Sunday, 27 February 2011

I SCREAM...wheres my ice-cream?

We all probably share the same childhood fantasy of multicolour icecream cones rotating in our dreams. Right from my childhood, if there was something i have been madly in love with, it was ice cream. Vanilla, chocolate, pista, strawberry, butter-scotch- name the flavor, i have eaten loads of it. It was simple cones and sticks first, which later got promoted to softy cones, then to sundaes and now i simply cannot resist the looks of that red cherry atop a tall glass of colored, textured sundae. Icecreams during our childhood were limited to a 80 km up and down trip to Arasan Icecreams, Tirunelveli. The plain vanilla served on a fish shaped glass bowl, the cassatta slice with a cherry topping and the yummy tutti-frutti were my personal favorites. I can simply keep on eating four or five at a stretch, so next time someone planning for a meet in Arasan, Tirunelveli, have all your credit cards handy!

When my base changed from Tirunelveli to Tiruchirapalli, it was a nightmare, i could not locate THE best icecream shop. After so many trial and errors and horrifying 'taste' experiments, i finally located my favorite hot spot- Sea Kings Icecreams near Holy Cross College. I used to ride 30 minutes up and down my rattling scooty for a falooda and a peach melba! I fell in love with the ambience and the taste, but sea kings being the top-end, i tried the lower end best, Michael's too. A FS ( Fruit Salad) cost Rs.3 then, i don't know how much it is now, and i order one after the other after the other, until the waiter keeps standing near me to see what i need! I usually end up eating 5 or 6 and would be smiling at the obscenities the waiter must be hideously yelling, mentally at me! Then came the AM ( After Marriage) of my life, when my eating and purchasing capabilities depended on my best-half's wallet. My PM ( Pre Marriage) days were filled with ice creams and chocolates but sadly, the AM days are devoid of many such trifle happiness. Not that i am forbidden from eating them, but simply because, if i eat, my kids eat and they end up wrecking one week of happiness in long Doctor visits and sickness. Luckily for me, Baskin Robbins opened a parlour in Trichy, but as our family were probably one of the few patrons of the shop, it was closed within a year.

Happy to be here in Saudi Arabia, where Baskin Robbins smiles at you at every street corner, so do KFC, Mac and Pizza Hut. On a strict diet regimen, i have gained only 6 kgs per year as against many of my peers here, who gain 10 to 15 kgs average per year. After sincere after thoughts and before thoughts, i finally decided to let go of my ice cream mania for good, just to save my cot, sofa and other chairs that were begging me to get rid of a good 20 kgs. I am glad i have saved them all from breaking, but i have not succeeded in saving my heart that is all broken over missing my very berry strawberry and banana royale sundae. Some day i would love to just forget all the fuss of dieting, over weight, weight loss program and all blah blahs and dig into my favorite cone:) Oh my...talking volumes of ice creams and i forgot my all time favorite? Here is one ice cream to die for or even to kill for- Fried Icecream from China Town Restaurant, Chennai. I cannot resist the fatal temptation, a cocktail of hot fried icecream that melts ooooooooh sooo cooooooool in your mouth. It was introduced by a friend accidentally and poor lady, she was forced to shell out a fortune paying for all the three plates i had! That was probably the last treat she ever gave me and i pity her now;)

And my new craze here has been the mango flavoured mini-melts, little balls of mango icecream that linger on your taste buds even for a few hours. Having resisted and resisted the evil designs and lurid pulls of the bewitching ice creams, now i think "enough is enough". I am not going to worry about weight gain or weight loss. Does it matter more than a cup of softy swirled with strawberry sauce? No, definitely! I close my eyes and the visions of icecreams dance through the closed eyelids- I simply cannot resist one little ice cream this time. After all, one little cone will not do much of a harm, is it?

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The shoe fuss!

Our country is one nation that has been obsessed by shoes- right from epic period of Ramayana. King Bharatha ruled his kingdom Ayodhya with his step brother Rama's sandals, as a gesture to denote Rama is the real King. Of late, the Queens of India have taken a great liking to the shoes, they are probably obsessed with it. Behen Mayawati took the first step in the right direction when she stood regally discussing something more important than dust on her shoes. So much involved in her discussion, Behen did not notice her PSO, Padam Singh dusting away her shoes with his hand kerchief. So what, is my question. What if an elderly man wipes away your shoes? After all Chief Ministers don't have the time to clean their shoes. But after cleaning her shoes, what Padam Singh did infuriated me, how dare he wash off his hands with a  bottle of mineral water?  The hands that had touched Madam Maya's revered shoes are not dirt to be washed off. His hands now had the sacred prasada- sacred dust and his kerchief was also a consecrated Holy Kerchief. Padam Singh has obviously insulted Madam Maya by washing his hands, he has treated Madam's shoe as if it is a dirty shoe, not a Holy one. I suggest to Maya Madam that Padam Singh who has insulted Her Highness be now posted near one of her statues, to shoo(e) away crows that come sit on her Sacred Head.

The next episode of Female Shoe Fetish was my darling Bips who always stays on news by hook or crook. This time, it was her twitter account that became the eye of the storm. In all childish innocence, the dusky diva posted a picture of two teenaged girls tying up shoe laces for her. Again i ask to all rumour-mongers, what is wrong in Bips getting a helping hand in tying her shoe laces? She is, after all celebrating her 12th Birthday this year. Such a small pranky teenager posting a picture of childhood fun and the entire media portrays her as a spoiled brat! What a PR disaster...Bips was quick to delete the picture and post a reply saying she ties shoe laces for all her friends and sisters and they do it to her. It is just a small kind gesture returned with love. So why all the mess? Next time i want to tie my shoe lace, am going by air to Bips' Mumbai Bandra residence, she always loves to tie shoe laces. By the way, one question for John, who ties your shoe laces? Bips?

What i cannot understand here is, why such small incidents of women having someone attend to their shoe maintenance is being blown out of proportion. India is one male-chauvinistic country where men accept being ruled by Rama's sandals but simply cannot digest the fact that Maya Madam and Bips have people to attend to their shoes. Pinnacle of male arrogance! As women, we want freedom to let others wipe our shoes and tie our shoe laces. We have more important jobs like ruling the state like Maya Madam and gyrating to hot Bollywood numbers like darling Bips. Oh, give us a break, MAN....

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My Hero to Zero- Muammar Gaddafi!

Picture Courtesy- Google Image Search
The moment i think Gaddafi, i simply can't repress my knowing smile. Of course, maniacs remember each other so well, don't we? When i further think about him, the smile burgeons into imminent laughter- reminiscing his 'style' statements, his various 'phobias'. What a man! The longest reigning dictator who must have been chained in a psychiatric asylum long ago. Libya and Gaddafi are inseparable, so much that you think they were man and wife! Libya's synonym is Gaddafi and Gaddafi's synonym is 'mad man'. Now it is so ironical that the 'mad man' is made a 'bad man' by a bunch of cyber activists and Western media men. Shame on them! Can they hide the charisma of our Hero? Gaddafi climbed to power at the age of 27, when most of us would have been struggling with our love lives. Which President calls himself- " Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution"? Our Brother Gaddafi does! What if blood soaks the streets of Tripoli, my hero will fight it till the end. He is a la Tom Cruise in khakhis, how many ever missiles you aim at him, he goes unscathed- He is a Mission 'Impossible!'

For those who don't know the history of my Hero, i urge enrol yourselves in a Libyan school right now! King Idris must now be laughing his head off from Hell, ( Well, i can say he is there because our Hero put him there!) seeing history, his-story being repeated. Gaddafi overthrew King Idris in 1969 and now tables are turned against him. But being a Hero, he simply refuses to budge. I rather grew fond of his trendy fashion statements, his Phil Spector styled hairdo and Snoopy resemblance weirdo impressed me. He seems a man encased in a time capsule, still in 60's hairstyle, 60's dresses and undying love for Idi Amin. Here are few snapshots of my favorite Hero-

Duh! He forgot to get off his bath robe and hey, the woman in the backdrop- his Body Guard!
Image Courtesy- Google Image Search

Apparently my Hero likes drapes better than suits and ties! Drapery, stolen from Hotel Suite:)

Two like minded gentlemen, look at Brother's pin ups;)
  Does he copy any Hollywood Hero like our Bollywood men? No! Gaddafi has his own eccentric style, color and grace which the entire Hollywood Bollywood pack lacks. President Obama looks a little bit lost and out of focus when he is near my Hero and Berlusconi simply adores the General...slurp...slurp...Oh Silvio, i thought you date 19 year olds...No other leader of our era has the kharisma oh my, typo, its charisma, the charm and the sense of fashion Gaddafi has. May be after retirement  ( or death) from the Brother's post, Gaddafi can find ramp walk easy cake walk. The likes of Armani, Versace, D&G, Lacroix- all please rope him in for an innings in Paris Fashion Show. He is a sure crowd puller. Or may be i think, my Hero can start his own line of Designer clothing, of course named L&G- Libya and Gaddafi!

Gaddafi's phobias are world reknown, now made public for umpteenth time by Wikileaks. He likes to pitch tent in hotel rooms, he takes his prized camel everywhere he goes , he refuses rooms in top floors of hotels, refuses to let his jet fly over water, his camel suffers from jet lags, he never embarks on an overseas trip without his Ukrainian Nurse ( how dare you think it could be a male nurse?) She is a femme fatale, of course! And his female bodyguards force of 100 luscious and vicious women is something Berlusconi might already be thinking of taking over;) Let it all be, what i am worried about my Hero is- Will he go to Hell down below when he dies? He hates heights and apparently The Heaven Above! Or Hero will order God to bring Heaven below or fight Him till He budges! Go Brother, GOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

All Images above- courtesy google Image Search:)

Birds Road Tales

Is there a world of the ladies, by the ladies and for the ladies? Yes, indeed. I was so happy to be a part of that Kingdom ( oops, Queendom!) for almost 7 years! Every morning typically starts with a bucket fight, as my room mates usually elope with my bucket in the mornings. Me being a lazy-goosey always sleep till 8 o'clock on a day duty. Every morning I get up and start yelling -" Who has my bcuket?" Dashing to the row of bathrooms, i bang on every door. I know whose towel hangs on the door, can identify the trouble makers and go yell there. When i finally get hold of my bucket from a towel-clad roomie, next starts the hunt for a vacant bathroom. There are 'advance' bookings where towels are hung to say someone will be back there soon. Moving the towels to some other bathroom is fun, the person inside shouting- " Hey, who is this?" After a fast bath, its a super fast breakfast time. Our menu always goes in order- idli, upma, dosa, pongal, bread and again idli....Oh! How i despise those idlis...They can kill a man instantly if thrown on his head! And as for the dosas, the journey of cooked dosas from kitchen to the dining hall is by itself a misadventure. A stack of dosas are hoisted on the hips of our hostel cook Pushpa akka, who takes bath only on festivals! Pongal and upma always are so sticky they never get off the serving spoon on to my plate and the bread served is so stale you can almost have the 'patient' feel seeing it! So I usually skip my breakfasts and settle for a cup of coffee, which is 99% water and 1% decoction+milk+sugar! May be a short stay in my old hostels would do wonders in my weight reduction graph!

After a coffee its a run to office and we usually get packed lunches. It is again a strict timetable- variety rice, each different everyday. Tamarind rice, lemon rice, tomato rice, curd rice and a repeat of the same...No wonder i hate the sight of these now. As for the vegetables that accompany them, its usually papaya, bottle gourd, cabbage and ash guord, all no waste veggies! Cleaning the veggies is done with utmost care, you often end up staring at a boiled maggot! Well, it is boiled anyway! We were offered chicken only on sundays. Wait, no over enthusiasm here- did i say chicken, oh...mistake, it is chicken skin and bones! The chicken curry on sunday afternoons is a watery gravy made with only the skin and bones and a few muscle left unscrapped from the bones. The pieces walk to the Convent kitchen all by themselves and land themselves on the nuns' plates! Oh i forgot to tell you, i was in a hostel run by Catholic nuns. All of us were supposed to assemble for daily night prayers irrespective of religion, it often looked like a Dictator's Victory Speech by Mother Superior. I wonder how she never got bored saying the same thing all again and again- "No lights after 10 pm, no power during the day, only two buckets of water for everyone, no unauthorised visitors, no phone calls after 10 pm" and so on. She was our Peter...Repeater!

Those were the days of no mobiles and the only phone was in the hostel parlour. And it had a parallel connection in the convent. Every phone call came routed only if the sister dear there felt it was absolutely necessary! When you talk more than five minutes, there will be a clearing of throat clearly audible from the parallel phone! There was nothing personal there. Washing clothes was a ritual on sundays here, groups of girls washing and singing- a la dhobighat! And the best( worst) part was about the night close, which was at 9.00 pm. You cannot enter the hostel after that, so forget the late night dinners and movies. There was a watchman and a few dogs who kept strict vigil at the front gates. They obviously forgot the side gate, which however tall, was scalable by a few musketeers like us! Armed with biscuits (Tiger biscuit for Tiger dog!) and a Rs 50 note ( that was for watchman anna), it was sheer fun jumping the gate, i have even had my hand fractured in one such escapedes...

There was also the other 'dark' room, where no inmates stay. It was rumoured the ghost of a former hostelite haunt the room. I face the other side whenever i cross the room and try my level best not to pass there during the nights. There are unauthorised 'fashion shows' where each one of us tries to outbeat the other when it comes to night dresses! You can see all varities- long sleeves, sleeveless, laces, velvettes, satins all glowing after the ceremonial 'switching off' at 10 pm! Mother Superior would have definitely had a heart attack seeing us then! And oh...i forgot the "inner" stealers! They were the active pack who always used to whisk away new ones, especially those with laces;) That you call 'thieves with a taste'! There were episodes of late night dances, girls waking up in morning with close-up red gel moustaches, some who had surprise unknown hair cuts, some pushing and pulling when their long braids have been tied to cot stands, omelettes on secret stove-tops and purported "ghost appearances". I forgot to say i am a nocturne. God! Was i a handful? May be, may be not;) The food was bad, but the fun was good! Indeed, i did love my Queendom and the women( including the nuns) at No. 1, Birds Road. Wish i were a bird there, right now!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Inspection Comedies-1

Most railway goods yards resemble buildings like these!
Having spent a good decade in Railway Service, i have come across many interesting Officer Inspections. My initial posting was in Goods Yard. Now, you all might be knowing how Railway Goods yards offices look like, most of them built before the British left us, with huge pot holes and rats the size of cats running everywhere. You better keep your legs folded on the chair rather risk being bitten by a rhodent and a consequent hefty medical bill. The breeze that our British era fan blows out includes decades of dust and slime that can make any living person sneeze, including the rats! The registers and books have peculiar leather covers stitched on, that have years of neglect and dirt written on them. And as for the tables and chairs, careful....if you are sitting on one such Railway chair, read this post silently, or it might break on the sound of you reading! The rickety squeaks of tables, chairs and the periodic clatter of the fan above your head. What a rosy picture of an office!

At times, there would be no loads to handle and the men used to chit-chat and discuss everything under the sun. I was posted with a fifty something lady colleague, imagine how she would have felt when she first met me- a girl in her late teens with shortly cropped hair and brimming with worldly knowledge on communism and socialism. Well, all those 'isms' did not help me that fateful day. It was break time, all of us were happily seated in the enclosure called Dining Room having vada and kesari. The 'dining room' was actually a corridor hidden out of the office hall by a few rickety cupboards and we used to sit atop old wooden boxes, gifted by Hyder Ali to Tippu Sultan, probably! We were supposed to wear uniforms then, gentlemen in green shirts and navy blue pants and women in white blouses and blue sarees- uniform 'uniform' code! You won't know the difference between a clerk and a waterwoman, both in same sarees! Men usually come in colored attire and when someone comes for inspection, they keep few green shirts handy and change them in a wink. A few such green shirts always hung in our dining area. It so happened that day someone spilt kesari on the boxes and we cleaned the 'sitting area' with a green shirt hanging there. I promptly returned the used dirty shirt to the peg and after a fine break we were back to the office.

Who would not sleep after a hearty meal? Feeling too drowsy to even speak to my colleague, i folded my hands on the table and started sleeping in the sitting position ( i became a pro now, i can snore in any given position after working in Railways!). Officers of our department have the knack of doing surprise inspections at the most inopportune moments! That day, a senior officer from Chennai had come on surprise check and we absolutely had no idea of it. We usually have some 'night watch' and he came screaming - "abeeeeeeesar! abeeeeeeeesar!". Everyone sat upright, men ran into the dining room for uniform shirts and came back wearing them. Blessed me, i was still the 'sleeping Angel'. The Officer had walked in and saw me asleep. He tapped on my table and went forward. Hearing the tap, i opened half the eye and the person i could see was my supervisor in a green shirt! Something in his shirt front caught my attention- cleaned kesari splashed generously on his shirt all over!!! He was rather oblivious to this and was saying-" Good morning sir! Good morning Sir!" to the visiting official. I could not control my laughter looking at his kesari drenched shirt and his 'good morning'! I roared in laughter and only then did i notice a gentleman in front of me! Oh my! I stood bolt upright and said my " good morning" pensively. The official's face was masked, devoid of any expression, as it is, of all inspecting officials. He enquired my name and designation. Oh no! Not a good sign at all!

The after math of the sleeping episode was horrible, i was transferred to Reservation Office, where i could  simply not sleep. As a mild punishment(?) i was posted in Enquiry- God i really sympathise with all those working there! There were four phones that would ring incessantly and i would keep on saying like a broken record- " Good morning Enquiry!"  All my good mornings became gooey mornings after my sleeping escapade!!! Rule Number one that i learnt from this episode- " Never ever clean tables with green shirts!"

Monday, 21 February 2011

Medical Ambuscades

The strong smell of phenyl welcomes you, concealing the pungent dank 'hospital' smell. An ambulance pulls up, lights flashing and sirens deafening. Someone in his last minutes or seconds enters, clamped in a stretcher with oxygen masks. You can identify the looks in his face that is of sheer terror. Gulping down the bile in your throat you wait in the OP section, waiting for your number to be called. Few sit restless around you, few talking huskily on cell phones, some prefer to snooze and some are happy watching the TV above the receptionsist's head. A pride of lions are mauling a hapless zebra in Animal Planet and you fear ending up on dissection table with a pride of doctors! Shaking your head to clear myriad thoughts, you hope for the best, waiting for the nurse to call you. Images of friends and relatives whom you have visited in hospitals come flooding back to your head and it becomes nauseous simply sitting. You try to strike a conversation with your better half and turn to her seat, she is missing. You find her praying to Ganpati Bappa occupying prime location in the hall. She is probably afraid of the complications the doctor dears are going to discuss and the further more complicated bill there after!

After an hour of nail-biting ( all your fingers miss it by now!) you are summoned to the Gates of Destiny. You enter the room doggedly followed by your dear wife. There sits the demi- God, garbed in his white coat and chain- oh, thats a stethoscope. A white gowned nurse stands nearby who smiles sweetly at you, mentally sizing up how much you are going to shell. There comes a pressure check, which is by now shooting like your hospital bill. The doctor shakes his head, clears his throat and finally addresses us graciously- " what is the problem?". My wife as usual starts narrating my dizziness and fuzziness in the mornings. Nodding his head and curtly waving his hand, ( i wish i could do that to her when she bores me to death;)) he takes his scribble pad and starts writing his essay, with bullet points. Finished writing, he nods to the nurse and she gets ready to pull my chair. Oh no, not yet! Is that all? No talk, how to eat, what to take, what not to take- he is busy, a man with less words. I walk out of the room silently to the bill counter where the receptionist with her readymade smile asks me for half a thousand and i stand stupefied in shock. "This is for consultation and Hospital Building Fund", she says as a matter of fact. I wonder what i did consult with the gentleman. I part with my note sadly, get a receipt and walk in silence. My wife is happy that there is nothing seriously wrong and thanks Ganapathi Bappa on our way back. Little does she know my month end ration has drained to the doctor's hospital development.

I have known of friends with sinus ending up being operated, people with mild heart 'murmurs' subject to umpteen number of costly tests until they get a real heart attack seeing the bills. We all trust the doctors to be our Saviours and they end up being the savourers of our wallets! Hospitals charge a fortune for routine medical checks. Some corporates do offer complete medical health check for people above 40 and hospitals charge a hefty bill for these tests back to the corporates! What if they refuse to give your bonus, don't worry, your hospital will rip them off! Most hospitals advertise they accept all Heath Insurance Cards. Oh! what a rosy picture! You will be running from pillar to post to claim that money from the insurace company. There are so many ifs and buts in the Agreements that leave you hospitalised longer! There is a personal friend of mine who bought a two wheeler when i met him as an intern. He got promoted from bike to santro and a personal one-room clinic when my son was born. When my daughter was born, he was practising in his own 50 bed hospital and was driving a City. Now he is the most sought after Doctor in the city with his chauffer driven BMW and a large multi-speciality hospital. I remain the same after all these years- his devoted patient, still driving the same two-wheeler! No wonder Doctors are the wealthiest people in our country with a hand of Midas and a heart of a computer;) They can do maths better than super computer when it comes to bills and can remain detached from patients like a robot! No wonder Medicine is the most sought after profession in India, Hospitals are the best business in India and as for service and compassion- who gives a ****?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Balance Puleeeeez...!

Now we are going to deal with a very tricky situation. You are half- sitting, half- standing in a bus about to stop, looking at him. Your eyes search for him, desperately. You long for a glimpse of him, clad in khakhis. He seemed content closing his eyes and half-asleep the last time you saw him, it was not a fortnight ago, just a few seconds back. He knows you are going to get off in this bus stop and he probably likes playing hide and seek! Who would not love to play with you, a lovely woman in her thirties, escorted by a handbag and a mobile? You look like a telescope gold fish with your eyes dilating beyond your head. And you do finally have a glimpse of him busily writing away a ticket. He seems very absorbed, not even thinking remotely of looking at you. But want IT right now! You signal to him, with your eyes, sorry, hint not taken. You wave your hands frantically, a typical damsel in distress which if seen on a Bollywood movie might have brought a dozen Amir Khans and Salman Khans dashing for your help. But here, its of no use, our Vishwamitra is busy with something. Finally you decide to yell at the top of your voice, when the shrill whistle drowns out your sound. Sorry, you have to get down now, or wait, get IT and walk a full stage back in the scorching sun. Doing your arithmetic, you decide otherwise and shoulders drooping, you give a sigh of surrender and get down from the moving bus. As the bus moves on, you find him looking at you mockingly, he now has pocketed your IT- Rs.2 balance.

Cursing your bad luck, you walk doggedly to your office. Your day starts in a black mood and your super-"visor" isn't helping you either. Your head seems to be fuzzy and dizzy and you are suddenly craving for a cup of chaai. Calling the office helper, you request ( read with utmost respect) for a cup of tea, giving him a Rs 5 note. He gingerly accepts the note passing through his scanner ( eyes, of course!) and heads to the canteen. The hot tea arrives by your table after a good hour, not steamingly hot, but barely warm. Biting back your tongue- beware, your tomorrow's tea depends on good behaviour today, you sheepishly accept the drink from him. He hands over the cup and walks back without a backward glance, oh no, again your IT is gone!!! This time, IT is Rs.2 again. Your mild, dull brain murmur has now ballooned into a full blown headache, demanding Anacin immediately.

Sulking, you now plead your friend for help, a couple of anacins, handing him a Rs 10 note. He graciously accepts the note and leaves for your pill and is back after half an hour loitering and hobnobbing, with your pill. You get it and gulp it down with a glass of water and lucky, he still stands beside asking you how you feel. You tell him its getting better and he starts a small talk on his file. You chat with interest on all issues, including the weather and by the time he is gone and you settle in your seat, you remember one thing- again IT is gone, this time, you don't know how much. Cursing dear lady luck again, you start working. During lunch time and till you finish work, memories of IT comes flooding back and you feel like an ass on a loosing spree. You vow to get your money back some day and return home losing another IT- Rs 2 in the evening bus. IT is being lost everyday, how much ever you try to save it. It simply cannot stay on in your hands and slips away to khakhi clad gentlemen. May be IT likes khakhi clad men to a thirty something women with purported dementia. When the whole world is talking about IT, you simply do not like to even call IT as it is- "Change". So from now on, you take an oath to ask boldly for IT, let them think you are insane, you are a miser, you are miserable...Don't forget to say your tagline- " Balance Puleeeeeeeeeez!"

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Arranged Marriage Cacophonies

Ever felt like being mauled in the middle of a fish market? Almost every man or woman who is married would know! For the others- read on. Arranged weddings in India are splendid months- long affairs, sometimes it can be years before the bells finally ring. The process is so cumbersome, with umpteen number of characters and their gimmicks, somersaults, emotional bumpy rides and finally on the Wedding Night, most of our genre snore away gleefully than touching the other half! Step One of the process is when your parents do feel you are ready for the wedding. You finish your education, settle down in a job and after a sizeable bank balance, you are ready for the market. Word is sent around through close relatives that there have been " many alliances" coming in for the poor fellow, who would have received cat-calls in any mall or office.

As word gets around, there are sudden visits from distant relatives who have not even known you were alive so far. This is the time of PA- Personal Appraisal. The HR here( your parents) goes overdrive in marketing you, they list out your characters and pay check with interesting anecdotes like- " You know something? My son has killed so many snakes with his bare hands" ( Poor chap, he would die at the sight of a cockroach in the closet!). Women don't fare better either. HR team promotes her as 'the cute, gentle, soft spoken, culinary talented, intelligent working woman'. Marketing slogan here would be- " My daughter is so calm and soft spoken, you can't even hear what she talks at times". ( Oh boy! They would hear her later clanging on kitchen vessles, yelling louder than thunder screech, save it for later!) After numerous bio-datas and photo sessions ( trial and error method, of course!), you finally arrive at the best bio and photo taken, after a dozen hundreds shelled out. Again the photographer here acts as if he were featured in The Vogue, asking you to take all positions, even more than what Vatsyayana, (of Kamasutra fame) would have imagined in his wildest dreams! Photo-shopping your pictures and after editing, your photo emerges a sure winner, would give Aishwarya Rai a run for her money from Bollywood!

The next Step will be "Casual encounters" with opposite parties. God knows it is indeed an 'encounter' for the poor souls! Once you nod your head seeing a picture and a bio-data, there are numerous such 'chance' meetings in temples, churches and hotel lobbies. Boy, it is fun to watch starry eyed hunk and lovey-dovey beauty as per profile pictures, meeting a balding or greying gentleman in his 30s and a flabby sweaty woman in her late twenties!!! Who said 'Appearances are deceptive'? Photographers are!! Making up your mind and weighing down all the options left ( as if many!) you finally decide to say something when the elder next to you says- " Let them talk in person". He may seem like God impersonified to you then, beware, he is going to wreck havoc! They give you ten minutes time to discuss. Five minutes of it is spent in ' So?' ' Then?' and the remaining five minutes in a trance, the only thing now that registers is NOTHING that you can remember later. With an ahem, ahem from the elder, the show comes to a close, now it is families mingling together. It almost resembles a Bollywood masala movie with lots of Anupam Khers and Alok Naths chit-chatting and Kiron Khers and Rakhis( all Bollywood actors) giggling. You feel as if you stepped out from a time-capsule when they finalise the DEAL!

You like to say- "Hey, wait a minute, i don't want all that...", but words get stuck somewhere between the trachea and tongue. Bargaining goes on for hours at times, serious debates and deliberations and finally Voila! Your rate is fixed! Other discussions that follow like date, mandap, engagement and wedding details don't just enter your thick skull, you are already in Switzerland, with a dozen white-skinned angels gyrating and you and your sweet heart lilting to the latest Bollywood hit!

You are now in a different plane of thinking, trivialities don't bother you. You forget your lunches and dinners, your nights are spent with heat! ( Nah! Not that heat, its the heat of your mobile glued to your ears for hours together) You still cannot remember a single word of your so-called conversations with your loved one, if asked now. As the day of engagement nears, all hell breaks loose. You loose count of the number of quarrels between your family and the in-laws, you cannot remember how many times your siblings would have cursed you for all the trouble...It is shopping time and Mr Elder starts the ball rolling with a ' what is the cost of bride's costume?'. It continues- Which relatives will get one, who will not? Which cook to book? Who will be the photographer? The videographer? The Mandap( wedding hall)? The Decoration team? The vegetables? The menu? Friends' party? Who will get the A/C rooms in hotel? Who will get bridal party's A/C vehicle? How many wedding invites? Invitation designs? How to distribute? Which areas? Who will cover? Who will preside? Who can talk on dias? Who must garland the couple? Who must not? The chaos continues till the moment you tie the knot, but blessed you- You are still in trance! No such questions and quarrels reach your 'inner sanctum' for you have attained "Nirvana"- the ineffable ultimate! Still suffering from the day before's bachelor party hangover you look at your bride and sure she looks terrible with that latest make-up aka whitewash by the beautician! The beautician gives her 100% in making sure your bride doesn't even remotely look like the one you know!!

Then follows the reception where you feel the heat and sweat. Your legs would beg you to sit somewhere, but oh no....its not over yet! People queue up with gifts to shake your hand and take a picture with you. The queue looks longer than the Great Wall and you feel dizzy at the thought of having pictures taken with every one of them! After a few fist fights and glares the ritual runs smoothly, you can see people posing with you, as if you were both Price Charles and Lady Di. Some stand cool, some with a readymade smile plastered to their face. Your mouth aches, you have now posed for hours like King Kong's smile, beware, the deformity might be permanent! With the reception over with a loud bang from the orchestra who have yelled their lungs out the evening, festivities draw to a close. A sigh of relief!- Oh no, not yet! not so fast! Its dinner time and again the photographers hound you asking you to feed your partner. You feel like shoving your hand through his thick throat, but alas! It is all public. Stifling an overwhelming anger to hit him, you instead smile sweetly at your partner and show the anger in stuffing a handful in his/her mouth, which is indeed repeated with same 'love'! Cursing everyone, with your head still drumming, you find a quiet corner to rest and thats when the 'suhaag raat' thing comes up. Oh my! shouldn't you be jumping with joy? Yes, your temples jump instead and the dinner eaten is on its way back. You are told to wash up and change and when you finally arrive to see your partner, he/she might be blissfully snoring on the bed! Lucky you! You occupy the other end and snore even before you hit the sack! Festivities go on for a few more days and when finally you do have a loving look at your dear one, you sure do feel- " Oh boy! All this mayhem for this?" Don't worry partner, your Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma all would have felt the same;) That is what an arranged marriage is!!!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bahrain imbroglio

This Friday, Bahrain sits on quiet anger that is raging underneath. Early morning raids on February 17 saw further five deaths and the situation is tense. The Pearl Roundabout looks like it has been ripped apart by a storm. Bahraini riot police had raided the unsuspecting civilians sleeping in make shift tents at 3 am yesterday, teargassing, firing rubber bullets and throwing sound bombs. The entire area was earlier cordoned off and the men, women and children ran helter-skelter. Ambulances were prevented from reaching the dead and injured. Reports put the dead at 5 and grievously injured at 43, other injured at 195. It is indeed inhuman and painful to read reports of the brutal clampdown and to see the women wailing for the dead in the Salmaniya Hospital premises.

Pearl Roundabout after the early morning riot police crackdown
So is the Arab world's uprising spreading to Bahrain? Yes, indeed. There is no denying the fact. What is the cause behind the struggle? Widespread unemployment and inequalities in wealth, as in all Arab nations. The Sunni minority Autocratic Government ruled by Sheikh Hamad Ibn Isa Al Khalifa is ruling the tiny island nation from 1999. The Prime Minister of 40 years Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa heads the 25 member Cabinet of which 80% are from the Bahraini Royal Family, the Al Khalifas, who were given rights to rule the country in 1971 by the British with the Freedom Treaty. The British have the catastrophical effect of bifurcating any country they set their foot on, their divide and rule working perfectly here, a Sunni family heading a country with 70% predominantly Shia population. The Shia youth are denied job opportunities in all plumb sectors, including Defense and Police. Most of them remaining unemployed have took this opportunity to show their anger, emboldened by similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. There had been revolts in 1981 and 1990 earlier by the Shia Muslims, but was clamped down as well. So this revolt was much expected. This is not just a Shia uprising, but a social uprising by cyber savvy Generation of unemployed Bahrainis taking up face book and twitter campaigns as a platform for Reform.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have already spoken volumes of Human Rights violations in Bahrain and now the whole world sees it. Yesterday night the GCC Foreign Ministers Meet was held in Manama and the outcome was as expected- They offer unconditional economic, defense and moral support to Bahrain's King. Ironically, it was British exported crowd control ammunitions used in Bahrain's clamp down that is being probed now. It is heartening to note the British Foreign Ministry is planning to cancel licenses for export of such crowd control ammunitions being used in Middle East against innocent civilians. UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt rightly acknowledges- "We closely consider allegations of human rights abuses. We will not authorise any exports which, we assess, might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, which might be used to facilitate internal repression." Big Brother too is bothered by what transpires in Bahrain, as it hosts US Navy's Fifth Fleet. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said- "We call on restraint from the government to keep its commitment to hold accountable those who have utilised excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and we urge a return to a process that will result in real meaningful changes for the people there." See her interview here-

Protesters mourning the dead, Salmaniya Hospital, Manama
Even as thousands of mourners are pouring into Salmaniya Hospital chanting " We want democracy!", the entire Arab World is watching in silence as to what will happen next in the Kingdom of Bahrain. I do sincerely hope the people settle down in a peaceful Constitutional Democracy, enjoying basic human rights which they are otherwise denied.

Good luck to them! Bettawfeeq!!!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fritzls of India- Incest shadows

Shocking is too mild a word to explain the anguish and pain i feel right now, reading a news article on incest. Talking about such relationships is always a taboo, but that doesn't hide the fact that it never happens. In India, we refrain from expressing our own feelings and incidents like these to our own kith and kin. News like this never comes out, it is snuffed out and subdued into words like ' family honour' and ' family name'. The dark shadows lurches around, waiting to take on our children too. Father-in-law's sexual relationship with his daughter-in-law, two minor girls ( aged 12 and 14) killed by uncles and grandmother as their affair with cousin brother was exposed, father sleeping with daughter forcibly and mother turning a blind eye to it....Read the full story here. Such cases are extremely under reported in India, disbelief, denial and cover up to safeguard the family reputation shadows the rampant abuse. The close-knit family system of India is another major contributor effective in masking the problem, families choose to shun these troubles as internal family affairs rather than reporting and punishing the offenders. Marriages between cousins and uncles and nieces is very common even today in South India.

Is this phenomena new to India? Certainly not. It has been there for ages, we simply refuse to look into. Delhi organisation RAHI's survey shows 76% of respondents were abused when they were children, 40% of it, by family members. Of this, 42% by uncle, 42% by male cousin, 4% father, 4% brother and 8% other members. We lack a social support system for the victims too. Even after effective counselling, where will the victims be put up, to who's care do they turn to, if not the families? The NGOs offering support are over-flowing already and rehabilitation of these abused victims is simply not possible. The chance that almost half of India's girl children have experienced or will experience sexual abuse is very high, states BBC News.

The worst part is, our Indian Laws DO NOT offer JUSTICE to these victims of incest. Incest is not a punishable offense in Indian Law, unless the child is a minor which is taken as a case of child sex abuse. Whereas, in other countries like Australia, Ireland, Finland, UK, Germany have made incest illegal and punishable. Napolean abolished incest laws in France and Belgium 200 years ago and it is legal there now. FRITZL was the first case of incest that shook Europe, in 2009, Austrian Fritzl was handed life sentence for locking his own daughter in dungeon for 24 years and fathering 7 children with her. Detlef.S. is making headlines in Germany now, for his infamous incest. He is charged with 350 counts of sexual abuse of minors in his care from 1987 to 2010. He admitted to fathering atleast 7 children with his step daughter. He has been charged with abusing daughter ( from age 9), step daughter and step son for 20 years ( right from their age 4) and forcing both girls in his custody to prostitution. Detlef has been called German Fritzl, after the infamous Austrian.

Joe Fritzl- fathered 7 children with daughter Elisabeth Fritzl,who was locked up for 24 years.
What we need are revamp of legal system pertaining to punishments for incest, social support system for the victims who cannot go back to their families after legal measures and more media light on this issue. Above all, let us not ignore our children. Listening to their whispers, insight into their childhood world and comforting them when they need us most is what we have to do personally. As parents, we have the responsibility to nurture our young and if we fail in that primary duty, our material wealth and social accomplishments are futile.

Letter from a wife to a "Gelf" Labourer Husband


All of us are fine here. Yesterday night i was out shopping when you called. Amina is studying well. Rahman walked his first few steps last week. He now says Ummi and Nana. I have recorded his talk and small walks in my mobile video. I will show it when you come home next year on vacation.

The bank loan interest is due by 15th. Send your salary before that. Your Vappa and Ummi are giving me a hard time as usual. Your sister now lives almost here, she never goes to her inlaws house. I am now in my my Ummi's home. I cannot live in your place any longer. Ummi takes good care of me and our children. Kamar Chacha and his wife have bought a new plot in the city. Your sister has bought some agricultural land in her inlaw's village. She always keeps talking about the same, it seems she spent 2 lakhs on it. When are we going to buy some land? I want to live in my own house. How long can i live struggling in my Ummi's house and your Vaapa's house? 

Heard from Mohamed Chacha's wife that he is coming on vacation. Send a parcel through him. I want 3 bottles egg shampoo ( the ones you sent last time were not good). Dont forget to buy a fish dollar gold chain for Amina. Buy 2 bangles for me. Don't buy anything for your sister. Last time you bought a gold chain just like me for her and you don't know how much she degraded your gift, saying it was light weight. Don't buy gold coin for your sister-in-law like last time. Your brother is in Gelf, he too can buy her that. Ummi wants zam zam water and two good burkhas. My Vaapa is suffering from joint pain, buy 5 botlles of axe oil. As usual, send us 10 Lux soaps, 2 bags of Tide powder. Also, i want 1 kg Tang powder for guests who visit us. Your sister has laced inskirts and i too want 2 like it, one black and one white. Send me 5 or 6 scent bottles to give to my sister's family and brother's family. You can give to your family when you come here. Amina likes the chocolates you sent last time. So, send some this time too. If Chacha can't bring so much luggage, you can always send us a cargo parcel like last time. Send your salary soon.


P.S. Dear brother-in-law, as usual i wrote the letter what sister dictated. How are you? How is your left hand now? Are you able to lift weights now? Please take your medicines properly. Here everything is as usual, lot of quarrels between your family and my sister. She is always the same. Don't worry, things will be alright soon. If you are sending a parcel, please send me a heart shaped dollar for the chain you brought me last time. Also, two three foreign sarees to wear when i goto college. What happened to the laptop computer you promised to buy for me? I always think of you. I miss you badly. Expecting the day of your arrival,

Your sister-in-law.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Life of Mr Roadside Romeo!

Hi Hi Hi...

I am Romeo! You can see me on busy road junctions, railway station platforms, puffing away dear Dad's bucks as smoke. My favourite haunt is the broken wall or rusty hand rail of platforms. My day typically starts at 6 am when i inspect all rangolis and rangoli makers on my street. The best of rangoli makers ( not the rangolis!) get a wink and a lopsided smile from me. I criss cross my street a couple of times, which is obviously my morning walk or my morning milk walk. Did you notice my demeanor? I dont bathe in the mornings, but with beautifully combed hair and powdered face, i look devilishly ravishing! Fair and Lovely, Fair and Handsome all made a fortune out of Romeos like me, promising to whiten our faces, which never happened so far. But i refuse to stop. My Dad pays anyway, why should i stop? I buy more Fair and Handsome than Colgate. It is not that i dont brush everyday, i brush thrice, i bathe twice. My soap is not Lifebuoy ( why use the brick when i can use Abhi-Ash Lux?), my shampoo is Head and Shoulders. Why should i use All Clear, i want all crowded, especially the buses and trains.

My next road walk is at eight o' clock, to see off school going girls and college goers. This time, i walk them to the bus stop, sit in the side walks chaai stall, sipping garam chaai and enjoy the sight. This is my prime slot, i am indeed busy now checking the buses and the girls! I am in charge of their safe transit, from their houses to the buses, a duty which i am unpaid so far by their dumb fathers. I face stiff looks from brothers and fathers who despise me,but do they ever understand my sacrifice and duty consciousness? Is it easy to sit in chaai stall every morning at eight, sipping a chaai and puffing a fag till eternity? All this i do, for a sideward glance from some angel, either in the bus or a wave from my neighbourhood darlings. I stay on reading newspaper and chatting with friends, analysing serious issues from Indian politics to International Business. Then i go home, for a sumptuous lunch and an afternoon siesta.

Another bath and i am ready for my evening duty. This is to receive all returning girls from schools and colleges. Safely depositing them in their homes, i complete my evening walk. Again its a dinner, some TV, cricket and sound sleep. At times i prefer to travel with my favorite wards hanging on the foot boards of buses and trains, i love to show all theatrics, jumping, running, hanging and grinning. If i get lucky enough, i am rewarded with a smile and i get a little bolder when i pop my first question to the wary girl- " Hello! What is your name?" If there is a response, i am ecstatic! I strike a conversation with her and then on follow her alone, dutifully like the Hutch Pug- " Wherever you go". After a few movies,dinners and a few months, the girlie dear gets engaged to some IT guy with five figure sum and calls me 'bhaiya'. Alas! another relationship goes down the drain. But is that enough to stop me? NEVER! Love never ceases to fascinate me, job interviews seldom click for me.

I start all over again, hopping, jumping, skipping, hanging and grinning. Some day, i may find a job and a true love, but till then, there is no fault trying, right? Practice maketh a man perfect! And i intend to practise till i find that one True Love, destined for me. Till then, it is the same schedule of rangolis, chaai and Helloooooooo what eez your name.....

Dedicated to Mr Romeo on Valentines Day!!!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Southern Sojourns- Valentine Touche'

Has Saint Valentine ever touched Loving Hearts in South TamilNadu??? I myself have this doubt. The most literate, the most valuable and the most industrious lot have their roots here, but is love blooming here? Definitely NO. The impediment here is not the wallets as usually is, there are many to say, starting from caste, religion and lining up to the 'aam aadmi'.( Common man). This 'aam aadmi' is the worst player in killing many romantic relationships here, many families opt out of a love marriage simply because of the fear of  what "that gentleman" would say and feel. Living in Most Modern Era, the casteist feelings still rule the roost here, of nadars, thevars and pillais.

Each caste outclasses the other by sheer muscle power and sickle power to bring down romance. Ah! Romance becomes pickle for these casteist minds. Every village in these parts remembers one such tragic love story, of suicides, eloping and murders. Do towns fare better? Nope. They have other subtle ways of tramping the love blooms, starting from emotional blackmails to downright denial fearing the aam aadmi. Who is he anyway? He attends every wedding in the periphery. He gifts a fifty bucks, has a hearty meal. With his burping, he analyses the couple, both the families, weighs them. While chewing his betel he chews the familys' stories and spits out venom when he leaves. Will he ever come back in your life? Yes, indeed, not when you are ill, not when you are down financially, not when you face a problem. He arrives when you are dead, sympathising 'how nice' you were. So what role he has got to play in our lives? Nothing substantial. So why would our parents and grandparents worry about Mr Aam aadmi? He has a whiplash of a tongue and can shred your mentors' standing to pieces. But should loving parents pay heed to him? I would say NO. Children come first. Life is not full of compromises. How can we expect our children in twenties and thirties compromise because of us? If the family is good, if the girl or boy will nurture our son or daughter better than us, why must Mr Aam Aadmi stop us from marrying them off? Again I dont say here 'love marriages are always good'. Weighing the options and giving our loved children a chance would be much better rather than saying an outright NO. We send our children to study and work in Japan, US, Australia, Germany and far off places. Is it just we expect them to preserve our own values and virtues by not falling for the right girl or boy of their choice?

 It is indeed heartening to note few changes here and there, people start to feel the warmth of love. But is this enough? Differences are sure to crop up in any serious romantic relationship, leave alone marriages. So it must be the love that can keep relationships afloat. Arranged marriages fare better because the elders of both sides can nudge the relationship to the right direction when there are differences. What goes wrong in love marriages? Love dies the day you tie the mangal sutra! If you can keep the flame burning even if you are married, lucky you! You can live successfully. I wish Saint Valentine touches a few hearts and brings about a change in how we Southerners view love and weddings. As for the Mr Aam Aadmi, let him rot in hell!!!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Crushes and the Crushers!

For every one of us teen age crushes remain etched somewhere in the oblivion, that had died a silent death. If you say, "Oh No, i have had no crushes!", sorry dears, you are lying. Our cloaks of lies and deceit and falsehood fit in somewhere after the teen ages. The teen mania that starts in our early teens and goes on raging till the later teens with numerous hormonal malfunctions is the most confusing stage of our lives. Dont forget that cute girl next door or that brawny guy in the opposite house. Our Bollywood and Tollywood Heroes remain the most secret crushes of our teens, my Mother's teen days were probably more subdued ones with Dileep Kumar, GG and Mammooka. Though i loved to watch them act, my teenage dreams were filled with numerous people, i cant even remember who my first crush might have been. Probably Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels. Bollywood Heroes those days were more mellow, romantic and awesome- Amir Khan's " Pehla Nasha" might have been my first nasha too...Who can forget his QSQT?

Oh wait a minute- or was it Salman Khan as perennial PREM in " Maine Pyar Kiya" or " Hum Aapke Hain Koun"? Was it Karthik in "Varusham pathinaaru" ? I simply cannot remember. As for the Crushers- i can remember the look of total astonishment and confusement in my Dad's face when he returned home from work one day to find all Footballers posters stuck on the living room walls. There was Romario, Maradona, Oleg Salenko and the likes lined up. Few months later it was Akshay Kumar's display of all hunky macho-muscles. Though the Crushers did not like the poster line up, they simply tut-tutted at the posters and went their way. Back in my hostels ruled by the Holy Church, nuns were the Crushers here! I was certainly prohibited from pasting posters. All i could keep were pictures of crushes, which was restricted to handbags. My Heroes then ended up being torn, twisted and scratched in the taverns of my tote bags. Funnily, the pictures changed once a few months, based on latest crush. Innumerable pictures faded and torn, i ended up lovingly married!

You might have also gone through that "I hate the Crushers" stage sometime in your lives. Dear friends, with Valentines Day nearing, I would be happy if you all could spare a few moments in digging up the buried secret crushes and relive a few moments. If this post brings about a few fond memories and lights up a dull day, I would be blissfully happy.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Blind date Prophecies

Dedicated to my dearest friend who was astonished by a blind dating ad in radio.

Is it not an Awakening for the tortured souls untouched by cupid's arrows? There are guys who remain the perennial 'Brothers' to every chick on the block. May be the dark, less impressive guys better be christened " Brother" at birth, rather than let all loving angels rename them as Brothers. There is another unlucky lot who are the squirrels to Lord Ram. These obscure 'friend' of heroes always end up butchered or tortured and taunted by the villains in every love story. Poor chap! He is ditched by the Hero as well. Alas! the saddest part is where he is called " Brother" by our very dear Heroine. They act as Messengers, the Messiahs of Love, or should i say mailman when they deliver love letters secretly.

Are these gentlemen doomed to be Brothers for ever? There is some light glowing in the dark, some bells tinkling in the silence of bachelorhood, some radiance emanating from their hearts before emanating from their balding heads- there is love in the air. There arrives a Saviour to lift up these poor men to the heights of Heaven- to show them the bliss of being loved. Ahhhh! Arrival of a blind dating advertisement! It is music to the ears of erstwhile doomed people who are drowned by the dull and boring grrrrrrrrs of PCs and laptops. Wake up dears! Dont get stuck in cubicles, open your eyes, ears and hands. Reach out dear men, there is the blind date. Parched bachelorhood sees rain of ecstasy! The arrival of Valentine's Day and numerous such blind dating agencies spring up. The ad runs in their heads as a broken gramaphone record- .."if you are btween 18-25 and have no friend from the opposite gender, please come to this location with your age proof"...No idea what is in store for these men and women who are going to show up at the event.
I feel happy someone is taking up the staunch social responsibility of match making to the least marketable folks. These agencies play les parents to the unlucky lot! God Bless their Souls, and save them from young girl's shoe soles. Curiosity killed the cat, and i am no better either. Can someone please attend the blind date meet in Chennai and let me know if something transpired? If they found the lights glowing, the bells tinkling?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

P.S. I love you

Love is in the air. Valentine's Day nears and wherever we go we see red- little hearts on almost everything, starting from coffee mugs to diamond pendants. Love was never ever marketed so vigorously and vociferously. The four lettered word has been so battered and bruised these days, it is indeed a novelty to see someone feel and understand real LOVE. My first impression of love and Valentine's Day was probably from my sixth grade when i used to watch television. There was a song called "Julie I love you" from the movie Kilinjalgal, if i remember the name right. The heart with an arrow lodged inside became the epitome of love to me. Those were the days when love meant furtive glances and mutually silent conversations.
Mother used to say how movies handled love and how literature revered it. I loved the way she quoted Shakespeare-
" Love is the most beautiful of dreams and the worst of nightmares"
I simply ran and re-ran those lines often, which saved me from perennial annihilation. Love during my school days was a hush -hush affair, deplored topic. I found my Sin and Cos x more interesting than drooling over some boy in the back bench. Ah! Another doubt crops up here, why do boys in the back bench always end up in loving the girls in the front benches? And why do so thought intellectuals end up in lack lustre affairs with jackasses? All through my teen ages, i had seen clever girls falling for the dumbest guys- the reason, opposite poles might attract more! Also, in a relationship, only one person can remain dumb and that distinction always rested with the back bench flock. I quote Vivian Ward's ( Julia Roberts) dialogue in the movie Pretty Woman here- " My Mom called me a bum magnet. If there was a bum in a 50 mile radius, i was completely attracted to him". But finally she ended up marrying a multimillionaire ( in the movie, of course!). I found most of my pretty, clever friends end up loving the differently- abled! Back-benchers, kindly excuse!

That little cupid devil with the pitch fork keeps prodding, nudging and scraping you until you submit to him, until you say " I do". Luckily for me, i found the right person to say the " I do." I still do the 'do' and i am happy i belonged to the generation of women who thought love had something to do with brains than beauty and wallets. For those lesser mortal men who are stuck with this Gen X women, sorry folks, check your wallets before you look at your hearts, for credit cards breathe in life to your love! It is the candle lit dinners, diamonds and gifts that reserve your berths in love train, so hurry up men, swipe your cards and reserve your love!!! Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends, wish my boys dont blow a hole in their wallets. And to the love of my life,

P.S. I love you!!!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Non Resident Indians or Not Respected Indians?

It has happened to almost every NRI, but we remain obnoxious. It happens in every country we people set foot on, but we care less. And in Saudi Arabia, it is a nightmare if you get stuck at a security check point. At check points, we slow down, wind down the windows, lower volume of the player, switch on the lights deliberately, just to enable the Policemen to check us, no matter how many ever check points are put up. I had the a literal 'nightmare' when once on a long drive i was fast asleep. When the vehicle screeched to a halt abruptly, i opened my eyes to stare straight to the barrels of a machine gun. Trust me, it isnt funny. The check point was unexpected and to wake from a slumber and look directly into the machine gun was really scary. We were let off after our local ID and passport checks, luckily. My another Indian friend was not so lucky.

He is a manager in a corporate company going for a meeting in Jubail Industrial Area. Now in KSA, almost all oil installations come with tiered security, with umpteen number of gates. The Guards manning the gates are well trained,elite security group with all sophisticated weapons. My friend had gone for a meeting inside a plant with three more Indians, all his colleagues. Now the gentleman manning the gate was interested in playing with this group of expats- black skinned Indians. He asked their company car to be parked on side lanes and gestured for two of them to get down from the car. After a thorough check of them, including patting down, he asked them to get in the car and asked the other two to get out. The checked ones were asked to sit inside the car. When they tried to ask what the problem was, they were with proper ID cards, in company vehicle and with a valid permit to enter the plant, the answer from this man was- " My boss doesn't like you, you no good." When my friend explained he was the manager, he said again- ' You mudhir? No good, bad Mudhir'( mudhir here means manager!). Then again the two were sent inside and the other two asked to come out and stand. The set of victims was changed frequently and they were made to stand in pairs on either sides of the road with cars zooming past. All this, simply because the Guard wanted to pass some time ragging the Indians. The game went on for 45 minutes and with numerous insults like-' You no good, You bad man'. Finally he got bored ragging them and let them off.

In another incident another Indian Engineer was made to sit in crouching position on the side lane for an hour, for the only reason, the Guard did not like him! I wonder why they do this to Indians. You can see Europeans and Americans treated with utmost respect, and to treat a manager like this in the eyes of his juniors is nauseating. In a recent news issue, we all came across a group of Indian students being kept under radio-tagging in the US, simply because the university where they were enrolled was a fake one. Why victimise the students like this, Big Brother? They came to study after all.

Doesnt that sound inhuman and insulting? And what do these poor Indians who take up jobs and studies abroad look like to Big Brother and to Saudi Arabia? But the happiest part is, these NRIs are given a Hero's welcome when back in India. They are well respected, well taken care of and revered. All this hoopla comes at the price of our self respect? Our freedom? Yes, of course. But we don't bother! To us, the dollars and riyals are dearer than self respect...

Sunday, 6 February 2011


How Holy is the Catholic Church and the Believers? Being brought up in a staunch Catholic family with Catholic virtues, i find the recent startling revelations against the Catholic Church in India and abroad startling, or rather unsettling. The nuns and fathers i knew of, back from my childhood days were people so sincere, solemn, kind and affectionate. Or may be i met those who were living examples of sanctity and purity. So what makes things messier now? The opening up of the Church, and at first the acceptance of widespread sexual abuses and peadophilia in the Catholic Church is a positive sign indeed. Father Rajarathinam, Principal of St Joseph's College, Trichirapalli was accused of rape by a former nun. It took almost 5 years for the case to be registered, i wonder why the nun refrained from complaining earlier. And what is the aftermath? The Reverend Father is still on anticipatory bail, running from Sessions Courts to High Court to evade prison. He has already resigned as Principal, but is that enough? Is this a genuine case of sexual exploitation or another hate monger case on unsuspecting Priest? No one can tell, till the verdict is out.
Another case that has come to light is that of Sister Jesme. Her case highlights the flaws of Catholic Church and its Congregations in Kerala. Her autobiography " Amen" has made national headlines, see here-

Her autobiography talks volumes of rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There are instances of lesbian relationships, amorous affairs and sexual 'accidents' she had underwent in her tenure with the Church. She has moved out of the Church now, obviously, as the Church tried to portray her as a mentally ill person after her allegations. There were many suicides of junior nuns in Convents in Kerala, accusing Seniors of sexual abuse and harassment- Sister Josephine, Sister Anupa Mary, Sister Serenna Jacob- the list grows. If the incidents like these see the light are enormous, how about those incidents that never see the light? That is hush-hushed into silence in the dank corridors of convents everywhere? Sister Jesme, accepts in her book- “When a woman is molested, sexually harassed, will she speak out? Only one out of a thousand will speak out. So think of nuns! They will never speak out. They fear that their nun-hood will be lost,” . Those who come forward to report the incidents like Sister Jesme, are either silenced or labelled as 'mentally ill' and their truth revealed as ' book of trivialties'. To me, sexual abuse and harassment that leads to a nun's suicide is not 'trivial'.

The Fathers too dont fare well. There was another incident in Kerala, a Parish Priest in Changanachery Diocese who fathered a child, after a two year sexual relationship with a 15 year old girl!!! Grotesque! And now this Father Rajarathinam episode in TamilNadu. Parish Priests in Catholic Dioceses now live a life of absolute luxury, many have cars, latest mobile phones, laptops, have sizeable currency in bank accounts. There are many who live our normal lifestyle, they smoke, drink, watch movies and manage 'Educational Businesses- aka schools and colleges'. Gone are those fathers and nuns who walk in battered slippers, eating plain and living simple. These modern day nuns and fathers are a confused lot, they have their cakes, but alas, cannot eat it. Which makes me ask one question- : " Is celibacy compulsory for priests and nuns?"

What is celibacy? In this context, "celibacy" retains its original meaning of "unmarried". Though even the married may observe continence, abstaining from sexual intercourse, the obligation to be celibate is seen as a consequence of the obligation to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.[1] Advocates see clerical celibacy as "a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour."
The reason is plain and simple, as explained. But is it not against nature to suppress one's sexual instincts and remain celibate? Ahhhh...There now, we are treading on tricky waters. Remaining Celibate is the Test of God, those who remain unmoved by the Satan are indeed the pious Followers. But do all refrain from sin? That i cannot say. But all i can say is, th Catholic Church is in dire need of Reforms with a Capital R. Till then the Church will be gleefully producing more and more controversies, rather than teach us the word of Lord.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The "Social" Network

How far social can social network go? This topic has been intriguing me for a long long time, i had to almost spend an hour thinking if i should write this post. Internet has opened a lot of avenues for us, to explore new friends, to search our long lost friends. I was happy that i met lot of my childhood friends after 15-20 years only through Facebook and Orkut. I made many new friends as well, but is my profile and personal data safe out there in the social ocean? Every person new to such social networking sites is anxious, somewhere deep down lies the insecure feeling that someone might misuse our personal data. Here are some instances where my acquaintances and friends have faced the "social" wrath.

Incident1: Shanthi was an online friend of mine. We met through Orkut, suggested by my another online friend whom i had met earlier. She belonged to my city and i was happy to be her friend. Shanthi was deeply in love with another online friend, with whom she had shared her mobile number. Frequent calls and night long discussions helped them bond well. She siphoned off money often from her personal account to the guy's account, trusting him, hoping they would get married. In the mean time, she was diagnosed with cerebral hemorrhage and had to fly to US for treatment. It was then that the guy wanted lumpsum payment of 10 lakhs which she obviously could not arrange. He then confronted her over the phone, insulted her of being "social" with all her friends and accusing her of immorality. Shanthi died within a day after this supposed conversation, her parents could not save her. She might have survived had she not received the call from her online boyfriend. Ironically he is back in the network in another profile name, prowling the net jungle for another hapless victim.

Incident 2:  Raj was another online friend of mine, he seemed a nice gentleman, was searching for a job in Chennai. He too was a friend of my friend. Farzana was his girl friend whom he met online through orkut. She seemed a nice girl to him, they exchanged numbers and started chatting away. He divulged to me one day that he was going to marry this girl. I advised with all sincerity to Raj, saying he had to settle down in a job first and then marry. Raj was hesitant first and then revealed something more shocking- the girl had already met him in a hotel in her native and they had shared a few intimate moments. Well, what can be done if a love affair has gone beyond words? They would not take my advise, the girl eloped from her home and they married, living together now, but hardly able to make their ends meet, as both are unemployed.

Incident 3: John is my distant relative working in a Gulf country. He usually visits India once in a year, to see his family. He was unmarried and so had lots of time to spend online. I was surprised to hear from him that he visited India on a short 4 days trip, he had not even visited his parents, stayed in a hotel in Chennai and flew back to Gulf. Reason? Rendezvous with an online girl friend. Thankfully i know nothing more of the case, all i know now is, John happily married a girl whom his parents chose.

Incident 4: Sara was another friend of mine, who used to receive phone calls in the middle of the night. She had given her number to a colleague of hers, who she met online in facebook. They both were from the same company, but working in different cities. It seems he had resigned and chose a job in Gulf. Sara started receiving calls or rather missed calls. There would be three trings every hour the entire night. Agnes tried to help her out by calling the overseas number from her mobile. Alas! she was his next victim, receiving missed calls for almost a week every night at an hour interval. Agnes' husband called the number and was welcomed with a jeer. The fellow refused to give up and finally had to be silenced by complaining directly to his employer in Gulf! I wonder how this would be possible for everyone.

Incident 5: Recently, a Malaysian citizen had robbed many women of their jewels amounting to lakhs, promising to marry them. He was already married to three women. He chose his victims through facebook. He is currently held by Chennai Police.

Incident 6: The Coimbatore case, where a girl had shown an actress' picture as her picture and lured a gentle man from US into sending her costly gifts before wedding. When the young man met her in person, he was in for a rude shock. He complained to ctber crime and got his gifts back. But his happiness?

Of late, it is painful to watch many bachelors creating fake profiles and expanding their "social" networking. Lots and lots of women are falling into their traps, some knowingly, but majority, unknowingly and unsuspectingly. It would be better if we follow a few cautions-

1. Never add unknown people in your orkut or facebook profiles.
2. Do not post very sensitive personal information.
3. If you receive a friend request from a person in your friend's friend list, please spend a few moments in inquiring about the person from your friend.
4. Share more personal information through one to one messages rather than paste on wall or scrap books.
5. Be extra careful when you share pictures.
6. Last but not the least, when a friend comments or messages you crossing a line, simply unfriend them or delete them from your friends list. You must obviously be knowing where to draw the lines.
7. Do not have your personal picture as profile picture.
8. Please avoid public chat rooms in Yahoo, where the first question to pop up is ASL.
9. Avoid video chat and voice chats with strangers.
10. When a person uses a "dear" and "di" and other endearments, caution, switch on the CAREFUL lights when you deal with them.
11. Never ever share your mobile or telephone numbers with your online friends, unless you have met them personally and you know them well.
12. Do not accept to meet online friends in private areas alone. Go with few friends and meet in crowded places.
13. Introduce all your close online friends to your family, let them know whom you are dealing with.
14. In case you come across any trouble, please feel it your duty to report it to Cyber Crime, sending a complaint mail would suffice. Remember, your inaction can end in someone's downfall. You can find the cyber crime's contact details here-
15. Most important, parents please keep your laptops or personal computers in living rooms. Let your children be cyber savvy under your guidance and supervision. Do not allow them to take PCs or laptops to their bedrooms.

Happy surfing and Safe Networking!!!