Friday, 28 November 2008

Mumbai - Bruised But Not Broken

Shock. That's what I felt when mom woke me up at 11.15 on Wednesday night telling me there's been a blast. But it turned out to be so much more. I watched the news in horror. Firing at CST? In a hospital? In the Leopold's Cafe? The Taj and Oberoi hotels under siege? What hellish nightmare have I walked into? It only got worse. As I watched all the familiar South Mumbai places being attacked, my mind could barely fathom that all this was actually happening. Every waking moment was spent glued in front of the television. Even as my body cried for sleep, my mind refused. I was determined to follow the entire tragedy right till the end - which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be approaching, inspite of repeated assurances that the operations at all three places; Nariman House, The Taj Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel, are in their final stages. They have been in the final stages since yesterday afternoon. When is this insanity going to end?!

Ah, and then came the politicians for their moment of glory. They stubbornly insisted on visiting the sites, choosing to ignore pleas that asked them to stay away. Of what concern was it to them that the police had to deploy extra personnel to look after their safety? Did it matter that the policemen had to look after these attention seeking brats instead of focusing on the situation at hand? Was bringing the situation under control as important as assisting these so-called people in their 15 minutes of fame on the eve of the elections? These politicians were busy passing the blame instead of taking responsibility for their actions; instead of being the leaders they were elected to be and taking charge in this time of crisis.

When I was younger, I remember someone telling me "If Pakistan dares lay a finger on Mumbai, India will annihilate Pakistan." Such was the confidence in the government. Now, however, the politicians are so busy playing the blame game that they barely have time for something as trivial as weeding out the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

The infallible Mumbai spirit has taken a hit. The streets on Thursday resembled curfew. The usually full-to-bursting local trains were deserted. Very few taxis could be seen in Southern Mumbai. Offices were nearly empty. Schools and colleges were closed. The Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange remained shut. What floods, incessant rains, train blasts, blasts in the BSE, blasts in the midst of crowded markets, blasts in random vehicles around the city, communalism and bloody riots couldn't damage was accomplished by these young ordinary-looking, gun-toting terrorists in one fell swoop.

However, we are Mumbaikars and our resilience shines within each and every one of us. It is this spirit that makes Mumbai what it is; that makes us what we are. We may be down, but we are most certainly not out. Life is slowly getting back to normal. The streets look haunted no more, the trains are fuller. People travelling all over the city are tense but tough. We are Mumbaikars and we will not go down without a fight. We may not fight back with weapons and violence, but fight we will. Our determination to survive through this is shown not by picking up a gun but by going on with our lives. By trying to bring about a sense of normality within our lives, we are fighting back. We will not bow down to this mindless terror. We will not be afraid of you. You are cowards and we know it. You may be determined, but your determination is nothing compared to ours. Not for nothing is the Mumbai spirit admired. We are hurt but not broken. We are bouncing back even as you make your desperate attempts to create even more mayhem in this urban warfare.

We are Mumbaikars and although we fight on with our resilience, we will not forget; cannot forget. We have forgotten in the past. We bounce back but we don't remember. We don't demand security. We don't insist on explanations and clarifications. We don't ask "How?" We don't demand the answers that we should. But no more is this acceptable. Now we demand answers. We demand retribution for the slain police men's widows, for the parents who are suddenly without children, for the woman in Delhi who excitedly planned her wedding in vain, for the family whose sole bread winner was killed, for the son who has been orphaned, for those foreign nationals touring India, for the man who ushered his hotel guests to safety even as his wife and children were killed in a fire - for all those people whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We seek justice.

To all those Mumbaikars and fellow world citizens who lost their lives to this mindless terrorism - R.I.P. Our thoughts rest with you.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Five Things You Don't Know About My Younger Self

I really wanted to update the blog and this is the best post idea I could come up with. Yeah. Do you care to know things about me when I was younger? I highly doubt it. Do you have to put up with it anyway? You bet!

Hey, it could be mildly entertaining you know. It could!

(1) I was morbidly obese as a kid and all the way through school. Well, I'm no Mary Kate Olsen now either, but I'm thinner than before. Dude, I was huge!

I would show you a pic, but then I would have to kill you.

(2) I had convinced my neighbour that the building outside my bedroom window was a deserted ruin and haunted. As proof, I pointed out the white shadows constantly moving past the windows. We even pretended we were part of Scooby and gang. Yes, Scooby Doo.

As it turns out, the building is an institute for cancer patients. The ghosts? In some parts, they're also known as doctors.

(3) I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when I was 10. Until my 11th birthday, I firmly believed I was going to get a letter from Hogwarts. After my 11th birthday, I convinced myself that it takes time for the letter to reach India all the way from the United Kingdom.

No, I'm not waiting for my Hogwarts letter anymore. I have learned to live with the fact that I'm a Muggle.

(4) I was a studious nerd/model student until 7th grade. My act of bravery was reading a book in class. The one time I did it, I was caught by the teacher. I felt so guilty that the book stayed untouched in my bag for three days.

Now, I'm an accidental nerd. I don't study but I get decent marks. Apparently that's the only qualification one needs. Hence the label.

(5) At one point of time, the box that my T.V. came in was the major source of entertainment for my neighbour and me. It was our boat that marooned us on a deserted island, it was our mansion. It was our modest hut, it was a shelter for our orphanage. It was a bed for our doll babies, it was all the modes of transport invented and then some. It was our hidey hole and our camphouse. It was everything we ever dreamed of.

The magic box in question is currently in my loft, filled with old toys.

Now, because I love the whole concept of tagging and no one is going to tag me ever, I'm gonna do the tagging myself. I tag Tanuj (Yes, you have to do this).

Random Thing To Do Today: Try not to think about zebra stripes and leopoard spots.

The End.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Demise of the Great Indian Soap

And by that, of course, I mean Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

The show that has been going strong for the last eight years has finally reached the end of its rope. Star Plus has decided to axe the show 'cause of its sinking TRPs. I'm sure women all over the country are on the verge of a collective depression. My mom is on the verge of a breakdown. First Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki was taken off air, now Kyunki is ready to bid its final farewell; my mom's world is not a happy place at the moment. Out of the 90 minutes she lived for every weeknight, 60 of those minutes have no meaning anymore. She still can't get over the fact that lovable, science defying Baa who stubbornly refused to die even as generations after her bit the dust, finally went into the light (and finally is not an understatement. Believe me). I keep trying to convince her that she was only a character on a television show and the actress isn't really dead, but all mom does is stare at me blankly and keep saying over and over again "I can't believe Baa is dead. How could they kill her? How can she die! How could they do this to us!?" And in response, I laugh and pointedly remind her that the show is going to end very very soon. Model daughter, eh?

I don't really find all this melodrama weird though 'cause hey, I'm no stranger to it myself. I had major withdrawl symptoms when Charmed ended. And who can forget the days before, during and after reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? I cried after each death. I sobbed hysterically for 20 minutes when Dobby died, and I didn't even like him that much! I completely emphatized with Facebook groups like After Harry Potter Seven Comes Out I Won't Have Anything To Live For, I've Read Harry Potter # 7, Now What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?!?!, I Can't Believe Harry Potter Is Actually Over, I Wish I Could Get Amnesia So I Could Re-experience Harry Potter Anew ...... well, you get the picture.

Getting back to the point, yes I sympathize with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi lovers everywhere. I might not understand why you love what you love but I understand your broken hearts. I might find it absurd how you lap up whatever the show offers; the just-for-the-heck-of-it generation leaps, the deaths and re-births, the plastic surgeries, the so-bad-they're-funny dialogues, the ludicrous situations, the foolishness of it all; but my heart goes out to all you fans in this time of grief as you say goodbye to the show that spawned a saas-bahu revolution in Indian television. So goodbye Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. And good riddance too.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Forwards Can Be Cool

Usually, forwards are just annoying old chain letters which, if not forwarded, will apparently bring you 50 years of bad luck/make you die a slow torturous death/help to save the life of a 7 year old cancer afflicted kid who has been 7 since I wasn't even born/make sure you're haunted by the ghost of a very old, very pissed off woman until the day you die or help you hook up with your crush like, that very night!!11! ZOMGZZ!!111!eleven!!11!

But some forwards are actually pretty funny. And once in a while, you may even find one that you absolutely love. Here's my once in a while that was forwarded to me today. It's a bit long but totally worth it :-)

One day, a Maths teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving some space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the students the remainder of the class period to finish their assignments; and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper and listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday, she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" she heard whispered. "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" and, "I didn't know others liked me so much," were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in the Kargil war and his teacher attended his funeral. The place was packed with his friends. One by one, those who loved him took a last walk. The teacher was the last one. As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came upto her. "Were you Sanjay's Math teacher?" She nodded. Then he said "Sanjay talked about you a lot."

After the funeral, most of Sanjay's former classmates were there. Sanjay's parents were waiting to speak to the teacher. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Sanjay when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. Without looking, the teacher knew that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Sanjay's classmates had said about him.

"Thank you so much for doing that," Sanjay's mother said. "As you can see, Sanjay treasured it."

All of Sanjay's former classmates started to gather around. Smiling rather sheepishly, Arjun said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer in my desk at home."

Prithviraj's wife said, "Prithviraj asked me to put his in our wedding album."

"I have mine too," Rashmi said. "It's in my diary."

Then Deepali, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," she said, and without batting an eyelash, she continued, "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Sanjay and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be. Telling people you love and care for that they are special and important isn't a crime. Do it now while you still can rather than waiting until it's too late.