The black and white photographs of a city can speak a lot of how it has grown over the years. This picture of India Gate, taken a few decades ago, amazes me to see the barren lands around the then Delhi while the same place now is buzzing with lakhs of people gathered for the IIFA.
Note: This is a post of fiction. 2 Dehliites narrate one of their personal tales of something significant, from their lives in Delhi.
I am Manas. I come from a village and my forefathers have been into pottery. The image below is an old photograph of a potter selling pipes and pots on one of the then Delhi roads.
Perhaps, one or more of my forefathers spent their lives on the roads like this seller in the picture. With the business line in my blood, I ventured into a new start-up a few months ago. During the initial days, I lacked technological and financial support. In spite of an inspiring idea I had had in mind, I could hardly get anywhere near to manifesting it into reality. That’s when Vodafone’s Ready Start-Up Kit gave me a timely lift. From business development to customer support, my start-up was given a tap at every stage. Start-ups in Delhi-NCR today are privileged is what I would say. There is an intuitive understanding of what people need in this city and that’s what brings about radical developments here.
I am Anupam. I’ve lived in Delhi all my life. Born before independence, I have witnessed every little change that this city has seen over the decades. From my memoirs about the city, what stands out is the trams that I used to travel for half an anna to Sadar Bazaar. The most exciting adventures of my childhood days used to be jumping off the moving tram and getting back to it 🙂 With increasing city traffic, however, trams were stopped in the early 60’s. And today, we have the Delhi Metro! Of course, it is air-conditioned, sophisticated and soon shall be automated; however, what impressed me about the Delhi Metro is its ‘World’s First Green Metro’ recognition. It is built on eco-friendly principles, helping the city to conserve energy. While trams were discontinued on the account of urban transport, here’s Delhi Metro which has reversed the situation after four decades. It’s initiative to tap the solar power for its operations, will reduce electricity consumption by one-third.
With new luxuries coming into our lives, what do we do with the old utilities? For some, selling off an old item may not be a necessity because the little money it can fetch may not be significant to them. And to some, old things may carry significant memories and irrespective of their working condition, they would prefer to preserve it with them. And I have enough of such preserved memories around the home!
One was my old Nokia 1600. Once upon a time, it was my prized possession. It was the time when mobile phones were just getting introduced in India and owning one gave such a prestigious status. Until how many ever years I had used it, I maintained it carefully.
Times change and somehow for some reason, new things come to you and thus came a new phone to me. Yet, I had kept my old phone safe. Sometimes, when someone in the house undergoes the frustrated period of getting their smart phones repaired, my Nokia 1600 would serve as their temporary back up.
After serving a while as back up and after lying inside my handbag for a few years, I finally decided to give it away. It was in perfect working condition; so I wasn’t willing to give it for free to anyone. I tried asking a few neighbours, relatives, known people; but I couldn’t make a fair deal. I had posted ads over selling websites. However, nothing turned out favourable.
But, you will be surprised to hear how I finally sold my Nokia 1600 – not for Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000, but for $100.
I had always kept my old phone within a zipper inside my hand bag and without my knowledge it continued it remain there during my trip to the US. I was at the Frankfurt International Airport, just in time for the security check for my connecting flight to Dallas. Security check always gets me nervous. I get tensed when it is my turn to leave the gadgets and liquid bottles in the checking tray. I hold my breathe until I see my things on the other side of the black box. With little time left, I quickly grabbed my things to rush to my gate.
And there we were flying – my Nokia 1600 and I, across the Atlantic Ocean. In sometime, an American co-passenger sitting next to me started a formal conversation with me. During the conversation, he specifically asked me if I was carrying an old-modeled mobile phone with me. It kind of shocked me at first. However, without letting me despair, he explained that he had noticed on old phone on my security check tray at the Frankfurt Airport.
Well, he seemed straight forward and put his request to me in no time. He wanted to buy my Nokia 1600! Period!
What? I was scared, scared to death! As an Indian woman, my gut wouldn’t trust strangers. Especially, making deals with strangers – no way! My old phone was already restored to factory settings; so there wasn’t anything in it that I should be afraid of revealing my personal information through my phone. Yet, I couldn’t accept an unexpected deal, several miles above the sea level 😆
But why would someone want to buy an old phone from India?
I was curious to know but I refrained my conversing any further to him lest I will again be put into the difficult situation of saying yes to the deal. However, as though a mind reader, he continued to explain politely that he owns an antique phone shop and in fact he is returning back from New Zealand after a visit to the antique telephone shops in there.
Hailing from a country which hardly values antiques and looks down upon anything that’s old, I was not convinced by his antique shop stories and continued to pose a rigid face. He pulled out his phone to show me the pictures of his shop in Dallas and his online buying site. However, all that went through my mind was that he must be a terrorist trying to collect old phones to use it for illegal purposes.
My fear heightened when he offered to pay me $100.
100 dollars? I quickly tried to convert to Indian Rupee in my mind. But in my confused state, my brain couldn’t work and it took more than three minutes to figure out the amount – Rs. 6700! Why would somebody pay me six times the amount of the original price for an used, old-modeled, outdated gadget?! Uff! I wanted the airplane to land immediately and save me from this tension.
Understanding my grim reaction, he said he would wait until I meet a family member of mine at the Dallas airport, so that I can have a discussion with them and come to a decision. For some reason, this particular point calmed my nerves because the responsibility seemed to shift to my daughter now.
In spite of the long queue at the immigration counter, he waited patiently after we reached the Dallas airport. Finally, I could breathe in peace after I spotted my daughter and family. The antique man got into a conversation with my son-in-law who was excited about the offer. To my surprise, I was congratulated to have successfully sold my old phone for $100. I was told that antique shopping is common in the US and it was indeed my lucky day.
Ha! When I look back, it seems an interesting incident; in fact an interesting coincidence that I had to carry my Nokia 1600 with no necessity to the US, the man whose seat number was next to mine was an antique collector and that by a strange chance, he had noticed my phone on the tray in those few minutes!
If you are looking to sell your old gadget, do check Cashify and use coupon code CLEANCASH to get an additional discount of Rs. 250.
The present generation do not value money as much as we did in the 1980’s. While Re. 1 was a valuable amount to us in those days, my daughters easily spend a few hundred Rupees today without any second thoughts. That is how they got me a new tablet, for what purpose, I really couldn’t understand. Well, it is their expression of love and the wanting to give their best to mom. Of course, I cannot deny the secret excitement I had in my heart when the tab arrived. It was definitely interesting in the first few days to explore the new one’s features. However, one thing that hasn’t settled at all in my mind is, “What do I do with my old Nokia mobile which had introduced me to the basics of telecom technology? Did I forget to tell you, it was my possession for 8 years; a time period which none of these youngsters’ smart phones can last for!
My daughters gave the least thought about my old phone. “Amma, keep it safe or give it away to someone for free.”
I still bargain with roadside vendors; so you know how much of stringency is rooted in my blood. I began thinking of the ways to sell it. Initially, I wasn’t aware of the sell/buy websites. I would sometimes inform a provision walla, or the flower vendor that a basic Nokia phone, in good working condition, is available for sale. All that they expected of me was, “Memsahib, will you give it for free?” To their eyes, I was an upper class woman who can afford giving away a phone worth of Rs. 500 (too much?) for free. However, as a person who has lived a hard life to reach an upper class living, I know how valuable is every Rupee that comes to my purse.
My daughters, tired of hearing me whine about the resale of the old phone, prompted me to try in a couple of websites. For the computer savvy in me, identifying icons from the top right and bottom left corners are quite difficult a tasks. Sign-up is another complicated task for which I will have to open a new tab to check my email for the sign-up confirmation. You might think what simple a process this is. But to an old lady who heard about computers at the age of 55, it is no fun. I often get confused where to click while shuffling between the tabs. So, I always refrain from having more than one tab open at a time.
Well, coming to the sell/buy website, I did manage to create a login. Now came the never-heard-of step – Post a picture of your product! I do know how to click a photo with my tab and am quite good is sending it through Whatsapp. But from Whatsapp, how do I transfer to the website? If you read this question twice, you can understand my technical understanding. So, I unofficially hired a school boy who lives near my home to help me transfer the photos from my tab to my computer. I know it went through a cable, but what he clicked to open what – I was clueless. The good news was that I had the photo of my dear old phone now in the PC.
With much reading and re-reading, I managed to post an ad – it felt like a celebration! And there I was, awaiting greedily for someone to buy my phone. I assumed hardly anyone would be interested in the old phone. However, to my much shock, I received message after message, multiple times of the same messages and back to back phone calls. Becoming nervous, all of a sudden, I avoided attending calls. Most messages had an offer price of Rs. 1000 to 2500. At first, the greedy woman was swelling in joy that what I thought can fetch me Rs. 500 is on demand for up to Rs. 2500 🙂 But, in time, after reading a few messages, I realized something wasn’t right. I was terribly afraid, of what, I don’t know.
I immediately dialed the emergency number – my daughter’s! After hearing a piece of her mind for having goofed up over the internet for the nth time, I begged to her to have a look at my ad and identify what went wrong.
In a few minutes, she called me. “Amma, you have posted an ad for buying a used Nokia phone!” 🙄
So, there ended my attempts in the gadget reselling adventure! 😦
I remembered this particular incident today while reading an article about Cashify, an online gadget re-selling platform. Unlike other sell/buy sites, Cashify does not demand you to post an ad and wait for a deal. Instead, on the basis of the details you give about your used mobile/laptop/TV, Cashify informs you of a reasonable estimate of the item. If you decide to go with the quoted amount, a Cashify employee shall pick your item on sale at your door step and hand over the accepted upon cash amount to you immediately.
I went through the Cashify website. It was super easy to navigate through the site, even to somebody like me; that means any Tom, Dick and Harry can now sell their used gadgets online in a few seconds. Check the video below:
Times change, people change and cities change, as well. I miss the old Mumbai and the old Bangalore! These cities have tremendously changed that I cannot dream of getting back to their oldselves. However, in Delhi, in spite of the cultural changes of the then years, I am witnessing a remarkable socio-techno-economic changes that gradually (may be secretly), I am falling in love with my city, at last 🙂
4 Years ago…
Post the Nirbhaya rape case, I condemned Delhi to the point that all men living in Delhi seemed like criminals and all women living in Delhi seemed risking their lives in a deadly city. As a mother of two daughters, the increasing rape cases in Delhi left me with worried existence. I would often get visions of girls subjected to sexual violence while cooking or watering the plants and even during sleep. It was a fearful time of life!
It did no good in blaming the Government or the laws because the root lies in some men, either psychological or physiological. And how can one identify and reform such men? There were no good hopes, for the dark side of this city had already engulfed me with fear.
3 Years ago…
It took one incident of what a brave girl did to her molester during a crowded metro travel, for me to un-tie my fears and look positively towards a better Delhi. Let me quickly narrate the incident, if you haven’t heard about it before.
A girl travelling in a crowded metro in Delhi felt the penis of a man, standing behind her, touching her back. While no one gave attention to her shouting, she braved to run behind this man and filed a FIR against him who was later taken to the Tihar jail. To a large extent, this inspiring write-up of the incident by the girl herself, changed my perspective of looking at all Delhi women as potential victims.
3 Months ago…
A group of young guys who had been having food at a dhaba, heard a cry for help from a woman from inside a car which sped past them. The responsible youngsters called the Delhi police, chased the car and rescued the woman in time. This recent incident, further changed my perspective that not all Delhi men are rapists.
Positive efforts by someone unknown has the power to change the perspective of life of a person, sitting at home at some corner of the city. That is what I felt with the two incidents narrated above.
Today, I am more positive about the safety of woman in the city, than how I was 4 years ago. I feel glad when I read about meaningful initiatives and awareness campaigns that bring change and confidence in several Delhi girls. Here are a few, to spread some good vibes across the readers:
Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) by Plan India
The Safer Cities initiative, (under BIAAG) creates awareness and imparts safety education to young girls in and around Delhi. Take a look at how well the program has fared so far:
Himmat, Cab tracking App, developed by Delhi Police
It feels unsafe for women to travel alone in cabs back from work to home, especially during nights. In order to make their rides safer, Delhi police has come up with Himmat App. A card with the driver’s details and a QR code gets placed behind the driver’s seat. A women who begins the ride, can open the Himmat app in her mobile and scan the QR code.
The details of the driver are sent to the Delhi police control room where the ride can be monitored in real time. A passenger without internet or smart phone can still share the ride details by sending a SMS to 8130099100 with the QR code. A trial run was done in 10 Delhi taxis, earlier this month. Soon, it will be brought into practice in 2000 airport taxis.
There are times when internet becomes essential for a girl’s safety. May be, a timely Whatsapp message or a app download (like in the case of the Himmat app, discussed above) or an urgent cab booking. Sometimes, our mobile data may not work too well or we may run out of data charge. I have heard my neighbour girls recounting how a Vodafone Wi-Fi hotspot has helped them timely when they were in a difficult situation.
The recent installation of Wi-Fi bus shelter at Gurugram is a commendable effort by Vodafone. The support and benefit the hotspots offer people living in Delhi is sure to bring a new level change to women and to the city, as a whole.
Witnessing the new positive developments in Delhi, I feel secured about everything around me. Please share the support movements for woman you know about, in the country. It may help a reader at some point of time in their life.
To make the video, I used the Goanimate platform on a free-trial subscription. That means, my video is subject to disappearance anytime soon, once the free-trial period gets over. As an old retiree, I have no plan to pay for the premium subscription 😦 However, I have captured the images of each of the video frames, for a keepsake of my creativity, idea, hard work, interest……whatever! The images you see below are individual frames from the whole whiteboard presentation video. Psst…psst…this is my first-ever try on an animation work, so please bear the result 🙄
So, let me take you through a day’s routine of a family of five. Here, I introduce, Rithul. Rithul is three and goes to preschool. So, you know well, all that a three year old is capable of, don’t you? His little sister, mom, dad and granny are the other people who stay at their home together. Did I miss out Kitty- their pet cat? C’mon, let’s sneak into their house!
Rithul wakes up in the morning with something disturbing his sleep. His nose feels stuffy and eyes look watery.
Rithul’s mom is making breakfast in the kitchen. She has been having mild headaches for quite a while now, mostly when she is in the kitchen. Why could it be?
Rithul’s dad is reading a newspaper in the sit-out. Wait, W-a-i-t…..Achoooooo! And then a train of Achooooos..! The grandmom, sitting near him, isn’t sneezing though 🙄 Why?
Dad is leaving to office. He opens the main door and starts coughing. “Argh! Once we step out of home, it’s all dusty!” Well, may be not!
Little sister, up from her sleep, begins to cry loudly. Mom rushes to the room and finds her scratching her neck behind. “Oh Ghosh! Where did these red sores come from?!”
Mom is back in the kitchen to prepare lunch. She hears loud music from the neighbor house through the atrium. “What nuisance these bachelor guys are!” Her headache gets bad now and so, she closes the window that opens out to the atrium. “Ah, how relieving!” But in a little while, her headache worsens. Why?
Rithul is back from school. He plays with Kitty. When mom calls him for lunch, both hop straight onto the dining place. Did you notice? Yes, he didn’t wash his hands, hmm?!
After lunch, Rithul plays Jumping Jacks on the bed until he gets tired and dozes off to sleep.
Rithul begins to cough, quite severely, and wakes up. Bah! Again, stuffy nose and red eyes!
It’s getting darker. Time for mosquitoesssss! Grandmom closes all the windows to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.
Granny comes back home after a walk. She feels healthy, but is she carrying home something unhealthy?
It’s bedtime for the family. But not for the Cockroaches! Hey! They are on a brisk stroll all around the kitchen.
Coughing, sneezing, skin sores, headaches……Holy Cow! What could be so bad lurking around their home atmosphere? Let’s find it with a microscope!
Yay! Isn’t that some fun?! C’mon, let’s redo the day at Rithul’s home through a microscope. Game?
When Rithul woke up, there were tiny dust mites around the bed. He has been inhaling these for a while now and …, yes, you got it, that’s how the stuffy nose and watery eyes were triggered.
When mom was cooking in the kitchen, the combustion process from the gas stove was letting out gases, mainly, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Formaldehyde. Remember, the headache she had? Makes sense.
When dad was reading the newspaper, skin flakes from Kitty’s body called pet dander, had formed a boutique near him. Also, the man living downstairs was smoking a cigar, giving rise to a volcano of smoke near the sit-out. What an allergic boutique! Inhaling cat dander and cigar smoke, Dad’s respiratory system was working hard to throw them away, hence causing the train of sneezes. Wait a minute, wasn’t grand mom sitting near him too? Yes, though she too inhales her share of Kitty’s dander and the cigar smoke, her immune system does not trigger an allergy in her. Hmm…strong lady, uh?!
When dad opened the main door to step out to office, all the caught-up allergens gushed out making dad cough. Caught-up allergens? Yes, according to the plan of the house, the main door is the only ventilation on the North side of the house. So, though air enters and exits through windows on the South side of the house, the overall ventilation is not effective enough to carry allergens away. As a result, those allergens which were circulating within the house without scope to escape out, gushed out when the main door was opened. So, after all, it was the indoor air that was dusty, uh? Poor dad!
Ouch! Dust mites were disturbing the little girl’s skin by causing red sores on her neck. Yes, the same bad guys who attacked Rithul’s respiratory system in the morning.
In order to get some relief from the loud noise, mommy closed the only way out for the gases in the kitchen – the window to the atrium. Do you see that the gases have become denser? Of course, how else can they get away?! No wonder her headache worsened.
Kitty had passed a lot of cat dander during his playtime with Rithul. Now that Rithul is full of cat dander all over, he is sure to breathe and eat a bunch of them.
Rithul had fun jumping on the bed. But the poor boy was oblivious to the hundreds of dust mites that were hiding in the mattress and pillows. Alas! He has opened them all to the outside. What are these bad guys going to do now?
With a large gathered party, they had fun attacking Rithul’s lungs. And he is up again with cough, quite severe this time.
Grandmom was aware of the dangers that mosquitoes can cause. How rightly, she closed all the windows! However, she wasn’t aware of the dangers that the pollutants trapped inside the house can cause. Do you see a parade of a mixture of pollutants?
Back from her evening walk, granny has carried some allergic pollens from the garden. Now that the house is devoid of ventilation in the night, they will circulate in the home, triggering allergy.
Life through a microscope is indeed disgusting, isn’t it? In fact, what we saw was just a random day of one random family. And this isn’t fiction nor something that happens to somebody in some part of the world. It DOES happen in most of our homes! Unknown to many, home air is 5 times more polluted than the outside air.
To reiterate the message from Ritul’s home, here’s a quick list of sources of pollutants in our homes and the health risks they pose:
Harmful Gases: Gas stoves and heaters emit gases like Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is released by chemicals used in pressed wood furniture. These gases cause headache, nausea, dizziness and disorientation in the longer run. Radon is a ground water contaminant, posing a high risk of lung cancer. Certain organic gases, widely called as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are let off from several household objects, to name a few, paints, pesticides, permanent markers and cleaning supplies. Their effects are similar to the other harmful gases.
Biological particles: Asthma, respiratory allergies like allergic rhinitis, bronchitis and pneumonia can be caused by biological pollutants.
Molds that grow under damp conditions on the walls and furniture surfaces
Dander, saliva and urine from pets living indoors
Bacteria and viruses that are carried by people, animals and things from outside
Dust mites that grow on beds, curtains, couches, carpets, stuffed toys
Antigens and droppings left by cockroaches
Pollen from plants
Tobacco Smoke: Cigarette smoke inhaled by smokers and people around can cause cancer, in addition to respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we don’t get to see with our eyes, any of the air pollutants we talk about. How then, in the first place, do we access our indoor air quality?
Look for one or more of the following health signs.
Yes, looks like you have a few symptoms from the above?!
There is much we already know how to maintain our homes clean. Dust regularly, clean this, clean that, be hygienic, wash, wipe, bath……well, well, well, we all do it! But let me tell you what we all are ignorant about.
Keep your house well-ventilated
Most of the indoor air issues can be managed by making way for good ventilation. To begin with, understand how the doors and windows in your house are positioned to facilitate ventilation. The image below is a good guide to understand cross ventilation.
Make a note of the following simple tips:
Keep the doors and windows open during cooking, if not at other times.
Remove wardrobes, furniture and dressing tables that might be blocking windows.
Fix mosquito nets over the windows instead of keeping the windows closed in the night time.
Install chimneys over gas stoves to protect yourself from CO pollution.
When air conditioners are not in use, remember to keep the room windows open.
If constructing a house, study the ventilation possibilities thoroughly before fixing doors and windows.
Make a check-list for periodic home cleaning
Well, our daily routines keep us busy for the entire day, that house cleaning (to the point of eradicating the pollutants) is mostly put for later. That is why it is helpful to follow and maintain a chart like the one below: (Search for more such check-lists or make a custom one).
Paint your walls with Royale atmos
Use a wall paint like Asian Paint’s Royale Atmos to reduce the formaldehyde emission by wooden furniture. You ask me how? Here’s how Royale Atmos can enhance indoor air quality in our homes.
Grow indoor plants
Some of us might like to grow plants in our homes for the love of plants or for aesthetic purposes. However, not known to many, a few plants have the ability to neutralize the harmful effects of indoor pollutants. Here are a few for your reference. Make an in-depth study of such plants to get benefited by their presence in your home.
Keep your pets well-groomed
It does require a little effort and commitment for both of you to remain healthy – you and your pet! Remember that your pets’ hygiene is as important as that of anybody’s in the house. Said the allergies and other health risks that pet sheds pose, stick to the following good practices at all times:
Check for dust mites in your house
It is just a figure of speech because practically we cannot check dust mites as they are microscopic. Once entered, dust mites don’t go away from our homes. However, we can keep their count reduced in order to prevent dust mite allergy by practicing the following tips:
Keep mattresses, carpets, curtains and upholstery vacuum cleaned regularly.
Wash beddings in hot water or alternatively, keep them inside a freezer for 2 days (within a plastic bag). Remember to wash them soon after to clean the dead remnants.
They thrive on humidity. So, use a humidifier in the bedroom if the climate in your place is too humid.
Educate children not to jump over beds and couches. It can aggravate the air with increased dust mite population.
Don’t forget the late night visitors – Cockroaches!
In urban homes, cockroaches are an everyday battle. They mainly get their way through into our homes from drainage covers and our left-over food are their happy meals. Below is a live video of a cockroach sniffing food that was left uncleaned from our sofa. This is what our carelessness and laziness can lead to! If you have ever fought the cockroach war, you would know how no matter what you use – sprays, chalks, powders – they seem like indestructible creatures.
In the first place, let your kitchen shine before you hit bed, lest these creatures will shine their reign over our existences.
If you sense their presence, spray anti-cockroach sprays on the kitchen and bathroom drainage covers before going to bed. But remember to clean the surfaces in the morning.
Search for modern anti-cockroach traps like one way drainage covers, electronic traps etc.
Because, clean air makes not only beautiful homes but also a beautiful life through a microscope!
I was at the Frankfurt International Airport. I had just arrived from India, taking the very first flight of my life at the age of 58.
I was to attend to the delivery of my daughter in the US. And I was to travel from India, all alone. Three flights, two connecting flight times, new countries, foreign people – it seemed no fun and I felt nervous about it ever since my daughter became pregnant.
My conversational English is just average; considering the fact that I come from a regional-language-medium school, my confidence level in speaking English is not so great. In spite of people telling me that I don’t actually need to ask anyone for assistance, I wasn’t sure if I can do it all by myself. For close to a month, I was informed of the step-by-step procedures starting with collecting the boarding pass, checking in the luggage, immigration check, security check, locating the flight terminals, liquid bottles-100 ml-zip-lock bag – I have rehearsed and re-rehearsed on my dumb brain several times before the D day 😯 Yet, I was at my most anxious state of mind at the Bengaluru International Airport the previous night.
I kept staring at the label tags they gave me at the boarding pass collection counter queue. Everybody else was writing something and I had no clue what I was supposed to write on it. I cursed my husband and daughters for not teaching me this step and I was afraid of what more such surprises were awaiting me. Thus, with the fright-or-flight mechanism intact in me, I managed to reach Frankfurt Airport the next morning.
And then started the second round of apprehension. I had only two hours’ time to locate the terminal for the connecting flight to Dallas. Following the other Indians, I finally reached two closed doors and felt exactly like playing the Richard O’Brien’s crystal maze show. It took something moving inside the closed doors, after a while, to realize that it was actually a train station.
After verifying multiple times that I had reached the right terminal gate, I was waiting for the announcement of the boarding; still doubtful if I was at the right place for the right flight. That’s when I spotted a young mother trying hard to manage her three children. For a second I thought she was weeping. She was, in fact, weeping! I turned around and noticed that a few more people in the airport were looking keenly at her. She had a crying infant on her lap whom she was trying to passify; she had a toddler on one side of the twin perambulators who was whining continuously and an older girl of around four years who was running hither and thither to her heart’s content. The lady seemed to be the only adult around them. I could understand her difficult situation but I couldn’t quite figure out why it should make her cry or if she was crying for something else.
The more I observed her, the more I felt restless. Should I offer her help? Will she be able to understand my English? Will she look down upon me for my complexion, the saree I was wearing or at my English? What if she tries to ignore me or snap at me? Even if she responds, will I understand what she speaks? Will people of their culture even expect help? Or should I better mind my business? I was struggling between guarding my dignity at a foreign place and calming my Indian blood that twitched to comfort her. After what seemed like a long time, I pulled up all my courage, walked up to her awkwardly, conscious of how I would appear to the rest of the crowd, and gestured to her to give me the crying infant.
What followed transcended my soul from all barriers of culture, region and religion, for the rest of my life!
The lady immediately placed the baby on my arms with tears of gratefulness combined with tears of that something else she was crying about. In a few seconds of strolling on my shoulders, the baby settled down. The lady quickly tried to speak a few sentences together amidst the emotional struggle she was going through, without me having to ask her anything. I understood that her mom had passed away and that she was waiting for her flight to some country. It made much sense now though I couldn’t understand the rest of the sentences that she spoke. For the next half an hour, I kept the three children engaged while she quietly resigned to her thoughts of melancholy. When it was time for her departure, she collected the kids and spoke to me from the depth of her heart in a serene tone. Again, I understood that she felt thankful but nothing of the rest of the long sentences she spoke.
The warmth I had felt after the family disappeared from my sight was conquering. It wasn’t just a good feeling of having helped a stranger; it was a proud feeling that my Indian upbringing had made me to care for a struggling mother in spite of the breaking of my complex that it had required.
Not that people of other cultures do not care for others; but definitely Indians do it a little more than others, especially when it comes to the matters of women and children. Now that I’ve been to the US more than thrice for my daughter’s subsequent deliveries and having interacted with people of different cultures in the US, I have a fair knowledge of the way of lives in the US. On the brighter side, I like the fact that strangers smile at each other at Walmart, cars stop for a while at crossroads letting the others go and follow lane discipline which Indians can get nowhere near to. However, I’ve observed that their bonding with family is shallower. From the woman at the immigration check counter – who had asked me why I was at US for which I answered that my daughter was carrying, to which in turn she asked me what my daughter was carrying – to every other person there, were surprised, while some were even cynical, about the fact that I had travelled across the globe spending lakhs of rupees to attend to my daughter’s delivery. In India, we take it as our duty to look after our children during needy times regardless of how old they get. And our culture also makes our children to look after us when parents get older. In either way, the familial bond is kept intact and that’s something which defines the value of Indians and the Indian culture.
As an Indian, I might not have the most pleasing complexion, I might not appear nice in my saree clad, my English language might not be the best in the world, I might not be confident enough to face a new group of people or know how to behave elegantly at a new place. However, as an Indian, I know to support a fellow mother who is in distress; I know how not to ignore a crying heart and I know how to come out of my timid-self to render help. And now I know that humanity has a special language beyond appearance and confidence, which Indians are the best in reading at.
The very fact that the mother at the Frankfurt airport found solace from her troubling children on the event of a loved one’s death is a victory. It might not mean big in the corporate world or in the history of countries but to the evolution of humanity, it is indeed a victorious step. When, someday, the lady recollects this incident, she will remember me as ‘an Indian woman’.
There shall come a day when I will be on my death bed and my daughter will have to pass through a similar situation as that of the lady, and I hope that there will be another Indian mother to comfort my daughter, that one day.
I was reminded of this small anecdote of my life while watching the Lufthansa TV commercial for their #MoreIndianThanYouThink campaign because as you could have guessed Lufthansa was that very first flight of my life!
‘The Story of a Suicide’ by Sriram Ayer is an open book, available online here for public reading. The book can be read via a laptop, computer, phone or tablet. It also has an audio book option available. The Plot
The story revolves around four youngsters who are undergoing stressful situations in their lives. Hari suffers a bad past from his abused childhood. Mani has difficulty in studying in an English medium course. Sam is frustrated with repeated rejections from the girls he loved. Charu dislikes men who try to control the lives of women. All of them come together to study in the same college. The sharing of their personal woes and interactions make the scenes of the 31 chapters of the book.
Flow and Narration
The book is perhaps a quick read if you are used to digital reading. I am not a gadget person, so it did take a few days to complete. The author’s writing style is quite a style. It isn’t like anything I’ve read before. Not that it’s sophisticated; rather it is plain, simple and well up to the point. Though I couldn’t sync in with the first two chapters, from the third I got hooked onto the plot. Yet, there’s definitely a miss in the flow of narration in between. Though not a major concern, it is apparent during the reading.
Realistic conversations make the narration interesting. The conversations exactly depict how youngsters use present day jargons and the ‘F’, ‘B’, ‘A’ words with which they express their frustrations and emotions explicitly. However, if one is not used to reading or hearing such words, the reading experience might initially be shocking or unpleasant to some. Nevertheless, as the story unwinds, the reader shall begin to accept the characters for how they speak, changing the initial shocking perspective of the language part.
Scoop of the book
This book is a platform to dive into how youngsters feel when faced with life’s difficulties. Hari’s character has been built strongly showing the underlying side of his fears because of a sexually abused childhood and the consequences that lead to his sexual orientation. His story is an eye-opener to parents, especially, to have a check on the lives of their children. Mani’s childhood where his drunkard father puts the family into trouble is equally relatable to what happens in several lower socio-economic families. At one point he attempts suicide but regrets later after he gets rescued. Mani’s story, for some reason, did not sound significant as much as the others’.
More closer were the characters of Sam and Charu. It was as though their thought processes were scrolling down on a screen. They both were the best works of the author in the entire book. Through the character of Charu, the author has brought out how women are seen and treated in our country. It is no exaggeration but an ugly reality of the time period we are living in. Yet, the fragile girl in her who becomes vulnerable to a private threat finally dictates the limitation of all women. Sam is a perfect example of what men look in and expect from a girl of their target. Perhaps, in men, lust over powers love. How the feeling of being put to shame transforms to hatred has been beautifully articulated through Sam’s psyche.
Excerpts from the Book
A few descriptions of real-time observations with profound meaning were admirable. This is one such I liked:
‘Hari was amused by two small crabs that were on a race only to be drawn back in to the waters by the oncoming wave. Hari smiled at their predicament but was surprised to find that they continued their race till the next wave destroyed their present purpose.’ (Chapter: Our Secret)
What’s after reading the book?
This book has come to us at the right time and most importantly, in the right form (free reading). Several scenes in the book helped me contemplate on these subjects. It reminded me of people I’ve known who have faced similar struggles. Most often, I could only listen to them but wasn’t able to help them in a big way. Now that the book has planted the seed in me to bring change in others’ lives, I begin here, with a little piece of my thoughts.
Teenage is an age to pep up in life, to hope for a brighter future and step onto the ladder of growth and development. However, if mental health during this phase of life is disturbed, it can take a toll of the rest of the life. With child abuse and other unpleasant social atrocities, youngsters aren’t let to survive in a warm society. They are surrounded by potentially harmful technology and judgmental people all around them. When even not life half-lived, youngsters might not be strong to face challenges while in fact they are undergoing the strengthening process. Well, what can we do about it?
If you are facing a serious difficulty, be it a break-up or sexual abuse or anything undefined, help yourself to come out of the victimization. You may or may not be in the state of self-help, Yet, check if you can do any of the following:
Speak up: It might not be as easy as written here. However, choose a trustworthy person. If you are not willing to disclose your feelings to any known person, seek professional help such as a NGO or a mental health counselor. But speak up! Speaking your heart out is half burden taken down.
Prepare for rejection: Well, speaking out may make you feel rejected, sometimes. Expect this even before you speak up. Others might not empathize or sympathize with you the way you expect them to. Expect this too. Prepare your mind for the worst reaction. You might be chided. You might be laughed at. You might be ignored. Yet, feel good that you did a first aid to yourself in speaking up.
Seek help: Depending upon the level of your problem, seek outside help like a police complaint or a psychiatric appointment or with a mental health organization. The message is don’t give up seeking help.
Identify the source of your inspiration: You may not be in the best of state to think about inspirations. However, try harder to identify what inspires you the most. It could be a book reading or painting or writing or movies or food or yoga or social service. Force yourself into it. It may take sometime before you can breathe out in ease.
How Do I?: Try reading the ‘How Do I?’ answers from the book, ‘The Story of a Suicide’.
Help Yourself: We all are alone in our individual lives. That’s the bottom truth. Help yourself the best you can without indulging in alcohol, tobacco, drugs and anything illegal and detrimental.
Irrespective of what happens in our lives, we all move on; we must all move on. At the end of life, we must feel victorious of having passed through the best and the worst rather than ending it halfway because of fear and depression.