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Monday, 16 July 2007

Visiting Post office in Mumbai..Uff!

Few months ago, while I was in Bangkok, I wanted to make a food parcel from the post office. The post office was air-conditioned and very clean and an officer occupied one corner of the room and he helped me pack my food parcel in a box, write address for me and fix the stamps and voila. It was done in ten minutes!! But, I wonder, why it is so difficult to do such simple thing here, in Mumbai? I wanted to send a small packet overseas. I bought envelop for packing, placed the contents into it and went to the post office. The one, closer to my house is a smaller one and they refuse to help me, claiming that I need to wrap it with cloth and go to the other bigger post office. The bigger post office has bigger problems. It is not only dirty and unkempt, but also crowded. There is a separate line for sending parcel and a separate line for buying stamps. The packet had to be wrapped with the cloth, and that service was offered by a man, who is seated on the road, outside the post-office. All these services are exposed to you, one at a time. Tempers fly high, due to frustration of people standing in line and some of them cutting lines. I wait ten minutes for the parcel to be assessed, then take it to the man, outside the post office, and wait on the road. There are many people working on the road side outside the post office, some people are selling envelops, some scanning through mail and some just sitting idle watching the world pass by. I wait patiently on the road as he carefully stitches the packet for me. I come back and wait in line again, only to be told to come back with the stamps of said amount. Wait in another queue to buy stamps and wait again, back at the first window. There is no glue available to stick the stamps on the packets and the tempers fly again, demanding glue! Glue!Glue! People working behind the window are unperturbed by the noise and commotion and they continue to work at snail speed, weighing, chopping a rubber stamp, slowly looking up at aggressive customer, very cool, dilling, in those 1955 movies. My parcel takes more than an hour to slip off from my patronage to the other side of the window. Phew!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Photo essay on Jallianwala Bagh

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre turned millions of moderate Indians from patient and loyal supporters of the British raj into nationalists who would never again place trust in British “fair play.” On April 13,1919, thousands of people gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh near Amritsar. The occasion was Baisakhi, a Sikh religious festival. It was traditional for Hindus and Sikhs to gather in Amritsar to participate in the Baisakhi celebrations. Dyer positioned his men at the sole, narrow passageway of the Bagh, which was otherwise entirely enclosed by the backs of abutted brick buildings. Giving no word of warning, he ordered 50 soldiers to fire into the gathering, and for 10 to 15 minutes 1,650 rounds of ammunition were unloaded into the screaming, terrified crowd, some of whom were trampled by those desperately trying to escape. According to official estimates, nearly 400 civilians were killed, and another 1,200 were left wounded with no medical attention. Dyer, who argued his action was necessary to produce a “moral and widespread effect,” admitted that the firing would have continued had more ammunition been available. It thus marks the turning point for a majority of the Congress' supporters from moderate cooperation with the raj and its promised reforms to revolutionary noncooperation.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Visit to Wagah, India-Pakistan border

We had actually planned to visit only 'Golden temple', when we had planned a trip to Amritsar. But our driver informed us to visit India-Pakistan border and watch the closing ceremony, 'a must-see event', he said. We reached 5:30 in the evening at Wagah border after a nine-hour ride from Delhi. The car was not allowed to drive through a certain point and we had to walk towards the border. This was the well developed tourist area which had a stadium built for the spectacular closing border ceremony. The patriotic songs of Bollywood film (songs like 'Jahan daal daal pe sone ki chidhiya karti....and 'mere desh ki dharti......)blared through the loud speakers as we found our way to the VIP stands. We secured a front seat for a better view and waited for the show to begin. A big iron gate separated the India-Pakistan border. And I could see the stadium on the Pakistani side too, that had huge Pakistani audience on the other side of the gate. At 6:30, the ceremony started with the man shouting into the loud speaker 'Hindusthan’ and the crowd cheered ‘Zindabad!' Similar sounds applauding ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ could be heard from the other side too. Two people held the Indian flag and ran towards the gate and back again. This was repeated by different pairs of women, men and children.(One woman lost her balance and fell down with her flag still up in the air) Next, five Indian solders came marching and stood in a neat row in the centre of the path leading towards the gate. One soldier turned, as he shouted loudly, picking his leg, heavily, his knee, almost touching his head, as he turned swiftly, ninety degrees and walked towards the gate. The gate opened slowly as the soldiers marched, one by one, towards the gate, to face a Pakistani soldier. Then, the two guard units attempted to outdo each other in martial displays: shouting, and stomping around the border in mock military maneuvers. All while the crowds were shouting patriotic slogans In a carefully choreographed ceremony, the men met at the border, salute each other, stared at each other and then untied the flags and finally lowered them and folded them. They then salute and marched smartly back to the barracks. Everyone was cheering wildly in a great patriotic display. The crowd dispersed from all directions and we had to stand guarded to avoid being pushed around. Some of them rushed towards the soldier for a photgraph. My family and friends wanted to photograph with the smartly dressed soldier too. I wondered as to when they made this daily ritual of closing cermony of India-Pakistan border into a spectacle with such a huge, expressive crowd.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

My Visit to Taj Mahal

Last week, while people in India were still voting for Taj Mahal as ‘Seven wonders of the world’ and people around the world focused their attention towards Lisbon for its place of honor, me and my cousin Gitu, her daughter Neha and her friends Nadar and Saif, were making our own estimation of the monument. We set for Agra from Delhi, during the early hours in the morning in a private, comfortable vehicle (Inova) to admire the monument that Emperor Shah Jahan had so lovingly built for his third wife Mumtaz. Arjumand Bano (later named Mumtaz Mahal by her devoted husband) was a legendry beauty and many a poet has celebrated her charm and delicate beauty. Although Shah Jahan had three wives, Mumtaz Mahal became his favorite and the only wife to bear his children (14 children). The Prince would not part with her even on his numerous military campaigns. In his suffering, she sustained him; in his glory, she inspired him to acts of charity and benevolence. Both comrade and counselor, she was beloved by him for her unswerving loyalty and by his people for her wise and compassionate guidance. When Mumtaz Mahal was still alive, she extracted a promise from the emperor that he build the Taj in her memory and that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. Construction of the Tajmahal began in 1631 and was completed in 22 years. Twenty two thousand people were deployed to work on it. Mumtaz Mahal died in 1629 during child birth while accompanying her husband in Behrampur in a campaign to crush a rebellion. The monument deserves its place in ‘Seven wonders of the world’ for its splendor and fine architecture. It is not merely a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the pride, loyalty and passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones. It is a celebration of eternal love, exquisitely portrayed in marble.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Oh my goodness! What has world come to…lingerie show in flights?

There was time, when going abroad was a novelty and we smiled ‘jabardasti’ at our aunts who visited us, hoping that they would part with their duty-free shopping gifts, if they were lured by our smiles. I wonder if any airlines complained about their empty flights in those days. The flights were few but they were enough. People who traveled were happy with meals of cold cuts and a movie show and while they entertained themselves, their minds were preoccupied with schemes on how to con a customs officer and pass through a green channel. But now, people are no more bothered about watching a movie show in flights because they now, prefer never-ending soap operas. Meals are not served in the planes and people prefer going off to sleep rather than to part with their hard earned cash to buy a packet of wafers. If I say I had lunch in Mumbai, snacks in Delhi and dinner in Chennai, nobody will even smirk. Everybody is traveling and hopping places is a norm. There are too many flights and there is so much competition. Everyday, there is a launch of a new airline, and all are obsessed with attracting of maximum passengers into their flights. But, what is this I am hearing…..?????? To attract the passengers, Ecuadorian airline Ícaro has launched mid-air lingerie parades, with voluptuous models strutting up and down the aisles in underwear and heels? Uff! Passengers from the capital Quito to the port of Guayaquil are being treated to ten-minute shows, which, oddly enough, are proving rather popular with male passengers? We, in India, the champions at aping……and this idea, so easy to copy, soon all this might get introduced in our Indian flight too…. Tobba! Tobba! Now I will have to sit next to an uncle in a flight, who will be drooling over a bare flesh? What will the next stunt for attracting a passenger be? With dance-bars closed, will we have our males hopping into ‘males-only-flights’ with bar dancers as air-hostess? Whew! Hare Ram, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare….

Should I vote for Taj Mahal or wot?

Everybody is talking about ‘Seven wonders of the world’ and Indians are very much obsessed that Taj Mahal may not be listed in the new list of seven wonders. And there is so much craze on voting for Taj Mahal, on TV, on radio, on Forums, everywhere they are asking for votes. I think the cell phone companies must have already made million from the vote messages. I have never seen Taj Mahal in my life. When I tell my NRI friends that, they cannot believe me ‘Wot? You no see Taj? Why?’ they exclaim. I promise them, that I will see it during this life. My promise is about to be materialized. Yeeeh! I am going tomorrow to see it ….finally…....Yupeee! and then I shall decide should I vote or wot?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Games we played...

Those were the days…there were so many games, when there was no TV. All day long we played. I wonder how our parents tolerated that! Every evening all my friends would come down in the building compound to play games. We loved to play 'kho-kho', hop-scotch, spinning the top, gulli-dhanda, langdi, hide-n-seek, seven tiles, Fire in the mountains, statue, tug-a-war, kabbadi, volley ball. Then we played cricket, basketball, badminton. The best was dhabba ice-spice where all would hide, and we would come out from hiding and kick the dhabba as hard as we could. It used to be fun, my friends and I would hide into our home, eating sandwiches and watching the person searching us, from our balcony while eating. When it was raining, we played indoor games like snakes and ladder, ludo, carom, chess, scrabble, monopoly or other board games, or simply playing with dolls (house-house) or Dumb shera, antakshri., whispering a tale. During college days it was scrabble. There was so much craze on scrabble that we would play non-stop for eight to ten hours. During summer holidays, early hours, we would go for long walks or cycling (double seat) all the way from Bandra to Juhu beach. And we had so much energy! good ole days!

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