Pained and Irrational Me

Traffic signal was turning orange, I stepped on accelerator to cross the signal before it turned red. I missed it by nick of time. Impatient, restless as I am, turned the volume up to the maximum while I waited for the signal to turn green again.

A face appeared on the side window, she knocked on the window glass with quivering hands. I don’t give alms to beggars but she was not begging. She looked like a dignified lady, she was selling ‘agarbattis/essence stick’ on the Chirag Delhi traffic signal. It was late in the night, she was probably trying to make last sale of the day. I rolled the window down and bought a box of agarbattis.

When I bought them, I didn’t know if they will ever be used. Unfortunately, they were lit  in front of my father’s photograph, the very next day.

I still cross that signal often. That lady still sells agarbattis there. For very long, I didn’t look at her to avoid evil omen. I was too sacred to look at her, it wasn’t her fault but how do you convince a grieving heart.

Time has healed the wounds. I am not scared of her anymore but I still don’t have courage to buy agarbattis from her. I don’t think, I can ever be that brave.

First Salary. First Learning.

I don’t read newspaper.

I didn’t read it back then. It depresses me to read so much negativity.

Sitting on my terrace, sipping early morning tea, 15 years back, I flipped the page of ‘Times Of India’. I don’t remember why, but I did. In the middle, on the double spread was a Samsung mobile phone advertisement. I clearly remember it was a silver colour mobile phone, you could flip it open from the centre.

I was fresh in college and the mobile phone was new to the world and were very expensive. Those days, even incoming calls were charged for Rs 32 per pulse. So it was just not the handset, keeping a phone was exorbitant. There were only 3 players in the market – Airtel, Hutch and BSNL/MTNL. Idea, Reliance, Aircel was yet to venture. Hutch was yet to be bought over by Vodafone. Mobile phone had a flaunt value since only few carried it.

None of my family members had mobile phone. I had not thought of buying it either till the time I saw that advertisement. There was something about that phone that was calling out to me. Mesmerised, I asked my father to buy me that phone.

My father looked at me and said,

‘If you need that phone, you have to earn it.’

I was per perplexed, I was 18, how will I earn such an expensive phone. I had never worked in my life. So I asked my father,

‘I don’t know what to do to make that kind of money. I am under graduate, unskilled, who will employ me? How will I earn money?’

He explained, ‘If you need things in your life, you have to work hard and find a way to make money, so you can afford what you want.’

That made sense to me but I was still direction less. How will I make Rs 16000 ??? It was a lot of money.

I wanted the phone. It had casted a spell on me, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was ready to work for it, I just didn’t know what to do to earn money.

Then one day, while walking through Bhikaiji Came Place in New Delhi, I saw an advertisement pasted on the wall of Hyatt Regency. They were looking for interns for some job. Since I had little knowledge about anything, I don’t clearly remember for what exact profile they were looking for.

The phone was on my mind so I applied. I filled the form, pasted my picture and dropped it in their office. A week later, I got a call for an interview. I appeared and was selected for the front office job.

Excited I went home and informed my parents about it. Hearing that, they were shell-shocked. They had bigger dreams for me and here I was wanting to work in a hotel for a phone. They didn’t say anything negative. They were more in wait and watch mode.

I worked for a month and got  Rs 12000 as salary. It was a big amount for that time for a 18-year-old undergraduate. I took the money home and gave it to my mother, she returned it back to me and happily asked me to do whatever I wanted to do with it.

I was still short of Rs 4000 which meant I had to work more.

As I was walking out of the house to meet up with my friends, my father called me and handed me Rs 4000 and told me to buy the phone. I didn’t understand why would he do that since now I was working and I could very well afford it in another month’s time.

He said, ‘I was wanting you to understand the value of money, nothing comes easy and nothing comes free. You have to work for it. And since you have understood that you don’t need to work  for money, any more. You should focus on your studies.’

I quit my job the very next day and went straight to Karol Bagh market to buy the phone.

Years have passed but his words are still fresh in my mind. After that, I have never ever asked for money from anybody in my life. I know, I have to earn it!

Gentleman

Couple of months back, on the very narrow Narullahali road, I met with an accident.

The road is so narrow that it can barely take traffic running in both the directions. At places, where unplanned farm houses and school emerges, it gets further tight. On one not so fortunate day, I was driving at the speed of 30-40 km/hr , I was to take the right turn and park the car in front of the school. So I indicated, and was moving the steering towards right, when a biker came zipping from nowhere and banged into my car from the right side. His bike skid on the road, he went flying in the air and landed right in the front of car tyres. I was fortunate and quick enough to apply brakes on time to save his and my life. I got out of the car and ran to help him. He was lying in pain. The guard of the school also ran and helped the gentle man get on his feet. We seated him on the chair and started inspecting his bruises. The guard ran to get first aid and a glass of water for him, while I waited with him,

‘Is it hurting anywhere’. I enquired.

He didn’t reply, he touched his elbow and looked in pain. The skin was peeled from being scratched on the road. He was bleeding.

‘Can I apply ointment here.’ I pointed to the elbow.

He nodded. I did.

He still had his helmet on. I asked him to remove it. He was unable to do so, as his hand was hurting. So, I did it for him.

‘Is it hurting anywhere else?’

He didn’t reply. He touched his back.

I lifted his shirt slightly, he was hesitant so I backed off and asked the guard to check.

Since he landed on his right side, his skin from that side was peeled. He was bruised badly and bleeding.

The guard applied ointment.

We was panting because of the accident and heat, so we asked  him to rest for some time.

Meanwhile a small crowd had gathered, one Ola driver, one auto rickshaw driver, one passer-by, another biker, the school teacher and one of the waiting parents have come out and was witnessing the event.

The guy though in pain was sitting calmly on the chair and resting before he could continue on his journey.

In our country, everybody likes to meddle in other’s business. So the crowd contributed.

The Ola driver, in authoritative tone,

‘Madam, you should be careful’

The Auto driver, in angst,

‘You were taking the turn, it is your fault.’

The passer-by, said something in Kannada. From his tone I knew, it’s not good.

The fellow biker, was trying to know what was the damage to the bike. Not to the guy.

I ignored all, and was focusing on the guy who was hurt.

The auto driver came towards us and started speaking rudely in Kannada, language I don’t understand.

I looked for translator to understand what his problem was since it was not his concern.

The guy with all the pain, bruises and hurt chipped in.

‘He is saying, I should go to hospital with you and make you pay the bill.’

The Auto driver continued.

‘He is saying I should ask for money.’ translated the guy with all the bruises.

The aggression increased in his tone, I asked the guy, to ask the auto driver to mind his own business and shut up.

He did.

And after that people dispersed and went on their way.

I apologised profusely to the guy though I believed it was not my mistake.  But the guy was badly hurt and too much in pain, it was visibly from his face.

For the first time he spoke, directly to me,

‘It’s my fault, I was in hurry so I speeded though you were indicating, I thought I would make it.’

I am driving for last 15 years and not once anybody has been so honest in a situation like this. I was touched and even felt guilty that the accident happened with my car, while I was behind the wheels.

How you behave under stress defines who  you are. Most of the people crumble under the slightest of difficulty. It takes a man of great character to own up to his mistakes.

After five minutes, still in pain, he got up, thanked us and left. What a gentleman!

I regret not asking his name.

Brave Girls Are Not Born, They Are Made

I was 8 or 9, I don’t remember clearly, walking on the road in the friendly neighbourhood. Unaware that 2 guys who just drove past us had something in mind. They were teenagers on bike, they drove past us and took a you turn and came towards us, and groped me. I was shocked and stunned with their actions, I couldn’t move for few minutes. There action was so violent that it hurt my breast for days.

I went back home and told my cousin, who was older than me. She told me to ignore and be careful while walking on the road.

I was molested. Publically. I was asked to ignore.

The incident left a deep scar on my mind. As a result, every time I would see a biker or somebody coming on the scooter from the opposite side, I would fold my hands around my chest. Just to protect myself. It happened for years.

I was 10 or 12, reading in winter sun on our terrace. I suddenly noticed an old man appearing in the balcony of the house, which was in the back lane. Every time I was on the terrace, he was there. After few of these incidences I noticed he was doing something with his private part. I didn’t know what.

I told my cousin about it. She came to the terrace with me. I was told to avoid and not see in that direction.

I was molested on my own terrace. I was asked to ignore.

I was 14, travelling in the bus with my mother. It was crowded and we were standing with the crowd. Bus stopped, more people entered and I could feel somebody pushing his pelvis behind my back. I turned around to look, the guy pretended to look in all directions. It happened again and again during one hour of the trip.

I was molested in the bus. I ignored.

I was 17, travelling back from college to home in an auto. Few boys started following our auto. They were riding their bike matching with the speed of the auto, saying things I couldn’t understand. The auto driver parked the auto on the side, me still sitting on the back seat, pulled down the curtains. And started hurling abuses on the boys.

He came back, pulled the curtains up and told me in very authoritative tone to stay away from people like that. I didn’t even know who these guys were or what were they saying.

I was molested in the auto rickshaw by the bikers. Judged by the driver. I ignored both.

I was 22, in office. It was my first job, I was like any other peppy, bubbly, chirpy trainee. The head of the office would often ask me out for coffee, which I would politely refuse. On one of the occasions, when there was a big meeting being held, I was asked to call one of the senior most gentle man. As I went to call him, he held my hand and asked me to sit. I was offended and shocked. Despite of me showing displeasure, he didn’t let go off my hand for few minutes.

I was molested in my office. I ignored.    

And many such incidences have happened over the years ,which I was asked to ignore or I just ignored.

Why?? Why was I asked to ignore??

Why was I not told that next time you see that guy, note the number of his bike / scooter / car and call the police.

Why was I not told to raise the voice when I was manhandled publicly.

Why didn’t I raise my voice in the bus ??? in the office?? Why did I kept mum, why didn’t I speak up.

I, who is vocal, assertive most of the time and at times even aggressive, chose to stay quite about something which was crucial. Which was haunting and unacceptable. Which disturbed me so much that I kept thinking about it for days.

Why didn’t I stand up for myself. Why didn’t I take the bull by the horns.

Why???

As a child there are times, you don’t even know what’s happening with you. What you are told, is what you learn. I was told to ignore. Adjust. Accept it as a fait of a women. It’s easier to stay quite and move on. ‘Forget it’, as you are told.

It’s much harder to rise and fight for yourself, for your integrity, for your self-respect. I was told to walk easier and safer path. My psyche changed over the period of time and I learned to live with molestation.

There are millions like me who have learned to live with molestation. But I am glad things are changing, girls / women are coming out and speaking about it.

Things will change, slowly. But it will.

When Amaira, my daughter, was born I didn’t think or hope for her to crack IIT or AIIMS one day, that’s path left for her to choose. What I am going to provide her is self-assurance and mental strength to fight the world. Nobody and absolutely nobody will be able to mess with her. Equip her with right education and training to take on the civilised and not so civilised world.

I am sharing this, as I hope for all girls in the world to grow up as brave women!

Butterfly Flutter

What I am going to tell you happened 15 years back, but the learnings will remain relevant, forever and ever. 

I am sitting on my terrace garden, sun bathing, admiring beauty and abundance of nature. Delhi is beautiful around this time, gardens get decorated with multiple coloured flowers. If you walk around on the road, you will realise yellow and dark pink are predominant colours, the boundary walls of the neighbourhood houses get loaded with Bougainvillea and the roads get carpeted with Amaltas flowers. 

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While I am engrossed in a book, my daughter nudges me  with excitement and asks me to look up. I look up and find two gorgeous butterflies right in front of me, they seem to be playing with each other. They hover around her head and move towards purple and pink petunia. They station themselves atop one flower, they rest for couple of seconds and then fly away.

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As I see these butterflies fluttering playfully on the flowers and my daughter trying to catch them, I get transported back to my college days.

My college had a beautiful lush green front lawn and an equally beautiful massive back lawn. There was a short cut to the nearest bus stop from the back lawns but there was no exit door. Students often used to climb up the wall to take the shorter route and in time a part of the wall fell. Unofficially, that part of the wall became our exit door.

One fine day, when I was crossing the back lawn of the college with a friend, we came across a small yellow and black coloured butterfly lying on the grass. I had never ever seen a stationary butterfly that’s why I had an inkling that she was hurt. As I was pondering about her, I noticed my friend taking a step to crush her. He was about to step on her when I pushed him away, he went tumbling down towards left.

I got very angry with him for his brutal act and as I was reprimanding him, an unbelievable thing happened. The butterfly flew towards me and sat on my shoulder, leaving me perplexed. I didn’t understand what happened. I was surprised by this gesture. For the next few minutes I stood still, I was fearing that she would fly away. She didn’t.  After five minutes I started moving towards the exit, but she didn’t move from my shoulder, she sat comfortably as if it belonged to her. She accompanied me to the door and when I crossed the wall, she flew away.

Butterfly is an insect, I am not too sure if they have any intelligence and reasoning.  she was not supposed to understand what I was saying or  doing. But she did. She understood and reacted accordingly.

Later my friend told me that he had no bad intentions, he was killing her to end her misery, or what he assumed was misery.

15 years later, I still clearly remember that incident. The whole episode strengthened my believe is love and kindness.

Language of Love, Kindness and Gentleness is understood by everybody.

It transcends through age, gender, cast, religion, nation, country, continent and in this case even species. 

With love.

An Act of Kindness

My ear problem revisits me in Delhi. In a different form this time, it’s not humming, it’s itching. So, I plan a doctor visit. I have an appointment at 10.00, I plan to walk as the weather around this time is very good. There is slight chill in the air and it’s sunny. Perfect time to enjoy Delhi.

I walk down the road and see car parked on either side, traffic is moving in both the directions. Though it is a road inside the society, but by looking at the vast traffic, it can very well be any main road. It hurts me to see Delhi deteriorating / advancing like this. I don’t know whether deterioration is a prerequisite of advancement. It’s the same road where we use to run around care free without bothering about traffic. Instead of the cars, it used to be lined with Amaltass tree on both the sides. That’s a different story for some other time.

Towards the end of the road I take right turn, now facing the sun directly. I see happy faces, carrying vegetables, walking their dog, generally chit chatting, a little boy cleaning car humming some song, they all look pleased for some reason. My guess is, it’s the weather, Delhi suffers extreme weather maximum time of the year, so when ever weather is favourable there is happiness and festivity in the air and that rubs off positively on the people. My fellow Delhiites who are usually very rude are surprisingly very warm during these months.

As I move forward, down the road, I see a lady dressed in yellow and white kurta salwar with brown jacket coming from opposite direction. As i move closer i notice, she is wearing dark sun shades and has make up on. A little too much for early morning. By the look, she seems to be in late thirties. I also notice, she has two books in her left hand, she is patting the books with her right hand, as if she is giving taal on some song.

As we approach T-cut, hoards of government school kids come running from the left lane joining us on the main road. They all look from junior section. They are dressed in blue trousers and white shirt. The mood is jovial, they are giggling, running, cracking jokes. Women in the yellow is approaching closer,  I see her distributing  two books which happened to be note books in  both the hands. She wades through the crowd of school kids, and extend her hands as if offering them note-book. She doesn’t say a word. Two of the kids, who are closest to her quickly snatch the note books from her hand. They don’t say a word of thanks. She moves on without looking back, they move on with wide smile on their face.

I witness it with amazement. In this world of instant gratification where you do every thing for a purpose, we still have people like her, who doesn’t even want a simple ‘Thank you’ in return. They are happy doing good for others without expecting anything.

I wanted to turn around, walk up to her and see her closely. I didn’t, for the reason I don’t know but I felt immensely happy witnessing this simple act of kindness.

When My loss Became My Biggest Victory

‘Gain weight, but don’t gain much, but don’t gain less either’, words of wisdom by my enthusiastic doctor.

‘You have to eat healthy and gain about 12kg to 14kg in next 8 months.’

‘Ok, sure, ya’. I said it understandingly and with equal enthusiasm.

Controlled weight gain didn’t make any sense to me, I wanted to tell her that my body doesn’t listen to me, it works on an auto pilot mode when it comes to gaining weight, it’s already been programmed by some extra terrestrial force, so it will gain what it wants to gain. And it did.

Pregnancy is a wonderful time for many reasons, amongst many, freedom to eat as your heart desire is my favourite. I am a born foodie, I like to eat, I enjoy eating, I love bakery, food is an integral part of my life. Everyday I celebrate food, weekend outings are planned around food. So pregnancy was a beautiful, delightful and delicious time.

Initially my doctor encouraged me to gain weight by eating healthy, though I needed no encouragement. I can gain weight by the thought of food. Towards the end of my pregnancy I weighed 80 kg, I was to gain around 12kg /14kg, I gained 30kg. I ate everything healthy but I still gained  more than I was meant too. I believe I gained 30 kg, it could have been more, we stopped weighing in the last month as I was gaining 1 kg a week! I was super happy and excited about being a mother, all the weight gain didn’t bother me. In fact, I never thought about it.

Amaira was born through C-sec. That’s a different story which I will tell you some other time, what I want to you tell now is that an operation makes it difficult for you to lose weight. Post delivery you are weak, emotionally low, many a times facing depression due to hormonal imbalance and the sudden change in your life is difficult, baby brings in changes you didn’t anticipate. In a situation like that there is little motivation to lose weight.

For the first six months I was busy taking care of Amaira, she was absolute priority and since I was feeding her, my outings were also restricted. My weight had reduced to 74 kg after delivery but it was stagnant, I wasn’t making any effort and it was in no mood to go off on it’s own.

When ever I thought about exercising, the very confident inner me, had counter arguments ready,

‘What’s the hurry? You are taking care of Amaira. Start exercising after 6 months.’

‘You are too weak, rest.’

‘If you go for a walk and Amaira feels hungry, she will cry.’

‘It’s too hot to walk.’

‘It’s too cold to exercise.’

‘Are you crazy, it’s raining today.’

‘Start tomorrow.’

‘You have to sleep well to exercise and you are hardly sleeping. Later.’

‘You are not eating properly and you are feeding, workout when she goes on solid food.’

I am very good at listening to myself. I didn’t do anything for the first 6 months. None of my clothes were fitting me. It didn’t bother me.

I am a thin framed person and with so much weight I used to look like a sack. It didn’t bother me.

My sister who was pregnant around the same time lost all her pregnancy weight in 3 month. It didn’t bother me.

Nothing bothered me, till one day I realised, I need to exercise to regain my stamina. I was weak, very weak. I could feel it in every little thing I used to do, no exercise and little mobility had made my body very stiff, there was no flexibility, I was finding lifting couple of books or walking a km tiring.

One day, when the planets must have aligned in my favour, I took out my yoga mat. I dusted the exercise sheet, my doctor gave 6 months back. I never bothered reading it earlier. I sat on the mat, legs crossed and tried stretching my hand, to my horror I couldn’t lift my hand for more than couple of seconds, it pained like hell. That was enough for me to realise that I was in a very bad shape and I needed help. Thus, started my weight loss journey.

First task, to regain flexibility and stamina.

I couldn’t go out so I started doing yoga with my instructor at home. Initially it was extremely painful and difficult to sit and stretch but within a month I saw remarkable improvement, I didn’t lose any weight but I felt better.

Second month, I started controlling my food. I avoided eating carbs in dinner, and went low on sugar, rest of my meals remained same. I lost 2 kg by the end of the month.

After 2 months of yoga, I had to move city. I moved from Delhi to Mumbai, leaving yoga behind. In Mumbai, I had a gym in the complex so I started going to the gym. I used to gym earlier but I have never worked out with a dedicated trainer. The need of the hour was to get a dedicated trainer, I had less time and a humongous task of losing 22 kg. For the first time in my life I did weight training with utmost sincerity. I have to admit it changed the shape of my body. I saw my thighs shrinking with weighted walking lunges. It was miracle of the sort. When I started, I wasn’t sure if I would get desired results.

Two months later, I had to move back to Delhi, this time I left the gym behind. Delhi is like no other city, it has lush green parks and jungle with jogging tracks, right in the middle of the city. Weather around that time was good, so I started jogging. I have never walked over 7 on the treadmill, jogging was a huge challenge. When I started, I could barely jog for half a km, I would jog half a km and then walk for another half. The best part was I didn’t give up, I continued even with my bad stamina and bad records. It was interesting to see all the data on ‘runkepper’ application I used during jogging.

I continued to exercise in various form in which ever city I was. Here I must add, since I was always short of time, I exercised smartly, I would always challenge my body to do different types of workout. Also, I didn’t force myself to do what I don’t like, for instance I don’t like working out on machines, so I didn’t. There were days when I was not in the mood to the gym, so I jogged or swam or did some free hand exercise in the park. If nothing else, I would climb up our apartment which was on the 13th floor.

Idea is to do something, anything. If you have to continue it for long, you have to do what you like. Don’t force yourself to like anything you don’t want to do.

In about a year, I lost all my pregnancy weight, I lost whopping 30 kg!

It seemed impossible when I started. Every day I had to remind myself that if I continue it will only get better, even if I won’t lose, I would at least feel better. Staying hopeful and positive is the key.

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Friends suggested me to consult a dietician but I never did. It might help, but in my case I was sure that I won’t be able to follow. There is so much information on the net that you can actually plan your diet. I followed my regular diet, with some amendments.

I added eggs, mainly egg white to my daily diet.

I started eating lot of nuts, almonds and walnuts.

I replaced sugar with honey in my tea.

I controlled carbs. I must add that I didn’t give up anything, I just controlled the portions.

I avoided eating out during the week. Eating out was restricted to once or twice week.

I added a lot of raw vegetables in meal in the form of salad.

I ate protein in every meal, like eggs for breakfast, dal in lunch and again chicken/ dal/ black channa/ fish in dinner.

I avoided packaged food

I tried staying close to raw form of food.

I avoided eating fruits later in the day.

I controlled fried food but I used to have parathas in breakfast once or twice a week.

I controlled sugar, but I used to eat couple of pieces of dark chocolates after every meal.

I didn’t deprive myself of anything that’s why I could continue it for long. I still follow the diet to maintain my weight.

There are few more things which i learned and i would like to share,

There are certain kind of food that helps you lose weight such as sprouts, it takes more energy to digest it than it provides, add that in your meal.

Certain combination of food helps you lose weight, like eggs and apple when consumed together helps you lose weight, add them in your breakfast.

Lot of Indian spices aids digestion such as turmeric, cumin, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom. Try having one Indian meal a day or try incorporating these spices in your meal.

Drink lots of water.

Add colours in your meal, eat different colour of fruits and combine different colour of vegetables in your dish.

When you need to lose 5/7 kg, you can lose by dieting and exercising but when you need to loose 30 kg, you need to bring in lifestyle change. It doesn’t take too much to lose, all it takes is determination. Find a regime that you like and you look forward to, design your food in way that brings you joy and doesn’t look like a compromise, only then you will be able to follow it.

I didn’t do anything drastic. I ate chapatis, I ate bread and butter, I ate white rice, I ate out, ate bakery products but what I did do was, portion control, I never over ate and I didn’t eat carbs after 8.00.

I lost it all within a year!

Expensive Shit!

Guide, ‘It’s USD 1,100 per kg.’

Me, ‘Is it made of gold?’

Guide, ‘No, shit.’

Me, with wide eyes and shocked face, ‘Mind your language.’

Guide, ‘Ma’am, i am serious, it is made of shit.’

Me, ‘You are kidding me right?’

Guide, ‘No, i am serious, it can actually go upto USD 3000 per kg.’

Me, unbelievingly, ‘No way…… you can’t be serious, you are shitting me!’

Some time back, we visited Coorg, beautiful, serene, lush green coffee plantation, 5 hours away from Bangalore.

I travel often and in any of my visits to numerous destinations in India and abroad, i have never ever attended any hotel organised programs, such as baking, cooking, dancing, yoga, rock climbing, scuba diving, painting and many such interesting, creative programs, which the very attentive hotel staff design to keep their guests occupied. Imagine not attending yoga session at Ananda in Himalayas, not attending scuba diving sessions in Phi Phi island, not attending baking classes in Paris, not attending history tour in Italy, not attending fishing in Langkawi island. It’s blasphemy.

On the trip to Coorg, i realised i am missing out a lot by letting go off these wonderful, entertaining and educational sessions, they are specially designed keeping tourists in mind, i should benefit from them. I promised myself to attend and educate myself, starting from this very holiday.    

In Coorg, on our second day we attended a guided tour around the plantation. The guide took us around the coffee plantation, describing and detailing various vegetation and taking us through the life cycle of coffee from the time they are seeds to the time they land in our cups. We wandered in the lush green bush of coffee touching, feeling and smelling aroma of coffee beans/cherries. After two hours, exhausted going up and down the the slopes, we returned to the hotel. The guide lead us to the hotel coffee workshop for coffee tasting session. It’s here, we tasted the most exotic coffee in the world, for the first time and i think for the last.

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‘The coffee you are having is one of the most expensive coffee, it’s Kopi Luwak’, the guide announced with pride.

Kopi Luwak sounded exotic but nobody payed heed, everybody in the group was exhausted and all they wanted to do was to drink their coffee in peace. Nobody made any effort to know what is Kopi Luwak, that didn’t seem to demotivate the guide, he continued,

‘It is made from cat’s shit.’

I nearly choked and spilled my coffee after hearing that. The guide continued,

‘The mountain cat, Civet, eats the finest coffee berries and poops them out, our farm people collects the poop, clean, roast and grind the beans, to serve you, the world’s most exotic flavour.’

In the state of shock, i asked him, ‘So basically we are drinking cat’s poop and it is suppose to be exotic.’

‘Yes, m’am, it’s exotic and most expensive type of coffee, it originated in Indonesia in 18th century’.

I kept my coffee mug aside and made two mental notes, first, I will inform the hotel staff about this guy’s lunacy and second I will check about the exotic coffee before i inform the hotel staff.

Foreign land linkage didn’t help me much, my thoughts were in turmoil, there was hurricane in my mind, how can poop be exotic ???? Is this guy mad? so i googled and as we all know google is next to god, it has all the answers. 

Eureka moment, we were actually sipping world’s finest poop!

Google for better or worse have all the answers, Palm Civet is a kind of cat that eats finest coffee cherries, the cherries goes through fermentation process during digestion in the cats intestine, while the fruit part of the cherries gets digested, the beans does not, in about one and half day the cat egest the beans in their feces, the farm people collect the beans from the poop, cleans, roasts and grinds them to make the world’s most expensive coffee.

So why is it so special??

Firstly, Palm Civet is a smart cat, she only eats the finest cherries so her poop ensures the finest quality of beans available in the region. Secondly, the fermentation process in the intestine alters the flavour of the beans, resulting in better tasting coffee. Some doubt it and some buy it at the price of gold!

I am north Indian bred, we are tea people, coffee for us is Caf’e Coffee Day, Barista and lately Starbucks and i am sure they don’t serve exotic coffee to common people, thank god for that.

Tea, i believe is less adventures, i am not too sure though, i will let you know after my visit to tea planation in Assam!

A Jolly Good Accident

I open my eyes for a brief second, shut them. Moments latter, i open again, ask for water and slide into unconsciousness. Some time later, i regain consciousness and again ask for water, i hear some voice asking permission to give me water, i hear a different voice responding, i can’t make sense of it, i am gone again. I open my eyes, somebody is giving me water drop by drop, i am parched, why are they not giving me water, after few drops, i am unconscious again. When i regain some of my senses I realise i am resting on my grand mother’s lap, she is sobbing, before I can figure out what’s happening, i pass out again. I don’t know how much time has gone by, i have no sense of time or place, finally i regain my full senses  and see my mother, uncle and nani, they are all looking very worried. Wonder why? anyway i let it pass and enquire about my new dress, it’s white in colour and have floral prints, layered with frills. It’s new and i really fancy it, it makes me look pretty just like a doll, i pass out before i hear the reply. 

I wake up at home, surrounded by flowers, i don’t feel anything, i can’t recollect what happened. Then i try getting up from bed and i feel heavy, my right hand is stiff, there is no pain but its feeling strange. My hand is plastered from shoulder to elbow down, my wrist is free. I sit down on my bed and recollect the accident, i was crossing the road with a very dear friend to buy candies and chocolates from the shop across the road, after that its all blank. There are no other more memories from the morning.

Later that day, my mother told me that i had met with a car accident while crossing the road and fainted on the spot. There was not a single cut or bruise on my body but i was unconscious for 8 long hours. I was rushed to the hospital immediately by the lady doctor who had hit me on the road, i never blamed her, it could have been my mistake i was just a child trying to be independent. In the hospital they realised my right hand bone was broken, not fractured but broken into two pieces. The good news was my elbow was intact, the bone had broken just above the elbow and it could be fixed, they did their level best and plastered my hand. Another good news, i don’t have to go school for few weeks, may be a month, not every accident have a bad ending.

After couple of weeks, we go for check up, x -ray reveals that the bone they were trying to join has joined instead of next to each other, over each other, so now they are overlapping. What does that mean for me? My hand will be slightly twisted because of doctor’s negligence or lack of expertise. 

My parents get very worried and takes me to a different doctor, he suggests to break the bone again and put it back in the right place. So my innocent worried parents agree, after all my entire life is at stake. Dear doctor breaks the bone and do what he was meant to do and plaster it, its different this time, its covering half of my hand. But i am in for a shocker, i have to sleep in sitting position as the hand needs to be in certain position all the time. I endure it for a month. Time for the x- ray come again, and what does it reveal? My bones are still not the way they are meant to be, they are still overlapping.

My mother got really worried, all kind of questions were popping in her head, will i ever be able to use my right hand properly, will it ever regain it’s strength, will i be able to play normally, will it always remain deformed, twisted. And most important and crucial of all, will it be a hindrance in getting me married??? since my look is twisted now, I was all of 8 or 9 years old then but marriage was definitely   something to be worried about.

My uncle equally worried, consults a hospital in Lucknow, like luck would have it a specialist from America is visiting, so he is consulted. The mush renowned doctor suggests a surgery, like the previous doctor he wants to break the bone again and put it back in its right place. All this while i was happily unaware of what was happening, joining, breaking and joining and now again breaking and hoping it will join back like it is meant to be.

We take the Shatabdi to Lucknow. The operation is successfully performed. As the bravery award i get a Barbie doll. I have to tell you it was in vogue, very expensive and a rage amongst kids during those times. So i thought the bargain was not bad. In return of breaking my bone for the third time, i get a Barbie, it was a crack of a deal.

We returned to Delhi, i was happy in my world, no school for 4 months, i was staying at my nani’s place so i would be well taken care of as mother was working mom. Since i was a child with imagination, all kind of thoughts would creep in my head, what if ants get stuck in the plaster, what if maggots or any other creepier insect is making home in the comfort of plaster and my hand, my imagination would run wild making impossible come to life in my head. Besides that, I had nothing to complain about but my parents was in for a surprise. After my third and final surgery, the plaster was removed and voila, my hand was still twisted.

After that they made peace with it. They took it as god’s doing which can’t be undone.

My struggle started after the plaster came out, i realised my right hand did not have the strength it use to have. I couldn’t lift the objects using my right hand, i couldn’t even twist it in certain directions, it used to even hurt specially in winters.

There was nothing i could do to fix it, enough was done already it and it was still not fixed. As humans, we don’t realise how much strength we have internally, our brain is solving problems even when we are not consciously seeking a solution. I started using my left hand more to support my right hand, in the process my left hand grew very strong and with time my right hand gained strength too. Usually, your left hand is weaker then right because we use it less and since i was using it more than my right hand it grew strong.

Your body works in coordination, trying to strengthen and support each part, somewhat like a good healthy relationship, when one person goes weak the other person steps in to help, to over come the shortcoming and weakness.

Till date my right hand is twisted but I am stronger than most of the people I know as i balance using both the halves of my body while most of the people use their right side more. What was meant to be my weakness, became my strength!

What happened to my white dress??? the one with the frills and flowers. Doctor had to tear it to plaster my hand. Nobody told me that in the hospital.

Strange Love

I can’t imagine raising my hand on my daughter, neither did my mom raised her’s on us but fear of being thrashed remained all through out our growing up years, for some some strange unknown reasons. Before i share more, i must clarify that my parents were very loving and caring, they still are so the fear must be originating more from respect, i think.

Years back, my neighbours house was getting reconstructed, the construction material was spread all over the lane. One day, while walking towards my house, i noticed piles of iron rods, they were bundled on one side of the lane, like any other child, instead of avoiding them and walking straight, i chose to walk on them. Just when i took my third or fourth step, my right foot slipped and rolled over the rod and i lost balance, the iron rod pierced in my right foot, it was so sharp that it scooped out piece of flesh from my foot. I started bleeding profusely. It might have pained but i don’t clearly remember how bad was that. After I got hurt, i gathered myself and quietly walked back home. I didn’t mention the accident to anybody, i went to my room, applied loose bandage and rested myself on bed, sometime latter my mother walked in and saw blood oozing out of my foot and she shrieked in fear, there was blood on the floor and bed sheet was soaked. When she asked me what happened, i was reluctant to answer as i knew i would get a nice one back for walking on the iron rods but nevertheless i told her. I was rushed to the doctor, i got tetanus injection and couple of stitches. Once we were back, my mom very patiently told me, if next time I will do anything like that i will get one tight slap.

I have a cousin who was in a habit of falling down after every few steps, she would just stumble upon some stone or trip over some object lying on the road if nothing else, she would walk over her own foot. Every time she would fall, my aunt, her mom would smack her on the back, saying, ‘phir gir gayee, dhyan se kyu nahee chaltee hai, dekh kar chala kar’.

Only an Indian mother can say and do such a thing, if you are hurt she would want to slap you, smack you for getting hurt, her unique way of showing love and protecting you even from your own self. 

Mothers, love their children all across the globe but Indian mothers are obsessive about their children and with Amaira, my daugther i have turned into one of them!

They say life is a circle, and i have reached a point where it’s repeating in a very loving manner!