More Metro Tales

A common sight these days, in any public place, is heads bent over the android phones. Oh so intently, like their lives depend on that message they are sending or the video they are busy watching. This has been such a common sight that it has given rise to a lot of memes and videos telling us of the disadvantages of being glued to the screen. Every time I travel by the metro, I am greeted by this common sight.
As I take the metro in the morning to my classes, I change metro lines. So I take two trains.
Today, on my way back, I saw this young lady so intent on watching Big Boss on her mobile that she was standing quite close to the doors. I silently prayed that she wouldn’t fall off when the doors opened at the next station. Well, she managed to get off without any problem. (I couldn’t click her picture as the train was crowded).
As I changed trains, there was a rare sight that awaited me in the ladies compartment. I did a double take. And also clicked a picture of the girl (cropped for privacy reasons). Take a look!
To the girl in the picture: If you are reading this, dear, be careful as you get down the stairs (I saw you with your eyes still glued to the book as you approached the stairs)! You reminded me of my younger days, when I was just as crazy.
But well – I guess a book is any day better than the smart phone!
Do you agree?

Separation from the Smartphone

A discussion on the thought if it would be possible for a person to stay without their smartphone for a day reminded me of this incident. This happened a few months ago.

The couple had moved newly to the house and had thought of having a small party for a few friends. It was a small gathering of about 15 people. The surroundings were not really familiar to them, though there was a very busy marketplace nearby with all kinds of shops. They had decided to order the food from outside for dinner. They had planned to prepare only the snacks at home, to go with the drinks.
Around 7 pm, the host went out to collect the food for which he had already placed the order that noon. He was expected to be back in 15 minutes. An hour passed. There was no sign of the host. By 8 pm, the guests had started arriving. They refused to start the drinks without him. One could see the worry on her face, though she tried to hide it. But after another hour passed and there was still no sight of him, they relented, and the men started with the drinks. The kids were busy in their own world, playing and running around. The ladies sat and caught up with the latest. But she was only thinking why he was so late. She called him on his mobile, only to hear a loud ring right beside her. He had left both his phones at home!! That was the ultimate!
The guests began to tease her saying he had left the phone deliberately as he wanted some time away from the wife. Or he must have met an ex at the market. And the lighthearted banter continued.
After what seemed like ages, he came home with so many parcels of food. There was a huge sigh of relief by all on seeing him. And after he was well-teased for leaving the phones behind, the party continued late into the night.
And did they fight after the party? My guess is as good as yours, as no one asked them!
So much tension just because of a forgotten phone!

A tribute to Courage

This was about fifteen years ago. Those were the days when my friend and I were facing some similar problems in life. We had started our own venture that had gone downhill. It was like everything was closing in on us. We had suffered financial loss. Our morale was at an all-time low. Around this time, we got into social service, and we tried to help the lesser privileged to the best of our capacities. It gave us some sort of peace.
We went to meet her on the appointed day at the appointed time.
If you have ever been to Bangalore, you would have heard of Tannery road. But you would never bother to visit the area. People above the poverty line generally do not visit this place. Moreover, the stench is so appalling, even the most noblest of souls would do a retake on entering these dingy lanes.
We walked through smelly little lanes. There were houses on either side of the lanes. We were taken to a small house there. She was sitting on a cot. At the time we met her, she was about 22 years of age. Her limbs were immovable. She could not move her neck, too. She was completely immobile. She could speak, see, eat, and hear. Feel sensations too, which was proved when a mosquito bit her hand. She called her cousin nearby for help to get rid of the insect and to scratch her arm.
Gul (name changed) lives alone in this place. Her father had deserted her and her mother. The mother had struggled to meet ends, and had brought up the daughter singlehandedly. Her education had come to a complete standstill by the time she completed class ten, when a debilitating disease took over her body, and she slowly and steadily lost sensation part by part. By the time she completed school, she could no longer move her limbs or her neck. The mother then fell ill and was bedridden. An uncle, who was financially poor but rich by heart, offered to take any one of these two into his home, as he could not afford to look after both women. His house was quite small, too. Gul asked for her mother to be taken care of. What the disease could not take away from her was her strength and courage.
We were offered ice cold Fanta brought from a nearby store. Such hospitality, from a girl who could even move her neck! We were full of curiosity, and started asking questions. How did she manage her life? “I give tuitions”, she said. We just exchanged glances. She had studied only up to the tenth grade. So it was a big question as to how she did that. We asked her for more details. She said she taught kids from the surrounding slums, who were in classes below grade ten. Then she further explained, “I ask them to keep the book in front of me and I ask them to turn the page when required. I explain the lessons to them”. She charged Rs.75 from each child.
We looked around the small place. It had a single cot by the door, and a couple of chairs. The place was spic and span. Gul too, was dressed in clean clothes. Her nails were neatly trimmed. We went into the kitchen. Again, it had the bare necessary items, and was clean. This was the last thing we expected in a house situated in the slums off Tannery road! We asked Gul about how she managed to keep herself and her house so clean. She paid Rs.300 to another woman in the neighborhood to come and do the cleaning. The woman came in the morning, helped her with the morning rituals, fed her, cleaned the house, gave her a bath, clothed her, and made her sit on the cot. She later came in the night to make her sleep. The uncle who took care of her mother brought food for Gul, who ate just once in the day. She did not drink water after a particular time so that she did not have to depend on someone to go to the loo.
It was summer, and schools were closed for the vacations. I questioned Gul on this and asked if children came for tuitions, as they would not study during the vacations. “I conduct summer camps!” she cheerfully replied. A fly could have entered my mouth at that point. She further explained, that she arranges for the children to play indoor games, and give away some small prizes. She charged them a small amount. As we spoke, the girl expressed her desire to visit the US. Why US, and why not any other country, we asked out of curiosity. She said, “America has so much respect for people like me. They also have so many public facilities where people like me can move around without much of a problem”. Hmm. Ambitions too!
At this point, we couldn’t control our tears. Here was this brave young woman fighting so many battles so cheerfully, and we were feeling dejected for a couple of setbacks in life? We had almost given up the battle and succumbed to self pity.
Gul gave us fresh hope in life. We returned, humbled and chastised. Count your blessings, we told ourselves. We were educated, able bodied, healthy, and we had our families that supported and loved us. The only thing we needed at that point of time, was a good dose of courage. Which Gul supplied us in plenty.
We directed her to an NGO that arranged for Gul to have a regular amount of money given to her so that her basic needs were taken care of.
Each time I feel low, I remember this brave girl for my dose of vitamin Courage. God bless the Guls of the world!

Women’s Day

This morning, as I sat down with my morning cup of tea and the newspaper, I was shocked by an advert to ban celebrating the women’s day this year. Wear black, and join a protest against the rapes, it said. It highlighted the fact that in India, a woman is victimized every two minutes. What are we celebrating, it questioned.
Now this made sense. A certain part of society, especially in the metros, enjoys privileges of the women’s day, and there are discounts and freebies galore to celebrate. We exchange greetings and wish each other, and extol the virtues of being a woman. Poets are born to praise the woman, and how far she has come. But look at the larger picture, and we see the atrocities against women every day. They have been on the increase. Not to speak of new-born babies getting raped!
So, what is the answer? Well, personally, I feel that the day we do something about uplifting one another is the day we would really celebrate being a woman. The day the woman is really respected for what she contributes to the society, and the family at the grass-root level. Her contribution to society, whether she stays home and brings up the future citizens with the right values, or chairs meetings with equal ease. Otherwise, the 8th of March is just another day on the calendar. Would you agree?


A friend of mine was visiting India after a long time. He is a research scientist and works for a prestigious company in the US. He was invited for dinner at his cousin’s place (let’s call her M). She is known for her wry wit among her circle of acquaintances.

He had called M and asked the question we generally get to hear from those returning from the US – ‘What do you want from here?’ M was of the opinion that these days the world has truly become a global village, and we can get anything we want in a big city in India … especially in Bangalore. So she politely declined, saying she wanted nothing. But he insisted so much that she finally said, ‘I have all I need, but if you can get me some ilicide, it would be really nice!’ the man was confounded as he had no idea what an ilicide was. But he did not dare ask for fear of ridicule and also of appearing ignorant. Big mistake.
A few days before he left for India, he made enquiries of where he could find ilicide, and was met with either blank or hostile stares. He wanted to buy a present for his cousin M, and it was the first time she had openly expressed a wish to have something. He had no luck, and therefore landed in India sans the gift M had wanted.

At the dinner, he sheepishly presented her a box of chocolates (you can’t go wrong with that most of the times) and apologized for not having got what she had asked for. M was embarrassed in front of all the guests, and hastily accepted the chocolates with a big smile. But our friend could no longer control his curiosity. He pulled her aside and asked her, ‘What is this ilicide, and where do you get it?’

It was her turn to look sheepish. She hesitated. ‘No, it was nothing… I was a bit upset at that time! I really am sorry about that!’ But you cannot give that kind of an answer to a research scientist and get away with it, now, can you? He persisted until she finally gave in. With a quick look around to ensure she was not being overheard, she said, ‘You have heard of insecticides and pesticides? Those are for insects and pests. This ilicide is to keep away pesky in-laws. It has not been manufactured yet in India. So I wondered if an advanced country like America had already thought of it?’

I’m sure our research scientist has something new to invent in his lab after his return from homeland.