Tuesday, 17 November, 2009

I clean my house and dirty yours!

Last Sunday. Got up late. Spent some time sipping tea and browsing newspapers. A luxury not possible during weekdays. As the tummy started grumbling, I went to the kitchen to make dosas. The counter looked like there was a splatter of rain. Peeped through the window. Dirty water was still trickling down from top. It fell on the open window and splashed inside. Yuck! Water mixed with pigeon shit! On my kitchen counter! Quickly closed the window. Pushed all the vessels on the counter into the sink. Cleaned the counter and window sill.

I could not leave it at that. Marched up to the next floor. Contained my anger and politely asked the immediate top neighbour if they were cleaning the kitchen. They were not. I believed them. Went to the next floor. Same question. Yes, they were cleaning, but it was only inside the kitchen. But I got dirty water inside my kitchen. And there are no more floors. The lady said it could be from the overflowing overhead tank. I knew the outlet for that is not above my kitchen. Still, I collected the key from the watchman and went to the terrace. From there, I could see her open kitchen window, which was still dripping. And the portion outside the window was black in colour, covered with layers of pigeon shit.

I went to her again and said with a smile plastered on my face, “I saw water dripping from your kitchen window. So the water had come from your house only. I know you did not do it purposely. Maybe your maid washed the window without you noticing it.” She flatly refused this, still arguing that the cleaning was limited to the inside of the kitchen. I could not convince her. So I came back requesting her to inform me before she cleaned the kitchen again.

This is not my first experience. I had got my clothes sprayed with dirty water when the top neighbour washed her balcony. My almost-dry clothes had got drenched when the neighbour’s maid hung their fresh wash without wringing. Another intelligent neighbour, diagonally above my house, could not understand that when she dusted her carpet from top, the dust could get settled on the clothes hung outside my balcony. It’s not directly below her house. How can dust travel diagonally? She’s a diploma holder in engineering. The worst was when my tea got sprinkled with dirty water when the top neighbour’s maid hung the washed carpet on their balcony grill.

My experiences are similar in two cities – Chennai and Mumbai. In most cases, people are neither ready to admit the mistake nor apologetic about it. Or they blame it on the maids. Shouldn’t we be responsible for whatever our maids do within our house? I think so. But not many are of the same opinion.

I can never understand why these people fail to understand the inconvenience caused to others. Why can’t they wipe the window/balcony instead of washing it? It’ll save water also. If they can’t prevent the maid from pouring water, can’t they at least warn others?

I am outraged at this insensitivity!

Monday, 9 November, 2009

Editor’s choice!

“I don’t like penetration,” she shouts. He blushes. Heads turn.

“But madam… it’s so common,” he grumbles.

“So what? I don’t like the sound of it,” she fumes.

“Share?” someone offers.

“Yes, use market share, not market penetration,” she decides.

“But the meaning…,” he mutters.

“I don’t care. I don’t want penetration,” she yells.


Based on a real incident. :-)

Thursday, 29 October, 2009

When joy of giving turns sour ...

The Joy of Giving week was celebrated a little before Diwali. The students from Akanksha’s Lower Parel centre (an NGO involved in teaching less privileged kids) decided to experience the joy of giving this Diwali instead of the joy of getting. They celebrated Diwali in a home for cancer-affected kids. As the students performed dances and distributed gifts, the faces of those tired-looking kids brightened. A warm hug from all of us added to their joy.

For me, Diwali is the time to get out of the city. If possible, I would like to spend every Diwali in Kerala – the only state that does not celebrate Diwali in a big way. Or has it changed? I am not sure. Though I don’t celebrate Diwali, I happily accept the sweets and gifts offered by friends and neighbours. To counter the joy of getting, I give some money (Diwali baksheesh) to the people who do some service for me regularly – the security guards, milkman, cleaning woman, and so on. This is a usual practice; I am not doing anything out of the ordinary. For a housemaid, usually one month’s salary is given, while there’s no fixed amount for others. If I don’t give, they will come and ask for it. Anyway, I do not wait for them to ask. Before getting out of the city, I make it a point to meet each of them and give the baksheesh.

This year, however, I refused to give baksheesh once and another time, I had to give it without any joy of giving.

For the past one year, I complain regularly to the newspaper agent about non-delivery of papers, late delivery, missing supplements, excess billing, and what not. But there was no improvement in the service. One or two days after Diwali, two boys, whom I’d never seen in my life, rang the bell at around 8.30 in the morning. They claimed to be the newspaper delivery boys and wanted Diwali baksheesh. I refused saying I’d never seen them. One of them said the other boy had just joined as a delivery boy and he was teaching him. Both the trainer and the new recruit wanted baksheesh. I asked if the trainer was teaching the new boy to deliver the paper late and then ask for money. Sorry, I don’t pay for regular bad service.

After a week, two postmen came asking for the same, equipped with a notebook. I can’t say their service is bad, but very rare. But to think of two central government servants, who take good salaries home, doing rounds with a begging bowl (figuratively)! It looked like they were noting down the amount paid by each house in the notebook. I imagine that they would decide the quality of service for the next year based on the amount! I paid them sourly, without the joy of giving. Some time back, there was a newspaper article about postmen’s complaints – that they are no longer welcomed with warmth as it used to be. How will I welcome them happily if they come and ask for money for delivering a letter or two in a year?

Now I think I should’ve given the baksheesh to the boys. They earn less and maybe they would have wanted the money badly, not like the government employees who get regular salary and bonus. I’ve not seen the boys again. Paper delivery is as bad as ever.

This is where we went during this Diwali – Nannaj Bird Sanctuary, near Solapur, Maharashtra. The image at the beginning of this post is also from Nannaj.

Sunday, 6 September, 2009

Saluting only the dedicated ones

One more Teachers’ Day went by, praising the entire teaching community. I could not bring myself to blindly eulogize all teachers. I remember many of my teachers fondly. But there’s an equal (or more) number of teachers I could never appreciate - from the fourth standard Malayalam Miss who always ground her teeth in uncontrollable anger to a professor who declared that if the sun rose for 30 days a month, he would get salary, implying he was not obliged to teach us. I remember with disgust and contempt. There are a few, who never taught me or rather I was not lucky to be taught by them. The talk about their teaching capabilities as well as charisma left me longing to become their student.

Apart from my personal experiences, I’ve met some teachers who work against all odds to change the lives of the students. The teachers at the tribal school near Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka are a dedicated bunch and do their best in the challenging environment. During our 10-day trip as the Great Driving Challenge finalists, we dropped in to the school hearing a chorus prayer by the kids. It was a pre-lunch prayer. Though the teachers were also about to start lunch, they were happy to oblige our curiosity.

Many kids find the school attractive because of the mid-day meals and the attendance has drastically improved after the programme has been introduced. So is the performance of the kids. Even with the limited facilities, the teachers appeared enthusiastic and committed. We hope their hard work would give the kids a better future. There must be many similar establishments and dedicated teachers across our country. A salute to all of them.

Another two teachers I personally know for more than a year are Mamta and Rohini, teachers at Akanksha, an NGO involved in teaching less privileged kids.

I’ve witnessed their dedication and daily struggle to get the 35-odd kids equipped for a bright tomorrow. And they are there by choice. Another salute to all the teachers like Mamta and Rohini.

Sunday, 9 August, 2009

From top 12 to top 3!

After three days of audition comprising driving test, travel documentation, and route plan discussions, we were selected as one of the top 3 couples in the Great Driving Challenge.

We are on road now. Today is Day 3. Could not update the blog as we were flagged off soon after the results were out. Since then, it's been 300 km of driving and another 5-6 hours of blogging.

Do check out our regular blog updates at http://www.greatdrivingchallenge.com/unny. Follow and cheers us through this journey. Hope you'll enjoy the blog posts!

Sunday, 26 July, 2009

Will you follow us?

Thanks for all who voted for us and helped us make it to the top 12 pre-finalists of the Mitsubishi Cedia Great Driving Challenge. We hope to get your support for the next level as well.

Auditions for selecting the 3 finalists will be from August 3 to 5. Before that we have to maintain a blog on the TGDC website, get as many followers as we can, get them comment on the posts and cheer us up. That’s how you could support us now. It seems this online activity is one criterion for selection!

So please go to the link - http://www.greatdrivingchallenge.com/ee/index.php/nomines/blog/unny-bindhu/ and do sign up as our follower. Do
visit this blog often and post your precious comments.

Remember that you can follow only one couple as followers of the 3 finalists and the winner also get some prizes.

Hope to see you on the blog. :-)

Friday, 10 July, 2009


Rich and handsome! What a combination!

“If only…” A fleeting thought; enough to make her feel guilty.

She turned and asked her husband, “On seeing a rich and attractive guy, if I thought ‘if only…’ is that cheating?”

“Of course not,” he replied.

Relief swept over her.

What’s the point in saying yes, he thought.

Wrote this '55 words story' for a contest. Got short-listed; but didn't get any prize. :-)

Wednesday, 8 July, 2009

Who will scoop the poop?

A few places in Mumbai have the look of a well-maintained city. Marine Drive is one of them. Neat, long promenade, a broad seawall-cum-parapet where you can sit, relax and enjoy the sea breeze, no hawkers to pester you – all these have been made possible by the corporation along with the active participation of the residents’ welfare association.

But there has been one persistent problem – dog poop. Dog walkers too find the promenade interesting. The relaxed dogs relieve themselves on the walkway, to the disgust of others using the promenade. Reportedly, many have been unfortunate enough to step on the poop and skid. Now, the corporation has issued a final warning to dog owners who walk their dogs on the promenade to either clean up after their pets or face a ban from using the promenade for dog-walking. The rule is to be implemented from August.

This has sparked a debate about the where the responsibility of the corporation ends and the dog owners’ begin. Apparently, quite a few dog owners argue that it’s not their responsibility to clean after their dogs. Two years back, columnist Tavleen Singh claimed to be doing ‘civil disobedience’ when she refused to clear the excreta of her dog or pay the fine. Her argument was that the rule was not being enforced in other parts of the city and that the authorities did not provide plastic bags to pick up the poop. Reports also said that she wanted BMC to stop people from defecating in public before expecting her to scoop her dog’s poop. Phew! I’ve swore not to ever read her columns.

I wonder why supposedly educated people make such silly arguments. Will any human being defecate in public, provided he/she has a choice? People live without a roof over their heads and lead a hand-to-mouth existence. They can’t stop attending to calls of nature until after they have access to proper toilets. And there are limits to what any civic body can do without the cooperation of public. If people like Singh decide to obey laws only after everyone else follows them, they need not follow any law in our country.

I am not sure how the fight between the corporation and Singh ended. But I guess she would not have paid the fine.

When will we stop blaming others and take responsibility for our actions? When will we start ‘being the change what we wish to see in the world’? Till then, who will scoop the poop?

Saturday, 4 July, 2009

Great Driving Challenge

I and Unny are participating in a contest by Hindustan Motors – the Great Driving Challenge.

Do help us to get into the final by voting for us.

Follow this link to vote – http://www.greatdrivingchallenge.com/application/Unny/

Your vote is counted only after the email verification.

Every vote counts.

Wednesday, 20 May, 2009

The lesser-known me

25 things few people know about me! Ever since mixedblessings89 tagged me (it’s quite some time now), I was trying hard to figure out what few people know about me. I secretly(?) went and checked some of the blogs that took up this tag. No, I didn’t have the slightest intention to do CtrlC-CtrlV. Anyways, I was still clueless after reading a few posts.

Does that mean I am so transparent? People can see through me? Oops! That could also mean I am hollow. No way! I am full of substance, though few people know that. There it is… The first thing few people know about me.

For the remaining 24, I ‘made up’ this list. :-)

2. I am quite romantic though I don’t look like one.

3. I have three birthdays. No, I was not born thrice. Just that my date of birth in official records is two months earlier than the original one, and I’ve a star birthday.

4. My first poem (in Malayalam) was published in the children’s magazine Lalu Leela some time in 1980s. It was about my cat.

5. I had cats; 16 at one point of time. Reared and buried quite a few of them.

6. My first short story (in Malayalam and last so far) got second prize in a competition held by the local fine arts club and it was later published in the school magazine.

7. I remember most of what I hear except the classroom lectures. So get bored when people tell me the same stuff again and again and sometimes contradict themselves.

8. I intend to write my autobiography.

Enough of gloating.

9. I get angry fast.

10. I can be nasty at times.

11. I don’t bother about what others think.

12. I’m not religious, but I know there’s God.

13. I (we) decided not to have kids even before marriage.

14. I like kids when I'm not responsible for them 24x7.

15. However, I feel responsible for the whole world, but too lazy to save it.

16. I like being alone and I like being with family and friends.

17. I was crazy about Hindi movies in my teens. My favourite hero was Mithunda.

18. For washing cloths, I don’t trust anybody except myself, my mother, sister-in-law, and IFB washing machine.

19. I like only the curd I make or the packaged ones.

20. I don’t like to see oil in my food – I mean in the non-fried ones.

21. I’ve tried many times to become a vegetarian and failed. Then I married a pure vegetarian. That did work partially. I am a vegetarian most of the time.

22. I get put off by insincerity.

23. I like those who act over those who just talk.

24. But I often talk and not act.

25. So I believe, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." - Carl Jung

Now I feel I can write more. Who will have the patience to read it?

Meanwhile, mixedblessings89 gave me the Honest Scrap award.

I honestly made this 25 things up. :-)

Thursday, 14 May, 2009

Sunday selections

The title might ring a bell to Keralites of my generation. All India Radio, Trivandrum used to air a programme for dedicating songs, every Sunday at 3 pm. Not sure if they still have it. That was a time when cable TV was unheard of. Probably, it was the only programme where the audience could mail requests to broadcast English songs dedicated to someone of their choice. I don’t know if it was a popular programme because English songs were (and are) alien to me.

Today, TV channels are inundated with mutants of phone-in/write-in/SMS-in programmes.

I pooh-pooh the people who calls or writes with much passion and enthusiasm. Who has the time to do all these? Non-bloggers might be thinking the same about bloggers.

Then I realised I am a hypocrite.

Long back, I too had written to Sunday Selections. Well, not exactly. I hadn’t even heard about this programme until a hostel friend explained it to me. We were a gang of 17 gals and had named ourselves DDTs. Can anyone guess the expansion? We even had a logo. Okay, let me not digress. We made sure to celebrate everyone’s birthday. A gift was given and a treat was taken in return. Once, for G’s birthday, R came up with a new gift idea – to dedicate a song to G through Sunday Selections. That was when I first heard about it. We bought a post card (15 paise – misers we were!) and sent in our request. I don’t remember the song we had requested. G would be at home on Sundays. Somehow, we managed to get her listen to the programme, without revealing our secret. Those who were doomed to be in the hostel got a pocket radio. A red one, I remember.

So we sat at different parts of Kerala on that Sunday afternoon eagerly waiting for our letter to be read. Sadly, it was never read. Later, someone told us that they would give preference to letters written on fancy papers. Our humble postcard didn’t even stand a chance. Next day we told G about our failed attempt to sponsor a song for her.

I remember listening to Sunday Selections a few times after that. But it didn’t have the charm to retain my interest. But our excitement and the later disappointment is something I should consider while scoffing at the participants of today’s programmes.

Other than the song dedication programmes, I don’t like the reality shows, which many are crazy about. I can watch the former for its songs, but I can’t stand the latter. Facebook is another place where I feel lost. All these “What kind of a cat/dog you are”, “Do you have brains”, “Which famous people share bad hair day with you,” stuff do not kindle my curiosity. I ignore requests to join groups like “I love Upma”, and “I like the smell of drain – oops, rain”.

Does age has anything to do with lack of appreciation for all these new trends? Maybe.

Monday, 6 April, 2009

Who’s stinky?

Oh! Life’s so boring. Nobody wants me. Come rain or shine, I stand here day in and day out. No one wastes a glance at me. (Sob sob…)

Eh! Who’s that? Here come two well-dressed ladies. I guess they are mother and daughter, going home after a big shopping. They’re checking the bills. Ladies, if you don’t want them, give it to me. I’ll take good care of them.

No! They dropped the papers on the roadside and left in an auto. Am I not standing just 3 ft behind them? Still… (Sob sob...)

Now, where is that stink coming from? The garbage van has already left. Good grief! Smells like she and her clothes haven’t seen water for ages. I don’t like stinky people, though ignorant people call me stinky. What’s this mad woman doing? Okay, she’s having food. After eating, she’ll leave all the trash behind. I’m sure.

Ugh! She’s even peeing there. Disgusting! Doesn’t she know only men can pee in public? Where are our culture police?

She’s leaving at last. I can open my nose and breathe now. But she’s coming towards me. What! She’s stuffing me with the leftover food and waste paper. I can’t believe this. I feel happy. What if she’s stinking? She’s using me.

Hey, she’s crossing the road. Be careful, dear. These drivers are mad nowadays. What’s she doing? Picking up something form the middle of the road. What’s she going to do with an empty cigarette packet and bits of paper? She’s coming back to me. She has also picked up the papers dropped by the ‘ladies’.

She’s giving me all the trash she picked up. Am I dreaming? Let me pinch myself. It’s real!

Sorry my lady. I was so rude to you earlier. I even called you stinky. Now I wonder who is stinky. You or those ladies.

From Waste Bin Diaries

Thursday, 2 April, 2009

Get in touch and deal

A friend of mine was forced to do cooking, serving, and cleaning, when he was a kid. He hated doing this, but there was no choice as his parents chose to turn a blind eye to his plight. They were scared of his paternal grandfather. I don’t know the details. Whatever it was, this boy grew up with anger towards his parents and hating any sort of kitchen/house work. When he was able to stand on his feet, he confronted his parents and told them how angry he was and how they had let him down. After this, his anger subsided, but could not bring himself up to do any housework. He adored his wife, but never helped her in the kitchen. It was fine with her as she was not working full time; she enjoyed cooking; and there was a maid to do washing and cleaning.

Then, wife became pregnant. I went to see her during the initial months of pregnancy. That day, it was he who had cooked lunch. I was surprised. This guy, hurt by his parents’ insensitivity, wants to a better parent. And he’s going to try real hard. To overcome his negative emotions about cooking, he decided to cook a meal all by himself. “It was terrible. I almost relived the pain of my childhood. But, it’s worth it. I don’t want to set a negative example to my kid by showing dislike to housework.” he told.

Another friend also was abused as a kid. He had to work in a relative’s hotel, deliver food around, and was ridiculed by family members. After he got married, he refused to do any work at home. His working wife had to take care of everything from cooking to getting his shoes ready to wear. On Sundays, he would ask her to cook his favourite food and go out to play cricket with friends. In effect, he expected more of mothering from his wife. Again due to whatever he suffered in his childhood. Wife, due to her own childhood baggage, was eager to please him and accommodated all his demands initially. Later, she started complaining about his insensitivity, but it was of no use. He didn’t even think he’s insensitive; so where is the question of changing?

I’m not in touch with them now. I heard the wife is expecting. Does this father also try to deal with the childhood pain and get over it? So that he can set a good example to the child? I hope he does. We want more sensitive kids in this world.

So far it was about others’ experiences. Though not of such magnitude, I have been able to trace out the roots of some of my behavioural traits and pull them out. I’m pretty sure that many of us will be able to track the origin of certain irrational behaviour, anger or hatred and deal with it. In some cases, because of the pain we had endured, we would’ve suppressed it deep in our minds. We would not even admit that the wound is there. It’s a kind of defence mechanism by the mind to escape from the pain. Unless we probe our minds and get in touch with it, it’ll manifest in our behaviour. It’ll be painful to do this, but the results are worth the effort.

Thursday, 12 March, 2009

Parenting saga

Normally, I would not have read this interview. But the blurb – “I will spend every rupee I earned on myself. Let my kids fend for themselves” - caught my attention. It was actor Nazaruddin Shah’s response to a question if he had received his share of fame and money from the film industry. Answering in affirmative, he said he would not leave any of that for his children.

Shikha Sharma, MD & CEO, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, also has similar views about leaving an inheritance for her children. To quote from an interview, “They have to earn on their own. We’ll fund their education, but they are not getting any inheritance from their parents!”

I couldn’t but appreciate the detachment they expressed. Shah and Sharma would not have kept aside their dreams to support their children. But most middle-class parents slog their entire life to ensure a comfortable life to their kids. Their responsibility does not end with providing education. Daughters have to be married off lavishly with a hefty dowry. A host of other society-enforced demands that follow the marriage and birth of grandchildren have to be taken care of, which only translate to more expenses. Money need not be spent on sons’ marriage, but they have to deal with the expectations on their wealth – be it the house or that hard-saved fixed deposit.

Where is the end to the expectations on parents? Are they meant to live and die for their children? When will they gather enough courage to declare that their children would not inherit their money? When will they stop feeling guilty in spending money on themselves instead of saving it up for kids?

That expensive sari or much-dreamt-about vacation was rarely affordable in their prime years. At least, in the old age, let them live out their postponed dreams.

Wednesday, 4 March, 2009

So much I don’t know!

I went there to help them learn
And, I learned how much I don’t know
Or how much I am yet to learn!
I don’t know what to do…
When a kid refuses to respond
When a kid keeps fidgeting
When a kid says he/she hasn’t seen
The things we take for granted
I don’t know what to say…
When a kid stumbles at table of two
When a kid can’t read ‘tie’
When a kid says he/she couldn’t study
Because parents were fighting
I know I’ve failed to help them learn
And I’ve failed to learn
Still, I am trying…

(Thoughts from my volunteering experience at Akanksha, an NGO involved in teaching less-privileged children)

Monday, 16 February, 2009

Let the kids walk a bit

You are rushing to office on a bike. The road is blocked with haphazardly parked cars. Isn’t it normal that your blood pressure rise and you curse those stupid car owners/drivers? Well, I used to face this every weekday when I was in Chennai.

Unny used to drop me at office before proceeding to his office. There is a school along the road we took regularly. (The other option was an even more crowded main road with many signals.) Parents or drivers stopped the cars at the school gate and took the kids to the classrooms, creating major traffic blocks. Not to mention the incessant honking! Everyone competed in getting as close to the gate as possible. If they could get the car to the classroom, I guess, they would’ve been extremely happy. I used to get furious at this insensitivity to other road users. Why couldn’t they park the cars where it caused less inconvenience to others and get the kids walk a short distance to the school? Need the kids be pampered so much?

However, I also thought that I was just being jealous. My typical middle-class character couldn’t digest the comforts enjoyed by others. We have only a bike. I was getting irritated because they had cars. So, other than sharing with Unny, I kept my complaints to myself. Unny said that one could not expect those people to behave the way one wanted. Ok, fine, I said. I’d try to finish the chores and get out of the house early, even if it meant getting up earlier than 5 am.

Later, I remember reading about some other schools in Chennai banning the dropping of kids at the school entrance, citing the same reason – traffic congestion. I was happy to know that I was not alone in finding this as a problem.

Today, there was further justification to my anger. Though, in Mumbai, I was not caught in any such traffic jams, I was really happy to read the news “The State Transport Ministry mulls ban on cars for students”. According to a report by DNA, the ministry aims to keep school areas free of vehicular congestion and also spread the message of equality among students.

The proposal is at a primary stage, and there’ll be a lot of hurdles to clear before it can be enacted as a law. Still, it’s a welcome move.
It is inspired by the Cathedral and John Connon School in Colaba, Mumbai, which promotes the use of school bus or public transport by its students. Meera Issac, principal of the school, and Indrani Malkani, one of the parents, launched this well-thought-out ‘Model School Bus Service’ in 2002. According to them, parents welcomed this move and that was why the plan worked for the past six years. Even taxis are not allowed near the school gate. A wise move indeed!

Now, we have a car. But I am glad to realise that I retain the old mindset. I never try to park the car close to my destination, even for a short duration, if that causes nuisance to others. I may use the car for convenience, but I can still walk.

I hope those kids also get to walk a bit.

Friday, 13 February, 2009

To tie the knot or rakhi?

I’ve been doing it for the past eight years. It’s become a habit for me - to hold Unny’s hands when we walk together. Sometimes, people stare at us. I don’t care. For me, it’s a comfort.

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I don’t celebrate it. Does anyone need a day to celebrate love? Can’t we celebrate it every day? Every moment? Neither do I celebrate other such days as Women’s Day, Friendship Day, Mothers’ Day,... It’s obvious that these days are promoted by those with vested interests. But, I am not against anyone celebrating these Days. It’s their prerogative.

Some people think otherwise. The so-called protectors of Indian culture do not want anyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They are planning different things. Apart from violence, which they plan anyways, one group (which one? I forgot) has threatened that anyone publicly displaying their
affection will be either made to marry each other or tie a rakhi.

Is holding hands a public display of affection? When we go out tomorrow, will we be asked to tie the knot or tie the rakhi?

Monday, 12 January, 2009

My biannual swimming lessons

One of the items in My Bucket List was ‘learn swimming.’ I get swimming lessons from Unny whenever we get a chance to jump into a water body. This mostly happens twice a year during a trek/trip organised by Nature Knights! I signed off 2008 with such a swimming lesson at Pavna Lake near Lonavla.

We had not decided about participating in the two-day year-end outing organised by Nature Knights. When Asif called up to ask if we were free to go as facilitators for an event and join the outing later in the day, we made up our mind. The event was a pre-marriage get together of the bride’s and bridegroom’s families. The games part was outsourced to Nature Knights by the original event managers. Sponsored by the bridegroom’s sister, the intention of the event was to initiate bonding among family members from both sides. I have never heard of such events. I think this might become a trend soon, first among the ultra-rich families and later among the middle-class, who always wants to mimic the rich. Anyways, our eight-member team had a good time managing the games. The crowd was enthusiastic; food was good and plentiful.

By late evening, we reached Lonavla and waited for the gang to come back after a baby trek. There were around 30 people in total and Asif had a booked a few cottages. The sumptuous dinner prepared under the guidance of Asif’s brother Zafar, a trained chef, was followed by campfire and antakshari. Braving the chill, many of us set out for a night safari too. A few of us, including Unny and me, retired early (at midnight) to bed.

Next day, after attacking delicious French toast, upma, and omelet, we set out to Pavna Lake – for the last dip of the year. Swimmers were training the non-swimmers. I had an exclusive trainer – Unny. This time I made some minute progress.

The lessons were captured by those who didn’t get into water.

Phot0s courtesy: Asif

In 2009, maybe, I’ll learn to swim. Waiting for the next dip … :-)

Friday, 9 January, 2009

Want to make history?

With the digicam revolution, we’ve all become photographers. Even I have.

I swell with pride when I capture that unique moment and I want the whole world to appreciate it. The maximum I could do was to post it on my blog and hope someone would see it. Not anymore …

Now I can make history with those wonderful snapshots. Yes, you read it right – Make History.

The Make History Foundation (technically De Metri Foundation), a non-profit initiative along with Lee launched a Photography contest last year in Europe. Now it’s happening in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes India.

And I’ve already made a list of things I could buy with the prize money - a whopping $40,000, close to Rs 20 lakhs. The good thing is that one need not be a professional photographer to participate. But you should be able to tell a few words. The image and words together make a story. “Because history is not only important events and important people. It is recorded with songs and painted on canvas. It is told in stories. It lives in snapshots.”

I have started looking around with a new set of eyes and find meaning in the unobvious because I want to Make History …

So can you! Check out the site http://www.makehistory-ap.com and the blog http://lee-make-history.blogspot.com/.

No, I didn't click it. A sample from the collection

PS. Anybody winning prize after getting lead from this post pay me a commission. OK? :-)

Saturday, 3 January, 2009

A tribute to my Adopted extended family

It’s been four years since we came to Mumbai. Relocating to Mumbai was a tough decision to make as Mumbai always brought an image of cramped spaces and underworld, thanks to some Malayalam movies. Another aspect that added to our indecision was that I’d to quit my job of three months. We even thought of Unny going there temporarily (his company wanted him to set up a team in Mumbai) and I staying back in Chennai. But that was too much for me to bear – staying away from Unny for a long duration. Finally, after a lot of deliberations, we decided we’d try Mumbai out when our youth still remains. And I was pretty sure to get a job in the city of opportunities, which turned out exactly the same way.

The initial days were too oppressive – everything unknown. I brushed up my Hindi, but was bombarded by Marathi. Comparison between a nice, large 2-BHK and the compact 1-BHK at double the rent added to the irritation. Our top-of-the-mind thought was ‘how to go back’.

Then Nature Knights happened. I chanced upon an event listing in a website, wherein a one-day trek to Peb Fort was listed. We registered for this, wanting to get out of the daily hectic schedule and busy city life. On February 27, 2005, we did our first trek with Nature Knights. We were worried about our ability to do the trek and if they would accept our limitations. The ever-cheerful Nimesh, who was leading the trek, made us relax and finish this somewhat difficult trek with ease.

A slice from the Tikona trek
There’s no looking back since then. We participated in a few more treks, got to know Asif, the founder of the group, his family, and other senior members more; the bonding ensued unconsciously. Nature Knights became our extended family.

Another slice from Mahuli trek
Nature Knights is an eco-adventure/trekking organisation, founded 20 years back by Asif, a nature, wildlife, and adventure enthusiast. What started as a nature club by a group of like-minded friends has grown today into an organisation involved in trekking and other adventure activities, in addition to facilitating corporate outbound training as well as adventure activities for kids and families. Asif's long-term girlfriend and now wife Lopa is his pillar of support while Nimesh and Dnyanesh act as his left and right hands; rest of us tag along.
Lopa & Asif
For us, apart from having our share of adventure, fun, and a lot of learning, we’ve got a bunch of friends, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces – the newest one was born day before yesterday.
The family is ever-expanding with a few participants getting bowled over, like we did, by the Nature Knights spirit during each event and coming back for more. Asif, Lopa, and their daughter Anoushka along with other knights are there with open arms to welcome everyone into this cheerful family.
Unny's b'day celebration with Nature Knights
At this juncture, as we just stepped into another year, I salute the wonderful Nature Knights, of which I am proud to be a part of. Mumbai is not oppressive any more; 1-BHK house is not very small; and I understand a bit of Marathi. Our youth still remains. And we have second thoughts about going back.

To know more about Nature Knights, have a look here www.natureknights.com.
Asif, Nimesh and Dnyanesh
A photo feature of our first trek, Peb Fort, is here.

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