Kashi – See it through my eyes :-)

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How many of you have actually visited Varanasi or Kashi? Well, don’t give me those stares now. I know that most of the people visit this city only for doing the last rites. The continuous burning of bodies near the Ghats are proof of that. But, to tell you the truth, the city is much more than just the cremations and a place for attaining Moksha. You would have probably seen the city in various movies like Raanjhana, Water, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag etc. Recently, the city has also become famous because of our hot-shot Prime Minister who contested the elections from here.

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Well, Varanasi has a special significance for me. Most of my childhood memories are associated with this city. My grandmother used to stay in a Mutt in Hanuman Ghat and we used to visit her during most of our holidays. In fact, after giving my board exams, I and my brother were packed off to Kashi to stay with my Paati. And, guess what, I received my board exam results too over telegram from Appa!!! Staying in Kashi did not improve my marks though. 🙂 🙂

Needless to say, there was hardly any source of entertainment over there. No television and no friends, the only source of entertainment for us was to sit over the banks of the river Ganges. Even during that time, we always used to feel intrigued about how so many foreigners flocked the place. They would be dressed in colourful Indian attire and roam around freely as if they had been staying there for ages. Our Paati would wake us up at 3am in the morning and we would go through the various narrow alleys to have an early morning darshan of Lord Vishwanath. I doubt if any other child would have had such a religious bent of mind during their childhood. 🙂 Well, the place had its own charm and in spite of being deprived of all sorts of entertainment, we used to still enjoy the long walks through the galis.

Varanasi is quite sacred among Hindus and a lot of people visit the place as a part of their pilgrimage. It is believed that people attain Moksha if they die there or are cremated there. In fact, you can see pyres being lit throughout the day and night in Harishchandra Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat. Yes, it is a city where life and death run in parallel. Even though some people find the city to be quite filthy and dirty, I love its unique mysticism. There is some kind of spirituality there which is quite appealing.

But, since my marriage, I had not visited the city as there was no need to spend summer vacations and other vacations there.. 🙂 After my Paati died last year, I have seen the city so many times in my dreams. And, there was some kind of pull. So, this time, when we had a long stay in Delhi, we decided to visit Varanasi. My husband had heard so much about this place and had never visited it. Also, after learning that his favourite politician fought the elections from there, his curiosity to check out Kashi had increased even more.. ;-).. So much was our determination to visit the city that we booked tickets on Tatkal in sleeper class when our wait-listed tickets in AC coach did not get confirmed. The train which we had boarded must have been one of the oldest trains in our country.. It was beyond stinking and the berths were in a really bad shape.. Thankfully, we did not fall down while sleeping.. 🙂 (That was my biggest fear) Somehow the kids coped up, without complaining much. For them, travel of any kind is always welcome.

Thankfully, hubby dear had booked us in a good hotel so the kids were really excited once we reached there. After getting settled in the hotel, we decided to visit the temples. The kids were not too keen about the temples and Gautam’s only concern was to have food.. 🙂

We took an auto and went till a point and from there we had to take a cycle-rickshaw till another point. Then, there was about a 1 km trek through the galis to Kashi Vishwanath temple. The interesting part about the alleys and small galis of Kashi is that one really has to meander through them along with cows and various other people.

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The kids found this trek quite adventurous as it was a different kind of experience for them. Having led shielded lives in metropolitan cities, such a rickety city was like an adventure in itself. The day being Monday, there was a long queue in the Shiva temple. And, when we were inside the sanctum sanctorum, people were literally falling over the Shiva Linga. Surely, the God must have been feeling suffocated with all the fan following.. Somehow, we managed to have our darshan of Lord Vishwanath and Annapoorni and we felt blessed.

I also took the kids and husband to the home where my Paati used to stay. They were appalled to see the small house and the pathetic condition of it. I think it is sometimes essential to give the kids some exposure to ground reality. They could not believe that I and my brother used to stay in such a house, which lacked most of the basic amenities. Showing them such places helps them in valuing what we have now. 🙂

Then, we went on a boat ride from Kedar Ghat till Manikarnika Ghat. Our boat-wallah narrated the story behind each and every Ghat. (The famous ghats over here are the Kedar Ghat, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Varuna Ghat, Assi Ghat. )You won’t believe, the majority of the boats were filled with foreigners who had stopped their boats near these 2 Ghats where the cremations were happening. For them, the burning of corpses must have been a unique sight and a rare experience.

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After the boat ride, we sat through the Ganga Aarti on Dashashwamedh Ghat, which was perfectly synchronized and performed by 5 handsome pujaris. 🙂 (Yeah, they were actually looking smart with crisp kurtas, dhotis and long flowing hair!!!)

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With so much of religious overdose, Gautam went on a strike saying he did not want to visit any more temples. 🙂 So, we concluded our Varanasi sightseeing and went on a trip to Sarnath the next day. Sarnath is associated with Gautam Budha and it is believed that Lord Budha gave his first sermons in Sarnath. The place is beautiful with a lot of Stupas, temples and ruins and surely, all the people who are fond of Archaeology and history would enjoy spending time over there.

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This is how we spent 2 of our days. The kids were ecstatic about coming back to the metropolitan city and we were happy to have had such spiritual encounters. The place is a must-visit for people who enjoy rich and heavenly lassi. 🙂 (Yes, one cannot afford to miss them, especially when it is served in khullads). Also, if you don’t mind walking along with the cows, dogs and burning of corpses, this city will provide you with an enriching experience. You could also buy the famous Banarasi silk sarees over there.

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Women who care…..

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This post is dedicated to all those women who do so much for the society in general. Without these wonder women, most of the working mothers might not be able to go out and work. Well, no, I am not talking about mothers and mother-in-laws. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have mothers or mother-in-laws staying close-by. And, with the change of thought process and the craving for independence, even if they do stay close-by, they may not want to be totally bogged down with the responsibility of taking care of your children. This is not a negative thing at all. After all, everybody should get privacy and freedom to enjoy their lives as they want.

Well, here, I am talking about the other aspect of society, which is called as the day-care. There are professional day-cares where the kids might get professional care but might not get personal motherly attention. Then, there are home-cares where women run day-care facilities in their homes itself.

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Having been a working woman, I really do realize the importance of women working and pitching into the financial pool for the home. With my mother having worked throughout my childhood, I have been under the care of so many Ayahs and Aunties that I really do respect women doing this kind of service.

I know a person who runs a day-care in Noida. Though I have known her personally for past many years, it was the first time I saw her at work 2 months back. She lives in a 1 room flat and runs a day-care in that flat. She does not have kids of her own but loves kids a lot. When we paid a visit to her place (at a completely inappropriate time of 2pm, when she had kids coming over from school), there were some kids sleeping on the mats and on the bed. Though the room was small, she made us feel comfortable in whatever space that was available.

And, then the doorbell rang and more kids came in. She swiftly made coffee for us and made fresh Rotis and Bhindi sabji(lady-finger) for the kids. I was surprised and asked her if the parents did not send packed lunchboxes for the kids. She said that some of the mothers do not have time to cook food for the kids in the morning so she does this for them. And, she made Bhindi because the kids loved it and didn’t fuss much about eating it. I was so touched by her act that my heart went out to her. Cooking for your own family and kids becomes so tiresome sometimes. And, this lady was doing it for other kids.

A big salute to her and to all the other ladies out there who take care of other people’s kids so that the mothers can go out and earn money for the family !!!

Women try to give their best in everything that they do. Women do so much and bear so much of pain but they are often taken for granted. But, they touch many lives, nevertheless.

 

Happy School Days

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This post is inspired by Ravinder Singh’s “Like It Happened Yesterday”. He has given a beautiful account of his school days in his book and takes you back the memory lane.

Everybody has a story to tell about their school days, right? What comes to your mind when you think of your school days? Friends and the pranks you did?

When we were young, we always wanted to grow up fast and be like our parents. We wanted to go to office, wearing nice, colourful clothes and earn money so that we could buy all the things that we needed.

But, now that you have grown up and are reading this blog, which time period of your life do you think was so far your best? For me, it was my good old school days, with no tension about home and money and the only worry being friends and exams. Is it not true in most people’s cases?

I had changed about 4 schools during my school days..

I started with a small Convent school called Modern Convent, where I did my Nursery till 2nd standard. The school was also a day-boarding school for me. Guess what, while all the other kids would go back home after school, I would stay back with 2 maids/ayahs till the evening, Darshana Aunty and Shanti Aunty. As my mother was working, I had to spend time till evening in the same school. And, it was not a swanky day-boarding school too. It was just a make-shift arrangement for a few kids in the school premises. Though I would miss going home for lunch and being loved and hugged by my mother, I would still enjoy the after-school stunts. Loitering around in all the classrooms and picking up random pencils and rubbers which other kids would have dropped, would be so thrilling. My bag would sometimes be full of such scrap things and I would get scolded by parents a lot many times. 🙂 And, while going back home, I would go in that dabba wala rickshaw. It is those covered rickshaws in which small kids would sit huddled with each other. Wow, that would be an adventure in itself as we would feel like we were sitting in some spaceship minus all those gadgets, of course.. 🙂

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I was moved over to another Public school called Bapu Adarsh Vidyalaya soon after I finished 2nd standard and around that time, my brother was born, a major competitor for me at home. 🙂 I spent only 3 years in that school but it was one of my favourite schools because it gave me an opportunity to grow as an all rounder. I had a few close friends there and I feel bad about losing touch with them. Have tried to search them on Facebook but have not found them yet. We used to be a naughty gang and during PT period, we would open out lunchboxes of other kids and taste whatever that those kids would have brought. Somehow, we were never caught for our pranks and I wonder why. Thinking about it now, I feel like being a character from ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’. 🙂 I can still remember that Deepa Malhotra’s mother used to make the best “Poori choley” in our class and she would be the one who would get the most hysterical when she saw her lunchbox half empty… 🙂

With that school, my tryst with Private schools ended. Myself and my brother were put in a Government school, that too, a Tamil school. We had to study Tamil compulsorily till 8th standard.  And, to teach me Tamil, an old teacher, who also used to teach English in school would come home. 🙂 And, the point to note is that he was also my mom’s teacher in her school days.. Yes, we always follow legacy, you see 🙂

I would reach home at 4:30pm in the evening and my Tamil teacher, would reach at 5:00pm and would teach me Tamil till 6pm and would leave only after my parents would come back from office. He was so good in teaching Tamil that he used to doze off in between, after giving me some grueling homework.:-) Oops, to learn all those Thirukkurals was not an easy thing.

It was hard for me to make friends in the new Tamil school. But, there was one girl, who had joined from the previous school and we both struck together and we still continue to be good friends. In fact, she is my oldest friend and I know her for the longest period of time. There was another tall girl there in the class, who was supposed to be some kind of a gang-leader. Everybody listened to her, would play games she would say, would sit and stand as per her instructions. I used to wonder how she commanded so much of respect and fear from her fellow-mates. She really had all those leadership skills in abundance. But, with passing years, she became mellower and guess what, she is one of my closest friends even now and we meet up every year with our kids in tow 🙂

While I was in 9th standard, I met one of the coolest persons who made a lot of impact on me. She would insist that we talk only in English and I really struggled to make decent conversations. Well, not that we were indecent but our English was pathetic. 🙂 Guess what, she introduced me to the songs of Michael Jackson and George Michael. Never even knew such people existed before I met her. 🙂 That was also the time when boys in our class would write weird equations on the board and we would break our heads to solve them and when we did solve, they would turn out to be the most stupid kind of stuff. In fact, last year, when I met my childhood friends, we were still discussing that equation. 🙂

While in 10th standard, I remember bunking classes one day and seeing ‘Dil’ movie in my friend’s house, who stayed just across the road. We really had so much fun watching the movie on the VCR at her place. But, the worst things were to follow later. I was so stupid that I came back to the school to board the school bus and there stood my Maths teacher in front of the bus. And, I can still remember her grave expression and her strict tone when she said that I was missing from the class that day. Thankfully, she did not complain to my parents. 😛

While I was in 12th standard, I had to again change the school. But this time, the school was the same. Only the branch was different. And guess what, within 10 days of my joining the school, I started to find rose flowers in my bag. I used to be scatter brains and would never make much out of it. But, when I started finding flowers every day, I really thought something fishy was happening. Soon, I found out that I had a secret admirer. Well, thinking about it now, I really feel I should have been happy then. But, I used to get jittery as I was not very comfortable with boys that time. 😀

Well, these were my school days. Am sure most of you would be able to relate to this blog.

Now, when you face life’s challenges, you feel that those school challenges were like a piece of cake. Life really doles out hurdles of all kinds and it sometimes gets tougher for you to decide the best course of action. Live your life and enjoy it in every stage. What you have now, you might not have it tomorrow.

Do let me know about your school experiences too on this blog..

Suitable Boy…

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Does it remind you of Vikram Seth’s novel by the same name? I read that book while I was in college. It was such a huge novel, around 1300 pages and it was a wonder how I read it along with my college studies. Well, such was my passion for reading books… 🙂

Well, this post is definitely not a review of that book but a quest for suitable boys which usually happens in most of the Indian households. Unless, of course, you have searched for a bride or groom for yourself.. :-). But, let me tell you, not everybody is brave enough to fall in love and get married. I was one such person. 🙂

Like in all traditional Indian families, the search for a suitable groom started quite early for me. The matching of horoscopes, the talking over the phones, exchanging details would be a part of daily routine for my parents. Photos taken in saree would be passed around. I still have an album full of myself posing in different sarees. 🙂

The search started during my college days. My parents believed that if they started to look for a match for me while I was in college, I would definitely get somebody before it was too late.. We belonged to a very traditional and conservative family, and to get a Tamil Brahmin Iyer boy who met all the requirements was not an easy task, that too for a person like me who is not endowed with good height.. but who knew that I was more under the ground than above the ground.. Didn’t understand? Don’t bother… 🙂

I remember the first guy I met.. I think it was when I was doing my graduation Final year.. When I told my friends that a guy was coming to see me, they were baffled. And, I had a fight at home with my parents also regarding it. When the boy turned up on a Sunday, I told my parents that I will not wear a saree for him. Imagine, the boy came with his parents, his brother, his sister-in-law, nephews, nieces etc.. I guess he did not have a dog otherwise he would have got the dog also.. 🙂..That time, we used to stay in a small LIG flat in Vasant Kunj with just 2 small rooms… It was such a crowd at our small house. The guy was too pleasing but little did he know that I had already decided to reject him.. Haa… haaa.. :-).

After him, came a guy called Sundar. I met him in a crowded eatery in Nehru Place… I remember my office friends ridiculing me for even thinking of marrying a guy with that name… How could I explain to them that Sundar was the name of Shiva and was a popular South-Indian name… anyways, I told him that I had no plans of getting married and we both went and told our parents that we didn’t like each other..

After that, I remember meeting a guy in Mumbai who was working in the US. He had all the accents and he wanted to know if I knew to play Tennis… Ohh.. I never knew that I had to know to play Tennis to get married.. 🙂 Well, now I know the game but i didn’t learn it for him… 🙂

Another boy who found me too short for him..

Yet another, whom my parents thought was ugly.. but imagine, we both struck off so well.. we were talking for more than 2 hours like old friends and then I decided not to marry him… coz his parents felt that their son needs to do MBA, sitting at home while I should go and do the bread-earning.. 🙂 🙂

In fact, my parents started to feel that I had somebody whom I wanted to marry… maybe, they would have agreed to a love marriage too..

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There were lots and lots of people I met before I came across the Suitable Boy..

In fact, when I met my husband, we both spoke for only 5 minutes.. I only noticed that he looked dashing in his white shirt and cream trousers. But when he went home and his family said ‘Yes’, I was left wondering.. It had been almost 5 years that this search for suitable boy and the rejections were going on.. We decided to meet again in Udupi hotel over a cup of butterscotch ice-cream… 🙂. We both felt that we were suitable for each other. But, honestly and frankly speaking, till the day I got married, I was wondering if I am doing the right thing with the right guy. We would have hardly met each other 3 times between our engagement and marriage.. and the phone calls were also not that frequent. In fact, exactly during my courtship time, a huge warehouse project was going on in the office and I used to hardly get time to talk to him also. I am sure my friends will be nodding their head too severely on this.. 🙂

After 12 years of marriage to him, I think he was the suitable boy who came at the suitable time and is a person who complements my temperaments.. When I am hyper, he is cool and when he is hyper, well, don’t ask me.. 🙂

Arranged marriages are a part of life in India. Parents try their best to get the best possible match for their children.

Anyways, with all marriages, there is a lot of compromise one needs to do to make it work. And, it takes in a lot of effort at both ends to nurture it.

This post is dedicated to all those people who are still searching for the suitable boy or girl. There is nothing called as perfect match. And, there is no Prince Charming. Even Gods had difference of opinion and we are just mortals.

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All the best…. 🙂

How an amateur ends up winning a trophy… !!! Anything is possible.. :-)

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I won a trophy recently for winning the Table Tennis Women’s Singles in my office !!! 🙂

So what’s the big deal about it? Do you think I am writing this blog to brag about it and boast about it….?

Well, for somebody who has learnt the game at the age of 34 and won it at 37, it definitely is a big deal… what do you say?

I used to be a very studious person during my childhood and preferred reading books than anything else.. Reading is still my passion.. 🙂 No extra-curricular activities for me other than some dances in primary school. 🙂 Exposure to sports for me was watching One-day Cricket- matches with parents and brother. Ohh.. we used to really enjoy the games. Mom used to finish off all the cooking before the start of match and then we would sit and religiously watch cricket and then celebrate too on India’s win. Other than that, we used to really love watching Lawn-Tennis too…  The game was very stylish and it somehow used to look very glamorous to me.. 🙂 I was a great Monica Seles fan while my brother was a die-hard Steffi fan.. I remember having fights with him during the matches.. Especially when one of Steffi’s fan stabbed Monica Seles during a match. I felt really bad that time…

Well, this was my exposure to sports.. I had never ever seen a Table Tennis table or a match.. but when the table-tennis table was installed in my previous office a few years back, I was so intrigued to see people playing ping-pong with so much passion and energy.. and I thought, why not?.. I borrowed a table-tennis bat from the frequent players and started learning the tricks of servicing and rallying, secretly with one of my other friends who was also a beginner like me.. 🙂 But, I never realized that it would become a passion for me.. I played during lunch hours, irking my lunch-friends who missed me during the lunch-hour gossips.. 🙂 and during free times.. I would just go and ask people to come and play with me.. 🙂 I was so engrossed with the game.. The services and the back-hand smashes used to give me a kind of thrill which was unbeatable…

But, saying all this, I was not confident enough to play professionally. So, when the Championships were announced in my previous office in March, I was thinking if I should participate at all and that I don’t want to play to win.. I love to play the game just for fun.. But, the Sports committee President in our office, who had an unfortunate chance of playing with me during our team-outing once and had got defeated by me, was behind me to put my name and participate. He had more confidence in me than I had in myself.. I gave my name… and was under so much pressure that even during the nights, I would dream that I will somehow forget to serve during the match.. :-).. It had become really night-marish.. and the finals match was against a person who is really known for her smashes.. and a good 6 inches taller than me… :-).. And, the worst part or maybe, you can call it the best part was, we had never played against each other during the lunch-hour practices. 🙂 When the match started, we had about 50 people as audience to watch our match.. Well, that would definitely break anybody’s confidence.. but guess what, I was surprisingly calm and told my friends who had come to support me that I was sure of losing so I won’t worry about the game and would just play my natural game… I played my very normal game with very low serves.. And, I was surprised that my opponent was not able to pick up my serves at all… :-).. I got all 5 points on my serves… Before the start of the game, majority of the people were betting on her on winning.. but after those 5 points, I saw people slowly betting on me and cheering me too.. But, I did not look at the crowd at all.. only focused on the ball.. Yep, And, I won the set and the second one too.. I felt like Arjun who had focused on his target when Dronacharya asked his pupils to hit the target.. 🙂

Well… It took a long time to sink in that I have actually won the championship and don’t you think I have a reason to feel proud.. 🙂

Well, the moral of the story is that there is no age for learning.. You can learn at a relatively older age and win matches too.. 🙂

I am still very young at heart and won’t mind picking up another game.. 🙂

Life of a scooterist.. :-)

I have been driving scooter or a 2-wheeler for the past 16 years almost. I bought my first scooty, Bajaj Sunny when I was 21. It was such a small scooty and fitted my stature perfectly. 🙂 I used to travel from Vasant Kunj to Nehru Place by it. But the only problem with that scooty was that when the winds blew fast and the rains were heavy, the scooty would start to fly… no, no, it did not get converted into a glider.. It was so light that it would sway here and there… :-).. But, it was my first possession, bought with my first few salaries so it was very dear to me… It was with a heavy heart that I sold it off when I graduated to a bigger scooter…

My next one was a scooter, Kinetic Honda.. It was a sturdy looking scooter and was really heavy and I would have driven it around for more than 10,000 kms on the roads of Delhi, traversing from West to East Delhi to South Delhi with ease.. I used to be so proud about the scooter and driving it would give me lot of satisfaction.. I have given lifts to so many of my colleagues also on that scooter… After driving it for about 7-8 years, it started giving problems. And then, I decided to just stop driving scooter and use office transport instead.

My latest scooter is a TVS Streak, which I am trying to drive on the Bangalore roads. The scooter is quite good but the roads in Bangalore are so pathetic.. They are narrow, have pot holes, with hundreds of speed breakers.. I don’t know why the roads have so many speed breakers when anyway, people cannot drive very fast with so much of traffic around.. :-).. Believe me, my hands are always on the brakes.. It is a wonder how I am able to navigate between the cars and buses and other motorists… Most of the crossings do not have signals and people seem to be coming from all places.. And, the irony is that I got challaned for taking a free left turn where the signal was actually working.. 😦 Another disgusting thing about driving in Bangalore is that pedestrians don’t respect you at all. They cross the roads in a very leisurely manner and even if you stare at them from beneath the hood of the helmet, they stare back at you… 🙂

For all the scooterists and motorists out there, drive safe and reach back home safely…

A dream come true…. A trip to Sydney…

Remember movie Dil Chahta Hai and the way Aamir and Preity danced in Luna Park to the song, ‘Jaane Kyon Log Pyaar Karte hain’… and remember that fat, round lady singing oooh… aaah….. in the Opera House…. 🙂 That’s Sydney… The place was so mesmerizing in the movie that I always dreamt of going there.

So when a new project was being announced in my earlier organization and we were told that we would have to go to Sydney for a week for trainings and all, it was like a dream come true… 🙂 Wow…But, the problem was that it exactly coincided with our trip to South to attend a cousin’s wedding. My husband and my daughter went ahead for the wedding while I was struck in Delhi, waiting eagerly for the visa. 😦 We had applied for visas about 15 days prior to the visit and we had not got the visa even on the last day before the travel. Those few days were really frustrating. With family away and having missed the cousin’s wedding, I was not even sure if I would get the visa and go to Australia. Thankfully, we got the visa finally at 7 in the evening and the flight to Sydney was in the early morning next day… Believe me, I packed off my entire suitcase for my dream destination only after reaching back home that night…. Thanks to Amma who thoughtfully packed a sweater for it was really cold in Australia..

There were 6 more colleagues who traveled with me. The flight was via Hongkong and the stopover in Hongkong was almost 8-9 hours.. Like me, all others traveling with me were also first timers…

HongkongAirportWe scanned the entire airport in those 8-9 hours.. had tea, fries etc… and like all Indians, we also calculated the Dollar-Rupee conversion and decided to have dinner in the flight itself. 🙂

We got into the connecting flight in the night and reached Sydney in the early morning next day.. While the flight navigation showed that we were flying over Australia, we craned our necks to see a vast land down below but it looked so empty… Australia is a vast continent which covers from Perth on one side to Sydney on the other side and is approximately 29 lakh sq miles while the population is only about 2.1 crores.. So, less than 10 people per sq mile… which is quite unbelievable in India… In India, it would be about 1000 people per sq mile.. 🙂

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We stayed in hotel Crowne Plaza in a place called Paramatta in New South Wales. We did not waste even a single minute in the hotel. Got ourselves ready and went on a ferry ride from Paramatta to Sydney Harbour Bridge.parramatta-river(1)

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It took us about 1 hour to reach the Harbour Bridge and it was the most spectacular trip. Was reminded of the backwaters in Kerala… Having reached the Harbour Bridge, we went to Opera House, it was so good to see it live..

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In fact, the day we went there, there was some Australian Idol competition going on and we heard some young people singing away… We took a bus from there and got down at some place on CBD and then walked back all the way.. We really were behaving like some real crazy Indian tourists. 🙂

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An amazing thing in Australia was that the shops close down by 4:30pm… People there value the quality of life and they like to spend more time with the family than at work, which can never happen in other countries. On week-days, our training sessions would get over only by evening 5:30pm and by that time all the shops would close and we would not get time to shop at all.. So, in order to get the feel of the shops, we would finish off our lunch in just 5-10 minutes and utilize the rest of the lunch hour in window-shopping and other things.. Anyways, shopping was very expensive there and most of the stuff would be labeled with ‘Made in China’.. 🙂

One evening, we all went to Darling Harbour and had dinner in a restaurant called ‘Zaffran’.

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The dinner was good and the place was heavenly. The night scene was so lively and colourful.

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My distant cousin, who was studying and working in Sydney, came over one evening and took me on a trip to Bondi beach.

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It was such a lovely beach with waters so clean and a sight to behold. I kept breathing in the place and then we had a quick dinner of pizzas in the road-side restaurant and came back to the hotel by the local train.

While my colleagues went back to India after a week, I had to stay back for another one week as my boss was a resident of Australia. Well, it would seem that my dream trip was extended but actually speaking, it was the most torturous one week for me and I was waiting eagerly to come back to India. I stayed in Stamford hotel in North Ryde, which was located in a deserted kind of place. Even inside the hotel, I would hardly ever see anybody much.

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In fact, all the roads in Sydney used to look deserted too. After office, I would directly come back to the hotel and would never dare to venture out on my own. And, to give myself a feeling that I had people around, I would switch on the TV at full volume. 🙂 There was just 1 Indian vegetarian dish served in the hotel– Daal makhani and half-cooked rice and I would somehow manage to gulp it down. To get authentic Indian food in Sydney was not an easy task. Also, if you are a Vegetarian on top of it, it becomes even more challenging. And, most of the days, I remember surviving on bread alone.

I remember the weekend when I was alone and I did not know what to do. I had booked myself for a trip to Blue-mountains and had to go to some place to catch the bus but did not have the guts to go there early in the morning so had canceled the booking. Such was the fear.. 😦 I decided to visit a distant relative instead, who stayed in Ashfield. Went by local train and it was a good adventurous trip.

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I visited the Luna Park next day on my own and was remembering Aamir and Preity.. 🙂

lunapark

On my return back to the airport, my cab driver was a Pakistani and he spoke wonderful Hindi. We chatted a lot and I got to know that there was no tax on the income earned by cabbies and there were many professionals who took cab-driving as a part-time job.. :-).. Not sure how much of that was true. He even invited me over for lunch/dinner the next time I visited Sydney… 🙂

I have been to Sydney twice and it is one of the cleanest places but the loneliest place too unless you have people around..

A free ticket to Singapore

I started my career with a company called 3Com, soon after finishing my B.Com and when I did not want to pursue M.Com..haa.. haa… there is no relation with my degree and the company name. In fact, I was working on the Computers and Networking over there instead of utilizing my Commerce background. It just happened that I was surrounded with Com and incidentally, I joined a company called CalCom after leaving 3Com… 🙂

Life in 3Com was like an extension to college. Fun, friends, parties, seminars etc… but after 2 years of working with 3Com, I was retrenched along with 2 other people because the company was trimming down and we were the youngest people around. I was hardly 22 years old then and it was a traumatic experience for me. I was given a 3 months’ notice period and in that period, I applied in our parent company of 3Com in Singapore for a job in the technical line. And, this was done even without the knowledge of my boss. It was so adventurous and thrilling that other than couple of my friends, nobody even came to know about this whole thing. I wanted to take a revenge on my boss and wanted to see his face when he got to know that the Retrenchment was actually a good thing for me… 🙂

I had my interview over the telephone and cleared it and was asked to appear for a face-to-face interview in Singapore. They were paying for my tickets and stay… Wow, it was 1998 and air-travel used to be rare those days and foreign trips were even rarer.. And for a 22-year old girl, it was like a dream-come-true.. My middle-class parents did not know how to react and contacted some relatives over there to take care of me when I landed.. And, there I lost the opportunity to stay in Le Meriden in Singapore… 😦 .. I arranged for visa, tickets etc and then told my boss about it.. He was stunned but did not say anything.. I did not get the desired expression which I was expecting on his face and felt sad.. 😦

On the day of boarding, my parents and brother came over to the airport to see me off and they were more thrilled than me…  but alas, I could not get through immigration as my passport had ECR problem… 😦 I had to come out of the airport, and the day being Saturday, had to wait till Monday to get the ECR temporarily cleared. Believe me, that weekend was the longest weekend for me that I have ever lived.. Monday morning, we went to some Regional office and got it cleared and I left for Singapore on Tuesday.

Anyways, it was the best trip that I have ever had so far… Spent 2 weeks in a distant relative’s house in Yishun… watched movies alone in theatres, saw them book tickets on phone which was a wonder that time while we had to stand in queues in India outside the theatre to do advance booking.. 🙂 Visited Mustafa in Little India and spent so many hours there and was amazed to see how the shop was open for 24 hours a day… did a lot of shopping there, in fact, used most of my retrenchment money in buying chocolates and gifts for my parents and brother, traveled by bus, MRT, everything there was such a thrill… Saw people withdrawing money from a phone-booth shaped box on the main road and used to wonder how they could do that. ATMs in India had not started that time.. :-).. Used to walk till the shopping mall nearby, save the bus money and eat French Fries with that… 🙂 Went to Sentosa Island with the relatives and had so much of fun that I was dying to tell my parents about all the adventures.. I have visited Singapore many many more times after that but the first trip was the most memorable and the most adventurous… After all, it was my first free trip… 🙂

Yes, of course, attended the face-to-face interview too, which I did not clear 🙂 but who cares… 🙂 When I think of that trip, I still get goose-bumps…

Bangalore transition and being an homemaker

What happens when you spend half of your life in one place and are then relocated to another place… Well, what can happen….You are so much attuned to the old place that everything in the new place looks weird and different.. 🙂

All my school friends and college friends and previous office friends and even my brother are no longer in Delhi.. They all moved out of Delhi long time back.. Some due to marriage and some due to office moves and studies… I used to keep wondering when I would get such a chance. It is not that I do not like Delhi.. I love Delhi and its culture. (The warm hospitality which Delhiites have cannot be matched by people in any other city… yes, I mean it :-))… but still, I wanted a change… I had done all my studies in Delhi so never got a chance to move out at all..

In fact, I got married also to another DTEA person who, like me was born and brought up in Delhi… so, after marriage, I shifted from South Delhi to West Delhi… uff.. atleast some change for me.. :-).. Even within Delhi, all parts are really different.. And just before my son was born, I moved over to East Delhi.. So, I can say that I have lived in all corners of Delhi… 🙂

So, when my husband got a transfer to Bangalore, I was really so excited about the move that I did not even think twice before putting down my resignation.. Maybe, I should have thought twice… 🙂 🙂

What I wanted was change.. I wanted to get away from the extreme climates of Delhi and from the routine life and wanted to get away from the rats and cockroaches which had made our house their own home.. I remember catching a rat everyday in the month of December… Our house was a haven for them in the cold wintry nights of Delhi.. 🙂

After 17 years of working, working and only working, here I am.. in a new city, sitting at home…but enjoying it a lot… Never ever thought that I could be a home-maker too.. It was not in my genes. My mother has worked with DDA till the age of 60… And, till few months back, I have believed that one must be constantly in action and keep doing things irrespective of the fact whether there is quality or not… Along with college, I did my NIIT course and even before the graduation results were out, I started to work and have been working since then.. And, along with work, I completed my MCA and got married and had kids… It has always been a multi-tasking role for me. The juggling that I did in between roles and the stress that it created kept me going.. But, it was all in Delhi…. 🙂

The transition process was not very tough and I really enjoyed spending time with the kids and doing things which I never got a chance to do in Delhi.. The kids learnt swimming while I went gymming.. Don’t ask me how much weight I have lost.. My appetite has also grown double.. :-).. I spend time with my little one, take him out for cycling, to park, teach my elder one, play badminton and table tennis with her and have so much time in hand that I even finished a piece of embroidery, which I had not touched since school days… 🙂

The good thing about Bangalore is the weather. It is really so pleasant that we don’t even need to switch on fans. But, the infrastructure is pathetic. I really miss the Delhi Metros. The roads are so narrow here that it takes about 30 minutes to cross a distance of 3 kilometers sometimes… The people here are not very approachable and even after 3 months of seeing each other, my neighbor refuses to even smile at me.. I guess she does not like my face.. 🙂 In Delhi, there would be a Namaste and that’s it, you can become friends.. 🙂 One good thing about moving to Bangalore is that my 5 year old has started speaking very good English as kids here talk only in English. Food-wise, I am enjoying the vadas, dosas etc. but really miss the Soya Achaari Chaaps and the fresh fresh Paneer and Mother-Diary kee lassi.. :-)… I can go on and on….

Finally, I just want to say that “Life does not stop when you stop working. It just gets even more interesting”. There is still so much more to do…… 🙂

My Paati

Paati with great-grand-daughter

Paati, in Tamil, means grandmother. Like everybody else, I also have grandmothers. So, whats new about it, right?

Both my grandmothers are 94 years old. They both are poles apart. While the maternal one is very mild, the paternal one is quite wild. I guess I have inherited most of my genes from the wild one… 🙂

My dad’s mom, popularly known as Kaashi Paati, has been a seasonal visitor to our house since I remember. Having lost her husband at a very young age, she migrated to Varanasi and chose to live as Sanyaasi and would come to Delhi sometimes. She wears those fawn-coloured sarees which would cover over her shaved head.

During our childhood days, many summer vacations for me and my brother were spent in Varanasi. She had a room in a Mutt there in Hanuman Ghat. With no Television, and the only source of entertainment being the Ganges and temples, we would sit on the banks of Ganges for hours, watching people doing pujas on the river, taking holy dips, the aarti, cremations and funeral pyres on Harishchandra Ghat, dead bodies being carried over by relatives and foreigners wandering nearby, wearing colourful clothes, in search of spiritual peace and space.

Varanasi2 Varanasi3

We would visit the Kedaresh temple after that and then head back home. The galis/alleys in Varanasi would be very narrow and humans and cattle walked within that space and we would somehow make our way home without hitting anything, like a maze..

Narrow lanes of old city - Varanasi

Paati was usually very nice with us when we visited her in Varanasi and would cook a variety of dishes for us. I remember once having asked for Samosas and a short afternoon nap later found a plate of samosas in front of me. And, she is a great cook. She used to make a living by cooking when my dad and his brother, sister were young.

It is difficult to imagine how she would have been when she was young. Since I have known her, she has always been very strict and her visits to our house in Delhi would invoke fear and terror. She has hardened over her lifetime, I guess, having lost her husband very early. The food prepared at home during her visits would be completely Saatvik, without onions. And, there will be a lot of madi-aacharam to be followed whenever she came. One had to wash hands after touching rice and those difficult days in the months would become even more painful, with a deferential treatment given. The papads would be thrown from a distance of 20 metres, but it would land exactly on the plate. 🙂 She must have been a rocket-scientist in her previous life. 🙂

Myself and my brother were forced to play a game called ‘Sonaal Paanaal’ with her, which was played with the help of sea-shells and the game itself was drawn on the floor with the help of chalks. It was her proprietary game and I doubt if anybody else has even heard of it.. 🙂  The game would go in good spirits till she was winning.. At the first sign of her losing, she would start shouting and creating fuss.. Haaa.. haaa.. so, if we had to please her, we would play the game with her and make sure that she won.. :-). Even now, when I play Ludo with my kids, I think of her.

Now, at the age of 94, she is still quite active and agile and gives me a complex.. She stayed with me for a couple of weeks 2 years back and made me prepare cheedais, vadaams etc..  Her energy source never gets depleted.. :-). With a vision re-altered with the help of cataract operations, she manages to sit in the room in such an angle that she gets a good view of what’s happening in the kitchen. Though she eats only a spoonful of food, she makes sure that Amma prepares everything to perfection.

Even at this age, she shuttles between Varanasi and Delhi. As soon as the temperature in the house heats up and things start boiling over, she moves over to Varanasi and as soon as she feels tired managing on her own there, she comes back again. What keeps her going is her self-confidence and a fiercely independent streak.

That is my Paati…. And, she is still going strong…

After writing this post, my Paati fell down and broke her hip-bone and her long journey came to an end on June 26, 2013. 😦