Monday, November 25, 2013

Diaries Downunder Part 7!!!

I decided to visit a few friends and stay over their place during this weekend. One of the main reasons was – they stayed a bit far from the main city and I wanted to see how it looks like when you move out of the city?
How does it look?
It looks serene.
That’s the only word that comes to my mind.
I got a chance to see an asset which this country has in plenty – land. All one can see is huge, never ending meadows. Oh yes, every now and then the real estate growth intercepts your view but still – greenery and the beauty of it is mesmerizing.
Our first stop was at a friend’s place. First thing that came out of my mind as soon as I saw his house was, “Don’t you get lost in this house? Don’t you get scared?”
“We have got used to of it now” was the answer. Oh yes, people adapt.
Well, the house was beautiful and huge. If such a big house is moved to Mumbai, considering its size and Mumbaikars’ amazing ability to fit in the smallest of houses, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I say that half of Andheri might have fitted in that house.
I was treated with a drink I hadn't had for almost a month – tea, made by friend’s wife. With due respect to all my male friends who have made tea for me, I must say – there is something about women and tea. Only women can make it taste good. Maybe that’s why the tradition in India – when you go to see a girl as your prospective bride, she gets tea for you.
Time came to go to another friend’s place and we did. Seeing my jaw dropping while seeing the size of his house, he made a comment – “You know? I have to clean this house every week”
Oh yes. Ever pro has a con. “Oh, we get maids in India” was my tongue in cheek reply. Deep down, I felt happy that my house is one fourth of his house. If I am asked to do it clean such a big house every weekend, I would rather sell it and shift to a smaller one.
Another friend joined and we started talking about different aspects of life. A question was thrown at me, “How are you finding it here?”
I was ready, “Well you know, if you are having a fling with a girl, she looks all great. The moment you are told that you would be marrying her, things change dramatically” seeing listeners impressed with my analogy, I carried on “Right now I am enjoying the fling. But the moment I am told I shall have to stay here for the rest of my life, I know I would face numerous challenges here as well. Because to throw challenges at us is not the nature of place but it is the nature of life. Challenges may vary depending upon the place but then, so do you and your ability to face them”  
“What is that you find really challenging here?” I was asked.
“Rules. So many Rules. So very many of them. You cannot do this. You cannot do that. You cannot go here. You cannot go there. I agree that it is important to maintain discipline but then, I find it suffocating”
One of them said, “You know, in my five years of stay here, it was the first time I saw checking happening in trains”
“So, did they fine anyone?” I asked.
“Yes, the lady sitting next to me. The fine was 80 dollars”
“Stupid. In order to save 3.5 dollars, she ended up paying 80” I laughed.
“Nope. She wasn’t fined for not having the tickets”
“Is it? Then why? For breathing oxygen?”
“Because she had kept her feet on the seat”
“What?” I almost fell down.
“Fined for keeping her feet on a vacant seat”
“Holy humanity. Fined for keeping her feet on the seat? Vacant seat? God damn it. What do they want? The seat was vacant. That’s the best a vacant seat is supposed to do for me – allow me to stretch my legs and save them from the hardness of ground for a few moments. What harm can it do to anyone if I keep my feet on vacant seats?”
“It helps in keeping them clean”
“What clean? If they are so worried about people’s feet making them dirty, why not ask people to get their own seats? You get your own stool, you board the train with it, you sit on your stool, you can get another stool to keep your feet on it, and you get down from the train with your stools. It can in fact give rise to another industry – people making stools for travelling in trains”  my frustration was coming out.
“Calm down”
“What calm down? This is what I don’t like. The urge to force the discipline is so suffocating” my horrifying memories of driving experiences were at their haunting best.
“Okay, fine. Let’s go out for some time. Let me show you my garden” I was told.
We went out to his garden which was bigger than my own house. He had planted different kinds of plants, vegetables, flowers and what not. The garden was so rich that during dinner, half of the material was supplied from the plants in the garden.
The enthusiasm with which my friend was showing his garden was commendable. He knew everything about the plants, the flowers, the vegetables, when they grow, how they grow and all that. I could sense the love for his garden in his voice.
By the end of the garden tour, his tone turned a bit sad. He told me, “I had brought some seeds from India. I tried my best but they didn’t grow here. I don’t know why. Weather is perfect here for these plants”
I replied in a philosophical tone, “It’s not the weather but the soil. Every seed doesn’t gel with every soil”
Most often I say things which don’t have any meaning – no matter how hard I try to find out meaning in them. Sometimes I find deviations in this theory. This was one of those times.
For any plant, the flower that grows are them may give immense pleasure to others. What is important for the plant is – if its root gels well with the soil or not. I hope you know what I meant.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Diaries down under – Part 6!!!

I am not a racist. I do not support racial discrimination. Consider first two lines a standard disclaimer.

But I do like making observation about different races. Actually I don’t really know the definition of races hence I would put it this way – I like making observation about people of different kinds.

They all react similarly in certain conditions. It is human nature.

They all react differently in certain conditions. It is nature of the kind of human they are.

Oh I didn’t understand the meaning of my previous sentence but that’s okay. I hardly ever do – wrote it just to make a heavy start.

Having stayed in an alien environment for almost a month, I have had a few chances to observe people belonging to different countries, regions, religions and maybe if we club them all – different races.

It is fun.

Let’s begin with the hosts – Australians.

I have been surprised by the emphasis Australians put on looking good. They almost seem to be obsessed with it. They seem to be obsessed with keeping a mannequin line body – be it males or females.

In case of males, they rarely have the curve so prevalent among Indian males – around waist. Same can be said about females – they have it where it should be, I hope you know what I mean. And they believe in the theory of – if you have it, why not flaunt it. I hope you know what I mean. They all stand upright, stout and walk as if they have a purpose – which often is to go have a beer.

Most Australian bodies have three notable peculiarities – near perfect figure, tattoos (be it on face, head or somewhere else) and a nose ring.

Yes, a nose ring – irrespective of gender. Sometimes it is in left nostril, sometimes it is in the right one. Quite often you would see it in the middle.

Yes, in the middle.

I just don’t understand the reason behind it. It is as if they are decedents of bulls and not apes. It is as if this nose ring is one body part which was strong enough to negate the natural evolution – journey bull to human.

When an Australian passes by you, he would look into your eyes, often pass a smile, ask “How are you?” and carry on. I think the word is courteous.  

Australia has huge population belonging to South East Asians. No offence meant but I have never been able to distinguish between them – if someone is a Chinese or a Korean or Singaporean or someone else.

For my own simplicity, I keep calling them Chinese.

Well, it’s the biggest fish in the pond that gives it the name. I don’t know how different I look from a Pakistani or a Bangladeshi or a Sri Lankan but people always refer to me as an Indian. We are the biggest fish. We give it a name.

There is a peculiarity among all the young Chinese you would see. Every Chinese guy would be holding his girl’s hand in one hand, would be wearing a colourful jacket, would have his SLR hanging from his neck and his other hand would be in the pocket of his jeans. They all look like honeymoon couples. Quite likely couple’s elder would be walking just ahead of them which makes me wonder if there is a concept of “family honeymoon” in their culture. Every now and then, the group would stop, stand in front of something, tilt to their left, say cheese and make a V symbol from their right hand as if they have conquered that place – all of them. Looks like they are quite serious about conquering the world. The man with the camera would take the picture, show it to the entire group and take their picture again. The process would be repeated a few times and then they would move on to another place to conquer it.  

When Chinese walk past you, they would never ever look at you. Never. Males would be busy looking here and there. Females would look straight – dead straight. They would just pass by.

BTW, I have seen a Chinese pregnant woman. Contrary to popular belief, they do exist. Next I want to see is a curly haired Chinese. I wonder if he/she exists.

There is a big population from subcontinent – often termed as Indians by others and Desis by Indians.

Desis roam around with a puzzled look on their faces which says “How can I save a dollars”. Every Desi , just before he makes any kind of payment, halts for a moment, thinks, does mental calculation of multiplying latest exchange rate with the amount he is paying, makes the payment and walks out with the look saying “India mein yeh aadhe mein mil jaati” (I would have bought it at half the price in India).

Desis walk at half a pace at which an Australian does but cover 75% of the distance in the same time. It is because of the gigantic tummy which gives them an edge. Be it train, tram or a room, it is Desi tummy which enters first. Rest of the body just follows it.

While Desis fall in the category of being least fashionable, but their overall attire can qualify as most sensible. They are the most decently dressed lot here. Obviously I am not counting wannabe females here – the kind which puts on revealing cloths and spends rest of the time in covering the exposure.

When a Desi male walks past by you, he would look straight in to your eyes, would just keep looking and the moment you think he would say a “Hi”, he would look away and walk past by you. His facial expressions would say, “Yeh Indians har jagah mil jaate hain” (These Indians, they are everywhere)

When a Desi female walks past by you, she would turn her eyes at an angle of 15 degrees to look at you in case you are looking at her. Her facial expressions would say, “Kameena saala, kaise bhookhe bhediyon ki tarah ghoor raha hai. Desis. That’s why I like Peter. He is so decent(Scoundrel, he is staring at me like a hungry wolf).

Just in case you aren’t looking at that Desi female walking past by you, she would increase the angle of vision to 45 degrees. Her facial expressions would say, “Attitude to dekho inka, jaise pata nahi kahan ke hero hain. Even Peter doesn’t have such an attitude(Look at his attitude as if he is some kind of a hero).

Well, observing different traits of different cultures is real fun. How different can people be? How differently they can react.     

But then, doesn’t matter who they are, pedestrians are first to break the traffic rules knowing there isn’t any penalty for that. People find it difficult to wait for people to get out of a train so that they can get in. And knowing that a customer is stuck with them for some reason, they don’t really bother about them.

Human nature – so different yet so much similar.

Disclaimer: Pun intended. Any sentiments hurt are regretted.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The day it was!!!

He is batting on 38. The play would resume soon - in six hours or so. It may well be the last time he bats. Or is it? Well, chances of West Indies making India bat again look lesser than my chances of playing for India.
It could well be the last time. It will be.
15th November 1989 it was when I made an excuse of feeling feverish. It didn’t work.  I was sent to school. But it didn’t work. I pretended to have not seen the bus at the bus stop, missed it and came back home. I remember my mom scolding me for that. I don’t remember being perturbed by the scolding, though. I watched the match but don’t remember if it was because of Sachin. No, it wasn’t. All I wanted to do was watch cricket. I didn’t really know who he was. All that mattered was cricket.
It is 15th November 2013 today. 24 years have gone by like somebody fast forwarded a movie.
We didn’t have a phone back then at home. I have four cell phone connections and a landline connection in my name today – for myself and family.
If we needed to withdraw money, we used to go to the bank, fill up the withdrawal slip, get that gold token and wait for our respective turns at the cashier’s counter. I don’t remember when the last time I visited a branch of my bank was. The currency has become electronic now is what they say.
India didn’t have any real political party other than congress in those days. We have them in every nook and corner now. People are expecting an infant political party, formed by so called citizens troubled by the corruption in the country to make government in Delhi.
The “scenes” in movie Parinda had created a furore. I am not sure how many have seen BA Pass.
DD was all we had. So big is the number of channels on TV these days that we really don’t remember how many we have.
Rs 64 million worth Bofors scam was denting the image of a prime minister who came to politics reluctantly. If you are told someone did a scam of inflation adjusted Rs 64 crores in this age, you would prefer to listen to the joke on a would-be prime minister who looks so reluctant to shoulder any responsibility.
The world was different back then. We have so many things these days that we didn’t have then – some of them weren’t even imagined then. Like Sunny Leone.
On contrary, I had something in those days which I don’t have now. I don’t have a TV at home.
I bumped into an Australian colleague in office who asked, “How are you mate? How is it going?”
“Nervous. Sachin’s last test. It could well be the last time he bats today” I replied.
“Oh, I thought he has retired already. Hasn’t he?”
“I thought people knew cricket in Australia. Don’t they? Oh I forgot. You aren’t winning anymore these days” I said and walked off.
I tell a colleague of mine who is staying in a hotel, “Today I am not going to work after 3. I will take your room’s keys and off I will be”. Obviously, he wouldn’t be staying in a hotel which didn’t have TVs in its rooms.
“We have a meeting at 4” is his reply.
“Oh damn” is what I say.
Would he survive till then, till lunch, till tea?
Would I survive the tension? Yes. How?
“Don’t worry. He will be out first ball” he says and laughs. I feel like breaking all 32 teeth of his, all of them, one by one.
Clock ticks 3:00 PM. It is 9:30 AM in India. The match has started.
“Can you call up Sunil? You have his number” says my colleague.
I search for Sunil in my phonebook. There is nobody called Sunil in my phonebook. How can it happen? I remember storing his number yesterday. I search by the surname. I find it.
In place of Sunil Patel, I had stored it as Sachin Patel.
The match starts. Oh my dear Cricinfo, what would have I done without you. Alas, you don’t show it live. Reading commentary on Cricinfo feels like watching high quality porn. It gives you all the excitement but frustrates you to the core – your desire for real actions increases by multiple notches.
I send this comment to Cricinfo. They don’t publish in in their commentary. Damn you Cricinfo.
People start telling me on chat that they are at home watching cricket. Is anybody working in India today is what I wonder.
“Cut. Shot. God. Four” tells a friend. I respond by a sad smiley. He sends back a laughing smiley.
I frantically search for live streaming site. Starcricket tells me, “This video is not available in your geography”. My hatred for geographies grows leaps and bounds.
I post on Facebook for help. Help starts pouring in. But none of the sites work. A friend on facebook reminds me about Starcricket’s website. I inform him that the site doesn’t let live stream in Australia. People wonder on my timeline, “Oh all the days, you chose today to be there?”
I console myself, “It’s all fate. One cannot fight fate”. Screw fate.
A colleague says, “Let’s go on fourth floor. We get wi-fi there. I shall download the material I need to. We will have tea and come back”
Soon, we are on fourth floor. I am restless like hell. I tell him, “I can download it on my machine. It will be lot faster”
“Okay. Let’s have tea then”
“Why here? We can do it on our floor” and I pull him to tenth floor.
“Okay. Let’s have tea now” he says at tenth floor.
“No. Work comes first” I tell him assertively.
“Why are you in such a hurry today?” he wonders.
By then I am back at my desk opening Cricinfo.
“Oh now I get it why you have been acting strange since morning. It is all fixed, I am telling you”
What if I fix you, now and here I feel like saying.
“Straight drive. Orgasmic. Four” I am informed on chat.
“Huge appeal. Turned down. Anjali is in the crowd. Oh, even Pappu is there” another message comes pouring in.  What the hell he is doing there? Why? Looks like almost entire universe is there. I am the almost in this previous sentence.
 “He taps Best on the shoulder. Best smiles” is another message on chat.
“Pujara takes a single. Crowd greets it as if he has scored a triple ton. SRT back on strike. All I can hear is Sachiiiiiiiiin-Sachiiiiiiiiin” I am sulking after reading this message on chat. You don’t get to see moments like these in highlights. You don’t get to enjoy moments like these unless you are in the moment. Golden moments aren’t repeated.  
I have really lost it now.
“You can take the keys and go to my room” says my colleague.
“But the meeting?” I enquire.
“We shall send you the minutes. You can read them like big people do” I could sense sarcasm.
“No. I will attend”
“What will you do? Anyhow you aren’t here. You are at Wankhede”
“No” I say. It is hard to remember when the last time I was so assertive was. For some reason, I couldn’t leave work.
The clock ticks four. Meeting starts.
Damn. It is my laptop which was attached to the projector. Damn it. It meants no following the cricket on Cricinfo during the meeting.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
Who the hell invented projectors? And why? Damn the projectors. Damn the meetings. Damn every goddamned thing. Damn it all.
The meeting begins.
I listen. I talk.
I hear nothing. I speak crap.
When will it end is what I am thinking all along.
Lucky break. Someone gets call. Phone call.
I love phone calls. Alt+tab and I am back to Cricinfo.
Oh God. Why God. It is time to say “Thank You God”
He is gone long back – caught Sammy bowled Deonarine at 74.
I am going through the commentary. I am reading how it happened. I am trying to imagine how it would have happened.
It doesn’t matter now. It has happened. It has all come to an end.
I missed the entry. I missed the innings. I missed the exit. But I enjoyed the journey – a 24 year long memorable journey. What a journey it was.
Tomorrow is Saturday. I hope to see his last speech, his last lap, his last reactions and everything else. I just hope to do that.
Oh I pray to God.
God is kind hearted. Next day, my prayers are answered and I get to hear the last speech. It isn’t the last time I shall hear that speech. It isn’t the last time others will hear that speech.
That speech is going to be one of the most watched videos on youtube, ever.
But it was the last time.
Thank you again.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Dear Sachin,
I know nothing I can write about you that already hasn’t been written. I know I can hardly better any of those pieces written about you. I know it may well be nothing but an emotional outburst.
But then, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. I love to write and should do it for the love of writing. I shouldn’t be really bothered about the result, the occasion, the over covered topic or the fact that it may not find any readers other than me. It shouldn’t deter me, right? Isn’t that true?
Well that’s what I have learnt from you. Oh, I have not been fortunate enough to meet you in person but that’s what I have heard and read about you that you never really bothered. You never really bothered the opposition, the ground, the occasion or anything else. You just played the game of cricket for the love of it.
I have heard all those stories of you fighting yout back injury or the tennis elbow injury or the ilk. You fought them because you wanted to pick up the bat again, hit the ball and listen to the mellifluous music of bat hitting the ball – “thak”.
Oh that can be addictive. I know it. There is no better sound in the world than a batsmen listening to that song after he times the ball well.
That’s what keeps batsmen in love with the game. I know that’s what kept you glued to the game.
I know how you came back to play for India just after losing your father. Oh, losing your parent can be a traumatic experience – something you can never really recover from in live. I know it well.
I saw that innings of yours. When I look back at that experience, I see vengeance written all over it. I know the vengeance wasn’t against the opposition or the situation. The vengeance was against your own mind – you wanted to prove that you were stronger than the trauma given by most brutal reality of life – death. It is so easy to sulk when times are tough. It is really difficult to stand up to an adversary, look into its eyes and smile as if saying “Hello there. I am back again. Do I look nice?”
It is easy to give up on your greatness when you are surrounded by mediocrity or greatness that doesn’t match yours. It is easy to say – “If others aren’t trying hard enough, why I should keep sweating? It isn’t totally my responsibility after all”. It is not too difficult to be seduced by temptation to settle for something which is lesser than your potential. It is easy to let your guards down. But you never did it. You always kept adjusting your guard – literally and figuratively.
I know a lot has been said about how well you managed the expectations, pressure and all that. No need to talk about that. I liked and appreciated another quality of yours.
We are a great proponent of the theory, “I am a stud but my boss is an idiot”. I don’t know if it’s a human trait or we Indians specialize in it. I would like to believe it is the former.
To all your talent, temperament and God like status in cricket, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you weren’t a good leader. The way you were always seen advising to your bowlers, you looked like a nagging boss who always wanted to micromanage things. But you realized it and made amends. Even though you were the best in your class, you always accepted to play and do well in others leadership. There was never a fuss created by you that we know. You just seem to have said, “Okay. I can’t lead as well as he can. So let me stick to my job – batting, fielding, bowling, strategizing, and guiding new talent, saving players from the accusations of racial abuse and whatever else”   You happily accepted it – your limitations if there were any.
Okay. I haven’t been your biggest fan especially off late. I think you overstayed your tenure. I think you should have retired from ODIs on that fateful night of 2nd April 2011 but you didn’t just to have a fall back option. A fall back option to ensure you get the most awaited century in the history of mankind. I think you should have been dropped for your not-so-good performance in last couple of years. But then, we cannot always fool ourselves with the saying “Cricket is just a game”. It isn’t.
Okay. Maybe your failures were God’s way to show your human side to us. Maybe it was God’s way to tell us that human mind has its limitations and ultimately it does give in when body starts to give up. Maybe it was God’s way to detach me from your aura you had in my mind. I think team will miss you as a batsman lesser than it would have in 2011. I think it is a good way to do a transition – new kids seem to be on the rise whereas you were clearly on the decline.
In a relay race, one has to slow down to pass on the baton. The baton is passed on to the runner who is well warned up. It is a transition. It cannot happen at full speed.
I know most men in my generation have at least once dreamt of becoming you. I know it holds true for next generations – those who were born in mid 80s or later. Oh, generations change fast these days. From the times when son’s preceding generation was his father’s, we have moved on to times when generations change every five years. I wonder how many such generations you would have seen in the teams you have played for. But I am sure; each of those generations would have looked up to you. Oh yes, you give such a high to short men like me when I write this.
Anyways, this day had to come. You not being God means you aren’t immortal. Same can be said about your career. It had to end one day.
Yes I will miss seeing you bat in white. There will not be those stoppages to adjust the sight screen. There won’t be that typical adjusting of the “guard”. There won’t be those straight drives, those flicks, cuts, late cuts, upper cuts, under cuts, hooks and all that. There won’t be those irritating passages of play when you used to go in to your shell for no apparent reason. There won’t be those “let me show your place” moments when you took on bowlers. There won’t be any you.  
With that, one of the most heated debates in the country will come to an end – “Should he retire?”
There would be no more “Sachin” on the ground.
However, life wouldn’t stop. People would still play, watch, follow cricket. New crop will come in. It always does. It already has.
But it wouldn’t be able to replace you. Like you couldn’t replace SMG, you weren’t SMG. You were Sachin. Same can be said about them. Pujaras and Kohlis and Sharmas will not replace you. Maybe they wouldn’t turn out to be as good as you were. Hopefully they would turn out to be better than you. Still, they wouldn’t be you like you couldn’t be them.
Challenge is for me. I need to find interest in this new crop which isn’t as gentle as you and your colleagues were. This crop is lot rash to my liking. It is quite different. It is totally different.
It took lot of efforts to search for the clipping when you used “F” word against McGrath. New crop thrives on such words. They call it aggression. I call it rashness. But then, maybe that’s how new generation is. I shall have to learn their ways in case I want to like them. Learn I will.
With you, lot of us are going to declare official demise to our respective childhoods and unwillingly accept our entries into midlife. That’s the way of life to make transitions of time. But for you, this transition would have happened years back. You delayed it.  
I want to write more but I am not a milestones’ man like you (oh yes, with a tongue in cheek) –like I would write 200 pages or something like that. I have run out of steam and unlike you, I am not motivated enough to pick up myself and keep going – never used Luminous inverter in my life, you see.
I would end it here.
In the end, all I can say is Thank You Sir. Thank you for the wonderful memories.
I remember on 15th November 1989, 24 years back, I bunked school to watch cricket. I will try my best to quietly slip away from office today to watch you bat. After all, it could well be the last time and I don’t want to do that.
May God bless me with the luck to slip away and strength to hold on to tears.
Your truly,
A cricket fan.

(Image courtesy - Cricinfo)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Diaries Down Under - Part 5!!!

Statutory Warning - The post contains hard dose of toilet humor. Please read it at your own peril. I mean it.

“Dharma means vishwas (belief).Sanitation is our religion and human development is thought of as karma and spirituality. I believe that whatever we are doing in this birth will be paid for in the next. What we all are going through is of the past birth. In our organization we have a system of a morning prayer.”

- Dr. Bindheshwar Pathak (Founder of Sulabh Toilet, a low cost sanitation system, and also Padma Bhushan honrary)

One of the many things I have liked about Australia, their respect for others’ privacy is one of them. I like the way they have laid down several privacy laws, just heard about them though, and how ferociously they implement them. I like the way they respect others’ privacy. Even government puts lot of emphasis on respecting and protecting individual privacy. It is quite unlike India where all your personal details – DOB, mother’s maiden name, PAN card number, Passport number are as secret as Suresh Raina’s potency against short pitch bowling.

I was almost completely smitten by this phenomenon until I saw something quite strange when it comes to protecting privacy.

I saw the washrooms.

And I was surprised by the lack of privacy one gets in them.

All those who have been lucky enough to witness public toilets in India, I am referring to males as I have never seen how a female washrooms look from inside, they would understand what I am trying to say here. All the urinals are separated by small walls made of stone/concrete/wood or any other material which stands the test of time and splash of water. But it does give you a feel of “your own space”.

In Australia, nothing separates urinals, absolutely nothing. Once you enter the washrooms to relieve yourself, you are on your own, on your very own. There is no comfort of privacy.
In a country which tries so hard to protect individual privacy, there is no privacy in a place one needs it most.

Even the Loos are separated with walls small enough to cover the act. One can see his neighbors 30% of body. A look of your neighbors legs can tell you the state of his digestion system.

If he is on his heels, he is suffering from constipation.

If he is on his toes, it must be lose motions.

If you cannot see his legs, chances are high that your neighbor is an Indian. A true Indian.
While I am a fan of “one must wash off his sins and not wipe them off” theory, this does put me in a difficult situation. It is nowhere but home I get a chance to practice the theory I am a fan of because that’s where I have made arrangements.

But one needs to deviate from his principles sometimes. Even Yudhishthir had to do it.

So today when I felt the need, I mustered all the courage to overcome this cultural stigma of mine and imbibe the local culture. My friends keep accusing me of being too rigid in my lifestyle – I hardly try new food or restaurants. Hence I decided to make a start today.

So there I was, in my Karmabhoomi, responding to the Karma of dinner and lunch.

Being an illiterate in this manner of responding to Karma, I picked up the toilet roll to tackle any contingency. More than anything else, I wanted to check the softness for obvious reasons.

I don’t boast of a strong grip but it isn't a weak one as well. Or maybe it was something else but somehow; I managed to drop the toilet roll.

Toll being a roll, rolled down to neighboring toilet. All I had in the hand was one end of the paper in the roll. I frantically started to pull it back.

Toilet rolls can be like an elusive dream - more you strive for it, more it eludes you. This is what my learning from this incident was. More I tried to pull it, further away it went. 

Like in Mahabharata, Dropadi's magical Saari kept eluding Dushashan no matter how hard he tried to pull it off and do what his brother had ordered him to do, I was like Dushashan for a moment. More I tried to pull it off, more elusive it became. 

If not for the kindhearted performing in the neighboring toilet, I don’t know what I would have done. His human heart was kind enough to make him kick the roll towards me. I picked it up, placed it at its place and left in embarrassment. Nature would have seen a miss-call in his cell if it tried my number.

Alas, I still remain untouched by this part of foreign culture.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Diaries Down Under - Part 4!!!

Almost three weeks here and I am still trying to find my feet. Not just the loneliness but lot of confusion has also occupied my mind.
When people sound so excited in congratulating me, I wonder if there is really something worth feeling happy. What is so good about being exiled for whatever reason?
I wonder when Lord Rama was on his way to Lanka, if mermaids in Indian Ocean congratulated some of the monkeys in Rama’s army, “Dude, you are going onsite. Fantastic. Well done” or “Oh that’s great, Lanka. Ashoke Vaatika, Golden buildings and Ravana’s palace. Go see some places” or “Wow, you are going to kill that monster Kumbhakaran who’s snoring doesn’t let us sleep. Enjoy”.
I am not sure the currency exchange rate between India and Lanka back then but given the richness we have been told about Lanka, Lankan currency may well have been performing better than Indian currency. Hanuman’s Lanka Dahan act might have dented the exchange rate hence monkeys may well have been a bit worried about the returns.
But then, they were driven by someone else’s needs and I am not sure about their remunerations as well.
Leaving Kiskindha Parvat wouldn’t have been easy for sure.
The congratulatory messages confuse me.
If that’s not enough, the ways of developed world surely confuses me.
Among all those who are smitten by this side of the coin, I have seen one commonality – they are awed by the so called comfort and ease of life here. Somehow, this is one of the things that makes me uncomfortable in this part of the world. Life just seems to be too easy or maybe I am too addicted to be struggles of daily life or maybe I don’t like too much of discipline enforced upon me – I am not sure what exactly the reason is.
People can’t stop talking about the roads – both quality and quantity. They also talk about how enjoyable driving is. Oh yes I agree to that. But what I couldn’t digest was the speed limits – if I get to drive onto a road which is near perfect, I know I won’t be seeing buffalos crossing it, people wouldn’t be driving on the wrong side, no old man would suddenly appear from nowhere and ask me to come to halt from full speed while he crosses the road, the road wouldn’t disappear all of a sudden, how do I restrict myself to a speed limit of 100kph. If so much has been spent on building such roads and they have been kept like roads should be, why can’t I drive at a higher speed? For those who want to drive at a lower speed, there is always an option of coming to India and driving. That’s what we do here – on places you shouldn’t be driving fast, you pray to get some space to drive. On roads where nobody stops you from driving fast, people coming from opposite direction ensure you are kept in check because more often than not, they come towards you and in your lane.
People are courteous. Strangers asking for your wellbeing while you are shivering in cold is normal. It does feel good. That’s one way of making friends with strangers – must in an alien land. But how? The moment very same stranger gets inside his house, there is no way to interact. Being a developed country, they boast of their automated systems – no human dependence or very little if needed. You swipe your card and get inside your building, swipe again and get inside your tower, swipe your card and lift takes you to your floor. In case you want to go to some other floor, you need to call someone from that floor to take you to that floor. But that someone wouldn’t have access to that other floor. So all that both of you can do is to go to the ground floor, luckily ground is a place still accessible to everyone, and go to whichever of the two floors you want to go. Confusing, isn’t it? What’s not so confusing is that there is no “jump a few stairs and have a cup of tea at your neighbors' place” kind of thing.  
I was told that summers were about to arrive on this land even before I landed here. Maybe the definition of summers is different here because ever since I have landed here, temperatures have been in sub fifteen range most of the times. It has been cloudy mostly with intermittent showers. But what really kills is the wind – sends the chill down to spine. One not only needs warm cloths, he/she also needs something to get protection from the wind. Women are no different. Sometimes I feel pity for them – they need to take care of heavy makeup, long hair and stop their long hair from spoiling the makeup. If that’s not enough, they need to take care of their jackets and scarfs.
Not that I am complaining but most surprising part of female dressing I find here is the lower body covering which is often missing. Lower body is often left uncovered. In fact, it is left uncovered in most cases. Now imagine a female shivering in cold, covering her top body in multiple layers of clothing and roaming around in high heels and mini/micro mini skirt. I see hundreds of them every day. As I say, it is not that I am complaining but I do find it strange. Are female legs made of temperature agnostic material? Or their top clothing has electronic instruments inside which throws down some kind of hot air to keep them warm.
I really don’t get this. For me, it is simple. If you feel cold, you cover yourself. Exposure is only for higher temperatures. How come same temperature can provide allowances for different coverings of body? Ah, one more point of confusion.
Maybe I am born this way. Maybe it was my upbringing. Or maybe it can be called a cultural difference. But I am lost in this ocean of confusions. There are many more but in next episode.
Till then, enjoy.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Diaries Down Under – Part 3!!!

When I heard the above song from Namaste London in 2007, I loved the music and the way it has been sung. But somehow lyrics didn’t make any sense to me and I termed them as meaningless.

Yesterday during my trip to The Great Ocean Road, when I head this song, I understood each and every word of this song and was so much moved by them that I requested to change the song – it was evoking homesickness. Sometimes you need to be in the mould to understand things that are designed for some purpose.

The trip was fantastic. We had rented out a car. Thanks to GPS and driving expertise of the friend who was driving, we reached the destination without many hiccups, if not any.

There was a minor hiccup for me though.

My biggest worry about travelling out of India was food – being a vegetarian and spoilt by home cooked food for ages, you really struggle out of your comfort zone when it comes to food. Luckily it hasn’t been a problem in the city – thanks to many Indian restaurants in the city and amazing hospitality of the friend with whom I am staying.

But I knew there could be a few problems whenever I go out of the city. While we stopped by on our way to 12 apostles to have lunch, I couldn’t get many options in vegetarian. Somehow I located a shop, explained the shopkeeper about what exactly I was looking for, bought the spinach wrap and had it as my lunch. It was tough to swallow but swallow I did.

Within a few miles, I was returning the wrap to The Great Ocean Road. Such was the reluctance of my body to digest the wrap that I ended up throwing out last night’s dinner too. Just in case you happen to visit 12 Apostles via The Great Ocean drive, it is the Hitchcock Memorial at Mount Defiance near which I left my mark. I hope you know what I mean.

Drive on The Great Ocean Road is amazing. All along the drive, you have mountains on one side and beautiful ocean on another. The road you are driving on seems to be the only separator between the two of them. If drive isn’t enough, view of 12 apostles will surely sweep you off your feet.

Just in case you have got bored by reading this piece, there is no need to get. This is not a boring travelogue but description of incidents which made us feel like Naseeruddin Shah and Vivek Baswani who spend an entire night in an attempt to put a dead body in a safe place in the movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Don’t worry; there wasn’t a dead body with us. It was the car we had rented out – we had to park somewhere during the night and return it next morning.

One of the conditions car renting agencies here have is about the fuel – you get the car with full tank and you return the car with full tank.

We had to get the tank full, park it somewhere for the night and return it next morning. Best way would have been to fill up the tank before entering the city because locating a petrol pump in the city which has more traffic rules than its population, wasn’t going to be easy.

One of us is staying in a hotel. He enquired at his hotel and was informed that parking was available. One third of our problems were solved. As we entered the city, in an event of extreme good fortune, we somehow drove directly to his hotel. Two third of our problems were solved. Although we wished if this bit of problem was solved after the remaining one third – getting the tank full.

More than an hour later we learnt a big lesson in life. Solving problems in life is important, but the order in which they are solved is also important. It is a challenge to become a father but one must solve the problem of searching for the right girl and marrying her before solving the problems of parenthood. I hope you know what I mean.

Before I write any further, let me try and explain some of the traffic rules in Melbourne.

One needs to follow the lane discipline. But being a democratic country, there is space of individual freedom. You can choose not to follow as well. All you need to do is break the rule and be ready to pay a minimum fine of AUD 300 – no questions asked. Hence, one must follow the lane discipline.

Right most lanes are for trams. One can drive in them but cannot overtake the tram from left. So if you need to overtake the tram, you need to go to the designated lanes for overtaking the trams.

There can be a scenario when you need to take right on a crossroad while the tram is on your right. There is a way to do it. When on a crossroad, you should to go to extreme left, wait there at the middle of the crossroad (there is a space to wait) and then turn right to cut the tram from right. You need to look for Trams’ traffic lights, pedestrians’ lights, cyclists’ signal lights, school signs, no parking, no left, no right and signs for kissing bikini babes – if you see a sign, you must go find a chic roaming around in a bikini, take her autograph hand it over to a cop, take the receipt and only then you can move.

Okay, I made up the last one. BTW, did you find abovementioned a bit overboard and difficult to understand? You have just read them. We had to drive. Compared to that, driving in India is lot simpler. All one needs to do is drive. Everything else is other’s worry.

Parking too has multiple rules which are not easy to understand. There are places you can park for five minutes, there are places can park for hours after paying. There is a whole lot of world somewhere in between – parking for five minutes, parking for not more than an hour, parking if your car is not lengthier than 2 meters, parking 2 meters right and 3 meter left of the parking sign, parking for just one car, parking while you either sit at the roof of the car or sit inside the bonnet.

Okay, I made up the last one. It is so simple in India. Parking signs come with just one sign – “P”. Even if it is a “No Parking” sign, it is only for the first car. Once a maverick musters courage to park his/her car there, others simply follow the suit.

Coming back to last night, we started our hunt to the petrol pump. While entire India was getting ready to submerse itself in the glitter of Diwali, we were getting lost in the glitter of traffic lights. There were so many of them of so many different kinds. To assist them, there were cameras installed almost everywhere. If that wasn’t enough, speed limits varied frequently. Even if that wasn’t enough, we didn’t understand half the traffic signs. We had no

Just to make sure we don’t miss a turn, we had two GPS systems running – one in the car and one in the phone. Not surprisingly, both the systems were telling different directions at one given time. What we were doing, we weren’t doing anything. Confusion was driving us towards another direction.

After roaming around for more than half an hour within the city in which we wouldn’t have covered more than five kilometers, we managed to locate a petrol pump. We were punching fists in the air, like a Rohit Sharma does, as soon as we managed to enter the petrol pump. I don’t remember if I have ever been happier after seeing a petrol pump.

We came out of the car and picked up the tube to fill up the tank. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a question emerged out of thin air – “Is it petrol or it’s a diesel car?”

Question was valid. Plus, we didn’t want to take any chances. Filling up the wrong fuel may well have resulted in losing a month’s salary for paying the damages. Alas, insurances don’t cover of ignorance or negligence.

We tried looking any signs at the tank. No luck. We tried looking any signs at the car. No luck.

I smelt the fuel tank. It smelt like petrol but then, I was too confident of my nose which was already suffering from severe cold. If there was a way to find out if it was a petrol-car or diesel, it wasn’t visible.

I even asked an Indian cabbie, “Bhaiiya, humko pata karna hai ki humari car diesel wali hai ya petrol wali. Kaise Karen” (Mate, we need to find out if our runs on petrol or diesel. How can we do it?)

I know I sounded dumb but the cabbie trumped me with even a dumber reply – “Lete time nahi poocha tha kya?”  (Didn’t you ask when you took it?)

I felt like telling him, “No I did ask and know. I just want to check if cabbies in Melbourne know the difference between diesel and petrol so that I can report it to Arnab”

Soon one of us said, “Let’s look at the manual”

It was a brilliant idea. We searched for the manual, found it in the dashboard and started to search in it. Well, three thirties something standing beside a car, in a petrol pump which is deserted, around 10:15 in the night, frantically going through a few booklets and looking for something is a sight not seen every day or night. But it was one of such nights.

Soon we discovered that it was a petrol driven car, filled up the tank and started driving. The rut of GPS telling us to go right, right displaying “no entry” sign and us going nowhere continued. Amidst this confusion, we committed a cardinal sin. We drove in the rightmost lane (the one meant for trams), missed the designated lane to overtake the lane and stopped at a red light. It was a two way lane and we had some company. Car on our left was full with a few drunkard who were laughing at us like any drunkard would and taking our pictures – maybe to put on facebook’s funny pics gallery. We had no entry facing sign facing us. Only way to go was to turn right which we did. But the most interesting company was coming from behind.

It was the tram.

We had stopped the car right on its way. All my life I have had one complaint about trams – they are so slow, I wonder if running them has any use.

That very moment, I didn’t complained one single bit about tram’s speed. In fact I wished if it could run any slower. I was just imagining the scenario of a tram honking for us to clear its way.

Thankfully, we got lucky. The traffic light turned green before tram could hit us.

We survived.

Then we took a wrong turn and again had to take a full circle. As our roundabout at the circle ended, we realized to have encircled the wrong circle. When we wanted to be in the left lane, somehow we managed to find ourselves in the right lane. Need I tell you that after the tram incident, we just didn’t wanted to be in the right lane.

Chaos, chaos and chaos.

It was nothing but chaos.

There came a point when we could have simply climbed the stairs and entered the hotel we were looking for. Alas, car wasn’t designed to climb stairs. Hence we had to keep driving and looking for right roads.

All we wanted to do was get rid of the car – somehow, anyhow but without paying any fines.

Finally, we managed to find the parking and returned the car next morning without many hiccups.

Now the suspense.

Did we get lucky or we were caught.

If we were, how many places. How many tickets did we get? If we did get some tickets, shall we have enough money to pass rest of the month after paying the fines? Or more importantly, do we have enough money to pay the fines whenever we get to know about them. Although I am sure we did not break any rules but then, driving in an unknown territory always gives you some jitters.

The long wait begins.

*Work of fiction.