Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shackles of another kind!

Our maid, Lakshmi was screaming at someone on the road. I peeped over the compound wall to see what the commotion was all about. On the road stood Lakshmi, arms akimbo looking at a very frightened girl called Maya. Maya works as a stay in maid in my neighbor’s house. Lakshmi had apparently caught Maya and her boy friend smooching at the dead end of the road. “Do you know you can get AIDS?” hissed Lakshmi. Maya looked scared. Apparently she knew of the malady. “And then” continued Lakshmi hissing “you will die a slow and painful death” Maya looked absolutely horrified and scared.

Lakshmi had cause for concern. She was a mother of a teenage daughter and a son. She met her husband when she worked as a stay in maid herself. She was pregnant by the time she was 16 and was kicked out of the job soon after. Her parents married her off to the father of the baby and since then she has been toiling as he is a drunkard. This story repeats itself even today. Most young maids in our colony have boy friends, who are unemployed boys, looking for a sound financial investment for their future in these girls. Almost all the girls I know in this category have got pregnant and were married off to the father of the baby. It is not even looked upon as shameful, but as natural. Then the dashing guy, armed with her salary starts drinking and these girls join the multitude of women living with alcoholic husbands struggling to make ends meet.

Maya looked at Lakshmi helplessly. She was clearly not equipped to make any decision here. Lakshmi continued in a milder tone “at least insist that he wears protection” she advised. Maya looked at her bemused and blurted out “then how will we have children?” Lakshmi slapped her forehead in irritation. “Ayyo!” she exclaimed. "Before you get married, get him tested” she exclaimed. Maya thought for a moment, nodded her head and walked off with the groceries she was sent to procure.

I was maha impressed by the whole incident and narrated the same to my mom. Mom immediately called Lakshmi inside for a tete a tete. From Lakshmi we learnt about the huge misconceptions that exist amongst slum dwellers about AIDs. It is considered a deadly disease, but no one knows how to prevent it. Protection is expensive and men are not willing to spend precious money on the same. Wives who do not cooperate are beaten or abandoned. Like alcoholic husbands and abuse, they take AIDs as fate. If the women want protection, then they have to buy it themselves. The husbands are pretty clear that they are not “wasting” their money on the same. And many women know that, they had better protect themselves as there will be no one to look after their kids if something happens to them. The husbands will merely marry another willing victim.

Lakshmi abandoned her husband a long time ago, when my mom advised her to. She never regretted the decision, as a huge financial liability was lifted off her shoulders with his departure. She was able to put her kids through school and was forever free of beatings and abuse. My mom on the other hand was free of the frequent hospital trip to repair her after the brutal beatings. Today she acts as a one woman NGO, advising girls of the dangers of AIDs and the importance of protection. I do not know how successful she is, as gullible young girls are not wont to listen to preaching’s when they are flattered by the attention of their men. But Lakshmi tries. She says the girls are smartening up with television becoming affordable and the resultant information flow to the slums.

Listening to Lakshmi, you are made aware of the age old traditions and beliefs that cripples able bodied women into helpless slaves. Just changing laws is not going to break the shackles religion has placed on the society. Because as long as these women are bought up on mythical stories of women who sacrificed their lives for their husbands, they will worship their men as Gods! Religious leaders, have to play an active part in cleaning the misconceptions instead of harping on “our culture and traditions being decimated by Valentines Day celebrations!”

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Quote Tag

I have been tagged by a notorious assassin and serial killer who I suspect, likes to live life in the danger lane!! Read his blog at your own risk. You may be thrown out of office for laughing hysterically at some of his victims!

The tag is called “The Quote Tag.” Now, tagging me with a Quote tag is like asking a mongaan irunna naayi about his problems....I love quotes!! And asking me to quote "only" 5 is like telling Paris Hilton to live on a budget!! This is the Height of Frustration for me!! So this might be the most difficult tag I will ever do!

( Mr Thomas Sebastian, count me in among the numerous people plotting revenge against you. I am right now making a tag exclusively wonly for you called “The Five Crushes Tag". I am already smiling in sadistic delight at the thought of you tearing your hair out in frustration because you can only jot down 5 crushes tee hee)

The Tag

Jot down 5 (arrghh) of your favorite quotes from the various books you’ve read. If you don’t have the books with you now, Googling (Wikiquotes and the like) can be used to find them. Tag five people and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

1. “For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.”

-- Bill Cosby

Now, I am neither married nor cynical of the same, but this just cracks me up!!!

2. “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace."

-- Oscar Wilde

Please don't think I am a pessimist folks...I am an optimist as you can see by this quote.

3. "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

-- Teilhard de Chardin

4. Toohey: “Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.”
Roark: “But I don't think of you.”

-- The Fountainhead

I love this quote because this is exactly what I would say to the numerous relatives who disapproved of my Dad's liberal way of bringing me up. "Do you know what they are talking about you?" they would ask. To which I replied “Why would I want to know what they are talking about me!!" genuinely puzzled. And this is what kept me blogging all these years. Most people do not know about the numerous Anon comments and mails I get saying "Are you aware of the consequence of what you have written!!' To which I always replied 'Why should I be!" Period.

5. "Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile."

-Franklin P. Jones

Here's wishing that all of us find the love that will make this ride worthwhile!

This is a simple tag, that I complicated with my rambling :p So the people I tag need not do the same. All you need to do is write down your favorite quotes. :)

I hereby tag the following with the “The Quote Tag”-

Listening to this melodious song. Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The un-encashed freedom cheque!

Yet another Independence Day approaches. We had a colorful celebration in the office today with competitions like, 'My Pod’ which is a euphemism for 'most distastefully decorated cubicle". People showed how (un)creative they were by decorating their work stations with trillions of tricolor Indian flags in varying degrees of slants, from 10 degree to some really acute and obtuse angled slants, while some hung it upside down.

By evening I was ready to puke at the sight of the tricolor. It was everywhere!! Some people had used their genius creativity to make designs of the flags. They looked like tricolor mosaics and people were heard asking “What is that? Oh! That’s a circle made of flags yeah? How umm nice."

Just when I was fighting the tricolor overdose induced nausea, came the round of sweets. And you guessed it right, it was tricolor. Sigh.

Some people decided to go off the beaten path! I heaved sigh of relief!! They bought tricolor streamers!! *barf* Yet another group too decided to do something different, They bought tricolor brooches. By afternoon, the facilities team, not to be outdone, lovingly plonked a tricolor flag on every table. And lest we complaint of damp Independence Day spirit in the office, they topped it up with garlands made of Marigold on the workstation walls!

I suddenly felt pity for the British. So this was the reason they ran away!!! So much tricolor would have been a deadly assault on the sensitive British senses. And they used vegetable dyes in those days!!

Lunch was interesting. Tricolor pulao, and tricolor Koftas and everything else had a generous helping of white or orange and green in it. Dessert was tricolor cham cham! I was gagging! The assault of the tricolor was suffocating. And there were Nehrus and Tilaks and Rajendra Prasads walking around, talking of sales figures and year end targets. Very unnerving I tell you!

And the wont believe this…were dressed in white salwars and tricolor dupattas!! Yours truly stuck to a white salwar kurtha and white dupatta ( HR orders to wear ‘ethnic’). Someone lovingly stuck a tricolor bindi on my forehead and my tricolor misery was complete!

Outlook Express was a tricolor churning machine for the day. Every other mail came with images of Gandhi, Baby, Dove, Landscape and Sunflowers painted over with…you guessed right, the tricolor!!! The tricolor sunflower looked like that awful Wipro logo that I am sure Premji was made to adopt under gunpoint! Of course the e-cards had "Happy Independence Day" written all over in tricolor wedding fonts. Is there any limit to creativity? It was overstretched err overflowing in my office today.

Is this what Independence Day is all about I wondered. Then how different is it from Valentines and New Years!

There was a speech from a big boss that I knew by heart and when he paused to answer his phone, I caught myself lip syncing the words.

We must do our bit for the country blah blah. We must be responsible blah blah. Blah duties too and blah like patriotic blah, we must blah and we should blah blah. Then we can blah blah, so that we can progress blah blah into a SUPERPOWER!!”

*applause from khadi clad junta*

I silently thanked the gods that I was lip syncing the speech, or the bhaashan would have continued in a feminine voice while he attended a phone call.

Felt very frustrated by the end of the day. I took the plastic box of tricolor sweets tied with tricolor ribbons and pushed it into my bag. Somehow, I could not appreciate the enthusiasm of the decorators. I wish that enthusiasm was channeled elsewhere, like on the streets where the real India lives. Talk is cheap I know, but I wish the stupid Human Resources had taken us for a day's CSR at some orphanage or village school. At least for a day, I would have felt I did something relevant. I badly want to feel that I have done something. Right now I feel like an empty headed fool with my tricolor bindi and tricolor flag stuck with a pin on my salwar.

Hope this post doesn’t read like a bhaashan. But I am feeling damn frustrated right now to see Independence Day reduced to another commercial celebration like Valentines Day! When will we become a nation of doers and not just tricolor streamers err I mean dreamers?

( I am off to Kerala for the long weekend. Reply to comments will hence be delayed. Have a rocking weekend folks!!)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bush fire!

The good news:

Sen. McCain's bus crashes in Miami!

The bad news:

Sen. McCain was not traveling in the bus when the accident occurred.

God save America...err the world!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The final innings

Sunday was yet another wedding in the family in Bangalore. Hordes of relations had come down from Kerala. Some had come earlier, mostly the older folks so that they could visit the older folks living here. As I dutifully drove one such set of older people from one house to another, I was stuck by something. The older folks were a changed lot from their much younger version that I had seen when I was a kid. The years had smoothed away the rough edges, leaving beautiful people, devoid of jealousy, rancor and other human weaknesses that keep people apart. And replacing that was genuine happiness in meeting people, genuine happiness in their happiness, genuine concern at their well being and genuine happiness at their successes.

There was a lot of peace and calm in the car and it seemed to radiate to me. Another thing that stuck me about this generation was an obvious yet unnoticed facet of their life. They were all islands of two, with siblings around their age, similar islands stuck in a time warp that would have begun the day they got married. These were couples who had left their home and hearth as young men and women and come together to raise a family and then bid goodbye to their kids as they set off to seek their fortunes in the corporate world. Yet they were due to some societal compulsions, still living like a couple even though they could now afford to give time to people they could not earlier due to family and work commitments! And since all the older folks are in the same dilemma, it leads of a lot of islands living in avoidable loneliness and emptiness.

This post is not about, older folks being left alone, so please hold comments on the same! This post is about making a conscious change in older couples lifestyles after they have finished their parental and family duties. This post is about reconnecting with people you left behind or parted with, when you stepped out into the world.

I am not saying that couples should split and go back to their parental family members. But after we fly the coup, we should liberate our parents too, instead of keeping them locked up as guardians of the family property and thus condemning them to live as islands! It is surprising to see the number of lonely old couples in one extended family itself! If they could connect, their loneliness would be over for good and the company of people their age, will act like a friends circle, giving them a social life as well! Right now their only reprieve from loneliness is weddings and other family functions

And if it happens, wouldn’t old age be a looked forward to event? It would, for me. The very thought of spending time with my parental family members in my old age is a very warm and happy feeling indeed!

While I was discussing this with my mom the other day, she told me of a couple who were kept apart from their family as their kids feared that the family may brain wash them into parting with their property! The couple now live alone in Mumbai instead of their ancestral tharavadu like some of their retired siblings, exiled because of a Mumbai apartment, wasting precious years of what’s left of their lives away from their families. Such a sad situation! What a waste of time…and life. It’s high time we loosened the “family” grip from older people so that they can have a life of their own.

Getting back to the the end of each visit, I watched the older folks, take leave of their siblings, tears in their eyes, making resolves to visit more often and eking out promises to call more often. And I felt bad that they have to say goodbye at all. If only they knew they had a choice! *sigh*

p.s it is obvious I guess, I love ze olde folks to bits! Just being with them is like living in a nicer world.

Dedicating this song to all those people, who are still young at heart!