Thursday, October 31, 2013

Diaries Downunder - Part 2!!!

Okay. It has been a week now. I am past that stage when glitters of arrivals in a new world take control of rational mind. If it does not happen in one week, it may never happen.
I think I am in a position to look at this aspect of life with a more rational mind and more critically. It does not mean that whatever I think is right but that does not stop me from thinking as well, isn’t it?
Let me chart out the positives first. Ever since I have landed in Melbourne, I have been extremely impressed with the cosmopolitan nature of the city. Just a stroll across the road and one can see people from number of ethnicities. More than that, nobody raises eyebrows if they see people who do not belong to their own ethnic background.
One happy society this is.
Not only that, I have seen all such kind of people I had seen only in movies until now.

A Denzel Washington lookalike woman with hairstyle of Rudd Gullet, check.
A chic walking in such short minis that her derrieres start looking for some breathing space, check.
A dude, with perfect athletic body, jogging with his iPhone in his ears, check.
A woman so fat that her assets looked to be heavier than yours truly, the kind you see and name “Big Martha” from Sidney Sheldon’s “If Tomorrow Comes” comes to mind, check.
A hot chic with blue eyes, hair died in blue and skimpy cloths, check.
An Indian lady wearing a mini skirt but still making efforts to hide her exposed lower body, check.
A couple displaying PDA with others not giving a damn to them, check.

Put SRK with a guitar in his hands and song “Mitwaaa” in the background, and one can easily believe it to be a KJO movie.
But then, everything has a downside.
For me, downside comes in form of problems in communication. I can barely read, write, understand or speak in English. Even when I speak, it is in thick rustic accent. On the other hand, cosmopolitan nature of the city means one has to deal with different accents. All of them sound poles apart to me and I am equally hopeless in understanding any of them.
My problems with accents had started even before I had landed in Australia. It started in my flight.
Singapore Airlines pride itself in providing excellent in-flight entertainment. They have equipment, attached at the back of every seat, which look like TV with a wired remote. Three times, I had pushed all the buttons on remote for in-flight TV of my desk because the TV, or whatever that equipment is called, was not working for me. In all those three times, I had pressed the button to call the airhostess. The airhostess, a Singaporean, came running to me all the three times. All the three times she asked me something which I could not understand so what I did was smile. All the three times she smiled back at me. We kept smiling at each other for at least half a minute, all the three times. It must have been only occasion of my life when I smiled looking at a woman thrice in a single night and the woman responded back. Luckily, I had an Australian travelling with me and he helped me out all the three times. When I did it third time, he explained to me the function of every button on the remote. I did not make the mistake fourth time because by the time third mistake of my flight happened, I had almost reached my destination.
The problem has only accentuated ever since I have landed here but I am picking up slowly.
You know which accent I have found most difficult to understand until now. It is not Australian, Chinese (visited a Chinese restaurant last night) or any other. It is the accent owned by Indians born & brought up in Australia or Indians who try putting up Australian accent.
I keep visiting an Indian store for grocery. It is owned by a Sardarji. First time I visited the store and saw him, I was brimmed by happiness. Fewer things give you more pleasure on a foreign land than a chance to converse in your mother tongue.
I asked him, “UncleJi, Jam hoga aapki dukaan pe?”  (Dear uncle, would you have jam at your shop?)
“Whaaaaaaaaaat” it was the biggest what I had heard in my life. I felt as if I was a goat and he saw me talking.
I went mum. I translated what I had to ask him from Hindi to English and asked back “Uncle, jam, sweet, over bread, breakfast, you know, you have”. Just to make sure he understood properly, I acted my words too.
He did not take any chances. He took me to the place he had kept bottles of jam, showed it to me, indicated with his hands “five dollars”, took a ten-dollar note from me, handed back the bottle of jam & change to me and said with a smile “Bye”.
Another evening, I visited his shop and saw a young man with Mohawk hairdo sitting on the counter.
I asked him, “Where do I find butter?”
In next ten minutes, we got chances to do four different rounds of dialogues between each other. Problem was that no matter what he said, all I could hear was “Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something…..Cheers mate”. I am sure he would not have understood me that well either.
He pointed me to a corner, “Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something…..Cheers mate”
I went to that corner and picked up something which looked like a pack of butter. The problem was that nowhere on the entire pack, I could read anything written as “butter”.
Therefore, I went back to that person and asked, “Is it butter?”
He reply sounded to me like, “Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something…..Cheers mate”
I asked back, “Is it butter”
Deja-vu struck, “Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something…..Cheers mate”
I did not give up, “That’s fine. But is it butter?”
“Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something…..Cheers mate”
“Is it butter? Yes or no?” I was losing my patience.
““Yo mate. How ya doin’ mate? Something something. Yes. Something Something….But it is not butter…..Cheers mate”
All I could understand was that he did say a “Yes”. I paid for it and came back.
When I tried to put it on bread next morning, it turned out to be cheese.
I hate cheese.
There have been a few more incidents like this with me. Once, while trying to find an address, I was told by a cop “Sir, you cannot go there”
I replied, “I don’t want to go there”.
After three repetitions of above two dialogues between us, he finally asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“700, Bourke Street. You know?”
“I don’t know where the hell that is but you cannot go there” and he pointed across the street.
I simply changed my way and crossed the street from other side of the road.
Anyways, I am trying to put up a fight by learning my ways out of this language trouble. But, you know what gives the most painful heartbreak in such cases? It is when you are going somewhere and see someone looking like an Indian blocking your way. You fill up with hope of getting a chance to converse in the language you are most comfortable conversing in.
You put up a typical Indian accent and say with a smile while looking into his eyes with hope in your heart “Excuse me?”
He responds back in a thick Australian accent saying, “Sorry mate. Carry on”
Deep down somewhere in your heart, someone shouts, “Sala, yeh bhi hindi nahi bolega ab” (Damn, even he won’t speak in Hindi”
I have had a few and learning to deal with them.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Diaries Downunder - Part 1!!!

After my first passport dying virgin and second one having entered its second year, I was finally ready to leave Indian shores. Did I want to? No. Not at all.

However, every self-respected man has to respond to three calls in his life and he cannot do away with them – wife’s call, nature’s call and duty’s call, in that order.

Hence, I had to go.

The start of the journey was not all the encouraging.

I bought a watch and as soon as I moved on the next shop to buy something else, I saw owner of the watch shop entering this shop and looking for me. I gave him a “what do you want now, you didn’t even give me a discount” look. He gave me a “the price of the watch wasn’t so big that it gave you a shock” and handed back my credit card to me.

I reached home and finished off packing. Soon I realized that if I could transfer some stuff from my suitcase to the handbag, I would be able to manage the weight of my luggage under airline’s permissible limits. Someone once said that a realization about one’s mistake has to be followed by an action to rectify it. That someone being be, I decided to practice what I just preached in last sentence.  It was a suitcase, which my wife had brought with her in marriage. It had number-lock system. Having locked it, I asked her the code to unlock it.

“I don’t know. I have never used the number-lock” was her reply.

Her reply followed with me trying to unlock the code with permutation combinations of different numbers. Soon my patient ran out and I decided to use muscle power in place of mind. The lock lost – in all of two minutes.

Couple of friends at my place sensed that I was getting too edgy and nervous. They tried to pacify me. I demanded to have a Paan. We started. I put my car in reverse gear and put my foot on accelerator. What followed next was a cacophonous sound of Bang. I was sure that I had not banged my car at the back while reversing – reverse parking sensor do not fail. The harm was done on the left side though– the door was yet to be closed before I started reversing, it was stuck in the pillar and ended up in damaging the hinges of the door. Talk about subconscious mind’s nervousness causing brain fade.

If these three events were not enough, there was worse to follow – I happened to see something I had never seen before, a traffic jam on Mumbai-Pune expressway. My journey to Mumbai airport was extended by 2 hours. During those two hours, catching the flight looked like impossible.

Problem with accidents is that you do not expect them to happen. Once you start to expect them, they normally cease to happen. That is what followed. I expected more such unexpected to happen and the unexpected happened, nothing unexpected happened after that.

I landed in Melbourne. The city of MCG – is what I had known it until now. One of the very few reasons I looked forward to this trip was that it was Australia – where people would know and understand cricket. While I am a slow starter with strangers, I thought at least I would get a topic to converse and break the ice.

My expectations came crashing to the ground when the cabbie I had hired from airport to hotel, told me that he had no clue about the India Australia ODI that had concluded last night. I was shocked and disappointed. Is this what people call country of sports? Is this the country that ruled the cricket world for almost a decade and a half? Is this the country that claims to have sports crazy people? Is this Australia? Really? Or they have dropped me in Siberia?

However, as it turned out, the cabbie was a Turkish settled in Melbourne.

Ah, these migrants. They would never imbibe the local culture. Such a thankless breed they are is what I thought. Someone from inside my head shouted back Mala Marathi Yate Naahi.     

Finally, I landed in my hotel. While I thought that weather was chilly because of morning, it continued throughout the day. I do not remember after how many years I was facing such weather – less than ten degrees of temperature with wind being faster than SIR’s arm ball.

There are a few things in the city, which I found a bit strange. Maybe one can call it a cultural shock.

For some strange reasons, everyone is so well dressed up as if walking on a ramp. While I had seen people in Hollywood movies often wearing suits, even those in the background, I brushed it off as a movie phenomenon. I was shocked to see that the reel was a reflection of reality.

While I did expect people to be more disciplined and all that, I did not expect strangers so regularly asking me about my wellbeing - “Hey, how are you doing?”

How the hell you think I would be doing so far away from home? Moreover, how the hell does that matter to you? Is what I think before responding with a smile on my face “Oh I am doing absolutely great, mate. What about you?”  

It is normal to lose your way in a new city. I, being normal, keep losing my way in Melbourne. However, people here are quite friendly and helping. They always guide you. Problem with their guidance is that no matter which address you ask, it is always “Oh mate, it is just 15 minutes’ walk from here”.  Not sure if their judgment of measuring the time is wrong or the distance I can cover in one stop, I always end up walking more than half an hour. Maybe it is the latter. An average Australian, with average height being 6 foot or so, can walk such distances in 15 minutes. Yours truly, with his height shorter than Rohit Sharma’s usual stay the crease in his normal form, takes more than 30 minutes to cover the same distance.

There are pros and cons of everything. Like a normal human being, my mind goes to see cons before it sees any pros. The worst part about staying away from home is the incurable sickness called homesickness. While I was notorious amongst my friend for never feeling homesick in my college days, I am not so sure now about handling it. It is not struck me until now but I am sure it will hit me one day, sooner than later.

Another problem is loneliness. Loneliness is not just about vacuum created by absence of your dear and near ones. Modern tools of communication have yet not been able to develop the technology of touching them online, hugging them, kissing them or getting the feeling of actually staying with them. They remain nothing but a video and a voice on your computer screen. By the way, loneliness is also about waiting for them to get up, different time zones mind you, so that you can see them online. That wait is killing.

Loneliness ness is lot more than that. Loneliness is a lot about missing things you are so used to of, missing things, which are such a part of your life that you thought you were inseparable. Loneliness is a lot about being forced to move way out of your comfort zone to survive.

I am so used to of Pohas, Upmas, Vada Paos that for me, a breakfast used to be meaningless unless I had them. Alas, it is nothing but bread butter and jam now. Loneliness is about putting a jam of foreign brand on your bread and thinking about taste of aaloo parathas.

Someone said that it is better to wash off your sins than wiping them off. That someone being I, I discovered a new definition of loneliness – looking for a tap, bucket and a mug in a place I do not want to name here.

Loneliness is about switching on the TV and not finding E24 where one could listen to the songs of Baazigar and Jaan Tere Naam. It is about not seeing the shops selling stuff for Diwali celebrations, not getting to hear the cars honking. It is about you being the only person thinking of stopping the car on the road so that you can cross the road; it is about checking your mobile phone repeatedly in hope of seeing some mail/message/other even though you know that your number is no longer the one on which these services were available.

These were one of the many things you always took for granted in life and loneliness is a lot about for this granted-ness of life deserting you. These habits, like many others, were always a part of you and without them, you do not feel like yourself. Loneliness is about missing yourself.

Right now, I do feel lonely.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Him, her and Sachin's Retirement!!!

“Sachin has retired. Why are you sad then?” asked she.
“Leave it. You won’t understand” he replied.
“No tell me. I want to. You hardly ever tell me anything. You hardly ever talk to me. I think you no longer love me,” she said in one single breath.
He just stared at her.
“Then tell me why you are sad.” she insisted.
“It is because he is retiring”
“Big deal? People retire every day. My dad is retiring next month. Oh that reminds me, we need to buy a gift for him”
“No offence but it is Sachin who is going to retire. Oh yes, I will order the gift”
“What is so special about him and his retirement” she asked.   
“Well it is because of him I really kept following the game. I have so many childhood and young age memories attached to him. Once he goes, all those memories will be put to rest” he tried answering. Although deep down his heart, he knew he did not have an answer to it. Most of the times you know the reasons behind your sadness. That is easy to handle. The problem is quantifiable and the solution is possible. Sometimes, you do not really know the reason behind your sadness. In such case, nothing but time provides the healing solution. Till it is healed, you are in inexplicable pensive mood.
“Okay I think I understand. However, tell me something, memories are still memories. They cannot be put to rest no matter if he retires or not”
“You tell me something. Every time you and your friend Seema meet, you tell me that how you people talk about your childhood and how you enjoy the flashback time. Do you think about your childhood with that much jest when you are not with Seema? Your memories are always with you but it is just that your meeting with Seema lightens them up”
“No, I don’t. But looks like you thinks a lot about her” there was a bit of anger in her tone.
He paid no attention to anger, “Similarly, my memories will always be there with me. It is just that watching him bat kept them fresh. Alas, no longer now”
“Hmmmm…” she did not say anything.   
“Every time I saw him bat, those memories became fresh. I could relive them. Every time someone mentions 26/11 and my mind goes back to his statement that he made after winning the test in Chennai. Every time clock ticks 1 and I think of 1:19, his first century. 1:48 reminds me of his second century and 1:14 makes me think of his third century. I can never forget that teary eyes of a sixteen year old boy who had to drag himself to the dressing room after he missed the chance of becoming youngest centurion in test cricket. Every time I get a backache, my mind wanders back to Chennai-1998. I remember how he flayed away Warne in tests. His against the spin sweep against Warne were one of the most courageous strokes I have ever seen. I will….”
“Okay, okay. This is getting too technical.” She interrupted.
“I told you. It is cricket. You won’t understand”
“That’s because you have never wanted me to understand cricket. However, I have learnt it on my own. One must learn to love the love of his love. That is what I have done,” she said with lot of firmness.
He stood there emotionless.
“Tell me something; didn’t you want him to retire? You kept saying that”
“What? I said that to you? When was the last time we talked about cricket?”
“Last evening”
“Last evening? We talked about cricket? Really?”
“See, you don’t remember a thing you talk to me. I am nobody in your life. You don’t love me anymore”
“See, I am in no mood for all this. So cut the crap and tell me straight. What did I talk to you about cricket?” In normal circumstance, talking to her in this tone would have meant bitter gourd in next eight meals. But today was different. He was in different mood all together. He did not care about bitter gourd. He did not care about the meals. Actually he did not care about her as well.
Something bigger had happened and he cared a damn about anything.
She could sense his mood hence did not make a fuss about it. She knew that there would be many opportunities to capitalize on this blunder of his.
She responded, “Last evening. You asked me for remote because you wanted to see some old match. You know, I missed my big boss because of that”
“Oh yes, you missed all of two minutes of big boss. When did I say I wanted Sachin to retire?”
“You never did. You never talk about anything to me. You hardly talk to me. Always I make an effort to know about you. I have heard all your conversations with your friends. That’s how I know”
“Oh yes. I wanted him to. He wasn’t performing well for two years”
“But he is God, no? Who wants the God to go? Why? Blasphemy?”
“That’s why. I did not want him to come down to the levels of humans and prove he too was mortal, fallible and subjected to constant failures. He was an image larger than life in my mind. I wanted him to stay there and go. I didn’t want this humanized version of God.”
“Okay, you wanted him to go. He is going. Why the fuss?”
“Well, it is about inevitability. We all know certain events in life are inevitable but we refuse to believe in them. We never really realize that inevitability can only be delayed, it cannot be denied. Only when the realization of inevitability to be undeniable comes to fore, we realize the pains of it. It is painful”
“Oh honey. I love it when you talk like that” said she and put her head on his shoulders.
I know you say something like that when you do not get an ounce of what I am saying is what he thought. He said, “Let me give an example. Your dad must have looked for thousand of guys as your prospective groom. Especially in our society, parents start looking for grooms right from the day their daughters are born. They prepare for their daughters’ wedding for entire life. However, it is the moment marriage is fixed they realize what would follow – their daughter would leave them to enter the world of marriage. Then they start missing their daughter. They all cry whereas ideally they should be happy. If you ask them the reason for their tears, they would say that they knew such day would come but never believed it. It is the refusal to believe in knowledge of inevitability of an event. That hurts and it is bloody painful”
“I got it now. So what next? You will stop following cricket?”
“Well, no matter how much I say it on the face but deep down I know that it wouldn’t happen. That is the brutal reality of life. No matter how unimaginable life seems to be without an entity or a person, it just goes on with or without that entity or the person. Life just goes on. In fact, it looks back and laughs at you as if it is saying – What? You really thought I would change because of that. I change no matter what. That is my nature. I go on no matter what. That is my nature. Hence, you also move on” he said in a philosophical tone and grabbed the remote.
“What do you want to see on TV now?” she asked while snatching the remote from him.
“Well, I just want to check the news. Maybe they would show some old matches of his”
“Get over it. He is retiring. Learn to live in present”
“I want to watch something on TV”
“So you want to watch TV. What will you watch?” he asked in a sarcastic tone.
“Big Boss” she said and switched it on.
“I don’t understand what people see in that crappy serial or whatever that is called”
“Unlike you, I see the present. I see the reality”
“What present or reality? People abusing each other? It is all staged”
“Well, it is no stupid game of cricket. It is reality. It is about people’s lives, their true self, their love and friendship. Leave it. You won’t understand”
She turned to Big Boss. He decided to turn to his best friend – Cricinfo.

More from Him & Her series -  Him, Her & the Valentine's Day and The Pact.