The stigma of speaking in Hindi

A couple of weekends ago I attended a concert by Sukhwinder Singh. The man is a powerhouse of talent. I love most of his songs and to listen to him Live was sheer magic. This post is not however about Sukhwinder Singh.

In between songs, Sukhi as he is called, insisted on sharing anecdotes about the various songs on his playlist. In English. Now the man’s English is not what I would call the best. And the genteel, inspired, evolved residents of one of the poshest suburbs in Mumbai chose to heckle him. A gentleman behind me yelled that the singer should refrain from speaking in English please!

This appalled me. On many levels. Firstly, respect for his talent and performance should far outweigh his comfort with the English language. Secondly, why is fluency in English such a measure of one’s social standing?

I get scared by the way parents of young children admonish them to speak in English. The language and the tone that parents and teachers use is enough to indicate to a child that speaking in Hindi is wrong, and clearly something to be ashamed of. And that is worrying. Hindi is our national language. And if we do not instil a pride in this language then where do we stand as a nation?

I heard of people going up in arms over removing of the German language in schools. Doesn’t this strike you as ironic? A German chancellor telling us that we should relook at this decision. Now consider the reverse. Would we insist on Hindi being a second or third language in any country abroad? No. We would be so busy being ashamed of it, that the question would not even arise. Arre, we are ashamed if our own children talk in Hind, why the hell would we try to export it?

Given the way the Indian economy has been moving, and the number of expats I see moving into India exploring opportunities, why not insist on Hindi being mandatory for people to move here or work here? That’s what the Germans do. But the Germans are a league apart. Their pride in their country and their sense of nationalism is legendary and something we could learn from.

It is baseless to say that English is necessary if we are to keep pace with the rest of the world. Look at China. Look at Japan. And look at Germany.

Of course learn English. But not at the cost of making Hindi shameful.

Feeling ashamed of our roots is disgusting. And the way Bandra behaved at that concert was disgusting too.

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The calm after the storm!

I sit here now, in my balcony, high above the chaos called Mumbai, watching the rain tearing down for the 3rd consecutive day. A hot cup of coffee and a warm buttered toast sit beside me giving me comfort. But things were not this calm 2 hours back. 2 hours back I was in Saki Naka.

Saki Naka, as Mumbai people would know, is a place where time stands still. So does your car! And when it does move, it has a hard time deciding between plopping into a puddle and running into people-on-foot/traffic. Vast quantities of puddles. And even vaster quantities of people-on-foot/traffic.

Why was I in Saki Naka on this god forsaken day today, you may ask? 2 reasons. Ek to I am an entrepreneur. If I don’t go for an important meeting citing complete and total chaos thanks to the rains, I will not automatically still get a salary at the end of the month. So I have to be brave for the rozi roti. After all, client has also braved it to office, no? Secondly, I presumed, given the dire warnings of the city being swept away, a lot of people would refrain from gallivanting around at Saki Naka and hence the place would be relatively less choked of traffic. Clearly, a whole lot of other people also assumed the same with the result Saki Naka was still choked. Maybe lesser than normal days ( ah! Small mercies) but still choked.

Anyway, I leave you behind with some photos that I took on the way. Tell me again, why there shouldn’t be criminal proceedings against the people who made these roads!?

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My Mumbai Marathon

You have to be a certain kind of crazy to wake up at 4 am on a Sunday to run– says the CEO of a leading financial services company. I agree with him.

I have a lot of friends who just don’t get why some people do this. Or why I do this.

I was introduced to the Marathon in Delhi. In Delhi, as in Mumbai, the earlier years saw a lot of media coverage as well as public enthusiasm for what is known as the Dream Run – 6 kms of carnival. This saw a lot of participation particularly from corporates who sent in large contingents of employees wearing branded T – shirts, carrying their logo and what not. There was a lot of individual participation too. Prizes for best fancy dress costume, large speakers belting out the latest hits, people cheering on the sidelines, participants singing were the hallmark of the Dream Run. Everyone enjoyed the once a year Sunday morning walk. Some even tried to run. Slowly over the years the focus shifted to what the Marathon is really about – the marathon. Today you see more media coverage on the actual marathons. And why not? Running 21 kms or 42 kms is all about fitness and more importantly will power. Atleast the last 5 kms is sheer will. The will to carry on putting one foot in front of another even though every muscle is protesting. The Dream Run, of course, sees humungous participation too.

So the first year we ran the dream run in Delhi. Me, hubby and a couple of friends. Atleast, me and the couple of friends walked. Hubby ran. Then we moved to Mumbai. We missed the marathon the 1st year as we had no clue of the registration process but were careful about not missing the process the next time. Hubby, along with a colleague and very dear friend, decided they were going to do the half. I continued ambling along on my 6 kms with a deep sense of achievement at the end of it. I cannot forget the expression of pure exhilaration on the hubby’s face once he finished his first half marathon in 2 hours 6 minutes. This was in Jan 2010. He was hooked. He continued his tryst with the half and I with my Dream Run till sometime in 2012 he suggested that I try the half. He is like that. He’s always been responsible for figuring out my hidden strengths and helping me explore them.

I mulled over the thought till he told me in August that he’d registered for me too. There. So I started training. Irregularly. I still hadn’t discovered a love for road running. That was because I used to run 5-6 kms and give up.

January arrived and I was still not sure whether I could do it. His advice to me was simple. If you can’t run, walk. Just don’t give up. Finish it. Don’t think about the time taken. You have no clue of the high you’ll get once you cross the finish line.

So I ran my first half marathon in Jan 2013, last year. I started off on a high. He galloped ahead, while I took pictures of people running on the sea link. The first 8 kms were awesome. I felt so exhilarated. I felt a part of something HUGE. And then doubt set in. My first negative thought appeared on Worli seaface where I wondered what the heck I was doing. I could have been in bed, and reached later for my 6 kms which starts at a decent 9 am instead of an unearthly 5.30. And then came this bunch of Worli residents standing along the track with water, oranges, biscuits, jaggery, pushing and encouraging everyone to run. It gave me such a kick and so much motivation. I then learnt my first lesson of running a marathon. I began to break up the distance into short goals. Instead of thinking about the end, I thought about rewarding myself with a biscuit once I reached Haji Ali. It worked. Also, watching the full marathon runners on the other side gave me such encouragement. They were doing 42. I could do 21.

The next 5-6 kms were a breeze. Especially the Peddar Road stretch. More encouraging Mumbaikers, lots of music. By the time I hit 16 kms, hubby had reached. He called me. He was very encouraged by my time.

And then I hit Marine Drive. The last 5 kms of the Mumbai Marathon/Half Marathon are on Marine Drive. Those are the most difficult 5 kms. Marine Drive stretched endlessly in front of me and I knew I was going to give up. I started walking. Slowly. The phone ran again. More words of encouragement. I could still do this in 3 hours if I pushed myself a bit. Given that I had hoped to finish it 3.5 hours, I was highly encouraged. I dragged myself alternating between jogging, running and walking. I swore to myself I was not participating in this madness ever again. I enjoyed the Dream Run and I was going to continue with that.

The exhilaration was all gone, replaced by deep misgivings, anger and frustration. My muscles hurt. And then I saw a board that said 500 metres to go. I don’t know what happened. I don’t where I got the strength from. I started running like mad. Sprinting. I could see the finish line and I wasn’t going to waste another precious second. I had to do this in good time.

And then I crossed the finish line. The photographs that Procam ( the organizers) sent me shows me with a smile on my face. I had no clue I was smiling. I thought I would be grimacing.

I spotted my hubby standing right after the finish line. He guided me to the holding area and I sat down. And trust me. You have no idea of the exhilaration. The sense of achievement, pride, satisfaction and joy. The timing does matter. But what matter more is the fact that you crossed the finish line. And I knew I was going to this as long as I could. I finally finished in exactly 3 hours.

I ran my second half marathon this year and bettered my time by 6 whole minutes. Hubby graduated to the Full Marathon this year.

The Mumbai Marathon is awesome because you get to run 5 kms of it on the Bandra – Worli sea link. So many more kms are along the sea face. But what makes it most awesome are the huge no of residents who come to encourage you shouting slogans, carrying water and stuff to eat, encouraging you to believe in yourself that you can finish this. I know for sure I can’t do this without their encouragement.

I love the Mumbai Marathon.

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That’s rude!

We are a nation of rude, boorish people. Take a pause and think before you start feeling all indignant. We are. And I don’t blame us. With so many people competing for limited resources, massive income differentials, an everyday struggle that leaves us sapped and frustrated, there is ample reason for us to not give a damn about our fellow human beings. I mean who cares about others when life for me is such a struggle, right?

Take for instance the crowded food court of a crowded mall last Sunday. People with food trays were constantly looking for places to seat themselves while the seated were zealously guarding their chairs while friends and family were away ordering. Into this chaos came a father with 2 absolutely adorable kids between the ages of 4-6. With 2 trays laden with McDonald’s goodies, they looked for a table. They were lucky to find a table. But there were only 2 chairs. The father seated the children but had no chair for himself. The children needed help being fed so the father too needed a chair. I saw him ask around for extra chairs at every table but with no luck. On the table next to me sat a family of 5. On one chair sat all their shopping bags. I watched interestedly as they watched the father look around for a chair. But not one from their family offered to give up the chair on which they had placed their bags. How rude is that. It’s a simple gesture but I’m surprised they didn’t even think of it.

I can never let these things go by without butting in. So I asked them if they would mind placing their bags on the ground and give up the chair. THE GUY ON THAT TABLE ACTUALLY HESITATED. The woman was smarter. She caught the look of intense irritation developing on my face and immediately said it was ok. But I wasn’t giving up. I pointedly waited till they had placed their bags on the ground and gestured to the father to take away the chair.

It’s not just this incident. I’m increasingly beginning to feel that we are turning more boorish with every passing year. Look at our behavior on the roads. We park in no parking zones, we honk incessantly, we fight in malls, we fight on the roads. And all for what? It leaves us feeling tired, frustrated and unhappy. Trust me. Learn to be a happier, more forgiving citizen. It will only help you.

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The poor Indian flyer

I was taking a flight from Mumbai to Delhi a few days back. I was on the stairs to the craft when I heard a busy voice making stern announcements. The phrase ‘on time’ popped up a couple of times. Already. I’m not even on the plane. I was reduced to a state of panic. Oh my god. Hurry! Hurry! I don’t want to hold this plane up. Oh my God. What if I don’t find space for my cabin baggage. Oh my God. I’ll then be holding up all the other people behind me. Oh my God! Will I be responsible for this plane not being ‘on time’. Oh my God! Visions of a stern air hostess pointing me out and saying ‘Lady, can you please sit down. You are making the plane late. As a punishment you’ll have to clean the entire craft before we land so as we can be on time for our next flight!! Oh. My. God!

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Mumbai and noise

It is always the empty ones that make the most noise – autos and taxis, I mean. Their drivers obviously have somewhere very urgent to be. And the vehicles in front of them have nowhere to be, right? Yeah! Like there is a single vehicle on Mumbai roads that is not in a freaking hurry to get somewhere. So WHY honk.

The minute I get into a taxi or an auto, I tell the driver to NOT honk. Sternly. This is for my benefit as much as the other people on the road. I think the noise levels in this city have gone way beyond human acceptable levels. I think a lot of things in this city have gone wayyyy beyond acceptable levels.

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Going short – a tale of stressed tresses.

After 35 years of long, rebellious, unruly hair, I chopped them off for a short crop and thought that was the end of my hair problems.

“Midlife crisis”, muttered hubby.

“Oh please”, I said, running my fingers lovingly through my hair, “ You just can’t handle the fact that I look so sexy”.

And on that happy note I went to sleep, dreaming about a ‘sexy’ wardrobe overhaul to go with the new hair.

Till I woke up the next morning. Of course, the first thing I did was to rush to the mirror, to see whether all was well with the hair.

It was not.

The front had developed a mind of its own and defiantly stood out in all directions. Alarmed, I got a smaller mirror and checked out the back.  It had flattened itself to the skull and looked like a hideous black cap. Not at all the bouncy, chic hairstyle of yesterday.

The hubby, after clearly what had been an internal struggle between snorting with laughter and showing sympathy, decided in favor of the latter.

It will get better after you wash it, he said. You can also blow dry it to get the effect from yesterday.

I nodded doubtfully, remembering the complicated twisting and turning of the hair with various brushes coupled with the blow-dryer held at alarming angles that had achieved the look. Would I be able to do that? And to top it all I had to rush to office early.

A quick shampoo later, I studied the arsenal I had laid out. One blow dryer, one roller brush and one normal comb. OK! I could do this.

I had no clue where to begin.

Oh god, I thought brandishing the blow dryer, this was a huge mistake.

I picked up the roller brush first. Err… but were the front bangs supposed to be curled upwards or downwards. I decided to go with upwards. I curled the hair around the brush and aimed the blow dryer. I unfurled it with trepidation. Yes. Perfect. If I ever wanted a part as the cartoony sidekick in a bad Hollywood flick, I knew what I had to do.

I curled it downwards this time and aimed the blow dryer with a vengeance for a full minute. I opened it out. Better. Except I couldn’t see. The hair curled right into my eyes. And my arms were beginning to hurt already from constantly holding up the hair and the dryer.

I would need to be scientific about this, I resolved. I just needed to get the front to one side. Which meant that I had to dry them sideways now. Which I did. And they marginally, only marginally, looked like what they had the previous evening.

The back in the meantime was drying up. In various directions. I couldn’t, just couldn’t remember what she had done. So I rolled one section in a random direction and started blowdrying  it. No , no, no. I didn’t need to do that jig with a smaller mirror to check out the back. I knew it was all wrong. My upper arms were really hurting by now. And I was beginning to feel mighty annoyed with the stylist. I had specifically told her to give me an easy- to- maintain haircut. And to think I gave her a tip for this mess.

I was never ever going to cut my hair again, I thought crossly.

I was running out of time. That’s when inspiration stuck. I was just going to blow dry it without the brushes. Just blow dry it unscientifically. Without getting all tangled up in the brushes and the blow dryer wires. And I did. And people, by the time I reached office, it looked just great. And fetched me a few compliments too. I mentally apologized to my stylist. And decided to not panic the next time I did something ‘different’ with my hair. And for the past few times that I’ve gone  to her– technically for a trim – I’ve allowed her to tweak the hairstyle. With the result that I come out with a new ‘look’ every time.

It took me 35 years to realize that it was ok to experiment with my hair.I have to control my hair. Not the other way round :). Oh, and I’ve managed to learn a trick or two about blowdrying my hair!!

If you love your hair as much as I do, maybe you should check out the Dove hair-aware app. I just did.

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Protests by the Youth

I saw this huge poster today near Bandra Bandstand which said ” The Youth want their freedom back” or something to that effect.

I am as appalled as the next person at the thought that I need to be morally policed. Of course not. I am an adult in my mid thirties who when she goes out to a bar at night with her husband/ friends is not out to do anything illegal or harmful. I am only trying to chill after a f*@*#* up day of office politics, dealing with friends reeling from a BAAD economy and job and salary cuts, traffic jams and various other ills that this country has to offer. The last thing I need is someone taking me off to a police station because I am out ‘too late’ or I may be ‘doing drugs’.

However, I am a little disappointed that this issue is raising so much hoo haa while the youth has never questioned on why the sea link ,in spite of having opened 3 years back is still incomplete. Or why roads are in such a bad condition. Or why there is no flyover on Peddar Road. Because I, sure as hell, have a bad back due to driving up and down that road every day. Simple things. I’m not even asking them to question bigger issues like why some places in India still don’t have electricity. Heck, Delhi doesn’t have electricity forget some unknown village. I’m just saying maybe it’s time to put up a board at every pothole questioning why there is a pothole there.

Maybe I sound ridiculous. And I’m obviously opening myself to comments such as ” Yes, but have YOU done anything about it?’ No I haven’t. But I also haven’t put up a board questioning what a certain ACP in Mumbai is doing.

My point is – choose your issues. But don’t neglect the ones that are not a passing phase. Dhoble is. Whatever, or whoever, is prompting him to do this will find something else to target soon. But we will continue to spend 30 minutes to traverse 1 km on Peddar Road and staring at a sea link which suddenly disappears mid air because of our own as well as  the administration’s apathy.

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Remembering Calcutta

To play a raunchy actress in Dirty Picture and then follow it up with so contrasting a character as that of a pregnant woman searching for her husband, and play both to perfection, requires talent. Hats off to Vidya Balan. But the hero in this movie was truly the story. Pacy, and with the right amount of twist at just the right moment towards the end.  I was also impressed by the actor who played Rana – the rookie cop who helps her out. Very understated, very shy, very sweet.  But what I loved best was Calcutta. Oh Calcutta. The city, which amidst decay, still manages to exude so much warmth, culture, friendship and color.

I was born in Calcutta. Don’t remember much from that stint. But I am sure that fact has something to do with my love for Bengali food. So in 2003 when my husband was given the opportunity to move there, I was quite bemused. Armed with much ‘Oh you have to go here’ and ‘ you have to go there’ by my mom, who I think was far more excited about me going there, I landed in the city of joy. It was a week before Christmas. The company put us up at a charming hotel very close to Park Street. And the very first evening, post a long and tiring day looking for houses, I decided to walk through Palk Street towards my husband’s office to join him for dinner. I can never forget the way Park Street looked. All lit up.  I joined a group of carol singers just off Park Street and promptly fell in love with the city.

I lived life in Calcutta exactly the way Calcutta expects you to live life there. In the slow lane :).  

I worked with an NGO -on some very flexible timings, did theatre, made loads of friends and ate out at some awesome restaurants. I loved the place. Yes, of course, I do agree that work wise, the place was a little slow. Ask my husband. The very punju, aggressive professional  that he is, Calcutta was a huge shock 🙂

The first time a city bandh was announced, he dismissed the news. What bandh? How ridiculous! Of course, I’m going to office. But baby, they say you shouldn’t step out. They may pelt stones at your car or something, I tried to warn him. To no avail. The building guard was shocked.  No no sir, you can’t go out, he said.

10 minutes. Exactly 10 minutes later a visibly chastened hubby stood at the door. Apparently , a group of men waved his car down, kindly told him to step back home or they would deflate the car tyres.

Around 15 days later, the opposition party announced a bandh. Hubby didn’t even make the effort to venture out this time! But he wasn’t happy about the place. So a year it was. I won’t say I was very pleased to leave the city. I have lovely memories of the biryani at Shiraz, the champ at Ameena, chaelo kebab at Peter Cat, fish curry from a small joint on Free School Street and the many, many other places that we ate at; the NGO where I worked, the P G Wodehouse club readings, hopping into a tram just for the fun of it, walking around all night to visit as many pandals as possible during the puja, reworking on my Bengali which came back so instinctively, and last but not the least- the friends that I made. It was an awesome year of my life.

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The mantra in Mumbai, and I’m assuming across all other major metros in India, is – Have Horn. Will Honk. I am by now so irritated with the rising noise levels in this city that it is beginning to translate into crazy behavior. Like the other day, travelling by cab, I was next to another cab whose free left turn was being blocked by a largish car that possibly wanted to go straight. The largish car was obviously in the wrong lane. But honking LOUDLY was not going to change that. And it was a matter of a minute or so before the lights changed. Yet the cab next to me relentlessly kept honking till I popped my head out and screamed. My own cab driver turned around and wanted to know if I was mad!!

And it set me thinking. If I was in that cab driver’s place I would have possibly relentlessly honked too.

Firstly, I completely agree there are people walking, animals, cycles in the wrong lanes, rickshaws also sometimes in the wrong lanes, heck even cars in the wrong lane, and umpteen other valid reasons to honk, maybe even at 3 ‘o’ clock in the night, but what irks me big time is when I see someone honking for NO reason at all. Nothing ahead of them. Yet honk. And some of them can be really sharp. I vaguely think there is a law against honking. I am not sure but am planning to look that up. Though I have no clue how that is going to help me. But really, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I propose you reduce honking now. I also think that automobile companies owe to the planet to reduce the volume on the horns they put in the cars. Otherwise, I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting effected.

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