Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home is where the celebrations are

Celebrating festivals at home has a rehabilitating effect. Something akin to leading a nomad to a shelter home and asking him to cool his heels, where he gets to see people of different shades and hues who learn to exhale their myriad lifestyles as they adopt their new-found status.
After more than a decade when I saw flouroscent paints splashed across faces ruthlessly and people going berserk during the festival of colours or Holi ,  did I realise how far I had walked into the woods.  In my adopted land, all the festivals are celebrated on the weekends for convenience. Up until the weekly off there are no signs that remind you of the significance of any particular day that visit us enroute. Of course, e-mails and phones do the buzzing where menus are prepared through the week and the place of get-together and invites are decided over. This is followed by traditional attire being dished out form wardrobes to be straightened out at the laundry in time for the celebration in air-conditioned halls. We hug and kiss each others’ neck on arrival, get about doing the customary ritual of that particular festival and proceed to hogging yet-another traditional meal discussing traffic and work before waving goodbyes to meet the same group in different attires and make-up at another place for another festival. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy this. We are keeping the tradition and culture alive for progeny.
But a trip back home during one such fest changed my perspective... first about people. Family and friends alike said the fast-developing Indian economy has taken the sheen away from most festivals. But I would beg to differ.  With caution out of the windows kids and adults, thronged the streets and spared no one who crossed their path.  So where’s the vigour lost? Well, the celebration began around 7am and lasted around until noon unlike earlier days when families congregated and spent time with each other from the run-up to the day.
These days, people don’t make an effort to make delicacies, said my neighbour. Youngsters are too busy and the elderly do not have the energy anymore. They buy a few and distribute them. Shops at the local market was doing brisk business, all sweet shops stocked fresh supplies. Can’t understand what’s the harm in buying stuff to celebrate?
It’s only when you move farther away from your roots that you begin seeing your real home.  Yes, the development and economic prosperity over the years has altered the way festivals are celebrated in India but they still continue to hold the same significance. The rituals associated may be slightly rushed for want of time but they are never compromised. The preparations may be hastened and pushed to the ninth hour but they are done, nevertheless. The Family Congregation may not take place as nuclear families are the norm, but the so-called break-away units do observe the trend in their own miniature forms.  If traditional dishes should form the menu for any particular fest for lack of time the number of items may be reduced or better still instant mixes bought to dish up things but never is fast-food ordered to save time and energy.
So all those who say festivals have lost the sheen, is probably going colour-blind or are being too rigid in their minds to accept the old in the new formats. It’s time they take sit back and watch their own adapt the new as they try to preserve the old in the best way possible.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Holiday thoughts

The mere thought of going on a holiday comes across as glistening dew in the morning sunrise,
With the run-up to the season being the most wonderful of times, packed with dreams, plans and all rosy thoughts;
Though execution of practical dos become akin to throwing a spanner in the rosy world of expectations, 
Yet eagerly we wind it off at the earliest to jet set off to a land, even nearby doesn't matter,
As long as we are away from the routine alarms, deadlines, greetings and dressing-ups,
Even the mere thought of going on a holiday comes across as a glistening dew in the morning sunrise!

No sooner the destination is reached than your plans and dreams squabble with one another for attention,
That you soon forget you were to pamper those tired bones that creaked loud back home; 
Dreams sans gravity takes the lead followed by plans that trigger your velocity to zap past,
In earnest and new-found vigour you savour the days and nights alike...
Hobnob with friends and gossip with relations until your neighbours drop in to say a good word 
And you excuse yourself with an long-due appointment at the tailor and rush off to stop by the cinema;
Famished of tastes at old joints, diets and caution up in thin air you stir up nostalgia,
Gargle out all sane suggestions until you get a warning from within
Some unwanted choices and yet you refuse to rest for a few hours to settle that grumbling tummy;
All in the name of experience you zip it up with an excuse of real work to be done and dash off to the insurance firms and banks and the likes;
That's when you are reminded of religious rituals and offerings that can't wait until the next visit and so you trail the elders;
Having pleased all near and dear ones you draw out the list thrusted upon before take-off,
Special ones from close friends and if-you-don't-mind requests from colleagues all you sincerely check out;
Now lemme kick those shoes off and relax - you tell yourself,
Only to hear, so what time is your return flight tomorrow?
Time flies and you realise you missed those glistening dew and gosh even the crimson sunrise!

The thought of winding-up the holidays pricks you sharp like misplaced thorns on a bouquet of roses;  
Packing the bags you feel it is the most torturous of tasks you've undertaken,
So much so you simply toss them all in and shut before they spill out;
Travel documents you are reminded to check as goodbyes and regards choke amid withheld tears;
Finally, aboard the flight you heave a sigh of relief!
Now is that of a hectic holiday left behind or of chores awaiting you?
Before you can even fathom you begin to hear those tired bones creak and you wanna kick off your shoes,
When the fasten-your-seat belts sign comes alive and its time to land
Time to return to all that is yours and only yours

Duties, responsibilities, aches, pains, yearnings and pleasure in no particular order begin all over again;
But you take time out to look up and see the full moon as you jog and lo! even smell a rose before you walk into that party hall,
Yes, you even get to see the crimson sunrise as the alarm vibrates your ear drum each weekday morn;
This is life! you reconcile and a fleeting thought of positiveness passes through and you bask in its vibrancy for sometime
Before something nags you yet again into that foul mood and you long for those holidays - a far way off.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Girls' loyalty is considered their weakness

I felt wonderful on March 8. Returning home after a rather bogging day at  work, my girl surprised me with a card she drew in school. And whiff went my tiredness...the vibrancy of her joy in presenting me with the hand-made card momentarily swept away all worries off my head.

'Happy Woman's Day, Mama', read the card with a lovely orange rose. (Because  I love the colour) So thoughtful! My eyes brimmed. There were also a few lines written on the card she made of ruled paper torn from her notebook.

I just adore anything my daughter gives me. But the last line - 'Hope you like this' - became fodder for my brains.

A while later, after I had collected my thoughts and edited the words carefully, I sat beside my little girl and explained how much I loved the card; how I'm moved by her thoughtfulness to remember my favourite colour and above all how much I appreciate the effort she took to complete the task before I returned home so as to surprise me. (She wanted to know the meaning of the word appreciate with examples)

Then I very carefully got on to explaining the trickiest part. You should be proud of yourself for thinking and executing the card. It shouldn't matter if I loved it or not. She gave me a hard look with a little pout and said, "but I want you to love and keep it". I will always treasure what you do for me. But when you do similar things for others you just do your best; you do what you believe is right; you don't have to do it to please them. She passed of with a casual 'OK'.

Determined to drill in the subject a few weeks later, I sat before the TV, with a cup of coffee, surfing channels, when I chanced upon NDTV debate on 'safety of women'. The panel included the Chief Minister of Delhi, parliamentarians, Shabana Azmi and others.

The statistics the host revealed on the show was mindboggling. Every minute on an average about 18 girls are attacked in India.

There were some rather interesting thoughts thrown around by men and women alike. Madam Chief Minister's sentences were quite politically constructed. Something on the lines of...this is a issue which has to be delt with deeply. What's deep and how deep is deep enough when it comes to issues such as these, I can't fathom. The parliamentarian said this is an issue prevelant in many other countries, India is not the only one. Well, it makes us feel good. Shabana Azmi spoke of the disgracefully low percentage of women representation in Parliament, more than six decades after Independence. Glamour quotient of the show Kareena Kapoor spoke of how she, unlike other stars, does not have male bodyguards around. Now that's, indeed, a safety measure.

The 'common' girls on the show agreed on one point - they are 'harrassed' more on the roads of the capital than anywhere else in the country. In Mumbai, for instance, women gang up and confront oglers, which does not happen up north. That's something to be pondered upon.

One of the guys said it has to do with upbringing. A well-educated boy brought up with correct values and principles in life in a stable home will never look down upon women. Guess that's right.

That led to discussion on confidence in girls.

It should be agreed that when girls have confidence in themselves they'll easily stand up for their rights. If they get it in the still-male-dominated country is another matter. But at least they will survive each day without much damage. In a country were female foeticide is rampant instilling confidence become a mamooth task, indeed.

So how to go about it? To have confidence in oneself, you need to first start believing in the self. Principles, values, education, etc., are very mechanically carried out in most urban and semi-urban households across India. Even in villages, for that matter.

A loyal person (read girls) is considered to be 'cultured' in the Subcontinent. That loyalty, unfortunately, is taken to be submissivness by the muscle brand.

Again subconsciously girls are  'trained' to please others. To hell with what others think. I will do what I feel like doing attitude is far and few between. But men are from Mars and women are from Venus! Indeed. The tanget has to meet somewhere. Glad the media and public in general have started speaking up even if its only once a year. But as Women's Day is celebrated on different dates worldwide, let's expect to hear more  frequent debates.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

To eat and be treated... I only trust my intution

I trust my intuition when I need to choose hospitals and eateries. No word of mouth or over-the-top advertisements or star campaigns can lure me enough. I need to see people around. Not a few rather a crowd.

I prefer hospitals and clinics where I'm told the appointments for the day are full. And I'll patiently wait my turn to meet the over-worked and tired doctor and invariably feel better by the time I hear my name or token number being called out a couple of hours later.

Similarly, I like to walk into neighbourhood restuarants and spent sometime on my feet looking for an empty table. And then continue sitting, looking at others eat, waiting for my orders to be taken, than to be ushered in by a dozen waiters into a deserted interior and bulky menu cards handed over even before I take my seat.

Elitist may call my paranoia 'budget culture'. To them I will say, "Thank You. Sneer at me if you please, but I will stay put."

A few years earlier, when I was in pink of health my back decided to turn red. To be more precise my lower back decided to call it quits. I did give it ample time to reconsider its decision, meanwhile, as a prudent and haughty manager, I started looking out, telling myself: 'No one is indispensable! If either of us had to laugh, I will have the last laugh!' So I spread the word around and did my own homework and zeroed in on the three most recommended doctors.

Called up hospital A and was told appointments for the whole week for that particular orthopaedic were full. However, I could walk-in any day. Next called up Hospital B and was told I could go anytime between 5pm and 9pm except Fridays because it's the doctor's weekly off. Something in me said, check Hospital A again. Called up and asked for Friday. "Friday is the most busiest of days, madam. I suggest you do not walk-in on Fridays," cautioned the receptionist.

I still walked-in on a Friday (those were the days I worked 6-day weeks) to Hospital A and waited until my patience parted ways. A cool four hours. When I walked out I decided never to return for the follow-up five days later as advised by the doc. The efficient self-manager that I am, I had the last laugh, or so I thought then. Didn't require a follow-up. My back got its acts together and returned to serving me submissively within two days.

However, a couple of years later, the back began protesting yet again. Had a quick word with patience and invited him for an evening out. He outright denied. Anyways, had an option. Research comes in handy always. Walked into Hospital  B. Was greeted by the recptionist and was ushered to the doctor's room in barely 10 minutes. Wow!

The doc spent an hour with me. First enquiring about my discomfort, then diagnosing, later instructing the nurse and prescribing treatment. Of that whole hour I barely spoke for two minutes. The diagnosis, prescription and instruction took another five minutes. But when I got up to thank the doc, I was asked to take my seat. For the next three-quater of an hour she advised me of how to live a stress-free life. I was somewhat, yeah somewhat, intrested. Sort of liked her, too.

But this time I had to return for a follow-up as I didn't feel better. Again I got an audience within 10 minutes of walking-in and spent an hour with the 'philosopher doc'. At the end of the sermon, I was offered an Amway product with a running commentary of the benefits of the herbal powder. The doc was one of the local agents of Amway - a direct selling company and manufacturer that uses network marketing to sell a variety of products.

I discontinued the medicines immediately and opted for Hospital C.

There I was escorted to the orthopaedic within half-an-hour. I briefed him about my history and while he sat examining my records (of Hospital A & B) I couldn't help but notice the Lucky Bamboo on his left, a water fountain behind his chair; a large ruby encrusted in silver on his middle finger; a yellow sapphire on his index finger; an emerald held within a glittering gold ring on his little finger...

Before I could study more, his voice called my attention. "So what did the other doctors tell you?" And I vomited all that I was told by the other two docs. "OK. You first get an MRI scan done and we'll take it up from there," he said. "Is it something serious," I ask? "You are asking me this. You know your own diagnosis better than me. Nothing to worry."

I thanked him. Didn't want to be rude so took the prescription and walked out never to return to that street. I should have walked out the moment I noticed the assorted stones on his fingers. Superstitious doctors! I just can't fathom.  

With restaurants, I never had the nerve to experiment. "Let's try out a new place today," said the husband one weekend. "Tired of the same joints every week." And we called up to book a table. We were escorted to our place upon arrival and had one waiter at our service immediately. Enjoyed the meal listening to the light music playing in the dimly-lit interiors. Had to remind my child to lower her voice several times, for her voice literally echoed in the place. There was just another family beside us. Placed our generous tip and drove out.

That night we took turns visting the toilet. Luckily, my child who stuck to her standard menu of yoghurt-based dishes was spared.

I've nothing against starry joints. They do serve well and it digests well, too. But no matter how many stars they display, I make it a point to peep in first to see if the place is full before deciding to eat there.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Express your raw feelings and lol!

Tired of seeing 'lol' on Facebook. I'm given to understand it stands for 'laugh out loud' or even 'lots of laugh'. Or 'lots of love'? But of late, every tom, dick and harry who cares to post anything signs off with the acronym. Leaving hard-to-crack techies like me grappling to decipher the e-lingo, wondering what the collection of letters actually mean. Is it something that can be used instead of a period. A FB-style fullstop or exclamation? If then it requires a capital LOL!

Anyways, to make lives of us differently-abled FB users a little easy, I've thought of a few abbreviations or acronyms that can be used liberally in various contexts, where you don't have to laugh or love but express your raw feelings.

FB has given birth to a crop of philosophers and positive thinkers (let's not discuss what they really think, lol!). But if you have to post modest replies to the brain teasers then try these. Hoa (hats off Aristotle); hos (hats off  Socrates); or simply ttl (toast to the lines); Or if you feel it's getting overboard then try smp (spare me please). Can't fathom what reactions these will evoke from the new-generation thinkers, but the great men will be turning in their graves now.

If in your zest to announce to the cyber world something of great importance (or so only you believe), you make a mistake and sincerely wanna hide under the dark corners of your bed but have gotten used to singing off meekly with a smiley face and a lol! then here are your choices. omg...fmp (Oh my god, forgive me please) with or without the OMG; waf (What a fool); stf (slip through fingers); gmm (geniuses make mistakes). My personal vote for the last one.

You definitely can't ignore the photo maniacs. Lovely pictures, pretty pix, nice one, you look different, younger, thinner, smarter...and all other er...rs.  lol! I'll be slapped. Now that's FB! Post anything and hide behind a smiley or abbreviation... YLG lol! (you look great and then laugh out loud); Now if the owner is smart enough to read it in one breath and understands and posts a nasty reply then jjb (just joking beautiful). If they, however, continue to be in your face then bts (beautiful thick skin); pim (portfolio in making). I'll prefer the first, with or without the lol, as situation demands.

For self promoters who use the platform to boost their activities and if you find it useful you might want to say tfi (thanks for the info); ayg (admire your guts); a compliment such as neop (neighbours envy owners' pride... remember the Onida monster); but if they become a nuisance like an everyday affair then try siyn! (shove it up your nose). I prefer the last if pushed against the wall, also because you can literally sing lol!

To all those cyber voyeurs who do not understand the importance of networking and rather log on to feast, try out ccl (couldn't care less); bwy (better without you); wya (whoever you are); igb (I'm impressed, gimme a break). Add smart emoticons with these; they'll hit the punch.  

Finally those geniune networkers who sincerely seek to stay connected and widen their web of friendship... well lol with them.