Category Archives: Mera Bharat Mahaan

P is for Postcards from Port Blair

I am totally going to cheat on this post. For most of you Port Blair is a travel destination, for me and for a lot of us who grew up there – Port Blair is a feeling. Last evening as i sat down to write about this place, the words felt inadequate. How do i put to words the place I was happiest in – an innocent carefree life. How do I describe the place I don’t want to go back to because I fear the memory is more beautiful than the reality. It’s the place i most want to take the Tall One and the Elf to but i dont want to because i feel they wont see it with my biased eyes

I posed this question to my “chaddi buddies” who grew up with me in this idyllic islands and got them to write about living in Port Blair. What amazed me is that each of our memories and thoughts are so similar. Some of us grew up there, some of us (like me) were there for a couple of years, some still called it home (where their parents still are) but we all felt the magic. The magic was in its simplicity, in its beauty and its purity. Bear with the post as 66% of my chaddi buddies recount our wonder years.

This is what Gi my friend of the lemonade fame had to say:

Growing up in Port Blair was fun. Everydat was a picnic -the kind you read in Enid Blyton books. We could see the sea from everywhere. We could go on boat rides whenever we wanted to, have a mid night picnic in the middle of the sea on a full moon night, go swimming and snorkeling. I still miss the smell of the sea and the feel of the sand under my feet, even though its been half a decade since I went back there. I would like to say that apart from all the good things, I personally saw pretty rough times too and Port Blair was my refuge from the world.

A few of us had been living in Port Blair since we were very little and left it when we grew up and a few us came and went with Parents postings. There was a magic bond that was created and I think it was because of the place, the sheer simplicity of it. I can say this for all of us that we would all like to go back there together and experience that again.

And this is what my other friend P had to say:

They called her a junglee – a quiet shy girl, full of dreams and ambitions. She geew from being a little girl, to a a teenager and a young adult on these beautiful.From the shores of the sea to the middle of forests a life which seems like something right out of the jungle book.

Carefree and happy full of memories- Running to catch a seat in the bus to get to the ferry, watching the sun rise and set each day along the horizon,the shimmers of the waves still catch her eyes and remind her of many picnics and outings movies and birthdays with her favorite bunch of the buddies -people she has known for most of her life…

PortBlair will always remain part of her no matter were she is or were she goes…

There is Reshmi from mum in the curry fame – she looks back nostalgically to the place which she still calls home (this was by far the toughest post to edit, i do hope she features the whole post on her blog someday

Living in a country  (US) where I did  not grow up but moved for education and job, I have often been asked ‘Where are you originally from?” Since my answer is not the simplest and the place not the easiest to know or locate, I i usually pull up a map to show. The reaction I get from people when I show them the speckles in a vast ocean on a map, never ceases to amuse me, followed by the ‘What’s the place called again?”

As much as I love telling people about my home, it’s the next question from them (which almost always follows the first) that trumps me. “Why in the world would you leave such a beautiful place to come HERE?”
However pragmatic my answer  sounds about a better life and job and all that jazz, truth is I ask myself that question more often that I have been asked by someone else.
How can you not love a place so beautiful! The only image that conjures in my mind when someone says HOME is that of a small town, views of the sea from every where, hills, clear skies (of course when its not pouring!), fresh air…I can go on. This is the place I spent 18 years of my life. Place that taught me the charm of small communities and simple living; the value of finding small joys in mundane things (getting drenched in the rain while walking back from school in spite of that umbrella in the bag!); where I made friendships that have lasted for so long that I don’t remember how long. Where I met the love of my life. Where my parents still are, where some of the people I value the most still live. The place that shaped my profession. The place that I would go back in a heartbeat (but then life’s reality blah blah blah).
Port Blair is also the place that I also miss the most. My husband thinks it’s only a matter of years that this love will give away to a mere memorable affection, and I fight him for that unwanted opinion. It is true that I may have chose to ignore the fact that the place and times have changed. Things may not be the same. But my Port Blair will always be what I remember from when I left. Port Blair may have moved on without me, but I will remain in denial that it has. And that is the reason why every time the sky becomes over cast, I remember home.Any time I hear the rain lashing out in the night and pounding my windows, I close my eyes and pretend I am home, lying on my bed, and falling asleep to the sound of the rain.
This is what my friend – “Ginny” had to say
It is and always has been about the people. Port Blair to me was my friends, family,and neighbors. These people shaped my experiences of the town, and my childhood.With my family I explored most of what the island had to offer- hikes, boat trips, snorkeling and swimming on some of the most remote islands. My neighbors were the playmates during the scheduled power cuts in the evenings, and companions on various picnics that our mums organized. But, it was my friends who made Port Blair come alive for me.

It was with and through them that I appreciated what it had to offer. Not, just the beauty, but a sense of community and self. Even though we were thousands of miles away from everything, I belonged. We were behind the times, but it didn’t feel like that because my friends (the chaddi buddies you’ve heard about before) were way ahead of the times. With our fabulous sense of fashion and selves, we had a blast in what could often be a sleepy town. Countless hours were spent on the phone (we used them to talk to each other, I know…how ancient!), and then countless more at school and tuitions.

As with most things, our collective time on the island came to an end. We dispersed off to corners of the mainland, and some left the country. It was then that I realized,going back to Port Blair was nice, because it had been home, but it was only fun and real when my friends were around.

So, to me Port Blair is a state of mind, and thanks to my friends and our whatsapp group, I’m there each and everyday soaking in the sunshine, feeling the spray of salt on my skin and swimming with the dolphins.
This is part of the blogathon for April and this is my blog spot for P
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Through the eyes of my kid

In the elf’s eyes, The world is a beautiful place. I see that changing as he has come to the conclusion that there are some bad people in the world. But he doesn’t know about poverty, suffering, death and pain.

Like all Indian kids, he sees his quota of beggars mostly at traffic signals. I see his curious eyes look at them. The one who always has a question about everything is quiet. He asks no questions. At least not yet.

I struggle with how much to tell him. I want him to be compassionate yet dispassionate. I feel In a country like ours, you can’t afford to be one of the two. You can’t ignore the poverty and suffering, but you honestly can’t weep at the plight of everyone.

I want his world to be beautiful longer where the sky changes the colour and the moon and the sun share the sky.  I hate that he knows that some people are not always good.

So the other day we were at a signal and a blind man was begging. The elf was up to his normal games and trying to attract the attention of the auto driver by tapping on the car window. I told him to stop tapping since the blind man would probably think someone was calling him to give him something (in my defence I was driving and my wallet was in the backseat – no way could I have reached for it)

Elf: Why we have to stop tapping?
Nut: Because this uncle can’t see and will think you are calling him. We shouldn’t trouble him
Elf: Why he can’t see?
Nut: Coz he has no eyes

By now the beggar is near my window and I can see the Elf eyeing him. He can see the eyes are different. I wonder if this is too much of information for him. Is he too young for this? Will it shake his belief that Mama and God can make everything ok?

Elf: Why he has no eyes
Nut: Baby you have have to ask God that
Elf looking at the sky: God God, Why this uncle don’t have eyes ?
M<omentary silence and then he looks at me and says – Mama, God says that he didn't have any eyes.

I am struck by so many things. who told him god made people, who told god is in heaven – but more importantly who taught him to be so logical and find an answer to a question I don’t know how to answer.

I want to know but I don’t ask him more questions. I know that the next time we are at this signal, he will remember and ask about the uncle again. He told his grandmother about the uncle when he reached home.

But he isn’t traumatised. His world is still beautiful. Sure it has some people who don’t have eyes in it.

But his simple answer reassured me that he will figure it out and it will not break him. It reminds me how important my answers to his questions are – In making him a good strong person.

In parenting – they don’t exaggerate when they say every minute is making the person they are tomorrow.

Marine drive – Mumbai meri jaan!

Sitting by marine drive

The place that represent Mumbai for so many of us.

Looking at the dark waters I wonder how many secrets have they hidden.

How many couples have loved, fought and broken up at its shores. Some for ever, some to be united again here.

So many of us have stared into these waters building dreams of our futures. Some became millionaires and some failed. They probably all came back and remembered the day they dreamt.

As I sit on marine drive with my almost 3 year old, I wonder if the waters remember the 15 year old who stood by marine drive and dreamt! I don’t remember what I dreamt, but I wonder if I am the same person.

I wonder if the waters remember the ambitious girl who had just started working trotting down the drive in uncomfortable heels after a day at work. I KNOW the ambitions are different, I don’t know what changed.

The young couple starting off their life together, siting in silence as they enjoy their togetherness and the black waters. We still sit in silence but the silence in broken by an endless chatter of a toddler

Mumbai or Bombay my city. Where I grew up in so many different ways. symbolised by the beautiful marine drive.

A piece of my heart will always be part of marine drive.

Modern India – really?

So there is this colleague of mine – let me just call her PR. PR is a doll! A beautiful, smart girl, well-educated – done her MBA from one of India’s top B schools. Her Dad works as one of the top officials in one of India’s most respected government organizations. He has worked his way up, to be one of the top officials. She speaks highly of her father who despite belonging to an SC caste never used the reservation or allowed his daughters to use it. They have had to work their way to whatever they have done in life

PR is dating this mallu Nair boy – a nice boy am sure -nothing great in the looks department,educated less than her, happens to work abroad. His dad used to work in the gulf and came back to settle in Kerala.

His parents are dead against their marriage – their first reason being that she was an SC!!!
They then think that her dad should give them dowry – coz their son isn’t easily available on “sale” or something to that effect.

When she told me about the dowry bit, i was disgusted and asked her if this guy was worth it. I mean even if your parents are demanding dowry – dont u as a man in love with this girl have the guts to tell them this is wrong! Why are you communicating it to her? Because apparently the boy thinks it’s ok!

What shocked me even more – while PR wasn’t thrilled, she was ok with a certain amount of dowry being given. because in her side, if she had an arranged marriage, dowry is a pre-requisite.

Is it me? Am i too naive or idealistic? Do i live in a palace of illusions?

-> I would have thought her dad would say – I will never give dowry for my daughters! They are educated and capable of earning for themselves and hopefully will do so in tandem with their partners. let the couple make a life for themselves.
-> I would have thought she would have told the guy and his family to buzz off
-> I would have at least expected a lot more outrage from PR – am i good enough for you only with a couple of lakhs accompanying me?
-> I would have thought that in this day and age – caste would not matter especially when the girl is educated and of a similar if not better background than yours

Is modern-day India just a facade?

Is our old thought process just buried below this farce of moderness we claim to have?

What does it feel to grow up knowing that you will be acceptable to a man/his family if u come accompanied with the acceptable amount of money ?

And caste – how can it still matter?

Are we just a handful of us – whose parents would never ever even think of paying dowry for us. My mom as a kid used to always joke that she would ask for dowry from anyone who wanted to marry me!

This saddens me – this India which breaks my notion of dowry, caste etc not being an urbane educated class issue.

And this is the mandatory WC post…

I think everyone has written a post about the World Cup mainly to record for yourselves this momentous occasion. We did the usual – had friends over, drank, shouted, ate like pigs. And now i think i suffer from post world cup depression. Of course ir’s a real thing, if i lived in America, i could be treated for it. And the next person who tells me but IPL is coming no – will get a thwack on their head,

Anyway, the moments which stood out for me – recorded for the sake of my offspring, (who i hope wont have to wait 28 years or maybe they should have to wait??) was to see a country unite – By the only bond we have- CRICKET!!!

– Dhoni Expression when he hit the last six. The look in his eyes makes me get goosebumps – a realization to 1.2 billion of us – that yes we they had done it.
– Dhoni running to grab the stump before hugging yuvraj
– Yuvraj and bhajji crying & Sachin & Dhoni’s moist eyes
– Every single cricketer dedicating their win to Sachin. Sachin being carried by the young ones. Kirsten being carried by the young ones
– Virat’s amazing one liner – “He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years, it’s our turn to carry him”
– Dhoni’s speech at the presentation

The way this team performed in the last three matches is what B-school case studies are made up of:

The world cup was never just about Sachin’s performance. Yes Yuvraj and Sachin stood out, but Virat, Raina, Zaheer, Nehra, Munaf, Dhoni – everyone had a role to play. Ummm Sreesanth am leaving you out of this one though! It was about team work

Many a time it was about quiet confidence and not loosing your head in the face of a tough situation. When the whole world thought the world cup was a lost cause after we lost Sehwag and Tendular. Two young boys believed – Gautam and Virat. Look at how Raina didn’t lose his head during the Australia match.

It was about grabbing opportunities when they came your way. Raina on being chosen over Pathan in Australia, and made sure he became a mainstay in the team. Nehra on being dropped and being the butt of all jokes, & Munaf who was cursed for his run rate came back and how against Sri-Lanka. The ‘young’ Ashwin made his mark too. All of them justified Dhoni’s confidence on them. (except ummm Sreesanth)

It was about hard work and believing in yourself – Case in point Yuvraj Singh. He lost his flamboyant “I am too young for my own boots” image and became India’s mainstay.

And Dhoni (drool drool! doesn’t he look so handsome ever since he won the WC for us) – I mean what a captain…he never lost his cool, took brave decisions and made the God of cricket call him the best captain ever!

Dear Indian cricket team – i can’t thank you enough! While i enjoyed the match, the celebrations were the best part. India united for the first time maybe.This was like a dream come true!T We still pinch ourselves to see if it is true. We want to tell the cynics lay off for now. It is a big deal for us.

It’s something we will watch re-runs of forever!

Memories of terror…

This was chosen as Blog Adda’s Spicy Satuday pick

Dear Politicians,

Your head honchos appealed for peace but my blood is boiling.

We are a nation on tenterhooks, choosing our words carefully. However, your flunkies like Uma Bharati and Ravi Shankar Prasad are shooting their mouth. A Barkha Dutt is attempting to silence you. Haven’t u done enough for the nation.

Dont u feel guilty of the blood you have shed in the name of God? Do u believe God wants a “house” to be made from blood stained mud. Dont u feel bad that the seeds of distrust u have sown in 1992, flamed further in 2003 continues to cause fear in our hearts 18 years later.

This city i live in – continues to be haunted. Yes the ghosts aren’t moving around in broad daylight. But dig deep and you will see it. I wasn’t here in Mumbai in 1992 – but i have heard stories from my friends. South Mumbai friends who had never witnessed anything like this before – Hindus and Muslims alike. They saw flames from their upmarket homes. They tell of people pulled out of their flats in areas like Cuffe Parade and murdered.

A close friend of mine – who dad’s is a muslim and mom’s a hindu once told me his experience. He is a privileged boy who lives in Peddar Road -yes his mom’s family had disowned her when she married a muslim. He the only son. A close-knit family – just the three of them. Then came the riots. Apparently his house was marked for “taking care of” coz his was the only flat in the name of a muslim.

They knew the hindu mob was coming. His dad asked his mom and him to go and hide with the neighbours. The neighbours were ok with taking in the kid and mom but not a pure muslim. His mom refused to go. The three of them decided to face the mob together.

Can u imagine the tension they went thru? The fear a 10-year-old felt – he could hear the mobs.. His father blaming himself for his religion, his mom praying for her husband and her son. Yes the mob was shooed away by the police. But the 10-year-old boy was scarred. No he didn’t become a terrorist…

But yes he is convinced that the he will marry only a hindu (and his dad insists too) – so that at least his kid will be 75% Hindu and hence safer. His dad didn’t want him to apply to IIM – Ahmedabad – any guesses why?? He talks endlessly of his dad and he are ganeshji devotees and never talks of the eid i know he celebrates.Every time friends taunted him of supporting Pakistan in a cricket match – it hurt…he had to be extremely vociferous about his support to India in a match…lest someone point a finger! He feels bitter…

In one of my “love your country” lectures…he actually asked me WHY SHOULD I? I know i can tell him about the other things that India has given him…but can i ever convince him enough to wipe out the memories of the fear he felt in 1992?

His memories may not ever be wiped out…but please help us not create any further non-erasable memories for our children.
Help us to continue to believe that God does exist!
And Help us believe that humans (you) have a conscience!

Regards
Just Another Nut

Disclaimer –
While i did mention only 2 leaders from the “Hindu party” there are muslim leaders making equally callous sentences. So in no way am i supporting either side. Please bury the pathars (stones) u want to throw at me -if i remember my science well- it will help prevent soil erosion.

What do you do

When you know something unpleasant is happening which u have no control about?

Do u crib, rant and bring it up at all forums? Have long debates on the root cause of all problems? Decide who to blame for the same?

or do u act like the issue doesn’t exist?

I do the latter …particularly with the CWG….a bridge collapses, accommodation is filthy, it’s two weeks away…countries are likely to pull out of CWG…India is going to be disgraced…People’s view of India as a growing super power will now be that of a corrupt state…the way we view Pakistan.

Our hopes of this being the reason sports – other than cricket becoming popular in Indian dashed.
The few Indian sports people we have disappointed at the lack of interest and irresponsibility the government has shown

There is only one hope….PRAY HARD

Oh millions of Gods we have…please help us not look too bad 😦