Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cars - 2!!!

Envy is all about counting someone else’s blessings than your own.
  •               -Someone
Ever since a friend I had driven a new car of a friend of mine, I had started seeing all those shortcomings of my own Maruti Ritz which were non existent before that. Soon, I started noticing everyone was driving a newer car which was a better model than my own. Or it was otherway round - I noticed only those who had newer and better cars. I was feeling envious.
So finally, after shelling out all my savings, selling left kidney and few liters of blood and taking a loan of gigantic proportions, I managed to buy a new car. Not a very wise decision I must say considering the state of industry I work in. All I can do is hope that I shall not become a cab driver in my own car. Or I don’t have to ask my wife to sell her kidney.
Hyundai Creta is a fantastic car. It is even better unless you have paid for it. Well, then that’s true for most things. They look better till you have paid for them.
After having driven both of them on a single day, yesterday, I realized the subtle difference between driving the both.
Old car is like an old and well trusted ally. You know it well. You know it better. You know all its moves. You know how it shall behave in what circumstances. It is like wife when you have been married for considerable period of time. Yes, there shall be loads of surprises but you tend to expect them. Yes, it shall break down sometimes but you are prepared for it. Oh yes, it shall make lot of noise but you get used to of it. You are well versed with the knowledge of curves and shape and comfortable with the fact that there is and shall be wear & tear. You have been through accidents and know its is no big deal - damages can be repaired. You have practically become one with it.    
New car is like a new partner. While you would like to try everything to make a good start and henceforth a good journey, the trust factor is still missing. You don’t really know the true nature and behavior. You are yet to get comfortable with the curves, shapes, size and features of it. You still don’t feel the part. Oh yes, you fear the first dent or scratch. When that happens, it hurts. Second one also hurts but lesser. Third one even lesser. Slowly you get used to of it. See, it is like a new marriage. Slowly you realize damages are no big deal and can be repaired.
Then the fight begins for parking. Especially if your twin parking is not parallel but straight - cars can only be parked one after another. Who will get the inner parking space? Because one you have been parked inside, you are dependent upon the other one for getting out. Discrimination sets in. Newer member starts getting more preference. Oh yes, it is like two daughters in law in the same family. Friends and family turn up for the muh dikhai of the newer member of the house. People shower praises because that’s the only option that have to tell you on your face. Someone sometimes asks - where is the older one? And you shrug your shoulders and say - same old place. I am sure if Ekta Kapoor reads this piece, she shall surely draft a new soap opera named Kyonki Kar bhi ek Bahu hai. While older one keeps doing the dirty work, younger one is still given some leeway to learn the tricks of the trade of the family. While tantrums of elder daughter in law are often discarded as regularity, tantrums of young one surely get more attention. Having said that, older one still commands more respect and power than the younger one.
While on the roads, you feel like Toruk Makto who is riding on the great Toruk (remember James Cameron’s bollywood style romantic sci-fi Avatar which made a fortune). When you are diving the older car, you are so much in control that you feel like you are riding on the baddest ass in the sky and own it. You see a gap and can drive through it blindfolded. You see a turn and immediately know the radius at which you should be turning without banging the car somewhere and yet not let the biker coming from behind take the slightest of space to overtake your car. Forget the bike, you cannot let any car overtake your own unless you know the market value of the other car is 200% or more than your car. You can parallel park it without any hiccups. You have become such an expert that you start to even optimize the parking space. You are the king.
With new car, it is totally difficult. You feel like Satyen Kappu who has three young, beautiful daughters and lives in the neighborhood of the Shakti Kapoors, Rupesh Kumars, Prem Chopras, Amrish Puris and ilks. You realize beauty is a cruel mistress. The bold and expert driver in you transforms into a timid father whose sole objective is to save his daughters from these villains. Every time you take it out on the road, all you do is to save it from getting hit/dented/scratched by the all others on the roads. Everyone seems like a lunatic driver who ,if you introspect, is no different from you your self in your older car. You are always over cautious in your radius calculations. Even though the newer car has more power, you avoid using it in the interest of safety.         
It goes on. Till the first dent. Then it changes. With every dent, you become bolder and less timid. Slowly, this new daughters in law starts reaching the similar status which can be termed as “old enough to not to be called new”. Soon, the new car is termed as the second car.
The cycle is quite likely to be repeated once the new daughter in law comes in the family.
Till then, I shall pray for the safety for myself, people on the road and my wife’s kidney.         

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Sikkim Story!!!

God must be kind to me. In last eight months or so, I've been to two places I always wanted to visit - europe and North Eastern part of India especially Sikkim.
And if you were to ask me to compare the two, for me Sikkim wins hands down.
To all its clutter and chaos, which is inevitable considering it is in India, the quality of natural beauty NE provides surely supersedes the mundane nature of Europe.
While Europe is surely much more structured, well planned and managed, there is certain artificiality and repetitiveness which makes it boring after certain point of time. Closest I can compare to Sikkim is Swiss but it cannot beat it in variety. No way. Forget everything else, I would always be an alien to Swiss whereas as far as Sikkim is concerned, it would always be part of my own country. Well, till China loses its mind.
To all its glitter and glamour of Swiss, it isn't mine. Sikkim is. And that's one quality of something that belongs to you - to all its shortcomings, to all the cribs you make about it, to all its incompleteness, it belongs to YOU. And that wins over everything else.

To me, the most striking feature about Sikkim was the road trip. Oh yes, roads were pathetic. But the adventure they provide, the thrill of being ever so close to falling down in the valley yet the beauty it provides, the rawness of it charms you over.
I consider myself a very skilled driver but after seeing the drive there, I wouldn't even sit behind the wheel forget driving. It is risky. It can be lethal. It needs special kinds of skill and expertise.
My driver told me a story about his accident ten years back when his car fell in the valley. 9 people died. Only he survived.
“How did it happen”, I asked him.
“Some stone fell down from the top and hit the car”
“Landslide?” I wondered.
“No it wasn't landslide for sure. I think some monkey pushed it from the top” he said in such a matter of fact voice that I felt a shrill through my spine.
We just witnessed a truck on which a tree had fallen and the driver had died on the spot.
“How can this happen”
“Weather here can do anything” again the reply in cold voice.
Talking about driving, I've never seen any Indian city which has such better managed and disciplined traffic. And I've seen some Indian cities.
People don't break lanes. Think of Ahmadabad. They barely honk. Think of Bangalore. You don't see many cars with dents. Think of Pune. I didn't see a single road rage incident in my stay of 4 days. Can you imagine it in Delhi?
And yes, one cannot bribe a policeman. You have to pay the fines which are hefty. Think of any Indian city.
Every time I praised this in front of the drivers who drove me around, I got the same answer - it has been ingrained in our minds that following traffic rules is for our own good.
With the inch close distance at which everyone is supposed to drive because of narrow lanes and up & down roads, the patience of people is really impressive.
Although it is a tourist place, tourists aren't seen as cash cows. Every time they spot a tourist, they don't jump on to loot him. Think about temples in Banaras.
People are friendly and warm. They are of helping nature. They don't really over price stuff based on location. A water bottle is sold as 20 a piece be it in the city or outskirts. Ever bought a water bottle on the highways elsewhere?
Oh yes, there are a few tips to make sure your trip is enjoyable. Do a good research on the hotels you are going to stay in. Do not rely on online sellers selling you rated hotels. Stay in well known hotel chains only.
Do book your cabs in advance. You shall not only save money but also get better cabs. Cabs are high in demand and can be a bottleneck in your travel. Especially given the road conditions, you would need a good car for comfort and safety both.
Although you cannot do much about it but do a weather check. Weather is totally unreliable. My first day was almost washed off due to bad weather. By the time we reached back to our hotel, the sun was shining again in its full glory.
Make sure you carry enough cash everywhere. The digital India is yet to make an entry in the pockets of most needy. I was lucky to carry sufficient cash with me. Without which I wouldn't have been able to do water rafting in Teesta. Teesta is one of the most beautiful and cleanest rivers I have seen. On one side you have West Bengal and on the other, there is Sikkim. Between these two contrasting states flows the river Teesta in its full glory and beauty. With turbulent water every now and then, it makes water rafting real fun.  
Tsomgo Lake is a beautiful place. Yak ride is an amazing experience. Do wear your bargaining hat and wear the best one. It is the only source of income for most there and they try to make the most of it. The mountain range behind the lake makes it one of the most picturesque locations. If you ever wanted a family portrait with blessings of nature, this is the place.
I had heard a lot about Nathula pass. The biggest attraction was to see the China border. Alas, you have to be lucky with weather to get permit. I wasn’t hence missed it. Still, I was quite close to the China border and who knows, for Chinese I might well have ventured in their territory. The situation there is well known.
In case your luck is as bad as mine, do make sure you do not stop at the Tsomgo lake and do visit the temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh. There are wonderful stories around the temple. Yes, ghost stories. Even if you do not get to the temple, quite possible due to long queues, you would get to see plenty of something which is rare in India - snow. The road on both sides is surrounded by snowy mountains and sometimes it is even covered by it. Make sure your cabbie is carrying a shovel and chains else he might be denied entry in the region. Permit is anyways needed to enter the region. And you need right kind of permit. So book that in advance. Or get hold of a reliable travel agent to do so for you. How to get hold of a reliable travel agent? Well, you aren't paying me to read this. Hence go figure that out yourself.

West Sikkim is quite different to these parts. Government has been making efforts to build tourist attractions in this part of the state. While Buddha Park is still in WIP state, Char Dham is absolutely stunning. For a shutterbug, nothing could be better to capture lord Shiva’s grand statue with sun setting behind it. Lord Shiva’s silhouette with crimson red sky in the background makes a stunning picture.

Our car did break down and we had to kill couple of hours on the road. Luckily the place it broke down was itself so picturesque that we didn't regret the incident. It was some guy who had put everything he had in acquiring a piece of land and was had ambitions of building a resort there. If he manages to do so, its just the location which shall make it worth the effort.

While some other states are famous for its tea gardens, I can safely claim that I haven’t seen more beautiful tea gardens than the ones I saw in Sikkim. They are less crowded, not meant for tourist attractions hence purer in nature. The Himalayan range surrounding them gives them a totally different look.

Food could be a problem if you aren’t a momo lover. But what could rescue you is something that has been rescuing us for generations - Maggie. You get it everywhere. Just everywhere.
Finally we were back from the land of momos to the land of modaks.
It was a wonderful trip which made me realize something important.
Yes India is vast. Yes India is chaotic. Yes India is in a mess.
Yes there is JNU. Yes there is Kashmir. Yes Mumbai is submerged in water during every monsoon. Yes there is extreme poverty in naxal ridden areas. We have bad infrastructure. We are always in rush. We lack civic sense. We have riots. We have all those bad things.
But beyond all this, there is another India. Like the one I witnessed in Sikkim. And that India is not all that bad.   

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Secret journal of a husband!!!

Gentlemen, come 19th February and it will be two years since India started its world cup winning campaign. On 19th February 2011, Sehwag almost fulfilled his promise of batting through fifty overs. Kohli made the most of what was supposed to be his only chance in the world cup. Our bowlers showed why they were a cause for concern. But all it was a journey well begun and thoroughly enjoyable – like another journey I had started six years back on this very day, 19th February 2007.

Let me be frank – God didn’t invent me to get wasted in falling with love in hope of converting it in a marriage. I was made for an arrange marriage. My concept was simple – love is divine, it can happen anytime. Marriage is an event which has to happen at right time. So, why to wait for something to happen, which can happen anytime, so that you can make something happen which has to happen at the right time?

Did I make any sense? If yes, please read on.

If no, when was the last time you saw me making any sense.

Even the arrange marriage wasn’t easy. After initial few rejections, a thought did strike my mind that it might never happen. But thanks to God who has given me this life, VVS Laxman who has given me this amazing ability to keep the hopes alive even in the most adverse scenarios and the lady of my life who agreed to tolerate me for the rest of her life, it did happen. I got married on 19th February 2007.

Since then, it has been a wonderful journey. While most of the credit goes to her, I would like to take some credit for discovering the secrets of happy marriage and implementing them in my own life.

For the benefit of those who are planning the bite the bullet or those who have already been shot down with the same bullet – here are some secrets to a happy married life.

Bypass – Okay, God has given you a head. You think there is a lot of meat inside it and I won’t blame you for that. If nothing, we all have the right to think the way we want. But it is not in what is inside your head. Most important body parts are at the two ends of your head.

These are your earholes. God has given you two earholes at 180 degrees to each other. All you need to do is to create a tunnel connecting both of them and use it as much as possible. Lesser leakage in this tunnel, better it is for you. Let is all pass. Quite often the gloomy days are described as – staring down a tunnel which has no light at the other end. Trust me, as long as someone can see light at the other end, he will be happy.

Just create a bypass between two ears and let everything pass at the speed of a tracer bullet. You will just get the feeling that it is what the doctor ordered.
Admire – Why blame women? Everyone wants to hear good words about him or her. It is just that women want it a bit more explicitly. Hence admire your wife in whatever she does – be it cooking a delicious Shahi Paneer for you or making you eat the Pizza which she herself couldn’t eat, be it the efficiency with which she manages the economy of the house or her art of spending all your salary in first 15 days of the month, be it her always welcoming you in the house with a smile or her tears which were shed because you didn’t say “Good Bye” to her when you left for work in the morning. Your praise has to be reflected in your admiration. Your criticism has to be sugarcoated with your admiration.

If she asks “Am I looking fat”, don’t simply say yes but reply “Oh these cloths these days. They are all made in China. That’s why they lose their ability to stretch with time”.

If she apologizes saying “Sorry, I forgot to put the salt in today’s lunch”, you can reply “Oh I thought that was deliberate. I forgot to tell you about the latest research which says that food with no salt keep the cholesterol down”

Only thing which you should never admire is the looks of other females in front of her. If she says “Wow, my batch mate looks stunning”, don’t jump all guns blazing in admiration but say “No way. You don’t have an eye for appreciating beauty. I have it” and wink.

Cunning – Women are curious creatures. To ask question is a right they acquire even before they are born. But they are different. They don’t ask questions to seek answers. They ask questions so that they can ask more questions based on the answers they get.

“You like your left eye more or the right one?”

“What is this question?”

“Just answer me.”

“I like my right eye more.”

“Why not left eye?”

“Well there is not much of a difference for me between these two.”

“Then why you said you like your right eye.”

“That’s because you insisted on me answering your question.”

“Will you do anything if I insist?”

“That will depend”

“Depend? Why do you never give me definitive answer?”

See, this can go on and on. Women know it very well that in life and boxing, he who gives the hardest punch doesn’t win. It is the one who always stands up after being punched down turns out to be the real winner. Your best of the answers are matched with a question, always.

You need to learn the secret. The objective is not to answer the question. Objective is to ask more questions. It is a loop you will never get out doesn’t matter how intelligently, as per you, you answer the question. Even if you do win this battle, you will be mentally exhausted.

What is the point in getting into a battle which, even if you somehow manage to win, will completely drain you out? Remember King Ashoka and the battle of Kalinga?

You need to be cunning here. You need to give such an answer which doesn’t give birth to another question. You may not win but at least you will mitigate the risk of getting drained out. That will be your victory.

So next time you are asked, “Which of your two eyes you like more”, simply answer with a smile “Whichever sees your first”. Chances of being hit back with another question will go down like a tracer bullet.

Henpecked – It is up to you, really. You want to live with your ego or you want to be happy. Your ego will give you nothing but lunches with no salt, lunches full of bitter gourd, lunches with three days old Pizzas, or most probably no lunch and you will be cooking the dinner. To stay happy, say goodbye to your male chauvinist ego and be henpecked. Oh yeah, don’t give me that stupid argument of “I wear the pants in my house”. Ask yourself an honest question; is it not the very same pant which you very often pull down in front of the higher ups at work? So why not do at home as well and achieve global peace

Eavesdropping – Stop doing it if you do. Don’t start it if you don’t.

Don’t ask what you are not supposed to. Don’t listen to what you are not supposed to. Don’t see what you are not supposed to. Don’t read what you are not supposed to.

In short, don’t try becoming a phantom.

Knowledge is good but too much of it is good for only Dumbledore. I am sure you are not him.

Why a one year old is happier than a five year old? It is because he knows nothing about school.

Why a ten year old is happier than a sixteen year old? It is because he knows nothing about going to IITs.

Why a sixteen year old is happier than the ones in IITs? It is because he doesn’t know that all his dreams that the other side of gender divide would fall on his feet just because he made it to IIT were going to be shattered once he actually made it to an IIT.

Why someone in IIT is happier than someone who has passed out of it? It is because he doesn’t know that it is same crap everywhere, all that changes is the place.

Why someone who is out of IIT is happy? It is because he is yet to get married.

See, knowing more is not always good. So why not just know what is told to you. Why take extra pain to do it. As someone said, ignorance is bliss.

Lose the battle, don’t fight, and just surrender – As someone said – there are two parties in a marriage. One is right and other one is the husband. So why to fight if you are going to be proved wrong, always?

If you lose, you lose. If you win, you spend rest of the day in wiping off her tears. Why to fight a battle which you can never win? Why not simply surrender? What is the harm in it? After all she is called your “better half” and you are called her “other half”. Why not be fair and simply believe in letting the better of the two sides win? What are you going to fight for anyhow – to give preference to watching the inaugural match of the world cup over celebrating your anniversary or switching the channel from Mann ki aawaz Pratigya on Star Plus to India Glorious on Star Cricket or not eating the specially cooked bitter gourd curry? Why not celebrate your anniversary, worry about the issues Pratigya has in her life and never buy bitter gourd at all.

O, the big O - Run, go hit the gym, work on your fitness. It is about the big O. I meant obedience towards your wife’s orders to take care of your health. What were you thinking.

Read the above, take a print out, tattoo it all on your palms if needed but do implement it – It is all based on experiences – my experiences, my friends’ experiences, my relatives’ experiences and anyone else’s experiences. Once you have read the above, implement it, internalize it and actualize it. Just in case you have trouble remembering it all, I have devised a key for it.

Bypass, Admire, Cunning, Henpecked, Eavesdropping, Lose the battle, Obedience, Read.

Bachelor is the key.

Just stick to this bachelorhood and you will have a happy married life – stay bachelor, stay happily married.