How not to, humour, Narratives

How NOT to get off a crowded Indian Train

I am stuck in the narrow passageway of a general bogie reserved for ladies and my whole life is flashing in front of my eyes. Well, this would have been completely true, had it not been for the woman standing in front of me, whose acute politeness has me, distracted. Her voice has staggering intensity; my ears are barely managing to protect my eardrums from crumbling to the symphony of her cuss words. I am stuck. She is stuck. Behind me is a long queue (as long as the tiny bogie permits) and behind the meek woman, I am busy listening to, are the wild bison cramming their way into the coach that’s already filled till the brim. “Let us out first!” Another woman behind me screams. And I, both leading and blocking the queue of angry goddesses who want to get off the god damned train, am stuck with my bag engaged in an unbreakable embrace with the luggage of the other woman whose symphony has me hypnotized. All around me are people telling me to move! Move woman! Move! But then I can’t. Funny, I think sometimes that’s how life works as well.

I try to recall how I got into this situation in the first place. Well, it all began with  my decision to board a crowded general bogie. And I guess that’s the end of it. The tiny ladies’ coach is an objectified sexism in itself but of course I am not going to get into that debate. I am probably going to get old here, amidst this friendly crowd and feminism is not something I would like to ponder about right now. Paying my special gratitude to the size of this bogie, my mind wanders to the immediate reason that had caused this chaos – The woman who was sitting on the floor (because obviously we don’t have enough seats), blocking the way to the door and absolutely refusing to apply what’s called the common sense, that is, to get up when a train halts at a station. Ultimately when others tell her to stand and make way, she takes eternity to do the same. And by the time she clears the way for us to move ahead, the passengers on the other side have already started to rush in. And the result of her stupidity? Chaos. Victim? Me.

Move! Woman! Move!
Well I can’t. My bag is stuck. I am stuck. Can’t you see?

The polite woman finally stops shouting and decides to apply her brain. She lifts her bag and I am able to step ahead and also drift my bag forward. But there’s still a long way to freedom. There are too many people inside and now it’s my suitcase that’s creating havoc. As I push myself (and the bag, the god damned bag) forward, I accidentally hurt a small kid who was standing on the way. Her mouth turns into a gigantic O, her cheeks turn blood red and river and its tributaries start flowing from her eyes. I want to apologize. I obviously didn’t mean to slam my bag into her foot but there’s this major part of me who just wants her to shut up. She is a kid and I shouldn’t bear such thoughts but I am never going to be able to get off this train and these women and this noise and this wailing child are turning this place into a hell and I haven’t sinned enough to deserve this (Or so I thought!). I have already started formulating alternate plans. I realize I am never getting off here. So, I start thinking what the next stop of this train would be and how will I get back from there.

Move! Woman! Move!
Woman can’t move. CAN’T YOU SEE!
Woman is stuck in between all these people and shouting doesn’t help.
And amidst this greatest struggle I have ever endured to get off a train, comes a helping hand. But the helping hand isn’t polite either. Helping hand is angry and is shouting too, “Why are you coming out so late? So rahe the kya? (Were you sleeping all this while?)” I lose my temper at this. Now is not a good time for the glare and the taunts. If I just knew how to punch, I would have punched you right across your face. In fact in this moment, I can punch god himself. But I settle for glaring back at my Messiah, the red shirted coolie who is lifting my bag. But he doesn’t shut up. Then something rare happens, “Would you stop shouting?”-  I shout (ironically). I scream so hard, in fact, that my voice breaks like the light splits through a prism. Damn. I immediately regret it but at least the coolie is silent now. When I finally get to get off the train, I feel like I have been reborn. The coolie has placed my bag on the platform and has disappeared. Good, I wasn’t going to thank him anyway. There are still significant traces of anger left inside me. I avoid thinking about the near-fatal swarm of the women. I avoid thinking about the crying child. I avoid thinking about the cuss words I had been showered with. Obviously, I fail. I notice that my breathing has become erratic and I am still a bit dizzy. So, I sit on a nearby bench, take a few deep breaths and make myself believe that I really am alive and safe. Get off the train! That’s all I had to do! Realize how powerful chaos is? Realize how hazardous a heavy and huge suitcase is? Don’t carry a bag that weighs more than you do. Or join a gym and set major weightlifting goals. And yes don’t underestimate the stupidity of your fellow passengers. Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! Avoid crowd! (This suggestion is, in reality, a sham because there’s nothing in India that’s not crowded.) And that’s how you get off a train in India safely.

***

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Bitch Trilogy, Short Stories

The Rickshaw driver

Out there underneath the setting sun, stands a brightly painted yellow and green tri-wheeled vehicle shamelessly exposing the sponge beneath its disheveled and wounded seat. This injury, being too neglected and way down the priority list for a first aid, doesn’t deter the rickshaw from flaunting off the poster of blue-eyed Sonakshi Sinha at its back. Along with this badly battered and yet arrogantly grumpy thing, stands a grumpier man, the driver of this auto-rickshaw who is too crossed and too careless to comment on the crimson sky or be aware of how he has been scratching his groin ceaselessly for the last five minutes. He scoffs at the memory of his miserable day and puts the paan in his mouth hoping that it would distract him from his foul mood. But even the highest of high cannot make him stop thinking about the dreadfulness of the dusty streets or the burning heat of the sun or the suffocation in the traffic jam and the cacophonous horns of the cars or the poisonous smoke or the irritating beggars and the policemen. He thinks of his most frequent customers –  the vendors who stink of fish, the maids who don’t know how to sit silently or the ladies who can spend 5000 bucks on wallets without complaining but will start a war for that extra 10 bucks he asked for. He is pissed at the garbage heap nearby, at the receding effect of his paan, at the stinking wall where he would himself be peeing and at the people around; each and every one of them. His back aches from the constant sitting, his eyes hurt because they have dried due to the ceaseless staring at the road and what more! He was nearly hit by a car today! He still gets goose flesh with just a momentary thought of it. He had never imagined that the annoying screech of a halting car could one day become the most blissful symphony he would ever hear. Had it not been there, he hadn’t even been alive to curse the most atrocious words at it later. But one mustn’t blame the sound. It’s the driver! The bitch! The cunt who doesn’t even know how to drive but she will drive anyway. There’s a reason why they say women are the worst drivers! The stupid creatures are too busy applying lipstick or talking to their boyfriends on their phones to handle the steering wheel. Have some mercy at the people around you, Madam! You can win an award if you could just refrain yourself from handling a car. “Kya Madam! Aapko dikhta nahi kya?” He recalls how he had hollered at her. And in return, she had howled back with equal ferocity. Her voice lacked the usual sophistication these high class ladies seem to possess. It was high pitched, capable of rupturing every eardrum in the radius of twelve feet. She screamed and screamed in her stinging voice without a single trace of guilt or shame in it. This aggravated him further. He was the one who could have got killed! He was the one who should be shouting like a mad man! Not this foolish dumb witted lady! Unable to tolerate her anymore, he drove away immediately.

The head ache and the nausea hits him again. Why did he think of that woman! He needs another dose of tobacco. He searches for it in his trousers but finds nothing but some crumpled papers. The throbbing in his head worsens. Could the day get any better?
He starts driving to the nearest stall to procure his most trusted medicine and that’s when he catches her glimpse. Even before he could think of it, he stops and shouts “Kidhar?”. The girl walks up to him and asks back,  “Athwa?” He suddenly recalls that he had called it a day but then there is no way he can say no to her.
“Baithiye…”
“How much?” She asks.
“Whatever you think is fair.”
“Fifty?”
Usually he would have asked for seventy but he doesn’t argue. Fifty is also fair. He pulls the lever and the engine roars back to life. He makes sure that the rearview mirror is adjusted in such a way that it’s easy to steal glances at her.  She is really pretty. Not just because she is fair or slim but she has an innocent charm that’s very rare to find. He looks at her again. She is looking away at the buildings passing by, lost in her own thoughts. She is not texting or talking on the phone like these youngsters usually do. She is just there as if she is the part of the background. Her presence strangely calms him. He carefully prolongs his glances. He notices the light kajal in her eyes, her black bra strap that’s slightly peeking through her kurti, her eyebrows beautifully shaped, her hands clasped with one another resting on her knees, the faint wrinkles on her lips, the tiny spots on her cheeks…
“You study here?” He asks.
She nods.
The streetlight falls on her face and he is once again reminded of why he had halted at the first place. He forgets about his addiction; about how he had been missing his high. He forgets about the witch who had almost killed him. He just wants to look at this beautiful face and nothing else.
“You have a very good character, I can tell that…” he says trying his hard to come up with an appropriate compliment.
When she doesn’t say anything, he continues, “You don’t speak much. Aapka nature bahut accha hai. Ekdum shant… ”
The girl looks at him and smiles awkwardly.
“No, but really, people like you are rare.”
“Bhaiya, yahi pe utaar dijiye…”
“Lekin–”
“I need to get off here only.”
He stops. The girl hastily gives him the money and walks away.
He stays there for a while staring at her till she disappears in the streets. His hands find a packet of tobacco in his breast pocket. Pleasantly surprised, he hurriedly empties the content in his mouth. The taste disgusts him. “Bitch!” He shouts as he spits on the ground and drives away.

***

 Author’s little note: You can find the other two stories of Bitch Trilogy here.
food for thought, my life, Narratives, random

An unnecessarily guilty glance

I  am waiting outside the juice shop, thirsty and tired, putting an enormous amount of expectation on a tiny glass of sugarcane juice that is yet to be served. My face is smeared  in pink and yellow and some other weird combinations. My arms are still tingling from what could have been a regretful sunburn after a long celebratory drive back to our city, to this shop.Despite the brutal tanning and dehydration, I can’t help but feel elated. And why not? I am drenched in festivity! How I adore this festival of hues! This craziness!

I am at my usual lost-in-thought state when I feel a light tug on my elbow – ‘Behen O Behen! Le Lona’

Annoyed, I turn around. A little girl is trying to sell Gulal to me.

I look at the packets of colours in her hands and I know I shouldn’t buy them. Those are the kinds of colours that should be kept away from your skin at all cost unless you happen to like rashes.I am tempted anyway. It’s Holi after all! Everyone needs to celebrate today! But before I could know it, I have dropped the idea again – Nahi, bacche, nahi chahiye. No child, I don’t want it.

Lelona. Please? – She requests again.

You can call her a beautiful child if you look at her carefully; Her brown eyes, that goes with her brown complexion, her perfectly aligned teeth, her straight thin nose and the innocence in her voice.I have come down to my knees. My fingers are now fondling with colours inside the packet I have. No, I can’t buy the so-called Gulal from her and I won’t. It is against my easily adaptable principles. But I paint both her cheeks green and greet her a happy Holi.

She is surprised. A smile brightens up her face. Suddenly, she forgets why she is even here! I offer her my cheek. She dips her small fingers in my packet and slather the colour over my face. Now, I am heavily dusted in green as well. Her smile has broadened. No one has ever seemed so happy just with these small gestures before.

I am smiling too. I try to feed in the details of her happy face in my head.You,little girl,are such a delightful lovely poem that I can’t even pen you down. Maybe someday when I am worth and capable of putting your beauty in words, I will. But for now, I still can’t buy these packets of pity from you that you still hold in your hands, that you are still going to try to sell to other prospective buyers a few minutes from now. And though you are still smiling at me and you don’t even want my money anymore, I just find myself letting out an inaudible and invisible murmur  – ‘I am sorry’.I know that you are not asking for my apology. You don’t want it. Actually, it’s I who really needs it – as a futile attempt to pacify my own confused conscience. I am sorry because I don’t think you deserve this. I am sorry because I can’t help you escape the circumstances you have been born in. I can’t save you from your parents making you sell these packets. I can’t send you to school and I can’t teach you either. And neither can I ever take responsibility for your better childhood or better future. Not that there is no way for achieving any of this, it’s just that I am lazy and I am running short of efforts to uplift my own life. Looking at you, I raise those never-to-be-answered questions to my fate again. Why you? Why me? They aren’t answered of course. As usual, they turn their backs on me. And then I turn my back on you after one last cheerful, apologetic and perhaps an unnecessarily guilty glance.

food for thought, humour

The great Indian Toilet issue

 

I like to travel a lot. And in my day dreams I do travel a lot. However, in reality I haven’t traveled as much as I want to or I want myself to want to because-

A. I am lazy.

B. I am not very comfortable traveling alone. ( And my friends aren’t always ready to accompany)

C. I can not poop or pee like I do at home.

C. I can not poop or pee like I do at home.

Nevermind-reaction-gif

One of the most underrated thing in the world has been the feeling when you can spend as much time as you can in a loo. Pee, poop or bath ..Do whatever and you have nothing to worry about. That’s a freedom worth fighting for.

And no, I am not kidding. You know I am not kidding.

It’s such such such a great relief to be able to pee or poop at a nice place. And there is no nicer place than a home or maybe a five start hotel. But we can not really afford a five star hotel every time we need to do our business. So, yes, using the loo at home is most economical and hygienic option.

I have thanked god for various things; I have thanked him/her/it for such loving parents, for wonderful siblings, for equally awesome friends, for good grades at school, for barely being able to pass the semester exams, for a beautiful dress or a shoe or a bag or a fountain pen but I have never thanked him for a nice clean toilet and that’s what I am going to do today.

I thankest thee, O lord – whoever thou are “the creature upstairs” for a good washroom. I shall forever be grateful.

But the sad part is that not everybody in this world has a pleasure of a good toilet. I have been among the lucky ones in that regard.

The act of peeing or pooping should bring out the emotion of great relief but in India, it brings out the emotion of great dread in many many people. And that is because they don’t have access to a good toilet toilet at all!

And the story doesn’t end here. Because of the unavailability of toilet not only are the people not able to pee or poop comfortably, they are also sometimes stalked  or looted or eve-teased or raped or murdered. Yeah.. how you ask? If you don’t have a toilet at home, of course you have no option but to go outside and search for secluded private place.

Did someone just say SECLUDED AND PRIVATE PLACE?

And if you are a woman…

Wow.

 

It’s a shame. And we all are acutely aware of that.

The reason that I am mentioning all this is not because suddenly I feel like doing some serious talk over some serious issue. I don’t do that. More like I can’t do that. But this huge concern over the great Indian toilet issue began to hover upon my heart and mind when I found myself in a rather interesting situation when I was traveling a few  weeks ago. My stomach got upset at the wrong time and at the wrong place and it was  uh..well.. a memorable experience. But on the positive note I managed things quite well and I am still in one piece; Safe and sound. When I reached back home after this interesting journey of mine, I felt so good, sooooo good seeing the nice clean bathroom  that I began to feel sorry for those who don’t have access to hygienic loos. It’s as essential as the food we eat. It really is. In fact they are more essential than food. When I am not at home I eat and drink according to the availability of the hygienic toilets. If it’s not there than I limit my food and fluid intake. So, I can quite safely conclude that my diet depends upon the toilet.

Is it all conveying too much information about my private life?

In the era, when people post there interesting photographs at Instagram, mention where they are heading to, where they are, what they are eating, what they are watching, what they are listening to, how they are feeling at every instant, I think it never is too much information. So, yeah, according to me I am good to go.

And as of the Great Indian toilet issue, I do feel that I should do something about it. Contribute somehow. Make this country a better place to live. But as of now, it’s just in my head. I hope, I hope that I will come out of my laziness zone and actually do something and not just think or publish a post about it.

What a better place would it be if each one of us actually does what we think we should do. What a better world would it be!

 

 

 

 

 

my life

you know what I did this Diwali

There are many festivals that we keep celebrating throughout the year in India, but Diwali, especially, for the North Indians is like the king of all other festivals.

What we do on Diwali?

Well, the Check list includes:

  • Before Diwali;

Clean the house, make the sweets and snacks, Decorate your house, buy new clothes, Gift other people.

  • On Diwali;

Prepare for Puja, Make Rangoli, Dress up in new clothes, Do the Puja, eat the delicious sweets your mother made, Fire the crackers, meet friends, gift them and invite them to your house.

All the above is done for the Goddess Lakshmi. It is believed that she is the one who brings money and happiness in homes. So, on the occasion of Diwali the houses are cleaned and decorated so that the goddess has a nice cozy beautiful place to stay for a long long time.

Now, getting back to the question of what “I” did this Diwali.

Well, I could have said that I helped mum clean home and make sweets but well, that would be a clean flat lie.

Basically, I did nothing except making Rangoli. And since that’s the only thing I do on every Diwali, and I have been doing on every Diwali, this post is going to be about it.

After having lunch, we sat down to draw on the floor. I was doing more of an bad assistance job by striking off the chalks here and there on all the wrong places, so after a while I busied myself with photography and let the professional a.k.a my elder sister handle it.

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This is my sister, the main architect of the Rangoli.

After almost an hour we finally had our Rangoli Sketch completed.

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It was time to fill our peacock and lotus with the colored sand you see in front of the design. After having a few minutes spent over what should be filled where, we decided it was absolutely futile to discuss. So we started with the parts that do not require any discussion over colour selection.

The water and the lotus.

Blue and Pink.

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The one you see  in black T-shirt is the one who is writing this.

And now,we are joined by my other sister. (For those who somehow happen to wonder how many sisters I have. Well, the answer is two. Both elder to me.)

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After a while, when we are done with the base part, we moved on to the “partying” peacock. ( the name is the courtesy of the golden highlight in his wings that was about to happen sometime later.)

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There was so much to do in the wings and the feathers. And we had no idea where to fill which colour. At this point our chief Rangoli designer ( read my eldest sister) went with her instincts and we followed her, giving our suggestions in between which sometimes got veto and sometimes got accepted.

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( here you can see how our peacock transformed into a chick – hint; that golden highlight in the wing)

Some more time later…

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At this point, we realized that our “chick” needed more feathers. So, we added blue ones on top of the green ones.

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^ Here I am making Bengali style bases for Diya.

The evening had already approached, and we needed to give the finishing touch, pack up and dress up in our new clothes.

So, we start adding the glasses, and sparkles and other to-be-added-in-the-end kind of  things.

And this what we end up with;

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And here the ones who made it.

Since I am not a “show off”, so I haven’t included myself here.

(Fine! they forgot to take my pic! Or rather I forgot to take my own pic. :-/)

This is the final product;

Diwali Rangoli

So, now you  know what I did this Diwali.

In case you want to know what I did Last Diwali…

Well the answer is;

Rangoli

And in just case, you want to know what I did last to last Diwali;

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And just in case you are still here, and you somehow still want to know what I did last to last to last Diwali;

Then, sorry folks I don’t have pics!

Courtesy; the hard disk crash.