in their respective cities, even their daily woes be it work or household stuff; it's just so personal and nice and you feel closer to whoever it is out there. It is interesting to know what they like be it politics, sports, travel, social issues: People's thoughts are always so varied and fascinating that I love hearing their views whether I agree or not. And I've read some of the wittiest and original one-liners on Twitter.

So call it what u may Mr. or Ms. Twitter Police, please get your facts right because there's a whole wide audience out there and the reason why we are on Twitter may not be the same as your's so stop dictating. I personally hate self promotions and marketing tweets but it's upto whoever is posting them and I think it's a great platform which people visit for varied reasons and I respect that. Some may be to sell their wares and promote something, whereas for some of us it's pure entertainment and to connect with the larger world out there. Whatever the reason may be, Twitter is a free world and there are choices you can make as to who you want to follow based on your interests and similarly please respect our choices too however mundane and silly you may find it. Amen!