Thursday, December 25, 2008

Death of Innocence

Does the city have a life?
The mad rush of day and night….
The stream of life….
The tempers, the trials, the tribulations.

The tears, the smiles,
Of loved ones and passers by….
All the little joys of nature….
Unnoticed, they all go….

The lure of lucre eggs us on.
But what have we lost?
The lust for life, the passion to be….
And innocence dies a death.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

'God's own country'

An old piece (written on January 27, 2002) describing my trip to Trivandrum (January 24-26, 2002), which I think is worth preserving.... Here goes:

Me's just back from a junket to 'God's own country'........ yeah you got it right - Kerala, truly 'God's own country'. I had a conference in Trivandrum organised by my company. A whole lot of people from my co were scheduled to attend..left Delhi on a 'brrrrrrrrrr' cold morning.... the plane was full of my office people - seemed as good as home in there..........landed at BOM at 8.......... a city I love for its myriad smells, tastes, colors and sights, a city that epitomizes triumph and endurance of the human spirit over adversity........ was tempted to get out of the sterile environs of the cabin,
smell the air and call up a few friends..... but didn't because I was afraid, I might branded an Osama follower!!! We flew over the Konkan and Malabar coasts................ what a sight that was........ would pay a million for that.... the shimmering blue sea on one end and green and brown of land on the other. Landed at Trivandrum at 11.......... the approach to TRV is fabulous. The airport is located near a beach and in the middle of a coconut grove..... the view was fabulous..... the doors were opened and we were greeted by the bright Kerala sun and warm balmy breeze. Waiting at the terminal building were lissome dusky Malloo beauties, all there to welcome us!!! We were all greeted with a tilak and a red rose each...the route to Kovalam is fabulously green. Coconut trees lined both sides of the road. had a small glimpse of the backwaters. Reached the hotel on Kovalam beach and had to get ready for the conference which was to start in an hour..... Kovalam is known for its beach sands which have thorium in minute quantities ........ a place frequented by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis...the view of the sea was too tempting...... but had to rush....... the thing went on the till late in the evening after which we were invited for a Mohiniyattam show in open air theatre....... good music in the sea breeze - what else could I ask for.....the next morning I was up early for I couldn't resist the lure of the sea..... nopes I don't know swimming......... I was lured by the strong sea breeze....... went to the beach and saw the fishermen returning with their catch for the day.......the conference was over by 2PM........ we had time for ourselves now...... went for a speedboat ride.......... cannot describe how it felt. Soon after that we left for the city... visited the Padmanabha temple.... even though I am not a religious guy or a 'temple-goer'. stripped to the bare and clad in lungis (as per the custom!), we watched in wonder the exquisite 700-800 year old stone was the time to buy some souvenirs......... went about the city for that and picked up quite a bit. Reached back late in the night........and I shouldn't forget the food........ yum yum yum... coconut rice, curd rice, appams, thorans, sambhars, local coconut stews, fish curries.... mmmm my mouth waters at the thought of Keralite food. Woke up at 2AM in the morning - we wanted to view the sunrise at Kanyakumari!!!! Kanyakumari is a 2hr drive from TRV..... reached Kanyakumari well in time, but there were clouds in the horizon....... we were not disappointed tho..... there was a 'slit' in clouds and we could see the sunrise........ what a place to be on 26Jan!!!! Sitting at the bottom-most tip of the peninsula, watching the sunrise and hoping for brighter times ahead for us and our Republic!!!! Long Live the Republic! Moved about, went to Vivekanand Memorial, the Thiruvalluvar statue and moved about a bit....... and then it was time to return....had to rush back to TRV to catch the flight back to Delhi..... was sad to leave the warmth of the they say all good things come an end, but this was the beginning of my love affair with 'God's Own Country'......... as one of my friends had said.. for those who love time is eternity for those who love, yes the short I spent there was like we took off, I made a vow to return back..... spend more time, visit Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady, Periyar and the backwaters!!!! And now its back to the cold, dust, traffic jams of Delhi.....

All that I want!

Up I go.......

on the long winding road.

The blue sky, the bright Sun,

The green hill, gushing streams,

All things big and small ...

Speak of a beauty....


What use is all this

...... without that loving voice,

... those caring hands,

... that comforting smile.

To have her beside me....

Walk up, hand in hand

...... step by step,

... is all I want,

... is all I need!

(Dedicated, with lots of love, to Neeti)

Thank God it was Saturday!

Sometimes one just wants to escape .... escape from the reality ... freshen up oneself, get out of the routine.

And that's precisely what we did yesterday.... we tried to, for a moment, forget what's coming up and tried to live the day. A week passed by since both of us had been down with a bad flu, a few months had passed by of trying in vain to get what we rightfully deserve .... and what the hell....Saturday was the time to break loose. Well some what!

Again it was one of the days when we missed the gym again, but could there be a better day to binge? I guess not.

After a late breakfast of oat porridge, boiled eggs and poha, we headed out to Inorbit Malad at 1 PM. Gosh - what discipline - breakfast at 1 PM???

The recession is here for sure, so we thought we ought to cut our costs right? So we parked our Dreamliner at Hypercity - the parking coupon is redeemable against purchases at the store - and we walked down to Inorbit, a couple of minutes away.

Got into Shopper's Stop for window-shopping, we could not help exclaiming how fast things have come back to normal after 26/11 - the mall-rats were back, finally!!! But the security was pathetic as ever. While I was frisked reasonably, Neeti went through casually - do we give a damn for security?

To compensate for our inability to visit our gym today, we sauntered up and down Inorbit for about an hour, fairly briskly, burning those calories stored in the flab and then as always, a cuppa was what was needed! So our pace quickened towards Coffee World, where we consumed a few more calories alongwith some refreshing Assam tea - afterall the company was great, to chai ho jaye!!!

While enjoying our tea, we were preparing for the worst - making contingency plans just in case Mr. Kasab's mates walk in with a few crackers - we quickly mapped our escape routes, etc. etc. Fortunately for us, Mr. Kasab's mates probably haven't yet commenced their voyage on the high seas!!!

And then, Halleluiah!!!! It was time to head to my temple - the meat and poultry section of Hypercity, where I have to dutifully pay my obeisance, everytime I am in the vicinity of Malad!!! Picked up some pomfret - thank God, Neeti has finally given in to the joys of a carnivorous existence, after over 3 years of my patient convincing!!!!!

And what recession are we talking of? People are still splurging - filling in trolleys with goodies. Now what's the truth? No doubt inflation has hurt us all. No doubt malls were running empty till about two weeks back. How was today different? Perhaps, people who were sick and tired of being at home after the attacks suddenly loosened up and vented out their feelings by mall-ratting. Perhaps, people were lulled in by the "comfort" that we've have a great three weeks and no attacks. Sure this would be a great research topic for a psychologist! Whatever it is, we have forgotten all this so soon, far too soon that it pains.

And it was time for another cup of tea, this time at the Brio. My hypothesis has always been to protest against bad service. This time around the service at the Brio was far far better. Neeti has been saying for the last 3-odd years that I always sniff out bad service, like a lion smelling its prey in the air!!!! Whatever it is, we as a country have a long way to go before we learn what good service is - a long subject that's better left to another blog.

And we headed back - I had a date with my barber for my long due haircut (Gosh! People at office thought I had changed my hairstyle! My style statement was getting blown to smithereens - I needed a haircut, badly!!!).

I joined Neeti at Lokhandwala market, where she was indulging in her favourite pastime of bargaining. On our way out, we chanced upon "Guru da Dhaba" in one of the by-lanes. I had been hearing of this nondescript joint on the foodie forums online for at least 2 years, as one of the most remarkable joints for "homecooked" food. Naturally we were tempted at the thought of rajma-chawal, kadi and arbi. To top it all - the ambiance was just like "home" (read: North India) - an elderly Sardarji - dressed in white with a orange-yellow turban, sat at the counter listening to soothing Gurbani!!! And the food, well, basic but delicious!

And it was time to get back! Thank God it was Saturday!

A New Life

The blue sky looks down at the Earth,
Parched, lifeless, listless and barren,
Life on Earth looks up for mercy.
Little can the sky do to end its misery.

With each passing moment,
The fury of the Sun gets unbearable.
Phoebus laughs on seeing the agony below,
Oblivious of the invader on the horizon.

Trumpets herald the arrival of the army,
An army mightier than Alexander’s.
Splendid gray clouds come from all over.
Vanquishing the invincible Sun in no time.

The victorious soldiers invade the sky.
All over the sky – east, west, north and south,
Life is shielded from the fiery glare of the Sun.
The sky salutes the victors with darts of lightning.

The army pays its tribute to the Earth.
Drops of water rain down.
Lying dormant in the barren ground,
The impregnated seed comes to life!

Trumpets sound – A new life on Earth has come!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Haven't we learnt any lessons?

Every time terror strikes, we claim that we have learnt what we need to do and we pretend to do it for some time - albeit a very short period of time. And then, guess what, we conveniently forget.....

We proudly say life goes on and has to go on.... and that we as a nation have to ability to bounce back.... And then it happens all over again.

Couple of incidents that I have seen have make me feel particularly vulnerable.... make me shit bricks....

Not very long ago, we had the 11/7 blasts on the Bombay local trains in 2006. In a panic reaction, metal detectors had been installed at Churchgate station. Cops were deployed and CCTVs installed to monitor the crowd movement. But I don't think, or dare I say, I am convinced that these detectors never work - they barely squeal when pass through them with a metal object - it could be a goddamn bomb. Cops, on the other hand, instead of keeping a hawk's eye on suspicious movement, either prefer ogling pretty girls or just don't care. I have myself walked through Churchgate carrying big bulky carrybags several times, without being questioned a single time.

You may blame that on indifferent attitude of Government staff.....

Now sample this.....

Yesterday, I flew on India's "finest international airline" (am trying to be politically correct here) from Bombay to Ahmedabad. Anticipating a stringent security check at the airport, I reach well in advance - a good 90 minutes before the scheduled departure. Sample this - the CISF at the entrance to the terminal barely at e-ticket printout and my id proof and waves me in. You need to be a tech-geek to forge an e-ticket, do you? It's a five minute job on MS Outlook, right?

Then, why don't we have a bag screening process prior to entering the terminal - the CISF cop at the terminal entrance, just checks the e-ticket and the id proof, without having any clue of what lies in your bag - it could theoretically have kilos of explosives and weaponry, which could wreck havoc in the terminal. Possible? Yes, very much.....

The newspapers yesterday spoke of ladder point checks and zero tolerance towards laxity in security checks. But, my friend, there was no ladder point check at all....

The story doesn't end there. I was assigned row 22 - common sense is that one should board from the rear ladder. But yesterday, the "finest international airline" had boarding pass checks only at the forward ladder point and not at the rear, which was being used by the janitors. Respecting the logic of safety and given that checks were taking place at the forward ladder point, all passengers moved towards there. However, when my turn came, the lady tore the stub of my boarding pass and smilingly asked me to use the rear ladder as it would be kind closer to my assigned row.

I did just that - but..... there was no one to check my boarding when climbed up the rear ladder, neither cabin crew at the rear find anything unusual. It is well known that Bombay airport has porous peripheries. Theoretically, anyone could have sneaked with a cache of arms and handed it over right? Now dare think of what could happen next.....

Landing at Bombay is a nightmare - given the proliferation of slums around, imagine how easy for a rogue to target a landing aircraft with a shoulder-based mini-Anti Aircraft missile - need I say, these are wholesaled in our neighbourhood - the famed arms markets of Peshawar! But the slums, they've got to stay, for Madam says so.... Great, right, what a free for all!!!!

7/11 was just last week, but have we forgotten it so soon? I must say this amnesia so damn shameful....

Let's look at the post 9/11 US on the other hand. No exceptions are made, no compromises are made. I still recall when George Fernandes, our then minister, who enjoyed diplomatic immunity, was stripped to the bone..... Moral of the story - giving up a few liberties is a small price to pay for national security.

There are two problems with us - one we start security initiatives with great fanfare, but lose it somewhere, two, we Indians don't like being checked. Voila, this results in a deadly cocktail.....

Bottomline, neither do we learn nor do we want to learn.....
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