Love from the road #3

Tea In The Rains

Today it will be a month since I left. I don’t know when you will get this because I’m in a very remote coastal town. I actually have to travel quite a lot just to post this! 

Not that I mind. It’s green and beautiful! It rained here. I wonder if it’s rained there? I think not. It’s only when the winds move from here that they’ll flourish there. 

I suppose, everything has its place and time. 

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It reminded me of one of those first dates. That auto with old hindi songs playing, the pitter patter of rain drops, and you. 

You were gently humming to the song, and in that moment, things were so complete. 

I never underappreciated your presence in my life. But I feel I could have been more expressive of my gratefulness. I’m going to actively do that when I’m back. 

The steam rises from my tea. I stopped on a roadside stall to have it. Some rain drops too are mixed with it. We will never be able to tell them apart. And I guess, we don’t need to. 

I’m much more content now. I think the decision to not take my phone along was a good one. But I miss the sound of your voice. Maybe I will have an inkling of that through your reply. I miss you. 

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The by-lanes of Kurla.

I have always at wanted to do volunteer work. When I saw a mail saying that Pratham foundation learning lab needed volunteers to help teach English to BMC school students, I leaped. There was some backward and forward discussion, because my class ought not to clash with a trip that was planned or with my research data collection. The trip was cancelled and I was to teach in the afternoons so mornings were free for data collection.

So came my first day. It was a group of young students who would soon go to college, and wanted to go ahead in life with confidence, and learning English would help them to do so. I was as nervous as they were, as I was assessing them, and they were assessing me. All of their needs were very different and I wondered if I would do any good a job.

I decided to start with grammar on the second class, but two of the students did not turn up. But at least three did. One of those missing came for the third class, and he told me he found the grammar and dictionary stuff useless, as he just wanted to read and get done with it. I did not force him to pay attention. But when we were doing reading towards the end of a class, he could not pronounce what was taught at the beginning. I told him this is why its necessary to learn the basics. I don’t know if I helped him grasp the need or built an even higher wall. I do hope its the former.

The other employees offered to take me to Kurla station via a shortcut, and since I didn’t want to be rude, I did agree. These were women whom I admired because they could mix with the students freely. I know that with me, there was an invisible wall. The short-cut consisted of going over a gutter and through the back-lanes. It.It is a different world out there. I won’t pretend to be the first one to point out  the contrasts of city life. We have all heard about the skyscrapers next to the slum.

But what I saw was my discomfort translated into tangible objects and sights. Because of Field Work from TISS, we have been taught not to show off when we go to work with people who might not be as economically and socially privileged as us. Some of my classmates agreed with it, others just pretended to do so to please the teachers. I was not sure why I myself followed this. I did not think we were at par with them, because regardless of how much we toned down, it was apparent that we came from different places.

Yet, that day, going to the station I realized something. It was not that just because we behaved properly with them, everyone else would. And the point was not to give that impression. Rather, it was to further the belief that they have in themselves. To grow that thing, that belief that pushed them to come to us, to come to an English class. To portray to them that kindness can exist. To portray to them that just like the gutter won’t go away overnight, to change their situation would not be an easy job, but the point is, the journey need not be unpleasant.

Even the by-lanes of Kurla can have trees that give shade, and whose leaves rustle in the wind.

Sophistication maybe owned by the upper class, but joy definitely isn’t.

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A Kashmir Hangover.

When I left for my college trip to Jammu and Kashmir, I had within me. a pleasant anxiety of the days to come. Kashmir is beautiful, this I knew from others who had visited the place. But, whether the beauty would absorb and overwhelm me and make a cumulative difference to my thought, was the question.

I flatter myself as being someone of good organizational habits and a little more than slight literary bent of mind. And so, on my trip, I jotted down observations and made a couple of sketches. Their true worth, I realized only after getting back. I am going to treasure these diary entries.

I found Gulmarg and Pahalgaam most beautiful, what with the lovely snowfall, endless meadows and stunning valleys. The pure and clean river streams with colourful smooth stones underneath, with the slow repetitive sound of running water, was incredibly soothing. Dal lake, our nightly stay in the houseboat, and the shikara ride which showed to us the vast expanse of the lake was calming and peaceful.

I believe we went there at the right time, with autumn in progress. The gently falling leaves as they traced their path along the helpful breeze, could literally slow down time for me. I could gaze at the view for hours.

We were, however, a group of almost 60 people, and with such a large group, do come some annoyances. Disliked personality traits, delays, and frustrating change of plans are a few of them.

Because of the terrain of the area, most of the travel happened by bus and jeep, and most of the times, for hours at a stretch. People did fall sick out of dizziness or motion sickness, but nothing lastingly harmful or damaging happened. An added discomfort to the women was the absence of proper bathroom facilities on the way, but since that is the scenario all over India, Kashmir can’t be expected to be an exception.

All the above apart, the sight seeing was definitely worth the trouble we had to go through and the mismanagement we had to face.

As a psychology student, I incurred some interesting insights and observations about the locals. I felt bad that they deceive tourists in money matters, charging them double or more, but, it might be their only source of income, especially for those of low socio-economic status.

I also observed that the locals got angry very quickly, and did not often make an attempt to control or hide it. I would think its biological, but a friend informed me, that the locals are provided basic necessities by the government, and therefore, there is no motivation to inculcate hospitality towards tourists. This could be the reason why I did not see any malnourished poor people, which are a regular sighting in Mumbai.

Though, the locals are not to be entirely blamed for their display of stronger emotions. By experience, I do admit that tourists often act in irritating and offensive ways, as cultural transcendence doesn’t come easily to all.

I learnt from my trip that having something that drives you, is as important as taking time off and joyfully exploring the world around. That, stability is a requisite, just like change is. Only then, can life be truly and satisfactorily enjoyed.

In these ten days, I have seen bronze valleys full of characteristic Chinar trees, the prettiest of faces that are so without any conscious effort at beauty, tasted kahwa, tuj and other amazingly tasty local food, and above all, carry within me, the warmth and glow of having seem one of the most beautiful places on the planet.


God is a Fan too!

Anyone who stayed in Mumbai long enough has those friends who stand in the lines at Lalbaughcha Raja for 40 and 50 hours to touch the Ganpati idol’s feet. So do I. What dedication, I must say. But, I wish they had been smarter about it and become a celebrity first instead. Because, no matter how many commoners have been standing in the line for how many hours, if a celeb decided to get religious, the entire line get’s halted for half an hour or an hour at least. and these are the people who have been standing in the line for a day at least, with hardly any food, water, or visits to the washroom.

But of course, they are stupid! They should realize that God is also a fan of celebrities and prefers them over normal people. Because if not, why this preferential treatment? Because the celeb’s time is more valuable than the common man’s, did you say? Oh please, I’d rather Bipasha Basu stood in the line, than make Raaz 3. Who are we kidding? Only the so called ghost who got to touch her boobs was interested in the movie. All of us could have done without it’s posters scarring our eyes at each traffic signal.

So, ok, maybe we exclude the Filmy folks. Are there still people, say, like politicians, who should be given preferences as they have work to look after, and the important work of running the Government? I don’t think I agree. Just as much as the country needs them, families need their breadearners, who miss a productive day or two of works, thanks to all this mismanagement.

If you aren’t being made to hold your pee in a line, you are squashed to death in a stampede. Yes, I’m talking of the amarnath yatra. For a country where believing in God has such dire consequences, by God, we do have a *lot* of religious people, don’t we?

Forget believing in God, even being a woman has dire consequences. An ordinarily safe road becomes dangerous at night if a ganpati pandal has been put up nearby, thanks to all the drunk bhakts doing the rounds.

A woman can’t even safely walk in the lane she lives at. Unless of course, she is a celeb. Then, God is in full support.

 

 

The Gaonwala Gentleman

My first attempt at a short story. Gaonwala is a slang used in Mumbai meaning “villager” and is often used on people who don’t know the courtesy and etiquette of Urban life or simply on those who are considered less ‘intelligent’ (read : street smart)

Raghu got out of the S.T bus at Dadar. The ride from Peepul Gaon, Nashik to Mumbai had been a bumpy one. He had a feeling his rear end was going to be sore all day. Nonetheless he felt very purposeful. He had attained a job within 6 months of his graduation.
Many people had advised him to do his Bachelor of Arts major in History and / or English Literature. But he his pledged his loyalty to Hindi Literature a long time ago. From Harivanshrai Bachchan to PremChand to Amir Khusro, he loved them all, and thought there were no greater writers than them. But that did not mean he thought nothing of English. He knew its importance as a universal language and had taken painstaking efforts to master it before coming to Mumbai.
He had written letters of his creative works to all leading Hindi newspapers and Publishers. Finally he got a positive reply from Dainik Bhaskar, Mumbai, which had its office in Mahim.
He went inside Dadar station and stood in a queue to buy a ticket to Mahim. It was a long queue and coincidentally, also a rush hour time and so people were growing impatient. The man behind him shoved him, in a desperate attempt to make the line move faster. He bumped against the woman in front of him, and immediately mumbled an apology”Sorry, behenji, i didnt mean to,but..” . Even so, the woman looked him up and down and snarled , “Don’t know where these people come from, with no clue how to behave..bloody Gaonwala!!”
Raghu was confused. Yes, he was dressed in a khadi Kurta and Pyjama. So what?
“Mister, do you want your ticket or not??” said the man at the ticket window.

The interview had gone well. Although he didn’t understand what the editor meant by “you are just the kind of person we need for the retention of the Indian spirit section…its about sticking to the roots you know” .
But he was hired and that was enough for now.

December, the 11th, was the day the office had decided to throw a part to celebrate the increased readership. Raghu, now known as Raghav, walked into the office in a suit. He raised a toast to their success. A little while later he made a pass at the buxom new secretary, who looked exceptional with the Red of her sari matching exactly with her Sindoor.

The “Gaonwala” gentleman was lost to make place for the Urbaniiite.