My Ravings n Ramblings

My earlier venture into blogging was to capture the escapades of my kids. Very soon, I did realise that there was a lot more of stuff that demanded to be "penned down". Not wanting to turn the kids' blog into an "everything under the big blue sky" blog, I decided to start another one - and this is it !! "Anything and everything under the big blue sky" that catches my attention and says "pen me down" will be found here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A new kind of signboard

The other day, in one of the ladies' public washrooms, the signboard outside caught my attention
"Boys of the opposite sex above the age of 6 years old are not allowed into this toilet"

Huh ????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Feminists - to be or not to be

"FEMINISM - WHERE ART THOU ????? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

screamed a colleague of mine - way back in 1990. Five of us had just joined the same bank and had been sent to New Delhi for training - cos a branch of the bank was being inaugurated there a month later.

Delhi being what it is, or rather, us having heard a lot about Delhi and the eve-teasing that people use as a synonym for the city, we used to be scared to venture out of the hotel after 8 pm or so.

We just used to go over to the training centre for our dinner and rush back to the safe confines of our hotel.

One of our colleagues was told by some other enterprising individual that STD rates to Bombay were just about a quarter of the normal rates at some STD booth. The catch - the call had to be made between 2 am to 5 am.

This colleague of ours was making grand plans to sneak out of the hotel in the wee hours of the morning whilst the rest of us chose to err on the side of caution.

That was when this scathing remark came about !!

Come to think of it, what exactly is feminism ?

Are women who claim to be "feminists" trying to prove that they are more feminine than their counterparts who don't walk around claiming to be feminists or are they trying to say that they associate the word "feminine" with weakness, fragility or flimsiness ?

I've seen a lot of these "feminists" who go out of their way to prove that they can do it all.

I've never really been able to understand as to what exactly the "feminists" are out to prove.

There are a lot of women who excel in their professional fields while being extremely proficient and adept at managing the house as well. In some cases, one might go even to the extent of classifying them as schizophrenic lives but then, end of the day it works !!

Basically, they do not have to go around behaving as though men do not exist, or for that matter, even if they do acknowledge their existence - it is to consider that they have been sent to earth as unnecessary appendages.

What exactly are the "feminists" out to prove ??

This has been a question I've been asking myself and some of my so called feminist friends but to date, have not received a satisfactory reply - a reply which would make me stop considering this an unresolved quest.

Many a feminist scoffs at the idea of men holding doors open for women, waiting for ladies to get into the elevator first, holding chairs out for ladies etc...

But, if you ask me, personally, I do like the very idea of men holding doors open or waiting for ladies to get into elevators or get out of the elevators first etc...

I would say those are the privileges associated with being a lady.

And if a lot of the so called "feminists" out there consider these a sign of weakness, feebleness or flimsiness, then all I have to say is - SO BE IT !!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Unique bus habits......

Hongkong was in an uproar over "The Bus Uncle" incident a couple of months back. People travelling in the upper deck of a bus were treated to a teen being sounded off like he probably never has been by an elderly "uncle".

Reason - he was talking too loudly on his mobile phone.

Talking loudly - be it person to person, be it on the phone - is something, everyone who has stayed in HK for some time, accepts as normal behaviour.

Reminded me of what my dad used to say when I was a small kid. We used to live in the ground floor flat in Bombay. Three brothers and their respective families were also residents of the same building - one family on each floor. Sometimes they would just stand on the landing and holler out to the other family which, as I said before, was on the floor above or below, as the case may be. One day, all three families were gathered in one of the houses and the din was quite terrific. This led my dad to mutter - "They are probably discussing a secret issue".

Aside of speaking loudly, there are some other things too that I find rather unusual.

People here do not think twice about trimming/cutting their nails in public and of course, goes without saying, leaving their DNA samples (I mean the cut nails) all over the place.

I've found quite a lot of people who don't think twice before picking their noses in public. One gentleman (I don't know how else to describe someone without sounding rude about it) on the bus was pulling snot out of his nose and then studying it as though it was the subject of his doctoral thesis. Not once, many a times. And then he used to roll it between his fingers and pretty nonchalantly drop it on the floor of the bus. I know this sounds really gross - but then imagine actually seeing it happen !!!

Another favourite habit - mainly among teens - is to chew gum - lots of it - and then roll it up into a ball and stick it rather inconspicously (but well within the "damage doing" range) on bus seats and wait for a scapegoat to plonk rather unceremoniously into it.

Another thing people just love to do it to drink something out of a can or a tetra pack and leave the whole thing wedged on the sides of the seats of the bus.

I don't know where this is leading - but then again - I had mentioned earlier that this is a blog meant for me to ramble and that is precisely what I'm doing right now - rambling.

When I used to be working in Bombay, like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I used to travel by the local trains and many a times there used to be perverts who used to defile the ladies first class compartments and literally render them unusable. At times the stench used to be so strong that the whole compartment used to go deserted.

I thought I had left those days behind but come to think of it, I would not want to end up sitting on chewed gum or worse still, something that has come out of someone's nose either !!!

No one would !!!!!!!

Our Building Management

Citybase (the building management company) used to be extremely prompt when it came to posting notices regarding repairs etc.

For e.g - if, for some reason, fresh water supply or flush water supply was going to be suspended on a particular day they would put up a notice as soon as they got to know about it.

Even if occupants in some other flats were carrying out some repair work that would necessitate stoppage of water supply etc.. they would put a notice in the lobby.

Of late, their notices had begun to appear on the morning of that very day on which the supply was to be suspended. Fair enough !!

A few days back, however, they really took things too far.

We woke up in the morning, only to realise that there was no flush water supply. This continued till late afternoon (when the supply resumed). Checked out the lobby and found there was no notice whatsoever. So just assumed that it might have been some emergency repair.

The next day, a notice had been posted in the lobby which said that "Occupants of so and so floor were having repair work done which required flush water to be suspended yesterday".

Thank you Citybase !!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Local Trains in Bombay

Yesterday, when the "self-proclaimed" beautician asked me about the scar on my left eyebrow, she set memories rolling.

It brought back days of travelling on the "in"famous local trains (the lifeline of Bombayites travelling to work and from their workplace).

Local trains are not quite what they seem to be. When I travel by MTR here, I cannot but marvel at the difference.

Bombayites usually take the same train to work - names like 8.03 Andheri local, 7.45 Churchgate fast etc.. are about as common in Bombay as speaking Marathi or Hindi. Invariably, since people tend to take the same trains everyday, it almost becomes like a little family within each one of those compartments.

I remember, when I used to travel to work, I used to take the 7.51 Andheri local. There used to be a few ladies travelling from Andheri itself and many more used to get in along the way to Churchgate. Sometimes the flavour of the day used to "garam garam bhajias", sometimes it used to be "thalipeeth", sometimes "medu vadas" - we used to have a nice time.

I still remember the sense of worry that pervaded the compartment once cos one of the girls travelling was a student at one of the medical colleges in Bombay. She'd been just 2 months into her marriage when her hubby (who was in the army) was posted to Kargil.

The sense of festivity as one of the innumerable festivals approached, the sense of anticipation as one of the ladies travelling regularly got closer to her due date - all these had become part of daily life. There was so much of camaraderie amongst the commuters.

The ladies compartment used to be reserved for the ladies until 8 pm - after 8 pm even gents are allowed to board the ladies compartments. I still remember, days when I used to get late from work, the gray area used to be around 7.45 pm. Cos men used to start boarding the ladies compartments then - there was no fear of any policemen taking them to task - Bombay being what it is in that respect !! And there used to be this "Asha Aunty" who used to stand guard at the entrance of the ladies compartment armed with an umbrella - be it rain or be it summer or be it winter - Asha Aunty would be there on the 7.48 pm train from Churchgate with her umbrella and God help any gent who tries to get into the ladies compartment then. She used to use the umbrella very effectively. What a sight she was - sari held up slightly and tucked in at the waist, hands on her hips with, of course, the umbrella in the right hand.

Another seemingly impossible thing - boarding or alighting from a train whilst the train is still travelling at a high speed - was made to seem like a "piece of cake" by local train travellers. I used to do it. While boarding a train it was necessary cos otherwise we would not get a place to sit. While alighting, the trick was to jump off the train just as it approached the stairs of the bridge that led out from the station - else the bridge would get crowded.

I remember one gentleman tried to board a train while it was still moving fast and he caught hold of the middlebar (on the entrance to the compartment) and did hoist himself into the train but the momentum was so much that he went straight out from the entrance on the other side of the compartment. Thank God Churchgate station has platforms on both sides.

This happened before I started working. I was travelling by local trains to my computer classes and one day while I was getting back home in the afternoon (trains in the afternoons tend to be less crowded), I went and stood near the entrance of the compartment one station ahead of where I was to alight. The train had just about come to a stop when I felt a huge push and then the sensation of flying thru air and after that I remember nothing - that is till I came to. There were a whole lot of people trying to help me up, someone got a glass of water and I remember blood flowing down the left side of my face and trickling onto my salwar. One of the girls there (I had never even seen her before) helped me into a autorickshaw and she came home along with me.

Our family doctor then took me over to a nearby nursing home where, once the surgeon was thru patching my eyebrow up, I ended up sporting 12 stitches. What a show off !! Not to mention the four stitches on my left cheekbone which the great surgeon decided did not need any local anesthetic cos it was a straight cut - what the heck - straight or not straight - it sure hurt like hell.

That was when I got pushed from the train when someone tried to pull my chain !!! See - it even rhymes !!!

That remark by the beautician "Kya Hua Tha Yahaan" sent me tumbling back down memory lane and think about what has sort of become a tradition in itself - the amity, the companionship on the local trains of Bombay.

Apaharan - The Movie

Week before last, the Hindi movie Apaharan was telecast on Star Plus. Such a gut wrenching movie - yet - if one chooses to actually come out of the world of dreams that we so often live in, this is what is actually happening in some parts of India.

Violence, kidnapping, doing just about anything and everything for political gain - no morals, no scruples - seems to be the "in" thing.

So much wasted potential - the root of the movie too was the same issue - so much of wasted potential - in the form of a younger generation who, finding that the "right" way gets them nowhere, justify their getting on to the "wrong" path.

It was absolutely sickening, the way the truth was portrayed - very truly !!!

A visit to the "beautician"

Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go over to this Indian "beautician". Well, not exactly spur of the moment - its been on my mind for a while now cos my eyebrows were once again beginning to look like an overgrown lawn which desperately needed to be mowed down.

Spur of the moment because till yesterday morning I did not have any such plans. And since I was anyway going to that part of HK, I decided to have my hair cut as well. Again, something that was long overdue. My crowing glory has been looking like the Amazon Rainforest for quite some time now.

Went over to the beautician's "parlor" and found that she wasn't there. Her kid was unwell and she had taken the day off. Trust me to time things so perfectly !! Two of her sidekicks were around. Normally I don't let them touch me (my eyebrows I mean) but yesterday the choice was between walking out then and going all the way back some other day or being magnanimous and giving one of the sidekicks some "threading practice".

Told her at the very beginning to be careful with the mole on my right eyebrow - cos otherwise the thread could actually cut thru the mole and then my mole starts bleeding like there is no tomorrow. This is not a figment of my imagination - it has actually happened before !!

My eyebrows are really something. Aside of being bushy, and aside of having a mole on my right eyebrow, I have a scar on my left eyebrow. And she immediately went "Yeh kya hua yahaan". I just told her that it had happened a long time back - a bad cut on the eyebrow. I half expected her to start hollering "Yeeeehh Kya Hua, Kaiiisee Hua, Kab Hua, Kyon Hua" - a la Kishore Kumar. Fortunately she did nothing of that sort.

She was busy wiping the front of her T shirt with a tissue - trying to get a stain off - apparently she had dropped some food on her T shirt which was straining at the seams - actually reminded me of the numerous Republic Day parades which I had seen during my childhood days - the missiles all mounted on those armoured trucks, the missiles looking like they were all ready to take off you know.

My eyebrows are capable of making any beautician's life quite miserable actually - they have to use all the skills they can possibly muster for threading my eyebrows without making me look like Mr.Spock. She was quite OK actually. Then I went ahead and asked her to thread my upper lip as well - God that Hurts !!! BAD !!!!!

Then went to another salon and had my hair cut. This time around the hair cut too was quite similar to what I had wanted.

The last time (last Diwali) I went for a hair cut the "hair stylist" went "chop chop chop" until she had reached well upto my shoulder blades. And the highlights were another story altogether !!!

All in all, that had been one big fiasco !!! And an expensive one at that !!!

This time around "All was well that ended well".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shower Stalls or Local Trains

I've been noticing this ever since Appu started taking swimming lessons. After their one hour of swimming all the kids, ably herded by the mothers or grandmothers or the household helpers, rush towards the shower stalls for a good warm shower.

Invariably, as me and Appu head towards the shower stalls, we find one of the local ladies standing bang in front of one shower stall with her bags all over the shower stalls on both of her sides too.

A Reservation System !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was just wondering that day as to what would have happened to these locals if ever they are subjected to travelling in one of the local trains in Bombay.

I still remember - sometimes some smart alecs used to spread out newspapers or some such thing and if asked would actually have the cheek and guts to retort "Woh mere friend ke liye hai. Agle station se isi train me chadegi". Not that these used to last for long. If it is a typical Bombayite who is given such a cock and bull story they would just go ahead and say

"Aye madam - chalo chalo - magazine nikalo. Tumko kya lagta hai - baki sab ne paisa nahin diya hai kya - baki sab ne ticket nahin liya hai kya. "

Basic decency prevents many a people from creating a scene at the shower stalls at the swimming group but it does make me wonder if it is this very basic decency that some people take advantage of.

On Plastic Bags and Mother Earth

This happened while I was shopping at the supermarket the other day. There are these notices that one finds all over Hongkong now. Recycle, Save Mother Earth, Help - Our landfills are close to reaching their limit etc....

I mean, nothing wrong with these. Actually as I write this, today, some environment protection group has called for all HKers to switch off their lights (and just about everything else running on electricity) for 3 minutes at 8 pm. They are, I believe, taking this course of action to protest against the government's seeming lack of action towards cleaner skies in HK.

Getting back to where I started, there are notices plastered all over the supermarkets too - Bring your Own Bag etc... basically to cut down on the number of plastic bags that the supermarkets have to dole out if one does not carry ones own bag and eventually these non-biodegradable plastic bags would find their way into one of HK's landfills.

Now there are a lot of people who religiously carry their own bags. And there are some who carry their own shopping trolleys and just load their stuff in. There was this lady right ahead of me in the checkout lane and I heard her telling the staff at the supermarket that she did not need plastic bags - I repeat plastic "bags".

Then she put her stuff on the counter and as the staff started to bill them - she goes - Oh thats cheese - its cold - put it in a separate "cover" please. Oh those are eggs - a "cover" for them please. The plastic covers are non bio degradable too !!

On and on this went and by the time she was through, I was certain that had she requested for plastic "bags" from the supermarket, she would not have carried as much plastic home as she eventually did.

Oh Yes !! Mother Earth does need help and loads of it.................and fast !!!!!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another good email that we received a few days ago

To the wonderful kids who were born in India and survived the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's.

First, we survived being born to mothers, some, whose husbands smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate whatever food was put on the table, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

They were mothers who did not check their blood pressure every few minutes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs and bassinets were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We were put in prams and sent out with ayahs (maids) to meet other children with ayahs, whilst our parents were busy.

We cried, were picked up and cuddled by the ayahs" ( maids) and were quiet again.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking or going out on our own.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags. We sat on each other's laps for God's sake.

Riding in the back of a station wagon on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We would share a dosa, dip a chapatti into someone else's plate of curry without batting an eyelid.

We ate jam sandwiches or pickle on bread and butter, raw mangoes with salt that set our teeth on edge and drank orange squash with sugar and water in it.

We ate at roadside stalls, drank water from tender coconuts, ate everything that was bad for us from mumfalees to Bhel Puri to bhajias and samosas, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

There was never a child - not one single child -who was obese!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day during the holidays, we were never ever bored, and we were allowed freedom all day as long as we were back when the streetlights came on, or when our parents told us to do so.

No one was able to reach us all day by mobile phone or phone. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours making paper kites, building things out of scraps with old pram wheels or cycle rims, inventing our own games, playing traditional games called hide and seek, kick the can and rounders, ride old cycles and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.

After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We swam with an inflated tube which we got from somebody who was replacing their car tyres.

We ran barefoot without thinking about it, if we got cut we used iodine on it which made us jump.

We did not wash our hands ten times a day. And we were OK.

Our parents trusted us to go on picnics with everyone and anyone, a friend of a friend would be OK and we survived.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no I-Pods, no internet or internet chat rooms, no TV, full stop.

We did not have parents who said things like "what would you like for breakfast, lunch or dinner". We ate what was put in front of us and best of all , there was never any leftovers. We polished the lot.

WE HAD FRIENDS, great friends, whose parents we called Uncle and Aunty, and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees numerous times, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no compensation claims from these accidents.

We ate fruit lying on the ground that we shook down from the tree above. And we never washed the fruit shook down from the trees.

We had a bath using a bucket and mug and used Lifebuoy soap. We did not know what conditioners meant.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls. We rode cycles everywhere and someone sat on the carrier or across the bar to school or the pictures not cinema, or you walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Not everyone made it into the teams we wanted to. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation of ours has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

Come to think of it, this is so true. Individual to invididual - maybe not the entire thing but a major part of it is so very true.

Makes one wonder, with developments in science and technology, do people get more and more paranoid ?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is there a magic cut off period ......

There was this email we received a few months back. Did read it and since it was so good forwarded it to friends as well.

Is there a magic cut off period when...

Offspring become accountable for their own actions?

Is there a wonderful moment when parents can become detached spectators inthe lives of their children and shrug, "It's their life," and feel nothing ?

When I was in my twenties, I stood in a hospital corridor waiting for doctors to put a few stitches in my son's head.

I asked, "When do you stop worrying?" The nurse said,"When they get out of the accident stage."

My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

When I was in my thirties, I sat on a little chair in a classroom and heard how one of my children talked incessantly, disrupted the class,and was headed for a career making license plates.

As if to read my mind, a teacher said, "Don't worry, they all go through this stage and then you can sit back, relax and enjoy them."

My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

When I was in my forties, I spent a lifetime waiting for the phone to ring, the cars to come home, the front door to open.

A friend said,"They're trying to find themselves. Don't worry, in a few years, you can stop worrying. They'll be adults."

My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

By the time I was 50, I was sick and tired of being vulnerable. I was still worrying over my children, but there was a new wrinkle there was nothing I could do about it.

My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

I continued to anguish over their failures, be tormented by their frustrations and absorbed in their disappointments.

My friends said that when my kids got married I could stop worrying and lead my own life.

I wanted to believe that, but I was haunted by my mother's warm smile and her occasional, "You look pale. Are you all right? Call me the minute you get home. Are you depressed about something?"

Can it be that parents are sentenced to a lifetime of worry?

Is concern for one another handed down like a torch to blaze the trail of human frailties and the fears of the unknown? Is concern a curse or is it a virtue that elevates us to the highest form of life?

One of my children became quite irritable recently, saying to me, "Where were you? I've been calling for 3 days, and no one answered. I was worried."

I smiled a warm smile. The torch has been passed.

Then the whole thing slipped from my mind. It often happens with me and my parents too. Sometimes I am scheduled to call them on a particular day and sometimes I forget to. At times, when my call is about 2-3 days overdue, my dad calls up from Bombay and that is when I remember that I have crossed the deadline for the phone call to my parents.

I always used to wonder as to why he rushes to phone me if my call is just about 2 days overdue. It used to be irritating at times.

A few weeks back, Bombay was rocked by a series of bomb blasts on the local trains. I was trying time and again to get thru to my parents but the phones in that area were down due to some cable disruption. There was no way I could contact them.

They normally don't travel in local trains but still I needed reassurance that they were OK.

Finally we called up and asked my uncle-in-law to go over, check with them and confirm to us that they were OK.

That afternoon, my father called up from Bombay (my uncle-in-law had visited them and told them that we were worried) and I cannot express in words the relief that I felt when I realised that they were OK.

That was when the above email came to mind.

It is so very true.

During those two days - personally - the torch had indeed been passed !!