Saturday, 29 September 2012

Jostling for space – “A foreigner in my very own country”

“Konjam Thallikonga” were the words that drifted towards my ears while I was concentrating on a small pink rose neatly pinned (using a safety pin) on a young woman’s hair near me. I whirled around and came face-to face with a elderly woman kindly looking into my eyes. I gave her back my sweetest smile but she did not seem to be satisfied with it. Frowning, she raised the pitch of her voice and concentrating on every syllable said “T-H-A-L-L-I-K-O-N-G-A”. This time I understood the frantic motion of her hands asking me to shift and I gladly obliged. By this time almost everyone in the public bus I was travelling in were staring at me in a disapproving manner. But how to explain my co-passengers that I did not understand TAMIL (the predominant language spoken in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu) and it was not that I was an arrogant girl not wanting to give space to my fellow passengers. Never mind the fact that the bus was overflowing with people and the smell of fresh Gajra (white-coloured flower the south-Indian ladies put on their hair) intertwined with sweat greets your nose every time you get on board.

Welcome, to my new life. I am a marwari born and brought up in Kolkata who has recently got married and shifted to Coimbatore. The above mentioned incident, in its varied forms, happens regularly to me on my daily ride to the office I’m currently doing my training with. When people around me come to know that I do-not-understand Tamil let alone speak it they shake their heads in sheer disbelief like you-would-do- when- Mr. Manmohan Singh- resigned.

Once, a middle aged lady clad in a deep-coloured silk saree asked me something with a very sweet smile. As usual, I stared back and gave my million-dollar smile as if I was telling her “Mere toothpaste mein namak hai”(loosely translated it means “My toothpaste has Salt”). I assumed she must have told something funny and my smile would be sufficient enough an answer. However, she had asked me a question and was expecting a reply as was apparent from her facial expressions. So I told her “Tamil –Venda”(Tamil – NO) later I was taught by my office colleagues to say “Tamil Teriyadhu” (meaning I do not know Tamil). Aha!! That moment the calamity struck as people around me looked incredulously with sympathetic expression etched on their faces. That lady too looked at me in pity as if I was dying from blood-cancer and she could not do anything. Then she spoke in half-English-half Tami style “Oh my Gawddd! How sad!! How do you manage in this city and why you don’t know Tamil??” I replied ”You know English/Hindi?”she shook her head.”Marwari?” she again shook her head.”Bengali?” “No”. Now it was my turn to look at her in disbelief with my eyes as wide as saucers and say “Oh my Gawd. How sad!!!”. Then, I explained to her that I had recently got married and shifted here and so could not speak the local language. Hopefully it satisfied her inquisitive streak.

Around a month later, I boarded a bus as usual from my regular stop and somehow made space for myself to stand near a hand rail. I heard the conductor shouting on top of his voice to no one in particular. By this time, I was capable of understanding a few words but to my dismay he was talking really fast and moreover he was yelling and it made it almost impossible to decipher what he was saying. I thought that once he is finished with his yelling I ll buy the ticket. It struck me as very awkward but a lot of people around me were glancing in my direction. Then, the moment he stopped yelling, I politely asked him for a ticket. He looked at me angrily and again started yelling and to my surprise this time the yelling was directed at me. I looked around in an utterly confused and dazed manner, silently hoping that a God-sent translator would be there to help me out but to no avail. Then I also shouted saying “I do-not-know Tamil”. The conductor stared back at me in fright apparently taken aback with my sudden high-pitched shouting. Then muttered in broken English “staying-in-Coimbatore & saying I-don’t-know-Tamil”. A lady who had asked me something before and I had not replied also pitched in saying “Impossible!!! Staying in Coimbatore and not understanding any Tamil. It is the language of the state”. I glared back at her and said “You staying in India from past 40 years and you do not know hindi which is the national language of this country then how do you expect me to know Tamil when I have landed in this city only 6 months back.” She silently observed me from top to bottom and then explained to me that the conductor had been yelling and asking people to buy tickets as there were surprise checks happening that day!!!. I could not suppress a smile on my folly!!

From that time onwards, almost all the regular passengers pass a smile to me and the conductors of the buses silently come and give me the ticket to the regular stop I get down at. I am glad and truly blessed that way - to not know Tamil!!!

It depends on us how we can turn the situation in our favour. In case, there is some problem/issue you are facing in life always ponder upon how you can turn it in your favour, and do not waste time feeling low or upset. All of us are entitled to lead Magical Lives. You have to create the Magic yourself.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Why “Apple” Creates & “Straw-berry” captivates??? - Yes U Can Get whatever U want!!!

Why “Apple” Creates & “Straw-berry” captivates???

Yes, I mean the fruit in its natural avatar only!! Issac Newton was helped by apples to discover Law-of-Gravitation while I was helped by strawberries to ensure myself that Law-of-Attraction was for real. Before u start imagining the strawberries falling on my head in its juicy glory (like it falls on their face in the lakme face wash ad!!!lolz!)let me put your wild imaginations to rest!!!   

Most of you would agree that S-T-R-A-W-B-E-R-R-Y is the most yummylicious thing on earth and I don’t mean its flavoured versions of ice-creams, cup-cakes, mousse and God knows what not!!! I am talking about the raw, original-organic pinkish (I m a typical girl in love with her pinks!!) reddish coloured fruit. I had been madly, desperately in an insane kind-of-way wanting to have it. In an off-season, it was available only in shops selling imported fruits tagged at exorbitant prices.

Not being the one to be defeated so easily, I decided to try attracting it with Law of Attraction (I had recently read the book “the Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and was hell-bent on trying it out). I tried it for 3 consecutive day and night by imagining that I am holding, licking, sucking and eating strawberries. I even went to the extent of peeling away the tiny green leaves on top and throwing it off. I was so engrossed in it that even when I used to be eating apples, I could almost feel it to be strawberries!

On the 4th day, the shrill Tring- Tring of the landline phone woke me up. My Mom answered the call and then informed me that it was my aunt. Her daughter’s house was in the same city and since she was in USA, she asked my mom to send a basket of imported fruits to her house (along with cake, flowers etc.) as it was her daughter’s birthday. I tagged along with her like an extra baggage to the imported fruit shop. There we got the fruits packed (You just have to tell your budget & they’ll put appropriate fruits in an attractive packaging). The fact that he did not add strawberries hit me like a bucket of cold water splashed on my face (Okay I’m exaggerating!! But only a teeny-weeny bit). It was too expensive and adding it would have reduced the size of the packed tray.

 In a forlorn manner, I kept staring at the strawberries on the racks like a child prying for chocolates. My mom gave me a stern look which screamed do-not-embarrass-me. The Owner of the shop (a cranky old fellow) was giving us dubious stares. Just then like a fool I uttered “Oh! You keep strawberries also” (as if a fruit shop would keep ice-creams!!).The old fellow looked up at me incredulously and I managed to save face by murmuring “No..umm..I mean they look good.” And then Lo & behold, the magic struck-the fairy waved her wand as the words “Madam has come to OUR shop and you have not made her taste our specialties” drifted towards my ears. Uncle (no more a cranky old fellow for me!!!Wink) asked his staff to get a few pieces of strawberry and Australian grapes in a disposable tray for me to taste. Like a child who had been granted his wish of meeting mickey mouse (or is it shin-chan & doraemon now),I picked up the fruits.

Well this is my true personal life experience (back in mid-2009) when Strawberries helped me discover Law of Attraction. Since that time, whenever I feel low or want something from life, I remember this moment and it has a magical effect on me. Do you know what your Strawberry is???Go Grab it NOW!!!


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Book Review - Tea for two and a piece of Cake.

Are Fairy-tale endings of “Lived -happily -

 Tea for two and a piece of cake – an       unconventional title for a book which    deals with a gamut of human emotions ranging from the peak of ecstasy to the pits of despair. Only Preeti Shenoy’s creative and artistic abilities could have conjured up such a title, it does not allow a peek into the main story-line of the book at all. If you are a person like me who does not believe in reading the summary of the book before sitting down to devour it, then you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Her previous book “Life is what you make it” dealt with bipolar disorder. This made me assume that her current book also would be dealing with some sort of psychological issues because that’s what most authors do. If a certain book/movie hits the popularity chart then that particular author/director would continue in the same genre churning out (sometimes mind-less stuff!!) in the same subject. Repeated stuff on typical light-hearted romantic stories, item songs etc or even churning out sequels of the movie which was declared a blockbuster are all killers of creativity and original thinking. Experts advise to stick to a particular genre (whichever subject being your strength) to ensure a loyal readership base but the true test of creativity and talent lies in experimentation with different subjects.  Hats off to Preeti Shenoy for her courage to write on whichever topic is close to her heart. However, all my notions had been ousted the moment I started reading the book. I actually stayed awake well past midnight just to finish reading the book. (t’was impossible to put it down!!!)

The book started like a story of any other ordinary girl, but then the protagonist embarks on the journey of a fairy tale life and gets married to this rich and handsome guy. Well it was not meant to be a “lived happily ever after” ending. This is where Preeti has dealt with the storyline in a refreshingly bold and unpredictable manner. She has portrayed the blunders made by both the sides (male and female) in dealing with the sacred institution of marriage. I loved the part where the man shares the emotions he had gone through. In our Society, the girl is always projected as a saint while the man is blamed for two-timing, treachery etc. Preeti has done an excellent job in detailing out how the lack of understanding and nonchalant attitude of the female led to destruction of their personal lives. The astonishing part comes when the man gives a cold shoulder to his wife even when his own child was in the hospital. It indeed proved the horrific lack of humanity in him.

This unconventional and enthralling tale of human lives and relationships makes you sit up and question your pre-conceived notions about the ideals set by society. 
The book is complete in itself and it touches a chord with people wanting to move over after a failed relationship or someone wanting to be self-sufficient for her living expenses. It is indeed a source of inspiration for all.

The most striking feature I would like to point out is that in both the books the emphasis is on “Living a magical life”. Ankita and Nisha, both the female protagonists of Preeti’s books manage to fight all odds and carve out a life for themselves which is magical in the true sense. After all, if all is fair and smooth then we don’t realize that our life has also been a magical fairy-tale life. A life well lived ought to have its share of pits and bumps.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Top 10 Weekend Getaways from Chennai

Top 10 Weekend Getaways from Chennai

Chennai!!! Why it is hardly ever an option for the travelers looking for fun, adventure and relaxation all rolled into one is beyond my understanding. Most of the people conveniently forget that it’s a metropolitan city due to its extremely laid back nature and language barriers the NRI’S/Expats or for that matter even the north Indians face there. Okay, now all said and done you have landed up in Chennai and have to live here thanks to your work transfer or any other unavoidable reason.(Unless you are a Tamil and your heart lies in your native city).

Welcome to Chennai’s (erstwhile Madras) extremely hot and humid climate. But there are umpteen ways to beat the scorching heat and take a quick break from the mad and crazy pace of life in big cities. There are zillions of options for places in and around Chennai where you can enjoy the best moments of life either with your special someone or with your complete family.

Do check out these places if you are a person who wants to do out of the box stuff or even if you want a relaxed, peaceful and a strict no adventure holiday. (You can thank me later!!!!)

1.      Pondicherry – At a distance of just 163 Km from Chennai it is the ideal weekend getaway to spend some quite moments with your spouse/special someone in the lap of Mother Nature. The 2 hrs 30 minutes drive would come-what-may be one of the most breathtaking drive of your life where you would just forget, that heaven was not really on earth for mortals like us. This quaint little French boulevard town is distinctly divided into two parts. One half being a beautiful French style town with complimenting architecture and the other half being a run-of-the-mill small south Indian towns. You can whiz around this place on a bike (it’s easily available on rent) with the cool breeze slapping your face and messing up your perfectly gelled and combed hair. Then there is always the option of crashing down on the bed after a hearty meal of lip-smacking food accompanied with the best of wines available. Auroville is a must visit place which is dedicated to human unity. Sri Aurobindo Society is another must visit place where you can learn a lot about culture as this society works towards individual perfection, social transformation and human unity based on a spiritual foundation. The shopaholics can indulge themselves in the extensive collection of handmade papers, export surplus garments from Tirupur and other items sure to catch your fancy.

2.               MahabaliPuram -   This historical town with jaw-dropping carvings intricately engraved on the monuments and temples is just 54 Km away from Chennai. The ideal destination for the NRI’s or anyone with a keen interest in the history of our Country. If admiring architecture is not exactly your cup of tea then also you need not lose heart as there are still a couple of things you can do here. The silvery sandy beaches look inviting enough to take a walk on or simply complete your quota of sitting and staring at the sea or the sky. The extensively lavish variety of hand-made crafts would be a collector’s delight. The grandeur of the temples is bound to intoxicate you for years to come. World famous dance festivals are conducted on weekends and the months of December and January on the back drop of Arjun’s penance. Even people like me who claim to have two left feet are sure to be completely bowled over by the extraordinary dancers.

3.  Chidambaram – A call for the religious people out there! This place is bound to enchant you with its Nataraja Temple and the pious atmosphere which hangs around the town. A journey of 240 Km from Chennai, it’s your call whether you want to go via road or rail. The unique posture of the deity in the temple is one of its kinds in the world. It’s a pilgrimage site for Shaivites and Vaishnavites. A must visit place for all the temple lovers’ and people with a deep penchant for the mythological history.

     4. Horseley Hills –Situated in Andhra Pradesh it’s a famous summer hill Resort at a distance of approx 274 Km from Chennai (depending on where you are situated)! The scenic beauty of the place, which you can discover through a drive of the narrow roads, is sure to whet your appetite for more. The dense growth of EucalyptusGulmohar and Jacaranda trees seem to come alive from the pictures we saw in the geography text books. You can hike, trek, walk or enjoy the breathtaking view points from the hills. Zorbing (a sport where they put u inside a plastic inflated balloon and you can go rolling down!!) and Repelling (a form of Rock-Climbing) is a must try to fully enjoy the magic of this place.

    5. Thanjavur – The ideal time to visit the place would be from November to February. The place is well connected from Chennai by road and rails both and is at a distance of 314 Km from Chennai. The Brihadeeswarar temple is the most visited monument here. There are tons of things you can do here from visiting monuments to watching movies in the state-of-art Multiplexes. Tanjore Paintings (made from gold foil) are a must buy gift for your near and dear ones.

     6. Tirupati – This city is house to one of the World’s richest Temples to Lord Venkateswara. You can feast your eyes on the dome of the Temple made from Gold or simply be in awe of the sheer quantity of the offerings in gold, silver, precious stones etc made to the Lord. The heavenly driving experience from the city to the temple cannot be penned down. It is a very popular tourist attraction and hence well connected to the other cities and countries. The administration and the infrastructure is well structured and managed. You can relish all the south Indian delicacies here which are sure to keep you craving for more.

       7..Kanchipuram – Yes! You have read it right it’s a name of the city too apart from being the world famous name of Silk Sarees. Temples and Silk Industry is a characteristic feature of this place. The distinguishing factor of Silk Sarees is that none of the materials used in it is sourced locally but only the weaving part is done here. Apart from temples (which are a trademark place to visit when touring this part of India!!) it is the visit to the local weavers which is the main attraction. The curious cats can quench their thirst of knowledge by witnessing firsthand the process of weaving from silk threads and creating a magical six yard piece of wonder!

8.   Ooty – The Queen of hill stations nestled in the Nilgris Hills is an overnight journey from Chennai. The beauty of this place cannot be explained but only experienced. On the way to your destination do take a drive through Coonoor (preferably in the early morning) to experience heaven on Earth. I can tell you from my own personal experience, that the drive on the deserted lanes with the dried fallen leaves from the trees, carpeting your way is a feeling of nirvana. The view points on this stretch are lovely and it will take some effort on your part to tear yourself away from the points and continue your journey. The sheer joy of eating even the simplest of food like hot maggi and coffee is absolutely incredible. Boating is a fun option in Ooty.  Also the Botanical Gardens are a must visit.

      9. Yelagiri Hills - A quick unplanned getaway from the hustle and bustle of the fast paced city life – if this is what is running in your mind then do take a trip here. Buses are available or you could drive down if you are one of those who is a die-hard passionate driver. The best part is that this is a place where the mobiles and laptops will not intrude your privacy and you can spend a good time with yourself listening to the winds and chirping of birds. The waterfall and an artificial lake are about the only places you can go visiting. This place can satisfy your urge of going to undiscovered places by the tourists. So go and set your foot prints in this still remote and undiscovered hill station of the Country.

10.   Vandalur Zoo – The first public Zoo of the Country which is located in Vandalur is just 31Km away from the city centre. In case, you just need a nice day outing with your family or friends this is the ideal place to visit. For all the animal lovers this place is a blessing in disguise. The heavenly feeling you get on watching your children shriek with utter amazement and delight on watching the animals is inexplicable. Black buck, jaguar, panther, wolf are few mammals among the wide variety of species you can feast your eyes on. The rare species like European brown bearMuscovy duckBengal TigerWhite Tiger in the Zoo are sure to delight your senses. The Elephant Safaris (you can ride the poor animal as it takes you on a pleasurable tour around the park) provides the much needed relief to your tired legs.