Happy 2019!

 

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Welcome to the New Year! Another year gone, another new one is here.

 

Most of us try to begin the New Year with a resolution or a promise made to ourselves in order to set a goal, which we try follow and achieve. We begin on a positive note, with full zest to pursue it throughout the year but for most of us, honestly, it all fizzles out! The key is to set realistic goals and not ones out of our reach.

 

Usually, my day begins with a morning walk at the park, inhaling lots of fresh air. In order to get to the park, I have to cross the main road, which not only consists of rubbish scattered along the ever- so- useful cycle path but also the stench of urine and the stink from drains which does wonders to awaken my senses!

 

Clearly, our Waste Management efforts have failed. Authorities need to take a more pragmatic approach to make suitable and practical provisions so most of us would be able to ensue the matter. It needs to be reinforced that this civic issue is a major health issue as well as an environmental issue. It does not do anyone any good smelling fumes emanating from rotten goods.

 

We can all begin at home by getting a Home Composter, a smart bin that converts house- hold waste into ready to use, homemade fertilizer. This even prevents waste ending up in unsegregated landfill mountains 80 feet high.

 

Traffic on the roads has escalated during the past few years. The long commute has become a part of our everyday life. This hour or 45 minutes of our time is now planned in such a way that it doesn’t get wasted so we check our mails, return phone calls and plan our day in the car.

The increase in traffic is evident as the noise level or noise pollution has also gone up drastically. We don’t need to set an alarm nowadays. The noise of the traffic is our alarm, indicating that it’s time to wake up. As for our civilized heavy vehicle drivers, it’s morning at 2am sometimes!

 

However, there has been some respite where traffic issues are concerned. We still have our Rickshaws and Autos but added to that we have our E- rickshaws now. Of course, the good- old Metro has done wonders to change many people’s daily lives.

 

Imagine if public transport didn’t exist? What would happen then?

 

We would have more cars and bikes. Our mobility would be restricted to an extent where would have to choose jobs which would allow us the easiest commute and not a job, which we find challenging or fulfilling.

 

As any year, there are some negative issues that need attention and some positive notes which we can be taken advantage of. If we work together, think alike and educate ourselves, our families and home- helps, I think we can overcome the adverse matters. Wishing you all a Very Happy 2019!

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A Lonely, Comfortable World

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Tea time with Friends

 

I remember when I was a little girl, we didn’t have a TV but there was no void; everyone was happy, everyone was busy, people talked, shared their daily lives, thoughts and opinions; there was lots of laughter and lots of bond between people.

 

Quite often, during the evenings, my Parents’ friends would come for tea and chat. The grown- ups talked while we played. They would sit outside, in the freshly- watered garden, amongst the flowers, smelling the relief of the parched Earth, on their cane chairs sipping tea. Sometimes, my mother would just go outside towards the gate, after her chores, neighbours would see her looking out to the street and join her for a conversation. It was a wonderful, simple life with love and humanity all around.

 

As children, our day began with school then home followed by an afternoon siesta. In the evenings, we would get ready to play after having our daily ritual of a glass of milk. The exhilarating feeling of freedom when playing with our friends in the field behind our house is unforgettable. I also remember the overwhelming sadness we felt when my Mother would call us in to do our homework. Later, we would have our dinner then sleep. So, where was the time for television or Internet in this busy schedule- how could you possibly fit it in?

 

Now, many years later, children come home from school and check their mobile and social media updates. They have their meals with mobiles on the table, in the absence of woking parents. Even if a parent is present, the constant nagging in the background goes unnoticed and ignored by the child as they continue checking their phone. This is an addiction and a hard habit to break in this day and age. Why would you message friends when you can call and talk to them to make plans and what do you have to say to a friend when you have spent a day with them at school?

 

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The loyal friend, our mobile phone.

 

With long working hours added to the long commutes, we come home tired only to switch on the television, sit on the couch with a drink, wanting peace. The desire to delve into tranquility is such that we end up ignoring our spouses and families! The peacefulness is only disturbed when we have the urge to look at our phones after we hear it pinging every so often. It is easier to acknowledge a message to a person you cannot see than to talk to a person who is present all the time.

 

What a contrast from the simple life we lead during our childhood days! Our days consist of work, television, drink, dinner, phone and the confinement of our homes after a long day at work or after a long week after work. People only know their neighbours when they meet at common areas of their residence near lifts or the car park where awkward, polite exchanges take place. It’s very sad but true to what life has become now. It’s almost as if we have forgotten how to converse or feel ashamed in disclosing our lives to the other person; there is no heart- to- heart, deep, meaningful conversations anymore.

 

Furthermore, I feel working people actually have no time for any friendships as all their energy deteriorates during the day! People have also lost touch on how to talk on a personal level as we small- talk throughout the day with our colleagues.

 

The emergence of nuclear families and the breakup of joint families in India has contributed to the increase in social media usage and seeking solace in having virtual conversations rather than having a face-to-face conversation. Less people to talk to means less conversations therefore less interactions with humans. I strongly feel this has lead to a lonely world in the confinement of our three bedroom flats. The dangerous aspect is that slowly we are beginning to enjoy being alone in our own company; it’s comforting. We like our virtual friends and seek happiness in ‘talking’ to our existing friends through messages.

 

This is happening all over the World.

 

Parents feel lonely when children leave and that is called the empty nest syndrome. This is especially true of housewives who run around their children all their lives suddenly find that there is nothing to do after they have gone. Having virtual friends does not help at all. This leads to loneliness and eventually depression, which is on the rise slowly but surely.

 

In a way, we have become almost robotic; we get up, go to work, come back and sleep and repeat. We spend all our lives looking after our children and providing for all their needs only to find that one day, they have wandered off to college somewhere else. To break this up, we need friends and like- minded people who genuinely care for us so we may share our feelings and chat to them over tea or coffee but then who has the time to meet anyone these days?

 

This is happening all over the World these days; we are comfortable in our own homes with our laptops and with our phones. We don’t have the time to meet our existing friends and don’t have the energy to make new friends. Welcome to the new world- a world of technological comfort.

 

I was discussing with a friend of mine that the best way out is to stay busy; meeting people, discussing similar topics, forming friendships, even if it is small talk to begin with. Keep yourself occupied and satisfied, be happy with yourself in what you are doing. It’s ok to be alone but it’s not ok to be lonely so keep yourself engaged, be content and most importantly do it for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter to the PM

 

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The Indian flag flying, proudly at Central Park,Connought Place, New Delhi.

 

Friday, 20th July 2018 witnessed a No- Confidence Motion at the Indian Parliament. A no-confidence motion is an attempt, usually by an Opposition party, to get the present government to prove its majority on the floor of the House. The motion can only be moved by a member in the Lok Sabha, and, once moved, offers MPs an opportunity to discuss the government’s performance, before voting on whether the ruling party has the “confidence” of the House.

 

On the day of the motion being taken up, members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) is the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament have an opportunity to present their views on the performance of the government. Once that is concluded, the members vote on the motion. For it to remain in power, the ruling government will have to prove its majority on the floor, meaning it will need at least 273 votes if all members are present.

The Prime Minister and Council of Ministers can only hold office if they have the confidence of the Lok Sabha. If they fail to do so, then they are obliged to resign.

 

Booming speeches are normal at the Indian Parliament. We had the privilege to observe powerful, enjoyable and highly engaging speeches from the leader of the opposition party and the Prime Minister on Friday. However, I was taken aback and slightly embarrassed to watch the PM mimicking and ridiculing the leader of the opposition. It was in my thoughts and it niggled on and on at the back of my mind. I felt I had to do something and so I did. I wrote a letter to the PM and posted it on social media. Here it is:

 

“Dear Mr PM,

 Mocking and imitating leader of the opposition in the Parliament does not suit the demeanor of the PM. You are a dignified figure so please compose yourself and do not fall below your level just to please the uncivilised audience watching you.

 I reiterate, Mr PM, you are of a much higher level; stay decorous. Always remember, people are watching you all over the World, at all times. You are an icon for many. You are not an actor in a in a movie; you are for real. You must maintain concord because you owe it to the people.

 Instead of blaming the opposition at the Parliament and at various venues for numerous aspects, take the lead; do those yourself. Set an example, Mr PM. Sort out the problems at the grassroots level; food, water, sanitation, poverty, introduce recycling, lower the levels of pollution……….there is so much to do! Use your energy on these fundamental issues rather than wasting them in criticising others and highlighting what they lacked in doing.

 Furthermore, if hugging or showing affection (especially to the current leader of the opposition party, who is very handsome indeed and he initiated this to maintain truce, not otherwise) is below the level of the Indian Parliament, is shouting like animals and displaying barbaric behavior more rational and acceptable? And I thought you were an open- minded, compassionate person- are you?

 The eyes of the World are on you; whatever goes on in the Parliament reflects within the streets of India. The World watches India and no matter what you do abroad and how ever many deals you strike with the leaders overseas, if your country is shown in a degrading manner, this reflects upon you, Mr PM.”

 

After completing and posting it, I felt relieved and much lighter. I thought about it later, would I be able to do this if I was in England? Would I be able to write such letter to the PM of England? I knew what the answer was. I could do it here, in India, as I had the confidence and somewhere and somehow, I had developed a sense of ownership of this country.

 

It is truly a magical feeling it is when you know that you have arrived………home. And more so, when you have two countries as your home.

 

 

 

International Yoga Day- 2018

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It all began four years ago when 21st of June was unanimously declared as Yoga Day by The United Nations. Indians should be proud of this and we owe it all to Mr Modi, our Prime Minister and Swami Ramdev, who is a renowned yoga guru.

On this day, societies, communities and towns and cities gather together and hold yoga sessions for the world to see. It usually takes place during early morning in an open- air venue like a park or large field or a stadium.

This year, I was proud to be a part of Yoga Day. Our yoga classes were held at the stadium 3 days prior to Yoga day for practice, as there is a set protocol of which asanas are to be followed on the day. It was amazing to do yoga in the open air, under the vast cloudy sky with a gentle cool breeze. It felt exhilarating. It raised my spirits and I felt in tune with nature. You know the saying that ‘money cannot buy happiness’ or ‘small things give happiness’; well it all made sense at the time.

I was so overwhelmed that I messaged my Sir to convey my thoughts, however, unfortunately, there was no acknowledgement on his part- an Indian concept I have to get used to, I guess!

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An advertisement for Yoga Day at the stadium.

 

Yoga Day approached and there was a crowd of people with their yoga mats sitting in rows, chatting, waiting for it all to begin. I found my yoga colleagues and went over to join them. Luckily, they were at the front so the stage was close by. As I squeezed into space, when a friend made room for my mat, I noticed the presence of the media too. There were all from various television channels. Some journalists (most very young) were already speaking in front of their cameraman and giving an insight of the on- goings of the morning. I had seen reporters on television but to see them live doing their work was an experience too.

I familiarized myself with my surroundings whilst observing the organized chaos. A gentleman was distributing caps with his company logo at the front. His company may have sponsored the occasion. At one point, a crowd of uncivilized people rushed to the stage surrounding a gentleman who had a bundle of T- shirts with him for distribution amongst the participants. Its company CEO announced promptly reminding these people that it was Yoga Day and we do not promote such behaviour, reprimanding them to go back to their places. It was all very comical!

Eventually, the much-awaited ‘Guruji’ arrived. It was none other than our Yoga Sir! He was in a Swami’s attire; loincloth and all draped around him. His conduct was also no less than that of a Swamiji. After all the formalities and introductions, I think we were ready to begin.

 

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At the stadium, 21st June 2018

 

Guruji started with the gentle introduction of meditation and an explanation of what Yoga is and the science behind it. This carried on and we started to get restless. The sun started to shine brightly; the temperature started to rise. So what were we waiting for, I thought. I heard sirens in the background. A few minutes later, we were told that the Honourable Minister was here. It occurred to me then that we were waiting for Mr Minister. Indian timing and Indian politicians! At least he was decent enough to apologise for the delay. Things would move swiftly, as politicians have busy schedules and he would leave soon after the even for his other engagements.

Hence, the Yoga Day began. It was amazing that a stadium full of people were following one Guru, understanding and performing his meaningful asans and postures. The magnitude of the event was powerful and to be a part of it all was indescribable. As Guruji, said to close the eyes and let the sun- rays absorb on our faces- I did and it felt so spiritual. I felt nurtured and it had a profound impact on my mind, my body and me. I felt in the same wavelength as Mother Nature. I could hear the journalists speak and cameras clicking away as we had our eyes closed. It was wonderful and happy morning; something I will always remember for many years to come.

 

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At the stadium, 21st June 2018.

An exchange of gifts took place at the stage after it finished. The Honourable Minister was thanked for taking out his precious time and Guruji was given appreciation too. Further to my eventful morning, a reporter asked me a few question as I was being filmed!

There were a few companies offering water, refreshments and potted plants as we left the ground. I wouldn’t dare go into the maddening crowd surrounding the refreshment stalls but I took the liberty of taking a plant home. Something to remember this day… each time I look at it, I think of that magnificent morning and the enormity of being part of Yoga Day. I felt proud to be an Indian in India.

 

 

 

 

Colours of the Rainbow; Beautiful Bangles

 

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Glass Bangles

 

 

Bangles are a part of an Indian woman’s attire. Originally, they were a mark of a married Indian woman but due to development in fashion and influence of Bollywood (the Indian film industry in Mumbai), anyone who opts to, may put bangles on to complement their outfit.

 

Bangles are an integral part of The Indian Bride. They may have different names for the bangles, depending upon the part of India the bride hails from. For example, a Punjabi bride wears ‘Chooda’. The Chooda is an important part of her look. It always remains close to her heart. These red and white bangles are an eminent part of the tradition. Whereas the Bihari bride wears ‘Lahati’ bangles, which is predominantly red. The Lahati bangle is made of clay of all colours studded with tiny mirrors, stones, metal and pearls. They hold an emotional significance and are auspicious for the bride.

 

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The Chooda

 

Bangles fascinate me; I always was in awe of them, even as a young girl. I love the colourful glass bangles reflecting and shining in the light and the jingling sound, which they makes as you move. I adore the stones and intricate metal works imbedded in the Lah (clay) bangles.

 

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The Lahiti

 

During the eighties and nineties when my mother used to get ready to go out, I would sit with the bangle box and match the bangles according to her sari. As the years passed and I grew up, I would do my own. It is mandatory to wear bangles after a girl gets married in some parts of India. I try to follow whatever ritual/custom I can. So as I was raised watching my mother wear bangles all time, I do too now.

 

Coincidently, my in- laws are from a part of India where Lah bangles are made and Muzaffarpur is famous for this art. Bangles are supplied from here to many parts of India. So each time I visit, I come back with many to add to my collection of these beautiful ornaments. There is just one problem though; finding the correct size because my size is quite small.

 

In urban India, some ladies have replaced bangles with gold and/or diamond bracelets. Some women find bangles an inconvenience and tend to stick to a watch. However, in small towns bangles are still hold a strong cultural value. However, during weddings or festivities, especially Teej or Karwa Chauth (where women have to fast for their husbands’ long life), the sale of bangles increases dramatically in towns, cities as well as villages across India. This reflects the Indian woman’s thinking; the belief of bangles being a symbol of marriage and the importance it holds in their married life. In a way, it reflects that at heart even the modern age Indian women hold strong beliefs of religion and cultural ethics.

 

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A profusion of bangles at a bangle shop.

 

A woman who adorns her wrists with this attractive ornament is gracious, dignified and beautiful, naturally. Of course, wearing bangles has to complement the circumstances. I feel one cannot go to work, jingling away with a dozen bangles as it sounds and looks unprofessional. Instead, a minimalist look can be sported with only one thick bangle on each hand.

 

So ladies, go ahead, buy a pair for yourself. You’ll feel a different person and want to look in the mirror more often!

 

 

No Change!!!!

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Loose change in Indian Rupees.

 

I am glad to come home (my second and real) as the plane hits the runway when landing. The relief, comfort and the freedom of being at ones own home beats anything.

 

We are quick to clear immigration. Looking forward to many evenings with our friends and by ourselves, I head to the duty free. With ample choice, I take my time deciding my beverages.

In between I loose contact with my daughter who is wandering around the chocolate isles totally disinterested in my purchase when I ask her for advice. Realising that she must be tired, I go towards the tills.

 

With my passport and boarding cards in hand, I am ready to pay. The cashier gives me some change and some toffees!!!! I look at him and say, “What am I going to do with this?”

 

To this he realizes his gross misconduct with an exhausted lady passenger and gives change in Indian Rupees.

 

My fellow passenger and a family friend prompts that this only happens only in India and when she was in the UK she even managed to get change for miniscule amounts. Yep…. I know- that’s my country for you!

 

Honestly speaking, this happens everywhere in India. I was in a posh store recently choosing a gift item. A lady at the counter was fed up and wanted to see the manager at the store because the shop did not have any change! Their excuse is that you are the first customer hence it’s too early to have change! This is harassment to the customer, I feel. The shopkeepers even have the audacity to ask you to pay with your card, as they have no change!!!!!

 

Once, I had gone to a greeting card store. After looking at the dismal array of cards, I reluctantly managed to choose one and headed to the cashier. Guess what? They had no change (I was their first customer)! My reaction- well, I left the card and went to the next shop in ray of hope. However, to my disappointment, the next shop had no change too! My reaction- I got out all my coins (combined with some notes) and gave it to them with an ultra glow of satisfaction! As I was leaving I even mentioned, “Now you have plenty of change for the next customer.”

 

So the moral of the story is:

 

  1. Don’t hassled when a shop has no change.

 

  1. Carry plenty of change.

 

  1. Or be ready to save up on toffees for your child’s next birthday distribution for his classmates at school!

 

Happy Shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreigner = Snob

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As you all must be aware by now, although I am Indian, I was brought up in England. I moved to India a few years after I got married.

 

After settling in the country for a couple of years, I started working. The Indians are prejudiced towards NRIs. Yes, it’s true. They have a feeling that we think we are superior to them and hence we are snobs. However, I ‘ll be really honest with you and say that we are actually quite the opposite; we are friendly. In fact, we have inhibition making conversation or interacting with the Indians because we think that they don’t like us (as they are unfriendly and avoid eye contact). Hence, giving us a feeling that they are snobs (especially the ladies)! Quite a paradoxical situation isn’t it? BUT THAT IS HOW IT IS!

 

I made some friends in my institution and I was working hard. I was unaware that some of my colleagues were complaining and had reservations working with me as I spoke “English with an accent”. So how on Earth would I be able to speak in Hindi?!!

 

Let’s sort out the “accent” bit. YES, WE (NRIs) HAVE AN ACCENT. But so do the Indians- you have an Indian accent because you have been brought up here and we have been brought abroad. So contrary to your beliefs, WE ARE NOT SHWOING OFF WE ARE JUST LIKE THAT!!! That is our genuine self. However, now I know that the Indians are impressed- jealous- have inferiority complex with our accent and some even try to speak like us after they return from a two- week holiday!!!! That is nice but we really like you to be the way you are and we are far from impressed.

 

Unaware, of my Hindi speaking colleagues’ concerns, I started working them as advised. Soon, I was ‘accepted’ as they learnt that I could speak very well in Hindi and that I was quite cooperative. I even made friends with my Hindi- speaking colleagues.

 

In fact, they gave me fond memories and I miss my conversations with them. The fun, laughter and jokes which we shared shall never be forgotten and remain a profound part of my life.

 

Just want to say thank you all for making me feel at home, away from home. I know that you never felt that you were helping me but you were, without knowing so.

 

This write- up can also be a cue to all the lovely people who live in my building and are scared/ apprehensive to talk with me. I am Indian, I am friendly, I am human but I am not sorry about my British accent and there is no way that I can change that!