Home is where the heart is!

Found this little surprise post in my drafts from over a year ago (2015) when I was in my first job, away from home for the first time. Though I have become headstrong now, I can relate to this younger-naiver-me. Here goes a blast-from-the-past post from the archives-

First job -> New city -> New friends ->Independence ->Excitement!

Fast Forward 3 months : Long working hours -> Alien city -> Indifferent people -> Melancholy.

From excitement to disappointment, from dreams to nightmares, from hope to despair. Been there. Done that! The initial elation at finally being able to earn and sutain myself was soon deflated by the dawn of reality that corporate life is very different from the blithe college life when people were more innocent and less avaricious.  The occasional showers on this barren land are the monthly visits home.

The whole journey is nothing short of an adventure.Starting from the hassle of booking tickets to the teary-eyed return back to the concrete jungle, every task can be made into a high-octane emotion-laden Bollywood movie.

Preparations: The preparations start with the booking of tickets. The custom calls for calling up all your friends(from childhood to school/college)  and enquiring about their home-visiting plans. If, by coincidence, both your plans match then as per the unwritten rule-book, you book tickets together.

The D-day: Excitement creeps in a couple of days before the eventful Friday. The day starts early, with the packing of unwashed clothes and goodies from the month’s shopping. The entire office has happy smiley faces on Fridays. And on such days, I readily add to the cheer! 😀 

 As the clock ticks 6 pm, I make arrangements to leave. The scene usually starts with a meek me requesting for permission to leave early and then a high-speed sprint to board the overcrowded bus. This journey usually lasts a couple of hours post which McDonalds gives me refuge until 11 pm, when my bus is scheduled. On days with monstrous traffic/days when my manager is less considerate, I skip dinner and dash to the bus stop, a heavy rucksack on my shoulders and a massive handbag in my hand, disheveled hair and panic-stricken eyes( I must have been quite a sight).

The trouble of travelling a long distance in a bulging-at-the-seams bus fueled with the traffic and tension and just managing to hop onto the bus is totally worth the affection I feel at home. After all, I survive the month by feeding on the weekend affection that I accumulate over these 2 days. 

I doze off in the bus – a peaceful, self-satisfied sleep with the realization that at the dawn of morning, I will get the chance to look at familiar faces that smile back at me and welcome me back to where I belong. Home is where I truly belong. Home is bliss. Home is where my heart is.


Beauty is the beast

I was in the “quest for perfect gift” phase that everyone goes through when their friend gets married. I did a clean-sweep of the limited operating parts of my brain and ended up with ‘bouquet’. When the 3rd page of google wouldn’t throw passable results, I called on my girl friends to pick on their brains. This endeavor led me to believe that owning a Victoria’s Secret product was every girl’s zealous desire.

The next couple of days were spent on finding the cheapest(read 1000 bucks) VS product on Amazon. I finally settled on a perfumed body lotion (with a fanciful name – love spell) but to my dismay, the delivery would take longer than expected. This prompted me to take a stroll to the nearby beauty shop.

Enter beauty shop. Aisles and aisles, rows and rows, tubes and tubes of whitening creams and body products.There was foundation in 100 different shades, then a tinted moisturizer, bb cream (lighter than foundation but better than moisturizer),cc , dd creams and a zillion other products of these combinations. And this was just a small corner of the “Face” section.

 I was disconcerted by the assortment and expanse of products. Beauty products were supposed to enhance our looks, not force fit it into an actress’s look. Earlier, multani metti and gram flour face masks were used before important events like weddings. Now, concealers and mascaras are used everyday.

Cosmetic industry’s advent in India started in the early 1990s and is expected to grow by ~20% each year. 1990s – does it ring a bell? Flashback 1994 – Miss world pageant when Aishwarya Rai won is alleged to be a corporate move by the cosmetic industry to penetrate the Indian market. Well, seems to have worked perfectly well for them.

What is the need to live up to the set standards of beauty? Why strive to reach there artificially ? Why even set standards in the first place? I am who I am. If I try to look like someone else, won’t I lose my identity? If all girls are tall-legged, slim, fair, powdered ‘beauties’, won’t that make this world a delicate, sculpted doll-house? Time to teach ourselves to invest more in self-development rather than temporary appearance. Time to feel confident about ourselves and how we look. Time to embrace who we are. Time to accept our looks with pride. Time to love ourselves.

(P.S. I walked out without Victoria Secret’s Love Spell that day. Apparently, it wasn’t part of the gazillion products they sell, but “we have similar ones – passion spell,love struck – in other brands , madam!”. Phew. I will never understand this beauty game. So much for the gift hunt)

Interesting people

This post is about the interesting life of normal people we come across, glance at and walk past in our everyday life. This post is a reminder for me to pause, breathe and observe the little details in life and be more compassionate towards people.

1. The lorry driver

The other day when I took an Uber to work, I gave directions to the driver and plugged in my earphones as usual. I was surprised when the driver tried to make conversation about the weather. I answered that I can’t speak the local language and re-plugged the earphones. 

The driver asked ,”What language do you know-Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, English, Bengali? I know all of this”. I was intrigued. A little bit of “hmm” and a fair amount of nodding later, I was privy to the last 30 years of his life.

 He used to be a lorry cleaner who then bought a lorry of his own(reminded me of Indian movies: break of song- peniless hero ; end of song – millionaire). His lorry transported jackfruits from Kerala, apples from Kashmir and onions from Karnataka. During long journeys, he placed a brick on the accelerator to ease his foot pain.

His brother-in-law was a Pepsi contractor who bought cartons of the soft drink and sold it to pubs on credit. He had enticed the driver with a business offer and the naive fellow sold his lorry to invest in it.

Only later did he realize that the “business venture” was IPL betting clubs. The brother-in-law lost all the money and they foiled his suicide attempt, post which he’s chilling at his village.The driver bought a car with the left-over money and is running a cab service, with hopes of saving enough to buy a lorry again.

I admired his grit and courage to start over from the bottom again. Needles to say, he got a 5 star rating.

2. The lady selling peanut chikkis

It was a scorching hot afternoon and the signal was long. Just as I was rolling up the windows of the car to switch on the AC, I saw an old lady on the pedestrian walk,huffing and sweating. She carried 2 big jute bags that seemed heavy given her discomfort.

As soon as the vehicles came to a halt, she limped across and displayed packets of peanut chikkis to the passengers. When she reached my car, I bought 2 packets and paid her.

She broke into a heartfelt smile and showed me a picture of a young girl and a marksheet. She told me with pride that her grand-daughter is a topper in her B.com class and she is selling chikkis to fund her education. She blessed me for buying from her.

The signal turned green and I drove away, thinking how progressive and hardworking the woman is. While most educated people prevent their daughters from pursuing a career or masters degree, here she was – doing what she could to help the girl compete her education. More power to people like her!

3. The wife with extravagant tastes

A friendly cab driver was once lamenting about the traffic and the toll it was taking on his health. When I asked him why he would not settle for something less stressful, he started narrating stories about his wife.

She was the kind of person who found happiness in other’s approval (no different from my generation that spends time figuring out ways to get 100 likes on a picture). She forced him to sell his run-down Indica and buy a sedan because it added more weight to her stature. She also made sure it was a fancy color.

Every time she wanted to buy groceries, she went to the neighborhood market in the air conditioned sedan. Every weekend, the car was washed in the street at a time chosen based on when the neighbors were present to watch the event. She wouldn’t let him sell the car and start a small grocery shop.

The poor guy’s entertaining account of his wife amused me. It also made me ponder over the unmerited importance we give to other’s opinions. Well, that topic is for another day, another post.

4. The maid’s granddaughter

We have a maid at our place who washes utensils and cleans the house everyday. She had an alcoholic son who wasted away all the hard-earned money. Her daughter-in-law had been diagnosed with throat cancer a few months back and the family was struggling to make both ends meet.

One day, she brought her 16-year old grand daughter along for work and all of us objected saying she should complete her education and we can’t allow (almost) child labor. She pacified us saying that it was summer vacation, the girl had completed her class 12 board exams and scored 60%. 

I congratulated the girl, to which she replied with a meek “I could have done better, akka”. When I asked her what she wanted to do next, she replied,” I want to become a Telugu teacher. I am from a Telugu medium school and my teacher says I am good at writing essays, akka. I will teach children how to read and write Telugu”.

I was touched at the girl’s simple heart. Not a doctor. Not a software engineer. Not anything fancy. A straight-forward, unpretentious ambition.Telugu teacher. I gave her a  pack of my faviurote cookies and told her to never, ever give up her dreams no matter what. Because that is exactly what is going to define you as a person and shape your life. And it’s very important to have the harness to your life in your hands – something that following your dream will teach you.

Silver lining of traffic

The infamous metropolitan traffic. My workplace is 5 kms away from where I stay and I consider myself lucky if I cover that distance in an hour. 

One day, when I was running late for a meeting (goes without saying that I was stuck in a cab during a logjam), I realized that I have better things to fret about than traffic jams – like the just-ended sale on the dress I wanted or the popped-out-of-nowhere pimple. 

That’s when it dawned on me that traffic is not so bad, after all. Don’t think so? Allow me to explain how traffic helps us have a better life:

1. Socializing

Have you seen two random auto drivers strike up a conversation during a road block? I have seen guys in my carpooled cab discover common interests through music playing on the radio and plan on attending a concert together. I have had exclusive access to cooking , beauty tips and sale details by overhearing phone conversations on buses. Traffic jams help you connect, spend time and make friends with people.

2. Exploring the city

When my auto-driver senses an impending congestion ahead, he takes a sharp turn into one of those narrow lanes whose existence I wasn’t aware of. Tucked away in those narrow lanes are unexplored quaint art shops and boutiques that don’t charge a bomb. Touring the city is all the more relevant with “Murphy’s law of shared cabs” – Irrespective of when you board the cab, you will be the last one to get dropped.

3. Appreciating humanity

Only during times of distress does humanity shine. Like the person who let my car sneak into the main road’s long queue through a side lane. There was a traffic policeman who held the shivering hands of an old lady and helped her cross the road. There was a an old man selling peanut biscuits at a signal to fund his grand-daughter’s education. There was a businessman who stepped out of his air-conditioned Audi and volunteered to clear a deadlocked congestion. Traffic lets you witness such moments of humanity.

4. Developing patience

In this fast-paced world of 2-minute noodles, traffic forces you to cultivate and develop the virtue of patience. This is primarily because, well….you don’t have a choice.

5. Quality me-time

The time spent in travel gives me the much-needed alone time when I can read my favourite book, listen to music or introspect on my life. Bus drivers in my city use this time to stay updated with the world by reading newspapers.

6. Helping stay fit  

How does traffic help fitness? When you decide to cover the final 2km stretch to office by walking for 30 minutes instead of waiting for an hour.

7. Maintaining relationships

I spend my travel time in replying to messages, emails and greeting friends on their birthdays/anniversaries(or their children’s birthdays). Traffic gives you ample time in your busy work life to catch up with friends and relatives.

8. Increasing sense of alertness 

If you are a pedestrian on the side-walk, you develop the art of being on high-alert sub-consciously. Because you have to dutifully jump out of a motorist’s path and avoid bumping into a fellow mobile phone-engrossed pedestrian, like a real-life subway surfer.

9. Increasing co-ordination

Traffic requires you to inherently co-ordinate with all the other people on the road by a wave of the hand or the flicker of an eye – asking them to pass or understanding the time they need to cross.

10. Making us believe in spirituality 

When everything else fails, you invoke the Almighty to help you reach office on time. Or to Bless you with just one flying bat mobile. Or to endow you with superpowers that let your car pass through objects. The obnoxious traffic. Sigh!