Friday, December 12, 2014

Not My Shame

It's again that time of the year when rape news is doing the rounds. Earlier this year, NCRB's report showed that 93 women are raped everyday in India. And these are just the reported cases, mind you. (Read Times of India article) Like every time, arguments and discussions are taking place as to why rapes are happening and who is to be blamed. Currently Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter to our nation's superstars is in news. The letter deserves to be read by every sensible Indian.

Just like in media, discussions are happening around me too. Like most times a woman's attire is being blamed. One compared a woman to a lump of jaggery put in the open without a cover for flies to sit on, implying that women who were short dresses invite rape. Another said he didn't like that women blame the rapists' psyche for the crime and say that no one should touch them even if they are wearing short dresses or nothing; that Indian women are seeking freedom to wear skimpy clothes. Such sentiments are just echoes of our so called cultured society. I remarked that most rape victims in our country are dressed in salwar-kameez and saarees. Also most rape cases take place in rural, so where is the question of wearing skimpy clothes. Even children and old women are raped. What do you say to that? In western country, women wear short and plunging dresses all the time, then why are they not getting raped! Don't you think then, something's wrong in our country.

Please watch the video below which was in circulation around a year back.

As I read Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter, I was reminded all of those accidental touches, stares and gropings I had faced since I was a teenager. Her experiences is almost every girl's experience in our country. When I was around 15-16 years of age, I was coming home in a large auto (8 seater) from a tuition class. I have grown up in a small town in upper Assam. It was winter and so it was already evening when I was travelling. There were only a few passengers. There was a man sitting on my right hand side. As I was nearing my stoppage (it was the last stoppage), I felt the man's left elbow touching my chest from the right side. I thought it was because of the vehicle's jerking and so shifted towards my left as there was space. But the man also moved and the elbow pushed again, this time a little harder. I was horrified as I realised what he was doing. It was winter and so you can imagine my dress. I was "fully clothed and covered" in several layers. I wanted to scream and slap the man, but I couldn't as my mother's words rang in my ears, "Don't mess with men/boys who misbehave with you. Don't be rude to boys who approach you with love proposals". She feared such men's reactions just like Shenaz's mother.

Another time when I was studying in Kolkata, I was in a public bus. I was wearing salwar-kameez and the dupatta was wrapped around me. Although the bus was crowded, I was seated. Suddenly I noticed a man standing opposite to me who was ogling at me and scanning me from head to toe. I smirked inwardly thinking what was he looking at, only my face was visible! Later when I was working in the same city, I took the same bus at the same time everyday. After a few months, I started noticing a man staring at me. Then I noticed him being at the stoppage everyday, taking the same bus, standing close to me and looking at me. In horror, I recalled incidents my girlfriends shared of men standing behind girls and rubbing their private parts against the girls. Once I told the bus conductor not to let the man come near where was standing. Well, the conductor was least bothered. Oh yes, I always wore salwar-kameez to work.

Even now when I travel in a public bus, I am very cautious as to how close the man is standing near my seat, specially how close his groin is to me. Many a times, I have thought of carrying safety pin in my hand in such a position that if the man comes tries to come any closure, he will get pricked.

I have a theory for eve-teasers and rapists in our country. In our country, girls/women are taught to be always covered from head to toe, so that no skin shows. So males also see covered ladies all the time. Hence whenever they see even the bare calves and arms of females, they go crazy (My sister once met a Czech woman on the train who narrated how Indian men gape at her bare legs). But it might not be possible for them to lay their dirty hands on those females, so they vent out their lust on other vulnerable females. Also such males need instant sexual gratification, but they might not have a wife or she might not be available at that place. Hence they force themselves on vulnerable "decently clothed" females. I wonder why such men don't go to prostitutes instead. They can save so much trouble.

Below is a video for ogling men.

From time immemorial, women have been treated as an object; a property which is owned just like land. Rape is just another way show and keep women at their place, that is below men. Marital rape and rapes in the family or in a particular community are evidences. Women are considered the honour of a family, yet this honour is violated by the men, who are supposed to protect her just to teach her a lesson. This is the country where goddesses are worshiped.

We teach our daughters to wear decent clothes, cover themselves from head to toe when they go out, not to go out after dark, not to talk to boys, not to go out alone and so on. But do we teach our sons to respect women, speak up when a girl is teased or abused in front of them, and not to tease them or touch them without their permission.

As a woman, I feel rape is the final assault. After the ogling and groping, raping a girl is the worst thing a man can do to her. But from where does these men get the courage to commit such heinous acts? The answer is simple. They know they are not going to be punished. There is no fear of punishment at all.  Like a young brother-in-law of mine wisely said that rapists should be punished severely just like in other countries, such men should be scared to touch women. I advocate capital punishment and lifetime imprisonment for rapists. The bottom-line is that the laws of our land should be made stricter, stronger and more victim-friendly.

Everyday, I read some article or the other relating to eve-teasing and molestation. Sadly such news have become regular news like the weather reports. Ladies, I don't think mentality of Indian men or security conditions in our great country are going to change any time soon. A man can never understand what a woman goes through her entire life. So it's better that we help each other, be alert and carry some defense item like the pepper spray at all times.

Something I saw on Facebook today
Rabindranath Tagore dreamed of a nation where "the mind is without fear and the head high". Tragically in his dream country,  hearts and minds of women like me are always in fear, and we are taught to walk with our heads and eyes cast down. I dream of a living in a nation where I don't have to feel the glaring eyes on me as I walk on the streets, where I don't have worry about my necklines and hemlines all the time, where I can work and travel at all times feeling safe, where I am not deemed to be open invitation to eve-teasing or molestation, , where I am not treated as an object of desire or property but as a human being with feelings. But today this seems like an impossible dream to materialize in this lifetime. For the time-being, I would like to just remember what Shenaz Treasurywala said, "It's not our shame, it is their shame". 


Monday, December 8, 2014


I don't really remember when it all began. I just remember beginning to see something small and fast darting from room It would always move along the walls and seldom across rooms, other than through doors. I concluded that it had to be a mouse. I couldn't see any visible damage in the house and so let it be. Also back home, a small mouse moving around the house is considered a lucky charm (As mouse is considered the mount/vehicle of the Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings and remover of obstacles). Gradually it could be seen frequenting the house quite regularly. 

Finally one day I had a close encounter with it. I entered the kitchen and I saw it darting along the kitchen slab. At the same I and it moved towards the edge of the slab from opposite directions. It stopped in its tracks. I too stood motionlessly. And the I saw the cutest mouse ever. I had never thought that mice could be even be cute. It was a few inches long, with clean and shiny dark brown fur, black eyes which looked like deep black beads, pointy whiskers and a sleek tail. The only cute mouse I knew was Jerry from 'Tom & Jerry'. Hence I christened it 'Jerry' then and there. And I knew at that instant that I couldn't hurt it. Jerry did to me what Puss In Boots does to unsuspecting victims. So I let Jerry go. Later I alerted the in-house members about Jerry.

We got used to Jerry. Az also had a glimpse of his cuteness and agreed that we couldn't hurt it. Hence we and the darting Jerry shared space. When Mom and Dad (Az's parents) arrived last month, they saw it. And I simply said, "Oh! That's Jerry." Dad was amused. He said we should capture it and tie a bell around its neck so that we would know about its movements.

But other than Jerry, we started seeing something else running around too. It was bigger and slower than Jerry. It was an ugly rat! We blamed its presence on the boys who went out leaving the main door ajar. Rats are not acceptable. So rat-kill cakes were bought and placed strategically. Finally the rat got captured and done away with. Luckily Jerry was smart enough not to consume any of that.

After a couple of weeks, Mom and Dad were out of town to visit relatives. During that time, I caught Jerry jumping up on to my trunk and then I realized that it's time. So I placed the mouse trap with a trail of biscuits at one of the turnings Jerry takes frequently. This time Jerry was not smart though. It took the bait and got captured. It was frightened and tried to get out by cutting the metal. But of course it couldn't. It was so cute that all of us went gaga over it. We all started discussing what to do it Jerry. Killing it was totally out of question. To leave it on the main road could also be injurious to him as different predators were always on the prowl. Az suggested we should keep it in the cage itself as it would be safe. But again how do you keep such a cute thing in captivity and make it sad. It was night time and we decided to keep it through the night. I gave it some more to eat and bade it a good night. 
Look at those eyes
The next evening one of my brother-in-law took it to leave it near the drain next to the main road. But he didn't have the heart to leave it there and let open the trap before the end of our gully. And off Jerry went darting with relief into a new house. We were happy and wished Jerry a safe life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Local Maayka

My little sister Namz arrived in Delhi exactly three years ago. This one was a first because it was she who used to follow me to a new place. But this time it was I who followed her; even though I knew much before that I had to come here anyways. She moved to Delhi a year before my wedding. She rented a DDA 1BHK flat and I came over from Guwahati for a few days to help her settle.  I got married from her place. So technically her place has been my local maayka (maternal home in Hindi).

Ever since the it was confirmed that Namz is getting transferred to Bengaluru (I still prefer to say Bangalore), both she and I have been kind of sad. She kept saying that she would kidnap me and take me along with her. You see, we two have always been together since her birth. At most we have been in two separate cities/towns for a year. And now she is gone to a different part of the country altogether.

After I moved to Delhi, it was Namz who showed me around, taking me to different markets and site-seeing. Almost every month, I would spend a couple of days at her place and she at ours. Her place had been my refuge and solace at times of frustration and madness. Whenever I used to be fed up with my duties in my marital home, I would run off to Namz's place. But no more. Now Az and his siblings will have to bear the burnt of my blues!

Twelve days back, I went to her place for the final time, to help her pack. We spent the night in the traditional way; ordering something special for dinner, watching a movie and talking. The next day the movers and packers came and took away everything except two suitcases. Namz spent the next ten days at our place. And the days flew by. She left two days back.

With Namz gone, the bright colour of my life in drab Delhi is gone. Ma is also upset for she knows I have been rendered lonely. Also with both daughters in the same city, we used to have a family reunion when Ma and Deta came to visit.

Now Namz is busy masterminding as to how she can move Az and me to Bangalore. She left warning Az that either we should move or he would find me missing someday!

Namz being in Delhi was my connection home. Now that my local maayka had been shut down, I have lost my refreshing asylum. But I can't be selfish. Moving there is a positive turn for her life. Here, I have Az and the family. But she would be all alone there, adjusting to a new life in a new city. So the move is difficult for her too. Life goes on, doesn't it?

I miss you sweetie. Will see you soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Being Courteous

Please, Thank You and Sorry; the three basic words of courtesy. How often do we use them? I, personally, use the words 'please' and 'thank you' a lot; and I don't hesitate to say 'sorry' when I am wrong or hurt someone.

My close friends often ask me not to be so formal when I say 'thank you's. But for me saying 'thank you' is not a formality. It has become who I am. I mean it when I say it. Since childhood, my sister and I have been conditioned to thank people around us. Whenever someone gave us anything, be it eatables, goodies, gifts or even compliments, we were taught to thank them. If we received anything from a third party, we said our 'thank you's through letters or phone-calls. Today I thank anyone and everyone who does something for me, be it family, colleagues, friends, shopkeepers, security guards, rickshaw-walas, auto-walas, behind counters and so on. I am fascinated by their reactions after that. The smile and the softened tone of voice never fails to 'warmify' me.

On the other-hand, whenever I need or want someone to do anything for me I say 'please'. Even if I don't use the word exactly, my tone of voice is that of a request. No, I don't do it consciously. It is just the way I am conditioned. Whether it is family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances; whether  the task or chore is big or small; it is always a request. A 'thank you' always follows. However, on rare days I have my  melt-down moments and the request tone does go haywire. I am a human after all!

Many a times, when we hurt someone knowingly or unknowingly, when we fight or argue, the result is always bitterness and hurt. And just by saying 'sorry' from the heart, we can sweeten our relationships again. But again, we hardly do that. Ego comes in between. Sometimes, we feel it's too late to apologise. But as the old saying goes, "Better late than never."

Surprisingly, off late I am seeing even children below five years of age being reluctant to say 'sorry'. Even though they say 'thank you' at the drop of the hat, making them say 'sorry' is a arduous job! A few years back, my uncle's young daughter did some mischief and her mother scolded her. I asked her to say 'sorry' to her mother. On the contrary, she sulked and was mad at my aunt for scolding her. I tried to coax her to say the word, but she didn't budge. Finally, my aunt kissed her and made up. I was shocked. What did that little girl of five understood of the word 'sorry'? Why was she so adamant not to utter the word? I had a flashback of this incident on a recent holiday Az and I took with one of his friend, his wife and their three year old son. Whenever the little boy annoyed his parents, Az tried to make him say 'sorry' in all ways possible. But the kid was adamant. His father remarked that his son acted as if he would lose some property if he said 'sorry'. Finally after three whole days, when we were on our back home, Az was able to make the kid say the "S" word. And it was not that the parents were overly indulgent. They are a fair mix of leniency and strictness.

I feel people around kids should frequently use the basic courteous words. Kids pick up on negative words and mannerisms immediately but take time to pick up the good ones. Teaching your kids the right manners is a Goliathian task. But it's an achievement in itself and the credit will always go to you.

There have been instances when I am being polite and the other person responds in a rude manner. I feel so hurt at that time. Most of the times I ask the other person in the same polite tone as to why he/she is talking to me like that when I am talking in respectful manner. In matter of children, I can't tolerate ill-mannered and rude kids. Being naughty is kids' right but ill behaviour is a big no-no.

I believe if each one of use the words Please, Thank You and Sorry generously, the world will become so much a better place. Quarrels and fights on roads will diminish, relationships at home and work will improve,  hard feelings and bitterness will vanish and consequently the place we live in will become a lovely. Also these words are ought to be spoken from  our hearts. Starting to say these words is a start though. They say, "Charity starts at home." So, please let's start by being courteous to our near and dear ones. And catch the kids young. After all, they are are the future us.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dilli Dilwalon Ki?

A Delhi Road
They say "Dilli hai dilwalon ki" (Delhi belongs to the bighearted). Well, it is somewhat difficult for me to agree.I have been residing in Delhi since a year and a half now and also have visited the city several times before that. And I have heartbreaking experiences all the time. Let me share some with you.

Jamming up: One thing I noticed immediately that I couldn't see a single car without a dent. You see, nobody has the time to stop for a second in this city. Everybody wants to surpass the other. Vehicle drivers just do not want to stop and do some mindful driving. If we are more patient on the road, traffic jams can be averted and everybody's time could be saved. Many a times Az has stopped our car at a crossing so that some other car could cross us diagonally or in the middle of the road so that a person can cross it. And in most instances, the driver and the person looks at us with disbelief spelled across his face.

Rough and rougher: Majority of the people are so rough tongued in this city! From autowalas (auto-rikshaw drivers) to sabjiwalas (vegetable vendors), from shopkeepers to normal public, I have encountered so many rude and dishonest people. Namz, who had been working in the city since three years, sometimes answer back so roughly to a autowala that I am astounded. I tell her that it's not necessary to be rude when someone is rude to you; you can rebuke him/her politely also. She tells me the rough style of talking has rubbed on her too and now the response has become automated.

Cunning cheats: 
  • In a recent professional encounter, I was denied what I was promised. Suddenly the person refused to acknowledge that he was aware of a situation. He indirectly termed me a liar because he is in a position of power.
  • Sometime back, an aunt came down to Delhi on a office tour. At the railway station, she stood in line for her turn at the prepaid taxi counter. A taxi driver tried to woo her to take his service and quoted a fare saying that he is charging less than the prepaid fare. She refused consistently and waited for her turn at the counter. The prepaid taxi charge was half of what the other taxi driver had quoted.

Civilly Nonsensical:People here hugely lack in civic sense. They believe in just keeping their house indoors clean and they don't think twice in littering their own threshold. So you can have an idea what they do to public places.
  • We stay in an individual building with five floors. Last year, our ground floor neighbours decided to keep hens at their place. Just imagine! They made the hen pen in the triangular space beneath the staircase and let them graze around in the parking lot during the day. The hens would litter the entire place with their droppings. No, they didn't ask for the consent of the building dwellers. No, we didn't say anything because they are so rude that you will be embarrassed at last. We had other situations with them in the past and now we chose to interact only when needed.
  • Namz resides in a DDA flat. The DDA flats on either side of the gully are separated by a few metres. The lady across the gully at the same floor rinses and spits out the water on the road below. She drops her garbage bag on the road to be collected by the garbage collector.
  • On narrow roads, people often leave their vehicles on the side causing unnecessary traffic jams. Some drivers even try to form three lanes on a two lane road.
Delhi is rightly called the 'melting pot of India' for anyone who comes here melts to blend into the cunningness, shrewdness, rudeness and nonsensical ways of the city. Delhi seems to be city of "Me First" attitude.

I know people who adore Delhi will love to kick my butt. I am not saying all people are same here. But in my case, only two out of ten people I have encountered in the city seemed to be genuinely kind and honest. The other eight came across as either thugs, rude, shrewd or ruthless. And that eight persons overshadow the other two most of the time.My experiences in the city doesn't make me believe that "Dilli dilwalon ki hai". At times I feel as if people will not think twice to cut out my heart and sell it.

You see, Delhi is not all about world heritage sites, majestic malls, clubs, broad roads, fairs, exhibitions, restaurants and street food. Real Delhi is made up of people, people from all parts of the country, people like you and me. Since childhood, I have heard that Delhi is a place of thugs, the brand only denied by Delhiites themselves.Why so?

There are a number of other places in the country which have been endowed with positive attributes like simplicity and honesty. These attributes are not of the city or the town itself, but of the people who live there. If each and every one of us in Delhi try to shed selfishness, dishonesty and shrewdness, bit by bit, and strive to be at least more patient and polite, the city will become so much a better place.

I don't want to hate Delhi. Really. I want to love it like the way I loved like the previous cities I have lived in. But I can't seem to do that just yet. I wish I could at least one good experience everyday to keep me sane. And I am hopeful that Delhiites would make Delhi proud.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thinking Of My Favourite Teacher

The moment I think 'teacher', several faces start rolling in front of my eyes. I believe our first schoolteacher is the first outsider who tries to teach something to us as a child; the first person outside the family who influences us and affects our lives.

I don't remember the teachers from the first school I attended. I don't remember the first teacher I encountered when I went Don Bosco High School (It is now Don Bosco Higher Secondary School), an institution where I spent eleven years of my molding period. But I do remember most of the teachers after the kindergarten years. Some were kind, some were strict, some were indifferent, some involved, some were eccentric and some were cynical. Of all of our teachers, we love some and we hate some, right!
There is one teacher who immediately comes to my mind when I think of my beloved school, Mrs. Dipti Singh. She taught us Science and Mathematics in high school. I believe she has been with the school since its inception years. And it has been thirteen years that I had left school. To me, she is synonymous with my school life. She is my answer to the question, "Who is your favourite teacher?"

Madam Dipti (She is actually an Assamese lady married to a Sikh) was our class teacher when I was in the seventh standard. She is the most kind and loving teacher I have ever known. You know how students get unruly and naughty in high school. But she was never harsh to any student. At least I had never seen her in that light. She was the most patient and soft-spoken woman. And of course she was thorough with the subjects she taught as well.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ~William Arthur Ward

Students are very cynical about their teachers. We used to criticize teachers' behaviour, personalities and teaching styles at the drop of the hat. We would mimic their peculiar mannerisms and crack jokes (Well, I believe all teachers know this). But Madam Dipti was one teacher about whom all students spoke with reverence and respect. I have never heard any of the students speaking about her with disrespect. All we could mimic about her was her kindness and calmness.

While in high school, I had become quite good in mathematics. And twice I scored the full hundred marks when Madam Dipti was teaching. She applauded me in her own way, by gifting me books on both the occasions with personal inscriptions. Being a bookworm since childhood, I was so happy. But I felt honoured more than anything. I still have the books in my maternal home.

In seventh or the eight standard, one of my friends had just learned pen calligraphy. She had special pens for the purpose. Once she brought her pens to school and the whole gang started giving her a notebook each so that she would inscribe our names on the same. Mine was the science notebook. The same day or a few days later, I don't exactly remember, we had to submit our science notebooks to Madam Dipti for corrections. When I got back my notebook, I was surprised to find my name inscribed in beautiful calligraphy, just below where my friend showed off her newly acquired talent. It was intricate handiwork with a simple ball-point pen. The calligraphy was in old English style I guess. My first reaction was surprise, wondering from where did it come from. Then I decided that Madam made it. I never thanked her or asked her about the inscription. I still don't understand why didn't I. Then it became too late in my opinion to say anything. Neither did she mention about it. So it was left at that.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. ~Carl Jung

A little while ago, I sent her a SMS wishing her a "Happy Teachers Day". She replied with a call back. Apart from me, she asked about my sister too. When I told her that I got married two years back, she asked about my husband. She advised that understanding is the main ingredient and wished us well. The last time I met her was three years ago in a wedding. It is amazing that after so many years and thousands of students, she remembers her students by name. I came to know that she had retired two years back. But the school authorities wanted her back and engaged her as the coordinator of junior school. I told her every student loves her immensely and she should be attached to the school as long as possible; that without her the school would not be the same.

In our lives, most of us had a teacher to whom we look up to. A teacher who who is a live definition of a teacher for us. For me that teacher is Madam Dipti without a doubt. I pray the Almighty Lord blesses her with health and happiness. I am sure she would continue to touch young hearts just like she touched mine. Thank you Madam for blessing me with your love and lessons.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~Henry Brooks Adams

Monday, August 25, 2014

Watching Papon Live

On the 21st evening, Namz called me excitedly and informed that Papon (Anagaraag Mahanta), the nationwide popular singer from Assam is going to perform at the opening ceremony of the North-East Film Festival the next day. And that we should go and attend the show. The timing was convenient and it would be a Friday evening. Obviously I agreed.

It was the first North-East Film Festival  (Aug 22-24, 2014) and an initiative of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The venue was Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi. Apart from the invitees, entry was free. Namz and I arrived before the scheduled time. And Namz was super excited. The auditorium was occupied mainly by people from the northeast India residing in Delhi. Most of them looked like students. It was a decent gathering and everybody was seated properly at their places.  I am sure most of them, like us, were waiting for the formal inauguration to be over so that Papon can perform. All of us were sitting patiently through the formal speeches of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, and the Chief Minister of Meghalaya among others. After that, there was the felicitation of various persons from northeast India related to film-making, followed by the traditional lamp-lighting. And then finally the performance of Papon and his band 'East India Company' was announced. Then the hooting and whistling from the audience began.

This was the first time I have seen Papon perform live and I was mesmerized. He is truly an amazing performer. The way he connects with the audience is truly remarkable. That's again what good artists are made of I guess. He was cracking subtle jokes and engaged the audience. Papon started with a number from his first album which is very very popular among the Assamese youngsters and then moved on to his popular numbers across the nation. The fans started screaming and hooting and I realized majority of the audience were Assamese people. The atmosphere felt very familiar. The serene and disciplined audience prior to the performance now started to clap and move in their seats. Even Papon remarked that given the auditorium it was an wonderful crowd. The entire place had come alive.
After almost an hour of performing, Papon tried to wrap up saying that he was only the bait, and that the audience should stay back and watch the movies that were to be screened. But his fans were in no mood to leave him. They started shouting that he must end with a bihu song (Assamese folk song). And he obliged. Bihu songs  are dance centric songs and as soon as they are played, Assamese people start moving their bodies to the music involuntarily. And same was the case inside the auditorium that evening. The auditorium transformed into a dance-floor with the bihu music. When Papon asked the dancers in the audience to come near the stage, it seemed as if some dance festival was going on. When it was over, fans started cheering and shouting. A few girls shouted, "I love you!" The band members were felicitated and while leaving the stage, Papon threw his bouquet of flowers to the audience and a young girl caught it. She went crazy.

It was an amazing evening. Namz and I left after the performance as we had to get back home. And I made a silent vow that we would watch Papon and his band play live whenever and wherever possible.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Check on me

Most of us miss our mothers when we fall sick, don't we. In my case, I miss all of my family members of my maternal home. I have been feverish since last night. I slept throughout the day today. Here I have to take care of myself, unless my husband is at home.

I currently stay with my husband, his siblings and cousins. All of them are boys except one. All of them younger than my husband and I, but are grown-ups. My parents-in-law stay abroad. So it is less of a home and more of a hostel, where Az and I are joint-wardens.

When I fall sick or feel unwell, I usually stay in bed. I mostly sleep through it as it reduces my discomfort. And the one thing I crave in my marital home is some care. My husband is away at work the whole day, and the others at home hardly notice that I am missing in action.

Back home, when anyone is sick, that one person is the centre of attention. From time to time, he/she would be asked how he/she is feeling, asked if they need anything, water/juice/food would be provided in bed timely without being asked. In short, you are thoroughly pampered. Even Deta, who is not good at taking care of even himself, would come and check on us from time to time.

Given that background, I find it absolutely saddening when none of the house members check on me while I am sick. I stay in my room the entire time, only making trips to the kitchen to get water and food. I even cook for everyone most of the times. It surprises me that it doesn't even crosses anyone's mind that I might be needing medicine or at least some water. Isn't being taken care of during illness the greatest plus of not staying alone? When somebody else is sick at home, Az and I take care in the smallest of things. I always believed "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", but the world hardly reciprocates.

I try to analyze why it is so. Is it because they are males that they haven't been programmed to be caring? Is it by living in the company of brothers, the sister too has become like them? Do people are of inherent caring nature or do they learn from people around them? Or is it because I am the official caretaker, I don't need care myself? Or am I overreacting now? These questions plague me whenever I don't feel well here. Now I am waiting for Az to be home so that I get some pampering finally.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NDE-A glimpse of the Afterlife?

I do not remember when I developed the fear of death. The feeling would come only at night, when I am in bed. The very thought of how would I be feeling when I am about to die would freak me out. My heartbeat would start racing and I would feel a kind of dizzy. This very fear made me develop an interest in Near Death Experience (NDE). I started reading articles and searched books on first hand experience on NDE. Majority of the NDEs involved walking through a tunnel towards a bright light, out of body experiences and meeting relatives and friends who are long dead. Many doctors argue that NDE is actually a hallucination and the experience varies from person to person depending on their religious conditioning in life.While they are others who believe in the higher power that NDEs are very much real.

Off late, my fear has subsided substantially as I have almost stopped thinking about it. Then last month I chanced upon a movie called "Heaven Is For Real", based on a book with the same title written by Todd Burpo. It is about the four year old son of the author, Colton, who had a NDE during a ruptured appendicitis surgery. The little boy had an out of body experience and saw his parents in different places in the hospital. He got a visit to the heaven and heard and saw the angels singing to him. He even met Jesus Christ. I loved the movie. And I intend to read the book too for I am sure it will have far more details.

After watching the above mentioned movie, I started surfing the internet on the topic. I found that the NDEs varied with the person's religious beliefs. Christians described seeing angels and Jesus. Hindus mostly said that they were taken away by messengers instead of their namesake and then sent back. Some of the experiences are shared below:

While surfing, I came across Anita Moorjani's book "Dying To Be Me" which is an account of the author's NDE. I immediately purchased the book. The author was suffering from terminal cancer and after her NDE she recovered miraculously and didn't have a trace of cancer in her body. It is a wonderful book.

Then there is Akiane Kramarik, a child prodigy who started to paint at the age of four. She states she has been taken on visits to heaven regularly throughout the years and she paints about them. Her portrait of Jesus Christ has been identified as Jesus as seen by Colton from "Heaven Is For Real" I mentioned above. You can check out her paintings on her online gallery. Hers is also a remarkable story.

I was surprised that there are thousands of NDEs listed on the internet. I checked the website of "Near Death Experience Reseach Foundation (NDREF)" and read several of the entries. They are simply amazing. The foundation is a wonderful forum to learn and share about NDEs.

There are so many books written on NDE. People who had NDE, their family, researchers, doctors; they all have written about it. I feel like getting my hands on all of it.

One thing I am sure after going through their accounts is that death is not a bad thing at all. It's a release towards something which is eternal, ethereal and definitely better than our worldly lives. People who had a NDE have described a feeling of being at peace. Fear and despair was not really a part of their experience. They felt a sense of overwhelming love and calmness. They also spoke of talking and interacting with other beings but without moving lips. Amazing, isn't it. After their return, they say that they were able to understand the workings of the universe better.

The NDEs differ but they are all connected in some way. The more I learn, the more I get mystified.I believe God shows what He wants to show. He reveals what He wants to reveal. He lets us know as much as He intends us to know. He is definitely letting us understand that there is more than this life, more than we can ever know, more than we think is possible. I believe NDEs are just glimpses of the one true realm of which we all will be a part someday. The visions reveal only a part of the universal mystery, which would be unraveled to us only when our physical body dies. I feel that I am spiritually enriched by the NDE stories Also my initial fear of dying is fading away. I am awed and humbled. I believe the more I shall read, the wiser I shall get. The Creator didn't create us for nothing but with a purpose. We all are a part of God's grand plan. We just need to believe and have faith. As Anita Moorjani in her book "Dying To Be Me" says that we all are a thread in the bigger tapestry and we all contribute to that picture. The better we do, the picture would become more beautiful and vice-versa. So come, let's do good.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Being A German Fan

FIFA 2014 Champions

I don't remember how I started following FIFA World Cups. But it was in the year 1998 and I was in high school. That year I was addicted to Ricky Martin's songs (even though I didn't understand most of it). I guess his singing of the official song for FIFA 1998 "La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life)" was one factor pushing me towards watching this sport. And I remember Deta cutting out the match schedule from the newspaper and pasted it on the wall behind the television. Except "The Cup of Life", I don't remember much of that World Cup.

Miroslav Klose
I gained real interest during the FIFA 2002. I watched the match between Germany and Saudi Arabia and I had a huge crush on Miroslav Klose. And because of him I became a supporter of the German football team and I still am. I used to cut out his pictures from the newspaper and pasting them in my personal diary. I was also awed by Kahn's goalkeeping skills. I was elated when Germany made it to the final. But when Brazil defeated them, I came to dislike Brazil very strongly. I still pray that they lose every match!

I am not much of a technical fan. I am not that kind who has all records and stats on her fingertips. I am an emotional fan and I support the German football team with all my heart.

The next two World Cups of 2006 and 2010 went by without involvement as I didn't have access to television. Listening to the official songs was my only activity. Around that time, Az and I would say that we would watch the next Word Cup together and we finally did so this year.
Joachim Loew

This year, I watched all the matches played by Germany. And I would wait anxiously for Klose to come out to the football. In the initial matches he hardly played and would come out in the second halves only. And isn't the German coach Joachim Loew handsome! Being a German fan is not easy in the house as I am the only supporter. I sat in the same chair in front of the television throughout the tournament. I wouldn't say much during the match even though they were playing well. I was not even saying much in the social media. I didn't want to jinx anything in any way. It was only after the match was over that I would express my jubilation. And I had decided that I would write a post at the end of the tournament.

For me the match against Brazil was the most enjoyable. Mainly because I hate the Brazilian football team as I had earlier mentioned. It was the perfect revenge of 2002. The icing on the cake was that Klose broke Ronaldo's (ironically a Brazilian) record and is now the top scorer with 16 goals in World Cup tournaments. After that match, it was decided that if Germany wins the World Cup, I would treat the family with KFC's Zinger burger.

We were all gearing up for the final. I was supporting Germany and the boys were supporting Argentina. Unfortunately because of the power problems we were having last week, the television stopped working on Saturday evening. And it couldn't be repaired before the match. Internet was our last hope. So we started searching for online links to watch the match. 

But even our internet was slow that night and the first half of the match literally a blur. In the second half the connection improved and the streaming was far better. When the game went into the extra time, I was just praying that Germany scores a goal and defends it. I didn't want the match to go into the penalty shootouts. I had seen the Argentinian goalkeeper's saves in their previous match against Netherlands. Even though Neuer is good, I didn't want to witness any risk. Finally the much desired goal came in the closing minutes. What a fantastic goal by Goetze!

Goetze's winning goal
So the German fan in me had a wonderful time this year. And I know that all football fans have to agree that this German team truly deserved the cup. I now look forward to FIFA 2018. It breaks my heart that Klose wouldn't be in that German team. But that doesn't mean that I would stop supporting the team. The German team has earned my loyalties and I love being a German fan. It is now time for that burger.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Big Sister

She came to us a few days before my third birthday. She was only a few years older to me. We were then living in Guwahati. Since then she has been with us.
My sister who was around a year and a half then took to her hip immediately and it kind of became her permanent residence. She became our big sister. Maa brought up the three of us with equal strictness and authority. As the years went by, she became a guardian to us, next in line to our parents. 

She has seen the highs and the lows of our household, the good and the bad sides of our lives. She has shared our happiness and anguish, always wishing the good for us. She is family in the truest sense. She is my parents' constant companion, my mother's aide and confidante. Maa manages well without Namz and me in the house, but she becomes truly lonely when she is not around. As Namz says, she is the real daughter to Ma and Deta, constantly taking care of them and always being around them. She is the sunshine in their lives.

She has a fruitful hand, plants flourish at her touch. She is an amazing cook, she can make scrap taste awesome. She is also creative. With her around, you have nothing to worry. She can be quite stubborn at times and used to have a bad temper. She is no-nonsense person, never hesitant to call a spade a spade. The only downside is her lack of interest in learning her alphabet and numbers! She puts in her efforts consistently though. She has an entrepreneurial streak in her too. Above all, she is a wonderful human being with a heart of gold.
That's her
It is her birthday today. I pray to the Almighty to make all her dreams come true. I would also like to apologize for all the times while growing up when I had been somewhat mean to her. I may not talk much, but I really love her and I know I should show her that more often. I wish and pray that she has a better life ahead and gets all the good that she deserves. And I would like to thank God for sending her to our lives. She truly came as an angel. And she is our Parul ba.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Power Woes

11th July 2014. 4 AM.
It is four in the morning now. The power has been gone for four hours already. Thankfully we got a new battery for our inverter, so the fans are still running. Since the last three nights and three days, our entire block had been suffering from frantic voltage fluctuations, making it impossible to run any appliances. After three complaints in three days and continuous follow up, the problem was fixed yesterday morning.

We have been having acute power problems since June this year. Either there have been technical faults or long power cuts. On 20th June, the power went off at 11.30 at night. It was a Friday. Thankfully it was Az's off the next day. Unable to sleep, we all bundled up in the car and a bike and went off to India Gate at 2 a.m. to cool off. The sweepers were working their brooms and there were a few ice cream carts around. There were few other people too. We had ice cream and spent sometime there. Then we came back home at 4 a.m. assuming that the power was back. But we were wrong. Many people were outside their homes and ssveral inverters were giving their death beeps. In the morning we got to know that there had been a major fault and power sould be back by late svening. So we all once again bundled up and went to my siister's place 7 km away for the day. We crammed in her tiny 1BHK home and turned it into a refugee camp. At 11.30 at night, we got to know that power was back. Then we came home and this time packed my sister and brought her with us.

After a week again we didn't have power the entire night, and by dawn we all were in the balcony. This time we called up the power supplier's office to complain. Surprisingly they didn't have any information about the power cut. Power was back in the afternoon. Since then, we have been having power cuts and technical faults regularly.

This is my second summer in Delhi and it's frying me up. Last summer, we didn't witness such power problems. Plus it is Ramadan and with no rains and frustrating power cuts, it is testing times.

Az who leaves for office at 8 in the morning and reaches home about an hour before Iftaar, is not getting complete sleep because of the power problems. Delhi homes which are like closed boxes with no ventilation, are difficult to sleep in without air coolers/conditioners. The rooms become suffocating and hot. And I don't understand why they need to cut power at night when people need to rest. It's better they do away with the power cuts during the day. We all know how difficult it is to get through the day when we don't get sleep the previous night.

I was up for Sehri and preparing to sleep now. I am hoping and waiting patiently for the power to be back. Az is tossing and turning and catching up on some sleep in between. I am just wondering if this is the situation of power in the country's capital, what do we expect in the rest of the country.

11th July 2014. 4 PM.
It is now four in the evening. Still no power. The inverter died after eight hours of service. We got to know in the morning that it is a technical fault and concerned authorities are fixing it. They have been giving updated deadlines for the power to be back since morning. So we don't know for sure. Even without the fan I was able to sleep in fits, as fatigue took over. We just arranged a power generator and the fan is at least running. We are fasting and it's still three hours to go. The situation has become unbearable for the people fasting since an early age and bearing Delhi heat for several years. So you can well imagine my condition. In a short while I shall need to go to the kitchen for the Iftaar preparations.

I reside in the capital of the country and it takes more than 12 hours here to fix a technical power problem. Can you imagine that! Or is it "let it be" attitude of the general public which has made the authorities complacent. Az is in his office but still continuously following up with the linemen. I wonder how many of the block residents are doing that. Meanwhile between dizziness and thirst, I am just praying fervently for our power woes to come to an end.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Precious Lemons

I am an Assamese and I have grown up on elongated lemons specific to Assam. This variety of lemons are simply known as Assam lemons. In Assamese we call them 'nemu tenga'. While growing up, I had never thought that one day I would yearn for these lemons as the dry earth yearns for rain. Quite dramatic huh!
Assam Lemons
While the drier parts of India are more acquainted with the small and round Acid Lime, we Assamese bask in the lemony scent of the larger elongated lemons which can be cultivated only in heavy rainfall humid regions. Hot and humid summers back home are so much more bearable with these juicy stuff. Everyday in the summer, as we rushed back home from school, chilled glasses of fresh lemonade (nemu sorpot) would await us in the refrigerator. In Assam, whenever guests arrived, someone would head to the kitchen to squeeze a juicy lemon to prepare nemu sorpot. Sour curries, a regular feature in Assamese cuisine, seasoned with lemon juice give us respite on hot days. A slice of lemon with lunch or dinner is routine. I have friends who even munch away the lemon peels after consuming the juice from the slice. While suffering from fever we have lemon juice prepared in warm water. And when anyone feels like puking, they are made to smell crushed lemon leaves. Whole ripened yellow lemons would be pickled in salt and is consumed in a small amount while suffering from an upset stomach.

When my sister and I were in Kolkata for a few years for studies, Assam lemons constituted the major portion of our heavy bags while heading to Kolkata from home every semester break. Now we both sisters are in Delhi and long for the precious lemons. Whenever our parents come here or we go there, lemons are an essential item in our cargo.

A assamese farmer with a lemon tree
Recently I went home (my home state Assam) for almost a month and I chose to travel by railways only because I wanted to bring back lots of lemons among other things. After I reached Delhi, I gave my sister her share. I keep a close eye on my share of lemons in the fridge and use only one lemon a day to make a jug of sweet and salty lemonade. The other day I found a half used lemon in the fridge and I got busy to find out who the culprit was! Then someone  used another to make lemonade for guests. After that I have told everyone in the house that my coveted lemons are only meant for the family and that too they are to be used only as a drink. Well, I have become quite possessive. And a little insane too I guess. Everyday, I take a peek at them and say, "My precioussss...". While they last I shall have a feeling of being home and this hot noth Indian summer would be bearable.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nature And Light

A guest post for Pratikshya Mishra's Magic Moments:

I have been born and brought up in Assam, a northeastern state in India. I have grown up amidst greenery, fresh air and lots of natural light. These are the luxuries in the modern world which I had the privilege to take for granted. I had never thought that one day I would pine for these.

I have grown up in typical Assam-type homes. An Assam-type house is a ground-floor house with slanting roofs (to tackle heavy rainfall), lots of windows and ventilators (each window has a ventilator above it). The house is flooded with natural light and fresh air throughout the day and electric lights are switched on only after sunset. Every morning we would wake up with the feeling of sunlight filling the room, instead of relying on the alarm clock all the time. We did not have to check the watch every time to know the time. Just a look outside the window would be enough to judge the time... Read the entire post.
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