You are not welcome!

 

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There are two types of guests: the ones that get invited and the ones that get themselves invited. And these two types are either the ones that just come over for a meal/cup of tea and exchange pleasantries before they wind up and the ones that decide to stay over for days. The last lot really ruffle my feathers and unfortunately, they top the category of (unwanted) guests at our place. We get a plethora of them possibly for two reasons: 1) we live in the national capital region which acts as a first port of call for most of our guests and 2) my parents have never said or can ever say the word NO (and I can’t say NO to my parents!)

Other than my woe that my room of all the three rooms gets to be the ‘chosen’ one as it is the ‘guest-friendliest’ of all, I get even more riled that these guests who repeatedly come over to our place know very well that they are using my room and that we don’t have a spare room and yet they are unashamed.  All they say at the time of their departure is a ‘thank you’; two glorious words (the other being ‘sorry’) that we got in legacy post-colonization and which we use so mindlessly and unsparingly.

These guests, most of them, emigrated to the West (developed nations) where the currency is stronger than the Indian rupees which means higher purchasing power, especially when you travel to East, like India. Proverbially, they should be making hay while the sun shines! Even a stay in a sumptuous five or a six-star hotel here will work out reasonable for them with the foreign exchange rate. The current tariff in a four star hotel is around 6,000 rupees per night which when converted to USD is 93 and GBP is 60. OK, this can be expensive if you are staying for more than a night but this is a grand example. Lets take an economical example. There are plenty of government-approved and reputed guesthouses too (with thousands of reviews on travel websites) where you can stay at a starting tariff of barely 2,000 rupees for a night (equivalent to 31 USD and 20 GBP) and also get added services like free wi-fi, international TV channels and even breakfast! Is this not a better option then? You get your privacy and give others their much-needed privacy too.

I travel abroad with my family and we always look at good deals on hotels and local journeys on the Internet being fully aware that we have a weak currency and the fact that we have modest income. We have never bothered our friends and relatives who happen to live there.

Perhaps my non-resident relatives and family (as I can’t say on behalf of all the non-resident Indians but I do know of more who are alike) can’t imagine that they have to shell out a penny on what they possibly don’t treat it as their holiday trip. Holidays for them are in Dubai, Singapore, Mauritius or even Goa here in India where I am sure they open their wallets without any hitch. They travel to India on a purpose which is usually property-related, family functions, mandatory holy trips or visiting an ailing relative. So it all comes down to money-saving tactics. These are the same people who left for the West to make money and what all stories we had heard of them (maintaining big bungalows with sprawling gardens and driving expensive cars). Their mentality, unfortunately, didn’t grow along with their riches. And yes, these are the same guests who go back to their adopted worlds and tell their peers over a pint of beer about their encounters with lizards and cockroaches back home.

Honestly, I rather have these reptiles and pests as my guests than these uninvited and ungrateful human lot. At least these mute species mind their own business and not ask me to leave my room which is rightfully mine…all the time!

Of egg trays and recycling

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A life-size dinosaur made entirely of I don’t know how many thousands of egg trays by an artist in collaboration with an event management company (see collage; bottom right) caught my attention at a popular mall recently. I was immediately under its spell. It reminded me of the Jurassic Park movies. However, instead of just taking a panoramic shot of it (third time successful) I decided to also read a bit about this artwork which was mentioned on a small pink board placed nearby. It talked about recycling and how we should pledge to recycle, reuse and reduce (I can never remember the last R).

Something was not right here. The message and the artwork were not in harmony with each other.

How could this enormous, awestruck artwork be an example of recycling? I can’t see how I can re-use, reduce or recycle an egg tray or even a carton in my day-to-day life! These wastes are merely good for art and craft activity. I do remember my daughter making a caterpillar of one of the egg trays for a school activity when she was five or six (which must be gathering dust somewhere in the store-room along with her other such activities in the name of recycling). I am not undermining the achievement of the artist. It is certainly a feat but not in the context of recycling. It is purely art for art’s sake.

Recycling (as opposed to reusing and reducing which are still practical and I think one and the same) at home is nearly impossible unless you have a scientific bent of mind and you can change the ‘parent’ waste to some other useful form. In the UK (since I have lived there and I know) every house is given more than one big bin to throw their wastes in – one for general waste, one for recycling, and one for the cut grass and other greens which then gets weekly collected by the council (municipality) who then perhaps have a system of handing it over to recycling industries. The council  is very particular with its definition of a recycle waste and how the recycle waste shouldn’t be just thrown into the recycle bin after solving its purpose to the mankind. For instance, the used bottles and cans needs washing, caps need to be separated from the bottles, etc.

We have a somewhat close arrangement here in India, albeit private, with our ‘kabaadiwaala’ (junk collector man) who appears in our area announcing his presence aloud in a strange not-to-be-missed tone. He comes on his cycle attached to a cart. However, you really need to expend not just your precious time but also your energy as haggling with the kabaadiwaala requires these both in abundance along with the art of haggling (which is just not my cup of tea!). And he is more interested in collecting your junk (as his work title suggests) than your egg trays and cartons. He is happy with newspapers, books and bottles though.

Art is art and I believe, it should be left as it is-for the eyes of the spectators to soak in the awe and splendour. A better idea would be that concerned NGOs, government ministries, estate developers (who charge good amount of tax) start a collection service of recycle wastes instead. Now that would be a practical initiative.

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The picture on the collage’s topmost corner right is of another artwork made of waste paper (I presume) seen in the same mall on the same day but at a different spot. I found it equally interesting but could see no information on it.

And of course that is the egg tray on the left which I had kept to inspire me while I wrote this. 🙂

the bees, the snake and a dog

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It is quite close to being called a bucolic setup where I live in an otherwise busy city which is home to many call-centres and multinational companies. I am barely five minutes away (car drive) from a popular road which is chock-full of malls on both its sides. Yet, as soon as I am back to my enclave, I am surrounded by trees and greeted by variegated tweets of the birds – some shrill, some soothing, some musical and some of them sound so impatient! Oh yes, then the peacocks and the peahens. They have a baritone! You can hear the human and motor sounds too but they are subdued by the sounds of these birds.

Living in harmony with them (the birds, the bees and the other animals) often clashes with living in harmony with my neighbours (some of them). And then the dilemma arises. Who do you side?

As much as I like to feed stray dogs I cannot let them in in my three-floor apartment as the neighbours on the other floors get peeved. The dogs have been very understanding in the past except for one who with one foot in her grave already chose to sit on the marble floor of our stairs or on the porch to escape the scorching summers. I chose to ignore her as this allowed her to sit there for more time until I could hear my neighbour screaming and shouting and even kicking her out of the gate. I didn’t put up a fight. Teaching compassion to a full-grown adult, who also came across as a nuisance otherwise, was like hitting your head against a brick wall. I also overheard him saying once that if I was so fond of the dog I should either live in an independent bungalow or adopt the dog and allow it inside my house. Maybe he had a point. Unfortunately I couldn’t do either of them. I chose to remain passive. The dog died one day and the saga got over. In fact the nuisance neighbour also shifted from there . And then history repeated. Recently, a new stray dog decided to come right up to our door (see picture; first image from top) and sit there. Only this time, I did not ignore its presence. I drove it away – nice and loud. I drove it away the next day too. I perhaps did it because I wanted the neighbours not to react like their predecessor. I didn’t want to get into an unnecessary argument. I had perhaps matured with time and experience, or had I become more timid and even hypocritical?

And then came in the bees – a swarm of them who decided to make not one but two beehives right outside our floor on the roof. The beehives were becoming bigger every day and so was the cause of worry for everyone around. I remember being stung by a bee two years ago. I was asked to get rid of them which I delegated to my house-helper. He came in one fine evening when it was dark and with a big stick demolished both the hives. I could see the bees feeling lost the next morning. They were clinging on to the fallen hives on the floor (see picture; 2nd image from top). My guilt only went a notch up when I happened to read a few days later that the beehives don’t do any harm and should be allowed to thrive. Should I have ignored them in the first place?

I believe there are many passive people like me who choose the easier path perhaps to live in peace. Passive pacifists?  It takes a lot to be an activist (for animals or any cause)- both mentally and physically since it can drain you completely. However I am happy that the activists do exist and unknowingly they fulfill another role – to put people like me to shame who wish to take a stand but choose not to. And one such activist happens to live across the road.  Two Sundays ago, a snake, cobra to be precise, paid a visit to our lane (see picture; last in the collage). It was an unusual sighting though there had been instances of snake-spotting long time ago. This cobra had got stuck in a drain pipe. Presumably due to overeating. (You can see its bulged tummy in the picture…mouse dish?) This led to a brouhaha in the lane.  Everyone started gathering near the drain pipe. Nobody dared to go any closer lest the cobra got out of the pipe and stung its venom out on someone. At that point nobody knew it was stuck there. You could just see its tail. Had it not been for my animal-activist neighbour, the cobra would have been, after sometime, beaten to death by the onlookers with sticks and stones. She called up the wildlife helpline and a snake-catcher reached in no time. He managed to rescue the snake and take it back with him where he said the snake would be checked by a doctor and then released in the wild.

My neighbour, my hero, I wonder if she has any dilemmas in life at all?

Bad blood, is it?

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So all this one year I’ve been preparing myself, not that hard though, as to how and when to break into a discussion on menarche/menstruation with my pre-teen daughter. I was never told by my mother. In fact, unlike many friends and relatives who happen to remember vividly when they got their first period and how they were told about it, I have a blurred memory of mine. All I know is, it happened and there wasn’t any drama involved. Possibly because I was then in an all-girls residential school where there were classmates and seniors borrowing sanitary pads from one another and declaring it openly every month when ‘they got down’ besides the one-off visual glimpse of  stained pads in the toilet bins which at times were not wrapped properly.

Just when I had forgotten about it earlier this month, my daughter came up to me after school one day and looked upset. All the girls of her class were called separately (it is a co-ed school) and were given a primer on menstruation. (I must confess that I was relieved that I no longer had to introduce the topic to her!) She was then apparently harassed by the girls in her class for sharing it with a boy who had asked her what the gathering was all about. I can imagine the look on their faces and the tone when they all said to her ‘why did you tell him?’ which culminated to ‘what did you tell him?’ before she broke down. She had no idea what the fuss was all about.

To be honest, I was a bit shocked too when she said that she had told a boy in her class about it but I just stopped short of being like one of her female classmates. I was brought up in the ‘ancient’ times and I belong to the Old School but with all the current global propaganda on talking openly about menstruation I was surprised that it was still the same as it was in my time. Maybe it will take some time to catch up but by then it would have been embedded in my daughter’s mind (which I am sure somewhere already it has) that it is not something she is supposed to talk or tell the opposite gender about. She still can’t figure out why. What is there to hide if my teacher tells me it is healthy to menstruate and all girls do that, she asks.

I was more amazed as how other girls of her age had reacted. Certainly they were told or made to believe that it is a hush-hush topic not to be shared with the opposite gender. What explanation were they given, as I am sure at that age with their curious minds just like my daughter, when they had asked for a reason?

I told my daughter that what she did was not incorrect. There was nothing wrong in telling the boy who had asked her. I can imagine his and the other boys’ curiosity being piqued when only girls were called separately. Perhaps, they should have been called too and made to understand puberty. This could have led to an onset of a healthy and respectful relationship for both the genders. They are the new generation. The future. I am happy I did my bit. I can’t pollute an innocent mind with all the unnecessary taboos.

my one rupee change, please!

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A cheap to expensive product costing one rupee less is a tried and tested marketing strategy which has gone down extremely well with both consumers and sellers globally. Consumers of course, like always, are the gullible lot.So the consumer believes that he/she is paying nearly hundred rupees less where as it is just the other way around.

That one rupee-less marketing strategy is not my woe. It is the one rupee that we do not usually get back from the shopkeeper is! Of course, if you are paying by card then the exact amount is debited but if you pay by cash, it is very likely that you are expected to forget about that one rupee. I usually sense embarrassment in asking for that one rupee back and I am sure many others can relate with me. Imagine the scene with other customers around you and you asking for your very own one rupee! After all, what can one rupee buy these days? And why should that one rupee matter to you after purchasing, lets say as in the picture above, a book for Rs. 299? What is one rupee, after all?

A couple of months ago, I remember the embarrassment I felt when my mother asked for that one rupee back from a reputed shoe shop in a plush mall. I behaved as if I was just not there. And I was even cheeky enough to nonchalantly walk out of the shop as my mum gave the shopkeeper a well-deserved piece of her mind.

However, when I went to a book store in my local market a few days ago I felt awkward not getting my one rupee back. Would they have sold the book to me if I had one rupee less? No. Where does that one rupee go? I doubt if it goes to a good cause else the shop would have flashed it in their shop or even kept a charity box. And like my mother says, you rather give it to a handicapped beggar sitting outside the same shops than to shops who have found another way to make profits illegally.

Well, I didn’t ask for that one rupee back.

Time to finally not look down upon one of those shrilled-voice women who wear garish makeup, carry a Gucci bag and Prada shoes (no, not describing my mother but how she would love to have these high-end products one day!) but when it comes to their one rupee, embarrassment is not in their dictionary!

Everyday’s Dilemma…the birth of this blog

A few recent events has made me conscious of the dilemmas or dilemmatas (how I love irregular plurals!) that surround me everyday. How grave or trivial these dilemmas are is highly relative. A trivial issue for someone can be grave for the other depending mostly on the environment of the reader/spectator/actor in which he or she has been brought up and/or is living in.

Coming back to me, this blog captures my everyday’s dilemmas. Is it because I have started reading more on social issues, moral issues (besides devouring on hard-core fiction books) or have these been thrust upon us owing to the increasing presence of social media and the 24 by 7 news channels? Or is it because I have possibly and finally come of age? I cannot tell.