Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Via Singapore

My elder brother is settled out in Singapore since quite some time. He is married to Sweet Julie,  a Malaysian-Chinese origin Singaporean girl. Few years back, I and my wife Anjali visited Singapore when my Bro and Sis-in Law were blessed with a beautiful daughter. We looked forward for our Singapore trip and I even wanted to visit Malaysia, as my good old friend Nair, recently shifted to Malaysia that time. We went there for a couple of weeks and my parents were already there when we visited.

After little bit of googling I already doubted that it would have been boring in Singapore to have had spent 2 weeks out there. I was kind of determined to visit Malaysia and inquired about the visa procedures. Malaysia accepted on entry visa for Indians those days and the consultancy said that we could have applied for it in Singapore itself. As soon as I landed in Singapore, I felt as if I had landed on a different planet and everything looked so hi-tech.  At the airport my brother and mom waited for us and I was totally amazed when we entered into a train directly from airport. In fact, it took me a while and realized we were actually on a train, only after it started to move. 

Even though I already knew about the cleanliness of Singapore, but was kind of stunned to have had walked on such clean streets initially. Laws in Singapore are very strict and my brother already warned me not to smoke and spit here and there. Government out there is very fond of collecting fine and forget about enjoying a piss on the roadside, even they use to fine innocent people who merely spit on the street. I mean, what the hell is that La? I was very much impressed with the Metro service out there. Well, they use to say it MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and is major component of the railway system in Singapore which connects each and every place. 

I met my good friend Satya out there and enjoyed an wonderful cocktail evening with him. Now what to say about food in Singapore? I felt, food is one of the most important factors which attract tourists to that place from across the world. When Satya came to know that I was little uncomfortable to roam around the city alone, he simply said "Dude, it’s such a country where no matter how hard someone try to get himself lost, but eventually he would automatically return home" He said that the laws are so strict that the level of crime is almost zero out there and the most chilled-out job in Singapore is that of a policeman. I was missing India a bit and then Satya took me to a place named Little India. Well, it was truly India and I felt very comfortable out there. The place got lot of Indian shops and restaurants and it's the only place where I could find loose cigarettes. Well, everywhere else in Singapore people had to forcefully buy the entire packet. Also, that was the place where people didn't wait unnecessarily for the traffic signal in order to cross the road, whenever there's not much traffic.

It was fun to travel by the MRT and I remember one MRT incident. It was peak traffic hour and the train was quite overcrowded. Many passengers were standing along with me. I was little tired enough and very much wanted to take my load off my feet.  All of a sudden a passenger prepared to get down and I eyed on his seat. I was almost ready to grab that space before anyone else could have occupied that. But what the hell? Nobody moved, no one attempted to occupy that space. People standing nearby started to look at each other’s faces and tried to make some facial expressions, just to offer that seat to each other. Ultimately one lady had to sit there and she didn’t look very comfortable, as if she did a terrible crime by occupying that seat, while many people were still standing out there. I was totally confused and wondered "Are Singaporeans really like that, I mean they think about others so much or it’s diplomacy at its best?"

One day we visited the Singapore Zoo and had a great time out there. But to be honest, I am not very much of a Zoo kind of person. Another day we visited the famous Sentosa island, even though it was a great place but it looked kind of artificial and I was not very much fascinated. I saw people from across the globe out there and wondered “How could Singapore manage to attract such huge number of tourists?” Well, they got some luxurious cruise lines, but everyone can't afford that. I wish I would be able to experience it some day. But the usual clean roads, strict laws, tall and colorful buildings couldn’t fascinate me much and I was completely bored within a few days. 

Initially I was little confused, but after a week I was very much determined to visit Malaysia and applied for our visa's through some consultancy. Within a couple of days it got approved and then we booked our bus tickets. There’s bus service from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and it use to take 5-6 hours to reach KL. I used to have regular conversation with Nair and in fact, used to pressurize him for a good short trip. Initially he used to say "You guys first come and then we would figure out something" Poor guy just recently shifted to KL that time, but after my repeated attempts, at the final moment, Nair booked some weekend travel package to an isolated island.

But it seemed, he didn't have much of an idea on how we guys could have reached there. Ultimately the day finally arrived and we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Fragrance

It was midnight and few guys were simply enjoying their last cigarette on one of the corridors. Late nights during the winter usually used to be quite shivering at our hostel, which was surrounded by hills and situated on the outskirt of Guwahati, pretty much close to the university campus. One of the guys looked little uncomfortable, as he took few deep breaths and exclaimed in a weird manner "Chii...  what the hell is that?"

Another guy replied in surprise "What happened to you? What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Abbe dude! Something smells very terrible"

The remaining guys also started to take deep breaths and after few attempts, even they also felt the fragrance. They had a quick inspection of the surrounding and everyone moved a little further from their original smoking zone and stopped at a particular place, where they found the smell to be highly concentrated. It was freezing cold that moment and they couldn’t identify the damn thing which created such an euphoric aroma all around. After a while they simply decided to go back to their rooms. 

Next morning the filthy smell transformed into highly decomposed and extremely intolerable. We were in our first semester that time and it was quite frustrating for some of the seniors whose rooms were within the proximity of the smelly zone. They tried their best to solve the mystery and their investigation took them towards a room. There’s no doubt that something was terribly wrong inside that room, but it was locked from outside. The room belonged to one of our immediate senior and he used to be one of the greatest personality of our hostel. He was quite popular with the name "Khor" among his friends and in fact, even today also many of his friends call him with the same name. He usually used to wear jeans, full sleeve shirts, leather shoes and his trademark was his neck scarf. That was his dress code throughout the year, irrespective of any weather and any season. We usually used to see him with his typical dress code right from morning till midnight. After dinner he used to play table tennis for a couple of hours with the same cloths and the same pair of shoes, which he used to wear in the morning. Ultimately at around 12:30 midnight, he used go to his room. That time when he used to open his leather shoes, my goodness, the fragrance immediately used to spread on the entire corridor and sometimes even the guys on the adjacent block also felt the hypnotizing aroma. Well, he was a masterpiece and I haven't met anyone closer to him  till now. But he's quite a changed man now and I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't curse me after reading this.

The holidays supposed to have started the next week, but as usual, the entire 3rd semester batch honestly and enthusiastically participated in their mass bunking. Without wasting enough time the seniors broke the lock and as soon as they opened the door, the smell would've almost killed those guys and they felt as if they entered a morgue. Ultimately the mystery was solved and everyone was totally amazed to find the source of the tragedy. It was a bucket filled with clothes in detergent water from last several days. They immediately took the bucket to the nearest washroom and continuously flushed water on it for a long time. After sometime the smell gradually diminished, but that particular room and it's nearby surrounding still had the rotten kind of smell. Some guys tried to purify the area and lighted some aggarbattis. 

Years later, I was in Bangalore and used to stay with few of my friends. Even though we all were quite changed by that time, but old habits die hard and on top of that our great Khor also used to stay with us. After the late night weekend parties, the condition of the Hall next morning used to be just "Masha Allah!" kind of. Actually we insiders never felt the aroma and couldn’t realize that actually we’re inside a perfume factory. We didn’t believe any of our guests whenever they used to complain about our smelly rooms every time they visited us. But on one particular Sunday morning at around 10:30 AM, one of our roommates called and said that he would reach home within an hour along with his parents. Oh!  Shit!! We almost forgot that his parents were supposed to have visited us that day. We got too much tensed, as our prestige was at stake. We reacted immediately and started to work on that. We shared the work and one of us started to clean the washroom, someone tried to make the Kitchen little hygienic, which was almost like a garbage dump. One of our friends got quite busy collecting and disposing all those beautiful bottles of different shapes and sizes and yes, those cigarette packets as well. Later I went outside to buy a couple of room fresheners. 

After about 45 minutes of exhaustive hard work, everything seemed to be perfect. The kitchen looked hygienic and orderly as well. The washrooms looked almost clean enough so that a normal human being could have spent a couple of minutes out there without any sort of embarrassment. The hall also looked clean enough and someone arranged the chairs properly. But as soon as I had entered the house, I realized that my friends were not wrong when they used to complain about our smelly house. That was my first opportunity to have had entered our own house on a Sunday morning. It almost felt as if I entered a cattle shed. I applied the room freshener all around the house and at every possible corners. We applied them in the kitchen and the washrooms as well. We had almost finished one of the room fresheners that moment itself. 

The smell was quite mesmeric and everyone became silent for a couple of minutes, we almost felt as if we were being kind of hypnotized. The smell had a magical effect and within no time our house turned out from a cattle shed into an enchanting flower garden. The door bell rang and someone opened the door. We were pleased to see our friend along with his parents at the door. Our friend looked kind of shocked and even his parents were also seemed to have mesmerized with the fragrance all around the house. They wanted to have a little inspection of the house and specially his mother, she looked kind of suspicious and visited all the rooms and the kitchen as well. After a while she looked satisfied and said "You guys live so perfectly, actually I had a completely different impression for you guys and especially for my son. I’m so happy that you guys live so decently and not like other untidy bachelors."

Well, that was quite a compliment and everyone had a proud smile on our faces that moment.

This post is written for Indiblogger’s "Smelly To Smiley! " contest in association with AmbiPur

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Chandrapur Diaries 1

When I was in my 4th semester of Engineering, my father got posted at Chandrapur, well he worked for the Assam State Electricity Board(ASEB). Chandrapur is a fascinating place on the outskirt of the Guwahati city and earlier it was quite well known for the Thermal Power Plant out there. But due to some economic reasons the power generation was on hold that time and even after so many years, the power plant is still not functional at present. But during that time frequent talks was on between government and several corporate, so that the the Chandrapur Thermal Power Plant would've been live once again. The ASEB colony was situated at quite an exotic location. It was almost like a hill station, in fact some people used to consider it as a mini Shillong. Initially my mom didn't know much about the place and only knew that my Dad was being transferred to somewhere deep inside a forest, some 30 KM from Guwahati city. The fact that they would have had to live, kind of isolated in a remote land, really worried my Mom earlier.

My college hostel was also at the outskirt of Guwahati, but at the other extreme end. It used to take me almost 3 to 4 hours to reach Chandrapur from my hostel and the journey usually used to be very exciting. I've some really interesting Chandrapur memories. I usually used to travel by bus and I had to change 3 buses in order to reach the ASEB colony. Our college bus used to drop me at the heart of the city and from there I used to take a bus till Narangi. From Narangi to Chandrapur there used to have very few buses after every alternate hour. Wow! those bus voyages were so much fun and still refreshingly crystal clear, stored in some corner of my brain. Almost on every occasion the bus used to be extraordinarily overcrowded and the driver normally used to take his own sweet time at every possible stops. Within a few minutes the bus used to drive  through the middle of the hills and I could see the beautiful river flowed freely below. I also had one more alternative though, the Indian Railways. There’s a train named Kalangpar, which used to go daily from Guwahati to Nagaon in the evening and it used to go via Chandrapur. It used to take about half an hour from Guwahati station to Chandrapur, but Indian Railways is very fond of giving surprises  and on few occasions it even surprised us to such an extent that the half an hour journey, turned out to be 3 to 4 hours. There used to have a bus service in the evening from Chandrapur Railway station to the ASEB colony. Most of the people found the second alternative to be pretty much comfortable, but the bus journey was much more fascinating for me and only on few occasions  I traveled by Kalangpar.

The ASEB colony in Chandrapur was built at a picturesque location, covered by hills all around. There’s a beautiful river named Kalang which flow below the hills. In fact, the train Kalangpar was named after the river Kalang. "Kalang par", means the other side of Kalang, well Kalang is basically a part of the mighty Brahmaputra. The place is so fascinating that it’s one of the most popular local picnic destination. There used to have many picnic spots out there and during the New Year season the place was horribly overcrowded.

One summer day, I thought to visit my parents and as it was burning hot that day, so I decided to travel by Kalangpar. I waited at the Railway platform and the train was little late. All of a sudden a Pujari came in front of me and before I could have said/done anything, he applied a big red color Tilak on my forehead. Well, I was kind of trapped and had to pay him few bucks in the name of God. After sometime the train arrived and I occupied an empty seat. Opposite to me seated a middle aged man and he immediately passed me a big smile as soon as I sat close to him. I noticed one family had a little argument with another family. The argument was regarding some sitting arrangement issue, as far as I could remember and one of the women who's part of the argument, wore a Burkha. The person who sat opposite to me had an informal introduction with me and whispered "These ass holes, wherever they go they would create problem". 

Well, what could I have said? I simply replied "Yes, you are absolutely correct" We chatted for a while and then I came to know that he went for his Darshan at Kamakhya. Well, Kamakhya is a very well known pilgrimage destination at Guwahati. The man gave me Maa Kamakhya Prasadam to eat and then we chatted for another few minutes. I realized that he was the kind of person who doesn't have a very good impression towards a particular community. But he was a very friendly person and I had a wonderful time with him. Everything was perfect, but then all of a sudden he asked my name. I was very confused that time and didn’t want to disappoint him, also I wasn't comfortable enough to have said a different name either. I replied to him "Well, I’m Jahid,  Jahid Akhtar"

I didn’t have the courage to look into his eyes and I simply looked outside the window. The person replied "But you have a Tilak on your forehead?" That time I realized that I just forgot to erase the colorful thing from my forehead. I answered him in brief about my Tilak story, but didn’t look at his face. He was also silent for the next couple of minutes and then the train slowed down and I could see "Chandrapur" written on one of the signboards outside. I didn’t even had the guts to say him goodbye and simply got down. I walked through the platform and the train slowly started to move. As the train passed by, I wanted to have a final glimpse of that man and raised my face towards him. He was also starring at me and then he waved his hand towards me. Instantly, I also started to wave my hand and continued till his face lost to view. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Independence Day

My heartfelt Independence Day celebration was way back during my school days, particularly till my 9th standard. Independence Day used to be much more for us, than just a whole day break from our regular boring classrooms. Everyone enthusiastically used to participate in the flag hoisting ceremony and we felt extremely delighted when the flag used to unfold itself up in the air and the flowers fell down. It’s always a pleasure to see the Tricolor flag blowing freely in the wind and on some days when it was not very windy, I felt really depressed. 

Immediately after the flag hoisting, sweets were being distributed and the field was all set for parade followed by fabulous cultural show. It was great fun out there and guys like us particularly waited for some refreshments and our School never disappointed us on that. The organizers used to distribute oranges, chocolates at regular intervals and also provided lunch. I remember one incident of orange distributions when one of my notorious friends took my share of the orange piece as well. He already had his share and I was cool enough and thought he’s simply having some fun. As soon as he unsealed my share of orange I got little tensed and asked him to give me at least half of that. I was completely shocked when he put the entire thing inside his mouth. His mouth became completely round and he continued to chew like a cow till he completely swallowed the damn thing inside.

As I grew older my mind started to become corrupt and after my 9th standard it was kind of rotted. I used to avoid flag hoisting at school and the cultural show didn't fascinate me any longer. I preferred to play cricket match rather than wasting my time at School on Independence Day.  From last so many years I used to remain inside the house and don’t remember when last time I watched the early morning Independence Day flagship event, by our honorable PM on TV. After my school days, 15 August was like any other normal holiday for me. Usually I don’t even wish people "Happy Independence Day" like I use to wish on their Birthdays, on festivals and on the occasion of New Year. I find it extremely difficult to do something which doesn't come from my heart and sometimes I feel so unpatriotic about it.

Till last few years my patriotism was limited to Indian cricket team. But after all the scandals, match fixing and the ugly commercialization of cricket, now a days I feel unpatriotic for the game as well. I haven’t done anything good for the nation apart from paying my taxes, anyways that’s mandatory. On few occasions I’ve donated few bucks to some NGOs and my mind is corrupted to such an extent that sometimes I even doubt the NGOs as well. To be honest, my mindset is not limited to any geographical region and if it would have been on my hand, I would have made the entire world as one country. I know its nonsense and unpractical, but I wish people would be free from the burden of GOD, Religion and any kind of geographical barrier in future. 

Patriotism is not only limited to a country and could be much narrower. The way people of particular region are beaten up in another particular region, the way people are demanding for new states, only prove that. But I know people are usually good and innocent, it’s only politics which ruin them. But whatever, one thing I can’t deny that no matter wherever I might be? No matter on what mood I’m? Till now whenever I had the opportunity to listen to our national anthem, something unusual kind of chemical reaction occurred inside my body. My heart seemed to be much lighter, I used to get calm and everything seemed to be so peaceful and soothing. On every such occasion I used to get goosebumps and few times even couple of teardrops poured through my eyes. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Pehchan Kaun?

I usually overlook educative programs whenever I use to browse through the television channels. To be honest, after a certain age I stopped to watch quiz related programs, well I always prefer to give my brain every possible opportunity to chill out  and relax. But something happened about a couple of years back, it was midnight and I simply continued to press the remote in search for something interesting. At midnight most of the TV channels transform into some kind of serious sales and marketing platform and I’m really impressed with their presentation. They sale an extremely wide range of products including Health products (specially products which would reduce our weight without any exercise, which would make us fair in just 3 days, etc), Spiritual & Religious products, Memory increasing products, Lingerie products, Exciting yet funny household products and an endless list of many other innovative products.

After I browsed through a hell lot of sales and marketing programs, it was time for me to enjoy some serious quiz. I stopped at a “Pehchaan Kaun?” kind of game show. The right hand side of the TV screen was filled with an image of two Bollywood celebrities, well their entire faces wasn't visible but it didn't take me even a second to recognize the faces and I was 100% sure that it's Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor hiding behind. The anchor was a damn hot and an extremely talented lady and she occupied the left hand side of the TV screen. At the bottom some numbers were being flashed and the host constantly requested me to just dial those numbers and answer the celebrity names correctly and said that I could easily earn 50,000 Rs. 

I wondered that's lot of money for such a simple question, well every Indian is a Bollywood/Cricket expert. I was about to change the channel, but all of a sudden someone called live and the anchor picked up the call. I wanted to feel the caller’s happiness through his voice as soon as he would have earned those 50,000 Rs. But what the hell? He couldn't answer correctly and simply replied over the phone as “Vinod Khanna and Hema Malini”. It took me a while to digest his answers. I mean, how on earth could someone have done such a blunder?  For a moment I thought that I might have overreacted and it wasn't fair to have such high expectation from an average Indian. I felt little good and was proud of my intelligence, but never dared to call those numbers. Well, I've decent amount of work experience in telecom domain and particularly Mobile Value Aided services.

I continued to watch the game show and couldn't have waited much longer to hear the answers of the next caller. In the mean time the host repeatedly tried to convince me that I could easily be the lucky winner and advised me to go for it. For a moment I just wondered "How does she knows that I didn't call till now?" But I wasn't tempted to call her and preferred to enjoy the show only as an audience. The next caller answered “Jitendra and Mandakini” and the show continued. I waited for the 3rd caller and she answered “Akshay Khanna and Rani Mukherjee” That time I realized something very fishy about the show. I just couldn't digest the fact that an Indian lady couldn't identify Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor in that image. 

That night I tried to google some information about such kind of TV shows and found few complains about them. It seems those phone numbers are premium numbers with very high call rates(10 to 15 Rs per minute) In such an over populated Bollywood crazy country, just imagine how many calls they use to receive within an hour during the show. They use the kind of technology which keeps the genuine callers on hold and play some recorded voice response, something like "Please be on line, very soon your call will be connected to the anchor"

Also one more thing, I've witnessed few live calls during News, Cricket and some Stock related programs. It’s really interesting to see how an authentic Indian use to react during live calls. It’s something like this:

Anchor: Yes Mr Amit Please ask your question

Amit: Hello! Hello!

Anchor: Mr Amit, can you hear us? Please reduce your TV volume.

Amit: Hello! I’m Amit from Delhi(sound little nervous and very excited)

Anchor: Yes Mr Amit Please ask your question.

Most of the live calls which I’ve witnessed on TV are pretty much similar with different flavors. But in those Bollywood quiz kind of shows, the callers are always straight forward. They don't waste any time and without any excitement they simply use to say 2 celebrity names. I was so much impressed and influenced with the creative mind behind those shows that I enjoyed them for the next couple of days as well. I observed that the callers have similar kind of voice, as if they have a gang of 10-15 callers. How could people think of such innovative ways of making quick money? Initially I was little confused and worried that how could they telecast such shows that too in some reputed TV channels? But later I realized that in a country where everything else is so transparent right from bureaucracy to Babacrazy, from 2 G to Anna G. So what’s the problem with such innovative and creative quiz shows? 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Gentleman, Do You Know Hindi ?

The job hunting days were quite miserable, yet it was also an exciting learning phase. We tried pretty hard to manage with limited resources and never dared to miss any opportunity for freshers that time. I used to feel extremely delighted whenever I got any interview call and then used to get equally depressed, as well as frustrated after the interview. I was entirely new to Bangalore those days and on one afternoon, I was on my way back home after a disastrous interview. As I walked through a busy street, all of a sudden a family approached me and asked "Bhai Saab, Apko Hindi Malum Hai?" Gentleman, do u know Hindi?

They looked a perfect joint family to me, with 2 elderly couples, 2 young couples stood nearby and the lady held a cute baby on her lap. I also noticed few more people nearby and assumed them to be part of the same family. The elderly couple talked to me and explained their pathetic situation. They said that they came all the way from some part of north India for their pilgrimage to Tirupathi. They didn’t book their return ticket and after their darshaan they came to Bangalore, as there used to have a direct train from Bangalore to their place. But they lost all their luggage and all the money they had with them as well, at the railway platform. They didn’t have any money to book their tickets and so asked some help from me. But my dirty mind started to suspect and with little discomfort I asked them some logical questions. The poor couple tried to convince me and I felt really bad whenever I looked into their miserable and tender eyes. 

I was little disturbed with their situation. Well, it could have happened to any of us and people should have really helped them. With little shyness, I said to them "At present I don’t have a job and I'm sorry, I wouldn’t be able to help you guys much. I've only 50 Rs in my pocket and I would need 10 Rs for my bus ticket to go home. I don’t know how these 40 Rs would be of any help to you guys?"

The elderly man replied "It’s all right, maybe it would take us few more days to collect the money but it's OK, it’s a great help from you"

They said thanks to me, but they didn't look very satisfied and I immediately left from there. On the way, I just wished if I could have helped them with little more money. That incident had a little impact on me and their miserable faces haunted me for quite sometime. Time passed by and after about 3 months later, I saw the same family on another busy street at a different place in Bangalore. It was not very difficult for me to recognize their faces, but I was pretty much sure they didn’t recognize me. That time also they approached me and started their conversation with "Gentleman, do you know Hindi?" 

They started to narrate me a similar kind of story and then I immediately interrupted "Till now you guys couldn’t collect the money for you tickets?" They looked little nervous and tried to ignore me completely. My second encounter with them had a much deeper impact on me and later, I came across few more such kind of gangs families. Well, everyone of them had a similar kind of story with slightly different flavors.

My last rendezvous with such kind of a joint family was a couple of years back. It was around 7:30 PM and I was on my way back home after office hours. I used to stay quite near to my office that time and preferred to stroll in the evening. On the crowded street they almost blocked my way and asked "Gentleman do you know Hindi?" Well, some old memories got refreshed that very moment and I just disappeared from there.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...