Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z : Zebra / Jebra

My mother-in-law pronounces Z / Za as J / Ja. I always have fun with this fact, at her expense of course. When she comes to our place, I often ask her, what would she like to eat. And I wait for her to say Pijja (Pizza), for cheap laughs. Now she knows my routine, so she doesn't respond. She is one spoil sport.

In fact, every time I see a Zebra Crossing, I ask her to tell me what it is. Some times she obliges me, by blurting out Jebra crossing and I laugh out loud. But over the years, she has become conscious and thus Zindagi became Jeevan (Life) and Pizza became pata nahi (I don't know). My wife thinks I deliberately needle her. But she doesn't know, that such linguistic jokes have always been source of cheap laughs for me. I remember the time, when my younger brother had to write an essay on "My Mother" in school. In that essay, he was supposed to write one line that went like, "My mother runs the house very wisely" . Instead he wrote, "My mother runs in the house very wisely." For many years, I kept pulling his leg for this hilarious error. 

My own writing isn't that great. And when I read my old posts and mails, I cringe at the mistakes I had made. 

Coming back to my mother-in-law's pronunciation issue, let me give one clarification here. If a person, in India, has not learned Urdu or English, they will pronounce Z / Za as J / Ja. Because in Sanskrit and Hindi there is no letter Z / Za. 

Therefore I promise to my wife through this post today, that I will not crack jokes on her mother's pronunciation anymore. But that doesn't mean I will score her high on cooking. You can't have it all. Haha.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y : Yumdude

Yumdude is my handle / user name on Zomato. 

For the uninitiated, Zomato is a leading food ordering, restaurant search and review app in India. They are present in other countries too.

For the ones, who are not aware of Indian mythology, Yama is God of Death and Doot means messenger. Yamdoot is Yama's Messenger and my handle is a play on that. I thought I was being original and relevant while keeping this name. But, to my disappointment, much later, after I made this handle, I discovered a T - Shirts brand called Yum Dude and Snapdeal did a campaign with a character called Yam Dude. Huh! One can never be sure in today's world. And I think being original is going to be increasingly difficult.

If I haven't lost you already, let me tell you that this post is not about originality or Zomato handles. I am a foodie and I wanted to document my love for food in some way. I have done almost 100 restaurant reviews under this handle and I feel my journey has just begun.

They say a Punjabi's adventure gets over at the last Sher-e-Punjab Dhabha on his journey. I don't know if that is true, because I enjoy all kind of cuisines. When I eat somewhere, I don't add ketchup or salt / pepper to what is served. I love to eat food the way the cook wants it to be eaten. I had heard somewhere, this is a respectful thing to do for your host or chef. Over the years, due to this habit of mine, I developed a taste for different cuisines. Yes, some foods are still off the table, like pungent smelling foods. I won't ever have reptiles and insects. I will never fall for the fad of eating live food. But I mostly try everything otherwise.

I can't name my favorite food, but I have a weakness for sweets. I remember every time my school results would come, I would ask my mother to buy a Bengali sweet called Chena Murki (made with Sugar & Cottage Cheese). So this sweet reminds me of success. 

Whenever I smell, a mixture of flour, ghee and sugar being roasted, I get reminded of my grand-mother, who used to prepare delicious Pinnis. No one can cook Makki ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag better than my mother. I think every proud Punjabi son thinks the same about his mother. But the memory associated with this food is so strong, that every time I go home, I know my mother will cook it for me. And I think I get a dopamine hit in anticipation, before I even reach home.

While I enjoy all my fine dining experiences, if I have to choose my best food moments, they are not related to a very costly restaurant or any complex dish. Chena Murki, Pinnis and Makki ki Roti with Saag will be at the top always. And there are few places / food moments which are etched in my memory very strongly. 

Once during our school vacations, my father took us to a trip to Kullu and Manali. A long stretch of the journey was along the river Beas. Beas had gushing ice cold water. We sat at one such spot and got some mangoes chilled in that water and then we ate them by the side of the road on the banks of the river.

On yet another trip to Manikaran Sahib, we had a breakfast of hot stuffed parathas with butter and really sweet tea at a road side dhabha. Cheap, yes. But at that time, it was the most heavenly food.

There was a shop near my home that served Chhole Bhature. I used to go there often, but my favorite part was when the cook used to keep two fresh pieces of paneer on the plate. That was like a reward for eating there.

I discovered cheesecake very late in life. I was on my honeymoon, and we were shopping in Kuala Lumpur and we saw a cheescake shop. I had never tried it before. And when, I had the first bite, I knew Chena Murki and Pinni had a strong competition. After that I tried cheesecakes everywhere. But I got my best experience at the Cheesecake Factory Dubai Mall. This is what I had there. If food can kill, this is the way I would like to die. Tell me your food story.

Friday, April 28, 2017

X : Xeroxed

During my engineering, I was the class batch topper. In fact, I think I used to get highest ever scores in the history of that course. I completed my engineering on a scholarship and swept all possible awards at the convocation. Well, generally I am not that immodest. But this post required this introduction, I believe. 

Every time, semester exams neared, the demand for my class notes increased exponentially. My notes were xeroxed multiple times. My close friends would photocopy my original notes and give them back to me, so that I can also prepare for my exams.  And then copies were made from these copies and distributed further. I have heard stories that xerox copies of my notes and project work were kept at the photocopier's shop itself (near Gate No. 3 of our university) and people just used to go there and get a copy for themselves. As if this was not enough, the enterprising shopkeeper used to save a copy of my main projects, to reproduce and distribute next year for my juniors, of course at a price. I came to know about this, when after many years of completion of my engineering, I went to that shop for getting xerox of some documents. That fellow not only recognized me, but also showed me copies of my projects, I had done years ago.

What I used to find amusing was that the people who attended regular classes or those who missed few, will also get my complete notes xeroxed. For all the subjects. They used to spend more money, on getting photocopies of my notes, than buying actual books and studying properly. In fact I didn't use to study my own notes that much before exams, because I never took down complete notes. I only wrote those things which I found important. My writing was not that great. For newbies, it wasn't that legible too. I used to write in corners or margins, and not at all in a linear fashion. There were lots of doodles and arrows in my notes. I don't know how did my classmates study from it. I would not have topped the class, by studying my own notes. So, what were they trying to achieve. I followed three key mantras, which always helped me in studies. 

1. I was highly attentive in class. The objective was to study as less as possible, post classes or during exams, so that I can watch all the movies I want to, in my free time and also party with all my friends anytime. So, I used to ask lot of questions in the class and get all my concepts cleared there and then. So during exams, I studied only for few hours late in the night or early in the morning.

2. I used to read from books rather than only notes during exams. During the semester also, if something is unclear, I would refer books.

3. I never used to refer to anyone else's notes. 😼

During third year of my engineering, I participated in lot of debating and speaking competitions, so I used to travel to other universities across India. At that time, I missed few classes. So I decided to get someone else's notes xeroxed. I came to know, that when I used to miss classes, people used to get MT's notes xeroxed. So I borrowed her notes for the missed classes. Her handwriting was beautiful. She used to write everything, that professors spoke or wrote on the board. In fact she had learnt basic shorthand, to ensure that she doesn't miss even a single nuance. I used to wonder why she was lower on the pecking order than me, when it came to getting class notes xeroxed. The answers were pretty obvious. People were lazy. My notes could be read faster. They were able to complete the syllabus on time. If they wrote only the important points that I used to note down, in their exams, they tended to score higher. This is my interpretation. Thankfully, most of these engineers, never practiced and went on to do an MBA or Sales. Otherwise, my xeroxed notes, would have been held responsible for the collapsing bridges.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W : Wikipedia

What is the role you play in your spouse's life? 

Apart from being a nice, reliable and a loving partner, of course!

Some people have good culinary skills, so they are also in-house chefs. Some are great singers or dancers. They can entertain. And then some are like me. Those who don't possess any extraordinary skills. To make a marriage work, you can't just be a nice, reliable and a loving partner. There has to be something more. So, I am happy to report that I am Wikipedia to my wife. Yes, that is my skill.

She has the latest smart phone with best possible 4g data pack. She knows how to google. But every time, she has a doubt or a query, even on the subjects which are not my expertise, she will ask a question to me. And she expects every time that I should have a ready answer. And it doesn't end there. She is an expert in five Why's business excellence process. Once I answer the first question to the best of my ability, she will always ask a follow-up question, and this process continues. Not till, she knows everything, but till I exhaust all explanations and answers I have. 
She reminds me of Paresh Rawal's character from the film Judai at times. Notice in the picture that strategic question mark formed by a strand of his hair. You need to watch some scenes from this movie to know what I mean. 

But I think this is her way to show her love for me and make me feel that I am worthy of something. I came to know recently, that Pluto is no more a planet. Now, we can't even trust our school's science education. I wish she doesn't come to know about it. I don't have any idea how to go about explaining this to her.

So if you are married and have no skills, join a cooking class today and bake her a cake. That sounds easy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V : VCR and Video Tapes

Do you remember those heady days of Video Cassette Recorder (and Player) fondly called VCR? 

Do you remember those nights when you would rent few Video Tapes together, hook up the VCR to TV and watch back to back movies?

Do you remember those days, when going to cinema halls was not a good experience and satellite television had not arrived in India?

Well, I remember those days growing up. VCR at home was my early education in watching movies. I fell in love with films since then. I am a total film buff today because of it.

We used to stay in a joint family. There was one color TV and one VCR bought by one of my uncles. Normally, all elders would watch movies in the night. But evenings were when I used to mess with it. Sometimes even late nights, doing movie marathons. And do remember I must have been 9 years to 13 years old in this period. I am sure I will not let my child get access to such things early in life. But with internet so deeply entwined with our lives today, I think I would be fighting a losing battle. 

I don't think anybody had heard about parental control then. I don't think anyone realized in those innocent times, that how films can impact kids' psyche. Even for elders, especially women of the house, VCR was a fun thing, thought to be harmless for everyone. Going to cinema halls was considered bad but VCR was okay. Mostly, we would watch popular Bollywood movies or I would rent animation films from the neighborhood shop. 

Sometimes we used to watch marriage videos of recent marriages or videos of other family functions. And I used to feel embarrassed watching them. They were funny though, with cameraman mixing his random special effects when the aunt from neighborhood had just put food in her mouth. Or his credits slates at the start accompanied with popular Hindi songs. It was fun in a way. Now the wedding videos have become much more professional and, I feel, impersonal too. Though tacky in production, those wedding videos of our elders were more honest. Now I am digressing.

So there were these two video tapes lying at our home. They were not rented but owned. Not many people have seen these films or heard about them.

First one was Bhavani Junction, a revenge drama, wherein a husband is after his wife's rapists and killers. The rape sequence and violence in film was graphic in nature. And I had seen this film before even getting into my teens. Not once, but many times over. As the tape was always at home.

Can you imagine how it would have impacted me? I can't really say today.

Then there was another film called Do Anjaane, which was about infidelity and greed for money, leading to a murder. A kid watching such stuff, multiple times, would turn out to be damaged goods. I think I turned out fine by God's grace.

Satellite television and emergence of multiplexes killed the VCR. The content is so easily available today through on demand video. The entire process of going to a video rental shop and spending time to search for a particular video tape and bring it home, had a sense of adventure about it. If the video was risqué, the thrill was a notch higher. Now can Amazon Prime or Netflix or anything else live up to that!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U : Usha Madam

I last met Usha Madam at my grandfather's funeral, a little over two years ago. I had seen her after almost a decade that day. She looked shorter and older than before. She looked weak and frail. It is not like that she was ever young. Right from my childhood, I have always remembered her having grey hair. But as she met me that day, her eyes lit up. Her smile brightened my day. She feels very proud of me. I am her most favorite student ever. She wasn't my school teacher. She used to stay in our neighborhood and my parents used to send me to her place to study and learn things. I used to spend few hours daily at her place till I reached 5th standard. She was my first teacher in that sense. I attribute a lot of my core values and qualities to my parents'upbringing and Usha Madam's teachings. 

Yes, engineering corrupted me to an extent in my adult life. It made me more practical. But those lessons, in her home, somewhere are still deeply entrenched in my value system.

Apart from teaching various subjects, she used to talk about religion and spirituality. I used to accompany her to some satsangs (religious congregations) as a kid. I remember her taking me to a bank branch and helped me open our first savings accounts. That was the most exciting thing as a child to graduate from a piggy bank to actual bank branch. In those days, it was an amazing experience, when branches were not digitized. Even as a kid, she never used to patronize me. I owe a lot to her. I remember a very interesting incident fondly.

One day, I was upset or angry about something. She gave me an exercise to make sentences using few words. Some words that I remember she gave me were - cow, glasses and milk. There were 10 - 15 such words. In form of a protest, I randomly decided to use the word ''Red"in each sentence, even if it didn't make practical sense. This was my form of rebellion against something, I don't remember now. So my sentences went something like this: 

The red cow crossed the road.

She looked ugly in red glasses.

The red milk was tasty.

and so on...

I was sure she will scold me. But she didn't. She told me that even when I was angry, I was careful to construct the sentences properly and also didn't make any spelling errors. I think my anger melted away at that time.

Now how many of us can claim to have such wonderful teachers in life. I met few more in school later. I fondly remember Anupinder Sir. Will talk about him in some other post.

When I was blessed with a baby boy recently, she called me to wish. She had never called me in last so many years. I hope Meharaj also finds a good teacher in life.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T : Trains

Low cost airlines changed forever, how middle class Indians used to travel. 

I took my first flight ever in 2005. SpiceJet, Mumbai - Delhi with a stop-over at Ahmedabad. I remember nothing else of it. I remember then taking a bus from Delhi airport to ISBT to catch a ST bus to Ludhiana. That bus journey like always, took me through several cities over 6-7 hours. Sights. Sounds. Smells. Flights sound boring. 

Trains and buses have a certain romanticism associated to them. If time was not an issue, I would always prefer a train journey over a flight. If I remember correctly, I have traveled only 5 times on train since my first flight. 

I would have never known Upma / Vada (south Indian delicacies), if it was not a standard breakfast in trains. Trains help us connect with and know about diverse cultures of India. 

As a young boy, I used to get thrilled by getting down on station platforms on the way to a far flung destination. So for a long time, when I had never actually visited Baroda or Surat, I knew these towns by their stations. I always thought Shreekhand (sweet food item from Gujarat) was something special to these places. I always used to tell friends that I have been to Surat and Baroda and other such places, because I had set foot on their train platforms. Though never actually visited many of them, till recently.

I have traveled in sleeper class, in general compartments and in AC compartments. In the same train, people behave differently in these different compartments. Once traveling from Ambala to Lucknow, I had to sleep on train floor using newspapers as my sheet, among shoes of other travelers. It was a sleeper class, so people adjusted. This wouldn't have been possible in AC section. Sitting by the loo on your bag, in general compartment, where there were no reserved seats, made me value the physical space we are privileged to have in our lives. Every time you travel in AC compartment, there will always be two - three groups drinking liquor in cahoots with the TC and pantry boys who serve best snacks for them.

Train travel definitely adds to your world view and perspective. I will always remember one particular journey. We were returning from Ujjain after winning a national debating competition. Being winners, many people approached us and we made lot of friends in those three days. Few girls from Jammu, gave our team of two boys, special attention. Incidentally, we all were traveling back to our homes in Jammu Tawi express. It was a fun journey back, with all of us playing games and talking about stuff in general. I made friends with S. (Never asked her last name). We talked about changing India and things like that. Young, idealistic and idle minds. It was supposed to be a one day journey from Ujjain to Ludhiana,but things were to go wrong. The entire northern India grid failure happened on that eventful day of 2001. Our electric train got stranded in middle of nowhere. With no mobile phones then, communication was not like today's. We waited for 8 hours in that godforsaken place. The friendships strengthened.  Next day early morning, around 4 am, we reached Ludhiana. S and her friends were in deep sleep. We were not sure, about saying goodbye to them, after waking them up. We never did. I often wonder, what would have they felt about it. We had exchanged our email ids. After many months she wrote me a mail and I replied back. But then, in rush of life, we never communicated again. Train rides provide that calmness, that time to build bonds. 

If you are in chaos, take some time off and hop on a train.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S : Story

I had attended a writing workshop last year in June. One of the first exercises in it was to describe my first relationship. It was a tricky exercise for two reasons. One, my first relationship was very painful and I am very sensitive about sharing details of the same. Second, I didn't want to talk about real locations and people at all. So I decided to take the core element of that relationship and changed everything around it and weaved a fictional story. That exercise helped me in a therapeutic way. So whether my quality of writing was good or bad, it didn't matter. 

As the theme for my April Blogging Challenge was to right anecdotes from my life, I think this post will qualify, given the context above. The story I wrote then is reproduced below.

Story - The Minor Glitch

Anuj was a young dashing guy. He had an athletic body and girls in his class swooned over him. He was very sensitive and intelligent too. He cared for his friends and family and was a class topper.

Saakshi had recently moved to his neighbourhood. They both started interacting at a birthday party, where both were invited. While Anuj was popular in his neighbourhood, Saakshi had a strange effect on him. He was just enamoured by her beauty. Saakshi was fully aware about this effect she had on him.

One day she invited him over to her home. They both were eating nachos, when she kept her hand on his thigh. He trembled with excitement. She had charmed him and was controlling his senses. They both got into a sexual relationship and started meeting regularly. For a while, Anuj enjoyed it. He had fallen in love with Saakshi. But they never said it to each other.

Whenever they met the only thing on their minds was lust.

Initially Saakshi was aggressive in bed. Gradually Anuj in his bid to impress her, started getting rough. Saakshi didn’t like this reversal of roles.

She had chosen Anuj as she thought she can dominate him and exploit him. He was a young guy studying in 9th grade, while she had just completed her graduation. What she was doing was illegal anyways.

With Anuj getting aggressive, she wanted a way out. One day she told Anuj, that he is a very dirty person and she can’t carry on with this abusive relationship. She made Anuj feel guilty about something he didn’t really understand at that age.

Today, Anuj is a successful entrepreneur and runs a million dollars business. But he still feels that he was responsible for abusing Saakshi. He hasn’t married till date.


Friday, April 21, 2017

R : Robbed

Money makes the world go round. We all knew this, in a way or other even when we were kids. Yes, our interpretation of the same, or the value we associate with money kept changing as we grew older. As we earn more, it seems we tend to cling to it with higher intensity. Money has always been important for me too, but to get a unique experience or to go through some emotion which I have never felt before has always been more important than money. Some of the best experiences I had in life were free. Like sleeping under the winter sun on the roof of my house. I haven't been able to replicate that experience, in last 15 years, since I started earning. Then there are some really great experiences where I didn't care about money and splurged it, rather than clinging to it. Like my foreign holidays, that have always been hedonistic and heady.

There have been times, when people took money from me with no intention to repay. I still gave them the necessary help when they needed the most. Because for me relationships were more important than moolah at that time. Sometimes, when I gave money to acquaintances, despite multiple follow-ups I never got it back. But I never stopped trusting people. Because it is not the money, but trust in humanity that makes the world go round. 

I remember an incident around 8 - 9 years ago, when I was at Delhi Airport and a guy came up to me - a complete stranger - and told me a story of how he needed to reach some place urgently and he didn't have any money. He asked me to buy him a ticket and also asked for my bank account number, so that he could send me the money back once he reached his destination. I found his story genuine and gave him money. And, guess what, he actually sent it back. Isn't it an amazing thing? He didn't really need to do it. But he was a good guy. 

I don't remember his name or face. 
But only his act. 
You can't put value to goodness.

But still there is one minor incident related to money, which I always feel bad about. I must have been 7 or 8 years old then. My uncle gave me a Rs 10 note and sent me on an errand. I had to buy curd from a nearby shop. I bought the curd for Rs. 5 and shopkeeper returned the balance Rs. 5. It was a decent amount in late 80s, for a kid. A twenty something boy approached me and told me that to avoid losing money, I should keep it in my handkerchief. He helped me with it. I held that handkerchief tightly in my hand. When I reached home, there was no Rs. 5 note in the hanky. That bugger had robbed me in the broad daylight. I never felt bad about losing that money. I felt bad because he took me for a ride. 

I don't remember his name or face either.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q : Queue Story

The queues in India are never ending. And they are also melting pot of cultures and opinions. 

And then there is a queue for everything. To eat, there is a queue at restaurants. To shit and pee there is a queue at public toilets. You have to queue up to get into a bus or even get out of it. There is a queue at departmental stores on Republic Day Sale. As if all Indians only buy when there is a good bargain. I hope you get the drift. In India, for any damn thing, you have to queue up.

Then demonetization created new kind of queues, few months back. Political queues. Many politicians queued up to sympathize with people who queued up outside ATMs. Politicians for the first time in queuing history of India, realized that queues can kill. People didn't die of heat when they queued up to see Shahrukh Khan on his birthday outside his house. They didn't feel any pain when they queued up outside two wheeler dealerships on 31st March to get hold of phased-out polluting BS III bikes. But you are supposed to hate ATM queues. Right?

There are also people who queue up without any reason. The plane has just landed. Everyone will get to get off. They will have to wait for their bags to arrive on the belt anyways. But they can't wait, even if the plane doors are still closed. They just queue up in the aisles. Every landing in India, looks like an emergency one.  The same thing happens during boarding, as if plane will leave without them. Is it the insecurity of being left behind?

Another thing about Indian queues which is highly deplorable is the distance between two people in the queue. People don't have any sense of space. Bloody hell, they will just ass-grind you, if it was legal in India. You can smell that onion, the guy behind you had for lunch. You can feel the sweat on his arms when he tries to push the queue. Burps and farts in heat are worse than sulfuric acid. Manners? Zilch. 

Also most of the queues in India are segregated based on gender. Do they realize unisex queues would have been so much more interesting? Girls always make better conversations. They don't sweat as much and I think they don't burp or fart too. They run away from onions. I know I am exaggerating, but you get my point. Right?

I have had my share of queue experiences as well. Some scary. Some hilarious. Some helpful. Some kind of sad. But largely in India. And there was this one in London too. The racist one. I reproduce some of  my queue experiences below.

The Heathrow Queue: December 2011. I landed at the London Heathrow Airport. I got out to catch a bus. I queued up at the ticket window. By Indian standards it was not a queue. There was a cute couple ahead of me. And there were these three guys - those hippie types - behind me. But then it wasn't my day. I wear a turban and I am not a Muslim. These guys breached the space between me and them. (I mean in India people can even straddle against each other in a queue, but here this act of theirs reeked of hatred). They started abusing me. I faced racist jibes within an hour of landing. I decided to take the underground instead and left from there.

The Friendly Queue: Sometime in 2005. I was in Delhi for a B-School admission process. And we were in a queue for entry into a GD room. I met YA for the first time there. She was right behind me. She is one of the most beautiful (read hottest) girls I know. We got talking. She came to know that I have already secured admission for MBA in 5 other B-Schools. While drinking water from a bottle, she was trying to convince me to not participate in this process and mar other people's chances. She was doing it in a cute way. And this all happened within like 5 minutes of us meeting for the first time. When I joined the B-School of my choice, I discovered she was in my class. Over next two years, we became best buddies. And we are even today. This is one of my best queue memories.

Beat' em Up: Sometime in 1995. I was in a queue to get a movie ticket for Trimurti (A Hindi film that tanked big time). Remember there were no multiplexes and bookmyshow like apps then. The line was not moving ahead. I decided to get out of the queue. I approached few ladies in the other queue. While they were being sweet to me and helping me to get a ticket from their queue, the burly security guard, came with a large danda (wooden stick) and hit me. I never understood why. I didn't break the queue technically. Did I talk to his daughter by mistake? But I watched that film. Women are sweet that way!!!

200 Rs. Off: I love talking to people. Two weeks ago, I went grocery shopping. There was a huge and slow moving queue at the billing counter. There were three ladies in front of me and as I started getting bored, I started chatting with them. General stuff. After about 20 minutes, we were still at the same spot. They were being nice to me and told that since I had a smaller basket, I can get my billing done before them. I denied. I know for a fact that no one likes to wait in queues. I thanked them anyways. Few minutes passed, and then they told me that there is an offer, where you can show an SMS code and get Rs 200 off on the bill. I told them that I deleted that message in the morning, not knowing I will be shopping today. One of them said that she had an extra phone and insisted that I use the extra code. They got me a Rs 200 discount. Yippee. It is not the amount which matters. Their gesture did. People are nice in general. But queues in India bring the worst out in us. Still, if you have a knack for talking and decent sense of humor, it can be an enriching experience too at times.

It is time to close this post, as lot of other things are queued up for the day, which I need to complete. See you tomorrow with an R post.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P : Perfect Response

There are times in life, when saying a lot means nothing. And then there are occasions, when a right combination of words or for that matter a single word said in the right context, can leave a lasting impact.

A tough situation emerges at your work place and your boss tells in the team meeting that he trusts you to do it. It does a lot of good for your confidence.

When a lover makes a grave mistake, but calls his / her partner and says a heartfelt sorry, the pain, the hurt just evaporates. There is no need for explanations. Sometimes even words are not required. A warm hug is the perfect response.

You haven't talked to a friend for ages. And you conclude that things will never be the same again. After months, she calls you and says a hello in her trademark way. What happens? It seems that you never stopped talking over the months of silence.

A perfect response doesn't require much if your heart is in the right place and you don't have any malicious intent. 

VG used to report to me. I had a boss who insisted on being called by his first name. But VG would always address him as Sir. He was not able to adjust to this first name culture. After months of failure to convert VG into a non-Sir calling junior, one day VG and my boss, perchance were travelling in the same car. 

My boss asked VG, "Why do you keep calling me Sir? Had we met in a non-office setup then what would you have called me?" 

VG replied, "Uncle"."

You can imagine the silence in the car thereafter. The subject of calling people by their first names was never broached again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O : Oh Brother!

My younger brother is the only sibling I have. He has grown into a man who isn't game for an adventure. He likes to live a routine, steady life. Given my lifestyle, I also find it strange that his social circle is very limited and he doesn't drink at all. Nothing wrong with all this. To each his own. But what is surprising is, that he wasn't always like this. His childhood (about first 8 - 10 years of life) was much more adventurous than mine. He was naughtier than me. My mother tells me, that people in the neighborhood knew him very well, while I was a shy child, always at home, around my mother.

I think education, schooling and all the conditioning by adults changed him over the years. The same stimuli had an opposite effect on me. Does that mean, we both were conformists or rebels? I can't really conclude. But what I can surely say is that education in India curbs natural instincts of the kids. So when I thought of writing this post about my brother, I wanted to talk about two incidents that could have turned tragic, but now seem hilarious to all of us in the family.

He was always outside home, as a child, and he used to trust strangers. One afternoon, he was sitting right outside the street-facing door of our old house. A man came to him and asked him for directions to some place. My enthusiastic brother actually took him along to show the place. As soon as they reached little further from home, the man tried to put my brother in a sack. A neighborhood aunt, saw him, recognized my brother and at right moment appeared as his savior and shouted at the man. The novice kidnapper ran away. 

My mother says, that had I been in the place of my brother, the neighbor wouldn't have recognized me or saved me. Do you see the contradiction here? Because my brother trusted everyone, the aunt helped. But it was his trust in a stranger that actually put him in trouble. I think these kind of incidents kills the spirit of a child.

Once my brother was on the roof. My uncle (chacha) saw him throwing buckets of water from behind a pedestal fan. When my uncle saw him doing this silly thing, he scolded my brother. He scolded, because he didn't want my brother to get an electric shock. When he asked my brother the reason for doing this, he innocently replied that he was trying to make a cooler out of the fan. It sounds funny, but as a kid this was his path to discover something related to the science behind it. The elders in their aim to protect the child curbed his instincts.

These are just two examples, how children are expected to behave in certain way. As if there is only one right way to raise a child. As a new parent, I will keep these thoughts in mind, and figure out ways to protect my child and yet let him dream, discover and fly.

Monday, April 17, 2017

N : Nagpur

If Ludhiana taught me the value of home, and if Lucknow gave me survival instinct, and Mumbai gave me wings to fly, then I often wonder about role of Nagpur in my life.

Why Nagpur? 

I have been to several cities of India, but there are only five cities where I have stayed and lived like a local. I have already written stories about Ludhiana in this challenge, and posts specifically on Lucknow and Mumbai. I have not seen or lived in Chennai enough to write about it yet. But, Nagpur is one of the cities I never mentioned. It was the place where I did my first job ever. Before getting transferred to Lucknow, I was there for 6 months. So it is kind of a milestone city for me. 

Let me recall the things I tried there for the first time:

1. I worked on a shop floor of a tractor assembly line. I was a blue collared worker for the first time, with a dungaree on me and greased hands. It was a tough manual job, but we slept well.

2. It was the first time in my life, I shared a rundown apartment with six other boys, who didn't know each other. Packed like sardines, learning to manage with limited resources. As there was a Tamilian, I also learnt few words in Tamil. 

In the middle of one night, I woke up to answer nature's call. I realised someone was in the toilet. But then to my shock, MV (the Tamilian) was in the bathroom, taking a leak. I got so pissed off (pun not intended), but he said he was under pressure and toilet was not vacant. For next few days I only know, how I took a shower in that bathroom.

3. I received my first salary in Nagpur. It was a meagre amount, but no salary after that has made me that happy. We all went to the ICICI ATM nearby. That was the first time we used ATM (year 2002). We spent that money eating out in a good restaurant and buying stuff for family members. 

4. There was this bet gone wrong, where I ended up kissing a guy for the first and the last time. SC will remember that. Well technically it wasn't a kiss, just a brush of lips. But we both being straight, it was kind of embarrassing. The bet was to take Parle G biscuits from his mouth without using hands. SC and I are best of friends today. But we never kissed again. Thankfully. 

5. But above all, I made non Punjabi friends in my life for the first time. Rajasthani, Tamilian, Maharashtrians. I got introduced to foods and cultures of India, unknown to me before that. And I relished that experience.

There is lot of other stuff that happened in Nagpur, not necessarily the firsts. But I would like to remember Nagpur as the city of firsts. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017


In 2005, when I was doing my MBA and was new to life in Mumbai, I had discovered those sounds of Mumbai, that defined this city for me. I had written, MUMBHAI then. 

Then the dance bars got closed and Mumbai went under floods the same year. That triggered another thought and another post MUMBHAI - 2

I moved to central suburbs from western suburbs in 2007. The change of one's address in Mumbai, changes the way you live. This led to MUMBHAI - 3. As, I am currently undergoing a transition and will be moving out of Mumbai to Chennai this year, I thought of revisiting this theme and important part of my life.


Mumbai has given me more than I deserved. I made a life, a career and a home with my wife here. I earned few really close friends. There is so much to thank Mumbai for. For the friends it gave me, for the lessons it taught me both in good and bad times, for the man it made out of me. Mumbai doesn't hold back. It allows you to live a hedonistic lifestyle and get all material happiness if you work hard. But it pushes you down and pins you to the ground, in equal measure. Mumbai makes you live with extremities. Mumbai makes you learn to move on. Mumbai makes you learn value of the space. Your space and others'space. Mumbai can be kind, like how it came together in 2005 floods. And it can be equally ruthless, as at times it tries to kill your soul. I remember the incident, murder at 9:20, I wrote about. So Mumbai is what you want it to be for you. Mumbai is not just a city, but an alive and growing organism, which has the ability to consume you, feed on you.

I will always remember Mumbai for three key life events - 

2008: I got married in Ludhiana. I brought my wife to Mumbai, immediately after. She helped me remain steady in the chaos that this city is and stood by me when I needed her the most. I don't drive. So when we bought our first car, she was the one who was always game to take me for a drive. Some of our best moments together were those post midnight drives for an ice-cream, listening to music in our car. We explored the city together, its restaurants, its concerts and plays. If not for her, I would have just known Mumbai for its multiplexes and bars. Without her, I wouldn't have survived this city.

2014: We bought our own apartment in Mumbai. A matchbox sized one. But our own place. People say, financially it doesn't make sense. But let me tell you for some damn reason, last 3 years have been most comfortable and happiest. Your own home does that to you. Celebrating festivals have a meaning again. Buying a home in Mumbai means, that you are more privileged than many staying in slums or on streets. Gratitude is something which you can never have enough of. I know how difficult it is going to be emotionally, moving to Chennai. 

2016: We became parents. Mumbai has now a cosmic connection with us. Even if we leave Mumbai, it is always going to be my son's birth place. A city which has accepted me with open arms, and gave us our most precious gift, Meharaj. 

Sometimes, I crib about infrastructure here, the potholes and such other things. But then, this city gives you something, which no other city in India can give you. Wings to Fly.

Friday, April 14, 2017

L : Lucknow

There was a toss up between Ludhiana and Lucknow, while writing this post. 

Ludhiana, where I spent first 22 years of my life and where I keep going back for few weeks every year. Barring 2016, I have been to Ludhiana every year since I left my home there. But most of the posts in this April Challenge have been about stories from Ludhiana, so I chose Lucknow for this post.

I had spent a year and a half in Lucknow from January 2003 to June 2004. Though half of that time I had spent travelling to smaller towns of Uttar Pradesh. Long time back, I had written a post about my time in U.P. It was a strange land and an even stranger time for me. (You can read that post here.) I bet lot has changed in last 12 years. I have been there for work several times since then, but never felt that sense of belonging.

My time in Lucknow was very different than any other phase of my life. The four L's that define this phase are:

Loneliness - This was one of the most difficult times of my life. For a long time, I had no friends in Lucknow. It was only time in my adult life when I wasn't in a steady relationship with any girl. The long distance relationships rarely work. And that was a time, when mobile connectivity was still not like it is today. It was a struggle for very long, staying in a very small room where the bathroom was in the landlord's garage. Also I had to travel to mofussil towns and I witnessed things which I wasn't mentally ready for. I used to stay in really shabby hotels. There was no one to talk to. Later I discovered company of NS. He was 11 years senior to me. Never a colleague, always a friend. He had a house with garden and a balcony. I was truly myself with him. Almost every other night, I was sitting in his balcony drinking a beer and singing songs off key and out of tune. He was a good listener and that helped. I learned to enjoy my own company during this period. I think I was a good company to myself. Till date, I need some alone time to keep my sanity.

LML - As it was my first job, my father had gifted me a LML bike. I think having a bike helped a lot. It gave me mobility literally and metaphorically. The moment I used to mount it, I used to forget everything that was wrong. That bike took me to places, I wouldn't have gone to other wise. The streets of Aminabad and the roads of Chinhat (a tehsil in Lucknow). But the most important memory associated with LML is actually not a memory. I had an alcohol induced black-out after the Fish in the Pond incident. I was so drunk that when DS offered to drop me home, I declined. He told me later, that after 'Fish in the Pond' loop, I had moved to another one. I kept saying in Hindi (roughly translated here in English) "I will drive, It is my bike." He actually took a risk and rode pillion. I dropped him at his place. I think I created some ruckus there. Then I came back to my place that night. It sounds scary, but I remember nothing of it. But I am a wise man. Few months later, I decided to stop drinking  riding bikes. I never bought another bike and I never drive anything on my own, until necessary. So no drunk driving is my motto of life. Over the years though, my drinking has reduced too. It is a good thing for life and health, but very bad if you want newer memories. 

Love for Movies -  I used to watch lot of movies in Ludhiana too, in cinema halls. But very few middle class families used to go there. In Lucknow every class of people used to go to movies. And people used to love movies. They used to dance in the aisles, when songs played and I fell in love with movies there all over again and with this side of Lucknow. They appreciated cinema. Movies were my crutch to overcome loneliness. 

Once NS and I went for a Shahrukh Khan film. I think it was Kal Ho Naa Ho, but can't be sure. It had just released, and we could only get tickets of the stall and not of more privileged balcony seats. So when NS was about to sit, he realized that his seat was smeared with "Paan Peek" (Spit / Saliva that gets accumulated in your mouth when you chew Paan or Betel leaves with lot of condiments in it). By the way, Paan and related stories about that red spit seen in every nook and corner of Lucknow can have a post of its own dedicated to it. So NS was in two minds, whether to sit and watch movie ignoring the disgusting nature of the entire scenario or to go back home. We arranged for a newspaper to cover the seat so that he can sit without trouble. I am sure he was squirming throughout. 

Love for Food - No post on Lucknow can be complete without mentioning food. Lucknow is a food paradise. Due to loneliness, I discovered love of my own company. I learned to go on bike rides alone. I learned to watch movies alone and I still enjoy that. I also learned to eat alone. My favorites were well known Tundey Ke Kebaab in Aminabad and Prakash ki Falooda Kulfi. I liked Biryani at Dastarkhwaan. There was a small outlet in Dainik Bhaskar Chowk. His Boti Kebaab and Rumaali Roti were yum too. The food really kept my soul nourished. Even today, I like eating out a lot and I have been able to develop taste for multiple cuisines because of my stint in Lucknow. 

Lucknow taught me to appreciate other cultures. It taught me to adapt and adjust. It taught me lot about Life. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

K : Kipps Bakery

Once upon a time, there were no coffee shops, or many places to hangout for school going kids, in Ludhiana. In fact, the pocket money was never enough to go to such places. 

But there was this one small bakery, near our school, which seemed to be everyone's favorite. It had some seating space as well. (If you go to this place today, it is not recognizable. It has changed with times and is now very grand). So we often used to go there to have our fill of puffs and pastries after the school. As we learnt the art of bunking classes, even during the school. Kipps Bakery had something for everyone.

I don't remember the timeline clearly, but P was in 11th or 12th standard and she was my house captain. She used to wear spectacles and I think she is the sole reason, that I always end up liking girls who wear spectacles more than others. Poor eyesight seems to turn me on. I had a huge crush on P. I don't think she even knew me. Or she would have ever noticed me. She bumped into me once and I felt a pain. I think it was in my heart or may be some part else. She said sorry, and moved on. That is the only interaction I ever had with her. She used to participate in everything - sports, speaking competitions etc. I used to collect each piece of poster, paper or any substance on which her name used to appear. Then I used to fold it diligently as if I was an origami expert, to ensure I could only see her name and nothing else on that paper and used to keep such papers in my geometry box.

It was sports day. She was wearing our house color shirt. Yellow. She looked more beautiful than ever before. She just had completed a race. I felt my heart sinking. I decided to tell my inner feelings to someone. So I slipped out of the school along with a friend of mine. We went to Kipps Bakery. As we sat across the table, I told my friend about my feelings for P. Before my friend could advise me on anything, I felt a strong hand on my neck holding me and a booming voice piercing through my ears. "You are too young for all this stuff. P is like your elder sister. Stay away from her or you will get a beating. You are just in 7th standard." 

He was P's classmate. May be he liked P too. But seemingly he had better chances to win her over. He was her age and in her class too. I was 5 years younger than P. My face went red with pain. I realized that day that just like exams, debates and ownership of latest video games, love is a competition too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J : Joy

A thing of beauty is a joy forever - A line from poem 'Endymion' by John Keats

We named our son, Meharaj. Meharaj means the Blessing of God. And he truly is. Now he is almost 4 months old. He is our first child. He was born on 21st December 2016 in the afternoon. When the nurse informed me about his arrival, I was pleased. Very pleased. Few minutes later, I was allowed into NICU to see him. He was very weak, born a month earlier than due date. But life was kicking inside him. My eyes welled up at that moment, seeing him. Life, in its most vulnerable form, but at its most resilient was in front of me. And I was tearing up. 

Two days later, when doctors allowed us to hold him and he was out of NICU, I held him in my arms. That was pure bliss, pure joy. I can't describe that joy in words. What I described above, the hours and days before I held him, were moments of pleasure. The pleasure of knowledge that I am a father now. The pleasure, that I brought him to the world. But when I held him in my arms, the 'I' melted away. He wasn't the only one born that day, the father in me was too.

I think that is the difference between pleasure and the joy. Pleasure is for the body, for the 'I'. Drinking gives pleasure, but it is the company of friends that gives joy. Making love to a girl gives pleasure, but getting unconditional love from someone is joy. 

Every time, I hold Meharaj in my arms, I know there is nothing better in life. I love him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I : Instant


Life is all about memories. At the end, that bank of memories is the most prized thing you truly own. Some memories you want to hide in the deepest recesses of your brain, so that you don't have to face them ever again. And then there are happy memories, which bring a smile to your face even in the toughest times. Those memories give you strength.

And then there are memories of the third kind, that instant, that precise moment of time, when you know, something changed for ever. You can be with a person for a lifetime and build several memories with him or her, but when you close your eyes and think deep about that person, it is always that one instant that flashes before your eyes. That instant is the strongest memory, you have about that person. The reasons could be many. That instant may have strengthened or weakened your relationship. That instant may define the nature of your relationship the best. Or may be that instant defines the way you have perceived that person for ever.Whatever is the reason, there is always that one instant.


AM has been my friend for more than 18 years now. We have had several moments where we laughed together, played pranks, drank together, partied together, went on holidays and so on. All my engineering friends, including him, used to call me CD.

One day after a party, almost 14 years ago, few friends of mine decided to drop me home. We all were drunk. AM was part of that group. My parents, shockingly, discovered that day, about my experiments with alcohol. This was not supposed to happen. But my response time was obviously slow. I got frightened seeing my father, and headed straight to my bedroom and plonked myself on the bed. All other friends also got scared and didn't enter the house. AM, drunk himself, entered my room and started straightening me up and was about to remove my shoes, when my mother realized that he is drunk too. She ordered him to leave immediately and told him that she will remove my shoes. She also threatened him that she will call his father the next day. AM said, "CD is my friend. Shoes toh main hi utaarunga" (CD is my friend. I will only remove his shoes)

This instant, defines him and strength of our friendship. 

White Face

We were on this infamous Goa trip. One night SS passed out after drinking a lot. We friends were sharing the room. One guy, took out talcum powder and smeared his face white. In the middle of night around 3 am, SS wakes up and goes to the washroom. He comes out after sometime, kind of disappointed, his face still white with that talcum powder. He chooses to wake me up at that ungodly hour to make a confession. "CD I think I have puked on my own face."

This instant, he trusted me, when he felt most sad. And more importantly, he emerged as the proverbial joker in our pack.

Bus Rides

Delhi to Ludhiana (The Long Night) - Two beautiful girls entered our bus in Delhi. One of them looked familiar. I was with one of my university mates. We were coming back from Gwalior, after some college competition. After the dinner halt at Panipat, the familiar looking girl, comes up to me and calls me by my name. I didn't recognize her at first. Then, as we get talking, R turned out to be my schoolmate. We had never talked much before. She was a medical student, coming back from Manipal for her vacation. For rest of the ride, we both kept talking and shared notes about the years gone by. Those days there were no mobile phones. So no numbers were exchanged. As we reached Ludhiana, due to some communication gap, her father waited outside the bus stop, while we disembarked outside railway station. Then started the struggle to locate him and unite them. Mind it, no mobile phones. Few policemen found our movement suspect and they didn't believe our story and thought we were doing something shady. Then they helped us locate her father. I never met R again in person. After many years, we found each other on internet. We talk / chat on phone often. And I believe are good friends, despite the tyranny of distance between us. But that bus ride defines the contours of our friendship. 

Chandigarh to Ludhiana (The Last Date) - V was my girlfriend for the longest time. We had been seeing each other for years. We didn't know at the start of that date, that it would be the last one. We spent our day in Chandigarh watching a film and eating out. We did some shopping too. As we took the bus back to Ludhiana, we made out in the bus. It was an exciting thing for young, reckless people like us to do. Love was in the air. As we bid goodbye to each other that day, we never knew we will not meet each other in person ever again. Love is unpredictable and one shouldn't take anything for granted were the lessons that instant taught me years after that moment had passed.


When I look back at all my relationships, I can think of that specific instant for each of them, which defines them. For the other person, I may not be that important. Or the other one, may define the same relationship or me by something else, some other instant, some other moment in time. It all sounds surreal. But if you think of some one in your life, but can't recall that one instant or strong memory that defines your relation, chances are that it is not yet an important relationship. Think about it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

H : Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya Hai

I love Hindi films. I am crazy about them. Most memorable are those films, which have great content and the ones that touch your heart, head or at least some damn emotion inside you. Memorable films needn't necessarily be good though. Many times, I like bad films (bad as per others or critics), because they have content I identify with.

Then there are films that become memorable, not because of the film per se, but because of association of some happy / sad event, with that film or because of the company you watched that film with. For example, Welcome was a special film because that was the first film I watched with my wife (then fiancé). Or Dostana, the first film we went to after our marriage. I remember us college friends actually dancing in Malhar Cinema Ludhiana during screening of Dil Chahta Hai. Then there was Aitraz, which I went to watch with my girl friend at that time and I discovered I was sitting right behind an aunt of mine. In small towns, going out for movies with girls can snowball into a scandal soon. So I remained slouched on my seat, much to the disappointment of my girl friend and didn't even get her customary popcorn in the interval to avoid being noticed. I compensated her with a costly restaurant lunch later. There are many such films which are associated with lots of memories. Films we saw on my birthdays like Khamoshi or films for which tickets were bought in black like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or films for which we couldn't get tickets for weeks like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I watched James alone during first trimester exams of MBA while everyone was busy studying. I got a beating from theater watchman while breaking queue for buying tickets of a big flop film Trimurti.

The stories are many and endless. But there is this one film, which I never watched and it still became a memorable event. The film was Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya Hai. One of my close friends and I planned to watch a film in the evening. Our lectures finished earlier than expected. So before watching the film, we decided to drink. We drank to fill in the few hours before the film. By the time, we moved out of our watering hole, we were like really sloshed. I drove my scooter with him riding pillion to the cinema hall and we bought tickets. I went to the rest room to wash my face. Upon my return, I was shocked to see my friend spread across the lounger in the waiting area, in deep sleep. I shouted at him, physically moved him. It took few minutes to wake him up. We both decided not to watch the film and go sleep in the hostel. But we needed to sell those tickets. In that drunk condition, we managed to sell those tickets. We must be looking funny to others. Then he rode the scooter on return to hostel. Sitting at the back, I was singing at top of my voice the title song of the film, Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya Hai!!! (Yes, I have loved too).

I haven't watched this film since then. I don't think I ever will.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

G: Grandfather

None of my grandparents are alive today. 

My maternal grandfather had passed away even before I was born, so I have no idea about him or what kind of person he was. 

I remember my childhood days spent in maternal grandmother's (naani) home. I was always naughty around her, pulling her leg, disturbing her in her chores and not letting her do her prayers in peace. But when I look back at those days, I feel she loved me a lot just like she loved all her other grandchildren. She left for the heavenly abode when I was in my teens. 

My daadi (paternal grandmother) was a domineering matriarch who ruled her house with an iron fist. In childhood, I used to stay away from her. She used to love the girls of the family more, so I wasn't always sure what her strictness meant. As I grew up, she grew weaker and I realised that old age is cruel. She died after long illness when I was twenty two. Her last few years were painful. I saw in her eyes love for me when she was on her death bed. Maybe because, we had started living separately and I had left home for work and used to visit her rarely. I don't know what was there inside her head. Maybe she didn't recognise me, as she was also suffering from memory loss during the last phase of her life. My best memories about her are related to food. She used to make best pinnis (famous punjabi sweets). Even my mother can't replicate that taste.

My grandfather inspires me the most. It was his death that made me realise the eventuality of life. He passed away very recently, a little over two years ago. He remained healthy till almost the end of his life. He had a body of a wrestler and led a very disciplined and regimented life. He used to wake up really early around 3 - 4 am. He used to make his own tea. He used to clean the street area outside our house. He used to go to Gurdwara (sikh temple) twice a day. And he kept working till his mind and body allowed him. His only source of entertainment was evening news and few shows like Chandrakanta and Alif Laila and that too after the advent of cable TV. 

He had a bad fall few years ago which made his movements restricted and he got dependent on others for his activities and I think that broke his spirit, otherwise, he would have lived even longer. I clearly remember hundreds of people turned up for his funeral. And everyone had nice things and inspiring stories about him to say. He had earned goodwill throughout his life.

He had come to India, post partition in 1947, from Pakistan and settled in Punjab. He did menial jobs and never shied away from manual labour and eventually not only established his own business but also took care of his large family. Today, his sons and all his brothers' families live a life of comfort because he worked hard. There are so many stories about him which my father and uncles narrate. But I want to talk about one particular aspect of his in this post. His humanity.

1984 was the start of the darkest period in history of post partition Punjab. (You can read about 1984 riots in Delhi, its aftermath and also what happened before it. I am not discussing the politics of it here). I was four years old then and at that age I didn't understand why there were so frequent curfews in the city. Also I didn't understand why there were always new people coming to our home. Always large quantities of food were prepared. For kids, it all seemed like party. Meeting new uncles and aunts frequently and playing with their kids. There was a room on the 1st floor of our house, where these guests used to stay. It was much later in life, when I discovered that these were the people who had come from Delhi post 1984 riots for their safety. They had come after losing everything. Their well settled lives, their earnings and treasures. They were now refugees in their own country. When my grandfather (whom we used to call Bade Papa) used to go to Gurdwara and he met such people, he brought them home, give them a place to stay and food, till they can settle in Ludhiana. Many such families are like our families today. They owe their well settled and rich lives today, partly to my grandfather. 

I can't imagine myself doing something like this. I think I am too practical (or selfish) to even attempt this kind of charity. I feel humanity is alive because of people like him. And I will not forget that my grandmother supported him in this and supported him when he came to India as a refugee himself.

Let us not forget the sacrifices made by them and made by all those who paid the price for our independence. They are the true fathers of our nation. 

Friday, April 07, 2017

F : Fish in the Pond

This is an incident from my first sales and channel management job. I was six months into it and was getting increasingly frustrated that my seniors were treating me with kid gloves and not letting me handle the dealers where there were challenges or where you can prove your worth. I was being given areas, where business happened on auto-mode. That also reflected their lack of trust in my abilities.

After six months our boss changed. The new boss invited everyone for dinner party. When everyone got drunk, he started asking uncomfortable questions. He knew when one is drunk, one isn't politically correct. So when my turn came, he asked me what bothers me most. I don't remember the question verbatim. May be he asked something else and not what I mentioned above. But my response to whatever he asked was definitely clear. 

I told him that I am a big fish meant to swim in the sea, but I am being limited to a pond. I mentioned that I don't like to be a fish in the pond. My colleagues told me next day that I repeated this statement crazy number of times that night. On loop.

So when I was summoned to my boss' office next day, I knew that this is my last day at office. I was too brazen last night. He offered me two new markets to handle. Tough ones. I was out of his office after few minutes and the pond too.

Lessons Learnt:1.  Avoid drinking beyond a limit at office parties. 2. Always say your mind. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

E : Engineering

Engineering - the word, the sound of it and its construction will conjure different images in minds of different people. But I am no hi-fi engineer, like a computer engineer. I am not even a mechanical engineer. I am a humble agricultural engineer, proverbial Son of the Soil. I bet many of you wouldn't even know such a field of engineering even exists. But here I am talking about it. 
Before I write further let me get few things out of the way:

1. This post is not about Agricultural Engineering or for that matter any field of engineering. The post is all about the four years of my engineering and what I did apart from academic learning in it. So I will be narrating some of the anecdotes which you may or may not identify with.

2. I have met several engineers (who have done engineering from Indian colleges) over the years and irrespective of what college they come from or what branch of engineering they have done, all engineers seem to have similar life lessons revolving around similar subjects like alcohol, hostels, tech fests, fights among different groups and of course Girls. Girls, also because in a typical engineering batch of 100, there will be 2 girls only. This paucity of the females is more acute in mechanical and agricultural branches of engineering. The computer geeks have it good here as well.

3. I was the gold medalist of my batch, with highest OCPA ever till then. (I completed my engineering from College of Agricultural Engineering, Punjab Agricultural University.) In fact the second best in our batch was 10 percent points behind. Yes, academically, I was good. But mind it, I was no nerd. I was part of the coolest gang of my batch and we had loads of fun in those 4 years. But all that doesn't stop my batch mates from calling me one. They have always pulled my leg for being a topper, but in a good, fun way.

4. They say you keep learning throughout your life. True, but 90% of your life lessons, you learn in Engineering. If you are an engineer, you can survive anything. Any disaster. Physical, Mental or Emotional. You can manage with no resources and no girls ;-). You are no less than that resilient cockroach hidden under your bed / desk right now. Don't bother looking for it, as you can't do much. So read on.

So this post can be endless. There are so many incidents I can recall. So I will limit myself to some funny anecdotes I can remember right away. You will get the drift. May be I will come back to this subject some time again. May be in next year's A-Z Blogging challenge and add more such anecdotes to it.

Anecdotes below are not narrated in chronological order. Just in the order I remember.

1. I was very good in all the subjects. I have opened and assembled hundreds of tractors during my engineering and during my on job training at my first job. I was default topper in all subjects. But there was this one thing which I couldn't do. And that was driving a tractor in reverse in straight line. So when the tractor driving exam happened, I drove the tractor in reverse, but the line was not straight. It was not a line. When I was asked to back it up to hitch a disc plough on its hydraulics, I reversed it and straddled the disc plough with the tractor on concrete. I was the target of all jokes that day. Tractor driving is the only exam I have ever flunked in life. Life Lesson here is that Every Superman has his own Kryptonite.

2. Some of us engineers were part of Youth Parliament wherein students from all six colleges of the university used to come together to present in a contest at the end of the year. And the grand prize was visit to actual parliament in New Delhi and meeting a sitting MP as well. Well most of us engineers didn't join the forum for any grand reason. Our sole motive was to use this platform to interact with girls of other colleges. And sometimes dreams used to come true. I made some of my best friends there. I met one girl there who remained my girl friend for a long period. But I am digressing. So we won that year and we all went to Delhi. We were made to stay at IIT - Delhi. We were amazed at the campus. This was a destination, all of us had failed to reach and so we ended up doing engineering from lesser colleges. But if you ask me today, I think COAE, PAU suited me well. In hindsight, I will not change a thing. And, I am digressing again.

So the engineers decided to go out binge drinking that night on streets of Delhi. We went to a wine shop and around 6 of us finished one bottle in about 5 minutes, outside the shop. Then we sat in a dark garden hiding from everybody and finished another bottle using paper cups. We didn't have money to go to costlier places. We didn't have money to buy snacks. We had never gone to a five star hotel before. So after we got drunk, we hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to a five star hotel. We went inside and peed. Then we went to another five star hotel and used its washroom. We were mighty impressed with the cleanliness. You need to visit our hostel toilets to know what I mean. So that night we got a kick by peeing in five star hotels. Today, it is common for us to stay in one every time we travel. Life Lesson here is that money doesn't buy you most memorable experiences.

3. Once our gang went to Mcleodgunj and Dharamshala for a trip. We didn't see much what tourists generally would, because we were busy drinking. A lot happened in those three days. But one thing which I clearly recall is that, after binge drinking for three days, when we returned to our base, the hostel, we had some money left. Everyone was hungry and due to vacations hostel mess was closed. So the question in front of us was whether to buy food with that spare money or drink more. Naturally we decided to buy another bottle of liquor. Life Lesson here is that food is nutrition for body, liquor is nutrition for deep friendships and soul.

As I mentioned above, I can narrate several such incidents. I think by taking theme for this challenge as anecdotes from life, I have opened a Pandora's box. How can this post be complete without talking about our experiences with our respective girl friends, or those college strikes, or those violent fights or that memorable educational trip (It was educational but not in the way intended by our professors) to Mumbai, Goa and Bangalore or those several other alcohol induced disasters etc. But that requires time, which we had a lot of during engineering. Now you can just remember those days, only as much as time permits.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

D : Divinity

I am a Sikh and not a very religious person, as far as wearing visible religious articles of faith are concerned or for that matter the rituals associated with it. It is not that I am allergic to these things. Just that I never felt a pressing need for the same or I am plain lazy to make effort or take out time for these things. 

That doesn't mean that I don't have faith in God or teachings of my religion, Sikhism. At the same time, I am not sure if I understand it completely and can interpret and imbibe all lessons properly. I always keep trying though and I think my God will be happy with that.

The topic for the day I have chosen is Divinity. To be more precise, divinity classes, I used to have in school. As it was a Sikh school, our divinity lessons were limited to Sikhism. (That is another point of discussion, that ideally kids should be taught about all religions and universalism in them. But let us keep that for another day. My theme for this challenge is to narrate anecdotes from life.) There were following key things taught to us in these classes:

1. Tales from Sikh History (Yes, Sikhism is a relatively new religion founded a little over 500 years ago and thus there is no mythology in these tales. In fact at any many points our Sikh Gurus fought wars against invaders and xenophobia. They sacrificed a lot for our nation.) Many of these tales were about morality and not about God. They are good lessons for children to grow up with. Like greed is bad. Sharing is important. Maintaining equanimity in happiness and sadness is key to be content and many more such lessons.

2. We learned about key people in our religion, like our Gurus and their contributions to the society. Like people who sacrificed for the right. They are perfect role models, if they are talked about to today's kids in a language and medium they understand. The key characters in Sikhism never denounced the household life. They all lived the way a normal man would. There were no miracles like in other religions. Our Guru's were teachers in true sense. Teachers of life. And those who follow them Sikhs or Students.

3. Gurbani (the Guru's word) written in our holy book Guru Granth Sahib (our eternal Guru). Well it is too large for kids, but yes we learned some parts of it which are meant to be recited daily. I was very enthusiastic as a kid. I learned at least 6 Banis by heart. (It is sad that now I can't recite them without reading). We were also taught the interpretation of these Banis, Shabds or Hymns. I used to participate in many contests related to Sikhism. I used to be part of few groups related to the same. I used to go to Gurudwara (Sikh holy temple) daily. No one could have imagined me to live such a hedonistic life in adulthood. But I still cherish those memories and they will always be important part of  my life. Whether I practice actively or not, just being aware of those lessons, those values makes me a better human being and I will keep striving to become even better,

As I mentioned above, I may not understand everything, but some key lessons I learnt from these Divinity classes or from Sikhism are:

Ek Onkar - There is one Universal God. (Why humans divide themselves on basis of religion is beyond me). You can google to get actual technical interpretation though. In fact in our Gurbani, the Gurus draw tales of other religions like Hinduism. There are people from other religions who have contributed hymns to our holy book.

Naam Japna - To meditate on God's name

Kirat Karna - To work hard and earn an honest living

Vand Chhakna - To share with others

You can get better interpretations of all this on some credible site. These are my takeaways.

Irrespective of how much I practice my religion, I believe even if I am able to imbibe these few lessons properly, I will achieve Nirvana.