Conscience-smitten …

This piece of blog was supposed to be a technical one. But what I experienced a week back changed my mind. I’m late to publish because I was busy and not in a suitable position to write.

I was about to travel from my uncle’s place to my native place. I was going to the bus station. Suddenly I heard someone was screaming. I looked around. And what I had to see completely shook mind. She might have been in her early twenties or maybe slightly younger, who looked like an uncared-for girl born and brought up in any of the shabby slums of the city or under the open sky. She was completely au naturel, cringed and quivery; she was embarrassed and helpless standing on the sidewalk. Having seen her I sensed someone might have stripped her. Or she could even be mentally retarded. I can’t really forget her.

After having the shock of the glimpse I hurried and tried to move past the scene the earliest. Everyone else around me seemed to be doing the same. I reached the bus station and boarded the bus. I was no different from those many people in that street or on the same sidewalk the girl was standing on because just like any other ‘conscientious’ person in that street what best I could do for the girl was feeling very sorry for her. But … did my feeling sorry give her the warmth in that biting cold? Did my or any other’s feeling sorry for her bring any change in her sufferings? Then what’s the point of feeling sorry? I had jeans and t-shirts in the bag I was carrying. Why couldn’t I just stop for a moment and throw a pair of those to her?

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Wake up, Deepan !!!

Though this piece of memory stokes laughter but I still can sense what a horrendous and disconcerting feeling it was then. As a student I have always been negligent about the theoretical and abstract matters of any subject I had to study. While taking preparation for exams I never wished to memorize those theoretical, abstract and bullshit matters. Instead I used to take ‘concepts’ of those matters and write on my own from those concepts. The concept of these ‘concepts’ is a bit confusing and often used to perplex my dear buddy Jeetu. That is why I’m avoiding adding any further details on the concept. By the way, I guess even many of my examiners failed to understand the concept. Alas …

The reason why I introduced the matter of concept is that I have had a subject called Personality Development during my undergraduate studies. It was the sheer stupidity of the university to keep it as an entirely theoretical subject. On the other hand, I believed it should have been a cent percent practical subject. Under the syllabus we had to memorize different ways of making public speeches effective, how to be smart, how to make presentations enthralling, dos and don’ts during interviews and blah-blah … Total insanity! If a student is good at memorizing s/he could easily prepare a 5/6-page note on the matters and then write the same in the exam paper. But answering how to make public speeches effective and actually delivering an effective and enthralling public speech are two entirely different things! As a matter of this fact I never studied the subject throughout the semester. At night before the internal exam (the exam held by my college) I took the concept and the next day the concept was transformed into inscription on the answer sheet. I didn’t score badly.

The real melodrama of my misfortune took place on the day of the external exam (the exam help by the university) on Personality Development. Since the subject was disgusting to me I didn’t feel it just right to take preparation on it at night before the exam. I spent time by watching movies, listening to music, facebooking and so on. I didn’t even think of seeing the book until it was around 3 am! How daring, you might be thinking. Ha ha ha … Finally, the book was in my hand. I turned over a few pages. Weird activities were going on in my brain and I was taking the concept again. I remember it was around 4.30 am. I felt I should take a break and resort to my bed. But before I went to bed I had taken my cell phone and set alarms to wake me up at 7 am, 7.15 am, 7.20 am, 7.30 am and finally at 7.35 am. The cell phone was kept on my reading table. I dozed off.

Okay! I opened my eyes. I discovered myself still lying in the bed. But I sensed something was wrong. The sun was unusually shining brightly in the early morning. What’s the matter?  Or did I get up late? Ohh nooo … I jumped off the bed and looked at the cell phone. It was switched off. Shi*!!! I looked at my wrist watch. O my goodness! It was 10.30 am by then. I flumped down on my bed. My exam was scheduled to start at 10 am. So I just missed the exam. But what really happened that I couldn’t get up despite the 5 loud alarms? The cell phone was running on too low battery charge when I set the alarms. I didn’t notice that. So I guess soon after I had gone to sleep the phone went switched off and didn’t have the power to wake me up L Sad … very sad!

Now, what would I tell my friends and my parents? My friends would definitely roll on the floor laughing and this is what exactly happened and my dad might get a heart attack! I couldn’t think of anything. After the exam was over at 1 pm I started getting a barrage of calls from my friends. But I didn’t have the guts to receive the calls. Ha ha ha …

Jeetu also called me but I didn’t receive. He directly came to my house. I opened the door and he almost shouted, “What happened?” I tried to pretend to look devastated. But I knew that he was going to laugh out loud after hearing the fact. I told him slowly. And he did just the thing I was expecting. I can understand it was hard to control over the laughter. Maybe, I would have done the same thing because on the whole the entire incident was ludicrous. And later on whoever heard the story couldn’t help laughing. The entire class got to know. On that day after the exam I was supposed to meet Professor Neena Ranka to discuss some topics and clarify some doubts on Financial Management. Since I didn’t turn up she asked in the class. Even she laughed. Anyway, I was destined to take the retest in the next semester. But I didn’t forget to thank my fate thinking that the same didn’t happen the next day because that day I had the most important Financial Management paper and had the same incident happened to me on the day of Financial Management exam both the situation and consequence could have been fatal. I got mentally prepared for taking the concept of Personality Development again and eventually clearing the exam in the following semester.

This particular incident scared me so much that I was really frightened to get sleep before exams. And as of it besides those 4/5 alarms I requested Neelam, my friend, to wake me up by calling me at least 2-3 hours before the exams. Neelam was habitually an early riser.

Ohh yes! The results were out. I was going to get an ATKT for the second time in my life (I failed in mathematics once in school when I was in class seven). But I was trying to console myself saying that that was not actually a that bad ATKT since I didn’t fail in the exam, rather I was absent. So the ATKT had an associated dignity (!) to me. Professor Yamini Mathur and another professor (I forgot her name. she used to teach us Agri Business Management) came into our class to distribute the statements of marks among the students. At some point of time my name was called. I approached Professor Mathur to get the statement of marks. The another madam saw that my transcript had the ATKT on it. She asked, “O no! You got an ATKT. Why?” What could say? I kept mum. Then Professor Mathur explained the reason to that madam and both smiled at me together. A few months before our results were out Wake Up Sid was a hit movie. When I was receiving the transcript from Professor Yamini Mathur, the other professor standing beside her said, “Wake up, Deepan!”

Ssshhh … Don’t tell this to my parents. They don’t know the real story yet! Ha ha ha …

My Fad for Cooking …

Culinary art has recently occupied much of my attention and I’m an amateur artist. Though cuisine is an art I doubt whether what I do with it would be somewhere to be treated as an art. Frankly I barely know the ABCs of cooking. But yes, if I’m given a detailed recipe I can be a not so bad cook; I’m being humble. So far my skills have ludicrously been limited to bringing some innovations in making salads only. What tempts me the most about cooking is the kind of innovation and twist of taste you can introduce in your daily ordinary meals. And that is why recently Twist of Taste and Food Safari on Fox Traveler and Master Chef India 2 on Star Plus have been my favorite shows since the last few months.

Cooking is really fun and an immense source of joy. I sincerely think of being a cook and adding some different flavors to some bland dishes made by my mom. But my mom is the dictator of her kitchen. None is allowed to conduct any sort of experiment with the utensils and spices in the kitchen without her prior permission. So I really have some serious constraints. And which is why I have so far been mostly confined within the periphery of salads. One thing about cooking is very true that to be a good cook or at least to cook something delicious all you need is just the enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm makes you innovative. While I was watching Master Chef India 2, I was wondering how the judges could sense the different ingredients of the dishes made and how they could confidently say which ingredients and what proportion and mix of those would be best for a particular dish. Having seen that I also started critically analyzing my mom’s dishes and thinking what could be added to make it something that would satiate my taste buds. But since I’m not allowed I fear my innovations are being subdued gradually. Anyway, I’m not going to give up so soon.

It all started in Pune, India. I was staying alone and there was no one to cook for me. I used to subscribe home delivery service of meals twice a day. I’m a hard core non-vegetarian. But the inflation in Pune transmuted me into a vegetarian. Countless thanks to Andhra Mess in Pune wherein I used to get quality cheap non-veg dishes once or twice in a month. One of my service providers didn’t have the provision of serving meals on Sundays. The other one whom I have subscribed for long used to forget to deliver sometimes or didn’t serve the dishes without any prior notification. These cases used to be irritating and exhausting. Having no delivery of meals for a day means walking for 15 minutes to the North Main Road, waiting for around half an hour to get the meals (mostly chicken fried rice and a chicken frarcha (fry) sometimes) and finally walking back home for another 15 minutes. So an hour is just gone by bringing the food at home! Count another half an hour for eating and washing the utensils. Now, the question is whether a student and a person like me can afford to waste 1.5 hours just on the process of dispatching the food toward the stomach. How awful was it during exams? But … I was helpless. In order to ameliorate my sufferings Maggi noodles played a substantial role in my diet. Readers, you have no idea about how much grateful and loyal I’m to this brand. Maggi and scrambled eggs (scrambled eggs was the first dish I brought innovation into and I’ll share how) were the only dishes on the menu for lunch and dinner for many days.

Beside my house there was a mess which used to be run by some young dudes. I joined that initially. Though the meals were fresh and to some extent tasty too but soon I became bored. For months I ate the same veggies and daal. There was not even the slightest variation in the dishes except on the days of special occasions like Diwali etc. Some guys there had working knowledge on cooking at least a chicken curry. So if there was a day when the meal was off they didn’t have any problem. But on each day of those days either I had to go out to buy food or I had to have maggi. To add to my misery there was that luscious smell of those chicken curries. Man … I wished I could have cooked like those guys. This is what gave me the impetus to learn how to cook. But the irony is I wasn’t allowed to cook in my house! It was one of the many conditions that was stipulated by the house owner for all the tenants of that house. It was a kind of tyranny! Anyway, disregarding those conditions I bought an electric heater which was the fetus of my innovation in cooking. Ha ha ha …

Anyone can understand that an electric heater is not the perfect instrument to experiment with the fancy dishes. Most importantly my house owner used to have a rigorous checking on the electricity bills. My stars!!! I had a desktop computer which already consumed much electricity every month. On top of that if my electric heater consumed more electricity definitely I would be homeless! So when I used to turn the electric heater on my pc used to remain sleeping and all the lights and fans off. Indirectly I became energy efficient! Despite all those limitations and fear of homelessness my dream of becoming a cook, if not a cook at least a man who himself could cook his meals so that under any circumstances he didn’t have to recourse to the bistros or other food outlets was unsubdued. Since saving electricity means using the electric heater for a time which should be as much less as possible I did have no choice but frying eggs and boiling maggi only. I remember venturing a chicken curry once but the anxiety of the increased electricity bill was the spoilsport and eventually the chicken curry was mediocre. After that I actually never dared cooking a chicken curry on that heater. And at the fag end I was left with only scrambled eggs and boiled maggi for introducing twist of taste in them.

In scrambled eggs I added finely chopped garlic, onion, coriander leaves, tomato, ginger and lots of green chilly. The very ordinary scrambled eggs became sublime. With scrambled eggs if you have Kurkure or any other tangy flavored chips the taste would be awesome. I don’t know whether you’d find the same. In maggi I could barely bring any difference in taste except adding green chilly, black pepper, coriander leaves and sometimes eggs in the boiling water. So this was how a ‘chef’ was born. Tomorrow I’m going to prepare a salad. The ingredients I have thought for it are (don’t forget that I’ve my momma): cucumber, tomato, carrot, rock salt, mayonnaise, onion, roasted red chilly, mustard oil, garlic, coriander leaves, lemon (not sure), black pepper and … I can’t remember anything else at the moment. Salads have always been ignored in the meals of the middle-class Bengali families. To many, still salad means a few slices of cucumber, tomato and carrot. But I believe my mom’s going to give me a smile after I prepare the salad. Oh yes! I’m possibly going to make a sauce/ chaatni too. It’s a very simple one but was never tasted in my family. It’s made of tomato, coriander leaves, garlic, onion, green chilly, rock salt and lemon juice after all these are blended together.

Trust me! I’m going to take cooking seriously. It’s only for my pleasure. When I see the guys who used to cook amateurishly at home in the Master Chef India 2 I can’t help being inspired. I’m looking forward to that auspicious time I’ll be armed with a fully fledged kitchen. But girls don’t appreciate me too much. Ha ha ha … Don’t think that I’ll be cooking all my/ our meals after getting married. Cooking would just be a nice pastime of mine.

Thank you for reading till the end.

In the ‘dudeless’, ‘babeless’ city- Part 02

Ahhh … after a long time I’m on wordpress. I was busy with a few brutal exams. That’s why I couldn’t write. Anyway, I’m going to continue the second part of the last blog.

We’d set out for Koyambedu bus station and we needed a taxi. To avoid any haggle or brawl with the driver it’s the best option to take a prepaid taxi to your destination. We did the same. I purchased the ticket. A driver neared me and requested us to follow. The driver was slovenly. He was on bare feet. I noticed, to some people in Chennai, walking on bare feet was in vogue. I couldn’t discover a valid reason for that. I didn’t ask anyone either about this. Anyway, we were heading toward the bus station by the car. The station was, I guess, around 20 kilometers away from the airport. We were passing through software parks and commercial areas. The buildings were of architectural elegance. There was no traffic jam. It was a very smooth ride. I was sitting quite until it was around 20 minutes and thought of asking the driver how long it’d take us to reach. I asked the driver casually in good Hindi. But the driver retorted by saying, “English please, sir”. Well and good! I asked again translating the previous sentence in English. He understood and replied.

Okay! We reached the bus station. When you read ‘bus station’ I know the stereotype you have in your mind. But that stereotype will usually contradict if you see the bus station at Koyambedu. From the facade you couldn’t guess how large it could be. And the worst part was almost everything on the bus was written in pure Tamil. Since I had a patient with me and he could barely walk I told aunty to stand at a place inside the bus station with the luggage. I started looking for the bus. I asked a few people at the station and got the direction and necessary info about the bus. Finally I got the bus and booked 3 tickets for us. After booking the tickets I went back to aunty to bring her and her son. We boarded the bus. The bus set off after some time. The journey was smooth and comfortable. The bonus was the amazing view of the mountainous regions and winding and ups and downs of the highway. The scenery is still vivid in my memory. Anyway, I guess after around 3 hours we reached Vellore. Vellore is a small town whose economy is based on the Christian Medical College Hospital. Quite Astonishing! You’d start to understand if I give you some facts like in 2009-’10 around 12 lakhs patients have visited the hospital from different parts of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. The operation of the hospital is on a ginormous scale.

We booked our lodge beforehand. So after getting down from the bus we approached toward our lodge. There started the real problem of language. The manager who was sitting at the reception knew barely the ABCs of English. He was mostly speaking in Tamil. A severe misunderstanding took place. It was almost going to be on the verge of a brawl between us. The manager was boorish too. Then to rescue us the son of the ‘chairman’ of the lodge came and settled the dispute. The lodge was nice and cheap; it was nice enough for the companies of the patients of the CMH. The lodge is full with patients and their relatives throughout the year. The services and facilities provided are good. I got a separate room of mine. It was a very long and tiresome journey. So I got freshened up and had rest for a while. In the evening I went out for a walk with aunty.

Nahh… this writing is getting really boring. I won’t write anymore on this. But honestly the ‘dudeless and babeless’ city taught me a lot. Ohh yes! I will have to share one thing with you. In my next trip to Chennai I met an engineer cum poet whom I asked why people in general there mostly didn’t intend to learn Hindi, the national language. I continued saying that visitors from other parts of the country really had to face a lot of problems due to that language barrier. I can’t remember exactly what he replied to my question. But he gave me a very vital suggestion. He told me that I should never speak in grammatically correct English with the auto rickshaw drivers or shopkeepers. Because when I’d speak in grammatically correct English, English would be more complicated for them to understand. I needed to speak in ‘broken English’. Like … if I want to say that I don’t know Tamil I should say (with hand motions of course), “I no Tamil”. And there is another specialty of Tamil. In almost every modern language there is a vocabulary wherein some words directly enter unaltered from other foreign languages. As for example, in Bengali there is actually no precise word for ‘Computer’. That’s why a computer in Bengali is also ‘computer’. But this is not the case with Tamil. According to the engineer I met there is an authority of Tamil language and literature which coins every modern and technical terminology of English in Tamil. So you’d find precisely a word in Tamil for the term ‘Computer’. Amazing …

Okay! Enough of writing today. But I will now be writing frequently on wordpress since I have become a bit free. I’m looking forward to the next write-up. Wish all the readers of my blog a very happy 2012. Love and peace …

In the ‘dudeless’, ‘babeless’ city- Part 01

It was January, 2011. Tithi aapu (Aapu is a different way of calling Didi) called me and told me that her elder brother was in immediate need of visiting a doctor in Christian Medical College, Vellore in Chennai. She was kind of helpless as she was in New Zealand at that time and there was so one else to accompany her brother and mother from Dhaka to Vellore. Since I was in Pune she thought I could be the reliable one to accompany them and help them visit the doctor and finish other formalities. Tithi aapu helped me a lot when I came to Pune first. I didn’t know anyone but her. She was the one who helped me choose the right college. She gave me all the suggestions and advice that a novice needed in a totally different environment out of home. We walked miles together in search of a congenial flat for me. I can’t forget the help from Shubha da as well. He was the one who gave me shelter for the very first week in Pune. Shubha da was Tithi aapu’s friend and they were classmates too. So I always wanted to do something for her in return. I was actually given an opportunity to do so. But I missed it badly! Let me tell that story first; I’m in a mood of writing tonight. Ha ha ha …
I was about to come home after the semester final exam. Tithi aapu phoned me. She had a small bag filled with some of her books and some gifts and some other things and she requested me to carry those home. Her brother was supposed to collect that from me. We met at Comesum, the railway cafeteria the day before I was leaving. We sat there and had a chat for some time and then she left while I carried the bag to Koregaon Park where I stayed. The next day it was a happy journey though my ticket wasn’t confirmed and it had the RAC status. Later on in the evening from some station I don’t remember a Gujju bridal party got inside the compartment. They were the people who booked almost a quarter of the compartment and they were the reasons why the status of my ticket didn’t get changed! I think they were around 15 people traveling together. The chieftain of the party came to me and requested me to shift to a confirmed upper berth which was a bit ahead from the lower berth I was occupying. He didn’t want his party members to be scattered in the compartment and it’s generally a valid argument! I already settled there and the luggage (including the bag Tithi aapu gave me) was beneath the berth. So I was a little hesitant. But up on being assured of the safety of the luggage by the gentleman I finally shifted. The incident took place next day in the afternoon. After lunch I was having a nap in the upper berth. The train halted at a station with a little jerk. I woke up and thought of having a glance at my luggage. I went near my original berth and noticed Tithi aapu’s bag was gone. The bridal party mistakenly (!) took the bag. I immediately got down from the train. Those people gathered all their bags on the platform. All the bags were small and looked like Tithi aapu’s. I told the gentleman that someone among you carried my bag also. He startled and informed the other guys about the incident and told me to look for the bag. Looking for the bag among all those small bags was like finding a solution for a puzzle! And the train blew the whistle and it was moving! What would I do? I jumped inside the train. I was speechless! I was shocked! I just lost the bag! I informed Tithi aapu. I could understand how she was feeling. That’s why I was looking for another opportunity to be of some help to her. And then when she told me about accompanying her mother and brother I couldn’t deny.
So I booked the ticket after it was finalized when her mother and brother would fly from Dhaka. The train was scheduled to arrive at 3.20 am at Pune station. Dhawal came to see me off. The journey wasn’t that great. I didn’t get anybody to talk. So the only way to pass the time was to watch and enjoy the scenic landscapes through the window after waking up in the morning. It was my first trip to an alien land within India. I said ‘alien’ because there was nothing similar between the culture of that land and mine. I was excited to imagine the experiences I would have there. The train was running through valleys. Humungous chunks of rocks were scattered around the track and on the mountains. There were huge cracks in some of those rocks. Also boulders were scattered across that land. When you would see the scenery you might get a feeling that maybe hundreds of thousands of years ago there had been a rock storm on this part of the country. Anyway, watching all these through the window was a treat since I never traveled through such mountainous regions.
Watching people, their distinct way of conversation, attire and countenance is something I really enjoy while traveling. That day in the afternoon the train reached a station named Thiruvananthapuram. South India and its people and places have got characteristic names which tend to be unusually quite long. Thanks to the people for being considerate to shorten their names by initials. Thiruvananthapuram is a place famous for its temples. It has one particular temple which is renowned in the country. Thousands of people come here. I saw a bizarre thing there. Women shaved their hair (of head)! And it’s religious. I have no intention to undermine anyone’s religious feelings. To me, it really looked odd. Maximum of the women standing on the platform did the same thing! And almost all the men got the same look. I just couldn’t help staring at the ladies. Anyway, I started to get the feeling that I already entered in a different land. People kept talking around me without giving me any clue of what they were talking about. The interesting part of the colloquial Tamil is the kind of stretches people use at the end of the last word of a sentence. It’s hard to explain unless you actually notice it. I was enjoying everything around me.
The train was scheduled to arrive at the Chennai terminus in the early morning at around 3.30 am. From the station I’d go to the domestic airport to receive Tithi aapu’s mother and brother. Their flight was scheduled to arrive at around 12 pm. So I was getting mentally prepared for a long waiting. Tithi aapu had been to Chennai a couple of times and she knew how to travel to the domestic airport from the station. She gave me all possible suggestions and recommendations regarding the errand.
Before I tell you any farther story I’d like to say about South Indians specially people from Chennai. South Indians are just amazing people that I have experienced. They are the people I’ve admired the most in India. So before going to Chennai I was sure that I was going to meet some nice people over there. The reason behind this perception was the South Indians I met in Pune. I have to give some insights about them here. The very first one is Mr. Ranjith, my flat-mate. He works as a software developer in TCS. He is one of the very intelligent persons I have ever encountered. He was extremely logical. That’s the reason why he is the best programmer in his team! He was gripped by logic even in his daily life; he used to even eat logically! We became very good friends though we have huge gaps in terms of age and experience. Sometimes he used to come late at night around 2 am and didn’t hesitate to knock my door. If there was anything interesting in the office he had to share that with me. He along with his family was looking for a bride when both of us were in the same flat. He spontaneously shared all his logic on which type of a bride to choose and associated pros and cons, when to marry, how to marry, when to have kids, how much to earn etc. He was initially against dowry. But later he managed to logically explain why dowry was necessary in a particular situation. Ha ha ha … He showed me all the pictures of the candidate brides emailed by his parents or brother. He didn’t mind to take my suggestions to choose anyone among them. I also call him my ‘guru’ as he was the one who taught me the ABCs of C, a programming language. I got the idea of his depth of knowledge while he was teaching me. Almost regularly after coming back from office, he used to come into my room and discuss C.
The next one is Mr. Thomas. He hails from Kerala. Recently he achieved his MBA from University of Aberdeen, UK. I met him when he came to my flat for a month only. That was his first visit to Pune. He came to Pune for a month’s training as a management trainee at Café Coffee Day, the largest retail chain coffee outlet in India. He was gregarious. I had a nice time with him. I will remain ever grateful to him for the kind of support he gave me for my project during the 2nd year of my undergraduate study. He was the reason why I could finish my project on Café Coffee Day. The project was so well that I got even a nick name ‘CCD’ from Prof. Yamini Mathur!
After Mr. Thomas I met Mr. X (I forgot his name!) who also belonged to Chennai. He was a weirdo, drunkard and a oversexed guy; he made me understand why rape scenes were quite frequent in typical Tamil movies, and I mean no offense. But he was gentle and a good friend of mine. He was into software testing and unfortunately got kicked out of his company and the reason was a mystery. He had to leave the city suddenly.
Then I met another Hyderabadi guy, a software developer working in TCS. He was the quietest person I have ever seen and the most reticent one. I scarcely talked with him as he wasn’t that approachable. He was the topper of NIT, Kerala and a yoga freak. When he was a student at NIT he used to get up at 2/3 am in the morning and do yoga!
Finally I met Mr. Sathya Muthry who is into E-learning. A very kind and sociable person. All the persons above I talked about till now were my flat-mates during my stay at Koregaon Park, Pune. Let me tell you that one of the reasons why Jeetu and I were big fans of the Andhra Mess (TM!) in Pune was the warmth and generosity of the South Indians serving there.
Okay. Then the train reached the Chennai Central station and it was around 4 am. I was advised not to go to the airport until it was dawn. The reason was I’d be charged mercilessly from the ‘autowala’. The station was crowded. People were speaking in a language which was even impossible to decipher. Anyway, I thought of retiring to the First Class waiting room as I was holding an AC 3 Tire ticket. The First Class waiting room wasn’t actually first class. Among all those people I was feeling myself an alien. I had simply nothing to do except sitting there and watching people. Watching people is certainly interesting but to a certain extent of course.
It’s 5 am! There were signs of morning. I was relieved. Soon I’d leave the place and head toward the airport and get to see something new. But before that I needed to use the lavatory and to be fresh. But how could I go to the lavatory leaving my luggage in the waiting room? In Indian railway stations you’re strictly advised not to trust any stranger or to eat anything from them. You’d see the notices almost in every large railway stations. I was in a dilemma. Then I thought, even my friend Jeetu would also agree with me, “It’s South India and you can really trust some people here. If you can’t trust people here you won’t trust anyone in India”. To me South Indians are a benchmark for trustworthiness. Ha ha ha …
Beside me there was a married couple. They were having breakfast with ‘eedli’. The man looked like a gentleman and he was in his fifties. So I thought of approaching him. I fervently asked him whether he could keep an eye on my luggage. He smiled and replied with a no problem gesture. I took around 10 minutes to do all the pending tasks in the lavatory and came back quickly. Everything was fine. I thanked the gentleman and got ready to come out of the station.
South Indians are pundits; they know a lot. But by looking at them you’d never get any idea about the depth of the knowledge they possess. South Indian states are more technologically advanced than any other in India. Wherever possible they make use of IT. So I had to stand in a queue to purchase a computerized ticket for an auto rickshaw to airport. After 15 minutes I got the ticket. 2/3 auto drivers rushed to me seeing the ticket in my hand. They were competing to get their first trip of the day. But a few police women threw cold water on them. One of the police women on duty checked my ticket and asked one of the auto drivers to carry my luggage requesting me to follow the driver. I thanked the lady. The overjoyed driver said, “Come sir, come. This way sir”. I followed the driver and boarded his ‘land cruiser’.
The domestic airport was around 15-20 kilometers away from the station. The auto rickshaw was dashing. The roads were neat and clean. The traffic on the roads was very much disciplined. The buses weren’t crowded. People looked very ordinary and traditional. All ladies were seen in saaris. Girls were wearing salwar-kameez. Many of the men, women and girls had colorful marks with fingertips on their foreheads, which was done on religious grounds. Men were in white dhotis or loongis. Many of them folded the lower portion of the loongi/ dhoti near the feet and tied a knot with the edges near the knees and made that something like a ‘half loongi/ dhoti’. Women and girls got their hair braided and embellished with jasmine. I didn’t see any woman or girl in t-shirts or jeans. The guys weren’t looking ‘smart’ according to the definition of smartness we have. Any dude from Pune wouldn’t call any girl a babe there! They weren’t stylish. From this very narrow point of view I got the heading of this piece of blog. But honestly I mean no offense. They might not be fashionable in terms of countenance or attire but they were definitely good human beings. They might look ordinary or traditional but they were advanced in their thoughts. I’d tell you how gradually.
Another thing which excited me was I didn’t see any single instance of Bollywood in Chennai. There was no Ash, SRK, Aamir or Salman on any billboard or any sort of advertisements! I got a feeling that I wasn’t actually in India. All the models in the advertisements are purely from South Indian film industry. Anyway, I was copying all these details in my memory until I reached the airport. And finally I reached the airport. Renovation of the airport was going on. Architecturally it was elegant.
Okay. I got down from the auto rickshaw. I looked at the ticket to see the fare. It was Rs. 95. Before I took my wallet to get the cash the auto driver had demanded Rs. 150. According to him Rs. 100 was the fare and Rs. 50 for a cup of tea! I was shocked. I told him with a heavy voice that the fare was actually Rs. 95 and he couldn’t demand Rs. 50 for just a cup of tea. And I also told him that if I had given him what he demanded there was no reason why I would have purchased the ticket. He was giving me all stupid excuses. I got really very angry and started talking loudly. Finally I had to give him Rs. 110. I decided next time if I had to travel by an auto rickshaw I’d first give the driver a condition that I’d strictly follow what was written on the ticket. It wasn’t even 8 am and I reached the airport. Another course of waiting was about to start.
The waiting lounge was shifted outside the main building of the airport. The place was crowded. What would I do? I was just sitting and turning over the pages of the magazines I had. The only entertainment was looking at the gorgeous air-hostesses. Ha ha ha … Uff! It was really a painful waiting. Something interesting happened. I occupied a chair and kept my backpack on another chair. An elderly woman approached me. She asked me in Hindi whether I was a Bengali or no. I said yes and asked her from what she could guess that. She said that I looked like a Bengali. I was a bit sad but smiled at her eventually. At around 11 am, I guess, the arrival of the flight was announced. I bought a ticket for entrance and went inside the airport. There I had to wait for another 30 minutes until Tithi aapu’s mother and brother came out. I greeted them. We came out of the airport.

I just hope she is fine …

The only Tamil word I know with the precise meaning, I believe, is ‘Parkavi’. ‘Par’ = World and ‘Kavi’ = Poet/ Poetess. So ‘Parkavi’ = Poetess of the World, in this case. It’s a nice name indeed. I met Parkavi on a social networking site called tagged.com. She was senior to me as by that time she was in her final year of undergraduate studies in Physics, but younger to me too. She was a genius I met. Though she used to study Physics, she hated it much. Practically she had the least interest in Physics. In contrast, I’m an admirer of Physics and love to talk about it with the like-minded folks. We mostly talked about the differences in our ideologies and cultures. We argued a lot too, almost the same way I argued with Priyanka, my friend, to make her conceive the hoax behind ‘reki’ by explaining the law of thermodynamics. Ha ha ha … Parkavi and I were good friends but we are no longer in touch.

Parkavi was born and brought up mostly in a village in Tamil Nadu. She lost her father when she was a kid. She had one elder brother and has a younger brother now. Her elder brother died from blood cancer. Much care wasn’t given to her education when she was in the village as she was a girl. She completed her schooling in a Tamil medium school. On the other hand her younger and elder brothers were being taught in English medium schools. She had some real bad experiences in her childhood which led her be somber in life but definite in her purpose. She had to see her mother being molested when her family was in the village after her father had passed away. She carried the trauma of witnessing that throughout her life; she was afire inside her self. Soon after the incident had taken place her family moved to Chennai. And then a new journey started in her life.

Her mother wasn’t quite educated at that time. I think she could just finish her schooling and then got married. But after she had shifted to Chennai she started to educate herself and when I met Parkavi she was working as a controller of a certain public exam held in Chennai. She got an air-conditioned govt. residence to stay with Parkavi and her younger son.

Parkavi wanted to become a doctor. But her luck didn’t favor her. Since her elder brother fell seriously ill and was a blood cancer patient she had to nurse and spend most of the time in the hospital with her brother. She didn’t get through the entrance exam. Later on she sat for some other exam and finally got selected for studying Physics in one of the finest colleges in Chennai. There she faced a real challenge. She couldn’t speak in English well as she studied in Tamil medium and everyone else in the college, in her college, officially spoke in English. It was an embarrassment for her. She was also humiliated in several ways different times because of her inability to speak in good English. She tried but often used to make silly mistakes. She wasn’t sad at all.She admitted her lacks and sometimes laughed at her own mistakes. She told me a story wherein while speaking to someone she used ‘circumference’ instead of ‘circumstances’. Ha ha ha … Finally being paranoid she decided to join an English-speaking course. And she did so well … so well that she was offered a place as an instructor/ faculty in that institute where she was taught spoken English. Admirable! When I was speaking to her over the phone I couldn’t doubt for a moment that she would belong to such a background.

Everyday she used to take her classes from 7 am to 9 am. She did something amazing, angelic in her life, which I will never forget. She was voluntarily involved in an orphanage which was run by an elderly woman and that orphanage was around 30 kms away for her home. She used to visit the place almost everyday after her college. She told me that there was a girl in that orphanage who, according to her, was the most brilliant student and she liked her very much and wanted to support her. So she decided to give 50% of her salary to that girl as a stipend every month! I think there are a very few people who would do this in their life. Her life was full of tragedies. That girl died in a road accident! She couldn’t visit the orphanage for a month.

Another thing she was happy about was that she taught the kids in the orphanage how to sign in English. According to her it was the happiest moment in her life when all the kids showed her their signatures. By the way, there were around 30 kids in that orphanage.

Surprisingly, she was very much interested in international politics, law and history and Tamil literature. She was an avid reader and almost everyday she used to visit the public library to read all these stuffs. And these were the things I was the least interested about. More surprisingly her heroes were Che Guevara, Bhagat Singh, Fidel Castro, that chieftain of Tamil Tiger, I forgot the name, who died in an encounter with the Sri Lankan military force! She explained me why she awed them. I’m not wise enough to recall and explain all those here. But we talked a lot about all these.

South Indian non-veg dishes are not bad if you are a beginner and they are quite cheap too. She knew how much pissed off I was with the bland veggies in Pune. So sometimes she used to call me from a restaurant while having lunch and tease me telling the names of the dishes she had in front of her. I was dying to have rice and fish at that time in Pune and she had plenty of these in front of her. Like this we were in touch for a couple of months.

She dreamed to be a diplomat and was preparing herself accordingly. She told me that she’d be leaving for Delhi to join a college to prepare for the Civil Services Examination. I had exams ahead. So I almost stopped being in any sort of networking. She also got a little busy. There was a long pause. Anyway, maybe for some reasons I don’t remember now we didn’t chat much. Then one day she told me that she fixed a date and booked a ticket to travel to Delhi. I wished her all the best. She was very happy to be able to go to Delhi and study there. On the day she’d be leaving Chennai I thought of wishing her a happy journey but her cell was off. That day at around 11 pm I got a call from her when she was in the train. I was surprised for some reasons. I asked how she was doing and how the journey was till then. She replied and then there was a pause. She took some time. And then she said again. She said something and after that without letting me say anything else in reply she just hung up! I tried calling her several times after that night but found her out of reach. She changed her number and didn’t tell me until it was around a month after she had reached Delhi and started studying there. One day in the evening she called me to give her update and also to take mine. She told me that she lost all her contacts and later got mine after calling my father! She started learning Hindi ‘thoda thoda’. She was a bit unhappy to see that in Delhi the bus conductors and shopkeepers didn’t understand simple English. She also told me that she was the youngest pupil in her class and she was competing with a girl senior to her and whose father was a professor in the college she was in. Parkavi said she had to study more since she didn’t get the study notes handy unlike the girl she was competing with. I was smiling while listening to all these. She made me understand how tough the exam was and how much she needed to study. She became more engrossed with studies. Sometimes we used to exchange sms to know how things were at each other’s end. We hardly talked.

Again another day in the evening I got a sms from her. She got a place in the Oxford University with a scholarship! I was delighted much to get the news. So I called her back to get the details. She informed me that she sat for a written exam on law and history mostly, as far as I can recall at the moment and based on her performance in the exam she got selected. She was on top of the world then. She was dreaming about Oxford all day long. That’s how time was passing and she was also carrying on her studies. During this time she became sick two or three times.

After some time one day in the morning she called me. She told me that she became sick again. While returning from college she fainted on the road on two different days. I was very sad to hear and told her to take care. Since there was no one to cook and she wasn’t a very good cook and she prioritized studies, she wasn’t actually on a good diet. I requested her to take proper meals. After that sometimes I called or messaged her just to know whether she was feeling better. A few more weeks passed. She wasn’t keeping well. She visited a doctor. Her mother was anxious. After a few more days she again called me. A doctor told her that he found symptoms of the same ailment that Parkavi’s elder brother had, who succumbed to blood cancer eventually. I was shocked and could feel that she was almost shattered. Parkavi’s mother was crying on the phone and begging her to return home. But Parkavi was reluctant. She was more worried about her classes than going home. That was the day I talked to her last. I told her, “If you don’t want to think about your health that’s alright. But please think about your mother. She already lost her eldest child and you lost your brother. You can feel the pain. Let her not lose you; she won’t be able to survive …”. She whimpered; I could sense that. Later on I was informed that she finally decided to go back home and booked her flight. I was happy to know that and thought of calling her when she would depart from Delhi and wishing her a happy journey and good health. But this bloody me forgot to do that! And when I remembered it was too late and she already reached home. I know how much hurt and sad she was. She was angry with me and I’m unable to disclose the reason here. I tried calling her but her cell was out of reach. After a week I again tried. I tried again maybe after a month. She wasn’t reachable. I sent her messages on yahoo messenger. I haven’t got any reply yet. She wasn’t on facebook. I googled her but she was nowhere. I just hope she is fine, hale and hearty …

From a newbie …

Out of nothing  suddenly I got this idea of joining the community of the bloggers worldwide. I’m bored of almost everything around me, even the facebook, my most favorite thing on my computer. Writing/ typing has always been a disgusting job for me. I’m a copy-paste guy; Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V are my favorite keystrokes. It’s really wired how I’m liking typing paragraphs over here! My friend Sukanta many times pleaded me to write a diary daily. He writes much of it and gets fun. There are several reasons why I won’t keep a diary. First off, I want others to see what I write and to understand my handwriting too. But I don’t like dictating what I wrote! So a blog is the best solution to this problem.

After researching a bit on internet about which site to blog on I found wordpress.com the best. It’s got some nice features and faces. It seems blogging is gonna be an altogether different experience for me. My blog will be about me and my thoughts mostly.  Typically my blogs are gonna be unattractive and that’s why the precise appellation ‘Banalities …’. I seriously don’t have the time and devotion for proofreading and verbal ornamentation or diction. I just want to get the psychological relief and peace through jotting down the whims and fancies and realities that trickle from the memory cells inside my brain and stir me.

It’s 05:20 am!!! Gotta go! I’m looking forward to some nice sharing with you all.

That’s all folks …

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