Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Taking for granted!

We took a bus to the theatre yesterday so that we could discuss our plans as we got there rather than get irritated about the traffic. Yes, and I am trying to get myself to get used to living on a shoestring budget before I land another job. Not that I won't land one soon but you will see why if and as you read further. Since we started at a time when people were still at work, the buses were empty. But the bus fare caught me by surprise - 40 rupees till Tin Factory and it would still mean that we'd have to take another bus or walk to Gopalan Grand Mall. We could've taken the car and reached the theatre directly (there was no traffic) and it would not have costed me 80 rupees one way.

When it was time to get home, we were shocked by the numbers at Tin Factory. And the buses plying were few. It is one thing for BMTC to sign up with private companies to provide an easy commute to their already well-paid employees but not at the cost of the already haggard lower income groups. While we waited there, in spite of having Pras by my side, the following ran through my head

  • I got home at 5:30pm while there are so many who get home past 8pm and may be earning a quarter of what I took home.
  • 3 ladies in a car, sharing costs to get to and from work. It's the best thing. Safe, fun, cheap.
  • I did not have to worry about some man bumping into me while I waited for the bus. I was scared with the kind of looks people pass while you stand at the bus stop.
  • I did not have to worry about being the last and only woman on a bus. Yes, the delhi gang-rape case only worsens fears. Had I not been there on the bus last evening, the other lady would've been the only one aboard that bus surrounded by drunken men. Unimaginable!
And yet, we look forward to that hike!

Kai Po Che! - A review!!

This comes from somebody who has not read a complete Chetan Bhagat book. And, I've not read "3 mistakes of my life", from which this movie is adapted. That said, it was refreshing to see new faces, well not so new, in this movie. For me, Maanav has stolen the show - loved him as Archana's husband(Thank you my dear friend for catching my typo) on the small screen and loved him more as "bhai-lu" in this film. I had to watch this movie just for him.

The start of the movie is as if Abhishek Kapoor has painted Dil Chahta Hai with a middle class brush. Gujarat is beautiful and I loved the fine line of surrealism that runs through the length of the film. Three good friends doing business together, each for different reasons with no prior understanding of what one is getting into - just driven by passion. Quite typical but if only I had that rich uncle.

The parts portraying the friendship of the 3 lads in good times are beautiful. "Kal Sunday Hai.. Kal Sunday Hai.. Daaru Peene Ka Din Hai" - an ex-colleague of my husband would dance around singing the same jingle on Sunday morning. I am sure there are many boys out there who would relate to these scenes. I've always wanted to see my husband have fun with his friends cause I've heard so much about how much fun he is to be with but these are things that I console myself with. He refuses to even talk about those times and I wonder where is that *fun* bone in him when he is with me.

Ok, back to the movie. The movie does have its own fair share of twists and not having read the book, I still struggle to figure what those 3 mistakes really are and in whose life. My mind shuts down when I go for a movie - I am going to be entertained, aren't I?

The inclusion of the massive earthquake that struck Gujarat years ago and the Godhra riots breathe some more reality into the film. I thought the movie to be a mish mash of sorts - seen many of the scenes in other movies.

I'd recommend watching this movie at least once if you are a cricket fan, sports fan, been a part of a boys gang, are a part of a boys gang or planning to start a business with your friends.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chapter 5 - taking the leap of faith

Just as Moi had begun to actually move on in life and start doing things on her own, Pras, at Delhi at the time, sent a message which read "If you put on weight and weigh 42kgs, I will marry you." A series of mails later, terms and conditions for the marriage and the life after mutually agreed upon, Moi decided to bid farewell to the comfort and friends of Chennai.

After a year in Bangalore, we got married. It took him sometime to convince his mom. The marriage ceremony was over in a blink of the eye. And, here's a secret, Moi weighed 39kgs on the wedding day. It is gonna be 4 years of blissful married life next month with a fair share of ups and downs.

AND, I am going to stop referring to me as Moi now. Whew!!! It is so much easier to write like you are talking it out to a friend.

Has marriage changed me? Yes, in some ways. It has made me a stronger human being, more practical, less emotional. I attribute all these changes to the person I've married. He is everything that I am not. Yup, ours is a case of opposites attract. If you fall into the same category, my two cents worth of advice is to not let him rub off on you.

While I type this post, the below is an excerpt of our conversation. This is usually when we fight over the remote. (He and his news channels.. bah!!)

I ask, "Is it important to know what happened in some one else's life? How does it affect me and my life? Would my life be different if I cared?"
He replies, "There is more to life than TLC and your blog."

Well, this is not the first time. And yes, I've begun to care and I try to read the newspaper and catch up on the recent goings on when I can. For me the newspaper until now meant playing sudoku on the last page. The Internet is a Pandora's box, except that you need to be visiting the right websites.

Marriage can be good and bad. You can feel extremely secure with the person around and you can at a different instant of time feel stifled and suffocated by the same person. It's all about giving each other the space one requires. He is around *all* the time. When I leave for work, he is around. When I get home, he is around. Well, he works from home. So I used to work from home, when he would go to work. There were times when I'd force him out of the house so that I could get some ME time.

We've been on multiple trips over these years and this year, it is going to be the biggest. More on this in the next chapter - hopefully there is one. Lakshadweep, Alleppey, Chennai, Coorg, Kabini, Manali, Himalayan Trek, Bhutan, Goa and multiple trips to Ooty and Palakad. Travelling has been one more form of education for me. An eye-opener.

And as far as the terms and conditions go, they are on a continuous review with additions and deletions and as it is with all rules, rules are meant to be broken. My two cents of advice to all you newly weds out there

  1. Be adjusting and accommodating of the other person.
  2. When your better half is angry and yelling on the top of his/her voice, you stay calm and quiet. You can always clarify when he/she has cooled down later.
  3. 'Tis true, the way into a man's heart is through his stomach. So cook well. I guess that in today's world it would apply the other way too.
  4. Never ever say anything wrong about your better half's family. Well, there are ways. Call me if you need more tips on this.
  5. Don't assume - talk everything out. No, don't argue, TALK!
So, here's the end of the life that has been. 31 years covered in 5 chapters. My friend complains that I've left off the juicy bits. Hopefully, this one makes up for that.

The right to make informed choices

iDiya by the Indian School of Business has announced a National Social Venture competition to enable humans, passionate about a social cause, to create a sustainable social enterprise. In between jobs, facing bouts of depression and anxiety, I did fall back on reading a brief on my career prospects for this year. As is rightly captured in the movie "OMG! Oh My God", humans need to find solace and reassurance in something. Some people make that something a money making enterprise and others blindly follow. For me, I turn to astrology in spite of not being an ardent believer. My friend made me read my daily horoscope when I had decided to follow the man I loved, and thankfully I did not listen to a word it said. One site interestingly mentioned that I will enter the social domain. De-ja-vu and a day later, here I am writing about one of the social causes that I am very passionate about.

Not receiving my 5-figure monthly salary for the first time in over 9 years, made me truly realize the gross inequality happening on a day-to-day basis around me. Not that I was not aware of these ground realities but this time it is staring right back at me, in the face. So much is taken for granted and so much more is lusted over.

While at work, I often spoke of how overpaid I was compared to the ladies who cleaned the toilets, washed the cups, kept our premises clean and still got just 5000 rupees a month. They toiled from 8am to 5pm on their feet with odd meal times. With the price of 1kg sona masuri rice at 50 rupees, I wonder whether these ladies would provide for a nutritious meal, pay their monthly bills or send their children to school.

What made me so privileged? Didn't that same lady and I come into this world the same way? What did I do differently to have been able to earn X times her salary? Who decided that I was to be born into an affluent family and she into a poor one?

We all come into the world the same way. We all deserve equal access to opportunities. One main deterrent to this is the lack of awareness and greediness. Most people still believe that more kids means more money that can be earned off of them. The importance of education is unknown amongst the masses. In spite of child labor being banned, you find so many small businesses employing these children. Money to survive each day is the topmost priority for these individuals. I don't think they get a chance to think about the long term. Those who do, try and give up under the burden of loans.

In a country as densely populated as ours, it should not be difficult to increase awareness about education and the importance of the same. Look at how we eradicated polio. Bill Gates, in one of his talks on the BBC, praised the efforts of the Government of India and the government paid workers, who waded through flooded regions to ensure that the vaccines reached every child in every part of the country. Is the Government spreading awareness about education and human rights with the same zeal? Does some one from outside of the country have to come and tell us how to improve the living conditions and the lives of people?

Organizations like WorldVision, with the help of philanthropists, are working towards the education of children in remote villages across in India, as well as providing a means of livelihood to families in those areas. With a monthly donation of 800 rupees, one child's education needs are taken care of.

If each of the parents across India had sufficient money to take care of their day to day needs, would they not send their children to school, in stead of trying to earn off of them? Food, shelter, access to clean toilets and drinking water should be every human's right. An interesting additional read here would be this article by Mr. P. Jayaram,  Senior Journalist and Head of the Department of Amrita School of Communication, Coimbatore.

The Government of India does provide free education for children up to the age of 14 years. Give the children the access to education, a keyhole view into the actual world and its possibilities, and let them make an informed choice for their future. Let them not follow in the footsteps of their unfortunate parents who can't think beyond where their next meal is going to come from or what if they can't pay back their loans.

The Government of India has also announced schemes to ensure that people below the poverty line get sufficient food. Corruption and money making middle men, prevent these schemes from being properly implemented. One would need to think about how the census is carried out in our country.
A representative goes from door to door collecting statistics of the people living there. How accurate would this exercise be? I leave it up to you to decide. How does the Government know the actual income of a family? A fee of 1000 rupees to a middle man can get you a ration card. A fee of 500 rupees can get you a voter's identity card. It remains to be seen how successful the Aadhaar project will be. It remains to be seen if the Government will rise over corruption and get these well thought out schemes, for which valuable tax-payer money has been spent, get implemented for the benefit of everyone and not just the privileged few again.

IndiChange - Harnessing the collective power of blogging to fight evil.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chapter 4 - the butterfly sets awandering

Disclaimer : Same as that in the previous chapters

Some insight : The interest in my posts has dwindled but that wont deter me from continuing :) Understandable. It is quite hard to maintain the continuity and writing style. Mid-way that I am, in the journey of this series of posts, I realize that if I had better exposure to the internet during this phase I'd have been a different person. The broadband internet phenomenon hit me very late and now I am addicted.

Now, back to the actual post..

One year of independence and freedom was decided. Moi had one more year to impress and win. Did she?

Well, it was an eye-opener for Moi who had taken for granted every daily chore that was done for her. Chop, cook, clean, wash dishes, wash clothes, iron the clothes, sweep the floor, mop the floor, clean the kitchen top and on top of all this make it to work on time and DELIVER. Weekly grocery shopping  was done at the local grocery store who gave free karuvapillai/curry leaves and coriander or at the hep supermarket where they make one think that they've got a good bargain.

On the trusty scooty, Moi "ooru-sootified" around Adyar, Velachery, IIT, Besant Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur. These were Moi's "addas". And Sathyam Cinemas! Blind dates every Thursday, double dates on some random weekend and the night shows.

When Moi got like-minded roomies, off they went for late night movies. That was Moi's moment of independence, one that will always be cherished. Oh and not to forget the money spent at the Dollar Shop in Besant Nagar. The solution to any kind of depression - shopping for stuff that you really don't need but think you do.

Through this phase, roomies came and roomies went. Friends stay to this day. Lessons learnt

  1. Getting a good like-minded room-mate is equal to finding a life partner. If you succeed in getting a good room-mate, you've found a friend for life.
Pras was always swinging from one side to another. One year passed, extension was obtained with the intent of moving on. This would not have been possible without the friends. Did Moi move on?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chapter 3 - In ninth heaven

[Here's a link to the first Chapter.]
[Here's a link to the second Chapter.]

Disclaimer : These are just incidents from my life and I don't mean to offend anyone. And, don't get judgemental. What's here is mostly just the past.

Did Moi get married as she thought she would? No. Surprisingly the question never came up save for once - either Moi or her brother had to decide who would get married first. Door slamming and raised voices and the topic never came up again. I started my job search instead, in a time when IT was at its low.

"Treat at 4pm" reads the mail. Now, all would wait for 4pm for the treat. The treat today is being hosted by Manoj for getting his IT refund. Now, how many people you know who would do that? These were the kind of people who got introduced into my life when I joined Nilgiri Networks. A delightful place, a home away from home. What's more? You get paid to go there everyday from 9am to 6pm.

Nilgiri Networks was run in a quaint British bungalow near the botanical garden in Ooty. After much searching, I found the building to hand over my resume. In a few weeks, Moi was selected for a salary of 5000 rupees a month. Moi was ecstatic. Yes, it was not what one would want to start work on but it was great considering Moi was at home.

Influenced by all the others who came on two wheelers, Moi thought owning a two wheeler was the coolest thing. Moi went ahead and bought a scooty pep. My first prized purchase, in installments albeit. Anyways, it looked great and I was one of the first few to have purchased the hottest new two-wheeler of the time. So, this meant further fattening with lack of exercise. Moi took up yoga classes which stick with me to this day. When the brother decided to get married, Moi took to walking as well as playing badminton, even if it was just a 5 minute break. Moi wanted to look her best at the wedding.

My trusty ride saw Moi going biking with the guys at work. We went on picnics with carriers filled with delicious food prepared by mom. We played with the cheetos toys in between work. Moi demanded for a 20% discount at every restaurant we went to, because we were locals. Our every day snacks were bought fresh and ranged from bun-butter from the bakery to vada sambar from Saravana Bhavan. No, one did not think about weight. One just had fun. Worries came and went but did not bog any one down.

The part that I hated most were the weekends - they meant staying at home with nothing to do.

[To all those of you who were a part of this phase of my life : I miss you]

Everyone who is in the IT industry does at one point or the other have to travel onsite. Moi got her fair chance too. Onsite for Moi meant Chennai, the one place for which Moi said "I will never get married to a guy from Chennai."

"Jo, you will need to travel to Chennai to get this work finished", said Usha's voice on the phone.
"Do I really need to travel?" asked Moi. Moi hated the KPN bus due to motion sickness.
Though Moi loved travelling, Moi always wished and wishes that it was as simple as close one's eyes and magically be transported to the place one wishes to go to.

While onsite Moi began interactions with the man in her life began in the most magical place - IIT-Madras, campus. Meals, movies, walks - many things we did together. And when the announcement came that the Ooty operations were shutting down with an option to move to Chennai, dad asked Moi to get married.