Monday 31 December 2012

Love thy neighbour

Why is it easier to remember bad memories than good ones? Why do sad songs have a huge fan following? Why does pain bind people stronger than joy? Why is it easier to have negative vibes for someone than have positive ones? Why is it easier to crib than to appreciate? Why is it comfortable to regret than to rejoice?

I wonder then, when we have so many people around, some of them like minded, why is pain tougher to share than joy? Why is pain such a private possession and we just hold on to it. Maybe because often, people we trust inflict pain on us, and we lose faith on the species called “Homo sapiens”. We might still be transacting with them, but something somewhere inside dies a natural death. Often because we fail to give it back to them…

I’ve met some amazing people in my life, who taught me the meaning of joy, loving, sharing, caring, altruism, optimism. And at the same time, I have met those who have hurt me, let my hopes down, shamelessly been dishonest with me, be greedy with me, displayed their hypocrisy, tried to stab my positivity. But, as the New Year arrives, here I am. Still there, stronger than ever, independent than ever, more successful than the failure those people wished for me, more patient than their provocations, more positive than their efforts to suppress me. But, one thing that’s lacking is trust…unconditional trust, they have been successful in robbing me of trusting them. As I meet some of them even today, anything good or bad inside me for them dies a natural death.

Our karmas decide our fate, even the respect and love we command from others. Each one of us has our share of bad moments. And while all joy might not come from human sources, any and every pain sources down to a human being in our life. Maybe that’s why people find it easier to share their joys than sorrows, love to confide into an anonymous agony aunt/uncle, vent it out in their creativity, but refrain from sharing it with members of the same species…

Our species has existed for over 5000 years, yet we fail to share pain.

Even animals understand each other’s sorrows. No matter how much they fight, when one gets injured, the other does come to help. How can we human then, the best living beings considered on this planet, be so insensitive towards another one of us? Some of us get joy by inflicting pain, mental torture and malice on another human being. Even if not direct, some of us turn a blind eye to another human’s pain…often gaining sadistic pleasure…

Animals then are better than human beings….what you see is what you get…

Me wonderzzz…

Monday 24 December 2012

Letter to Santa from a Delhi girl…

Dear Santa,

Welcome once again! I have been waiting for you eagerly & my new red stockings are ready too, waiting for their treat. Thanks so much Santa for the new stilettos last year. They were a rage at the parties! It was fun to flaunt them as other gals felt J.

But this year, I don’t want any boots. I don’t even know if I will be ever able to party freely the way I used to. You wanna know why?

A few days ago, a girl in my city was gang raped brutally by men while she was on her way home after watching a movie. She was in a bus at 9pm (well before our parties begin!), was clad decent enough & was accompanied by a male friend when this happened.

This incident has shaken the city so much. My parents have set a 8pm deadline to come back. No late nights. Combined studies mean having to wrap up before dark else stay over at friend’s house where my brother will pick me up from. No shorts. No short skirts. I feel I am in a jail! Mother tells me it’s all to protect me. The city has become very unsafe & they don’t want me to face any trouble.

But Santa, why do I and my female friends face the brunt of a handful of maniacs? It is about the problem of a few men with a psychotic brains and lustful eyes. It is they who should be leashed, not us. If dogs go mad, they are locked, not the people. Unfortunately, here, there are just too many of them (the dogs aka rapists) and by the time you know they have a problem, they have already attacked innocent girls.

I don’t want fancy gifts this year Santa…RATHER…

I want my freedom back. What is the point of having good clothes & shoes when I can’t party? What is the point of living in a happening city when I can’t enjoy the night life? I want the freedom to live my life MY WAY. I want the freedom to wear whatever I like without the dogs staring at me with hungry looks. I want my parents to be relaxed the next time I take public transport at night. I want my government to act to the concerns of millions of girl like me. In the freezing cold this morning, canons of water were fired at my friends who went to India Gate today to participate in non violent protests. Santa, I want the government to work on the rape laws & accused instead of troubling innocent people. I don’t want the accused to walk away with the loopholes in our judiciary system. I want severe punishment for the accused so that next time such men think twice before striking at a girl. Santa, I want justice for that girl – an eye for an eye.

And finally Santa, I want a speedy recovery for that girl & strength for her family. She has endured enough and so have we – the girls of Delhi.

Donno Santa if all this will fit the red stockings, but I know you have never disappointed me…I shall be waiting….

Merry Christmas!

Sunday 23 December 2012

Wake Up

Last week I was to make a presentation on Argentina Peso crisis. The more I read about it, the more I thanked God I am born in India. I was glad that unlike the super corrupt system of Argentina, where everybody from corporate to government was abusing people’s interests, we have RBI that make sure the finance ministry always doesn’t have its way. I was glad I was not born in Europe, where every second country is suffocating with debt & gasping for bailouts. I was glad I was not born in a country where Malala was shot for exercising her right to education. I was glad I was not born in a country where Bibi Aisha’s nose was chopped off for escaping an abusive marriage.

The night of Sunday, December 16, 2012 proved me wrong…

In my own city that I am so proud of (read my blog label: Dilli Meri Jaan), a 23 year old was brutally gangraped. Her ordeal didn’t end there. She was so badly abused that she suffered permanent damage to her small intestine. Even if she survives, she would never be able to enjoy a normal meal like us since her intestine has been removed. What was her fault? That she was a girl & the assaulters thought they were men enough to teach her a lesson this way. Few dirty fish contaminate the entire pond. Unfortunately, here, the fish are “many”. If you think rape & lewd comments are the only abuses we women need to watch out for, take a second thought. 

Born and brought up in Delhi, I have seen rampant eve teasing since childhood. Be it the “acting fresh” in public transport or passing lewd comments. Sometimes it’s a passive torture. Mere hungry looks suffice for a “visual rape” even if from a distance. Since this isn’t confined to a particular area or a particular set of people, girls are taught to be careful, take precautions, come back home timely & take a male along if out in late hours. But that’s what the hapless girl did on that unfortunate night. She was in a public transport, with a male friend and 9pm isn’t that odd a time for a city that parties all night.

Much has been said and done about the issue. The agitating crowds at Rajpath shouting “we want justice”, government’s futile attempts to suppress the uprising, the press conferences, the lathicharge, a press conference and again a lathicharge.

From the ill fated night to today’s lathicharge, it is the common junta who’s suffering. The other day a minister was heard empathizing with the people saying he too has 3 daughters. How many times have they travelled in a public transport without security?

Delhi is said be “dilwaalon ki dilli”. Be it Anna, baba ramdev or any other movement, the people have always come out in support, undeterred by lathicharge. Why isn’t it payback time now. Instead of just issuing emotional statements, why can’t the celebs and leaders come out with the people in the cold and contribute to the non violent movement?  I’m sure, the police would think twice before raising their lathi on a celeb…

Me wonderzzzz….

Tuesday 18 December 2012

A date with mungphalis & gazzaks in Delhi

Winters are here! And although Delhi isn’t shivering the way it usually does (Global Delhiites are out to enjoy winters at their enthusiastic best, be it flocking to malls dolled up for Christmas or meeting up for Sunday brunches in Lodi Gardens.

Talking of winter fun takes me to my childhood days. My mother would bring lot of groundnuts, peanut chikki, phulley (popcorns), rewri & different types of gazak & we would enjoy them on winter afternoons in the comfort of our sun facing balcony. The weather would be comfortably sunny so as to wrap me in its warmth, without making me feel sweaty. Even my dog would have his share of groundnuts. We used to sit around ma as she patiently peeled the groundnuts & stuff it in our mouths. My dog felt like a king as he enjoyed special pampering. Ma would create a line on the floor with peanuts and he would follow the line, eating each peanut.

The joy of evening adrak waali chai doubled as we relished roasted shakargandi (sweet potato). The sweet potato chaat, topped with tangy lemon juice & chaat masala would make me close my eyes and take chatkaarey as the tanginess hit my palate!

Although you will find gazak at every departmental store, popcorns, roasted groundnuts & sweet potato with every second hawker in Delhi, hubby & I decided to visit two places which every experienced Dilliwalla would flock to.

Our first spot was old barafkhana. As we hit the T point and take a left towards barafkhana, the road on the left greeted us with wholesale shops selling groundnuts, gazak, rewri & lot of winter goodies. There on the roadside were sellers with roasted sweet potatoes, kachaloo, potatoes & starfruits. The sweet potatoes were beautifully arranged & the green outlining with starfruit immediately caught my eyes. The guy even had hot charcoal in a small earthen vessel on which he roasted some fresh sweet potato. My mouth watered at the sight of my favorite shakargandi & I quickly bought a kilo, dreaming of the spicy, tangy chaat.

Next, we headed to Kishanganj. From Old Rohtak Road, take the lane called goushala marg. (Here's the google maps link -,+Kishan+Ganj,+Sarai+Rohilla,+New+Delhi,+Delhi+110007&hl=en&ll=28.664251,77.20081&spn=0.004707,0.010568&geocode=FbhhtQEdrv2ZBA&hnear=Kishanganj+Railway+Station,+Sarai+Rohilla,+New+Delhi,+Delhi&t=m&z=17&iwloc=A).

The road is congested with horses on the sides and getting a place to park your vehicle is a hard nut to crack. Just outside the Kishanganj railway station, just near the bridge, there is a narrow lane full of tempting delights. My eyes twinkled with excitement as I spotted all my winter delights at a single place. There were different varieties of groundnuts, gazaks, roasted chanas, namkeens…the list is endless. Behind every shop was its workshop and I could see workers preparing different types of gazzaks. The aroma of gazzak dough took me in its awe & I couldn’t resist trying few. I could see aunties with their experienced palates, like connoisseurs, trying one gazzak after another and going for the one that passed their tests while the uncles waited.

We stopped by a shop named “Matka brand mungfali bhandar”. Interesting name…why matka? I thought. The owner smiled as I asked him the same. Perhaps he was amused that in the hustle bustle of this narrow street, someone bothered about the name, as most customers hurriedly tasted, ordered & carried their stuff away. He pointed out to a huge earthen pot on the side of the shop and said “madam, ye hai matka, jismein chaney aur mungphali roast kartey hain.”(This is the earthen pot in which we roast the chanas & groundnuts. The huge pot sat beautifully on an earthen base and besides the oven, were lying loads of chanas & groundnuts. I could also see a machine used to prepare gazak mixture. The shop had amazing hing (asafoetida) flavored chana. There was an impressive variety of gazaks, you name it & they have it. The shop even sold Muraina gazaks (Muraina is a place in UP famous for its gazaks and every second packet of gazak will mention the word “Muraina” even if it is locally made). 

I greedily tried on various gazaks before picking up my all time favorite mungpahi patti, nazuk gazak, rewri, til patti, hing flavored chanas, mungphalis & popcorns. I tempted to pack some more goodies but seeing the condition of my hubby's hands overloaded with my shopping, I decided to have some mercy on him.

Monday 10 December 2012

Movie Review - Hachi: A Dog's Tale

When it comes to choice of movies, hubby and I are often on the opposite poles. He often labels me as a “romantic comedy” movies aficionado while his choice of Shaolin master type intelligent movies have me lost somewhere in between. So, last night after a boring wedding reception, I was searching my laptop for some good movie. After filtering the “mushy mushy, action, thriller, boring types, too mentally exhaustive for the night” categories, I chanced upon Hachi: A dog’s Tale. “This seems a good movie…full of warmth & affection.” We both echoed….rare!

Many movies have been made on the dog man relationship, the last one I remember seeing was “Marley & me.” While “M&M” focused on the bond between the dog and his master’s family, “Hachi” is just about a dog’s love, loyalty & devotion for his master.

The movie runs in flashback as children in a class are shown giving presentation about the Heroes in their lives. While others go for the usual celebrity hero examples, Ronnie’s choice of his grandfather’s pet dog “Hachi” makes the class burst into laughter. Unperturbed, Ronnie begins his story…

A young Akita dog is shipped from Japan to US. On the way out from railway station, his cage falls down the trolley & gets unnoticed. Poor Hachi, with his black & white vision (1st movie I saw which considered the research finding that dogs are color blind!) struggles to get out and begins to explore the cold, unfriendly surroundings. He catches the attention of Prof Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) who, touched by his innocent face & expressive eyes decides to help the poor dog. 

Unable to locate the owner or find a suitable place, parker gets Hachi home on a cold night. Having owned a dog before, parker had an agreement with his wife Cate that they would never keep a pet dog again. She goes ballistic as she discovers Hachi in her bedroom & orders Parker to have him led out immediately. Parker tries to buy time as he hides his growing affection for the misty eyed Akito from his wife. 

Parker consults his Japanese friend “ken” regarding the meaning of a symbol on Hachi’s collar. The symbol is “Hachi”, Japanese word for “good fortune” & that’s how “Hachi” gets his name. Each day, Parker tries to find Hachi a home while Cate helplessly sees Hachi making his place in the hearts of her husband & daughter. She finally receives a call from a prospect however, it’s too late…hachi had even taken Cate by his charm & she says “Sorry, the dog’s been taken.”

The next few scenes are a sheer joy for anybody’s who has ever owned a dog. The small joys of everyday life, the growing bond that Parker shared with Hachi brought tears in my eyes as I remembered my deceased dog & the fun we used to have. Hachi becomes an integral part of the Wilson household. Hachi is a grateful dog. He never forgets that it was Parker who saved him on a cold winter night & his loyalty holds highest with Parker. Hachi gives Parker company wherever he goes, sees him off to the railway station everyday & without fail, each day goes to receive him back, waiting outside the station. A wonder dog, he takes everyone by his charm as the butcher shop on the way too station treat him to sausages while regulars wish him as he becomes a part of their routine. Hachi even casts his spell on the local hot dog vendor who often doles out special treats for him.

Dogs have a strong gut feeling and one morning when Parker gets ready to leave for work, Hachi refuses to accompany him & tries his best to warn him of some danger he foresees. Hachi even fetches a ball, something, he had never done before. Ken had told Parker that Hachi is a wonder dog & if he fetches, he would do so for a special reason. Thinking this, Parker is elated, without realizing this was a warning to the danger Hachi had foreseen. Parker leaves for work, leaving a hyper Hachi behind. That day, at work Parker succumbs to a stroke. 

Things change with Cate selling her house & Hachi moved to Parker’s daughter’s place. However, for Hachi, the wait is still not over. He runs away from the house & makes the station his abode. Each day, he continues to wait for Parker at the station,hoping he would someday return & shower him with all his love like before. The station controller & the hot dog seller try their best to tell Hachi Parker would never return. Even Ken tries to convince Hachi in Japanese, but all goes in vain. Parker’s daughter & son in law come & take Hachi home however, seeing in his eyes & his determination to wait for his master, they let him be & bid him a teary farewell.  Hachi continues to wait for Parker each day at the station for the rest of his life.

On his 10th death anniversary, Cate visits Parker’s grave & on her way back, is shocked to find Hachi still waiting at the station. She breaks down & hugs Hachi, perhaps regretting the love she could have showered on this loyal friend when parker 1st got him home. She too tries to get him to terms with reality but Hachi’s hope is too strong to face the reality. The hot dog seller sees a new buddy in Hachi as he feeds him everyday & shares a few moments of buddy talk with him. Hachi, who has already become famous wth station regulars becomes a local hero with a newspaper story done on him. Till his last breath, Hachi hopes to be united with his master & so when his end comes, he closes his eyes & feels united with Parker.

What appeared as an amusing example in a class presentation has students moved as Ronnnie himself is unable to control his emotions. He now has his own Akita as he values the special bond Hachi shared with his grandfather & wants to replicate the same. 

It was a futile struggle to hold back my tears as I remembered the same bond my dog shared with my late mother. The movie, based on a true story of an Akito in Japan is a well crafted depiction of true love & devotion that exists even in the times of opportunism & deceit. Whenever I get a chance to visit Japan, a visit to the statue of the original Hachi will be definitely on my itinerary. Richard Gere, at his usual best & wonderful background piano scores add the perfect garnish to the emotional treat the movie offers. A must watch for all canine lovers…
The original Hachi
Hachi's statue outside Shibuya station

Saturday 8 December 2012

One evening in an auto…

When you’re back to Delhi after a while, the first thing you want is to rush to the kitchen and gorge on some homely delicacies. And the last thing u want is nonsense on the way home. Back to Delhi after a fortnight, I was super eager to be on time for a family dinner, especially since it wasn't at my place (so no cooking, serving or cleaning)! Not wanting to waste time, I took an auto from Dhaula Kuan, where my Rajasthan Roadways bus had dropped me. Unless you are not familiar with the Delhi auto protocols, you will definitely be taken for a ride. First thing first, no matter how many checks and rules our reformist govt comes up with, Delhi autowallahs will NEVER go by the meter. They will give some excuse or the other and would rather abandon u on the road than take the meter. If you go for the non meter option, the amount they quote depends more on their impression of yours than the distance to be covered. If you are a single woman looking for an auto post sunset, they will quote 30% more and remind u every 2 seconds later that it’s getting “late” madam! Wow! If u are soooo concerned about our safety, then better get your act right first and turn OFF your X ray eyes!

Anyway, if you are new to the city, or don’t want any mess, prepaid auto booths are best option. So I happily paid the money and boarded my auto. The auto wallah, chewing pan masala and donning a gamchha gave me an “X Ray” look and asked me…”madam, kahan ki slip lee hai?” The moment I uttered Karol Bagh, his face turned pale, as if I had said “Khooni Bagh” instead of “Karol Bagh”. He rushed to the prepaid booth cop and pleaded just like a student pleads for extra 5 minutes in an exam. But cops and teachers maintain their rules. So the guy was back, grumbling to himself. Pissed off, I asked him to return my receipt if he didn’t want to go. “It’s not like that madam, u see these cops don’t listen to us. Just now a Volvo came with Good passengers…but I will miss it now.” “Good passengers, what does he mean, I am a bad person? He doesn’t even know me. How can he call me bad?” I was about to shout at him when he started cribbing about his poverty & how he badly looks for long route passengers. “Oh, it’s the route that’s got to be Good”…I got it now.

He said “It’s so cold madam, I will have to go home and cook now. It’s so tough to live alone.” I was more interested in reaching home fast than listening to his cribbing. Experience has taught me when u are not interested in someone’s sob story, the “Hmm” always works. So, I gave an occasional “Hmmm” every now and then so that he doesn’t get offended and quickly takes me home.

However, my ordeal had just begun. Apparently the “Hmm” was enough encouragement for Mr. Chipkoo to carry forward the conversation. Within 5 minutes, he told me he is from Allahabad, stays alone near bypass, parents looking for a match, and even asked me how new was I to Delhi, whether I stayed with my family & whether I lived in my own house/rented accommodation. His too much too soon irritated me. “Rent pe rehney waalon ko discount detey ho kya bhaiya?” I asked. “Nahi madam, I wanted to know if being from Delhi, your parents have managed to own a house.” He said in his strong accent. We were on the unsafe ridge road & his questions were beginning to scare me now. I thought it safer to give him all fictitious details so that he doesn’t pester me just in case he is a psycho….so I told him I was living in a rented accommodation with my family.

That didn’t seem enough, for Mr. Chipkoo then said,”Madam, u are lucky u will get home cooked food & won’t have to cook like me. Do have a married brother whose wife cooks for you?” I’ve had it enough. I wished my adidas  shoes had a 3 inch pencil heel I could hit him with. “Bhaiyya, I am the daughter in law. And I cook, so u don’t tell me these stories” “You married madam? He looked around and gave me and “X Ray” look. Eeeeks! And he just kept looking back. “Accident ho jayega bhaiyya. Aagey dekho.” I said. “Nothing madam, I …. Could not make out from your attire….blah blah blah…this is a city…girls wear anything…blah blah blah”. I wished I had taken a bus. There are so many passengers there the driver wouldn’t care to talk to them. I looked at my phone. No signal. I couldn’t even call my husband to save me from this nonsense.

What followed then was even worse. He began some silly sob story about his parents trying to find a match, his love interest, who coincidentally met him in the same auto. She too like me, was a passenger, was talking to him like me (when did I do the talking?). How she fed him roasted peanuts as he drove her around. How she held his hand & proposed him. How he took her to the hotel for dinner and…

By now my frustration & irritation seemed no bounds. I was no longer interested in listening to this B grade movie script & to what happened in the hotel after dinner. So I pretended to call my husband. “Mere pati gussa ho rahey hain ki main late ho gayee hun.” I interrupted his nonsense. “Koi baat nahee madam, hum bhaiyya ko samjhaa dengey kitna tirraafffic thhaa.” Mr. CHipkoo was in full mood to meet my husband. Phew!
I was feeling really unsafe now. He was more irritating than the character of Vinay Pathak in Bheja Fry. Who knows, even a psycho who stalks women boarding his auto. I didn’t want him to see which house I entered. So I asked him to stop two lanes before my brother in law’s house & rushed home. I had escaped the torture of Mr.Chipkoo’s pulp fiction stories! Finallly!

Can’t say if this will deter me from taking an auto next time, but here are a few takeaways I have from this experience -
1. A simple “hmmmm” is also conversation.
2.  Delhi autowallahs are shameless not only with their “X Ray” vision & “rates” but also with their stories.
3.    No matter how much courage & tact you display, all husbands think their wives are fools & they never let go of their “what you should have rather done” moments.