Saturday, October 08, 2016

हम तो झोला उठा के चले,

Husband gave me a look of, "Simran,ja ji le apni zindagi" when my train chugged towards Dehradun and he took a flight to Chennai. I chose mountains to beaches. Spouses should give space to each other, literally!
Invoking my muses Mridula, Shivya nath and Writer's Block and many others I broke an imagenary coconut and unplanned my trip. I have decided to take things as they come. I had to go to Uttarkashi, but how, when and duration of the stay was not decided. Even return tickets were not booked.

Dehradun is home which does not recognise me now. Roads are better but Lichi orchards and canal are missing. Visited my college, met a dear friend who is teaching there and roamed about the Pultan Bazar, Astley Hall nand Rajpur Road, places Ruskin Bond mentioned in his award winning novel.

Travelling in mountains is a nightmare for those who suffer from motion sickness. My Uttarkashi trips are enjoyable, thanks to the good roads and the car my brother arranges for me. But he looked at me disdainfully when I asked him to drop me at the trekker (an 8 seater vehicle) stand. During the ride I got to hear Garhwali songs which I didn't like at all. I wished he had played the ones I love. I begged  the driver to play Kishor Kumar or Asha songs, but no luck. I enjoyed half of the journey, had tea, but after that the sickness began. I regretted for not listening to bro. Looking at the brighter side I thought that no dashing young man would have offered me a toffee if I were travelling and puking alone in a swanky car.

Mountain air cured me immediately when I got down at my stop. I crossed a bridge over the Ganges (Gangaji, this is how my people call her), walked a km with my backpack to reach home. 

Hiring a cab and going somewhere was the only way, only if I could have a local guy or a girl for the company. I thought of the travel writers/ bloggers who paint an alluring  picture of a place, garnish it with engaging anecdotes. It was intriguing that how they get right people in the remotest places who take them around. I could only pray to God, specially Shiva who was not away from me even for a second while I was loitering in the market. He was on the signboards, temples, names of the institutions, on the cars windscreen and behind the trucks. He has fulfilled my silly and na-jayaz wishes then this one was at least sane.I reached home and got a call from a relative that he is going to Harsil for a day for his official work and I could accompany him If I wanted.

Getting to travel with locals is a boon. The tone and topics of conversation added a flavour to the trip. On the way to Harsil I witnessed innumerable waterfalls.The scenery was breathtaking even for me, a pahari.

I landed at a training centre for gals. The expensive woollen shawls we buy from the swanky showrooms were being made here in the cold and dark room. On the way I walked through a steep trail. I didn't even bring my shoes. I stood on a large clearing. It was a helipad, which was used during the great cloudburst at kedarnath to bring the people to safer places.

 I was given an hour or two to explore and enjoy while my godsent relative finished his meetings. I was told to go straight and cross a couple of bridges and I would reach the market place. I again looked for someone to accompany me. I was chided that the distance is not much. what if there are some wild animals on the way. But I met only pretty local girls and handsome army guys who happily clicked pics for me.

I passed by the Wilson Cottage and Bridge. Pahari Wilson, who married a local lass, had brought apples to Harsil. Walked for a while and I was at the quietest market I have ever seen. Two-three hotels, a general merchant plus woollen shop, a bank with an ATM that was all. A cemented pathway
lead me to the orchards full of green and red apples. I walked further and there were lovely neat and clean pathway and houses. At the diversion stood a post-office. Later I was told that this post-office was there in the movie which made Harsil famous. I turned back and to the market and looked around for an eatery. Had momos at a lil restaurant with local girls and boys. A boy was ready to be my guide and take me to a 3km walk upto Mukhba. I was told there were meadows and the famous waterfall under which pretty Mandakini bathed in the movie. But lo, the car was waiting for me for the return journey.


On the way back a co-passenger, who was known to my host took me to a village which had 2-3 scattered houses among the apple orchards. I met a family who lived in a typical pahari house. One of the daughters had a very different accent.I got curious and she told me that she got married to a guy from Haryana six years back. Many other girls from this area are married off like her. Had heard about the sex ratio going bad to worse in Haryana, but saw that they have to come so far to look for a bride. I felt relieved when she told me that she is happy. She took me around an orchard which was sold to a contractor. My craving for plucking an apple was ignited, but she told me contractors always keep an eye. The apples have become forbidden now! But she did pluck and gave me one.

Nachiketa Taal  
Chaurangi khal is 30 km away from Uttarkaashi.  3 km uphill walk took us to Nachikta taal. The cab driver and his pretty wife proved to be an excellent company.

While climbing a lovely trail I found blood on my toes and thong slippers. There were tiny leeches which were swollen a bit after sucking my blood. after a while they vanished. It took an hour to reach the top. And when I looked down there was a big lake. It was a lovely site, but I found it a bit overrated. The fish in the lake entertained us . A sadhu lives there in a tent throughout the year. He was chatting with the forest guards. Before going we offered him some fruits and money which he refused politely. I thought of the Pundas  of Sangam at Allahabad and Pushkar who almost snatched my wallet.

September was never so cool before.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Abuses in the Air

A homesick friend of mine who grew up in Kanpur, but settled in another corner of India jokingily told me that how he felt at home while talking to his brother over the phone. No, it was not due to affection but the expletives he could overhear while his brother talked and walked through a crowded street.The 'orators' who blurted gaalies in their usual chatting  were from rickshaw pullers to students to govt employees. I'm taking my city as a sample, but most of the cities of the North Indian are eligible. Abuses are mostly targeted at female relatives of the receiver.

In the movie Jab We Met, Kareena Geet Kapoor vents out  her anger and pain  while she scolds and curses her tormentor over the phone.  finally, at the height of her rage, she gains super salvation when  she utters an abuse indicating his mother. Indo-Pak cricket matches witness exchange of abuses between most admired players. Don't know how their moms n sisters feel watching them mentioned in this way, live!  One evening I heard a group of people shouting in unison. First I thought that Ganesh Puja is round the corner and some chanting is going on, till a man in uniform told me to take a U turn as there is an altercation( using a mild word)  going on between two groups. No, they were not illiterate youth from the two religions but college going kids. Blurting what they have learnt outside the classroom. Swear words often help in venting the anger out, this is the only way to justify this practice. But using these words as adjective and conjunction cause disgust.

 I was buying fruits at the local market when a boy stopped his motorcycle near me and gestured  an another boy to sit pillion.The moment he tried to sit, the bike moved a bit and he stumbled and casually said the common curse related to mother.Whom did he address? He addressed the motorcycle!!

Some years ago a colleague was looking for a house to buy in the city. Everyday she used to update us about her search. Finally they zeroed on a particular flat but then did not buy it. "So, why did u reject that flat?" We all asked curiously. Instead of feeling bad about it she couldn't stop laughing and could barely reproduce what her businessman hubby had said, "Flat to accha hai per #$% toilet bahut chota hai." The flat is fine but #$% toilet is very small. This was the height of personification.

Living here in Manchester of East, I am sure that all the abuses men hurl on living/non things are harmless and should not be taken literally. I, who hate this Gaali culture couldn't suppress my laughter when at the Apple customer care centre, a man who looked well to do, was arguing to replace the charger of his phone. It seemed that he had to come to the centre more than twice and he was asked to come again after two days.  Looking at the other customers to gain support, he fumed ,
" **** this is the state of things here." So, not only inanimate things but circumstances can also be cursed.

As a teacher of nine year olds, I talk to my little girls about 'good and bad touch' and to be very careful in this big, bad world. And when boys, my little heros are around I urge them to respect women and not to use these curse words when they grow up. I hope they would obey their teacher the way they do now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Radcliffe, The Line that Separates/unites Two Countries

Radcliffe Line that divides India and Pakistan will be 69 this August. Cyril  Radcliffe who drew the line had never visited India before he was assigned the monumental task. Thanks to the hot and humid weather of India that he left as soon his work got over, leaving the two countries living the paradox of loving and hating each other. At Wagah the paradox begins with the aggressive boot thumping by the soldiers and then shaking hands.

Lowering of the Flags ceremony is a daily custom at Wagah border. BSF, (the Border Security Force) of India and Pakistan Rangers of Pakistan present the spectacular show. Surprisingly I did not know the magnanimity of the show so, Wagah border was never in my bucket list, the Golden Temple was. But the parade and ambiance of the place made me see it as a Kumbh mela where collective faith of masses is at its peak. I had never imagined such devotion and love for Bharat mata  without an Indo-Pak  cricket match being played.

The broad passage reserved for parade gets converted  into a large stage. The oxymorons continued when audiences performed with full gusto. Our clothing tells the faith we follow, so I see the people from all the faiths  drenched in the colour of patriotism as well as in the sweat of hot and humid month of May, dancing, laughing, enjoying. I hated myself for having two left feet, but I did what I knew. I whistled loudly like no one was watching.

Partition took place mainly because  Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah thought Muslims needed a separate country. Before 1940 it was not even imagined that such a thing could happen. I could only guess by reading the literature of united India. Can you doubt the true friendship between Jumman Sheikh and Algoo Chaudhary depicted in premchand's famous story 'Panch Parmeshwar' ? Religion was the main cause of the partition, and religion was the only thing I did not see separating us when I sat at Wagah. 

The popular song from the film Veer-Zaara, was playing when husband and I entered the place which looked like an open air theatre. The songs usually played there are, Aisa desh hai mera is written by Javed Akthar, Ye desh hai veer Jawanon ka, penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, sung by our beloved Mohammad Rafi and in the movie performed by Dilip Yusuf Kumar. 

The place I was sitting was not allowing me to see the audience on the other side of the line. It was clear that attendance was thin. A lone small boy was running around waving the Pak flag. The mood was rather formal. I wondered if there was a lady sitting there who was also a school teacher like me. If we could talk or there could be a souvenir  shop, a restaurant where we could taste cuisines from both the countries.We are so similar, but the conflicting thoughts at the back of my mind refused to budge and reminded me all that their army  did to our Lt. Saurabh Kalia in captivity for over twenty two days. Could I see an enemy in the woman sitting that side? No!

I could hardly listen to the music being played across the line, but a journalist friend who watched the parade a few days back had told me that they played  songs sung by Mika! A singer popular among the younger generation of Indians. he also came back humming 'Pakistan, Pakistan' by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who is loved by old n young in India. Indian media's love for Pak is not hidden from the whole world and how I adore the videos from Pakistan praising our Prime Minister and the adorable accent they call him Modi sa'ab with.

I grew up cheering India, but the biggest poster in my room belonged to Imran Khan. I hate mom watching some of the never ending serials on Indian TV channels,  but love to watch Zindagi Gulzar Hai with her on youtube for hours. It has a  strong female protagonist. I still remember her dialogue, "Zindagi main kitne log hote hain jo hum per garm chai nahi girne dete?"The male lead is  Fawad Khan, well a separate post is needed to describe his aura.

Even a small child can tell who is the culprit for the mess and war created between the two countries. He is definitely neither I nor the lady sitting on the other side of the gate at the wagah border,who would love to visit Mumbai or Delhi during her next vacations, if given chance and peaceful circumstances. I too would love to visit the Swat valley, Malala Yousafzai  talks so fondly about.

It is said that after the dark night comes the sparkling sunrise. Thinking about the dashing and brilliant boys sacrificing their precious lives in the continuous war between two countries, hoping against the hope I pray for peace.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jai Hind, Sir !

The word 'Police' for me is a place where I grew up. All the windows of my house opened to the majestic building of Police Headquarter of Uttar Pradesh. My memories include manicured lawns, clubs, festivals, tamarind trees, mango orchards and everything pleasant. Neighbours lived cordially as a big family. Nobody was filthy rich as the department is known for bribe n black money.
My father was in civil police, so he
never never wore a uniform. As auditor, sometimes he worked whole night in his office with his colleagues. More than half a month he used to be on tours within Uttar Pradesh of some remote part of India. I went to a Mission school but not to one of the schools, Allahabad is known for. Even at that tender age I knew those schools were expensive for us. I saw my parents working very hard. The affluence associated with people working in police department was not there. Contrary to the image of a policewale, father was a teetotaller. Back from his tours he used to tell us hilarious anecdotes. Never ever I heard him mentioning his boss without respect. Even while talking with his friends casually he never forgot to put the suffix, like DIG Sa'ab.

As I grew up I heard stories of police atrocities and corruption, though hindi films had always projected good picture of policemen. Sholay was a luminous example. I Left PHQ as father got a promotion and transferred to some other department and another city. After that I never heard anything good about the Police. Police ke kutte was the most repeated refrain I heard in day to day life, still my emotional bond with policemen remain intact. Even after three decades I give them a second look where ever I see them. Be it a traffic policeman at a crossing of Chennai in scorching heat, groups of policemen patrolling the crowded streets of Varanasi, at Modi's 2014 rally at Kanpur, Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai, posh areas of South Delhi, I always spot them.
When you listen to their stories, you would know that the number of policemen die on duty in a year is equal to the number of army men died in the Kargil War. Do we ever make memorials for them? Do we know that policemen never celebrate Holi and other festivals as they have to be on duty. Today there is peace in Panjab at what cost? The link below is a part of a Kavi sammelan where Mr Pawan Jain, IPS presents a poem about the lives of his fellow policemen which is an eye opener indeed. (Poetry by Pawan Jain IPS)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mother's Day Musings

When FB was bursting at the seams with mom pics and quotations on 8th May, I too got tempted to post mom's pic clicked when she was sixteen, with her very long tresses and manicured hands. Though I always saw her with not so long hair and hands, well the way hands look after a long day's chores. I didn't wish mom nor my kids wished me. Wondered if I love them less than others love their moms and kids?

 When I went to see off my parents at the CNB, we bought a few books from the wheeler at the platform, I clicked some pics of the spic n span railway station, touched their feet habitually and drove back. Back home read someone's status that her mother who was visiting her has left and her life is 'deserted' now. There were more than 100 likes n comments from the people who related to it. This is how FB fuels my guilt. But I have my moments when I feel like hugging my mom or kids really tight.

This winter when she visited me I told her that I had to attend a wedding but didn't want to because the host  had  sort of annoyed me for some reason. It may or may not be intentional. Mother chose a lovely saari for me from my limited collection and almost pushed me off saying that a daughter's wedding is a huge task, some lil goof ups are normal. Looking back I realised that she had quietly taught me so many things without being preachy and by just remaining in the background.

My son (the one with long hair, grr grr kit kit) also amazes me sometimes. During his JEE preparation days and just before 12th boards, when every minute counts, he had to collect his admit card from school.The teacher concerned had refused to give the card because the computer teacher had not sent his home exam grades and had left the school. The next day again he went and somehow got his admit card. I was irritated, obviously.

They have their exams centre in some other school and as a convention some teachers also come to see the arrangements and say all the best to their students. Children usually touch their feet before entering the examination hall. I asked him when he came back. "Did you touch her feet?" I loved him so much for the answer he gave, "Yes, arre kya ferk parta hai, teacher hi to hain" (how does it make any difference, she is a teacher after all)

These little moments together make my Mother's Day, just we celebrate it differently.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Stalker

Stared, gazed and then hid,
He stopped and walked as I did.
Teasing, stalker moon!

Pic: Mamatha

Friday, April 08, 2016


When I asked my daughter, studying in Delhi, to visit a good friend of mine during Holi, she fumed in mock anger, "Those Aaptards!" Conversation ends.
Today we Indians are divided into two main categories. Modi can easily represent the one and the other is congress, Aap, CPM etc. I have clubbed the rest in one because Modi is their common enemy.
Before I knew a strange trend/ideology came up. Anti India or any thing which is directly associated with India. Hinduism is the main target.The other Indian religion, cricket also got affected. I was at my wit's end when I read about anti India slogans shouted at JNU. Anti Hindu is still ok in the garb of 'freedom of expression', but Anti India?
Coming to the title of my post, see the series of betrayals I, an average Indian had to face. Betrayal by very definition means when you are cheated by someone you trusted. JNU, IITs, IIMs were awe inspiring or beyond my reach institutions. In that campus I got to hear obnoxious things about Bharat Mata/ India. Now I will have to tell them that Bharat Mata is not a woman sitting on a lion etc etc but just a symbol that we love our country as we love our mother.
Media. Going back to Doordarshan days I remember relying on newsreaders for the correct pronunciation of certain words. Watching News just to observe the newsreaders. All the ladies were awesome. Then there was 'The World This Week'. An NDTV product, which we never missed. Believed each word it aired. Today the same NDTV and rest of the media is biased. I seldom get to watch achievements of government on TV or newspapers.

Nobody can be closer to your heart than your favourite writers/columnists. As he/she shares his secrets and passions while he bares his heart in his books. We relate to what we read and the one-sided affair begins. I too followed a few columns. Today when I share those columns with some of my frens who believe in Modi's hard work and Piyush Goyal's crusade against darkness, they don't even open the link. The moment the name of the newspapers appear they delete it. I fight and shield my dear columnists in vain. But my admiration got thrashed when I read abt the JNU chanting in a hypothetical statement in ‘The Hindu’ that if Modi wins 2019 election 'anti national' would not be able to survive in India and would create a new nation to live. What sinful thinking! I too don't run around streets shouting 'Bharat mata ki Jai' but why scream in your fb status that you would never say this slogan. I wonder if we thought alike about Kishore Kumar, RDB, Sholay, and thousand other things then why can’t they see any development in railway, power and coal, road transport and other ministries? The same ‘The Hindu’ we subscribed, far away in the North while preparing for Civil Services, with hope and dreams in our eyes.
Meet Shashi Tharoor. I almost prayed for him, a fellow Indian, but he lost the topmost post of UN. We all felt bad.The same Tharoor was speaking at JNU. He mentioned Bhagat Singh and took a pause and the whole crowd laughed mockingly. I was in tears.

I never imagined that a large number of people will be unhappy when India wins a cricket match. Can there be a bigger betrayal than this to an Indian?