Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Call For Prayers ( And Some Dirty Linen)

I am sitting down to type this post as I while away the time to what will be the biggest confrontation of my life till date...as I put in everything that I have got to save the roof over my ailing parent's heads....our basic right. I am nervous, I am very tense and most of all I am very scared. I need to shed all this as I tackle the person who has cheated my father of his basic inheritance and has continously humiliated us over the last twenty years.

Now for the back story.

My paternal grandfather was a renowned teacher in Digboi (Assam) where he had settled after the partition. He was known for his teaching skills as well as his compassion and support for boys from poor backgrounds who were serious about their studies. He died early leaving behind a son (my dad) and my Aunt and my grandmother. My grandmother was one of those earlier career women and for her money was the main motivation in life.

The years passed by. My Aunt married Pest and things changed thereon. Pest was a smart wily character, who kept brainwashing my Grandmother into giving him all kinds of financial largesse. He posioned my Grandmother against my father...whom she started to look upon with immemse hatred.

My Dad was a very simple-hearted guy who loved his mother with all his heart and bent over backwards to please her.

In 1988, the faimily prpoerty was being divided. It was decided that my aunt would be given the ancestral house and my Dad would be given a flat. My aunt got the house but my Dad got a flat which was purchased in Pest's name.

In 2001 they called my ailing Dad over to " complete the formalities" for transferring the flat to my Dad's name when in reality my aunt and Pest got it registered in their own names. While my Dad came back broken hearted and his health deteriorated further.

My Aunt and Pest have acquired all the family property and they have houses in C.R.Park (Delhi), Najafgarh and some other places. They dont really need this small pokey flat.

However, we have been living in this flat and now they are coming to throw us out. I dont know what the future holds. They are holding out a payment which is peanuts with the criteria that as soon as they hand over the cheque we have to get out of the house that very instant.

We are tired of living under their shadow and want to move out but not at one day's notice.

They'll be here shortly...and I don't know what lies in store for me in a few hours from now.

Why are people so greedy for wealth ? Our situation reminds me of the biblical story where a rich man who had 99 heads of sheep coveted the one sheep which the widow owned....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The "Chak De" Effect

I entered the theatre screening "Chak De India" expecting to watch an Indianised version of A League of Their Own and wasn't I delighted to be disappointed ! I enjoyed the film , flaws et all admiring the courage of a director to take on a subject that does not occupy much mindspace in our country. I was getting tired of all those "crikety" movies ...infact I never watch cricket these days. Once upon a time long long ago when cricket was a seasonal affair and cricketers still wore white when playing, I was die hard fan. I can still name the entire West Indies team who toured India in 1988/89 but ask me anything about cricket now and I'll let you have my version of "whycricketshouldbebannedinindia" but I digress this post is not about cricket.

In the movie , Chak De , there is a scene wherein all the players selected have arrived at the coaching camp and are being introduced to the coach and they go " So and so ...Punjab"; "so and so ....Railways" ; "so and so ...Haryana"....one by one the coach asks them to stand aside till one of them says "Vidya Sharma...India". Here the coach says that this is what it should be...first your country and then yourself and then if there is any space....your region.

This struck later in the evening when my mother was wathing one of those reality singing shows on TV and asked me to vote for one of the Bengali candidates who was on the verge of getting eliminated. Bengalis have to save Bengalis was her logic...see how the other regions are supporting their contestants ?

What about talent ? I asked her and she replied that if he is a Bengali then he is talented. My mother is not alone, there are millions like her out there who sit in the front of their TV screens, mobiles in hand voting for the candidate from their part of the country while the telecom companies and the respective TV channel laughs all the way to the bank. In fact, all these programmes seem to deliberately promote this regional bias so that the votes and in turn, the moolah keeps pouring in ! Talent be damned.

This regionalisation is everywhere...

in the selection of our teams for sports . So in a team of eleven players, we have quotas for the North, South, East and West Zones so that players are selected not according to their abilities but according to the quota available. One wily ex-cricketer had his son change his residence so that he can come into the Indian team through that Region's quota ! That the son never made it as a boy in blue is another story.
in jobs - you will often hear people complain, "oh he is a maharastrain na...that's why the boss chose him for the foreign assignment, boss like to promote people from his own community"
in films - we have certain communities portrayed with certain cliched characteristics ...the drunk Goanese or the seductive Anglo-India who speaks a "clipety-clop" accented Hindi.
A friend told me how she had to struggle with the deliberately created language barrier in a particular city where she was forced to move . She was in an advanced state of her pregnancy and needed to travel by autos to her work place(to which she had had to take a transfer) and the doctors. The auto/taxi drivers and even her colleagues knew that she could not communicate in the local language and even though they understood Hindi or English very well..they just refused to communicate with her in anything but the local language !

We are a generation which has turned tradition on it's head. We have married into differrenc communities...we have moved to new places and adpted so damn well...we have discovered new foods and flavours....we have learnt languages...most of us know the geographies of atelast three different cities...we have friends and family all over the country...we have grown geographically but not in our minds.

I have decided to do things a little differently from now on...the next time I am asked ... I'll say , " I am an Indian who speaks Bengali ! ". Let's see for how long I can manage that one .

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Love Actually ....

The Hubby loves his movies to have loud comedy, lots of actions and if possible a Govinda thrown in for a good measure...and since Govinda does not do "English" at home we have to satisfy ourselves with whatever Bollywoodi comedy is on air.

In a classical "married life" situation, I love quiet movies - of the mushy -mushy feel good sort and British comedies. I have a thing for Brit actors (read Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan) and never pass up an opportunity to watch a Brit comedy.

A few years ago, when The Hubby and I had just hesitantly begun to date, in a rare magnanimous gesture , he took me to watch this movie, Love Actually. In that film, you had Hugh Grant playing the British Prime Minister and at one point in the film he says :

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around. "

The dialogue sounded very nice that day while watching the film but it really hit home the day before yesterday when I went to drop The Hubby off at the airport.

At that time of the day, you had a few flights taking off for Bangkok and Dhaka and for a good measure one to
Paro too, but the big flight then was the Emirate’s flight to Dubai.

Outside the terminal, I watched people getting off cars, taxis and auto rickshaws. There were all kinds of people , well-heeled and some not so well-heeled. It was easy to pick out the first-timers embarking on their “Gulf Dream” – they were the ones who were more humbly dressed, who carried the kind of airbags which are sold at the
Esplanade Market who looked at the airport hesitantly and in awe and fumbled repeatedly for their passports and tickets.

There was one such family evidently a working class family – widowed mother, wife and a son and a daughter (both below five years of age). The father watched his children run about excitedly and kept trying to hold them close to him, but the children were obviously were excited and would break free and run off to see the pictures of planes or something else. The mother and the wife quietly wiped there silent tears on their pallus. They said little to one another but kept looking at the father as if to imprint his face into their memories. The father finally realized that he could not hold back his emotions and said a hurried good-bye to his family and walked into the airport without turning back. His family could not follow him inside as obviously paying for so many entry tickets would be expensive for them. So his mother and wife and tried peering into the airport for sometime and then gathered the children and quietly walked away. I later on saw the father sitting alone inside the airport and wiping his eyes. All that I could do for him was to pray that his dreams of a better life for his family which was compelling him to make such a difficult sacrifice would be fulfilled and he could come back to his family never to leave them again.

There was another family which had accompanied a youngish looking man also off on his “Gulf Dream” accompanied by a large crowd of family members. There was one girl in the crowd who wore a “mangalsutra” which evidenced her religious difference from the others around her who was left out while the rest of the relatives said their good byes to this young man. She hung at the back and wept quietly into her hanky. Then the young man requested that he speak to her alone and the rest of his family melted away. She held his hand and wept as if her heart would break. He consoled her saying that in a few month’s time he would be coming to take her with him and they could live like they wanted. It was not difficult to put her story together – a halcyon romance , an inter-religious marriage with parental opposition and post-marriage in-laws who did not consider her to be their own and a husband determined to give her all that he promised and the much-needed acceptance. This young man too walked away without looking back at his sobbing wife to hide the tears in his eyes. Indian men don’t cry in public.

I saw a newly wed bride with excitement on her face as she went to join her husband at the same time the tug at her heart-strings as she left her family behind…taking her first steps into a new chapter in her life.

All around me there were good-byes and a lot of love and prayers. Grandparents hugged their grand-children, parents hugged their children and friends and relatives held each other close before letting go. No one acted indifferent, no one asked the other one to just get going… almost every one tried to hold on to their loved ones for that fraction of a second more.

We talk about “love” being commercialized, of people being selfish and indifferent , of families falling apart etc. etc but one morning at the departure lounge of an airport reinforced the belief that love hasn’t gone anywhere…we have only begun to believe that love is a glamorous, in-your-face kind of a thing while
Love Actually is as they say in the song “ all around”…in a very quiet, mundane sort of way; it is only when it leaves us that we realize that what we are about to miss.

The next time I go there, I am going to be in the “Arrivals” section and I know that my mushy little heart will not be disappointed !

P. S

I have just discovered on IMDB that the working title for Love Actually was Love Actually Is All Around".

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Latest Acquistion

With the hubby leaving for Dubai day after tomorrow, I am pretty much down and out. So, this is what the darling bought to cheer me up. It created quite a stir at work today :

That's not just a phone stand, those are speakers to actually blast music from the phone. Ain't i a lucky lucky girl ?