Sunday, February 28, 2010

हम पहाड़ी लोग!

A typical meeting of Pahadi women/ families, young or old, relatives or virtually unknown to one another.

Such meetings are always pleasent, and always end up with everyone being everyone else's relative. I always enjoy them, though I am never able to participate in them much; I do not find the idea of becoming everyone else's long lost relative particularly appealing.

The meetings with known relatives is generally more relaxed, one of part of the agenda is already fulfilled (everyone is already a proved relative to everyone else). In such a scenario other things can also be discussed. Pahadi women (and often men) have this exceptional quality of discussing three to four topics at the same point of time with equal number of people in the group. A new topic invariably starts the moment you look up at someone you had not being talking to, of course your previous chat partner takes no offence to this and continues the same discussion with a new partner. Its essential in such a case to keep one's ears highly attuned to all the conversations happening in the room, you never know when you might be expected to start talking on a new discussion topic. I have a feeling that it also imrpoves one's sensory abilities.

One of the popular topics discussed today was my pony tail. It was only to cover up my scary looks that I had tied my hair. One of my paternal grandma liked it a lot and used many flattering/ unflaterring adjectives to describe it. It was also claimed with some authority that my pony was better than my neice's pony; I wanted to hide/ disappear somewhere right at that moment and was saved by a phone call and I escaped.

Of course, all the grandmas also wanted to know about my marriage plans. They are highly alarmed by my reluctance to discuss the topic in detail. My promise that I shall inform them the day I get married alarmed them further. Handling such sensitive topics with elders is a matter of great skill (and courage), and something that one can learn only with age (and sadly by that time one is already married). They are all somehow convinced that I am going to marry a Gujarati dame and thats the reason why I am so stuck with Ahmedabad also. Though the thought was alarming, it got lost in further discussion on fake khoa and fake desi ghee. I escaped.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Khamasa finally!

So finally Khamasa happened. I never had any reason to visit this famous non-vegetarian food अड्डा and so never went there. Even yesterday I had no reason, but since both Bhavin and Kiran asked me to come, I decided to accompany them. Many of my friends in NID loved the place and mentioned if often, but it was rather different from what I expected, but in a nice way.

We took an auto and went there, and the narrow lanes filled with people made for a highly interesting start. The road is lined with many mosques and we could hear the call for prayers from many. I also quickly bowed my head and made all the requisite wishes, after all one never knows which God might listen to you on your lucky day.

Bhavin and Kiran ate their dinner at Farooq Fry Centre (ऊंचे लोग, ऊंची पसंद; चिक्केन तंदूरी न. १). Both enjoyed eating their food while I silently observed. Its weird to be a vegetarian and be surrounded by non-veggies all the time. Bhavin claims that he has turned into a vegetarian since we started sharing the flat! Kiran and Muzayun, however, are still staunch non-veggies and unlikely to change (not that Bhavin will also ever change). But somehow I also know that eating animals is a fulfillment of a primal desire, so like many others that we cannot resist. Maybe someday even I might start eating these poor animals, but it looks highly unlikely as of now.

The food was red in color (almost blood red) and greasy. Both my friends, noticed, and none cared, I guess its regular here. Apparently Tandoori Chicken was the best food item and they both eat every single बोटी on the poor animal's little bones. I wonder if it was a मुर्गा or a मुर्गी, does it matter? Is the taste gender specific?

The dinner was followed by a walk and 'orange sharbet' at a shop close by.

Do read about La Bella, the other popular non-vegetarian food hub of Ahmedabad.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ऋषि का ज्ञान...

This is Rushikesh.

Rushikesh likes to talk about an alternate way of doing things/ achieving ends. He was different and weird, even back in School.

I had a good and long coffee-meal-walking session with him yesterday, discussing past lives and their significance amongst many other similar topics. Hinduism lays quite a lot of importance on past life and after life, and so much of spirituality and meditation is actually done to purge all the negativity from our experiences in these different lives. Not just Rushi, even Shilpi (who is also heavily into meditation), had mentioned this to me some time back. Its difficult to put across these things clearly, especially when I also understand so little about them. Its intriguing and has always attracted me, but I have been way too logical about it all. Maybe I need to just let go of what I understand and what I know, and let things just come to me. I know I am extremely open to try this out as well, see no harm at all in this. After all we live only once, so we should do all that we can!

This is the piece of paper on which we were discussing this and many other things. Maybe only the two of us can understand this, or perhaps only he can. Being an engineer he couldn't help but explain his past lives as this: current life = p, past life 1 = p-1, past life 2 = p-2 and so on.

If Rushi ever reads this, he might find my discourse here extremely shallow and perhaps even fatally wrong. But maybe that is the intent, to get corrections on my limited understanding.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Soni ka chawl' and other short stories...

I saw 'My Name is Khan' which has Shahrukh hamming often about how Hindus and Muslims are not different, and that there are only two types of people - good and bad. No doubt he is right.

My first story in this series also concerns Hindus and Muslims, particularly those belonging to 'Soni ki Chawl'. The story is neither necessarily true nor is it inspiring or uplifting, its just a story.

Soni is Chawl is a residential area located around the heavily industrialized Rakhial and Odhav areas of Ahmedabad. The area got its name from the 'Soni' community which apparently settled down here many years back, then the outskirts of the city. The community thrived and became prosperous. However, a few years back some Muslim families also shifted there; my story teller had no clue why they shifted into a completely Hindu background. And slowly this new migrant population grew and they pushed the Hindus out, so much so that its now a completely Muslim neighbourhood. As I mentioned earlier, this story has little meaning. Its just a tale told. My autowalla told me this story while we passed through this area, assuming me to be a pious Hindu, despite my beard and disapproving glances. There was no need, it was just a mindset revealed to me, the story was just a media.

The other story also happened on the way, and this one happened for sure. I crossed Ashmia mills and remembered my last visit to their compound. I had gone there with Nakul and our dear professor A B Patel from Nirma, the reason was to request Ashima to become the main sponsor for the dream that we lived for the entire semester - Ingenium. We did realise it too, despite the riots in February which stopped our work for a long time and scared away a few potential participants. Ashima never agreed and finally Suzlon became our event sponsor.

More stories as time goes by.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


It was walking time again, and here is an observation from today.

A Muslim man (beard/ clothes/ topi) on a bike got stopped by the late-night-police from a group of a few young guys, while the rest were let off. Even he is let off after a few minutes of questioning. I stood along a wall and saw it all and found it curious. Was the young man stopped because he so obviously looked like a Muslim? Is that such a bad thing to do (considering that my assumption is true), or are we too paranoid at times, or its a necessary precaution.

I was singled out always and repeatedly, sometimes even twice or thrice on the same street, when I was in Srinagar and the villages around it a few years back. It was purely due to my appearance - bushy beard and very long hair. Uncle told me that I look more like a Mujaheddin than a regular Kashmiri would ever look. I could never get used to all the frisking and sudden checks, though it also told me that the armed forces were ruthlessly efficient and all this was something like a necessary discomfort. I always escaped any ill-treatment (except once or twice) because of papers proved that I was a Hindu. Army men generally warmed up to me after this revelation and wanted to know the story of my long hair.

Its just something I remembered from the past and connected two highly unrelated stories. Appearances could be so deceptive sometimes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

अंधेर नगरी, चौपट रजा

Its weird how some stories remain with years after you have heard them, or at times just the titles remain. This is one such title which I remembered out of blue today afternoon as I was sitting with animator Alok and rendering a dining table for Godrej Interio.

And it clicked something in me, I did a quick search and read the story and enjoyed it completely. Many others have already written about it, and this is one decent link.

Enjoy reading.

Friday, February 5, 2010

more on walking...

My bitter cup of hot tea is almost cold now, as I sit here and write. The long walk was good, walking hand in hand and walking alone. The wind strong on the bridge, and my hair blew like a thick mat of coir. And even the police on night patrol looked at me suspiciously. But I walked ahead, to the other side of the town. My tea cup is getting over fast, so I make another one; even more bitter than the last cup. More squatters on the road-side and even more dogs, strangely silent. I never looked anywhere, I knew that I wanted to come back. Come back on the bridge to look into the water, and the sky. There is only a little wind inside, my room is cool though, balcony is bliss. There were twenty five lights whose reflection I could see on the water, and I tried making meanings out of this. Somehow I was convinced that it would mean something. I am letting the tea get cold again, can't look for meanings in what I am doing now. Cold tea tastes better, even bitter at times, or so I like to believe. A broken light post, smashed by a speeding bus. More families on the road now, some chatting, some drinking juice. Odd how Ahmedabad comes alive at such odd hours. Even from my seat I can hear the faint buzz of vehicles on the bridge, an occasional horn inter-spread with eerie silence.
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