Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Never say "Never"

It is an old habit of mine. I often decide quite firmly not to do something and land up doing just that.

Take the instance of my residence. Long ago when I was going for training at a blood bank in a hospital in the city, I lost my way on the way back home. I was on scooter. This is nothing new for me and this is how I learn my way around a city.

Anyway, on my way back, I noticed a huge complex of apartments  which looked rather like a collection of matchboxes made of concrete. It was completely devoid of trees and looked for all the world like a desert. I wondered how people could ever live there with no greenery around and just a lot of flats that had no character whatsoever. Little did I know then, that in a few years time, I would be moving into one of those flats. Of course it is now about 8-9 years since that incident. Now the whole complex is green and the flats are in high demand.

This was not the first time either. Many decades ago, when I was doing my Std. X, I wanted to appear for the NCERT Scholarship Examination.  The application forms had to be submitted at a local college, not far from my house. I went straight from my school in school uniform to the college . Not surprisingly, I was the centre of unwanted attraction on the campus. I wished I could sink into the ground and vanish.  It was so upsetting, I vowed I would never study in that college. I spent the next 7 years there.

Similarly, I had decided that I was going to be single and ready to mingle all my life. The thought of ever getting married was completely anathema to all I was and believed in. As is my wont, I did just what I decided never to do .

The latest example is of my changing my mind is the fact that I am on this site and using technology. My knowledge of the use of computers extended to word-processing and e-mailing. And yes, I could search the internet for information. Till my friend one day decided that I had better learn to move with the times and got me to join facebook. Even so, I really did not really take to it very much. For me it was only a means to search and contact people. Then another friend of mine introduced me to IL and I fell for the site hook, line and sinker .

I hated very advanced mobile phones – for me the phone was an instrument primarily for the purpose of communication. My husband on the other hand loves all things technical (I face serious competition in the department of his affections, when computers and mobiles are concerned). He bought a mobile phone with internet connectivity and tried very hard to get me to use it. He was willing to gift it to me, but I wanted nothing to do with it. After a few months of resistance, I started checking the IL site on it and got quite hooked. After that there has been no stopping me. Although I am still quite a computer idiot and struggle with links and the like , I am slowly learning. And now I am determined to learn all the necessary skills required to claim to be a denizen of the modern world.

As they say, “never say never”.

mr. and mrs. crow and other stories

Long ago, I remember reading an interview with the famous cartoonist R.K. Laxman in the newspaper. To the question "What do you do in your free time?", he answered "I watch crows". I was quite surprised. What on earth did he find so fascinating about crows. It could certainly not be their beauty.

Yesterday, when walking past a building where my old institute was situated, I was reminded of a sight that I
had witnessed sitting at the window of the staff room. This institute is situated in a very posh, green area of the city. It was an old building and the window of the staff room looked out onto a very big tree. There were a lot of monkeys around and I spent many an hour watching their antics (all the time making sure the windows were closed, of course).

However, one afternoon, when I was sitting in a ruminative mood, looking out of the window, I noticed a pair of crows sitting on a branch of the tree.

As I was watching, one of the crows (let us call her Mrs. Crow) went sat beside the other one (Mr. Crow) and stretched out its neck to be scratched. Mr. Crow very obligingly scratched Mrs. Crow on the neck. Then he went back to his business of looking all around. Mrs. Crow edged closer to him and offered her neck once again. Once again Mr. Crow obliged. This happened 3-4 times.  The fifth time round, Mr. Crow seemed to get tired of the game and went and perched on another branch.

Mrs. Crow's ego was hurt. She sat wearing a very hurt look and looked around for about 2 minutes, waiting for Mr. Crow to come back and make up. When Mr. Crow showed no such intentions, she decided to take things right into her own hands, or should I say under her own wings, flew right up to him and very determinedly stuck her neck right under his beak.

I just could not believe what I had just seen .  My eyes just stopped short of popping out. This was the first time I had witnessed a show of this sort. Mr. R.K. Laxman, certainly knew what he was talking about, and so did all the narrators of the stories from the Panchatantra.

I have subsequently had experiences of crows, which have challenged my authority over my own garden. I have a balcony garden with a lot of potted plants. I do have a lot of trouble with squirrels, but I had never bargained for trouble with crows which decide that the leaves of my plants are more delectable than any in the park opposite or in anyone else's balcony garden. Initially I tried to shoo away the crows. Then (I shall admit at the risk of sounding like I have absolutely copped it ) I tried to talk to the crows, telling them very politely to go away (I have heard that plants and beasts respond to feelings and understand the other person's feelings). All I got back was a very defiant look, like it was saying "let's see what you can do if I don't". I was really furious. But I was rather uncertain about really shooing them away (who knows, which ancestor has chosen to visit me - I really can't risk hurting their feelings or incurring their wrath). Finally the crows emerged victorious and I had to eat humble pie.

P.S.  Images from the internet.

My Experiments with Driving

I have always driven a two wheeler. It started with my TVS, when I was doing my M.Sc. Those days one had to wait for long periods of time to get a Luna. So the next best choice was a TVS. My dad then inherited my TVS from me, when I became a triumphant owner of a Luna. Lunas came and lunas went, whenever they started giving trouble, but i kept lunaticking. The long and the short of this story was that I had never given the idea of driving a car a thought in my life.

When I got engaged, my fiancee (Vishnu) started pestering me to learn to drive a car. I was really touched that he wanted me to be independent (these were the days before men were liberated). He used to occasionally visit me on a Sunday evening to teach me how to drive – the location was the vast, green environs of my institute. This went on for sometime – never continuously – it was on and off.

Anyway, Vishnu soon occupied the post of official husband in my life. Soon enough, he packed me off to a driving school. There were the mandatory 10-15 days of classes. After that I was herded off for a driving test, which I promptly failed.

Being of a very sensitive disposition, I decided to have nothing to do with driving. All the while, I was being actively encouraged to try again. This time around, when I went off to visit my parents for a fairly longish stint, being at a loose end, I summoned the courage to do so. Once again, I went through the 10 days of lessons and the driving test and Yippee!  I did it! I finally got the driving license.

When I got back from my parents' place, there was a fair amount of excitement all round. Vishnu and his parents were determined to get me in the driver's seat . But as everyone knows, 10 days of driving lessons and passing a test are hardly sufficient to render one fit to drive on the rough, tough and mean road of Indian cities. So a driver was roped in to give me some extra lessons to make me “D”-Perfect.

Eventually there came the day when Vishnu decided that it was time for me to try to drive on my own. I started the car gingerly and tried backing out. Before I could say “Hey, what?”, the back side of the car had rammed into the gate of the house. Both I and the car were retrieved and I was assured that no damage was done. It was perfectly OK. I should not lose confidence. Let us leave it for another time.

Next time around, I lost my nerve when I reached the gate. So I tried to take the car a bit forward. It lurched forward and in my panic I could not find the brake. I stepped onto the accelerator. The car turned and hit the wall of the house. I tried backing, only to get the rear wheels onto a patch of my ma-in-law's lawn, before the car gave up on me and came to a stop. That was episode number 2.

After a reasonable hiatus to allow me to get back my confidence, Vishnu and I once decided on a Sunday evening to go out driving into the city. I was driving, Vishnu patiently by my side, guiding me. I drove quite a distance, uneventfully. It was then, around a corner, just as I was turning off the main road to the right, when a Maruti Esteem was turning out of the same road onto the main road. For a brief moment, we decided to occupy the same position in space and time – which according to the laws of physics is a strict no-no.  Mother Nature being a stickler for her laws made sure that this erring child of hers was given a strong message which would stay with her for a life-time. The brakes had a strange aversion for me and avoided detection by my feet. I rammed into the other guy's esteemed car and left a deep mark of our meeting on the front left of the car.

My jaw dropped. My adrenalin production was at an all time high. If I were in the pharmaceutical business, I should have made a fair kitty, enough I guess to build a mansion in the Caribbean, just by selling the adrenalin. My heart was thudding loudly enough to provide accompaniment to a particularly lively rendition of the bhangda.

Vishnu stepped out. I stepped out. The guy from the esteemed car stepped out. Both parties surveyed their own cars with great concern and then came to face each other. The conversation was kept very civil, with Vishnu giving him our phone number and promising to bear the expenses for the repair of his very esteemed car. Satisfied with the promise, he went on his way and we on ours.

That was it. I would never step into a car again. I did not mind damaging Vishnu's car or my femur. But the thought of running anyone down and depriving a family of a loved one is absolutely anathema to everything I stand for. Mother-in-law was very concerned that the car being registered in dear sonny boy's name, I would land him very soon behind bars. I was concerned about that, as well as the likelihood of my photos behind bars or in handcuffs being splashed on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

Besides, I thought everything happens for the best. Tell me, which guy is really so liberated as to encourage his wife to be independent. There must have been some scheme behind all this. Oh yes! Remember, Vishnu's relative's wife had warned me against learning to drive. She had told me that this was the stepping stone to making the wife do a driver's job in addition to all her other jobs. I should have listened to her. She had been in the family for much longer than me and would definitely be knowing better. I would at least now take her advice.

So, that was my final decision. No more driving for me. There are enough taxis, auto rickshaws or my own trusted, loved Honda Activa to take me round my universe .

P.S. Reading this narrative, the bitter half commented that I had not tried hard enough and if I had, then I would have been driving today. So much for my efforts. As some very insightful souls amongst my readers might have gathered, hubby dear is still very much peeved at my decision not to drive.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

10 Golden Rules of Auto-Rickshaw Etiquette

Today there was a news item in the morning newspaper. A techie was trying to get an auto rickshaw to his destination. Five of them in a row refused to ply for anything less than Rs. 100/- (let alone plying by meter). When he started noting their registration numbers to lodge a complaint, he was beaten up by one of them. Complaining to the police did not bring any results. 

Serves the techie right. He did not learn some basic etiquettes of "auto rickshaw manners" at his momma's knee . If he had, he would not have seen this day.

There are some golden rules for dealing with rickshaw drivers, which everyone better be aware of. Ignorance is no defence for a crime. 
  • Never approach a rickshaw driver who is sitting in peace and reading the newspaper. 
  • Never approach one who is enjoying his lunch or having just finished his meal and is enjoying his siesta.
  • Never ask a rickshaw driver who is busy having a chinwag with his colleagues.
  • Always ask where he wants to ply. Don't be audacious enough to ask to go in a direction opposite to his destination or beyond his destination.
  • Don't stop an empty auto rickshaw who is going past. It is just not done. The protocol for this is that the auto rickshaw driver should stop next to you and ask whether you want to enjoy the privilege of going with him for a ride.

If you try any of the above, you are sure to be refused.

  • If an auto rickshaw driver does condescend to take you where you want to, be polite enough to enquire whether he wants to go in the same direction or whether you would be inconveniencing him.
  • Never ask him to turn on the meter. If he does turn it on, don't argue about petty issues like tampering. What are a few 10s here and there? If you find the meter exceeding the normal expected fare, get off when the meter reaches the limit of your budget. Don't inconvenience the driver - he is reeling under inflation which is going through the roof. Don't inconvenience yourself either. Spend only what your pocket allows. After that, walk! It's good for your health.
  • Don't try to tell him what speed to drive at . Who is the professional here?
  • Don't try to tell him not to use the mobile when driving? It is a free country and his wish. Who are you to edit his human rights?
  • Don't tell him not to put on the music at full blast . It is one of his basic inalienable rights.

If you choose to ignore these rules, it is entirely at your own risk. Don't say I did not warn you.

P.S.  Images from the Internet.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Blogging my way to friendships


Until a couple of months ago, I was content to spend my time reading books and watching telly as activites to keep me out of mischief.  I love human company, but that is a hard commodity to come by these days.  Friends are not willing to spare one the time of day unless one is connected with them on a social network.  Gone are the days when one could sit and chat with a friend over a cuppa or jabber twenty to the dozen for hours on end on the telephone.  Everyone these days is glued to a new box - the nerd's box (the days of the idiot box are wearing out - there are not many idiots left around.  Even the last remnants of that breed like me are having to convert).

Anyway, when one of my friends came to know of my dark secret, she absolutely insisted on my joining a very popular social networking site, and took the time out of her busy schedule to set me up.  I somehow could not get started.  I mean, it is okay to trace your friends whom you want to get in touch with after many years, but I was not particularly enamoured by the idea of posting bits of information from various sources on the wall or telling my friends that I had just finished guzzling 2 litres of Evian or was planning to stand on my head for the first time in my life.  So I just had an account, which I used to peep into once in a way.

Then another friend got fed up of my calling for chats all the time and asked me to join up on a womens' networking site.  I faithfully did.  As usual, I was lost in the woods.  By and by, I started finding many topics to my interest and plunged headlong into the various forums.  I took great pleasure in giving my two cents to any one who cared to listen - no, I should be saying reading.  This did get me many virtual friends, with whom one could talk about all the pet peeves in one's life.  Everyone was available for everyone else to wipe away their virtual tears and to give them virtual hugs (what else are smileys there for?  God bless their creator).

But that was not quite enough.  I just had to keep up with the Jones'.  All the fellow members of that particular site, who were into any kind of writing were heavily into blogging.  I could not be left far behind.  Oh, no.  That is just not my style.  So that is just what I did.  Started blogging.  What is that proverb again?  "If you cannot beat 'em, join'em".

So here I am.  I hope to see more of everybody here and promise that you will also see me from time to time.  Till then ......