Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brothers in Arms..

A little walk the talk with my two brothers before Rakshabandhan.
I always wanted to ask you dear brothers :-
--What were you thinking before beating up a random guy who YOU thought in your head was following me on his bike? I was not being an ehsaanfaramosh when I did not appreciate your 'efforts' because I sincerely thought that  the poor guy must be speeding  on the road which did not belong to us ,in his hurry to reach somewhere important.As far as my speeding is concerned ,you are well aware of my aversion to use public toilets and my heading home speed has always been maximum. In other words,I was not speeding away from the poor soul,he did not even register,my only aim was to reach the loo asap.
--Were you aware of your size when you thought of confronting a guy who you thought used to stare at me? Thankfully the guy did not return the dent that your tiny 11year old fist caused him in his ribs .You just about managed to tickle him,pun intended. My embarrassment? The word did not exist in your limited primary school vocabulary so let us not come to that.
--I hope you understand now, that all those who glanced in my direction were not exactly Goondas.
Thank you for 'protecting' me  in the school Rickshaw.The stern looks on your little frames was enough to scare anyone and everyone harbouring any ideas regarding your big sister sitting in the middle.
--What made you break open the lock of my mystery box and secretly read my secret diary. Had I not destroyed the same in my volcanic anger,I could have been a strong contender for Booker or some such prize.Teen angst makes a good read you see! There can be no best-seller like a campus love story or secret conversations of gossip girls at a pyjama party. Your loss entirely, brothers -in-arms lost your only chance to be famous brothers of a published author.
--Why did you ,without failing even once,redirect your ire against me whenever mom sent me over to untangle your wrestling limbs.I always ended up being at the bottom of the pile, completely at your mercy.I very sheepishly admit today that I loved being the reason for you to forget about  your own fight .That you thoroughly enjoyed my plight was wicked on your part but then..

                                                                          courtesy Google images             

                                                                  courtesy google images      

--MB ,why on earth did you learn the Railway timetable by heart ? Why did you cycle all the way to the station just to see the super fast Gitanjali Express hurtle past the platform? Why??
--PS, was there any day in your life,that made you less saintly than you have always been? Please own up.MB and I could never match up to your standards.
--Why would both of you be more interested in tagging along by my side every day .Old Peepul was on your side ,one look at its accommodating frame and I would give in.
Brothers in my arms,thus I had been ,
till better sense prevailed and
they sprouted wings.

I also have a  few confessions  in place in this space today -

--I apologise for making you run errands for me just because I was the big sister and I knew you could not refuse me out of love. However, if you think I am going to own up and say that yes, I did call you one day from the playground just to give me a glass of water,you are mistaken.Believe it or not, I DID NOT know that you were playing outside .Not my fault that you responded to my call while fielding near our gate. I am not even smiling while I write this,I swear!
--I am guilty of stealing Dusserie mangoes from your share and eating them up during Summers.I have been suitably punished -while you embraced fitness ,I still struggle to shake of those tyres.

I can go on and on but just one last thing on my mind has to be told now, lest I forget.
Remember,the photograph we clicked at a nearby studio on my 13th birthday? Dressed to kill in my new Yellow Maxi,I was so sure I could give Miss India some serious competition that day.  You could have shown some sensitivity towards a girl entering her teens,rather than contorting your faces  when the photographer cheerfully said ISSSMILEE!! I could never flaunt that photograph in school.Three  faces contorted beyond recognition in their vain efforts to control laughter, did not make a pretty picture.We could have simply laughed and saved mom and dad some money that day,don't you think?

I have sent my Rakhis in time this year to escape your wrath PS . MB, I will indulge in some harmless extortion when I see you that day.Be prepared !

Saturday, July 28, 2012

School times - Of crushes and Rakhis

Anyone from a smaller city , who has been to a co-ed school, knows that a big part of girls and boys growing up together in the eighties, was spent wondering and speculating about who liked whom!! Very few had the guts to go up to each other and pour their hearts out. School desks and rounders  were the tools of communication in those days ,where eyes failed to cooperate.
                                                                          courtesy google images                  

Few  girls had their names engraved on the desks or had regular anonymous love letters delivered to them,duly  signed as 'guess who??' , 'your only admirer' or  'forever yours'. Boys I guess were more open ,at least with each other.. so they would make pairs according to the latest crush and tease each other while girls had to rely on their instincts  or sometimes on how a particular boy gazed dreamily at the girl to make a wild guess.  Many love stories took birth and died without actually coming alive.Some did not even see the pages of a personal diary somewhere . You see,we all belonged to 'cultured' families and liking someone was just not allowed. Dooor se aankhe sekte thhe!

The class monitors were the most notorious lot, especially boys.We had these reading sessions in our English class where girls and boys had to  read a paragraph ,alternately from the book .These were the revealing sessions where most girls would come to know about the boy they were being 'paired with'. It was quite simple actually,the boy in question would be followed by the girl while reading. The class monitor would call out the names in succession and we would sit with bated breaths as though our mid term results were being announced !Glances were exchanged ,giggles were stifled and the class would be  abuzz with varied forms of suppressed emotions and  expressions from boys and girls alike.

Sometimes there would be complications like we would pair a friend with who we thought she liked and the boys had another person lined up for that girl. Tease toh karna hi thha par kiske saath?! Major point to ponder in those days apart from studies and extra curricular activities.Very rare,senior couples were treated with awe and respect by juniors.Lunch time discussions revolved around the same topic .Those who got enough attention from the opposite sex, pretended that they did not care and those who were deprived of the attention either faked otherwise or played spoilsport in other students' lives by squealing to the teacher  or the concerned student's parents.

Kendriya Vidyalaya or Central school ,where I studied, celebrated most of the festivals .We enjoyed all except Rakshabandhan ! It was disastrous for a boy to have his only crush tie Rakhi to him in front of the whole class.Many would hide inside the restrooms but teachers took special care that none was spared the torture. Imagine carrying a bunch of Rakhis to tie each boy in the class and at times,even outside the class. Imagine the plight of those who did not wish to be tied that thread. This forced ritual was painful, but I admit, quite funny too, at the end of the day.Some girls used this as an opportunity to snub  boys who liked them .Poor guys would either try to hide behind each other or grin and bear it.
                                                                      Courtesy Google images                    

This is where I learnt about 'maana hua bhai 'or muhbola bhai or 'rakhi brother'.I always wondered ,why should a boy  be either a sainyaa or a bhaiyya? Why do we have to label a relationship? Why can't we be comfortable in just being friends? It was much later in degree college,that I made true friends who I never felt the need to label.Neither the ASP ( age,sex,personality ) factor nor the CCR (caste,creed,religion) factor mattered.
Bonds made that young, proved to be stronger ,time tested and they do not even require renewal at timely intervals.They do not have an expiry date.A remembrance,a tiny text, a call , excites the electrons enough to tease them out of their slumber and rekindle the fire.

 I do not know about others but when this connect happens, to hell with the dreaded  forties ...I always feel that I just came out of  college...abhi- abhi buss kuchch saal pehle hi...

Rakhi of course has a new symbolic meaning for me now,it symbolises siblings tying Rakhis to each other and  pledging support to each other through thick and thin.A day when sisters get Rakhis too  and brothers also receive gifts. A day to just get together and have fun with cousins and extended family,khaana-peena and lots of  masti .

Monday, July 9, 2012

Citibank Zomato Restaurant Guide 2012 ( Mumbai) - A Book Review.

                                          Image courtesy google images                    

As part of the Book reviews program ,I received Zomato restaurant guide 2012 . This handy guide for food lovers has been published by Hachette India for ten major Indian cities , namely, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi NCR,Pune,Bangalore,Ahmedabad,Jaipur, Chennai, Chandigarh , Hyderabad .

Zomato a website live since 2008,has proved to be a useful tool for food lovers all over.This book is another feather in their cap with its easy to refer layout .

The Zomato restaurant guide for Mumbai is what I received and I loved the feel of the book I was holding. It can easily be carried in my bag is what I thought .The listings are based on popular choice and restaurant reviews provided by food lovers like me. After the editor's note, there is a quick reference guide on how to use the book in selecting a restaurant .
 About 200 must visit restaurants are classified under various categories,for example,Asian and Oriental,Dining with kids ,Home delivery,Night life and clubs etc. One can choose the category of restaurant one desires to visit and then go on to the icon which states whether the place serves vegetarian or non vegetarian food,is a dine-in or a bar .Each listed restaurant information is provided next .The location,contact details,special features,and most importantly typical cost for meals is indicated alongside.

User ratings and reviews are  particularly useful in selecting a dining place. There is a QR code which can be scanned by one's smart phone to view the restaurant menu beforehand. Restaurants that provide special privileges to Citibank card holders are also indicated for the benefit of patrons.

The Mumbai guide lists  budget places,mid range eateries as well as notable restaurants. I loved going through the descriptions of popular places particularly because  ratings in the book matched mine. I even tried an Italian restaurant ,family in tow and I must say we all loved the experience.

What I missed in the book 
- I looked out for few good places which did not find a mention like Melting Pot Juhu ,a popular VFM restaurant or White in the suburbs,Saffron spice,Grillopolis to name a few  but then, it is not possible to include all and still keep the book small and handy.
- Area wise listing of restaurants 
- Valet parking information 
- A very important information about the restaurant catering to party needs or providing a party hall could have been included
-Also, small print of user reviews made reading a little difficult for me.

What I liked in the book
- The convenient packaging
- Look and feel 
- Beautiful photographs
- Categories like night life or street food which is so important for a city like      Mumbai
- The QR codes ,a smart way to scan the menu of the restaurant beforehand.
- The user ratings and reviews
- The classification and a separate  alphabetical listing of the restaurants.This will make the search for a restaurant easy for the user.

This book  is a commendable attempt at providing users a practical guide to restaurants across Mumbai. I am happy to say that Zomato guide 2012 pleases me as much as the website.  

Publisher-Hachette India
Pages -200
Price - 199 (149 at Flipkart)

This review is part of  Book review Program by  Blogadda..


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The W(hole) Toilet Story !

I am reposting this last years post  after watching  Satyamev Jayate this morning where a lot was discussed about manual scavenging in rural India. I end the post with what I saw on my recent visit to a mall in Bangkok. 

Dad called to inform that our ancestral home in Rajasthan was sold .He was sad,and his voice coveyed so.It took me back to my lone trip to that house in childhood .Dad was excited like a school boy,he had springs in his shoes and if normally we could'nt keep pace with him,you can imagine the scene that day.
It was a typical village house in all other aspects except that it stretched vertically more than horizontally.We were welcomed by Prem kakaji and before we could absorb the details of the  courtyard and the circular living rooms he announced that the weary travellers were free to freshen up before tea could be served and added with a smile that the toilets were on the second floor.
Second floor ! and we  ran up the stairs two at a time , falling over each other in the race to reach the second floor toilets.What is so special about second floor toilets ,one would ask? The mystery will unfold after I elaborate a little on the toilet scene of rural India .

As kids on our annual vacation to Rajasthan we would extensively travel in scorching summers to remote rural areas with our parents.We loved every bit of those explorations except ,you guessed it right,-toilets!
Toilets were built at the extreme end of the huge property .Running from the ancestral Haveli on the sandy grounds, down to the toilet cubicles was strenuous . We hated the exercise and preferred holding back!
That every morning struggle would leave us constipated by the end of our trip and back home in the city, we thought of our toilets as pure luxury . The parched landscape also meant paucity of water and hence no taps were to be found inside and one had to carry a small bucket of water from the 'Haud' . Every morning people ran across the sand balancing a bucket of water to relieve their systems .
Once  we  reached the toilet complex,what followed next was a  series of forced coughing sounds emanating from the several occupied cubicles indicating human presence. So one  coughed and someone coughed back and he  moved on to the next till his cough met with silence  and that is where he was supposed to enter.

The cubicle was adorned with two rough, slipper shaped stones to rest your feet  and in the center was a huge hole .The  street below could be seen or worse even, a grunting pig or a sweeping scavenger would insert his shovel beneath  while you were busy . The trained staff however, kept the area very clean and I do not remember the whole experience as  'disgusting' as it may sound now.
The w(hole)experience made one  feel extremely vulnerable.Our daily wish in those days-- kaash! the human excretory system did not have to work on a daily basis.Now praying and all is a pious thing to do and toilet is the last place one would feel like praying but all my prayers were saved for the toilet part those days..
God please let me not feel the pressure today,
God give me strength to control the pressure etc..
That pretty much was the toilet scene in the seventies in rural Rajasthan.

Coming back to that particular trip to the ancestral home,it seemed to be a pleasant surprise .A second floor toilet,wow!!Jostling ,elbowing each other we ran up to be greeted by a very nice carved door .The eldest cousin managed to push himself inside ahead of others and seconds later we heard him laugh like a mad man. Moments later he came out . Curiosity took over our frames and we all peeped in only to be greeted by the all familiar sight of  the famous 'hole'. It dropped all the way from second floor straight to the ground. It was kind of concealed from direct vision but nevertheless ,a hole.
So much for the great expectations!!

In complete contrast to what I had described a year ago , is what follows next in this post.Last week while shopping at the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok,I entered the wash room with my daughter and took my own sweet time coming out of the cubicle.This is what I saw and this is what caught my attention..

     The Hi-tech toilet bowl complete with numerous settings on a control panel was awesome to say the least.I am not ashamed to admit that I tried every thing displayed there and that is what kept me engaged for a long time.I also noticed that everyone who went in took longer than usual and came out smiling.                                                        

                                      Particularly liked the temperature control and dry options.

There was no room for confusion , a nice panel with instructions to use the system was strategically placed on the wall.
                                                      Images- curtesy Google, as my pics were hastily taken and not sharp. 

 Once outside the loo, I was so lost in my total admiration of the basin area  beautifully done up in a unique marine theme that I almost entered the men's loo on my way out . Daughter's quick tug at my arm saved me from the embarrassment.

You may laugh at me but I had a detailed 'dekho' at all the wash rooms after that on each floor and I am glad I did that in addition to the retail therapy at the mall.

Two different worlds exist and I am  a part of both .Can I make a difference at my level to improve the inhuman conditions, still very much a part of every day lives of millions of Indians ?Writing will help? Talking about it ..? I do not know.. looking at the corruption,I am sceptical of  giving monetary aid , I feel that I am afraid of venturing out on the ground  leaving my comfortable space behind. Work may only be an excuse.
That definitely does not make me feel good about myself.


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