Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It was not an accident!

I was reminded of what seemed like an accident three years ago. I had a tough time explaining to people what happened, and trust me, 90% of them didn't believe me. But something that happened a few days back confirmed, what I knew was the truth all along. It was the same man - someone in his late forties. A girl was walking towards her scooter and this man gestured to his friends to follow her. These men got on their bikes and started following her going zig zag around her. Fortunately some other vehicle came and they lost her. It was just pure luck for the girl. But then, how many got lucky before her? How many before me?

So this is what happened in 2012 - I was on my way to office in my scooter and took my usual route, which is usually not that crowded at that time of the day. Then I saw this man who was coming in the opposite direction in a bike. Some thing seemed strange about him. I noticed that he was coming straight at me. I moved to the extreme left trying to get away from him. But then there was no place to move any further and I was too close to the gutter in the left. He came to the extreme left and hit my scooter right from the front. I heard the clicking noise of the handle and my fingers were jammed between the bike and the scooter. The man was too fast and lost his balance.

I think his plan was to simply scare me by coming too close then moving away. But he was too drunk and ended up hitting the scooter head on. Since I had stopped I didn't fall, but he skidded and fell. He ran back to me and snatched my scooter keys. Soon a crowd gathered around us and the man wouldn't return my keys. He then started demanding money. When people came forward to help me, he shooed them away. All the while I kept moving around the scooter to ensure that the scooter was between me and the man, just to be safe. Fortunately I had my mobile with me. While trying to keep a safe distance from the man, I managed to call my husband and he called the police. Only then did I notice that my hand was bleeding. This frightened the man and he kept the keys on the scooter and got away.

Most people said I was mistaken. Some said I was a rash driver and banged into a poor guy. You need to be really really reckless to hit another two wheeler head on with the handles getting entangled. I was asked questions like, "what was his motive?"I was supposed to find a motive if people were to believe me! Other statements from women themselves were like, "...you seem to get into trouble very often..." "...nothing like that has ever happened to us..." Did they mean that I surely must have done something to deserve this? I guess only the surgeon believed me. He said he had attended a similar case a couple of days back, which was much worse than mine. I was fortunate enough. I still have all my fingers!

I was so shaken after the incident that I used to ask my husband to follow me till I crossed that point. It wasn't the pain from the injury, it was the fear that someone had the power to harm me and I just couldn't do anything about it. He is a local rowdy and has cousins and friends, who look even more menacing. He said he didn't care if we complained to police. The last thing I wanted was to have anything to do with them. I keep wondering what I could've done better. Register a case? Use pepper spray? Probably if I or someone else had taken the trouble to do something, he might not have had the confidence to continue harassing women. Unless we are badly hurt, we don't want to take the trouble to do something about it. Sometimes even if we are badly hurt, we just don't want to do anything but run away from it. Each one of us who refused to react when harassed are probably guilty of making these bad elements more and more confident. Eve teasers like him thrive on our fear!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are you really with Anna Hazare?

This happened some 17 years back. The septic tank of our huge residential complex had to be cleaned. We saw two men standing near the tank filled with human waste. They wore small dhotis and entered the pit. They started pouring the waste outside manually. The whole place was filled with stench from rotten human waste. I closed the windows.

By evening they had finished the work. I saw the man emerging from the pit. His body was completely covered in sh*# and he was pouring water over his body. The rotten smell lingered. Bars of fragrant soap and perfumes wouldn't have been able to chase it away. We wondered how it must be for him to go home to his family smelling like this. This is his job - so they must be used to this...

Later in the evening I overheard my father discussing this with my mother. The poor man was supposed to have been paid Rs.200 and the official in charge of this refused to pay him if he did not offer him a percentage of this as commission or bribe. The man complained to my father. He said, "Sir, nobody will do such dirty work even for a huge sum. We are ready to do it for such a small amount and from that also the 'big' people want to steal". Thinking about the man I wondered if any of us would do that work even for an obscene amount of money. This nameless and faceless man symbolises the dirty face of corruption all of us are ashamed of.

The over whelming support for Anna Hazare is symbolic of the goodness in people. But will that translate into a real battle with corruption? How many of us will actually have the courage to promise that they will not be involved in any act of corruption, how ever small they think the act is - bribing traffic police, RTO officials, ask government officials for favors (?)...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Corporation's sterilization drive for strays paints a gory picture

When the corporation guys landed in our street looking for stray dogs, we thought it might actually be a good idea. With many vacant plots in our residential layout, we see a lot of strays around. Tamed by man eons ago, these animals have now settled down with them, incapable of fending for themselves. They have actually been reduced from hunters to scavengers. And their population was exploding.

Whatever the consequences are, babies of any species are adorable. My daughter loves dogs and watched over the new litter of five. They were in varying colors - black, brown and white. She did not trust the corporation guys when they assured her that they would take care of the small dogs and would safely return them to the same location a few days after the sterilization surgery. As NGOs like CUPA were involved, it seemed likely - I thought so.

A few days after the surgery, two of the pups were returned. The poor female looked as tired and sick as any creature, whose ovaries and uterus were ripped off. We thought she was just recovering. But the next day, her entrails were seen hanging out of the wound. We informed CUPA and they sent a vehicle to pick her up. They said the area was covered by another NGO. Two days later they informed us that she had died. The male dog, which was operated simply stopped eating and was found dead another day later.

Sid and Daisy
Only a few days before these pups were seen happily playing together and sleeping in a cuddly bundle. I wish there was some way we could co-exist...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yet another B'day

Celebrated yet another B’day on 5 April. As a kid I was unhappy about the fact that my B’day always came during the summer holidays and I never got to wear color dress and distribute sweets to my classmates. And finally when I went to senior classes, my B’day was always during my exams!

Once we wanted to know the exact time of my birth for my horoscope, which is considered an absolute necessity for all arranged marriages in Kerala. My mother said that my late father had written the time in his diary (He passed away a few months before my wedding). So we searched the huge pile of old diaries, which my father had meticulously kept. In the 22 year old yellowing diary’s page for 5 April, my father had written, “Harsha was born at 5.15pm and I became a father”. It’s so hard to imagine him as a 27 year old new father. My mother said that the names were ready even before I was born. I was to be Harsha or Preett.

My father would always narrate this story on almost every B’day. I was born in my mother’s ancestral home in Kerala. It was a new moon day, which is considered inauspicious. My father was at work when he heard the news and rushed home. When he reached my mother’s house, he met my grandfather at the gate. Without much enthusiasm, he said, “It’s a girl”. My father did not have a permanent job at that time and my grandfather might have thought that a girl baby was not the best thing to happen under those circumstances.

That was not all – my father overheard some woman say that the baby may not survive. She said, “Poor Chandran (my father), if only he gets to bring her up”. He was really upset. But he said he was confident that I was healthy. He said, “Your cries nearly shook the roof, and that meant you were healthy, but a little too small”. Usually babies stay with their mother, but my father ensured that I was always with him whenever he was around. His concern for my health resulted in my becoming a little too chubby by around 4 months, which I supposedly maintained for around 7-8 years.

Instead of my father telling this story, I narrate this to my kids on my B’day. Now, at the brink of 40 (just turned 39), it feels nice to look back and go back in time.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The grand mom I never met

I have never met my father’s parents. His father died when I was 6 months old (I am the only grandchild he ever saw) and his mother died young. We have a black and white photo of my grandparents at home and she was a beautiful and stylish lady considering that she might have died in the late 1950s. In the photo you see here, she is wearing a velvet blouse, which was fashionable those days - so my father told me. She was not just a photo on the wall for us. She was ‘Achamma’ and we knew her so well through this photo and a lot of stories told by my father. There was this photo of my father as a two year old wearing a top knitted by his mother. He would always say that she was very creative.

I have never seen my father talking about his mother without his eyes becoming moist. He lost her when he was perhaps still in school. I cannot really imagine how it might have been for him. She died in child birth. My fath
er was fast asleep at home when this happened. In his sleep he dreamt of his mother. She was calling him. She said, “Mone (son), I have made Neyyappam (a sweet made of rice flour and jaggery) for you. Wake up now”. He woke up from his sleep only to hear his uncles, his mother’s brothers, whispering, “How are we going to tell this to the boy?” They didn’t have to; he knew the worst had happened. The baby was still born and she too drifted off soon, sadly for my father, his three younger brothers and three sisters, the eldest barely 13.

Many people who knew her have told me that she was very beautiful. I greedily ask a lot of questions about her to people who had the chance to know her. I still do, but now I have more questions to ask. My father died when I was 22 and never had the chance to know my husband or kids. I now ask, “How was my father when he was little?” I asked this question to an elderly ayah, who was with my father’s family. She had also stayed in my house for a month to help me take care of my new born daughter. While bathing my daughter, she would remember some incidents involving my father. She told me he was very naughty.

Now my kids have a lot of questions for me about their Appuppan (maternal grandfather). Memories are real treasures we pass on to the future generations…

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rinky was the cutest pup!

“You know Amma, Rinky was the cutest pup”, my daughter broke her silence. We lay in her bed, remembering the stray pup who died in his sleep that evening in his favorite place—beneath our car.

Rinky’s mom was a stunner. She was black and lean and stood out among other stray dogs in the locality. This was her second litter. All the three pups in her first litter had died. These pups were born in an isolated outhouse in the residential layout. In the brood of seven, only two were black like the mom. The rest were in varying mix of brown and white. “You know Amma, their dad is that brown and white dog. You must have seen him”. I hadn’t, but thought she must be right.

As they grew older, some of them got more adventurous and ventured out to explore. Kids loved the pups. My daughter was inconsolable when one of them died under the Corporation's van. Soon the pups grew in size and became really chubby and adorable.

We warned the kids against playing with the stray pups, which they often ignored. I am not exactly that fond of dogs, and prefer to admire them from a distance and detested when the pups followed us in our post dinner walks. It was like they had adopted us rather than the other way around.

Soon their number was reduced to three—Rinky and Pinky, both brown, and Musky, who was black. They always slept under our car. When I woke up in the morning, I usually found them sleeping, all curled up. I loved that scene. They always ignored my protests and made it a point to run around me or jump at me as though they sensed my uneasiness. My daughter would say, “It’s only a puppy, why are you so scared?” These pups made friends with our neighbor’s ferocious Great Dane. We were worried that he might kill them, but they got along so well.

Two days back, we noticed that Rinky was not eating anything. His neck was swollen and he looked like he would die soon. He didn’t suffer much, he died the next day. I never thought I would ever miss a dog, especially some stray dog, but Rinky will be missed very much!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Growing vegetables in containers

I guess everyone should experience the pure pleasure of seeing tiny seedlings emerging from the soil. But I should warn you, its addictive!

We do not have enough space for outdoor gardening, so my garden is limited to the terrace or balcony. I read on the Internet about the best practices to grow vegetables in containers and bottles we throw away. Actually almost everything came from waste. In the below image, you can see my mint plant growing in a used Coca Cola bottle!
I used kitchen waste for fertilizer and used sand and this waste to fill the pots. I also filled a large bucket with water and leaves, both dry and green we collected from around. These decayed leaves were also used as fertilizer. After a month this mix started smelling like cow dung! I diluted this to use for the plants.
In the images below you can see yard long beans and the beautiful white flowers of snake gourd. The best part of my gardening efforts was getting the kids interested. As soon as I return from office, they would say, "Come, let's water the plants!" They would tell me if anything notable happened. My son would say, "The cucumber has a new female flower, shall we hand fertilize it?" We did all that and also spent a lot of time, removing bugs and those tiny creatures troubling the plants.
This year, the harsh summer was so unkind to my plants, but many of them thrived. I am experimenting with grapes too. I managed to grow them from seeds. Here's a seedling below. Ladies finger seedlings are also doing well.
It's a wonderful learning experience. And I have really learned a lot from my experience. I am sure I will do a better job next time around.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When teachers settle their scores

What if a teacher tries to settle scores with his helpless students? I am sure almost all of us have been punished by our teachers at least once during our school years. But a teacher settling scores is a totally different and shameful issue.

My experience does not actually involve me directly, but that does not make it any different. It’s about how my younger brother and his friend were thrashed mercilessly by their chemistry teacher when they were 12 year-olds. The teacher, who must have been in his early thirties entered their class and wrote chemistry equations on the board and asked one of them to solve it. Fortunately for him, the boys were weak in studies and he was sure that they were incapable of balancing the equations. Then he called the other boy to solve it. As he had foreseen, both of them were unable to solve the equation. He dragged the two boys outside the class so that everyone from other classes too could view his ‘performance’. He started thrashing the boys mercilessly in full view of other classes and when one of them fell, he kicked him. Later we came to know that he had told other teacher friends of his plans. One of them confessed to my father later.

His friend, a physics teacher, an old student himself, was taking class in eleventh standard. He stopped the class and told the students that there will be some fun in 9A and stood near the door to watch the “show”. When the period was over, the group of teachers comprising a young biology teacher and an English teacher went to see the bleeding and swollen legs of the boys and passed comments. Almost all the senior teachers pressurized my father, a teacher in the same school, to register a complaint. However, he refused saying that teachers have the right to punish their students.

It was only later that we came to know about the actual reason for the circus. The newly married teacher’s wife reportedly received a letter describing her husband’s colorful past. The teacher, for some reason thought it was these boys who did this and checked their notebooks for their handwriting and made plans to punish them for this. Later the real culprit was caught from his friends' circle itself. The actual culprit had taken his wife’s help in composing the anonymous letter. So this was a well planned affair, not a teacher’s reaction out of righteous anger. This was not an isolated incident. This teacher has beaten up these boys several times with vengeance for reasons such as "bad handwriting". They were beaten and humiliated in class for many days. This was pure scheming and revenge on helpless boys. I would have forgiven him had he questioned the boys upfront and then punished them if they were proven guilty.

When we were kids our parents and teachers didn’t believe in sparing the rod and spoiling us. I have myself got beatings from many teachers including my father. Being the naughty kid that I was, I had many bluish finger marks on my cheeks for proof. But I think my brother would have got the most number of beatings from my father. But then we know that our parents and teachers did care. There were many teachers who were apparently very sweet, but turned out to be the opposite. It is not the physical act of beating that hurts, but the feeling that we were wronged.

I have not met this Chemistry teacher after leaving the school. Wherever he is, he is still hated very much.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why ‘inlaws & ‘outlaws’

In laws are a hated lot. Ever wondered why? To find the answer, let’s look at the other relationships, which are much cherished by everyone—between parents and children! Why is the relationship so special? Well, it’s not bound by rules, but by love. But relationship with in laws is generally bound by rules, rarely by love, especially in country like India, where these rules are rigid.

Until your marriage, you do not come face to face with ‘rules’. With marriage, especially if you are staying with in laws, rules rule your world. Those who haven't lived with in laws for at least a year are not eligible to make a judgement here. With marriage, a girl dreams about creating her own cute little universe with her man and later with kids. Little do you realize what the reality will be! Suddenly, you find yourself being judged all the time. It’s a hard feeling. You never got that feeling when you were with parents.

Suddenly 'someone' decides or has an opinion on what you always considered personal—when you should have a baby, your baby’s name and sometimes even your baby does not belong to you. You suddenly get to know of your weaknesses and negative points, which were never in focus earlier. This is in contrst with a childhood much loved by parents. It takes time to get used to the feeling. You are never yourself. You are always trying to please someone or trying to rise to their standards. It will cause resentment and will take a toll on you and your relationships, especially if you are fiercely independent.

Where’s the little universe you were dreaming about? This could be the toughest part—the loss of a home. Your home is a beautiful place you could always come back after a hectic day and relax and be yourself. You find yourself longing for a real home and to be the real you. When you connect stress with the house you’ve got to go back to, it is no longer a ‘home’. You still have to go back there because you no longer have another place to go—your precious ones, your kids and husband are there, and they are much loved and belong there too. You have your duties to fulfill now. That’s life. It’s too short, you’ll never get to live that dream!

Daughter in law is also an in law. But I cannot comment on that part because, I am not ready to cross over to the other side of the bridge yet. Let me not be prejudiced. Parents in laws will have a lot to say too. But I would like to do my bit to change the concept of mother in law. Why shouldn’t a girl who will come to share my son’s life feel loved and wanted at our home?

Just like I want to be the best mom in the world, I would like to be the best mom and not mom in law to my son’s wife too. If I am not going to be one, I would rather not live to see my son’s marriage—I would love that he remembers me as a loving mom, and not someone who harassed his wife!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The swine flue scare

A young teacher is Bangalore is believed to be the first casualty of swine fever in the city. Two of the schools remained closed this week while others preferred to be cautious. They explained to the children how grave the situation was and warned them not to go to school even if they had a mild cold or fever.

One of my daughter’s friends was down with cold and was absent from class for couple of days. The next day, almost the entire school heard rumours that the girl nearly had swine flu. My daughter came home and told me that her friend was very close to having swine flu. Well, that's kids spreading rumors. My brother said his boss who had just returned from Australia was diagnosed with swine flu. My husband said when he visited clients, they asked him to disinfect himself before entering the premises.

Last night I had stayed awake till 3.00 am to complete my work and started sneezing. I thought, oh, God, tomorrow everyone in the office will be scared to come near me. What more, people at home will also avoid me. I was alright in the morning. Now everyone treats a person with a common cold also to be an untouchable. We have cancelled movies and anything to do with crowded places.

Swine flu has hit the globe at the same time unlike other diseases. So far, most of the diseases like this were either in other Asian countries in Asia, Europe or the US. This is our first brush with a deadly disease. It may be a stranger, an unknown face, but it still seems too close. I just hope it just doesn’t get any worse.