The Driver

Hi everybody,

It’s been a while since I have written anything, got in touch with you.

From today onwards I will be sharing a piece of my life, my journey on a daily basis with you.

I don’t know if that will interest you but I would love you to be a part of my life.

Recently, we visited Mamallapuram, it’s a temple city on the bank of Bay of Bengal near Bengaluru, we were staying amidst the ancient temples. The town is popular for stone statues. So while coming back we thought of buying one as a memoir. We asked our driver to stop by at a shop near the ancient temples. He suggested that the statues will be expensive in the shops situated closer to temples as the shopkeeper will try taking advantage of the unaware tourists. So he recommended another shop at a distance.

We stopped at another shop and got down to buy a statue. They were made of different kind of stones and were very heavy. The shopkeeper spoke Kannada and Telugu, we knew none of the languages. I was banking upon the driver to negotiate with him as I was unable to communicate. After I told my price to driver, the driver spoke to him for couple of seconds and told me that the guy is not ready to negotiate as the statute is made of green sand stone, which is rare. Negotiation is a part of any deal in India, so it was difficult to believe that there was no scope of negotiation on that statue.

I chose a different, smaller statue and negotiated myself, without knowing the language, I brought down the cost by 20 percent.

Meanwhile, my daughter was playing in the shop with a frog made of stone. She insisted on buying it but I saw no value in it, so I kept it back. We took our package and came back to our car.

In the rear view mirror, I saw the driver talking to the shopkeeper.

The first thought which came to my mind was that he was taking his part of the deal since he brought us to this shop, kick back for the statue. I was really angry and agitated as he brought us to his preferred shop, did not negotiate and on the top of it, he was making money out of the deal. I thought of taking it up with him.

He came towards the car, took his seat on the steering wheel, turned around and handed the stone frog to my daughter.

I was surprised and ashamed of myself. In that moment, he rose so much above me.

How tainted are our brain, that we refuse to see good in people. We are so consumed by our own negativity that we perceive the world to be negative. We see, what we want to see. We believe, what we want to believe. How often, we are far from the truth.

The driver, whom we have never met before this trip and whom we will never see again, chose to make my daughter smile. I, well learned, well-educated, chose to see negative in a positive situation. Such are human beings!

Role of Destiny

Why is it so difficult to find what you are really seeking? You will find everything but that, it will come so close and you will miss it or it will just walk away. From a very tiny desire to your ultimate goals in life requires hard work. Why? Why can’t you just be destined to have what your heart desire, why is only that particular thing need so much dedication, hard work, while everything else is a cake walk. Ever wondered, why?

I have heard tigers are majestic. When he walks, there is a sense of power and control. He oozes confidence and arrogance. When he is on the road, it’s the man who gives him the way, tigers never change their path. So, we made a plan to watch his majesty in the real life. Thus, started our journey…

Our first visit was to Sariska National Park in Rajasthan. Authorities had recently moved in 4 tigers from another wild life century for breeding purpose. The probability of tiger siting was high because the vegetation was not so dense. It was our first ever wild life safari, so we were super excited and had loads of fun though we didn’t spot any tiger.

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A year later, the lure of tiger siting took us to Corbett National Park in Uttrakhand. Corbett is one of the most wide-spread and thick national park. Man is banned from entering a large part of it to preserve it’s wilderness. Tigers are difficult to spot but in Corbett pretty much everything is difficult to spot besides monkeys as it is extremely dense. So we spotted nothing, not even the regular animals like deer, cows, monkeys, beer, crocodile etc.

Next, we went to Ranthambore in Rajasthan. It is to be noticed here, that everybody who goes to Ranthambore, spots tiger but we had little faith on our luck, so we came up with a master plan. We planned to do three safaris. One early morning at 5.00, when Tiger might just be up for his morning walk. Next, in the evening, when he might just be strolling around in his area checking out female counter part. And if we fail to spot in both, probability of which was very high. We would go next morning again. Now, here comes the role of destiny. The group of tourist who went after us in the morning spotted tiger. The group of tourist who went half an hour before us in the evening spotted tiger. A photographer who was staying in our hotel, who was not even looking for tiger, spotted tiger. A tourist group who was waiting near the entry gate, spotted tiger as tiger came strolling towards the gate. Only people who didn’t spot tiger was, us despite all the earlier planning and multiple safaris.

Back to what I was saying, at times you just have to work extra hard to attain what you want. There may not be a valid, acceptable reason for it but don’t give up, try harder, try smarter

We are not giving up yet, there are many jungles left to explore!

Brave and Beautiful

Standing at 5.5’’ she was a vision in pale yellow kurta salwar, it’s one of my earliest memories of Doon. There are very few people in the world whose beauty and charm can have lasting impression on you, she was one of them. She was kind, subtle, graceful and beautiful. There was sense of calm to her which you can only have, when you are truly comfortable being you. If anybody can do justice to all the coconut / almond oil commercials, it was her. She had long, dense, lustrous, jet black hair right down to her waist. And when she walked, they bounced with happiness. There was permanent smile on her face, which moved effortlessly to her eyes. She was a vision to eyes and soul!

It was the time, we used to live in different states. Little did I know then, that in the future we will share the same house. She moved to Delhi and we moved in together. We spent more then a decade in the same house and she remianed as beautiful and graceful as she was ever.

 

Much time has passed since then, life has moved to a different dimension. What define beauty is, it’s ability to stand the test of time. What define a person is, his/her ability to stand the test of life. She was always beautiful but today she is an epitome of beauty and strength as she looses her long, lustrous, jet black hair to radiation fighting brain tumour with a smile on her face, which still reaches her eyes.

We all know she is beauty made of steel and will come out of it stronger and better then ever.

Kamna. Beauty and grace with resolve of steel, which no destiny can beat!

 

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.

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