Friday, October 24, 2008

In a Quandary...

I do crazy hours at the Office. One of my most regular times to return home would be at 11.30 in the Morning after a night shift. And almost everyday I see an old woman sipping tea at a tea stall near my house.

She seemed to be from a well to do family and who had recently fallen upon hard times. I didn't know much about that old woman. But I did know people who knew her. I asked around. What I learnt was quite depressing.

She is  a Jewish Lady, very educated and is a retired employee of BARC, Mumbai. (Bhabha Atomic research centre). For those who don't know, an employment at BARC is something most Indians would give an arm and a leg for. Her family members abandoned her and moved to Israel some years back. She now survives on a paltry pension and is in a deplorable state, both financially and  physically.

I have been thinking about her for quite some time now. The reason I am talking about her today is because I am very worried about her. She is too old and frail to find work anywhere. Maybe she is losing her mental balance as well or the hardships of the last few years have taken it’s toll upon her. Her dress is so worn out and dirty that you cant help but feel sorry for her. When it rains, she carries an umbrella which is in such a pathetic condition that it makes no difference. Still, she tries to lead life with dignity.

I wish to help her. The problem is that she has never asked for help from anybody and I don’t know if she would accept any help from me or not. I am thinking of providing her with some clothes for the winter. I don’t know how would I approach her. I don’t want to hurt her pride. But I can’t even let her to live this way either. I asked my Mom if she could do something for me. My mother has agreed to approach her, but the problem is that my Mom has never seen her.

And the bigger problem is that I am not sure of what’ll happen after that. The last time I tried tried to do some good was when I donated some money to CRY. It was very upsetting. I was not that happy then and am not too keen to experience the similar emotions again. But then, the lady too, can’t be left alone.


So reader, what do I do? I am in a quandary.


An Update :-

When I mentioned my upsetting experience with CRY (Child Relief and You) , it had nothing to do with the organisation. CRY is one of those organisations that I would trust with my money. My turmoil was MY turmoil entirely. Many would understand what I mean.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Driver, Me...and Raj

“Faaltu main aaya main!” I said, scanning the roster. I shouldn’t have come.

The three guys who were supposed to be with me in the cab did not come fearing for their safety.I was in the cab alone with the driver. I wished I knew in advance that they weren’t coming. I would’ve stayed back too.

Sighing, I rolled down the window and looked outside. The normally bustling streets were deserted today. The empty streets somehow reminded me of Mani Ratnam’s Bombay. The scene where Tinnu Anand surveys a burning Bombay from inside a white ambassador car flashed before me eyes. Somehow, I felt I was him.

The numbers were ringing in my mind. As many as 202 State Transport Buses, 350 Taxis , 115 BEST buses, 3 trucks and 4 private vehicles were smashed or gutted down across Maharashtra in a frenzied display of hatred.  All for a man spewing hate, mocking the constitution and indulging in regional terrorism. If he had even an iota of concern for the Marathi cause, they would have prospered. I was thinking about that young railways aspirant who lost his life for daring to seek employment by just means. And I knew Raj would get bail tomorrow. For murder. Again.

“Sir, ek baat bolun?” said that driver, breaking my chain of thoughts. Can I say something?

“Aap agar aaj nahin aate toh kuch nahin hota. Nahin toh bhi 60% employees nahin aaye hain.” He said. If you would not have come today, it wouldn’t have created much of a scene, as it is, 60% of the employees haven’t reported to work either.

He then went on to add that he would have left for home too. His parents were very worried.

He continued, “Saala gaadi bhi darke chalana padh raha hai..kahin se aa gaye toh apne toh vaande ho jaayenge.” I can’t even drive without fear lest they pop up from somewhere... we can very well forget about reaching office then.

“Yaar, tumko kyaa tension hai, tum toh Marathi ho..agar pakda, toh bol dena, ‘Mee Pan Marathi Manoos aahe!’, chhod denge turanth!” I said. I think it came out more sarcastically than I intended. Dude, why do you have to fear, you’re a Marathi guy, tell them .. I am Marathi too; they’ll spare you immediately.

“Kyaa sir, aisi baatein karte ho. Abhi gaadi kaa kaanch phodne ke baad mereko sorry bolke kyaa faaida? Voh log toh sabse pehle phatthar phenkte hain..” How can you say that sir? They throw stones at passing cars. And what’s the point in apologising after the windshield is smashed?”

I knew the company wouldn’t pay for that. Nor can they claim insurance in riot like situations. Besides, windshields cost a bomb when smashed.

“Abhi voh Nashik main maara voh Hindustan Lever kaa employee, voh toh Marathi thaa. Kyaa hua? Raj ne maafi maanga. Lekin kya sir, Murder ke liye bhi maafi maangke nikal jaaneka kya? Saala, kuch kimmat hi nahi hai apna?” He asked. Last time, they killed an employee of Hindustan Lever. He turned out to be a Marathi. What did Raj do? He apologised. Well, can you walk away with a murder by just tendering an apology? What’s the value of our lives?

Well, it was an employee of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited who lost his life at Nashik earlier this year. And it was true that Raj’s men literally walked away with murder then.

The driver asked, “Sir, abhi raatko kaise kyaa neend aata rahegaa usko? How does he manage to sleep at night?

There was no way I could reply to this.

I looked outside. I was wondering the same.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

1.35 ki Last Local...

I was at Vashi station this Monday. It was 1.15 in the Morning. I was very late for the Office. I looked around to see that the platform was practically deserted.

“Khaali train milegii.!” I said to myself. I’ll board an empty train.

Out of nowhere, A Kid walked upto me and asked “Bhaiyya, Kurla ko train kahaan aayegi?” Where do I board a train to Kurla?

Atif Aslam was blaring into my ears. The kid spoke the same moment as Atif peaked... “Tum hi ho.. Beshubaa ..tum hi ho..!” He went unheard.

“Kyaa chahiye?” I asked, as I paused Atif Aslam.What do you want?

Maybe I said that too loudly. I don’t know, the song was playing at full volume.

 The kid repeated the question. I merely pointed towards Platform 3.

A little while later, I glanced at the indicator. My train was scheduled to arrive at 1.35 AM. While the kid had missed his last train.

I looked around and I spotted the Kid who was looking suspiciously at a train stalled on Platform # 3 . The train had completed it’s last run of the day. One could say that the kid was surreptitiously contemplating boarding the train, but what was stopping him was the fact that the train was devoid of passengers.

I suddenly felt sorry for him as he would have to wait till 4.00 AM for the first train. I was not sure if he even understood that his train was at 4.00 AM. He was a poor kid, but  not an urchin. A decently dressed poor kid, I would say.

He looked at the indicator, perhaps understood that the train was at 4.00 AM. His face was inscrutable, but I could say that he was scared. He walked across the platform to a bench and sat there. Two men were already seated there.

On the other end of the platform, I saw two policemen patrolling the station. I knew what would happen next. The policemen checked the kid’s tickets and simply asked the kid to leave railway station. The other two were mere spectators.

My heart reached out to the kid, who would have to spend a night on the roads. I was not happy with myself.

My train arrived.

I realized I forgot to turn Atif Aslam back on.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Come Tomorrow…

As I was crossing the road this evening, a local train passed by. Almost all the windows of the train were decorated with garlands including the EMU, the train’s front. Office goers (read passengers) were noisily singing songs praising the Lord. No, the railways doesn't celebrate Dasshera it is an initiative taken by the regular commuters of Mumbai's Local trains.

Come tomorrow, scores of colourful, gigantic effigies of Ravana would dot the city. Lakhs of people across the country would gather to watch the effigies of Ravana being burnt. This year’s festive season has been somewhat subdued due to the prelude of terror and death in the country. Many times through the course of the year, terrorism has raised it’s ugly head in different parts of the country.

The Eid celebrations in Malegaon were marred by blasts again. As I write this, some mother, somewhere is still trying to get into terms with life, struggling to accept the fact that her son is no more. A youngster somewhere is yet to accept that a terror attack has crippled him for life. And so on and so forth…

Tomorrow, when millions across India, celebrate Dasshera and burn the effigies of Ravana, let it not remain a Hindu festival. Let’s come together as one nation, rather as Humans, for our neighbours are affected as well, let’s come and celebrate the victory of good over evil.


For once..let’s try and heal wounds..

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It happens only in India….

For once, the newspapers didn’t depress me!

A special Darbhanga bound train heading for Lucknow was in the news when the driver took the wrong route and landed at Allahabad! I couldn’t believe it and re-read the news. A whole train taking the wrong route was simply bizarre. Apparently, the driver took the wrong route and was blissfully unaware of the error. It was supposed to reach Lucknow by 9.00 AM and around 9.15 AM, confused passengers raised an alarm and informed the railway authorities of the gaffe. It must’ve been a really scary experience!

Scores of Lucknow bound passengers were inconvenienced. The train reached Lucknow a good 5-6 hours late.

I was smiling and laughing to myself.

                                          *  *  *

A Ramlila was organised across the road from my house.The only difference was that it was in the traditional South Indian style. It was in Kannada and I barely understood it dialogues. But it had that typical South Indian extravagance. The audience was a curious mix of Kannadigas and Non-Southies. Most were subjected to this fare for the first time, and they were enjoying it, albeit not understanding a word of it. The performers didn’t disappoint either. The stage was too small for them to showcase their talent as they would have liked to, but they didn’t let it show.

The Ravana, was simply magnificent. With no mikes, he had to shout the dialogues, but that only made him look all the more menacing.Yet, again I saw the villain walking away with the honours. His performance was simply awe inspiring and I was already imagining him on the silver screen. The sheer abundance of talent in India never ceases to amaze me. I was enchanted, to say the least.

Do I need to mention that I was also enthralled by our varied culture today?


For the uninitiated, the guy in black is the Ravana.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gandhi Jayanti, Ramzaan Eid and … ?

This morning  I was dead tired and was pushing myself to stay awake till 12.00 Noon. They were airing Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi on TV today. I wouldn’t miss it for  anything.

While watching the movie, more than once I had to wipe away tears and more than once I felt that proverbial lump in the throat. Perhaps, I will never understand the enormity of the freedom struggle and some tears were the most I could shed. Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of India’s greatest champion of peace was simply stunning and it is an emotional exercise to watch the movie. And yes, you too, will feel that lump in the throat. Gandhi does that to you.

But the reason I am writing this is not to eulogise Gandhi or the Movie, it’s an event that transpired when watching the movie is what inspired me to write this.

I was watching the movie with my Mom and my Maid arrived (finally!). She went about her with chores brusquely and sat down to drink some tea. She saw that we both were intently watching the movie and she too joined us.

 “Aaj kaa din kuch toh hai naa?” She asked my Mom. Isn’t today some special day?

“Haan, Gandhi Jayanti hai.” Mother replied. Yes, it’s Gandhi Jayanti.

“Nahin Nahin, Gandhi Jayanti nahin kuch aur bhi hai..”  Not, Gandhi Jayanti, something else..

“Ahan! Aaj Ramzaan Eid hai.. Mussalmanon kaa” Mother said helpfully. Oh Yes, it’s Ramzaan Eid for the Muslims today.

Naah! Voh toh maloom hai. Aur bhi kuch hai… She wondered aloud. No, I know that too. It’s something else.

I was seriously interested in the conversation now.

“Aaj phir.., Lal Bahadur Shastri kaa bhi Janamdin hai…voh pooch rahe ho kyaa tum?” Mom asked. Today is Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birthday as well. Is that what you’re asking?

Haan! Shastri…Shastri!! voh ich yaad kar rahi thee main. Maloom hai sab mereko.. bas bolne ko aata nahin hain.”  She replied cheerfully. Oh Yes! Shastri! I just couldn't get the name right.

Then came her punch line.

“Toh aaj uske liye kyaa hai?” She asked. So, how is that celebrated?


I was wide eyed. And My Mom Speechless.