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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Never Again...


Three times in three months......

I never thought I could do it...but well I have.

I don't think I have done it before.....I don't think many people have done it.....and I certainly never ever want to do it again.

Yes, I have managed to fall sick for the third time in as many months. And sick does not mean a running nose and a sore throat....sick means that along with 102 fever, total lifelessness and a dead feeling.

I was trying to blame it on the winters but I don't think that is the reason. But the silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud has been my realization of the value of family and friends.

Even though I have fallen sick consistently, the family has been there every time and every day. The calls from friends which are so taken for granted on healthy days become a reason to smile when one is sick. Some friends who don't call or visit when you are healthy make sure they do it when U are down. These are real friends.

Couple of friends dropped in yesterday when I was feeling really...well dead....and they sat for a couple of hours and by the time they left I was feeling like living again. Then there is the doctor friend.....I think whenever I call him I am sick and thankfully he treats me with the same enthusiasm each time. Some friends just say "Heylo" and it feels so much brighter......

This post just to thank the family and friends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Trip to Srinagar


The wife and I have a rule... We go out on our anniversary...Go out and relax....discuss the year gone by...make plans for the coming year (which mostly never work out) and basically just have a blast. Since we were in Delhi this time, we decided to make a trip to Kashmir. Also, we have a cousin in the Army who is currently posted in Srinagar, so basically the time seemed ripe to make a trip there.

I made use of my LTC and let the Government pay for my trip there...it seemed right also. They were the ones unable to control what was happening there and so if I was going there at my risk (despite advices by everyone not to), I thought let them at least pay for it.

So we boarded the flight to Srinagar. The flight was short and sweet. Before the plane even started to take off, lunch was being served, and by the time the air hostesses cleared it, it was time for landing. Pity, i could not even complete the movie on the in flight entertainment system. The view from the plane was amazing. The snow covered mountains and the clouds seems to merge together. The most noticeable thing being that the mountains were mostly barren, devoid of any vegetation.


We landed at the Srinagar airport. Even before landing, one can begin to see the effect of militarization there. The airport is completely camouflaged and one can even catch a glimpse of air force planes stationed there. As soon as we deplaned, the first thing to hit us was the cold icy wind, followed by the realization that there seemed more policemen and guns than travelers and bags. It became even worse as our trip progressed. Apart from the Army, there seemed almost every para military force stationed there. I could not help wondering how all these forces coordinate among themselves and decide their area of operations.

We also realised another thing. All these years of militancy had taken its toll on Kashmir. That place is at least 25 years behind the rest of India in terms of development and infrastructure.

Anyway, now about the good part. That place is truly paradise on earth. We were not visiting during the peak tourist season, yet the beauty of the place had us stumped. Nearly every tree had a colour of its own and the flowers were still blooming.


We visited Gulmarg, where we found snow only after taking the Gondola (cable car) to the highest mountains. On the way from Gulmarg to Uri, we visited an orchid and saw apples on trees for the first time.


Uri, is another place which is not really frequented by tourists, but actually is a beautiful place. We visited the Kaman Setu, which is the bridge from which the Bus to Pakistan crosses over and also is used by the trucks carrying out trade between Indian and Pakistan. We saw a few Pakistani trucks and they seemed really funny, all decorated with mirror work and fancy paints.

On the way we crossed Baramulla and Kupwara which saw major action during the Kargil war. These places see infiltration on a daily basis even today. In fact just a month before Major Suri had lost his life in an operation in Bandipora, and this happened while his wife had come over to Kashmir to celebrate his birthday and was waiting for him in a guest room in Gulmarg. Hats off to these Army guys. Believe me guys, one has to go there and see what these guys go through to understand the Army. Listen to this. These guys man the forward bunkers all through winter. They are cut off from all civilisation for four months. All rations are stocked in advance. For four months, about a handful of guys in a bunker....snow all around. No TV, no cells, no hot food, no bath.....I mean basically no nothing. Get these guys to come and play Big Boss......

Salute U guys...each one of you. Just one thing baffles me. What motivates these guys. To protect us like this. To try and climb a mountain with an enemy bunker on top. He is sure to be killed. Why does he still do it. Love for the country.....maybe.....not too sure.....money....surely not....Fame....absolutely not...Does anyone know Major Suri???? Someone explain this to me please. We were lucky to meet Major's brother in Gulmarg. He had come to see the place where his brother served. Hats off to you too Sunil......

Well. another thing baffles me. How can three strands of a flower cost so much. Saffron.....yes. We visited the fields where these flowers grow. I plucked a few flowers. Will sell them someday when I am bankrupt.



We also visited Pehlgam which is also really beautiful and more like a conventional hill station with a Mall road and shopping. We also hung ourselves on an electrified fence, but thankfully Kashmir is still a part of India and the electrification was not working.


I also picked up some walnut wood furniture from Srinagar which cost me a bomb but people say is worth it.

So all in all it was a great trip, and actually an eye opener.


Authors note:- I dedicate this post to Major Suri and all the Army guys out there.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ban on Blogging


"Yaar blogging banned hai China mein"

I cud not believe my ears...or rather my gtalk. Maybe my computer had got a virus...a Chinese one at that.

"Also facebook, twitter and orkut" He continued. There was no mistaking that one. My antivirus was working.....This was no virus.

"Arey, stop kidding me......are u serious?" This school chum of mine was known for his desire to evoke a response with every statement of his. But I guess this time he was dead serious.

Now this is like a double edged sword if you put some serious thought into it. Its not just about blogging...Its about their whole attitude. Nothing lackadaisical about it. They mean business......this time and each and every time.

If you think as an Indian, there is absolutely nothing wrong with blogging. Its a nice way to vent your feelings, and also to improve your language and writing skills. Now think as a Chinese, and suddenly its bad enough to be banned....."Chin Chan Cho..hwa..me toh". I guess thats how they discuss it. Translates to "When people are blogging or accessing facebook, they are wasting time. They rather be designing missiles to counter the US or viruses to hack into the worlds defence organisation." or " Blogs and facebook can create a mob mentality"

Which is the right thought process no one can be sure. An Indian thinks blogging is right. The Chinese have banned it. The Chinese are making rapid progress, they are knocking on the doors of the US and the Indians are well....I mean OK...they are making progress.

Whatever be the case, and whatever the question. Is banning blogging the answer?

Authors note
: I discovered blogging a year back, and as Mc Donalds says...." I am loving it"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wake Up Sam


I love the Movies.

I love cuddling up in these really comfortable PVR cinema seats, sinking comfortably in to the depth of the nicely cushioned seat and drifting away to sleep. So obviously, I like the English movies better. I dont understand head nor tail, and the dialogues actually work like a lullaby. The Hindi movies are more disturbing. I am forced to wake up when the back ground music enhancing the melodrama gets louder. Or I willfully open them when the item number happens.

So when the sister in law asked me which show I wanted to see of this new movie "Wake up Sid", I promptly said "laaassshtest...late night". Suited me perfectly. I would be tired after a hectic day of golfing and shopping and would catch up with my sleep. Killing two birds with one stone.....take the wife and sister law out for a movie...while I catch up with my sleep.

But that was not to happen. It turned out to be an amazing movie. Am not gay, but Ranbir looked dashing...Konkana stunning and controlled as usual. Every scene oozed some emotion. Sometimes, it made ur eyes numb, sometimes it made U laugh, sometimes just smile...but something stirred with each scene.

But my mind stirred (unusual activity by my mind) when i got home and lay in bed. Sid, in the movie was lucky to be shown the mirror and had enough time in hand to mend his ways. Its also not only about mending ur ways. Its also about fulfilling ur ambitions, ur desires, ur dreams, ur fantasies.

So I lay in bed and thought. I have reached nearly the halfway mark (calculations based on average life expectancy in India) of my lifetime. Have I achieved whatever I wanted, or even some part of it. Forget that. Do I even know what I want to achieve. Forget about ambitions and goals. Lets talk about the smaller pleasures of life. I have a long list of pending jobs.
  • I want to see the joy on a beggars face when I hand him a Rs 500 note. The only problem here is I have not yet identified a genuine beggar.
  • I want to ski down a snowy mountain slope.
  • I wanna back pack or drive around Europe.
  • I wanna visit the country side of US.
  • I want to make love to a blonde.
  • I wanna play and grow with my kids.
  • I wanna give to my parents.
  • I wanna have a huge bathroom with a bathtub in my own house.
  • I wanna drive around India in my own SUV.
  • I want my friends to trust in me and call me when they need me.
  • I wanna get drunk and let my wife drive me home (yes, I wanna do that once).
The list is never ending. I want to do so much. There are a lot of things I have already ticked off from this list of mine. But the pending list far out weighs it.When will I do it. Have I even planned for it. Am I preparing it? When will I make love to the blonde? When I am 70??? I mean dreams can only be fulfilled and hold their importance when they are fulfilled at the right time. I cant go back packing in Europe when I am 55 nor can the wife drive back a drunk me with my two teen aged kids laughing at me.

Wake up Sam

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Damn it...IT


I am basically a Mechanical Engineer...or am I.......Well at least I have the degree. I was a cadet at a defence academy and I was rolling in the slush, and I was getting punched in the stomach, and I was running Dukes Nose (all those who have visited Khandala will know) and back in 40 min with a 20 kilo back pack on my back, and I was climbing ropes and running 15 km cross countries every Sunday. I was doing this for 4 years and at the end of it they gave me a B Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering.

So needless to say I am not too proud of my Engineering knowledge. I barely know the three laws of Thermodynamics.....and I guess that's about it. I did well in my B Tech....maybe that means I got beaten up well and I climbed ropes well, but my organisation decided to send me for M Tech, and that too at the Indian Institute of Technology and in the Greek field of Information Technology.

Before I got this news, my IT skill were nothing to write home about. I could recognize a computer when I saw one, I could differentiate between CPU, monitor and a keyboard and well...that's about it. Formatting a word document was like solving a 3rd degree equation to me.

Thankfully I found a few helpful friends at IIT. They taught me the basics of IT and brought me up to some respectful standard, where from failing in exams, I started doing well. Three cheers to those guys and God bless them.

My IT skills are still limited. Guys who know can see through my facade.....instantly.....A friend in Kolkata once told me..."Its so easy to make out that you are not too good at IT.....You still think like a Mechanical Engineer".

Anyway, the reason for writing this blog, is to thank my sweet friend who decided to take pity on me and do up the background of my blog. I guess this friend was not as straight forward as the Kolkata one and did not tell me that she understood I knew nothing about IT. So not surprisingly, I needed only one request and absolutely no persuasion to get her to agree to doing up the blog.

Thank You Madam

Monday, September 21, 2009

Big Weekend...Small Town


Haryana...Love it....hate it...but you just cant ignore it.

I generally don't form opinions, but even I have an opinion on Haryana. And surprisingly it has changed drastically over the years.

Opinion 1. I had not seen Haryana then, I had not see Haryanvis then. I had only heard about them. The general opinion was, stay away from them...I didn't waste any energy forming my own opinion.

Opinion 2. I had not seen Haryana then, but I had closely seen a few Haryanvi men. No don't get the wrong impression. I just found these guys to be strong, single minded, focused and their best quality..they didn't care about
the world or about what the world thought about them. So I started liking Haryana.

Opinion 3. And then I saw Haryana and saw the Haryanvi girls. And I fell in love with both. Karnal, Panipath, Kaithal, Pipli and most recently Yamuna Nagar. Lets leave the names of the girls out. I love Haryana now.

So when the wife asked me (told me rather) that we were going to Yamuna Nagar over the week end to attend a family function, I did not try and shoot my usual barrage of excuses. Yamuna Nagar...yes I had been there earlier and wanted to go there again.

I love the drive on NH 1 with all its Dhabas. I always make it a point to stop at one of them and my standard order is Aloo Pyaaz ka tandoori paratha with Dahi (although a Haryanvi friend of mine does not have a very high opinion of the Dahi at these Dhaba. I respect her opinion but I respect the Dahi better).

I love the drive. There is no need to drive lower than 100 kmph on NH 1.
Once U leave the highway and take a right from Pipli, Haryana becomes more obvious in all its glory. The lush green sugar cane fields, the desi sharab ki dukaan, the men in while kurta pajamas and white shoes, the women with duppatas over their head and face.

Approaching Yamuna Nagar, seemed akin to getting close to Nainitial or Shimla with all the mist and fog. The roads were surprisingly empty and we had a lovely drive. The wife and I even got to discuss long pending issues.

Yamuna Nagar is a small town just like so many others all over India. The roads are meant for cycles, people, carts and bulls. Houses are kothis and many of them still have the aangans with no ceilings. Electricity wires try to fight each other other from one make shift pole to the other. Colonies have been planned, assuming no one will ever own a car. There is no space for even two scooters to pass abreast, forget cars.

But....neighbours still greet you when U go out in the morning to sit in the jhoola in the courtyard. Parathas there taste just like granny said they would. The milk and curd there tastes like well..milk and curd. Every time I went to a house and was offered coke, I shamelessly refused and asked for a glass of cold milk instead.

The drive back was as nice. This time shoping stops were added enroute. The wife had acquired all necessary information and I was navigated to the whole sale market for bed sheets at Panipat and other markets at Sonipath.

I love Yamuna Nagar and I love Haryana.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Insignificant World out there

It was early morning 0630 hrs. I have seen enough of early mornings in my life to last me a lifetime. When I was training early morning was 0500 hrs, when I was doing a morning watch on board my ship, early morning was 0400 hrs. Now I was doing this Sky Diving course and early morning was again 0530 hrs.

I had got up early morning then, and a cold and uncomfortable army jonga had ferried me to the airport from my Mess. For those adventure seekers, I recommend a ride in a cold, uncomfortable army jonga with an army jawan driving it. So there was no question of me being still sleepy when I reached the airport. I think our instructors had some doubt, so they had fauji chai ready for us at the airport. I was not sleepy at all, but my nerves were frayed and that tea did nothing to soothe them. Fauji chai....hmmm lots of everything in it, except taste.

So I had the chai and now with my parachute strapped behind me was waiting for the
Cessna to start up. I am usually emotionless and maybe the instructors mistook it as confidence. I was chosen to be the first one to go up in the small aircraft, and obviously that was not all.....I was also to be the first one to jump out. The aircraft spluttered and misfired and then finally started. It taxied to the runway and our instructor jogged up to the door. He signalled us to get in as per our pre decided sequence. My jump partner went in first and then the jump master and finally me, as I was to jump out first. The pilot, a cute sardarji looked at my sweating face and gave me a cute smile.

I immediately banished his smiling face from my mind and tried to concentrate on my jump. We had been trained enough on the ground, to the point that we had got irritated and were itching for some real action now. The make believe "out, in, out" and "1000, 2000, 3000" had haunted us in our sleep and we were all eager to feel the real thing. Suddenly now, as the plane was speeding to get airborne, I felt that I was not ready....I needed more training, what was I to do if my chute didn't open....Shit, I had forgotten. What if the plane crashed, what if I fell down now only.....my mind was blank, I was sweating, I wanted to get a grip on the smiling sardar's neck and force him to land the plane back. God, why was I doing this......and why in heavens name, had I volunteered for this? As the plane kept climbing, my pulse started racing even faster. My determination, not to jump steadily increasing.

The jump master patted my leg.....I forced myself to look at him. He gave me a thumbs up. That was procedure. He gave me a thumbs up, if I was ready I gave him a thumbs up. There was no looking back then. If I did not jump, i would be pushed out. There was no way I was giving him a thumbs up. No way in the world. I wanted the plane down, forget thumbs up. Well, speaking of soft drinks, I guess the sprite ad kicked in and I finally gave him a very shaky and sweaty thumbs up. The jump master immediately got into action. He aligned the pilot over the drop zone, asked him to slow down the plane, attached my rip chord to a strong point on the plane, maneuvered himself half in and half out of the door, and looked down.....5000 feet below waiting for the exact spot where he wanted me to jump.

I already told you I was emotionless. Now I became heartless, brainless, weightless....just mechanical. I forced my body onto the edge of the door and took my right leg out and kept it on the wheel of the plane, as I had so often done on the ground. But that was the ground and this was 5000 feet in the air with a strong wind making every movement impossible.
I braced my body with the left leg on the step of the plane and both hands on either side of the door frame. I dared not look down.....I looked straight....into the
sun.

So here I was, all ground instructions forgotten, heart beating wildly, 5000 feet above the ground, wind itching to pull me out of the plane, jump master waiting to give me the dreaded pat, wondering WHY I was here? My life flashed by in a second. My parents, brother, wife....all my seemingly large problems in life....nothing really mattered now. All that mattered was when the pat would come and whether I would jump.

And "pat" it came. Seemingly suddenly...out of nowhere. I looked at my jump master with a "What am I supposed to do now" look. I guess he had seen others like me. He calmly pointed out of the door and mouthed the words "JUMP". I nodded.....hesitated.....did a very unconvincing out....a huge in...and although I wanted to just stay in now....I shouted "ouuuuuuuuuuttt" and jumped out, not caring anymore what I remembered, what I had forgotten, what had happened to me, how scared I was, whether I was going to live, die......I just jumped and closed my eyes. I forgot 1000, 2000, 3000.....I forgot the emergency procedure.....I just jumped and waited......suddenly there was a huge flapping noise and my fall was broken. I knew what had happened or rather I hoped what I thought had happened and expectantly looked up (this was part of procedure) to see the huge blue and white canopy rapidly filling up with air...all lines were untangled and OK (in subsequent jumps, I was to have twists and other small emergencies, but thankfully the first jump was perfect) and the canopy deployed perfectly.

I immediately regained my composure and all the ground training kicked in. I steered the canopy into the wind using the rear risers and pulled out the toggles for steering my canopy further. All my anxiety gone, I started enjoying the flight now. I had done paragliding earlier so flying the canopy was not difficult for me. The terrifying part was jumping out of the plane and thankfully that was over. I enjoyed the proximity of the sun, the wind on my face, the sound of the fluttering canopy, the squares of different shades of green below. I did a couple of maneuvers, a stall, S turn, figure of 8 while continuously checking the altimeter. I did not stray too far from over the airstrip as that was my largest and safest reference (on later jumps I would be dropped so far away from this reference that even getting back as the crow flies was a miracle).

As soon as my alti showed that I was flying at 1700 feet I started on my landing circuit. it was very important to land into the wind and for that it was very important to do a perfect circuit. Also as I was the first jumper, I did not want to have a bad landing and scare the rest of my group. They say the only time you can actually get hurt while skydiving is on the ground (while landing). So I did a perfect circuit, the downwind, crosswind and the final landing leg and flared my canopy just when I was one and a half times my height above the ground. Thankfully I landed gracefully on my feet (I have always landed on my feet...till the time of writing this post...lets see how long my luck lasts).

I could feel my legs trembling and mouth parched and I walked back to the expectant group of waiting jumpers. I tried the Clint Eastwood swagger acting as if I just crossed a busy road and that was all. Everyone just pounced on me as soon as I was within pouncing distance.

"How was it?"
"Did you have an emergency?"
"How did you find your reference?"

There were a couple of beautiful girls in this expectant group, including the beautiful Chitrangada Singh, and I just waved off all questions. Remember, I had just crossed a busy road...that's all. I reserved my best smile for her and gave her a confident thumbs up.

I then rushed back to the hangar and downed a bottle full of water. The next thing I did was to thank God almighty for keeping me alive. I had to concentrate on my legs to make them stop shaking. I saw myself in the mirror and saw my scared, sweating and red face. I could not help but smile at myself for the way I must have looked out there trying to look unfazed while the truth was so evident.

Authors note: That was my first jump. An experience of a life time. I have had a few more after that. This is what I love about adventure, where life is at stake. EVERYTHING else in the world looks so inconspicuous and insignificant.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Glenfiddich

Only one thing beats scotch...and that's scotch on the rocks. I was recently introduced to the pleasures of sipping scotch. I have been drinking from a very young age. Dad was trusting enough to let me sip the last drops from his beer can....So it kinda started then towards the end of school. I remember I joined the Navy as a cadet and being a cadet is not like being in college. We had no free time and "lights out" was at strict 2230 hrs....till then from 0530 hrs we were on our toes or even hands occasionally.

But then, our course had some ardent drinkers, who even after an action packed day had the energy to wake up till the duty officer finished his rounds and fell asleep, the news of which was transmitted to us through clandestine signals. We then brought out our bottle of Old Monk (the cheapest rum available), thermocol glasses and cheap namkeen. We then made our way to the roof, lay on our backs, watched the stars and sipped on our Old Monk, the hard day forgotten, waking up the next day nothing to worry about, blisters on our hands and feet seemingly stopped paining, the faces of seniors and their expressions when they hit us now seemed comical, the worry if we would be able to manage some extra butter on our toast tomorrow insignificant. Whatever they were, they were our biggest fears and worries, but right then our Old Monk took us to a different world where we were each with at least four girl friends and rocking and dancing and enjoying life.

Cut to now.

Its still the same. As sips of scotch find their way from my glass, to my lips, down my throat and to my stomach, the smile on my lips grows larger, the heady feeling increases. I forget what happened in office today, I choose not to remember what I have to do tomorrow. The friends and their laughter and banter has been replaced by solitude and sound of the AC humming. The wife's threats of no dinner if the flush is not repaired by tomorrow seems comical and at the end of the day, it seems to be a great world out there.

Three cheers to scotch on the rocks.

Authors note.

Drinking is injurious to health.

However me and my doctor share the love for scotch.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Day Ten Years back in time


It was raining cats and dogs last Sunday. A rarity in Delhi. The wife and I have spent numerous glorious years in Bombay immediately after marriage and we love the rain. Then we didn't have a car and used to travel from Powai to Colaba for shopping and Marine Drive, come rain, hell or high water (literally).

So just to relive those memories of bygone years the wife said spontaneously "Lets go out on a bike and get wet in the rain".....she had a twinkle in her eye. We had a car now, but preferred the bike.

We put our wallets in plastic bags (like the old times), took off our watches, put on sandals and set off on our bike. We just drove around soaking in the rain.....and when the rain stopped I drove through puddles just to get the real feeling.

We had skipped lunch and felt hungry by evening. We had now reached Chandni Chowk and decided to eat in the line of dhabas opposite Jama Masjid. The marinated chicken and fish hanging outside the shops looking ever so tempting. We finally selected Rafiq Chicken Corner and ordered a plate of chicken fry and roomali roti. We had Kentucky Fried Chicken now, but we preferred to eat this desi fried chicken.

Since we were on that side of town and Delite cinemas was close by, we decided to check out the much acclaimed Kaminey. As luck would have it the movie was house full. Now we had Delite Gold (a multiplex) right next door but we chose to buy tickets in black in the old Delite only. It must have been at least 6 - 7 years since we had bought tickets in black and so this only added to our nostalgia.

The movie was Ok and we came out by 9 feeling hungry again. As we were walking towards our bike in the drizzle we saw a thele wala making fresh jalebis on the pavement. Now we had Gole Market and Bengali Market on our way back, but we still chose to eat the lip smacking jalebi from the thela.

It was only when we got back home that we realised that we had unintentionally spent the day today as we would have 10 years back, when Cafe Coffee Day and multiplexes and KFC were not even visibe on the horizon.

We had a hearty laugh.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bondage...err...Marriage


A thick pal of mine.....beshht friend I'd call him if we were in school was speaking to me over a couple of drinks last week end.....He was fed up with his wife. "She doesn't let me do this, she doesn't let me do that".....he rattled on.."If I am away for more than an hour she calls in to check where I am....I have to call her thrice from office".....That discussion ended that day with a few more drinks, a couple of fags and a trip to Hardrock Cafe to sway to the hard rock music......but the next day and since....I have been thinking......

"What is marriage?"

Now I am sure everyone has their own answers to this question. Happily married, unhappily married, just married, enough married, unmarried girls, unmarried guys.......I am sure each has a different answer.......I dont want to dwelve into the answers that these people have on their minds...I have my own definition of the word marriage.

I remember looking at my Mama and Mami as a young kid and thinking how wonderfully married they were.....After I grew up, I asked Mami the secret....."Space" she said...that's what it is all about. I did not comprehend the enormity of that word in marriage until I got married and luckily for me, the wife and I got to stay close to them for a loooong time and I daresay our relationship is modelled on theirs.

A person does not stop being himself after marriage. Before marriage he has friends, he has ambitions, desires, hobbies, parents, moods, habits......so does the other partner. One cannot expect that after marriage, a person just pulls the reins of his life and hands them over to this partner for leading him.

Marriages last in India today as thankfully we still believe in traditions and customs and Divorce is taboo. But not for long...we are catching up with the west and already the number of divorce cases popping up in courts is increasing. As a very learned friend of mine recently told me...the two maximum number of court cases today are cheque bounces and divorces.

I think the marriage can only work if the partners respect each others individuality and provide each other with the space and freedom to grow. The relation is built on trust. If I am happy in marriage, if I love my wife and my family I will not stray and even if I do...I wont get far as this love will pull me back. Mind you, not the nagging of my wife...but her love will pull me back. In the other case, if my partner keeps suspecting me, nagging me, pulling me....I am more likely to stray.

Give the partner his time. Let him hang out with HIS friends occassionally. Give him time to persue his hobbies. Better still, try and enjoy each others hobbies and spend time together doing that. The trick is not just to spend time together but to spend quality time together. Spending two hours a day respectfully and lovingly conversing and cuddling is far better than spending the whole day together fighting and spitting venom on each other.

People say they get married when they grow up....I say get married and then grow up.



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wings to fly


There was a time they were inseparable. She would call him everyday in the morning as soon as she reached office....before she started work. He would get up in the morning and start waiting for her call.

She would tell him of the day gone by. The screw ups she made, the things she learnt. She was just starting out in life. There was so much she would learn everyday and there was so much she had to tell him.

Sometimes he would advise her....sometimes he would just listen and let her fall....to stand up again and be stronger woman. He liked her, was attracted to her. She was a one in all....friend, confidant,punching bag, fantasy woman, child....yes she was that...nearly everything....

This went on for five years...and then she moved on.

Now he looks her up on orkut..he knows she has her stealth mode turned on....she always did. She will not know when he visits her profile..she wanted to be left alone. He visits her on facebook. Looks at her beautiful picture.....all her friends have commented..he dare not do it....and to think there was a time when she forced him to comment on every pic....made him reply every scrap.

He talks to the picture..she's still his confidant.....he smiles at her while he talks......"You know baby I am confused.....this happened today....kya karu aunty?".........she just keeps smiling back. Obviously she cant hear.

He gives up..cant talk to a picture. He feels the emptiness.....just logs out of facebok.....thers nothing he can do.

He prepared her for the world..gave her the wings......AND NOW SHE'S GONE.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Dream...


A Winter Evening.... 2015.... or sometime then...

Akash hated weddings.....He had never understood the concept. It happened only in this part of the world...or at least on such a mammoth scale. The bride was inconvenienced....a heavy lehenga, sticky make up, heavy jewellery and the plastic smile. The Groom was no better. Lakhs of Rupees spent on the decorations, the costumes, the gifts, the food, the whole show.....

He had never understood the concept.

Today he had consented to be a part of the show. It was his bosses wedding (the second one) and he had had no choice but to attend. He parked his car and made his way in through the grandly decorated entrance. He had passed the barat on his way in, but he was not interested in the dancing and the band. He had already decided to head for the bar, have a few quick drinks in succession, wish the couple, mark his attendance and leave.

He passed his friend and his wife as he headed for the bar and side stepped to avoid colliding with them.They exchanged smiles and Akash promptly looked away. He had no desire to strike a conversation and exchange pleasantries. He continued looking away and he saw her.....

Her back was to him. A red silk Saree......a sleeveless red blouse with silver embroidery.....nearly backless....her cascading hair covered most of her back....her left hand was holding a coke, and her right hand was gesturing. That right wrist was adorned with a diamond bracelet and that delicate ring finger had a diamond sitting on it. He could not see her face. He could not hear her voice. he could not breathe in her fragrance.......

He knew it was her....

It had been 15 years, since that fateful day when they had parted,but he recognised her silhouette. For the five years they had been together he had seen it countless number of times. He had seen it when she was standing reading her mark sheet in college and he had sneaked up behind her and given her a hug. He had seen it when she was angry with him and turned away. He had seen it when she stopped midway to talk to a friend and he waited behind her. Yes this was Mona.

Sometime in 1995....

Akash was then a young man. All of 18 years old. And as all teenagers are, he was just out of a relation. He was studying in college in Bombay and he was now visiting his parents in Delhi during his end semester vacations.

Mona was then a young lady. All of 18 years old. And as all teenagers are, she was just out of a relation. She was studying in college in Delhi. Akash and she had been class mates....long back in school. They had been friendly then, but that was just about it.

Those were years when there was no email, no cell phone, no orkut and no facebook. So Akash and Mona were destined to meet....to meet when they both were on a rebound, when they both needed support.

Akash through some common friends came to know that Mona was in college in Delhi and as he had nothing much to do in Delhi apart from spend time with his parents, he decided to visit Mona's college and try and see if he could connect with her.

Mona was ecstatic at seeing Akash. They immediately broke ice and bonded like old school friends. They caught a bus to India Gate and there they exchanged stories of their heart breaks. Both felt good after pouring their hearts out. They caught up on old times and filled in each other on the years gone by. Time flew and by the time they had exchanged stories and had three orange bars each, more than a few hours had passed. Akash dropped Mona to college and went back home.

A few days later...

Akash was due to leave back for college soon. Both of them had spent a lot of time together and easily gelled into each others personality. The signs were more than evident...

Akash wanted to eat....Mona knew what and where....
Mona wanted to shop...Akash knew exactly where to take her
Akash started to speak...Mona completed his sentence
Mona was sad....Akash knew how to cheer her up

Mona had also started going over to Akash's house and spending time there. She was well liked by his parents and in fact occasionally spent the night also at his house.

On one of those nights Akash and Mona was sitting in the living room and chatting....the usual friendly non sense....it was the same as it had been on earlier nights when Mona had stayed over and they had talked late into the night. On this night however, Akash was prepared and Mona was unaware.....
Suddenly.....just as Akash had cracked a joke and Mona was in splits Akash pulled out a rose from under his T shirt, got down on his knees and looked into Mona's eyes "Will you marry me?". Her mouth still open, in a T shirt and pyjamas, her hair tied behind her, the coffee mug still in her hands Mona did not understand...."Akash, this is serious stuff, not like the joke we just laughed on"

"I know, and that is why I am following the officially prescribed procedure, with a rose and down on my knees!"

"I like you a lot, and could feel this coming Akash. But have you thought it over? I don't want it to end like the last relation for both of us."

"It will not Mona. I love you. I can promise you tomorrow, but I cant buy back yesterday... I will be there for you till the end of time"

"Can i kiss you sweetheart?"

"Yes" said Mona and moved her lips forward. She had nice pink full lips, but Akash was looking elsewhere. He lifted her feet in his hands and kissed each one of them. You are mine today and forever...

Mona pulled him by his t shirt and hugged him close....she had tears in her eyes.

That was how it started.

The next morning Akash dropped Mona back to college in his Dad's old fiat. Just as Mona got out Akash asked her again "Hope you did not change your mind after sleeping on it through the night baby?"

"Akash, there's a lot you have to know about me....but let me help you with one fact about me. Once I say something I stick to it and with regard to your current question, I will love you with everything I have....till the day, if ever you break my heart.....and from that day I will never come back into your life...but all the broken pieces of my heart will still love you."

And so with his heart full of love, a spring in his step and a smile on his face Akash left back for college.

She wrote to him every single day. Sometimes twice. And Akash replied to every letter. Slowly his seniors in college caught on and hijacked his letters. He had to earn every single letter from them. Sometimes they made him do push ups, sometimes they made him run around the hostel, sometimes he bought them cream rolls. She called him on every Sunday evening at 5 PM sharp on his hostel phone. He used to start waiting from 4 PM and make sure that the phone was free at 5.

This went on for six months and then Akash went back to Delhi for his holidays. He reached home from the station and was pleasantly surprised to find Mona already waiting for him at home. He quickly whisked her onto the first floor and gave her a tight long hug...."I missed you luv...."

They spent nearly every single moment together. Shopping, eating, talking, holding hands.

"Mona, don't take me wrong, but would you consider coming with me to Bombay and spending a few days with me there?"

"hmmm naughty boy....whats on your mind" replied Mona

"Nahi, seriously...I just wanna spend all my time with you and don't worry even though the thought is very inviting, but I will not make love to you before we get married....so don't worry"

So Mona ended up with him on the train to Mumbai. They had a lovely time in Mumbai. Akash drove her around the city on his bike and walked hand in hand with her at Marine Drive. They even drove to Khandala on his bike. On the way back, it was late in the night and raining and chilly. Akash was shivering as he drove. Mona promptly took off her jacket and gave it to him. She then hugged him tight as she sat behind and asked "Sweety ko ab thand toh nahi lag rahi?"

Mona was scheduled to go back by train, but Akash wanted to spend some time with her, so he dug into the money Dad had given him for the semester and bought an air ticket for her. He got a few extra hours with her and in lieu he would go out lesser number of times that semester he reasoned.

Months turned into years and their love only grew. One day inside one of Mona's regular letters Akash found ash. She wrote "Akash, I have failed to make you understand that smoking is bad for you and you need to stop. As I don't see the point of living without you, I have also started smoking so that we can both die together."

May 2000

Akash's parents had come to know about their relation and were dead against it. Akash never understood why. His father was not keeping too well and had told him in no uncertain terms that he would have to choose between his parents or Mona.

Mona had also got the feel that everything was not right. On numerous occasions she had tried probing Akash to tell her what was wrong. She had been to Bombay to spend time with him a few more times over the years and now saw nothing beyond him.

"Nothings wrong baby, we will talk when I come to Delhi" Akash always told her

When Akash finally landed up in Delhi, the dreaded showdown between his parents and him happened. They told him that he had to stop his thing with Mona or else.....

Akash had to choose between his parents or Mona. He chose his parents. He went to meet Mona at her college and asked her to sit beside him in his Dad's fiat. "Mona, I know what I am doing is wrong. I love you, but I cannot see my parents like this. After I leave now, I will never ever see you again. Don't try calling me or writing. I will not respond."

Mona just looked at him....then she understood and then she realised he meant what he just said. She could not stop her tears, they just came cascading out. She didn't say a word. She opened the car door and got out. She walked a few steps then turned and came back. She put her head through the window and held his hand. She was crying hysterically. She kissed his hand. Her tears fell on his hand. he was helpless, there was nothing he could do. She looked into his eyes, the pain evident. She slowly extricated herself from her awkward position through the car window, turned and walked away.

She never looked back.

At the marriage in 2015

A child came running up to her and tugged her pallu. "Moooooommmy.......I am feeling cold". Mona promptly bent over and gave him a tight hug.

"Sweety ko ab thand toh nahi lag rahi?"

Akash was transported back in time. Who else could this be. Thank God, she was married and had kids..at least one. He was relieved. He had spend many a lonely night drunk and rueing that fateful evening he had dumped Mona so unceremoniously. She had never contacted him after that and in fact had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth.

Akash had tried tracing her out on so many occasions over the years. But he never found her. Not on facebook , not on orkut, not using google. None of the common friends knew where she was either. Either that or they had been instructed not to tell.

Either ways, Akash had no clue what became of Mona. How she dealt with the break up. Had she moved on, had she got married? Had she forgiven him. That was till today......Now he knew....

Suddenly Akash started feeling cold himself......he was nearly shivering.........

Sometime in 2009

He was still feeling cold......he was shivering and he was crying. He woke up with a start. His blanket had fallen off and the AC was at full blast. He sat up in bed crying and sweating.......

He still had no clue about Mona. He was still not relieved of the guilt......He would have to live with it till he lived....or atleast till his dream came true.

He deserved it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Pain errr Rain Dance


The Rain Dance....a regular feature in the party circuit in town. The name itself fills the mind with images.....rain (natural or artificial), booze, dance, babes....

I also love rain dances and so does the wife. We have been to a number of them...in Mumbai....Kharagpur (yes of all places)...Delhi. Our experience has been varied....mostly good....sometimes bad. The bad mostly to do with the artificial rain not being continuous. Yes, it is really comfortable to get wet n dance, and then the rain stops and ur clothes stick to your body, and you sweat and you itch and then suddenly the rain starts again and then you feel cold and then you dance harder to feel warm and drink harder to feel warmer and then the rain rain goes away, just as if little Tommy wanted to play.

Anyway, we approached the rain dance last Saturday with mixed feelings. We had not been to a dance in ages so really wanted to let loose, but thoughts of little Tommy wanting to play again that night kept our enthusiasm in check. We reached the location with a few friends and occupied the table strategically located close both to the dance floor and more importantly the bar.

The music was blaring, the rain was pouring (they had rigged up showers being supplied from the swimming pool, so chances of the supply being interrupted were scarce). We had a few drinks just to set the mood and the momentum going.

And then we hit the dance floor. The DJ was exceptional. The music was mostly trance, and since I was already a few pegs down, I was enjoying the music and the head banging. Slowly the level of alcohol in my blood started reducing and I started noticing...........Noticing the people around me. The babes that I had been anticipating..........but here is what I saw.

Young girls...maybe still in school or just out......wearing next to nothing......beer bottles in their hands....dancing or at least trying hard. What little of clothes they had on were clinging to their bodies.....When the beer was gulped down, their hands went around their boy friends.....Yes, that is exactly what they were....boys....in school or just out........They were all over each other......

I was aghast....I consider myself still young...the current generation. But this was too much even for me. Had the generation gap already wedged itself between the next generation and mine. Even if it had, am sure the parents of this younger generation belonged to my generation or older. How could they allow this?

Was this the new status symbol?? Letting your kids dress like this...especially for a rain dance??? They say, the men are always at fault leching, groping, touching. But I am still a firm believer. If you ask for it so desperately... U will surely get it.

Parents wake up

So the babes for me were gone...what was left was the booze, dance, trance and rain....(lots of it)

And dance we did......in fact the dancing felt better now without the distraction of the babes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Retrospective Perspective


I was lying in bed last night and staring into the ceiling. I do this occasionally. I imagine a copy of myself has emerged from the original and is staring at me. For the moment I become the copy on the ceiling.......Like it happens in the movies. I take stock of my life as a whole......birth to death and where I stand now. I look back at the path I have trodden and I try and clear the path for the future. I do this occasionally. The occasions are triggered by events during the day. If any event during the day has particularly jolted me, I let my copy come out at night.

Today the copy on the ceiling was giving me a dressing down on relations. It was teaching me "The Art of Maintaining Relations". I am a Cencerian. They call us the 'roots' kind of people. We take great pleasure in the comforts of home, family and friends. We are also famously called the 'crabs'. We are quick to retreat into our shells if it suits our mood. I am also a relation oriented person. Over the years, I have realised that my relationships fall into three categories:-

1. My Family. Its only my immediate family I am talking about here. My parents, brother (his wife and daughter), wife. The rest of my extended family falls into one of the other two categories. I believe in giving my family space. I may not be around all the time showing them my love and concern, but the slightest shadow of need and I will be there. I love my family

2. My acquaintances. These are most of the people I know. I meet them, I am cordial. I am friendly, its a friendship on a "as required basis". They need me I help them, and I hope when i need them they are there. Nothing very special about this category.

3. My Close Friends. This is where the problem lies. Now whether this arises from me being a crab or due to certain complex within myself I am not sure. This is where I was getting this therapeutic tongue lashing from my copy. I have a circle around myself, my space. This is the category of my relations whom I let enter into my space. Its like now I have them under my wings. My family is here and these friends are here. The rest are on the other side.

I tend to cling to these close friends. I like them to be around me always. There are not many of these but there are a few. I like to be in touch with them constantly. I don't mind being pro active in the balance. I can be the one to call, to message, to mail, to chat and I can be the one each and every time. I like having the continuous knowledge of what is happening in their lives, whether they need help or support. Basically I like remaining connected. Sometimes it gets suffocating.

This is what the copy on the ceiling was trying to get into my head.

"Just because they are in your inner circle, does not automatically mean you are there in theirs".

"You may want to stay connected, maybe they do not".

It was getting to me. I had noticed that some of these close friends had tended to call it quits with me in the recent years. maybe that is what my copy was telling me. All those people were not cancerians. Maybe they had no circle at all, so there was no question of me being there. They left my circle, i felt bad as I meant no harm. That was just my way of being nice, of making them feel special.

I am still confused.

Maybe I will let my copy come out again tonight.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Holiday to Relax and Introspect


Background

I love travelling and so does my wife. Its a kind of rule which we have made for ourselves, a good relaxing holiday at least once a year. We also decided to travel abroad to see the world. I am in the Navy and the advertisement to lure youngsters reads "Join the Navy to see the world". I dont know about the others but this had definitely motivated me. I had joined the Navy and hoped to see the world. Well, unfortunately the Navy decided to show to me India instead.

I have seen nearly all of India, some courtesy the Navy and more due to our penchant for travelling and visiting places. We love exploring places and storing all those memories as photographs. We had procured a large album and decorated the cover with the words "Our holidays". Unfortunately we were only able to lock up 2-3 holidays in there before the digital revolution hit us. Now the memories find place in the hard disk of my computer and in the online web albums. This is definitely a easier way to store and share snaps, but nothing beats the nostalgia of sitting together with the wife on a rainy evening with a hot cup of coffee in our hands and flipping theough the hard copies of our memories.

Anyway since 2 years had passed since our last holiday in "vilayat", and more importantly since the Government had decided to be kind enough and us give some extra money, I thought it was the right time and I had just about enough money to plan a holiday abroad. Our dream destination is America, but as that was turning out to be very expensive, we decided to travel to HongKong, Macau and Bangkok instead.

The planning

I believe that whilst travelling abroad, this is the most important phase. Maybe it is inspired by the famous military saying " The more you sweat in peace, the lesser you bleed in war". So we sweated. We decided our budget, we decided to take my sister in law along (for entertainment), we decided where we wanted to stay etc. We had learnt from previous experiences that abroad it is foolish to spend on lavish hotels as for the better part of the day one is out shopping or sight seeing and the hotel room is only used to crash into the bed and get ready for yet another day of shopping and sight seeing.


We found a travel agent, who did our flight tickets and hotel reservations for us. She also got us our foreign exchange. This we realised later was a foolish thing to do as it works out cheaper if one withdraws money from the ATM's abroad or better still swipe a debit card directly. However, one has to be careful with the card and swipe it only at trusted locations and never let the card out of your sight.

We also decide to travel light and take only 2 haversacks along.

The trip

Finally the day arrived when we had to leave. Our excitement was over shadowed by the enthusiasm showed by Shilpi (sister in law). This was her first trip abroad and she had full right to act this way. And then this was the reason we were taking her along.....drama factor.

My parents dropped us off a New Delhi airport well in time for the flight. We immediately started clicking snaps at all possible locations (duty free shop, security check in etc). I had already upgraded my camera storage to 2 GB so storage was not a problem. Soon we had boarded the flight and were climbing over Delhi. We had just about levelled off when the air hostess wheeled in the liquor cart. Now this is what I like about international flights and guess Shilpi also liked it. She asked me at the top of her voice "Jeej kya peena hai?". I gave her a glare and asked the hostess for a vodka and orange juice. Shivani settled for apple juice(her all time favourite). Three drinks and a nap later we were descending over Bangkok.

There was an hour between this flight and our connecting flight to Hongkong. But Suvarnabhumi Airport is huge and even after running on the travellators and ignoring all the lucrative duty free shops we just managed to board the flight to HK just as the air hostess was "closing and arming all doors".

Macau

I remember looking out of the window as were descending over HK and being fascinated by the lights. It was raining and the wings with the piercing landing lights seemed to be cutting through the rain. We landed safely and the first thing which struck me about HK airport was its enormity. We had to catch a metro from where we landed to where we had to do immigration. Now that is LARGE. Owing to the restricted budget we had planned to spend the night at the airport and proceed to Macau in the
morning. That idea did not seem very great now. We were tired, were thirsty...water here cost 12$ a bottle and that was not funny. So we bought one bottle of water, and me being the Navy man promulgated a watch roster (one awake, two sleeping) and we tried to sleep. In retrospect this was a good idea, as while Shilpi slept, Shivani and me worked out the details of how to reach Macau in the cheapest way possible, reallocated for budget for sight seeing and shopping (HK and Macau are very expensive places, which we realised then) and even re distributed our money.

We caught the first bus to the Macau ferry terminal and boarded a ferry to Macau. The ferry was more like a plane with similar seating and i daresay speed. We reached Macau and after immigration and a long wait for the hotel bus, finally checked into our hotel. Macau is a nice picture post card kind of city, which is very Portugese in appearance. Most of the main city is walkable and so walk we did. It actually consists of the Macau mainland and the islands of Taipa and Colone, which are connected by lovely bridges.

Our first sight seeing trip was the Macau tower which is known for Bungee jumping. Shilpi was all excited about taking the plunge till she looked down from the jump platform wherein her josh faded as fast as the high speed life which got us till here. The entry ticket for the tower itself was about 100$ (Rs 700/-) per head. We could see the whole of Macau from here including the huge Grand Lisboa and all the bridges. Macau does have the Chinese influence also and the delicacy of duck blood soup confirmed that. We spent 3 days in Macau and then headed back to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry back to HK. The girls did not try out the dreaded duck blood soup or frog legs and stuck to McDonalds instead.

HongKong

The plane like ferry took us back to HK within an hour. Both Macau and HK do not require a Visa and so immigration was quick with a stamp permitting us to stay for 15 days. With the way expenses were mounting I didn't think we would last more than 15 hours. HK is all about buildings, bridges and tunnels. It has the worlds largest airport (Chek Lap Kok Airport). The worlds
largest suspension bridge carrying rail and road traffic (Tsing Ma bridge). An underwater tunnel connecting Kowloon to HongKong Island and huge sky scrapers. So much so that on the day we landed in HK it was raining and we could not see the tops of most buildings as they were hidden by the clouds. Other than this the highlight of our trip to HK was a visit to Oceans Park. There we witnessed an amazing dolphin and seal show and also rode across from one mountain to another over the ocean in a cable car. This was dutifully recorded by Shilpi in our digicam with her commentary in the background. We also managed to grab an Indian Meal in HK consisting of lacha paratha and chole.

We also visited Stanley which is like a old fishing town at the South end of HK island. There is a beach there and we sat there at night and had a can of beer each. We spent three days in Hk and then proceeded back to the airport to catch our flight to Bangkok.

Bangkok

We landed in Bangkok and suddenly the world started looking like a better place. Everything was so much more reasonable and affordable. We could buy cold coffee and we could have boiled corn off the streets. We had rented a service apartment in Bangkok for 4 days and each and every day and minute and second here was spent on shopping.
Except for one day where I managed to coax everybody to accompany me to see the "Bridge on River Kwai". The monument was an eye opener for all of us about the atrocities commited on the allied soldiers by the Japanese.

I wanted to pick up a handycam for myself in Bangkok, but a comparison of prices revealed that it would be much cheaper to buy it in India. I had been looking forward to pick up a hybrid and some golf balls from here and that I did. The girls picked up sandals and purses till our haversacks were full and then they purchased three suitcases and more sandals and purses till even our new procurements were full.

Finally the day arrived when we were to head back to India. All said and done all our excitement for the foreign countries had faded and we were eager to get back to Mother India and some dal and roti. On the way back I did manage to pick up one bottle of Glen Fiddich and Glen Livet each. I had no Bhats left and had to swipe my card. I also picked up one bottle of Baileys Irish Cream with a hint of coffee...the latest from Baileys.

Intospection

As soon as we landed back in Delhi and in fact even before that Indianness as I call it, hit us. Even before the plane touched the ground all Indians had their mobiles out and were talking. When the air hostess tried to dissuade them, they started arguing with her. Empty packets, wrappers were strewn all over the plane's aisle.

As we entered the airport, the stark contrast compared to HK or Bangkok airport was more than evdent. Immigration was preceeded by a never ending line. All the smart Indians were trying to jump in fornt of each other in the queue. All the nicecities of vilayat, the Pleases the Than Yous were all forgotten there it seemed.

It felt nauseating. All the while specially in HK in Macau we had not heard a honk on the road. Allvehicle drivers knew the rules and followed them letter and spirit. There were lines everywhere, there were queues, there was always a smile, a please, a good morning and thenk you. All Indians I met there followed these courtesies. What had changed here.

Is is the people that make a country or a country that makes the people. When one can do it there, why not here?

Whenever I return from a holiday whether in India or abroad, I make a pledge or I renew the pledge to make India a better place. One person can make a difference. I can be that one.