Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ouch !

Scene : The Ladies' Washroom at Work
Me : That's a nice top that you are wearing.
She : Thanks...I got it from abroad.
Me : I thought as much...we don't get such stylish plus-sized clothes here in India !
( fade out with an icy glare)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bent Not Broken

I had plans for a very different post following my movement to Delhi but I have been forced to do this one thanks to a bunch of misguided people who think that by killing and maiming innocents God’s will is being done.

Back in Kolkata, every time such serial blasts happened , I used to watch in horror at the TV screens for a while, rave and rant and pray for those injured and the families of those killed and then after a while move on. We were all a bit shamelessly complacent in Kolkata knowing that the location of our City made us immune from such attacks….and hell Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad or Bangalore did not have to live with Mamata-di! She struck enough terror in the hearts of all Kolkatans with her whims and fancies (Blocking some main roads in the city if she felt bored on any given day)

This evening, a phone-call as I was getting ready to do some Puja shopping for my family at the Karol Bagh market had me shaken. The caller asked if we were ok and told us about the serial blasts that had just taken place. The Husband put on the TV and I saw to my horror that “They” had struck at places so familiar to me including outside the building where The Husband’s office is. The horror and terror felt chillingly real and so very close. My family, my friends could have been out there. Tears stung my eyes…in anger and in frustration….and the networks were jammed. I did something that I don’t normally do. I logged on to the net using my office connection just to let people know that we were fine and to get in touch.
Gradually, we were able to get through to family, friends and colleagues and reassure ourselves and reassure others too but I kept staring at the TV screen and the images of the dead and injured weren’t those of strangers hundreds kilometers away but of people with whom I might have rubbed shoulders with in the past one month. The unconscious lady in the yellow salwar being lifted off the roads might have sat next to me in the metro; the mangled rickshaw at Karol Bagh might belong to the friendly guy on cycled us home from the metro station after telling the other rickshaws ‘ apna regular paassinger hain” or that exploded auto might have belonged to the autowallah with whom I had taken a bet that one can reach CP from NFC in less than 30 minutes and bullied him to take me there …..this attack was that close.

I also saw the strength of this city in the people who rushed out of their homes and shops to help the people injured even before the administration moved in.

The routine questions are being asked in the media and we are getting the same answers but what about the hundreds of families out there who have paid the price for just being Indians? Isn’t it strange that after 911, the U.S has never faced another terror attack even once but we Indians have lost so many valuable lives to these mindless attacks.


A friend of mine who lives and works in Djakarta told me today in response to my fears and tears, we live under the threat of a coup, earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks but that does not mean that we stop living !

I sat at home this evening but tomorrow I am definitely going out to complete my shopping not out of selfishness but in defiance and I know that like me thousands of other Delhi-ites are going to be doing the same. Most of them stayed indoors today not out of fear but as one colleague told me because they did not want to add to the chaos outside. We here in Delhi have been bent for a little while but we have not broken.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Living For Myself

I decided in a spirit of true emancipation that I was going to live for myself....I was going to do the things that I had always wanted to do.

It's only the middle of the month and I am saddled with high credit card outstandings, an almost empty bank out ....and payday looking like a millenium away.

Living for myself and doing as I please sure is an expensive proposition....now excuse me as I climb back into my role as a middle-class professional making ends meet.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What a Guy !!

Called the Hubby at 2 am this morning to make a serious confession. Told him that I was being unfaithful to him...extremely unfaithful as I had been having rather sinful thoughts on another man. I had just watched " Breaking and Entering" , The Holiday and The Talented Mr. Ripley in one marathon session and I had decided that I was truly, madly and very, very deeply in love with Jude Law. I have this thing for (clean) British men and their clipped accents.
The Hubby took it the news rather calmly given that he had been sleeping snuggly amidst the Delhi rains and he had to be woken up for such bad news...but give the guy some credit. He seriously asked me,
" Have you given Tom Cruise the bad news as yet ? I am sure that he'll be devasted and while you are at it, might as well let Keanu Reeves also know. Poor guys I feel so sorry for them"

Now I know why I can't imagine my life without this guy around !

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"She Said It" ( or While Watching Sex and the City - Part 1)

We were finally watching the movie " Sex and the City" ....ok, I enjoyed the film even if I honestly and tryuly felt that instead of charging me 200/= for a ticket , they could have just added the film as a "Happily Ever After" epilogue to the last episode of the serial...on second thoughts maybe that's exactly what the smart cookies at Warner Brothers wanted me and millions of other women across the globe to do !

Anyway, back to the real story. The movie was half-way through and there came a scene where Miranda and Carrie comfort each other during a lonely new year's eve and then she said it. Who ? Well, a dressed to the bleeding edge of fashion, a not so young lady, whined in a petulant childish drawl familiar to the idle wives of rich businessmen -- " Dekho na..what good "bestest" friends hain woy log" .

I wasted precious screen time in turning to glare at this wannabe thinking that it had taken her 6 seasons, 94 episodes, numerous write-ups on the TV series and one freaking movie to realise that Carrie and Miranda were indeed "Best Friends" . While the lady in question went back to muching her popcorn and fiddling with her phone...atleast at tomorrow's kitty party she could tell her "frands" that she had "watched" Sex and the City and "just loved it" !!!


Friday, June 6, 2008

Bandh-e-Kolkata

The wicked, wicked ‘Gubbermaint” has increased the price pf petrol by 5 Rupees and that of cooking gas by 50 Rupees ….the increase has happened for all Indians across the country but it has hurt us, the residents of Bengal the most so our political representatives have decided to “protest” through the only means known to them – BANDH. We just missed one important bit here, that the party calling the bandh is also a part of the “wicked gubbermaint” which has increased fuel prices to the detriment of the “common man”.

Fortunately for the bandh supporters even nature seemed to side with them this morning as Kolkata woke to a raging storm and a heavy down pour which deterred many of the radicals who had decided to venture out to work in a mark of protest against the bandhs. For the rest of us who were told that we’d have to make up for the lost working day by reporting for work on Saturday, we just huddled a bit under the covers and groaned at the thought of doing the housework as the help weren’t going to be in. The day passed like a normal off day minus the “going out for a movie bit.” I guess it was the same for all Kolkatans.

That’s the micro picture.

Now on to bigger things (and some ranting). It hurt like anything when I had a colleague call me from Mumbai and tell me “ You guys are always having bandhs, why do you even work ? “ I asked him to clarify points on the rampage against migrant workers that happened in his city recently and the floods and traffic jams and the outrageous cost of living in Mumbai and then as a final parry I asked him to have a nice hard look at the regional business figures for our company – East (as in Kolkata) is doing almost the double the business that West(Mumbai) or for that matter North (Delhi) or South(Bangalore) is doing – so we DO WORK here , serious work but we are the victims of a national perception.

To most outsiders, Kolkata is a city of the Babus and the Bandhs. Red tape, horrific roads, poor infrastructure and a lazy workforce and an indifferent government. The reality is something different. Kolkata is a city on the move and businesses are succeeding here big time and hence many of the brands which had earlier neglected the city are having to eat the humble pie and rush in to set up shop here. Perhaps the biggest compliment to Kolkata is the fact that at least in the financial sector, people from Kolkata are being asked to move to other parts of the country to infuse some life (and brains) into teams there.

Living in Kolkata is reasonable and comfortable. One needn’t burn a hole in one’s pocket (or run up huge loans and credit card bills) to lead a decent life and yes, clich├ęd as it may sound, the city is much safer too. “Culture and Intelligentsia” are alive and kicking in Kolkata but they now have Ambition and Practicality as companions here.

Change is writ large all over Kolkata and Bengal as a whole except in the minds of it’s politicians …who refuse to look at their counterparts in other states and learn from them and so …

We have our heritage buildings being torn down to make way for “flats” and commercial spaces which stand out like sore thumbs and our old localities vanish under the tidal wave of the moneyed promoters and political henchmen…while in other states heritage buildings are lovingly preserved and used as a tourist attraction so that the owners are able to sustain themselves and their homes.

We have our roads choked and crowded with vehicles that do not meet the pollution standards and are in no way road worthy but some one is being bribed enough to allow these vehicles to cheekily proclaim them as compliant to the pollution norms while they wreck havoc with the atmosphere with their emissions.

We have an over-bridge on the life-line (and supposed pride of Kolkata); the E.M bye-pass which developed a crack in September 2007 and it still has not been repaired.

Our metro extension project has missed several deadlines whilst the Delhi metro has criss-crossed the city in about the same time.

We stand as mute spectators as political rallies are allowed to have processions through the main arteries of Kolkata during peak business hours forcing ordinary people to put their lives on hold.

And I could go on but it is hurting me to write all this and yet the biggest detriments to the image of Kolkata are these bandhs. Reams have been written on the detriment effect of bandhs on Bengal’s image which in turns hampers the employment and opportunities of the ordinary citizen and which finally hampers the success of the state, but none of our leaders have woken up and smelt the coffee and now that the coffee has turned cold, I doubt that they ever will.


Oh...and we have a bandh tomorrow too.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Humbling Lesson

I had just spent the better part of an hour with a colleague raving and ranting about the inadequate hike that I had got and the "system" which was supposedly harming my career and how everything was going wrong and blah...blah...blah...

I turned back to my computer and angrily began to shut it down. I had decided to leave early as I felt that the organization that I worked for did not “value” my contribution enough. I heard a soft voice at the entrance to my cubicle ,
“Excuse me, Didi” . I turned around and saw one of our outsourced boys who did the low-end clerical work at the branch standing there. I rolled my eyes in anticipation of being hit by “problem” just as I was leaving.

He stepped in and placed a bag of lychees on my desk and then bent down and touched my feet and said , “ Thank you Didi, I have got a pay hike of 800 rupees a month and it means a lot to me and my family”. I guiltily sputtered some mumbo-jumbo of “ Well done and keep working hard etc, etc” and I felt tears pricking my eyes while I watched the young boy make his way back to his crowded desk.

I rushed to the washroom and I was ashamed of the person that I saw in the mirror looking back at me. A woman who had more than what most people who work so hard all their lives ever have. I thought about the young boy fresh out of college from a lower middle-class family who sat at a cramped desk and worked long hours, who valued the opportunity that life had given him by celebrating an amount as his monthly hike which I spent unthinkingly on trivial things month on month.

Wasn’t it time I stopped taking my privileges as my birthright and demanding more ? Wasn’t it time I was grateful that while people lost their homes and dreams to mortgage crisis, cyclones and earthquakes, I still had one to go back to; I had a job in one of the best companies; I had an independent identity; I had education and I had a family ….wasn’t it time I stopped complaining about things that I take for granted but which for other people remain as unfulfilled or broken dreams.

I stand repentant and humbled, with a promise to make the most of what I have been blessed with.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back for Good

First of all , a big thank you to all my friends both from the real and virtual who sent me their "Get Well Soon" messages. I am much better now and am back to the grind. The illness was however an eye-opener as to where I am headed and I am trying to be much, much more careful. The first two steps in (what I hope is) the right direction is caryying my lunch to work and drinking loads of water. Exercise to commence soon.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Still Around

It looks like I have abandoned my blog..but the truth is that I haven't. Every since connectiviy problems at home have prevented me from accessing the web , I really haven't been able to post at all but I refuse to let this blog die as it means a lot to me. It will be more time before I get down to serious posting (something that I have been planning ever since I set this blog up) as I am undergoing surgery for kidney stones tomorrow. Apparently thanks to these stones my left kidney has extended a bit and this surgery is an emergency. I am scared as hell as this is the first time I am undergoing a surgery and at the same time comes the realisation that the excesses of my 20s (more by complusion than by choice) are now coming home to roost.
It's a humbling thought that my body is also vulnerable to starange diseases and conditions...and I am not as invincible as I imagined that I was when I skipped lunches, ate junk food, forgot to drink water, worked all odd hours and generally pushed myself mentally and physically to the limit in my bid to pull myself and my family out of the rut that we had fallen in to post Dad's illness. I needed to prove myself to the world...in a way I have ....but the price I am paying is a heavy one.
Maybe I am sounding melodramatic, but I have never been the sickly kinds, so it is proving to be very, very difficult to come to terms that I will never be "whole" again. I will always have to "be careful" for the rest of my life.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Was Waiting to Happen

It's sad that my first post this year has to be about the destruction of property and livelihood of so many people here in Kolkata.

Burrabazzar is the traditional business hub in this city. In fact, you arrive at Howrah, try to get a good glimpse of the Howrah Bridge as you cross the river and the first place you see in Kolkata is "Burrabazar" . The hustle and bustle and the crowds hit any visitor to Kolkata. This was were the real "business" of Kolkata was transacted. The wholesale heart of Kolkata.
The business is carried out of small rooms and shops known as "gaddis" one after another in ancient dilappidated buildings with little thought for safety norms. A cluster of gaddis/buidlings which dealt in one kind of item is called a "patti" e.g. "tirpal patti" , "chini patti" "sona patti". Many families even lived there, some for generations.
The narrow roads in that area are always choc-a-bloc with people, two-wheelers, cycles, handcarts, cycle-carts and ofcourse mankind; every one in a hurry . On weekdays, Burrabazar throbed with the focus of men and women out to make their money. The people who populate this area are "tradtional" in appearance and in their mindsets.

On Sundays, when one came through that area , the silence would be striking and here and there one would find clusters of men who did manual labour sitting together and either performing a puja or sitting around a "dholakia" and singing their rustic songs and reminising about their villages.
There was a time when I was working in the Sales department of a bank and had to make frequent forays into the Burrabazar "pattis" to scavenge around for accounts and investments and insurance applications. I wasn't very successful as I could not really relate to the people and the "traditional" mindset would not allow the businessmen there believe that a "ladki" could discuss financial matters with them.
I remember going into these buildings which were once very handsome structures and seeking out establishments after criss-crossing narrow passageways and stepping over stacked items like blankets, plactic buckets, reams of cloth all dumped along the narrow passage ways. There is one vivid memory I have, I had come just come out of a "gaddi" which dealt in bedcovers and I took a worng turn and I found myself staring at heaps of tins of paint stacked on the narrow passage and barely three feet away, a man sat blissfully preparing tea on a portable stove ! Overhead electric wires hung in a tangle maze barely a few metres over my head. I held my breath and ran out as fast as I could.
That memory has always been with me. I later on asked some of the businessmen about insuring their goods and was told that "God" was their insurer, so they did not need mortal insurance. I asked them about the safety hazards that the building posed and again I was told 'It is in God's hands". No one had answers to narrow crowded laned and illegal structures . Every one was busy making money with little regard for the hazards that their surroundings posed.
So I was saddened when the TV channels started beaming the story about the big fire which has broken out there and as I type this post, the fire has still not been brought under control but I was not surprised. This was just waiting to happen. If only people had exercised a little care and for once money could have played second fiddle to caution , destruction on such monstrous proportions could have easily been averted.
"Sabotage" a common word is being bandied about; but even that could have been averted. Basic fire-fighting measure and some safety practices would have avoided this mindless loss.
My in-laws have business establishments in that area, fortunately they escaped by a whisker because a road between the buildings prevented the fire from spreading. The businessmen will recover but I am concerned about their ancillaries- mainly the office workers who commute from great distances to work for a pittance under uncomfortable circumstances because they have families to look after and the daily wagers from the neighbouring states. What about them and their families ? We have no answers yet. I have sent out a few emails to some of the prominent newspapers with a suggestion, and I 'll post on the response I get.

Kolkata is slowly succumbing to money and muscle power - we have been gradually losing our heritage buidlings, our environment (as waterbodies and open spaces are rapidly grabbed and constructed over) , our basic values and our own safety and well-being, this fire should be the last wake-up call against the apathy which we take as a part of our lives .