Friday, March 25, 2005


“There you go! You are acting just like your father!”

“Where did you get that particular trait from? Definitely not from this side of the family!”

“That expression of yours is so much like your aunt’s! You are like two peas in a pod!”

How many times in a day do most of us have to hear such comments? And how many of us want to scream bloody murder each time we have to hear such comments?!
I for one do belong to this group. I’ve been hearing such comments from the time I could understand language! So probably such comments were being passed even before my verbal “enlightenment” had dawned on me!
Since the day I was born people have compared me to my father’s sister, saying that I resemble her a lot. I never could make out the resemblance. Where the heck was it? She has a rectangular face, I’ve an oval face; she has straight hair, I’ve wavy hair; she has “chinky” eyes, I’ve medium-sized NOT “chinky” eyes! Our mouths are different, eyebrows are different, builds are different, and everything else is different God dammit!
As time went on, this comparison used to drive me absolutely nuts! And people (mostly my brother and Grans!) picked up on this, and tortured me endlessly by comparing me to her. I would actually walk out of rooms when anyone said anything that remotely went like, “Isn’t she similar to…” I would literally walk out of the room (much to the embarrassment of my family members) when guests made such observations! Then one time my aunt was present when I staged a walk out, and later she came up to me and asked, “Why do you hate being compared to me? Do you think I look ugly?” I think I blushed all the way till my roots and mumbled something to this effect, “Uh… I… don’t…think… no…” and ran away like a stinking coward!
For years I didn’t even think of this incident, when all of a sudden it hit me: I wasn’t angry that people constantly compared me to my aunt and father because they were ugly or horrible people, or whatever. The thing was I didn’t want to be compared to anyone! I was ME and I wanted people to just look at me as me, not as a caricature of someone else.
I’ve thus realized how important my identity is to myself! I don’t want to be known as a copy (a poor one at that) of someone else, I want to be treated on the basis of myself, my own personal characteristic quirks! ME ME ME!! I want to be known as ME!! Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is! I’m sure no one is going to stop comparing me to various family members anytime soon, so nowadays I try to take all these comparisons with a pinch of salt. Who am I kidding??! No I don’t! I still get angry, mad, annoyed, irritated, aggravated, exasperated, frustrated, infuriated, irate, livid, incensed… I think I’ve run out of adjectives!!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bombay Woes!

Walking on Dadar station is like running through an obstacle course, except that all the obstacles come rushing towards you at the same time!
I’ve to actually go to the Dadar West platform from the Central Dadar station. To do so I’ve to walk a bridge leading to the West platforms. Walking this bridge is no joke, especially during rush hours. I hate it if I’ve to go to college anywhere between 7 and 9 am, because at this time the overhead bridge is horribly crowded, and I hate crowds. All my life I’ve tried to avoid crowded areas. Living in Hyderabad, it wasn’t all that difficult, it’s a small city, expanding rapidly, but is nowhere near the gargantuan size of the monster metropolis, Bombay.
The first time I had to go to college at 7 am, I was first of all pissed off that I had to get up at the unearthly hour of 5:30 am, but hadn’t reckoned on what lay ahead on my ride to college! When I reached the foot of the bridge I ran up the stairs as usual and when I got to the top, the sight of the number of people rushing about immobilized me completely. For a brief second I contemplated turning back and running home, but I soldiered on. It was one of the worst experiences of all my life! I was caught in a sea of humanity! Men, women, children, rushing all over the place, desperate to catch their trains to their respective offices and schools.
This bridge is difficult enough to maneuver at normal times, but during rush hour it was near to impossible!
So now starts the ‘obstacle course’. Not only do I have to keep my eyes out for the board on which the train schedules are displayed, but I have to also somehow twist and turn and plough my way to the Western platform, trying to avoid stepping on some idiots sitting on the bridge floor, and also avoid being groped by perverts all over the place!
Men can be so disgusting at times! I mean what the hell is wrong with them? According to me, men at the station can be divided into three categories: (1) Those seeing a female form will try and brush past her, even if she’s on the other end! (2) Those who will move out of the way (some just jump out of the way!) when they see a woman approaching, (3) And the third kind don’t care who’s in their way, they have a train to catch and will push whoever comes in their way!
At such times all I want to do is round off each and every disgusting male of the human species, dump them in a shuttle and shoot them off to some distant galaxy, where they can hang in limbo for all of their miserable lives!
I usually use my bag as a shield, when it’s too crowded; my elbows too have come in handy from time to time! I must confess that I too have elbowed people out of the way in my frantic attempts to reach the ladies compartment before the train chugs off the platform, especially when I’m running late.
But the obstacle course doesn’t end when I reach the West platform. Now I have to weave my way through the throngs standing on the platform, towards the area where the ladies compartment stops. The obstacle course continues even when the train arrives, as I have to literally fight my way inside! Actually I don’t do too much of fighting, I just follow in the wake of a bunch of women clawing their way in!
During rush hours one would be extremely lucky to even get a foothold on the train let alone a place to sit! It is so, so crowded that there is hardly even enough air to breathe! And I don’t know which is worse, being sandwiched between women who have bathed themselves in perfume, or those with bad body odour! The jury’s still out on that!
I do not like to be touched. It annoys me very much if someone’s hand brushes mine, be it a man or woman. But in the crowded compartment there is just no choice! Ever been sandwiched between a humongous bag and a flabby stomach? Not a pleasant experience!
Once I was literally hanging on for dear life, my arms wrapped around the pole placed in the middle of the entrance of the train. There was just no place to go anywhere further inside! I had even wondered at the platform if I should get on or just wait for the next local. But checking what time it was decided that I just had to squeeze my way in. I was late as usual!
But women have it relatively easier than men; at least we don’t have to travel on the roof of the train! I’ve seen many men traveling on the roof, even though it is against the law. Not only do they travel on the roof, but also hang onto the side of the train! The men’s compartments are always overflowing. The ones right at the entrance barely have one foot in, let alone two!
One day while I was walking away from the train I’d just disembarked from, I saw this old man huffing and puffing his way to the men’s compartment. Just as he reached it, the train started moving. He stood there, disappointment writ large on his face, when some college students reached out their hands and shouted, “Run Uncle run!” The old man looked up and smiled and started running and was caught by the college dudes and pulled into the already crowded compartment! I just dissolved into giggles on the spot! It was quite a sight!


Last Tuesday I was sitting beside my balcony, just looking out on to the road, at nothing in particular. It was raining, and I was quite pissed off, because I wanted to go out to watch ‘Page 3’.
My eyes fell on a truck, which was being driven quite fast and seemed to be heading straight for the footpath. I was wondering why the driver wasn’t slowing down, when it suddenly swerved and ploughed right into the bus stop right outside the building adjoining my apartment building. For a second I couldn’t believe at what had just happened. There was a loud crashing sound and a plume of dust flew into the air. Most of the dust settled on to a Hyundai Accent parked in the building’s compound, and at that moment the thought that ran through my head was, “The guy who owns that car is not going to be very happy when he sees it covered with dust!” I don’t know how I could even think of such a trivial matter when someone could have been seriously hurt!
People started running towards the crash site, mostly men. One man tried to open the truck’s passenger’s side door. But it seemed to be stuck, then another man stepped up and bracing his right leg against the side of the truck pulled the door open after a lot of tugging. Then he went into the truck and pulled out the driver. He seemed to be unconscious, but I couldn’t see him properly. Some men flagged down a taxi and took him to a hospital.
My attention then turned towards a Sardar wearing a bright yellow shirt. He was talking on his cell phone; it seemed, to the fire department. Soon enough I could hear the wail of the fire brigade truck. Two of them came on to the site.
Then I noticed that a small crowd was gathered some distance away from the crash sight. They were around a young man and woman. The woman seemed to have fainted. And some people from the adjoining building brought a bottle of water, which the man sprinkled on to the woman’s face. Another woman came up to them and supported the young woman. She started pouring some water on her head too. The woman seemed like she was in shock. An old woman came out of the building and took the young woman up to her flat.
This accident occurred roughly at a quarter to one, the time when school going children waiting for a bus home, crowd this particular bus stop. But thankfully, as it was a holiday, it being Mahashivratri, there was no one at the bus stop. Maybe the young woman who had fainted had been standing somewhere close by, though I hadn’t noticed her before the accident occurred.
I don’t think anyone can accuse Bombayites of being self-absorbed after watching so many of them coming to the rescue of the truck driver and the young woman.
Last I heard, the truck driver was recuperating and was on his way to a full recovery. So many people could have been hurt in this accident, but thank God not many were.And I did get to go and watch ‘Page 3’, as the rain stopped soon after the accident had occurred.

Friday, March 04, 2005


An interesting incident occurred while my aunt, H, and I were waiting in line to get into the auditorium, when we had gone for the Ustad Amir Khan memorial concert. Two chatty women were standing behind us. One of them asked me if the line we were standing in led to the hall where the concert was being held. I just glanced at her and said a quick, “yes”. In my mind I was thinking, “how silly! How can they not know where exactly to go! Can’t they read the banners put up everywhere?”
Then I heard the second woman saying that there are seven theatres in all that belong to the NCPA. H then reassured them that they were indeed at the right theatre, she being more courteous than me!
She continued chatting with the two women and after about five minutes, I too turned to include the second woman (who had said that NCPA covered seven theatres) into our little circle. That is when I realized that she was visually handicapped (how politically correct I am!) Her name was M. she asked H if she enjoyed Hindustani music, and H replied that she prefers Western classical and Carnatic music and was interested to hear how the sarangi would sound. Then there was a bit of a discussion on the sarangi, and if it was harder to play than the violin or not.
Then H asked M if she was a fan of Hindustani music, to which she replied that she was actually a singer herself and gave performances now and then. She sure was chatty!
H then asked her if she felt disadvantaged by her physical handicap, while walking on the road or going to a public restroom, perhaps. M replied that she found nothing difficult at all, and that there were many people always ready to help her cross roads, and how great it is living in a city like Bombay, and so on and so forth. I admired the confident way in which she was speaking, and smiled at her quips.
H proceeded to ask her various questions, and M replied in dramatic prose to H’s very curious and “ignorant” (according to H) questions. She actually asked M if she’d ever stepped into and Indian style commode! I was quite appalled and embarrassed by this question. M said that it had never happened, and went on to quote statistics, saying that less then 90% of blind people were ever involved in road accidents, because their other senses were much more evolved than normal people’s.
She went on in this vein, and began to sound increasingly cocky by the minute, and I was getting tired of hearing her patting her own back.
At last we got into the auditorium and seated ourselves. H verbalized what I was thinking about M, but was too embarrassed and chicken to admit, “it’s nice talking to physically challenged people, but this young woman was terribly cocksure!”
I wonder if others too have had an experience like this. We are all taught to empathize with the physically challenged and feel “sorry” for them. It is a good thing that a physically challenged person is confident and believes in his or her abilities. But what is the protocol to follow when they start acting arrogant? If it was a fully “functional” person, then maybe you could snub him or her or tell him or her to @*#% off!! But one would probably be called insensitive and heartless, if one were to mete out the same treatment to a physically challenged individual. This is a tricky situation indeed.
The rules for normal, fully functional individuals and physically challenged individuals appear to be quite different. But that is what I feel. I’ve never interacted with a physically challenged individual before, and do not know how they really function in their day-to-day life. This particular woman seemed to be very outgoing, a true extrovert, so much so that she was completely overshadowing her friend. Having such a positive attitude is of course very good, for both the physically challenged and fully functional individuals.
This made me think of the movie, ‘Black’, where Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) completely overshadowed her younger sister, even though she couldn’t speak, hear or see. This in turn made me wonder if most of the physically challenged are like this, their handicap making them stand out and actually giving them some sort of an edge over the rest of us “normal” beings.
M’s attitude was such that she felt sorry for us ‘less fortunate’ beings for not having highly evolved senses as she does. I’m sure not all physically challenged individuals are like this. It all depends on their childhood as well as present environment obviously. The way we are brought up shapes our identity and our attitudes. I’m beginning to sound so clinical now!
My original dilemma was, “How does one react to a physically challenged individual who rubs one the wrong way and acts high and mighty?” I’ve not been able to figure that out as yet.