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Friday, 19 December 2014

Takeaway Lunch

Some conversations make you, well, speechless. Today, I went to the nearby food stall to buy lunch. This is not my first time in that stall. They cook nice oriental food. The food is reasonably priced too. A boy and a middle aged woman usually serve and pack the food from the buffet display. The boy is terrible at English. People can eat in a limited sitting space inside the stall if they wish. I wanted to make sure the boy understood that mine was a takeaway order.

The food stall always has a queue in front of its counter. Perhaps it enjoys its monopoly in the area. I was lucky to be the second in the line. The moment I queued up, the boy uttered, "Next!" I went towards his side of the counter and told him to pack me a takeaway lunch. He went towards the other side of the counter. I was waiting for him to ask me what food items I needed. However he called me from the other side and gave me a packet of red liquid (most probably black tea) in a poly pack. I didn't understand what was going on. I asked, "What's that?" He replied, "You say takeaway. This takeaway." I didn't know how to react. I said, "I need food to takeaway." Now, he looked all confused. He forwarded the red hot liquid pack towards me. I said, "No, I don’t want that." Then understanding the confusion, the lady came to help. She asked, "You don’t want this?" I said a firm and annoyed "No!" The boy murmured, "But you said takeaway." I ignored him and told the lady that I want vegetarian food. She smiled and said, "Eh, vegetarian. Come on! Only Indians eat vegetarian food. Tell me what you want from the buffet." For a moment I again didn't know what to say. I just smiled back. I wanted to say, "Okay, first of all, that is not true! There are vegetarian people from other countries too! Second, I AM an Indian!" But I decided to keep quiet. I instead pointed at the dishes and said, "Give me this, that and this one." She packed all to go. I thanked her. She asked me, "You are Malay (Malaysian), aren't you?" I shrugged and smiled, letting her remain in that doubt and curiosity regarding my origin.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

As Fulfilling As Praying



Have you heard this song?
“Ghar se masjid bahut door hai chalo yun kar len,
Kisi rote hue bacche ko hansaya jaye.”
(Meaning in English:
The prayer place is so far away from home,
Let us just make a crying child smile.)
Recently I felt the joy of making a crying child smile. It was Friday. I had just taken my bath. I was about to start my prayers when I heard my next door neighbour’s 7 to 8 years old kid (boy) ringing the bell in his house. A few minutes later, he called, “Mum.” After a few minutes he called her again. Then again and repeatedly thereafter. I thought probably his mother was in the bathroom and would be out soon. While I was about to resume my prayers, I heard his call again! I got curious and concerned and went out.  
He was a cute little kid with a large backpack on his back. He was leaning sideways on the wall. I asked him softly what happened. His eyes were filled with tears. I realised I had to be really soft and tender while dealing with him. We have been living in this house for last seven months but have never spoken. He must not even know who stays in the apartment attached to his home. I acted casual and asked, “Hey, mum’s not opening the door huh?” He wiped his eyes and murmured something. I asked him if we should press the bell again. I did. He was observing me. I asked him if he knew his mother’s mobile number. He gave me a number. He was scared and sad at the same time. He looked so timid. I asked him if he would like to come inside my home and wait with me for his mother. He denied. I went in to bring my mobile phone keeping the door wide open, so that he doesn’t feel miserable again standing alone outside. I dialled the number and introduced myself to the lady who picked it up. I kept the phone on speaker, so that he knows what is going on. Sadly, what he gave me was a wrong number. I was confused. I offered to hold his bag and wait with him outside as it was heavy. He denied. 
Suddenly an idea struck! I asked him if he has his school identity card or the school diary. I knew there I would be able to find some number that worked. He gave me his Student ID Card. It had 2 mobile numbers. From the ID card, I also realised that my next door neighbours are Japanese. I dialled both the numbers and didn’t get any response from both. The numbers kept ringing. However, I repeatedly tried 3 to 4 times and finally one number was received. It was a male voice. I introduced myself and asked him if he was the resident of that particular building. He confirmed with a yes. I told him what was happening and gave the phone to his son. He talked to his father and told him all the details how he came home early (he comes home early on Fridays, he said) and was waiting outside and his mum wasn’t home. His father must have comforted him enough. He gave the phone to me. His father told me that he would call his wife and find out and get back to me in a while. I said, “Excellent. I would wait for your call.” Meanwhile, I started small talks with him. He told me that he has a small brother too. Their bicycles are kept in front of their door. We talked about cycling and who likes what kind of ride etc. We both smiled and laughed. His father called and informed that his mother has entered the building campus (ours is a huge campus with three massive apartment towers) and should be home in a few minutes. I gave the phone to Riki (changed name of the kid) so that he could hear this information from his father himself. We both continued our conversation on bicycles and shared our stories. We even laughed. He still didn’t want to come inside my home. It was fine with me. I could understand his apprehension. So, I waited with him outside for his mother. Ten minutes later his mother came and thanked me. I said it was my pleasure. That day I felt great being there for the kid! It was indeed my pleasure to keep him company. It was as fulfilling as praying to the almighty! #gratitude


Monday, 10 November 2014

Incredibly Funny

I don't know who made this but I found this incredibly funny! Thanks to my brother Bubu for sharing this with me!

Look carefully :)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A Friend to Hang Out with


I suddenly realised that one of the most prized possessions I have is my sewing machine. It has given me many peaceful creative and relaxing moments in life. Don't know if it's the happiness of stitching a curtain in exactly the way I want or the satisfaction of stitching a cushion cover out of a material or a particular print that I bought. Sitting to stitch is one of the activities I do that relax me and let me forget the world. 


However, I didn't realise the importance it has in my life till the moment when its time for me to pack it and shift it to another location due to our transfer. Today I thank the sewing machine for being like a best friend to hang out with! I thank my mother for teaching me how to sew and stitch when I was a teenage girl. I thank God for letting me have the sewing machine wherever I move to. I also thank my dearest partner for gifting it to me immediately after our big day.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bihu


Everyone talks about Bihu - then and now. Everyone says it was better “then”, than “now”. I beg to differ. For me all the Bihu celebrations have something special to offer. So what, if the celebration of Bihu has changed over the ages? Change is inevitable. We all have to keep up with time and adjust accordingly. Today we do not have enough time and convenience to do all the things that are associated with the Bihus. It doesn’t matter when you were born and how you remember your Bihu celebrations. Bihu is always a special celebration that is closest to the hearts of all the Assamese people around the globe. We love Bihu, be it the vibrant Rongali Bihu or the feastful Magh Bihu. Well, Kati Bihu always takes a backseat because of obvious reasons. All the Bihu celebrations of my life have been pleasant ones. At least I would like to think so. This may be because; nothing could ever dampen the spirit of Bihu in us Assamese.

Today, we celebrate Bihu in our own little ways, feeling equally excited every time. Although the first thing we all would like to do on Bihu is to be at our parental home where we grew up and enjoyed the Bihus in their totality. But due to the many difficulties, obligations and responsibilities of modern lives, it is sometimes not possible to be at the right place at the right time. However, no matter where we are, we make sure that we celebrate Bihu in some special ways to mark the Axomiya “jatiyo utsab”.
To cite a few examples, Pushpanjali, a friend of mine, an Assamese to the bone marrow, is celebrating Bihu in her newspaper office in Bangalore. She has asked her brother to courier some Pitha so that she can reduce the pangs of missing home.

Another of my friends, Prity in Australia has learnt Pitha making, so that she doesn’t have to survive with the cravings for Pitha, especially during the Bihu days. Thanks to her technically savvy mother who e-mailed her the recipes and processes of Til Pitha and Ghila Pitha making.

In Delhi, when work kept us from going home for the Rongali Bihu, just to make ourselves feel good, we (a few Assamese girls) used to make time to at least go to Assam Bhavan near Kautilya Marg, wearing Muga Mekhela Sador to have an Assamese thali in the cafeteria. The saak bhaji, alu pitika and maasor tenga never felt so heavenly.

A friend of mine in Singapore, Animesh, married to a local girl there, craves for Assamese home food. Last Magh Bihu, the craving finally seemed to have crossed all boundaries. Since he was missing the feasting of Magh Bihu with family and friends for years, last January he decided to celebrate a real Magh Bihu in Singapore. Hunting the market for half a day, he collected some of the close to home ingredients and invited all his Chinese friends to celebrate Magh Bihu at his home. A small Meji was built in front of his home and a bonfire and barbequed snacks marked the celebration.

Once in Delhi, a few of my Assamese friends and I celebrated Magh Bihu in a grand way. We made sure that everyone’s favourite Assamese dish was made. At first only a few Assamese girls got together for the occasion, but word of mouth got spread so fast that we ended up having seventeen “khaar” (Assamese living outside Assam call themselves Khaar as in Khaar khua Asomiya) friends who invited themselves to the celebration. Bon fire is a must on Magh Bihu and we had no idea how to arrange for the firewood. Then an idea struck in the middle of the INA market itself, where we were shopping for the feast. We requested the fruit vendors to donate us the discarded wooden fruit boxes and they happily obliged. Firewood was ready for that perfect bonfire just in front of my residence.

In Kolkata, a few of my Assamese friends are getting together for Rongali Bihu this year too (we have been celebrating Rongali Bihu in Kolkata since 2009). Some of them are students and some are working professionals. The process of deciding the venue, menu and time, is still on. I look forward to be a part of that celebration this time as well.

With the passage of time, my friends and I have moved on changing cities and countries. But the spirit of Bihu remains intact in our hearts and always will be. Although I am in Mumbai now, whenever I hear the cuckoo singing in the big “Krishna Chura” tree behind the St Theresa’s Church near my home in Bandra (W), my heart skips a beat. I realise that Bihu is just around the corner. The Cuckoo, like a sincere messenger tells me with his coos, ‘here comes the most exciting festival of your life’.

In India, Rongali Bihu is celebrated with different names in different states. Being an agrarian economy, almost all the states of India follow the same agricultural calendar. All the states celebrate their traditional New Year festival during this time of April. Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Baisakhi in Punjab and Nababarsha in West Bengal are nothing but Rongali Bihu celebrations in their own respective ways. The festivities are the same, the spirit is identical and the attachment of the locales towards these festivals is the same. I have to confess though, that when in Assam, I can smell Bihu in the air and the feeling is matchless. I can’t wait to get home for this Bihu......Happy Rongali Bihu to all of you....

An unofficial Bihu google doodle I found on the internet 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

My Kolkata Experiences - The taxi driver who mugged me

View from inside a Kolkata cab

Whenever someone mentions about the "streets of Kolkata", I get reminded of a street full of vehicles and a rhythm-less blasting background music of honking. About 60-70% of those vehicles are the signature black and yellow ambassador taxis of Kolkata (of course it depends on the area and time of the day). I have travelled by many such taxis when I was living in this City of Joy. Travelling by these taxis definitely exposes you to pollution, dust, traffic smoke, innumerable germs that feast and marvel on the seats and interiors of the taxi, beggars at traffic signals, and of course the intolerable omnipresent heat and humidity. These taxis have no air conditioning. You should thank your stars if you get a clean taxi or if the glass of the windows can be rolled down by the lever. 
After travelling by taxi few times I became immune to these things. But what I am going to share here is probably one of the most shocking and shaking experiences of my life. It is definitely on top of the list of worst things happened to me in Kolkata (thankfully the list is not so long).
Somewhere near Boi Bazaar, Kolkata
It was a Monday. I have this uncanny ability to get late for work on Mondays for which I hurriedly take a taxi to make it to work on time. That day was no exception. I boarded the taxi and sat on the left corner of the back seat. When it was time to get down, to pay the cabbie the fare of Rs. 120, I took out a 500 rupee note and gave it to the driver. Even though I told him to stop the taxi at a dropping zone, he drove a little forward and stopped at a bus stand. To avoid any traffic snarl because of my stopping there I was in a hurry to get down. I waited for a while for him to take out the change for the 500 rupee note. I noticed him doing nothing. I asked him for the change. He said, "You are supposed to give me 20 rupees more". I said, "But why? I just gave you 500 rupees and the fare is just 120!". He lifted his left hand (in India we have right hand driving) with which he took my 500 and showed me a 100 rupee note. He adamantly said that I gave him that hundred rupee note only. Though in disbelieve, I thought, may be I made a mistake! I gave him another 20 rupee note and got off the taxi and went to my office. While in the lift, I was still in disbelief regarding the 500 rupee turning into a 100 rupee note. Entering office, I sat on my seat, took out my purse and realised that I actually gave him a 500 rupee note! It was the taxi driver's trick on me that he cleverly showed me a 100 rupee note and made it believable. My ears became red and eyes peeled in disbelieve! I was flabbergasted realising how I got mugged just like that early in the morning! I could not believe that had happened to me! I told my colleagues and they were shocked too! 
About a week later, the same thing happened to a lady colleague of mine. She was in a hurry to get down too! I realised how these thieves loot you in broad daylight by taking advantage of your being in a hurry. They cleverly stop the vehicle at a place where it is not a dropping zone. Vehicles from behind honk at the taxi for stopping at such a busy spot. To avoid further embarrassment, you try to get out of the car to let it go and ease the traffic snarl.
The lesson I learnt here is: 
1. Never give the taxi drivers big denomination of notes
2. Make them stop at a proper dropping zone ONLY
3. Be absolutely alert and present at the moment while paying the taxi drivers
4. Never let the driver know that you are in a hurry.
Personally I still like Kolkata as a city to live in. This is one of the very few incidences that was really unpleasant. If you are alert and attentive, you will be fine.

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