Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

A day in the life of kashmiris

Posted: December 3, 2016 in People, Social
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“Toh Shabbir, aap kya chahatehain, Kashmir Bharath ke hi rahe ya Pakistan ke hojayein?” I asked Shabbir, my cab driver during our tour of ten days in Kashmir. We were on our way to the foothills of Gulmarg. He smiled, shrugged and said ‘ what I want or don’t want doesn’t matter me’m saab, no one asks us ‘. There! Yet another time he had dodged my question- I grinned.
Ladies and gentlemen, what came next turned out to be the most unforgettable 15 hours of my life.
Suraj and I trekked Gulmarg uphill for over 6 km, scaling all the way to its summit and got back to the foothills on horses back.
There had been a rumour all of that day that the riots could begin any time with no confirmed reports.
We had to drive 56km, all the way back to Srinagar and were glad our Gulmarg trek went well without any hitch. Shabbir started driving back, while we removed our jackets and gum boots, trying to get comfortable In the back seat.
Suddenly, Someone out of nowhere threw a fire lit tyre right into the middle of the road. Shabbir brought the taxi to a sudden halt, safely pulled up to a side and frowned as he announced- RIOTS HAVE INDEED BEGUN. The clock showed 3 pm. After 4 hours of trekking uphill and 2 hours downhill on horse back, we had not even had our lunch.
Shabbir took an inside route that would connect to the highway, assuming in all probability, that the route will be open. After driving for 50 whole minutes, we did see the highway ahead at about 200 meters away, but our path was blocked by huge tin cans dipped in kerosene and torched up. We saw a man making an attempt to move them, enough to let his taxi pass. I told Shabbir that we should help him too, so we can sneak out as well. But Shabbir gave a firm NO. He decided to drive all the way back, so we drove for another 50 min, now back to square one! My mind kept telling me that Shabbir didn’t really care and was just wasting time.
As we joined so many other taxies treading their way through, only a few meters at a time, we reached a junction where there were a bunch of hooligans, standing and waiting across the road, ready to throw boulders at anyone who dared to drive past. I saw Shabbir get down and speak to one of those guys for 5 min, occasionally chuckling. I was stunned! I was convinced that Shabbir is one among them- Just another con man making money out of India tourism but an outlaw supporting the miscreants. As we finally managed to steer past these hurdles and hit the Srinagar highway at around 6 30pm, it was evident that the protests on the highway were very severe, with mob spanning every half kilometre, waiting with gunny bags filled with stones,weapons and kerosene ready. The road of the highway  itself was donned with fire and soot, with flakes of carbon lingering in the air, smelling of kerosene everywhere. All the tourists vehicles including ours entered an abandoned petrol bunk and waited there, judging too well that driving through that highway was nothing short of digging our own grave. Just as we began to discuss restlessly amongst ourselves, we saw a huge military convoy pass by. A ray of hope?! Every single vehicle waiting at the petrol bunk now quickly sneaked into the convoy since it was known that no one would throw stones at the military convoy. But We were the only ones remaining. Shabbir had refused, despite me begging him to join the convoy till the moment had passed, and the convoy was out of sight. I was worried we would get stranded through the night. I was now out of my wits. “Shabbir, what the hell do you think you are doing? Exactly what is your intention? Do you even want to help us and get us back safe to Srinagar?” I yelled at him.
Just as Shabbir, not losing his composure, had begun to explain that our safety is foremost on his mind, something unbelievable happened. The buses and other tourist vehicles that had sneaked in through the convoy came rushing back at once to the petrol station. We were shocked to see that ALL the vehicles were severely damaged. They say riots are the language of the unheard, and that day, Suraj and I got a first hand view of a typical riot scene- All window panes broken, one of the drivers lip cut because of hurling of stones at the windows, the stepney wheel of a TataSumo splashed with kerosene and lit up, and a whole bunch of tourists with glass pieces stuck in their hair, bleeding here and there….
I began to carefully pluck glass out of people’s hair and forehead, while Suraj and Shabbir doused the fire on the stepney wheel of Tata sumo, and tended to the severely wounded drivers. Those miscreants had obviously spared the convoy but had clearly aimed for these tourist vehicles and busses.
Amidst what seemed like mayhem to me, I couldn’t make time to express a word of gratitude for that presence of mind and thoughtfulness Shabbir had exhibited at that moment when he decided to NOT join the passing convoy, for, I was busy giving first aid for the injured.
Finally, at 10 30pm, Shabbir drove us back safely to the hotel, arranged for food to be parcelled and delivered to us and left.
That was the last day of our tour and we never got to see Shabbir again.
My words of gratitude remained unsaid. the next day, we took the flight back to Bangalore.
On the occasion of new year’s eve, 2 months later, we wrote him a thank you letter along with new year wishes and shabbir in return had sent his family picture with new year greetings written at the back of it. I still have that picture with me. His children, as beautiful as their home land itself, happily
 pose for a photo with sparkle in their eyes oblivious to the world of uncertainty and chaos around them.
As I lead a life of comfort here, I can’t help but think of the lives of kashmiris dreaming year after year, for a life, that is NOTHING but normal.

SCREEEECH. I applied the breaks just in time and prevented yet another untoward accident. Their thunderous laughter still kept ringing in my ears and I could ride my bike no further.

Cut to 2 hours before.

It was a fine sunny Saturday afternoon. I was the only girl on my side of the court, with the rest of them being random guys from the boys volleyball team, practising for the upcoming volleyball tournament. A guy on the other side of the net spiked a ball that came smashing towards me. Quick as lightening, I squatted on my toes, received the ball well and gracefully passed it to the guy standing behind me. Still squatting, I looked back to see how the ball would further be manoeuvred. To my surprise, the boys burst out laughing, unmindful of the ball. Still clueless, I got up and dusted the mud off my pants and to my SHOCK, I realised that my denim trousers had torn apart at least by 7 inches. Not knowing what to do, I took a timeout, picked up my bag, and using it to cover as much as I could, I mustered the courage to walk to my bike. I took one last glance at the boys and now they were rolling on the floor laughing. As I headed home, a gamut of thoughts bombarded me- why me? was the first question. How could I be so undisciplined so as to wear jeans for practice instead of track pants? I blamed myself. The picture the boys on the floor laughing kept occurring before my eyes and i felt so terrible, I almost ran Into the car ahead of me, SCREEEECH..

I pulled up my bike to the side of the road decided to see the brighter side of things. I realised how I had not shed a single drop of tear and gave a pat on my shoulder and told myself – you are a tough cookie. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine. Pretend for a day that you are Bipasha Basu playing beach volleyball- problem solved, I told myself. I reached home with a clear mind, and in peace with myself. On the following Monday, I went to college with my head held high . The boys gave me looks and jeering glances often, but the more they looked at me, the more I felt like Bipasha Basu :). I didn’t mention about this incident to anyone, coz I believed that it’s all a part of the game. And if the boys decided to spread the news across college, what would I care?!

Ladies and gentlemen, Here is what I learned from this whole fiasco
Bad things do happen. how I respond to them defines my character and quality of life. I cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind. But surely, i am not the one to grieve in perpetual sadness, immobilised by the gravity of the situation.

That day, as I walked down the parking lot, all that had happened the previous day appeared like a flash before my eyes.
And I could hear my own voice reverberating in my head – Shed all inhibitions, have no regrets, have no contempt either, for life is too short to be anything but happy.
As I rode back home in a mere 20km speed, with a sense of liberation, feeling lighter and better, with wind in my hair and smile on my face, I remember humming a Guy Lombardo song which goes something like this-
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!

It is said that in 1971, John Lennon along with a couple of others wrote the song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” exhibiting optimism despite the ongoing war waged by the US on Vietnam. Fast forward to 2012 – As the most heinous and brutal gang rape victim breathed her last on December 29th and the humanity in India is at the peak of its haplessness, the people and the media are collectively giving their struggle and fight a new face by calling it a ‘National awakening’ assuming that the protests and peace walks have taken it to a different level. Thats not just optimism, but hope against hope. But this time, I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic, I am cynical.


I will not believe that the nation has awakened to the atrocities on women after the rape incident. We are what we are. We are a nation whose demographics of male politicians ruling the nation is far superior compared to the number of women in governance. We are a nation where most of our men exhibit male chauvinism and medieval attitudes. Our thinking is orthodox and irrational when it comes to our women. And I am saying all this, not with a head held high, but low in shame.

I am shocked beyond wits with the kind of response from most men holding responsible and elite positions in social hierarchy to the outrageous rape incident. A chief minister of India’s capital had once said that in order to keep such crimes at bay, women have to be always accompanied my men at night. How ridiculous is that? I say, if the men out on the streets can’t control themselves pouncing at women, then it is they who need to be accompanied, for they have a serious problem. Someone who calls himself a God man says that the girl who was raped should have called the culprits bothers and pleaded them to stop! And what can you say about this other specimen who said that women in urban India are under the influence of western culture and hence get raped?! Disgusting.   These statements coming out from people of elite stature in responsible positions ruling our nation makes one think where our country is heading.

Lets face it. Peace walks, protests, media hype can’t change much. They might at the most bring pressure on the government to give financial aid to the victim’s family and make public assurances of turning things around. With passage of time, assurances and promises will dissolve into thin air, media will have new events to be covered and no one will follow up. What India really needs at the moment is legal reforms. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. But then, if it took the government of India 4 years to hang Kasab, convicted terrorist behind the 9/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai that left nearly 3000 people dead, I have no reason to believe that one brutal rape incident will make the government change the law. I say – If the law says that the rapists will be castrated at the India Gate publicly then these men will not dare do any such acts even if the woman walking in front of them is visibly naked. Why can’t we revise and enforce strict laws? I don’t know how many more rapes and assaults it takes for the Indian government to understand that RAPE is not just a physical violation but mental, physiological and emotional violation and make the punishment to rapists more severe.

And then what about human trafficking, domestic violence, acid attacks, child marriages, female foeticides… how and when are we going to address these problems?

For those who don’t know what I am referring to, here’s some insight. How are these issues handled in your country? Like I said, I have no hope, this time, I am cynical…

 ‘A country is considered to have achieved its full independence only when women can walk safely in street at anytime without fear’ –  Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation

October 23rd, 2003. Little did I know that morning that the date would remain etched in my mind for ever. Those days, I stayed with my Ajji (grand mom) for over 2 years in her house- a duplex building, very lavish for just the 2 of us in a prime area in Bangalore,  just about 2 miles away from my home. Those 2 years of my life, I wouldn’t call the best, but turned out to be very eventful. Eventful because that stay with my Ajji was during my graduation. Since we were just the 2 of us at home, I had begun to enjoy my new found liberty. No one to question me whether I attended classes or where I went in the evening. What more could a girl of 18 ask for? I had monopolized the first floor of the house – there were three bedrooms, and a big lounge, all of which I had used up totally. One big room was for partying when my friends stayed over, we spent nights eating,dancing and gossiping all night long. The big room had a Jacuzzi and mirrors all over one side of the wall. Perrrfect I should say! Grandma would make her visit upstairs only once in a week or so, just to keep a vigil on the domestic maid and ensure that she was doing her duty well. I despised even this visit of hers, for every time my friends visited and stayed over night, the room would generally be left untidy, with some formidable (in my grand mom’s point of view) things littered around. if at such occasion Ajji paid a visit upstairs, that would generally leave me uncomfortable. The other medium sized room was my study room that contained books, my computer, clothes, work papers, CDs, music system, and other et-ceteras. And the third room was something like a dump yard. If my friends came over at short notice or if we had guests at home, then instead of bothering to clean up the place,I would just dump all the clothes and books that littered around in this room since no one entered this room. This way, tidying my room would effectively take less than 5 minutes. Every evening at 6:30 pm Ajji would religiously visit temple and spend about an hour and a half there listening to religious discourses by several god-men  She would then promptly bring home the prasad(sweetened confection offered to God and later distributed among devotees) to share with me. I would typically return home from college around 6 pm. Ajji would keep something ready for me to eat, prepare tea and leave by 6:30 pm after which all of the 90 min was bliss for me. I had the carte blanche to do as I pleased. I would quickly freshen up and make calls to friends. since I would be alone at home, I didn’t have any restrictions to speak my heart out and loud on phone, be it with my male friends, where occasionally our talks would lead to flirting tit-bits  or with my female friends where we shared our gregarious instincts. There was no cable connection, hence watching TV was not an option (Yeah, its funny the house had a jacuzzi but not cable TV  🙂 ). My only pastime would be to eat, listen to music, apply some face pack on and spend time on phone. Studying was not in the list unless it was exam time.

Once it was an occasion of Diwali, festival of lights. Ajji got invited over by my aunt and needless to say, I would pay a visit to my home and spend the 3 days of the festival there. I was excited about going home to stay over. Although home was just about 2 miles away, its was not very often that I got to stay overnight and spend time with my family. Every evening that I paid a visit at home, mom would make sure I returned to Ajji’s place by 9:30 pm since she didn’t want Ajji to spend nights all alone. Though this got on to my nerves occasionally, I would take solace by reminding myself of all the other benefits I was availing from my stay there with Ajji. So, for  Diwali vacation I packed my bag and kept it ready, Ajji did hers and we were all set to tend to our respective invitations next morning. I had made extensive plans for the 3 festival days. First day, I would get-together with my cousins and burst crackers at Adi’s place, 2nd day was Sachin’s birthday, and he had asked me to come over 2 hours before the other friends turned up for the party so we could plan and prepare for the event, third day, I would spend time with my family, at home. I had to get back to granny’s place the 4th day, so I had to max these 3 days up. As per our plan, the next morning, Ajji and I had breakfast, and secured the house keys (both of us had a set of house keys), and left to our respective destination. The first day at Adi’s house was a blast, we had good memorable fun, I returned home along with my sister late at night.I was too tired that night and craved for a cozy slumber. The next day was Sachin’s birthday, October 23rd. I was supposed to be at his place by 3pm and receive friends at 5 pm. I got ready that morning without wasting much time and called Shruti, my second cousin. I asked her if she was free that morning since I had to buy a birthday card for Sachin, and hoped that she would be a company when I shopped. I bought him a nice lovely card (Sachin had a thing for perfumes, so I already had a Tommy Hilfiger perfume gift-wrapped and ready) and when I was done shopping other random stuff, we started to Ajji’s place. I had made sure that I carried a set of keys with me since the dress I wanted to wear for the party was at Ajji’s house. It had to be my favorite black pencil skirt and a high neck sleeveless snug fitting red and white top, accessorized with my white watch and black shoes for the party. It was already 2:30 pm, and we had not had lunch yet and I was running out of time. I parked my vehicle randomly at the gate, since I knew I wouldn’t be spending much time in there, I only wanted 20 minutes to get ready for the party. Lunch, I had decided, I would skip. I swung the gate open, with Shruti by my side, I hurriedly unlocked the door and entered the hall area of the house. I drew the curtains open, and threw my hand bag on the sofa there, and much to our shock, saw the backyard door open and half ajar. I couldn’t believe what I saw and tried to recollect if we had ensured that we locked the back door before Ajji and I left the house 2 days back. As I talked to Shruti about it, we suddenly realized that the light in the room next to the dining hall was on…Someone was in there!! It took less than a second for us to realize that the house was burgled! We felt a flush of hysteria as we realized and immediately rushed out of the main door and bumped hard into 2 girls who were running towards the gate from the backyard. Next thing we know, all of us yelled wild at the top of our voices and went berserk. The last thing we expected at the heat of the moment was to bump into the burglars themselves! The 2 girls were on their way to escape when they rammed into us by chance, little did they know they would get caught this way. Fear and suspense was driving us insane, but it took no more than a minute to gather all courage for me. I held one of the girls hands and banged her on her shoulder, the other girl tried to defend this girl and make an escapade. As I still held the first girls hand, I elbowed the second girl’s neck. The first girl whose hand I had still firmly held, tried to wrench herself out of my grasp, in vain. Soon she  started speaking to me in a tone as if nothing had happened. She addressed me as Akka(meaning sister, the domestic maids here generally address their masters as Akka or Amma) and said ‘its me, didn’t you realize, your maid servant?’ Ah, Gouri…yes, Gouri she was! It then struck to me that she had worked as a domestic help in recent past for about 3 months. I was hardly at home at her routine time and didnt know much about her except that Ajji occasionally grumbled and expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of work she did. But I did remember yelling at her one day since 2 hundred rupee notes were missing from my closet and I vividly remembered keeping the money there just 2 days prior to the theft. She denied having taken that money as expected, but I wanted to threaten her nevertheless, so that next time if she ever encouraged thoughts of stealing, she should know I am no meek lamb. ‘What the hell are you doing here Gouri?’, I yelled at her, trying to conceal the nervousness in my voice. She said that she was on her way home with her friend, felt very thirsty and decided to stop by my house thinking Ajji would be home to give her some water. She went on to explain that she was aware of the tap in the backyard, and when no one attended the calling bell, she went to the backyard to drink water from the tap, and to her surprise, the door at the back was open. Her explanation to save her skin was a wasted effort, I sensed the sheer palpable lie behind her explanation. Shruti and I felt something fishy, and decided to call the police. I latched the main gate from both inside and outside, prompted Shruti to keep a vigil on both and them and not to let go of them. Shruti held Gouri’s hand tight, as I headed towards the room and took a glance at the state the room was in, shocked to see that they had broken open the almirah and ransacked the stuff inside. I ran to the phone in the dining hall and called the police, narrated the incident and gave them directions. I called my parents as well as my uncle who also stayed near by. In less than 10 minutes, we had the police and the Hoysala (The official patrol van in Bangalore) guys at the door. The police examined the house,ceased the weapons used to break open the door- a chisel, a dagger, an iron rod with sharp edge on one side, all of these from the small lawn that Ajji had maintained in front of the house, a big stone and a knife. It was a well planned burglary. They carefully picked the weapons in a cloth and put them in a cover and sealed them. As one of the police men interrogated Gouri and her companion, a couple of others kept asking us questions to get better clarity. The police called for the fingerprint experts. In the mean while, the news had spread across the street, neighbors flocked into our house to see what had happened. There stood one constable at the back yard door shouting at all these people asking them not to touch the door handle since the fingerprints on the door had to be captured, and those people whose curiosity got better of them stood in the hall staring at the suspects as the police interrogated them, occasionally taking queer glances at us, until the police signaled them to leave. The phone rang, and as I attended the phone call, I took a customary glance at the clock which now showed 30 min past 4 pm. It was Sachin at the other end of the call – ‘where the hell are you, I thought we both agreed that you would be here at 3?!’ I said ‘Sachin! …err, you wont believe what has happened, there’s burglary at my grand mom’s place…the police…you know how it all happened…’ Sachin was in no mood to listen to me, he felt I was making up things for not showing up in time. He said with a stern voice ‘Ok, so you are coming or not?’ I found it very stupid of him to not believe me, especially when so much was happening at my end. I said some investigation was happening and I would try my best to reach by 6 pm.  Even before it occurred to me that I should wish him happy birthday, he cut the call. I returned to the hall with a grin. All eyes were at the 2 girls who were trying hard to convince the police of their innocence. The police suspected that it could not have been possible for the 2 girls to break into the house all by themselves. They felt there was a man behind the breaking open of the back yard door and the Godrej almirah. The news had reached my granny by then. My aunt brought her in an auto rickshaw without giving out all the information about the theft. She was asked to examine and give a list of all the valuables that were missing in the house. She took a good look at the state the the house was in and headed straight to the kitchen. She opened a big container that contained rice and stuck her hand into the rice grains and juggled in there. She then came out and said that a gold chain was missing!! It took me by surprise that she should hide her gold chain in the rice  container and shock to know that Gouri actually knew where Ajji had hid the chain! She must be one hell of a thief, A thought. The police didn’t react too much, for they must have come across many such stories in their career. One of the senior police men who had sat patiently listening to suspects now got up, took the cover containing the weapons in hand and walked straight upto the girls. He started beating Gouri on her hands and legs, saying ‘enough is enough, if you don’t confess, you will be behind bars. I know how to get stuff out of people like you’. Shruti and I closed our eyes as Gouri flinched in pain. I felt police were man-handling the girls and abusing them without knowing for sure if they were the culprits. But the girls were stubborn, they didn’t budge one bit. The police indicated the ladies in plain clothes who had accompanied them to take the girls to the room and frisk them thoroughly. One of the girls carried a purse that yielded an advocate’s number. The police called the advocate to find out if they could get any more information about the girls. It turned out that both these girls husbands were in jail, serving their terms for theft, robbery and burglary. They later found out that these girls were a part of a bigger group that operated in some certain areas in Bangalore. The clock showed 9 pm and thought of the birthday party and Sachin’s disappointment kept haunting me oevery now and then. I knew Sachin was terribly upset with me for not turning up on the big day and didn’t bother to call me again. I felt bad for spoiling his day. The police decided to take the girls to custody, drove them to the J P Nagar police station. Dad, uncle and I followed them in our car to the station. Without wasting much time, the police tied them in a chair and resorted to shock treatment. I spontaneously shrieked out of fear. One of the lady associates sent me out. As I stood outside the station, I simply couldn’t believe the turn of events that had taken place that day. I could see from outside that Gouri and the other girl had bruises on their faces, both of them weeping badly. It all seemed like a movie to me. In less than 15 minutes, the police came out and said that the girls had finally given into shock treatment and confessed that they carried out the crime. The girls had elaborately explained their planning and execution. They had even disclosed their other burglary fiascoes. I was complimented for our presence of mind and courage, which I conveyed to Shruti the next day. The police suggested not to file an FIR, since the girls had admitted their crime and besides, filing of FIR meant that Ajji and I would have to regularly pay visits to the station and court, which neither of us wanted. My parents, uncle and aunt spent the night with us at Ajji’s house. The next morning, one of the police constables came home and returned the gold chain to Ajji and said that Gouri had dropped it in the police jeep on her way to the station, out of fear. He also said that I would be given police protection for a week, in case Gouri’s associates should try to do any harm to me at the least. There after, for a week, I could see the Hoysala van passing by every morning as I waited at the bus stop to take the bus to college, the police man inside occasionally gesturing a hello by waving his hand up in the air with a smile on his face. Ajji gifted me the chain as a token of appreciation for winning it back to her. A couple of weeks later, One of the uncles from the US at a social gathering said that he had mentioned all about our deed in a web site that he maintained and gave us the link to read what all our relatives had said in response to his article. Shruti and I blushed. We giggled among ourselves and felt so shy, we wanted to run away from the gathering, unable to handle attention. We had become the topic of discussion that day and for a couple of weeks after that. Everyone among our relatives seemed to know what had happened on that day, October 23rd, the day they called us heroes 🙂

Lord Raama, Is that you?

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Mythology, Social
Tags: , ,

“And that’s why we say that you should pray the lord before you go to bed. Make it a habit to chant ‘ramaskandam hanumantham‘ before you sleep and then you will see that you will never get such bad dreams” – so said my mother and put to rest my fear of bad dreams that kept recurring in my mind ever since I had had a bad dream the previous night. “It is said that even sage Valmiki, once a dacoit, on his transformation to being a good mortal, was advised by sage Narada to ceaselessly chant ‘Mara’ (reverse of Rama) when Valmiki was unable to chant lord Raama’s name” – I remember her saying something like this that day before our discussion ended. I must have been around 10 years then, and Since that day, I don’t remember sleeping a night without praying my Lord Raama. Lord Raama is more than just a God for me, he is faith, he is liberation, and he is my guard.
I have read somewhere that the name Raama encompasses three syllables: Ra, Aa, and Ma. Ra signifies Agni (Fire God); Aa, Surya (Sun God); and Ma, Chandra (Moon God). Fire God burns all sins, Sun God dispels darkness, and Moon God cools one’s temper and produces tranquility—in essence fostering the harmony of thought, word, and deed.
“When in distress, you should always remember your favorite deity. For some unknown reason, Guru Raghavendra comes to my mind every time I am in distress…” she had said on another instance. That was when this question occurred to me – who is my favorite deity? and the answer to the question occurred as instantaneously – Lord Raama, Lord Ganesha. Some time as recently as 7 years back I added lord Hanumaan to the list.

Mythology has always caught my curiosity, I love reading books on mythology, especially stories of my favorite deities. One such book that caught my attention was ‘Ramayana’ (Valmiki’s version) by Sri Rajgopalachari. The narration of the story is simple and elegant, and is written keeping the youth in mind. His attention to detail, pruning of unnecessary passages, the emotional and the elated tone of the story are all very evident as you read the chapters of the book.
Since I am particularly fond of Raama, with every page I contentedly turned, I eagerly waited for some of the very important episodes of the Ramayana’s mythic past – the Seeta swayamvar, the deceiving illusion of the golden deer that captivated Seeta, the killing of Raavana and lastly, the fire ordeal that Seeta went through to prove her chastity to Lord Raama.
I must tell you that for most part of the book, my state of mind was so elated, I enjoyed reading every word of the book. I took some time off between chapters to assimilate, introspect and also appreciate Sir Rajgopalachari on his marvelous writing. As I turned through the chapters, I both rejoiced and sighed as the pages on the left piled up and the pages on the right diminished, for, I was happy that I was getting closer to some of the most awaited ear marking episodes of Ramayana,but at the same time, sad that I was approaching the end of the book. I relished every page of it and every chapter left me hungry for more.
And finally I landed on the page where my Lord Raama takes the brahma-astra in his hand, utters a spell and directs it straight at Raavana, the brahma-astra penetrates Raavana’s armour, pierces his chest where the secret of Raavana’s invincibility is enshrined, and shatters it. This brings the end of Raavana, the evil incarnate.
It was a delight to read the saga of Raama where the Lord Raama and His consorts are born are mere mortals who, given to destiny, experience human sorrow, and go on to establish Dharma on earth.

Now, as I continued to read, I only waited for the union of Raama and Seeta, and their celebration of togetherness after a long episode of distress and battle. But what was yet to come was far from being pleasant. To believe my eyes, I had to go back and read the part again where Raama says ‘How can a kshatriya take back a wife who has lived in a stranger’s house for so long?’. Although I knew well that Seeta takes the fire ordeal to prove to Lord Raama her chastity, given to Lord Raama’s character, I didn’t expect this coming. I felt that it was so unbecoming of him to suspect her chastity and not accept Seeta with open arms. It was painful to read it.
To me it was unsettling that Raama should instigate Seeta to jump into the kindled fire to prove her integrity, after having gone through an emotional turmoil, for no fault of hers. In my eyes, Raama had won the battle, but lost the war.

Before Valmiki’s time, legend had it , that after recovering Seeta, Raama sent Seeta away to live all by herself in a forest, fearing a scandal! This has taken shape as Uttarakaanda of Ramayana. Valmiki, in keeping with Raama’s benevolent character, has portrayed him differently.
However, I can only find some solace in Sir Rajagopalachari’s explanation that since Lord Raama was an avataar of Lord Vishnu, who had taken birth as a mortal to slay the daemon Raavana, Once the target was meted out and victory was achieved by lord Raama, that also marked the end of the avataar and the divinity was lost, after which Raama lived only as the king of Ikshvaaku race. With this explanation, King Raama’a behavior can only be attributed to the customs and thinking that prevailed in those times.
I battled an array of thoughts after the ending of Ramayana stirred up my emotions and invoked my feminist views before I could contain and tell myself that mythology is inevitably bound to the society and time in which it occurs and hence is justified by its prevailing culture and environment.

Seeta’s sorrows have not ended with Ramayana, it is but an ongoing pathos in the lives of our women. A closer look into the society in India today still mirrors the voiceless and endless suffering of our womenfolk.

Bangalore is aching me!

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Social

Like how while in school we used to say ‘born and brought up…Bangalore’, I am a pukka Bengalorean.
My dad is a travel buff and so am I, so its hard to really count how many cities/towns i have visited in India alone. But no matter where I go, my heart lies in Bangalore. Like how TP Kailasm says “Namma Tipparhalli balu doora, adre al awL nam Basviii” 🙂 [The english version goes like this: Its a long long way to Tipperary, It’s a long way to go,
It’s a long long way to Tipperary, but my heart’s right there]
Every single time I take the first step in the Airport/railway station (I dont travel by bus), on the way back from journey, my heart shouts out loud – Nammaaaaaaaa bengaloooruuuuuuu.
Just love the people here, the kannada they speak, their attitude so accommodating, their dressing so simple…gratitude is all over the place.
Well, some of you may not agree with that, since today, Bangalore is not arguably so. So much of infiltration I must say. this is one thing that pisses me off. With every passing day, Bangalore feels more and more out of place…Something is wrong…well, too many things are wrong and seem out of control.
Bangalore is getting overcrowded, more than what the city infrastructure can handle. I don’t want to blame the IT companies alone, just any Tom, Dick, Harry, Kumar, Chowdary, Patel, Singh, Sarkar, etc wants to first land in Bangalore and then decide what he wants to do in life!!
And Bangalore, with all its goodness, welcomes every single confused soul with open arms. That is also not so much of a problem, we are after all a diversified nation, Bangalore is now brimming with diversity. Much as we complain that roads in Bangalore are bad, traffic comes to a dead halt and the cost of living is high, people who enter Bangalore seem to think otherwise. Most parts of India still do not have roads as good as here..first look at the city is overwhelming, lifestyle seems charming to most of the youngsters and most importantly, they know they can get on here despite all the differences, coz people here are accommodating…veeeeeery….Not to mention the growth opportunities. Hence, one gets to see a constant inflow to Blore, but hardly any outflow. Money is not a problem for most of them, coz half of the immigrants’ parents have a land they own, or own a business and mobilize money easily…And the other half of the immigrants that cant afford Bangalore life style, well, I dont know how they manage, but they still want to come to bangalore!
Thus, Bangalore has not remained the Bangalore it once was. SIGH.
All’s fine, but whats NOT fine is the changing attitude of us Kannadigas. Outsiders living in Bangalore for over a decade still manage to pull it off with ease here even without having to learn the language. Any one who first lands in Bangalore from other states NEVER finds language a problem, coz Bangaloreans talk Hindi/Tamil/Telugu, or at least try to, and that makes it all a cakewalk for the outsider. Whats more, Kannadigas are known for warmheartedness, and ‘adjust’ing is in their blood. Auto drivers, bus conductors, shopkeepers, house owners and just any man on the street makes an attempt to speak in Hindi and assists the outsider with all humility. This makes any Tom and Dick to never feel the need to learn the language or understand the culture.
THIS..THIS is just what I hate…its ok to go an extra step to be courteous and warm heart’d…but who the hell is asking you to go an extra mile a give up your identity and pride?
Make them learn the language and understand our culture. Make them realize that its important to learn the culture and language and respect the people and place if they have to be accommodated and if the place and jobs have to be shared.

It is purely because of the growing population in the city, that today, Bangalore is a victim of traffic problems, infrastructure problems, high cost of living, soaring land prices, increasing apartment culture, and in turn, elderly people, people working in Non IT sectors are majorly affected. Vegetable prices have reached the skies, even a middle class family cant afford some vegetables most time of the year. IT companies, roads, shopping malls, etc are being constructed in places where there was once a piece of land that was used for cultivation. Bangalore is expanding beyond all limits and bounds, and still not able to handle the crowd that is flowing in. Its a sad scene for a Bangalorean to sit and watch… you know.
Just a couple of years back I got a taste of it. I take an auto- riksha, and the driver asks Kaha jana hain? I used to think, What! from which angle do I look like a north Indian.
Any vegetable vendor I go to asks me what I want in Tamil. I used to wonder if I looked and sounded like a Tamilian. not long before it struck to me that I look like a Bangalorean, that’s the reason people take it for granted that they can talk to me in the language they like and I will still respond, as if seamless. Really sad.
This is one of the reasons why I derive pleasure out of my aimless beats in areas like malleshwaram, basavangudi, etc where the essence and spirit of old Bangalore is still alive, at least to some extent.

I really don’t know where this will end up. I wonder if our children will even find the need to learn Kannada tomorrow unless we urge them to.
But I will definitely not give up my pride and prejudice. Unfortunately for many, I am not the types to reply in Hindi even when I hang out with my north Indian friends, I only converse in English, and urge them to learn Kannada when ever there is a chance to do so. Those who like and respect Bangalore and its culture have also made an attempt to speak a few basic words in Kannada.
I snap back to any riksha driver who starts off in Hindi, and remind him that he is not anywhere in Delhi or Mumbai and is expected to speak in Kannada.
I created a big scene the other day at SPAR when the security at the entrance who watches the bags and other customer belongings told me to speak ONLY Hindi,when I asked him if I should leave my laptop as well, since he didn’t understand both English and Kannada. I mean, WTF!!! It took 20 min for the crowd gathered to clear off after the fight I started. If only I had returned home the other day without giving him back, I would not have slept peacefully that night.

People migrating to the city and getting jobs without having to learn the language for survival is ridiculous! I urge all you Bangaloreans to stand up today for your language, your city and culture, hold your spirits high and get every migrant to learn the language and respect the place and people of Bangalore.
BE a true Bangalorean.

ECNALUBMA!! Alert anyone?!

Posted: May 13, 2010 in Social

I have been traveling by a 2/4 wheeler to my work place for nearly 5 years now..the one thing that catches my attention amidst all the day dreaming that i do is the sight of an ambulance. It gets me to think of the person lying on the bed inside the van who doesn’t have time on his hand, as much as anyone else on the road struggling to get to his/her work place/destination.
More worried than him are his relatives sitting around him, watching him hold and pull it off until the ambulance reaches the hospital…no situation can be worse than that…when you have to sit inside and peep out of the ambulance window to see the traffic piling up ahead and the ambulance struggling to make its way through the tedious clogging traffic..when you know you can’t do much but sit and wait to get to hospital…you would just feel like getting on to the mike and announcing/begging/ pleading/yelling to make way to the ambulance, deaf-struck people might just care enough to respond then?!
Its a scary scene really. I wonder if this is the plight of an ambulance in any other part of the better world.
Question: How can the Indian traffic Police afford to be so unresponsive to ambulance sirens? when they are taught and trained to handle such emergencies, why cant they act immediately, why exhibit such lethargy and put up a Don’t Care attitude?
I live in Sadashivnagar. For those who haven’t heard of this area in Bangalore, this is where the Who’s Who of Bangalore live…well known ministers of India to Celebrities to businessmen dwell in the state-of-the-art houses here… Sadashivnagar has some of the best 5 star/luxury hotels like Le Meridian, Hotel Ashoka, Windsor Manor, etc in its close proximity.
So guess what, when i travel back home after work, sometimes I end up waiting on roads in traffic for hours together waiting for the police to let go off the traffic after the ministers convoy has passed amidst elaborate security. Traffic comes to a dead halt till the convoy has reached the next signal junction and the escorts that accompany the convoy are out of site…What amazes me is that the coordination amongst the police at different junctions is so great that more often than not, the convoy, amidst all the chaos of Bangalore traffic, manages to maintain a speed of 40-50kmph.

This takes some good coordination and effort from the police.Is it so hard to implement this with ambulances, especially now, with all the V2V communication
gadgets? I wonder…

Sad to say, but my response to ambulance sirens has relaxed as well. Now I know better than to just honk at the person ahead of me in traffic, and act like I could make some difference, coz its simply too well known to me now that unless all the civilians are aware of what to do, one person alone can’t shake a grass. One just got to be responsive enough in such a situation that demands Action. To pass the message and let the circle inspector know that he needs to make way for the ambulance and act instantly, and then have the inspector react…Not happening … 😦
To me, Ambulance alerts and signals have become a part of the customary
idiosyncrasies while traveling, part of background noise on the roads and nothing

Just when I get terribly frustrated about this system and finally decide to pen it down, I read something like this in the newspaper:
“Zardari convoy holds up traffic, woman delivers in 3-wheeler”

Foremost, I am not here discussing any religion and fighting for any communal rights, nor am I using this to degrade/out shadow a religion/caste and their ways.
That said, coming straight to the point, I see absolutely no sense in Reservations by compromising standards and quality.
Going by the very Indian Reservation acts, the constitution has made certain provisions for the Protection of Rights & Privileges of deprived communities (although I don’t see what these communities are indeed deprived of today!!), where by, intolerably high percentage of seats in education institutions and all government jobs are reserved in favor of the so called backward/minority groups.
Leave alone getting into discussing if the very act of reserving seats is right or wrong, lets save the discussions for later.
But what is beyond my comprehension is that if the government is keeping aside a percentage of seats in colleges/jobs to be distributed merely based on caste and community, then, doesn’t it mean to say that the government is compromising on the quality of the outgoing graduates/work delivered to that degree?

If the intention is to encourage minority community and help them be seen in various fields, then, it makes sense for the government to allot seats to the backward community on merit basis and for a lesser fee. Encouragement can be given in many more ways, by providing the backward/poor classes education at subsidized rates and providing them with free study materials.

Every year, about 27,000 doctors graduate from Indian medical colleges out of which a meager 15% to 25% come from general merit seats!
If this is the scene each year for medical courses alone, we can calculate the shocking figures of percentage of general merit seats when all other educational fields and government jobs are put together.
With this kind of promise to credibility, India will only emerge to be less competent globally. Also, this is one of the main reasons why students with good grades almost instantaneously consider migrating abroad for studies and better and fair opportunities, as a result of which, the best doctors, management icons and other intellectuals from India are serving elsewhere rather than in India.

For one, lets say you yourself belong to a minority community, if you knew the surgeon operating on your heart has not been a merit student and has come up
only with the aid of the bias in the system, would you still consider having him operate on you? wouldn’t you opt for a better skilled and a genuinely good doctor?

All said and done, I would like to ask those availing such reservation facilities if they feel good about being offered such a concession on grades and scores simply because they are a minority.
Isn’t it an embarrassment to them and their community by itself?
The message given out laterally by such reservations and quota system is this: The fact that you belong to such a community implies that you lack intellectual ability to compete fairly and you are not in par with those from general merit and so, you need a reservation and quota system in place to climb up the ladder and make a place for yourself.

Quota system must be banned if India must emerge as an arguably strong, promising and intellectual nation and give good competition globally.
Any such compromise on the military standards, medical abilities, political leadership, army, navy and air force and even sports for that matter directly goes to say that we cant have our best men on the job, which means that we are placing the expectation bar so low for ourselves when it comes to quality and productivity.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present” (Abraham Lincoln).