A Bolt From The Blue

imageSo engrossed was she in the library with poetry, that she lost track of time was late in reaching her hostel. Waiting at the gate, Geeta was hoping the otherwise stern matron would let her in, or maybe the kind old watchman? But she could see no one. Worry soon became fear, but the police patrolling made her feel cautiously safe. As she slid into the darkness to hide herself, she could hear the policeman’s soft footsteps come closer. Just as a blood-curdling scream built up in her lungs, a huge soft hand muffled out any sounds. Before she knew it, he was forcing himself on her. Raped and helpless, she couldn’t muster the courage to file a complaint, all she knew was that he was a policeman named was R. Singh. Dejected, she packed her bags and fled for an unknown destination, unaware that he left more of himself inside her than he bargained for.

A year later, in a nondescript village, she bore the child of hate. She didn’t even want to know its gender and gave it up for adoption. With the secret buried in at the back of her closet, she went on to marry an RTI activist. Jaganath was a nice man, just and fair, but she always feared that her secrets would destroy the happy life she had become cozy in. As years passed on, fear was a constant companion: the petrifying death threats often kept her on tenterhooks. The thought of being helpless and alone again in the big bad world without her caring husband haunted her deeply. Years passed by and one day, without warning, fate played its ugliest card. Geeta and her Jagu were enjoying an unusual leisurely Sunday morning tea session. Little did she know, the 5 minutes that she left him alone to fetch the newspaper will turn her world upside-down. At the gate of his very own house, he was shot dead by a corrupt policeman. Her blood froze in terror and anger. It took all her strength to come to terms with the loss and all the questions. Effectively though, it turned her off newspapers. But, as is true for any respected activist, love, sympathy, awe, and shock poured in through the grief. She never really wanted to be a part of any of the “activism” that followed his death. She was a victim of her own situation, and she refused to be a poster girl for it.

Shattered, she chose to be celibate to his loving memory, until she encountered a man not too young, but neither was he old enough to be her father. He seemed to be smitten with her and eventually she let him sweep her off her feet. She had finally lowered her guard, and poured her heart out to Ashok. But she still kept some cards close to her chest, playing the game of wait and watch, just to be sure that her keeper of secrets was the one she could trust. As the mature romance blossomed with her old man, they eventually started spending a lot of time in each other’s happy company. But fate seemed to be a fair-weathered friend to Geeta. As she prepared a feast of to help reduce the severity of what her closet hid, Ashok asked her to accompany him to the pension office. These small things, he deduced, mattered to Geeta; knowing that she was never privy to such simple romantic pleasures of life.

Walking into the dingy old office, Geeta realised that she knows nothing about what Ashok did for a living in his youth. Quite taken by the warm greeting and reception he received, she asked him about his work life. He replied gleefully that the was a cop: fair, and just man with a clean slate, and was well admired and respected in his own social circle. The revelation had hit her like a bolt out of the blue. Politely retracing her steps, she decided to walk away from the suddenly claustrophobic place. Walking into nothingness, she made the best possible effort of reaching home without spilling any tears. But once in the confines of her own nest, she let herself flow a river. Why did this have to happen? Why did she let her guard down? Why, oh why, another cop? The questions and the tears refused to stop. Composing herself after what seemed like an eternity, she walked to her cupboard to pack for yet another destination unknown, shattered and bruised one more time in life. She decided to pick the first and the cheapest getaway that would come her way at the interstate bus terminus.

Ashok, baffled by her sudden exit was left confused, angry, and worried. Was it something he said? Did he cross the line? How can she just take off? I hope she’s fine. With his brain on overdrive, he frantically tried calling her, only to reach the automated “This number is switched off” message. Anxious of her safety, he reached her doorstep, only to find the house locked. Dejected and hurt by her stoic silence, he accepted his defeat, but he chose to be persistent — he wanted to know what went wrong so suddenly.

Then a month later, Geeta finally musted the courage to give Ashok his much-needed closure. They decide on a coffee shop, where they could talk without being bothered. Geeta finally explained her moral dilemma to Ashok: He’s perfect for her, but the wounds of her past are too deep to heal. She’s been scarred for life and cannot come to terms with the fact that she can lead a peaceful life with him, knowing he was once a cop. Heartbroken, Ashok walks away, leaving Geeta with her thoughts; shattered again by her haunted past…

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A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Pune City…

034All of us have something that can hold our attention. Some check out cars, some enjoy sunsets, many while away a lot of time noticing the other gender. Eye candy is something that not many can avoid or ignore. Even those looking for spiritual gratifications have some kind of fetish, so not all that excites people is the sign of a perverted mind. There are a lot of things that catch my attention, and some of them have, quite literally, slipped away as I moved cities. Some sadly, haven’t. One such random musing came to me as I was crossing roads. You see, back home crossing roads was an art I had mastered with relative ease; you’d still know which direction and lane a particular vehicle would come for you to dodge it without being killed. However, in the city of two wheelers (sometimes fondly referred to as Pune), a lot of unlearning and relearning has to be done. While the Mumbai-Delhi battle is usually fought on epic proportions with a lot of offensive and defensive flavour, the Mumbai-Pune turf war has its moments too. Although home is where the heart is, I sold a piece of my soul to the city I now reside in. As is true for the city of dreams, there are a few little nuggets only those who contribute tirelessly to the IT hub of Maharashtra are privy to. Since you are my friend, I will let you in on some of these gems…

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  • Auto rickshaws drivers in Mumbai are officially demi gods to me now! Okay, they don’t ply over short distances, but it is one sector that blackmails you with hike-or-strike threats; where bribery is unheard of. Here in Pune, they do you a favour by actually existing. These “social workers” wander aimlessly, only to appear as your guide dog that takes you home. Anywhere you ask to go; they overcharge you by 30-50 bucks. You see, this city has a thriving business of shared six-seater rickshaws, which are at prime locations, such that you end up walking for at least a couple of kilometres to reach to the spot you actually intended to be at. So what makes rickshaw drivers the knight in shining armour? Well, they are will to risk coming back to the place you boarded passenger-less, and in return charge you just a tiny amount. But mind you these are more like the Indian Robinhood ­- Tees Maar Khan (Tees Maar Khan ke fans / use aadha Robinhood maante hain / Kyunki woh ameeron se leta toh hai / Par gareebon ko deta kuchh nahin) – if they find a passenger; they don’t return your dough… And change, what change? They are obsessive self-tippers… You have been warned!
  • Small talk is a taboo in this city. If you exchange pleasantries with shopkeepers, neighbours, the building watchman, cleaning lady, laundryman or any Punekar in general, they stare at you as if you’ve grown three heads (the Pune-stare). Back home, I had befriended several people on onward journeys, some that I haven’t met more than once. Here, even regulars are strangers. So shows like Cheers! can never be set in Pune…
  • The city actually has several IT hubs scattered across corners of a well-rounded city (it is actually round, unlike Mumbai, which covers a vertical geography). The one I work in is the safest of its kind. Bags are checked religiously at all entry check-posts. Company identity cards are a mandate, and there are manual registers for everything. But nobody knows what they are looking for. Being as chatty as I am, I once asked a rather perplexed security guard if she has ever found anything that warranted and mandated all this flimflam. Understandably, I got my standard Pune-stare; she didn’t quite catch the essence of the rhetorical question: You can’t find anything, when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • This one came to me over coffee with a friend I managed to befriend locally. Pune by and large is a very well planned city: The roads are fairly wide, with two open lanes on both sides, despite being separated by a two-lane BRTS (Pune Bus Rapid Transit) route along the Pune-Satara Road. This is a supposed 16.5 km exercise that has been in place since December 2006. Now PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd) had its heart in the right place, but forgot one teeny-tiny yet essential detail. These lanes alongside the other much wider areas of the city don’t ply enough red buses! Also, these much-neglected and backbreaking buses don’t really cover the length and breadth of the city, and are also a preferred target for vandals (even in the heat of the moment, political vandals don’t harm autos and private vehicles… how thoughtful!). So given the nature of this pure lack of public transport, the number of private vehicles has to rise, right? This, in turn, obviously results in bumper-to-bumper traffic. So how does one fix this issue? Increase the number of buses, right? Not in Pune, no. Instead the local government breaks open the BRTS lane to all vehicles, putting all the immigrants and out-of-towners in a fix. Now that is what I call killing two birds with a stone. Screw the system so effectively, that we curb legit immigration that makes the city better, and ensure that local two-wheeler industry is thriving despite any after-sale service. Oh well, democracy and socialism is way too over rated anyway.
  • Now that I’ve spoken about the social evils and subsequent victories over immigration, let me talk of the most thriving revenue option in the city. You may believe it is having an outlet selling Mastani, Chitle Bhakarwadi, or missal pav, but you are way off. It’s the house rental industry. I talk about this from my happily rented out dwelling. Now,an average person will tell you that the cost of living in Mumbai is way too high, so Pune offers a better deal, but that is pure buffalo-shit. PG accommodations cost just around the same in both cities, and there are houses that you can get on rent depending on your budget. The only pitfall is that the lesser the rent, the farther away is your home from your workplace, which is true for all cities. While Pune does score in terms of ease of travel, cost of commuting here is astronomical! For instance, travelling from Gorai Khadi to Borivali station is around Rs 10 in a bus, the distance being around 6-7kms. Travelling 34kms to Churchgate by a local train is Rs. 15 one way. So in less than 50 bucks you can reach your destination, and even munch on some sukhi bhel from Borivali station. That opposed to a rickshaw ride from Anandnagar to Swargate, which is a happy 6-7kms costs me close to Rs. 90 bucks (make it a 100 if the meter jumps up… self-tippers round the cost to the closest Rs. 10… sigh). A decent vada pav or street food is a distant dream; there are specific pockets that offer something to satiate your gastronomical desires. Hence, you learn to be a pro cook to save up for a rainy day. So all-in-all the city is confused… it needs migrants to earn off rent, but vetoes the need for public transport. Mention the Pune metro, and the Pune-stare continues for another 10 minutes.
  • All is not lost in my whining of the lack of public transport, that is where the benevolence of the IT industry comes to play. School buses make up for the lack of state and local transport in the city, and some of these called Tempo Travellers transport grown up kids (aka IT pros, and yes we are treated as sacks of talent!). These yellow buses take kids small and large alike to the one place they’d rather not be, and the one place that robs the life off them. Just when I thought I’m through living on a clock, stuck to train timings, I find myself in the same trap. Now, I wait for a leaking TT to come take me home and drop me off to work. Sometimes I feel like a captive… sitting in a rickety bumpy bus all covered up to keep the dust and pollution off my face and hair. Just that no one will come bail me out, too much employee turnover for companies to care anyway, there are enough to eagerly hop into the bonded-labour-intensive industry.
  • If you think that a city with IT flowing through its veins (quite literally) will be ultra-tech-savvy. Not in the least! If you go to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa or any freaking where in the country, there is no dearth of information, living on your own is like turning on an iDevice; turn the button on, and off you go. But not in Pune. While the transport system is virtually non-existent, it’s not like there is none of it. But there are no apps that will take you on a joy ride. Nothing spells out anything about the local cuisine, bus routes, bus numbers, local landmarks, hang outs and tourist places. Even the foodie group on FB is a closed one; you need proof of being a Punekar to be initiated into the inner circle. And since no one really answers questions, you just have to earn good karma before you settle in, god is thy only saviour! That said, if you want to learn to survive, the city teaches you some neat tricks on self-reliance and independence. However, all this only applies if you live in Pune city, not some makeshift hippie joints such as Vimmannagar, Kalyaninagar, Amanora, Magarpatta or other areas with thriving out-of-Pune population, where shopping in a mall is not frowned upon.
  • Another interesting and possibly the most amazing sight in the IT City of Magarpatta is arm-chair shopping day. Let me explain as briefly as possible. You see when you move cities, the taste of essentials such as water and milk also needs to be adapted to. That is where mineral water and tetra-pack milk come to your rescue. The city takes its culture and roots a bit too seriously, so I have to endure the Pune-stare when I tell people I buy tetra-pack milk from a nearby mall. If you ask locals for directions and help, they’d probably insist on taking you themselves, but most such plans go south, as it does even back home. So most of us stick to the next best thing – E-tailing. When you opt for delivery at the cybercity, it’s like Santa Claus coming to town. Deliveries happen on specific dates, depending on the number of people who’ve ordered stuff online, and these delivery men come armed with a sizable list and a sack-full of goodies. To avoid being caught by the guards as parking in front of towers in a practice that is disallowed/frowned upon, they hide behind trees on the other side of the road. Then this Santa from his magical sack brings out goodies (that you paid for) in slo-mo. Happy little boys and girls with company leashes around their neck, queue up for their turn. Then these happy people pick up their goodies and trod along back to their grim cubicles only to be stopped by at the check in gate where the bills are stamped. So it doesn’t matter if a bomb is assembled inside the building premises, as long as the requisite stamping is done. This is where O’ Riley’s character in National treasure would’ve taken shape! If only I had the finesse of Ashwin Sanghi, I’d spin this into a copy-book novel (oh damn!)
  • Finally, let me end the rant with the Pune clock. While the IT people work 24/7 (even on weekends… most of them either don’t have a life or are too lazy to look for one), the Chitlebandu clock stands still between 1-4 pm everyday. Come hell or high waters, even god cannot get the shutters open. And he (I mean god) doesn’t even make the vain effort… You see when Lord Ganesha comes to Mother Earth for 10 full days, and descends in this happy city, every Pandal big and small you’d find him take a beauty nap in the afternoon. Even god can’t change a Punekar, so if he can’t beat ’em; he joins ’em..

Turning A New Page: A Birthday Like Never Before!

111You can never have enough friends, never have too many of them, or ever run out of them. There was a time, when I truly thought I can’t keep pace with the people I enjoy being with, so maybe it’s time not to forge any new bonds. But friendships, possibly like love, just happen. The last one year didn’t really start with a bang. A new workplace, after a few traumatic experiences, meant a more cautious and closed outlook to everything. By mid year, things just couldn’t get any worse.

And, surprisingly, they didn’t. Slowly, and gradually, I found some missing pieces. Joys are never where you look for, and neither is despair. But yet these manage to find you without fail. 2013 has made me a better person: It made me a person that I like; it defined who I wanted to be.

And I couldn’t have done it without you. At any point I thought I can’t do this alone, I didn’t have to, I always had someone to fall back on. There have been people I’ve known for ages, but truly discovered only now. Their stories awe me, their strength is baffling, and their grace and dignity is moving. For stepping up to task of standing by me, sharing your stories, and for just being the person that you are to me, I thank you.

You my dear friend, are the best birthday gift I could have never asked for: I’ve never known what I wanted, but you guys did!

Monumental Bliss!

086I seem to be bugging perfect strangers (yes, I am talking about you, my blogging friend!) with my constant rants about my first trip outside my country. But I can’t seem to get over the tourist syndrome I feel for Prague. In the picture, there are several beautiful monuments that describe the scenic beauty of Prague City like the Charles Bridge, and the National Theatre. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I managed to catch up with some very pleasant young women journos on the trip and a young and dynamic Czech lawyer, and I realised that when we look at these buildings as a tourist, they seem more important, and magical. In hindsight, don’t all our problems get solutions when looked at from a neutral stand point? OK, this post is about to get both emotional and philosophical, so you can stop right here if you’re not into that, especially on a photo blog. For the others, thank you for reading on!

I have been in a corporate set up for well over six-and-a-half years, and it has taught me new things about the human mind. While most of it amazes, and at times baffles me, there are times when it shakes me up quite badly. (I am a part of the same eco-system, being a human, right?) Shit happens all the time and mostly it happen to others, but do we really learn from mistakes of another? If you think about it long and hard, you generally get a cautious attitude at the most, but for the learning you need to know why the mistake was made and only then you can fix it. However how many of us reflect upon and realise our own mistakes? Do we really make an effort to rectify and avoid them, or do we refuse to acknowledge the something went wrong and look for scapegoats to pin the blame, instead?

Read on here… Monumental Bliss!

Coming of Age: A Decade in Time

The first decade of the new millennium was a realization as I stepped of the comfort of school life and structured learning into the big bad world. Everything that I have to show for myself, I earned in these ten long years, right from my degrees to my new family life. Whether for better or for worse, only time can tell. However, here are some of the lessons I learnt through this beautiful and gruelling decade, with the best of companions that God handpicked, just for me! Hopefully the next decade goes a bit easy on me.

  1. It is good to believe. Faith however is optional.
  2. Blood is thicker than water; even then it flows smoothly continuously and without jerks, despite distances and differences.
  3. A sibling is the best gift god gives you. He tops it with an amazing life-partner!
  4. You can’t choose your relatives or co-workers, but choose friends wisely.
  5. A friend in need, most often than never, is an opportunist in disguise.
  6. Pay compliments without malice and in goodtime. A delayed compliment often translates into jealously.
  7. Actions without expectations are the best. It helps you keep anxiety in check.
  8. Revenge is the strongest emotion of all, but karma always wins.
  9. Keep prejudices at bay. That way your mind doesn’t lie to you.
  10. Never stock up any emotions. Laugh when something’s funny, cry when you’re sad, and yell when you’re angry. But never displace it to the wrong person; not even yourself.
  11. Enjoy everything in its entirety, it’s easier to analyse and dissect later.
  12. A regret of action can be rectified, but a time bound regret can’t. Do all that you want in good time and with foresight; ‘could have beens’ and ‘should have beens’ are very difficult to live with.
  13. Be open to change, but learn to draw the line subtly.
  14. Inquisitiveness is good if your questions are answered; most often than never.
  15. It’s good to have perspectives, but be cautious when sharing them.
  16. Never hate someone who has a point of view and has the courage to express it too. Such people are difficult to come by.
  17. Never put your self in someone else’s shoes, they will end up blaming you for stealing them; extra pairs of shoes are not always good.
  18. For all the bad things you do, your children pay the price. Be better parents for them right from the start.
  19. Have an imagination; it becomes easier to appreciate the finer things in life.
  20. To have a healthy love life, you need to be the closest of friends for life.
  21. Love is always between equals.
  22. You need to be truly blessed to love unconditionally and not be taken for granted in return.
  23. It is healthy to hold on to memories. Sometime it’s all you have.
  24. It’s never too late to grieve for a loss. Realisation is not always sudden.
  25. Professionalism is not the best of virtues to have, but it guarantees you sound sleep every night.
  26. Speak your mind, but choose your words.
  27. Don’t expect perfection, only aim for it. That way you will still like yourself in the end.
  28. Its better to fantasize than procrastinate that too while appearing to be busy. That’s what multitasking is all about!
  29. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, being smart is better than being intelligent.
  30. It’s easier to remember nightmares in detail, but dreams are very forgettable. Same goes for joys and sorrows.
  31.  Dogs love you unconditionally, even if you don’t feed them or play with them everyday.
  32. A relationship that can stand the test of geographical distances and get better despite of the void is for keeps.
  33. When you love unconditionally, there are only random acts of kindness, no sacrifices of compromises.
  34. There are no such things as rose-tinted glasses; the world is full of cynics who are negative. Positivism is, at times, overrated.
  35. Competition is never healthy. You feel the guilt despite winning or losing.
  36. Avoid monetizing your hobby; the very essence of its de-stressing nature is lost. Make money from your second most favourite thing instead.
  37. All the questions of life come with options. But at times, you get the results the hard way.
  38. Never say no to anyone. Whether you carry out the deed is a different thing altogether. Save yourself the energy of getting into meaningless arguments that leave a bitter taste without doing any good.
  39. Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut. You need to use only your ears and shut your brain when criticism comes about.
  40. Don’t try to change the world all by yourself. It’s quite capable to do so by itself and that too at a blistering pace that you don’t even notice!
  41. You can’t make everybody like you. Settle with liking yourself to start with.
  42. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, especially when you are suicidal.
  43. Work is the worse thing to get addicted to. Detached attachment is the best medicine.
  44. No one but you can decide your own calibre. Others just try to clip your wings.
  45. Honesty is the best policy only if it doesn’t get you into trouble.
  46. It’s good to be punctual, even if no one else is. It goes a long way.
  47. Create a happy place in your mind. It helps you switch off your mind and wander away when in boring meetings. But cultivate sharp reflexes before that.
  48. Read across genres. You never know what you would end up enjoying.
  49. You can never learn from another’s mistakes, you got to make them all yourself and learn things the hard way. But it’s important to get the best out of every folly you commit.
  50. ‘I am sorry’ is the most powerful of statement. Even without any emotional backing, it helps you save energy for more important decisions in life.

La Amour Éternel: The Unquestioned Relationship

Some people are very lucky to have lived a life with someone they loved so deeply and with so much zest and got loved with the same fervor in return, that too without asking for it. We call their love stories as fairly tales, as everyone longs but few are chosen to live them; yet some throw it away yearning for more, always testing resistance of their relationship. They come in all shapes and sizes, as brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and foes, lovers and admirers.

When a mother gives birth to a child, she has her own reason to shower a child with safety and affection. But the child responds and comprehends only with unconditional love; trust and faith have no influence on that young mind.

These relationships don’t come with faith and trust. They start as admiration and the hope and reliance just come in by themselves.  Attaching any other emotion to such a love is unnecessary. Such bonds last for eternity, beyond all forces of nature: always pure and insatiable.

P.S.: The title is French for “The Eternal Love”.

I discovered this song “Two Hearts” by Jennifer Avalon & Noel Boland. The song describes the unison of two souls in heaven, and how they decide to stay together for eternity and plan a future beyond their physical existence. And then there are always angels that bring in the “coincidences” that help lost lovers meet time after time.

Two Hearts
In a garden where the jasmine blooms
Underneath a sapphire moon
Two lovers with the Universe in their eyes

As they wander by a flowing stream
Open hands weaving crystal dreams
Making plans for the future days of their lives

Through time they’ve never let go
The past a circle that comes around
A dance that both of them know
They’ll meet again on solid ground

Chorus:
Two hearts that beat as one
Their journey’s only begun
Two hearts that beat as one
Let no man put asunder

The clouds lift and the sky is blue
Angel’s whisper what they’re gonna do
Bring together these blessed two, to be found

Their souls will join once again,
When Heaven tells them where and when

(Repeat Chorus)

Bridge:
Let no man put asunder
Two lives so laced with wonder
What God has brought together, lasts forever

Snapshots of a wholesome existance…

Obituaries are most often than never the most deeply felt and the best piece of literature written about you. Too bad you’re not around to know, how people who loved you feel about you. May be that’s why they say, appreciate with your eyes and your heart, without spite or malice, that too in good time.

Most people you meet, you might not like everyone, but have qualities that you have come to admire.

The day you hold people in high esteem for the strength that they carry with them, is the day you find empathy inside you. It makes you stronger to avoid judging anyone for their actions. Think about it, there the people you know who can be caring, loving, open-minded, sympathetic, liberal, opportunists, politically inclined, abused, abusive, infidels, with colored perspectives, neutral, or just plain human.

When you take your association with any of these people one notch higher, i.e. when they are no longer your friends, colleagues or acquaintances, you become comfortable bringing your thoughts closer.  There is no reason for all of your relationships to have a tag. You know you’ve grown closer to people, when you share your perspectives with them or find yourself at ease to share your point of view without the fear of offending them.

And once they feel free to open their minds to you, you realize that you can see qualities in them that you don’t possess. Now it’s up to you to compete with them or feel blessed that you have encountered such wonderful people in your lifetime!

I came across the perfect song for this theme, courtesy Lenka. Taking your existence for granted is probably the best bus you’ve missed! Read the lyrics and judge for yourself.

Live Like You’re Dying
One of these days
You’ll be, under the covers
You’ll be under the table and you’ll realize

That all of your days are numbered
All of them one to one hundred
All of them millions
All of them trillions

So what are you gonna do with them all?
You cannot trade them in for more, no no…

Take every moment; you know that you own them

Gimme a reason
To fight the feeling
That there’s nothing here for me

‘Cause none of its easy
I know it wasn’t meant to be
I know it’s all up to me
It’s all up to me

So what am I gonna do with my time, oh…

Take every moment; you know that you own them
It’s all up to you to do whatever you choose

Live like you’re dying and never stop trying
It’s all you can do
Use what’s been given to you

All of the moments you didn’t notice
Gone in the blink of an eye
And all of the feelings you can’t help feeling
No matter how you try…

It’s all you can do
Use what’s been given to you…