Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mandatory Voting…

Democracy, like everyone is aware of, is a government which ensures equality and freedom (at least in theory). As much as we are never fully happy about any politician (many a time for rightful reasons), there is hardly anything we do to make sure that things change, for good. Many a time we forget that democracy is not just about rights…it is also about duties of every citizen.

I am thrilled about this new law in Gujarat which The Gujarat Assembly has (on Saturday, Dec 19, 2009) passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Law (Amendment) Bill 2009 which enforces: Registered voters who do not participate in local elections will have a month to explain their absence; they may face action.

I think this is a wonderful move. It will teach every one the discipline of what it means to be a responsible citizen. Surely we can all allocate some time from our super busy schedules to make sure that we vote too.
I am fairly sure that the government would allow certain allowance for those workers who are dependent on daily wages.

Like Narendra Modi say’s, black money is a huge problem in India; perhaps it goes parallel with the actual economy itself. This mandatory vote will be a step towards curbing black money (in terms of reducing the election campaign expenditure).

For once lets keep our sarcasm with statements like, should food, clothing and shelter be made mandatory too aside and appreciate the effort being taken by the politicians in Gujarat.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Love marriage or Arranged marriage?

I was talking to my good friend’s mom. She was kind of worried about whom her son, (whom she loves dearly), would get married to. Like any other mom under the planet, she wants everything best for her son…but there is a catch in Indian weddings...

The catch is (Like Chetan Bhagat so nicely said)…

Love marriages are so simple around the world. Girl loves the boy, boy loves the girl and they get married.

In Indian communities there are more steps involved. Girl likes the boy, boy likes the girl. Girl’s parents like the boy and boy’s parents like the girl. Girl’s parents like boys parents and boys parents like girls parents. If boy and girl still love each other, then they can get married.

Ten years ago if I were given this theory, I would have laughed it off. But now, I am fairly sure that the weddings, in Indian way, are done for a reason….a reason, as a teenager, I could/would have never comprehended.

I see so much bitterness in teenagers these days towards their parents and their beliefs. Well if you are reading online news, following a few blogs, forums, you will know that I am telling you the truth. The younger generation (I am not old…err not yet) seem to think that whatever their parents tell is old fashioned.

While to an extent it is good to be globalized, it would be a shame to be totally confused about what is right and what is…no too right.

Perhaps parents also should understand their children…should I say, make and effort to relate to them? The world is not what it was 10 years ago. Video games, MTV, blackberry, money…and sex have crept in to our society. While it might be difficult to ignore what is considered “in” by the teenagers, it would help to think from their perspective too.

And coming back to love marriages; nothing wrong with it either. Parents are more concerned about how kids would lead their married life in harmony if starting from culture to food; from language to religion are different. What ever said and done, courtship is totally different from living with each other in the same home. Living in the same home is not the same as meeting after work/college and hanging out in coffee shops or watching a movie, holding hands and kissing the moment you get a chance.

This is what I keep telling my friend’s sisters (and sometimes my cousins) that marriage is just the beginning of a long journey…a beautiful one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Tale of Two States...

I am half Telugu and half Tamilian and to all my North Indian friends I am a “Madrasi”. A while ago, when some one referred me as “Madrasi” I used to take offence; couldn’t they say Tamilian or a Telugu girl? My identity has become Madrasi and it would have remained the same even if I was from Kerala just for the reason that I am from South India. But after reading through my history books again, perhaps it’s OK if they call me a Madrasi.

I was born in Andhra Pradesh. When ever I send a mail to my parents I always used the states name as Andhra Pradesh. Now suddenly I realized that going forward I might have to use the name as Telangana. My first full time job was in Hyderabad.
Since I was a little girl my parents used to take me Tirupati (now another state), a place which is so close to my heart that every time I think about that place I get nostalgic. So basically Andhra and Telangana have been great to me. Am I supposed to feel sad that the state is now going to be split?

When some asks me what is famous in Andhra, I always used to say Hyderabadi Biryani and Tirupati Laddu. Now, how am I to choose just one of those?

The issue of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh dates back to as early as 1956, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of Andhra Pradesh, devised to protect and safeguard the discrimination against Telangana by the government of Andhra Pradesh, before the formation of state Andhra Pradesh. The alleged violations of this agreement are cited as one of the reasons for demands for separate statehood for Telangana.

The violations? Are we talking about Hi-tech city (pretty much a silicon valley of the south) or the world famous Business Schools?
Apparently University reservations are an issue. Why, Oh why! Why do we need reservations at all? Shouldn’t academics solely rely on academics and not on the place of birth?

Are we heading into another never-ending-Kaveri river water issue? Can’t we re-visit the gentlemen’s agreement and see that united we stay? Really, is the situation so bad that the state requires a partition?

Gandhi’ism has become a fashion statement. Fast-un-to-death!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


When I relocated to North America I knew that I would find it difficult to get used to driving on the right side of the road. What I didn’t know was that it would take forever to get used to driving here!

Considering I had driven in India for 5 years I should find the regulated driving here a cake walk! But alas! If only every word we say comes true.

I passed my written test with flying colors! But that’s when the real challenge began.

My first attempt to drive here was in my husband’s car. Poor thing…it suffered under my gas/break/gas/break like on/off switch for 2 weeks. Then the icing of the cake….I went right into the oncoming traffic while turning left! Thank God it was a country road and there was no oncoming traffic! I decided I cannot go on like that….firstly the insurance is going to sky-rocket and secondly I need an auto-transmission.

After a few months gap, we bought a car! Yes! Yes! Yes! I love my car but I don’t love driving anymore L

But it’s about time I get around to driving I guess, at least after all the money we spent and more importantly my husbands offer to help me learn better driving.

I am reminded of it again at work. Perhaps because my driving-day is approaching this weekend! Uffff….I am all tensed up….why is driving no fun?

When will be my “Driving---Thriving”?

I can hear everyone's thoughts now. Practice…practice…like a mantra. I am hoping that I will come back to this thread some time in future and vouch that “Practice Practice is indeed the mantra”…Until then I guess I am going to be tensed up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mumbai moves forward

A year ago, 26Nov2008, I was having coffee at my work place early in the morning when my mobile beeped with a short message from a friend in India. It simply said, “See the news in any Indian Channel. Now”. This friend of mine has the tendency to exaggerate a few things. She sent me the same message when one of Shah Rukh Khan’s songs was being aired. So obviously I sat there, smiled, finished my coffee and slowly made my way to my office.

I was still smiling when I opened NDTV live but the smile froze there for several minutes.

Mumbai was under attack. While I closely followed the news for days after wards, I came to know that killing claimed at least 175 people and wounding at least 350 and lasted for 3 days. Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident, the Taj Mahal Palace, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier's College.

While my heart and soul grieves for everyone who had been killed I cannot even begin to admire how well the city has moved on. We have come a long way.

Having said that, I cannot help but wonder, had the security lapses which contributed for these terrorist’s to cross the border (from Pakistan) been taken care of?
What is stopping us from executing Kasab (the sole terrorist caught alive)? Even before one year has passed the same old political party came to power!
Why is Raj Thackeray fighting over trivial things like Marathi-speaking-state than concentrating on the safety and security of Maharashtra?

Let’s forget the above questions for now, for they aren’t going to be answered. Let’s appreciate the courage shown by all our Indian police to combat the terrorists and succeeded in safely rescuing 100’s of civilians.
I am going to privately close my eyes to pay tribute to the lost lives. Please do the same, if you happen to read this. Their lives deserve at least this.

An Unlikely Hero: Om Puri

An Unlikely Hero: Om Puri

Since the time I had heard the news in NDTV (and subsequently Om Puri’s outburst) I had been meaning to write what I think about this whole issue.
For those of my friends who do not know what this gossip is about: Nandita Puri, Om Puri’s wife had recently written/published a biography of Om Puri. In that she recalls Mr. Puri having sex with his maid at age 14, then again with another woman whom he wanted to get married to.

I was totally confused when I was reading a few reviews about this book. In them they say that Mr. Puri has had an “extra marital affair”. How so? Is pre-marital sex the same as extra-marital affair? NO!! NO!!! NO!!! Then why all this hulla gulla! Really, there was hulla gulla…here is the proof.

I don’t want to fill the blog with links to various websites. Perhaps all the mess is just a publicity stunt. I don’t understand though, why does such a trivial part of his life had taken over head lines? Why not the chapters where his childhood is described, which could be inspirational for various up-coming talented people?
Gosh! We really need to get over s few things and look at things the way they are. What is the point in being judgmental about things which has happened decades ago? It’s not like Shiney Ahuja’s case.

On the side note, Mr. Puri had believed his wife with all his heart and shared with her his utmost private life. As a person, if not as a wife, she should have consulted with him if he is OK with the information about his pre-marital life to come out in print.

Of course he acted in numerous movies, out of which, my favorite comedy is Bollywood Calling. Never mind the mess, I am so much looking forward to reading the biography of one of the finest actors India ever had.

Friday, October 9, 2009

2009 Nobel Peace Prize

United States President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (Oct-09-2009) for his, "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

I request you not to ask me what has been done in the last 9 months for him to deserve this peace prize. I am deeply troubled and confused by the decision of the Noble Prize committee (The Norwegian Nobel Institute). With two wars running, 9 months into the administration, how is Obama the most deserving candidate?

While the intention seems more like a slap to Mr. Bush than honoring the President, if that were the intention, shouldn’t the committee have waited for a longer term, at least 1 full term before they honored the President? I cannot help but wonder, if one deserves a prize like “Nobel Peace Prize” for just talk, talk and talk, then every minister in India too deserve this! Why, every political leader around the world deserves this, for they give hope to their people. Living up to it is another story altogether.

Ah, not to forget the beauty queens in all the pageants yearning, hoping for world peace, surely they also deserve this prize.

So, whom shall we criticize today? The President or the Prize Committee? Well, I can only say, now that Mr. President has got the award (deserved or otherwise), its time to live up to the expectations. Apparently he had done so much for the World Peace. Its time he does something for United States as well…apart from giving hope.

Also, I was under the impression that the Nobel Prize nominations happen around February every year (correct me if I am wrong). So, the committee had nominated Obama within the first month him being the President? Or they have decided that even if he is not the President, they would give him the prize for the inspirational Presidential Campaign?

Mohandas K Gandhi wasn’t deserving enough but Obama is, for quoting Gandhi. Wah wah, kya baat hein (Translates to sarcastic Bravo). On a serious note, I wonder if Obama can stand up shoulder to shoulder with people like Mother Theresa (1979), Dalai Lama (14th, 1989), Martin Luther King (jr)(1964), Nelson Mandela (1993), Doctors Without Borders (1999) etc. Well, lets “HOPE”.

Okay, how do you like the below? Tell me if you think the President fits well amongst these people.

Any resemblance at all? Life time achievements, years of dedication, passion, selfless love with zero boundaries, bringing Democracy where people were being treated worst than slaves...and then finally the Prize goes to Mr. President. Anyway, a toast to Mr. President.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Small vacation, Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay, Karnataka, India:

It all started with a small thought of going on a vacation with two of my good friends, Hema and Parul. Initial proposal was to go to Goa (I had never been to Goa). I suggested that we stay in a nice hotel, which was promptly refused by my other two friends. They said, “If we are going to Goa, we are staying in a small shack and get drunk every single day…that’s the real fun”. And I promptly refused…is it safe? After arguing for days we decided to go to a small resort called Turtle Bay near Mangalore, India.

As soon as we boarded the plane, Hema, being an ex-flight attendant in Air India, promptly started giving us a running commentary about the propeller plane we took from Bangalore to Mangalore. Nothing could stop her from her commentary, which rather took a technical turn, not even that cute co-pilot.

From Mangalore we took a pre-arranged car, which neither had a rear view or the side mirrors. After holding our hearts in our hands we arrived in another small town called Udipi. You know the famous Udipi hotels....we had a hearty early dinner and arrived in Turtle Bay only at 8:00 PM. The rooms were spacious.
Since we were tired we retired to bed early.

I woke up to the chirpy birds singing at 5:00 AM. While I woke up early, my friends were still pretty much snoring. After having capi (coffee) I set out to explore my home-for-3-days. To my delight, Turtle Bay was one of most beautiful beaches I had ever been to! It’s neither a pebble beach nor a clear water beach. Something about its seclusion has appealed so much to me. The reluctant sun slowly started rising from the Arabian Sea. Since we went there on weekdays, there was not a soul outside, at the beach.

Kariya, a small black cat, abandoned me as soon as it sensed that I would go towards the waves. If you call nature as God, sure I had seen God at that moment. I sat by the shore and I was totally lost in its beauty. I couldn’t take my eyes off the waves, relentlessly kissing the shore all day and night. That moment I wished in my next birth I should be born as a drop of water in this Arabian Sea (ok, don’t ask me how is it possible) just to experience the serenity of being one with the ocean.
Private cottages, beautiful coconut trees, abandoned boats…wow. I really would go back there again and most importantly, the seclusion! Perfect place for meditation and yoga and some light reading and romance.

After spending 2 peaceful hours at the shore, finally the sleepy heads arrived with more freshly brewed capi and swim suits. We went for along swim…actually playing-in-water is more appropriate than the word swimming.

Before we realized it was 11:00 AM. That day we had roti with egg burji. Lunch never tasted better. From 12:30 till dusk we just sat by the tree and talked and talked and talked. Ah the joy of spending time with girl friends!
A fire pit was setup and we opened a bottle of wine and Parul had started telling us both some horror stories. That evening we had egg burji again!

The next day was…interesting. We went out to a small island in the sea, sans life jackets in a super small boat. I was pretty freaked out but my friends were enjoying like they were merely taking a stroll in a park. While I was reliving the nightmare of drowning and dying in water, I should secretly confess that I would have enjoyed it very much in other circumstances; circumstances where I had at least a life jacket on. Sea urchins, mussels could be found every where, much to my dismay and much to my friends delight!

At last we came back to the shore and had egg burji for lunch. In the afternoon we went out for shopping in Udipi. All we could manage to buy were a few apples and attracted a lot of stares. What do people usually buy in towns?

We returned to our resort later that evening and enjoyed calm breeze with lots of wine and egg burji.

The next day afternoon we set out to Bangalore again not eventless! Our flight was delayed for 6 hours (no kidding). On the whole a wonderful trip.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Zero size…

The Zero size…

My friend the other day commented about Kareena Kapoor (an Indian Actress). He says that he loves looking at Ms. Kapoor because she is zero size. I asked my other older uncle and they said, “Oh she is so anorexic”. I tend to agree with my uncle. I am not too sure if I felt a twinge of jealousy towards Ms. Kapoor or I truly believe that she is anorexic.

What is this new craze about looking like a stick? Well, agreed that you can wear whatever you want if you are a stick, but at what cost? And there is this colleague of mine who is forever on a diet. Like living on fruits and veggies. Sometimes I wonder is it really worth living like a rabbit when you feel like a lion inside?

Before I got married my parents used to look in The Hindu (Indian National News Paper) matrimonial section every Sunday. Believe it or not, every single ad would start with, “looking for a bride; fair, slim, beautiful, clean habits (don’t even ask what this means)…”
Out of curiosity one day I went to Dr. Ambedkar’s University in Hyderabad to see the news paper archrivals if the standard ad’s are always this way about 2 decades ago. Not so surprising is the fact that they were not! In fact, no where in the ad did they mention about fair, slim, bla, bla, bla…..

I was looking at the news from India where the recent Air India episode was being discussed in full blow. Apparently the flight attendant was assaulted by the Captain in the flight deck and another male colleague of hers has come to her rescue.

One of the participants in another forum started saying, “Waise Air Hostess jyada Maal nahin thi”. Meaning why go to her rescue when she isn’t worth fighting for and not beautiful enough? When has beauty taken over Indian men completely? Can I safely generalize it to the World?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rs. 315 Crore Memorial to YSR, Andhra Pradesh ex-Chief Minister

Really, I am not kidding and I am still in my senses. You don’t believe me, do you? Read this below link.

Now don’t get me wrong but why does YSR need such an expensive memorial? What magic’s has he performed that a memorial of that magnitude is being proposed?

Also, who is going to pay for it? Of course not his blue eyed baby Jaganmohan Reddy. It’s the stupid tax payer’s money going to drain! And I stress ‘DRAIN’.

According to 2001 census Andhra Pradesh has literacy rate of only 60.5% (male: 70.3% and female ONLY 50.4%). How about opening new government schools for kids in villages with that Rs. 315 crores?

How about creating more employment opportunities and fulfil few of the promises made?

Pay close attention to Fiscal performance. It has been deteriorating since 1991. Not to forget the poverty line: 20.9% (Rural) and 8.5% (Urban).

In Andhra

Total Population: 76 Million approximately

Rural Poverty: 21%

Urban Poverty: 8.5%

People below poverty line: 15, 960,000+ 6,460,000= 22,420,000.

A WHOPPING 22.5 Million people are under the poverty line, official figures alone!!!! Is there anything at all this Rs. 315 crore’s can do to help them? The answer is simple right?

How about doing something good for women, children and their health care?

On top of everything I quoted above, what kind of an environmental damage are we looking at? Interested? See below.

This will give you a fair idea of the destruction which would be caused to the ‘protected’ forests.

Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy, please! Consider this. Enough of being selfish. Daddy got you whatever you wanted now, isn’t it? Else, why would you even be dreaming about such kind of a memorial? Have pity on your homeland. Give-up these selfish endeavours. If you really are interested in keeping your Dad’s ‘image’ amidst Andhra people, then do something useful.

When will we learn our priorities, especially when a mass of population is concerned?

Note: All sources are accurate, at least that's what the government website claims. Open the links I attached for more information.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Basics

Last week when I was sorting the garbage for the pick-up, I noticed that I had to distribute the garbage in to 4 categories before I set it out.
(Note: Friends in India, in North America, the city comes to pickup the garbage on a designated day in a week. They started doing this in Bangalore as well)

One for recyclables, one for kitchen waste, one for yard waste (like grass, plants etc), one for garbage. (Not to mention the monthly disposal of furniture etc).
This made me wonder and go back in time, to my grand mom’s kitchen, to her parent’s world.
I was reminiscing about this with my husband also as to how we used to go to ‘market’ in olden days (say more than a decade ago). And we recalled how we used to carry a bag along with us to the Sunday markets. We didn’t have any plastic bags to separate the veggies nor did we have to pay extra 5 cents to get a bag, if need be.

Hubby also reminded me the olden way of eating in a banana leaf. It’s fresh, pure and most of all cows in a backyard would feast on the leaves after you finish your dinner! And I don’t have to worry about me dropping it down like I do now with my fine china.
No waste and no excess…my tummy is happy and so is my cow!

Also didn’t we used to get new utensils if we sell recyclables? Jeee, we have everything in India since a long time. We just didn’t name it. And not to forget the kitchen waste like onion skins, egg shells being used as manure!!! We were organic all along!!!!

Now after all these years these Western countries have started this funda in a full swing! Lol!!! And we in India try and imitate their culture, as if it were the way to go.

The Western countries, after all these years, started embracing yoga, Aurveda, The Gita and the Indian way of so many things. And yet, we tend to feel little intimidated by the same people. What are we missing?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coffee, Tea or Me?

No, you cannot have me :) I was kidding! I can get you coffee or tea though but black. No milk or cream at home.

About a couple of years ago I had to go to the Municipal office in my home town in India for my birth certificate. As unusual as it sounds, even though my birth was registered in the hospital, somehow my parents never got the certificate. Over the years, I also let it go for I didn’t really need birth certificate as a mandatory document until I had to apply for my PR to Canada.

Then the problem began. According to the Municipal office, if we apply and pay the fees of Rs.250, they should be able to re-issue the certificate in 2 working days. Needless to say, I didn’t get the certificate even after 3 weeks. Finally I got the hint and paid Rs.5000. And guess what, I had the certificate in my hand the same evening.

This brings us to an interesting juncture. While I crib and cry that India is filled with corruption, I also encouraged this (shall we say) disease (called corruption/bribe) at one point because I was running short of time. How many of us had done this at point or another? Sometimes in train stations, sometimes at the passport offices, sometimes at the hospitals and many times at a job consultancy?

Do we then have any right to complain about corruption in India? I guess not.

If anyone who reads this says that they have never indulged/encouraged in this corruption, then my hats off to them. We need more people like you.

I made friends with one constable in Jubilee Hills Police Station, (Hyderabad, India) when I went there to complain about my stolen credit card. I learnt from the constable that he works 7 days a week and is on call even when he at home in the evening. His pay is Rs.6500. Now how is he supposed to feed his family with Rs.6500? (If he does dare to get married with that modest paycheck in a city like Hyderabad). So, he ends up taking Rs.10 here, Rs.20 there to make ends meet. Another point to note is that Jubilee Hills is like Beverly Hills. Not everyone can afford a home there. So the constable has to travel at least 1 hour each way to reach home.

You would hear the same story from hospital compounders(nurse) also. And you give them Rs.50 or more in the hope that he will care for your family member who is hospitalized in ICU….

Whose fault is it now? Is it the fault of the people who are trying to make ends meet that they ask for bribes? Now don’t give me that lecture about integrity. In hungry man’s dictionary, there is no word called, ‘integrity’.

So when we want something to be done, we ask if they want coffee (bribe), Tea (corruption), Me (our souls)? Of course, black only for I am running out of milk/cream (means and willingness to fight for a variety of reasons).

Where are we going wrong? What can we do to make India a better place? Please…I am at lost. You can give me a direction.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Forgotten places in London, England

London is one of the beautiful cities I ever visited/lived. It’s (relatively) small compared to any other popular cities like New York, Shanghai etc.

It was early August when I first landed in Heathrow airport all those years ago. I must say I felt a little overwhelmed. Like in any other international airport, the customs was 45 minutes away from the terminal; but hey it’s good to relax your muscles after a long flight.

I stepped out to a balmy/dizzily sky. Later I discovered that no matter what time of the year it is, you always carry an umbrella when you are in London.

My little town house (I used to share this with 3 more people) was in 4th zone, East London, Wanstead to be specific. I loved my little home and my little room. That little room had seen me cry, smile, work, study, sleep and it had been my companion when I had first seen the snow fall for the first time in my life. And it was in that room that I met another invisible companion…no one believes me with this. But that doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that London is the most haunted cities in the world.

Over the years I had lived in London, I discovered many places which are not traditional-touristic. Well, I guess you really need to live there to find the beauty behind these unknown places.

One such street is the dark alley leading to the Clink Prison Museum in the Clink Street. It is surprising that the most believing of Catholics have had such…such kind of torture prisons which will put Saddam Hussein’s torture prisons to shame. The alley itself makes you feel depressed. Close by is The Monument created in memory of everything which had been destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. Again, as soon as you pass, you can feel the melancholy.

One of the most beautiful, hidden parks is the Epping Forest (accessible from Sanresbook on East central underground line). Adjacent to this park is a beautiful lake where you can boat. Calm and collected, it offers a peaceful retreat from all other tourist-rush-spots you have come across. Amidst the chirping birds, weeping willows you would end up in a dream land filled with nature, made just for your eyes.

Also don’t forget to visit the Highgate cemetery. Oh my! Why am I quoting such depressing places? But mark my word, you will love this cemetery.
If you're in London on a Sunday morning, Columbia Road flower market in Bethnal Green is worth a trip.

And if you happen to like Indian food, you should try Veeraswamy in the Regent Street. Of course, you need to book in advance but it’s worth the wait and money. I am yet to taste Chicken Tikka Masala as tasty as Veeraswamy’s.

Coming to shopping, if you like designer cloths, I would say walk down the Oxford street and Harrods in Knightsbridge. Really…it’s too expensive there. But don’t miss out on window shopping!!!

Another important thing you shouldn’t miss while in London is its Broadway shows. My favorites are Les Miserable’s, The Sound of Music and Chicago. I also liked Dirty Dancing but I found this show a little dragging.

The best way to travel in London is through London Underground. Buy a pass and you are al set to enjoy the beautiful, yet ancient city.

Enjoy this ancient city with all its glory. Do justice to your trip 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rest in Peace dear CM

The recent tragedy of YSR, Andhra Pradesh chief minister, has triggered a lot of personal and political disturbance in India, especially in Andhra Pradesh. While my heart aches for the surviving members of the family and sincerely wish that no one should be unfortunate to pass away like that, I cannot help but reflect on various aspects of the tragedy.

While death somehow manages to defy every political power in this world, why do we (humans) still attach so much importance to power that we forgot that there are 4 others who have died along with the CM? For days media shows about YSR, but what about others who have died along with him mean to us? The wives of the deceased especially; did they love their husbands any less? What about the kids? Did Captain Bhatia, Captain M.S. Reddy, Secretary Subramanyam and security officer Wesley love their kids any less or wanted any thing less-than-perfect?

This morning I was reading the online news and was shocked (I know, news should have stopped shocking me by now) to know the conspiracy theories floating around. The latest scapegoat is, now deceased Captain. I mean come on, why are we so eager to blame the next best person immediately after us (hinting the government)? It’s been several months since we even found a lead to Aarushi Talwar’s case and now this!

Sure enough we Indian’s are always eager to raise some political leader to a pedestal and then forget all about them the moment they are off the power-hook (which is besides the point), but at least lets show a little respect to other poor souls who are now gone along with the ex-CM.

Now starts the real drama in Andhra Pradesh. The princesses of our nation shoud now have mercy on us. Please! Let’s beg and plead with Princess Gandhi to save us from the doom which Andhra Pradesh is now in. Alas but for the Congress we are nothing. But for Princess Gandhi we are nothing! Oh no…why am I so angry today?

Of course, now I remember and recollect, if it were not for the YSR, if it were just any other citizen, then our value of life would have been much less…wait a minute, if the tragedy had to happen to any other citizen of AP, there wouldn’t have been any value for life!

India’s biggest search it was I believe. What happened to all this search operation when 100’s of people were attacked in public places in Mumbai (26/11)?…Ah…poor Mumbai. Raped time and again, a beautiful virgin it was. We should have some shame to let the neighboring country to even lay hands on our beautiful Mumbai….

Err…where was I? Oh Ya! YSR. RIP. My prayers are with the families of the deceased.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Balle Balle…Bollywood to Broadway!!!

The other day I was watching the movie, “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” (Match made in heaven), starring Shah Rukh Khan. When the movie was first released, my friend, all exited, called me from Hyderabad and shares her success story in getting the tickets, first day first show. She paid Rs.300 (in black) for a ticket, which if you buy it in the regular counter would cost Rs.50.

Now after I watched this movie I had to pretend with my husband that I liked the movie, for I like Shah Rukh Khan. Else you will hear of no end to the criticisms from my husband about Mr. Khan. What possessed Mr. Khan to accept that role I cannot phantom.

I also cannot phantom why Broadway shows aren’t as popular in India as Shah Rukh Khans/Rajnikanths movies. I mean, how can one not fall in love with drama when you look at the performance live? “Yenna Rascala! Mind it”, seems to be far more amusing and engaging to many people.

One of my favorite Broadway shows is the KÀ, a show by Cirque du Soleil. This was being played in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. From the stage to the costumes to the story itself, everything was so complicated that it must have been a producer’s nightmare. But the end product is something I can vouch for.

The only exception which I can say in the play is the lack of the traditional ‘stage’. The stage here comprises of a floating platform that rotates and moves with the performers on top. Breathtakingly gracious actors twist and turn; dance and cry and sure enough leave you awed.

When you enter the theatre, you will see a beautiful, ancient village set up and KÁ (gatekeepers) guiding you into your respective seats. 10 minutes before the show begins, the performers start taking in their native language and jump in the midst of the audience, in an attempt to scare (with the help of ropes).

KÀ is a story about "conflict and love", of imperial twins who are separated at the prime of their youth and must undergo a rite of passage of self-discovery. It is about their encounters with KÀ, the fire that has the dual power to destroy or illuminate.
It is about the story of twins separated and re-united along with their respective new-found-love. Death defying feats, songs which move your heart, flying in the air as graciously as a bird, the stage which you can keep on looking forever are a few highlights.

I strongly recommend this show to anyone and everyone! Especially to Karan Johar…I know he can do a better job than highlighting Mr. Khan in all his movies. Really, India has come a very long way and it is only a matter of time before we start demanding something new, something original and something really breathtaking.

So all the producers out there…start doing something new!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who are Eunuchs/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?


Who are Eunuchs/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?

It is uncommon that we even think twice about who these people are. More so because we believe that these people aren’t worth our time. This thought process happens unconsciously, because we had been led to believe (mostly by ourselves) that they are good for thing. In this blog, I am trying to address the origin of Eunuchs, what they are exactly and the social bearings of these men/women.

The purpose of this blog is to write as much as I can in simple terms without you having to refer back to heavy material.

Who are Eunuchs/ transsexuals/ Hijra’s/ Jakkas?

Biologically, a person is called a eunuch, when mans penis and testicles are cut off, manually. The absence of testicles would curb the production of testosterone (male hormone) and thus female hormone in the body dominates. The absence of testosterone would stop the facial and body hair growth and slowly the voice changes and they start developing breasts.

Don’t get confused with hermaphrodites as they are born this way, with both male and female characteristics and they are sterile. I will briefly explain how they are born with out going deep into details. Human body consist of 46 chromosomes. 23 from female and 23 from male. The last set of chromosome, which is the 23rd will determine the sex of the child.

XX chromosome means a female and XY is for male (I am talking about the segregation of only the last set). When the combination is XXY, hermaphrodites are born. Note that the way the chromosomes separate, XYY combination is not possible.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about this, let me know and I will answer as best as I can.

So basically eunuchs are made and hermaphrodites are born this way.

Origin of Eunuchs in India:

There are numerous books written about eunuch’s origin but I am going to concentrate on Prof R. Nath and Sir Richard Burton’s essays on eunuchs.

The Eunuchs exist from the pre-Mughal (and pre-independent) era of India. Thousands of captured women are kept as slaves and concubines just for the sexual pleasures of the emperors and the rich. When the men were not around, they had to make sure that women do not escape or involve in adultery. If they keep men as guards, there were chances that these guards would sleep with the women. Hence they castrate young, pre-puberty boys to keep as guards for these women.

The Eunuchs thus made enjoy a high status among the society, then, as they serve the emperor and the rich. So, the people who were poor made their sons eunuchs for a (so called) better life. Slowly that had become a family tradition. Even today there are a few people who believe that a Eunuch in a family would bring good luck to the entire family.

Present survival situation:

There is a 4 km stretch in Hyderabad, by the banks of the famous lake called Tank Bund/ “Necklace Road”. When ever I used to go there, without fail, these eunuchs would come begging for money. Trust me; they do not take ‘No’ for an answer. You are better off giving money to them without making a scene.

Apart from begging, they go un-invited to wedding ceremonies, birth rituals etc and they sing and dance and get money in return. These eunuchs are considered lucky for the newly weds and newborns.

Social Stigma:

Eunuchs have their communities are (even today) treated as social outcasts. Unfortunately, most of them have not gone to school and they are not treated at hospitals. Even educated men/women treat them with contempt…To an extent I can understand the contempt. It’s mostly due to ignorance about their history and insensitivity towards their lifestyle, so different from us.

They are not given any regular jobs and are not accepted in any community other than their own. Hence, they are reduced to begging.

I truly hope that next time around, when you see a eunuch, you treat them like a human being.

Good News:

Thanks to a few great people, lately there are hospitals which are specifically open for them. One such hospital I know (courtesy a doctor friend of mine) is in Pondicherry,

There happens to be a matrimonial website as well, especially designed for transgender. This is a very young website, in growing.

My dear reader, education is all it takes to curb the atrocities towards eunuchs. And yet again, education is all it takes to make sure that the barbaric practices are completely…irradiated, like some dreadful disease, unless of course it is taken up by choice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Om Shanti Om

Om Shanti Om

Often we do so many things in life mechanically that we fail to understand why exactly we are doing something and what exactly the implications are. Since childhood we had been taught, “This is what I had been told by elders” etc but never really given a reason as to WHY…Oh Why?

The same question intensifies when it comes to religion, customs and traditions. Generations of men/women doing the same thing without understanding the significance is simply appalling.

When I was young, the sole purpose of me going to a temple along with mom was to dress-up and play in the sand (behind the temple) while mom is inside offering her devotion. My good friend used to come to temple because she was in love with the priest’s son and wants to be in his vicinity. Another friend (this time a guy) comes to temple because that’s the only place he can rub his shoulder against the lady standing in front, without being slapped.

Then I asked my mom why she goes to a temple…her answer was, “Oh you know, it’s good to offer a coconut every Saturday”. I ask my mom why it is good. She had no answer then, not even now. I asked the ‘aunty’ (in India we call everyone who is elder as aunty/uncle/sister/brother…I will explain why we do so in another blog as it is rather an interesting custom (if I can call it so)) next door and she said, “I want to showoff my saree and jewelry”. I was impressed because she was honest. I asked my friends mom and her answer was, “to socialize”. If we look deep within we (at least I) fail to understand that real reason behind we going to a temple. Maybe we go for all of the above reasons. But I do not know if that was the reason why a temple is there for. How many of do anyway?

About a year ago I had been to Srinivasa Kalyanam in one of the temples. There the priest had broken about 50 coconuts in less than 1 hour. Later when I asked why he had to break 50 of them (if it was 1, I would not have asked), he didn’t have an answer to satisfy me.

Somewhere I read, “You can easily excuse a child who is afraid of darkness. The irony of life is when an adult is afraid/ignorant of light”.

So that’s how my quest began to understand about every small thing we do in our day to day (or I should say special days) prayers/Pooja’s.

In this blog I intend to address a few rituals which Hindus regularly perform but have little/no understanding of why we perform them. This blog is for people who want to know that so controversial word, ‘why’.

Cleaning the deities and doing the Abhishekam:

God does not need to be cleaned (as he is the abode of perpetual cleanliness and purity). But in the olden days, many kings and maharaja’s used to awoken with songs, be bathed with fragrant oils etc and are decorated by their devote followers.

The same custom has been adapted by our elders as we consider God to be the highest of the celestial kings in the human world.


The red dot, Kumkum is believed to be the seat of concealed wisdom. During meditation and during the time when we are offering prayers/yoga/tapasya, the latent energy called ‘kundalini’ raises from the base of the spine towards the head and is concentrated/gathered in the center of the forehead (between the eye brows). The red dot (Kumkum) acts as an outlet for the potent energy which is thus created. Kumkum also retains the energy in the human body and controls various levels of concentration. Kumkum thus is the central point of creation itself symbolizing good fortune, suhaagan (married women).

This is why when we are decoration God; we also put Kumkum on the forehead, between the eyebrows.

So this means, Kumkum is also meant to be worn by guys (need not necessarily be worn only by women, as is the age old practice). Unfortunately, these days Kumkum has become a fashion statement or a convenient accessory more than anything else.

Manjal/ Haldi/ Turmeric:

Apart from the antiseptic and cooling reasons, Haldi is one the five wealth’s of a married women. The first one is the Mangalsutra (Thali), Kumkum, Manjal, glass bangles and ear rings respectively. This is why it is the most important ingredient while decorating a Goddess (especially Goddess, Kaamakshi Amman who is believed to be the Goddess of sumangali).

Breaking the coconut:

Coconut trees are one of the tallest which grow in India. This means that it is closer to heaven absorbing full sun. The sweet coconut water is considered very pure as it is untouched by human hand.

Coconut water also signifies the inner purity, which can be attained only by breaking the external coarse outer fibers of the coconut (jealousy, lust, greed and all the selfish attributes of a human being). The 3 eyes of the coconut signify the two physical eyes and the third eye (the inner eye) which is the conscience. It is this third eye, when it awakens, wipes ignorance in us, enlightening us with the ultimate truth. The 3 eyes also symbolize the 3 eyes of Lord Shiva, Creation, Preservation and Destruction.

The breaking of coconut also signifies destruction of evil (the outer layer) leading to a pure soul.

Betel leaves:

Betel leaves signify the prosperity, freshness and fertility. Betel leaf given with Betel nut and lime is associated with Brahma (betel nut), Vishnu (leaf) and Shiva (lime).

The alliances are sealed with the exchange of betel leaves.

Betel Nut:

Betel nut is hard, like our ego. Offering betel Nut to God is like offering/surrendering our ego to God.

Diya…Light; this denotes knowledge. Knowledge wipes off ignorance, illuminating the inner self. This is why a lamp is lit in a Pooja room. When we bow down to God, we are also bowing down to the lamp/knowledge, the greatest form of wealth given to us by God.

When camphor is burnt, it burns itself out completely with out leaving behind any residue. God wants us to burn our illusions and wants us to be one with Him. Burning camphor signifies burning our illusions.

Pooja Ghanti:
The sound of Ghanti produces the sound of Om, the name of God. Ringing the bell also helps to wipe out all the unnecessary noise in homes/temples. This is why everyone in the temple would pay attention to God at least when Aarti (mangala Arati) is being performed.


Honey symbolizes the sweetness of love. The lord Kama carries a bow, strung with bees, representing that love can also cause pain, however sweet it is.

Well, well, well…enough for one day! Hopefully, next time you (reader) go to a temple or you are at home doing your regular Pooja, you understand better about why you are doing certain things.