Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bucketing Indians

Note:- I have been on a sabbatical from my blog because I have been happy and occupied. I blog only when I have a lot of time and I don't know what to do with it. :D

This is the story of a corporate dinner that I attended in Essen, Germany. As usual in the morning I went to work at my Netherlands office in 's-Hertogenbosch (I like writing 's-Hertogenbosch instead of Den Bosch :P) but today was not an usual day. I had a train to catch at 14.30 hrs to Essen. I reached just in time and arrived at the venue after everyone else had reached. I was excited to meet people with whom I had interacted only over calls and emails.

The venue was a Spanish Tapas Bar (food was really good). It was a group of about 15 people and I was the only woman in the team. We had a couple of people from our client's side too. Now to give a slight background to the story, there was a team member whose wedding was due in a week and a few others who had just got married. One of the clients (here on referred to as E) was surprised to know that all the marriages were arranged and fixed by the families. E was seated one seat after me and we started to discuss Indians and marriages.

E: "So you are a woman and I would like to know your perspective on arranged marriages. Will you have an arranged marriage too?"
Me: "Probably not. I am dating some one."
E: "Oh! So your parents chose your boy friend?"
Me: <WTF expression> "Obviously not!"
E: "But aren't Indians always supposed to have Arranged marriages?"
Me: "No No. You can't categorize us like that!"

E was quiet for a while as we all sipped our wines and then he said again "So you are a woman and you drink. But you are not married. So you'll quit drinking when you marry?"
Me: "How is marriage and drinking related?"
E: "Half the men in this table stopped drinking after marriage! Indian men don't drink after marriage. Maybe the women can"
Me: "What are trying to do here? Put us in buckets?"
E: "I don't understand India"
Me: "Even half the Indians don't understand the other half."

On my way back to Netherlands, I got a seat beside an Italian (here on referred to as G) who has a shop in Germany where he sells customized wheelchairs. He spoke extremely broken English and we started talking about Indians again.

G: "You are Indian. You drink tea at 5 pm. Indians drink tea at 5 pm"
I wanted to say Indians drink coffee too. But I just smiled. He continued "Indians are very brainy. Indians always work with computers. Indians very brainy."
Well he had that correct! I choose to believe so. I asked him where is he from and what he does.
G: "I come from Ferrari and Lamborghini. I bring technology and design to Germany for the poor and disabled. I make wheel chairs. I too brainy like the Indians, right?"
G: "Indians brainy. Chinese hard working. India - Chinese together -- Rule the world, Rule the world. I think that day is coming, what do you think?"

I couldn't stop giggling. This man believes India could be the next most powerful nation in the world. I wonder how many Indians believe it?

It just made me wonder how differently we are perceived by people outside. It also made me wonder how different each Indian is in his / her outlook of life. Indians can be probably bucketed state wise to some extent. But anyone trying to bucket Indians as a whole will always fail miserably. E was even surprised to know that every state in India has a different language and even different festivals and public holidays.

Cheers to our diversity and Happy Diwali (at least that's a festival celebrated all over India - Diwali bucket :P)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Rain and You

The Rain has always been a special visitor for me. Days am sad it seems like the Rain comes to visit me saying “See, the Heaven’s are also sad”. As the skies turn grey and the wind makes the leaves dance, I close my eyes and there you are! Images flash past my eyes like a Kaleidoscope with the touch and smell of days gone by.

That crowded small station and both of us lost in our own ways. You came with the Rain that day, you came as my smile that day. I didn’t know who you were, yet in some way I had a very pleasant 4 hours journey. Sitting in a jam packed compartment under an umbrella and watching the rain make patterns on the window pane, I didn’t know that 6 years down the line, I’ll be missing you every time it rains. The heavens seem to conspire because where I am right now, it rains every day.

That last night on an unknown road, under an unknown tree, the heavens cried in grief as we bid goodbye. I shivered with every drop of rain trickling down me. I was standing on the threshold of change trying to hold onto whatever I had and whatever I could. But I was riding the waves of my life with a foolish big grin.

Few weeks later, it was raining again. I was scared as hell and you calmed me. Later, sitting in a bus and grinning at you across random strangers, who grinned back at me, I couldn’t be happier with my life. The whole city was swathed in rain and thunderstorms and we bid goodbye with promises. Promises that were made to be broken.

Six months later, huge waves washed me onto some unknown shores. Life was never so lost before. I did mistakes I never meant to do. I clung to whatever I could to surface back to the top, to stay afloat, to stop the rain. I did stop the rain cause this time when you came, you came with the Spring. You came back with colours and flowers. I didn’t recognise you that day. The rain was missing you see.

Almost a year later, during the rains, on a lonely seashore, I missed you again. I wanted to hold you close to me again. But I was stuck in the quagmire of my own mistakes. I shouted but you didn’t hear me. I tried to touch you but you didn’t feel it. So I left. Sitting alone in an empty house, miles away from you, as the rain made patterns on my window, I told you again and this time you heard me. The heavens cracked open and showered in joy.

After few months of what could be described as the best months of my life so far, I am miles away from you again. In an empty house, the skies are grey, the leaves are dancing, the rain is drawing images of the past and I am missing you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Tryst With The Ball

I am not a football fan. I am a footballer fan to certain extent but certainly not a football fan. Footballers are primarily awesomely sexy bunch of people (well there are always exceptions of some sort). So when I actually paid a whopping 240 Euros for a Real Madrid Match, it made me wonder why did I do it? Just to get a glimpse of Iker Casillas? Well to some extent maybe yes but just that?? I realized I have probably imbibed some sort of love for the game.

Going back to the roots of why I spent this 240 Euros. 2005 September. Rahul is superbly upset and irrespective of however many times I said "Ki aar kora jabe! Its a match" "Next ta jite jaabe" "Kichu hobe na...Please dont be so upset", he just keeps grumbling. Real Madrid has just lost some La Liga match to some club. Next I know Rahul and I are fighting over this club, I wasn't so much aware of few days back (Yeah my knowledge sucked at it). 2005 December. Rahul calls to say "You have to stay over the phone with me till 2.30 am.There is a match tonight and I do not want to fall asleep." So I became the "keep the football lover awake".

Riya Banerjee. I  grumble to her in school about my "keep the football lover awake" status. She gets all excited and starts chirping about how she loves the England Team and how she bunked class in 9th to watch England play in the 2002 World Cup. Ah Luck!

June 2006. FIFA World Cup. I am so jobless after all the competitive exams that I start seriously following the matches. At least I end up learning some names which I can blabber to Rahul. 9th July 2006, Durgapur. Next day is the admission day at NIT Durgapur. Dad and I are in Peerless Inn. I meet Tania RoyChowdhury in the corridor and she invites me to meet her parents. First proper conversation of me and Tania.
Tania : "Hey you excited about tonight's Final Match?"
Me: "Ya I'll watch"
Tania: "She I bought these earrings from Big Bazaar with balls in them. Football Special. Cool Naah!"
Me (in my mind): "Oh No"

Tania and I became roommates courtesy a flat tyre which Somreeta and Abhirupa had. It was probably the luckiest flat tyre for both of us. But then followed the series of "You don't watch Football? WHY?" "You don't watch EPL?" "You don't like Torres or Gerrad?" "Today Liverpool is playing. Wear a red tshirt please". She kept her wallpaper, an image of Torres, for 2 years at a stretch. Phew! Most memorable of all of these.

NIT Allahabad. Me trying to act Barcelona in Dumb Charades. I show Europe. I show Football. I show B. Tania gets Football and B. But Europe becomes English. And she says "Birmingham City" "Blackburn" and she never ever utters "Barcelona".

2010 April. Liverpool vs Manchester Utd.
Tania : "Deblee please get the remote of the common room naah! People are watching saas bahu serials. They'll not give me remote for match. Please get the remote naah"
I get the remote and then "Please sit and watch the match. You are lucky charm. You sit and watch then Liverpool wins". Followed by the cute pout.

2010 April again. The last best days of college courtesy Vish. Whirlwind Romance which was paused for 45minutes of Barcelona playing. Again 15 minutes of Romance. Followed by another 45minutes of pause. Then the romance continued. Again the old acts of getting upset over a lost match. (Funny once it was Real Madrid and now Barcelona) This time I too know the game!! I do not say "Kichu Hobe na"  or "Next time jitbe". All I say is "Oh!" and act upset. Hunting Barcelona Jersey in Netherlands or Watching matches to know, after the 2nd half when the call comes, I should act upset or cheerful. :P

2010 June. Watching matches at Riya's place and finally even enjoying it. Watching the Final with Rahul over the phone. Cheering Spain as loudly as possible. Messaging Tania live updates. :)

So I didn't spend the 240 Euros because I am a Real Madrid fan. Neither did I do it because I am a football fan. I did it for all the crazy football lovers in my life whom I love a lot! Cheers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

India - Mini Europe

Before I embarked on my "Official Eurotrip", many people told me rather scared me about the "Language Problems" of Europe. It being my first real foreign travel ( Thailand has more Indians than Bangalore :P ) , I did get a bit freaked. I translated basic statements like "Where is the ticket counter?" "Which direction is this building?" "What time is the train?" to Dutch, scribbled it in a paper and started my journey.

My first endeavor with a foreigner in Europe was at the Amsterdam airport. In spite of all the Google Translate, I asked in plain English "Where is the train ticket counter?" He pointed me towards the counter and said "Goedemorgen" (which I later learnt was Good Morning), I smiled, said Thank You and left. After that I have often had to ask for directions in Netherlands and most of them have responded in English to me. At times they spoke just disjointed words but communication is all about getting the message through and that ALWAYS happened.

Next scary junction was the Paris Trip. The French don't speak English. That meant rigorous planning and taking millions of printouts of Google Maps and Tram Routes. First encounter was with a French Policeman outside Paris Nord Station. The man genuinely knew nothing of English. So I thrust my  hotel address in his hand, and in my best deaf-and-dumb act, asked him which way to go standing at a 5 roads crossing. He politely pointed a road and we started walking. At a point of time, I thought he had misled us, until we bumped into Abhishek and I was glad we weren't lost. We traveled whole day in trams and metros, language didn't seem to be a barrier for a single moment.

Also, we hail from the densest populated nation. If we add the few other millions of Hindi speaking people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Arab countries, you sure will meet a Hindi speaking fellow wherever in the world you are. No wonder at Amsterdam Airport's Burger King outlet, am greeted as "Yes madam kya chahiye?" or at Utretcht Central's Smuellers Counter "madam change hai for 1 euro?"

Now coming to the name of this post. It shocked me when a friend said that he is uncomfortable of travelling to Himachal Pradesh because his Hindi is weak. It made me think that my country is like a Mini Europe. People here get scared of travelling because they don't know the local language. To some extent, it is valid as India doesn't have a high number of Automated Ticket Counters or Cab Booking Places. So if you do not speak the local language and if you look like a foreigner in your own country, then there's a high chance you might be robbed by auto / cab drivers.

The northern half of India is united in Hindi and believe it is the National Language of India. Though there is the blend of Gujrati, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Kashmiri and what not. To the South, they are all Hindi speaking people. The east has a mixture of Bengali, Assamese and a few other tribal languages.The south totally brackets us in the Hindi speaking group. Tell that to a North fellow and he'll be laughing and rolling on the floor at our Bong Hindi. To the North, entire South is Madrasi. Strangely, the southern languages are more different from each other than the Northern set. Comparing the North and South set is beyond me! Our languages are as different as German is from French or Dutch is from Spanish. That's why being an Indian helps in surviving in Europe!

Friday, October 14, 2011

People Are People

This post comes as an apology for the lambasting post I did on the Netherlands Government Process. I was wrong to think that in a country of process and papers, smiles couldn’t do magic. A week was left for my Paris trip and my residence permit was yet to come. So I decided to drop by the immigrations building on Saptami morning. It’s supposed to be auspicious!  

Reception Lady: “Have you got an appointment for collecting your card?”
Me: “Ummm..not yet. Can I please talk to someone regarding the card? It is delayed quite a lot”
Lady: “It takes 3 months at times. Anyways you can go in and speak to the lady at the counter.”
Me : “Thanks Thanks”

Counter Lady: “Your card has been sent on mail to us on Friday.”
Me : “Oh so it should be here by tomorrow and I can collect it around Wednesday?”
Counter Lady: “I am afraid that not possible as it will come and then take time to generate your letter, then post it to you and then you can maybe get it next week.”
Me : “Please can’t you do something to speed it up? Please I want to travel this weekend. Please.”
Counter Lady: “Give me some time. I speak to my colleague.”

I sat down and kept thinking “She can’t do anything. She is just the lady at the counter who gives you a ticker to speak to the officials.” It meant again cancelling the Paris tickets. The money, the planning, the effort- all to waste.

There she is coming towards me.
Counter Lady: “My colleague said you can come on Wednesday and collect the card. You don’t need the letter.”
Me : “Reaaaallly? Thank you so much. I’ll be here on Wednesday same time.”

Two days I keep wondering what’ll happen on Wednesday. Can they be so good to jump the process for me? Wednesday comes and I rush to the Immigrations Office again. It is Nabami today.

Reception Lady: “Have you got an appointment for collecting your card?”
Me: “Yes”
Reception Lady: “Passport please”
Reception Lady:”Ok you may go in”

I walk in to find that the lady at the counter is not there. I stand there mustering up the courage to bear the crash. Then she comes and says “How may I help you?”
Me: “I came on Monday. You said I could collect my card today.”
Counter Lady : “Can I see your papers?”
Me : “Here they are. You told me I need not wait for the letter”
Counter Lady: “Oh Yes Yes! Let me check if it is here.”

She disappears inside. I sit there praying and asking God to prioritize my residence permit card above everything else in the world. She comes out grins at me and shows me thumbs up! I could have run to her and hugged her right then if it wasn’t inside the Dutch Immigrations Building. After few minutes, I am handed my card and I just can’t stop grinning.

This small incident and many others which I see here every day makes me feel, people aren’t really so different.

A kid drops her ice cream and bursts out crying. The father runs up to the child, wipes the tears, picks him up in his lap and calms him.

A mother sits in the train and takes small bites of an apple. Takes the bite out of her mouth and gives it to her kid who doesn’t yet have teeth.

An old man pushes the wheel chair of his wife. They go up to an ice cream shop. Standing outside in the autumn sun, the man enjoys his ice cream, while the woman sits in her wheel chair and enjoys hers.

I see love. I see friendship. I see family. I see Western Culture is not that different! :) 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Government Woes

Every Indian has a view on the government even if he / she doesn't even know the leading political party of the state. The general thoughts are ... "Government ?? You need any work done bribe them" "Government Offices ?? Ummmm.. Shabby" "Government Process?? Urghhh Slow". Then there is another group... "My uncle works in the municipality. My paper work is done always smooth". "I know the brother of the minister, don't mess with me". And then there is people like Anna who by however crazy ways, try to bring the so called CHANGE.

Now when I landed in Netherlands, I had this glorious vision that here as long as you submit authentic documents, everything goes smooth. Papers get processed on time, registrations are on time, if it says 2 weeks it is obviously 2 weeks. These ideas where strengthened by the facilities that you get here. If a train says departure at 18:58, it always departs at 18:58 and you'll be van idiot if you think "2 minutes toh any thing is delayed..It must be there till 19:00". In remote small towns, u get electronic boards at bus stops with live timings.

But all that came crashing down, when even after being in Netherlands for 2 months, I didn't receive my residence permit. At end of the first month, I get this letter saying you have been granted resident-ship till July 2012 and you'll be receiving your residence permit card "shortly". If I got this letter in India, I would know shortly <=> 2 months. Here people said it is 2 weeks. Now it is 4 weeks running and I was informed today that the Immigration Department "FORGOT" to process it.

Now since you can't bribe people here or use your influence in any way, you are in a worse mess. You can't even smile and request do get it done fast. Smiles don't work here. Process does and at times that process has memory lapses as in my case! Guess Netherlands is in love with me and doesn't want me to step into other European nations. I love you too my Dutch-land!

In the name of developed and developing! :P

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Being in Love

Its 8th September today. Exactly a month back, my assignment had started. Now as I ponder on the past days, I think this is the first time in my life I have adjusted to change so quickly.

It took me 2 semesters to adjust to NIT Durgapur. Almost 4 months, to adjust to Bangalore and just 3 weeks to start loving Netherlands. Is it the awesome set of facilities that I get here? Maybe yes, because I always believed in a good place of stay. I always wanted an impeccably clean apartment with a great kitchen and a huge bathtub. That no matter for what duration of each day I am able to enjoy it, I should have a warm house welcoming me back home.

Also, for the first time in my life I am not grumpy and sad because I am missing people. At NIT Durgapur, I missed mom dad so so badly. At Bangalore, it was Rahul, Riya, Tani and Culex Vishnui. Now I miss them all in a better way rather than sobbing myself to sleep or creating an invisible wall around me or maintaining an arms distance from others. Being alone in a country with almost no friends and no one to be friends, you start loving yourself.

This journey is going to be all about loving myself. Of getting things sorted and of identifying the stuff I have always avoided. Of doing things I have always left it for tomorrow and for taking leaps of faith. I remember the times I used be so comfortable in staying alone and then came the days when courtesy Tania RoyChowdhury, I totally lost that skill. Bangalore was so so hard thats why. Now its back to being lonely and to the very core of the word.

I always hated cooking for just myself. I always hated drinking alone. Made me feel like I am some female Devdas. Nowadays its fun! I switch an episode of FRIENDS, pour myself a glass of Baileys and enjoy it with chicken pasta. I spend all my free time (which I can't spend outside) in cooking. Trust me, cooking is man's best friend! Google recipes and try them. Aloha! You have a different dish everyday!

Next comes my love for cleaning. NIT Durgapur started it, Bangalore helped to hone it and here I am mastering it! I am probably the only one in the history of my project's onsite assignment, who goes around vacuuming the entire apartment. I even scrub the kitchen and the bathroom. Somehow I can't really sleep at night if there is a drop of food on the kitchen top. I know I am very very Monica here.

Then there is always reading, shopping, buying vegetables and groceries, planning trips and blogging (that comes only when I manage scrape time out of all the above). I am loving it!