Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

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Day 104: They tend to leech you away from your parents 

Last working day of the semester and I have more glee than sadness. This semester has taken a huge toll on my emotions and my general sanity of mind, questioning my principles and the will to stick around through every bit of the way.  I’m grateful that with the exams, this will be all done. And that will leave me with just one more semester to go.

SilverGhoster

The last month or so has been a fun learning time, with all due thanks to the SilverGhoster. His 4 wheel drive accords him that name; the alternative that he picked for his ride was ‘Doll’. Haha! Anyway, it’s been chitter-chatter about the education scene in the country, some traditional views that run schools, cars and gals, and general love trouble.

Over lunch and tea, we got talking about his big checklist for the prospectives. Can’t blame the man for having one; I’ve been there, striking items off with each passing year. I’d like to mention a few here, not with the intention of outing the man’s super-secretive list, but to remember the discussion that followed each.

  • The girl has to be from Bangalore.
    • Why so? Well, there’s a friend of a family of a friend of the family, who got married to someone from UP. And when the mother of a friend asked about the friend of a family of the friend’s wife, she made a face when he said UP.
  • The girl has to have a younger brother.
    • Why younger? Older brothers tend to be overprotective, you know. And now you have a father and a mother and a brother to worry every time you make a move. And younger brothers can easily be brought in line, no?
    • Why not a sister? Younger or older? Well, a girl will eventually leave the house and the parents will have noone to take care of them anyway. Which means, the in-laws are around a lot, or the wife is gone a lot.
    • Why the whole hassle or siblings? Why not get a single child? Oh! We’ve seen a few of those and their long tentacles. They are too attached to their parents and are always trying to make the man leave his parents and live separately.
  • The girl had to love dogs.
    • Why? Who am I kidding? This one’s a no-brainer.

What caught me off was not just the patriarchy oozing from those demands, but also the naivete of not seeing through the stereotypes. Every time I prodded the discussion, questioning the idea, it all stopped at the societal norms and expectations, and him just being a regular man trying to meet those demands. While a lot of thought had gone into understanding why he needed a girl remotely interested in cars, the others had just gotten added with each societal eyebrow that raised around him.

Well, has he ever thought of how a girl would feel when she heard that her main intention was to ‘leech’ him away from his parents? Umm no. Does he know that research proves that daughters tend to take full custody of their aging parents while sons prefer to resort to hospicecare facilities? Oh, really? Why is it OK to expect a girl to leave her parents, her social circles, and fit right into the husband’s, while the reverse is unimaginable? Hmm valid thought.

I think we need to have more such over-the-coffee conversations with boys in this country. A number of these smart, intelligent, young men are simply looking for a spark to get them thinking. All they are missing is someone to tell them that the other side has a point of view too.

I’m not going to pat myself in the back and claim to have lit a spark. I would consider my karma done if that man at least started thinking on these lines.

While you’re busy lighting sparks, can you also feed me some mummum, please? I know it’s right here and I just have to lick it. But it feels like a lazy day. 

Pretty please?” Scotch 

Day 103: Leave, you can live with cookie on the streets

These last few days have been a major wastage of resources to get to college and back. We’ve barely had 2 or 3 classes each day and one with more drama than another. Remember?

Like yesterday, by about 12, I struggled and found my way back to the car, to start the long drive back home. I spent one hour and a half in the morning, and I anticipated at least 2 on my way back. I was spot on. So I had spent more time on the road going to and returning from Uni, than actually in the Uni itself.

Gorgeous omelets

And to make matters worse, I had restarted my diet with a few days of intermittent fasting. As I was driving back, I imagined the wondrous eggs lying on my counter, and the cheese in the fridge. I could picture the omelet I would make by putting these two simple and tell magical ingredients together. I had waded past Michael’s, the hot dude and his counter, full of chocolate croissants and chocolate doughnuts. I would make the omelet in all butter to make up for that missed chance at Michael’s. I had skipped breakfast as well. So, it will be a heavy brunch indeed.

I entered the house, and Scotch welcomed me in with more warmth and bum-shake than usual. Hmm. She must really love me. I was really gone for only a few hours. Wait a minute!

I walk over to the dining space, and the plastic container with the spicy groundnuts is lying on the ground, cracked into pieces. Not a sign of the extra spicy groundnuts. I look at the bed on the floor and it’s soaking wet. The recently bought bottle of epiotic, the ear cleaner, is lying strewn, a strategically placed hole leaking all the liquid out.

I turn to Scotch and she is already staring deep into the floor, ear flaps stuck to her head, and guilt overflowing. I chide her a little, point to the ear medicine and her mouth. I allow myself a small laugh, as I remember the recent upma episode. And I turn around towards the kitchen.

Hell!

There are some utensils all strewn on the ground, knives lying scattered, and the floor mat is all wet. The bowl with the vinegar solution for her ear is empty and lying down on the ground as well. A step forward, and the egg cartons are lying on the floor, face down, and half chewed on.

I had recently bought 2 dozen eggs and might have used 3 for my last omelet. 2 dozen eggs minus 3 and there was no sight of even one. No shells or parts. Nada.

A strange anger took over me and I leapt for the nearest stick from the garden. Two sharp whacks on her feet and she kept quiet, not even a growl. She knew she’d done something very bad.

I opened the main door and asked her to go live with the streeties since she was into scavenging anyway. I was angered all the more when she diligently followed my instructions and went out the door. Dogs don’t get sarcasm, clearly. I tied her up to her leash in the balcony, ran to the bedroom and slammed the door loudly behind me, like dogs would understand such passive-aggressive bullshit.

Breathe

Two minutes and I was already repenting every single minute of it. It was just eggs! And if anything, she would be the one in pain, what with all that excess protein intake. Why did I make it worse with the whacking? I wasn’t that kind of parent the last time I checked. I remembered how miserable I felt the last time, and this time I felt a million times worse. My ears were hot with the anger. And I could feel my heart racing.

I walked over and released her from her leash and gave her a nice long hug. Scotch over eggs, any day! And she burped in my face, as if returning all the affection, and I knew what was brewing in her little tummy already.

Well you know that free souls like me aren’t meant to be tied down. So, I’m going to make my sad face. 

And, you also know how much I love a challenge. So when you only gave me vegetables and Dalia for lunch, I just presumed that you had left the eggs for me to take later. After snack, maybe! ” Scotch 

Day 85: Bad manners 

I’m learning a lot about poor manners from the Swiss, through this project.

I’ve worked in multi cultural environments before, but we always made sure that language was never seen as a barrier. Even when I worked with the Mexicans, and Indians from different parts of the country, we had an unsaid rule to always speak in English at the table. You do not want to sound like the Filipino pedicurists, who are probably just complaining about each other’s husband’s but always seem like they’re bitching about how your feet smell, because their whole conversation is in a language you do not know.

Even when we started off with this project, all of us Indians had an agreement to speak only in English lest we let the Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada backgrounds between us be a reason to split us. And then the Swiss showed up and shamelessly spoke in French all the time. For a novice ear, it always seems like they’re talking smack about us, gesticulating violently and furiously.

For the first few days, I interrupted, clarified and always tried to bring the conversation back to English. But now, into week 2, I’ve given up. I speak in Malayalam and Hindi to people in the project with whom I’ve never used any language other than English for the last one year. People are shocked with how good my Hindi or Malayalam is because that’s how little they’ve heard me speak it before. And often, I speak about the Swiss in Malayalam or Hindi so that they feel like they’re getting the Filipino pedicurists treatment. A tooth for a tooth, and a foreign language for a foreign language.

Anyway, we had a presentation by the Swiss students to the School of Education, and we learnt how poor they are with public speaking skills. Dinner at Namesake’s house quickly turned into a show of extravagance, what with the fancy jacuzzi and infinity pool in the club house. But the family was very welcoming and the food tasted good. Hectic day indeed!

You’re complaining about a foreign language now? And you yell ‘Sit’ and ‘namaskaram’ and what not to me every time. What’s with that? Should I just bark back in Scotch-tongue going forward?” Scotch

Day 81: Swiss-Indo Bhai-bhai

The day was amm…aazing! That’s it!

Business Meet

The first event of the day was at Taj Mansingh, and is that a luxury hotel or what!? We had a desk set up right at the entrance to the business hall, where the President of the Swiss Federation was going to address a number of business partners, to further the Indo-Swiss friendship. It was truly an exhilarating experience, rolling around with the organizers from the Swiss embassy in India, and talking to some of the visiting delegates. It was more fun to listen to the proceedings of the event itself:

  • Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, was astute in her observations about the mutual dependence between the two countries.
  • Ms. Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, was prim in her pink kurta, and summarized wonderfully the last 70 years.

So, TallSwiss played a great photographer, and I managed to listen to a majority of the session and summarize it on the radio, and Mr. YZ, well, he managed to stress out for all three of us. Since this was the first radio session for both TallSwiss and I, there were some hiccups starting off, but I think we got into the flow. I realized the key to being a successful radio host was spontaneity and content. You need to have sufficient material content in order to be spontaneous enough on the radio. If not, you are just blabbering on air and playing sloppy music.

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The Radio Namanste desk with YZ, and me looking super serious. 🙂

 

Delhi Darshan

We managed to report on most of the first event and TallSwiss and I took off to show him some New Delhi. A quick change and we were on an auto to the heart of Old Delhi; Chandni Chowk. I’d heard wonderful things about the parathewali gali and I was going to try some. We had a little stop-over at India gate, to show the TallSwiss off to the local public. He has been awfully calm in the middle of all the mayhem around; it is either a sign of utter disdain or a sign of his maturity. Only time will tell. Well, we sweated it out a little at India Gate, and took another auto to Chandni Chowk.

I am totally intrigued by the accent of Hindi that you find in Delhi. It’s rude almost to the point of being familial. Wonderful! I don’t know if the auto man is yelling at me, or asking me something like an extremely intrusive, paternal uncle would. What also moved me immensely was the scene around Old Delhi, Jama Masijd, in preparation for Bakr-Id. Hundreds of goats waited, chewing carelessly, unaware of the near-distant future that awaited them. Pity! I am convinced that my dietary choices are only temporary and my going vegan is just around the corner.

We got off a little ways to Parathewali gali, and walked the rest of the way, so that we could soak in a lot of the local sights and sounds. It was a new experience for me too, dari bazaar, and I definitely want to go back there, a camera in tow. Parathewali gali was a revelation, an entire little street dedicated to cholesterol mania. We had just enough time to eat an aloo paratha and a thick lassi.

aaf15c32-9d03-4962-bf09-38e0e00e6fb2 Hot and steaming aloo paratha, with a side of aloo and more aloo

Town Hall

The second big event was more high-security than the first, and we had to go through three rounds of security checks, metal and man, before we got into the main hall. The event was late by about an hour. But it was great honor to listen in on a town hall that was open to students of environmental sciences and climate studies of New Delhi. And through the radio broadcast, I’m hoping we opened this up to students from other parts of the world too.

Unlike the morning event, which was attended by business professionals, and she needed them to invest in climate and relationships, this event was for students in attendance and she spoke about the future. There was a lot about how India had to learn from Switzerland’s sustainable energy models and that India was going through the same transformation that Switzerland went through in the 1900s and that there was hope. Promising talk from a leader!

Since we were set up in the same hall as the main event, we couldn’t report live throughout, but we were able to get a majority recorded. And I was able to listen in to some very interesting talk. Most of the questions from the students were around what Switzerland could do for India, and how the students could help. This showed me two big things: One, the next generation wanted to do something, and Two, they wanted to know who could help and how. Powerful!

The weird buffet

This is when things got weird. Satan’s waterfall struck, and I had to get excused from the gentlemen to get stocked. I reached the Swiss embassy alone for the final event, the buffet dinner hosted for the President, and the Swiss joined in few minutes later. We were given a room right inside the embassy, by the main living area, where the President was expected to greet her guests before proceeding out to the garden for the events of the evening. This speaks wonders about the publicity that Radio Namaste had at the embassy and the expectations that the show held. For all that, I thought the two Swiss let us down. We were done setting up, and before we even went live, YZ was running crazy to get himself a drink. “I need my l’alcohol”, he went around screaming, and you should have seen the smirk on his face when we were handed three bottles of water. That completely shattered the high horse that I had put them on so far.

At least on three or four different occasions, they were both missing, off to find themselves a fix, while I handed the radio pad, mixing my own little AC/DC and ABBA. But, if we were there to report on the proceedings of the evening, then why were we playing just the tunes? I would have been really disappointed had I been on the other side, with a lax radio team.

Anyway, the evening show went on for about an hour, and I was able to listen in to the proceedings, as 5 Friendship Ambassadors were honored by the President at the embassy. It was inspiring to hear about the Premchands, who have been in business from Switzerland from the 1950s, and on the other hand, Mr Matias Echanove and Mr Rahul Srivastava, Co-Founders of the urbz platform in Mumbai and Geneva, two young entrepreneurs bringing the two countries together.

The event ended in dinner and we brought the show to a troubled end, before setting out for dinner. The dessert was amazing and I started with it to get the evening going. The Swiss were, of course, drinking more than eating, and it got me thinking about how quick I was to judge alcoholics. I’ve had trouble in the past accepting people and their excessive drinking; ex-boyfriends, the father, and past clients; and was I simply being too harsh on them for their choices?

YZ was excessively sweet after his third drink, and thanked me profusely for the ease with which I handled the day. He mentioned how nobody would have done the job better, and even when TallSwiss was hesitant, I brought in the facts and made the show worth it all. Just drunk talk or was he being genuinely grateful? That’s my problem with the drunk, I think; their words can never be taken for what they are worth.

“One should never be too quick to judge, S. If you looked at Scotch and I, you’d think we are born trouble-makers. But you get to know us a little more, and you’ll know that all we want is to relax and smell the rain. Give people a chance, S.” Goose

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