Tag Archives: India

A Wheel Of Progress

This patch of land in Sector 63, Noida, Delhi NCR, is a constantly changing panaroma. Development activities go on here throughout the year. A Delhi Metro station is also coming up nearby in sector 62. 

The big, round wheel in this pic is that symbol of constant change.  

An Amaltas Day

My walk to the Metro station on my way to work on 23 May 2017 had something new and exciting in store for me; an Amaltas tree; a tree that Mayank Austen Soofi, my favorite writer and blogger, often writes about. I considered it my great fortune that day to have discovered one right inside my neighborhood!

It looked so gorgeous with its abundant golden yellow flowers in full bloom! A mere sight of it lifted me from the pall of gloom that had been over me for the past so many days. I could not help stopping by for a few moments to feast my eyes on this ravishing sight. Just below the tree, there was a yellow carpet formed by the fallen Amaltas flowers. I had a strong temptation to cross the fence and sit on it…

Just in case you are wondering if I reached office on time that day, well, yes, I did, quite miraculously indeed, in spite of so many obstacles, a stuck metro,  a traffic jam, and aafreshly water logged road right outside the office building.

Here are some pics I clicked during those guilty moments near the Amaltas tree…

A Newly Wedded House

When you find the front part of a house decorated like this in a big, faceless city like Delhi when there’s no major festival like Diwali, it is an indication that someone in this house got married recently.

If you just let your imagination run wild for some time while you ponder over what might be going on behind those four walls, a lot of things will flit through your mind like butterflies…The bridal room, love, romance, sex, the married couple forever seeking each other…

Different people decorate their homes during weddings in different ways, depending on their tastes, culture, customs, traditions, lifestyle, and income bracket…

If the house belongs to the boy’s family, you might perhaps find a decorated car too nearby, bedecked with flowers and little bouquets sellotaped all over it.

The car is often one of the dowry items that the bride brings to the family. Just like the house, you might perhaps wonder about the car too. Was it demanded or happily gifted? Was it easy for the girl’s family to bear its cost? Did it perhaps take away the entire hard-earned savings of a lifetime of a helpless individual?

All these thoughts fill your mind with worries about the bride’s future in a marriage that is more of  a commercial transaction than anything else with a special scheme of girl + car thrown in; an arrangement in which she is considered just a commodity to be used and discarded…

But you can’t live with negative thoughts, can you? So I cheer myself by saying to myself that the car was perhaps bought by the girl herself with her own hard-earned money and perhaps it’s a love marriage with no business involved…

Women In Automotive Industry



After achieving an M.Sc. in Mathematics i
n 1989 from Delhi University with a first class followed by 10 years’ work experience of marketing and training, I finally stumbled into an automobile dealership in Delhi in 2004. Since then, I have been slogging and now I am a Customer Relations Manager in a car workshop. This is generally the highest position a woman manages to reach in an automobile dealership.

My knowledge of Pure Maths is now completely erased from my mind and those 5 years of college that I single-mindedly devoted to studies, often sacrificing a lot of fun I could have had otherwise, have all gone waste. But I refuse to let myself have any regrets and I prefer to pat myself on the back for being what I am now; independent, financially and otherwise, bold, and confident. This was, after all, my aim of studying hard.

Today, as I look back, I feel extremely grateful to the automobile industry for providing me the kind of growth and job stability that I didn’t find elsewhere in other industries. It helped me in keeping my kitchen fire burning, financing my daughter’s education, and paying our bills while my husband followed his passion and tried to gain a foothold in theater as an actor. The most important thing is that it has helped me evolve as a human being too.

Indian automobile industry is, fortunately, still growing at a steady pace and the dealerships too continue to upgrade themselves as per the improving living standards and changing expectations of their customers. 

The dealers, however,  still have a long way to go in ensuring a safe and healthy environment for each one of us including women. Based on my last 13 years’ experience in various auto dealerships, here is an account of what I observed and continue to face as an employee.

Automobile dealerships are powered by the sweat and blood of its hard-working employees. In most auto dealerships, you will find people being compelled to work beyond normal working hours, which are already extended to 9-12 hours’shifts. They have a 6-day week and sometimes, the weekly offs are cancelled too. Holidays such as those of Christmas, Good Friday, Id, etc, which are taken for granted in PSUs, are never given. In the name of multi-tasking, one person sometimes does work of 2 or 3 people. Often, PF/ESI deductions are done without getting these funds accounted for. The employees don’t get the benefits of these deductions and the money is simply siphoned off to a hidden account. 

The dealer principals, on the other hand, invest their wealth in real estate and other money-spinning ventures. Their children generally study abroad. So next time when you find a teenager arrogantly scoffing at what you just said in a foreign accent in a board meeting, don’t be shocked! Just keep smiling, as you would at a toddler with cerelac slathered all over itself till you move on to another dealer or till the toddler and its parent both grow up.

Dealer principals keep preaching about focusing on customer satisfaction, but most of them don’t realize that sad eyes silently reveal to customers what artificial smiles on brightly painted lips try to conceal.

Most dealerships in Delhi NCR are in fact extremely profit-oriented and don’t shy away from sounding like bloodthirsty capitalists, as far as employee welfare is concerned. They look at employees as costs, rather than assets. That’s why I would never, ever advise my daughter to consider a career in an automobile dealership, unless, of course, the government steps in and takes strict action against unscrupulous labour practices followed by erring dealerships. The government must also establish some awards for dealerships with high levels of employee satisfaction. Greedy as they always are, for the sake of earning these awards at least, the dealerships might try to make things better for their employees.

From a dealer’s point of view, I agree that surviving in a country like India with rampant corruption and an uncooperative, slow-moving bureaucracy is very difficult. You need to put in huge investment to put up a dealership in the first place and to maintain it, you must achieve a certain amount of profitability. But there has to be a limit somewhere. As fellow human beings, you’ve got to be just and take only what you deserve.

Perhaps you would ask if things are so bad, why isn’t anyone complaining and trying to do something about it? Well, lots of people have rebelled in the past and still do that, but the automotive organisations are rich, powerful, and influential and the labour courts and the judiciary are weak and toothless. They fail woefully in providing a solution to the ordinary, disgruntled, economically impoverished employee whose only priority in life is to be able to live with dignity without having to beg. So it’s more practical to just move on and find another job. This is the theme of my short story ‘A Tale of The Underdog’ that I wrote recently.

Now, let me come to the happy part. God has His own cute ways of dropping happy surprises in your lap, like this video by BookServicing Car Repairs on 8 Mar.17, International Women’s Day. They had me as one of their 2 speakers right at the beginning.

To be chosen among so many out there feels just too great! I still haven’t come out of the happy bubble this has put me in…Thanks once again, Bookservicing!

Here is the link to the video…


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E6lY-082O4&sns=em

Radhabollobi


My country India has a rich heritage and a huge variety of cuisines; so vast that an entire lifetime spent in trying to discover them may not be enough. This problem is further compounded by the fact that interregional marriages are still not very common and whenever any couple tries to take this bold step, it is often met with great opposition by both their families and their societies.

Being a Punjabi married to a Bengali, my discovery of Bengali cuisine began only after my marriage in December 1992. I consider it my great fortune to have had an affectionate mother-in-law who was also a very good cook. It was from her that I came to know about lots of tasty Bengali dishes with very interesting names. I think I must also mention that she often gave me pleasant surprises by making lots of Punjabi dishes for me, such as sarson ka saag, gobhi-aloo sabji, and sabut urad dal & rajma combination and they tasted better than my own Mom’s versions! That’s how she won my heart and helped me cross the barrier of language, customs, and traditions… 

My mother-in-law died in October 2009, but her spirit lives on in our house and our kitchen in particular.The utensils that I have inherited from her always remind me of her, her silent and patient way of doing things.

Apart from mishthi doi, my alltime favorite, another item that has a special place in my heart is Radhaballabhi, pronounced as ‘Radhabollobi.’ It means Radha’s beloved; a very romantic name, don’t you think? Whenever I make Radhabollobies for my husband, I imagine that I am Radha cooking for my Krishna and that’s what adds to the romance and allure of this dish.

As you must have guessed already from the introductory pic, Radhaballabhi is a poori stuffed with a spicy filling containing coarsely ground peas. I always use a healthier combination of wheat flour and maida (white flour) instead of just maida and I prefer to serve it with curd or a chutney instead of dum aloo aloo as the delicate taste and flavor of the fantastic filling tend to lose themselves in the dum aloo.

My Mom-in-law was very particular about following traditions; she called them ‘niyoms.’ She always made Radhabollobi only once or twice in a year, towards end of January. That’s when the peas are abundantly available in the market and are reasonably priced too. I also follow the same tradition.

Given below is the recipe along with pics.

1. Roast whole spices (a teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, corriander and cummin seeds, black pepper seeds in a karahi and grind these in the grinding jar of the mixie.

2. Coarsely grind the green peas (200 g) in the mixie.  In a karahi, add two tablespoons of oil and fry the ground spices and peas together till all the water dries up.

3. The filling is now ready. Put it in a bowl.

4. Prepare a hard dough with a mixture of maida and wheat flour in equal proportions and some salt as per taste.

 5. Fill the karahi with refined oil till it is about half full and switch on the gas.

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6. Take out little balls from this dough. Start off by rolling each one of them on the chakla with the rolling pin.  Dip the rolled dough ball in the hot oil a little bit to prevent it from sticking. Roll further to spread it more and put 2 teaspoons of the filling into it. Again turn it into a ball and spread it. Don’t make it too thin otherwise the filling will spill out into the hot oil while deep frying.

 

7. Once the oil becomes hot, deep fry the pooris on both sides and keep them in a plate. Serve them hot with a dip of your choice. 

Happy cooking!

Pollution In UP, India

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Today’s Times of India (1 November 2016) had this to say about atmospheric pollution in Noida: ‘Noida Air 9 Times Beyond Safe Limits.

(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/noida/Noida-air-9-times-beyond-safe-limit/articleshow/55170600.cms.

I was not shocked when I read this, to be honest. It simply had to happen. Just look around you in UP. No one seems to be doing anything about pollution. We are either passive spectators or carelessly contributing to it. Garbage is burnt daily all over UP with impunity. Immersions of dead bodies and holy idols into rivers happen daily and all through the year. Every Diwali, in spite of so many campaigns, millions of polluting crackers are burnt.

Governments must remember that without public involvement, anti-pollution measures will have no meaning whatsoever.  There seems to be a major disconnect here in UP and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav needs to steer his state out of useless politics and engage his people in more constructive activities.

Since I pass through Ghaziabad and Noida daily on my way to work, I feel concerned and writing this piece is my way of doing my bit for this situation as a writer. Take a close look at the pic above and you will understand what I mean.

Isn’t it sad, the way we vandalize our environment and let poor animals search for food in the ashes we leave behind?

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Sunset @ A Junction

At Uttam Nagar Traffic Light, West Delhi, India…

For one moment, the traffic stood still. The Metro rails paused to catch their breath and the pedestrians scurried about. But the Sun continued, relentlessly, its daily parade with great fanfare in its lovely orange attire…

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Africans In India, Indians in Africa

Text: Jasbir Chatterjee; Photography: Jasbir Chatterjee

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In 1977, my father, a Sainik School Maths teacher, got a job offer he had always dreamed about.  It was a contractual foreign assignment to work as a Senior Education Officer in a secondary school in Nigeria. Like him, hundreds of other Indians also got the chance around that time to work in a foreign country for a better tomorrow for themselves and their families.

This project came into existence after an agreement was reached between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Central Government of India.  Nigeria, at that time, was an oil-rich nation and was earning very well, since oil commanded a good price in the international market in those days. But it did not have enough skilled manpower. India, on the other hand, needed both oil and foreign exchange to fuel its growing economy. Through this arrangement, Nigeria and India entered into a symbiotic relationship by providing each other the resources they needed the most at a reasonable price. Nigeria got skilled labor while India got fuel and the precious foreign exchange. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister at that time. My father says that in spite of all those horrible things she did later as a dictatorial leader, he will always be grateful to her for indirectly providing him an opportunity to lead a better life. . .

Our stay from 1977 – 1984 in Orlu, Imo State, Nigeria, was, I would say a good experience in an overall sense, in spite of many problems such as no running water, rampant corruption, long power cuts, often for months, etc, etc. The people among whom we lived, were always very nice and warm. Some of them I still remember; Perpetua, Sister Emmanuela (my English teacher in the Girls’ secondary school I studied in), Brother Bernard, Brother Superior of the nearby Marist Brothers’ Novitiate, Mr. Duru and his family, etc, etc. Thoughts of them fill me with joy and happiness and I hope they are well and getting on nicely. They often suggested that we settle down in Nigeria forever.

During our stay in Nigeria, my Mom got the chance to start working again as a Nurse after having taken a break of 10 years while my sister and I were growing up. We had a huge garden at the back of our house where we grew lots of Indian vegetables such as mint, cauliflower, zucchini, pumpkin, lady finger, etc, etc. There were lots of useful trees too, like mango, guava, lemon, drumstick.

But, unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. As soon as the 80s began, Nigeria’s oil income started declining as there was oil glut in the market. With hardly any indigenous industries to fall back upon, a dictatorial and corrupt regime, and oil the only commodity that could be exported, the country seemed to be headed on a suicidal mission. The government often didn’t have money to pay salaries. People started getting restless and rioting began. It was no longer safe and there was no point in staying on.

But prior to 1982, we had visited Delhi in 1980 also. My parents were shocked to find that  the hard-earned money that they had remitted to India in the care of my cousin brother for purchase of a DDA flat was all embezzled away into his family business and for building his own house! In those days, direct funds transfer facilities like Paytm were not available and there was a lot of red-tapism in government departments. That’s why my parents were compelled to trust a family member and ask him to complete the basic paperwork. A house of our own in Delhi was a long cherised dream of my parents and at that stage of their lives, to their great disappointment, it appeared that it would never be fulfilled during their lifetime. After a lot of threats by my Dad and tears shed by my Mom, arrangements were finally made for him to deposit a fixed amount into a savings account specially set up for this purpose. Last 2 installments were never paid.

It was a terrible blow and turned both my parents into complete nervous wrecks. They had to take psychiatric treatment including electric shocks from Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi. With great difficulty, they managed to admit me into S.S. Mota Singh School, Janakpuri, Delhi. Since the school had no hostel facility, I had to stay with my relatives. My Mom, Dad, and sister returned to Nigeria and I carried on with my studies.

The period 1982-1984 that I spent away from my parents was the blackest period of my life. A letter of mine used to take 2 months to reach them and their reply took another  2 months to reach me. No other means of communication was available. Every time I try to write about this phase of my life, my hands shake and I give up in despair.

But, as I mentioned earlier, nothing lasts forever. In 1984, by God’s grace, I passed my 12th class exam with flying colors and I got admission very easily into Delhi University. About 4 months later, my parents and sister picked up their things in Nigeria and returned to Delhi for good.

And then, finally, about one week prior to November 1984 Sikhs’ massacre, we sat in our own house in Delhi for the first time. While we talked to each other excitedly, our voices echoed inside the house  with bare walls, no furniture, and very few utensils. But it was a great moment. It felt really wonderful to be together again like before. My father had taken us to Nigeria with only $20 in his wallet, for that was the maximum allowed by the government. But this time, we had enough to be able to live on our own without any help. We followed a very frugal lifestyle and we felt financially secure for the next 2 years. My college education and my sister’s school expenses were also taken care of easily.

At the end of those 2 years, however, my father realized that we needed additional sources of income.  So he began conducting Math tuitions and my Mom took up a job in a local charitable hospital. A few years later, my father became the most sought-after Maths tutor in West Delhi. Soon everything became smooth and we were reasonably prosperous, as prosperous as a middle-class family which has gone through the 1947 partition trauma can be.

What I mean to say is that we as a family will always be grateful to Nigeria and all those wonderful people we interacted with during our stay there for the kind of life we lead in Delhi at present. Things would have been certainly quite different, had that posting not come when it did.

Now let’s come back to 2016. This time, my family and I are on the other side of the fence. We are no longer foreigners and we come across many Africans including Nigerians walking around on the streets of Delhi and inside Metro trains, chatting and laughing. I will be honest and say that a sight of them fills me with fear, distrust, suspicion, and apprehension. It’s not because I am a racist. I have nothing against black skin. There are so many Indians with black skin anyway and India is a heterogeneous country with so many languages, colors, cultures, and tradition. We Indians are used to living with differences.

I feel scared because these people, excluding students and embassy persons, are not employed in any legitimate jobs, yet they move around in a carefree manner, eating, drinking, and shopping.  I wonder where they get their money from. Often stories of drug hauls and prostitution rackets are reported on TV and in the newspapers and the culprits are generally African nationals. So it’s not a matter of racism; it’s actually all about safety and security.

About 2 years ago, while walking in a shopping center,  I came across a little child, about 8 or 10, writhing in pain on the floor outside a liquor shop with a bottle in his hand while a young African guy stood by watching with an expressionless face. It was obvious that the child had been turned into a drug addict and was in pain because he was unable to get the dose he took daily…

We read a lot of allegations these days in the newspapers about racist behavior by locals towards Africans. But no one looks for the root cause. Let me make it clear that I am absolutely against all forms of violence. But our safety lies in our own hands. Instead of quietly letting drugs business survive and demanding routine haftas from them, our law enforcement agencies must ensure that foreigners engaged in illegitimate businesses be repatriated to their respective nations.

But I guess, things will change for the better as time goes by. Look at this video of a young boy dancing to the Hindi song ‘Chittiyan Kalaiyan.’ This is my favorite and I love to see it again and again. Africans have music and song mixed right inside their blood. It comes so naturally to them. They have that chutzpah which you won’t find in any other race when it comes to dance and music…

 

And here is one more video that I discovered recently. It’s absolutely delightful.

Now here are some pics from our days in Nigeria. They are a bit hazy since they have been clicked from old photos preserved inside photo albums. They make up some of our best memories as foreigners. My pet name is Rosy and the card below is addressed to me…

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My younger sister is dressed here in Igbo attire. She had become quite fluent in that language…

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This is my sister Daljeet (Dimpy)’s 9th birthday…

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This photo was originally clicked on 4th March 1981 (my 15th birthday). I am standing here right in the front in a striped T-shirt and jeans…

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Here we are with my Dad’s school (Bishop Shanahan Sec. School) principal Mr. Duru and his family…

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Here my sister and I are with Perpetua (part of Mr. Duru’s extended family; she was their family cook also).

 

 

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With our missionary neighbors, Brother Bernard and his colleagues, Marist Brothers’ Novitiate..

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With a friend…

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With neighbors…

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My sister with Mr. Duru’s youngest daughter Ogechi..

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Mr. Duru’s children…they were our next door neighbors. I clicked this pic on the stairs of their porch…(starting from top, left, Maureen, Emeka, Kelechi, can’t remember the next one’s name, Ogechi…)

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My Mom as Nurse in Nkwerre Health Center, holding a child who had come in for vaccination…

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My Mom with her colleagues…

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My Mom on her way to work…My Dad used to drive this car, Peugeot 304, IM417D

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My sister Daljeet standing on the stairs of Bishop Shanahan school in the evening…

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My parents sitting at the back of our house, about to leave for an outing…

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My parents and sister in the front of our house. The Marigold plants that you see in this pic were planted by me…

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My parents…

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My Dad with his Indian friends at a get-together in Owerri, Nigeria…

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Mom and sister in the Bishop Shanahan School Campus, just outside our house…

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My sister (in red frock) and I (green skirt and top) are here with a few Indian children whom we met at a get-together in Owerri…

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With Dr. Torralbas (Filipino doctor) in Dr. Emezie’s Hospital, Orlu…

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Our house inside  Bishop Shanahan School campus…

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On 15 May 2016, we celebrated my parents’ 52nd marriage anniversary and I got the opportunity to dance a little bit like a Nigerian. https://youtu.be/27k_JD0f_rs