Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Money matters...

Don't touch me! I am fragile.
Sitting across the counter, i break down in a cold sweat. Oh no! As i wait pensively for the change, the pan chewing passenger lifts his half- mast lungi, digs inside the red "patta- patti's" pocket and voila! He has fished out the ten rupee note. He places the note across the counter, crumpled, soiled and bathed in sweat. Gingerly i pull it with my left hand and place it in the cash chest. Cursing my fate, i issue the ticket and the next in queue turns up. This time, it is a happy housewife who is oblivious to anything around her, except the money in her 'safety locker'. She asks for two platform tickets and produces a ten rupee note from the purse tacked in her blouse. I resent this safety locker of women, don't they have other decent places to keep purses? My bad luck, i need a rupee change and again i get a glimpse of the purse and a coin. I place the balance and tickets and she takes them away happily.

How beautiful and clean!
Next comes the tobacco specialist. I try to get up from my seat, but he stands right in front of my counter saying- " minute, this one ticket alone". Feeling absolutely doomed, i collect the note from him, a folded ten rupee sprayed generously with tobacco. The moment i take the note inside the counter, i start sneezing and the gentleman outside hides his wicked chuckle. I feel my eyes zooming in and water running from my nose. Chocked by the smell of tobacco, i push the draw closed as soon as possible and issue him his ticket. Getting up from my seat, i walk towards the wash umpteenth number of time and start washing my hands with liquid soap. My liquid soap and dettol expenditure is nearly half my salary! Washing and drying, i come and sit back again in front of the guillotine. People simply amaze me as to where they keep currency stacked- starting from inner wears to towels tied on their heads, used cigarette packets, "surukku" bags...The list is endless. It is indeed filthy to even mention some places where they keep it here! And look at the pride with which they produce it across the counter- the thought of it makes me shudder.

Look at the artists' work!
And we the staff within the counters are no better either. We keep counting and bundling them, numbering them right bang on the water mark columns. 58,76,29 we keep writing number of notes on the top most one and hand over. We may be better than "artists" who draw heart with arrow lodged in watermark column, love anecdotes like- " I love Shanthi", " Ram & Ramya- 23.5.2001". Defacing the currency notes is the best pastime of our unemployed Romeos and Juliets, who relentlessly autograph on rupee notes.

Then there is the other lot, who lick and count..Oh no...i simply cannot describe this! May be they find the notes tastier than their wife's sambar! Nowhere in the world is the nation's currency so defaced and mutilated than here. Recent study by Current Science states that 96% of Indian coins and 100% of currency notes is infected with bacteria, three of the species highly infectious! Worse, these bacteria are anti-biotic resistant. Handling currency? Please wash your hands before and after contact with money. As for those safe keeping money in 'safety lockers', please do think how many earlier 'safety lockers' the money might have crossed!

All images courtesy- Wikipedia, The Hindu

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Brokers Excuse!

The A/C Qualis bumps and jumps traversing a mud bund road and i find a hard time pulling up myself together.My husband's Ray Ban is a disguise, i can seldom judge what he feels looking at him, but by the smirk on his face, i can guess what might befall me once we get back home. Wait a minute, that can happen only if we get back home alive, after this ordeal! I always am a sucker for real estate fads, how much ever my family tries to pacify me, i refuse to put down my ambitions. When Dad's friend promised to show us some land costing "just" Rs.100 per square feet, "just" 20 kms from the main city, i was bowled over- lock, stock and barrel! There was a look of such animosity in my husband's eyes, which i refused to ignore as usual and promised to visit the "lay out" by evening. My Sunday Evening's happiness was sealed then and there.

Image courtesy- Google search

The pictures these real estate developers paint of the plots before seeing them are so rosy, you imagine the land in a busy developing area with plenty of water, roads nearby and you hope to see your investment grow a little atleast. We are herded in A/C cars with blaring music, to deafen our ears that might listen to some useful information. They say the layout is just 20 minutes from the city, but alas, it is 20 minutes probably by air! After travelling well over an hour of tar topped road, we turn into a much smaller village road, where we see Narikuravas settlements! They are our neighbours! Probably we can buy knick-knacks from them. Then come a few fabrication units and other industrial units and again the road turns into a dusty bumpy mess. We continue travel along a canal bund where there is not even a drop of water- This is where the proposed 'boating' facility was supposed to be! And there arrives the layout- miles and miles of vacant land where yellow corner stones pop up, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.

Unlucky me- i see a lone handpump at the entrance and ask for a bottle of water, just to check water quality at the site. The forlorn watchman who might collapse at any moment peers over his wrinkles to say- " Amma! This water is smelly and oil has mixed with water. We need another borewell. We cannot drink from this. If you want water, i can give from my bottle". He shows me a coke bottle made before 1947 and i shake my head vigorously saying i am not thirsty. Dirty fellows, they showed water flowing from taps in the TV advertisement! The Railway station which was supposed to be a stone's throw away from the lay-out must have been moved over night to another place, probably miles away. All i see is a tower that is supposed to be the Railway Station, blurred by distance. The proposed Highways ring road on lay-out diagram is missing and they show me a yellow nail marked somewhere in the wilderness as the proposed road. I almost faint seeing it and worse is yet to come!

What a rosy picture!
Image courtesy- Google

The broker keeps on harking that 70% of the plots are already sold and there are proposed bus terminus, swimming pool in the shape of a man(!), school- CBSE syllabus, please note, church, temple, mosque, parks. I nod my head doggedly, all i can see is green pasture all around and a pack of buffalos munching away grass happily! The mud topped roads and yellow corner stones are the only eye-sores in an otherwise calm village scene and i certainly look out-of-place clad in a jean and sporting a carrera cooler! The hawker is not yet finished, he says- registration free, gold coin free, scooty free and by the time he finishes the "free" list, i feel DMK, ADMK's election manifesto looks dumb compared to our XYZ real estate's brochure!

How many such visits we make, i fail to learn my lesson. I always fall for those Men In White vesthis driving rickety two-wheelers, called brokers. Brokers kindly excuse! Sadly, the urban middle class depends on these middle men, real estate agents and instalment schemes to own a piece of land in these hard times. Owning a few cents of land means made a complete fool by a real estate developer. Hopefully, some day, i too might become a Real Estate Business Woman, hobnobbing with the Tamil movie industry elite and "ttaaamil" speaking TV anchors who vouch for my land on TV! I dream of sitting behind that mahogany desk rotating in that black revolving chair. Wish me good luck, friends! Anyone interested in buying plots with excellent layout, potable water, tar topped roads, shopping mall, fresh air, childrens' park, school, bus terminus, please contact- 000 00 00000!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


The name Ramaswamy is such a common name in Tamilnadu that if you stop by a bus terminus and call Ramaswamy, atleast ten are sure to turn their heads! I always hated the Ramaswamys, Subramaniams and Mohameds simply because there were so many. The very first Ramaswamy i marvelled at was "Cho" Ramaswamy. His sense of timing and humor he depicted so fluidly in movies was a stark contrast to the intellectual " Cho" the author of Thuglaq. I loved reading his satires for and against the various politicians of different times. His undying love for JJ was something i could not comprehend those days and he still is successful- confusing me.
Cho Ramaswamy
Image Courtesy- Google
The next Ramaswamy i love to talk in detail is our very own "traffic" Ramaswamy- The PIL man! Nope, he is not a quack, he is Public Interest Litigation Specialist. Our "Traffic" shot to fame in the 90's, when he volunteered to regulate traffic in Chennai and rose to stardom when he litigated to remove unauthorised buildings and encroachments in Chennai. it was during one such a case was he attacked and is now partially blind. Just imagine, partially blind, aged 75, disowned by own family, kith and kin, this lone warrior struggles to uplift the life of Chennaiites. If not for "traffic" Ramaswamy, there wouldn't have been free side walks in Chennai and T.Nagar wouldn't be simply motorable this day. There are so many threats to his life that he is now given a 24 hour State security. He is accompanied by an armed Policeman all the time.

I had great respect for him, until i read in today morning's newspaper that he has filed a PIL against Election Commission, asking EC to curb freebie announcements by political parties. He says they amount to bribing the voters. So sad! My dreams were filled with mixers, grinders, fridges, washing machines and 40 grams gold- all freebies announced by various political parties. All my dreams came tumbling like a pack of cards today Mr Traffic Ramaswamy. What did we poor people do to you? Let the parties come out with many such announcements, let them distribute what they stole from us, back to us.
"Traffic" Ramaswamy
Image Courtesy- Bing

Retrospectively, on a deeper plane of thinking, i find "traffic" Ramaswamy and "Cho" Ramaswamy as two gentlemen of an erstwhile era where life was not so complicated. They belong to a different breed of human beings that are endangered now- the species that speaks out the truth and stands its ground for the truth. I sincerely feel we learn a little from "traffic" who contests in Thiruvarur constituency against the Tamilnadu CM- Mr Karunanidhi, simply to enlighten the urban voters on 2G scam. It would have been better if the youth today had the grit, determination, courage and dedication both these Ramaswamys possess. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Give me more!!!

Srilankan Economy Class
Picture courtesy- wikipedia
Saudi Arabia is a country where there is total prohibition. Drinking or taking alcohol within its territory is severely punishable, sometimes by death! Still we find many raids that yield tonnes of catamine tablets and locally distilled arrack called moonshine. Moon shine can knock the sunshine out of your heads if you are caught. Travelling from Saudi Arabia to India on any airline other than Saudia is a test to your nasal allergic skills. It can check your nausea levels, head aches and your anti- alcoholic reactions. Travelling with a male companion is easy, you are saved, almost shielded by your husband. But if you are travelling alone, are doomed. Most of the passengers are single males who are on labour work visas returning home on year end vacations, some after three or four years. Having worked in the hot desert for years together, the speed with which these people check-in is almost amazing. They can pull, push, jump and at times beg you to carry their luggage as yours! Their luggage consists of anything from soaps and shampoos to wall mountable plasma TVs! Beware, if you are caught with their dutiable goods, you are ruining your vacation. With new jeans, tees, shoes and at times with sunglasses with stickers(!) their faces gleam with happiness and sweat.

Cartoon Stock images- courtesy
Do you think they are encased in bliss of seeing their near and dear ones? Oh No! you are mistaken. Our poor dears act so smart on entering the aircraft and settling down in their seats. The take-off is smooth and when your stomach starts rumbling begging for dinner, these people crane their necks to see the stewardesses. Probably awaiting dinner? No...It takes well about an hour to be out of Saudi airspace and then arrives the babies- beer, gin, vodka, whiskey- you name it, they have it! I admire the deftness in which the stewardesses handle the glasses with their lacquered nails and the swiftness with which they pour and mix. Almost giddy with hunger, i wait for the smell of dinner. But there is no sign of it arriving. Glass after glass or tin after tin, the alcohol almost runs along the cabin and the feel and smell mixed with hunger is sure to piss you off. There are some who keep on ringing the stewardess' for " Give me more". The women try to say its only a little amount and these guys make sure to drink atleast a half! Persistent ones are pacified by 'bouncers' of the cabin crew, its really funny to watch some raising their hands above the seats constantly! Finally when the glasses are removed, i feel i can have some food at last.

Courtesy- cartoon stock images
Not so soon, dear! I try to enter the loo for a break. Damn! The entire flight seems to be on queue there, the miserable ones throwing up and the more miserable ones waiting to throw up. And i tail the queue hoping to enter it in half an hour. And when the gates open up finally, the stench of alcohol is so much that i feel intoxicated and mushy! Without entering the rest room, i return back to my seat, choking back my apple juice. My husband keeps the air sickness bag ready and without a drop of alcohol, i enjoy(!) the aftermath of a severe drink. When the food arrives at last, i find it tasteless and end up wasting it totally. Relieved that all drunkards are asleep, i try to get some sleep, but the snoring of beer- filled homo sapiens is almost deafening! My headphone helps me shut out the background noise, i look around to see some of them almost hang on the seats like baboons sleeping. The worst is yet to come! The flight lands in Colombo and that second we hear a hundred clicks of safety belts. There is such a hustle bustle to exit the aircraft, you get lost like a piece of log in a tsunami! You need not take a single step, your dear drunk brothers will safely pick you up and push you till you reach the entry. And the change of flight is a nightmare, our brothers again make a beeline for duty free shops to buy more alcohol! After further loading(!), we board the connecting flight. It is again a push pull fight to enter and exit the flight and by the time i exit the immigration counter, i am exhausted. Then comes the fight for trolleys and picking up luggage. When i finally arrive at the airport exit gate, i thank my stars that i am safe from the mob of unruly drunkards who now hurry on standard and matador vans with an entire village that has come to pick them up from the airports! I am allergic to those three words now- "GIVE ME MORE!!!"

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Letter from Kuppamma to Netas...

Pic courtesy google search

Vanakkam, sir. We live in a compound. It is a compound because scores of people compound and jumble in tiny cubicles called 'houses'. The doors and windows are old, probably more than a century-old. They creak and squeak, the main door of our house is unlockable(!) and unbreakable. Our house is single bedroom house- no, no,not the one bedroom, hall, kitchen style villa, but the entire house is a bedroom. A tiny kerosene stove and a few bottles form our kitchen in a corner. There are a few mats rolled in a corner that serves as a bedroom and the area where you enter is our hall, furnished with a single chair with two broken legs. The rats outnumber members of our family, which is nonetheless not less than a dozen. My husband is a die-hard Rajini fan, so see, we too release a newbie every year! The most prized possession of our house is however our TV- Kalaignaruku Nandri! We have a new colour TV, thanks to the DMK which has distributed free TVs for every home. Sadly, their own cable goons pocket a hundred rupees per month as cable charges. And we are yet to receive that free gas stove, free house and free 2 acre land dear CM!

Cut out!
Pic courtesy- google search
Our dress collection includes all the free sarees and dhoties supplied by Amma. We wish Amma is elected to power soon, our iron trunk box wardrobe needs an overhaul. Or may be we should wait for DMK and ADMK agents to throw free sarees and dhoties at midnight. We never lock our main door, hoping something free might land up in the midnight. Its like a Christmas visit by Santas, oops...Netas. We keep our standard yellow cloth bag outside the house and eagerly await the gifts of the Election Season! Netas like you, do visit our homes, once in five years when the election festival begins. You crouch and bow begging for our votes. Murals of Ammas and Aiyas decorate our compound walls which need a year's downpour to wash them away. Festooned with little flags and waving handbills, our children enjoy a month of frenzied electionomania. Banners torn by wind help us in plugging holes on the tiled roof of our house. How many banners ever we try to pick up, they are simply not enough to cover up. And the cut outs! How can we forget them?  Parties pay my son money to climb on 40 feet cut outs of Netas to pour milk and to garland! It is fifty rupees for each climb and my son earns a few bucks in this season, other than Rajini movie releases...

Oh how did i forget to tell about the 500 rupees? Our 500 rupee note- the prized catch of election season is due to arrive any time soon. I wish we lived in Thirumangalam- where MK Alagiri's agents handed out 5000 rupees for a vote. How i wish my dozen kids grow up fast- we could get 6000 rupees every election! You see, there is nothing wrong in giving us a wee-bit of money what the Netas stole from us, right? And then there is the chicken biriyani on election day! So yummy, we get to taste that biriyani once in five years. By-elections always sounds good, a little of biriyani once a year might be great! Oh...there are these biriyanis whenever there are party conferences and " maanadus" where we are herded in lorries. I must say, all parties are so generous when it comes to biriyanis and liquor. They are in full supply during the elections that my husband is always madly drunk...DMK, ADMK, PMK, DMDK, MDMK, who worries what MK it is? All we are worried about is the biriyani and quarter;) By the way- what is this Wikki Leaky thing? Some leaking tap, i think. You know, we always stuff leaky taps with old disposed clothes. Why not someone try to close that leaking tap? Are we going to lose a few sarees, dhoties, biriyani, liquor and 500 rupees because of a leaking tap? Ridiculous! I hope our Netas fix it fast and start supplying the freebies soon. Elections are round the corner. Any help in fixing the tap might be available from Karthi Chidambaram and MK Alagiri!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Obese angles...

Picture courtesy- clipart

May be everything in life should have an obese angle to it. So that it would be easy to face the big fat aunty over there. Shaping up is easier to type than practise! Before the D-Day, it is " Oh...don't eat ice creams, no chocolates..what? a full meal...definitely no..." The pre wedding jitters include the strict diet regimen, i was so skinny before wedding that counting the bones was cakewalk even for a blind woman! Mother always restricted me from eating chocolates and too much icecreams- stating my sinusitis and weight gain. Gritting my teeth, i waited and waited till that D-Day! Voila! Happily wedded, i did not want the people to think bad of my husband. A newly wedded wife's weight is directly proportional to the happiness factor and inversely proportional to the husband's wallet!

Pictire courtesy- Cartoonstock
I put on little weight and then came the two children. The pre and post pregnancy diets were so healthy and great that i gradually lost count of the kilos that shot up. The weighing scales started creaking and i was so happy all our relatives would know how happily we were married. Then came Ms Kareena and her size zero figuremania. I was awe-struck watching the skinny divas worser than Tenalirama's horses walk the romp. Then started my size zeromania, i thought may be some exercise would help. Enrolling in a local gym was really fun, the to and fro bike ride in early mornings was great and the days started bright. Ah! I even bought a Tee and jean two sizes smaller- hoping i might use it soon, which sadly never happened...The first few days were regular and how much ever i ran and ran in that "dread"mill and cycled that "static" cycle, the weighing scales never dipped down from 68 kgs. The gym instructor saw the change in my face on seeing the scales and said-" See, you are maintaining the same weight for two months! That itself is amazing. You haven't put on weight". I tried to follow the strict diet regimen- weighing 100 gms of corn flakes, measuring half a cup skimmed milk and no sugar. That oats porridge with sugar free is a nightmare! Again a stale chappati for lunch and a fruit at night. Oh no...I felt my legs shaking and my hands trembling with hunger every day, all the time! Then came the frequent " Sick leave" from gym and finally after two months, i quit. No more diet enhanced exercises for me.

Abcircle ad! I hate that before after pictures!
Pic courtesy- Abcircle website;)

Life in Saudi Arabia is much more fun, nobody can push you to the gym, in fact there are no gyms for women here. But one fine morning on checking the weighing scales that read a good 75 kgs, i was fuming with anger. No, its either me or that damn weighing machine...It has to show me at 50 kgs some day. After a lot of pestering and bickering, i was gifted(?) with a mechanised tread mill at home. Then came the nike sports shoe, the work out costume- again a nike, and a samsung YS2 player! You needed to hear music when you run, right? Armed with gatorade(!) and a few towels, i started working out at home everyday for the first month, twice a week the second month, once a month the third month and finally never ever in that damn machine again! But so sweet of my husband who let the machine stay on in the second indeed so happy that the tread mill is now my regular clothesline for bedspreads and towels! When i leave Saudi, my 'dread'mill will be badly missed...

As for the weight gain and weight loss, I am happy the way i am and i do not really care about size zero or diet. I eat what i like, I am The Boss! Thankfully, my husband is someone for whom looks doesn't matter, or so i think... There are many angles to the weight factor- and i wish there was an obese angle to it. Whatever our diet, workout or anything- God gave us one life and why should it be wasted worrying about skinny beauties and 'dread'mills? Instead, dig into that baskin robbins and savor that chicken- 65....ooooooooohlalaaah! Life is to be enjoyed, not miserable due to some bag-of-bones hawker who smiles and poses on TV for ab-circle or ab-pro. I prefer to look 'Flab'ulous instead of F'ab'ulous!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My Night Duty Companion...He/She/It?

Two minutes to eight pm...Oh Damn! I am late for my night duty...I almost dash to the booking office from the station entry. There is absolute silence, Venugopal Sir standing ready on the doorway with his bag. My smile is met with a cold stare and a glance at that age-old HMT. Oh well...I am a minute late, okay? Not a big deal gramps...I control my thoughts and place my bag on the table. Without a backward glance he walks out, i know he will be late by atleast five minutes tomorrow morning to relieve me. Well, no issues, anyway i am going to my hostel and sleep my head off. Locking the booking office door and armed with a pen, i briskly jump and walk towards the Station Master's Room on the other end of the platform. Something covered with a white cloth catches my attention on the platform. Ignoring it, i enter the SM's room to sign the muster roll. PKS...oh, he is not our Pammal K Sambandham...this is P.KrishnaSwamy, as usual lets out his babble of frequent night duties, reckless duties of staff and when i leave the room, as a matter of fact says- " Amma...There is a corpse on the platform in front of your room, don't worry, State Police will be here anytime to move it".
Picture from
"Oh problem sir", i say. Now wait a minute, did you say a corpse? Whoa! I have been on duty with a few rats, mice, cats, dogs and once with a snake, but this was too much. I clear my throat and ask again stupidly- " You mean a dead body, sir?" PKS looks at me incredulously and with a smirk says- " Thats what a corpse is..."Well...PKS, If I can manage a night shift with a SM like you, why not a corpse? I try to ask him the details of the case which he narrates lucidly- a middle aged woman had jumped before the Trichy- Lalgudi passenger at 7.30 pm. She died instantly and her body was thrown on the nearby main road. The incident was promplty reported by the gangman to the SM and then to the RPF. They had come, collected the body and due to a "territorial dispute" with the State Police as to who should handle the case, left the body on the platform, with handing over to the SM. Not a nice handing over -taking over. PKS looks warily at me and says- " Be careful, nothing should happen to the body. We are incharge of it".  " Not me, you old man. You are!" I scream mentally and maintain a limp smile, nod my head and walk doggedly to the Booking Office.

I hold my breath whole crossing the body, trying my best not to look at the white sheet covered corpse, but you know women! We simply cannot take these nonchalantly. Shaking miserably i almost run to the office, open the door, bolt it and take a peaceful breath.  Halleluyah! I am saved. I need not open the door till Venugopal Sir arrives tomorrow morning, hopefully. Hey...he forgot to mention the corpse handing over in the Handing Over Register! Praying, i start issuing tickets for Rockfort Express and platform tickets. We are supposed to collect tickets at the gate and i try my best not to look at the white sheet. When the last passenger is out of the station platform, i make a run to my sanctuary- Booking Office with a run that could have fetched us an Olympic Gold! It took well over an hour to complete the daily accounts and by eleven thirty i feel almost dizzy with sleep. Booking Office staff are not supposed to sleep on night duties, but we can close the counters for safety purpose in single counters. I close the counter and as a safety, i padlock it with a reynolds 045! What a safety measure against a corpse!

I pick up my book and try to learn Probability Theory. Thoughts of the Probability that the corpse might wake up and come for me, rattle me. May be i saw too many Exorcist style movies. Shaking all funny thoughts aside, i try to concentrate. Minutes tick by slowly and i almost lost count of time when there was a thunder accompanied by a flash of lightning. It was the month of November and the sudden downpour woke me out of my slumber. And all of a sudden...ooooooops! A power cut! It is pitch dark inside the room. With trembling hands i reach out searching for the candle and match box at the bottom of the table. Now there was a knock on the counter window. I freeze. Again there is a faint knock. I sit like an idiot, forgetting to breathe! Gradually mustering some courage i tumble and get the candle and matches. Lighting it, i fumble for the Reynolds padlock. Holding the candle in my hand i open the window a wee bit to stare straight into two green burning embers. I can feel the bile rise up my throat, my wail somewhere lodged between the mouth and neck. My brain seems to switch on and i come back to my senses to see the eyes of a black cat. Oh my! I almost throw the candle in shooing him away and he leaves the window with a meek meow.

Catching my breath i hunch back on my chair and now i hear a clear tap on the door. I walk as if in a trance and open the door and now i sure let out a frenzied shriek. There stands a figure cloaked in a shawl, with white teeth gleaming. Silambayee- the pointswoman with a candle. I let out a whiff of air and slump on my chair. PKS had finally decided to send me some company when the lights went out and Silambayee took her own sweet time in reaching the Booking Office. She kept company till the next train and by that time the power was back and i was psychologically limping back to normal. Sunlight streaked through the window creaks and i was never happy all my life to see a sunrise. I was humming the latest song and i did not even feel like staring hard at Venugopal Sir who arrived at 6.05 am for his morning duty, five minutes late as i had predicted! In fact i smile so sweetly at him, his look was bemused. He must have thought- " This girl is completely insane!". But who bothers, I am alive anyway, after a night duty with a corpse. I felt like kissing the lady in the white sheet goodbye when i left off and turned for a last glance at her. The rain soaked white sheet was now in myriad colours of red and black and i run again with a muffled scream, without a backward glance, of course! Never in my life was i so happy that i gave my scooty a mighty kick, the worst it might have ever experienced in its 10 years life with me. I am alive!!!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Maid in Hell

She approached me in the park. Looking gaunt, almost ghostly,eyes rolling in the sockets to say she was alive- she was just a bag of bones. With a knowing smile, she looked at me playing with my kids, talking to them in Tamil. Ahhhh! Listening to Tamil in an alien land must have been sheer joy for her, she came near me, glanced furtively at the little ones playing near her and asked in a shrill voice- " Are you Srilankan Tamil?" May be my costume of collared shirt gave her that impression. I smiled and said- " No, i am from India, but Tamil anyway". The little one near her came to her and started shouting in Arabic, the kid needed water. She gave the kid some and by the time, the bigger guy from the pack stood near her, trying to overhear our small talk. We did not even have a conversation, she had just told me she was here for four years, had three children back home and as usual, salary overdue for two years. Worried by the menacing look of the big child, i moved aside, why land yourself in unnecessary trouble in an unknown country? The entire family came by her side now, talking louder and left off in a huff. I can never forget the pain and pleading in that maid's she was herded in the back seat of a GMC.

Saudi Arabia hosts almost a million house maids from poverty stricken South Asian countries, usually from Phillipines, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. Every posh household here boasts of Khaddammas- housemaids. These women leave their families back home in their countries, most of the times- little children and come to the Gulf to earn a living. News of alleged torture, sexual abuse and inhumane working conditions abound here. I must say a word about the Phillipines Embassy here. They act on the dot and try to find some justice in case of problems to their nationals working as maids here. But so sad, there is not even a whimper from the Indian Embassy even if a maid is killed. Just read in today's newspaper that a SriLankan Tamil housemaid was killed by her sponsor when she refused to work after completion of her contract period of two years. The passports of these maids usually remain with the sponsor who bring them to the Kingdom, they are seldom permitted to venture out of the high walled villas. 

LT Ariyawathi and X-ray of needles embedded in her hand

A Srilankan maid had been living like a slave in a house for Riyadh for almost 17 years ( see the link for Arab News published article) since arriving in the Kingdom. Some concerned neighbour had tipped off the Embassy and when the officials arrived, she was not even able to talk in her native tongue. She had forgot her language and acted like an automated robot! What a shame! Another case that got highlighted was of Srilankan maid LT Ariyawathie. The poor maid had 24 needles embedded all over her body. The sponsor was as usual let off, after the Doctors(?) claimed she had self- nailed her. How cruel? Why would someone insert 24 needles to escape a sponsor? Another maid jumped from the fifth floor of a building to escape from the sponsor. Remember dear friends, these are not isolated cases. 

Picture of Indonesian maid Sumiati
23 year old Indonesian maid Sumiati is still lucky to be alive, her scalp has been burnt with an iron, her face slashed with scissors and she is barely able to walk, even now undergoing multiple surgeries in the Kingdom. And the person who did all this to her, her employer's wife, accepted she did all these tortures because she could not stand her maid who was beautiful than her and she did this out of jealousy. Another Indonesian maid was not so lucky though, she was killed and thrown in a trash bin in Abha. Another Srilankan maid was crippled because she was left in the cold desert winter in an open shed tending to goats and sheep. She had come on a maid visa, not to look after goats. 

Migrant babies of Indonesian maids
raped or from consensual relationships
 in Government Shelter, Jakarta
As if these tortures are not enough, there are instances of rampant sexual abuse on these hapless maids. Last week an Indian maid was strangled and burnt in a remote desert area because she refused to get back to India as she was four months pregnant with the child of her employer. Saudi employer blamed was arrested ( click for link to Arab News article). But will the Indian Embassy that is long dormant and asleep would wake up,that is a million dollar question. Some maids chuck the unborn foetuses in aircraft toilets when fleeing the Gulf. (See the link for news article) There are many children who are left in state care in Indonesia, children of Indonesian maids born out of rape or consensual relationships by Saudi employers. Saudi Arabia has banned abortion and these women are left with no option but put the babies so born in such shelter for migrant babies in Indonesia.( see link for news article).

The pathetic look of the maid whom i encountered in the park often haunts my dreams, with her smile and shrill voice- " Are you Srilankan Tamil?". May be i should have listened to her instead of walking away. May be i should have helped her. May be i was too busy then to care. May be we talk more and act less. I write this post as a humble request to all those in power- please do not send women to work as maids to the Gulf. To all those poor women who want their children to get decent education and live a better life, please do not come here. And if at all you would like to work here, register with Government registered agencies, carry a mobile phone and always have the Embassy's numbers handy. Do talk with people back in your country as often as possible and do not be afraid to report any problem to respective Embassies. As for the Embassies of India and Srilanka, i do wish they follow the good work done by the Indonesian and Phillipine Embassies here. There are organisations in other countries ( SLEWA in Srilanka, OWWA in Phillipines)that are well-supported by the Governments that look after such issues. India sadly lacks any such organisation. I do sincerely hope the Indian Government takes these issues seriously and establishes one such association. Networking is more important, working as a maid, keep in touch with other maids nearby. I do not mean to say all employers are bad, there are bad apples everywhere. There were maids who were sobbing on flights back home, maids who genuinely are loved by the Arab families and miss them. I am happy for them. But i stand up to speak for the lesser lucky ones. As women- maids or otherwise, let us live dignified!

PI still
I am too busy to care, but want to do something. Jaago Re and are helping me do my bit for the society.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Nobody Gives You Power, You Just Take it!

I am celebrating International Women's Day- woke up with a terrible head ache. So, a pill and a breakfast ( of course self prepared!) i sit down to reminise on women. Ugh...what to think about or what to brag about? 100 years of Womens' Day and what is there for us? Battered, bruised, wounded....unlucky ones...or the lucky, blessed ones? Some remain blessed, living in self made bubbles in Wonderland created by men...All eyes on Wonderland. A land where you have the right to everything- starting from maternity planning to lesbian marriages et all. There are career oriented women who shun shackles of family and all emotional hiccups...Level-headed women who are brisk in busines suits, heading conferences and leading businesses. Another lucky lot of happy housewives who simply stay at home, sipping the cuppa and meddling with the garden- the elite housewives of the elite men. never looked so rosy, a bed of roses for women, right?

There is the average middle class Indian working woman who wakes up, cooks, goes to office, comes back, watches her soaps, cooks, eats and sleeps. It is the same routine day after day after day...where they accidentally get husbands and children in between. And in offices the hardships they face- starting from ego clashes to servile docility, pangs of amorous advances, oh...the list is endless. Grown up staunchly as prospective brides by fathers,we end up with like-minded men called husbands. Then come the sons. We are used to it, used to years and years of emotional submissiveness, where our own rights simply disappear. Or do we have rights at all? A right to say- " I want to study this course". " I want the right to do this job". " I don't want to marry". "I do not want to end up with this person". "I don't want this job now". No...our I's submerge in the collective "We"s of our families- Our family, our name, our culture...Anything we do out of the box- rejected.

There is another lucky lot- the 'free' ones, the liberated divas- femme fatales who can jump any queue, who can climb any corporate ladder, who can win laurels everywhere. These kind of women are the go-getters, can get anything done by the single wag of their little finger! Ahhhh...If beauty comes with some brains, it is indeed a lethal combination, no man can remain averse to it! They live life- Queen Size. No bother whatsoever, they can find their way even in Antarctic with help from male Emperor Penguins;)

So who need rights? Women selling vegetables. Women who work 12 hours in export garments companies, women who toil in construction sites, getting 2/3 pay of men, women who sweep, mop and clean our homes, women who clean toilets and eke out a living, women who suffer decades of abuse from drunk husbands, women who are trafficked, women who just don't realise they have rights. There are women who are stoned for adultery in the same world where there are jet-setting women CEOs. There are women who are lashed for being raped in the same world where there are women who abuse men. Women who can't drive, women who can't vote, women who can't live alone, women who can't leave their homes without male companion, women who need guardian's permission to marry, women who can't work without custodian's permission, women who end up as third, fourth or fifth wife, child-women married off to men the age of grandpa still holding fulla barbies, women paraded naked for incompatible love affairs, women forced into prostitution by own families, women sent to work as maids in foreign lands who end up sexually abused, women who are forced to throw away illegitimate foetuses in flight garbage bins...Did you say rights?


Monday, 7 March 2011

Serial- killers!

They arrive at your living room every day, night after night after night for years. They make our poor menfolk sob and weep and wail for mercy. Our women sit glued to the idiot box shedding tears, laughing and gritting their teeth, depicting all emotions that we might have never seen, looking at these killers- soaps. My animosity towards soaps has a long history, dating back to the 90s when SunTv forayed into serial making. Doordarshan's serials were funny, the characters would be seriously discussing an issue in the sets caked in compact powder and with rivulets of sweat rolling down the sides of their faces! Rolling my eyes in apprehension is all that i could do, i knew Mother would even trade our dinner time with her favorite soaps. I had some reprieve when KB's entry into small screen was a thumping success with "Rayil Sneham"- I fell in love with Jesudas' rendition of the title song.

Yeah...there is the brown handbag! Devyani as Abhi
Image courtesy-
Then came Sun Tv and its bandwagon- its TRP boosting serials of primetime, featuring the two loooooooooongest featured leading ladies- Radan fame Radhika and Abi@ Devyani. Mother switched from DD to Sun then, hooked onto Radika's serials, starting from Chithie, Annamalai, Selvi....running 3 to 4 years each, the characters crying, cursing, fighting, sobbing, yelling in fits of hysteria...But there was a bit fun watching Speaker Poo famous Devadarshini and her serial husband Ponvannan. If not for the duo, i would have choked on the serials. Why do serial villains always hurt and hurt and hurt the heroine so much that we almost feel like falling on their feet asking them not to do so. And why are the heroines so submissive and silent, bearing the brunt of everyone else's foolishness? Special mention to Abi @ Devyani in the serial Kolangal, who had the energy to fight and fight and fight against Adhi for 6 years. In the meantime, i got married, two kids- me and Devyani infact had our deliveries at the same time, as per soap she was in Mumbai and US conferences respectively during those deliveries. She must have carried that blue folder and handbag more than her babies at home! And probably director Thiruselvam liked the serial to be an antique one he named his character 'Thol'kappiyan! When the serial finally ended, i felt so relieved that i felt like someone back from the loo!

Oh....Mr Selvam, i do pity you! And the women watching you

I vowed no more serials again, but know average Indian housewives, we always like serial heroines so much...sob....sob....sob....But this time, for a change i became a huge fan of Thirumathi Selvam- the serial named after the missus, but the sobs this time are exclusively reserved for the mistuh! haaaaa....Tragedy! The male lead character is so miserable i feel like patting his shoulder and saying, " Don't worry brother! I'll give you some money to buy a toolsbox". God knows how many years the poor guy is to put up with his step mother, step brother, step brother's fatherinlaw, sisterinlaw, sisterinlaw's sisterinlaw...Oh my! I am certainly going to pass out thinking his hardships, friendships and realtionships- chuck the ships mannnnn...After many disinterested views, i found Thangam serial thought provoking, especially the parts played by Kaveri. Her antics are really funny, but funnier more are the "Chilly Grinding" episodes. Why such a hue and cry for grinding red chillies, director sir? We do it everyday in our kitchens! And the character Rama...oh...sob sob sob...why must she sob in every episode director? Is her payment overdue, huh?

Still i am forced to watch the stupid soap because- well you know the reasons- I am a housewife and i already have loads of problems. But watching my darling serial heroines' problems larger than the Mt Everest, my molehills look simple! There, i said it! And a small request for the all the Thiruchelvams, Thirumurugans and Thiruvaalathaans- Please KISS and save your, no hasty thoughts...Keep It Short Soapers!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Wedding BELLs

Picture of Bell 429, courtesy

Wedding BELLs were really ringing in remote Jaunapur village. Well, it has been actually a Bell 429 that has been ringing the wedding bells for scions of two bigwig politicos- a Congress MLA Kanwar Singh Tanwar and Ex MLA Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria. Media has gone crazy reporting the 18,000 strong wedding gala party. And i am indeed going crazy thinking why i was not invited! Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, SRK and even our Prime Minister will be attending the Star studded reception on March 6, so why was i left off the list? Not at all good! Probably they forgot to mail me the invite. Or there was some mistake in the mail delivery system. When 18,000 elite of India can attend, why can't i?

The million dollar bride and her groom- Tanwars
Image Courtesy- Times of India

I should have learnt the art of hair styling atleast! The bride groom's hair dresser got a hefty tip of US$5500. That is what we call a 30K haircut! Or may be i should have volunteered to clear traffic during my NCC school days. I woud have atleast managed to be one of the 40 traffic policemen at the venue. Poor me! I don't even know to erect a shamiana. Could have easily passed muster along with the 1000 workers who worked overdrive for 40 days to bring it to shape. Oh...was there an invite for the pre-wedding function? Duh! I missed a silver biscuit ( Nah! You cannot eat it folks- it is pure silver!), a safari suit and 500 US$ in cash. Seems a costly miss...And the groom was garlanded with 1000 rupee notes on the engagement day ( worth US$5 millions!)...I wonder why Madam Mayaji is silent here, she has the sole right to receive 1000 rupee garlands. May be she would send a press release saying it is a preplanned plot to demean her importance.

Probably i would have been atleast one of the TV camera crew checking the 12 giant TV screens set up for the bash. Neha Dhupia refused my services as a touch up, she probably did not want to share the 20 lakhs she got for 30 minutes hip-shake with a paltry touch up girl! "Oye...Munni Badnaam Hui!" There is no use in thinking about the past. I would be happy if the Hollywood beauty who will be shaking the legs at the reception on March 6 employs me as a touch up atleast...Or a kerchief girl like what Madam Jayalalitha has? Hmmmmmm...All roads seem to be closed now for me! The only option left out is clear, by air, now i know what i must do to get a glimpse of the purported Royals- be a chopper pilot! It is so simple, you need 10 flying hours sitting nearby a Chief Pilot, atleast pouring him a mug of coffee up there. Ask YSR's chopper pilots, they might tell you from Above..."Its so easy girl!" May be i should try to steal the chopper for the Royal British Wedding too! So, any Chopper Pilot Trainers??? I am game...

That would be my favorite bell...Riing Riiiiing!
Where is it Dad?
Oh...I forgot to say the most important thing here- Lakshmi Mittal's daughter's wedding cost US$ 60 Millions. And Tanwars' Wedding cost a whopping US$ 55 million. Probably MLAs in India have the moolah more than the Mittals. Its all about money, honey...And it is ours! That Bell 429 cost US$26 million...Probably i should ask my Papa for a Bell 420...or atleast a calling bell that i can ring at home and rest in peace!

From Hero Hondas to Choppers!

There- i see the wedding shamiana. Its not the wedding halls these days, now the venues have shifted from mediocre wedding halls to specially erected big pandhals. There are theme based weddings, designer weddings, castle weddings, beach weddings, resort weddings- the list is endless. Seeing the designer labels and the painted faces  can be really a funny experience, we Indians always out do everything, especially when it comes to big fat Indian weddings. There is no letting up here, the extravagance is baffling. Starting from the lavish feasts laid to the music orchestra who dish out the latest numbers, the flower arrangements, the designer dress labels, the extravagant dining areas, the trumpeting invitations, the celebrity A listers who attend the we care about the couple after all?

Mr M whom you have seen always wearing a dull and faded Tee shirt now stands as a groom, don't worry about the costume, it is always sherwani for receptions. The dark skinned M will be glowing in a peacock blue sherwani and a golden shawl and you try to purse your lips so tight to hide that silly smile. M's father and grand father, great grandfathers would have married in a single silk dothi and shirt, but now it is like a fancy dress competition where each one tries to outbeat the other in costume. Weddings see silk dhoties and shirts, engagements the Western Suit and receptions the Sherwanis and juthies. Our over tanned groom in his black and brown suit strikes a sorry figure....and the bride- oh, a la Aishwarya, the dusky beauty looks all dolled up, decked in dazzling jewellery and bright colored designer sarees. Again, the traditional sarees have now changed to designer ones that costs a few lakhs.

The Mittals' Toast!
Coming to the wedding feast- ahhhhhh...what to say, we don't even know the names of most dishes served. Vegetable carvings, decorations, plates heaped with varieties of food- i have seen a wedding where there were two separate dining areas for bride's side and groom's side with menu cards displayed on the entrance, each trying to outbeat the other by a few dishes atleast! You can feed thousands on food wasted by hundreds on such wedding feasts. What big deal? Everyone's great expectations- you can see new Hero Hondas parked in community halls, Santro, City, Camry- and lately the new craze- choppers landed on the wedding arena. The display is to flaunt what vehicle the groom has got....Isn't it great to see a car or chopper with FOR REGN sign gleaming in front of our guests? The Mittals spent US$60 million for Vanisha Mittal's wedding in Paris' Jardin Des Tuileres...The recent gift of a chopper by Congress MLA to his son-in-law is certainly the icing on the cake! 15% of India's grains and vegetables are lost through "extravagant and luxurious functions'. Our Goverment wants to introduce legislation to curb such profligacy. Beware....lavish weddings might land us soon behind the bars. So, let us enjoy our big fat Indian Weddings before the law is drafted...or will it ever be drafted at all?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Gold mines- careful!

Look at the happiness in the bride's face. Probably a million dollar smile that would have lit up an entire town, a la happy-dent! Poor Father of the Bride, his bank balance would have been a zero single after the wedding. Gold mines are aplenty in India, especially in the God's Own Country. God has probably blessed his own country more than the others with gold mines! Being the world's largest gold consuming nation, we are certainly proud...We gobble up an average 500 tonnes of gold a year. It is gold for all occasions starting from New Year- a chain for New Year, a necklace for Birthday, a gold coin for Akshaya Trithya, a bangle for Diwali, a ring for Christmas- we never miss an occasion.
A Muslim bride- God's Own Country!

A Hindu bride in all glory- Keral...ahhhhhh!
A Christian Bride in the Church, again West Coast!
Gold is something we love to boast and our families love to gloat. Our weddings are not a place to wish the couple well, we size up how much the bride is wearing. Some seniors can give any bank jewel appraiser a run for money. They can simply look at a jewel and say its exact weight and touch. I am sad, yet to master the art. Our big fat weddings are an opportunity for our women folk to display the latest purchases. The glint and gleam of their eyes on seeing the rivals' jewellery can outbeat any mental cat fight! We can hear  whispers that say- "Something like this....look at that pearl set, oh...what a diamond necklace"...our peers swoon at the sight of extra-ordinary jewellery. I pity the menfolk, who try to give a tough fight to the women, displaying four rows of short chains, rings in all the ten fingers and a 3-inch thick bracelet. Poor men, they stand to lose as usual! There is no winning against our women folk...

Probably the Fathers of the Brides end up bankrupt immediately after the wedding, but the pride and ego inflation helps cushion the fall. Religion is not a hindrance here, Hindus, Muslims, Christians all try to out beat the other in this race for ego and pride. Flaunting wealth is not new to us, we as Indians are well-known in such show-off. We have the cake and would like to eat it too. Ladies, attending a wedding? Good luck then...A visit to Alukkas or Lalitha will do hell of a lot to boost your ego!

All pictures above- Courtesy Google Image search

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Hope Fairy

I stood stupefied in shock when Daddy called up and said Mother is in coma. Lots of hush hush going on around the house and i knew nothing of it, probably because of Lionel who was 3 months old then, wailing incessantly all the time. All i knew was Mummy was ill and she needed immediate medical treatment. I was told by my Dad and Uncles that Mother had a tumour in her stomach because of the long standing ulcer she had and so she would be operated. Just the day before Dad had called from Chennai to say she was doing well after the surgery and he had talked to her, convalescing. This call came as a bolt from the blue. The train journey from Trichy to Chennai never seemed so long. Crouching in the Unreserved compartment all alone with a wailing infant, all i could feel was numbness. Prabhu Uncle was the first person who met me at the hospital gate. I still remember what he told me- " Please don't cry seeing her, your Father is waiting to see you. We all have given him loads of hope, please don't shatter it by crying in front of him". That second, something in my life changed forever- hope...that was what i had to offer to anyone. Apollo's ICU is a maze where life and death play hide and seek. The moment i set my eyes on her, i felt tears rolling from my eyes silently. She had two plaits, hair combed neatly, green hospital grubs, tubes all over her body, eyes closed with small strips of plaster. I had never seen her sleep so peacefully, like an Angel- that was her name.

Holding her hands silently i talked whispered softly to her- " You will be alright Mummy. I cannot live without you". No response. There came a duty doctor and after long silence, he said the dreaded words- " she is like vegetable now, totally brain dead." He continued offering hope, saying almost all medical terminologies that meant she will probably be alive till her last only through a ventilator. Nothing registered except the dull beep of the ventilator. I walked out in stoic silence with my baby, Daddy looked up at me. There was a blank look on his face, he was probably looking somewhere beyond me. I brought a compulsive smile and said- " she will be alright Dad, don't worry". All my Uncles and Aunts and my siblings stood together now, praying, waiting for doctors to simply say 'a miracle has happened'. 

Apollo Hospital Chennai, Mother was here in coma for 45 days
Daddy refused to come home, praying for hours together in the tiny chapel adjoining the waiting hall of the hospital. He spent 45 days in Apollo and another 9 days in Soorya Hospital, till Mummy breathed her last. Mummy was diagnosed with Cancer Stage 4 and we were hoping against all odds that she would be alright soon, seeing the patients who were indeed recovering after surgery. Dr Surendran did a splendid job, the surgery was a success, but why she fell into a coma is still an unanswered question for all of us. He had shown Dad the patients who had recovered, trying to instill hope in him. He had succeeded in that too, Dad believed Mother would wake up one day and talk to him. I have not met him so far, all details about him have been hearsay and i wish some day i would thank him for offering something to Dad- "Hope". The hope that his wife would be better soon made Dad tick on.

We still don't know what her last thoughts were, i would have been happy if i had the chance to hear her last words. But God has surprises galore for us. I never knew what she felt, how she wanted us to move on and how to take care of her husband of 25 years. Hope was something i was clinging onto, even after her demise. It was not an easy task to settle down two young siblings and take care of a grieving Dad, along with my two bundles of joy- Lionel and Leina. Mother was always chirpy and cheerful, there would be always laughter surrounding her and i envied her for all the happiness she radiated with. She was a super computer, remembering everyone's birthdays and wedding anniversaries. She even wished the ENT surgeon who did Dad's ear surgery years back, every month on 1st over phone. She gave me the most wonderful gift of my life- " Hope". Pulling on the family along with my Hope Fairy, we managed to get through the hard times. The elder is now married and well settled, the younger an Australian citizen now and Dad retired from his service just yesterday. I know Mother would be smiling from Above at me, i believe she guides our family, she is our Leading Kindly Light in the Darkness.

Dad gives a few cash awards for best students every year from the school where Mother taught. It is to motivate the children to aim high, to give them hope to perform well. Hope is the legacy that Mother left behind for me, which i will take forward and distribute to everyone in need of it. In all my troubled times, i remember what she had wrote on my bedroom walls, quoting Robert Frost-
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But i have promises to keep,
And miles to go before i sleep.
And miles to go before i sleep."

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Open the door- let the Swamis in...

This post has been selected as Spicy Saturday Picks- 05 March,2011 by Blogadda. ThanQ blogadda!
Lingam straight out of Premananda Swami's mouth!

India is one strange country, ask any foreigner they will sure give you a mental picture of God-men, snakes and snake charmers. I do not find any difference between the first two! The list of God-men and the entire list of criminal and civil cases they land themselves in-  we have lost count. Swamis and Gurujis offer a variety of 'services' starting from 'healing' to 'Enlightenment'. Our women always have the love for all Swamis, sadly most of the Swamis reciprocate that love with lust! We all ardently followed Swami Premananda @ Prem Kumar right from his 'deception' to his death. This Godman was not someone ordinary, he could 'manifest' lingams from his mouth on Mahashivarathris. Aptly termed Lingodhbhava, the lingams simply emerged from his Holy mouth and then came the Maha Vibhuthi! Widely publicised to have healing powers, i wonder why they failed to come out after his arrest and later on why these healing powers could not save the Godman from his own death or two life imprisonment sentences for one count of murder, several of rape. Poor Premananda! If only he had known his end, he would have saved some Vibhuthi and Lingams for himself. Now that we know he is the most unselfish Guruji we have ever seen...This Mahashivarathri brings special memories of the Lingam Special Premananda Swami.

Picture of Shri Nithyananda Swami in his website, depicting him as-
you know who!
  The next pro in this line would be the face that millions across the globe have seen with actress Ranjitha. Our Nithyanand Swami topped google's most wanted for a whole month when the videos made headlines. Probably people wanted to have a good look at his face which the video missed;) His Miraculous touch and heal technique came at a hefty price. But probably he ended up on the wrong side, paying the bulk amount for his touch and heal treatment of Ranjee dear;) March 2 is Religious Freedom Day for Swami dear and his nuts devotees who are on a hunger fast to stop the Religious Persecution of him. I was an ardent fan of his series "Open the door, let the breeze in" published in a Tamil weekly. But when Swami dear closed the door after letting in Ranjee, police barged into the Ashram! I was mortified watching the scandal video aired again and again by SunTv ( courtesy!) Having seen pictures of Nithya sitting peacefully on tiger skin it was more than shocking to see him jumping in his bed;) Well, what transpired within four walls between two mutually conniving humans is none of our business. But there is a saying preach what you practise. Lecturing others to follow brahmacharya and meditation, what was the Swami doing in the confines of his Ashram? Life bliss??? And i almost choked laughing when Nithya told the CID after his arrest that he was not a 'man'. He also requested a potency test to prove that he was not a man. EEWWWWWWW! So Ranjee dear, what were you doing with a NO man??? After a year in prison, now Swami dear is on the prowl again, scott-free, spreading Life Bliss.

There are scores and scores of such queer Swamijis, starting from Nithyananda to Natyananda. We simply refuse to learn the lesson. There is Amma in Melmaruvathur...i wonder how you call a man Amma! Then there is Kalki Annai in Nemam...Here the Annai is a husband and wife duo! There is Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the 'hugging saint'! One wonders soon we will have Kissing Saint, Smooching Saint, Sleeping Saint! The only connection between all these God men and women is that they have HUGE volumes of wealth at their disposal, their Ashrams are not the simple hay huts, they are literal Palaces catering to devotees all over the world. The Trusts of all these Ashrams run numerous schools, colleges and some even have deemed universities. These multi millionaire Swamis and Swamins prowling the streets of India are too dangerous for our women. Unless the average Indian housewife detests and shuns these mushrooming Swamis, there is no hope for us...Till then, "open the door...let the Swamis in;)"

Image Courtesy- Respective Swamis' own websites:)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Dinner-limited, fun-unlimited! is not about candles, roses, violins and wine. Some of the most cherished dinners remain etched so deep in my heart, i would probably need an hour to reminisce all the wonderful ones i had! Being a die-hard foodie, i love anything that sits on my dinner plate, be it curd rice and mango pickle or a barbecued chicken. But it is the love that blossoms on dinner tables i covet. Childhood dinners are always so special, especially the ones we had on full moon days in the terrace. Mother loved to have long dinners on full moon nights with the whole flock. Wait a minute, a flock means us- the three musketeers! We had to carry the utensils upstairs, two floors up and the elder brother as usual being the lazy goosey, liked to carry water. The heavy weight utensils fell on us- the eldest and the youngest and we doggedly carried them up and down. May be the frequent climbing up and down helped to keep my weight in check!

Mother used to mix rice, curry and vegetables and making tiny balls of it, she would place one on each out-stretched hand. Munching on pappads, we loved to talk and eat and eat till she would be scraping the vessel for more food! Then came the fruits, usually grapes, which Dad would pluck and hand over, after picking the rotten ones. Lying fully satiated, almost gluttony, viewing the full moon was a bliss. Those were the dinners that i cherish the most. There were funny dinners in school days,when we used to have dinner in hotels, usually in Tirunelveli. I remember one of the first,when there was a quarrel among us to decide which hand holds the spoon and the fork- Left or the right. Table etiquettes and manners were something i learnt back then, spreading a napkin, wiping away with a tissue, using the fork to cut a piece of chicken! Cutting a piece of chicken with a fork and knife by itself is an art, the first time i tried, the chicken simply could not tolerate my torture and jumped from the plate and hid itself under the table! Then came variety of forks, distinguishing salad fork from dessert fork, cold cuts fork, serving fork...uffff...i am miffed even now!

I am reminded of my first romantic dinner with my better half in Ooty. Sounds so romantic, isnt it? But Oh my! I was so nervous i kept tripping on the way to the wash and back. Spilling some chicken gravy on the table cloth, clanging the spoon on the plate- the entire meal was a disaster, the waiter near by sent me a wary look. The fun was yet to come, when at last, i ordered lime soda and waited. There came two bowls of warm lime water, man, that was confusing. Was it lime soda? As always, i thought let me wait and watch what my husband does. He dipped his fingers in it and i watched awe-struck! Oh, really? That was supposed to be water to wash hands? Thank God, i decided to wait and watch rather than drink it from the bowl! Then arrived my lime soda in a tall glass, thankfully! After numerous such dinners, i hope now i can manage any type of dinner, be it  a nila soru ( dinner in the terrace on full moon day) or a romantic dinner in some star hotel! But the best dinner would be something in which i need not spend half an hour contemplating which fork to take and which spoon to use. That must be obviously a dinner at home, where i can dig in with my hand and shove a mouthful. Man, that is called a dinner, where dinner might be limited, fun is unlimited;)