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………………….on my way to work, I crossed a stretch of road which is the hub of the city’s central grains and vegetable depot.  Succinctly put, its called Market Yard. This is where every morning, trucks come in by the dozens and dump a zillion sacks of grains and vegetables. The market opens up at an insane hour, probably 4am in the morning. By 5am, there is a hoard of little red and blue tempos which crowd to Marketyard to buy their share of the goods. These tempos/handcarts then travel to the other parts of the city to sell those goods. This activity goes on till 12 in the noon. I guess after that the depot gates close down. At the time when I pass that way, the traffic outside the depot gates is at its peak. It is a tough task for all the bikes, cars and buses to outmaneuver the tempos/handcarts, which take up nearly the entire road.

Anyhow, so this morning, as I reached the large traffic signal (which unfortunately turned red just as I reached it), I saw that there was a slight commotion. Apparently, a tempo crossing the signal had dropped a sack of guavas right in the middle of the road. The driver of the tempo (tempo1) was oblivious of his loss till he reached the other side, where a couple of bystanders told him that they saw his sack falling off. Tempo1 driver was worried. He parked his vehicle and tried crossing the road, but the peak rush hour didn’t allow him the space. Meanwhile, as second tempo’s (tempo2) driver, standing at the signal, saw the plight of tempo1, he quickly hopped out, rushed to the sack and amidst great traffic, somehow managed to drag it back to his tempo. Tempo2 driver waved frantically at driver of tempo1, trying his best to signal that the sack was safe. Driver1 couldn’t see properly through the traffic. And tried once more to cross the road. Tempo2 driver then hauls the sack into his vehicle, drives across the road to tempo1 driver and hands over the sack. Tempo1 driver’s face is flush with relief. Tempo2 driver gets back into vehicle, makes a U-turn and drives off in another direction.

All this happened in the few minutes it took for my signal to turn green, but it was an inspiring lesson on good-ness. On being helpful and kind. Tempo2 driver went out of his way to make sure that tempo1 driver’s sack was unharmed and was handed over to him. Its not everyday we see selfless acts of kindness, specially in cities where everyone is too rushed to help out others. Reminded me of an instance long time back, Bro was driving me to a college for a written test. It started raining and I was clutching at my folder of certificates, trying my best to prevent them getting wet. Somehow, at one point, the folder slipped out of my hand and fell on the road. I yelled at Bro to stop the bike, which he did, but a few meters ahead. I frantically signaled people coming my way to not drive over the folder. Many drove around it. But one particular chap, who was far off and had seen me, drove right over my folder and was nasty enough to give a smug look while doing it. I stood there, too shocked for words, but Bro’s yelling brought me back to my senses. I picked up the now squelchy folder and walked back to Bro. The certificates were now muddy and wet. The only sensible thing to do was to dry them after going home. I just prayed the college did not require us to submit any docs that day. Luckily, they didn’t.

But the point is, the incident is imprinted in my mind. No one really stopped to help me that day. One person was rude enough to cause more trouble. it was enough to make me cynical for the rest of my life!

The incident today gave me a warm feeling 🙂
Kindness is not dead yet. There are still plenty of people who do their share of good deeds a day.

And all is well with the world 🙂



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I didn’t get to see Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate this weekend. Truth is, I havent caught any of his episodes on TV yet. Saw the first one on the net, but thats about it.
Anyway, so this week we had the curse of dowry as the raging issue. It is a very old and prevalent social ill so I needn’t get into the details.
But what irks me strongly is that Aamir Khan didnt get into the details too. The episode was played safe. Too safe. The inclusion of the ‘pakadwa byah’ took away some of the seriousness of the issue. This one particular case may have ended up having a happy ending, but there are hundreds of others where the girl is mistreated after marriage, dowry or no dowry!
I know girls from well educated families who saved up for their marriages. These girls claimed that they would have to give ‘at least’ 10-20 lakhs as cash, in spite of them being money churning machines themselves!! Nothing I said or did, could make any difference. A male colleague in Bangalore, once explained to me the ‘value’ of a prospective bridegroom. In his hometown of Hyderabad, a boy’s monthly gross was equal to the amount in lakhs payable by the girl’s family. So if a boy earns 25K, his market value is 25L. Not only did my friend pay up for his sister based on this guideline, but he also demanded a similar rate from his future wife’s family, which they were more than willing to give. My friend is an engineering graduate and works for an MNC. In his words, this money will just secure the future of his wife. Never mind that a chunk of that same money was used to repay the loan he had to take for his sister’s wedding. This was in Bangalore.

I met another friend in Pune, who followed the same logic. He was desperate to visit America because that would drastically escalate his market value. If he got the tag of ‘US returned’, he could demand dowry twice the market value and be paid for it. So deep was this belief that he went and did parikrama of the ‘Visa Temple‘ .
And oh! He did go abroad shortly after 😐

The point is, these men I talk about are not villagers or small town people. They are well educated people belonging to good, upper-middle-class homes. They still have ancestral properties and reap gains from agricultural land. Yet, they are conditioned into believing that dowry is their birthright!! They have the right to demand it and get paid. They pay up for their sisters and then claim it back from their wives.
The only difference between the North and South would be that in the South, both parties are equally involved. The girl’s family is as pleased to part with the money as the guy’s family are eager to accept it. This results in relatively ‘happier’ marriages.
In the North, matters are worse. There is no limit to the amount a girl’s father pays. I have friends from really well-off families whose in-laws still demand that the girls ask their parents to install ACs in the in-laws homes or buy new TV sets (flat-screen LED ones). The fact that their son is capable of buying stuff costing twice that amount, is carelessly tossed aside. The girl’s family has to pay up. Period.
Else, the girl suffers.
One friend had to bear severe insults from her in-laws because her parents gifted ‘only’ 5 carat diamond necklaces to her MIL and SIL. The in-laws expected nothing less than 10-20 carats.

Another Maharashtrian friend, an IT professional, saved money on the sly (sometimes as less as Rs.5-10/- ) just so that she could send it to her mother. Her husband controlled her account and was of the belief that once married, her parents didnt have any right over her money, more so because she did not bring a substantial dowry with her. He even beat her up badly one day when he felt that her parents weren’t making any efforts to bring a proposal for his sister!! The man here was also the BF’s colleague. When I mentioned it to the BF, he asked me to stay out of other people’s internal issues. But was it really internal? Specially when the girl came to office bruised in 5 different places just on her face?
I was scandalized and repelled beyond words.
These are people I meet everyday. Well educated men and women. Most of them with engineering degrees from reputed institutes. Most of them coming from so-called ‘good’ families.
But when it comes to money….they all fall down so low, you’ll have difficulty differentiating them from a dust-mite.

Very few girls I meet are averse to asking their parents to refuse paying up. There are very few girls who say that they would rather earn and spend for their marriages. There are very few parents who believe in making their daughters independent, favouring the approach of ‘dumping’ her on someone else, along with a bundle of cash, for ‘looking after her’. If this isn’t treating women like commodities, what is??

There are many MILs who demand money because they feel that their son ‘deserves’ it . Never mind that half the reason they educated their son was because they want him to tend to them in their old age (nothing wrong with that. Its the compulsion that the son should, which reeks of selfishness).

From the news reports on the show, I gathered that the concept of dowry is alien to the North-East.What a blessing!! To think that in our country, there is still a segment which is untouched by this evil!!

But the crux of this post is that just ‘asking’ men to abstain from taking dowry isn’t enough. Instead of being a custom followed by parents (or people of older generations), it is something that is actively initiated by the youngsters themselves. My colleagues are examples I can never forget. Though one of them confessed that if he refused he might be ostracized. The girl’s family could go to any lengths to tarnish his image (even label him impotent 😐 ). Though willing, he couldn’t go against the ‘custom’ 🙄

The solution lies in publicly shaming people who ask for dowry. Show their faces, expose them. Let the world know that such greedy people exist. If they cannot preserve the rights and dignities of their spouses, why should the media allow them the privacy of anonymity??

PS: We are three daughters of our Dad. He didn’t pay up a single penny to any of our spouses or their families. They never asked themselves. All of us have happy families/lives. This is just to let you know that it is NOT important to give dowry. Like my Dad said to our in-laws, “We give you well educated, cultured daughters who are responsible and independent. What they earn and share with your family would be a hundred times  more than what we could give you”.

So yes. Educate those girls. Let them earn their living, so that when they get married, their fathers can hold their heads high, like mine does..

 

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I love Mayavati.

I mean, how can you not?!! This Woman dominates like no other, thunders instead of talking, pays homage to herself and siphons off crores better than Ocean’s Eleven!

Also, she provides me with a lot of blog fodder 😀 (and that, I must say, is her saving grace 😐 )

Anyway, since I’m a loyal Mayavati follower and a keen watcher of her activities, its deplorable that I haven’t yet done a post on the private-Jet-Assange-gate (that rhymes!!) . A digression that I will proceed to correct, pronto!

So for the un-informed, my favourite politician got a mention in Wiki-leaks. That itself calls for a whoop of joy and distribution of sweets. The Behenji has ‘arrived’ and how 🙂 .You can read the entire content of the leak here, but since I love the lady, I’ll do the honors and post the juicy parts here :-

“…the law and order situation in UP has improved only in that Mayawati has centralized corruption in her own hands.”

“One Lucknow journalist related a story in which a State Minister was forced to do sit-ups in front of her as penance for not first asking permission to call on UP’s governor.”

“Mayawati forced a civil servant to resign when she learned his daughter had joined the Congress Party in Delhi.”

“…..she employs nine cooks (two to cook, the others to watch over them) and two food tasters.”

“…..she constructed a private road from her residence to her office, which is cleaned immediately after her multiple vehicle convoy reaches its destination.”

“While inflation, development and terrorism will be the “issues” in the coming national polls, caste remains the DNA of UP politics, and no one has demonstrated more ability at playing caste politics than Mayawati”
And my personal favourite –
“Mayawati is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister”
C’mon?! Which Indian politician isn’t?! Doesn’t LK Advani (with one leg in Kabr and another on a banana peel) want the same? Does anyone accuse him of it?

Sadly, Mayavati doesn’t see how famous she has become, instead, she harps on how Assange must be admitted to the Agra mental asylum. She obviously believes that she was voicing the opinion of a hundred other politicians around the world, most of whom harbour the same opinion! But not so surprisingly, Assange’s wiki-leak only publicized what the entire population of India already knew! I wouldn’t word it here (her henchmen may just hunt me down and skin me to make her a new pair of shoes 😐 ). But I guess this image best depicts her growth :-

Assange, on his behalf, has sent across some witty quips to Mayavati’s outbursts.  For now, he has the upper hand, because not one person in this country has an iota of doubt on the report (do you??). Says something about the state of our politics, doesn’t it? I mean, we know all this, yet we elect them. Sheesh 😦 .

Sab Maya hai, I guess 😐



Note : cartoons sourced from Google images.

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Comes from a colleague of mine in office, an engineer by education and an IT personnel by profession. Age,22-23 years.

I’m grateful to my father for letting me live. He always wanted a son. So he had my mother tested when she was pregnant. When he found out it was a girl, though others asked him to get it terminated, he allowed my mother to have me. I’m thankful to my father for giving me life”.

Tell me people, am I wrong in feeling completely offended by this sentiment?

I wonder why we take the effort to educated women from the poorer strata of society on women empowerment when its the educated, affluent women themselves who are yet to see the light of day!!

 



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I was out shopping last Saturday.

I’m off to Bangalore this weekend with the twins for a two-week vacation to meet the parents and siblings. Aapa and her kids are coming along too. Needless to say, I’m frantically shopping at the last minute to grab goodies for the people back home. This time, I thought of gifting stuff other than clothes (which, given the high tastes of Bags and Bhabi, were bound to be rejected 😦 ). So I bought a deck-chair swing for Baby SA and handbags for Bags and Bhabhi. For Mom,Aapa and her kids, I stuck to clothes. Aapa likes everything I get for her. She’s such a darling 🙂 .  I haven’t had the chance to shop at leisure  as I wanted to, given the work in office and at home, but I had a few hours to spare on Saturday and so made the best use of them 🙂

Anyhow, there I was, in the peak of summer, driving under the blazing heat, getting lost in the heart of the city. It was the heat I guess, that made me take a wrong turn (I was relying on intuition to lead me out from the labyrinth lanes of Old Pune) and drive right into the city’s Red light Area.

It took me a few seconds to realize why this particular area was so crowded. It took some more seconds to realize that I was being hooted at. Some even called out rude names to me. A quick look around confirmed my suspicion. I was in the wrong territory. For a second, I was almost tempted to send out my apologies, but the very next , I raced as fast as I could from that place.

I’ve never been in such an area before, and now that I have, I’ll confess that I’ve never ever felt the sense of foreboding, of fear, of stifling restlessness as I felt there in those few seconds. Once I was back on the main road, I was shocked to realize that I was actually gasping for breath. That, when I was driving!!! Hadn’t realized that for those few seconds back there, I’d been holding my breath, my heart thudding loudly somewhere in the vicinity of my throat.

Why did I react like that??

Its not as if some mean pimp would throw a rug over a plump thirty plus lady and drag her into the flesh trade! Then what did I fear?

Frankly, I have no idea.

I’ve seen social workers on television, who frequent such places to educate the girls, letting them know the importance of sending their young ones to schools. I never gave much thought to those social workers. At least, not until now. Now, I know the amount of effort it would take to walk through those bylanes, passing by women with gaudy make-up and sleepy eyes . Women as old as the aunt next-door or sometimes, as young as the maid’s daughter who drops by for work when her mother falls ill.

I saw a couple of girls in jeans and T-shirts walking by. They looked so normal, so regular, that it would be easy to mistake them for college students. Its only when they called out to the men passing by that I found out that they were masters of another study!! When did these girls get into this trade? Why did they?

I’m sure they are victims of circumstances. There are regular news reports of girls being brought to the city and sold to the brothels here. There are plenty of North-East Indian girls here, probably kidnapped and sold, long lost from their families and loved ones. I wonder who cares for them now.

I also wonder at the kind of job which makes young women brave the summer heat to stand out on the roads, calling out to prospective clients (is that the right word here?) , dressed awfully (usually in their night-gowns) but loaded with make-up. All of them standing together in a row like dominoes. I wonder what goes through the mind of a client when he sees this assembly line of sun-toughened booty 😐 . I wonder what these women do in their free time (IF they have some free time). I wonder if they ever think of leaving this trade behind. I wonder if they know of a life beyond those lanes.  I wonder how it feels to conceive a child and not know who the father is.  I wonder at the kind of life’s lessons that kid gets to learn. How do they cope?

Clearly, I’ve been think way too much about those women these days. And all because I ventured into their territory by mistake.

And as usual, I’m stumped at the extent to which I’m clueless about life and people. There is SO much to learn. Our sheltered and cocooned life gives us very little opportunity to see the lives of others from their point of view. I’m  truly humbled. Allah has been highly benevolent on me and my kin. For that alone, I can bow my head a thousand times and offer prayers of gratitude. Ameen.



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I could write a funny little couplet with the three characters , Obama, Osama and me, but I won’t. Because though funny thoughts do creep up my mind, what I’m posting today is far from it. I’ll be writing about Osama and how he changed my life. I’ll mention Obama, who must have have faced a percentage of what I did. I’ll talk about me and the ones close to me. I’ll talk of all the agony and pain we went through. The humiliation, the anger the confusion. I’ll talk of all the things that went wrong because of Osama and why his death does not bring any relief or respite.

But first, something about Obama. Its close to election time and since the Prez didn’t have much to count on for a second term, does the timing of this operation sound suspicious to you?? It does to me at least. So there was Osama, not hiding under a rock or a bunker, but living lavishly in a large bungalow with his family. So, wasn’t the US aware of his hide-out until now?? I, for one, am not impressed at the way the operation was carried out, even if Obama was hunkering over the screens, watching with baited breath as the Navy seals went about their task.

So the big Terrorist- chap was gunned down in his house. Great.

He was done in in the presence of his family. I wouldn’t really say ‘Great’, but I guess the family saw it coming one day or the other.

Since we are not typical television watchers AND we didn’t get any papers yesterday (because of labour day), it was pretty late in the evening when we saw the news and were stunned into silence.Initially, I was rather skeptical of the whole act. The US claimed they shot him and dumped his body in the sea. Really?? I don’t believe you, I said. I refused to accept the news until finally, sometime later that night,they showed his dead body. It did look like the same fellow,I admit, specially the mouth part. With a head riddled with bullets, it was difficult to be 100% sure. But the world was sure and slowly, I too accepted that this guy was no more. Till late in the night, the family was discussing the consequences and repercussions of this death.

Wonder why??

Because as a middle-class muslim family, we’ve had our share of abuse because of him.

Remember 9/11??

I was doing my post-graduation at that time, didn’t have a TV or a radio at home. When I reached college, I heard a lot of animated conversation around. Conversation, that would suddenly stop in its tracks when someone spotted me. Gradually, someone came up to me and asked me if I knew what had happened that day? I remember joking about some lecturer not turning up for class. Alas, the truth, when told, was more horrific. Because, though I was informed about the ghastly deed, it was with a lot of raised eye-brows and hidden questions. ‘Did you know about it? How do you feel now that your people have done such a horrific thing’?

Good friends stuck by me, not bringing up the issue in front of me, unless I did so myself. I could feel their reluctance to talk about in my presence. For the life of me, I could not understand why they thought talking bad about the taliban would hurt me!! I have NOTHING to do with them, I could have yelled and it would still have fallen on deaf ears.

My brother had a traditional day in his office that day. He wore a Pathani to work. The minute he entered the office, the first thing he heard was a colleague shouting across the workhall, “Kya ______, yeh kya kiya tune??” Brother was obviously confused, until colleagues came up and demanded explanations about why he blew up those towers. Can anyone imagine the humiliation, the consternation of being accused of such a heinous crime publicly?? Something which he had NO hand in whatsoever?

It was the same for years after. No PG accommodation/hostel was ready to take me in after learning of my surname. I walked from one place to another, saw that there was vacancy and yet, the owners would claim that the place was taken. It came to a point when the first thing I did after ringing the bell was to let the owners know that I was a muslim and if they were okay with keeping me as a paying guest. Should I be surprised that ALL of them bluntly told me that they don’t keep muslims. The only time I got a place was when a girl living in one house turned out to be an old friend from Dehra-Dun days. Even then, she didn’t tell the owner aunty that I was a muslim. It was only on the day that I entered the house that she found out the truth. She didn’t like it one bit, but it was too late to back out. Thankfully, the one year that I stayed with her, she encountered no issues with me and we got along rather well.

In all this, would it have mattered to anyone if I told them that my father was a war-decorated army officer? That he spent 35 years of his service for his country, a country that is as much mine as it is yours? That patriotism runs in our blood as much as it runs in yours!!

You know what irks me the most? That no other religion bears the brunt of activities of some of its outcasts!

So a bunch of Sikhs can blow up a Kanishka, but no one will point a finger at a Sardar and insinuate that he’s a terrorist or a persona non-grata. Christian terrorists can blow up sections of the North-east in India or hundreds in Cuba, but no one will ever dare to term Christianity as a terrorist-religion. Hindu fanatics will go around burning people alive, but Hindus will always be the ones terrorized . Its only when a muslim terrorist blows up a place and the entire populace is quick to term ALL muslims as violent. ALL muslims are terrorists. ALL muslims should be avoided, boycotted. Like the time the BF was in USA and was refused accommodation because of his religion. Yes, even he was directly told by the owners that they didn’t rent space to muslims. Whom did the BF finally put up with?? Other muslim students who were similarly shunned. The irony is that the BF was on H1 visa to US with his colleague and good friend, who was a hindu. His friend got a place easily, the BF didn’t. I think, if you are NOT a minority, this kind of humiliation would be difficult for you to fathom.

(Please note, I’m NOT pointing fingers at anyone here. I’m just puzzled at the way the wave caught up about equalizing muslims with terrorists. It has come to such an extent that it is actually fashionable to talk of the two in the same breath!!)


This is something we go through each day. Try hunting for a house in a good society…..sorry, No muslims. Try getting admissions to a good college…..sorry , no muslims. Try even schools ……and you have a fledgling of a chance of getting a seat. And even then, you’ll be made to feel gratitude, because, you see, the management doesn’t generally allow muslims, but they’ll make a concession for you . For a hefty amount, of course!

Now that Osama lies buried somewhere in the Arabian sea (probably eaten up by the fishes by now), a normal middle-class muslin can think of breathing easy, for a while. But somewhere, there will also be a niggling thought eating at us that this may just as well be the beginning of the end. Things may just get worse from here. We may rejoice his death, but there are many more like him around for comfort. And the stigma that lies buried in everyone’s mind will never go, Osama or no Osama.

But I guess this is just the pessimist in me speaking. I would LOVE to be proved wrong. I would love to see my kids holding their heads high when they walk into prestigious schools, places where they get admission on their merit and not religious inclination. I would LOVE to live in a society where the neighbors don’t call their kids back home just because they entered our house.  I would LOVE it if my kids came back from school and talk about their achievements rather than wonder why their teacher called them some bigoted names. I would LOVE to see my kids mingling with other children, understanding about their culture and religion and not wonder why no one’s bothered about their’s. I would LOVE to have the freedom to be treated as an equal citizen of this country, a place I was born and brought up in. A place I love just as much as you if not more. A place, I hope my kids get a chance of knowing and loving as much I do.


So tell me people, am I asking for too much??




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Ho Hum Yaaawn.

Another day, another match (India-Pak, to be precise) and another round of questions. Clearly, my being a muslim puts a BIG question mark on my loyalties.

I guess I started hating this game when a colleague at work asked me to go back to Pakistan because India had lost a match to them. “Aap to wahin ke ho, wahin jao”.

Sigh. Sometimes, education is not enough. Sometimes, the hatred for us kinds is so inbuilt, that no amount of education (or free-wheeling around the world ) is enough to uproot it.

I’m no longer upset. Though I think I should be.

Because each time a match comes up, I’m judged.

I’m judged on my choice.

I’m judged on my patriotism.

I’m judged on my loyalties.

And by people, to whom I owe nothing.

I guess I’m better off washing my hands off the game. I don’t want a part of its victory. Or its loss.

Just.Leave.Me.Be.

Yours Ultra-Sad,


Edited to add :-

I got some very heartening response to this post. It sure made me feel good :) . But what I wrote is what I guess most muslims in India feel.Whenever it is an India-Pakistan match, the muslims have to go overboard in displaying their loyalties. They have to try harder to let the others know that they are rooting for their own country and not the other one. It is something I've seen all people close to my family doing. What I face is nothing new. The BF has faced it, so has my brother. In their case, it was much worse. Of course it makes us seethe inside. It makes us rue the injustice of it all.

But there's not much we can do about it. And that, is the bottomline.

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