Sunday, 31 May 2009

My Travels

It so happened in 2004 that I went crazy. No, not that crazy in the real sense. Nor did I go to any asylum. I had just started working and it occurred to me that there is more to life than just wakeup in the morning-brush-bath-breakfast-work-lunch-TV-Dinner and back to sleep- you know the kind of stuff we do almost throughout the year, in the name of living a life.

Well, the thought didn’t just occur to me out of nowhere, it was at the back of my mind for some time, but in 2004, it so happened that the company I was working for, decided to set a special target for the quarter. And incidentally, my team was the only one to achieve the target and we were awarded the incentive. It took another month to receive the incentive, but when we were finally credited with the same, we were way too much with surpluses in our bank account, that we decided to do something about it. It didn’t interest me much about my colleagues and their ways to dispose of the incentives, but I decided to do something which I had been longing to do for a long time.

Several thoughts occurred, like buying a new Royal Enfield Machismo, buying something for my parents etc, but I decided to wait. It wasn’t a small incentive; it was close to a Lakh in Rupees.

After pondering over several options, I thought of taking a short vacation and to set out for an aimless journey. Finally after much lobbying, I managed a ten days leave.

From my travel

I was super excited at the proposal of setting out to an unknown place, to a place where no one knows me and cares for me. I decided to keep it clandestine and went for not even letting my parents know about it. The only person I confided was my best friend, colleague cum girlfriend, Shalini and I knew she wouldn’t be really shocked at my proposal. She knew me too well to be shocked at anything I did, and agreed with me in accepting that it wasn’t a too bad an idea after all.

I could make out from her sad expression that she too wanted to join me, but refrained from inviting her. I wanted to make a journey in solitude and moreover, her parents would never agree to a ten day trip, without knowing the details of the intention. Such worries didn’t bother me, since my parents were used to my long absence.

I can go on and on about that trip but since I am writing for some readership, I am restricting it and mentioning only the highlights.

From my travel

  • I booked myself a second class sleeper berth, going against Shalini’s continual advice to go for at least a third AC, considering the Month of the year.(in may). I argued, I wanted a real feel of India and its heat and humidity.
From my travel

  • My journey started from Ernakulam Station(Kochi) as I boarder the Nizamuddin Express bound for Delhi. I decided to go to Delhi and start my journey-Our capital.
From my travel

  • I departed, noticing the sadness in the eyes of Shalini, as she stood at the Railway platform, waving at me as the train started its long journey.

  • The journey from Cochin to Kannur was the most boring of all, since I have been frequenting this route ever since I can remember.
  • Once past Mangalore, the Konkan coastline was a delight for my eyes. Infinite caves, long stirring coastlines, Forested sideways and unfamiliar people and their mores, fueled enough curiosity that I wanted so badly in my journey. Even the beggars who boarded the train and their style of begging appeared different than to the ones I was used to in Kerala.
  • Noticed before my curious eyes, everything from culture, language, clothing, and food change every 4-5 hours. Passed through Goa, Maharastra, Madya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Finally in Delhi. In between, so many people boarded the train, some feeding my inquisitiveness and some depressing me for their sheer state of poverty.
  • As soon as out of the Delhi station , I was barraged with aggressive taxi drivers and managed to settle for a harmless looking one, taking me to some hotel in the heart of the city. Experienced my first Delhi food in a shabby restaurant, not listening to the conditions set my Shalini to avoid water or anything that’s served without a label. The tandoori chicken that I polished off at one of the Dhabas was a cool hundred times better than the best restaurant I had been to, in my hometown of Kerala. Sampled parathas, esp. the Gobi paratha and many more assortments, than I can remember.
From my travel

  • Hired a Driver driven rent-a-car, and set out to see the place. Went set out for Raj Ghat, Teen moorthi Bhavan, Parliament, rashtrapathi bhavan, India Gate, Red fort, Kutub Minar, Bahai temple, jantar mantar. Saw all of them in a day, capturing many images onto my Jurassic era film camera.( I still like it over my 12 MP camera)
From my travel

  • My foodie self went wild over many delightful ventures, sampling many restaurants and street side chaat corners. I had a chaat at someplace near the cantonment Railway station and the taste still lingers in my mouth.
From my travel

  • After two days of fooling around in Delhi, boarded a bus for Agra. Checked into some shabby place for a hotel, set out for tajMehal, Fathehpur Sikhri, Agra fort etc. The food was again great, after 2 days in Northern India I was truly-madly-deeply in love with anything that can be called a food. And Agra was exceptionally good at providing sanctity to my Foodie self.
From my travel

From my travel

  • After another 2 days in Agra, it was adieu time and my next destination was decided- Varanasi. I can’t say why, probably I am close to attaining sainthood, banaras had always attracted my fascination.This time it was a train trip and after an overnight journey, I was in the holy city of Banaras. After a short rest, I was set to explore the best of banaras and set-out for the Ghats. Having reached the Ghats, it was the moment of ‘Solitude and soliloquy’ with myself , as the Ganga and the rituals surrounding the place appeared as if from some other world and civilization. I was enthralled and cleansed by a knee-down wash in the not-so-pure-anymore Ganges, and many stories from Mahabaratha (including parts from the TV serial) unfolded before my captivated eyes.
From my travel

  • From banaras, having cleansed my spirit, a visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. I was all charged up and roaring. Indeed I experienced a feeling of revival, not experienced by my educated but stupid spirit in a long long time. I was extremely glad and proud of myself that I had undertaken such a journey.
From my travel

  • After banaras, it was a short confusion as to finding the next destination and it was decided to head for Lucknow. Lucknow again was a fascinating place and it was selected mainly for the sense of nostalgia it was likely to impart me, since I spent my 3 years of schooling there.
From my travel

  • I wanted to go for Kolkata but having completed 6 days already, I was way short of time before making it back to Kerala.
  • The journey from Lucknow, back to Kerala was another fantastic journey in The Gorakhpur-Kochi Express , through Andra, Tamilnadu and finally back to Kerala.

I was finally back, after ten days of wrenching, but highly exciting journey, through the heart of the place I called motherland. Never before was I so much in love, than after my journey and I understood the true essence of being an Indian.
This journey was also a revisit to my childhood memories, my life as son of an Army Man. There are several images that’s imprinted permanently in my mind, when I think of those days. Men moving in faultless march past, their uniforms and guns distracting our juvenile minds and we gaping at our heroes in perfect revelation are what my mind reminds me of wistfully when I look back to my budding years.. I have warmhearted memories of my Father going for schemes, our family get-togethers and Badakhaana, the joyful times spent traveling in first class compartments, looking at another world through the train window, picture perfect at times.
I would certainly take another trip, another time, albeit with my family this time around. But the question is of the right hiatus. It would probably be during my next visit to India. Wait till I write about it in my blog.

Ciao all.

Image courtesy:Google(please click to enlarge)

P.S: Apologies for typos or grammatical errors, since i write very fast and have no time to recheck or edit. Would Appreciate if you bring those errors to my notice.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Unofficial autobiography

Having written about my baby in the last post, I was wondering, what if she asked me after few years, Papa, you always come up to me and say ‘do this, don’t do this, eat this, don’t be naughty’ and stuff like that. Going by your present self, I am sure you might have been much naughtier than me. Tell me about your childhood. Please Papa I was wondering if I should tell her about my growing-up coz I am scared, it might have a negative effect on her. It has also made me revisit myself; that part of myself that I haven’t thought of, since a long time. It didn’t matter to me, but here I go, call this the positive effect of blogging or fatherhood, perhaps both.

I was a very calm and quiet child, ditto contrary to my younger but naughtier brother. I have felt that there are several negatives to being calm and quiet, the foremost being, you are taken for granted by everyone on the belief that you could be easily coerced to give-up. I understood this much later, when I thought water was about to reach my neck, or so the juvenile mind told myself. Once the realization sunk in, there was no stopping me; I became a mischievous young lad almost overnight. I fought for my rights, like how those old-about-to-die-any-minute-politicians fight in the parliament, and achieved many a victories.

The brawl between my brother and me over supremacy and power can be easily explained by the metaphor of “Mulayam and Mayawati” san the murderousness. And of course, there were times when Mom had to intervene to stop a murder from happening. It all feels like a bygone era friends, a bygone era.

There are several positives to being the son of an army officer. We almost had a round trip of the country before I was in 7th standard and when I was in 7th, my father retired himself out of the army. That was when I was admitted to K.V in Kerala which came as a severe shock to my North-India educated self.

I was ridiculously stupid in my earlier part of childhood. I know stupid isn’t the right word, but my vocabulary doesn’t support me in finding the most apt word to explain myself. Hence the second most apt word.

I was extremely poor in studies ( if I tell any of my present friends no one would believe) and a ridiculous dreamer. I used to score mostly less than 5 in most unit-tests out of any figure, and to get zero marks were as frequent as a snowfall in Antarctica. Having said that, how I managed to reach 7th without failing once is a miracle by itself.

It all changed when I started my schooling in Kerala. Having studied mostly in North India, I was an illiterate in my local language and as well as in English. I could hardly read English, let alone speak. I could be easily visualized if I tell you my resemblance to Tom Hank’s character in 'Forrest Gump' and 'The Terminal' combined.

Then tragedy struck. I was asked by The English teacher to read a paragraph from the textbook. There I go, struggling to form sentences, having no clue as to how most words sounded when appropriately pronounced. I became a joke and the classroom uniformly chuckled as if they were listening to some standup comedian deliver carefully rehearsed jokes. For the first time it hurt and every cell of my body sniveled in pain and insult.That was when I decided I would change myself.

Walking back home from school, the distance of about two Kilometers stood testimonial to my resolve, my tenacity, that I would make the very people who laughed at me, my admirers. Though I found few admirers, I regained my much deserved self respect and one of the best orators in college.

The realization that I was indeed awful, made me search ways or think ways to improve my position. I became one of the most avid members of the school library and one of the few who read literature.

I remember my first book, The animal farm( George orwell) and how it transformed me from a kale-akshar-bhains-barabar to someone well read and competent in school level English.

It were also the moments when I realized that if Meena, the class topper could top so naturally, me with equal number of limbs and legs and probably grey cells too, could do as well.

P.S:More stuff later, abi to puri picture baaki hain mere dost, and Sorry for sounding emotional in between.

Photo courtesy: Google Images

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Those tiny, soft, pinkish feet

My little angel was born on the 20th of feb this year. I was not so lucky to be present beside my wife in her moment of pain. That is one thing I would always lament though I was not the one to be at fault. My baby was to be born a week later, but apparently decided on herself, “enough is enough”. “Why is my mama make me not see the world?”and ta dah, she came out to the world, surprising not just her mom, but the entire her Family to be.Her Poor Papa, that is me, was left off guard, but managed to squeeze into the first available plane flying malluland( kerala) bound. And as the legend goes, crash landed right into the maternity ward of the Baby Memorial Hospital in Calicut.
It was a Friday and Fridays being a Holiday, I was delightfully hogging on home delivered Masala Dosa from Sangeetha Restaurant, when my Father-in-law dropped the jaw dropping news.My wife was taken to the hospital in the morning and soon after, her labor started. Just about half hour into her labor and Ms. Ananya, the Miss Beautiful eyes and Miss photogenic, as you see in the photograph was born.

The first instance I laid my eyes on her, it was quite a love at first sight. I almost saw her wink at me. I heard her say, "oh papa, you are so good. Ummah, I love you." I wasn't allowed to take her in my arms, my policing wife instructed me to shower first. I reluctantly agreed. But I was allowed to hug her (my wife)and her smile made me realise what I missed all these months.

I was given the task of changing the diapers and believe I did a good job at that. As my wife converses with the baby, "pretty nice life you have baby, drink, sleep, shit and pee. Even royals didn’t have so much easy life".
What followed were indeed sleepless nights, as the baby followed its hullabaloo-"day time sleep and night time awake". There were nights when I had to hand carry the baby the whole night, as my wife appeared very tired and sleepy. Thinking about it now, the naughty and mischievous expression the baby carried while making me carry her in my arms, sleeplessly, brings a smile on my face.
Mentioned below is the poem I wrote, AHEM. The inspiring moments were when I saw her for the first time.The baby was busy feeding herself and i almost heard her say, "papa? You can wait. I am busy now." I touched her tiny, soft, pinkish feet and it moved, giving me a soft kick. That was the start of the bond, between this love struck Papa and his LIL ANGEL.

Those tiny, soft, pinkish feet

It enthused when I felt,
Those tiny, soft, pinkish feet
Then it stirred my spirit,
Like a staff stir a mystical
It cried and beamed whenever,
I looked at its face and light
Calmed, when in my tender wings
It wet my garb and I tainted
But felt its warmth so unsoiled
It made me befall puerile,
And I forget I became immense
I came back to being little,
And fooled around with it, like it
It looked into me and ,
I Felt,
I was seeing a divinity in it

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

"Does anyone care what a guy wants"-1

Many moons ago, a young girl, reticent and nervous, came up to a guy and said, “I love you”. The guy, or rather a young boy in his early teen, looked into those eyes that were flooded with affection and love for him, smiled and continued his nonchalant ways. She failed to see love for her in his self and left him, albeit with a heavy heart.

Years later, the boy, now in his early thirties remembered her, with fondness and love. He wished he could see her again, just one more time and say how much he still loved her. He inhaled in deep sigh, wondering and marveling over life and its many ironies.

Doesn’t that sound a bit autobiographical? Yes indeed. That young boy is no one but yours truly.

I was blog hopping the other day and stumbled upon a blog which raises the question “what does a girl want”. Well, girls themselves make them sound as if they are some alien species from some far away galaxy. Well, most of the time, what a girl wants is what a boy wants. A girl wants a boy and so is vice versa. Did I over simplify, is it so simple?

Reading that blog has triggered my pondering process and many scabs of old hurt have torn themselves open . One such was the case of my would-have-been-sweetheart, which I started this post with. That girl, although quite beautiful and good, failed to burrow my heart, all because I thought she needed me more than I needed her. Why such a rational? After all, its not every day that you find a girl come up to a boy and say; she loved him. I found myself flying in the air like hot air balloon with pride. It was after she left, that the reality sunk in and I came falling to the ground, un-parachuted. I did all that to get her back but it was too late. In plain language, I took her for granted.

I haven’t told you what-and-all she did to express her love for me. She supported me for everything stupid I said, she would keep turning at me between the classes and our eyes would lock( we were classmates), she would wait for me for lunch, call me every day after the school, in the pretence of homework doubts, buy me gifts with her meager pocket money and so on and so forth. Shameless me never bothered to return a gift, not even once.

Then, some years later, I started working. It was then that Deepali came to my life, like quite clich├ęd saying-like a whiff of wild roses. I found her irresistible. I would do everything for her. I dreamt, ate, slept and many more such things of her and finally, after about half a year being good friends, managed enough courage to propose her. There comes my biggest disappointment! Instead of accepting, which my overconfident self convinced me all along, she rejected me straightaway.

Well, not straightaway, but tactfully. She said, to quote in her own language- “Well, humm, you know, I mean, you are good and all, but, humm, I am not ready, you know, I can’t commit, may be, I don’t know, shall see, I don’t know, later tell you. “ And the later never came. I was frustrated, heartbroken, hurt, and many more such things, all in one. She made me take her to expensive restaurants, movies, coffee shops and least to say, made me poorer by several thousand hard earned rupees. My financial analytical mind tells me, if I would have invested that much in shares I would have reaped rich dividends by now. But as they say, love is blind, so was i.

And again, much later when I finally met my wife, I realized what I thought as love was plain infatuation. This is what love was; the one I had for my wife.

Now, surprisingly, when I look back at those reminiscences, I find all that as a big joke, a rather pleasant joke. I am glad I went through all that in life. What else do you call life-but mere reminiscences, and loads and loads of them? Some pleasant ones, something which you want to share to the world and yet some, which are best kept, locked inside some furtive corner of your mind.

To sum up: Its not all too important whom you love, the people who love you are much more important. There are lessons to be learned at every nook and corner, but never wait for life to teach you lessons the tough way.

P.S: I know it says everything but "what a guy wants", My quest for the same shall continue . Ciao all:)))

Monday, 18 May 2009

Let there be light!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All said and done the elections are over and we have persuasive results. Congress has managed to win, not exactly proving the exit polls and news channels right. I was never into politics except on occasions like elections, but this time around I was wedged to TV like the way I am wedged to the photograph of my wife and daughter ever since I have returned from my vacation. Humm, here I go again, I just can’t stop talking about my family, no matter how hard I try.

But the uncertainties continue.I was never a fan of the congress and to be frank, for a while even supported the BJP. Having gone through the torments and anguish in the form of Ram Mandir, Kandhamal, Mangalore pub attach,Godhra..etc . I have no options but to support congress. The incidents of minority assaults in Godhra and kandhamal have left a lasting impact on my conscience.

NO words are strong enough to express what I felt at that moment.However, as time passed and people moved on, this piece of news which had shocked me, became a piece of information, a statistical data. Does anyone care? Momentarily, perhaps.

It seems we have been exposed to so much brutality, blood and murder that these sights fail to move us further than a certain point. We are a generation of desensitized, self-centered individuals. Infact, as Amartya Sen points out in his book Violence and Identity, in India, most people consider violence the means with which to etch out the parameters of their being. After all, the nation that we are talking of , was born in a post-modern world, of a very difficult labour. India had to claim for itself an existence that it had been denied. It had to battle for it's right to persist, thrash in violent attempts to breathe, hurt itself in the process and yet remarkably ascertain an identity for itself through bloodshed.

Our civilisation is like one of those timeless fortresses, which uphold their scars and battered structures as the essence of their being. The lives that reside within such monuments-plants, birds, rodents and reptiles, turn indifferent to the surroundings as long as they are able to sustain themselves. People who live in this country are no different.

The heights of insensitivity was probably manifested in a group of people, who either in order to settle personal scores with high officials, or simply to gather some sort of demented, sick amusement, made false proclamations of more assaults. I fail to understand these people. Do they even understand what it is to have lives wiped off in a blink? For God sake, these are real lives that we are talking about, not some virtual strategy game!

As I read about these incidents happening around us, in our nation, there are myriad questions battling in my mind. Why are they doing this? What do they want? Can't there be any other way of settling this? WHY? My mind was screaming for some sort of logic, some rationale so as to be able to make something of the world around me, to be able to salvage the sanctity of human sanity.

It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that most of us our susceptible to some sort of explosive disorder, but I don't consider myself off the mark when I say that we are an insecure lot of people, who traverse the brink of insanity by living in this world each day.

In the words of the Joker, from The Dark Knight, " Madness is like gravity, all it needs is a slight push."

Terrorism is undoubtedly born of socio-political factors, but it contains a certain madness which I suspect lurks even in the best of us. After a point, the motives, whatever they maybe, recede to make way for an illogical thirst for blood. The only way to not give into it is to keep a tight reign over one's sense of logic. But what use is logic, when everything around you is disintegrating into inexplicable, but perceptibly real debris?

Breaking news:Prabhakaran shot dead. This was a shocker, since I couldn’t believe such a ostentatious leader( not in real sence) could die in such an undemanding manner.It felt like how Saddam Hussain was announced to have been captured.A disturbing sense of dj vu. He reminds me of a real DON, and probably the dialogue- Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hein- implies to him.I feel an era has ended.I hope it bring peace and stability to the much deserving Janatha of SriLanka, and not create an abyss for descendants to take its place, Ditto Iraq.