Friday, December 27, 2013

Cheers to almighty

Today I start another year in my life. My day started with calls from my parents and that was great blessing indeed.
I decided to write a letter to God. As I started, I wondered whether I should write about what I haven't achieved or should I count my blessings and so I started with blessings..and the result was humbling..I have so much to count.
Firstly the year that has gone by was so much better than last year. Hope the next year is better than previous year. I have completed half my life on earth and he has given me so much that I can' thank him enough. A beautiful daughter, loving parents, wonderful husband, a great brother, a loving family, good health, an adorable pet, great monies and you gave me great friends and house of my own.
He gave me strength to rise above all adversities and gave me a spiritual pursuit.He gave me a Guru to guide me through all woes of life. If I look around, I see people struggling with no love, no monies, no children, no family, no health...and then I realized I am so blessed.

Having said this is what I plan for the coming years and hope he blesses me.

I have started my business and plan to start an educational school. A school that will help children get education. Will teach them better values, health and healthy outlook.It will not be something that just mints money. I plan to start an NGO that can support women in distress, give them employment and create livelihood support . I plan to live in hills and meditate a bit longer each day. So I remain closer to him.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Anger doesn't remain and nor do we

I had a strange experience a year back or so. I neighbor of mine used to park his car in such a way that it would it would make it difficult to remove the bikes parked just beside it. The bikes then would end up scratching his car's bumper. One day I happen to meet the guy just as his car pulled up. I went up to him and requested that if could park his car a little ahead, it would help the situation. I also felt that he will be thankful because I was looking out for his car. To my utter horror, the guy rolled down his windows and screamed his lungs out stating that it was his parking and he can choose to park in whichever way. Other peoples convenience wasn't his problem. And that he will not like someone coming and instructing him where to park his car. I was with a friend and we both were flabbergasted. I was too pissed to say anything further and said 'FINE'. The neighbours wife was also in passenger seat. The poor woman looked very embarrassed. Me and my friend left the place wondering if the guy had lost his marbles and probably comes from a land where they don't know how to talk to a woman. I, of course cursed him and muttered in anger if he is going to take his parking along with him to heaven too.

I kept bumping into him often, especially on morning walks. I was mad at him so I looked away or avoided him. He was embarrassed so he looked away. As a few months passed, I came to know that he was a nice person. So I wondered then why did he behave in that fashion. Later I came to know that he was suffering from cancer. So I wondered whether that was the day that may be his bad report had come in but then I felt that still doesn't give you a right to behave badly.  As few more months went by, I rarely saw him. He had become frail and walked like an old man( he was in his 50's). I had long stopped feeling resentful towards him.

Time passed. I often walked in the morning and whenever I saw him, I wondered if should go up to him and talk.But I lacked the courage or reason or will, I don't know, to go up to him and talk.

Life went by and this morning I got the news that he passed away.And I felt a strange remorse that I too never gave him an opportunity to make amends.

As the old saying goes- Life is too short to hold anything....
certainly anger and resentment.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Diwali that I grew up with....

Diwali for me meant getting up early, making colorful rangoli outside the main door. This rangoli business was a saga by itself. One was never happy with the design , so several attempts were made to get it to the level of expectation.  Lighting up diyas- making wicks and pouring oil and re-lighting all those that went out with wind. Stringing together marigold flowers to make long garlands for all doors, this I am told is strictly Maharashtrian  custom, buying ready made garlands was too expensive. Help mom in making namkins. The aroma of sauteed besan, for making besan ka ladoo was just heavenly. The perfect frying of chaklis. The crisp chiwda. Oh the effort that Mom took over it! I gave up bursting crackers when I was 13 -14 years old, in protest against child labourers used in Sivkashi factories and never ever turned back  to it. new clothes were made, so fabric had to be purchased, designs were fussed upon and then were tailored by mom.There was this huge excitement about wearing new clothes on Diwali day. Elaborate Laxmi pujan. and the wonderful prasad after it. Visiting various aunts and uncles in the evening and eating sweets and namkins. Comparisons were obvious about which aunt made these Diwali specialties better than others or us. Neighbours and relatives sent across plates filled with sweets and namkins. I don't remember  a single year receiving or sending plates across on Diwali- who does that any more? Bhai-duj was a mela, with so many cousins, one was bound to get rich.

As I grew up, started to work, traditions turned into convenience. I married a Bengali, so Diwali got less significant over the years. I got too tired working long hours, so getting up early became difficult(long hours were a part of my work). I still get up and make Rangolis, but fuss much less over it. Most of my family is fast asleep. Garlands are ready made. Nobody ate savouries at my home so I stopped bothering about it. And if did get into the mood of making some, I just made and gave it to my friends. One impulsively buys clothes through the year so it took the fun out of wearing new clothes on Diwali.There were no aunts and uncles in Mumbai , so no one just went any where except movie theatres and malls. I hate card parties, so thankfully never got into them.Visit to Mom's house became a one day event at best 2 days. Bhai-duj happened only with my brother now. My aunt calls me but my better half would like to spend time with his friends, who drink and eat non-veg. Who wants to eat savouries on Diwali? or my family would much prefer to eat at Mainland China than eat simple home food that day.

Every time I go to my mom's or my granny's house I feel twinge of sadness, all the small- small traditions that I associated Diwali with for one quarter of a century got left behind in the next 18 years of work life. And a small part of old me got slowly left behind by a new me.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dhatura, Atlas and its effects on my life

Today, while walking down the defense cantonment road leading to my house, I saw the lovely Dhatura plant and it was like finding a lost treasure. Dhatura has most magnificent tubular flowers in white colour. The leaves are dark green with a purplish sheen on it. Purple sheen is seen only at an angle. And the fruits are green in color, circular balls with spikes all over it. Dhatura made me go back into school times like flashback.
In 8th standard, I discovered a new side to my life and strangely it was a subject called Biology that made me discover love- my love for plants, leaves, seeds. I always liked them and now I was getting marks for it. I think, it was in 8th standard that we had a whole chapter on plants with seeds and Dhatura was one of them. We were staying in a cantonment area with plenty of wilderness around. So finding the plant was no problem at all. We had a lovely teacher 'Sunita Saxena' who was an ex-student and was very young, vibrant teacher. A young in age (or at heart) and vibrant teacher means a lot of fun to her students.  These people are open to learning and their friendly approach makes them relate-able and the subject interesting. Most old teachers come with the notion that they are avatars of Brahma and there is nothing new left for them to learn on this planet.
So Biology teacher asked us to get a Dhatura plant to school and I was happy to volunteer for it. This began my fascination for the plant. I collected a big plant that had a few flowers, fruits. So took them along to school with great pride. Teacher was very happy and I was pleased, at least one teacher was happy at some work that I did. Some brownie points in life.In my school, teachers only registered the top rankers. All others were treated as useless piece of furniture. Next job was to press the flowers and stick dried flowers in biology journal. So promptly the flowers were pressed in a largest book in our kitty. And that large book was Atlas. So I took a Europe page and pressed these flowers, kept a weight on it. After a few days when I opened, I found that flowers had caught fungus, molds and ate a few parts of countries. Wherever the flowers had been pressed those countries all had eaten by fungus. I consoled myself- thought why will I ever need to refer to Europe, it is anyway never opened. So forgot about it. 
Mother, one day discovered Dhatura fruits, plants and was furious. The seeds are extremely poisonous and can cause death too and so mother just   
threw everything out and warned me against getting them EVER in the house again. A warning in those days meant you had to listen to it. One day father wanted to refer to Europe map, so asked for my Atlas and then had to hear quiet an earful for not keeping the Atlas properly. My father was so particular that I couldn't even underline any sentence in pen, only pencil was to be used.
You see, books were bought as per needs and we were not forced to buy same books every year. Books were meant to be kept clean, neat, not dog-eared so that they can be used by younger siblings or sold at second-hand mart.

Anyway till date, whenever I see Dhatura plant or Atlas book, I remember all the verbal bashing from both my mother and father but my love for that beautiful plant remains intact.

Monday, April 1, 2013


This incident was about 3-4 days back. That morning I got delayed for my morning stroll with Teio. Stroll because Teio ambles along. No walk and definitely not brisk at all. After doing her morning routine, we headed to the park. This is Teio’s favourite place. No idea, why it is so, but she loves it. I saw a young boy of 13/14 years sitting on the bench, neatly dressed in washed blue uniform. Hair neatly oiled and combed, obviously from the nearby municipal school. Not hard to guess that he was bunking school.  I first ignored then thought I must try and talk to him.
His name was Vikas Jadhav. I confronted him with an open question of why he was bunking school. He said he hadn’t completed his home work. Upon prodding further, he told me that he couldn’t manage English, can read but doesn’t understand it. He was embarrassed that when he read aloud all kids laughed at him. Teachers didn’t help much as they were not very good at teaching. In fact they often asked for Gutka/tobacco from students. I nearly fainted. I am not sure of that but I am aware that most municipal schools really lack good teachers. I offered to help but asked him not to bunk school as his parents must be working really hard to send him to school. I made him realise that he was their future. He came from lower middle class. Dad was a tailor at garment factory. He opened a chapter towards the end of the book. I made him read and I explained meanings and the story. He wrote them alongside his text book. He was a bright kid but lack of understanding and ridicule made him shut off. I realised that State board has many mistakes in the book and don’t know if there was any correction from teacher’s side. I had spent 40 minutes explaining the chapter, meanings already. He then bought out his Maths book and asked me if I could do the same. Now this was a googly. I can’t teach Maths and that too in Marathi!!! No way! I said I was sorry, he really couldn’t understand that if I spoke Marathi, why I couldn’t explain Math. I offered to tutor him for English free and asked him what the date for the exams was. This was my second shock -he said four days later. Then I realised he was giving his board exam and the poor chap didn’t know anything. I was appalled at his knowledge. This was definitely not enough to get him through the boards. So asked him what his plan was given the   level of preparation. He said he plans to copy. I for once in my life time said he should do so.

 I could believe I said that. I haven’t ever copied in my life but I guess in my forties I have relaxed this principal. The system of not failing the child, the poor standard of teaching, and the child’s over all learning capabilities, his background- everything was responsible this mess. And I didn’t see any solution except copying and getting out. At least a 10th pass certificate will get him into some vocational course like ITI etc. And help him earn his livelihood. I was left wondering how many Vikas' out there needed help and what happens to their future. Strange cioncidence the kid's name meant progress.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Train Journey to Kumbh

There was huge apprehension in my family about my Kumbh trip. To make matters worse the railway footboard bridge at Allahabad Railway Station collapsed just 3 days before I was to leave. Now it was like -why do you want to go to a place like this? Thankfully I spoke in time to Vandana, who was there on the day of the tragedy and was reassured. And now I was even more determined.

I was to board from Thane, while two of my friends were to board from Kurla. As luck would have it they were running late and in no way would reach the 12.20pm train. Now I had bigger question-should I travel alone. I am going to Allahabad, Kumbh all alone!!!  I decided to leave it on my Guru. 10 minutes before arrival time, I got a call from my friend that they had managed to board the train as it was delayed by 10 minutes. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I boarded and hugged my friend as if we had climbed Mount Everest.
We settled in our seats. There were two more passengers on our adjoining seats. A youngish man in his early 30’s, dressed in office formals and a middle aged man in his 40’s who wore slightly greasy clothes. He looked more like any UP, Bihari bhayya’s who work in Mumbai. His name was Sharma. The young man smiled warmly. I returned a half sceptical, half polite smile. They both were going to their home town Allahabad. I ate my food quietly without the courtsey of offering it to them. Furkaan ate some curds and others had their lunch at home early. As time passed the two guysbecame friendly and were very polite. Also took great care of us. At a halt, one got them got down and realised that I was looking out for chaiwala, so ran and fetched tea for me. I still doubted them. My head was full of ‘Is it safe to trust these men? What about all stories that you hear? And we are 3 women travelling all alone? What if we get drugged? So on and so forth’. I offered him money. He declined and said ‘ Arre abhi toh pura safar baki hain. Baad mein aap pila dena’. I thanked him and reasoned in mind that even if the tea was drugged – My others friends are not drinking it. So it would be Okay. As time passed we realised that the two gentlemen were being extremely polite and were taking care of us in every possible way. They got us fruits, Amul Cool bottles, Curd packets. We got them tea and coffee. We in return shared our dinner with them. They offered their lower berths at night to make us comfortable.
Next day we learnt that Sharmaji deals in some machine parts and has a shop in Shewree. The young man was a sales person named S.M. Furkaan, worked for a dealer of Samsung. We chatted about life in Mumbai. In course of discussion I realised that Furkaan was a young man with a modern outlook. He argued about how a housewife needs help to look after kids even if she is at home. He said he had changed because he saw his brother help his wife at home in Muscat. I must say, I was impressed with this mindset and was slowly changing my opinion. The next day when Sharmaji learnt that they we didn’t have a confirmed return ticket, offered his Ticket Agent’s contact and shared his mobile number. He also offered to book it in tatkal and said I could pay him back in Mumbai. I was wondering how he can trust me when I may not meet him ever again. I exchanged my number with a little hesitation. Towards the end of the journey when we thanked him, he said Mumbai has offered him a chance to make living and earn monies for last 15 years. This is his way of paying back in kind to the ‘Mehman’ who are visiting Allahabad. I really was humbled by this person’s approach. He warned us to not trust people blindly, not to eat alone at any place in Allahabad and said there were many crooks who will take us for a ride. He asked us to call him if we needed any help and promised that he can reach in two hours if we were in trouble.

When we alighted at the station, they helped us carry our bags and put safely in the auto that had come to pick us up. Furkaan had already offered his car in case the auto guy didn’t turn up. We said our good-bye’s with a heavy heart. Ashamed at how most of Mumbai ites treat UPites and Bihari’s in general. I also wished that some political parties who beat up North Indians read this and realise that this country belongs to all of us not just to locals of that place. Sharmaji called me to check if I reached the ashram safely and called again on the last day to check if I had managed to get a return train ticket.

In my life, I have never met such kind people who took so much care of me ever across 17 years of work life. I also think that we have stopped trusting each other as humans. Now whenever I hear Allahabad, I will remember these two good souls.
In the picture on left behind is ever smiling S.M. Furkaan and right side behind the lady in specs is Sharmaji.