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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Totally Taiwan

When I first landed in Taiwan, I didn't realise I would be entering a world where the people are actually refreshingly pleasant.
It has been a welcome change to meet people who aren't too shy to greet you with delight.
A fellow traveller was embarassed when a Taiwanese acquaintance hugged her tightly and squealed with delight when she noticed a familiar face among the media present at an event. We are unaccustomed to wearing our feelings on our faces.


The people here don't give a second thought and automatically offer a wide smile if you offer one in return. I've tested this more than once in the elevators and the streets of Taipei. A gentleman was counting down the floors with his young son and they grinned when I made small talk and offered to share names in broken English.
Somewhere along the way, the rest of us have forgotten common compassion for fellow beings. It doesn't surprise me that Taiwanese people choose to live, for the most part, fairly simplistic lives. The rush of the streets aren't interspersed with relentless honking. People aren't yelling in the streets or knocking each other off the sidewalk in an attempt to be the first in line. 

There were a few vendors at the night market who were unncessarily rude for no reason other than the fact that they wanted to make a quick sale. They can be forgiven for dealing with relentless hours of haggling customers.

 
True, I've not yet spent too much time here yet and I guess I can relish the fact that I'm the gullible tourist. But when the general public goes out of their way to call us 'beautiful' no matter how unkempt one may appear, there is a feeling of warmth that fills your soul and stays with you, long after you've moved on. 


Monday, 17 November 2014

Will get by with a little help from my friends.

Creating a page at the behest of my dear friend who is getting, (to use his own words) forgetful.

These are the times that seem like only a few moments ago. We were young (er), more carefree and somehow didn't have as many errands to run as we do now.

Who can forget the times Satish took a one hour train ride from Charni Road to Borivali, just to sleep in the A.C. room at Betty Apartments.

The time we had a party in the house and all the boys were keeping us locked out of the said A.C. room. Jean Saldanha had the ingenious idea to shut off the main electricity switch forcing everyone to come out of their pleasant cool room.Only to be locked outdoors when the lights were turned back on.

I have a lot more stories to write but deadlines are pulling me in another directions. Do implore you to share your anecdotes here.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Act of violence

A few weeks ago, my cousin suggested we watch Mardaani, the latest movie staring Rani Mukherji. Having viewed a few of the posters of the film, I presumed it would be all too violent. A woman trying to become a man to survive. Rather reluctantly I found myself buying tickets to the show and yes, I was right, the film was violent. But what I also saw on screen was a woman who was thankfully not trying to cut her hair and look more like a man (Rani has donned a role of a male in the past and flopped miserably) Won't blame you if you don't remember her role in Dil bole hadippa.

This movie was different. A slick production, a relatively new cast. There were scenes in this new film that had me cringe in my seat. Some of the revenge was of course predictable as with most Hindi films. Apart from all the regular bits were moments of complete helplessness carried out with acute depth. I'm no Anupama Chopra but in my view, the film broached a lot of uncomfortable topics in a modern Indian woman's life. The lone battle for justice. The threats from goons.

Though Rani did a convincing role, I didn't buy the idea that a woman officer like Rani could exist in today's real world. I hope I am wrong. Perhaps the film director is putting it out there like fodder for the masses. That women may take up these tough roles. We ought to. But don't get me wrong, I'm not for a moment suggesting we take up guns and go on a rampage.
That's the point in the film where I felt a little sensitivity was needed. One cannot take the law into one's hands. It is simply wrong.

The villain was also a refreshing role played by a newcomer. He didn't have oodles of make up and still had dark moments at many points in the film.What's more he was an average middle class guy. With a sinister hobby.

Why does this warrant a blog post, you may wonder. I am not just a writer but also a mother. For me violence towards children is particularly bothersome. It should ideally bother more people but we aren't so worried about the most vulnerable in our society. It horrifies me to know that children are bought and sold without a second thought. Their innocence denied. Their very existence questioned.

What could mere mortals like us do? Well, we could speak up. We don't need to resort to violence but yes we could let our voices be heard. So what if you haven't given birth to a child? I don't have the answer.

Perhaps like the ALS ice bucket challenge we can come up with something creative to generate publicity on sex trafficking. Wishful thinking. I bet ice bucket challenge haters thought so too. At last count, the drive had collected a significant amount in donations.

We can do a lot. All it takes is determination.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Summer escapades



Most people try the detox route. They will flush out their negative toxins in their system by eating and drinking clean for a stipulated amount of time. To me, a holiday is the perfect escape from monotony. A way to recharge my batteries. Add a live concert of some of the leading music legends of all time, and the mix is a heady concoction that provides an adrenaline rush like no other.

Seven year old Daniel, puts down his thoughts on what has made this Canada holiday memorable. I think I should follow suit. There are about a million wonderful emotions that cross my mind. Reading Daniel's progress report from his short swim course is one of them. Gathering the family and seniors and singing at Jackie and Ajit's house is another. Simply spending time with my sister and her wonderful family probably tops the list.

I've enjoyed watching the young cousins get to know each other. The sound of their laughter, play and complaints fill our ears. It reminds me of my own childhood days, playing in the houses of my aunts and uncles. Your cousins are after all your first best friends and foes. Browsing through the photographs of this trip puts a smile on my face. It makes all the hassle of the visa work, worth it.

As we reluctantly pack our bags to head home, there is sadness that the holiday is coming to a close. There is also the looming dread over the mundane-ness that will meet us on the other side. Oh well, all good things must come to an end. One can hope that the next break will be just as memorable.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ahlan wa sahlan

Renewed and re-energised. Not only did we have six exciting days in Jordan -- we had them to ourselves. Just the husband and myself. Almost unbelievable. Nights under the stars. Watching the sunset. Fighting over inconsequential matters. Basking in the comfort that this alone time is temporary.

Why must couples with children have to explain that they need some time to themselves? Do we give up that right the moment we don the role of parenthood? While my children merrily go on about their own holiday in the embrace of doting grandparents and family members, I find it hard to shrug off the guilt of separation.

It is remarkable how every smiling child has the power to remind me of my own children. It took a seven year old Bedouin boy just a moment to win my heart over. Never mind that his mule, named Micheal Jackson was equally amusing. Three year old Anna, with her precious smile and innocence reminded me of my own little princess.

Being alone sometimes isn't all that its cracked up to be. I mean all alone. There are only so many pedicures you can do. Even 'How I met your mother' gets repititive. Once back in mommy land, I know I will have endless fantasies of an ounce of peace and quiet. For the moment I'm just waiting to for those hugs of reassurance that only my own small persons can provide. 

Image: The stunning Monastery at Petra carved out of rock. It looks even better as the light changes. Believed to take 800 steps to reach, mules often help those like myself who can't take the heat and the climb all at the same time. The view of the majestic Monastery is a reward in itself. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Had to share.

http://radianceandmist.tumblr.com/post/48790931935



“After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
Questions.
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.


Thursday, 25 April 2013



How I wonder what you are?

A young boy named Mohammed once told me, “Didi, (sister) can you give your phone number?” Though we had spent the whole day together, I must admit I was very reluctant to share my phone number with my new friend. “Why do you want it, Mohammed?” I asked, hesitatingly. “Because when I am in trouble at least I can call you. didi. The police, beat us every time and they ask for money when we have none so I sometimes don’t know whom to call.”
Mohammed was a street child. Even using that term to address him seems awkward to me now, so many years later. He was attending a social service event called ‘Project Care’ that we used to host for children from organisations all over Bombay, around Christmas time. 100 children were offered a hearty meal and a visit to a zoo or park to ring in the spirit of giving.
As a young college goer at the time, meeting boys like Mohammed on Bombay’s streets was not new to me. I still see a lot of children begging for money and often harassing people for spare change. As a lecturer told us, “After a point we become immune to the sight of street children begging on the road.”
Mohammed  was not just another face in the crowd. He had spent the entire day wondering if he could muster up the courage to ask for my number. Since I was pre warned that we should avoid getting too personal with the children attending the event, I somehow changed the topic and heeded his request.
I often wonder about Mohammed and where he might be today. When we met, he used to sell newspapers to make a few Rupees. Most days he was lucky to escape being beaten by anyone in authority for loitering about. He did not have a roof over his head or speak of parents or a family and yet he called me his sister, so I still feel somewhat responsible for him.  He was the epitome of street smart and won the hearts of all the organisers that day. I hope that all the harsh realities of life didn’t take him to the wrong side of the law.
The recent horrific cases that have emerged out of my home country have left me numb. Not only are the crimes more ghastly, they are increasingly against young children. Sure we’ve watched Slumdog Millionaire but honey, that’s just the tip of the murk-filled dirt pit. Children in India and I’m sure in many countries around the world, are mistreated and manipulated in all kinds of gruesome ways.  
What happens when you violate a child’s world? Well not only have you scared an innocent’s life for the rest of its days, you have also opened a can or ugly worms, wreaking havoc for his or her future. Violating a child sexually not only brings on untold humiliation to the child it can cause volumes of mistrust issues.
I guess you may noticed I have refrained from using the four letter word that begins with R and ends in E. I am sure you can fill in the blanks. There is enough of newsreel and footage on the subject in the past few months to make the issue unforgettable.  Many in my profession have shown utter disrespect for the rights of privacy, which like it or not, is critical to the victims as much as to the perpetrators of these crimes. If you want to place hoodies on those who have committed these crimes, at least prevent the victims from further victimisation. 

Like a diamond in the sky

The familiar nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ isn’t merely a repetitive anthem that most children sing. It also speaks of the endless wonder in their young minds. Especially children who have no little to call their own, the least we can attribute to them is their own bodies. The monsters aren’t living across the shore. They are in our houses. They come up when we look at vulgar images of children and ask them to do things that children are not meant to do. Lets clean up our own backyard before claiming that one city is bad and another worse. In case we’ve forgotten what it was to be child like, just talk to someone who’s childhood like Mohammad’s was taken away too soon. 

Image taken at Shelter, Don Bosco Khandala, India. Shelter is a drug rehabilitation home for young boys. The sign, reads: I will become someone and then go home.