Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ambulances and Traffic

While traveling to work this morning, everyone in the bus was captivated by an ambulance, complete with blazing lights and horn, trying to make its way through numerous vehicles on the road. I have seen this scene being enacted a couple of times before. It always makes me wonder – will the person waiting for or already in this vehicle survive? While an emergency is always the first thought that comes to my mind, I also wonder if this ambulance is only trying to quickly get away from an otherwise monotonous traffic jam. When the vehicles themselves are trying to get breathing space, how can they make way for a rushing vehicle? People who create a monstrous quandary on the roads are termed “literate”, follow rules in other countries and are unabashedly serial offenders in their own. Solution – bring on more cameras, more traffic police, heftier fines, a centralized tracking mechanism and a day counting bars post 3 consecutive gaffes. Also, why cannot the traffic police provide an ambulance with the same treatment meted out to a politician’s or VIP's cavalcade? I think an announcement of sorts to the traffic police hotline should do the trick to get an ambulance to its destination faster.

Sigh! How I wish I could make rules, implement and execute them :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kashmir-Delhi-Agra trip - Day 2

Day 2 – 31 Jan 2010
So on Sunday we were off to Pahalgam in a hired Tavera. I was happy. Because absolutely no puke sensations. I was asked to take avomin an hour before breakfast and it worked! (Whether the pill worked physically or whether it worked on my mind, I don’t know :)) What more could I desire? Health, a blank head, happy co-travellers, a full stomach, a smooth-sailing Tavera and the freezing cold. I love the cold. Yeah even when the bed was chill and when I trembled and shivered during baths, I still enjoyed it.
Anyway off we were, but without L, who wanted to go to church.
The roads in Kashmir were pretty decent. Yeah often you do find filth or slush or jerky roads, but still I would overall rate them good. Whenever we traveled on road the scenes would comprise brown fields, the snow covered Himalayas in the far background, brownish-reddish bricked houses (I think they don’t paint their buildings at all) with slanting (erm.. what are they technically termed?) metal roofs, totally leafless apple and willow trees (cricket bats are made out of the willow wood), firan clad locals and other vehicles. Praise the Lord, there were hardly any other tourists.
Women are found moving freely too. No burqas or anything. They don’t seem to be too restricted. We even saw many going to college in the mornings. My! Kashmiri women are beautiful. Flawless fair skin, apple cheeks, rosy lips and firan-clad. Maybe a salwar kameez beneath it and a scarf round the head. Of course not everyone is beautiful, but many could give actresses or models a run for their money. Remember not a touch of make-up was used.
Men aren’t far behind either. Athletic, mountainous looks, chiseled faces. Very striking features sometimes… the eyes, nose, cheek bones. Our driver Fayaaz too was quite charismatic. I generally addressed them (shopkeepers, strangers etc) as bhaiyya and I regret it now :P.
Kids. Indescribably cute. Whenever any of us saw a lass or kid with red cheeks, he or she would exclaim “There! Apples!”; it was our code word ;). I wanted to take a snap with a dashing handsome, a beautiful one and a cutie. But I missed doing the first two though I had several opportunities.
Yeah so back to our road to Pahalgam. Enroute we saw glimpses of snow, scattered a little here and a little there. And then it grew more. And more. And more. Until all we could see was either white or green (from the fir and pine trees which also had snow sprinkled over them beautifully). A thin stream flowed by the side of the road that approached Pahalgam. The pebble-shaped rocks had layers of snow so artistically seated on them. Snow, snow everywhere.

That was my first glimpse of snow in my life. Again, isn’t that some sort of turning point in one’s life? :P I did not jump up in joy or scream in excitement or anything of that sort. In fact I felt a tad disappointed that I didn’t feel ecstatic. Throughout the trip, especially amidst snow, whenever I introspected a little, I did feel calm within. But it was also like there was an invisible layer between me and the external beauty and I felt like an observer. (Any opinions here?) I think I’m growing old :D
Anyway we did some walking around, some driving and again hopping into the snow, a few times. On the way we came across a few Kashmiri men relaxing under a tree. V decided to smoke with them and I wanted a snap with them. That’s where I came sliding down the tree’s roots because I couldn’t get a foothold.
There was one particularly smart, dashing, stylish man among them. And V told me I resemble him vaguely. I love V!! This is where I took in my first (and only) puff from a cigarette. Ah nothing worth mentioning about the ‘experience’.
So somewhere around here was Lidder Valley. I actually don’t know which place exactly was Lidder Valley ‘cause I didn’t ask :P. I won’t go into describing the places anymore. I’m struggling for words, pictures will give people a better idea (even our pictures don’t do justice, that’s when I decided it’s high time I improve my photography).
In between we began getting haunted by pony-wallahs. For more than half an hour, we were constantly pursued by two. Even when we had tea at a shop (the tea guy had such a sharp nose, handsome chap!) they didn’t give up. Finally we gave in. Rs.250 for a ride on a pony for about 2 hours. We went round the Pahalgam village and hutment area first. Somewhere here I decided to make a quick snowman :D. I haven’t got any appreciation for it so far :). But I don’t care! That’s what I could do with numb red fingers!

There was a ski area there, but we had decided we would ski at Gulmarg. My pony-wallah was a nice talkative man. So when queried he would tell me about their lifestyle. His children go to school; most people there earned their livelihood through ponies or shops. Since Pahalgam also falls in the route of the Amarnath Yatra, it receives a lot of pilgrims too. And many use ponies to travel to the cave. I think he said it took 3 days by pony and 5 days by foot to Amarnath and back from Pahalgam. Below the slopes, rice was cultivated. They have electricity, water and everything needed for day-to-day living. And the place was not very prone to militant attacks.
Our next stop was at the Shiva temple where pilgrims began the pilgrimage to Amarnath. Only Lord Shiva was there in his temple which too was snow-layered. We saw some monkeys around there. The poor things were red-faced, plumpy and huddling their limbs together.
Then we trotted back to the starting point. The problem is even after paying for whatever service you use, they ask for extra bakshish. Anyway we were invited to their homes too but we politely declined. We must’ve accepted it. It would’ve been nice to see a Kashmiri household.
We then happily devoured our packed lunch, washed our plates in an open pipe. ‘Normal’ water (which is not heated) is freezing cold and can hardly be touched. It turns the fingers almost numb, red and with a weird pain. Anyway we started back to Anantnag after that.
Very close to home was a place called Mattan where there was a Gurdwara. We just fed the fish in the tank there. Plumpy fellows. And then proceeded home.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Name is Khan - What was all the fuss about?

20:30 – Opening credits of MNIK
20:40zzzzzzzzzzz….dialogue of the century(why does it sound familiar?? why? why?) My Name is Khan and I am not a terrorist
zzzzzzzzzz…eeewwww….looks like SRK has brown lipstick on!!
zzzzz…..Zarina Wahab seems to be the only one capable of talking properly
zzzzzzz…..yikes….nightmare number 1 time…..SRK with an exfoliating mask….zzz time to redeem with a dream instead
zzzz…..half-eye open with tremendous effort…..Kajol looks older than her age….proves crash diets or make-overs will never work on some…zzzz
21:15 zzzzzz….song……..zzzzzzzzzzzz snore….
21:30zzz….fast forward to hospital scene
eeeks…nightmare number 2 time…..close-up shot of Kajol crying…..guaranteed to scare your wits off.....zzzzz

21:40zzzzz….fast forward to last scene…..fallen off the couch….My sympathies are with a certain President
21:45 - Grateful for a certain level of intuition.....did not go to a theater to watch this!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Speak-up, Mr. Khan!

The world saw what happens when security forces of a State concentrate on ensuring a movie’s release instead of doing their regular duty.

Terror attacks in our country have not bothered me before mainly because I think our Defence Services are doing whatever best they can with whatever resources they have. There is room for improvement and I think that progress can and will be made with perseverance (Yes, I am the eternal optimist where my country is concerned). But the Pune Bakery incident was different in many ways. My inbox saw a condolence message related to a bomb blast for the first time in 6+ years of working life. Our company had a lost a very young and brilliant man to the blast on 13th February. Post seeing the email, I looked up this man’s details on our intranet and realized that the country had lost out on an overwhelming amount of potential. Not only had this young man died a premature death at 23 years, his younger sister had met the same fate with him.

I might be prejudiced but cannot refrain from mentioning SRK here. Why is this man, who epitomized patriotism and freedom of speech in the last couple of weeks, not speaking up now? Can he not even acknowledge the fact that there was a lapse due to troops protecting his movie? And when will people realize that movies, along with actors, are just means for entertainment? They can never be bigger than a nation.

Terror, somehow, seems closer than ever today. But, I hope, for a stronger country to emerge out of all this chaos. Fanaticism can never always win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kashmir-Delhi-Agra trip - Day 1

Sigh! So it’s been three days (when I wrote this :) ) since I returned to my immediate society. During the last 4-5 days of the trip I longed to be back home. I yearned to be around my mother and talk to her. I wanted to feel at home (what ever paradise you may be in, I suppose home is still where you want to go back to). Remember, this was my longest period away from parents (nine days :) ).
But the very first day of my return I wanted to go back to Kashmir! The distinct light-headedness that I felt till then, I could sense it getting slowly replaced. My personal and professional lives are largely not strenuous or stressful at all. So why was the light-headedness disappearing slowly? Maybe it was because I had nothing to think about at Kashmir, no list to tick off and here even though nothing is stressful work, it still involves thought.
But still I wanted to go back. To nature, away from all the technology surrounding me here. To the simple people, who look at me, who smile at me, who lead leisurely lives. Away from the people here with masks. Away from western sophistication. Away from the sickening jeans to the refreshing firans. I began having serious thoughts if I’m meant for the rural life rather than this meaningless game!
Today, I think I’ve gotten adjusted to my regular surroundings. But these thoughts still do hover in my head.
So I’ll do a flashback write-up of each day of the trip. In detail, because I’m a detail person. And these articles are largely for my sake, I do not want to lose my experiences to a human mind that easily gets caught up in the overwhelming present, thereby slowly losing the past. Of course what I experienced then cannot be exactly experienced ever again! These articles are also for my close friends with whom I would like to share the whole holiday. And if it helps any stranger on the Net to plan his travel, well and good.
Day 1 – 30th Jan 2010
I woke up at 4 am with a clearly felt tinge in my heart. I didn’t want to leave home. Probably also because this was a little jump away from my comfort zone – a frog-in-the-well status. Anyway, I got ready and my friends (2 girls – S and L, a guy – V) came in the taxi to pick me up. Appa wasn’t in station so only mummy was there to bid me bye.
The flight route was – Bangalore -> Delhi -> Srinagar.
I’m quite new to airplane travel (before this trip I had flown on a plane only twice). The whole check-in process confuses me. So during the four flights of this trip I’ve tried to understand it (I still have many questions :D). But for sure, BIAL needs to change the design of their trolleys. Why would anyone make it necessary to hold the ‘brakes’ constantly for moving the trolley?!
We met Sri. Kadri Gopalnath at the airport. He conversed with us kindly and gave us an autograph.
Then off we went to Delhi. Flight take-off excites me, gives me a high, makes me want to be a pilot. Now that excitement too is getting replaced by getting-used-to-it-ness.
Then the flight from Delhi to Srinagar. Initially the views were all like Google Maps images. And then they began appearing. Snow capped peaks rising above the clouds – parts of the Himalayas (erm any mountain in the northern most part of my country will be termed so by me). They were below the plane and so were medium sized. You’re ‘supposed’ to be awe-struck, and your heart is ‘supposed’ to skip a beat, and you’re ‘supposed’ to gasp at such a sight, right? Nothing of that sort happened to me! Why? Any answers?

But they absorbed all my attention. Then at a distance we could see a very wide circle of cottony fluffy clouds. The plane actually descended into that white cotton candy, to arrive at Srinagar.
But we weren’t allowed to de-plane! “Please remain seated. Please remain calm. We will keep you updated about the situation” announced our pilot. Many army and other security personnel arrived near the plane. Wow! We hadn’t even set foot on land and the security issues had already begun, we wondered. After a few minutes we de-planed. A fellow passenger supposedly appeared suspicious, as he was using some device on the plane, and hence the crew had issued a warning. He was whisked away by the cops before we de-planed.
Srinagar was largely brown and green. Alighting from the plane, the temperature was fine. Yes, chill, with vapour from every open mouth. “Huh! People had warned me for THIS cold!” I smirked. And then it slowly began. I first put on my gloves. Later a scarf. Then a huge coat which L’s mom had sent for us luckily. Within the next 2-3 hours I was shivering, my teeth were chattering, in spite of the clothing.
The next couple of hours we spent at Srinagar before we proceeded to Anantnag. L’s dad had come to pick us up at the airport. We drove to some shops, Lal Chowk (where the recent attack had taken place) and round the Dal Lake. By then my struggle with my travel sickness began. Vomited twice. I saw nothing on the way to Anantnag as I was rolled up trying to sleep, regretting the trip, worried as to how I would survive the next 8 days!

At the shops one finds the usual stuff, shawls, Ari work on salwars or kurtas, dry fruits, saffron, firans (it’s like a large kurta made of some warmth infusing fabric, full-sleeved and a little above the ankle, men and women (kids too!) wear them above their regular clothes, the arms can be within the sleeves or withdrawn inside to keep warm). Here we also got acquainted with the kaangdi, a small basket with a pot in it that contains mildly burning charcoal, again to keep warm. People carry the kaangdi wherever they go and even hold it within their firan!

So then we reached Anantnag. L’s mom is a gynecologist at a century-old hospital in Anantnag and so we could stay at their guest-house. Throughout the trip I’ve received a lot of kindness and help from many people – the first being L’s parents. They have been uncommonly kind to us throughout our stay. We had a “Welcome to Kashmir” board awaiting us at their home. Uncle used to bring us tea on time, regularly, at the guest-house and ensure every minute comfort was provided. They cooked every meal for us during those 5 days. Even packed lunch for us whenever we were away traveling. And this was no ordinary cooking. Onions and garlic were avoided totally because S prefers such food. Non-veg dishes for V and L. Custards, sweets, fried gobi etc. I’ve put on 1 kg during the travel period... so I bet you get a nice idea. And all this hospitality with a genuine smile on the face and not a single scorned look. This comes easily only to rare people and I’m sure I’m not one of them.
The rest of the day was spent huddling near the gas heater, chatting and eating.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When you grow up, what?

Coming from a family of high achievers, I have always been the black sheep in terms of not doing things by the book. I did not study towards a professional degree, was always vocal about opinions, watched too many movies for my good, have left behind the ideal age of getting married and work in night shifts!

This rebellious streak in me is probably a result of my upbringing – my parents are the most liberal amongst their generation in the Garani clan. While I never faced any educational pressure from my parents while growing up between 5yrs – 18 yrs, my mother did have a penchant for the BE and MBBS degrees of the world [All for a suitable groom and a happy ending ;)]. From whatever I could garner with very little observation, I could see that someone studying a Bachelors degree in Science put up with a lot of flak. This belittling cascaded into the class of lecturers available, career opportunities and even funding for a Fest!

Having gone through the, “Oh Only B.Sc.”, exclamations umpteen times during my 3 years of undergraduate studies, the new line when I started working was “Oh Call Center”. No point in explaining the difference between a Call Center and a Captive Financial Services BPO to people who will never remember it. But, is that how I feel towards my opted path? Definitely not! I have to say that I am at a considerably good place today professionally. Each day is about realizing and working towards bridging gaps. What more can one want when they get paid to do so?

The article that made me reminisce and want to write this post -
http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/nayar/2010/01/when-you-grow-up-what.html will hopefully set not only the parents but those involved in the system as well thinking.

Let the kids mould on their own, you only be the cornerstone to ensure that the shape is taking the right form!

PS – I have to say that I am guilty of asking a couple of kids prematurely “What do you want to do?” Another bad habit to curb :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I H.A.T.E. my service provider

Why do people think I need to receive these messages everyday? I just cannot wait to take the customer service guys to task for this third degree torture meted out to me through the week.

· Lowest Gold Rate 1383/gm HALMARKED Jewlery @ Goldmine Jewlery Indirangr & Gopalan mall Mysore Rd Offer upto 11/02, MOB: 9686315352/ 9535209369. We also Buy OLD GOLD – I wonder if I will get the lowest rate for my OLD GOLD as well
· Recruitment (Salary 2 lacs) for Graduates by HDFC SL. Interview at 10.00am on Feb 11 at HDFC SL , near Vinayaka temple, Koramangala 5th Block. Call 08042492999.
– Cannot attend the interview on 11th, I am working!
· Enjoy Shopping Fest in UAE for only Rs.18599 with Air Arabia. Ticket Visa 2-nights Hotel included. BookNow! Call 080 66310090-92 or sms ABY to 56070. T&C Apply
– Does the package include footing my shopping bills as well?
· Need Cash! Personal Loan/ Business loan, 1 lacs-15lacs Simple & easy documentation, corporate offers get best %rate. Call: Vinay – 9980745264
– Cannot understand if they are making a statement or asking a question in this one.
· “Check out CD’s/DVD’s on Self Improvement –Personality Dev., Time Mang., Attitude, Presentation Skills, Body Lang., Etc, for orders Call: 9341635660/www.buzzers.org”
– For orders? How many CD’s do they think I will have the necessity to buy?
· Gift your Valentine a stylish Dell Studio laptop in their favorite color – starting Rs.40,900*! To buy, call us at 180004258120 (toll-free) *Dell T’s&C’s apply
– I would not gift a laptop even if my Valentine was Salman Khan! Way too expensive…
· Domestic and Industrial Sewing Machines Branded Like Merrit, Singer, Usha, Gemsy Machines. Please Contact: 23725511/ 24842749
– Why are the machines branded to look like other brands?
· GODREJ HICARE to get rid of cockroaches, termites, rats, wood borers, 1 year warranty bedbugs(45 days)/ free inspection & 10% discount. Call 9739095934/, 9916908522
– Very confusing….If they are giving 1 Year warranty for all other pests, why is the warranty for bed bugs only 45 days? Do I live in a garbage bin?
· BAJAJ ALLIANZ FREE GOLD COIN OR GOLD CHAIN OFFER: DEPOSIT 9000/Yr For 3Yrs and Earn 54000 at 5Yr approximately, SAVETAX, LIFECOVER CALL: 9980517509
– Will the chain and the coin weigh the same?
· Prestige White Meadows Sky Villas and Bungalows. Made for Kings. Whitefield main road 4,5 BHK Duplex, Triplex 6651-12066 sqft. Start 4.5Cr. Call 9880709392 – Wrong gender. If the apartments are made for kings, why did they send the message to me?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekend Diary

Saturday, 6th February
I am not a morning person at all. None of the weekdays or the weekends have ever seen me getting up early and epitomize cheerfulness! But this Saturday, I surprised myself as well as my family by waking up at a not so normal 7am in a very chirpy mood (Read – I did not bite anyone’s head off for talking to me). This should have been an indication of how irregular my day was going to be. While relatives came in unannounced (I love it when this happens because you can never be prepared for the onslaught), meeting friends materialized after 1 whole year. D and I would call each other and say, let’s meet up this weekend but the lunch would never happen. When it finally happened, it was super fun! D, PP and I went out for dinner at Barbeque Nation in JP Nagar. While the food was not great (I mean, how can corn on the cob be a good appetizer for a vegetarian???), the conversation kept us in splits until the end. Remembering D twirling the girls around on the dance floor in Golden Palms years ago was one of the highlights. PP, who is usually very conscious about what he talks, finally added his bit to the dirty talk :). By the end of the meal, I could not help but realize that we have managed to come a long way since 2003 when we first met as wary colleagues. D’s personality used to scare me and I started speaking to PP only because I knew D.

Sunday, 7th February
Amma had been on my case to take her to a Kannada movie for some time now. We finally zeroed in on Just Maath Mathalli which had released over the weekend. I had my doubts about the movie because Sudeep is now a part of the RGV factory (I have come to hate RGV’s recent films because watching them feels like the movies have been made to find flaws in an actor’s make-up. He just does close-up shots with dialogues thrown in out of sheer necessity to make it a talkie film) and told my mother about my misgivings. But JMM it was for now. And my intuition was bang-on! A snail would have probably managed to go around the movie hall an infinite number of times as compared to the pace of the film. Although a decent entertainer, the movie totally lacks pace, Sudeep looks like he was recently adopted by a country suffering from starvation and the 2nd hero has a 20 inches paunch! Ramya and the film’s music were the only saving graces. However, I have to commend Sudeep for making a Kannada movie that can be watched with your family without wincing every time someone mouths a dialogue. He will hopefully make more movies that belong to a genre other than romance and not cast himself as a rockstar!

Friday, February 5, 2010

SRK vs. The Sena

I have never been a ShahRukh Khan fan. He comes across as too pompous both in his movies as well as when he makes public appearances. This is the why I do not get surprised when he gets involved in controversies every now and then.

Do I think his recent statement regarding inclusion of players from a neighboring country was anything other than an opinion? No. But, should he have made it in a public forum? No. The reason I disagree here is not because I am on team Sena. It is due to the fact that being a celebrity, one needs to be that much more cautious about what he/ she says in public. Thanks to the media, what an actor speaks in any forum is telecast time and again (Aaj Tak and Headlines Today take the cake for most number of repulsive repeats) and the audience is a very impressionable set of people across states. These people place film actors on pedestals for no strong reason and attach the tag “ideal role model” very easily. They do not understand that an actor not being able to voice his/her opinion is not about an unfair freedom of speech but is all about being responsible towards a billion people who emulate characteristics.

And why is the media creating such a furor about SRK not being able to say what he wants? Last year, a very elite news channel bullied a layman into pulling back his blog post. If this is not hypocrisy, what is?

Is this whole episode a publicity stunt? I hope not. If it is, I would say it is sheer insecurity talking because, even without this fracas, MNIK is sure to make more money than what the producers have invested.

What SRK was actually trying to convey (my take on it) – My country is all accepting and forgiving, so go ahead and pave the way for more attacks. The nation is ready to lose more lives other than mine.

Do I want to see my country being all accepting and forgiving? No. Non-violence stopped being a solution 63 years ago :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Long Days…

I suddenly have this suspicion that my days are getting longer than the norm. I am getting far too less sleep during the night and my mind is at work even during those few hours I manage to put in. Although the result of changing working hours from nights to days (I know it is a diametrically opposite change but I have been doing this for the past 10 months now), this time around, the change has me almost feeling faint. The problem here is, this state of mind makes me do weird things at work! In the last 2 days, I have spoken far too much, dozed off for close to 5 minutes with my eyes open, missed getting down on the right floor, and have a huge list of unfinished tasks :( The only good thing to emerge out of this disorientation is that I managed to dole out some pretty remarkable stuff that will benefit me down the years. Does this mean I am at my creative best while half-asleep? I seriously hope not! I intend to recover by the end of this week and get back to being the lazy bum that I am.

Digressing a bit…

My resolution for bus travel - never sit in the last row while traveling to work by public transport. I had to wade through a sea of men to get to the door today and was it embarrassing or what! It was like walking through a road clogged with extremely heavy traffic.