Tag Archives: India

Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

I came across this family in the Delhi Metro on 19 May 2019. The third child, judging by the tiny feet protruding through the mother’s sari pallu, was still a little baby.

I was a bit shocked and amused when I noticed that the father was neither illiterate nor middle-aged.

Hum do-hamare-do (we-two-our-two) campaign rigorously pursued by the government a few years ago, it seems, didn’t touch them at all.

This family is, in fact, one of the millions of literate families in India which, instead of being role models, have been breeding through generations like dogs.

With the country already teeming with millions of toddlers demanding far too many precious resources, what do you expect the governments to do? Irrespective of whichever political party is in power, scarcity of resources will always nullify every attempt by every government to improve the overall living standards of people.

The present government at the center is in power for the second time with a stronger mandate. It has no excuse for populism and must do what the country needs.

Instead of reservations, what the country needs really is an aggressive population control, a hum-do-hamara-ek (we-two-our-one).

We are right now the proverbial ship with a hole at its base.

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A Family Trip





On the night of 28 February 2019, my family and I began our 4-day journey to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer from Delhi Cantonment Railway Station.


I had lots of apprehensions even before we began. But I didn’t want to be a spoilsport, so I just flowed along with the tide.

Our tour of Jaisalmer included a day of Jeep and camel safari in the sand dunes followed by a night in an outdoor camp; not really my idea of an ideal holiday, to be honest, especially after barely recovering from a severe back injury from a fall on the stairs at home.

All the planning and execution was done by my husband Sukhangshu, right down to the smallest detail. It was meant to be a birthday gift for both of us (his 2nd March, mine 4th March).

My daughter Suroshri, on the other hand, was super excited and looked forward to it. As they say in Africa, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Our previous visit to Rajasthan was in around 2013 for a safari tour in the jungle of Ranthambore. We were part of a big group of friends and family members. One of them, Amitabh Bose, a highly accomplished photographer, clicked lots of gorgeous pics of the lovely landscape and all those exotic plants and animals. But things became awry for me when we were half way through. I ended up writing a poem about it. URL:
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-trip-11/?m=0.

I was super worried this time and I took extra precautions. I drank only mineral water, avoided food items that don’t suit me, such as citrus fruits and dairy products, and always used hand sanitizer before popping anything into my mouth. While I was packing my things, Sukhangshu reminded me to keep a scarf “to protect from sand.”

Here is a day-wise account.

28 February 2019: Both the railway station and the train’s washroom appeared to be much cleaner this time. Around midnight, I woke up suddenly to find Sukhangshu wide awake. He told me that the train door kept opening and it was raining outside. He was shivering. We had 2 sleeping bags only. Suroshri was inside one and I was using the other. I quickly came out of my sleeping bag and I made him slip into it. We were in this together and couldn’t afford to have him falling sick. That won’t do, I thought.

While Sukhangshu slept, I lay down on the other berth and tried all the different ways possible to keep myself warm. Thrusting my legs into a backpack, wrapping myself in a shawl, etc, etc. When nothing worked, I sat up and tried to distract myself by looking out of the window, as the light was too dim for reading and writing. Hmmm, so another Ranthambore lay ahead, I thought, with dark clouds gathering in my mind…

I was quite unaware that Suroshri had been watching me. Like a loving, guardian angel, she quietly came down and wrapped her sleeping bag around the two of us. She thrust a ear plug into my ear and tried to make me watch a movie with her on her mobile phone. That was how we managed and the night passed peacefully.

Around 5 AM, the chaiwallahs came in and we felt better after having some chai…

Later on, Suroshri showed me the pic she clicked with her cellphone of me before coming down…See below.



1 March 2019: We reached Jodhpur around 10 AM. The sun was shining brightly and it was no longer very chilly.

While climbing the stairs, my gaze fell on the Tricolor standing tall within the station premises. It was fluttering merrily in the clear, blue sky with gay abandon. And then I saw a large group of people sporting pink turbans, colorful dresses, and garlands of Marigold flowers around their necks with red tilak on their foreheads moving slowly towards the exit. They were apparently on their way to a wedding. They were laughing and chatting. It was all a very heady combo indeed, the blue sky, the huge flag dancing joyfully with the breeze, the red tilaks, and the marigold garlands. I could not help stopping by to admire the scene and click lots of pics. I could already feel my urban blues evaporating from my tired body. When I finally caught up with Sukhangshu and Suroshri impatiently waiting for me ahead, they smiled and had this to say.

“You have already taken off, Jasbir, and our tour hasn’t even begun.”

“Mom, don’t wander like this alone. You may get lost.”

That felt nice. Suroshri has grown up now, I reminded myself.

That morning, we checked into the Jodhpur Railway Station dormitory where we had a prior booking. We were the only ones around, so we had enough space and privacy. It was clean and tidy too. The washroom didn’t have a geyser, though, but the water that emerged from the tap was warm.

After a quick bath, which was quite refreshing, we had our breakfast at the Station’s restaurant located just right next to our dormitory. The food was very tasty and very reasonably priced. A plate each of alu-parantha, bread-omlette, and toasted bread with two cups of tea and a cup of coffee got us a bill of just Rs.107!

Immediately after breakfast, we re-packed our suitcases and parked them in the locker room. Finally, around 12:30 PM, we were ready for our Jodhpur tour. Our autowallah doubled up as our guide. Jodhpur is not a very big city like Delhi and we managed to see all the major attractions in one day.

We visited the Mehrangarh Fort museum, Umaid Palace, Jaswant Thada, and the huge garden nearby. It’s a great wonder indeed that more than 1000 years ago, people managed to create such strong, majestic buildings and works of art with lasting value without any access to the kind of technology we have now.

On our way back to the railway station, we  had our lunch and did some shopping. We bought a Rajasthani quilt too, which is well-known for being warm, lightweight, and easily foldable. We had another journey ahead of us at night and we couldn’t afford to shiver again like last time.

Here are some of our Jodhpur pics. They were clicked by Sukhangshu. Mine got accidentally deleted because of insufficient memory.




 































After returning to our dormitory room at the railway station, we rested for a while and had our dinner later at the station restaurant. Around 11:30 PM, we were inside the train on our way to Jaisalmer.

Most of our co-passengers, we discovered, were tourists. One girl casually told her group that all the berths were dusty and she dusted hers with a newspaper. I rubbed my forefinger on my berth and I found that she was right. That was enough to give me a sense of impending doom. Apart from getting tossed about on a jeep and a camel, I now had an additional worry about falling severely sick again because of dust allergy. But there was obviously no point in talking about it now. Better to cross the bridge when we reach it, I told myself. So, with a strong determination, I kicked all the negative thoughts aside and let God handle this…I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

2 March 2019: I woke up all of a sudden with a start. I thought I had gone to bed only five minutes ago! The train was still. People were walking slowly with shuffling feet and pushing their luggage out. I heard Sukhangshu murmuring, “We’ve reached Jaisalmer. It’s 7 AM.”

I quickly snapped out of the sleeping bag and exclaimed, “But I need to go to the washroom first.”

“Don’t worry. The train will stand here for a while. Go ahead, but come soon.”

When I returned, I was relieved to see our things all rolled up and properly packed. Five minutes later, we were ready to move out.

We boarded a pre-booked cab at the station and reached our hotel (Desert Pride) in less than 15 minutes. Our room was quite clean, not at all dusty as I had imagined.

While reading the newspapers and having our morning tea, Suroshri remarked, “Mom, you forgot something. It’s Papa’s birthday today.”

Oh dear, how silly of me, I thought. It was the first time that we were away from home on our birthdays and everything was topsy-turvy. Every moment held a big surprise.

Suroshri and I hugged and kissed Sukhangshu. It was his turn that day to gather all the love and best wishes.

After changing into fresh clothes, we stepped out for our Jaisalmer tour. Sukhangshu asked our cab wallah to drive us first to a restaurant for breakfast and then to all the places we were going to visit that day. We kept our luggage in the boot as we were going to need it at the camp at night.

To my pleasant surprise, Jaisalmer turned out to be a very picturesque town with huge forts and lots of ancient, beautiful works of art lurking in every corner. Certainly not a dusty, irritating town that I imagined it would be! I soon realized that desert sand, unlike dust, doesn’t stick anywhere, not even to clothes. So it doesn’t cause any harm and you can easily shake it off from wherever it is.

The people in Jaisalmer too are very nice, tourist-friendly, and honest. While sightseeing inside the Jain Temple, I forgot to pick up my purse from one of the alcoves where I had kept it while listening to our guide. It contained a lot of valuables. I got it back from their office later with a gentle fatherly advice to “Be very careful while moving around in the city. Elsewhere you may not be so lucky.” Later, after returning to Delhi, we found one packet missing in our suitcase. It contained a jacket and a pair of Rajasthani jutties. We called up at Desert Pride and they told us that, yes, they found it in our room and would courier it. We received it in less than a week’s time…

From the Fort area, we came to the desert camp, where we were given a ceremonial welcome in the typical Rajasthani style. It felt very good indeed, refreshingly different from an uncaring Delhi. From here, we headed to the place from where our safari was to begin.

Not only did I pass through the jeep and camel safari with flying colors, to my great surprise, I had a great time dancing on the dunes too. Sukhangshu made a video of it. Click here and watch it. https://youtu.be/GpcsKgLEegA

We returned to our camp by sunset. We stepped out of our tent later for the main attraction, the Rajasthani Folk Cultural Program. It was very cold outside, but we managed to stay put because of the continuous flow of hot tea and snacks. The program, however, ended sooner than usual because it was about to rain. After a quick dinner, we  returned to our tent. It had become chillier than before, so we asked the staff for additional blankets.

All through the night, the rain lashed on our tent mercilessly and it kept on getting colder and colder. When I woke up around 3 AM to go to the toilet, I discovered that the electricity supply was off. So I had to switch on my mobile phone torch, which I had fortuitously placed close by. When I returned, I was alarmed to find a small patch of moisture on the tent’s ceiling. I wondered if we were going to get drenched very soon and I went back to bed with my nerves on tenterhooks, ready to scream with the fall of the very first drop of water. But, thank God, nothing of the sort happened.

3 March: Just before sunrise, the rain stopped, although it was still very cloudy and chilly.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the hospitality standards reasonably good in spite of the bad weather and difficult conditions. We got our morning tea on time and the buffet breakfast, though cold, was very delicious. It was a typical Rajasthani breakfast consisting of poha, pooris, and potato gravy. It was so good that I had to  remind myself to not overeat. Around 11 AM, we were back at Desert Pride.

This time, we got ready at a very leisurely pace as we were close to the end of our tour. Around lunch time, we strolled to a nearby restaurant, where Suroshri and Sukhangshu tried out the local Rajasthani non-veg food. I stuck to the simple vegetarian stuff as usual.

From here, we proceeded to the Gadisur Lake, where we had a boat ride. Sukhangshu decided that we would row the boat on our own. We found the place breathtakingly beautiful and we had a great time humming our favorite tunes while the boat moved on the placid lake.

Here also, we had a mini adventure. Another boatman had been whistling and trying to come close to our boat. We thought he was perhaps one of those touts who try to extort money from tourists. So we tried to row the boat away from him towards land on the opposite side.

Suddenly there was a loud sound and our boat refused to move. My heart skipped a beat. Were we about to go down the Titanic way? I wondered. Sukhangshu smiled and said, “Don’t worry. Look at those birds. Half of their legs are outside water. We won’t sink.”

He was right.  The whistling boatman rushed to our side and said, “You guys refused to listen and are now too far into the shallow part of the lake. You will have to get your boat pushed back now. No other way out.”

We agreed. When our boat started moving again, he asked for some money as his fees and we gladly paid him.

On our way back to Desert Pride, we did some shopping for some clothes and jewellery. We did some more sightseeing and bought some snacks too, including the famous Rajasthan kachoris fresh out of the karahi. They taste better after cooling down. We had some kachoris with tea at a local tea stall and later at our hotel. We felt full and didn’t feel like having any dinner.

At around 12 AM, we boarded the train from Jaisalmer Railway Station to Delhi. While moving out of Desert Pride in the cab, we got a glimpse of the Jaisalmer Fort glowing with a golden light under a starlit sky. It looked ethereal. Satyajit Ray’s detective film Sonar Killa was inspired from Jaisalmer Fort.

4 March, 12:30 AM: The train was moving now on its way to Delhi, our home. It was the first time in my life that I celebrated my birthday at the stroke of midnight! We kept the cake part for home and had pastries, etc, in the train.

Here are a few random clicks from Jaisalmer.


 

 

 

                    
Walking in my husband’s and daughter’s footsteps…
               
At the camp…







     

And now, here are some pics from Suroshri’s collection.

Jodhpur:




At Jodhpur Railway Station restaurant, at breakfast





















Jaisalmer:






Camp Dinner…


View from a restaurant




Inside the museum




In the bazaar















Birthday celebration at Jaisalmer Railway Station at the stroke of midnight…



And finally, here’s our home-coming celebration, after reaching at late night of 4 March 2019…with birthday cake and food from outside…  


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I was, to my great surprise, fit enough next morning to go to office. I shared some of the birthday cake with my office pals as well…

Well, all is well that ends well, isn’t it?

Next time, when Sukhangshu plans another trip like this one, I am sure I would be very excited about it.☺️

 

All About A Shawl

There are certain things that stay young forever, irrespective of their ageing users. This shawl, for instance.

I bought it in 1991 for Rs.150 from the Gujarat Pavilion at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan during its Annual World Trade Fair. It was something I felt very proud of at that time as I have never been a very good shopper who manages to get wonderful things at reasonable prices.

Since then, this shawl has undergone several washings, often with very harsh detergents. Yet it remains as fresh, soft, and warm as it was when I first bought it.

Every winter I take it out along with the other shawls which are trendier, thicker, warmer, and costlier. But I find myself using only this one at home. Why, you might ask.

Well, it reminds me of my childhood spent in Gujarat; the sandy beach on which I played; the salty taste of raw groundnuts that spilled over from the huge ships far away and got deposited on the shore by the huge, foamy waves; the picnics my family and I enjoyed outside the club room at Sainik School campus, Balachadi, Jamnagar, just a few yards away from the Arabian Sea beach…

Our 26th…



Photography done by attendees…

Our 26th wedding anniversary on 18 December 2018 turned out to be an extremely memorable occasion, thanks to the meticulous planning and execution of the event by my husband Sukhangshu. Even the invitation format, a specially created video sent through Whatsapp, was specially designed by him with great care and patience. It took him several days to complete it. It was, indeed, a labor of love…And all I had to do was dress up well and be happy and gay on the D-day; which is really the easiest thing to do when there’s love everywhere!

Here is the link. https://youtu.be/Ba_KAh9lK6A

We were completely overwhelmed with the huge amount of love, best wishes, and blessings we received from all our near and dear ones. We felt we were the world’s luckiest couple.

Our happiness would have been, however, more complete if my Mom and Sukhangshu’s parents had also been around to bless us.

Apart from the all powerful Lord Almighty without whom nothing is possible, our special thanks go to Suroshri, Dad, Dimpy, Sonal, Babuni, Prashant, Mani, her little daughter, Supratika, Shampa, Muni, Babu, Rakhi, Kamal, Anubha, Abhirbhav, Ananya, Ashok Da, Titu Di, and Piyush for being present and helping in making our special day more special…

This gorgeous sari that I am wearing in all the pics was a gift from Sukhangshu. He bought it about a year ago from Bangladesh during one of his theater tours.

Sukhangshu’s black kurta was gifted to him by our daughter Suroshri from her first salary.  It is something that makes us both feel very happy and proud of her.

I didn’t want to waste my previous time in a beauty parlour, so Shampa, an accomplished theater artist, tied my bun in a very stylish juda and put white and red flowers into it to match with my garland that I would wear later…

Here are some more pics.

Shampa…Helping me get ready…




My jooda…Amazingly artistic, isn’t it? And I thought my hair was too thin for a bun!




With Babuni…








Shampa and I, after getting ready…




Jaimala (garlands exchange) ceremony…






Going round the holy fire 7 times, a smaller version this time…Babuni played the Shankh…






Blessings from Dad…




With Dimpy, Dad…Missing you, Mom…







































Babuni and Supratika were the first to arrive and came in the morning itself. This pink shawl that I am wearing was gifted to me by Babuni. It remains my favorite till date.




In preparation for our 26th Special Night…



About 40 days later, I sprinkled the dried up petals from my gajra and our garlands over empty flower pots. Let’s see what comes out of them; something very nice, I am sure because spring is just round the corner…

This pic reminds me of my poem “The Withered Petals.” Link: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-withered-petals/

This time, the petals, by God’s grace, are from a happy, fulfilled life…









Remembering Mom – Part II

Beant Kaur

(18 Nov. 1939 – 16 Nov. 2017)

These 2 pics are of Mom in around 1978 in Nigeria as Lady Health Sister.

On 16 November 2018, after completion of prayers, my Dad, sister and I walked quietly out of the C-Block, Vikaspuri Gurdwara.

It was one of those solemn occasions which throws you into a peculiar mood. You are neither happy nor sad.

We couldn’t be sad because in death exactly a year ago, my Mom got a permanent relief from a worn-out, ailing body.

We couldn’t be happy either because it reminded us once again of an irreplaceable vacuum in our lives, of the loss of a brave, constantly inspiring soul.

This Gurdwara too has a special significance for us because Mom gave so much of herself to it.

Our home-warming prayer rituals after we moved from Nigeria to our own house in Vikaspuri in 1984 were performed through this Gurudwara. It was a dream come true for Mom in particular as she had struggled so much all through life, beginning from the childhood trauma of partition in 1947 and subsequent arrival in Delhi as a refugee.

Later on, after Mom quit her regular job in around 2000, she spent her last few years of active duty in this Gurdwara as their Medical Services Coordinator. She always believed that the best way to worship God is through service to humanity.

And then finally, when Mom expired, all her death rituals were completed by Bhaijis of this Gurdwara.

Here are some pics of the Gurdwara and the Medical Center.

Well, life must go on…Living must go on living and dead souls have to be at peace in their new homes.

Mom, rest in peace and continue to shower your blessings on us…

Awards And Recognition

Recognition is a wily, tricky little thing.

Some people get it so easily that it goes to their heads. They make mistakes and their short-lived euphoria soon gives way to crippling frustration.

And some people achieve recognition the harder way; after a lot of struggle, pain, and misery. By then they become so inured and so deeply humbled that recognition loses its sheen. They remain grounded and keep adding new milestones through sheer will-power and self-motivation. I consider myself lucky to belong to this second category.

On 21st September 2018, I participated in Volkswagen’s Sarvottam Skill Championship for dealerships in their Gurgaon Training Center as a Lead CR, Sales. It was as per prior nomination by my dealership.

Although my colleagues said that I was a strong contender because of my long experience, I personally had no expectations whatsoever as my association with Volkswagen so far had been for only last 6 months. I was there only to enjoy the learning experience.

A customer care manager’s job in a car dealership is, in fact, one of the most thankless ones in this world. You hardly ever get any appreciation for all those little things you do quietly behind the scenes that enable the other departments in achieving their targets and walking away with all the awards and applause. When you slave like that for almost 2 decades in a highly male-dominated environment, you kind of lose all interest in awards and you just learn to take life as it comes.

It was with this nonchallant state of mind that I took part in all the different rounds of the CR Sales Skill contest.

The gold winner’s name for Sales CR profile was announced towards the end. I was completely taken aback when that name turned out to be mine. For the first time in my life, I was a gold medallist!

Here are the pics.

On my way home, even the evening sky carried a huge rainbow; specially for me, it seemed.

But, of course, no celebration is complete till you share it with your family and all those friends who stood with you through the tough days…..

I have now qualified for the National Round due in December 2018 in Pune and I hope my calmness of mind lasts through this event as well.

Do wish me good luck, dear readers. I need all the good wishes I can gather.

Leftovers from Valentine’s Day

Whether you like it or not, Valentine’s Day is here to stay in India. Though it is an imported festival, this, by itself, should not stop ultra-conservatives from savoring the wonderfully delicious feelings and sentiments it arouses. The idea of being the occupant of a special place in someone’s heart makes you feel tremendously valued. It makes you feel good, positive and the sheer joy of this feeling percolates into the other aspects of your life too…

If you haven’t already, just try giving a rose to someone you fancy and watch how that person’s face lights up with a huge smile or a naughty grin…

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…